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The NABJ/NAHJ wrap: politics, social activism, screenings & more

The joint convention featured thoughtful discussion, workshops and Hillary Clinton

For the first time in years, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) joined the National Association of Hispanic Journalists to unify over 4,000 journalists, media executives and professionals during a joint convention and career fair over five days in Washington, D.C.

The convention, held from Aug. 3-7, gave attendees the opportunity to explore the mechanics of the media industry through workshops and panels. Participants were also able to ask questions of media luminaries during selected panels last Wednesday and Friday, including U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Lynch, blogger Luvvie Ajayi, reporter Wesley Lowery and activist DeRay McKesson gathered Thursday morning for “Race: A Conversation.” The hours-long panel covered multiple topics and concerns that stemmed from the most recent deadly police and civilian shootings that occurred July 5-8. The panel, moderated by MSNBC correspondent Joy Reid and NPR anchor Maria Hinojosa, opened the first discussion by detailing the concerns and mistrust citizens may feel because of the court system. After listening to Lynch, journalists who spend their days covering law enforcement and justice weighed in on the perception of mistrust citizens feel when justice is not served, specifically in cases of police brutality.

“When people do not trust that an incident will result in justice, no matter what justice means, it’s hard for people to continue to buy into that system,” Lowery said.

One panel also addressed social media’s role in building awareness of social injustices, which has led to more information about police brutality cases through the use of hashtags, virtual protests and rallies.

McKesson shed light on the positives of the social media hashtag era, nothing how the hashtag movement has indeed helped expose social injustices. McKesson became one of the most prominent voices of the Black Lives Matter movement after the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teen who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014.

“It’s wild that we’re coming up on two years since Mike was killed in St. Louis, and I think about protests as this idea of telling the truth in public,” McKesson said. “We use our bodies to tell the truth and when I think about the hashtags, hashtags are another way that people tell the truth. I never criticize people for telling the truth.

“I think that what we see — especially with the media — is that two years ago people weren’t questioning the police. People were sort of like if the police said it, it’s true. And now people, the media, are applying this critical lens to what the police say and these are things that were just not happening two years ago. That makes me really hopeful. In the activist space, I think it is important that we continue to focus more on solutions. I think it’s easier to talk about the problem over and over. I think it’s harder to talk about solutions in public, but we have to start doing that more.”

On Friday, just days after accepting the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton took the stage to answer questions from a room filled with predominantly African-American and Hispanic journalists.

Clinton opened the session by thanking the audience and participants, acknowledging the founders of both journalism organizations and also urging journalists to “to keep holding leaders and candidates accountable.”

Attendees of the WGN America's "Underground" reception listen to a Q&A session during the 2016 NABJ/NAHJ Convention at Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel on August 5, 2016 in Washington, DC.

Attendees of the WGN America’s “Underground” reception listen to a Q&A session during the 2016 NABJ/NAHJ Convention at Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel on August 5, 2016 in Washington, DC.

Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for WGN America

“But I want to take just a few minutes to focus on a challenge that doesn’t get enough attention on the campaign trail, although I’ve been trying, and that is how do we expand economic opportunity for African-Americans and Latinos across America,” Clinton said. “And you know very well — it’s been said — that when the economy catches a cold, communities of color get pneumonia.”

The presidential nominee addressed the hardships that African-Americans and Latino families experienced during a recession that led to the loss of 9 million jobs and 5 million homes. She highlighted the 15 million new jobs created and 30 million people who were able to afford health insurance in nearly eight years, and praised President Barack Obama for his efforts in stabilizing what had been a frail economy.

Clinton also presented the audience with what she described a “comprehensive new commitment to African-American and Latino communities” that will invest in small minority-owned businesses, create better-paying jobs and overall focus on the health and well-being of black and Latino families.

“For me these aren’t just economic issues, they’re part of a long, continuing struggle for civil rights,” Clinton said. “Rosa Parks opened up every seat on the bus, now we’ve got to expand economic opportunities so everyone can afford the fare and we have to make sure the bus route reaches every neighborhood and connects families with safe, affordable housing and good jobs.”

Read the full transcript here.

The convention also stressed the importance of networking and bonding with mentors in the industry through the ESPN Pro Camps sessions. For two hours, attendees mingled with media professionals, including editor-in-chief Kevin Merida and managing editor Raina Kelley of The Undefeated, SportsCenter anchor Darren Haynes, ESPN reporter Adrienne Lawrence and a host of other media veterans to ask questions, receive critiques and make connections with potential mentors.

The panelists also shared their most valued advice, passing along sage words and lessons they learned from their own mentors as young journalists.

“Some good advice I got when I was a young journalist, not that I’ve always followed, is, don’t be in a hurry,” Merida said. “Learn what you need to learn in order to grow. Get the experience you need in order to take advantage of opportunities and to create your own.”

Later that night, the NABJ Arts & Entertainment Task Force hosted a reception sponsored by WGN and its original series Underground.

On Friday, August 5, at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, l-r, Aldis Hodge, Amirah Vann, and Alano Miller, cast from WGN's "Underground", talk to journalists about the new season.

On Friday, August 5, at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, l-r, Aldis Hodge, Amirah Vann, and Alano Miller, cast from WGN’s “Underground”, talk to journalists about the new season.

Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The standing-room-only crowd experienced a night of networking and listening to the cast members Aldis Hodge, Amirah Vann and Alano Miller discuss their roles and reactions to Underground, the series that focuses on a group of slaves who plan a harrowing escape from a plantation in Georgia.

The Undefeated senior writer and A&E Task Force chair Kelley Carter thinks these screenings, conversations and panels are important to help A&E journalists and aspiring journalists who may not have the budgets, immediate access or resources to travel around the country and interview subjects.

Before this year, Carter assisted in bringing early screenings of movies that later became box office hits such as 12 Years a Slave and Django Unchained.

“For people whose newsrooms are giving them time off for NABJ, I’d love for them to be able to go back with a couple of interviews in their pockets for work,” Carter said. “I try to carefully curate the work we bring for NABJ, and I hope that they are projects that people will be talking about throughout the course of the year or course of an award season. So far, that’s definitely been the case.”

For those who missed out this year, NABJ’s 2017 convention will be held Aug. 9 through Aug. 13 in New Orleans.

Maya Jones is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a native New Orleanian who enjoys long walks down Frenchmen Street and romantic dates to Saints games.