By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, [email protected]

When studying to be a journalist, many programs teach a need for grit and fearlessness in order to relay stories and speak truth to power, and that is what esteemed journalists Alexi McCammond and Dr. Sheila Brooks do in their work and action.  McCammond’s and Brooks’ dedication to their craft was celebrated at the 2019 Hall of Fame Luncheon, when they received awards at the 2019 National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) convention in Miami.

The annual Hall of Fame Luncheon took place on August 9 at the JW Marriot Turnberry Resort and Spa- Aventura and was hosted by legendary actress Alfre Woodard and NBC and MSNBC anchor and correspondent Craig Melvin.

Respected anchor Craig Melvin and legendary actress Alfre Woodard present Dr. Sheila Brooks with the Ida B. Wells award at the Hall of Fame Luncheon at the 2019 National Association of Black Journalists convention. (Photo by Micha Green)

McCammond, a White House correspondent for Axios, received the Emerging Journalist of the Year award.

“I am so incredibly grateful to receive this award,” said McCammond according to a statement from NABJ. “Truly, from the bottom of my heart, I am honored to be recognized as the Emerging Journalist of the Year and will use this as further motivation in my reporting career. Thank you to NABJ and everyone who’s come before me for leading the way, believing in me, and giving me invaluable opportunities to learn and grow.”

Brooks, a respected journalist, CEO of SRB Communications and founder of NABJ’s Student Multimedia Projects, also remembered those who came before her, as she received the Ida B. Wells award.

Respected anchor Craig Melvin and legendary actress Alfre Woodard present Alexi McCammond with the Emerging Journalist of the Year Award at the Hall of Fame Luncheon at the 2019 National Association of Black Journalists convention. (Photo by Micha Green)

“You know our experiences define who we are.  I am who I am and what I stand for today, because of my mother in heaven, who tired of picking cotton on her grandmother’s farm in Holly Springs, Mississippi.  Her mother died when she was only seven years old. And she left home at 13-years-old during the Great Depression, finding her way to Kansas City, Missouri, which became my hometown,” Dr. Brooks told the audience.  

She found inspiration in her mother’s strength, which she likened to that of her award’s namesake.

“I stand here today on the shoulder’s of the uncompromising and unapologetic Black feminist and Civil Rights activist Ida B. Wells.  Oh how, similar they were- my mother and Ida B. Wells. Courageous women, fearless women, with grit, commitment and passion… And I still find it amazing that these two women were born and raised in Holly Springs, Mississippi.  My mother was only 14-years-old when Ida B. Wells died in 1931. Both of these fierce and phenomenal women left a legacy. They taught us every tomorrow is a vision of hope. They had what I call “sister girl guts.”

Fellow journalists also lauded Brooks’ strength.

“When I met Sheila, I thought, ‘Wow, I’m in good hands. I’m really fortunate to be here,” said WUSA 9 anchor Lesli Foster in a video dedication to Brooks. 

Foster was one of the students who participated in NABJ’s Student Multimedia Projects under Brooks’ direction.

“It was clear that she was both knowledgeable and caring.  That she knew her stuff. That she see could stuff in us. That she could see our potential,” Foster added.

“To have someone with Sheila’s background and experience, having your back, not only showing you the techniques and how to do what you need to do, but also giving you the will power and the desire to continue and be excellent at it.  This is a great gift that Sheila has given,” veteran journalist, former WJLA anchor and co-founder of NABJ Maureen Bunyan said in the Brooks dedication video.

“I know I’m tough when it comes to training and mentoring young people, but I’m tough, because I also know what a fierce world it is out there, and how they have to be better than the next person trying to get that job,” Brooks said.

Brooks emphasized the importance of fierce and brave journalism in today’s age. 

“As I watch those that I mentor excel, I am filled with joy for the opportunity to serve.  So I say to you…continue the good fight. Fight the fight,” Brooks told the crowd at the Hall of Fame Luncheon.  “Now more than ever, we have to stand against racism, we have to tear down those barriers, be vigilante and unmovable, unwavering and steadfast. Be deliberate in thought and intentional in action.”