July 03, 2020
From PARC board member Juanita Peters as shared on the PARC E-Bulletin on June 10, 2020.
I AM A WRITER
I am a writer. I am a female writer. I am a black, female writer. When I first started my career it never occurred to me that any of this mattered. In fact, as a female who first began in the broadcast industry (1982) I was told things like, “it’s unnatural to hear two female voices back to back” on the air. It would be “odd to have two females on the anchor desk together.” Strangely, the impediments I apparently had as a black woman were never shared openly and to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t really aware of the inner thinkings of my former colleagues until less than 10 years ago.
I started my career in network radio. Unlike today, your face was not plastered on websites and no one knew I was black apparently until I went to press conferences. After several years, I needed a break from the 15 minutes deadlines on radio and decided to take a job as a full time copy writer at the radio station. My supervisor shared this with me in 2017, almost 30 years after working together. She said, the day of my interview, the boss returned to her office and said “we found the perfect person, there’s only one problem.” He explained to her that he would have to go “upstairs” and make a call. The answer from that call was “hire her, but don’t let her be seen.” She also spoke of all the inner conversations and mechanisms that were put in place to make sure this happened. I had no idea. What I did know, was that when I felt rested enough to go back on the air, I decided television was my next move. I applied several times to the noon day program as host. I would practice with colleagues and each time the colleague would get the position, which also always made me happy that it was someone I knew and I felt that I had contributed to their success in a small way. But my former supervision told me of the after hours conversations and the fear of management when hearing about my interest in the position. I didn’t know.
What I did know, is that I am a writer and since there was no place for me on their screen, I would create my own. I crafted a simple but fun cable show which I did in my spare time A weekly news and entertainment magazine.
Two years later, a brave and wonderful news director by the name of Dave White offered me the noon news anchor position at the network. Today, I reflect on this, knowing what he must have gone through to penetrate such a powerful and longstanding club of opposition to non white presences on and off air. I think about how my career and experiences have been so enriched by one person, who walked into a battlefield, so I could at least have the opportunity to realize my dreams. The power of one person can be enormous. Today I hope there is someone who one day, can say the same about me.
I am a black, female writer. My half a century of living has taught me there is always much more to learn.