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Press Pass TV celebrates fifth anniversary at NAGA

Kassmin Williams | 7/10/2013, 11:40 a.m.
A full house of Press Pass TV alumni and community members turned out at NAGA in Cambridge to celebrate the ...
Press Pass TV’s co-directors and alumni celebrate the organizations fifth anniversary. (L-R) Co-director Cara Berg Powers, alumna Avelyn Pires, co-director Joanna Marinova, and alumnus Reggie Williams. Press Pass TV

A full house of Press Pass TV alumni and community members turned out at NAGA in Cambridge to celebrate the organization’s fifth anniversary.

The event “Bearing Witness; Celebrating Media that Moves” highlighted the work the organization does with low-income youth to develop media that explores underrepresented social justice issues.

“I feel like it’s been so much longer than five years, and so much shorter than five years because Press Pass TV has become so much part of our lives,” co-director Cara Berg Powers said. “When I look back at the stories we were doing or at Jahni (press pass student) being 13, I can’t believe that it’s been five years.”

Press Pass works with middle school, high school and college-aged students in all aspects of production, from developing questions to editing video, according to its Web site. “Our content is intended to promote civic awareness and action,” a statement on the Web site read. “We create curriculum around our segments to increase awareness, action and accountability. We also hold meetings to continue the discussion of issues raised in our work and support local campaigns for civic action by producing stories on their initiatives.”

Press Pass celebrated its five year birthday last month with performances by Touissaint Liberator, Letia Larok, The Foundation Movement and the Bettering Each other Actively Through Song Program (BEATS).

Berg Powers and co-director Joanna Marinova presented awards to five youth: Jahni Ferguson, Ronjay Beasley, Darius Watford, Beverly Moore and Diana Julien.

​Ferguson, 18, started the program when he was 13 years old. At the time, he was the group’s youngest member. But that didn’t stop him from landing an interview with then beleaguered City Councilor Chuck Turner who was later convicted on federal public corruption charges.

“It taught me at a young age how to survive in a professional environment as well as persevere and not give up on your dreams.”

— Avelyn Pires

While Ferguson has trouble recalling specific details about that day of the interview, there are certain lessons she learned from Press Pass that will stick with her. “Press Pass is more than just cameras,” Ferguson said. “It’s perseverance.”

Press Pass also presented Bearing Witness Awards to organizations for being inspirational. These included the Nellie Bly Investigative Media Award to the ACLU of Massachusetts, the Lew Hill Media Ally Award to MIT Center for Civic Media and the Ida B. Wells Media Justice Award to The Boston Phoenix, which published its last issue in March.

Marinova and Berg Powers also recognized alumna Avelyn Pires who started working with Press Pass when she was 15 years old. Pires is now on the board of directors.

For Pires, Press Pass helped her grow professionally.

“It taught me at a young age how to survive in a professional environment as well as persevere and not give up on your dreams,” Pires said.

Another alumnus, Reggie Williams is graduating from Morehouse in December and returning to Press Pass as communications manager.

Williams has worked with the organization through college and called it a family.

“It’s a interconnectedness that you can’t feel in any organization, and it helped me grow so much as a man,” Williams said.

To celebrate five years, Press Pass has changed its tagline from “Media that Moves” to “a network of possibilities” representing its growth and collaboration with BEATS and Gatorwood Upreach Arts Program, an organization operating in Holyoke, promoting the use of creative expression to enrich children and teenagers.

For Marinova, the five years spent at Press Pass have definitely been productive.

“It’s been an incredible amount of work with utmost integrity and keeping the well-being of our communities and the youth that we serve at the forefront,” Marinova said.