Media Skills Fellows

The fall cohort of Media Skills Fellows, funded by the Bush Foundation, completed ten weeks of intensive learning on November 14, with the ripple effects already spreading out into various Twin Cities communities. The fellowship program focused on improving media skills with the specific goal of using these skills for better communication in/about/on behalf of each participant’s community. Here are the eleven Media Skills Fellows in this cohort, and links to articles about each one:

Emilia Gonzalez AvalosDancer, mother, student, artist, activist • A Mexican immigrant, born in Mexico City, raised in Irapuato, Guanajuato and in Minnesota, she came to Minnesota to join her father. He had come to Minnesota years earlier, looking for better job opportunities and a better future for his family. Family separation, border consciousness and transnational economy shaped her life to become an immigration activist, feminist, and advocate for human rights. She is member of the Richfield Human Rights Commission, co-director of Kalpulli Ketzalcoatlicue Aztec dance group (Richfield and Bloomington communities) student, mother, and artist. [MORE]

Leyla Bari‘In-betweener’ and ‘first generation person’ • Leyla Bari identifies herself as “a mixture of Palestinian, Bedouin, Russian/Ashkenazi Jewish lineage,” adding that, “If I have to put a name to this identity I would say multi-racial, or multi ethnic, however I believe that this is an oversimplification, and feel like ‘perpetual outsider’ or ‘in-betweener’ is more accurate.” As an “in-betweener,” she said, “The community I identify strongest with is the globally expanding 1st generation community. Definitions of a first generation person vary, but like to define it as person who is the first person in their family to be raised entirely or primarily in another culture.” [MORE]

Lee-Hoon BensonOne foot here and one in Malaysia • Coming to the Media Skills Fellowship without a lot of experience in social media, Lee-Hoon Benson appreciated the focus on tools. My single accomplishment is to lose my fear of social media,” she wrote in the evaluation. “I think I know which ones I can use in my personal spheres to build community with like-minded people on a range of topics…. One thing I have learned is the proliferation of tools to communicate a message and ways to think about selecting the best tools for specific communication goals. The exposure and guidance to these tools at TCDP gave me more confidence in trying them.” [MORE]

Oscar Del SébastienA responsibility to share • Born and raised in Texas, Oscar Del Sébastien came to Minnesota at the age of 15, “as a migrant worker in a migrant family.” After completing high school, he “majored in confusion” at Moorhead State, but graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in art and literature. After a decade in New England, he came home to Minnesota and became a teacher during the day and a musician after school hours. [MORE]


Lisa DeputiePassionate about preventing child abuse • Born and raised in Chicago, Lisa Deputie moved to Minnesota in the 1990s. She works as a parent mentor in the Child Protection Clinic at William Mitchell College of Law, and with Prevent Child Abuse-Minnesota. Lisa said she appreciated the opportunity to learn about different cultures and communities from other members of the Media Skills Fellowship cohort. [MORE]


Jamie KeithGetting local Native American news to a broader audience • Jamie Keith grew up on Navajo and Hopi Reservations in Arizona, and works for the Minnesota Youth Council. She’s an active volunteer, working with the Ginew/Golden Eagles program at the Minneapolis American Indian Center, and volunteering in other youth-related programs in St. Paul. [MORE]

Sara Lopez‘People from inside the community, working in the community’ • “I have been working hard revamping and increasing the traffic of the Powderhorn 365 photography project Facebook page,” reported Sara Lopez. “My boss is quite pleased because we are reaching way more people with Facebook! From 300 likes we went up to 360 likes! And between 30-50 people see posts now! This is huge because the site was literally dead just a few weeks ago. [MORE]

Jose Luis Morales — ‘I love my community’ • Jose Luis Morales was born in Nicaragua and grew up during the Sandinista revolution. He participated in the literacy brigades, teaching reaing and writing to others, and later worked as director of media for the Sistema Nacional de Publicidad, including radio work. After a change of government in 1990, he worked in publishing and sales and graphic design until moving to Minnesota in 2001. [MORE]

LaDonna Redmond —  ‘A different kind of voice in the media’ • Ladonna Redmond moved to Minnesota from Chicago in 2010, and has been very active in food, environmental, and social justice groups in the Twin Cities, ranging from Neighborhoods Organizing for Change to Homegrown Minneapolis to urban farm projects. She also hosts a radio show — “It’s Your Health” — on KMOJ. [MORE]

Debra StoneRepresenting North Minneapolis • “For us on the North side, we are always pissed off at the media because they say crap about the north side,” said Debra Stone. “I never thought of myself as a journalist until I was accepted into this media skills class. I was hung up on the fact that a journalist gets a MA degree from Medill and Columbia and you have to have all of these credentials and get accepted into this small, elite little group.” [MORE]

Tiffany VangA strong voice from St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood • Tiffany Vang is the blog star of the Media Skills Fellows! Her post on the Hmong 18 Clan Council and bride price policies got an all-time high of more than 67,000 page views and more than 700 comments, as well as responses posted as blogs and articles. [MORE]