OMG! We’re YMG now. Here’s Y …

By Jayne O'Donnell

Hi, I’m Jayne from Youthcast Media Group™ (YMG).

Boy, it’s going to be awhile before that rolls off my tongue. But it’s true — starting this week — so let me explain.

In late 2016, former Washington public health commissioner Dr. Reed Tuckson and I formed a health journalism training program for teens and decided to call it the Urban Health Media Project.

Our project was targeting young people who were Black or Hispanic and from low-income communities we now refer to as “under-resourced.” That tends to be the preferred term, though some say “historically marginalized” is appropriate.

Language around race and ethnicity has always been fraught, but it was becoming particularly so back then and that’s increasingly the case. We consulted with Black colleagues at Howard University, which was our partner and fiscal sponsor for the initial Kellogg Foundation grant that funded the program, on options.

“Minority” was out for a few reasons, not the least of which was that the most recent data showed whites were the minorities in Washington, where we were based, and people of color as a group were already majorities in several cities.

Calling it the Black Health Media Project would have been exclusionary — and inaccurate — as more than 10% of the district’s population was Hispanic. Using “diverse” as an umbrella term that includes Asians, Middle Easterners and those who are LGBTQ+ wasn’t popular then and has plenty of critics now. So does “people of color (POC),” which many Black people reject as too vague.

What about “urban”, though? Well, as we launched in Washington and Baltimore five years ago, we assumed we’d be sticking to cities, like the one I grew up in right outside of New Haven, Connecticut and others in New England, as well as Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware. So the term made sense, at the time.

It doesn’t make as much sense now, for two reasons.

Since our launch, the pandemic has moved us to largely virtual instruction, which allowed us to cast a much wider geographic net for students such as those in tiny, rural Locust Grove, Georgia which is outside of Atlanta. I’ve talked to members of a Native American tribe in rural Rhode Island about expanding our programming to them.

Second, it’s become increasingly clear that “urban” has, over time, become a derogatory term used as a blanket euphemism for low-income, Black people. Some might say we’re late to the name change. When the Grammys stopped using urban to describe any categories during the racial protests in June 2020, a reporter for Variety wrote that urban had “been a problematic term for a long time.” Tyler, The Creator likened it to a racial slur when he accepted a Grammy for best rap album in early 2020.

But none of our students, staff or majority-Black board had suggested our name was problematic until very recently. I, for one, was too busy covering COVID-19 and writing about racism in health care to notice the music industry discussion in June 2020.

So, we hired a branding specialist and received the pro bono legal counsel of the law firm Covington & Burling, including on trademark clearance searches and registration. After many variations and vetting options with our students, alums, current and potential funders and board — we settled on Youthcast Media Group™ and a cool megaphone logo. It’s intended to be “expressive, powerful and uplifting.” Those sound waves coming out of the end denote “the amplification of voices.”

No matter our name, the mission is the same: To train middle school students through college interns from under-resourced communities to create multimedia journalism that highlights solutions to the health, wealth and social disparities where they live.

We like our new name, and hope you do, too. We think it’s pretty catchy or, rather, that it “kills.”

Over the next week, you’ll see it — and our new logo — on our website and our social media channels. So “like” us, follow us, and help us get the word out!