Members from migrant communities are being invited to take part in a media empowerment course to help them achieve better representation in local media.

Working closely with local journalists and editors, West Midlands residents from migrant backgrounds can learn about how journalism works, what makes a good community story and how to pitch these stories to local media.

Organised by charity Migrant Voice – based at the Zellig building in Digbeth – as part of an ongoing national programme, the free 5-session course will be launched on Friday 7 October at The Birmingham & Midland Institute (BMI).

Migrant Voice is a migrant-led national organisation building a community of migrant voices to speak for themselves and “call for justice for all”.

The charity has regional hubs which cover London and the South East, the West Midlands and Scotland. Members are diverse and the charity welcomes anyone who believes in a society where migrants and refugees are treated with equality without fear, racism or violent attack.

The charity is known for hosting regular activities and programmes to welcome people of all races, ages and genders.

Previous participants who joined the Migrant Ambassadors programme began as novices but went on to have their stories and story ideas published in regional and national newspapers, and picked up by television networks.

The community coaching encourages migrants to speak for themselves, to amplify their voices and to ensure they are fairly represented across news platforms. Training shared during the sessions include writing, speaking, interview and pitching skills.

Former Afghan child refugee Nas PopalzaiMigrant Voice
Former Afghan child refugee Nas Popalzai has completed the Migrant Ambassadors programme

Former child refugee Nas Popalzai, from Birmingham, joined Migrant Voice after campaigning for his right to stay in the UK. Upon completing the Migrant Ambassadors classes, he has worked with journalists to successfully campaign for fellow refugees from Afghanistan.

“Not only did I secure my own refugee status, I now advocate for others where we have won several campaigns,” he said.

Althia Barnett from Sutton Coldfield joined Migrant Voice with a very basic understanding of the media landscape. After completing the ambassadors course, she has not only had her stories published across regional media outlets but has also been recruited to write for national websites on migration, human rights and cultural issues.

“I had no idea about writing or pitching stories, I’d never met a journalist in my life and now I know so many of them, it’s an honour to learn from them and work with them. I also now write myself as well, and have become a citizen journalist. It’s a dream come true!”

Birmingham Migrant Voice members learn about media representationMigrant Voice
West Midlands Migrant Voice members learn about media representation in Birmingham

Individuals who complete the course are awarded with a certificate, become Migrant Voice ambassadors and are given continued support and mentoring in media and confidence building skills.

Anyone with migrant heritage, especially from marginalised and minority communities, is welcome to attend along with their friends and colleagues. The organisation works closely with people from all backgrounds, of all ages, genders and ethnicities.

“The programme aims to create conversations around media representation for migrant communities in the West Midlands and to highlight areas where more needs to be done,” said media facilitator Adam Ali from Migrant Voice.

A Migrant Voice member interviews former BBC and Al Jazeera journalist Hasan Patel from BirminghamMigrant Voice
A Migrant Voice member interviews former BBC and Al Jazeera journalist Hasan Patel from Birmingham

“It’s not just about journalists writing about migrants to tick off a ‘diversity’ box, it’s about ensuring migrants are part of that representation, that their voices are included, their ideas and critiques are taken on board, that stories essentially about them don’t get published without them.

“What we do is empower migrants by helping them understand the inner working of news media, by meeting journalists and editors and by pitching and following up stories about their communities. These are both stories about their journeys and struggles but also positive stories about issues important to their neighbourhoods.”

The Migrant Ambassadors launch event takes place at The Birmingham & Midland Institute in Margaret Street, Birmingham city centre on Friday 7 October between 10.00am – 4.30pm.

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