El Grito de Sunset Park Use Case
Be safe. Be ethical. Be effective.
Regardless of what tools or methodologies you use to curate, verify, analyze and preserve human rights videos, there are a number of key values and guiding principles that we believe should be incorporated into projects to ensure safe, ethical and effective use of these collections.
Throughout this project remained committed to a core human rights principle – Do No Harm. This meant paying close attention to issues like informed consent, ethical use of footage and digital and physical security risks for those involved in the project. We also regularly revisited our project plan to ensure our evolving work was inline with the initial objectives and needs we outlined with El Grito de Sunset Park.
To help others interested in working on similar projects, we’ve listed some of our learnings and recommendations:
Activists & Advocacy Organizations
Using video and multimedia to tell stories is an important part of what we do and can help put the “human” into “human rights”. But often times a single video or story can’t fully capture or illustrate the larger systemic issues at play. Explore ways to curate existing media and stories to help connect the dots and add a visual component to advocacy campaigns already in motion. Collaborate with trusted organizations who can support the project with different skill sets and resources.
Whether you work with a large institution or small organization, your expertise and resources can be incredibly beneficial in helping community organizations manage and preserve their content. If you enter into a partnership with a community-led group, it’s important to come to a shared agreement about the purpose, longevity and accessibility of the project and content. It’s also important to gain broader support from your institution/organization so the project is sustainable.
Attorneys & Legal Services Providers
The tagline for our Video as Evidence Field Guide is “Activists supporting lawyers. Lawyers supporting activists.” We keep coming back to this because we’ve seen how impactful it can be for legal experts and activists to collaborate and build trusting relationships. Lawyers are more likely to get the footage they need, and activists are more likely to see their footage used in investigations and court rooms.
Additionally, providing legal guidance on these types of projects is invaluable and can help those involved avoid the incorrect use of legal language and protect themselves and their organizations.
Copwatchers & Community Members
Copwatchers across the country serve an important role in educating communities about their rights, de-escalating confrontations with law enforcement and documenting valuable footage of abuses (and sometimes capturing positive interactions). Support their efforts by attending trainings, donating or showing up for local actions.
Be safe. Work in teams. And remember that knowing your rights and exercising them in a tense situation are not always the same thing. Use role plays or scripts to practice what you will say. Always consider your personal circumstances and location when assessing safety risks before filming.
With the rapid increase in the eyewitness media and civilian reporting online, journalists need to be extra cautious about verifying, contextualizing and sharing content, as well as attributing it appropriately. Collaborating with the groups and communities that are directly affected by issues like police violence can help this work be done more quickly and ethically. Working on curation and data analysis projects like this can lead to more in-depth and impactful storytelling.
Supporters & Funders
Curating, analyzing and preserving footage is labor intensive and can require investments in equipment such as hard drives, software licenses, server space, etc. In order for these projects to remain sustainable, they require commitments from all those involved as well long-term financial investment and support. Financial support can also be put towards skills building or bringing on specialists in areas like digital security, web development or archival and legal experts, etc.