Celebrating the 2020 Civic Media Fellows!

LOS ANGELESThe USC Annenberg Innovation Lab is celebrating the success of its second fellowship cohort, working with a tremendously powerful crew of a dozen civic media makers who hail from a diverse range of practices, interests, networks, super powers, career stages, geographies, lived experience and more. 

The Civic Media Fellowship, with generous support from the Macarthur Foundation, empowers folks who use media and technology to inform, inspire and engage communities in participation, reimagination and recreation of the civic lives they seek. Whatever their primary professional identitywhether artist, mediamaker, journalist, organizer, technologist, author or otherwisethey break boundaries, finding ways to collaboratively leverage culture for change within vibrant communities that have been historically marginalized.

“I could not be more enthusiastic about the journey these remarkable fellows are on. Beyond their amazing individual accomplishments, I’m humbled by the ways they show up for one other,” said AnnLab Executive Director Colin Maclay. “From fearlessly sharing ideas and practices, to relentlessly supporting accountability and self-care, they have demonstrated genuine commitment and camaraderie to each otherperhaps the most essential resource for blazing new and challenging trails, especially in these uncertain times.” 

During their time with AnnLab, fellows explored what civic media means, where to situate their work and how to chart their path aheadall while sharing, problem solving and learning with each other, benefitting from the support of a team of accomplished peers. We learned a ton and shared superpowers with one anotherfrom camera fundamentals, to public speaking, to archiving, to book publishingfellows were able to explore their past practice and their future and replenish their spirits for the next adventure. This year, big themes included the importance of self-care, the power and challenge of saying no, financial sustainability, finding and creating hope, and so much more.

“The [fellowship] gave me space and community to widen my creative process,” said civic media fellow Charlene Carruthers, who was recently accepted into Northwestern University’s African American Studies doctoral program. “The encouragement, clarity and support from my cohort, including the staff, made a difference throughout my process. Vulnerability, personal growth and connection were all central to my experience in the fellowship.”

Artwork by Ashley Lukashevksky

Characterized by both thinking and doing, fellows, in conversation with the campus community, welcomed and learned from innovators across the field, held a day-long public forum on the role of arts and culture in movements that featured intergenerational leaders rooted the black radical tradition, designed goods, strengthened skills in fundraising and financial planning, made field visits, shared recipes and great meals all around Los Angeles, took courses and concretely stepped toward their futures, all the while reflecting on the nature of civic media. But most of all, the fellows forged new relationships and strengthened old ones, building upon an incredible network of civic media-makers around the nation and beyond. 

“What I’m taking away from the fellowship are the kinships I’ve been able to build with such beautiful people,” said civic media fellow Set Hernandez Rongkilyo. “I’m grateful for the ways I’ve learned from the fellows, and how folks have shared themselves in such rich ways. From the senior fellows, to coordinators, to student workers, and my fellow fellows, these relationships will continue to be part of my life beyond the fellowship.”

While plans were upended and events took a turn as COVID-19 hit, the team stayed nimble and was able to build an even stronger foundation of support with one another, adapting programming and finding creative ways to share space virtually. 

“This fellowship has been an incredible opportunity to reflect on my work, be challenged by others, and––especially in light of the pandemic––find encouragement from a group of endlessly talented, thoughtful, and compassionate people,” said civic media fellow Jackson Bird. “I couldn’t imagine dealing with this pandemic without being able to log on, vent and check-in with each other.”

We’re so grateful to the fellows and all of the civic media guests and collaborators who shape this program with their ideas, participation, and time spent and who continue to construct a network of support, collaboration and celebration. As the third cohort comes in (more on them to follow), we couldn’t be more excited about what’s next for these 12 brilliant media makers individually, or us as a community!

These are the 2020 Civic Media Fellows ~ and what they’re doing next!

  • Jackson Bird (New York)
    After a successful book tour during the fellowship, Jackson is now getting ready for the release of the paperback version of his book, Sorted: Growing Up, Coming Out, and Finding My Place in August. He is also currently the host of a daily podcast called the Good News Ride Home.
  • Charlene Carruthers (Chicago)
    Charlene was accepted to the Northwestern University’s African American Studies PhD Program and starts in the fall. She’s also working on writing more poetry. 
  • Tanya C. DePass (Chicago)
    Tanya DePass is working on the Fifth Season role-playing game based on N.K Jemisin’s Hugo award winning trilogy by Green Ronin Publishing, and figuring out how to keep herself and her organization, I Need Diverse Games, afloat in the time of COVID. 
  • Martha Diaz (Los Angeles)
    Martha is implementing a second pilot of her online education portal, Hip Hop CommUniversity, with View Park High School in Los Angeles. She is also partnering with the Universal Hip Hop Museum in the Bronx, NY, where she will continue to work on programming including Rush The School: A Hip Hop Education Conference, in partnership with the High School for Recording Arts, happening on June 24.
  • Sydette Harry (Los Angeles)
    Sydette will be working on using artistic curation to combat conservation bias, what it means to fight and resist through memory and body, and how racism and misinformation have shaped technology. Unicorn fellowship
  • Arshia Haq (Los Angeles)
    Arshia was awarded the Onassis Air International Residency, in Athens, Greece and is working on forthcoming projects: the X-tra Contemporary Art Quarterly Artist Project and “A language. where yesterday and tomorrow. are the same word. Kal” collaborative project with Many Headed Hydra Collective, Berlin, Germany.  She’s also celebrating the launch of her record label, Discostan Records. 
  • Set Hernandez Rongkilyo (Los Angeles)
    Set is continuing with virtual community screenings of their short documentary COVER/AGE about healthcare access for undocumented immigrants and was awarded  Disrupters Fellowship by 50/50×2020 and the Center for Cultural Power that started on May 12. 
  • Ashley Lukashevsky (Los Angeles)
    Ashley is excited to do more projects that bring her closer to home and her own identity, like illustrating the upcoming children’s book Snow Angel, Sand Angel about a Japanese-American girl from Hawai’i who has never seen snow in real life. She also illustrated the children’s book, Antiracist Baby, out in June. She’ll be doing a virtual reading with the author, Ibram X. Kendi, through Politics & Prose on June 16. Additionally, Ashley is working collaboratively with a group of incarcerated young people, artists, poets, and musicians through Performing Statistics, to create a series of “cultural artifacts” from a future world, one in which no young people are locked up.
  • Jeff Severns Guntzel (Minneapolis)
    Jeff is designing and building mobile, foot-powered hand washing stations for homeless encampments in his city. He’s collecting donations and devising a website, which will launch in the coming weeks. Inspired by the clear utility of these stations and by the difficulty and expense of sourcing materials for them, he’s designing kits that can be shipped anywhere and easily assembled. Additionally, he’s been doing reporting around the city’s handling of the encampments. 
  • Mari Mari Narváez (Puerto Rico)
    Mari is documenting new cases of Police violence through civic media and community data gathering. She is now also expanding her organization’s capacity to supervise law enforcement and authoritarian policies during emergencies (hurricanes, earthquakes, pandemics). Her new fiction story book, ‘No pasa nada’, co-authored with Sofía Irene Cardona, will be published this summer by Edciones Callejón.
  • Latoya Peterson (Washington, DC)
    As the cofounder of Glow Up Games, Latoya is working on the release of their video game for HBO’s Insecure, The Come Up Game, scheduled for later this summer. 
  • Fresco Steez (Los Angeles)
    Fresco is working as a digital strategist for the Movement For Black Lives through her Culture Society communications firm, where she is honing her craft as creative director, and hosting various digital organizing and creative design trainings.