Parker lecture honors three, pays tribute to founder’s legacy
The 33rd Annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture was as much about honoring this era’s voices for equal media access as it was about celebrating the life of the late Rev. Parker and continuing his legacy and work.
Faith leaders, media executives and media justice advocates gathered on Tuesday, Oct. 20, to recognize the top media reform advocates at this year’s lecture, held at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. It also included remembrances of Parker, who died at age 102 on Sept. 17.
danah boyd, founder of the Data & Society Research Institute, delivered the 2015 Parker Lecture, asserting that “one of the things that I’ve learned is that, unchecked, new [technology] tools are almost always empowering to the privileged at the expense of those who are not.”
In her address, boyd described how “digital white flight” from certain technology platforms mirrored the problem in the traditional world, and how predictive data technologies, if not used thoughtfully, have the potential to exacerbate stereotyping.
“More and more, technology is going to play a central role in every sector, every community, and every interaction,” boyd said. “It’s easy to screech in fear or dream of a world in which every problem magically gets solved. But to actually make the world a better place, we need to start paying attention to the different tools that are emerging and learn to ask hard questions about how they should be put into use to improve the lives of everyday people. Now, more than ever, we need those who are thinking about social justice to understand technology and those who understand technology to have a theory of fairness.”
In her remarks, boyd said, “We are here today because Dr. Parker spent much of his life fighting for the rights of others — notably the poor and people of color, recognizing that the ability to get access to new technologies to communicate and learn weren’t simply privileges, but rights. He challenged people to ask hard questions and ignore the seemingly insurmountable nature of complex problems. In the process, he paved a road that enables a whole new generation of activists to rally for media rights.”
The Parker Lecture, hosted by the UCC’s Office of Communication, Inc., recognizes individuals for their impact in ethical broadcasting. The lecture was created in 1982 to recognize the Rev. Dr. Everett C. Parker, founder of OC, Inc., and his pioneering work as an advocate for the public’s rights in broadcasting.
The Rev. John Dorhauer, UCC general minister and president, recalled Parker as someone “who got things done,” he said. “His commitment to ensuring that every marginal voice would have access to the airwaves not only mattered, not only matters still, but was something almost every other justice advocate missed. He didn’t.”
The Rev. Truman Parker, son of Everett Parker, detailed his father’s long list of accomplishments, including creating educational shows for children and preparing reports on the early days of religious broadcasting. Parker recalled a childhood home that was filled with props for the shows his father produced and boxes of filings on the hiring practices of television and radio stations to which his father had demanded access.
Also honored at the event were Joseph Torres, senior external affairs director of Free Press, who received the Everett C. Parker Award in recognition of his work embodying the principles and values of the public interest in telecommunications, and Wally Bowen, co-founder and executive director of the Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN), who received the Donald H. McGannon Award for his dedication to bringing modern telecommunications to low-income people in rural areas.
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