32 years later, NABJ revisits Miami for annual convention

Jeff Walker, Operations Director of Black News Channel, smiles as he sets up the Black News Channel table at the National Association of Black Journalists Career Fair 2019 at the J.W. Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort, Tuesday August 6th, 2019. EBONY DUELL/NABJ MONITOR

By Ayana Archie
NABJ Monitor

DeWayne Wickham, an NABJ founder and founding dean of Morgan State University’s journalism school, has high regard for the 1987 NABJ convention in Miami. 

Wickham attended every NABJ convention except for one, so he should know. But Miami was special. 

At 1987’s Miami convention he was elected NABJ’s president in a remarkable turn of fate. Wickham won the post by the largest margin in NABJ history, two years after losing a bid for president by a small margin of only a dozen or so votes.

In 1987 Miami, a dozen eggs cost 78 cents, the average rent was $543 and Miami’s population was about 31 percent less. 

That year, the convention was hosted at the Intercontinental Hotel Miami in downtown Miami, around 17 miles south of this year’s resort hotel.

That was 32 years ago. 

This year, the NABJ convention is expected to be the most attended one yet, and in many ways, the city and organization hosting more than 3,000 people this year, has changed.

From its founding in 1975 until 1987, the organization had not held a convention in Miami, which was one of the deciding factors for its selection, along with it being “a good place to go,” Wickham said. 

There was also, of course, a focus on improving and evolving the organization.

“We went from survival to preparation and skills enhancement,” Wickham said. 

Longtime member and Student Multimedia Projects founder Sheila Brooks marveled at the increased amount of young people who now participate in the convention year after year.

That wasn’t always the case for Brooks and other young people in 1987 when she attended the Miami convention. 

In fact, it would take Brooks another two years to launch the NABJ Student Multimedia Projects at the 1990 Los Angeles convention after noticing as a college student there weren’t many young people in the organization. 

The program wasn’t approved until her third proposal to the board, when several of her friends and members of her network rallied behind her, she said. 

“For me, it was giving back. I always look at it like that,” she said. “It’s a labor of love. I am grateful. It’s always a joyous occasion to see so many young faces, bright, talented creatives that want to be in this business.” 

The 1987 convention was the first for John Yearwood, who had just graduated from college.

Yearwood said he left the Miami convention with lifelong friends, intangible fun-filled experiences and a tangible job with The Dallas Morning News. 

He credited a panel on international reporting for bringing him full circle as a world editor for The Miami Herald, where he worked for 12 years until 2016. 

He and Wickham also remember the day cruise to the Bahamas. In fact, many members who attended the convention rave about staying up the night before to board the ship as early as 6 a.m.

Said Wickham, “There were a lot of mojitos, a lot of Bahama Mamas!” 

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