The toolkit will help you serve the needs of communities and provide a practical guide to creating a community-centric and digital-first media organization
The Kansas City Defender and the Reynolds Journalism Institute are partnering to build a toolkit that will include the rich history of the radical Black press, its vital contributions to the future of the field and a template for a media future that genuinely caters to the needs of our communities. This toolkit will provide a practical guide to creating a community-centric, digital-first, media organization.
Where we started
When I began my journey two years ago to found The Kansas City Defender, I ventured into new and uncharted territory.
Like many Black and brown individuals stepping into media from outside the traditional fields, I had no formal journalistic background. Instead, my motivation stemmed from rage from the media’s role in perpetuating white supremacy, as well as its deep-rooted interconnectedness with fascism and genocide throughout the past and present of American history.
What I saw was legacy news outlets — both national and local — predominantly white-owned, continuing to perpetuate problematic and racist practices that originated in the early 1900s. Often acting as mere stenographers for police departments, and claiming adherence to colonial principles of “objectivity.”
Additionally, these legacy outlets fail to acknowledge or elevate the vibrant, creative, and impactful cultural contributions of Black communities — while also consistently overlooking the unique experiences and voices of Generation Z and the platforms we inhabit.
This gap underscored the urgent need for a new media paradigm.
What the toolkit will contain
We’ll delve into the histories of groundbreaking media outlets such as The Chicago Defender, Muhammad Speaks, and The Black Panther Party Newspaper, exploring their philosophies and community-building strategies. This exploration will not only honor their legacies but also serve as a foundation for understanding how they engage with their communities.
We’ll provide innovative digital strategies to effectively connect with Gen Z, a younger, tech-savvy audience. Our focus will include an analysis of current trends and potential future shifts in digital media, ensuring our approach remains relevant and impactful for everyone to utilize.
And we’ll provide in-depth guides with actionable templates, scripts, how-tos and other resources. These will show journalists and newsrooms how to implement KC Defender practices in their own organization within the context that grounds them.
Why the Radical Black Press matters
Immersing ourselves in the rich history of the Radical Black Press, our team at the KC Defender sought both guidance and inspiration. This exploration was enlightening and profoundly shaped our editorial approach with purpose and direction. We commit to authentically represent and resonate with our community.
Today, we are poised to impart our accumulated wisdom and lived experience, establishing a central hub for the next generation of media innovators and community organizers. This initiative is more than a mere guide; we hope it will be a beacon for those who aspire to challenge the status quo and courageously chart new paths in media as a tool for radical social change.
We will showcase that it’s okay to be different, to challenge traditional journalistic norms, and to forge a path that truly reflects and serves our communities.
Our commitment extends beyond news. The Kansas City Defender is as much a community organization as it is a news outlet. Our Community Survival Programs — including Free Clothing and Grocery Buyout Programs, Hip Hop Concerts, Parties, Open Mics, Bi-weekly Political Education, a Black Student Solidarity Network, and Young Black Writer’s Socials — are examples of our dedication to uplifting and empowering the communities we serve.
Our collaboration with the Reynolds Journalism Institute is a milestone in our journey. It symbolizes our dedication to providing resources and guidance for upcoming BIPOC media professionals. This project aims to centralize the wealth of knowledge from the Radical Black Press, making it easily accessible and serving as a resource for those who wish to innovate and reinvent journalism in a way that best serves our communities.
Together, we can redefine the norms of media, celebrate our diverse narratives, and build a more equitable landscape.