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Meet the Press

An Ifill College alumna joined Simmons’ first delegation to the National Association of Black Journalists Convention.

I understood I was a journalist when I realized that as a Black woman, I had a responsibility to truth. 

While studying journalism, I noticed an absence of Black stories, an erasure of the richness and complexity of Black life. When stories about blackness did appear, they featured depictions of violence, disadvantage, and the occasional success story implicating Black accomplishment was somehow surprising. This lack of narrative diversity created a subconscious internalization: Black journalists must be as absent as Black stories. 

Photographs above, from left: Writer Maya Valentine ’19; Brian Norman, dean of The Gwen Ifill College of Media, Arts, and Humanities; Priscilla Wiltshire-Bland ’21, Lennox Orion ’20; Donna Stewartson ’93MBA, director of operations at the College; and A’mina Dowe ’19.

I continued to pursue storytelling but harbored a twisted understanding that Black people, especially Black women, had no space in our media and entertainment-centric world. So, when I was asked to join the inaugural Simmons University delegation to the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) convention in Miami, I was honored, but I could not calculate how mesmerized I would be. Upon arrival, suddenly I was surrounded by the world’s most capable Black journalists and media professionals. Instantaneously, that twisted misconception I had unraveled. 

“NABJ taught me that black people affirm each other’s need to exist in a profession and help each other excel in it,” writes Maya Valentine ’19.

Back-to-back panels ranged from practical skill-building exercises to deeply emotional testimonies on empowerment, to the necessity of resilience for Black reporters. My favorite was on the expanding imperative of race coverage in elections, with journalists who shared their retrospective wisdom from being on the 2016 campaign trail. I’ll never forget the encouragement I got while networking with high-caliber professionals, including representatives from The New York Times and the Public Broadcasting Service, both encouraged me to seek employment. 

A transformative experience for me was witnessing Axios reporter, Alexi McCammond, receive the NABJ Michael J. Feeney Emerging Journalist of the Year Award for her groundbreaking coverage on the president. I watched from a distance as she received her glossy trophy and gave slightly tearful remarks of pride. This moment actualized something we as Black female journalists seldom see: validation for Black women who dare tell a story.  

NABJ taught me that Black people affirm each other’s need to exist in a profession and help each other excel in it. Together, we dismantle harsh stigmas and replace them with unequivocal truth. This convention was as necessary as the stories we tell, because it reinforces our purpose in telling stories. 

I was honored to stand with the journalism community, emboldened as an heir to the legacy of a woman who fundamentally understood the importance of NABJ, Gwen Ifill.I thank Simmons for placing me within this influential network and inspiring a dream, a different narrative within me: One day, I will return to NABJ prepared to deliver tearful remarks of pride, validation clenched firmly in my hands. At a distant table, I will see a Simmons journalism student. When our eyes lock, she will see something incredible; she will see what is possible. She will see truth.