Hakim Bellamy, Strategic Communications Director, Media Literacy Project
Meet Hakim Bellamy. Hakim is Strategic Communications Director for the Media Literacy Project. Born in Philadelphia, PA and raised in South Jersey, he arrived in New Mexico on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2005. As the Strategic Communications Director for the Media Literacy Project he is the primary liaison between the organization and media outlets and develops messaging for all programs and campaigns. Prior to joining the Media Literacy Project, he was the Community Outreach Coordinator at the New Mexico State Office of African American Affairs. Hakim has worked at KOB-TV as a part of their tech crew and as a radio journalist and producer for KUNM. He currently serves on the governing council of Gordon Bernell Charter School, as an advisory board member for Young Non-profit Professionals Network and as a board member for Quote…UnQuote. Hakim is a nationally acclaimed performance poet, journalist and community organizer. He is currently completing his M.A. in Communications at the University of New Mexico.
NAMAC: What drew you to your work at the Media Literacy Project?
Bellamy: I’ve always been fascinated with media. It started out as a youngster wishing I could be an actor or musician and just BE on television. As I grew older, I started to see the TV world not as reality, but as an alternate sort of universe that was not representative of mine, more escape than empowerment. Then, I arrived at the University of New Mexico for Graduate Studies and found myself as a work study in the newsroom at the university radio station. That politicized me in a way I had not been before. I could see the media and how the agenda is shaped as a tool for empowerment and oppression. I switched my MA focus to a mass media emphasis, and worked for the State of New Mexico for four and a half years wearing the hats of Community Outreach Coordinator and de facto Press Secretary at the Office of African American Affairs. Finally, I landed at Media Literacy Project with the opportunity to manage communications for an organization that advocates for media education and policy that advance social justice. I think I found my way home.
NAMAC: What would be your advice for a performing poet trying to balance their art with the daily work at a national media justice organization?
Bellamy: Make sure you absolutely LOVE both. Make sure BOTH are who you are, because if it is who you are, it is easier to demand that much of yourself, your time, your strained relationships, your sacrificed love life, that ever-increasing list of books you want to read but haven’t etc., etc.. It’s not martyrdom, it’s sacrifice in the service of one’s dreams and one’s beliefs. On a very personal level for me, it is the belief that everything that I am doing now is essential to what I want to be doing in 5-10 years. I want MY art to be a vehicle to achieving social justice. I want my art to be THAT media, and I ultimately want to be doing it full time. So I do both now, to prepare myself for who I want to be in the future and “It ain’t easy!” That’s what I’d tell’em.
NAMAC: What kind of skills does a Strategic Communications Director need to have to be effective?
Bellamy: You have to always be thinking like your audience. I think that is where the performance and performance studies (my MA thesis) come in handy. You always want to be critically analyzing what people are hearing, seeing, thinking and saying about your organization. Once you have your thumb on that pulse, messaging can be created and applied accordingly. But those audience analysis skills are really where your impact and effectiveness are rooted. That target audience could be issue education for 10,000 folks in SE New Mexico, it could be mobilizing 100 folks to call their elected representative or it could be securing that one meeting with the Attorney General. There are different things to be said (messaging) and different things to be heard (audience analysis) in each of those situations. Knowing the difference, the when, the where and the how is the skill set of a Strategic Communications Director.
NAMAC: What policy issues has Media Literacy Project been working on that have the most relevance to you?
Bellamy: I’ve really enjoyed the policy piece. Getting AT&T to withdraw their acquisition of T-Mobile was huge. I think we saved a lot of Americans money and headaches (If you’ve been a victim of AT&T's customer service, you know what I am talking about!). That felt good. MLP worked very hard on that in New Mexico. We have a very responsive community and base that is savvy to issues that impact their ability to communicate with their loved ones. In this event, consumer interest won out over a corporate agenda and we were able to share that victory with our media justice family across the country. Though, I don’t think this is the last we’ve seen of that merger, I think it empowered the media justice community to do what we did around the SOPA/PIPA legislation as well. This battles have been primarily battles of messaging and issue education/”miseducation” and that IS quite exciting for a communications nerd.
NAMAC: What are some projects that you're working on now that really excite you?
Bellamy: We are in the process of engaging in some really artistic work around prison justice with Roadside Theater and Thousand Kites, here in New Mexico. The idea of using the artistic process, and not just the artistic product, to increase dialogue around and connectivity to an issue is something that is obviously near and dear to my heart. As an artist, I’ve always realized the therapeutic benefits of the artistic process and how it helps me to organize and enhance my worldview. It is encouraging to see funding going towards this qualitative sort of movement building. It is inspiring to have organizations that do this well, desire to work with the Media Literacy Project on such an endeavor in New Mexico.