I knew from the youthful round-cheeked photos of some of my fellow mentees that I was most likely drinking a Long Island Iced Tea next to the campus of the University of Oklahoma when most of them were conceived. However, I had zero time to be concerned about the generation gap because we hit the ground running and have not stopped since. I have learned so much about myself this week. Here are a few takeaways from my time spent with NPR’s Next Generation Radio:

#1. The Staff – 

I cannot say enough about these people without sounding like a full-on “kiss ass.” The level of professionalism was incredible. The pace of this cohort was extremely fast. The organization, the patience, the levity that some of them brought is exactly the type of culture I would like to see in my organization and my business as it grows. The most significant impression I took away from this experience is the authenticity of the people who I had the privilege to learn from. There were no hidden agendas, no desire to tell our stories “their way,” which is very rare when it comes to Greenwood and the Tulsa Race Massacre.

After Day 1, I could breathe easily because I knew I could trust Next Gen to want to “get it right.” On a personal level, I could see the respect they have for each other, as well as the mentees. Many times (on Wednesday), I wanted to give up. I knew I never would, but I certainly felt overwhelmed. I have not pushed myself to the limits as much as I should. I need to change this about myself.

*Special shoutout to Kateleigh! She survived a week of me, and for that alone, she should be rewarded. I have learned so much from her, and it makes me happy to know people like her are bringing us the stories that affect our daily lives. Her grasp of Tulsa’s history of Greenwood is astonishing (not exaggerating) because so many fail to get it, which is probably more intentional than I’d like to believe.

#2. The Good Guys Are Still Around

I listen to NPR, as I have almost most of my adult life. When my children were young, that’s what I played in our car. As a correspondent for FOCUS: Black Oklahoma, I had stories on the local NPR stations, but that was the extent of my alignment. I am so PROUD to have worked directly with an organization that practices responsible journalism and wants the profession to reflect the diverse society it is a part of accurately.

 #3. Our Voices Matter, Too

This had the potential to be a full-on anxiety attack-filled week for me, the proverbial procrastinator. I have learned the value of pushing myself to the mental limits. Another valuable lesson I thought I knew, but was reinforced this week, is the value of trusted journalism. The media is a very powerful entity, and the care it takes to craft a story is very necessary.

Next Generation Radio is so important for our society. This program is intentional about training and equipping those whose voices have historically been shut down with tools they need to be successful. Anyone can go to school and learn, but the hands-on training, the real-time feedback and access given to mentees is invaluable. By encouraging and advocating for young people of color to consider this field, more marginalized voices will be heard and their stories will be shared from an inside perspective.

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