“Your words travel 770 miles per hour.”

StayUp.News is a media project that seeks to amplify the voices of racial and other minorities in coverage of politics and policy, while also centering the experiences of those communities as the relevant metric for news analysis.

Mainstream media is often criticized by underrepresented communities for failing to cover the issues impacting them. But even when mainstream, or traditionally White outlets do cover these issues, it is rare that those underrepresented communities feel their perspective was treated fairly. This is often because, even when these issues are covered, the communities impacted are still largely ignored in the gathering of information.

To give an example, journalists covering an issue that mostly impacts a community of color will almost always access members of that community through some sort of intermediary, whether a union or community organizer, or some other type of advocate. This imposes a filter—that of the advocate—on what the “community’s” perspective on the issue is.

Since advocates are often from very different social locations than the community they claim to speak for, the advocate’s values are rarely reflective of the overall beliefs in the community. By relying on advocates and other bourgeois intermediaries to connect journalists to community members, the community ends up silenced.

Of course, there are also all the times when minority communities are bypassed altogether in the production of a story, with only the voices of experts, officials, legislators, advocates, and other people who speak an institutional vocabulary coming to bear on the story’s formation, even when the issue mostly impacts underrepresented groups. In both cases, what is left out is the voice of the people who are most directly affected by an issue—and not just the ones advocates know will stay on-script. Those who bear the consequences of a given issue or policy on their bodies never come to inform the coverage, and so our policymakers are rarely challenged with the reality they both effect and have the power to affect.

StayUp.News will be a space for those voices of color, and of other oppressed groups, who often go unheard because traditional journalistic methods silence them. Our project serves as a corrective to this by creating a space in which policy analysis and other forms of coverage are informed first and foremost by the perspectives of minorities and those most directly impacted by a policy, not the White-normative perspectives of those who make-up traditional media organizations and the institutions that enact or carry out policy. To do this effectively, and to ensure stories are not being adjudicated on the basis of purely White norms, StayUp.News must speak a language with which communities of color and many other minorities are more intimately familiar, and that language is Hip-hop.

A basic premise of StayUp.News is that, for much of the past 40 years, Hip-hop has served as the language of inner city poverty in America. Because social conditions in inner cities are a major focus of our news coverage, StayUp.News incorporates Hip-hop into its content production in order to achieve a more authentic presentation of the perspectives that emerge from minority spaces. This practice is what StayUp.News terms a Hip-hop methodology of journalism.

Hip-hop is incorporated methodologically by taking values that inform Hip-hop—such as amplifying the voices of oppressed communities, contextualizing their lives by speaking about their realities honestly, rejecting the idea that official narratives from law enforcement or the state are inherently reliable—and using them to direct our approach to news coverage. To put it another way, StayUp.News incorporates Hip-hop in order to tell the story of inner city poverty in its own language. And because Hip-hop has always been a platform for oppressed voices, StayUp.News is committed to being the same, intervening in all forms of oppression—whether based on race, gender, sexuality, religion, or any other identity category—and letting the values and concerns of oppressed communities serve as the principal measure by which we gauge an issue.

At StayUp.News, Hip-hop is used as a framework for analyzing and deconstructing oppression through journalism.

In doing so, StayUp.News acknowledges the importance of language, media, and art in combating discrimination against minorities. By incorporating Hip-hop into its presentation of content, StayUp.News seeks to use Hip-hop as a bridge to unite those who live the realities discussed in the genre, and those who would not otherwise encounter them but for the genre. The hope is that this will 1) create greater awareness of the challenges facing communities of color and other oppressed groups; and 2) because the voices of persons actually living through those challenges are the ones emphasized, diminish our societal reliance on tropes and stereotypes in order to talk about these spaces and persons. That sort of clarity is necessary if we are to accurately document disparate policy impacts, or hold policymakers accountable by ensuring policy narratives actually reflect the on-the-ground conditions lived by minority communities.

Adults form a prayer circle between police and youth engaged in looting during Baltimore’s unrest on April 27, 2015.

StayUp.News was borne of the unrest that shook Baltimore after Freddie Gray’s death in April, 2015. The anger from years of neglect that boiled over that April 27 was proof enough that the way journalism traditionally tells stories about underrepresented communities has not made them feel heard, but silenced. That cannot continue.

For it is not just minorities that have been let down by traditional journalistic approaches, our democracy has also suffered as well. The United States of America just lived through an election in which traditional, White journalistic norms led to an equivalence between a private email server and referring to Mexicans as rapists; or between that server and treating a woman’s presence as an invitation to sexual assault. This type of journalistic method cannot be relied upon to accurately document racial and other oppressions, even less to effectively intervene in them.

By centering the voices and experiences of minority communities, StayUp.News’s Hip-hop methodology of journalism reimagines how coverage of oppressed communities might be undertaken, while also demonstrating how Hip-hop, a culture arising from racially oppressed communities, can be used in a broader way to deconstruct oppression and improve the overall health of our democracy.