Marcia McNair, Founder of Long Island Girl Talk: Empowering Young Women in Media
Long Island Girl Talk (“LIGT”) is an organization that teaches young women how to create their own media, giving them a strategy for independence and leading them to discover and embrace their unique voice. Through LIGT workshops, girls are able to write, direct and star in their own broadcast shows, which empowers participants to put forth positive representations of themselves in the media they create.
Two years ago, I had the absolute honor of being invited to attend a Long Island Girl Talk workshop by Program Coordinator Natasha Nurse. I saw firsthand how LIGT empowers girls both in front of and behind the camera, while teaching their participants about female representation, social issues and how they can harness their power and presence to make a difference in the world of media. I believe that progress begins with educating and empowering the next generation of leaders, and that is exactly what Long Island Girl Talk is doing.
I wanted to learn more about the woman who had started this incredible program, Marcia McNair. Marcia McNair is Founder and Executive Director of Long Island Girl Talk and an Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Women’s Studies at Nassau Community College in Garden City, New York. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Dartmouth College and a master’s degree in writing from New York University.
Interview with Marcia McNair, Founder of Long Island Girl Talk
What is your superpower?
My sense of humor is my superpower. It allows me not to take myself too seriously, which is especially important when I’ve made a mistake. Also, it allows me to remain optimistic when faced with an obstacle. Lastly, it allows me to cheer up others when they are down.
Name a woman in history that you admire & why:
I admire Shirley Chisholm, and I had the honor of meeting her when I was doing my undergraduate studies at Dartmouth in the late 1970’s. Chisholm was the first black woman elected to Congress. In addition, she had the guts to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972. She didn’t let the fact that she didn’t get the nomination stop her from running for president, and she was the first black woman to run for our country’s highest office.
Quote that you love:
“You’re only king until the queen arrives!” –Sandra Diaz-Twine (two-time winner on the TV show Survivor.)
When Sandra said this, she was talking about herself. I found it empowering because women are still living in a male-dominated society, and the idea that we are not only worthy of being leaders, but may in fact be better leaders, is rarely suggested. I believe that Sandra’s winning attitude made her Survivor’s only two-time winner.
What inspired you to start Long Island Girl Talk?
My biological and adopted mothers did not believe in complaining about problems — they believed in working to solve them. Thus, I always had a model of fighting social injustice. I see the lack of women and people of color in the decision-making roles in Hollywood as a form of social injustice. I wondered how I could help rectify that situation.
Media plays an important role in people’s lives, and what we see is still very much biased towards the male gaze and a Eurocentric sensibility. The only way to change that is to create more diversity in the field. Therefore, I decided to create a program that would encourage girls of color to make media a career choice or to become independent producers of media.
What is LIGT doing to make history today?
We are working on a documentary called Caged Birds Sing: On Being a Black or Brown Girl in America. The stories of girls of color have rarely been documented.
What is one thing LIGT has accomplished that you are most proud of?
Since our inception, we have helped our participants produce over thirty episodes for public access television.
What, in your opinion, is one of the biggest challenges facing your industry today?
Hollywood still lacks diversity. Although women are more than half of the population, only 27 percent of creators, writers, producers, photographers, directors and editors in primetime TV entertainment are women. The underrepresentation for people of color in the industry is even more startling.
What is a trend in your industry that you foresee becoming popular in the future?
The general population has become independent producers of media, and I believe that this trend will continue to grow. Viewers will continue to have a variety of viewing choices that go well beyond television.
What is one of the greatest challenges you have personally faced at this job?
Running a nonprofit without a 501(c)(3) has been my greatest challenge. If I had to do it all over again, I would have applied for it earlier instead of trusting various fiscal agents.
What were you doing before your current role?
I was a former assistant editor at Essence Magazine.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give to other female founders & change-makers?
Ask for help! Don’t try to do it all yourself.
Are there any great resources you have discovered that you would like to share?
For nonprofits, the Guidestar website has been a great resource.
Fun fact about yourself:
I’m a foodie, so I collect tons of recipes — but I rarely make them! However, just thinking about a new recipe gets me excited!
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m the co-author of a play called Sistas on Fire: A Newsical.