On Monday night, February 5 my mentor and friend April Ryan graciously came to speak to our journalism and public relations students about her more than two decades’ long career as a member of the White House Press Corps. I have known April for years now, not intimately, but more admiringly as she has graciously served as a mentor to me at the request of our mutual mentor and professor, Dr. Allan Kennedy. You see, as alums of Morgan State University’s Telecommunications program, Dr. Kennedy always made sure that graduates give back and stay connected with one another. Therefore, he connected her to me and in turn, has connected me to those who came after me to mentor them.
As I watched and listened in awe of April, I reflected on her journey to this moment in time as if it were my own. This journalism, media, public relations industry is no joke – especially for brown girls like us. The fact that April is now in her moment of greatness is both well-deserved and about time. But with all of the opportunities to serve as CNN commentator, the numerous books published, the articles written about her in support of her work, she still stands before our students, humbled and willing to continue to mentor just as Dr. Kennedy taught us to do.
In my mind, I have always been a reluctant mentor. I know that my students appreciate what I do for them, but honestly, it’s exhausting. I am proud to have hired MSU alums to work for me; to have secured many a job opportunity for my students; and to have connected numerous more with others who can help them in their careers. But sometimes I wonder – can I be done now? Can I do something else? I have other dreams and desires – dreams to draw, to sew, to travel, to create, to make. But on Monday, I looked and listened, and admired April way in the back row of that fully packed house, and I got my answer – no, you are not done. April isn’t done. We still have work to do.
Just knowing that there is still a lack of diversity in media, journalism and PR; just knowing that so many of the young people I encounter are drifting and are clueless about how to navigate this industry; just knowing that April is still willing to make time for future journalism and PR students to tell them that they are desperately needed in political journalism and beyond was my reminder that there is still work to be done. So, I think I am ready to continue on – just for a little while longer.