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A Conversation with Cathy Hughes

By: Kyra Azore, Staff News Reporter (@KyraAzore)


Howard University students, faculty and community members came together in the In3 Incubator to have, “A Conversation with Cathy Hughes.” The media mogul and namesake of the school of communications spoke candidly about many things, including her journey to becoming the first African-American woman to chair a publicly held corporation and current issues in media, such as the representation of Black people.

“Cathy Hughes is the namesake of our school, and she wanted the opportunity to meet with students and let them get to know her a little, know a little bit about her,” said Gracie Lawson-Borders, Ph.D., dean of the Cathy Hughes School of Communications, on what prompted Hughes to host this event. “And also know that she wants to continue participating and being involved with the school and things that they’re going to be doing as students.”

The event provided attendees with an extensive look into Hughes’ unprecedented career accomplishments as she spoke frankly about challenges and obstacles she faced as she climbed the ladder of success and how they shaped her.

“I was focused on being popular, I was focused on what I was wearing,” said Hughes when she described her younger self before she became pregnant with her son, Alfred, when she was 16. “It was a blessing… I was able to think outside [of] myself. I was able to think outside the box,” said Hughes as she described how her son transformed her not into an ‘egotistical success story,’ but someone who thinks about others.

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Hughes also spoke on how others often could not think big enough to support her dreams; being from Omaha, Nebraska, there was not someone who had ever accomplished the things she dreamed.  Growing up, teachers often wrote home to tell her parents that she, “suffered from delusion of grandeur,” when she would tell others her dreams of becoming the first African-American woman with a nationally syndicated radio show.

“I had never heard of Black radio,” said Hughes when she reflected on the loftiness of her dream. “I didn’t know that they weren’t allowed on the radio.”

Hughes did not just spend the event being interviewed by senior broadcast journalism major, Nayo Campbell but she ‘flipped the script’ and began to pick the brains of the students in the audience on current news, reality television and the current way Black people are portrayed on platforms that are not curated by Black people.

“We’ve got to stop letting other cultures lease our culture,” said Hughes on the matter.

Hughes also criticized the lack of follow-through in the African-American community and considered it to be the biggest issue within the community.

“Will you follow through and follow up on anything of importance of the Black community,” asked Hughes as she left students with a charge to change that narrative and follow up on matters relevant to the Black community.

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“After this 90 minutes we just spent, [I hope students walk away] with a feeling of empowerment, accomplishment, not stopping. I often say to the classes that come in freshmen year, ‘know your purpose’ and I think that’s what she just showed them is the purpose,” said Dean Lawson-Borders on what she hopes students in attendance gained from this event. “And if they walk away with that, holding on to what they want to do and believing in it and not letting it go, then we did what we needed to do this afternoon.”

“This event was important to have for people like me who are really interested in radio,” said senior broadcast journalism major Gabrielle Holland. “It helped us to get more advice on what we should do, how the industry is and what to expect. And basically, instilled in us hope that we can really attack it and make it our own, the same way Cathy Hughes did. She’s a very prominent person…I think it was great to hear her and everything she had to say.”

This event was one of the first hosted in partnership with Urban One, Hughes’ media company, since the school took her name in October of 2016 when it celebrated its 45th anniversary.

“I think it would be good for them to do more events because it will bridge the gap between just her having her name on the school and her actually doing stuff [with students],” said senior broadcast journalism major Gabrielle Holland. “On top of that they gave good media advice, good industry advice. They gave us a different outlook than what we already hear in class, so I think they should keep doing them.”

“There are several of her team here meeting with faculty and staff in the school, we’re talking about different things that we can partner on, so that students have that engagement of the real-world experience in tandem while they’re in class,” said Dean Lawson-Boarders on the possibility of there being future collaboration events between the Cathy Hughes School of Communication and the namesake’s media company.

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