By Billie Jordan
*Just do it? With few resources, self-doubt, and naysayers and haters? The Black Public Relations Society-LA’s 2018 award honorees did it. The emotion in the room was like a Rocky movie. But, in this scenario, the underdog-victors were black communicators.
“Can I actually do this,” said Pat Tobin award honoree, Ketchum Vice President Lindsay Wagner, named a trailblazer in communications. “Am I good enough, will they see through me,” was the chatter swarming her head.
The thoughts were like a blasting water hose obliterating the fire of acknowledgment, acceptance, and praise from her peers. But, breaking through – the I’m not worthy spell – was the work ahead.
“For black communicators to continue the work – we have to fight against that voice,” Wagner said.
She also said, it’s not just the systems that we are trying to change, and it’s not just the narratives, a lot of times what we are battling most is our self. “We have to get rid of self-doubt.”
The battle of self-defeat was a mantra, that night. Many of the 20 awardees, named trailblazers in communications & culture, spoke of snuffing out similar head talk.
After years of slaughtering obstacles and self-defeatism, the 2018 BPRS-LA trailblazers emerge and were bestowed honors at the California African American Museum, last week.
Honorees one after the other spoke of speckled journeys and of any former association with the late Pat Tobin, for which their awards were named.
Tobin known as the queen of networking and master-of-public relations was fondly remembered that night and credited for her support in many careers.
Of trailblazers, a TV One video played introducing Tosha Whitten-Griggs, the senior vice president of public relations at TV One. The video answered the question: what does it mean to [trailblaze]?
“It means embracing your history, knowing your culture, inspiring others,” the video voice said. “It means telling your story, making a difference, and staying woke.” It also means being proud of where you came from, to encourage, to empower, and it means speaking your truth, and expressing your rhythm.”
After congratulating the evening’s honorees, Whitten-Griggs spoke of Pat Tobin, who played a role in her success.
“It’s times like this when I remember the pillars of media and communications who came before us – who literally carved out a path for us to follow, she said.
“Pat was truly one of a kind and a giant in our industry. Her spirit and legacy will continue to be a beacon.” Whitten-Griggs said.
Regarding black journalist and communicators nationwide – Whitten-Griggs mentioned the army of front-line champions who make it clear that black media and black communications professionals are here to stay.
Like South Los Angeles’ Brandon I. Brooks who started out as a rookie journalist in classifieds and is now the managing editor with the Los Angeles Sentinel Newspaper and the L.A. Watts Times. Brandon is holding the torch — like family members before him.
“No matter whether we are mandated to the Rosa Parks section of the red carpet, whether we are pigeonholed into urban-niche projects, or whether the current president attacks what we stand for, Whitten-Griggs said.”
That was a nod to reports that say President Trump recently demeaned three black female journalists for asking questions.
Of her peers and assistants, “The journey [has been] filled with road blocks, setbacks, and many disappointments. But like all of these distinguished people here tonight – [we] refused to be stopped by racism, misogyny, or at times our own self-doubt. Even though tonight we celebrate. We must press on,” Whitten-Griggs said.
In the end, BPRS-LA Co-President, Shawn Smith declared BPRS-LA’s 20th anniversary a milestone, a memorable night, and a success. Deputy Albert Lord, a representative of the L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson’s office presented BPRS-LA with a certificate, saying that until recently he and his office had never heard of the group. He acknowledged the milestones and successes — that he’s since learned of and announced that the 2018 BPRS-LA Trailblazers are each recognized with certificates for their achievements.
BPRS-LA’s Pat Tobin award honorees were Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Ellen V. Miles, and Erika Bennett; Lindsay Wagner, and Michael Lewellen; honorably Tosha Whitten-Griggs, and Shawn Smith.
Power Pro honorees were Kenya Friend-Daniel, Kristen Robinson, and Leshelle V. Sargent; PR Power Player Honorees are Imani Greene, Melissa Mills, and Kevin Stuckey. The BPRS 2018 Power Press honorees are Tre’vell Anderson, Nina Parker, Brandon I. Brooks, and Beverly White, and finally the Power of Influence honor went to Kiki Ayers, Everett Taylor, and to Karen Civil.
“I was blessed that she was very close with my family. When I first [started in the industry Pat Tobin] was one of those who was like boy you better jump in there,” Brooks said.