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Tundè Balogun of the Objective News Agency: I am a firm believer in people telling their own stories

Tundè Balogun. Photo Facebook

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Tundè Balogun started The Objective after seeing how the mainstream media portrays and stereotypes Black people and their communities, first while living in Toronto, and now in Halifax. 

Major news organizations are mostly silent about Nova Scotia’s school to prison pipeline or the lack of jobs for Black youth, despite projects such as the new Cogswell Interchange replacement and Irving’s Ships Start Here receiving lots of government funding. 

Balogun believes Black people in Nova Scotia need their own media. “I am a firm believer in people telling their own stories, people controlling their own narratives,” he says. 

This interview is the second in a series. There will be more interviews on journalism in Nova Scotia all through the summer.

How and why did you start the Objective News Agency? 

I come from a very political household. My parents are immigrants. They came to Canada from Nigeria and Jamaica respectively. I’ve lived in housing projects all my life and I’ve seen how the media is used to cover up things that the police have done and what the government wants to do. I’ve seen that firsthand. So I am a firm believer in people telling their own stories, people controlling their own narratives. 

I had an idea for this news agency for years. But first I wanted to get some formal journalism training. That decision was very strategic. I didn’t need to go to journalism school, I was doing special investigations long before. But I knew that the kind of issues and topics I wanted to cover would be very easy to dismiss if I didn’t have some kind of formal background in journalism. 

So after I finished journalism school, I started the Objective.  

In terms of doing journalism, what does the Objective News Agency do differently? 

What makes our journalism different is that we actually follow the fundamental rules of journalism. Others don’t practice what they preach. We follow the W5H, the who, what, where, why, when and how. We look at who’s responsible, who’s being affected, and then we look at experts for context. Those are the fundamentals, and others don’t do that.

We hear about anti-Black racism and white supremacy, but what people don’t understand is that we have government as an administrative force of anti-Black racism, we have a military wing, which is the police, and the media comes in to fill the need for an apparatus to control the narrative.

I live on Gottingen Street, and I have tons of examples of how the media hurts my community. In 2016 and into 2017 there was a rash of shootings in the neighborhood, and a few months later we had a big celebration, a community day. There was that camera man who was walking around and asking everybody about violence. This was a sunny day, kids were eating cake, grandmas around, and the community was on code, nobody wanted to talk to him about violence. We’re here to celebrate our vibrant community. Well, he went to everybody until he found a drunk person to speak to, and that’s the person he ended up interviewing. What this guy was doing was totally unethical.

I tell journalists, talk about the violence, but also talk about why there is this violence. Talk about the school to prison pipeline, talk about kids being put in special education programs, talk about how Irving Shipbuilding is right across the street from Mulgrave Park, and yet no one of that community is being hired. 

See also: Census 2016: African Nova Scotian poverty rates through the roof, unemployment numbers terrible

Now you may think this is done innocently, but this is done by design. When the time arrives to start gentrifying people will think, Gottingen Street, North End, tear it down, This is not new. I was raised in Toronto, I have seen it being done there in the 80s.  

Our objective is to cover Black issues. We’re not trying to put Black people in a positive light, we’re not trying to put them in a negative light, we kind of try to put the story under an objective light. 

People try to say that I’m an activist. It’s because I’m speaking about quote unquote marginalized communities that it’s being called activism, or community journalism, kind of diminishing what I’m trying to do. Yes, I’m on street-level, which separates me from every other news organization. People trust me. They know I’m not going to take what they say and spin it. 

You’re not just doing journalism, you’re also handing out awards such as the Black Youth Achievement Award. What is that about?
Keneigha Clayton grade 8, Kevin Allison grade 8 and Tylia Farmer grade 11, recipients of the Black Youth Achievement Awards. Facebook.

If you look at the media and how our youth are portrayed, it’s always in a stereotypical negative light. Once in a while they’ll do a story about some kids selling lemonade, or some kids got a university scholarship to Harvard, or something like that. But on a regular day-to-day basis there is just a lot of negativity and a lot of these kids are very vulnerable. They’re susceptible to that and I wanted to show them that no, you guys are great. They’re doing all this amazing stuff and you need to be acknowledged for that. That’s why I did the award, to let these kids know that people are watching and care for them, and that their accomplishments are being acknowledged and valued.

Ships Start Here, but not Black jobs 

I moved to Halifax in 2011, and I remember the Ship Starts Here campaign. It was huge, and I was in support of it because I thought that will bring jobs here. Then it became a total disaster, and it was almost as if it was designed that way. 

For our documentary we did six months of research, we’ve interviewed Irving people, we’ve interviewed the premier, the mayor, all kinds of people. Irving got this thirty billion dollar contract to build Canada’s next naval fleet. Before they started they had to blast and rats from the dockyard went right into the community of Mulgrave Park across the street, a predominantly Black community, the same community that had already been pushed out of Africville. 

Meanwhile, we know of not one person from Mulgrave Park that got hired. Irving hired so far 2000 people and there are three Black people that we know of. These people are making $70 to $80 /hour welding, and $30 to $40 sweeping the floor. Meanwhile we have mothers here going to foodbanks. Yet nobody is talking about it. Just the CBC did one story, but basically nobody is talking about it.

So I’ve interviewed Irving about this. They admitted that shipbuilding is a white-dominated industry. I have the recording. They wouldn’t go on camera. None of the politicians is helping. Only Lindell Smith, he kicked butt. But other than that, Andy Filmore has done nothing, Lisa Roberts has done nothing, the mayor has done nothing, and all this stuff was set up during the NDP government and the conservative federal government, I interviewed the Minister of Defense at that time. All these guys admit they put nothing in place for Black people to have jobs here. 

So you come to the community, you blast their houses, people’s houses are tilted, they are shining beaming lights that come down and people can’t get proper sleep. And then they see all these people coming from different communities and getting jobs.This would never happen in any other white community in Nova Scotia under any circumstances. But when this was done to the Black community nobody cared. 

All we need to know as Black people is what politics is supposed to produce. Malcolm X talked about this in his battle or the bullet speech. Marcus Garvey has been preaching this since the early 1900s. Politics is simple. Politicians are the allocators of resources, and none of the politicians here are doing that. And the reason why is because none of the media is holding them accountable.  

If you are not talking about Black economics, you’re not talking about racism and white supremacy, and you’re not helping the Black community.

So now they want to tear down the Cogswell Interchange, and put new condos there. This is something that will rival New York, Toronto, London, a beautiful plan. 

The government said that they want to make sure that the Black community is involved in the planning, so they held a massive community meeting, but only a few people came because it was a sham. I ended up going with my camera. 

They talked for an hour to the Black community. Their suggestion is to have a statue commemorating the slave trade, a statue of Rocky Jones, Viola Desmond.

So I asked, have you thought about including Black people economically? Silence, absolute 100% silence. 

There are people outside of our community that are standing up against things like racism on Metro Transit, carding. I’m going to make this very simple and clear. If you are not talking about Black economics, you’re not talking about racism and white supremacy, and you’re not helping the Black community. As young Black people we don’t care about anything else but economics. All these other things don’t mean anything, because nothing matters unless that kid can get a job, and that kid has capital to start a business, unless that kid has an opportunity to hire his own people.

Follow the Objective News Agency on Facebook.

See also: Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator: Of course I am going to have an opinion

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