Munford Centre Holds Forum on People of Colour in the Media

Friday, November 17, 2006

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Written by May Warren

On Thursday evening members of the C.J Munford Centre organized a unique event to explore issues of people of colour in the media. The event, billed as “an open forum for discussion” featured interactive displays on themes such as interracial dating, the history of hip-hop and images of black women in advertising. Members of the Munford Centre executive were on hand to discuss the themes covered and engage students with the material. Asha Jeffers, assistant supervisor at the Munford Centre says the event was designed with this goal in mind.

“There are a lot of vague ideas that people have about people of colour in the media, things are noticed but not talked about,” she says, adding that often these themes are “background noise as opposed to being brought to the forefront.”

One of the exercises involved looking through magazines like Cosmopolitan and Vogue and discussing their representation of people of colour. “We are trying to get people to think about what it all means, what we are being indoctrinated to think through what we are consuming,” says Jeffers, explaining trends like over sexualizing black women or featuring people who look “whiter” are prevalent in the advertising industry.

She names two images of black women, the Mammie motherly “Aunt Jamima" figure and the over sexualized Jezebel figure that are prevalent in the media and limit the ways in which black women are portrayed. “Often people think you can add black people to advertisements and it will be enough,” adds Jeffers arguing that this excludes a lot of people with varied ethnic identities and backgrounds such as Arabs, First Nations People or East Asians.

The event also featured discussion on things like the evolution of hip hop and the history of rap in attempt to get students thinking about how these mediums started with social issues and have evolved into being about sex drugs and violence.

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