In this article, HECUA’s new Making Media, Making Change program director, Raechel Anne Jolie, speaks about what drew her into her work as a writer, educator, and media maker committed to using her skills in the service of social justice and liberation. Raechel began her time with HECUA this fall semester of 2019.
“There’s truly nothing more exciting to me than students learning a skill that helps them feel more effective as an activist or organizer, for whatever cause they are passionate about. Whether it’s a theory or learning how to use a camera, I’m just very excited to be a part of that experience,” she explained.
Raechel grew up in a working- class community in Ohio and became involved with anti-war organizing in high school. She recalls that, “When the war started in 2001, I was 16 or 17 and I knew I didn’t want to just witness, I wanted to be involved.” After participating with ‘Food Not Bombs’, Raechel said that she learned how social justice was interconnected and she knew then that, “I could devote my whole life to this work, because it would never be over.”
She received a BA and MA from DePaul University in Chicago, where she organized with anti-war groups, labor unions, and prison reform and abolition organizations. In 2013, Raechel received a PhD from the University of Minnesota in Critical Media Studies and a minor in Critical Feminist and Sexuality Studies.
About her journey to media studies, Raechel says, “I grew up on pop culture. We didn’t have limits on television—it was on all the time. Our cheap entertainment was movies. We bought People magazine. I loved it all, but I developed a sense of shame around it until I found a community in academia that saw media as powerful. Of course, if maintained, media could oppress us, but it also could be used to liberate us.”
After working as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Merrimack College from 2013-2017, she taught at Tufts University and Normandale Community College. Raechel’s writing has been published in numerous academic journals as well as various popular press sites (Teen Vogue, Bitch Magazine, In These Times, and more).
Speaking of her hopes for her HECUA students, Raechel says, “I’m always deeply invested in the context of social change as people come together to take collective action. I want any student I learn with or co-create with to know that and to know that they are empowered. We don’t have to be superhuman. We all have the power to come together and, once we have the means of production in our hands, whether that’s video recorders or cameras, we’re unstoppable.”
Raechel continues her activist and organizing work with groups such as Black & Pink, IWOC, and the Massachusetts Bail Fund, and she is also a volunteer yoga teacher at a women’s prison in Minnesota. Her memoir, Rust Belt Femme, is forthcoming from Belt Publishing.