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The Center for Journalism & Democracy at Howard University Announces Executive Director

Dr. Kali-Ahset Amen, director of Center for Journalism and Democracy

WASHINGTON – The Center for Journalism & Democracy at Howard University has named Kali-Ahset Amen, Ph.D., as its inaugural executive director. Amen will be responsible for operationalizing the vision put forward by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, who is founding the center. The center is set to launch late Fall.

Amen had previously served as managing director of the Billie Holiday Center for the Liberation Arts in Baltimore, where she worked to advance its mission of preserving, documenting and disseminating Black Baltimore’s history and culture. She was also an assistant research professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

The Center for Journalism & Democracy is devoted to bolstering the field of investigative journalism in the service of multiracial democracy. Hannah-Jones, the Knight Chair in Race and Journalism at the Cathy Hughes School of Communications, has called attention to the need for historically informed investigative journalism that meets with urgency the threats to our democracy and for broader representation among the nation’s investigative reporters.

Amen will supervise the center’s day-to-day operations and lead its fundraising efforts. She earned a doctorate in sociology from Emory University in 2014. She also holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Maryland and a Bachelor of Arts in African studies from Columbia University. In addition, she has earned a graduate certificate in museum studies from Harvard University.

“In the year since I announced that I would be creating the Center for Journalism & Democracy, we have engaged in rigorous strategic, branding and launch planning that has tapped into important stakeholders in the field. As we prepare to launch the center later this Fall, I am so excited to announce Dr. Kali-Ahset Amen as the inaugural executive director for the Center for Journalism & Democracy. Launching a center of this ambition is a massive and consuming task, and Dr. Amen brings an ambition, dedication and vision to this work that matches mine. More importantly, Dr. Amen brings critical experience, historical grounding and a passion for the work of equipping generations of journalists with the knowledge and skills to do the urgent journalism our democracy requires. She is brilliant and a force, and the center is very lucky to have her,” Hannah-Jones said.

“Serving as the inaugural executive director is a dream come true for me because I believe deeply that independent Black thought and strong Black institutions are critical to creating the kind of democracy that all Americans want. History has already shown us that when Black voices are lifted in defense of truth and justice, the entire society benefits. African-American journalists, intellectuals and activists of all sorts have bequeathed a legacy of political and moral thinking that must be applied to the progressive transformation of American society. In this vein, we are committed at the center to this work of social change and historical repair through the important medium of investigative reporting,” Amen said.

Hannah-Jones continues to build out her team and has also hired Beverlee Turner as the center’s program manager. Turner, a Howard University alumna, joins the center from the University of Southern California where she served as the associate director for the Marshall School of Business’s Master of Science of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program. Turner comes with a wide range of academic experience.

The center will create and support investigative journalism courses as well as visiting professorships that bring working professionals into the classroom. With the center, Howard University will become one of the few journalism programs nationwide to offer a slate of courses with an investigative focus. The center will also fund investigative reporting courses at other HBCUs, as well as provide financial support for student journalists and student newspapers at historically Black colleges and universities, support journalism faculty, and train students and professional journalists.

The center will also work to promote investigative journalism in service of preserving American democracy and furthering equality and racial justice, and will host democracy summits and other symposia that bring together experts across the field to tackle some of the nation’s most vexing issues.

About Howard University

Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 14 schools and colleges. Students pursue more than 140 programs of study leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced one Schwarzman Scholar, three Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 12 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 165 Fulbright recipients. Howard also produces more on-campus African American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu.

Media Contact: Sholnn Freeman; sholnn.freeman@howard.edu