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Message from UNITY President – June 2011

In 1981, I remember reading a one-column article buried inside the pages of the main section of the New York Times. It discussed a puzzling medical situation. Young gay men were being diagnosed with a form of cancer usually reserved for older people. Bruise-like spots of Karposi’s Sarcoma were appearing on their bodies. Death rapidly followed.

The article alarmed me. I remember picking up the phone and calling my good friend and neighbor Vincent to read him the story. Then I asked what between us was the obvious question: “Do you think this is what Tom has?”

Tom was a talented dancer, a young transplant from the Midwest who had moved to New York City to make it into the big time. Vincent, then an aspiring actor, was his friend,and I was Vincent’s neighbor, a single welfare mother living in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen who lived vicariously through the stories of their escapades. They reallyknew how to enjoy life!

But for months, Tom had been feeling out of sorts. And soon he was out of commission. He had been in and out of hospitals, and instead of sharing with me their latest adventure at clubs like Danceteria and the Ritz, Vincent was reporting back to me a series of serious setbacks in Tom’s health. Within months, Tom was dead. And now we know, Tom had contracted HIV and had died of AIDS.

In the early days of AIDS, it was seen as a “gay” disease, a condition relegated to “them,” a castaway group that was treated in a way that is so familiar to people of color. The reasoning was that if you were not gay, you shouldn’t be concerned.

Thirty years later, we know how wrong that thinking was.

I recently attended a reception hosted by CBS for the 2011 UNITY Global Fellows and their mentors.  These are twelve budding journalists of color who were selected to cover the UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS. Their mentors are seasoned journalists from across the country who will help them produce multiplatform stories. The fellows are members of UNITY’s alliance associations — the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Native American Journalists Association — as well as the South Asian Journalists Association and the National Association of Black Journalists. UNITY partnered with the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) to make these fellowships possible.

Words could not express how proud I am that UNITY is part of this collaboration or my gratitude to the mentors who volunteered their time to share their skills with these young journalists.

I wish Tom were here to see this. He would have saluted the efforts with a high kick, I’m sure.

Message from UNITY President

Joanna Hernandez portrait

Joanna Hernandez

I am saddened by the decision that the board of directors of the National Association of Black Journalists has made to leave the alliance of UNITY: Journalists of Color.

I understand that this is a business decision, that the NABJ board members are doing what they think is best for their organization. And I wish them well.

As the newsroom census report recently released by ASNE makes clear, our mission is not over. UNITY will continue to advocate for communities of color to be fairly and accurately covered in the media.
And we will keep advocating on behalf of all journalists of color.

The programming committee for the UNITY 2012 convention in Las Vegas has begun planning innovative workshops and sessions of interest to all journalists. We welcome everyone committed to our mission to attend the convention. And we will always welcome feedback and encourage suggestions from NABJ members.

So although the NABJ board has made this decision, we will never shut the door nor turn our backs on our friends and colleagues.


Joanna Hernandez portrait

Joanna Hernandez

Three months into this presidency, and what a time it’s been!

Some might say the timing is horrible. But I say, it’s about time.

This time reminds me a lot of when I was growing up in the Amsterdam Projects in New York City. People pushed. People shoved. People got into everyone’s business and into each other’s faces. I know what it’s like to pull your own weight. And I know that situations sometimes get ugly before the smoke clears.

As an alliance partner, NABJ has concerns. It’s always the right time to bring concerns to the surface. This is the only way the UNITY board can begin to address them head on and iron out differences in a true collaboration with all UNITY partners sitting as equals at the table.

It’s time to figure out how to figure out UNITY. Because if people believe in the core values of UNITY, then there is a place for an alliance like UNITY.

UNITY wants to explore the concerns raised by NABJ. We’ve committed to a new strategic plan that will address them, including governance and financing. And much of the agenda for this month’s UNITY board meeting focuses on NABJ’s concerns.

I look forward to working with NABJ to iron out differences and continue our work together as equal partners in the spirit of UNITY. It is our desire that NABJ be a part of shaping UNITY’s future.

The industry needs us. And it’s time to put our focus back on diversity.

Please feel free to contact us with your thoughts. Or leave your comments below.

UNITY Board Adopts New Revenue Sharing Plan

McLean, Va. — UNITY Journalists of Color, Inc., has established a new revenue-sharing plan for the 2012 convention and is committed to working on a new strategic plan to make our alliance stronger while also ensuring the sustainability of the organization’s important mission.

The new revenue-sharing plan creates the potential for more revenue for each alliance partner: the Asian American Journalists Association, National Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists and Native American Journalists Association. It also provides revenue to fund UNITY at a sustainable, disciplined level.

Call for Entries: RTNDA/UNITY Awards

RTDNA honors outstanding achievements in the coverage of diversity with the RTDNA/UNITY Award. The award is part of the covenant the association has adopted with UNITY: Journalists of Color, to achieve diversity in the newsroom through developing news content and editorial staffs that reflect the changing face of communities. The purpose of the award is to encourage and showcase journalistic excellence in covering issues of race and ethnicity. It is presented annually to news organizations that show an ongoing commitment to covering the diversity of the communities they serve.

Link to RTNDA for more information »

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