After two years as president of UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, it’s time to say goodbye. My term ends at midnight on Jan. 1, 2017. It was an honor to serve as president of one of the key alliance journalism partnerships in the country.
The work – our work – is not over. Many newsrooms still aren’t reflective of the communities they cover. Stereotypes about people of color and LGBTQ friends regularly make it on air and in mobile stories. Some overlooked pockets of America continue to be news deserts.
It would be disingenuous to say I didn’t know the challenges before accepting the UNITY presidency. It also would be equality disingenuous to say I didn’t fear I wasn’t up to those challenges.
Immediately, I sought to take UNITY to new places. We held regional summits in areas of the country often ignored. It was a departure from UNITY’s past, where we organized solely to put on a large UNITY convention every four years at beautiful convention centers.
Under this new UNITY, we found ourselves in a village on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation where journalists from around the country came to hold workshops on media literacy and social media. Lakota children from a nearby school also took part in cartooning lessons with cartoonists Lalo Alcaraz and Ricardo Cate’.
We found ourselves in Dearborn, Michigan at the Arab America National Museum for a UNITY town hall meeting on anti-Arab sentiment and Islamophobia. There, a packed auditorium of Arab Americans told journalists what we were getting wrong and how we could improve coverage. It was held on Sept. 11th, and it was perfect. The next day UNITY went to Wayne State and heard from black journalists on the missing story of the “new” Detroit.
We also found ourselves on the campus of the University of Alabama and heard from veteran journalists from the Civil Rights Movement. That summit was held not too far from where the late Alabama Gov. George Wallace tried to stop African American students from enrolling.
Then, we went to Phoenix and heard from Mexican immigrants fearing deportation and listened to a pastor who counsels LGBTQ homeless youth. Then, we went to Chicago and discussed the gun violence that is claiming life after life in communities of color.
This is the new UNITY. I am glad to have played a role.
“Whatever you do,” my uncle Ernest Eguia told me the day I was named UNITY president, “always remember it’s not about you.” He was a former national board member of LULAC and a civil rights activist in Houston, and his advice was gold to me. The day after the UNITY Pine Ridge, my uncle died.
“It’s not about the journalist, but the journalism,” my friend and colleague Deepti Hajela told me. She’s right. UNITY is about the journalism.
I hope after two years as UNITY president, the board and myself gave UNITY a renewed mission and direction. This new path is needed as we continue to see a transformation in our industry. I also hope we did our part in moving journalists organizations away from being mere conventioneers. There is a lot at stake, and it’s not about simply making sure organizations’ finances are healthy so we can have nice parties.
Incoming UNITY President Neal Justin will take office with the goal of putting together a national UNITY 2018 convention unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Neal has twice my energy and three times my focus. I asked for your support in helping him continue UNITY’s mission. I also ask for your support in helping our amazing Executive Director Eloiza Altoro make UNITY sustainable.
Yes, I am stepping away. But I will not be hard to find. I am expecting my second child (a girl), and in-between daddy’ duties, I will continue to write stories on race and ethnicity, poverty, inequality and everyday people. Us. Hit me up on Twitter. Send me a Facebook message. Like a photo. I’ll like one back.
I’ll see you at UNITY 2018. We will gather like it’s 1999 (UNITY Seattle, where it all began).
UNITY Journalists for Diversity is a strategic alliance that:
- Advocates fair and accurate coverage about diversity — especially race, nationality, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation.
- 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.