NNPA 2017 Discover the Unexpected interns (Courtesy of Chevrolet)
NNPA 2017 Discover the Unexpected interns (Courtesy of Chevrolet)

Kicking off the program’s second consecutive year, Discover The Unexpected fellows traveled to Detroit for an immersion trip. For two days, the eight scholars, representing Morehouse College, Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University and Howard University, became acquainted with the General Motors headquarters, the city of Detroit and their fellow interns.

The trip commenced with an opening welcome ceremony at a repurposed firehouse that serves as the commercial studio of Ed Welburn, former Vice President of Design at General Motors. Upon arrival, the fellows approached the building with excitement as they were greeted by representatives from General Motors and the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA). In addition, they were greeted with the all-new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox parked at the entrance — the vehicle they will all drive in their respective assigned cities as they ‘discover the unexpected.’

After a welcome from the program’s team, the event officially began with opening speeches from Dr. Benjamin Chavis, NNPA president and CEO, and Michelle Alexander, General Motors Diversity Marketing Manager. Serving as this year’s Road Trip Navigator, Interactive One’s News and Men’s Programming Vice President Jamilah Lemieux expressed the importance of the Black media.

“I am firm believer in the urgency of protecting the future of Black media, of making sure that we have ample opportunity to not just tell our stories but to amplify them,” Lemieux said.

After Lemieux’s poignant remarks, the scholars were led outside of the firehouse where one bright red and three splashy orange Chevrolet Equinoxes awaited them. Fellows in teams of two, accompanied by Chevrolet and NNPA representatives, piled into the four cars ready to explore Detroit.

Scavenger hunt clues rang clearly through the speakers of the Equinox and they were off to navigate the city. The clues led the teams to four stops: Dilla’s Delights, Detroit vs. Everybody (a trademark T-shirt business), N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

At each stop, the students interviewed the shop owners, clerks, curators and museum guides, allowing them to document the stories that would be born out of the scavenger hunt.

Forming a bond with the store clerks had the biggest impact on DTU fellow Taylor Burris.
“My favorite part of the trip was speaking to Detroit vs. Everybody because it was obvious that Sade, the clerk, was very knowledgeable about what their brand means and how it is continuously uplifting the community and defying the odds” Burris said.

The scavenger hunt marked the conclusion of day one’s activities for the fellows.

The final day began with an address from Dr. Chavis at the General Motors headquarters. Focused closely on the speech, the fellows sat quietly around the conference room table as they were reminded of their role as young, Black journalists.

“[DTU Fellows] represent this emerging generation of journalists,” Chavis said. “To me this is an opportunity not just to reaffirm the 190-year legacy of the NNPA but to represent that legacy in new and more profound ways that match the challenges and opportunities we face in our communities.”

The scholars were given the opportunity to meet with their respective publishers and coordinators: Shalon Bell from The Atlanta Voice, Adria Jervay from The Carolinian, David Baker from The Louisiana Weekly and D. Kevin McNeir from The Washington Informer.

In these breakout sessions, the publishers and editors shared their expectations with their new writers. Anxious to get started, fellows asked questions and marveled at the history of the papers they were soon to join. There was a fresh excitement in the air as the publishers and editors connected with the team of fellows, other mentors and Chevrolet representatives.

Next on schedule was a trip to the Content Studio, an organization within GM whose goal is to develop the capability which enables Chevrolet to brand and build efficiently, strategically and consistently within the public social web. There, fellows were able to see how the marketing side of Chevrolet has expanded technologically by partnering with many different agencies in order to have a worldwide impact.

As journalists, the fellow’s goals and Chevrolet’s goals align in this respect. According to Michelle Alexander, Diversity Marketing Manager at General Motors, the program exists as an extension of the partnerships that Chevy holds in high esteem.

“As a brand [Discover The Unexpected] ties into our philosophy of finding new roads and ingenuity. We as a brand feel like this is something important that we are committed to,” Alexander said.

As day two came to a close, the fellows shared final hugs and goodbyes. To many, the immersion trip was a life changing experience. Some had never been to Detroit and were unaware of its impressive history.

But for all of them, one thing rang true: Discovering The Unexpected is far more than just a program. It’s a family.

“I was impressed by the amount of immense love we received from the whole General Motors staff, NNPA and the fellows. I don’t take that for granted. It’s refreshing to see that and feel it,” DTU Fellow Jordan Fisher said.

Fellows will be placed in North Carolina, Atlanta, Louisiana and Washington, D.C. for their summer experiences.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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