Celebrating our Founding Fellows

Since January, the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab has had the incredible honor and pleasure of learning with and from our founding Civic Media Fellows. Four fellows located here in LA and five remote fellows around the U.S. have shared diverse practices, communities, frameworks and more with each other and with us at the Lab. As the first cohort of a new fellowship program generously supported by the MacArthur Foundation, these nine fellows are blazing new trails for future cohorts, USC students and faculty and the field of Civic Media.

With the end of formal programming in September, we wanted to begin to acknowledge them and their contributions. Their work was not focused on completing a particular project, but on exploring their past practice and their future, joining their colleagues’ becoming and replenishing their spirits for the next adventure. Characterized by both thinking and doing, they helped teach a graduate course on civic media, built robots, did improv, made field visits, shared great meals, taught superpowers, made media, took courses and concretely stepped toward their futures, all the while reflecting on the nature of civic media.

  • Susu Attar, a mutlimedia artist and curator based in Los Angeles.
  • Ingrid Burrington, writer who focuses on mapping, documenting, and studying the often-overlooked or occluded landscapes of the internet.
  • Sue Ding, a documentary filmmaker and immersive media creator who directs and produces nonfiction media—from feature documentaries to VR—with a focus on identity, storytelling, and social justice.
  • Akilah Hughes, a writer, comedian, YouTuber, and Crooked Media contributor, and author of the forthcoming book Obviously: Stories from my Timeline.
  • Bryan C. Lee, an architect and educator, he is the founder of a nonprofit multidisciplinary design practice working with communities to create spaces of racial, social and cultural equity.
  • Darnell L. Moore, a writer who is head of strategy and programs at Breakthrough U.S., he is also the author of the 2019 Lambda Literary Award winning memoir, No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black & Free in America.
  • Justino Mora, a digital strategist, software engineer, and immigrant rights activist, he is deeply passionate about the intersection of tech, activism, and media.
  • Amber J. Phillips, a political content strategist and storyteller whose work imagines a world where Black womanhood is an overwhelming experience of safety, pleasure, and joy, she has been featured on ESSENCE, Huffington Post, and NPR’s 1A, and is also the co-creator and co-host of The Black Joy Mixtape podcast.
  • Josie Duffy Rice, A journalist and lawyer, she is President of The Appeal, an outlet that publishes original reporting on the criminal justice system, and co-hosts the podcast Justice in America.

Thankfully, while this amazing group of fellows is going far, we’re maintaining a shared orbit! They are joining the Senior Fellow ranks for the year, where they’ll be engaging with the incoming cohort of Civic Media Fellows and Lab community, while they build upon the amazing strides they made this year. We will all be seeing more of them.

We didn’t get to this point alone. Indeed, starting something like the Civic Media Fellowship – built around supporting emerging leaders in tech, media, and pop culture to collaboratively drive social progress – takes a lot of effort. We were blessed by many co-conspirators, ranging from a genuine thought-partner in our donor (thank you Jen Humke, JAM and colleagues!) to incredible programs (like Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, the Center for Civic Media, OpenNews, Data & Society Research Institute and many others), a tremendous steering committee, the inspirational proto-fellows who oriented us, and an amazing cast of advisors, friends and colleagues to round everything out.

Journeying alongside these fellows made it immediately worthwhile… and we’re confident that was just the beginning. As the second cohort arrives (more on them to follow), we’re deeply grateful for the Founding Fellows’ thoughtful, creative, generous commitment to taking these initial steps in ways that indelibly mark the program… and we couldn’t be more excited about what’s next for them individually or us as a community!