photo: W.E.B. Du Bois Center
"If there is anybody in this land who thoroughly believes that the meek shall inherit the earth they have not often let their presence be known." - W.E.B. Du Bois

Hi there. 


We were driving in the Berkshires last weekend when my husband said, quietly, “That’s where W.E.B. Du Bois lived.” If the road weren’t so busy, I would have asked him to stop the car right then. 


photo: Nitin Mukul

Instead, we returned the following morning, our feet crunching over snow for the half-mile hike from the parking lot to the place Du Bois was raised by a single mother in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

photo: Nitin Mukul

He would go on to become Harvard’s first Black PhD recipient and one of the most profound scholars of the 20th century. All that’s left of his boyhood home is a platform of the old house's "great room" and there are markers along the way of quotes and photographs. 

photo: Nitin Mukul
Contrast that to another historic home a half-hour away — that of writer Edith Wharton. It’s stately and sprawling, organized around perfect paths and manicured gardens. Here, she wrote the novel “Ethan Frome,” about a depressed man who pines for his sickly wife’s cousin. 

photo: Nitin Mukul

The juxtaposition of these two landmarks is, on its surface, a tragic one. The Mount, as the Wharton summer estate is known, exudes the privilege of preservation. Du Bois, hardly. But in the absence of material objects or picturesque landscapes to cling to, those who bought this land and fought for its salvage and signage — including Civil Rights activist and scholar Julian Bond — had to get imaginative to reconstruct Du Bois’ life and times. They do so with the power of his own words, a legacy that transcends any physical artifact. 

photo: Nitin Mukul

“Would America have been America without her Negro people?”


And of course, the famous declaration: “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.” But here, it is quoted in full: “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line — the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea.” 


A graph designed in 1900 by W.E.B. Dubois, photo: W.E.B. Du Bois Center

What Du Bois pioneered as an architect of the modern Civil Rights Movement (and Martin Luther King Jr. studied, and Malcolm X eventually learned, too) is that the color line has global and historical roots. That’s the power and connectivity we hope to highlight and create through URL Media. As Black History Month draws to a close, the coverage, celebrations and proclamations subside. Not for us. 

In that spirit, we share our partners’ best work this month. You’ve perhaps caught some on our Twitter or Facebook feeds. Follow us. We honor Black — and Brown — history. All. Year. Long.

A number of us have been working in service of our communities to secure vaccines. Here in the Epicenter (Queens), we’ve now registered more than 200 people (elderly, restaurant workers, taxi drivers, diabetics, asthmatics) for their vaccines. We wrote about how this came together. In recent days, dozens of volunteers are joining these efforts, offering to flyer, translate, even transport our people for their shots. The intake form is here if you want to spread the word. 


This is why family from back home keeps calling to ask if we’re okay. The Haitian Times reports that COVID in Haiti was pretty well under control. Not true for its diaspora in North America though. One study found Haitians in Ontario had the highest incidence of Covid — 12 times higher than native Canadians and four times higher than all immigrants and refugees. 


WURD had Dr. Ala Stanford on to talk about the Black Doctors Covid-19 Consortium. She’s a legit hero of the pandemic, on the ground for a year now spreading the gospel on testing and vaccines in the hardest-hit areas of Philadelphia. She talked about the logistics and crowd management of a 24-hour vaccine site and  the 10,000+ people vaccinated by the Black Doctors so far. “We’re fighting real hard to get these communities taken care of,” she said. Listen here


Here’s why half the immigrants in one northern New Jersey facility refuse the Covid vaccine. Documented’s breadth of coverage on ICE detention centers is a must-read. And yesterday, a judge ordered another facility in Buffalo to come up with a vaccination plan, noting “incarcerated people are most vulnerable to the virus and not capable of controlling their own care.”


Latinos are twice as likely to get Covid than non-Latino whites, four times as likely to be hospitalized and thrice as likely to die. Palabra dives into mistrust and misinformation among Latinos on the vaccine. Most do want to take it but 43% want to see how the inoculations affect their fellow Latinos. We’re seeing this trend across our communities.

The A&T Register staff, photo: Scalawag

At URL, we also want to explore how to change media narratives. We can all take a lesson from this Scalawag piece by a college editor at North Carolina A&T State University, the largest historically Black college in the U.S. She assembled mainstream editors who had been using the university as a landmark in relation to crime, especially in headlines, and asked them to do better: “What if a story of student success led the 6 o'clock broadcast?”


ScrollStack’s recent video class on how to translate literature was really poignant — mostly because apparently we already do it. “Most of us who live in urban spaces cannot imagine an existence without English,” said writer and Scroll books editor Arunava Sinha. “We slip very easily from one language to another. Code-switching, we choose the word or phrase that is most suited to a situation. Like it or not, we are all translators.” A recap here.



photo: M.C. Hammer

Finally, M.C. Hammer was trending this week because apparently Twitter found it charming and hilarious that he reads the work of thinkers like Michael Foucault, tweeting, “It’s not Science vs. Philosophy ... It’s Science + Philosophy.” (Of course; see above on vaccines.) Nobody should be surprised by the genius and erudite ways of a rapper... 


Days before, I happened to be on a Clubhouse chat to #StopAsianHate and raise money for the Asian American Federation and guess who showed up? M.C. Hammer. Asked to reconcile that, in some instances, the suspects of these crimes are Black, Hammer shared stories of a boyhood in Oakland with both communities supporting each other. His powerful message leaned on Asian-Black solidarity triumphing: “Do not empower the outliers.” 


Maybe time to start preservation on Hammer’s house.   



S. Mitra Kalita
Co-founder, URL Media
CEO/Publisher, Epicenter-NYC


The urls on URL

We’ve been getting some good press. 

Nieman Lab: Our partner “TBN24 boasts 2.2 million fans on Facebook. On the same platform, that’s more than Newsweek and the Chicago Tribune combined. My guess is most journalists have never heard of it. URL Media is seeking to change that.”


And from Poynter: “Community isn’t just where you live. It might be your neighborhood or a diaspora or a network of newsrooms serving communities that mainstream media often ignores and rarely reflects.”


This is the first of occasional updates on URL Media, the network of community media we are building. You can forward this to friends and ask them to join our newsletter here. 

Be sure to join us on
Sunday, February 28 at 3 p.m. EST
for a discussion on Colorism in the Haitian Community. Register here.

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