Meet the inspiring Sheroe who is providing a financial lifeline to BIPOC publishers and promoting diversity and representation in the media industry.

Articulated Insight – “News, Race and Culture in the Information Age”

Tracie Powell has spent years as a prominent activist creating access to media for people of color — while creating a compelling story of her own. She is a longtime journalist battling racism in the profession she has loved since her childhood in Atlanta. 

“I learned how to read by sitting on my father’s and grandmother’s laps as they read the newspaper,” she says. “So I knew early on that I had ink in the blood, as they say, and I knew I wanted to be a journalist.”

As she grew older in school, she penned news reports and “couldn’t wait for my dad to get home from work to share the news with him.”

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Unlike elsewhere in the country, Atlanta had more Black representation in media, politics, and Civil Rights activism. In high school, Ms. Powell gained an internship at the Atlanta Daily World, one of the oldest Black newspapers in the country. One of her mentors told her, “No matter where you wind up, no matter where you go, always tell our stories’ — and so I’ve always kept that with me.”

Her parents were not so encouraging: “They didn’t believe that journalism was a viable path” so she went to Georgetown Law School, knowing she would not practice law.  But she had a weekly column in Congressional Quarterly, one of many publications she worked for, including  Newsweek and People magazines and local papers in Georgia and Texas.

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In her career, the biggest challenge was racism. Some officials didn’t even bother to disguise it. She recalls a city attorney asking her to go out “coon hunting.”

“I remember being a young reporter being told I had three things against me:”

“I was overweight; I was black, which I couldn’t do anything about; and that I spoke with a Southern accent.” 

But, she says, “I learned to use my accent for my benefit, because when people think that you are from the South, they think you might be slow, or they think you might be naive.” 

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Ultimately, Ms. Powell turned toward the philanthropic world and bringing more diversity to newsrooms, and supporting the growth of media for people of color. She founded, and also became the founding fund manager at the Racial Equity and Journalism Fund at Borealis Philanthropy, with a “100 percent focus on supporting BIPOC community media,” she says. She is now Founder and CEO of the Pivot Fund, which invests “in hyper-local grassroots, community news and information-prioritizing organizations led by and serving communities of color.” 

The Pivot Fund has invested $2 million in seven community-based news organizations in Georgia, “all led by people of color, mostly women of color,” she says.

One of her hopes for the future is that the media will stop “producing harm in communities as a lot of commercial media have.” 

“I’ve walked this path with feet in both worlds,” Ms. Powell says. “And so it’s always been that way for me — it’s always been a duality. At the end of the day, I tried  — and still try — to convince myself you’re completely in love with journalism knowing that journalism doesn’t always love you back.”

Publishable article by Richard Leiby courtesy BIPOCXChange

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