By Joshua Burrell
At an intimate event on Saturday, July 16, the Girls Like Me Project, Inc. (GLMPI) honored local Black women in news media who have been instrumental in advocating for Black voices in Chicago. The honorarium also recognized the birthday of African American investigative journalist, educator, and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells..
Honorees were acknowledged at the GLMPI Ladies Lair on Michigan Avenue for amplifying representation and journalistic inclusion of Black girlhood.
“These women were chosen because they are the vanguard,” founder and director of GLMPI, LaKeisha Gray-Sewell said. “They’ve been veterans doing this thing for a long time. All of them have been deliberate and intentional in having a righteous narrative for Black people.”
Honorees included Black women journalists and media professionals Lolly Bowean, Jamie Nesbitt, Rosalind Cummings Yates, Brandis Friedman, Colin Evans, Carrie Walker, Tia Jones, Kathy Chaney, and Samantha Thomas. Their storytelling ensures that Black people in Chicago are positively represented by members of their own communities.
In the GLMPI main office before the event, BlockClubChicago journalist Lolly Bowean spoke about the utility of diversity in storytelling.
“If we want our news products to reflect the community, then we have to have the entire community there and available,” Bowean said. “One of the benefits of having a newsroom that looks like the community is that then you get an accurate and balanced portrayal of the community so that you’re not just reflecting a community through the lens of one perspective.”
To maintain social distancing, vendors lined the street outside the GLMPI Lair. All vendors, the DJ, and the catering company at the ceremony were Black woman-owned. Vendor Malaika Martin with M. Martin Creative noted that being at the event was her ongoing practice of collaborating and uplifting other Black woman-owned businesses.
The event started around noon with a brunch reception and mimosas. Guests, including honorees, mingled among one other in the two out-facing rooms that are home to GLMPI.
Gray-Sewell gave a teary and authentic opening speech about the impact of Black storytellers on the youth and members of their communities. Outside the brunch reception, honoree and Bronzeville and Near South Side reporter at the BlockClubChicago, Jamie Nesbitt, spoke about what the GLMPI honor meant to her.
“For me, journalism is advocacy, and being able to amplify voices that are usually left out of the hard conversations is important,” Nesbitt said. “I don’t do this for accolades, but it’s nice to be recognized.”
The honorees accepted foliage and purple flower crowns that represented love, royalty, and fertility. They were then presented Ida B. Wells dolls, gifted by a GLMPI donor, and a goodie bag with GLMPI branded items.
“This event embodies GLMPI’s mission to demonstrate positive images and examples of sisterhood and how to use their media platforms as representatives of Black Girl Magic,” Gray-Sewell said. “The influence of these outstanding women is a source of inspiration for Black girls. We believe our honorees are the embodiment of what a true GLMPI champion is all about.”
GLMPI aims to affirm and amplify Black girls by instilling in them that they can be catalysts for revolution. For 10 years, GLMPI has organized initiatives for Chicago Black girls between the ages of 11 and 17. GLMPI offers job opportunities, social-emotional development, and a 6-to-13-week program called D.I.V.A.S In the City Storytelling, which trains girls in media literacy and production.
Josh Burrell (they/them) is a freelance writer for the Chicago Crusader Newspaper, pursuing a master’s of journalism science from Northwestern University. They hold a bachelor’s degree in Cinema, Television, and Emerging Media Studies from Morehouse College. Joshua is a cross-topic journalist and street photographer from Maryland. Follow Josh on Instagram/ Twitter or LinkedIn. DM comments or suggestions. Thanks for reading.