A young man, without words, teaches an older generation about humanity, patience & Lawd, when…

Former Washington Post crew Rochelle Riley, Athelia Knight, Shirley Carswell and Gwen Ifill join current staffer Dudley Brooks at NABJ/NAHJ.

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:

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Here’s Marlon: 

I planned to gush tonight about attending ‪#‎NABJNAHJ16‬ and my first year on the board, then I met Mrs. Ella.

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 8.04.51 AMI 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.

The world is small, and so is America.

I decided five years ago that I had not seen enough of the world. So I set a goal: See 20 countries.

Now, I am seeing the world through the eyes of people like me in cities that once were just dots on a map: Dakar, Senegal; Migori, Kenya; Johannesburg, South Africa; Capetown, South Africa; Queenstown, New Zealand; Sydney, Australia. These visits came after fellowship trips to the beautiful cities of Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Amsterdam, London, Paris, Rome and Turin, Italy. And those visits came after long ago, initial, close-to-home trips to Toronto, Cancun, Acapulco, which all opened my eyes to the truth:

The world is so small.

I was amazed by how comfortable I was, how easily I traveled. I stood next to buildings I’d dreamed of seeing, such as the Sydney Opera House, thousands of miles from home. And it felt so right, exciting, but like I was supposed to be there.

So on I go to two new countries: Myanmar and Thailand, which a New York times In Transit piece just mentioned yesterday, a week after I planned my trip to Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Thailand. Psychic? Read about them hereScreen Shot 2015-02-26 at 5.13.31 AM

While business takes me there, pleasure will keep me going back. And as much as I love Thai food cooked in America, I cannot wait to see and taste its origins.

I also am continuing to see all of America. I have visited 33 states. I pin my travels on two large maps of the world and the U.S. I used to keep the global map in my office in the newsroom. My editor would occasionally come by and point to the wide swath of the U.S. that I have skipped: Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas. “You missed a spot,” he’d say. And we’d both laugh.

With only 17 states to go, I’ve decided that, occasionally, I will drive. I understand, for the first time, why the family trips were by car, past places on the way to places. I’m the kind of person who would take the detour to see the world’s largest ball of string.

The journeys mean so much now.

And when I return, I’ll plan my next trip to another state, one of the 17 that await my arrival. Excuse me if it’s Hawaii.

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I have plenty of time to see New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont. (Had I been a political reporter, I’d have been there a dozen times by now, but I was too young to catch: the homespun significance of the 1949 Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 5.52.42 AMprimary when Eisenhower beat Taft and Estes Kefauver beat President Harry S Truman; and the 1968 primary when Sen. Eugene McCarthy asked Jesus whether He was running with him. I was too busy not covering politics to write about the 1992 primary when President Bill Clinton become the first incumbent to not win New Hampshire, but won a second term anyway.

I’ve got time to see Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island. I have a friend, a UNC classmate in Providence, whom I’m sure would show me around “The Ocean State.”

Montana will still be there. So will Wyoming, Idaho, Nebraska, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arkansas. And Mount Rushmore isn’t going anywhere.

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ROCHELLE RILEY is a writer whose essays here are about her personal thoughts and adventures. No reprints without permission.
You can read her columns at www.freep.com/rochelleriley and follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley.

Finding kindred spirits
in an office supply store

You meet the nicest people in the strangest places.

This time, I was at an office supply store to buy card stock for a church project. As I searched the shelves unsuccessfully for what I needed, I overheard a couple next to me talking about card stock. They had been looking for a while and hadn’t found what they wanted either.

1After five or six more minutes in a deserted aisle, I dialed the store’s number and reached customer service. Suddenly, the store intercom blasted  that a customer call was waiting. Apparently that isn’t allowed to happen. I watched a clerk rush to the phone and happily say:

“How can I help you?”

“We’re in the paper aisle and need some help,” I said. “Could you please send someone over?”

I heard the clerk laughingly and loudly tell someone “She’s calling from the store!”

Another clerk walked quickly over to greet us.

“Hi, I’m looking for white card stock, and I only need 40 sheets. Do you have anything close to that?” I pointed to the shelf filled with packs of 250 and 500 sheets.

Nope, he told me. I had to buy a 250-sheet pack.

Suddenly, the guy standing nearby said: “Well, that’s what we’re looking for, and we only need 80 sheets! Why don’t we split a pack?”

He was half of a really nice couple, the kind of people you’re glad to run into, the kind of people who say hello as you pass by.

A few minutes later, we paid for OUR paper at the register, and then split it in half: about 125 sheets each. Then we went our separate ways.

I don’t know why that moment made me feel so good, except this: Three strangers joined together and shared a little victory against a retail machine that doesn’t always work the way we want.

Yay us.

ROCHELLE RILEY is a writer and blogger whose posts here are about her personal adventures. You can read her columns at www.freep.com/rochelleriley and follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley.


Use Lenten Season to become a good memory

1962651_10152085125563381_1856722289_nNo matter what church I’ve attended for worship – AME Zion, United Methodist, Baptist, United Church of Christ, we have always commemorated the Season of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday and is a time of penance, reflection and fasting to prepare for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday.

That resurrection is the door He left open for our redemption. It represents the moment that even the greatest nonbeliever understood who He was and whose He was.

But fasting doesn’t always mean from food. Many of the Christians fast rom something for 40 days, a sacrifice that helps them be faithful to the season and to count down to redemption.

I’ve given up something every year.  This year is no different.

Except that I’m sharing my time of sacrifice with a friend.

This year, my dear friend, Melia and I chose each other’s sacrifice. I shall not reveal hers, but she chose for me something that means I will have more time and money to devote to worthier causes than myself: No movies for 40 days and nights.

kinopoisk.ruThat’s right – no matinees, no $8 popcorns, no films.

That means I won’t see The 300: “Rise of an Empire” until after it’s been in theaters for weeks.  I predicted the success of “The 300,” a brilliant re-imagined account of the Battle of Thermopylae, when King Leonidas led 300 Spartans  into battle against Xerses, a magically powerful Persian who led a 300,000 man army.  The film earned more than $450 million at the box office. Its sequel, while just as flawed and just as historically accurate, will be just as good, I think.

I also won’t see “Veronica Mars,” the film I’ve been waiting for for almost seven years. It’s based on a CW TV show that I LOVED, and I was thrilled by the Kickstarter campaign to fund its filming.

MV5BMTQ4MDc0Mjg4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODk3NjYyMTE@._V1_SX214_I am one of those people who sees movies on opening day, on Friday nights, before the social network has anointed or killed them. I go to premieres as often as I can to see movies before they’re tainted by opinions I don’t trust.

I love movies.

So at first, I was horrified by Melia’s choice. But then I realize she chose exactly right, and I am grateful. I’ll save countless hours at at least $200 bucks, which I’m sure a charity could use more.

I have another sacrifice I’m making that is between God and me. It is a spiritual and special thing that probably means more to God.

But please use the season, whether you believe in only this world or this and more, to reflect on who you are and who you can be.

And no matter what age you are, please find ways to be a good memory after you’re gone!

ROCHELLE RILEY is a writer and blogger whose posts here are about her personal adventures. You can read her columns at www.freep.com/rochelleriley and follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley.

Blessings learned from a car accident

I was driving down Cadieux toward Mack.  The name of the streets don’t really matter. I had just left dinner with a good friend and was headed home.

As I approached the car in front of me, which was at a stop sign, my car surged forward. I smashed my foot on the break and for a second, just a second, I wondered where I was. You know how some people say they hear a Bang or a Crash, or a Thud at the point of impact between two cars I will never be able to tell you what it sounded like when the car hit mine. I just remember hearing nothing else for just a moment.

Not the car in front of me that continued through the stop sign.

Not the cars that swerved around our stopped cars to continue their journeys.

I thought about getting out of the car until I glanced around and saw only complete darkness, no other cars and a sign to the right that said “Welcome to Grosse Pointe.”

I was on the other side of that sign, outside of it.

And the driver behind me didn’t get out.

I dialed 911 and a rude woman answered and asked whether I was hurt, whether I could walk, whether the car was hurt. I told her I wasn’t sure but that I was reluctant to get out and check the car because the guy who had rear-ended me was still sitting in his car.

“Do you want EMS?” she said, impatient, bored, ready to move on.

“No,” I told her. “I’d like an officer.”

There was a pause, then she said she’d send someone. I could hear in her voice that it wasn’t true.

The driver got out and walked to the window, and I breathed a sign of relief. He appeared to be 16 years old.

“There’s no damage to the cars and you’re OK and I’m OK, so why don’t we just leave?”

I could imagine him having to tell his mother about the accident. He had been visiting his girlfriend and had to go through what he called “a bad neighborhood” to get home. She had called him. He reached to get the phone and ran into me.

It was his mother’s fault.

I asked for his registration, insurance card and driver’s license and took pictures of them with my Iphone. Then I turned the camera to the teenager. I need to get a picture of you, I told him. I don’t know why. Maybe I was in shock. Maybe I knew that no police officer was coming, that we’d be leaving and that I’d never see this kid again.

I said “Smile.”

And he did.

And I felt horrible. Poor kid.

I gave him back his information, made him promise to drive slowly and to stay off the phone.

“Yes ma’am,” he said.

I headed home to whatI’d learn later would be weeks of physical therapy for some weird thing with my neck and back.

I’m sure the police just arrived at the scene today – nearly two weeks later. My X-rays showed that my spine is in tact.

But one can find blessings in everything, even a car accident. So I knew three things to be true:

That young man will never talk on the phone while driving again.

I won’t be playing tennis for a while.

And I am really, really blessed because the thing I fear most – the car air bag – didn’t attack me, and I’m going to be just fine.



Sometimes you need a silent weekend

WASHINGTON, D.C._ It is the silence that is most pleasant.

Yes, it is Washington, D.C.

Yes, we are two days away from the Presidential Inauguration.

Yes, there are hundreds of thousands of additional people in town.

But it took only a moment for me to decide how I wanted to spend my long weekend. I wanted to sequester myself somewhere without television, without distractions, without people so I could just write. And thanks to my friend,  Michael who found it for me, I’m there.

I’m on my laptop in a beautifully restructured mansion in Washington,D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood. The lemon ginger tea is hot. And I am at peace having days, hours, moments totally to myself.

And it is really true: It is the silence that is most pleasant.

Sometimes you need to take a moment to reflect, to work on a book, to think about  what’s next, to just be. Everyone should take a moment, find a moment to breathe, to study your life map and make sure you’re headed in the right direction.

And if I may offer a bit of advice, do it where there is no noise.

The Jar: Counting our blessings all year long in 2013

The Facebook posting stopped me short.

A California nonprofit was encouraging Facefriends to find an empty jar and – beginning January 1 – filling it up regularly with good things that happen all year. Then on New Year’s Eve, anyone who does can open one of The. Best. Presents. Ever.

I’m in.

I’ve done this before – on a smaller scale. When I’ve hosted celebrations, I’ve given guests cards to write notes. No further instructions. Some of those have been among the most moving, special gifts I’ve ever received.

And at a recent work anniversary celebration, I hired a photo booth and I have dozens of photo strips of and with friends.

But this? This is something different. This is a reminder to take a moment every now and again over an entire year and celebrate.

I always say: Celebrate the small victories. They count.

Now, we get to count them.

I’m doing it, and I’m excited about it. Who’s with me?


Facebook chat leads to . . . wait for it . . . an actual phone conversation and a good moment between old friends

So anyway, there was a moment this morning that reminded me of when we used to talk to each other in person.

I had sent a friend a Facebook message that I needed to talk to him. He said he’d call right away. Then he asked for 20 minutes to freshen up. I told him that was fine. It would give me time to put on some pants.

It was funny, for a minute.

But then I realized that I had not seen my friend in a year. It had been more than a year. Now, we’re not great friends. We don’t visit each other’s homes or go to lunch every week. He’s more a friend of a girlfriend who moved to Los Angeles and became a celebrity journalist and was no longer the bridge that connected me to this great guy, who’s a married father and writer who’s awesome but whom a single woman can’t hang out with alone.

But when I said I needed to chat, his response was immediate: Let me freshen up and call you. He was still funny and still my friend.

We talked. It was great. I needed a favor. He was as happy to help as if he’d seen me last week.

So I may invite his family out to dinner because we can’t lose people. When we do, we lose moments we’ll one day wish we had.

With a friend like Mark . . . and an Otter Box

Celebrated the eve of my birthday with wonderful friends in Washington, D.C. and learned two valuable lessons. My friend, Mark and I had a small accident on the way Jaleo’s, my favorite restaurant, in Arlington, Va.

We were chatting and laughing and Mark turned the corner to sharply, running over the extremely high medians (as Arlington tends to have in the city center). He got out and tried to push the car back over the nearly-foot high concrete barrier. No go. So he asked me to get behind the wheel.

I was holding my coat (The weather was gorgeous!) and my phone in my lap. I jumped out, ran around and took the wheel. I steered in reverse, while he pushed us out of a predicament.

Only when I got to the restaurant a little while later and got read ty take photos, did I remember that my Iphone had been on my lap!

Mark dutifully went back to the car to, hopefully, find it on the floor.

We got worried when he had been gone for more than 20 minutes.

Suddenly, he walked in and handed me an Iphone. I said “This isn’t mine.” LOL! Silly me. Of course it was mine, minus one Otter Box case that had kept my phone from being destroyed when it landed in in the street and was run over.

Yes, run over.

When Mark didn’t find the phone in the car, he dialed my number, and a Marriott-Crystal City Gateway employee who had found it on the street answered, saying “Is this your phone?” Mark drove over to get it.

Phone is FINE!

Two lessons: 1) Everyone should use an Otter Box to protect their Iphones.

2) Everyone should have a friend like Mark.