Page 28

trailblazer recipient Despite the humiliation and danger, Gilliam did not discuss the challenges she faced with her superiors. She was too concerned that any sort of complaint would provide an excuse for them to refuse to hire black journalists. She was not going to give them the opportunity to say black reporters “ just can’t get the job done,” and knew that if she didn’t stick it out through the tough times, it would be much harder for those who came after her.

an exception for her, the next thing they knew, the male reporters would want “time off to write the great American novel.” So Gilliam took a break to stay at home with her family and kept her hand in the reporting world writing freelance articles and appearing on local television. In 1972, she went back to The Post to edit the Style section, which was so well received it became the model for similar sections at newspapers around the country. In 1979, she started a new opinion column sharing her views on education, politics and race. She was there for 19 years “there are just so many lies when the mood changed, she told about black people . . . i says, and there were rumbles knew what i was doing. we had that her column had started to sound “too black.” to break through.” After she retired from The _Dorothy Butler Gilliam Post, Gilliam focused her attention and efforts on paving the So she persisted. She found her voice cov- way for other black journalists and providing ering civil rights, poverty, welfare, juvenile opportunities for future generations. She becourts and youth crimes, writing from the came president of the National Association perspective of the people living through the of Black Journalists and of Unity: Journalists challenges. “There are just so many lies told of Color, working tirelessly to increase the about black people and so much negative diversity of voices in the press. She co-foundthat has been a part of this whole system,” ed the Maynard Institute for Journalism Edshe says. “I knew what I was doing. We had to ucation to educate and promote minority journalists. “This marked the beginning of break through.” Gilliam credits her faith based-upbringing my lifelong work to actively participate in diand a nurturing community of family, church, versifying mainstream news media,” she says. To bring more young people into journalneighbors and teachers for her resilience and courage—and a resistance to feeling hatred ism, Gilliam created the Young Journalists Defor the perpetrators in the face of humiliating velopment Program, for The Washington Post and disheartening experiences. “I came from in 1997. The initiative was designed to educate, a very rich heritage,” she says. “A strong, lov- support and provide journalistic opportuniing father and mother, a strong church family. ties for minority high school students. The Post It was an all-black working-class community, sent journalists to work with the students and and the children were considered precious even printed some of their newspapers. “Some and developed in a very special way. When of the best reporters would go out with me on we used to have to walk to junior high school, their lunch hour and help the students edit we’d pass this white neighborhood and these their newspapers,” she says, “This was a way kids would throw rocks at us.” Gilliam’s to share with young people who had no notion teachers would counsel her. “Don’t throw that they had a voice—and that voice needed rocks back at them, don’t fight them back,” to be developed and it deserved to be develthey would say. “No matter how badly peo- oped—and that voice echoed in their media. It ple treat you, you don’t have to fight back be- was a very strong program and it was one that cause you know that you are more than what really made a difference.” they say you are or what they think you are. In 2004, a Shapiro Fellow at fellow at The Hate hurts the hater more than the hated.” George Washington University School of MeIn the middle of her time on the City Desk, dia and Public Affairs, Gilliam expanded her Gilliam asked for a reduced part-time work outreach in founding Prime Movers Media, the schedule to spend more time with her children. nation’s first journalism mentorship program But she was told that if the paper agreed to her for underserved students at urban schools, request it would be bad for morale. If they made which sends veteran journalists and university

interns to mentor high school student journalists in Washington D.C and Philadelphia. While encouraged by the strides made to nurture budding young journalists, Gilliam is worried that they are missing a crucial element that was the key to her resilience and fortitude—the spiritual tools she found to be so helpful. “I am concerned with the growing lack of belief in God in younger generations,” she says. “Belief in self only can lead to narcissism and defeat.” When asked what advice she would give to the new generation of leaders she says, “Don’t take the humiliation of racism and white supremacy personally. Remember what you can control, work hard at what you can control and leave the rest up to God.” Throughout her rich and successful legacy as a defender of journalists of color and promoter of diversity in newsrooms, she has continued to advocate for civil rights and social change. And she has made a difference. But knows there’s much more to be done. Concerned about the rapidly rising dissonance and polarization in the country, she encourages dialogue as a way to change the tide. “I do believe in the power of voice, in the power of conversation, in the power of dialogue,” she says. “We are definitely in a season of change and there’s a lot being revealed and those are the things that we need to have conversations about. Those conversations can help those who are unaware, become more aware and those who are asleep, wake up.” At 82 with a more than six-decade-long career advocating for civil rights and social change, she is taking a breather after publishing a well-received memoir to focus on a more personal transformation. “I spent the last couple years chained to my computer to write the book,” she says. “Being free from that has been exhilarating and just having the book out, meeting people, talking to people, that has been fun because I love people and I love to hear them. That’s part of why I love being a journalist. I love to hear their stories. But I’m also concerned about the country now, so I’m looking forward to having more conversations about the issues that need to be addressed. It’s not fun, but it will be satisfying if I’m able to do that.” SRQ Dorothy Butler Gilliam is being honored at SRQ Magazine’s Annual Hear Me Roar Leadership and Awards Luncheon at The Hyatt Regency Sarasota.

26 | srq magazine’s she roars special edition_ JUNE19 live local

TRAILBLAZER-KEYNOTE_SRQSHEROARS19.indd 26

4/22/19 5:59 PM

Profile for SRQME

SRQ Magazine | Love Local "She Roars" Special Edition  

Leading women share their stories in our inaugural "She Roars" magazine featuring the Women in Business Hear Me Roar Awards section. SRQ Mag...

SRQ Magazine | Love Local "She Roars" Special Edition  

Leading women share their stories in our inaugural "She Roars" magazine featuring the Women in Business Hear Me Roar Awards section. SRQ Mag...

Profile for srqme