JSU senior amplifies the ever-growing power of Black storytelling through Meta HBCU Summer News Fellow internship

JACKSON, Mississippi – This past summer, JSU senior Aria Brent spent eight weeks as one of the 25-plus hand-selected students working in local and national newsrooms throughout the United States.

As part of an HBCU initiative launched by Facebook in 2020, the Meta Internship is designed to educate participants on news production and narrative while providing the next generation of storytellers with the social tools and foundational knowledge necessary to improve audience engagement across an array of topics and welcome fresh perspectives into legacy and new media institutions.

“Participating in this fellowship helped me a tremendous amount with gaining a better understanding of communications and narrative development by providing me with the opportunity to create my own content,” said Brent.

A native of Columbus, Ohio, Brent interned virtually and in person for Baltimore, Maryland-based media organization AFRO. There she was tasked with developing and publishing original creative content for partnership organizations/companies, exposing her to the detail-riddled process of social media strategy and implementation.

Brent says she also learned about applying reader research and audience development insights. These skills assisted her with helping to launch the organization’s “AFRO Cooking – Telling Our Story Through Food,” which utilizes statistical evidence based on their target audience, who are more likely to digest more sports and food-related content.

“As a food journalist, I had been writing articles and creating videos on my own but never on this scale…having to figure out and oversee all the moving pieces for the cooking series my company started aided me in expanding my understanding of communications,” she says.

Brent shares that she collaboratively worked with AFRO’s creative team to develop a 130-day social media campaign dedicated to the 130th anniversary of the company.

Brent says the experience made her further challenge herself to diversify and expand her skillset by serving as social media coordinator for JSU’s Student Government Association. She also contributes articles to various media outlets, including Medium where she penned her historically compelling article on the history of vegan and classic southern cuisines and the correlation to Black history and culture.

“I like to be extremely intentional in my style of writing so that my reader understands and knows a Black woman wrote the article they’re reading,” says Brent. “For them to have a created space for me as a Black journalist, who has this specific niche for food journalism, was such an amazing experience.”

As a mass communications major, Brent emphasizes the importance of Black communicators and storytellers to be able to ideate, develop, and publish their own narratives on local, regional and national platforms.

Brent explains that having worked with a primarily Black-owned and family-operated company, the opportunity to work collaboratively with the company created a sense of urgency around “building our own narratives and news.”

“Ultimately, my takeaway was that Black journalists and news companies do exist. They can be successful, and they surely matter. I feel very particular about being a Black, female journalist in my line of work,” said Brent. “I want to be honest and do well, but I also want to be non-compromising.”