Students and mentors at Unity 2012

Greetings from fabulous Las Vegas!

I wish I could claim that I’ve spent my time here Cirque du Soleil hopping with showgirls, but I’ve actually spent the last four days looking at the same four, beige walls. I know, I know, woe is me.

This is a work trip, of sorts. I’m volunteering for the student project at the convention formerly known as Unity Journalists of Color. The name was changed to Unity Journalists last year after the (mostly white) National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association was invited to join the Unity coalition.

A little background: In 1994, four minority journalism organizations decided to join forces and have a joint convention every four years. TheAsian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Native American Journalists Association held Unity conventions together every year until 2008. Then last year, NABJ decided to back out, and the remaining groups invited NLGJA to step in.

As a friend of mine put it, gay is the new black.

NLGJA has been trying to join the Unity party since the beginning, and it’s a big deal that the gays are here this year. I won’t get into why we weren’t included before and why we are now. I can’t claim to understand all of the nuances, and frankly, I’ve pretty much steered clear of all of it as my opinions and positions have changed over the years. If you’re interested in more information, check out Richard Prince’s column.

This is my first Unity convention, but I’ve been involved in NLGJA’s student project since 2007. I gotta say: It’s amazing to be surrounded by so many people of color who all do and love journalism the way I do. We’re different people with different backgrounds, but ultimately, we all have the same goal: making news outlets stronger, more diverse and more fair. We all want to make newsrooms better places for minorities to work, however you define “minority.” We all want to stop feeling marginalized, invisible and dismissed. And we all want coverage that doesn’t make us cringe.

I hope this experiment in unity achieves other goals, too, for the organizations themselves. I hope NLGJA becomes a more welcoming place for women and people of color, and I hope the three groups of color become safer spaces for GLBT folks to be out and open.

I also hope this sends a message to the young people we’re mentoring that we’re stronger together than we are apart.

In rhinestone-studded Rebellion,

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...

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