Black Public Relations Society Celebrates Trailblazers in Los Angeles

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.



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Billie Jordan

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LA-BPRS to Host Inaugural Breakthrough to Excellence Conf.


BPRS-LA Board of Directors

*The Black Public Relations Society of Los Angeles (BPRS-LA) will host the first #BrandBuilders “Breakthrough to Excellence” Conference on Friday, September 30, 2016 at the SAG-AFTRA headquarters in Los Angeles. College students and entry to mid-level career professionals will engage in panel discussions and workshops led by top public relations, marketing, media and social media thought leaders from the corporate, community and entertainment industries.

“We are so excited to host this conference for the Greater Los Angeles communications industry and feature executives that represent national and international brands,” said Shawn Smith, BPRS-LA President. “Our goal is to unite PR, marketing and social media professionals to provide inspiration, share key learnings and foster relationships that turn into transformative career connections.”

For more than 15 years BPRS-LA has served as a beacon in the communications industry for people of color. With a mission to develop professionals and connect them to career opportunities, the organization offers workshops, seminars and networking events to cultivate their membership. BPRS-LA prepares their members and the communications community at large for success personally and professionally.

BPRS-LA Launches Conference to Build Synergy Amongst Public Relations, Marketing and Social Media Professionals and Showcase Diverse Communications Executives

Sponsored by CBS Entertainment Diversity, TV One, Business Wire, and Rolling Out, the BPRS-LA #BrandBuilders Conference will feature more than 20 leading industry professionals that will take part in panels, Q&A sessions, mentorship breakouts and informative discussions on a variety of topics including crisis communications, social media trends, career development, entertainment PR and much more.

The distinguished roster of conference speakers includes:

  • Holly Baird-Senior Associate, Sitrick and Company
  • Monica Bouldin-Vice President, R&R Partners
  • Alan Caldwell-Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer, Cerrell Associates
  • Randy Fling-COO, Rolling Out
  • Oliver Hatchett, Jr. -Producer, OHM Media
  • Echo Hattix –Founder/CEO, Echoing Soundz
  • Emma J.-DJ/Host, White Label Radio/93.5 KDAY
  • Melissa Keklak-CEO, MMKpr
  • Erika McCall -Executive Director, Manifest Your Destiny Foundation
  • Ellene Miles -Vice President, THAUrban
  • Ted Milner-President, Executive Temps
  • Monica Payne-Manager, Artistry Worldwide Management
  • Carlos Ray -Director of Communications, Magic Johnson Enterprises
  • Michelle Rosoff -Recruiter, Volt
  • Leshelle Sargent -Director, Publicity, Warner Bros. Worldwide Television
  • Roslyn Satchel -Assistant Professor of Communications, Pepperdine University
  • Crystal Shaw -Freelance Writer (Ebony, BET, EURweb)
  • Erica Sherman -Community Outreach & Player Involvement, LA Rams
  • Shawn Smith -Senior Manager of Communications, Disney Consumer Products & Interactive Media
  • Aishah White-CEO, AKW Public Relations
  • Beverly White -Reporter, NBC4
  • Tosha Whitten–Griggs, Senior Vice President of Publicity, TV One

Complete information about BPRS-LA and the #BrandBuilders conference, including registration information is available at Follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @BPRSLA and join the conversation via #BPRSLA #BRANDBUILDERS #BPRSBUILDERS.

About the Black Public Relations Society of Los Angeles

Black Public Relations Society of Los Angeles (BPRS-LA) is one of the nation’s foremost organizations for professional image-makers and communications strategists. Since its founding in 1987, National Black Public Relations Society (NBPRS) has served as an advocate for African-American PR practitioners. As an affiliate chapter, BPRS-LA focuses on professional development and connecting PR professionals throughout Southern California. We promote diversity of thought and talent, while providing support and education to help today’s professionals stay competitive in the ever-changing communications industry.



Carlos Ray