Post-NABJ reflections and perceptions

The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) annual convention turned Minneapolis into a “chocolate journalism city” for at least a week, with over a thousand-plus Black folk seen on the downtown streets.

This was the first time visiting the Twin Cities for many of the journalists of color. What lasting impression did they come away with as they returned to their respective homes and workplaces? Any perception change?

Tarkor Zehn
Tarkor Zehn

“I got a sense that there is a lot of pride and a lot of strength among our people in Minneapolis,” noted Edward Sargent of Washington, D.C.  “I have met some locals,” he told the MSR, but added that he wished he could’ve taken a tour of the area’s Black community. “I just wanted to check you out,” said Sargent.

Drexler James, a community service reporter at The Villages Daily Sun, did however, venture outside of the downtown area — he visited the MSR offices during the convention. “Exploring Minneapolis was a great treat, seeing the culture and the intricate inner workings of a big city and the surrounding community was awesome,” he said via email.

Although she lives here, first time NABJ convention attendee Tarkor Zehn of Brooklyn Park especially loved the job fair and made many contacts. “The job fair itself [was] a class for me,” she said. “There [was] something for everyone.”

Ava M. Perrine, a mass communications instructor at the Delaware State University, confided to the MSR that initially, the Minneapolis location for the 2015 convention left some NABJ members scratching their heads. “Interestingly, when Minneapolis was announced, many NABJ’ers were NOT delighted,” Perrine said via email.

“I heard comments like, ‘Why Minneapolis?’ ‘There’s nothing in Minnesota!’ ‘There’s nothing exciting about the Midwest.’ ‘Why have a convention in boring Minneapolis?’

“Naturally, as a native Midwesterner from Chicago, I took exception to these comments and thought to myself how unfortunate that even people in our profession can be so closed-minded and uninformed.”

She continued, “Turns out the naysayers were definitely wrong. Minneapolis turned out to be a happening town. NABJ’s organizers did a good job scouting the convention’s location. The Hilton Minneapolis was a prime spot. It rained a couple of days during the convention, and naturally the August weather was hot and humid. So the climate-controlled skyway between the hotel and convention center was ideal.”

Perrine also cited the Dakota Jazz Club, McCormick and Schmidt, Fogo de Chao and the Mall of America as highlights of her visit, and gave kudos to Minneapolis “for a wonderful bus and rail system.”

Twin Cities Black Journalists (TCBJ) President Duchesne Drew told the MSR that he and the local chapter that hosted NABJ ’15 believed they accomplished their hosting objectives. “This conference brought everything we thought it would,” he said. “I think it’s great for the Twin Cities to see us [as Black journalists] in large numbers.”

It also gave the visiting Black journalists “a better look [at] this part of the country…by having [them] come through and see [the city] through their own eyes,” continued Drew. Minneapolis “is not on the East Coast and it’s not near any other center that [has] large populations of Black folk. It is not a place that Black folk just come to.”

Overall NABJ ’15 was a success on many levels, Drew said. “A lot of great learning and teaching took place and a couple of good parties as well. Mostly we came together to strengthen our skills and our connections to each other.”

NABJ ’15 was this reporter’s eighth convention, but first since Philadelphia in 2011. I personally boycotted 2013 Orlando because of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law and the killing of Trayvon Martin. This year’s convention was no different than my previous seven — I go for the workshops and future storylines and columns. Connecting with journalists, those I know and meeting new ones — all of whom look like me — is always a plus.
The only disappointment was the annual NABJ Film Festival, where only two films were available for screening this year. I could only go to one of them.

It was good nonetheless to attend NABJ just minutes from home as opposed to traveling miles and miles. Washington, D.C. is next year’s NABJ convention city.

“If you want to be a reporter, this is the place to be,” proclaimed Zehn.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.

About Charles Hallman

Charles Hallman is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at challman@spokesman-recorder.com

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