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NPR analyst, Tampa Bay author to give talk on racial bias in media

Author Eric Deggans will speak at a gala Saturday held by Pinellas Remembers, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching about historic racial violence.
Portrait of Eric Deggans.
Portrait of Eric Deggans. [ PRATT, CARRIE | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Sep. 15|Updated Sep. 15

When Eric Deggans published his book “Race-Baiter” in 2012, he painted a picture of how certain media outlets were leveraging fear and racial panic to spread misinformation and grow their audiences.

Almost a decade later, with the rise in use of social media and greater polarization in politics, Deggans said the strategies have kicked into overdrive.

On Saturday, the author, current NPR TV critic and media analyst and former Tampa Bay Times reporter will join the nonprofit Pinellas Remembers to revisit his book and engage in a discussion about recognizing misinformation in media and how to have conversations about racial bias.

Race-Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation.
Race-Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation. [ Provided ]

The presentation will be a part of an evening of performances, food and drinks at the first Pinellas Remembers Gala, held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, USC Ballroom. General admission tickets can be bought at the door or online for $40. Student tickets are $10 with a valid ID.

Pinellas Remembers was founded in 2017 to enlighten about and document past acts of racial terror, including lynchings, that have been erased or distorted in public memory. The organization is supported by the Equal Justice Initiative, which helps coalitions across the country do the same, documenting and erecting markers for more than 4,000 lynchings across 12 southern states, including Florida.

“We’re a group of people committed to telling the truth even though the truth can be ugly,” said Danny White, Pinellas Remembers president.

Saturday’s gala aims to create awareness about Pinellas Remembers, he said, as well as provide attendees with information about the organization’s past and future, and how to get involved.

Pinellas Remembers members stand by a marker of the lynching of John Evans in St. Petersburg in 1914. The marker was erected by the organization last year.
Pinellas Remembers members stand by a marker of the lynching of John Evans in St. Petersburg in 1914. The marker was erected by the organization last year. [ Pinellas Remembers ]

The organization is seeking involvement from people of all races and backgrounds, with an emphasis on bringing aboard younger people, he said. There’s a gap in understanding between older generations who remember acts of racial terror and segregation and those who are younger and experience disparities without the same historical context. The goal, he said, is to bridge the gap.

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“I have a lived experience with the KKK,” said White, who is in his 60s. “I have a lived experience of not being able to go into certain places. This is about saying ‘This is why I’m feeling what I’m feeling,’ and helping people get comfortable with it.”

And that’s why, when White and his board were planning the gala, Deggans came to mind as a natural fit.

At the center of much of Deggans’ work is a recognition of the power of storytelling and the way stories are used to deny uncomfortable truths.

In his talk Saturday, the Tampa Bay resident said, he plans to touch on that.

“What Pinellas Remembers is often about is resisting this attempt to recategorize or redefine the racism that we know occurred in Pinellas’ past,” Deggans said. “What I do is try to put a name to that reflex and debunk it.”

Want to go?

When: 5:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: University of South Florida St. Petersburg, USC Ballroom; 200 Sixth Ave. S, St. Petersburg

More information: Tickets can be bought online at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/pinellas-remembers-1st-annual-gala-tickets-383068557367 or at the door.

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