Journalists at theGrio reflect on Black media ahead of Byron Allen’s Washington D.C. Gala

Natasha S. Alford and Panama Jackson talk about the importance of Black journalism as they head to the second annual “Byron Allen Presents the Washington, D.C. Gala.”

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The state of journalism has been in flux for a long time, particularly with the nation as divided as ever, socially and politically. In these times, the contributions of Black journalists are more crucial than ever. 

Saturday, many will descend on our nation’s capital for “Byron Allen Presents the Washington, D.C. Gala,” as media is celebrated earlier the same evening at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Formally known as “A Seat at the Table: A Celebration of Black Media,” this second annual gala from theGrio, taking place at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture, was designed to pay homage to Black journalists. 

Comedian Roy Wood Jr., this year’s Correspondents’ Dinner host, will also host theGrio’s D.C. gala, where CBS News’ Gayle King will be honored. With an exceptional performance scheduled, this year’s event promises to be even bigger than last year’s inaugural gala, which honored theGrio’s White House correspondent, April Ryan, was hosted by Chris Tucker and featured a performance from Mary J. Blige and D-Nice.

Byron Allen's Oscar Gala, Byron Allen, Academy Awards, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Red carpet, celebrity style,
TheGrio’s Natasha Alford attends Byron Allen’s Oscar Gala on March 12, 2023, at Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. (Photo by Allen Johnson for Allen Media Group / Byron Allen)

While Black journalists from across media will be present at this star-studded occasion, Natasha S. Alford and Panama Jackson will be among several members of theGrio family in attendance. Their presence at the gala represents not only the evolution and influence of theGrio but the dynamic Black media coverage techniques the gala is celebrating. 

Alford, theGrio’s VP of Digital Content and senior correspondent, explained why the Washington D.C. gala is an important occasion for Black journalists, regardless of backgrounds, publications, and networks. “When we unite in person, it shows our strength in numbers and community,” Alford told theGrio. “Regardless of brand or newsroom affiliation, we have shared experiences. There’s both beauty and power in celebrating our work and our journey as journalists.”

Jackson, host of theGrio Black Podcast Network’s flagship program “Dear Culture,” shares Alford’s sentiments about the gala. He says it’s vital for fellow Black journalists and media makers to congratulate and encourage one another to grow Black-owned and operated media companies. 

“This gala is important because if we don’t celebrate ourselves and give space to do so, who will?” Jackson told theGrio. “We speak at length about representation in white spaces when the truth is we need our own. This gala and what Byron is doing with spaces like theGrio are examples of what it looks like to build the tables Tyler Perry suggests.”

“Byron Allen Presents The Washington, D.C. Gala” will continue pushing Black journalism forward. Beyond being a celebration attended by power brokers, politicians, and celebrities, the event looks to become a key tentpole for pushing accountability and ownership, significantly when so many news outlets are skewing far right and are more concerned with promoting an agenda than informing the public.

Byron Allen, Touré, Gerren Keith Gaynor, Michael Harriot, Natasha Alford and Panama Jackson
From left to right: Byron Allen, Touré, Gerren Keith Gaynor, Michael Harriot, Natasha Alford, and Panama Jackson take the stage at the inaugural Byron Allen Presents the Washington, D.C. Gala on April 30, 2022, at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Purple PPL Media)

“I think Black journalism is as important as it’s ever been, but it’s important to have ethical and intentional journalistic spaces because so much misinformation is out there, and that always negatively impacts our community,” Jackson said. “By owning our spaces and using them to tell our stories, we get to ensure that a full representation of Blackness exists.”

Alford also agrees that Black media companies and journalists must act as the media’s moral compass, particularly when aiding in the enlightenment and uplifting of Black communities. 

“The Black press has played a unique role in American history and in advancing civil rights,” Alford said. “The larger purpose in our work only continues today and is more relevant than ever. Everyone benefits when Black journalists and the Black press are strong. We cover stories that get overlooked and deserve to be highlighted. We live in a version of America that sometimes isn’t seen.”

Matthew Allen is an entertainment writer of music and culture for theGrio. He is an award-winning music journalist, TV producer and director based in Brooklyn, NY. He’s interviewed the likes of Quincy Jones, Jill Scott, Smokey Robinson and more for publications such as Ebony, Jet, The Root, Village Voice, Wax Poetics, Revive Music, Okayplayer, and Soulhead. His video work can be seen on PBS/All Arts, Brooklyn Free Speech TV and BRIC TV.

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