Shadowproof launches Marvel Cooke Journalism Fellowship

Shadowproof is proud to announce the launch of the Marvel Cooke Fellowship, which will fund color writers’ coverage of the movement to abolish the prison industrial complex.

During the summer, a historic wave of protests against death from policing increased calls for police departments to be devalued. An unprecedented public curiosity about the abolition ensued, prompting many media organizations to write introductory articles on the subject.

Shadowproof responded with a journalism examining the presence of abolition in a variety of organizational efforts. We published eight articles by different authors showing, for example, how abolitionists deal with mental health crises and interpersonal violence without involving the police. During this project, our aim was to show how communities are now manifesting abolition and to defend ourselves against the perception that it is an idea that is limited to a distant future.

The funds we can raise through the Marvel Cooke Fellowship will carry our abolition streak through 2021, ensuring we have dedicated resources for publishing the work of a wide variety of writers.

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Although the coverage of Marvel Jackson Cooke was published a century ago, it remains of great importance to the journalism we will fund through this fellowship.

Cooke was the only black child in Mankato, Michigan, born in 1901 to parents whom she referred to as “Eugene V. Deb’s Socialists.” In the 1920s she moved to New York City and joined the Harlem Renaissance. She engaged in fearless journalism and activism dealing with issues of race, class and gender.

She wrote for The Crisis at the invitation of WEB Du Bois and was later published in the Amsterdam News. As the Washington Press Club Foundation notes, she was the Amsterdam News’ first female journalist and also worked in an editorial capacity. While at the newspaper, Cooke helped organize the first Newspaper Guild unit for a black-owned newspaper

She later worked as assistant editor-in-chief at The People’s Voice and as a reporter and feature writer at The Compass, where she was not only the only reporter, but also the only black person writing for the organization.

Cooke was questioned before Congress about her Communist Party membership, and the FBI harassed her and confiscated her passport because he had other black radicals of the time such as Paul Robeson. In the 1970s, Cooke played a leading role in defense campaigns for Dr. Angela Y. Davis and continued her activism until her death in 2000 at the age of 99.

Her groundbreaking coverage of the exploitation of black women who work as domestic servants in New York City exemplifies the journalism that Shadowproof seeks to fund through the Marvel Cooke Fellowship.

The first article Cooke wrote on the subject, “The Slave Market,” was a collaboration with Ella Baker and appeared in The Crisis in 1935. In 1950 she returned with a three-part series called “The Bronx Slave Market” and reported her own experiences as part of the “Paper Bag Brigade” on the pages of The Compass.

In her paper, Cooke not only tabulated the exploitation of working black women, but also examined its causes. It gave readers a sense of time and place and placed these newer forms of abuse in changing currents of race, work, gender and migration after the Great Depression and de-industrialization after World War II.

Cooke demanded more of the government’s responses in her coverage, showing that efforts like vacant hiring halls only dealt with the most superficial complaints and, in some ways, more firmly entrenched repression.

She told the stories of workers instead of trying to impose an invented “objectivity” to show “both sides”. Presenting her subjects as people with agency instead of tacitly suppressed objects, she recorded how workers have overcome their isolation from one another in order to exchange strategies and organize collective resistance to stolen and suppressed wages and other forms of abuse.

Through this lens Cooke argued that the slave markets of the 20th century should not and could not be adequately reformed. Instead, it called for the abolition of markets altogether through work organization and the struggle to destroy the conditions that made their existence possible.

In the 70 years since Cooke traced the survivors of slavery back to New York’s “Paper Bag Brigade,” black and other marginalized populations have encountered new forms of exploitation and coercion on their way to survival in an increasingly dangerous world. Their efforts to organize against these new forms are not always visible to the general public, especially when they are part of criminalized and stigmatized populations. However, these efforts are critical to shaping the future.

The upheavals and displacement of the early 21st century as a result of economic, health and climate crises, an increasingly militarized state and increasingly precarious working conditions therefore deserve the same local attention that Cooke paid to her subjects in the Bronx in the 1930s and 1950s.

We are honored to offer this opportunity for color writers working in the Marvel Cooke tradition and look forward to reading your pitches.

Who should apply?

Journalists wishing to apply for the Marvel Cooke Fellowship are encouraged to post original news and analysis related to the movement to abolish the industrial complex in prison.

We strive for fact-based reporting that includes original sources and the perspectives of data subjects.

Black, colored people, people from poor backgrounds and the working class, immigrants, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, intersex people, transsexuals and sexually abusive people, women, young people, formerly criminalized people and people with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply.

Shadowproof is an equal opportunity employer and we do not discriminate based on gender, race, national origin, disability, age, religion, sexual orientation, or gender expression.

Possible areas of investigation include, but are not limited to:

Grassroots abolitionists who organize to withdraw power and resources from the police, prisons or other weapons of the cancer state (such as defusing the police, etc.) Affected communities Critical analysis of reformist reforms and investigation of non-reformist (abolitionist) reform proposals across the country Report on the abolitionists Approaches to organization in spaces such as work, healthcare, the environment, living, traffic, etc.

Applicants should demonstrate an understanding and experience of reporting on the abolitionist movement. We are looking for a journalism that examines questions of abolition or reflects the work of the abolitionist organization.

Shadowproof is committed to the security and privacy of our sources. We are open to discussions about measures to protect the sources mentioned in our reporting, as we recognize the sensitive and often dangerous nature of organizing the fight against violence.

How do I apply?

please send only parking spaces– not finished drafts – to brian@shadowproof.com.

Please start the subject line of your email with: “MARVEL COOKE:”

Your pitch should include:

1-2 paragraphs summary of the story you want to tell If possible, a few sentences about the style of the story, how long you expect the story to last, and whether you want to include original media (photos, infographics, videos, etc.) what type of work plan for the creation of the piece (interviews, research, document requests, etc.)

We would also like the following information about you:

A short biography that tells us about yourself, all the relevant details about your experience as a journalist, why you are reporting this story. You can provide links to websites, portfolios, or other material relevant to this work. A writing sample if not yet published by Shadowproof. The amount of the scholarships is not fixed and depends on the story you present to us. Tell us what you think is fair compensation for your piece. You can include any expected reporting costs (document production charges, etc.), but they will be listed separately.

Note on the editorial settings

If you are wondering if your story is Shadowproof we recommend exploring some of the reports we have published by other writers, especially the reports we have published on the abolition movement.

Our coverage generally focuses on the United States where we are based. However, recognizing the international scope of the abolition, we stand ready to support discussions on the movement’s work in other countries.

Please do not put up personal essays, editorials, or first-person narratives.

What happens after my application?

We look forward to reading your application. Please give us at least a week to respond as we typically receive a large number of emails.

Shadowproof will review your application and respond if we have any further questions. Once we have all the information we need, we will email you a clear decision. Unless the story is very time sensitive, we encourage you to contact us if you haven’t received a response within a week of pitching. If it is time sensitive, we ask that you make this clear in the subject line or at the top of your message.

If your application is approved, we’ll share information about our process and style guidelines and work with you to set a deadline.

Shadowproof has a collaborative editorial process in which we encourage your active participation. We’re here to help you at every stage along the way, and gives you an opportunity to review, discuss, and approve our changes prior to posting.

Shadowproof supports all paid posts by prominently featured on our homepage and widely shared on social media. Occasionally, we also invite authors to join us in community activities such as questions and answers.

Unless everyone involved has agreed otherwise, we pay the authors on the day of publication.

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