Student journalists from historically Black colleges and universities took to the White House press room on Feb. 23 to participate in a press briefing with Vice President Kamala Harris and Senior Advisor for Public Engagement Keisha Lance Bottoms.
The student journalists, who attended both in person and virtually, represented over 40 HBCUs from across the U.S. and covered numerous topics during the conversation, ranging from the administration’s plans to support HBCUs to climate change.
Jordan Brown, a senior at Morgan State University and Editor-in-Chief of the MSU Spokesman, said being at the White House, surrounded by fellow student journalists from HBCUs, was a surreal, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“These aren’t opportunities that have been granted to student journalists at HBCUs in general. We have not been given these opportunities that we rightfully deserve and should be granted, so I think this was a great effort by the Biden-Harris administration,” Brown said.
Harris acknowledged the importance of student journalists’ voices from HBCUs, tweeting after the event, “I know the future of our country is bright because of [HBCU student journalists’] leadership.”
The press briefing occurred concurrently with Student Press Freedom Day, an annual nationwide event celebrating the work of student journalists, spreading awareness of press freedom violations, and encouraging students to take action to protect their First Amendment freedoms.
Jamie Reed, a senior at Coppin State University and staff reporter at the Coppin Courier, described the experience as empowering.
“Walking in alongside all these other African-American students who are also doing amazing things – it made me feel so powerful. We are the future, and we can do anything we put our minds to,” Reed said.
Brown added that the press briefing helped her gain professional journalism experience.
“This was a great opportunity to experience what it’s like in our field, covering a press conference – whether it’s for the Vice President of the United States or a local press briefing or a police conference in their hometown. I think it’s very important to get those experiences, and we’re very lucky to have that as college journalists,” Brown said.
The press briefing highlighted the important work student journalists do and brought attention to HBCUs’ crucial contributions throughout American history. Reed said amplifying the voices of students from HBCUs is an important step in creating more equitable opportunities in America.
“It’s important to have those voices amplified and show the specific point of view that HBCU students bring,” Reed said.