UNITY: Journalists for Diversity has opened registration for an exciting media summit in Detroit.

See the Presenters and the Schedule!


Bankole Thompson

Bankole Thompson

Bankole Thompson, a respected journalist, fierce advocate for media diversity and accomplished author is a columnist for the Detroit News. He was formerly the editor of the Michigan Chronicle for nine years where his editorial leadership made the paper a reference point.

At the Detroit News, he writes a weekly Thursday column in the Think Section. On the airwaves each week Thompson is a voice that breaks down complex policy questions on WDET-101.9FM (Detroit Public Radio) where he began as a senior political news analyst for three years and most recently became the host of “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” a weekly hour Thursday morning program on WDET.

For six years he served on the airwaves of New York radio as a political analyst on the “Obama Watch” Sunday evening hour and a half program on WLIB-1190AM New York and simulcast  in New Jersey and Connecticut. After President Obama’s election he was one of three journalists from around the country selected to form the weekly “Obama Watch” program on New York’s legendary station hosted by Gary Byrd where his take on the Obama administration was heard each week. He also served as a correspondent for Inter Press Service (IPS) North America Bureau at the United Nations in New York during the historic 2008 presidential campaign.

In writing his columns and analyzing issues on radio and television, Thompson, relies on his varied experiences from covering the struggles of every day people in Detroit to interviewing today’s most powerful political and business leaders.

He is the author of a pair of books on President Obama, “Obama and Black Loyalty,” and “Obama and Christian Loyalty,” the culmination of a series of exclusive sit-down interviews with Obama. The Eisenhower Foundation in Washington DC dubbed him “a courageous voice on behalf of the dispossessed and disenfranchised, a shining example of journalism for the public good.”

A sought after journalist Thompson has appeared before many leading organizations as a keynote and featured speaker including the 2012 American Jewish Committee (AJC) Distinguished Leadership Dinner, 2010 Providence Rhode Island NAACP 98th Freedom Fund Dinner, 2010 Amnesty International Midwest Regional Conference, 2010 Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference Forum on Civil Rights Agenda, 2011 Federal Bench and Bar Conference for the Eastern District of Michigan, 2011 Jewish Council for Public Affairs national leadership conference, University of Michigan Law School 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration, United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 2015 Women’s History Month, United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan 2015 Black History Month Celebration.

The recipient of many awards Thompson was honored on Jan. 18 with the 2015 Martin Luther King Jr. Award by Plymouth United Church of Christ, a leading African American religious institution for his commitment to Detroit. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit (JCRC) during the 2015 JCRC Annual Meeting honored him with a rare leadership award for his breakthrough journalism for building bridges among communities of color in the region and being a strong voice for diversity.

Editorial cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz.

Editorial cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz.

Lalo Alcaraz is the creator of the syndicated daily comic strip, La Cucaracha, seen locally in the L.A. Times and other papers nationwide.

Lalo is also a consulting producer and writer at Fox Television’s upcoming Seth MacFarlane executive produced animated show, “Bordertown,” which debuts January 2016. He is also a team member of the Pixar film “COCO,” consulting on the Dia de Los Muertos themed 2017 animated movie.

A prolific political cartoonist, Lalo is winner of five Southern California Press Awards for Best Editorial Cartoon, produced editorial cartoons for The LA Weekly from 1992-2010 and creates nationally syndicated editorial cartoons in English and Spanish.

He drew the Sonia Sotomayor themed “Lil’ Judge Lopez” cartoon which appeared in 60 Minutes, CBS News and Univision, and hangs in Justice Sotomayor’s Supreme Court chambers.

Lalo’s books include the New York Times bestseller “A Most Imperfect Union” US history book with Ilan Stavans, (2014), “Latino USA: A Cartoon History, 15th Anniversary Edition”, (2013), “Migra Mouse: Political Cartoons On Immigration, (2005), and “La Cucaracha.”(2004)

He is also Jefe In Chief of satirical website, co-host of KPFK Radio’s satirical talk show, “The Pocho Hour of Power,” heard Fridays at 4pm in L.A. on 90.7 FM.

Lalo recently taught illustration at Otis College of Fine Art & Design in Los Angeles. He is a graduate of San Diego State University (BA in Art) and UC Berkeley (Master’s in Architecture).

He has seriously talented but somewhat sarcastic children with his wife, a hard-working public school teacher.

He lives in a house.

Megan Luther portrait

Megan Luther.

Megan Luther joined IRE as training director in February 2012. She has worked in radio, TV and most recently, newspapers.

Before she joined IRE, Megan was a government reporter for the Argus Leader in South Dakota and a computer-assisted reporting specialist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Previously, she worked at IRE and NICAR in the Database Library while completing her master’s degree at the University of Missouri. Email: Twitter: @MeganLuther

Margaret Holt is standards editor of the Chicago Tribune. She has a particular interest in urban issues and diversity of coverage and regularly meets with community groups. Also, Holt has a background in training and staff development; she is a past chair of the Mid-America Press Institute and serves on the MPI board. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Holt has held a variety of reporting and editing jobs. She joined the Tribune Co. in 1987 when she became business editor of the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. In 1993, she joined the Chicago Tribune as sports editor and, in 1995, began working on accuracy and credibility matters. A member of the Native American Journalists Association, Holt represents NAJA on the board of UNITY, a journalism organization focused on advancing diversity and inclusion in media coverage and staffing.

Margaret Holt

Margaret Holt is standards editor of the Chicago Tribune.

She has a particular interest in urban issues and diversity of coverage and regularly meets with community groups.

Also, Holt has a background in training and staff development; she is a past chair of the Mid-America Press Institute and serves on the MPI board. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Holt has held a variety of reporting and editing jobs. She joined the Tribune Co. in 1987 when she became business editor of the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. In 1993, she joined the Chicago Tribune as sports editor and, in 1995, began working on accuracy and credibility matters.

A member of the Native American Journalists Association, Holt represents NAJA on the board of UNITY, a journalism organization focused on advancing diversity and inclusion in media coverage and staffing.

Portrait of Alicia Nails, JD

Alicia Nails, JD

Alicia Nails, JD,  is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and director of Wayne State University’s Journalism Institute for Media Diversity. She has produced at WXIA (NBC) in Atlanta; WTVS (PBS) in Detroit; and WCBS (CBS) and Essence Communications in New York City, as well as at Detroit’s FOX 2. She reported breaking news and features as writer/producer at WWJ NewsRadio 950 (CBS). Her writing has appeared in the Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, the Michigan Chronicle, and BLAC magazine, where she serves on the advisory board. A freelance writer through her company, SaidWrite, she is a board member of the Detroit Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists and the Rosa Parks Scholarship Foundation.

Nails has executed city-wide PR campaigns for the African World Festival, the Detroit Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and was Delta’s Michigan State Journalist. She served on the National Communications Committee of The Links, Incorporated, writing media, internal and external communications and serving as managing editor for the organization’s national publications. She serves on the PR team for the Oakland County (MI) Chapter of The Links.

She has also produced major fundraisers, including Wayne State Journalism Institute for Media Diversity special events, “The Salute to Emery King,” and “The Salute to 25 Year Journalists.” In addition, she has produced UNCF special events, such as The Mayors’ Ball, Ebony Fashion Fair and the Parade of Stars Telethons.

Potrait of Esther Cepeda

Esther Cepeda

Esther J. Cepeda is best known as an opinion columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group, which is nationally syndicated to over 125 media outlets, including The Dallas Morning News, Denver Post, Indianapolis Star, Las Vegas Review-Journal, NBC Latino, San Diego Union-Tribune and The Star Tribune. Esther focuses largely on U.S. Latino/Hispanic issues, politics, education, health and an array of cultural topics based on the American experience.

Additionally, Esther is a professional communicator, storyteller and active public speaker for a plethora of organizations and media outlets, including CBS Channel-2 Chicago. Esther shares her trusted voice as a marketing/communications expert, social media strategist/influencer, keynote speaker, panelist, political analyst and educator.

Esther received her Bachelor’s degree in advertising/journalism (with minors in music and psychology) from Southern Illinois University before being awarded a full scholarship to the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. In 2002, Esther began bilingual teaching in low-income grammar and high schools in the suburbs of Chicago, while working toward a Master’s degree in Special Education from Roosevelt University.

Esther jumpstarted her journalism career by becoming a prolific writer of “Letters to the Editor” to various local and national publications. In 2006, she joined the Chicago Sun-Times as a reporter and later became Chicago’s first Hispanic metro columnist where she covered news, politics and sports. Following her time with the Chicago Sun-Times, Esther held executive marketing positions with two of Chicago’s most influential non-profit education-focused organizations before going into a private consulting practice alongside her bi-weekly column.

DeShuna Spencer

DeShuna Spencer

DeShuna Spencer is the Founder/CEO of kweliTV, a video-streaming platform offering indie films, documentaries, web shows and news programming for the global black community. For more than six years, Spencer has been the founding publisher of Spencer is also the producer/radio host of emPower Hour on DC’s 89.3 FM WPFW.

A Memphis native, Spencer graduated from Jackson State University where she studied communications and journalism. She has worked for The Clarion-Ledger and the The Oakland Tribune, and has written for the Crisis Magazine, AOL and the Washington Examiner.

A former AmeriCorps*VISTA, she is an alum of the Chips Quinn Scholars Program, a competitive fellowship program for young journalists of color. In 2012, she was named 40under40 by The Envest Foundation for her entrepreneurial and philanthropic achievements. Recently, Spencer received the “Who’s Got Next” award by the National Action Network as a future leader in civil rights. Spencer, a budding filmmaker, recently completed her first documentary, Mom Interrupted. Follow her on twitter @deshuna.

Luther Keith

Luther Keith

Luther Keith is the executive director of ARISE Detroit!, a non-profit coalition promoting volunteerism, community activism and positive media images to create a better Detroit.

ARISE Detroit! works on behalf of non-profits, community groups, block clubs, media outlets, businesses, churches and others working to transform Detroit. It has grown from 22 founding members to over 400 partner organizations.

It has generated thousands of volunteers to help schools, neighborhoods, community groups and block clubs. It has developed media partnerships to put a greater emphasis on positive efforts to improve Detroit.

A native Detroiter and a graduate of the University of Detroit, Keith is a former award-winning editor and columnist with the Detroit News. He developed the concept for ARISE Detroit! and became executive director in 2006. While at The News, Keith served stints as sports writer, state capital bureau correspondent, business editor, assistant managing editor, senior editor and columnist.

He was the founding director of the Wayne State Journalism Institute for Media Diversity, created to increase diversity in media newsrooms. He was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame in 1995.

Kim Trent

Kim Trent

Kim Trent is a social and political activist and journalist who often thinks and writes about race and gender. A former city hall reporter for The Detroit News, her essays have appeared in local and national publications such as the Detroit Free Press, Michigan Chronicle, and Essence magazine. She also appears as a frequent guest on local television and radio broadcasts, including WDIV’s

“Live in the D” show, where she is a regular contributor.

Ms. Trent’s career has included stints as a top aide to former U.S. Representative Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow and former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. She currently serves as education policy manager for Michigan Future Inc., a think tank that is focused on creating strategies to help Michigan make the transition from a manufacturing-based economy to a knowledge-based economy. Ms. Trent holds bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees from Wayne State University. She also earned a graduate degree in African Studies from the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa. In 2012, more than two million Michigan voters elected Ms. Trent to an eight-year term on the Wayne State University Board of Governors. As a member of the governing board for Michigan’s third-largest university, Ms. Trent has focused her attention on improving the university’s six-year graduation rate for African American undergraduate students.

In addition to work on the Wayne State board, Ms. Trent currently serves as board president for the Rosa Parks Scholarship Foundation, board vice president for Habitat for Humanity Detroit and City Connect Detroit and on the boards of several other organizations.

A native Detroiter, Ms. Trent proudly lives in the city with her husband, author Ken Coleman, and their son, Jackson.

Eric Ortiz

Eric Ortiz

Eric Ortiz is the founder and CEO of Evrybit (, an all-in-one app for live mobile storytelling that launched in April 2015.

Prior to founding Evrybit, he was a 2014 Knight Fellow at Stanford University, the founding editor of and an associate editor at

He is a lifetime member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Stanford.

Rubén Martinez, Ph.D

Rubén Martinez, Ph.D

Rubén Martinez is professor of sociology and director of the Julian Samora Research Institute at Michigan State University.

His research interests include neoliberalism and Latinos, diversity leadership in higher education, and environmental justice issues.

He is the series editor of Latinos in the United States published through Michigan State University Press.

Chastity Pratt Dawsey

Chastity Pratt Dawsey

Chastity Pratt Dawsey is an award-winning reporter who covers urban affairs for Bridge magazine and a Detroit native. Prior to Bridge, she spent more than a decade writing about Detroit’s schools as a reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Her investigations led to the creation of the Detroit Blight Authority as well as the removal of two superintendents. Chastity’s work also has appeared in USA Today, Essence Magazine and the Investigative Reporters & Editors Journal. She spent the early part of her career as a reporter at Newsday in Long Island, NY, and The Oregonian newspaper in Portland. Chastity is a graduate of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and has the highest hopes for Harbaugh.

Luis Aguilar

Luis Aguilar

At age 16, the nuns at St. Hedwig High officially declared Louis Aguilar “incorrigible”.

He has tried to live up to the title.

He is an award-winning reporter, which includes staff writing gigs at the Washington Post and Denver Post. He briefly ran Cruzando Fronteras FilmFest in Washington, D.C. and created Latino programming for the Smithsonian Institution.

Since 2004, he has helped chronicle the epic nature of his hometown for The Detroit News. In 2009, he wrote Long Live the Dead: The Accidental Mummies of Guanajuato, a book about a Mexican city’s complex relationship with 112 of its mummified citizens. In 2010, he was awarded a Kresge Fellowship for the Literary Arts.

He is currently writing a non-fiction book about the time spent by the artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Depression-era Detroit.

Tentative Agenda

8:30 AM – 9:00 AM – Registration & Continental Breakfast

9:00 AM – 9:30 AM – Welcome & Opening Remarks, Russell Contreras, UNITY President

9:30 AM – 9:45 AM – Break to Session 1

9:45 AM – 11:00 AM – Session 1 Breakouts

Workshop #1 – “Latinos 2025 – A Comprehensive Needs Assessment of Latino Communities in Southeast Michigan” – Dr. Ruben Martinez, Director, Julian Samora Research Institute; Rosa Morales, Multimedia Freelancer and Consultant

Workshop #2 – “The Power of Startups: Starting Your Own Media Company” – Eric Ortiz,   Founder/CEO Evrybit; Lalo Alcaraz, Syndicated Cartoonists and Writer; DeShuna Spencer, CEO, KweliTV; and Esther Cepeda, Syndicated Opinion Columnist, Washington Post, Moderator

11:00 AM – 11:15 AM – Break

11:15 AM – 12:45 PM – Luncheon & Keynote Address – “Detroit’s Struggles are the Nation’s Struggles”, Bankole Thompson, Columnist, Detroit News; and Walter Middlebrook, Detroit News, Moderator

12:45 PM – 1:00 PM – Break to Session 2

1:00 PM – 2:15 PM – Session 2 Breakouts

Workshop #3 – “Looking Deep: Stories in Overlooked Communities During Economic Upheaval” – Chastity Pratt, Reporter, Bridge Magazine; Elena Herrada, Board Member, Detroit Public Schools, Russell Contreras, Board President, UNITY; Jennifer Guerra, Reporter/Producer, Michigan Radio, Moderator

Workshop #4 – “Investigate This: How to Use the Web for Investigations and How to File FOIAs” –  Megan Luther, Training Director, Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE), Joel Kurth, Investigations and Projects Team Editor, Detroit News, Jennifer Dukarski, Attorney, Butzel Long Butzel Long Law Firm, Michigan Bar Association; and Greg Moore, Milwaukee Correspondent, Associated Press, Moderator

2:15 PM – 2:30 PM – Break

2:30 PM – 3:45 PM – Session 3 Breakouts

Workshop #4 – “The Coming America: Writing about Religion and Immigration in a Changing Nation” – Francis Kai-Hwa Wang, Reporter, NBC News Asian America; Serena Maria Daniels, Dining Editor/Reporter, Metro Times; Rasheed Alnozili, Editor, Yemen American News; Ryan Bates, Executive Director, Michigan United; and Margaret Holt, Standards Editor, Chicago Tribune, Moderator

Workshop #5 – “Reporting Beyond the Narrative: Covering the New Detroit/ers as if it’s all New and all Good” – Darrell Dawsey, Freelance Journalist; Kim Trent, Media Commentator; Luther Keith, Executive Director, Arise Detroit; Louis Aguilar, Reporter, The Detroit News; Vickie Thomas, Reporter, WWJ Newsradio 950 (CBS) and NABJ Region II Director; and Alicia Nails, Director, WSU Journalism Institute for Media Diversity, Moderator – Presented by the WSU Journalism Institute for Media Diversity

3:45 PM – Event Adjourns


Wayne State University’s Parking Lot 31 is reserved (address: 630 W. Ferry), corner of W. Ferry and Anthony Wayne Drive for both the Unity Conference and the Gala.
Volunteers will direct folks to the Student Center Ballroom.

Parking Lot 31

630 W. Ferry Detroit, MI 48202 Directions Website


The regional event titled “Empowering The Detroit Story” on Sept. 12, will bring journalists around the country to Wayne State University for an event centered on media literacy, multimedia training, entrepreneurial journalism and discussions on tackling poverty. The gathering is a collaboration between the Center of Latino and Latin American Studies and The Journalism Institute for Media Diversity.

Syndicated cartoonist and writer, Lalo Alcaraz, will participate in a workshop on entrepreneurial media and IRE Training Director Megan Luther will conduct a workshop on using web tool for investigative journalism.

Registration for the summit will be $35 and $15 for students and Wayne State staff.

Register for the conference here:

Or, register immediately here via this secure form:

Wayne State University
Student Center Ballroom
5221 Gullen Mall, Detroit, MI

PDF - Adobe Reader IconDownload a promotional flyer for the Detroit event. (PDF)

A day before the summit, UNITY will hold a special town hall meeting and panel discussion, Sept 11, on media representations of Arab Americans and Muslims. The town hall will take place at the Arab American National Museum from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.  Learn more about the town hall »

The town hall will feature local community leaders and journalists from around the country in an effort to highlight areas needed to better news coverage on Arab Americans.

Michigan State University journalism professor Joe Grimm will moderate the town hall and will be joined by Lalo Alcaraz, Arab American News Publisher Osama Siblani, Chicago Tribune Standards Editor Margaret Holt, and UNITY President and Associated Press Reporter Russell Contreras.

Attendance to the special town hall is free.

Register for the town hall here:

Or, directly register right here:

Admission is free! Register now!

Arab American National Museum
3624 Michigan Ave, Dearborn, MI

Join UNITY for an exciting two days in one of the country’s most diverse cities!

PDF - Adobe Reader Icon

Download a promotional flyer for the Arab-American Town Hall. (PDF)




Investigative Reporters and Editors


The Journalism Institute for Media Diversity logo

Website heading logo for Ford Foundation, at

Center for Latino and Latin American Studies Logo


UNITY Journalists for Diversity is a strategic alliance that:

  1. Advocates fair and accurate coverage about diversity — especially race, nationality, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation.
  2. Aggressively challenges that industry to staff its organizations at all levels to reflect the country’s diversity.

The UNITY board is made up of representatives from the Asian American Journalists Association, the Native American Journalists Association, and NLGJA: The Association of LGBT Journalists.

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