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UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media hosts first ever Black History Showcase

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Photo Courtesy of Kayla Evans.

On Thursday, the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media hosted its first-ever Black History Showcase. Organized by a group of students in the school, the event spotlighted the work and achievements of Black Hussman students, alumni, staff and faculty.

While the idea and inspiration for the event are not new, Eleazar Yisrael, one of the student organizers of the event, said that concrete planning began only about a month ago. Despite this, Yisrael said that he was passionate about the meaning behind the event.

“In this event, we wanted to highlight that aspect of awareness," he said. "Awareness for the history, awareness for the experience, awareness for a motivation for progression."

The event began with a slideshow showcasing a variety of work from Hussman students and alumni including photography, movies, articles, comedy sketches and more. One of the students whose work was featured, Kayla Evans, said that submitting her work at the showcase was incredibly easy and it was very cool seeing her work displayed beside that of her peers.

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Photo Courtesy of Kayla Evans.

While the slideshow of work was created for the Black History Showcase, Raul Reis, dean of the Hussman School, said that this slideshow will continue to be shown all around Hussman.

“The idea is to have — in the next few weeks — the work playing on the screens all the time," he said. "It's another way to honor the work, to appreciate the work."

In addition to being a showcase of work, the event also included a panel of three Black Hussman alumni. The panelists — all working in media-adjacent fields — touched on their experiences at UNC and their experiences in the professional world, providing insight and advice to current Hussman students.

During the panel, Rahsaan Johnson, a Hussman alumnus and managing director of international communications at Delta Airlines, discussed experiencing “imposter syndrome” in post-university endeavors, and how that fits into experience of being young and Black.

Johnson emphasized the necessity for all people in positions of authority, specifically Black people, to advocate for those underrepresented at companies and to speak up on their behalf.

“You will experience moments where you are in rooms with people doing the type of work that makes you think, ‘Oh my God, why am I here?’ And you know what you do? Embrace it. Embrace that feeling,” Johnson said.

Hussman alumna, fellow panelist and chief communications officer of the LEPR Agency, LaToya Evans echoed Johnson's sentiment.

Evans said that she experienced similar feelings at the beginning of her career and also said that she believed that the position of Black people in the workplace has improved since she entered it. Evans said that Black History Month is not just about looking back but also forward.

“I see all the different opportunities for me to speak or to highlight the work we've done and influence what that looks like," she said. "It's helped me to realize that really, Black history is not just where we've come from, but it's also what we're currently doing. And that is the progression."

When discussing looking back on experiences at UNC, Qieara Lesesne, a panelist, Hussman graduate and producer at Vogue, spoke about the importance of recognizing the difference between the individual experiences of Black students at UNC.

“The Black experience at UNC — as it is anywhere — is totally different," she said. "It's unique. But Black people, we're not a monolith. I’ve had trouble having this discussion over generations of Tar Heels and across the years. Every story is different.”

After the event, Kayla Evans said it was amazing to hear from a panel of such successful alumni who are “killing the game,” adding that the panelists at the event helped assure her that pursuing a career in creative spaces is not only possible but valued.

Although the event is the first of its kind at the Hussman School, Yisrael said he hopes it can continue to grow and be hosted for many years in the future.

“To have voices, to have a chance to showcase people's perspectives, people's work, and to hear from them — it's like a dream come true,” Yisrael said.

Editor's Note: Qieara Lesesne and LaToya Evans are former staffers of The Daily Tar Heel. 

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