NNPA Washington Correspondent Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent Jazelle Hunt

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Jazelle Hunt, a Washington correspondent for the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service, recently completed week-long training at the University of Southern California as one of 14 journalists awarded a 2014 National Health Fellowship.

Hunt, a Howard University graduate who has been employed by the NNPA News Service since last year, was awarded a $2,000 grant to report on and write a series of stories on rape in the African American community. The grant was awarded to cover travel costs for Hunt’s national reporting.

“I will spend the next six months on a project around rape in the Black community

and how culture plays a role the aftermath of an assault,” Hunt explained. “With the help of a $2,000 grant, the series will explore this topic through the experiences of survivors, their families, community institutions, service organizations, and advocates.”

George E. Curry, editor-in-chief of the NNPA News Service, said, “We are honored that Jazelle was selected as a one of only a handful of journalists to receive a National Health Fellowship. Although rape in the Black community is often a painful subject to discuss, it is a discussion we must engage in nonetheless. I am looking forward to editing Jazelle’s series.”

In her project proposal, Hunt noted: “For Black Americans, such cultural lines affect the way rape is viewed and treated. For example, the historical (and present) commodification and fetishization of the Black woman’s body has created the stereotype that Black women and girls are oversexed. Black girls are often socialized to avoid this stereotype so seriously, that even a healthy sex-positive outlook can be shameful. For Black women and girls, the fear of being labeled with this stereotype can magnify the guilt and self-blaming that so many rape survivors experience. The result is silence.”

Hunt continued, “Another example of a cultural consideration is the tenuous relationship between Black people, and law enforcement and the medical community. Past (and sometimes current) mistreatment festers into present-day distrust; because of this, some Black rape survivors and their loved ones decline to report assaults to law enforcement, or to go to a hospital for an exam and rape kit. This is especially true when the victim and assailant are part of the same community – there’s the urge to ‘keep it in the house’ to protect them both from systems that are all too often unjust.”

Each year since 2005, the National Health Journalism Fellowship has invited journalists from all over the country to submit proposals for ambitious health reporting projects they would like to tackle. The University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism, which sponsors the fellowship, awards the most newsworthy and timely applicants with professional training, and a grant from The California Endowment to pursue their projects.

In addition to Hunt, this year’s Fellows are: Tom Corwin (The Augusta Chronicle), Natasha Dado (Arab American News). Timothy Darragh (Morning Call), Frank Gluck (News-Press), Kristin Gourlay (Rhode Island Public Radio), Kyle Hopkins and Mark Lester (Anchorage Daily Dispatch), Samuel Murillo (La Voz Arizona), Kathleen O’Brien (The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J.), Madeleine Ostrander (The Nation and New America Media), Susan Ruckman (Native Times), Veronica Zaragovia (KUT Public Radio (Austin) and Radio Bilingue) and Arielle Levin Becker (Connecticut Mirror).

In conjunction with the National Fellowship, seven other journalist were awarded fellowships as part of the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism, a competitive grants program to underwrite substantive reporting on community health issues. Those grants ranged from $2,500 to $10,000.

This year’s recipients were: Lisa Bernard-Kuhn (Cincinnati Enquirer), Daniel Chang, (Miami Herald), Joaqlin Estus (KNBA Public Radio in Alaska), Dan Gorenstein (radio’s Marketplace), Bob Ortega (Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona) Mary Annette Pember (Indian Country Today and The Daily Yonder) and Jay Price (News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.)

Fellows are tackling such topics as the disproportionate low use of car seats by Latinos and the Affordable Care Act in Indian Country.

The combined 21 fellows were welcomed to the USC campus near downtown Los Angeles for an all-expense paid week of workshops, field trips, brainstorms, and training with health experts and journalists. After the intense week, fellows were sent off to complete their proposed projects, armed with new skills and resources around these themes.

This year’s fellows came from all over the country, from Connecticut to Alaska. Keynote speeches covered the rollout of the Affordable Care Act; the mental and emotional consequences of trauma; innovative models for serving patients with chronic illnesses; using data and community engagement to enhance reporting.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to share our stories on a mainstream stage, and honored to have represented the Black Press in this year’s impressive crop of fellows,” Hunt said. ”If you have a story to tell – even one that isn’t documented/reported or if your organization, group, or initiative would like to get involved with this project – please email me at contactjazelle@gmail.com.”


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