“A Clear Channel: Part I”

Our second remix, A Clear Channel, may be our best one yet! We are planning a screening at Texas A&M-Commerce on August 7, 2012, in Innovations A in the Sam Rayburn Student Center at Texas A&M-Commerce. But you needn’t wait nor travel from afar.  All you need to view this component is an internet connection.

Summary: A short documentary (A Clear Channel) about the complexity of communicating about racism in America, drawing attention to this this issue as it played out in one local context (a rural university town) at a particularly complex time (after 1964, as the first African American students set foot on this campus that had been segregated since 1889). Narrative remixes collective memories of 1968 drawn from existing source materials to explore attempts by local African American student activists in a newly desegregated university to communicate about race in ways that promote social justice.


We begin with a quote from Martin Luther King’s memoir that implies racism in America can be solved through effective communication across difference, which segregation makes impossible for obvious reasons: “. . . they cannot communicate because they are separated” (King). The local context under investigation in the current remix is one of the last two public colleges in Texas to begin the process of desegregation (in 1964).

The remix itself is “a story about what happened next.” More precisely: “If, as MLK” implied, “. . . segregation led to hate based on fear resulting from the unknown perpetuated by the lack of communication forced by our physical and legal separation, how did communication change after desegregation reached this rural university town?”  That question guides the remix, drawing extensively from a range of scholarly, instructional, popular, contemporary, and current artifacts that foreground the many complexities surrounding communication in 1968—locally, nationally, around the world. Especially important to our analysis are the tensions surrounding the civil rights movement most traditionally represented in sentiments like that offered in the MLK quote that opens the remix (and which King himself challenged) and rhetoric of collective resistance that emerged, in part, as a response to the increasing frustration with civil right’s legislation’s many unfulfilled promises. Our remix takes this tension into one local context, teasing apart the critical race narratives embodied in local attempts to disrupt the racism that persists in everyday life across the nation. A core text throughout is the Charles and Ray Eames instructional film A Communications Primer(1953), a rich, influential film based loosely on Claude Shannon’s seminal text “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” (1948), the latter of which is widely regarded as the foundational theory for information studies. The remix uses this linear model of communication and its theory of “noise” as both a touchstone text and a point of departure. Building on Shannon Carter’s scholarly article “A Clear Channel: Circulating Resistance in a Rural University Town” (2012), among others, the current remix suggests attempts to communicate about racism in America relied on the creation of new “channels” to counter more established ones.

More specifically, the remix offers the initial layers of this local story about communication across difference in 1968—first through sprinters what has been dubbed the “Sports Moment that Changed the World” (see Carlos and Zirin’s The John Carlos Story, 2011):  John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s silent protest at the Mexico City Olympics that followed initial attempts to establish a global channel for this communication about equality and social justice (through the Olympic Project for Human Rights or “OPHR”). We then turn to the time one of those two sprinters spent at our rural university just two years earlier, as part of the ETSU track team from 1966-1967. In this local context, Carlos experienced de jure racism for the first time in his life (Carlos was raised in Harlem). He was here when he first first learned of OPHR, from a Track and Field article in 1967 that generated OPHR’s first most significant and visible and press coverage. While in this local context, Carlos began speaking to local reporters about racism he was witnessing across the region, a fact understandably met with widespread local resistance and eventually leading to Carlos leaving Commerce altogether. The final section turns to another local attempt to establish “a clear channel” for social justice, this one developed on the night of MLK’s assignation when students established a “clear channel” for communication across difference through the Afro American student Society of East Texas


One thought on ““A Clear Channel: Part I”

  1. […] Digital Humanities project consists of two elements: (1) a remix, delivered via YouTube and consisting of archival materials (university archives,  Library of […]

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