Summer Centered: Christopher Bechen ’18 Archives Activist Media in Philly
At the Media Mobilizing Project, the double major in fine arts and growth and structure of cities will begin organizing video documentation of city activism for the creation of a public archive.
Philadelphia, like many urban centers in the United States, is a hub for community organizing and activism. This summer, Christopher Bechen ’18 is witnessing the city’s diverse movements through the lense of the Media Mobilizing Project (MMP), a West Philadelphia organization that strategically deploys media to aid human rights advocates through media collaborations, education, and narrative development. For the second summer in a row, Bechen is undertaking work funded by the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC).
During the course of a 10-week internship, Bechen will sift through a broad collection of old video files, implementing a new organization and naming system. MMP, founded in 2005, creates a substantial amount of “movement media,” films that are generally calls to action or documentation of activism work. Behind each of the films are often hours of raw footage, and Bechen’s job will pave the way for public accessibility of the organization’s older, unused material in a digital archive.
“This would be a huge asset to the community MMP serves, and a really important and cutting edge way of engaging with archives in a digital age,” said Bechen.
Early into the job, Bechen has already viewed media related to labor movements, fracking, immigration rights, and education within Philadelphia, and seen interviews with key Philly activists. Bechen is glad to have so much material to learn from, and hopes that others will benefit from an accessible archive. With MMP and beyond, Bechen emphasizes the importance of archiving and history in activism.
“With college students being such a transient population, I feel as though connection to history is something that is imperative in order to understand the current climate and to make careful, thoughtful, and wise decisions about what steps to take next,” said Bechen, who was a former Sexuality and Gender Alliance co-head and is currently a Queer Discussion Group co-head at Haverford. “It's hard to move forward if you don't know where you've already been.”
This year’s work for Bechen comes after another CPGC-funded project during the summer of 2016. In Haverford’s Quaker and Special Collections, Bechen sought out materials related to Haverford’s queer history, creating a digitized archive of oral histories from 1962–2014. Intending to expand their work related to the intersections of activism and archives, Bechen found the MMP position with the help of Qui Alexander, program coordinator for Haverford’s Women*s Center.
Going into senior year, Bechen plans to write a thesis in growth and structure of cities about the AIDS Quilt as an example of radical activism appropriating urban form. Thanks to this summer position, Bechen will have a first-hand glimpse into urban activism that will be able inform future research and continued activism at Haverford and beyond.
-Michael Weber '19
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.