From the mid-'90s into the new millennium, I got the chance to co- direct and teach the New York Association of Black Journalists High School Journalism Workshop. In the spring of each of those years, other volunteers and I would execute our plan to teach New York City-area students the basics of journalism: print and broadcast. By the end of the nine weeks, these kids would have clips from their newspaper they would publish and they would have 'tape' comprised from a newscast that they would produce. Though I still speak to young folks and mentor, those most-involved days of working closely with the city's most promising youth (with the 'journalism' bug) made for many fulfilling years. The bigger joy was actually seeing where these kids would go after college. And boy, did they reach for the stars... and land on many of them.
One of our most promising was Kenneth Miles, who - at 14 - was writing freelance pieces for entertainment and music magazines. He was into 'gossip' like me (crediting Wendy Williams as one of his heroes), but he was always discerning enough to be able to read and watch such without losing sight of the journalism (or lack thereof sometimes). Over the years, he's prospered and struggled with career and life circumstances. However, he always makes me proud at how he lands. I think he sometimes overstates my influence when I see him. One time he wrote these words to me. More than his gratitude, his candor helped me put many of my own challenges in perspective:
it's been good seeing you recently. I could never thank you enough for all the encouragement and support that you have giving me and other aspiring journalists throughout the years. I really respect and admire how articulate and intelligent you are. Damn, you know how hard it can be to get your foot in the door, especially when you're of color. Thanks for keeping me posted on what's going on at the NYABJ. I never been as scared and uncertain about my career in my life, and it's scary as hell. I always knew what I wanted to do, but now that I've been at THE SOURCE for about a year, met just about every rapper in the industry, went to every open bar, and seen my bylines in publications such as (Interview, Vibe, Black Enterprise, Oneworld, etc.), I'm ready to venture on to different things like doing cover stories, traveling a lot more (I took my first plane ride this year), and finishing that novel in progress that every writer has...
Anyway, this has to be one of the longest e-mails I ever wrote. Keep in touch.
Another of our students Curtis Stephen has gone on to do some awesome journalism that was recently celebrated the other week at the New York Association of Black Journalists (NYABJ) 19th annual scholarship and awards dinner at Columbia University's Roone Arledge auditorium. In the Magazine & General Features category, Curtis was awarded for his report in the September/October issue of The Crisis Magazine on 40 years since the founding of the Black Panther Party ("Life of A Party"). Curtis writes: "The process of having a new idea or receiving an assignment to actually reporting on it and then staring at a blank screen ("How am I going to start this?") to eventually having an actual story is a fascinating process (one that every journalist can relate to)."
And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Jason Frasier, Columbia University graduate of 2005. He joined our NYABJ High School Journalism Workshop when he was just in middle school. But he was ambitious and hungry. Ever-confident, he wanted to be on the anchor desk the first year of the program. When we made him the weather guy, he soon found out what "stage fright" was and the importance of good vision. By next year, he was our anchor and did a stellar job. Throughout his college years at Columbia, he hosted a radio show and did a number of internships at local TV stations and news networks. Keeping his options open, he even explored business/banking for a while. Now, he's looking at his what's next, which I trust will be on somebody's air very soon.
... and then there was CHLOE. CHLOE HILLIARD that is... She was one of our STARS! Her career took her to New York University, where she too knew how to work her way around a basketball. She worked on the editorial staffs of SOURCE Magazine and LIFETIME Women. She survived a down-sizing and has just recently landed on top with an innovative new project. It's called JOURNALISTICKS.COM, a new online community for journalists of color. It is a user driven site created to serve as a space for journalists to promote their work, discuss media, culture, news and search for jobs. Chloe, a former News Editor of The Source magazine, says this online community will provide a one-stop shop for media companies to find young, talented writers, editors, producers, broadcasters and web reporters of color. "As a young journalist there wasn't a place for me to go and talk to my peers," says my Chloe, who has written for such publications as The Source, King, Vibe and Vibe Vixen and appeared on news programs CNN Headline News' Prime News, Our World with Black Enterprise and ABC News Now's Speak Freely. "As an editor at an urban publication, I had a difficult time finding young writers of color. There was no one place to find them. This site will change all of that." In addition to serving as a pool for employers, JOURNALISTICKS.COM will be a platform to showcase journalists work with all content on the site generated by its users. Other features on JOURNALISTICKS.COM include SOAPBOX, a message board where users can post their clips for review and feedback as well as discuss freelance opportunities and tricks of the trade. Another focal point will be THE J-O-B, a job post section catering to all fields and levels of expertise within the media job market.
"... the children are the future (literally)..." I am honored to have been able to touch their lives in some small way.