Everett Parker's influence still impacts today's media

Everett Parker's influence still impacts today's media

The landscape of media communications has changed in the 30 years since the inaugural Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture. But the influence of Parker's groundbreaking work is still significant today.

"Our gathering always provides a reminder that social justice issues are inevitably tied to media access, and that the principles that Everett Parker was fighting for remain critically important today," said Sara Fitzgerald, treasurer of the OC, Inc. Board of Directors and one of the event's organizers.

The Parker Lecture, hosted annually by the United Church of Christ's Office of Communication, Inc. (OC, Inc.), was created in 1982 to recognize Parker's pioneering work as an advocate for the public's rights in broadcasting. The event is the only lecture in the country to examine telecommunications in the digital age from an ethical perspective.

"I have truly been blessed to have been able to contribute to, be benefited by and help others to serve in the UCC social justice ministry that required accountability of the media by the citizens it serves. This event is momentous for the thirty year legacy of the ethics lecture and the centennial year of Rev. Parker," said Earl Williams Jr., OC, Inc. board chairman. "I look forward to the remarks of our guests that reflect the current state of our media, government and the effect on our nation."

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. will deliver the 30th Annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture Tuesday, Sept. 25, in Washington D.C. This year's event will also celebrate Parker's 100th birthday, as well as his pioneering work as an advocate for the public's rights in broadcasting. The lecture and breakfast will take place at First Congregational United Church of Christ.

"It's a rare moment for us. Historically we're a new building but we have history within the civil rights movement," said the Rev. Sidney Fowler, First Congregational's transitional minister. "It's just a very exciting event."

First Congregational is an all-new facility that was dedicated in February, but it sits in the same spot in downtown D.C. since 1868. The new building is the third version the church, which was founded in 1865 by abolitionists as the first racially integrated church in D.C., and played a role in founding Howard University.

Since it was founded in 1959, OC Inc. has been a leading force in the struggle to ensure that women, persons of color and low-income persons have equal access to ownership, production, employment, and decision making in media.

Fitzgerald, a former editor for the Washington Post, said she always found the Parker Lecture very inspiring. "There are so many people involved in media reform and telecommunications policy who recognize how important Rev. Everett Parker's legal battle was to opening up broadcasting to minority voices and ownership and establishing the principle that the public has an interest in how the airwaves are used," she said.

"Many of the persons who attend the Parker Lecture were mentored by Everett Parker early in their careers, and many of them have gone on to help mentor others in the media reform movement and in the broadcasting industry," added Fitzgerald, a member of Rock Spring Congregational UCC in Arlington, Va. "Many of these people are not affiliated with the UCC, so it is wonderful to join with them at his event to celebrate this wonderful legacy."

Parker played a key role in ensuring American media accountability in the public interest. As the director of the Office of Communication of the UCC from 1954-83, his leadership in the development of influential media reform aimed to improve employment prospects for women and minorities in broadcasting.

Two awards will be presented, and two leaders from  the UCC national office will also speak at the event. The Rev. Linda Jaramillo, executive for the Justice and Witness Ministries, will talk about Parker's legacy and OC, Inc., and the Rev. Geoffrey Black, the UCC's general minister and president, will introduce Jackson.

Charles Benton, chairman of the board of the Benton Foundation, will receive the Everett C. Parker Award for his leadership and support in promoting the public interest in traditional and digital media. S. Jenell Trigg, chair of the Intellectual Property and New Media and Technology Practice Group of Lerman Senter PLLC, will receive the Donald H. McGannon Award in recognition of her work to promote opportunities in telecommunications for women and persons of color.

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