Sifting the static for hope: Morristown virtual MLK Day panel offers tips for young people

Panelists discuss media at Morristown's 2022 virtual MLK Day program. Top, from left: Brandon King, Lucy M. Brice, Brandon R Drayton. Bottom, from left: Eashwayne Haughton, Rudy Lozano. Screenshot by Alexis Algazy.
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By Alexis Algazy

Social media and the internet bombard us with a dizzying array of information. How can young people sift hard facts from media bias?

Panelists offered suggestions Monday in Realities of Today’s Injustices: Present and Future Hope, part of a virtual MLK Day program presented by Morristown’s Martin Luther King Observance Committee.

Moderated by Lucy M. Brice,  a global philanthropy associate at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., and sponsored by Calvary Baptist Church, the 46-minute talk explored how the media portray minorities, and how to identify biases and fact-check information that can seem overwhelming.

Panelist Brandon King, a 28-year-old admissions advisor at Felicia University in Parsippany, said he relies on a resource that might surprise some digital natives:

Books.

Technology keeps creating platforms for “manipulative people who know how to instill fear in our brains,” King said. Social media can be a toxic environment. He regards books as more reliable sources of knowledge – and knowledge is power.

Brandon R Drayton, 26, interned with BET Networks and NBCUniversal before becoming digital content manager at FuseMedia.  He considers much of social media to be one- dimensional, and emphasized the need to check facts across multiple sources.

All news sources have an agenda – making money, according to Eashwayne Haughton. It’s critical to keep this in mind and “come to your own conclusion,” said the native of Jamaica, who works in public affairs for Kivvit. Previously, as a Public Fellow for Gov. Phil Murphy, he focused on healthcare affordability, pandemic relief, and the state budget.

When interpreting information, it’s also useful to determine your own biases, and understand how they shape your perception of events and topics, said Rudy Lozano, a life-long resident of the Little Village neighborhood in Chicago. A vice president for global philanthropy at Chase, Lozano also leads The Fellowship Initiative, where his work supports young men of color in the education system

Turning to inequalities in the justice system, Brice asked the panelists if they still had faith in government.

King said he was raised to “always be a leader, never a follower.”

The justice system is stacked against people of color, who endure violence that gets lots of media coverage, said Haughton. This can breed hopelessness, and “inaction, which perpetuates the cycle.”

He said he chooses hope, and working toward a vision of a better nation.

Lozano said he, too, has  “faith in people, and in people who want to make change.”

Morristown Green correspondent Alexis Algazy is a senior at Morristown Beard School, where she is a news editor and staff writer for the school paper, the Crimson Sun. She plans to study journalism and political science at Northeastern University this fall.

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