The Racial Equity in Journalism Fund team—Alicia Bell, DaLyah Jones, and Jessica Nguyen—spent the last few months journeying across the country—and world—to meet up with grantee partners, funders, and other media makers. Here are some of our favorite snippets from what we noticed and learned:


Media Impact Funders invited Alicia to moderate a virtual panel on philanthropy’s role in BIPOC newsrooms on January 30th, 2023. The gathering, a member briefing for funders, posed the question: “How can news leaders and funders work together to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the journalism industry?” The panelists Moumita Chakraborty, Director of Institutional Giving at the Institute for Nonprofit News, Susanna Dilliplane, Independent Consultant, Vandana Kumar, President & CEO of India Currents, and Shamus Toomey, Publisher & Co-Founder of Block Club Chicago, identified that the traditional, physical newsroom provides a place where people know their voices can be heard and where their community’s health and voice are prioritized – seen undeniably in the past nearly four years of varied Covid-19 coverage. In their reflection on the panel, Alicia noted that the disservice that prejudicial philanthropies do themselves is treating BIPOC journalism as “a side dish”, adding that, “even that mentality doesn’t really make that much sense because a terrible side dish can really impact your meal.” Funder support of spaces for community dialogue, support, and challenge is vital to the future of BIPOC journalism. 


From October 14th through 19th, 2023, Alicia participated in the Opportunity Collaboration’s convening in the Dominican Republic, saying that it was “one of the best convenings that I’ve been to recently, and one of the few places where I felt that the feeding was multi-directional between facilitators and participants.” Each morning began with a gathering with our core group where we’d ground and reflect, share and collaborate, rest and ready ourselves for the day. Then, participants could choose their own path from a menu of movement classes, leadership circles, development and organizing strategy sessions, personal health and safety gatherings, narrative and metric workshops, legal mentoring opportunities, affinity and solidarity space, and more. After the convening’s conclusion,  its collaborative and global energy continues. OC embedded ways for continued connection via OC365, monthly virtual follow-up meetings. 

Opportunity Collaboration convening.

From the globally-focused symposium convened by the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication (CARGC) at the Annenburg School of Communication, Alicia shared this incredible nugget on how the FinTech industry has created a system of reliance just by propping up and normalizing certain narratives around debt, a formerly ‘dirty word’: “The way that we ascribe value to capital is all based in narrative, and the financial tech industry has milked the fact that all of finance is media and narrative.” The mid-October conference also explored global internet community histories, questions of data and internet ownership, and political organizing and innovation in the digital space. 

Alicia on a panel for Advanced Research in Global Communication.

DaLyah and Jessica traveled to Germany in October of last year for the EDGE Funders Alliance Symposium. Jessica dug into REJ’s role in encouraging the growth of regenerative economies through newsrooms, citing harm reduction as an imperative tenant to equitable journalism. DaLyah added that mirroring nature and music, a circular model of journalism, where newsrooms prioritize the consent and trust of the community, is an antidote  to journalism that has historically been extractive. The symposium also highlighted the Global North’s continued disinvestment in granting philanthropy dollars to the Global South, and Jessica tussled with resonant echoes of this in the tense economic relationship between the United States North and South. In her reflection, DaLyah was struck by the appeal and limitations of participatory grantmaking. Borrowing heavily from global Indigenous practices, participatory grantmaking is a cooperative, collective style of funding where relationship building, communal decisions, and need-based funding are prioritized. Jessica and DaLyah both noted that rejecting the paternalistic pitfalls of philanthropy requires thoughtful time and equitably distributed labor – calls-to-action that have been historically resisted by institutions that regard ethnic voices with suspicion and often rely nearly exclusively on performative shifts in power. 


Get These Hands, MLK50’s spades tournament and game night fundraising event on November 3rd, 2023, was, in a word, joy. In two, Black joy. “At a time where there is such divestment from BIPOC media, witnessing standing ovations for folks’ journalism was incredible,” Alicia shared about the celebration. Though smack talking is a cornerstone of the main event, spades, Alicia’s favorite part of the night benefiting MLK50’s end-of-year fundraising campaign was the gratitude other newsrooms and organizers across movements expressed for MLK50’s powerful storytelling and reporting. MLK50 is doing work that no one else can do, and importantly, recognizes that they don’t have to – they are a part of a blossoming ecosystem. When Black and Indigenous organizers stood and applauded MLK50 on sharp and thorough reporting around a proposed oil pipeline that violated a sovereign nation’s treaty agreement, Founding Editor and Publisher of the outlet, Wendi C. Thomas, credited local organizers down to the specific Facebook post that inspired the reporting. 

REJ Program Director Alicia Bell (right) at the California Journalism Summit.

Moderating a panel with BIPOC practitioners at the November 2023 California Journalism Summit, a launching pad for the strategic, collaborative, and principled funding and empowering of journalism, surfaced a lot of questions around our definitions of sustainability. Conversations on the topic can often be a mixed bag. The buzz word is often used as an inaccurate synonym for growth or strictly confined to financial health. The California Journalism Summit pulled at some important threads about shifting and expanding the ways that we think about sustainability. Some BIPOC legacy newsrooms have been operating on a precarious financial edge for decades, but remain socially sustained. Alicia and the Borealis team are teasing out what we know about how legacy BIPOC newsrooms have creatively kept their doors open, even when they often do not report feeling sustainable. 


REJ Consultant Keiona Williamson, Senior Program Associate Jessica Nguyen, and Program Officer DaLyah Jones in Miami for the Knight Media Forum.

In the opening plenary session of the Knight Media Forum this February, Alicia discussed the future possibilities of journalism, why local investment is critical, and what hesitancies local newsrooms may have when engaging with large funders. An invigorating discussion, mostly led by non-binary folks and women of color, the panelists encouraged funders to deeply consider who has historically been left out of  conversations and in strategizing around the future of journalism, and challenged us all to make and take the space we need.