Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Tag: National Association of Black Journalists

Serving Our House through Journalism

Photo By: Vickie Thomas

Left to write: Marlon Walker of the Detroit Free Press, Weam Namou, and Charlie LeDuff of Fox News, and moderator Kathy Chaney, Producer/Reporter at WBEZ 91.5FM              (Photo by Vickie Thomas)

While in my birth country ISIS continues to wage war against journalists, here in the United States journalism continues to flourish, opening doors to new voices – as is the tradition of the United States.

It’s true that a lot of minority groups in America do not receive the air and press time they deserve. But it is also true that in America, there is an opportunity for people to break the mold without risking their life. Here, an association of black journalists says “welcome” to an Iraqi-American journalist like myself, because what they see and appreciate in each other is the heart of journalism, which is an appetite for truth and education, an appetite which journalists in many other countries cannot dare quench.

On October 11th, at the 2014 NABJ Conference in Detroit, sitting on the panel next to award winning reporter Charlie LeDuff of Fox News and reporter Marlon Walker of the Detroit Free Press, listening to the easy and lively manner in which they spoke about how they dealt with “Conflict in the Community”, the topic of our discussion, I realized that a large part of the problem many Middle Easterners and Arabs have is inner conflict. Born and raised under authoritarian regimes, they have difficulty expressing their truths in constructive ways. Rather than influence public opinion and government policy, they try to influence each other – which often builds tension within their own communities rather than create progress.

Investigative Journalism is such a phenomenon in the Arab World that Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) based in Amman, Jordan describes it on its website as “still an alien practice.” Many journalists from that region who growing up, were told to “Hush!” and “Mind your own business” have wounds to heal before they can grow wings like the American journalists who were told to “Speak up!” and “Dig for the truth”, who like Charlie LeDuff can confidently say, “This is my house too! We’re all living in the United States, sharing it.”

It is when people from the Arab world, who over the last decade have become one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States, fully comprehend, appreciate and believe in the words “This is my house too!” that we will best serve this house through journalism.

Mayor Lawrence Bringing Women & Minorities to the Table

Mayor of Southfield (2)

A few days ago, a Chaldean colleague invited me to join him to the Detroit Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists. The meeting was held at Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the guest speaker was Mayor Brenda Lawrence of Southfield.

I had previously met Mayor Lawrence, when earlier in the year she spoke at an International Woman’s Day event. Given her motivational stories, her pride in her work as “a public servant”, and her down-to-earth personality, I was glad to have this opportunity once again.

“The voice of women and the voice of minority are very important,” said the Mayor. “There is a window to see things from them that people without diverse background have not seen.”

A real go-getter, Mayor Lawrence refused to sit down when in the past she lost a political race.

“We as women allow ourselves to be a ‘loser’ when we lose,” she said. “We often allow others to define us. But my grandmother always told me, ‘Don’t ever let someone tell you to sit when you have the right to walk through the door and stand in the room.’”

She stresses the importance of having more women and more minorities at the congressional table, because, she said, “As they say, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”