Alumna Profile: Casey Bruce-White

This is the third in a series of profiles celebrating the work of our alumni for Black History Month. Please see the newslider at the bottom of this article for additional profiles.

Casey Bruce-White (ABJ ‘11) is deputy director, program and strategy for Affiliate Support and Nationwide Initiatives with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Prior to that, she worked at the ACLU of Florida for 6-1/2 years, serving in multiple communications roles, including the director of communications. She has also worked with numerous organizations including the Miami City Ballet, Georgia Center for Nonprofits and AmeriCorps VISTA. Her articles and essays have appeared in publications such as Florida Today, The Huffington Post and Art Saves Lives International.

Bruce-White was named a Top 50 Women Leaders of Miami for 2023 by Women We Admire, a 2021 fellow for New Leaders Council and a 2017 Miami Girl Making History by the Miami Girls Foundation. She holds professional memberships with ColorComm, a national membership organization for women of color in the communications industry, and she is a founding member of MINO, a professional membership organization that provides emerging Black women leaders with professional development and a supportive network on their journey to becoming world-changers.

While a student at Grady College, Bruce-White was a magazines journalism major and was involved with several campus organizations including Black Affairs Council, InfUSion Magazine and the National Association of Black Journalists. She also went through Safe Space training with the LGBTQ+ Resource Center, volunteered with the afterschool youth program at Rocksprings in Athens and was a resident assistant for two years in the Reed Community.

She lives in Miami with her husband, Corey, son, Gabriel, and dog, Bella.

Following are excerpts of an interview with Bruce-White that have been edited for clarity and length:

What experience during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?

Being a student in Grady College was one of the best experiences of my life. I remember the day I found out I was being admitted to the school. It was a day filled with joy and acknowledgment of a lot of hard work I had put in after experiencing some struggles to adjust to college life and academia during my freshman year. When I was admitted to the school, I felt like I was finally in a good groove.

I was fortunate enough to learn from two amazing professors who became my mentors after I graduated from Grady College. They are the late Conrad Fink and Valerie Boyd. Without them, I don’t think I would have continued to pursue a career in advocacy communications. In early 2011, Professor Fink told me (after I was late to another one of his classes), that I was a “screamer” and that my best writing happened when I wrote about things that pissed me off. Well, he was right. I have spent much of my career in movement work on behalf of historically marginalized communities, and specifically Black and Brown people. I have written about everything from voter suppression to paid sick leave and abortion access. I have never forgotten what he said, and it drives me to keep writing and organizing on social and economic issues in the pursuit of equity and justice.

Professor Boyd was another Grady College professor who meant the world to me. She was the first Black professor I had at Grady College, and that representation mattered so much to me. She helped me learn how to focus my writing to become more clear and more persuasive. Professor Boyd was very serious about helping her students succeed, and because of her, I was able to connect with other writers in Atlanta and work with them as they started their own online newspapers and magazines. I eventually launched my own online blog with two friends in 2016. Professor Boyd taught me so much, and I owe a great deal of my success to her. She had a profound impact on me, and I honor her life and friendship through my work.

What led you to your current career path?

At the end of my junior year at UGA in 2010, I was fortunate enough to get picked for an internship with the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, whose mission is to strengthen, empower, and equip young women and gender-expansive youth of color as agents for change in their lives and in the world. Operating at the intersection of love and rigor, the Sadie Nash Leadership Project uses popular education to build community, critical consciousness, and college and career readiness among participants. This experience changed the trajectory of my career, and I have never looked back. I have used my training as a journalist to propel me into a career of advocacy communications, movement building, and organizing in pursuit of disrupting systems of power and oppression that harm historically marginalized communities. My work now is not so much a career path as it is a life calling in the spirit of good trouble to push our country to change.

What is one piece of advice you live by?
“Love at the center” is advice that guides Brown-White. “With love at the center, I believe we can and will make our country a place where all people can live with dignity and thrive.”

Two pieces of advice I live by are No. 1: Believe it can change and No. 2: Love at the center. The struggle for liberation is ever-present, and the work to dismantle systems of oppression and harm is urgent. It is easy and understandable to see these challenges as insurmountable. But I lean on my ancestors, learn from my elders, and I am inspired by so many folks doing this work every day. They make me believe it can change, and I live by that advice. Separately, I recall someone at a conference once telling me that with love at the center, the change that we seek is possible. That rocked me to my core and made me think differently about how I approach this work for justice. With love at the center, I believe we can and will make our country a place where all people can live with dignity and thrive.

What advice would you give to young students of color who will soon enter the workforce?

There are so many little nuggets of wisdom I have learned from other great leaders I have encountered that I think would be helpful for students of color entering the workforce. The first would be to find a mentor. Seek out people who are doing work that you want to do, and befriend and learn from them.

The second would be to speak up for what you know is right. We all have a moral obligation to do the right thing, and that’s not just societally, but it should be a part of your day-to-day practice. Just because something has been a part of the company’s culture does not mean it’s the right thing. This could also mean urging your company to expand its policies to meet the needs of workers now. I would urge young students of color to question policies that are not aligned with the mission or that don’t center EDIB (equity, diversity, inclusion, or belonging) and urge leaders in the organization to make changes. Whether that’s speaking out on bad behavior in a workplace or urging your company to expand paid family leave or mental health days. Be brave for what you know to be right.

The third would be to seek out opportunities to help you grow your expertise and skills. Approach life with curiosity! There are so many free workshops and seminars available to us. There are also opportunities that cater specifically to students of color in a variety of different fields. Never stop learning or trying to grow and expand your expertise. Also, join professional groups or spaces that center people of color.

Lastly, imposter syndrome is a very real issue for many people, but particularly women of color. For example, women of color who suffer from imposter syndrome will often not apply for a job they are qualified for if they don’t believe they meet all of the criteria that are listed in a job description. News flash: No one has all the skills listed in a job description! Remember that you are powerful and can learn new skills. Apply for that job or other new opportunities. And, if you need help navigating imposter syndrome, speak to a healthcare professional or a life coach. They can help you build confidence and learn how to manage feelings of imposter syndrome, especially in relation to work.

What does Black History month mean to you?
Casey Bruce-White with her family overlooking a scenic vista.
Bruce-White is motivated by her son, Gabriel and husband, Corey. “They are the reason why I continue to work for liberation from oppressive systems and institutions,” she said. “I want them to live in a freer world.”

Black History Month is an opportunity for us to reflect on the contributions, culture, and lived experiences of Black folks in America. It is a way for us to honor our ancestors and elders, teach our children about the struggles we faced and are still facing for equity and justice, and envision a future where Black people are safe, valued, seen, believed, can thrive, and live here peacefully and with dignity. In addition to Black History Month, I celebrate Black Futures Month, which is a forward-looking lens and vision for what Black freedom can look like. This month is a time for reflection and celebration. It’s a time for work, rest, joy, and resistance. As we are living in a time where teaching Black history is being threatened by state governments all across our nation, this month means everything to me. As a new mom, this month presented a new opportunity for me to teach my son about the power of his community and the beauty of his culture. That is powerful. This month is a space to celebrate our history and to imagine a world where all Black people are free.

Alumna Profile: Kelsey Coffey (ABJ ’20)

This is the third in a series of profiles celebrating the work of our alumni for Black History Month. Please see the newslider at the bottom of this article for additional profiles.

Kelsey Coffey (ABJ ’20) is a multimedia journalist at WEAR-TV in Pensacola, Florida. After graduating from Grady College in December 2020, she took a job in advertising before landing her current role.

Coffey meets with Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hunter-Gault’s editor while working on the book, “My People: Five Decades of Reporting About Black Lives.”

“I was toying between PR and journalism for most of my college career,” Coffey said. “But, thanks to encouragement from Dean Davis and Professor Dodie Cantrell, I changed my mind.”

Coffey anchored for the documentary about the 60th Anniversary of Desegregation at the University of Georgia. She said retelling the story reminded her why she picked a major of journalism in the first place.

“Through that project, I learned so much about the history of UGA and really seeing how our institution played a big part in Black history,” she said. “We were on the national stage when that happened.”

Coffey built a relationship with Charlayne Hunter-Gault (ABJ ’63) while working on the documentary. She then was reached out to by the late Professor Valerie Boyd about an opportunity to work with Hunter-Gault on her book, “My People: Five Decades of Reporting About Black Lives.”

“For both of us to have an opportunity to learn from a trailblazer like her was was incredible, and to see how she has been able to speak about the Black community and advocate for the Black community throughout so many generations is incredible,” Coffey said. “No matter what was going on, she still was able to be effective in her reporting.”

What motivates you and keeps you going on challenging days?

My job is a gift and a privilege. It is difficult to be a journalist, especially in today’s world where people don’t trust us in the media and we get a lot of pushback. I believe that truth matters, I believe that fairness matters, and local journalism matters. People need to know what’s going on in their city council, on the school board and their local police department because those people and those entities are what impacts people’s lives the most on a day-to-day basis. The fact that I can live and work somewhere where I can try my best to do something, to make a difference in someone’s life – it’s great.

Coffey has been reporting in the Pensacola area since May 2021.
Looking back, is there anything you wish you would have done in college that you didn’t do that you think would have helped you in your career now?

I don’t regret any part of my story because it’s my own and things happen the way that it should have for me and my personal growth. But, I wish I would have taken more time to be involved specifically with the Grady College and do more volunteering with Grady Newsource, so I could have better prepared myself for what the real world was going to look like whenever I got a job. No one could have told me that I would have graduated in the middle of pandemic and my Newsource experience would have been virtual.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black history means celebrating a people that have brought so much to this country, even when they didn’t get the credit for it. The fact that we are such an intricate part of the fabric of American society is something that is worth being celebrated. I’m proud of who I am and where I come from. It’s a privilege to be a Black woman. I love it, and no one can take my identity away from me.

What piece of advice do you live by?
Coffey is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.

The first thing that comes to mind is really about loving God and loving others. As a young adult, when you’re in college, you’re so focused on what you want to do. Instead, you should be focused on who you want to be. I love my job. It’s difficult, and I enjoy doing it, but my job does not define me. The driving force that leads me in whatever I do and all of my decision making is the fact that I should be pouring into others and shining a light on other people. I may not be a journalist forever. As much as I enjoy it, it may not be my career for the rest of my life. But, whatever I do will be centered around loving God and loving people because that’s what I really feel like I’m put on this earth to do.

Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?

I see myself happy. I see myself continuing to live a life that I love, surrounding myself with people I love, and doing what I love to do. I don’t know what that looks like. I don’t know where I would live. I don’t even know what job I would have – whether it would be full-time reporting or full-time anchoring – maybe doing a little bit of both. Either way, I see joy.

Alumnus Profile: Alex Woodruff (ABJ ’14)

This is the second in a series of profiles celebrating the work of our alumni for Black History Month. Please see the newslider at the bottom of this article for additional profiles.

Alex Woodruff (ABJ ’14) is a sales executive and independent filmmaker. He has eight years of experience working with C-level stakeholders, positioning technology solutions across all industries. He owns an Emmy Award-winning film company in Atlanta where he has produced and directed projects that spotlight underrepresented narratives.

What does Black History Month mean to you?
A headshot of Alex Woodruff.
Woodruff’s Atlanta-based film company focuses on projects that spotlight underrepresented narratives.

I passed a car in Atlanta yesterday with the message “Without Black History There Is NO History” scrawled across its rear window. I liked that. Black history is as essential and unstructured as water. And this month of remembrance is as much a vehicle for change against systemic bigotry as it is a means to champion unheralded innovators, activists and artists. 

For me personally, I wish it were enough. Each February we exalt the stories of our forebears whose wisdom transcends generations. We mold our plight into a message that has the potential to truly move people, while acknowledging the leaders who got us here. 

Then we witness the barbaric police murder of Tyre Nichols. Just two weeks later we find ourselves in a fight for whether schools will allow black history to be taught in full, or at all. I know our battles pale in comparison to those our parents and grandparents fought, but it still can feel insurmountable at times. 

However I know that it isn’t. I hope this month serves as a space for reflection and unification among the community who will lead this generation in the spirit of those who came before. 

What led you to your current career path?

My path is guided by a longing for artistic expression, healthy competition, and to provide for those I care for. I’ve meandered through different corporate and creative channels in pursuit of those three drivers until I found my current dual-career, which feels like the ultimate happy-place. 

While in undergrad at UGA I sold glasses at the local LensCrafters to help pay my tuition and mounting student loans. There I developed my love for sales and the competitive joy of having a high-performing day. Simultaneously I managed my schoolwork and began to enter professional sales competitions (yeah, those exist) that I felt could lead me toward a career with financial freedom one day. By night I was producing music and videos both as a rapper and director, which led to opportunities to open for Kendrick Lamar and Big Sean. 

Graduating in 2015 with a six-figure sales job allowed me to build my financial footing, while benefiting from being able to make my own schedule. As an artist, that freedom afforded the time to pursue my craft, and the money to invest in it. Ultimately I found a new channel, filmmaking, that I grew to love. What enchanted me was the potential to create entire worlds from imagination and then dazzle a captive audience both sonically and visually for 90 minutes. Not even a great song can do that. 

In the years since, I’ve grown in both aspects of my dual-career. I’m the co-owner of an Emmy Award-winning film company with several exciting projects releasing this year, and last year I was named Global Director of Sales for Duality Technologies

What experience during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?
On Set of Mysore Magic: Alex Woodruff produces Mysore Magic, a film by Abijeet Achar, in 2022.
On set of “Mysore Magic.” Alex Woodruff produced “Mysore Magic,” a film by Abijeet Achar, in 2022.

In furtherance of the duality theme here, I was a double-major at Terry and Grady colleges during my time at UGA. While Terry gave me the on-ramp to my first job out of school, it was Grady that afforded me the license to explore myself as a student and a writer. As I transitioned my major from Newspaper, to Broadcast, then Public Relations, before finally settling on Advertising, I found myriad ways to professionally channel my creativity and passion for writing. 

It’s hard to pinpoint the most influential experience I had, but the one that most closely mirrors where I am today was landing my internship at in 2013. This was an advertising position that required me to relocate to New York for 3 months. I’ll never forget that summer, because as a born-and-raised ATLien, I was forced out of my Georgia bubble for the first time in my life. I learned the speed and language of the corporate world, while being able to pursue my creative ambitions in a completely different environment. There are hundreds of Grady alumni in New York, many of whom are eager to pay-it-forward to the younger generation, and I took full advantage of that boost.

What is one challenge that you’ve faced in your professional career and how did you overcome it?

Being taken seriously. This particular challenge isn’t unique to me and, like many others, it is one I feel constantly pit against. In any forum I strive to bring my whole self: vulnerable, Black, curious, fallible and accomplished. Invariably, though, people want to categorize other people into pre-existing buckets that reinforce their worldview. Especially in a corporate setting, time is of the essence, and a strong elevator pitch is a prerequisite. As soon as you’ve uttered half a sentence, your audience is already forming their opinion about your words using everything from your clothes to your accent. 

I struggle against these confines in nearly every new interaction because I despise stereotypical boxes. A related (and harder to admit) challenge here is that I never truly know how much of this exists in my imagination versus in reality, and the answer to that question often rests just beyond my reach. There’s a clip of Trevor Noah from “The Daily Show” musing on this phenomenon that I often think about.

Because of this, the way I combat those feelings of being commoditized or judged is to press forward with self-confidence. I center myself in the knowledge that I am where I am for a reason, and most reasonable people will understand that eventually, if not immediately. It’s not a curative approach, and it doesn’t solve the more pervasive problems that cause this challenge in the first place. But it helps me get by, and I think that’s a fine goal for now. 

What is one piece of advice you live by?

That there are only two modes you can live by: in love, or in fear. Whichever mode you choose, the point is that you have to actively choose. I try to channel every decision through a loving lens. 

I pursue my passion because I love it, not because I’m afraid of being a failure. 

I care for my body because I love me, not because I’m afraid of what people will think of me. 

And I love my people because I love my people, not because I’m afraid that they’ll stop loving me if I don’t.

Alumnus Profile: Ron Schofield (ABJ ’83)

This is the first in a series of profiles celebrating the work of our alumni for Black History Month. Please see the newslider at the bottom of this article for additional profiles.

Ron Schofield has spent his career working in broadcast media and currently serves as executive producer of owner & operator relations at NewsNation/Nexstar in Chicago, a company where he has served various roles for more than 20 years. NewsNation was started about a year ago as a three-hour nightly national news show broadcast nightly to more than 190 local stations and 75 million households.  Prior to Nexstar, Schofield served in various communications roles including WYCC PBS Chicago, City Colleges of Chicago and 11 years as Midwest bureau chief of ABC News.

Schofield as a junior at UGA.

Schofield was a broadcast journalism major at UGA and was involved with Kappa Alpha Psi and WUOG, where he produced the “Power of Soul” radio programming, served as a DJ and worked as a news anchor.

“My best friends in life came from UGA and we all still stay in touch,” Schofield said of his days on campus.

He also serves on the Board of Directors for the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Chicago/Midwest Chapter. He has two daughters: one who is a fellow UGA alumna and a physician in Atlanta, and one who is in college in California studying strategic corporate communications.

Following are excerpts of an interview with Schofield:

Grady College: What experience during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?

Ron Schofield: I had two professors in journalism school, Bill Martin and Al Wise. To this day, I am a stickler for being on time after taking a class from Al that started at 7:50 a.m., because he only allowed you to come in late once. A second late arrival dropped you a letter grade and after three, you failed his class, which we needed to graduate. His reasoning made sense to me: If you are going to be in TV news, you must always make deadline and being a few seconds late is unacceptable. Bill Martin did two things that I found memorable, and helpful. In broadcast writing we would always ask questions like “how do you say, ‘the officer was shot in the chest?’” His answer would be, “say it just like that and don’t try to spice it up.” He also took us to O’Malley’s, which was a bar down the street from the journalism school, on Fridays. His reasoning also made sense to me: if you’re going to be in this business, you need to learn to socialize and still keep your head about you.

GC: Looking back, what do you wish that you would have done in college that would have helped you in your career?

RS: I really wish I had networked more, or at all. I had a tendency to rely on people I know and reluctant to approach those I did not. I would do a better job at reaching out for contacts, maybe even taking a few more chances instead of being terrified at failing. We graduated during a recession in 1983 and I got a ton of rejection letters, but the job I found came from a call from my professor to a former student.

Schofield was one of four people on the NewsNation Team when it started last year. Today, the operation includes more than 150 team members.
GC: What advice would you give to young students of color who will soon enter the workforce?

RS: No one owes you anything, go work hard, put in the effort and get what you want. You have to work hard and if anyone is willing to help you, accept it and take advantage of the opportunity.

GC: What is one piece of advice you live by?

RS: Not everyone will be good at their job. Accept that and remain true to your own work ethic.

GC: What motivates you and keeps you going on challenging days?

RS: I’m a few years from retirement and more than looking forward to it. I don’t want to go somewhere new at this point, nor do I want the biggest job in the room. The people who work for me have a great deal of respect for me and I know that. They know they can count on me and I can do the same with them.

2022 in Review: Alumni Spotlight

Editor’s Note: This is part of our six-part series highlighting stories produced by Grady College in 2022. The features include stories in each of the following subjects:

  • Student Successes
  • Faculty Honors
  • College Headlines
  • Research & Expertise
  • Service & Partnerships
  • Alumni Spotlight

This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but instead highlight a sample of just a few of the hundreds of stories about accomplishments by our students, faculty/staff and alumni. We invite you to visit our Grady College News page for a full list of features posted in 2022.

  • Toyin Adon-Abel is the vice president of marketing operations for Greenwood, an online financial services company, and the founder of Meddling Minds, a marketing agency.
We are so proud of our alumni for all their amazing accomplishments both inside and outside the walls of Grady College. Below are several items of note from 2022:

Black History Month alumni profiles on Toyin Adon-Abel Jr., Angelique Jackson and Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb: This past February, as part of the Black History Month alumni profile series, Grady College interviewed Toyin Adon-Abel Jr. (ABJ ’05), the founder of Meddling Minds, a marketing agency, Angelique Jackson (ABJ ‘12), a senior entertainment writer for Variety who previously won two Daytime Emmy Awards as a segment producer for Entertainment Tonight, and Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb (ABJ ‘75), who spent more than two decades working for the Washington Post and now serves as president of The Earl T. Shinhoster Youth Leadership Institute in Savannah. Adon-Abel Jr., Jackson and Lamb’s Q&A profiles are available on the Grady College News page. 

Pride Month profiles on Jim Farmer and Adam Pawlus: This past June, as part of the Pride Month profile series, Grady College interviewed Jim Farmer (ABJ ‘88), the director of Atlanta’s LGBTQ film festival Out On Film, a festival featuring films by, for and about the LGBTQ community and its allies, and Adam Pawlus (MA ‘01), the executive director for NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists, an organization of over 1,000 journalists, news executives, communications professionals and educators that serves as a strong voice in the news industry, educating newsroom decision-makers about coverage of the LGBTQ community, promoting non-discrimination policies and the establishment of equal benefits, and creating educational opportunities to support the next generation of LGBTQ newsroom leaders. Both Farmer and Pawlus’ profiles are available on the Grady College News page. 

40 Under 40 honorees visit Grady College: In September, five Grady College graduates named to the UGA Alumni Association’s 40 Under 40 class attended the “A Message to my Younger Self” panel, offering insight to current students about their paths to success. Emily Curl (ABJ ’14), Lauren Culbertson Grieco (ABJ ’09), Chad Mumm (ABJ ’08), Kevin Schatell (ABJ ’16) and Michael Waldron (ABJ ’10) attended. Christie Johnson (ABJ ’07), who was also named to the UGA 40 Under 40 class, was not able to attend the panel.

Black History Month Alumni Profile: Yvonne Lamb

Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb (ABJ ’75) graduated from Grady College with a bachelor’s degree in newspaper journalism. She spent 22 years working as an assignment editor on the local news desk, newsroom director of training and as obituary editor for The Washington Post before retiring in 2008. She then became an adjunct journalism professor at two different universities in Washington, D.C. before making her way back to Georgia. Now, she serves as president of The Earl T. Shinhoster Youth Leadership Institute in Savannah.

What has been your greatest accomplishment since graduating from Grady College?

I have been blessed to experience several professional and personal accomplishments since graduating from Grady College. I worked with some of the best journalists in Atlanta, Macon, Tampa, and in the nation’s capital at The Washington Post. I wrote or edited many first drafts of history, as former Post publisher Philip L. Graham called journalism. Throughout my career I was able to contribute to the history of numerous consequential events and people’s stories, including those that rendered more accurate portrayals of African Americans in newspapers.

When I moved from being a reporter to an editor in my career,  I gained a seat at decision-making tables and  advocated for truth and fairness in coverage. I did what I could to make sure that African Americans and other marginalized people were fairly and accurately depicted in the press.

For more than 30 years, journalism filled my life like a calling more than a career. My time on the obituary desk during my last years at the Post allowed me to return to writing and helped me filled a gnawing in my spirit for a more meaningful connection to the work I did. After leaving the Post, I  co-founded a blog network for and about black women and published two children’s books and a book on prayer. I was recognized as a journalism trailblazer in 2018 in my hometown. I also found my way to seminary. I graduated from Wesley Theological Seminary in D.C. with a Master of Theological Studies, and in 2019 became an ordained Baptist minister. This for me is a major accomplishment, perhaps my greatest. Well, in addition to being married to a great guy, having two wonderful children, and being energized by three beautiful grand-girls.

What classes at Grady College did the most to prepare you for your career?

I will always remember two classes at the Grady College that helped to shape my career as a journalist. Dr. Beverly Bethune’s journalism course was one of them. I learned fundamentals that I applied and sharpened over the years. Dr. Bethune’s class prepared me to tackle my first newspaper internship, a stint on the campus newspaper The Red and Black, and the editorship of PAMAJO, the black student newspaper.

The other class that bolstered my writing skills and confidence was a magazine writing course that I took with Dr. John English. That course took me outside the campus and into the community. My writing, insights, and instincts about what makes an exceptional story improved with Dr. English’s instruction. Over the years, I reconnected with Dr. English at the Southern Regional Press Institute at Savannah State University where we shared our knowledge with new crops of potential newspaper and broadcast journalists. In 2016, Dr. English and I were both inducted into the press institute’s inaugural Hall of Fame. That was a full circle moment for me, first because I began attending the press institute in high school and because Dr. English was with me among the honorees.

Finally, I will never forget being in a session at the J-School with Robert Johnson, the editor of Jet Magazine. Jet and Ebony magazines were essential reading in African American homes in the 1970s. Johnson was speaking to journalism students, mostly African Americans as I recall. He urged us  to “tell our own stories.” To this day, I encourage individuals whose remarkable stories would go untold to do the same.

What does the recent movement to continue the fight for racial justice mean to you personally and professionally?

Our country and our world are at such a critical juncture right now. I am both heartened and sadden by the current fight for racial justice and democracy. I am encouraged that a new generation of young leaders from all sectors of society have taken up the fight in light of the resurgence of racial hostilities, deadly police aggression especially against black and brown people,  violence against Asians, and Reconstruction-era legislative policies of voter suppression. It is unfortunate that this fight is continuing after hard years of struggle, tears, and bloodshed by so many who dedicated their lives to the cause of justice and equality. It is my hope and my prayer that one day we will arrive at a point in this country where we can look at each other with an appreciation for the differences we all bring to the world. That we will seek and find common ground, and that the rudeness, incivility, and hatred that are so prevalent today will be silenced  by good people rising up and saying enough is enough.

As a former journalist, I am appalled by the misinformation, half-truths and lies that have coalesced to try to dismantle the fight for racial justice and basic human rights and decency. The need to continue the fight remains as strong as ever; the need for vigorous, fair, and accurate media is more important than ever. As a minister, I see this fight as a just one that calls us all to carry out the commandments Jesus gave us: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbors as yourselves.

What advice do you have for today’s Grady College students?

I would give this advice to today’s Grady College students and young professionals. Research, report and write the truth. Sift critically through the political spins, false narratives, and cacophony of shill voices to bring light and heat to your reporting. Be careful not to become the story. Investigate the theories and stories that really do not make sense, that cause more harm than good, that drive us to become more ignorant than curious about each other. More than ever we need truth seekers, not sensation-provocateurs to help shore up our world for those of us here now and for generations to come.

Black History Month Alumni Profile: Angelique Jackson

Angelique Jackson (ABJ ’12) is a senior entertainment writer for Variety. She previously worked at Entertainment Tonight, where she was awarded two Daytime Emmy Awards as a segment producer. During her time at Grady College, Jackson was a reporter and anchor for Grady Newsource, a member of the Student Alumni Council and a participant in the Cannes Film Festival Study Abroad Program.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

This month is a celebration of all we’ve achieved as Black people, but it shouldn’t be the only celebration. In some ways, I feel like this month serves as a reset – a chance to check in as a community to focus on the future and what hurdles we can overcome next. It’s a moment to take inspiration from those past accomplishments and to use those lessons to build something new.  

Explain a challenge that you had to overcome in your professional career.

The greatest challenge I’ve had to endure in my career was learning to advocate for myself. In school, when you make good grades or put forth a lot of effort, you’re likely rewarded without having to ask. But in real life – and especially in journalism – it’s imperative to promote your work so that your effort cuts above the noise. While your good work will build your professional reputation, there is something to say for engaging with your audience and with your bosses to make sure that people know the effort that you’re putting in.

What classes at Grady College did the most to prepare you for your career?

Newsource was the best preparation any journalist could ask for. I’m always surprised to learn that other journalists in my orbit didn’t have the experience of performing every newsroom duty while still in college. From the first time I transcribed an interview to the moment I stepped onto a red carpet or produced a news segment (live or otherwise), I’ve used the skills that I was taught in those classes about reporting, writing stories, editing, anchoring and more. 

What clubs and activities did you participate in at UGA and Grady that were instrumental to your success as a career professional?

During my tenure at UGA, I was a board member for the Student Alumni Council. That experience taught me so much about the University itself, but it also provided great networking training. As an SAC member, we established relationships with people of all ages and from all sectors of industry. As journalists, relationships are everything and networking is key to that success. Getting the best interviews requires publicists and subjects to trust you and your reporting, and a big part of building that rapport comes from being in the right rooms and knowing how to get there. You never know who you’ll meet that will help you land that next job or bag that exclusive interview!

How has your field of study changed since you were a Grady student?

Broadcast journalism is no longer solely about TV. With the rise of multimedia platforms and social media as a journalism tool, plus the public’s ability to use it and serve as citizen journalists, the definition of “news” and how to get it has expanded — for better or worse. I like to think it’s for the better, not only because it broadens access to the field, but it also stretches the journalists’ imaginations, urging us to think outside of the TV box when it comes to best reaching their audience.

What does the recent movement to continue the fight for racial justice mean to you personally and professionally?

Personally, every day since June 2020 has been trying – but, if I’m honest, living as a Black person in America is trying most days. But we find joy each day, despite it all. Professionally, the recent movement has allowed me to find a way to use my work to fight for racial justice. As a writer and reporter, I’m able to frame the narrative about us as Black people with an emphasis on our humanity and a broader view on what makes our culture distinct, unique and not monolithic. This is a moment when we have the microphone and it’s imperative that we not waste it. 

What advice would you give to young students of color who will soon enter the workforce?

Embrace everything that makes you, you. Embrace your culture, your heritage, your hair, the color of your skin and bring them to your work. Those elements of your personal history and the experiences that you’ve had because you’re a person of color — both positive and challenging — will prove valuable in your reporting because they inform your point of view. Don’t suppress those parts of yourself or allow others to persuade you to do so. We as a journalism community need your voice, but the public that you’re serving needs your perspective even more. Use your lens to tell our stories. 


Black History Month alumni profile: Toyin Adon-Abel Jr.

Toyin Adon-Abel Jr. (ABJ ’05) knew from a young age he wanted to work in marketing, but equally important to him was directing campaigns as a way to understand people and tell their stories.

With these goals in mind, he pursued a degree in journalism with a minor in sociology. 

“I thought by majoring in journalism, I would be a more well-rounded communicator and that it was a better route for my skill set,” Adon-Abel said. “I wanted my marketing to be based in truth and community and understanding people. I thought if I really, really understood people and their motivations and how their environments dictate what they buy and how they interact with brands, I would be a better marketer.”

Today, Adon-Abel is the vice president of marketing operations for Greenwood, an online financial services company that caters specifically to Black and Latino customers around the country. In the evenings, he works on providing marketing services to clients through his marketing agency, Meddling Minds, which he founded in 2020.

Adon-Abel started Meddling Minds as a way to lead what he terms conscious marketing — marketing that has a positive impact on communities. 

“My grandmother always told me I was here for a greater purpose,” Adon-Abel explains. “She said because we spend so much of our lives working, that work needs to be impactful.”

Greenwood was a client of Meddling Minds, so it was a natural transition to oversee marketing operations for the bank. 

Adon-Abel believes in the mission of Greenwood, which provides banking services to underserved communities. He explains that the recirculation of money in Black neighborhoods is negligible because there are few Black-owned businesses, even in Atlanta, a city that is known for welcoming Black people. Adon-Abel said that Black spending power is at an all-time high, but Black wealth is declining and minority populations are continuously exposed to unfair financial practices. 

“That’s where I wanted to spend my time — helping companies that I know are going to help other people,” said Adon-Abel of Greenwood and their service of providing grants to Black-owned businesses and support of HBCUs.

Black History Month and Illumination

Adon-Abel admits he is frustrated by Black History Month because he feels it is not a genuine effort, but instead a “pacifier.” He cites businesses and organizations that get behind the effort for a short time, but don’t do much the rest of the year. He noted that Black History Month is during the shortest month of the year and he doesn’t feel a lot of pride. 

Adon-Abel said: “I think it’s just window-dressing because the country is not interested in admitting its history, learning from it and fixing the issues that still plague Black people in America.”

He believes, however, that the past few years with the racial reckoning have been positive and illuminating. 

“I really believe that the great pause when everyone was at home helped white people understand these things from a Black person’s perspective,” he continued. “Awareness has been raised. I also think the last couple of years have illuminated the way different groups are treated.”

He cites the January 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol as an example. 

Adon-Abel continued: “I guarantee you that most Black people who were watching were saying ‘if they looked like us, this would have been a very different outcome.’ It illuminated the clear difference between how Black and white people are treated.”

Adon-Abel remains positive and thinks that Black students graduating today need to focus on being valued. He notes this especially when he hears professionals advise young people not to leave their first job too soon because it might look bad on their resume. 

“I get nervous that people compromise themselves because they think they need to stay longer,” he said.  “It’s important for people to know their worth, their value, and understand they have power and control over their careers and take more risks.” 

UGA Impact
Toyin Adon-Abel and his wife, Priyanka Adon-Abel who is a graduate of the UGA College of Public Health.

Adon-Abel said when he started at UGA in 2001, less than 1% of campus were Black men and a majority of those students were athletes. Already in a minority group, Adon-Abel was even more in the minority since he was raised in London and spoke with a British accent. He connected with several Black students who he met at orientation and they suggested he get involved with the Visitor’s Center.

Adon-Abel values the time he spent at UGA, especially working with Eric Johnson (ABJ ’86), director of the UGA Visitor’s Center. 

“The person who had the biggest impact on my time at UGA was Eric Johnson,” Adon-Abel said. “Eric is really big on authenticity and tapping into that. When I was struggling with not fitting in, he allowed me to be myself.”

After all these years, Adon-Abel still credits Johnson with being a mentor on campus. “It’s not always the classes that affect you the most, but the extracurricular activities and the relationships with faculty and staff who really try to help you grow.”




Editor’s Note: Shortly after this interview, Adon-Abel reached out upon hearing about Valerie Boyd’s death. He shared the following:
“I’d like to give a special call-out and pay respect to Professor Valerie Boyd. I heard she passed away a couple of days ago. She and I kept in touch via email and Linkedin since my graduation. She was very proud of my career accomplishments and congratulated me on a recent newspaper article that mentioned my work with the Civic Walls Project. She had a long-standing wish to create murals in rural Mississippi. She and I had multiple meetings in 2020 so I could provide advice for her project. I reached out to her last summer to see if the mural had been completed. Below is a picture she shared with me in August 2021. Prof. Valerie had an impact on me during my education at UGA and afterwards. I’m glad that I was able to help her in some kind of way before she passed away. “

Black History Month Alumni Spotlight: Christine Sperow (ABJ ’98)

Editor’s Note: This is the final post in a series of spotlights highlighting the work of some of our alumni in celebration of Black History Month.

Christine Sperow (ABJ ’98) currently works as a news anchor for Fox 5 Atlanta. Before arriving at Fox 5, she was an anchor at WBTV in Charlotte, North Carolina, KLTV in Tyler, Texas and WABG in Greenville, Mississippi. She graduated from Grady College in 1998 with a degree in journalism and was a member of the UGA women’s volleyball team. She is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and National Association of Black Journalists. Her work at WBTV earned numerous Midsouth Regional Emmy Awards, RTDNAC Awards and NABJ Awards.

Explain a challenge that you had to overcome in your professional career.

One challenge I faced before my career even started, was not being able to break into the news business upon graduation. I had it all planned out in my head: finish up my final Grady requirement completing the Communication Law course, walk the stage, get my ABJ degree, then I would land an on-air job by summer! Everything happened… except the latter. I labeled and mailed resume tapes (I’m dating myself – yes, I literally mean VHS tapes) to stations all over the country and didn’t even get a call back. Reality set in and I quickly learned this was going to be a grind. I decided to take a job at one of the local radio stations in Atlanta. I never imagined starting my career in radio but committed to learning about the industry – not only the on-air side but also the business side, working as an assistant to the sales manager. After three years of working my way up the ladder, I decided to give it another try finding a job as a reporter. At this point I was three years removed from graduation and didn’t have “fresh” material to send to news directors. So I recorded myself reading news copy in one of the radio station’s audio booths, I taped a black and white photo of myself on each CD (so the hiring manager would know what I look like) and prayed someone would be inclined to give me a chance. I later received a call from a news director in Greenville, Mississippi. I was so excited to get a call back! I drove 420 miles to the interview, accepted the job offer and left the big city of Atlanta for market 186 to become a bureau reporter for WABG-TV. The rest, as they say, is history! December 31 of this year will mark 20 consecutive years in the business for me.

You can watch Christine at 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Fox 5.
What clubs and activities did you participate in at UGA and Grady that were instrumental to your success as a career professional?

I have fond memories of working the production side of the Newsource student broadcasts at Grady College. The hands-on experience was so valuable because we all got the opportunity to play different behind-the-scenes roles. I was technical director, camera operator, audio operator, production manager. Back then b-roll was edited on tape. I remember loading and cueing up the tapes, waiting for my cue from the director over headsets to play the video. I could remember larger-than-life David Hazinski supervising the whole process of marrying the responsibilities of the broadcast journalism majors and telecom majors to put on an error free newscast (or as close to error free as possible). It was very rewarding to see a newscast come to life from start to finish. At UGA, I was also juggling being a student athlete as a member of the women’s volleyball team. I learned a lot of life lessons through athletics: work ethic, overcoming obstacles, humility, having the right attitude, achieving goals. Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) was also time I would look forward to on Sunday nights. Growing up in the church and having this outlet to fellowship with other believers was truly a blessing. College could be a confusing time as you’re navigating through your walk with Christ, expectations of the world and what your future will be after college. FCA was a great opportunity to be around college-aged peers who are going through similar experiences while being reminded God is in control. 

What does the recent movement to continue the fight for racial justice mean to you personally and professionally?

Personally, we are forever indebted to those who came before us. Those who bravely and, in many cases, risked or lost their lives to speak out against injustices and inequality. I don’t take lightly the fact that I stand on the giant shoulders of civil rights leaders and those who caused “good trouble” to speak to the conscience of our society. My station recently highlighted the work of one woman who didn’t sit back quietly but spoke up back in the 1960s about the lack of Black journalists on air at the very station I work for today in Atlanta. Xernona Clayton’s words opened the eyes of the news executives back then to make a change. In 1967 that change would begin with executives giving Ms. Clayton her very own television show. Today, black women including myself anchor several of the high profile newscasts here at Fox 5 Atlanta. Dr. King rightly said: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Seeing the recent movement and reckoning here in America, the diverse faces of people marching peacefully on behalf of Black and Brown lives was so inspiring. Change is going to take all of us. No matter our backgrounds we must all speak up. 

How has your field of study changed since you were a Grady student?

The internet and social media! No question. When I graduated from Georgia in 1998 the new trend gaining hype was this thing called Hotmail. You can send someone a message electronically and they would receive it almost immediately! (So what was I supposed to do with my pager?) Fast forward to today, my, oh my, how things have changed with the advancement of the internet and social media. Today people aren’t just getting their news from the television. The first place we go to now to get information is the internet, and we’re likely picking up our cell phone to search online — not the remote control.  It was in the 2010s when television stations really started incorporating the social media and internet element into the news business. As reporters and anchors, we had to learn a new skill set to reach a digital audience.

Black History Month Alumni Spotlight: Christopher A. Daniel (MA ’07)

Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of spotlights highlighting the work of some of our alumni in celebration of Black History Month. Please watch for more profiles in the weeks to come.

Christopher Daniel works as a journalist and instructor of multimedia and digital journalism in the Department of Mass Media Arts at Clark Atlanta University. He enjoys writing about popular music and culture, civil rights and education. He has freelanced for publications including HuffPost, The Hip Hop Enquirer, Atlanta Magazine and CBS News, and his work has been recognized by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and NABJ.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month gives the country and even the world an opportunity to really celebrate the contributions and the blood and the sweat that Black people have given to this nation, and to the world at large. It’s a moment for us to really look into all the different areas and genres in which Black people have made certain strides, whether it’s in the arts or in the sciences or in education or entertainment. So I think it is an interesting time for us to be able to celebrate our history, but it’s also just a moment for us to dig deep and try to find those narratives that we haven’t heard before and those moments that can enlighten us and shine a really bright light on things that improve our human condition. Black History Month is a combination of us celebrating the contributions to our nation and just our culture, but also really digging deep to find the stories that we haven’t heard.

Explain a challenge that you had to overcome in your professional career.

I think one of the biggest challenges that I’ve overcome specifically as a Black journalist is getting editors to understand certain things culturally that need to be articulated in writing. Especially over the last few years, now we’re getting to a point where things have to be a little bit more transparent and things have to be a little bit more reflective of the communities that we serve. A great deal of what I’ve spent a lot of my career doing is educating people and educating editors on the ways in which Black communities live. Why does a certain song make sense, or if we go to the barber shop, what sort of resonance does the barber shop have on Black men and us being able to relate to one another? I’ve written about our culinary traditions and our literary canons and what they mean to the larger conversations about uplifting humanity or raising awareness. 

One of the biggest gifts that I’ve been given — because I don’t really look at it as a challenge, I look at it as a gift — is being able to expose people to the ways in which they need to understand humanity better and to really do their jobs better. When we tell stories about underserved or marginalized groups, I bring in a strong sense of pride and humanity to those narratives and really show people that the way in which they perceive Black people and Brown people is not the way the nation sees it. And it’s been a lot of fun doing those stories and really being the voice for my community.

What classes at Grady College did the most to prepare you for your career?

The first time I had a 9000 level class, there were maybe four people, and I was the only Black student and I was the only master’s student in the class. We took this class in the Peabody office, so you look around and you see all these posters of “MTV Unplugged” and “The Simpsons” and “Roots.” When I was in that class, I did a presentation on “The Boondocks,” which was at the time a big show and it was one of my favorite shows on TV. Everyone in that class was a white Ph.D. student, and even the instructor, Horace Newcomb, had no clue what I was doing. I just remember getting all of these questions from Newcomb and I had no clue why I was getting interrogated like that. But literally, probably a week or two weeks after this presentation, I was on MySpace, and I will never forget this. Aaron McGruder, who created that show and the comic strip, was on his MySpace page and posted a quote that said “Hot damn, I just won a Peabody Award.” That showed me the power of the influence that I had and kind of what my voice was meant to do.

Daniel was inspired by Charlayne Hunter-Gault to attend Grady College for his master’s degree.

I had what I call the holy trinity in Grady. This was Dwight Brooks, Andy Kavoori and Nate Kohn; those three were my thesis committee members, and Brooks was my thesis chair. And of course, my thesis was on southern hip hop music through the prism of hip hop publications. Doing something at the time that really wasn’t heavy in higher education and now you’re seeing classes on hip hop, on Outkast or on southern hip hop music in general, and using autobiographies as textbooks now. So to be able to come, you know, maybe 13-14 years later and seeing how we’ve really advanced in terms of the sort of material that we’re using in the conversations that we have. That really lets me know that those two years that I spent at Grady College was a monumental time to really move that needle, and doing this 60 years after Charlayne Hunter-Gault integrated Grady and the University of Georgia, really to me, is a big deal, and that’s what makes me proud to talk about this. The one person that helped to integrate and desegregate that program is someone who inspired and motivated me to make the decision that I made to go to Grady.

What does the recent movement to continue the fight for racial justice mean to you personally and professionally?

I feel as though what has to happen going forward so it’s not performative, that it is genuine, is you have to make sure that students are having these conversations in the media courses that they take. And yes, it’s going to be uncomfortable, but imagine how uncomfortable it is being in the newsroom or going in the community and having to write when there is a protest or someone died or something crazy happened that made national news. Literally turning your classes into incubators and making those spaces where you can have conversations about race and have conversations about sexism, so that once there is a moment where they are assigned to do those stories in the future, they know best practices and how to approach those topics so they’re not uncomfortable with it. I think we have to really do a better job at turning our educational spaces into practices, and optimizing opportunities so that when these larger issues come up in the future because those editors and those writers who are having these problems now, they were students too at some point. We just have to do a better job at really having those hard dialogues and creating tough love out of that so that things can be better.

It’s going to take a village for us to really do those sorts of things voluntarily so that we can make the necessary change that has to happen. But if you want to be a journalist especially, it does start with doing the homework. I would like to think that people that want to do those stories and win Pulitzers and win Peabodys and more awards down the line, that they are taking upon themselves the initiative to do the legwork on the ground as students so that they can morph and matriculate into those spaces where they are the productive citizens doing the necessary work. Even when things are quiet, you still have to be very vocal about what needs improvement because things won’t change if you won’t voice it and put it in people’s faces. You’re doing something that helps the larger community change the nature of what’s going on. 

How has your field of study changed since you were a Grady student?

When we were in school, Facebook was the new thing. And that’s the platform that everybody was using to promote events on campus. If people had potlucks on the weekend, that’s what they used; somebody had a birthday party, that’s what they used. I honestly don’t think people figured out at the time that you can literally use that to disseminate news. Now when you go online, Twitter is the number one way that a lot of young people get their news. You know people have breaking news on TikTok, they’re breaking news on Clubhouse and panels and things of that nature, so the way that social media and digital media have really become virtual news hubs. Now social media is the wire service. 

Another way the industry has changed is we have more spaces where we’re getting opportunities. In those days, internships created pipelines for how students would get their way into ESPN, Bloomberg, and the PR agencies and CNN.  A number of opportunities that I’ve received as a journalist have been because someone sees a tweet. It’s totally leveling the playing field so that we don’t have to look to the more arcane old school ways. It’s actually keeping things a little bit cooler and making things a little bit more laid back to where we don’t have to be so formal all the time, which I think is really a good deal. You’re allowing people who really have good voices and have the education to not necessarily be so uptight about getting their voice out to the world. It’s allowing us to be who we are, and I think that’s probably the biggest blessing that’s changed in time since I’ve been in school. We just have to be very diligent about making sure that when we get students in those moments where they can sell themselves on those platforms, they know that the stuff that they’re putting out there needs to have a certain look to it so they can get the moment in the sun that they’re looking for.