Last year I took you to Philly with the National Association of Black Journalists for their annual convention. This year, we went down in the Big Easy to the hometown of the current NABJ’s president, Gregory Lee Jr. Over 2,200 attendees filled the ballrooms, bars and meeting rooms at the Hilton Riverside Hotel June 20-24 in New Orleans for a weekend of live entertainment, exclusive celebrity appearances, informative workshops and a hiring career fair (they were actually hiring this year!). This was my fifth NABJ Convention and I almost missed out on this years festivities. I financially couldn’t afford the trip. Just when I had given up on being able to go, NABJ announced a hardship scholarship that would award a selected amount of members a partial or fully paid registration. I applied the first moment I saw the press release posted on Facebook. I patiently waited for a response. In the meantime, I booked my hotel room and looked for flights. Hey, I was being optimistic. Thankfully, my registration was paid in full by NABJ.
Fast forward to my arrival at Louis Armstrong Airport. I was told by those who arrived before me the hotel wasn’t let anyone check into their room. On Day 1, hundreds of angry Black journalists is not a good day for customer service. Twitter was hotter than a cajun crawfish that day with the complaints filling up everyone’s timeline. Thankfully by the time I arrived the computer system was up and running. But that did leave a bad taste in people’s mouth from the first day. I felt like this year the majority of people arrived on Wednesday in comparison in years past when the bulk of people came in on Thursday. It was clear that this was a successful registration. Especially, with NABJ pulling out of UNITY in Las Vegas last minute, the turnout in New Orleans was remarkable. I think it was mostly because New Orleans is a popular tourist city that many conference attendees wanted to see.
The opening ceremony really captured the culture of ‘Nawlins with the “2nd line” and funeral dance rituals performed. The speech given by the city’s mayor Mitch Landrieu made people laugh by his heavy native accent and humor but when he described the daily crime scene’s in his city’s streets, the room became so silent. The emotions continued when the parents of Trayvon Martin came on stage with their lawyer Ben Crumps of Tallahassee to discuss the case. It was a heavy morning and gave us a lot to think about, but it made a clear call to action, as journalists we must do our job to always get every story from the urban neighborhoods put forth to the public on a local and national news platform.
After the ceremony the convention was in full swing. I attended plentiful workshops and events. My favorite workshop was “Pitch Your Best Shot.” Not only because I won a prize for the best pitch, but because I won a prize for the best, WORST pitch. While the editors didn’t like the story idea, they liked my packaging. That did much for my self esteem as a writer constantly pitching to editors and never sure if my presentation is right or wrong. My favorite event was actually the opening night party with Melanie Fiona. I’m a big fan and got to talk to her at the New York Association of Black Journalists dinner in May and bumped into her on the plane from NYC and got a personal invite and she’s from the Caribbean…so i’m a biased fan. She gave a great show though. The only frustrating thing about convention is that there is so much going on, you have to make sacrifices to your daily social and professional calendar over the four day conference. Career fair to find that first or next job or attend a workshop to get pointers of how to enhance your career? Lunch with your mentor who lives across the country or attend the screening of the new Spike Lee film WITH Spike Lee doing Q&A or going to the French Quarters and go sightseeing with college buddies you haven’t seen since graduation and eat shrimp po’ boys and alligator sausage? Decisions, decisions. I missed out on some great events, like the screening of Soul Man with Cedric the Entertainer and the Philly event with Marsha Ambrosius (but I got a picture with her), however there was one event I couldn’t miss, even if it was going to kill me before I crossed the finish line.
For the past three years I have ran in the NABJ 5K and usually one of the few under 30 year olds that participate. So although I returned from the wall to wall packed Sports Task Force Jam party at House of Blues at 4am, I was up two hours later to run 3.1 miles on Saturday morning in New Orleans humidity in under 38 minutes. I was so proud of myself I treated myself to a nap right after.
I spent my last day in New Orleans where every tourist goes…Bourbon Street. I had so much fun reconnecting with fellow FAMU grads, friends I made at previous years conventions and members from NYABJ. I usually am guilty of getting on the plane at the end of convention for not ever exploring the city I visited. I couldn’t do that here!! I saw just enough to want to come back and visit this city again soon.
From meeting Kerry Washington and Anthony Anderson to working out with the Marines at the crack of dawn while my roommates slept of last night’s open bar wine selection at a network’s reception to talking to the Editor-in-Chief’s of Essence and Jet Magazine (Go FAMU) to gaining valuable advice from industry experts…I am so happy I came down to NOLA. This has been probably my best convention experience thus far. I know New Orleans will be hard to beat, but I have a feeling NABJ will work very hard to outdo itself next year in Orlando.
Another day in
Pesto crusted fish and Zea potatoes #NawlinsDining
2nd line with the NABJ E-board
The Insider anchor Kevin Frazier, actress Kerry Washington and producer Reginald Hudlin
My mentor, entertainment journalist and Arts & Entertainment Chair Kelley L. Carter
Melanie Fiona singing down the house!!!
Journalist extraordinaire Lola Ogunnaike
Self explanatory. Great party.
My proud moment.
Actor and comedian Anthony Anderson
NYABJ President and Daily News staff writer Michael Feeney
NABJ Founder Les Payne
My roomies of #1110
Streetcars are a way of transportation for the NOLA resident. Had to experience the ride myself!!
I can cross this off my bucket list now. #scrimppoboy
I was brave enough to try them. Tasted like hot dog. #alligatorsausage
Marsha, Marsha, Marsha Ambrosius!!