Students Recognized for Diversity Journalism, Projects
Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC) 2016 Robert G. McGruder Student Award for Diversity recipients are journalism major le-Ife Okantah, '18 (special recognition), and visual journalism major Eslah Attar, '17 (first place). The McGruder Student Award is given to students who have published exceptional work where the main focus is diversity and/or inclusion.
Okantah and Attar will be honored as part of the 13th annual Robert G. McGruder Lecture and Luncheon on Sept. 29, 2016. The award and reception are named in honor of the first black editor of the Daily Kent Stater as well as the first black reporter for the Plain Dealer. Robert McGruder made strides in diversity in journalism, and the event honors students and professionals who have encouraged diversity discussions.
“I was really impressed with the number of nominations and the variety this year,” said Student Media Director Kevin Dilley. He also serves on the Diversity and Globalization Committee in JMC, which selected the award winners. According to Dilley, each of the nominations explored different facets of diversity including ethnicity, gender and class.
Okantah will receive special recognition for her piece, “2016 The Year of Being Unapologetically Black,” which focuses on the new vision of black activists. In the article, Okantah explains the hardships of previous generations, which include freedom, equal rights and the ability to vote. She then compares it to the new generation, now fighting the battle against a system that was never built for black Americans. Okantah’s work was published in UHURU magazine, a magazine that aims to promote creativity and culture through the voice of marginalized students at Kent State University.
Dilley described Okantah’s work as “in your face,” and explained that “it could connect different people from different backgrounds through one personal story.”
Attar's first place piece, "Life in a Refugee Camp," was published on JMC’s International Storytelling website. With the International Storytelling course in Spring 2016, Attar traveled to Cyprus and chose to write about a camp for African and Middle Eastern refugees. Bravely, she took her camera and microphone into the camp and gathered the personal stories of three different refugees at the camp. Her story includes audio, photo and the written piece in first person.
“Eslah’s jumped out because it in itself was diverse. It was global and it was tackling a community that I haven’t seen us tackle in JMC,“ said Dilley.