Spencer: Community Op-Eds Allow Residents To Impact Their Own Narrative

JEFF ANTENORE, Voice of OC Contributing Photographer

Voice of OC Publisher Norberto Santana Jr. leads a class about civic engagement and opinion writing in the Voice of OC office in Downtown Santa Ana during a Media Summit on Wednesday, July 12, 2017.

“…it may turn out that such a form of free exchange of ideas and information is of fundamental relevance for transforming culture and freeing it of destructive misinformation, so that creativity can be liberated.” – David Bohm

Whether the tradition began in the East or the West, whether it was Confucius in ancient China or Plato in ancient Greece, the importance of civics has been around for centuries.

And wherever civics has wrested its ideals and forged its people, journalism – the space for facts and discourse – has not been too far away. Journalism is the bridge connecting our current circumstances with the laws that inspire us, define us, or revile us.

Here in my city of Santa Ana, I have learned that community-driven opinion editorials such as in the Voice of OC provide residents a bridge of their own making. We can publicly air our own narratives about issues that could otherwise define us without our consent.

Being given a platform as a local resident is a gift of civics without comparison. Voice of OC allows us to voice our opinions – sometimes fierce – and shape our political discourse about everything, from homelessness to water rights.

In the public realm of opinion editorials, freedom of opinion provides a safety valve of expression that respects the individuality, agency and humanity of local people. The stronger and more frequent the public debate, the stronger the community it reflects.

For me personally, the impact of public discourse on community dialogue is unmistakable. I am very fond of good dialogue and healthy debate as those who know me can attest. This is because I believe dialogue is the way we learn about one another, and it provides the grist we need to uncover our own truths.

In daunting political times like these, and in this era of highly conglomerated and syndicated journalism, having a safe space to share and read from respected residents is invaluable.

The community-driven platforms given by Voice of OC continue to elevate dialogue in Orange County. Those who profess to care about civics should use this space often, and remember that when we build our own bridges, we strengthen our communities far more than we may know.

Madeleine Spencer is a graduate student who currently lives and works in the city of Santa Ana. She  is a passionate advocate for transparency and civil rights for the homeless, immigrants and those in need. She has worked as a Depth Psychologist in the Los Angeles Department of Corrections with incarcerated youth.  Her most recent interests include issues of urbanization, community building and management consulting. Spencer divides her time between actively participating in her community as a consultant for Santa Ana Business Council; and works as a learning facilitator, teaching independent learning and time management skills, for the Humanities Department at Santiago Canyon College District.

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at TSears@voiceofoc.org