Studs Terkel Community Media Award Karen Hawkins

Rebellious Magazine for Women founder Karen Hawkins was one of the recipients of the 2021 Studs Terkel Community Media Awards, and she delivered a brief acceptance speech at a May 13 virtual ceremony hosted by Public Narrative. The video below is cued to the introduction of Karen delivered by Chicago Reader co-Publisher Tracy Baim, and the full text of her speech is below.

YouTube video


Hello 2021 Community Media Awards! I could not be more excited to be recording this video as an acceptance speech for the 2021 Studs Terkel Community Media Award. I just can’t, I still can’t believe it! And I still am so humbled, and I am also vaguely mortified to be recording a video that I know will be played alongside a video that’s been recorded by Brandis, like, oh my gosh. And I just want to put out there that some of us went into print for a reason.

I’m just going to leave that there.

And say congratulations to you, Brandis and Michael and Maureen and Tonika, and Jamie, I could not be prouder to be in a class with y’all this year. Congratulations. And I have admired all of your work over the years, and I’m just thrilled to be here with you.

So I want to make sure I thank some folks who I know are going to get mad at me if I don’t. First of all, thank you Jhmira and Public Narrative folks for this and thank you to the selection committee. And, I commend you, selection committee, including the folks I know on it, for being such a vault about this. I know you’ve been dying to tell me, how things went and—because we’re all nosy, gossipy journalists—but I commend you. You’ve not said anything. Thank you so much. I appreciate you so much.

I also want to make sure I thank my mom and my sister for always being so supportive, [my partner Samantha] and all of my friends and family who’ve been so supportive over the years of all of my journalistic endeavors. I want to thank the staff at the Chicago Reader and my team at Rebellious Magazine for Women for renewing my faith in journalism, to be honest with you. I have been in and out of this industry a lot of times over the last 25 years. And I’ve always gotten pulled back, and being in journalism community with you now is really such an honor. And I can’t wait to see what we do next.

I can’t thank the Reader, of course, without thanking Tracy Baim, my friend and mentor for more than 20 years now. We are ride-or-die in this now together. And I am so grateful that you thought of me for any role at the Reader, in particular the roles I’ve had at the Reader. And it’s just so much fun to be working with you again, 20-something years later. Thank you for everything. And again, I can’t wait to see what we do next.

I’m looking at my notes. So I also want to thank all of the bosses and mentors and guides I’ve had over the years in journalism and outside of journalism, who I feel like have helped me be the kind of reporter and writer and editor and leader that I’ve always wanted to be.

And I also want to thank the folks who were terrible, actually, just the worst.

Because I’ve learned as much from you, bad bosses, as I have from my amazing bosses. You have really been instructive about who I never, ever want to be. So thank you for being terrible. Thank you for forcing me out of the industry, so I could get pulled back in, in a better way, and hit the reset button on my career. Thank you.

I mentioned that I’m mortified to be recording this video. I also, though, understand how important it is that somebody who looks like me, who is mouthy like me, who is a mouthy Black lesbian like me, a mouthy Black lesbian feminist like me, is on a video, accepting an award in journalism. And that I’m still here, is really important.

And I don’t know who needs to hear this, but if you are struggling in journalism, if you are feeling like you are being pushed out, if you are in college, and you have people telling you that you can’t do this, or you have bosses who are telling you you can’t do it. I hope that you persevere. And I hope that you have people around you who believe in you and who believe in your talent and who believe in your ability to grow.

And I hope you stay with us, because the industry really needs you, and we are never, ever, ever going to get better if more of us don’t stay and improve it from within. Which isn’t to say you can’t step out of it to try to improve it. But I hope that you stick with it.

And I just want to close by saying thank you again. And [by] reading the autograph that I got from Studs probably 20-something years ago, on his book, Will the Circle be Unbroken? I, at the time, was training in karate at Thousand Waves with Nancy Lanoue, and there is an essay in this book about Nancy Lanoue. And so, Studs signed it: “Peace, grace and beauty, here’s to a thousand waves in . . . something.”

Y’all, I don’t know what the last word says, but, it’s so meaningful to me that I have his autograph, that I have a picture with Studs somewhere out in the world, that he personalized this autograph because he knew how much I love Nancy and I love Thousand Waves. So this just means so much to me and thank you all so much, and I hope to see you in person next year. Thanks.

Karen Hawkins is the Founder and Rebelle in Chief of Rebellious Magazine. She is a recovering mainstream media reporter and editor who wants to thank her former boss for naming the online magazine she's...