Photo by Rob Rabena for Visit Philly

“How can we go back and check who is receiving the money and what is the impact of the dollars? All these promises are not transparent or measurable.”

Jeannine Cook, Philadelphia business owner on the promises made by banks to support Black communities

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Hello friends,

How do we make media indispensable to the people? This is a question everyone in the journalism world is wrestling with, especially mainstream newspapers who continue to struggle with relevance, cultural competence and economic survival.  

One answer: Use your platforms to solve real problems facing real people. For me, the Black press, since inception, has provided a powerful blueprint. Freedom’s Journal, the first Black newspaper in the nation, was launched in 1827 the same year slavery was abolished in New York. The editors, Samuel Cornish and John B. Russwurm saw media ownership as an essential ingredient to full personhood. A place where information and resources could be shared to empower Black people who were denied political access, social justice, economic opportunity and in too many cases life itself.  

I see WURD -- and now URL Media -- as heirs to this legacy. I’ve been running WURD Radio, one of the few remaining Black-owned talk radio stations in the nation, since 2010. We’re based in Philadelphia, the sixth largest city in the U.S. One of Philly’s claims to fame: We’re the birthplace of the nation. Another: We’re the poorest big city in America. It’s also one of the Blackest big cities in the nation -- 44% of Philly’s population is Black/African American.

Like most big cities, Philly is still wading through the wreckage wrought by COVID-19. Economic inequality is magnified by high unemployment rates. Before the pandemic, African Americans had the highest unemployment rate in both Philadelphia (17.7%) and Pennsylvania (15.4%). And now as Black-owned businesses struggle to recover, the wealth gap widens. 

This is why, in 2019, WURD launched the
Lively-HOOD initiative. The concept of Lively-HOOD is simple: we want to use all of WURD’s media platforms -- radio, video, digital, social and events -- to help solve one of Philly’s most intractable problems -  high poverty and unemployment rates in the Black community. And this year with the support from the Knight Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund we’ve expanded Lively-HOOD to connect into the URL Media Network.

We are working with our partners to do deep dive reporting about work and wealth in BIPOC communities. And we are really excited about an accountability journalism series tracking the pledges made by corporate giants to increase funding for Black and Brown organizations in the aftermath of the racial justice protests in 2020. Our first piece, written by Madhu Bora (profiled below), focused on the billions of dollars in pledges big banks have made to Black and Brown businesses.

Unfortunately (and not surprisingly) her findings reveal that the money isn’t reaching those most in need. The next piece is zeroing in on racial diversity at the board level of these same big banks.  

Check out this edition and continue to follow our expanded Lively-HOOD project as we follow the money.

Sara Lomax-Reese

Co-Founder, URL Media

Behind The "Lively-HOOD"

URL Media spoke with Madhusmita Bora who wrote "A Racial Reckoning in the Big Banks - Black Business Still Waiting for the Payout" for WURD Radio & URL Media’s special series called Lively-HOOD. 

What was the biggest takeaway from covering this story?
Since George Floyd’s killing, the big financial institutions are having a reckoning and realizing it cannot be business as usual, but their ambitious promises have yet to translate into meaningful changes and support for the Black community. Underserved communities need to be empowered with the educational tools that will help inform and connect them to resources. 

What will you be covering next in this area?
We would like to continue on this journey of holding corporate America accountable. Many of the small businesses, who shared their stories with us, said meaningful changes can only happen when boardrooms and C-suites reflect the communities they serve. Our next story will focus on boardroom diversity.

Hispanic Heritage Month Rewind

This week, we're highlighting the 2018-2019 series from Scalawag, "This Work Will Take Dancing" which features Southern Latinx poets. This poem on natural disasters is from MJ Santiago.

self-portrait with emerging root system

after the storm, my sister
texts: we live on an island now
her children swimming
down what once was
dry land. the wind had
been a teenager, screaming
against my house,
breaking the illusion
of wall. every day we wake,
the world has ended,
but I still have a body,
burning with something,
swallowing histories as after-
thought, spitting swampland
out into new roots.

- by MJ Santiago
URL Media Scoops

We're very supportive of these upcoming stories from The Haitian Times and Documented. You've heard it here first!

The Haitian Times is taking a look at the economic sustainability of Haitian-American businesses, particularly in New York. What challenges are Haitian-Americans facing? Are they able to obtain loans? 

Documented is looking at the issue of wage theft from employees.

Stay plugged in to this newsletter for updates! 

Photo by Leonardo March for The Haitian Times

Help and Compassion Wanted

The American Dream is still alluring and Haitians dreaming of a better future - in search of prosperity and a fresh start - have not been immune to its draw. Many Haitians are looking to flee for a number of reasons- from the oppression of local oligarchs to gangs to natural disasters and failed intervention policies from the United States, including the current administration.

Depending on who they encounter, Haitian refugees face compassion or skepticism from border town residents.  COVID-positive refugees are currently being quarantined in El Paso. They're ready for real solutions, according to Garry Pierre-Pierre in The Haitian Times. Our partner is starting an exclusive series of interviews of refugees, beginning with the story of Jameson Mesidor, 26-year-old now living in Florida, after a four-year odyssey through South America.

How can an employer be more empathetic to workers still recovering from climate-related disasters -like Hurricane Ida? Weeks later many residents in Louisiana are still in the thick of the big clean up. Scalawag weighs in on the etiquette surrounding workplace expectations when employees are still picking up the pieces of their lives. These are a few of the honest nuggets in "You're Swamped? Join the Club" in Scalawag. 

All it takes is some help, at least in some cases, to get the unvaxxed —vaxxed. In "Why we cannot give up on the unvaccinated," our partners Epicenter and TBN24 joined forces with local health organizations and targeted unvaccinated areas in New York to get the word out about COVID and provide residents the shots they need. It is more complex than vaccine hesitancy; it turns out lack of access and time are still major factors in whether people get vaccinated.

Finally, imagine you're enjoying a quiet moment at home when a swarm of law enforcement officers bang on your door and interrogate you about the worst terrorist attack in American history. What would you do? This is what happened to Yasser and Hany Ebrahim along with hundreds of other innocent people. They were rounded up by the federal government in the days and weeks following 9/11. Documented shares the struggle of how they tried to recover from these unconstitutional arrests. 

Photo by Scalawag

A Spotlight on Systemic Problems

If you've ever had a loved one in prison, you know it can be tough to navigate all of the various rules and regulations on visitation, packages and communication. You may be surprised to learn that even some books are considered "contraband" for many who are incarcerated. Scalawag has all the details. 

And in Washington State, an investigation revealed systemic problems with mail-in ballots used during the last election. The investigation found that Latino voters' mail-in-ballots were disproportionately affected and their ballots were more likely to be rejected. The problem is tied to signature matching training that is used nationally. It warranted an examination from InvestigateWest, a Seattle-based non-profit news organization that partnered with PalabraRead on.


What we're loving this week from our partners

+Scrollstack continues to highlight diverse content from their users. This time, it features women in sports.
Epicenter-NYC's Andrea Pineda-Salgado went beyond the fading headlines and talked with those who lost their homes in a fire in April and how they're recovering.


Huge and well-deserved congratulations to Scalawag for being the inaugural recipient of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Humanities in Place grant! $350,000 will be invested in the incredible people and work of this publication. You can find out here how they will expand their coverage of the South. 

Our own S. Mitra Kalita was a panelist in WBUR City Space's Here and Now. She spoke on how women are changing the face of journalism and the media. The panel portion begins at 27:50. 

Join URL Media Events

Once a month, you can catch URL Media on The Laura Flanders Show on select PBS stations for a conversation that centers the stories, issues and concerns that our BIPOC media partners are following. 

Click here to check your local TV listing.

Here’s how you can watch our latest.

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