All Speech is Free—But Positive Words are Priceless

At recent ZUMIX staff meetings, we’ve been talking a lot about the role of the media in our communities. This is for a couple of reasons- first, ZUMIX Radio is just transitioned from a web stream to 94.9 on the FM dial, joining the ranks of independent and non-commercial broadcasters across the country. This huge step forward is both an honor and a responsibility—a responsibility to be a true resource for our listeners, one that is unbiased, fair, honest, and responsive to the community it speaks to.

The second reason is the undeniable and overwhelming presence of the presidential election in national news cycles. For better or for worse, anyone related to a campaign, regardless of how directly, is getting ample air time, and our young people are being involuntarily hooked up to an IV of rhetoric that is often violent, hateful, and aggressive.

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As a group of adults responsible, a few hours a day, for young people about whom we care deeply, it’s no surprise that we then hold ourselves to a high standard of role modeling. But it can be difficult to compete in those brief and precious hours with the constant inundation so easily absorbed in the other hours of their life.

Enter: art. Sounds like a “duh” moment, right? ZUMIX is here to support youth to write music and create art that’s authentic in its messaging and, for lack of a better word, “real.” So we shouldn’t be surprised when we see that come to life—but it’s never ceases to inspire and encourage. Take the 2016 end of summer showcase at the Sinclair this past August.

14068300_10154679216587439_682635341524276639_nStreet Program participants learn to write and produce their own material that they then perform for each other and peers in the Boston area. At this summer’s final showcase, 15 year-old participant Liz performed her song “Forgive and Forget” that contained the chorus “And when haters go low we go high.”

If those words sound familiar, it’s because they echo those of First Lady Michelle Obama at July’s Democratic National Convention. It was an inspiring moment in her speech that reminded listeners to take the high road, and strive for grace and generosity. And here that message was again, this time from a young person evolving in the world, and now spreading it to a group of equally impressionable peers.

Those moments are what ZUMIX is all about. Think what you say on the air or on a TV news panel is a just a blip to be soon forgotten? Think again.

As disheartening as it is to see the opposite effect happen- people young and old repeating statements of derision and divisiveness that are so easy to come by in today’s 24/7 news cycle- those moments of elevation are even more powerful. Liz’s performance was a reminder that positive words can spread like wildfire- so let’s remember to keep the flames alive.

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