A Clear Channel Trailer

Context

A Clear Channel:  (Minute 0.00- 0.01 )

Part I, is a short documentary (18:16 minutes) about the complexity of communicating about race relations in America, especially as these themes played themselves out in 1967-1968. Throughout, we feature local instances of activism, whereby African American students on a recently desegregated campus attempted to enact change through the circulation of discourse about race and racism. In Part I, we offer two case studies of local African American student activists who attempted to “go public” (see Warner) with ongoing racial injustices. Part II (currently in development) will feature a third case study, this one a university-community partnership that formed in 1973.

The first case study involves John Carlos, former ETSU student and member of the ETSU track team best known for his participation in the silent protest with sprinter Tommie Smith atop the medal stand at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. The year before Carlos attempted to “go public” with the persistence of racism and injustice across the globe, he had attempted to do the same in the local context under discussion. Thus, after exploring the complexities of communication in 1968, we turn our attention to the global demonstration for social justice that occurred at the Mexico City Olympics in October 1968 and, next, to the more local demonstrations in which Carlos was involved just one year earlier.

The second case study focuses on former ETSU student Joe Tave and his involvement in the formation of the Afro-American Student Society of East Texas (ASSET) on the night of MLK’s assassination in April 1968, especially their “Declaration of Rights” (also in April 1968), which likewise called attention to the persistence of racism in this local context. ASSET’s “Declaration of Rights” and related work were able to force a series of significant changes at ETSU, which we narrate in the final section of “A Clear Channel: Part I.”

The third case study appears in A Clear Channel: Part II, currently in development and available to the public soon. In it, we focus on former ETSU student McArthur Evans and his involvement in the formation of the Norris Community Club (NCC) in 1973, a university-community partnership designed to call attention to the racial injustices experienced by local citizens in Norris, the historically segregated neighborhood (see Carter, “A Clear Channel”).

In each case, the activists involved help illustrate the ways in which, as Michael Warner insists, “One doesn’t ‘go public’ simply as an act of will – neither by writing, nor by having an opinion. The context of publicness must be available, allowing these actions to count in a public way, to be transformative.”

Bibliography 

  • Carter, Shannon . “A Clear Channel: Circulating Resistance in a Rural University Town.” Community Literacy Journal 7.2 Fall 2012.

  • Ratcliffe, Krista. Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness. Southern Illinois UP, 2005. Print.

  • Warner, Michael. Publics and Counterpublics. Zone Books, 2005.

A Clear Channel:  (Minute 0.01-0.02 )

The notion of “noise” plays a significant role in our analysis of communication across difference in 1968, especially as it draws forward international discourse on segregation/desegregation debates.

A Clear Channel:  (Minute 0.02-0.05 )

A core text throughout our remix is the Charles and Ray Eames’ instructional film A Communications Primer (1953), a rich, influential film based loosely on Claude E. Shannon’s seminal article “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” (1948), especially as extended by Warren Weaver in their The Mathematical Theory of Communication (1949). We are particularly interested in working with and against the way Shannon and Weaver’s model defines “noise” in human communication. According to this model, a message is transmitted by the sender and travels along a communication channel to a receiver that then translates the signal and delivers it to the desired destination.

Claude E. Shannon, a mathematician, was primarily concerned with the technical aspects of “noise” — a key concern for engineers attempting to transfer information through the wire-based and broadcasting systems dominating communication technologies at the time. Noise affected the transfer of one’s voice over telephone lines, especially long distance, as well as the distance traveled by a radio wave, which may be blocked by the physical landscape, the limits of the equipment available for transfer or the receiving apparatus, or any other such factor, including competing signals. Taken literally, noise simply refers to any outside force that acts on the transmitted signal in ways that disrupt its ability to reach the receiver intact.

Yet Weaver’s contributions to Shannon’s theory of communication, as well as Eameses’ A Communications Primer upon which it is loosely based, helped extend this notion of “noise” to human communication. In short, human communication is likewise challenged by noise. It is utterly unavoidable but not altogether undesirable. In “The Aesthetics of Noise” (2002), Torben Sangild offers a particularly useful discussion of noise’s etymology:

What is noise?

Etymologically, the term “noise” in different Western languages (stØj, bruit, Geräusch, larm etc.) refers to states of aggression, alarm and tension and to powerful sound phenomena in nature such as storm, thunder and the roaring sea. It is worth noting in particular that the word “noise” comes from Greek nausea, referring not only to the roaring sea, but also to seasickness, and that the German Geräusch is derived from rauschen (the sough of the wind), related to Rausch (ecstasy, intoxication), thus pointing towards some of the aesthetic, bodily effects of noise in music.

Taken literally, noise simply refers to any outside force that acts on the transmitted signal in ways that disrupt its ability to reach the receiver intact. It is utterly unavoidable but not altogether undesirable.

 Bibliography

·  Sangild, Torben. “The Aesthetics of Noise.” UbuWeb Papers. Datanom. 2002. Web. July 31, 2012.

·  Shannon, Claude E. “A Mathematical Theory of Communication.” The Bell System Technical Journal 27.July-October (1948): 379-423;623-656. Bell Labs. Alcatel-Lucent, 1948. Web. 2012.

A Clear Channel:  (Minute 0.05-0.07 )

Throughout the remix, however, our notion of “noise” refers to more than the unintentional disruption of desired communication. Noise can be used rhetorically or intentionally, with good will and a social justice imperative. Borrowing from Weaver and Shannon’s 1948/9 work, Shannon (Carter) explores this intentional, rhetorical use of noise elsewhere. The current remix and the surrounding scholarly annotations focus less on the rhetorical use of noise and instead build from Joseph Nechvatal’s notion of “noise art,” which he describes “as that art which precludes established significance by replacing the assumption of conclusive meaning with one of vital excess” (Introduction). Excess most certainly characterizes any attempts to communicate about social justice in 1968. It is this very excess that we attempt to “immerse” ourselves and our viewers in to better understand the communication challenges and possibilities at the time. To evoke Krista Ratcliffe’s articulation of what she calls “rhetorical listening,” we might productively assert that “noise” likewise challenges our ability to listen to one another — at all, but certainly rhetorically.

* * *

To listen rhetorically is to negotiate. We begin our remix with a general introduction to the global events surrounding the local activism that is our focus, introducing the notion of “listening” during a particularly complex period in our recent history: 1968. We suggest throughout that “noise” complicated the desired communication and enabled the establishment of new channels necessary for that communication (see Carter; Carter and Dent). On some levels, very little true communication took place. Yet it seems that on far more significant levels, communication about race and racism had never been more present than it was during those difficult months of 1968.  Inasmuch as we were able to “negotiate our always evolving standpoints, our identities, with the always evolving standpoints of others” (Ratcliffe 34), the communication that occurred across the nation enabled future negotiations across difference in unprecedented ways.

Our remix offers two local examples of those very negotiations — in Part I, the establishment of the local activist group ASSET (Afro-American Students Society of East Texas) in 1968, and the unprecedented changes ASSET accomplished in a few short years, and (in Part II), the establishment of NCC (Norris Community Club) in 1973, a partnership between African American students and local citizens on behalf of Norris, the historically segregated neighborhood in town. In a few short years, they, too, would accomplish unprecedented change that drew upon the elements of rhetorical listening and established local publics as Michael Warner would define them through the circulation of texts.

Indeed noise enabled the circulation of discourse that established counterpublics necessary for meaningful communication about difference. In other words, noise made rhetorical listening difficult but noise also made rhetorical listening possible.

Bibliography

Handout on RRT

In preparation for an upcoming conference proposal, I ran across the handout I created about our DH project for folks at Imagining America conference in October 2012. I never shared it beyond the conference and thought it worth it to do so now. Here, I describe the project itself and the individuals involved. I end with a description of the community impact.

It’s here.

The new url for this project is here.

MLK at East Texas State University (1967-1968)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., never visited Commerce, Texas, a relatively isolated, university town an hour east of Dallas that’s home to ETSU which did not desegregate until 1964.  Even so, MLK’s presence was felt throughout this community, just as it was everywhere else across the nation and, indeed, the world.

Almost immediately after the first African American students set foot on this campus, MLK’s message began making its way across the community in unprecedented ways. Black students joined together and (often) alongside white allies to push back against ongoing injustice and demand change.

John Carlos (ETSU, 1966-1967) and Joe Tave (ETSU, 1965-1969) were leaders in this fight, bringing Dr. King’s message of racial justice forward in an attempt to disrupt the everyday racism that continued to persist most everywhere across the Jim Crow South. Carlos–the sprinter from Harlem, NY, best known for his part in the Silent Protest at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968–was first introduced to racism in the South while on our campus. Carlos often called his friend Joe Tave “the MLK of East Texas,” noting the ways Tave’s approach differed from his own, which Carlos saw as deeply informed by Malcolm X. Tave, a political science major from a segregated community in the area, was used to the legacy of Jim Crow. His being “used to” race relations like these, however, does not mean he was willing to let them continue. Quite the opposite. Like Carlos, Tave had already spent most of his young life leading social justice efforts. They fought, and each fight had consequences. The won some. They lost many. But though they weren’t able to meet every goal they set, they did end up changing our community in ways that enabled future social justice efforts unlike the town had ever seen.

Just as the MLK and the Civil Rights Movement he helped lead set the stage for unprecedented change across the nation, those who carried his message into local contexts helped pave the way for others to make a difference. We remember and celebrate them now alongside MLK himself.

Connections across Time and Space

The connections between MLK and ETSU are more than philosophical, however.

1. On the very night Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, Joe Tave (ETSU 1965-1969) helped establish the Afro American Students Society of East Texas (ASSET), a group that would help usher in significant reform like the hiring of the first African American faculty and administrators, fair and equal housing and employment opportunities, and the creation of courses in African American studies.

2. Ten days before that, John Carlos (ETSU 1966-1967) was meeting Dr. King, Dr. Harry Edwards, and others in New York to discuss his part in the Olympic Project for Human Rights, a movement he first heard about when he was on our campus a few months earlier. That fall, OPHR had been featured in his favorite sports magazine. He immediately sought ways to make use of the public forum provided by his athletic prowess  to call attention to ongoing injustices witnessed locally and across the state. Picking up that magazine at our local post office, feeling almost defeated by the injustices experienced and witnessed across our campus and what appeared to be the complete unwillingness of many of his fellow students to stand up and fight with him . . . it must have been particularly empowering. As he notes in a recent interview, “I was reading that at the same time I was living that in terms of social issues at the time. I was living that at East Texas State University (Kojo, 2011).

The timeline, then, reads this way:

1964: ETSU becomes one of the last two public colleges in Texas to desegregate

1965: Joe Tave transfers from Wiley College, an all-black Liberal Arts college in East Texas

1966: John Carlos joins the ETSU track team, bringing his wife and two-year-old daughter from their hometown of Harlem, the only place they’d ever lived

1967: Carlos reads about OPHR, begins speaking with local papers about ongoing racism. Local resistance is acute. More on that below.

1968: Carlos and his family return to Harlem. He meets with Dr. King and others about OPHR. See Dr. Carlos’s story of this meeting in the most recent issue of the San Francisco Bay View

April 1968: Dr. King is assassinated in Memphis, TN. Tave helps create ASSET. Organizes MLK march and series of public speeches in his honor.

May 1968: Tave brings ASSET’s “Declaration of Rights” to campus administrators and requests action. Leads to a series of campus-wide surveys, meetings, and related activities. Meets with president multiple times. Leads to the president’s campus-wide address and, within a few short months, all demands listed are met. More on all of that below.

October 1968: Carlos stands alongside Smith and Norman in Silent Protest at the Mexico City Olympics

How’s that for powerful links?

Video

In a remix entitled “A Clear Channel” (above), we feature Carlos and Tave and the stories noted above. The video itself begins with MLK’s statement concerning the promise of civil rights legislation: “Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they cannot communicate; they cannot communicate because they are separated” (King, Stride).

Of course proximity alone did not solve racism in America.[i] Desegregation at our local university thus serves as a useful starting point for a study of communication across difference. To introduce both the local landscape and its global context, the remix juxtaposes local artifacts alongside these national/international materials.

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 rhetoric of collective action that emerged, in part, as a response to the increasing frustration with the many unfulfilled promises of civil rights legislation. 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 (Omi; Williams; Delgado; Crenshaw; Bell).

View this 18-minute remix here:

[i] On this point, critical race theorists like those cited throughout RRT are in nearly complete agreement. RRT draws extensively from CRT.

MLK is murdered. Students Respond. 

John Carlos on MLK (from San Francisco Bay View):

Introduction: John Carlos is best known as the man who, along with Tommie Smith, raised a clenched fist – the Black Power salute – on the medal stand after the 200 meter race. Carlos took bronze, and Smith gold, at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. But that moment was a culmination of months of political discussion among black leaders in America. One such discussion happened in early 1968 in New York City. Carlos explains, in a section excerpted from “The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment that Changed the World,” written with Dave Zirin.

“I recall going down to the Americano that evening, walking into the lobby and being just overwhelmed by the size of it all. [more]

Joe Tave on MLK (from Carter and Dent):

THE BLACK STUDENTS OF EAST TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY have been discriminated against in several areas of the University community. That among these areas are: off campus housing, on campus housing, university employment, and university organizations.

–Afro-American Student Society of East Texas, “Declaration of Rights” (May 7, 1968)

 You are all aware that your President did receive and accept a Declaration of Rights presented by the newly formed Afro-American Student Society. . . . I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this matter with you in person in order that we may avoid any possible misunderstanding.

–President D. Whitney Halladay, “Statement Before the Student Senate” (May 15, 1968)

Within hours of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination on the evening of April 4, 1968, Joe Tave began drafting the first of many interrelated documents designed to challenge racial discrimination persisting across his rural university town, which had desegregated only four years earlier. Tave, one of East Texas State University’s (ET) increasingly numerous and vocal African American students, did not plan to establish the Afro-American Student Society of East Texas (ASSET) that night. In fact, just a few hours earlier, he had planned to spend the evening holed up in his dorm room, memorizing notes for a test the next day. “I wanted an education,” Tave explained in a recent interview. “That was always my priority.” However, he also wanted justice, and that desire increasingly required this quiet, studious, and intense young man to take on leadership roles. “I dedicate my life to the betterment of human . . . life,” Tave wrote in his scrapbook in the winter of 1968, “with a great deal of favoritism for the black man and all who fall within his sphere of plights” (“Dedication”).

When the phone rang and a friend delivered the terrible news of King’s assassination, that same dedication caused Tave to drop everything and attend the meeting. As he recalls, “I was angry and hurt. We all were. …[Everywhere] people were crying and sobbing and looking” to one another for answers. Soon, however, his tears gave way to frustration. “Finally, I just stood up and said, ‘What in the hell’s it gonna be?’ I was angry—at the lack of leadership, at the lack of commitment, at just being lost.” If the ability to organize for social justice died alongside King on the balcony in Memphis, Tennessee, he would just return to his dorm room and his studies. He had a test the next day and a degree to obtain, the latter of which had been his primary goal since he first transferred to the newly desegregated ET from an area black liberal arts college.

“Joe’s right,” someone said at that meeting, likewise frustrated by the lack of action and determined to make something happen. Almost immediately, ASSET was established. Before he returned to his dorm, Tave had been elected president. Soon thereafter, he wrote the “Declaration of Rights,” a set of fourteen student rights that representatives argued had been violated by ET’s racist policies and practices. Within a few weeks, this document was ratified by ASSET, signed by many of the campus’s African American students, and delivered to President Halladay, who responded with a public “Statement Before the Student Senate.”[i]

A little over a month after that impromptu meeting he almost didn’t attend, the texts written by Tave and other ASSET representatives and circulated across the campus began to transform the local community, setting in motion a series of key hires and curricular, policy, and community changes that significantly altered future access to local public spaces for area African American citizens. That access remained limited, irregular, and excruciatingly temporary but nonetheless meaningful—to local citizens decades ago, of course, but to us today as well.

 


[i] Later that summer, Halladay would mimeograph the ASSET demands and his own public response, package them together with a letter expressing satisfaction and circulate to campus administrators, and politicians everywhere. In the final section, we return to this aspect of the literacy scene as captured in the formal archives.

It’s here!

This morning, Writing Democracy arrived in my inbox, the fall 2012 special issue of Community Literacy Journal I am guest editing with regular collaborator Deborah Mutnick.  The Norris Community Club is on the cover. This is the group that inspired my use of “a clear channel” as both object of inquiry and useful metaphor for analysis. The complete title of my article in this issue is “A Clear Channel: Circulating Resistance in a Rural University Town.” Our remix A Clear Channel serves as a companion piece for this article.

NCC-CLJ2012

coverimageCLJ2012

tofc-clj2012

Today was a rather amazing day for this project.

1. At 5:00 am, as I’m wrapping up final edits for our last trailer ( A Clear Channel: Part I), the above special issue arrives in my inbox. I submitted the pic for the cover and I wrote the information about the cover image (excerpted above) that appears in the first pages of the issue. However this was my first opportunity to actually SEE the cover. It’s beautiful and very moving, especially given that I have been working with and writing about several of these individuals the last few years. One of my most regular collaborators is MacArthur Evans, pictured on the far left in the Norris Community decades ago. I cannot wait to show this to him. He’s read the article and given his thumbs up. He knows I submitted this image for the journal, as do a number of other founding members of NCC. But I imagine he’ll be just as moved at the sight of it. I’m excited to share it with him and other regular collaborators.

2. By 5:30 pm, I was making the hour’s drive from campus back to my home in McKinney. Sunchai joined me to help wrap up the final input on the above trailer. Kelly came up Friday to wrap up the input on the other trailer (Still Searching). With extensive help from the rest of our team, especially David Mosley, we’d build a really lovely and increasingly functional website to house the project, which I had decided late this afternoon was ready to share broadly (RRT). In short, I was feeling pretty darn good about this project we’ve spent the last two years developing. As we wind the grant period to a close, we cannot help but be tickled to find we have created something we think is pretty special that celebrates local heroes we know to be pretty special. We are eager to share it with the world. That the print-based version of these stories about local activism made itself available the very same day seems too good to be true.

3. By 6:45, I’m back at home. I let the dogs in and go out to check the mail. What do I find? A contract from University of Chicago Press for our contribution (with Sunchai and Jennifer) to Jim Ridolfo and Bill Hart-Davidson’s Rhetoric and the Digital Humanities. Whereas the article for CLJ features what this study has taught me about rhetoric’s past and civic engagement, the digital humanities project allows us to communicate those findings in new ways. With Kelly, I explored the tool itself and its implications for our discipline in an article invited for Jess Enoch and David Gold’s College English issue on the digital humanities. For this edited collection, we’ll be situating the project within the debates surrounding the DH.

In any case, it feels like a very good end to a very good year of projects. I have felt pretty overwhelmed a lot of the year but I have also felt energized. I clearly have the best job in the world, surrounded by the best people doing some of my very favorite things. –Shannon Carter

under construction

Disclaimer: We will continue to edit the remixes and the associated data-source annotations until we submit the White Paper to NEH in March 2013. Until that point, we will be editing the annotations (content, rhetorical elements, and timing). We will also continue to improve the trailers and associated documentaries to ensure the best product possible.

The above disclaimer is for users directed to this post from our RRT prototype for A Clear Channel or Still Searching, both of which are now available at Remixing Rural Texas: Local Texts, Global Contexts. The entire project is in the final phase. Right now, only rather minor issues remain so we continue to troubleshoot until we eradicate all the issues that remain. At the time of this writing (December 14, 2012), the semester is ending and the graduate assistants involved in the project have begun to head home for the winter break. We didn’t want to wait until the new year when we could be certain every single issue within the project had been resolved. Though minor issues still remain, we thought it better to launch the site now with a disclaimer.

We are eager to share. The project is very close to where we want it to be. We hope you will find it informative, entertaining, and useful. We certainly have.

Oral History: Glenda McKissic

Oral History: Glenda McKissic

Glenda McKissic was crowned the first African American Homecoming Queen at ETSU in 1972. We met her last summer when Joe Tave brought her to the screening of A Clear Channel. After the screening, she and I were talking about the documentary. One of the things that came up in our conversation was the death threat against her dear friend, Joe Tave. She said that she never knew about it at the time. She elaborated and explained that she had also received threats and abusive phone calls after winning Homecoming Queen.

Today, Glenda is an educator with a passion for activism, social justice and empowering young people. She stands as an example of strength and dignity today for the African American community.

In this interview, (there are five total) she discusses the influence that Joe had on her life during this intense period of integration in East Texas. Here, she talks about integration and the support she received from her family and community. Glenda is such a positive, amazing woman. She speaks with clarity, power and love while she remembers her adolescence. Growing up in a vehemently racist area of Texas, Glenda is a wonderful example of humanity in the face of adversity. Where others might be inclined to be bitter and angry, Glenda remains positive and full of hope for the future.

Jennifer Jones