On October 7, 2020, over eighty students gathered virtually with their teachers and parents/guardians to hear Natasha S. Alford discuss her reporting on racial identity and representation in Puerto Rico. Alford, who was joined by Pulitzer Center Education Manager, Hannah Berk, also described how a surge of Black pride and identification is fueling a revolution of political consciousness for a new generation of Afro-Puerto Ricans.
Alford began the webinar by sharing the inspiration behind her reporting. She described how she grew up in a multicultural household, with a mother who is Puerto Rican and father who is African American, and explained that her family and life experiences played an integral role in her reporting. Also driven by data, Alford's project asks the question, "How many Puerto Ricans identified as 'white' or 'Black' on the Census in 2000?"
As the webinar continued, Alford discussed how her question led her to report a number of different stories that were ultimately published in various news outlets. She also spoke about the importance of accessibility in journalism, and why it can be important to publish stories in outlets that reach different audiences. This drove Alford to assemble footage from her reporting project into a full-length documentary about Afro-Latinx identity in Puerto Rico. Before sharing the trailer with participants, she shared the following reflection:
"Part of journalism is reaching people where they are, and I want to reach people who maybe won't read The New York Times or who are not going to listen to NPR, but who will watch a video on YouTube and make that information just as accessible for them and introduce them to the many different people I met and the issues that were raised."
Before closing the session, Alford shared lasting thoughts on why journalism matters, especially for under-reported stories, and shared advice for participants interested in journalism. "Interviewees are people first. Respect that their time is a gift to you. Believe in your instincts. But stay flexible!"she said.
Then, participants used a live-chat feature to reflect and ask questions during the Q&A portion of the webinar. Participants had questions and reflections about the factors that influence what is taught about racial identity in the U.S. and around the world, such as media and historical narratives. In a post-webinar evaluation, many participants provided thoughtful responses to what they learned from Natasha. Some reflections highlighted what they learned, while others discussed what they were inspired to do going forward. Read on for a few examples of participants' reflections on the session:
"Her story demonstrated how journalism can be a powerful tool for social change and the need to amplify stories of activism at the grassroots level,"
"Natasha's reporting places the resistance and empowerment on center stage, which helps the audience to also see their own sources of power to shape their lives and create positive solutions to systemic problems,"
"This webinar has inspired me to think more about the issue of racial identity (and potential injustice) occurring in other parts of the country."
The Pulitzer Center invites educators to view the webinar at their convenience to discover tools for connecting their students with reporting on today's crucial issues. Please contact [email protected] if you have any questions or would like to connect a journalist to your classroom.