Ed Bowie is executive director of AOC Community Media. He began in that position in 1998 after he started volunteering with the organization in 1984.
I became aware while living in New Orleans, actually Jefferson Parish, which is close enough for bragging but far enough away to be a middle-class, post-WWll suburb. My folks moved into a neighborhood loaded with returning veterans who used the GI bill to buy their first homes. As a result of the age of the parents, my neighborhood was full of kids. We literally ran the street and enjoyed a level of freedom that kids today can’t imagine. There were no locked doors, we feared nothing, we ate where we were when we got hungry, we slept at the house where we got tired and we didn’t pay much attention to the outside world. It was a perfect scenario for growing up in a neighborhood of pure homogenized, sanitized and oblivious harmony with everyone.
Things changed when I was forced out of the safety of the neighborhood. That was high school. I was exposed to everything the world had to offer, and it wasn’t perfect. My high school experiences probably affected my life in the most profound way — more than Vietnam, more than marriage, parenthood or death of loved ones. More than jobs or victories or defeats. High school was the basis of my future person.
My first AOC experience was in 1985. I took classes for five weeks to learn to operate video equipment and became a member so that I could do my own program. That program never came about, but I’ve created a lot of videos since those workshops. A lot has changed.
I became the director by a series of events that literally led me to the place. It’s a long story, but it boils down to a lot of synchronicity between events and people, an unusual combination of AOC’s needs and my experiences. I was meant for the position and pushed and pulled by forces outside of normal to apply for the job. After a four-hour interview and a two-hour follow-up, I was offered the position. I had no idea what I was getting into.
I wasn’t really interested in becoming the director. The position was open, and I got an interview. I went to the interview because I’d been given so many signs that I should, not because I wanted the job. I was actually very skeptical going in. It was after that interview I realized how much of an opportunity AOC provided, and that’s when I really became interested.
People use AOC to make an impact on the community. That’s why AOC exists. People share ideas, opinions, talents, whatever and we make collective decisions that form our community. I didn’t do anything special to make that happen. Our community did.
In addition to operating two TV channels and studios for production, we offer portable video production equipment, internet radio, podcasting, video and audio editing facilities and a wide array of workshops and classes in media production and consumption. The list of services we offer in addition to equipment and education is lengthy and can be found on our website. Podcast creators are currently our fastest-growing segment. Podcasting has appeal to every age group. We have individuals, teams, businesses and several nonprofits creating podcasts for distribution on the AOC Podcast Network.
It’s so incredibly obvious to me how important the First Amendment is. I just can’t believe everyone doesn’t totally get it. Sadly, many many people don’t get it. The First is the foundation upon which all of our rights as citizens are based. Without the First, the Second isn’t going to help. Who you gonna shoot? The rest of the Bill of Rights won’t matter because you won’t know about them or transgressions against them. You won’t be able to make an informed vote if you don’t have information. You won’t be able to ask for new roads if your voice is stifled. You won’t be able to recall officials. Democracy won’t work. First Amendment and free press are the most important protectors of our country.
Saturday Night Live's spoof of our agency last year was a complete surprise to all of us. We think Lafayette was chosen because, we hear, there’s a staff writer on SNL who has a relative in Lafayette. Our local culture sometimes makes for a good spoof, but why AOC was chosen to demonstrate that is anybody’s guess, although we’ve had some programs that were very similar in design to the SNL skit. I will say our programs were more authentically Cajun than SNL’s and probably funnier, too. We got a ton of local feedback. Many people assumed we created it and sent it to SNL. Others think we have contacts in the business. We had nothing to do with it but would welcome another like it.
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