“For Zora. For Howard. For You.” This genius phrase was coined by our fearless leader, 2019-20 Editor-in-Chief Jaylin Paschal. She led bravely while sharing tips, providing mentorship and solidifying my self-actualization as a journalist.
The “For You” in the statement affirmed that there was space for individuality at The Hilltop.It taught me that what I wrote mattered because it was important to me. Someone would read my work, they might not like it, but then again not everyone likes the truth. I think that was the biggest lesson I learned in my journey, not just at The Hilltop, but at Howard. There are not enough words to describe the emotions I feel towards the end of my tenure as Editor-in-Chief or EIC for short.
At Howard University we all have a reputation to respect, a standard to uphold and a legacy we are aiming to push forward. What makes our experience so contradictory is our ability to balance truth, tradition and trust.
We are all consistently trying to follow in the footsteps of those that have gone before us while trailblazing new paths for those that come behind us. Oddly enough, as EIC, I faced this struggle in a unique and unappealing way. As the year started, words from our founder rang in my mind. “There are years that ask and years that answer.”
Quietly at night, I wondered which year it would be for us as a staff. I wanted to have all the solutions but I quickly realized we were starting from scratch and my problem-solving skills would be tested. Less than one percent of the writers from the previous year applied, we had no access to The Hilltop email accounts and this was our first time back on campus in two long years. But in the face of uncertainty, purpose prevailed.
We got a new advisor, Mr. Keith Alexander from The Washington Post who was, and is, committed to doing the tedious work necessary to ensure our publication not only survives but thrives. With the help of him, Jada Orr and Jeresa Anderson we were able to publish a print edition for the freshmen in August. Round one was complete! But little did we know, we’d be facing an uphill battle from there.
Our next task included circumventing a campus-wide internet outage. From then on, I knew we’d be an unstoppable force. Yet our biggest obstacle came from questioning each other’s ability to uphold an unrealistic desire for perfection. I found each of us often stating, “I just want what’s best for the paper.”
We seemed to have more care and attention for this inanimate object instead of those breathing life into it. This experience has trained me to edify relationships and also to give grace. In future endeavors, I am committed to re-adjusting the statement to, “I just want what’s best for the people.” I didn’t understand the complexity of this statement until October, in the middle of the protests. It was our job to cover all perspectives, and the campus was swarming with so many.
Yet everyone’s opinion of themselves remained that “they were doing the right thing.” It was in those moments that I realized that leadership isn’t about being liked. It’s about making hard decisions and being calm amongst clamor. HUSA President Kylie Burke does it best. Never failing to amaze us all with her candid poise. This year she helped us remember that though our visions, ideas and methods may differ, our end goal for the University is the same.
In spite of our challenges this year, The Hilltop made a lot of progress for ourselves and our institution. We established a relationship with Hearst Communications to revamp our digital platforms, we were added to Apple News, sent three reporters to cover the White House and published four print editions of the paper. To top it off, we were finalists in the breaking news category for the Society of Professional Journalists. But I still wonder, was it enough?
I must admit the position of EIC has left me with more questions than answers but also more family than friends. I am beyond appreciative of the mentorship I received from Pearl Stewart, Ayesha Rascoe, Kaitlin Collins, Kylie Burke, Mr. Thrower and Ms. Caprice. I am extremely thankful to policy board members Dr. Ashleigh Tillman and Chair Saige Haynes for advocating on my behalf and not giving up on me at my lowest point. In the face of doubt they never weaned. Thank you to my bestie Elly for staying with me and praying with me. And last but not least thank you to Jeresa Anderson, Jada Orr, JD Jean-Jacques, N’dia Webb, Lauryn Wilson, Myia Borland, Malik Seay, Darreonna Davis, Ileya Williams and Jasper Smith for persevering and ending this year strong. What we have created this past year is legendary. It would not be possible without each of you.
My last three years at The Hilltop have been filled with labors of love. Thank you God for choosing me, covering me and for aligning my life in perfect time.
Copy edited by N’dia Webb