What is the “Anti-Racism Media Activist Alliance” (ARMA)?

On December 2017, Kone Foundation awarded me and Monica Gathuo a grant to conduct the project we call Anti-Racism Media Activist Alliance (ARMA): Research and Activism Collaboration for Creative Uses of Digital Media, Pedagogy and Arts against Racism in Finland (watch us talk about ARMA here).

Since then, many people have asked about what the project is, its objectives and activities. In this text, I break down the title to answer some of these questions.

Anti-racism media activism is not as self-evident as it seems.

By “media activism” we refer to how people use journalism, media online (like social media and mobile phone apps) and offline (like photography and filmmaking) to act politically and collectively for change in society.

For a more detailed definition, check my book on Favela Media Activism.

In the case of our project ARMA, we are interested in media initiatives that directly or indirectly contribute to denouncing, challenging, mobilizing and acting against racism and its consequences in Finland.

But there is a catch:

we are primarily interested in media initiatives against racism by people who suffer from racism in the Finnish context. So, in addition to initiatives by black and brown people, we are looking into media activist practices among social groups like the Sámi and Roma, for example.

We know that there are many initiatives against racism by and/or with white people in Finland. Certainly we don’t mean to discredit or close ourselves to them. That’s why we talk about alliance. Dialogue and joint action are constantly necessary.

But as an Afro-Brazilian man and an Afro-Finnish woman, we decided to focus on the important and powerful activist experiences of people who suffer from racism and act – directly or indirectly, deliberately or not – against it and its consequences.

In other words, our project, its activities and objectives are meant to join forces and support all kinds of anti-racism initiatives, but on our own terms and primarily focused on racialized people in Finland.

We define ARMA as a collaborative project between research and activism. As co-coordinators of the project, I take the researcher role and Monica takes the activist role. These roles, of course, overlap.

We understood that it would be a unique opportunity to combine my academic-theoretical experience with Monica’s journalist-activist experience. If you don’t know yet, Monica is part of Ruskeat Tytöt, the first media outlet for brown people by brown people in Finland.

What does ARMA do in practice?

ARMA has three pillars: knowledge exchange (KE), creative publishing (CP) and international networking (IN). 

In 2018, we will focus on listening, learning and reporting. In other words, creating and exchanging knowledge.

So, we will interview racialized people who use media creatively against racism and its consequences in Finland (first semester) and – as part of the international networking initiative – in Brazil (second semester, in partnership with the black women-led organization Criola).

Hopefully in the future we will include other countries.

Most of these interviews will be anonymous. However, we will publish some reports and also produce some audiovisual materials about what we learn. All materials will be available online.

In 2019 and 2020, we will organize lectures, workshops and open talks. The lectures and the open talks will be open for all. The workshops will be restricted as safe spaces for knowledge exchange among racialized people in Finland.

All these events will bring together international and local activists and scholars to talk, exchange knowledge, network and hopefully create new joint actions in Finland and abroad.

The project will end with an art-media-poetry-music festival and the launching of an edited book about what we learned.

This is the ARMA project in a nutshell. For further information, check our website: www.armaalliance.com.