I just returned from the annual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists, which was held jointly this year with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
I had planned to write about the joy of seeing old friends, of sharing memories from 33 years in this organization.
I had planned to share wisdom gleaned from the fantastic seminars I attended and the successful forum I planned.
I thought I might mention again how much I miss working with the young journalists I helped train as a mentor in the student newspaper project for 22 years and the ones I’ve helped train in high school journalism workshops since 1984.
But all of that took a back seat when I read this Facebook post from one of my “babies.” That is because what NABJ provides most is a place for all of us to help – and to share how we help – make each other better, even in the face of horrible discrimination, racism and bias in our newsrooms, our towns, our lives.
So rather than read a long post from me, read this from my friend and newspaper son, Marlon A. Walker.
In a few words, he explains why we must write our own stories, no matter how many times people complain about it. We must be the better people because we have always had to be. And as my Twitter feed begins:
I planned to gush tonight about attending #NABJNAHJ16 and my first year on the board, then I met Mrs. Ella.
I was heading into a restaurant in Greenville, S.C., for breakfast when the older woman in front of me, maybe in her 70s, stumbled. Reacting, I put out my forearm to catch her from the back. She said thanks, turned to see my face and recoiled.
Seeing the disappointment on my face in that moment, she later came to me before I left to apologize. “I never met a nice colored before, so thank you.”
I’d just spent the week with my family, celebrating Mama Rochelle Riley and having conversations with the likes of Sheila Brooks, Paula Madison andMizell Stewart III about storytelling, my role in the process, and why our beloved organization MUST be great.
Then, I met Mrs. Ella.
She’s why we tell our stories, y’all.
She’s that parent who missed the Board of Education meeting you sat through. She’s the voter unaware of the issues. She’s the one who believes#AllLivesMatter.
Hopefully, in my kindness, I gave her a different view. Maybe the next black man she sees won’t make her flinch.
After spending a week running into Wesley Lowery and Glenn Marshall andDelano Lanny Massey, getting face time with Errin Haines Whack and Nicki Mayo and exposing Sharon Harris to our annual gathering, it was Mrs. Ella who reinforced why we meet.
I can’t wait to get back to work tomorrow. And I cannot wait for New Orleans.
Our lives are lived in moments. Moment-by-moment, we change others’ lives and our own. Yes we can be sick and tired of being sick and tired of racism and discrimination and foolishness. But, as African Americans, we have always been the bigger people. We’ve had to be. I thank Marlon for sharing this moment, which changed my moment and my day.
Marlon A. Walker is a writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Rochelle Riley’s newspaper column can be found at www.freep.com/rochelleriley. These are her personal reflections about her pursuit of life, liberty and whatever the hell else she wants. Follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley.