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Back to My Roots

NABJ signage in red and white

Back to My Roots

I became involved with the National Association of Black Journalists as a grad student at UGA in 2004, including serving on the executive board from 2005-2006. Under the leadership of Sheeka Strickland (now Sanahori), we grew the membership, networked with the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists, invited guest speakers, and really indulged in the journalism community. 

Group of 5 smiling Black people in business attire

The University of Georgia’s NABJ Executive Board and Advisor, 2005-2006

I attended my first NABJ conference with Sheeka in Atlanta in 2005 and remember feeling overwhelmed while bravely attending as much as I could. I met Soledad O’Brien and still have the photo framed and on display at my home. I was recruited and received an offer from the Dow Jones News Fund and could have spent my summer in Rochester, NY, but marriage and other youthful decision-making got in the way. 

So, what happened? 

After graduation, I didn’t see much need to continue serving in NABJ or AABJ. Another dumb decision, considering that I was actively working in and with mass media and continued to do so from 2006-2021. 


I still get emails and Facebook group notifications, but it wasn’t until this year that I felt compelled to attend this year’s conference in Birmingham. It was a feeling I couldn’t shake. Thanks to my amazing team at GSU, I was headed to #NABJ23. 


In a word: Joy. 

In two words: Black joy. 

Cartoon drawing of a Black male

Leroy Chapman, first Black editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

NABJ was the experience of a lifetime. I approached this conference with kidlike excitement. No longer overwhelmed, I downloaded the app and loaded my schedule. From sessions about natural hair to being the “only one” in the newsroom (#IYKYK) to a party for the AJC’s first Black editor, I was reenergized, reinvigorated, and restored. 

Pull Up 

It is up to us to tell our stories. Ida B. Wells. Ida Bae Wells AKA Nikole Hannah-Jones. W.E.B. DuBois and the NAACP’s The Crisis newsletter. JET and Ebony magazines, which I read and reread vigorously as a child at my grandparents house in the ’80s and ’90s. As a matter of fact, I remember reading about Emmett Till and angrily talking to my grandfather about why he was killed. From BET to OWN to blogs to television shows and more, we have so much power in our pens, minds, and culture.

And get this: My dissertation research focuses on media-based coping mechanisms of Black women in professional spaces. 

My Purpose 

Also, I was reminded that all I ever wanted to do was to create a magazine for Black girls because I didn’t see myself represented in the pages of the teenage magazines I used to read way back in the day. I remember getting them in the mail, hoping to see a melanated girl looking back at me instead of the same blonde, blue-eyed chick. That’s the sole reason I majored in journalism … twice! In six years, I earned my BA and MA in Journalism and Mass Communication. I took a 13-year break between my master’s and doctoral studies because I wanted to have ample work experience in order to bring my knowledge to the classroom. Teaching has always been my endgame, and I’m a year away from getting this damn degree while I continue to teach students at GSU and University of West Georgia. 

Past, Present, & Future 

I got my start in newspapers in 2006 and transitioned to marketing and public relations. I’ve created magazines, billboards, marketing marketing campaigns, and more. I’ve won awards and shared knowledge through countless webinars and conference presentations.  

Nikole Hannah-Jones and Davia Rose Lassiter, 2 Black media professionals smiling

From left: Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones with Davia Rose Lassiter

NABJ reminded me that I’m still part of Black excellence in media. 

I met my journalism heroes, reunited with friends and former colleagues, took ample pictures with the likes of Nikole Hannah-Jones and Sarah Collins Rudolph.

Most of all, I left with a renewed sense of who I am, reinforcement about what I have contributed to my industry, and a giddy excitement about what’s on the horizon. 

See you in Chicago next summer, NABJ! I can’t wait!

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