On Thursday, November 12th, 2015, The Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists (TBABJ) held their Griot Drum Awards and Scholarship Banquet at the Marriott Westshore. This banquet was sponsored by Nielsen (Title Sponsor), Helios Education Foundation, Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa Bay Times, United Way Suncoast, Vistra Communications (Platinum Sponsors), WFLA News Channel 8 (Gold Sponsor), and WEDU PBS (Silver Sponsor). This year’s theme was “Honoring excellence in media coverage of people of color”. Emceed by Rod Carter of WFLA News Channel 8 and TBABJ’s Vice President, finalists and attendees were in for a treat. This large group was welcomed by TBABJ’s President, Lorraine McBride of Bay News 9 and proud graduate of FAMU.
The invocation was given by Kenny Irby of Bethel AME Church of St. Petersburg. He prayed for the storytellers (griots) and that we would be moved from the Moses generation to the Joshua generation. Immediately following the invocation, dinner was served as attendees learned about Irving’s organization, The Write Field. Created 5 years ago, The Write Field is comprised of photojournalists, Law Enforcement officers, and communicators. Inspired by the ill-fated death of St. Petersburg police officer David Crawford by the hands of 16-year-old Nicholas Lindsey, Irving stated, “The key thing we focused on was the growth of the prison incarceration system and it’s relation to high school drop outs, we decided we wanted to offer a solution by teaching young men how to communicate and present themselves in the community.” Irving stated that he encourages youth to “see something, hear something, do something, and write about it.” Ultimately, Irving seeks to provide a relationship and an opportunity for youth to explore a lifestyle outside of the community they grew up in. Irving reported that 85% of the 120 young men he’s worked with thus far were from single-parent homes, some of which were in attendance. He expressed sincere thanks to Eric Deggans, keynote speaker, who was a mentor in the Write Field’s inaugural program.
Eric Deggans expressed that being the keynote speaker was “coming full circle” for him. He stated that the TBABJ provided a safe haven to journalists who were downsized, marginalized, and demoralized. He gave credit to associations, such as NABJ, that “led to every major job I’ve had as a journalist.” Deggans appealed that race, poverty, and religion matters should not only be covered when there’s a disaster. He stated that organizations like the TBABJ have the responsibility to tell the hard stories. He concluded by stating to TBABJ leadership and members, “I’m proud of how far you’ve come in such a short time.”
Sherri Day of the Tampa Bay Times welcomed Mr. Deggans home, the former TBABJ 8-year president and NPR’s first full-time television critic. She stated, “Eric Deggans is TBABJ and TBABJ is Eric” as she presented him with the 2015 Legacy Award. He accepted by stating, “You guys are TBABJ because I see the work you do.”
Dalia Colon of WEDU PBS presented scholarships in the amount of $1000 each to Thais Miller (USF student and TBABJ member), Raymiya (HCC Mass Communications major, Raymiya Media), and Kenny Irby (The Write Field). Colon stated, “There’s no substitute for the training and God-given talent in journalism.”
Ken Knight (WFTS-TV ABC Action News) and Jenise Morgan (TBABJ Treasurer/ Florida Courier) presented the media awards. Knight stated that a goal of TBABJ is to “increase African-Americans in the news room and management.” The winners for various categories in Radio and Television were Samuel Johnson (WMNF), Lottie Watts, Mark Schreiner, Carmen Cooper, Yoselis Ramos (WUSF News), Elizabeth Dougherty (Dougherty Report), Ola Alak (WEDU PBS, ABC Action News Colleague), Jacqueline Ingles (WFTS-TV ABC Action News), Rod Carter (WFLA News Channel 8), Jay Handelman, Gabrielle Russon, Chris Anderson (Sarasota-Herald Tribune), Dan Sullivan, Susan Taylor Martin, Lane Degregory, Sherri Day (Tampa Bay Times), and Albert Fields (Uhuru News). Lastly, the staff of the Sarasota-Herald Tribune received the “Public Service” award and were saluted for strengthening the community.