Asheville’s Appalachian Food Culture
Family Travel Guide to Asheville
Celebrating Asheville’s Appalachian Folklife and Unique Culture
Black Heritage Travel in the Outer Banks
Junteenth Family Travels
Asheville’s Appalachian Food Culture
Family Travel Guide to Asheville
Celebrating Asheville’s Appalachian Folklife and Unique Culture
Black Heritage Travel in the Outer Banks
Junteenth Family Travels
Asheville’s Appalachian Food Culture
Family Travel Guide to Asheville
Celebrating Asheville’s Appalachian Folklife and Unique Culture
Black Heritage Travel in the Outer Banks
Junteenth Family Travels

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Finding your Voice: 32 Southern Bred, African American Women in Journalism

Finding your Voice: 32 Southern Bred, African American Women in Journalism

From Daisy Bates to Oprah Winfrey, black women in the South have blazed the trails of journalism. We reached out to black female journalists — women who are either from the South or who now call the region home– to ask them how they found their voices for storytelling. We also asked them to recommend friends, mentors, and other journalists who have inspired them. Here are the slightly edited responses. You will be sure to be inspired by theseA�Southern Bred, African American Women in Journalism. If you know of a Black Southern Belle in media, be sure to share her information with us on social media with the hashtag #blacksouthernbelle.

Finding your Voice: 32 Southern Bred, African American Women in Journalism

1)Troy Washington

General assignment reporter, WREG-TV in Memphis, Tennessee

Hometown: Born in Galveston,Texas and raised in El Campo, Texas

A self-described Texas-girl, Troy Washington started her career as a multimedia journalist in Albany, Georgia at WALB-TV. Next, she spent two years as a reporter for KSLA News 12 in Shreveport, Louisiana before heading back east to Memphis (her profile on WREG-TV says she often jokes about being on a a�?journalist tour of the Southa�?). For the 50th anniversary of the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis days after energizing a sanitation workersa�� strike for better working conditions, Washington covered the citya��s recognition of its sanitation workers both past and present.

On finding her voice:

a�?My road to journalism is more about advocacy than anything else. I grew up in a single parent household and we had our struggles. I remember feeling powerless as a child, and I did not like that feeling. Going into journalism gave me the power to really speak up for those people from similar backgrounds as myself. My path has never been easy–and the journey through journalism still is not easy. But since both my passion and purpose to help others is so deeply rooted through my own past experiences, I am able to show a different level of compassion in the field, during investigations, and just on stories in general. Plus, I just love reminding black girls that black girl magic is real.a�?

2)Brittney Johnson

Morning news anchor and reporter, A�WSOC-TV in Charlotte, North Carolina


Hometown: A�Born in Dallas, Texas but mostly raised in Charlotte, North Carolina.

After chasing stories throughout the South in Arkansas and Louisiana, Brittney Johnson is back in her hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. When we reached out to the Emmy-nominated reporter, she told us shea��d recently shot a promo in front of her old high school ( a a�?full circle moment!a�?). Johnson has reported on health issues around the world– as a graduate student and health fellow for The Washington Post, she traveled to India to report on rural health issues. In Charlotte, shea��s covered a number of A�public health stories, including the fire departmenta��s efforts to reduce cancer risks for its firefighters, and the welfare of children in the citya��s foster system.

On finding her voice:

a�?I remember really feeling I was meant to tell stories for a living while I was a graduate student at UC Berkeleya��s J-School. I did a story about a family that was selling all of their belongings at a garage sale, forced to downsize due to the economy in 2008. It seemed like a typical Saturday morning garage sale, with people looking for the best deals, haggling over what appeared to be miscellaneous items, but it was so much more. I remember trying to capture both the tension and heartbreak, and writing the line a�?selling pieces of their past for pennies.a�? That familya��s story still sticks with me and that line stuck with everyone who watched that story. I felt so grateful they allowed me to be there to witness that moment and for the opportunity to share stories that would give others a much-needed peek into other peoplea��s lives.a�?

3)Tanya Ballard

Editor, in Washington, D.C.

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

Tanya Ballard brainstorms and develops digital projects for NPR. Early this spring, Ballard collaborated with journalists from WHYY, the NPR station in Philadelphia, for an update on the upcoming trial of Bill Cosby. In January, she and NPR reporters collaborated to produce A�a�?Abused and Betrayed,a�? a special series investigating the sexual assault epidemic of people with emotional and intellectual disabilities. Before bringing her project development chops to NPR, Ballard was a digital editor at The Washington Post, where she worked on investigative and long-form stories for the papera��s website. A�

On finding her voice:

a�?The first time I knew being a journalist was something attainable for me, I was about seven A�and got to read an editorial I wrote on a local kidsa�� news show. I would go on to create my own newspaper. My elementary school principal let me kill many trees running off copies to give to my classmates.a�?

4) Tashara ParkerA�

News Anchor, CBS 19 in Tyler, Texas

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Before joining the CBS 19 team in Tyler as an evening anchor in 2016, Tashara Parker A�worked as an anchor and reporter in KAGS-TV in Bryan/College Station, Texas. The evening anchor has special chops for education reporting. As a grad student at Depaul University, the young journalist covered the 2013 wave of school closings in Chicago, where the district shuttered 54 elementary schools. She also produced an in-depth look at inner city high school athletic championships. When shea��s not behind the anchor desk at CBS 19, Parker hosts a segment called Tashara Travels, where she spotlights the best of the cities in Texas.

On finding her voice:

a�?I found my voice by rediscovering who I wanted to be known as in this field. That answer was simple: myself. Ita��s sort of crazy to think about what it means to be true to yourself. When you get into this business, youa��re in such a rush to come off as someone or something youa��re not. It seems as if most people are itching to fit the mold and the truth is, there really isna��t a mold. Once I stopped trying to fit into a bubble, I realized my true potential in this business. There wasna��t a pivotal point in my life when this happened, but it did start with one of my News Directors. a�?Be you,a�� she said simply.a�?

5)Madison Carter

Fill-in anchor and reporter at WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, Virginia

Hometown: A�Born and raised in Ashburn, Virginia

Madison Carter is an early bird who has plans to work in every corner of the state of Virginia. Last year, the morning reporter told the the site UpByFive, that her alarm goes off at 2 a.m. Carter started her reporting career at WVIR-TV in Charlottesville in 2016 after graduating from Syracuse University in New York. While she loves sports stories, she has a special passion for reporting on health news. A Type-1 diabetic since she was young, Carter took an in-depth look at the effects of driving with diabetes A�in 2017. Early this spring, she reported a segment about one of the first school shootings on record in America at the University of Virginia.

On finding her voice:

a�?This was very difficult starting out. At a station that brings in mostly new reporters, management often tries to teach you in their style. In my experience, as I found my voice — which was different from those that had to approve my work– it was often looked at as wrong. When I got moved to the morning shift, I had a lot more freedom to find my voice, and I realized my voice became reflective of my audience. The people who watch our morning show are looking for something a little bit different – they are looking for energy, or inspiration, even innovation. That’s where the heartbeat of my storytelling lies. I found my voice in my community when I realized that I have the ability to give people a reason to get out of bed every morning. That’s what I use my voice to do.a�?

6)A�Arielle Ray

Video Journalist, Quartz A�in New York City, New York A�

Hometown: Born and raised in Tallahassee, Florida

Arielle Ray uses motion graphics and animation to breathe life into video stories at Quartz. The young video journalist covers all subjects at the digital news organization, from the Chinese governmenta��s crackdown on fireworks to Coretta Scott Kinga��s views on Jeff Sessions. Before taking her talents to Quartz, Ray was a video and motion graphics specialist at The Wall Street Journal. During her time at WSJ, she produced a story exploring the history and influence of the rap lyrics in the Broadway show, Hamilton. During her time at WSJ, News Media Alliance listed her as one of their a�?Top 30 Journalists Under 30.a�?

On finding her voice:

A�a�?My inspiration is a little complicated. I wouldn’t say that I’m particularly a�?voicey,a�� in that my work is about the visuals, and my style changes depending on how serious my subject matter is. I started this illustrated-video style of storytelling when I got an internship at WSJ and they were like a�?this is what you’re doing.a�� I really ended up loving it. From there, it was just about refining my style…which is still happening. Since starting at Quartz and realizing how much freedom I have, I started to get really into stop motion and mixed media. I like lots of texture and a kitschy-cute aesthetic, a mixture of studio footage and animation to tell a story.a�?

7)Dede WillisA�A�

Multimedia journalist and reporter for KNOE 8 News in Monroe, Louisiana

Hometown: A�Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi and raised in Lake Providence, Louisiana

When we reached out to Dede Willis, the young reporter had an interesting reason why she was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, but raised in Lake Providence, Louisiana. Turns out, Lake Providence didna��t deliver babies ( a�?Ita��s that small of a town, haha!a�? she told us via email). In 2017, she joined KNOE in Monroe, almost an hour away from her hometown, where she covers the citya��s development, including efforts to end crime A�and the ongoing response to Monroe being labeled the countya��s most dangerous city. Her work has been honored by the National Federation of Press Womena��s At-Large and the Southeast Journalism Competition.

On finding her voice:

a�?I found my voice by always being told I had no voice. Growing up, I witnessed my mom stretch every dollar to feed myself and my other 4 siblings. I grew up watching. Watching my mom struggle. Watching my sister hurt. Watching my brothers give their lives to the streets. Watching my father walk out of my life. I was never allowed to say anything. I bottled it up, until I learned to write. My life and testimony inspired me to write. Now, I am so blessed to be a voice for so many stories otherwise untold.a�?

8) Ju-Don Marshall

Chief Content Officer for WFAE, the NPR public radio station in Charlotte, North Carolina

Hometown: Born in Brooklyn, New York, but mostly raised in the land of the Gullah, right outside Charleston, South Carolina

Ju-Don Marshall oversees WFAEa��s newsroom, digital platforms, and Charlotte Talks, the show covering news, politics, and culture. A 2003 Nieman Fellow, Marshall is a veteran digital media content leader. Shea��s served as director for the Center for Cooperative Media, general manager and vice president of Everyday Health, and executive editor and senior vice-president at News Corporation. She spent the bulk of her storytelling career at The Washington Post, where she led digital coverage of the massacre at Virginia Tech. Marshall has also shaped and minds and careers of young journalists for over 20 years. She currently serves on a number of boards, including the Poynter Foundationa��s National Advisory board. A�

On finding her voice: A�

“There were two pivotal moments that shaped my future as a journalist. The first was when I moved to South Carolina from New York. I had never seen such poverty. Some people didna��t have running water in their homes or bathrooms. There were outhouses. You could look at the outside of some houses and see through the walls. I went to other houses where the floors of the rooms were collapsing. As a child a�� and mind you I had lived in public housing in New York a�� I was baffled by what I was experiencing for the first time, but more importantly I wondered a�� even then a�� why their stories werena��t being told. We received the daily newspaper at my grandparentsa�� house, where I lived, and I remember searching for those peoplea��s stories and never finding them. As a result, I knew I wanted to give voice to the voiceless. I remember having my younger sister and cousin help me create a a�?newspapera�? for our family. It didna��t have anything of substance, but looking back on it, thata��s when the journalism seed took root. The second event was the murder of my father. He had been mostly absent from my life and still was living in New York at the time of his death. Ironically, I was in New York, where we still spent every summer when he died, but I didna��t know. In fact, by the time I found out, his body had already been shipped to his father in South Carolina, where they held his funeral and buried him. I was devastated by his loss on multiple levels. At 12, I struggled to express my grief, so I turned to words. I wrote everything that I felt a�� a habit I would continue until I graduated from college and became a full-time journalist. Since then Ia��ve been consumed by what others have to (need to) say.a�? A�A�

9) Eryn Rogers

Reporter/Fill-in Anchor, WSPA-TV in Greenville, South Carolina

Hometown: A�Atlanta, Georgia

Since joining the WSPA news team in 2014, Eryn Rogers covered the shooting of nine members of the Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina. Before moving to South Carolina, Rogers was a reporter in Fort-Wayne, Indiana where she covered crime, politics, and sports for WANE-TV. The Atlanta-born reporter also has long-form storytelling chops. For her graduate capstone at Northwestern Universitya��s Medill School of Journalism, she produced and filmed a documentary about one man trying to save the youth of Chicago from gun violence. In Greenville, Rogers has also covered a number of stories about the welfare of South Carolinaa��s prison population. A�A�

On finding her voice:A�
a�?Every evening at the dinner table, my parents and I would watch the local news. At eight-years-old, A�I knew I wanted to be just like the woman I saw every night, Monica (then)Kaufman. Ever since then, I’ve been working towards that goal. However, it wasn’t until my senior year/graduate year of college where I truly found my voice and the type of storytelling I enjoyed most. My graduate capstone project was a documentary I filmed and produced on youth immersed in gang life on Chicago’s west side. It was that experience that spurred my drive to tell stories from typically unheard communities, highlighting social A�justice issues, and fighting for diverse storytelling in not-so-diverse newsrooms.a�?

10) A�Bria Felicien

Audience Specialist based at The Atlanta-Journal Constitution (The AJC) in Atlanta, Georgia

Hometown: A�Born at Fort Rucker, Alabama, raised in New Orleans and southern Louisiana

Bria Felicien joined the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2017 as an audience specialist for Politically Georgia, the AJCa��s site for political news. A�Before heading to Atlanta, Felicien was a digital producer for USA Today networka��s southeast region, writing content and reporting on sports for Gannett sites including The Greenville News. The social storyteller has also written for Teen Vogue. Felicien is also a fiction writer– shea��s the author of three young adult novels. She has a talent for podcasting. Felicien produces and edits the AJCa��s Politically Georgia podcast. She has also been a guest on literary podcasts, where shea��s spoken about her writing and upcoming work.

On finding her voice: A�

a�?Though I’m still working on honing it, I’d say I found my voice in journalism when I started self-publishing fiction in early 2017. I was much more honest in my fiction, and that helped me start being honest about the non-fiction stories I wanted to tell or help tell. It also helped me make suggestions in meetings or push for stories I thought were important. I also write about love and life. In the romance genre, A�there’s so many books, just like there’s so many articles on any given day. So working in two competitive fields helps me think about ways to tell stories that are unique and interesting but also present in ways people want to read, watch, or listen to.a�?

11) Mia Watkins

Mia Watkins

Digital Content Producer at WBRC FOX6 News in Birmingham, Alabama

Hometown: A�Birmingham, Alabama

Mia Watkins writes and produces digital news content for WBRC in Birmingham, Alabama where she covers crime and city news. She also writes feature stories for WBRC, including the crowning of Miss Alabama in 2016. She cut her teeth in entertainment and culture writing as a contributor for the former music site Bark+Bite, where shea��d write music reviews, interview artists, and write features about pop culture. Before WBRC, the UAB and Medill School of Journalism grad covered news and feature stories as an entertainment buzz reporter at, where she also covered the Miss Alabama pageant.

On finding her voice:

a�?I found my voice through music blogging for the now-defunct Bark + Bite. That experience taught me a lot about editing and writing clearly to express what I’m trying to say. But, the most reaffirming journalistic moment for me to date was interviewing actor and activist Harry Belafonte when he came to Birmingham in 2013 to commemorate 50 years since Birmingham’s role in pivotal civil rights events that happened in 1963. Other media gave up on talking to him due to deadlines, but I stuck around at the event where he was speaking and was able to grab about 10 minutes of his time. I ended up being the only reporter in the market who got one-on-one time with him. That taught me to stay with a story because you never know what you can accomplish through tenacity. It was a really cool experience to interview someone who has done so much in his life.a�?

12) Nicole Smith

MARCH 11, 2016 DUNWOODY Staff head shot of AJC Senior Digital Features Editor Nicole D. Smith

Senior Digital Features Editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in Atlanta, GA.

Hometown: Born in Cleveland, Ohio and raised in in Elyria, Ohio

Ohio native Nicole Smith has been telling stories in the south for over a decade. The University of Georgia graduate has worked in Atlanta since 2003, when she landed her first job at CNN. Smith has written a number of her own stories for the AJC, including a piece on the legacy of renowned southern chef Edna Lewis. Before heading up feature content at the AJC, she was a social media manager for Time, Inc., and Bounce TV, where she wrote and curated original news stories, tracked analytics, and used data to measure success and brand engagement. At the AJC, the editor and storyteller also oversees social media coverage and launches digital products such as the Access Atlanta podcast.

On finding her voice:A�

a�?When I started writing on my first job at CNN, a good amount of my colleagues wanted to write about the Iraq War. Their focus left the opportunity for me to write features and human-interest stories that werena��t prolific at CNN during that time. So, my first story I ever reported and aired was about a 96-year-old GED student from LaGrange, Georgia. From that story, I learned to give people a voice who dona��t normally have a platform. I learned to write in a way that accurately shares stories and leaves people inspired.a�?

13) Jewel Wicker

Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

Freelance Entertainment & Culture Reporter in Atlanta, Georgia

Her path to storytelling:

Jewel Wicker is an entertainment and culture reporter whose bylines have appeared in Billboard, Atlanta Magazine, and Buzzfeed.A� Before heading back to her native Atlanta as a staff writer for the AJCa��s Access Atlanta, Wicker was a reporter for PennLive, where she wrote a feature on The Rock Litiz studio in Pennsylvania. The music writer has a regular column A�in Creative Loafing covering music and culture in Atlanta. She is also a frequent contributor to Arts ATL. In 2017, the blooming cultural commentator appeared on First We Feasta��s Food Grails in an episode devoted to the story behind Atlantaa��s seeming obsession with lemon-pepper wings. A�

On finding her voice:

a�?As a reporter who is still early in my career, Ia��m constantly honing my voice. One of the most recent pieces I did that helped to shape that was a personal essay for Buzzfeed on drug epidemics, my family and the black community. As a traditional digital and newspaper reporter, Ia��d been accustomed to never including myself in stories. Not only was this an important story that needed to be told, but it helped me to remember that sometimes I have personal experiences that, when paired with reporting, can be really powerful.a�? A�

14) Crystal Lewis Brown

Freelance writer, and contributing editor for 100 Days in Appalachia

Hometown: Gulfport, Mississippi

When Crystal Lewis Brown isna��t developing content strategy for a financial institution, shea��s a contributing editor leading a series on religion for 100 Days in Appalachia, a project devoted to showcasing the diverse and complex stories of an American region dubbed a�?the heart of Trump Country.a�? Previously, she worked as director of digital operations for SheKnows Media, where she overhauled the sitea��s brand strategy, and collaborated with the sitea��s design, product, and marketing teams. A freelance writer and editor, Brown has bylines in a number of publications, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Daily Meal, and Mommynearest.

On finding her voice: A�a�?I read a lot and wrote even more before I found my voice. As a high schooler, I knew I wanted to be a journalist, but only wrote poems and short stories. When I went to journalism school, I adapted my voice to fit what I thought was “real” news writing. It was a disaster. As I continued my career after a hiatus to get married and move to another country (which is another story for another time), I landed at a super small local newspaper. As a general assignment reporter, I covered pretty much everything that came across my desk. That’s where I think I really came into my voice. Whether I was covering a festival or talking to community members at the city’s oldest Masonic Lodge, I tried to take a comprehensive approach to writing. The readers aren’t there, so I want them to hear what I heard, feel what I felt, smell what I smelled. And I tend to take that approach as much as I can when I write.a�?

15)A�Monica Herndon

Staff photographer at the Tampa Bay Times in St.Petersburg, Florida A�

Hometown: Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Annapolis, Maryland

Monica Herndon has lived in Florida for seven years. The Washington, D.C. native is a A�photojournalist at the Tampa Bay Times where she covers college football, and produces daily features and narrative videos, including visuals for in-depth investigations.The visual storyteller got her start as a photo intern at both The Baltimore Sun Media Group and the Star Tribune in Minnesota. In 2017, she attended the NY Times portfolio review. The University of Miami graduate has been involved with the National Association of Black Journalists since she was a student, and currently serves as the secretary of the organizationa��s visual task force.

On finding her voice: A�

a�?I started at the Tampa Bay Times as an intern and quickly learned that my video shooting/editing skills gave me value in the newsroom. I helped veteran photo staffers plan for interviews and edit short pieces. I produced my own food and drink series and started collaborating on big newsroom projects. In 2017, I got my first editing role on a project. Normally, I shoot and edit my own work, but this time I was editing the work of another photographer. We combed through all the material he had already gathered, worked on outlines and storyboards, brainstormed transitions and watched too many drafts to remember. It was in those months of work that I found my voice as a storyteller and a leader. Before that project I had never told a senior staffer that something had to be reshot or that the audio was substandard. I learned that I hold myself to a high standard and that I expect my peers to do the same. Since then Ia��ve become more comfortable having the hard conversations and providing direct feedback. I learned that as much as I enjoy producing my own work, I also enjoy collaborating and coaching others through their endeavors.a�?

16) Fannie Flono

Credit: UNC Charlotte

Editorial writer, The Charlotte Observer in Charlotte, North Carolina

Hometown: Born and raised in Augusta, Georgia

Fannie Flono retired in 2014 after a 30-year career at the Charlotte Observer. Originally from Augusta, Georgia, she joined the Observer in 1984 as an assistant state editor. A self-described a�?convener of conversation,a�? Flono rose through the ranks to become a columnist and editorial writer in 1993. A 1999 Nieman Fellow, the veteran storyteller wrote Thriving in the Shadows: The Black Experience in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Flono has also written extensively on the academic achievement gap in the United States for the Kettering Foundation, where she currently works as a consultant and writer. In 2016, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte awarded Flono with an Honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.

On finding her voice:

a�?I have wanted to be a writer since I was 15 when I wrote poetry and short stories during the summers on my grandparents’ farm. My parents sparked my passion for social justice and fairness, as they showed through example the need for it and fortitude required. I decided to become a journalist.a�?

17) A�Tamara Y. Jeffries

Associate Professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Bennett College

Hometown: Born and raised in Danville, Virginia A�{note: In her email response to us, Professor Jeffries A�added a�?the last capital of the Confederacy (smirk emoji) }

Tamara Jeffries is an associate professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina. In her email response to us, Professor Jeffries made sure we knew our HBCU history, writing A�a�?you may know that Bennett is one of only two HBCUs for women, and students here are called Bennett Belles,a�? a fitting annotation from veteran journalist who has devoted a significant part of her career to writing about the health and interests of black women. The former executive editor of Essence and editor-in-chief of HealthQuest was awarded a Rosalynn Carter Fellowship in Mental Health Journalism in 2009.

On finding her voice:

a�?I found my voice by reading many other voices–from Toni Morrison to Walter Moseley to writers in Vanity Fair. I read and wrote for Pearl Cleage when she was editor of Catalyst magazine in Atlanta. And I wrote and wrote and wrote. I wrote for free in little publications. I wrote for pay at magazines and newspapers. I kept journals that I spilled my thoughts into. Eventually, your own voice comes clearer to you. Sometimes I look back at things and think: a�?Wow, that sounds good.a�� But I don’t remember writing it. That’s when I know those words came through my spirit. Your voice comes from your spirit.a�?

18) A�Ameena Rasheed

Freelance editor and writer in Houston, Texas

Hometown: A�Born and raised in Houston, Texas.

Ameena Rasheed is an assistant editor with Houston Chronicle Classroom, a high school journalism program from the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Independent School District. She previously spent three years at the Des Moines Register where she wrote features on entertainment, news and food. Rasheed also worked on brand strategy, produced content for social media, and coordinated the Registera��s entertainment site, The young strategist also launched the a bi-weekly music project called a�?Juice Side Sessions.a�? A�In 2017, Ebony magazine included Rasheed on its list of a�?Black Women to Know in PR, Tech, and Digital Media.a�?

On finding her voice:

a�?I found my voice for storytelling in 2010 during an online journalism course that I was taking at Texas Southern University. My professor, Serbino Sandifer-Walker, challenged me and gave me the freedom to utilize my creativity through different opportunities that werena��t previously given to me. She believed in me and my abilities before I did. Ia��ve been focused on social media storytelling and digital media ever since.a�? A�A�A�A�A�A�

19) Najja M. Parker

Content producer at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in Atlanta, Georgia

Hometown: A�Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee

Najja Parker is a content producer and writer at the Atlanta-Journal Constitution (AJC). Before crafting stories on trending topics for the AJC, the Memphis native and Spelman graduate was an editorial assistant for Johnson Publishing Company. During her three years in Chicago, she pitched, edited, and wrote news and feature stories for both Ebony and Jet. A�In 2017, Parker wrote a profile of CNN anchor Fredricka Whitfield and her memory of her father, track and field athlete Malvin A�”Marvelous Mala�? Whitfield. Parker has also penned bylines for Sesi Mag, a quarterly magazine for African-American teen girls.

On finding her voice:

a�?I’ve always been fascinated with storytelling. There are so many ways to convey a message. Journalism allows me to be a vessel for those who need help sharing theirs.

Some of my favorite articles have been “as told to” narratives, including an article on the daughters of the renowned sports anchor Stuart Scott, where they reflected on their dad’s legacy shortly after his death; and another featuring rapper and actress Lil Mama, where she recounted her mother’s breast cancer struggle. These pieces reflect a vulnerability and relatability from the subjects that is admirable. That makes my work purposeful.a�? A�A�

20) Mary C. Curtis

UNITED STATES – JANUARY 08: Mary Curtis of CQ Roll Call is photographed, January 8, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Independent journalist and teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina

Hometown: A�Baltimore, Maryland

Mary Curtis is a journalist at the intersection of race, politics, and culture. The political writer is a columnist at Roll Call and a contributor to a number of news organizations including The Washington Post, MSNBC and The Root. Curtis was also a 2006 Nieman Fellow. In 2011, Curtis was selected for the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs at Ohio State, journalisma��s first social media fellowship. She has worked as an editor at The New York Times, The Charlotte Observer, and as executive features editor and syndicated columnist at the Baltimore Sun. A senior facilitator with The OpEd Project, Curtis has contributed to several books, including an essay in a�?Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox.a�?

On finding her voice:

“Growing up in a home with four brothers and sisters, two parents and assorted visitors coming through, finding my voice was a matter of survival, especially if you had something to say. Plus, the conversation was so interesting, you could not wait to join in. We talked about the arts and politics and the news of the day. My family made some of it, too: My two brothers and my oldest sister were involved in the fight for civil rights a�� at the March on Washington and on the picket line protesting segregation and discrimination.

One brother was arrested twice at sit-ins a�� and, as a child, though I didna��t completely A�understand, I sensed the importance of the moment. As I took in every detail, I realized that I was a pretty astute observer a�� and isna��t that what a journalist is?

We were also house of readers, and the it wasna��t long before I noticed that the Baltimore newspapers presented a limited view of the full life of the citya��s African-American citizens. I saw an opening, a chance to tell the story, and illuminate the voices and experiences of myself, my family, my community and the world. The work has taken me everywhere, from the White House to teaching thought leaders in South Africa to listening in at meetings of Confederate heritage groups. What a great job!”

21) A�Destiny Chance

News reporter for FOX 7 Austin News in Austin, Texas

Hometown: Born in Orangeburg, South Carolina

Destiny Chance is a reporter for Fox 7 News in Austin, Texas where she covers crime, public interest, and health news. Before moving to Texas, Chance was a morning anchor for WFXG in Augusta, Georgia, where she broke the story of a young woman who was the first to receive an artificial pancreas that was approved by the FDA in only 90 days. Chance also spent two years in South Carolina at WACH, where she covered A�the shooting of the Emanuel Nine at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, the removal of the Confederate Flag from the state capitol, and South Carolinaa��s historic flooding. A�

On finding her voice:

a�?Ia��d have to say in 2015 I met a woman at a Poultry Festival (doesna��t get more southern than that LOL). She was telling me about this student who has cerebral palsy with gifts and talents out of this world. He received a full academic ride to a local technical college and was set to graduate at the top of his class. With cerebral palsy you need special transportation. And the college he got a full ride to was about 30 minutes away. The student (Malika��s) grandmother who raised him didna��t have the van he needed, so the small town of Batesburg-Leesville joined together to raise money to get him a van, gas cards for a year, and infinite support. Malik thought our station was coming to interview him for doing so well academically (partially true). But we were live all morning to record it. The look on his face when we came outside and everyone was by the vana��.whew! I cry every time I tell this story. My family was live streaming, and by the grace of God I was able to hold back my tears. I thought, a�?wow, I was able to come here and show our viewers how this small community came together to do so much for this one student.a�� I knew right then and there I have the magnitude to help so many. That story won Best Light Feature for the RTDNAC awards in 2015.a�?

22) Kimeko McCoy

Kimeko McCoy

Social media producer at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in Atlanta, Georgia

Hometown: A�Born in Kansas City, Missouri (a�?but I moved to the metro Atlanta area with my family when I was about 7 or 8, so I’ve always claimed this place as homea�?)

Kimeko McCoy is a social media strategist and audience development specialist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. At the AJC, the digital producer pens feature stories and produces content for AJC products, including AJC Sepia. A�She has also organized live social media coverage for events such as the Superbowl and the opening of the Atlanta Braves’ new stadium, SunTrust Park. Before building digital audiences at the AJC, she covered stories at a number publications around Georgia. McCoy was an opinion writer for the Savannah Morning News, as well as a reporter for the St. Augustine Record, the Marietta Daily Journal, and the Cherokee Tribune.

On finding her voice: a�?My story telling started as a kid. I would make craft these detailed tales out of something that happened during a routine day. I really found my voice when I had to do a senior project in high school. I tagged along with tv news anchor Ted Hall and was sold the minute I walked into the newsroom. If you’ve ever seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s, that’s how I felt walking into the newsroom. I’ve been in one ever since.

I think the moment that defined me as a black journalist was my first gig as a reporter in St. Augustine covering the city’s 450th anniversary. I wrote pieces that looked at all 450 years, as well as the 400th anniversary – a lot of it was intertwined with the Civil Rights Movement. I talked to a woman named Janie Price about the time Martin Luther King stayed at her house and how she was targeted by the KKK. I met with her for a quick write up but she let me into her home to get to know her. That’s when I understood what it meant to be a storyteller.a�?

23) A�Cynthia Smith

Instructor for Chronicle Classroom A�in Houston, Texas

Hometown: A�Lafayette, Louisiana

Grooming the next generation of journalists is Cynthia Smitha��s mission. Shea��s the instructor for Chronicle Classroom, a high school journalism program from the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Independent School District. Now in its 12th year, Chronicle Classroom trains a group of high school students in the field of journalism and helps them learn the craft of writing and publishing news stories. Before leading Chronicle Classroom, Smith was a journalism and yearbook teacher for the Alief Independent School District located in southwest Houston and a yearbook instructor advisor at Stephen F. High School in Sugarland, Texas.

On finding her voice:

a�?Growing up, I always had a knack for telling a story. Because my mother grew up not being able to read, on many occasions, I was her voice. I love telling survivor stories a�� how people have overcome obstacles to get where they are today. One of the best stories produced was being able to go behind bars and talking to inmates about being absent from the family. I was able to get them to break down and reflect on the voids they left unfilled and the people they left behind.a�?

24) Dr. Meredith D. Clark

Hometown: Born in St. Louis, Missouri, raised in Lexington, Kentucky

Dr. Meredith Clark is an assistant professor in the Department of Media Studies at the University of Virginia where she researches the intersection of race, media, and power. Dr. Clark is currently researching the online commenting experiences of women and non-binary people of color. In 2016, her dissertation on a�?Black Twittera�? landed her on The Root 100. A�Since then, Dr. Clark has co-authored studies reports on the use of Black Twitter for The Center for Media and Social Impact and the Knight Foundation. A�The former editor at The McClatchy Company is also a contributor to Poynter where she writes about media diversity.

On finding her voice: A�

a�?My voice is ever-evolving, I’ve never really a�?founda�� it; I’m always developing it. It’s easy to get caught up once you’ve created a particular identity/sound for yourself, but our voices should reflect our personal evolution.a�?

25) A�Cara Owsley

Director of photography for Ohio, based at the Cincinnati Enquirer in Cincinnati, Ohio

Hometown: Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky

Cara Owsley joined The Cincinnati Enquirer in 2005. Shea��s been at the publication for a little over 12 years, starting off as a staff photojournalist and rising through the ranks to become Ohioa��s Director of Photography. Owsley A�heads up visuals for news, sports, and features. She also works on long-form projects. The veteran photojournalist shot the portraits of the teens in a�?Turning 14 in Cincinnati,a�? and A�in-depth, multichapter look at young people in the city coming of age at 14. Owsley is also a 2016 graduate of the Scripps Leadership Institute. A�Before joining The Cincinnati Enquirer, Owsley spent two years in New Orleans as a staff photographer at the Times-Picayune, and was forced to evacuate the day before Hurricane Katrina hit the city.

On finding her voice:

“From the time that I was about 8 years old, when I got my first camera, I had a love for photography. It wasna��t until I was enrolled in the photojournalism program at Western Kentucky University that I fully understood what capturing a moment, or telling a story through photographs meant. After I got my first a�?Aa�? for a photo story project I did on a single mother who attended WKU, my professor said the photos didna��t need any captions and he knew exactly what the studenta��s life was like. I knew then I wanted to be a photojournalist full time. Since then, I have been very blessed over the past 23 years to be able to inform people of things going in their communities. One of the proudest moments in my career is a story I found about a young girl suffering from cancer, who lived with her grandparents in a house that had mold and other problems. After the story was published, a non-profit built the family a new house.”

26) Chloe Herring

Assistant Editor, in Miami Florida

Hometown: Raised first in San Jose, California then Jacksonville, Florida

Chloe Herring is an assistant editor at, a Miami Herald online publication that delivers content about food, nightlife, and lifestyle ( a�?all the things that make this city interestinga�? she told us in her email response). In addition to optimizing digital content and managing social media platforms, Herring reports and writes feature stories. She also produces, directs, and edits videos. In February, the University of Miami alum penned a feature on Miami drag queen Noel Leon. A�Before joining, Herring worked as a digital editor and A�content producer for a number of publications in Florida, including WINK-TV in Fort Myers, and the Miami Times.

On finding her voice:

a�?That’s an interesting question. I think my voice in storytelling continues to be shaped by the meaningful stories I’m fortunate to tell. I was first inspired to become a journalist in high school when I realized a journalist’s work could expose you to new information, new places and cultures. That was when I used to read TIME magazine from cover to cover. But there are many stories I’ve been able to tell in my short career that have challenged me a�� made me more empathetic, smarter, and proud to be able to amplify the voices of those who are often ignored or misrepresented in media. One of those stories involved a couple, and the husband had come out as transgender after 30 years of marriage. It was such an emotional story and I cried with them. As far as storytelling, that was one of the highlights in my career. They trusted me to tell their story a�� one that would be misunderstood and even vilified. And I think it’s important, especially as black women, to acknowledge that our unique experiences make the way we approach and tell stories very valuable and essential. That’s been part of me discovering my voice, as well.a�?

27) A�Ariel Worthy

Editor, The Birmingham Times

Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama

Ariel Worthy is a reporter and editor for The Birmingham Times where she has covered community news and politics for nearly three years. She also writes feature stories. In April, the University of Alabama alum profiled Woke Votea��s DeJuana Thompson. In her piece, a�?The Ministry of HIV Outreach with Rev. Chris Hamlin,a�? she profiled a Birmingham pastor who makes a message about HIV prevention and treatment a central part of his mission. Before joining The Birmingham Times, Worthy was an intern for the Tuscaloosa News where she penned entertainment stories, including a Q&A with Edward Gee, head pastry chef of the Embassy Suites in downtown Tuscaloosa.

On finding her voice:

a�? I’ve always enjoyed storytelling; I do creative writing in my spare time, but the stories that I think really helped me shape my career were a human trafficking story, and a domestic violence story. In both stories I spoke to black women who had very hard stories to tell. It was important for me to make sure I got their stories right, because their voices deserve to be heard, and they were so used to feeling invisible and unheard. I just wanted them to know that they are here; the world sees them, and they matter. The last thing I wanted to do was get anything wrong in those stories. Those stories really helped shape my desire to give a voice to black women, which is a big focus of mine.a�?

28) A�Jamiese Price

Reporter/Multimedia Journalist at WBRC in Birmingham, Alabama

Hometown: A�Birmingham, Alabama

Jamiese Price is a reporter and multimedia journalist at WBRC in Birmingham, Alabama, where she reports on breaking news and the citya��s community development. Early this spring, she sat in on a meeting with an organization that teaches high schoolers in the Ensley neighborhood of Birmingham how to build homes and become homeowners. A�Before moving back to her native Birmingham, Price spent two years as a reporter with Time Warner Cable in Rochester, New York. She started her broadcast journalism career in Huntsville, Alabama, then moved to Dothan where she investigated allegations of potential voter fraud and uncovered illegal citations from city police.

On finding her voice:

a�?It was five years after starting my career as a working journalist that I actually discovered my voice. It was 2013 and I working at my second station. I was working on a story of alleged voter fraud. I got a tip about potential voter fraud in a city commissioner race. The incumbent received 119 of the 124 absentee ballots cast, winning the election by 14 votes. After obtaining a list of every person who applied for an absentee ballot, I went through the list and knocked on the doors of several people on that list. It was time-consuming and tedious, but it paid off. I found that people who registered to vote absentee no longer lived in the district, never lived at the address, or the people felt coerced to sign the absentee ballot by campaign workers. I stayed on top of this story for weeks. Our coverage helped spark a criminal investigation. Ten months after the station’s coverage, charges were filed against some of the campaign workers. Since then, the workers have been tried and convicted. In those moments, I became more than a storyteller but a truth seeker. Five years later, I’ve A�grown in my career and in life experiences. I use my voice to share light on communities that are underrepresented, share stories that spark meaningful dialogue, and convey change.a�?

29) Rana Cash

Hometown: Sanford, Florida

Rana Cash is the assistant sports editor at the Star Tribune A�in Minnesota. Shea��s responsible for leading all of the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Lynx coverage, in print, online and on social media platforms. Before joining the Star Tribune, the veteran sports reporter spent over a decade covering college and professional sports in the southeast. Cash was senior editor at Sporting News in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she planned and executed NFL coverage. Before moving to Charlotte, Cash covered sports for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Dallas Morning News, and the Miami Herald.

On finding her voice:

a�?Like a lot of writers, finding my voice took time. In fact, ita��s still developing now as an editor, which I love. I think being challenged by topics a�� a high school football player being paralyzed during a game, a college basketball player charged with the murder of his teammate, a team winning on the biggest stage, covering the Super Bowl a�� pushes you to be creative,unique, courageous, sympathetic and honest in your writing. For me, there was no singular story that shaped my approach. Rather, it was the collective opportunities to tell small and large stories in ways that people will remember and more importantly, in ways that I could personally be proud of.a�?

30)A�Jonece Starr Dunigan

Reporter for based in Birmingham, Alabama

Hometown: Born in Waukegan, Illinois and raised in Huntsville, Alabama

Jonece Starr Dunigan is the community voices reporter for Reckon, Al.coma��s investigative and public interest team, where she focuses mainly on minority communities ( a�?because they are underserved and underrepresented,a�? she told us via email). In 2017, Dunigan started the Black Magic Project, Named after the a�?Magic Citya�? of Birmingham, the project is a series of stories that celebrate black people in Alabama and the South who embody the spirit of people in the civil rights movement, and serve the community through activism, healthcare, and art. Before joining Reckon, she was Al.coma��s evening crime reporter. Dunigan started her career at the Decatur Daily in North Alabama.

On finding her voice: a�?My two favorite verbs in the world is love and listen. In my world, one cannot exist without the other. If you dona��t love someone, you wona��t have the respect enough to listen to them. If you listen without love, you wona��t care what a person has to say. Everyone has a voice that deserves to be heard and everyone deserves to be loved. That is the compass from which I find and produce my stories and how I try to live my life. Sometimes I slip up because I am human, but I am learning to forgive myself when I do.

When I first started my career in college, I realized that I was gravitated towards the unheard. Some people would tell me, a�?Oh, therea��s no story there.a�? They were wrong. They were other times when people called me everything but a child of God because I am a journalist. After they saw my story, they turned out to be wrong too, because I still choose to listen to them despite what they called me.

I feel like after God made me, he whispered in my ear, a�?Go out. Find your voice. Use it for others.a�? because thata��s basically my lifea��s story. Ia��ve loved. Ia��ve listened. And with a hint of hustle I have gotten very far.a�?

31) A�Georgia Dawkins

Producer and content creator, based in Atlanta, Georgia

Hometown: A�Sebring, Florida

Georgia Dawkins is the co-founder and chief content creator for Sunny Girl Productions, where she oversees the development of digital content and broadcast programming. Before starting Sunny Girl Productions, Dawkins was a segment producer for the a�?Sister Circle Livea�? a daily talk show on TV One. She came to the world of entertainment television production after 10 years of news production and reporting. Kicking off her career as a desk assistant for ABCa��s Good Morning America in New York, she voyaged back down south to produce newscasts at KSLA in Shreveport, Louisiana and WFTS in Tampa, Florida. A�

On finding her voice:

a�?Ia��ve always had a gift for telling stories but I didna��t actually hear my voice until I was laid off in 2016. That season forced me to figure out how to survive and thata��s when I learned to hustle my words. I ended up working as a media consultant for an attorney who was working a big case. Three teenagers drowned during a high-speed chase and I had to interview their mothers in order to write their statements for the press conferences and press release. I didna��t really understand the magnitude of what God gave me until I had to put words to a mothera��s grief. That experience changed my life forever.a�?

32) Erica Henry

Associate Director for the Southeast Region, CNN in Atlanta, Georgia

After nearly four years of working in New York as a producer for both NBC and MSNBC, Erica Henry started as a segment producer at CNN headquarters in Atlanta in 1998. Over the past 12 years at CNN, shea��s moved up the ranks from assignment editor to managing editor, working with both the Atlanta and Los Angeles bureaus. Henry is currently the associate director for CNNa��s southeast region. She manages the day to day operations for the CNN bureaus in Atlanta, Miami, and Dallas.

On finding her voice:

a�?I found my voice covering Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath for CNN. I will never forget going to a FEMA trailer park to talk to residents there and being in awe of the strength and resilience of a community that had virtually nothing. It was at that moment that I realized how important it was for me to get their story out to the world.a�?




Shauna Stuart

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