NABJ president tackles media bias towards tennis ace Serena Williams

NABJ President Bob Butler addresses media bias towards Serena Williams.

NABJ President Bob Butler addresses media bias towards Serena Williams.

Serena Williams’ dominance in sports has been greeted with pride in some quarters while she has been mercilessly attacked for her appearance and body image in others. NABJ President Bob Butler responds to the vitriol below:

Here we go again. Another media company is apologizing for publishing or broadcasting racially insensitive comments, then going right back to business as usual. It’s happened with television stations, radio stations and newspapers, but this latest case of poor journalism is by The New York Times, long regarded as one the United States’ newspapers of record. During Wimbledon, The Times ran a story by Ben Rothenberg that explored whether other women tennis players wanted to have bodies like Serena Williams.

Serena has shown repeatedly that she has no equal in tennis.

Serena Williams has shown repeatedly that she has no equal in tennis.

The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), believes journalists are supposed to be accurate but the article implied that Williams does not look feminine because she has a muscular body. The article has been pilloried on the Internet.There is more than one standard of beauty and to even broach this subject in this manner is at best disingenuous and insulting. Throughout her career Williams has been described in any number of unflattering ways, including being called “manly.”

Many white women have been praised for their surgery-enhanced curves while Serena Williams has been vilified for hers, which are natural.

Many white women have been praised for their surgery-enhanced curves while Serena Williams has been vilified for hers, which are natural.

Rothenberg did NOT do that, but he should know that writing about Williams’ body invites the haters – or racists – to call her anything but a championship tennis player who arguably is the best athlete in the world – male or female.NABJ, African-Americans and women are tired of it. In an apology of sorts, Times public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote that Rothenberg “…. sees some of the ways that the article could have been approached differently.”

Serena Williams showcases her beautiful curves in Essence magazine.

Serena Williams showcases her beautiful curves in Essence magazine.

Whether it’s television anchors using the long-outdated term “colored” or other racially offensive terms, a meteorologist messing up the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s name or a newspaper referring to an African-American hockey player as the “dark guy,” this can’t keep happening. It is not OK to make these kinds of mistakes and then think issuing an apology or disciplining the guilty party makes everything alright.

Longtime media critic – and NABJ member – Eric Deggans says many news outlets seem to forget that, because it’s 2015, they can’t possibly have the same problems with race and gender coverage that they had 10 or 15 years ago.

Essence magazine has celebrated Serena Williams' curves while encouraging all women to celebrate theirs as well.

Essence magazine has celebrated Serena Williams’ curves while encouraging all women to celebrate theirs as well.

“The other thing we know at NABJ is that covering race and gender well is a constant process,” he said. “In the same way you can never stop striving to be accurate, you can never stop working hard to fairly cover race and gender issues – which includes maintaining a diverse newsroom and paying particular attention to stories touching on these themes,” Deggans added.

Serena Williams has won the last 2 major tennis tournaments and is closing in on a 3rd straight this week at Wimbledon.

Serena Williams has won the last three  major tennis tournaments when she won at Wimbledon last week but instead of being praised for her achievements she has been met with vitriol for her looks and body type.

You can kind of understand slips of the tongue on live television or radio. But The Times admits four editors signed off on the story. It’s hard to believe that not one of them saw this as being offensive to African-Americans and women. Were any of these editors people of color? That might be the problem and it’s only a matter of time before something else offensive is broadcast or published.

An advocacy group established in 1975 in Washington, D.C., NABJ is the largest organization for journalists of color in the nation, and provides career development as well as educational and other support to its members worldwide. For additional information, please visit, www.nabj.org.–OnPointPress.net.

Finding Samuel Lowe depicts tale of love, family, determination, grit

 

Samuel lw

Trailer from the documentary that tells the tale of the cross-continental search to find relatives.

By Carmen Glover

Retired NBC executive Paula Madison can truly say that she has reached the self actualization phase on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. Drawing from her love for family and the desire to trace her roots and forge a connection with all members of her extended family, Madison and her siblings, Elrick and Howard, embarked on a cross-continental quest to find their maternal grandfather, Samuel Lowe. The journey takes Madison and her siblings to the picturesque island of Jamaica, the homeland of their parents, to China, the homeland of their maternal grandfather. The result is the film Finding Samuel Lowe.

At a screening held at the Museum of the Moving Images in Queens, New York last Friday in conjunction with the New York Association of Black Journalists (NYABJ), Madison talked about growing up in Harlem with her mother, after her father was deported back to Jamaica, and observing an air of sadness hovering around her mother, whose face was unquestionably Asian.

paula madison

Retired NBC executive Paula Madison is greeted by a relative on one of her trips.

“Finding my family has been like filling a hole that existed in my soul. That longing that I had to find my family has been filled. Since I have found my family in China I have been back to China every six months,” Madison stated during a question-and-answer session that followed the screening. “It feels like I’ve been guided my grandfather since I was a child,” she said as she examined various truths that she unearthed during the investigation for the film and the redemption came when the family all met. “When we gathered in China there were over 320 of us and all of us were Lowes.”

The film explores the origins of the Haka clan, a Chinese tribe to which Madison’s ancestry was traced, the history of Chinese indentured servants in the Jamaica, how those servants eventually became entrepreneurs, and the link between the Chinese men who came to work in the cane fields in and the black women in Jamaica bonding and forming families.

Members of the Lowe family joyously come together in the spirit of love.

Members of the Lowe family joyously come together in the spirit of love.

The values emphasized in the film, such as respect for education, family and prosperity are stark. Told with no holds barred, Finding Samuel Lowe is an emotional, loving, tribute to a family’s determination to answer the most fundamental of questions: Who am I? It describes a journey that many viewers will be inspired to take so that they, too, can answer that question without reservations.

The screening was attended by a large contingent of NYABJ and NABJ members, current and former NBC employees, and media stars such as former Essence magazine editor Susan Taylor, publicist/author Terrie Williams and Karl and Faye Rodney, publishers of the Carib News. The film, which was directed by Jeannette Kong, will be screened in Jamaica, West Indies on July 30. Visit the website for more information.

Madison has been involved actively in the  national and local chapters of the association of black journalists for years. She is now expanding into the Chinese portion of her culture and will release a book detailing her nuanced journey, under the Harper Collins imprint, in February 2015.–OnPointPress.net.

Disney Dreamers Academy accepting applications through October 31

E! News host Terrence J (c) is flanked by Husain and Zahra Abd' Allah, who participated in the Disney Dreamers Academy in 2013 and 2012, respectively.

E! News host Terrence J (c) is flanked by Husain and Zahra Abd’ Allah, who participated in the Disney Dreamers Academy in 2013 and 2012, respectively. (All photos by Disney/Julie Hirshenson).

By Carmen Glover

For the past six years, Walt Disney World has partnered with entertainer Steve Harvey and Essence magazine to present the Disney Dreamers Academy (DDA). The DDA provides 100 U.S. high school students, aged 13-19, with a weekend getaway at Walt Disney World. During the weekend, participants are paired with mentors and provided with immersion seminars geared towards careers. The career and mentoring events are interspersed with activities which allow the students to enjoy the sights and sounds of the theme parks.  Applications are currently being accepted for the competitive program and interested students are encouraged to take advantage of the free, event-filled, enlightening weekend event by submitting their applications before the deadline of October 31.

Terrence J and his mother, Lisa Gonzalez, talk about his book.

Terrence J and his mother, Lisa Gonzalez, talk about his book and his fond memories as a mentor with the Disney Dreamers Academy.

Representatives from the Disney Dreamers Academy, including Director of Walt Disney World Public Relations Carole Munroe and  Public Relations Manager Maria Cecilia Toro, were on hand at Trattoria Dell’ Arte in Manhattan on Wednesday, October 2, to talk about the program and the ways in which it changes the lives of the students who have been participants. E! News co-host and actor Terrence J was a featured speaker at the Manhattan event . He talked about his recent book, “The Wealth of My Mother’s Wisdom,” while sharing the stage with his mother, Lisa Gonzalez,. Terrence J answered questions about his life as well as his involvement with the Disney Dreamers Academy as a mentor and speaker. “The deadline is October 31 so if you know anyone that’s young tell them to apply,” he said. “It’s a genuine program. You will see Steve Harvey with a group of men teaching them to tie a tie.”

Members of the media listen as Terrence J and his mother discuss his book.

Members of the media listen as Terrence J and his mother discuss his book and the Disney Dreamers Academy program.

Terrence J also spoke about the degree of dedication that Disney has to the DDA. “Disney is very committed to the event,” he said. “After the event we meet and discuss what worked and what didn’t. They meet with the students to find out what their favorite parts were.“ Describing the joy that he derives from participating in the program,Terrance J said: “The Disney Dreamers Academy is so rewarding and fulfilling. This is the first organization I really sank my teeth into with mentoring. I feel that the program benefits me more than the students.”

Brother and sister Zahra and Husain Abd’Allah, 2012 and 2013 DDA alums, respectively, spoke eloquently about their participation in the program.  When asked what they have learned through their participation in the program, they brightened and talked animatedly, “I learned that you should never give up on your dreams because dreams are the things that make you who you are,” said Zahra, 18, a freshman at Laguardia Community College majoring in communication studies. “I learned that it’s not enough to learn everything. It’s enough to learn enough to help others,” said Husain, 15, who is taking a public speaking class at Hostos Community College. The siblings, who were both home-schooled and are spoken word artists, excelled in the DDA. Zahra was named Ms Curiosity during when she participated, while Husain wrote an original piece called “Ain’t Nothin’ Like A Dreamer” in honor of his DDA class.

Tanisha Sykes, personal finance editor at Essence, described one of the ways in which  the magazine contributes to the weekend’s activities. “At the Disney Dreamers Academy Essence provides a deep dive where we gave an immersion seminar on journalism,” she said. “What I have come to learn,” Sykes said, “is that a dream plus a plan equals success.” Essence, she said, “has been a part of this from the beginning and will continue to be a support.” Zahra said that during her participation in the program she attended a deep dive on health care with Dr Ian Smith as well as the Essence deep dive on journalism. As a result, she said she is considering becoming a journalist.  Husain said he met the founders of the Kinsey Collection during his participation in the journalism deep dive. “I learned to hold fast to my dreams,” he said of the deep dive experience. Keeping with the theme of dreams, Zahra said she learned that “dreams are the blueprint of who you are.”

Applications for the seventh class are being accepted through October 31, 2013 at www.disneysdreamersacademy.com. The next Academy will take place over the weekend of March 6-9, 2014. OnPointPress.net