Tuesday, August 5, 2014

NABJ14: Gratitude, Love and Growth in Boston

“It's so free, this kind of feeling
It's like life, it's so appealing
When you've got so much to say
It's called gratitude, and that's right” - Beastie Boys “Gratitude”

Last week was my third time attending the annual National Association of Black Journalists Convention and Career Fair. Yet this time was different than the last two. The first was a mix of nerves, blind faith and excitement to visit my father’s hometown of New Orleans. The second felt like taking the training wheels off a bicycle and riding more confidently in looking for jobs and networking. 

This year? I vowed to return with a job and I did. I said I would meet my great friend Sam for the first time in 8 years and I did. I knew what to expect and yet I was open for something new. But I felt as comfortable as my flight to Boston was and it’s a sign that I wasn’t a new guy anymore. 

That’s why I want to give back as much as I received. Express gratitude to people like Michael Smith, who told me last year to get better at being myself as much as my craft. Thank Yahoo’s Marc Spears for telling me to focus this blog on local content as much as I can. Thank former Sporting News editor Garry Howard for critiquing my resume (and thank him in advance for reading some of my clips).

I also wanted to reach out to younger journalists and offer any tips I could. There were a ton of college kids and I was happy to listen to them as well as share some of my experiences. Plus nothing says NABJ like friendly debates on the NBA/NFL with folks around the country.

The 54th Massachusetts Regiment - the All-Black Civil War troop that became the subjects of the movie "Glory"
Most of all, NABJ is about relationship building. It’s reuniting with folks like Bonta Hill, Ed the Sports Fan (who did his own excellent recap), Morgan Campbell, Keion Grissom, Quinne Lowe and my Chicago sis Lauren Ward. It’s making better connections with folks like Montezz Allen, Jeane Blunt and others who are growing alongside me in their own way. It’s linking up with nationally known brothers and sisters like Gary Washburn, Bomani Jones, Sarah Glover, Kiratiana Freelon, Exavier Pope, Wesley Lowery and others that I met before and needed to see once again.

But what about the panels and information? I know, I know. I don’t want to just name drop even though three years in, you’d do the same when you consider them colleagues, not just distant faces. There’s more to NABJ and that’s learning and listening.

Bomani, Nischelle Turner, Rick Mahorn and Michael Wilbon discussed Donald Sterling and how to approach race in sports. There were so many gems from that panel and Wilbon struck a nerve by blistering the NFL for how they’ve handled the Redskins name controversy and being hypocritical calling for a ban of the N-word.
Fenway Park (c) Evan Barnes
There was also a great panel on being a Black Celtic where Celtic greats Satch Sanders and Cedric Maxwell talked about their reservations about coming to Boston yet being embraced by an organization committed to winning and family.

Speaking of Boston, that city is nice. Seeing Fenway Park, Charlestown, The Charles River, Boylston Street (where the finish of the Boston Marathon is) and other landmarks was quite nice. I even got to see Cambridge since Sam lives there so I did see the glory of Harvard. I also need to salute my brother for being a gracious host despite being hobbled by a nasty car accident. He was a trooper and a kind-hearted man and I'm proud that I call him brother for 13 years now.

Also, you could tell the new state of affairs in journalism with Bleacher Report being among the exhibitors. B/R was one of the highlights of the week as they threw a great mixer that unfortunately I missed. To see how things have changed since 2011-12 is a bonus.
The Boston skyline from Charlestown (c) Evan Barnes
This year, I got great praise for my resume as well as strong critique on how to tighten it up. I met young journalists and offered tips as well as listened to their journeys. I tasted the goodness of Boston chowder, lobster rolls and Regina’s Pizzeria while wishing I had more time to absorb it. I drank up wisdom from Sanders and Maxwell on the greatness of Bill Russell and KC Jones while listening to David Aldridge demand we be better than what people expect of media.

Even at the Sports Task Force Jam, one of the week's highlights, I finally met two people who I consider family from Twitter: Ms. Lizzy and Dart Adams. I knew Lizzy was coming and was glad to make up for ignoring her in 2013 but to look up and see Boston’s unofficial mayor in front of me was even better.

I’ve mentioned before that Dart has influenced not just my writing but my blogging style/presentation/thought process. So to chop it up with him, talk music, Boston and more was better than dancing with folks and just as good as networking.

One thing remains. NABJ remains the premiere place to network and be encouraged by fellow journalists of color. It’s a valuable resource that has helped develop my skills and introduced me to people who gave me some of the best advice I still use. I’m inspired every time by the love, shenanigans and the tips I take back with me.

The finish of the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street (c) Evan Barnes
Even better is that I feel like I’m among peers now. Like my man Bonta said, 2 years ago, I wanted pictures with folks but now, I feel like I’m one of them and maybe not as famous but still a pro doing good work. Whether we all kicked it in the lobby, after panels or out by the pool, it’s a family that encourages and inspires you to keep doing your work.

I’ll always show gratitude to the organization for making me better and giving me the confidence to grow personally and professionally. In addition, I’ll keep working on folks to show up at convention so they can taste from this cup of greatness (looking at you Lamar, Courtney, James and Nick). So let the Beastie Boys get the final word once again as I share "Gratitude" for Boston and prepare for Minneapolis for NABJ15.

What's gonna set you free?
Look inside and you'll see
When you've got so much to say
It's called gratitude, and that's right.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review Ev. Being able to take part in NABJ and also meeting contemporaries is awesome. Keep writing (ATCQ voice).