I grew up on Long Island in a middle class two-parent household with lots of love, surrounded by my older siblings. I was raised to be proud of my African American culture and our family’s early roots in the Carolinas. But once I left my tight-knit community and church family to become a TV journalist – there were several times where race became on undeniable issue. So I chose to confront the media messages about minorities head on. I’ll share a few examples of what I experienced and encourage you to enter the `When Life Gets Tough, Women Rise Above It’ campaign with the makers of Pine-Sol® Products to spread your story.
Created Minority Source List
In 1995, I moved to Columbia, Missouri to attend graduate school at the University of Missouri. I found a disturbing trend in the way minorities were featured in news coverage so I decided to change it. I chose to complete a graduate project that focused on making sure ethnic minorities were quoted in news stories regularly, not just in stories about race relations, sports and crime. At that time, Columbia’s non-white population was less than 10 percent so I faced a huge hurdle. Nevertheless, I dug deep to find minority sources who could be experts on a wide range of topics. Their names, phone numbers and areas of expertise were featured in the minority source list I created that was accessible to student journalists at the NBC TV station.
Race and Sex in Mississippi
In 2002, I moved to Jackson, Mississippi to anchor the local news for the ABC station. It was my first experience living in the Deep South. My Father, who was raised in South Carolina during Jim Crow, even told me he was worried about me living in Mississippi. One of my classmates from Missouri said she was afraid I’d get lynched.
In the seven years that I covered local news in Mississippi I also dug deep into issues rarely talked about there. For instance, the rate of HIV infection was exploding in the South and health officials were pointing the “Down Low,” or hidden bisexual behavior by Black men as one of the causes. Men were having unsafe sex with other men, as well as with their wives, girlfriends and female partners.
I reached out to my sources in the medical and Black church community where I found some revealing answers. I even landed the first major interview with J.L. King, author of The Down Low and “Coming Up from the Down Low” where he revealed his hidden lifestyle as a married father who cheated on his wife with other men. Years later, he reached international fame when he was invited to sit on Oprah’s couch. For weeks, I received e-mails and phone calls from viewers thanking me for the story. It started a dialogue among Black women to ask their partners questions about their sexual health. It also started a dialogue between parents and children about sex.
I used my voice as a journalist to rise above some sad, disturbing and deadly trends I observed. Whether you experienced a personal challenge or supported a friend through their tough time, you should use your voice.
Comment below: What challenges have you faced that forced you to rise above the situation? Who were the people who supported you through this tough time? How can women use our voices?
Pine-Sol Sweepstakes & Donation
Enter the Pine-Sol sweepstakes for Women Rise Above It.
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Pine-Sol is doing more than just a sweepstakes. It awarded a $25,000 donation to Women Empowered, a nonprofit based in Los Angeles that connects, educates and supports women of all ages and backgrounds, inspiring them to give back to their neighborhoods.
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Pine-Sol. I have partnered with them to spread the word about the ‘When Life Gets Tough, Women Rise Above It’ campaign and sweepstakes. To enter the sweepstakes, visit www.womenRiseAboveIt.com. All opinions and stories are my own