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Center for Journalism and Democracy executive director talks partnership with TSU

Written by on April 13, 2023

By Amber Land

The Center for Journalism and Democracy’s [CJD] executive director visited Texas Southern University on April 11 to discuss partnering with the School of Communication. 

Dr. Kali-Ahset Amen talked to TSU students and faculty about the center’s vision to double down on journalism training. She said Historically Black Colleges and Universities [HBCUs] are the right ones to lead the charge.

Dr. Kali-Ahset Amen speaks at TSU. Photo by RTF major Joshua Molock.

“We believe the journalist cannot sit on the sidelines as we watch our democracy, disassembled again and again by antidemocratic forces,” Amen said, “We want to take up the reins that the Black press tradition has already laid out for us.”

The vision is to make American democracy stronger, according to Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, founder of the CJD.

Hannah-Jones created the center to advocate for what she said is historically informed, pro-democracy journalism. 

“We have seen the rise of a powerful, reactionary press that is untethered to facts,” Amen said, “A media landscape that is spreading divisive ideas through disinformation campaigns, distortions of truth, and racist fear-mongering.”

TSU students and faculty listen to a speech by Dr. Kali-Ahset Amen. Photo by RTF major Joshua Molock.

This is why the center wants to partner with TSU. To help establish extensive investigative reporting across HBCUs. 

“We are trying to think about ways of amplifying the journalism program to ensure that students are also learning methods of critical historical research,” Amen said, “Investigative reporting is one of the highest callings of the profession, and it requires a special set of techniques, and it requires a special set of resources.”

The CJD’s partnership with TSU sets out to help train the next generation of storytellers and truth seekers. 

From Left to Right: Journalism major Jayhlin Rodgers, SOC Professor Art Murray, SOC Dean Dr. Chris Ulasi, CJD executive director Dr. Kali-Ahset Amen, SOC Assistant Dean Serbino Sandifer-Walker, Defender Group publisher Sonny Messiah Jiles, RTF major No Pierre. Photo by RTF major Joshua Molock.

“I truly believe that the partnership between Texas Southern University and the Center for Journalism and Democracy will last generations and continue to make us better investigative journalists,” TSU student Mario Dunham said.

Dunham and four other TSU student journalists got the opportunity to attend the center’s inaugural Democracy Summit on November 15, 2022.

“Our hope at the Center for Journalism and Democracy, our vision, our grand dream – should we be so blessed to realize it – is that over the next few years, we can establish an investigative reporting course and a practicum opportunity at six major HBCU journalism programs,” Amen said.

Amen’s visit to TSU came with a clear message as she spoke to the auditorium filled with young faces. Young faces, she said, are the legacy of Ida B. Wells, Frederick Douglass, Ron Nixon, and more. 

“There is a legacy we are standing in and standing for.”

Dr. Kali-Ahset Amen, CJD Exective Director

The CJD hopes to continue that legacy and journey at TSU.

Publishers from Houston’s Black Press also met Dr. Amen, including Sonny Messiah Jiles of the Defender Group, Anthony Ogbo of the International Guardian, and Nakia Cooper of the Bayou Beat.

TSU students, faculty, Black press publishers, and Dr. Amen in the MLK auditorium. Photo by RTF major Joshua Molock.
Mario Dunham, Jayhlin Rodgers, Professor Serbino Sandifer-Walker, Amber Land and Matthew Parker at the CJD conference on Nov. 15.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and TSU journalism major Amber Land at CJD summit on Nov. 15. 2022.
Dr. Amen with international award-winning author Ta-Nehisi Coates at CJD summit on November 15.