As a group of Chicago-based activists and longtime supporters of Beyondmedia Education, we are writing this Letter to the Editor of Windy City Times to publicly express our extreme disappointment regarding the way that the process of closing the organization and transitioning the programs is being handled.
In light of Beyondmedia's mission to give voice to marginalized people in Chicago and their indispensable work in creating unique opportunities for people to reclaim their lives, share their stories and impact their communities, we are committed to preserving the ongoing work of the organization even as the corporation is being dissolved, and we ask that Beyondmedia's Board demonstrate this commitment, too.
We find it ironic and tragically poetic that an organization whose mission is to amplify underrepresented voices has not had a media voice in this historical moment. The process has been secretive and certainly not in keeping with Beyondmedia's collaborative mission, spirit and practice for the past 12 years. Beyondmedia's Board has made no formal announcement to the organization's partners or the wider community.
Further, the very people who created and maintained the organization's award-winning programs and projects for all these years the staff including Beyondmedia's founding director have been left out of the decision-making process regarding the preservation and transfer of programs.
The loss of Beyondmedia is a loss for Chicago. They provided media literacy and anti-violence workshops for underserved youth, video services to nonprofits to build their media and organizing capacity, screenings of first-voice films in festivals, schools and universities worldwide, gatherings of people committed to social justice for dialogue and movement building, and so much more. The media treasures they produced constitute an important archive of women and youth organizing in Chicago and belong to everyone.
On January 11, 2012, more than 30 people gathered at Las Manos Gallery to discuss the decision by the Beyondmedia Board to close the organization, which many felt was rushed and unnecessary, and was acted upon against the advice of both the organization's banker and auditor. In addition to representatives from a wide range of partnering organizations, the meeting included former Board, staff, youth leaders and interns who together comprised more than 60 years of service to Beyondmedia. The meeting was framed in terms of brainstorming thinking about ways that Beyondmedia's social justice values, vision and mission could be kept alive and thriving although the corporation would be dissolved. We saw this not as a death but as transition.
In what was experienced by those in the room as a miraculous moment, Craig Harshaw, Founder and Executive Director of Insight Arts, and Aislinn Pulley, Insight Arts Board President, stepped up and offered to provide the space and infrastructure that would allow Beyondmedia programs to be maintained. Everyone present voiced enthusiastic support for the transition.
Since that time, over two months ago, Insight Arts has been locked in an arduous and seemingly never-ending process with the Beyondmedia Board and their consultant. Insight Arts has devoted countless hours to transition the programs in a timely fashion to uphold Beyondmedia's commitments and requests, which include exhibitions of Beyondmedia's Chain of Change installation, copies of Beyondmedia videos, posting of hundreds of articles, interviews and poetry by and about women in prison to Beyondmedia's womenandprison.org, and requests for meetings and project support by members of Beyondmedia's Youth Leadership Council.
Meanwhile, the work is not being done, but the need is still great. We have been patient throughout this process. Now, we are at our wits' end, and this is why we turn to the media, as we know the power of a media voice to effect positive change.
We urge the Beyondmedia Board to immediately complete the process of transferring all of the organization's assets so that the programs may become active and self-supporting again. Further, we demand that Beyondmedia's rapidly dwindling funds be used for their legitimate purpose: to support programs serving women and youth.
Michelle Peterson Albandoz
Dalida Maria Benfield
Jessi Lee Jackson
Lauren La Rose
Taina Rodriguez De Velarde
Tiffany Mae Witkowski