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This honor — which is named for Dr. Parker, the founder of the media-justice ministry of the United Church of Christ — recognizes an individual whose work embodies the principles and values of the public interest in telecommunications and the media.

Fighting for truth, justice and democracy

Jessica was honored for her work alongside Talia ‘TL’ Lewis, the co-founder of HEARD, a cross-disability abolitionist organization. TL is a champion for expanding access to communications services for disabled incarcerated people and is working to end ableism, racism, capitalism and all other forms of oppression and violence. The assembled crowd was treated to a moving keynote lecture by Maya Wiley, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Throughout the event, speakers touched on the groundbreaking legacy of the UCC’s work fighting for the rights of Black, Brown and Indigenous people to live freely and with dignity. Speakers also explored the impacts of media and tech policies on our daily lives; what it means to lead; the civil-rights leaders, both known and unknown, whose shoulders we stand on; and the challenges ahead.

The stakes are high: As we hurtle toward the midterm elections, companies like Meta and Twitter aren’t taking election disinformation seriously. And a historic 20 months into the Biden administration, the FCC still does not have a functioning majority, and the climate crisis has once again knocked out communications networks in Puerto Rico.

In Jessica’s words:

“And here we are at a pivotal moment in our country’s history. I would argue that democracy went all the way to the brink last year. Are we going to have a multiracial democracy that is just? I don’t think we've answered that question. When I hear from scholars and others who’ve studied this deeply there's no promise of that.

“Our role in the media-justice field is to ensure that we’re building a media system that is serving truth, justice and democracy. Are we going to achieve a peaceful transition to a multiracial democracy or are we going to succumb to white supremacists and authoritarians who are using our media system to amplify lies, to sow chaos and to undermine democratic institutions? That’s the question and I’m not sure what the answer is yet.”

Throughout the ceremony, there was a unified call to action to everyone in attendance: 

We must — all of us — work to ensure that media and technology serve the public interest, human and civil rights, and democracy. 

You can watch Jessica’s remarks in the video below. And you can view the program in its entirety here.

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