Portrait: The J-School’s NABJ Chapter

Portrait: The J-School’s NABJ Chapter

From left: Alexandria Fuller, Brad Bailey, Waringa Kamau, Mahlia Posey, Gabe Tolliver and Cameron Clark. Photo: Joe Bush.

Published on October 24, 2016
Today’s news industry does not always mirror the communities it covers. Media organizations are trying to increase the diversity of their newsrooms, but the process is slow, and some black journalists say they remain in an environment of stereotypes and microaggressions.

For students preparing to enter the industry the National Association of Black Journalists strives to fill an important need. “It’s a safe space to talk about issues as black journalists,” said Mahlia Posey (‘17), president of the UC Berkeley chapter of NABJ.

But the NABJ, one of four affinity groups at the J-School, offers students more than just a place to vent and share ideas.

“The chapters allow for students to have the chance to connect to local and national professionals to gain mentorship for their careers. The affinity groups also allow the students to connect and advocate for student journalists of color, which builds a stronger community of diversity and inclusiveness,” said Joanne Straley, the J-School’s senior director of student services.

NABJ and the NABJ Media Institute offer professional development and technical training programs to black journalists across the country, helping them advance in their careers. The organizations award scholarships and help secure internships for those aspiring in the field.

“For me, NABJ has always been a very good resource and has helped connect me with a lot of people and opportunities within the journalism industry,” said current Alumni Advisor Nancy DeVille (‘15), who has been active with the organization since 2004. “I’m thrilled to work with the talented NABJ members at the J-School. I look forward to the chapter hosting a variety of activities that will further prepare students for their journalism career.”

NABJ was founded 41 years ago, but there wasn’t a chapter at UC Berkeley until 2008. That year Shikiri Hightower (’10) got to Berkeley and found few black students and no NABJ chapter. In her first semester, she and six of her classmates formed the inaugural group.

“We found it really necessary to have a place in the University to talk about our experiences,” Hightower said. “Though there is not a large black population at Berkeley, our organization allowed us to be on campus and feel good about it.”

Along with weekly meetings, NABJ hosts mixers for students to meet with alumni and other professionals and events such as documentary screenings and internship discussion sessions with recruiters.

Class of ‘17 members include Posey, Vice President Gabriel Tolliver, Waringa Kamau, Brad Bailey and Trinity Joseph.

“I chose Berkeley because of its legacy of training great journalists. I joined NABJ to share a safe place with journalists that I can relate to and confide in,” said Posey, who’s from Las Vegas, Nev., and is studying New Media and video at the J-School.

Tolliver, originally from Brooklyn, NY, is studying multimedia. He’s a storyteller who chose to come to Berkeley because of its legacy and joined NABJ to be relevant and to advocate.

Kamau hails from Kenya, and is on the long-form video track. She said residing in many different parts of the world has given her a deep passion for international, political and economic news.

Joseph is from Los Angeles, and has always been curious about how societal problems impact different communities. “There is a lack of representation and accuracy when reporting on issues that directly impact people of color,” she said. “Between my curiosity, passion for change, and progressive ideals, journalism has been a solid foundation for me.”

The class of ‘18 members of NABJ are Cameron Clark and Alexandria Fuller.

Clark comes from Middletown, Del., and is studying video reporting and storytelling. Since he was young, he’s wanted to get to the bottom of things, learning all he could; journalism allows him to do both. “I chose to join NABJ because I wanted to surround myself with individuals that look like me and also strive for greatness,” Clark said.

Fuller is a narrative writing student from Chattanooga, Tenn., who joined NABJ to be part of a supportive space that caters to black women working in journalism. “It is great to be in an organization that celebrates black reporters and offers networking opportunities that will enhance both my career and educational experience at the J-School,” Fuller said.

By Nate Sheidlower (‘18)


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