By Molly Loughman
The second annual Social Justice + Media Symposium brought together an international group of scholars and professionals to discuss the impacts of their work in media design and literacy, and to honor the legacy of their colleague and friend, Moses Shumow, MA’01.
The SJM Symposium honors the work and spirit of Shumow, a scholar, educator, and activist who worked at the intersection of media, narrative, and social justice. He returned to Emerson, his alma mater, in Fall 2019 to teach digital design, but died that October as the result of an accident.
The Journalism assistant professor left a mark on the hearts and minds of students, faculty, and communities as an empathetic storyteller. “[Human connection] is a skill, but it’s not just an innate gift, and it can be honed and it can be fine tuned, and I think revisiting that concept is worth considering, when we speak about social justice,” said Shumow’s wife, Rose, who opened the symposium with reflections on his work.
Shumow’s spirit lives on at the annual SJM symposium, which explores how media practices and pedagogies can support everyday equity, justice, and positive social change. The theme of this year’s virtual symposium was “IMPACT” toward sustainable and just communities, and how it’s understood and articulated in pedagogy and practice.
“It’s a topic that Moses was really committed to, into always thinking about the way that we think about the value of our work, how do we connect it to communities, how do we know we’re moving communities, and what do we need to engage with communities beyond simply the media?” said Paul Mihailidis, associate professor of Journalism and assistant dean in the School of Communication, who organizes the SJM each year in his late friend and colleague’s memory.
The three-hour virtual 2021 SJM Symposium included workshops and discussions from students and faculty. Students shared ongoing projects and faculty shared pedagogy, practice, and some research.
“I always echo Moses, but I echo this for all of us: Our presence with each other matters, we are building networks, we are connecting, and we’re being attentive to each other as best we can,” said Mihailidis. “Think about [the SJM Symposium] as a community of care, a community of relation.”
Connecting to others through critical and creative engagements can involve “civic imagination,” said keynote speaker Sangita Shresthova, director of research and programs at the Civic Paths Group, based at the University of Southern California. “Civic imagination is about the capacity to imagine alternatives to current social, political, or economic institutions or problems,” said Shresthova.
Shresthova’s work focuses on connected learning, popular culture, performance, new media, and civics. One area of her group’s research is popular culture and fandom.
“Popular culture, which is on the receiving side of things, is really the space in which we engage with people. [It’s] how we use the language of the media that circulates in our culture — fictional, nonfictional — to talk to each other, to critique it, to create stuff with it, and how it really shapes the fabric of our cultural exchanges.”
Shresthova teamed up with Mihailidis and journalism educator Megan Fromm to co-edit Transformative Media Pedagogies, a book exploring “the concept of individual and collective transformation as the underlying driver for media pedagogy.”
The Moses Shumow Transformative Media Literacy Award recognizes a current student who is conducting exceptional work at the intersection of journalism education, participatory media, media literacy, community activism and social justice. Nominations are open from April 1 – June 15. The winning recipient will be announced at the 2021 National Association for Media Literacy Education Conference, July 16-18. The Awardee will receive a monetary prize to support ongoing media impact work, and an opportunity to participate in the Salzburg Academy on Media & Global Change.
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