By ANFERNEE PATTERSON
DETROIT —For Detroit native Jemele Hill, columnist for ESPN’s Undefeated, the 2018 convention “is the most ideal and ultimate homecoming I could ever have.”
Hill and her honorary convention co-chair Rochelle Riley, a columnist for the Detroit Free-Press, launched the 2018 Opening Ceremony on Wednesday night, alongside President Sarah Glover and other members of the NABJ board of directors.
“For the convention to be here in Detroit is remarkable,” Hill said. Detroit “gave me my toughness, the chip on my shoulder which helped me become a successful journalist.”
NABJ notables and journalists from the host city welcomed a joyful crowd to the conference in a ceremony Wednesday that lasted well over an hour.
Marlon A. Walker, NABJ vice president for print and a native Detroiter, said in an interview after the ceremony that he was ecstatic when he found out the convention would be hosted in Detroit.
“This has been about five years or more in the making,” said Walker, an education reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who is running for re-election to his NABJ position.
“I’ve been looking forward to this since 2015,” Walker said. “To be able to have my extended family come to my hometown and do what I do in the environment I am comfortable in, in a city that does not get the credit it deserves is amazing.”
During the ceremony, newly hired executive director Drew Berry said that this year, NABJ officials are anticipating one of the best conventions ever, in both revenue and attendance.
In addition to welcoming remarks, several awards usually distributed during the Salute to Excellence awards show and gala were handed out, including the Student Chapter of the Year, which went to North Carolina A&T State University.
Cameron Dinkins, a rising junior and next president of the North Carolina A&T student chapter, accepted the award on the chapter’s behalf.
“It’s a big honor having this award,” Dinkins said, adding that his chapter focuses on keeping people involved and underscores the importance of NABJ to its members’ careers. “We are really big on retention and making sure that students come back to our organization.”
Some first-timers to the convention said the networking and on-site learning they expect is key to their excitement about the next few days.
“This is my first NABJ reception, and people have told me how NABJ has helped enhance their careers,” said Josh Mikkel, a senior Florida A&M University student attending the convention for the first time. “I’m looking forward to the workshops to enhance my networking circle.”
Christian Crittenden, a first-time attendee and also a rising junior at Georgia State University, said he’s thinking about his future job options.
“I am looking forward to the career fair,” he said. “I look forward to meeting major sports reporter recruiters from places such as ESPN.”