Print Version Print Version Email to Friend Email to Friend
MAZI Articles

Facing our Humanity in 2006 - Message from Denise Gray-Felder

In this letter to readers, Consortium President Denise Gray-Felder reflects on confronting the challenges to humanity in 2006.

The spirits of human rights activists Coretta Scott King and Rosa Parks hover above me as I write this message. Their deaths became media affairs in the United States"”perhaps more for the pageantry than many of us might like. Still, I'm forcefully impacted by their passing, in a way that resembles the deaths of my own mother and grandmother"”and the deaths of all mothers of struggles worldwide. As I watched the television coverage of both the Scott and Parks funerals in recent weeks, I was struck by the affirmation that one woman"”pushed by passion, intellect and chutzpah "“ can move worlds.

Both were born to circumstances that would have suggested to those in power that Coretta and Rosa would live their lives unseen and unsung. Yet, see how wrong such assumptions of the powerful proved to be.

I'm also moved by the affirmation that one voice"”lifted high, in outrage, demanding justice and equity"”can be heard, listened to, followed and echoed around the world.

After the murder of her husband, Martin Luther King Jr., Mrs. King refused to let any person or any institution (including the U.S. government) ignore what her husband died for"”equal rights for African-American people and for all oppressed peoples. When it would have been far easier to retreat into seclusion as a new widow, Mrs. King threw off her grief and continued to pursue her dream of a more equitable world. And pursue she did, relentlessly.

Few who ever met her, as I did, can forget her singleness of purpose and vision during her fight to create a national holiday in the United States, a day honouring not only her slain husband but also elevating the cause of human rights and non-violent struggle"”on the world stage.

And few can forget her power to communicate. In fact when either Mrs. King or Mrs. Parks spoke, they were commanding advocates for women, children and those living in intolerable conditions every day and everywhere.

And Rosa Parks. After taking her seat and refusing to move on a segregated Montgomery, Alabama, bus 50 years ago, Mrs. Parks didn't remain seated. She was an ever-present voice and woman warrior in the civil rights struggle from her adopted hometown, Detroit, until she became too ill to continue.

In this issue we showcase Dr. Nora Quebral, a warrior for academic excellence and social change in the Philippines. Consortium Board Secretary-Treasurer Dr. Cel Cadiz writes that Dr. Quebral, considered the founder of development communication in the Philippines, believed that communication should be used to help empower marginalized people. She saw development as transformation, with "the realization of human potential as its ultimate goal."¯

With her own claimed power, Dr. Quebral has influenced and helped thousands of students realize their human potential, while also making ground-breaking contributions in her scholarship in the field of communication in development.

In a story by Parminder Jeet Singh and Anita Gurumurthy, we learn about the opportunity to claim human potential through information society discourse continued at the most recent World Summit for Information Society (WSIS), held in Tunis at the end of 2005.

It seems appropriate to me, as we barrel down a new year of communication for social change advocacy, research, evidence gathering, scholarship and practice, that we all reflect on the convergence of our lives with our work: We also are, to borrow Quebral's phrase, in the "human potential"¯ business.

For women like Quebral, Scott King and Parks, their lives and work were rarely separated. Claiming their potential as women"”like many of our mothers, mentors, friends and colleagues"”they each found ways to glorify and celebrate both the personal and professional sides of their humanity.

The work that we in the Consortium do gives us an extraordinary chance to see and engage in dialogue with people as they examine their desires and needs for all aspects of their lives: economic, political, cultural and personal. It is a respected trust that we gain when asked to facilitate the voices of people to be heard, considered and respected. Through our on-the-ground practice in places like Nigeria, Ethiopia, Mexico, Zambia, the United States or Europe, or even during global forums, we can and must celebrate the struggles and triumphs of struggling mothers, fathers, sons and daughters in communities worldwide. Equipped with CFSC knowledge, awareness, skills and training, hopefully such people will become more effective advocates for positive change, as they define it, within their homes, communities and countries.

At the beginning of this new year, 2006, as I consider the success and challenges we at the CFSC Consortium face, I draw wisdom from the circle of women whose lives converge on mine: my own "entrepreneur-by-necessity"¯ mother, whose presence never leaves me; my grandmother and others like her across the globe forced to seek menial labour in distant places, leaving behind young and hungry children, but who can say with pride that each of those children was educated; or intellectual pioneers like Nora Quebral and our own board members Sushmita Ghosh, Dayna Cunningham, Muthoni Wanyeki and Cel Cadiz.

This is not to exclude men and their influence, strength, intelligence on our field, but rather to encourage each of us"”men and women"”to recognize and rejoice in who we are.

This year is one of promise for each of us. For the Consortium, we will publish our first academic book this spring: Communication for Social Change Anthology: Historical and Contemporary Readings. We are excited about the newly created CFSC University and CFSC Practitioner networks and are exploring, as James Deane writes, ways to accredit or determine professional standards for this field, while engaging a broad array of academics in thinking through with us the best ways to share learning about CFSC.

In April, we celebrate our third year anniversary. We continue to explore partnerships and cooperative agreements with universities, NGOs, bilateral and multilateral organizations, and private enterprise organizations that demonstrate their commitment to CFSC principles and values.

To you, our readers, thank you for your support and we look forward to your letters, e-mail messages, comments and financial support. You make our work better. And you push us all to realize the best of our human potential.

Denise Gray-Felder

Click here to return to MAZI 6

Click here to return to the main listing