This article outlines a framework for the teaching of media and cultural studies in to urban youth as a way of promoting much-needed academic and critical literacies. We argue that a critical media pedagogy can help young people to identify concepts such as hegemony and ideology and understand that the mass media are not neutral entities. Through a problem-posing (Freire, 1970) and culturally affirming pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 1994), students can also learn to de- construct dominant media narratives and to create their own counter-narratives to the media’s depiction of urban youth of color. Drawing from an intervention with urban adolescents where media are used as part of instruction, this study reveals how critical media pedagogies can simultaneously empower youth toward the media they confront while also imparting academic literacy skills. The article concludes with the contention that new media texts are more relevant to and affirming of the everyday sociocultural experiences of students and can be used to teach the literacy skills needed for academic ad- vancement, critical citizenship, and professional employment.