The USC Annenberg Innovation Lab (AnnLab) has launched a fellowship program to empower social entrepreneurs, artists, organizers, scholars, and others to increase awareness, understanding, and engagement around pressing areas of public interest — with particular attention to underrepresented communities. The fellows are all emerging leaders in leveraging popular culture, media, and technology for social progress, and come from diverse perspectives, communities, and areas of practice.
With founding support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the founding cohort of the USC AnnLab Civic Media Fellowship began in early 2019, forming the core of a learning community of scholars and practitioners. The second cohort began in August 2019, with a new cohort starting each August. Funded by a three-year, $3.5 million grant, fellows enjoy a unique opportunity to reflect on their journeys while collaborating on creative and meaningful projects. They emerge with new ideas, practices, colleagues and possibilities.
“In this period of incredible dynamism and complexity, new civic actors are blazing trails that reimagine, remix, and revolutionize use of media, technology, and culture to envision and embody more positive shared futures,” said AnnLab Executive Director Colin Maclay. “The Civic Media Fellowship serves intrepid people whose paths do not neatly fit into traditional domains, celebrating their unique approaches and helping them take on emergent challenges and opportunities.”
“MacArthur’s support for the USC Civic Media Fellowship is a reflection of our commitment to ensuring all Americans have the access, agency, and means of contributing to public dialogue,” said Kathy Im, director of MacArthur’s Journalism and Media program. “The USC Civic Media Fellowship represents a new generation of public intellectuals whose work with media, technology, and popular culture is fueled and enabled by the contributions and viewpoints of their communities from which they come or represent. As one of the country’s leading academic centers for experimentation and innovation in media in all its forms, coupled with a commitment to social justice, the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab is an ideal home to support and coalesce this new kind of leadership.”
The program supports participants as they hone existing skills and develop new ones; build shared social and community capacity; and have a positive impact locally, nationally and/or globally. By connecting Fellows with USC resources and MacArthur’s remarkable network of civic media grantees, this program advances the field of civic media and associated communities of practice and scholarship.
The founding fellows are:
- Susu Attar — A multimedia artist and curator based in Los Angeles.
- Ingrid Burrington — A writer who focuses on mapping, documenting, and studying the often-overlooked or occluded landscapes of the internet.
- Sue Ding — A documentary filmmaker and immersive media creator who directs and produces nonfiction media, from feature documentaries to VR, with a focus on identity, storytelling, and social justice.
- Akilah Hughes — A writer, comedian, YouTuber, Crooked Media contributor, and author of the forthcoming book Obviously: Stories from my Timeline.
- Bryan C. Lee Jr. — An architect and educator, he is the founder of a nonprofit multidisciplinary design practice working with communities to create spaces of racial, social, and cultural equity.
- Darnell L. Moore — A writer who is head of strategy and programs at Breakthrough U.S., he is also the author of the 2019 Lambda Literary Award-winning memoir No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black & Free in America.
- Justino Mora —A digital strategist, software engineer, and immigrant rights activist, he is deeply passionate about the intersection of tech, activism, and media.
- Amber J. Phillips — A political content strategist and storyteller whose work imagines a world where Black womanhood is an overwhelming experience of safety, pleasure, and joy, she has been featured on Essence, Huffington Post, and NPR’s 1A, and is also the co-creator and co-host of The Black Joy Mixtape podcast.
- Josie Duffy Rice — A journalist and lawyer, she is president of The Appeal, an outlet that publishes original reporting on the criminal justice system, and co-hosts the podcast Justice in America.
The second cohort of fellows is:
- Jackson Bird — An internet creator, LGBTQ+ advocate, and author of the upcoming Sorted: Growing Up, Coming Out, and Finding My Place.
- Charlene Carruthers — A strategist, writer, and community organizer, she is the founder of the Chicago Center for Leadership and Transformation and author of Unapologetic: A Black, Queer and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements.
- Tanya DePass — A writer, editor, and gamer, she is the founder and director of I Need Diverse Games, a not-for-profit foundation, as well as the co-developer for the RPG based on N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy.
- Martha Diaz — A community organizer, media producer, archivist, curator, mentor, and educator, she is the founder of the Hip-Hop Education Center.
- Arshia Haq — A visual artist, writer, and DJ who incorporates video, performance, social practice, and installation into her work, she is the founder of Discostan, a collective dedicated to media from Beirut to Bangkok via Bombay.
- Sydette Harry — A cultural questioner, her work is seen at or in Code for America, Neiman Lab Journal, Art+Feminism and the Rockaway Advocate. She was previously community lead for the Coral Project and web properties editor at Mozilla.
- Set Hernandez Rongkilyo — An undocumented filmmaker and organizer focusing on migrant justice issues, they use cultural strategies to propel political transformation by working with directly impacted people to embrace the agency and empowerment to tell their own stories authentically.
- Ashley Lukashevsky — An illustrator and visual artist who uses illustration and art as a tool in digital and physical spaces to strengthen social movements for immigrant rights, racial justice, LGBTQIA+ equality, and gender equity.
- Mari Mari Narváez — A Puerto Rican journalist and activist based in San Juan, she is the founder of Kilómetro Cero, an organization dedicated to bolstering police accountability and citizen empowerment in the areas of state use of force, repression of dissent, and gender violence.
- Latoya Peterson — A writer, editor, and technologist, she brings a hip-hop feminist and racial justice framework to technological and cultural analysis. Co-founder of CXO and director for the culture at Glow Up Games, she is also known for the award-winning blog Racialicious.com.
- Jeff Severns Guntzel — An investigative researcher currently focused on juvenile justice, he has shared his work in formats as varied as community forums, investigative reports, and comic books.
- Fresco Steez — A young, Black, feminist, queer, abolitionist freedom fighter and grassroots community organizer, she has served as the minister of training and culture for BYP100 (Black Youth Project 100).