Bonnita’s Autobiography

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Editor’s Note: The following article was written by a youth reporter who is a graduate of the Urban Youth International Journalism Program.

It’s been almost 10 years since the trailblazers of the Chicago Housing Authority’s Urban Youth International Journalism Program (UYIJP) made its reporting trip to Israel and Ghana.

I must admit this experience has been a master key to many doors that have and will continue to open for me. We were representatives of our country, our community, our families and most importantly ourselves, and our goal was to gather information, witness the triumphs of other journalists and their countries, while engaging in libation with some of Ghana’s and Israel’s most prominent families. We were lucky, and ever so grateful.

As lucky as we may have been, I can only testify to what and how I’ve become an optimistic young lady.

Shortly after our return to Chicago from “across the pond,” I graduated from Paul L. Dunbar Vocational Career Academy with a diploma in Radio/TV Productions. While thriving as a journalist, I was accepted to Jackson State University’s College of Mass Communications in Jackson, Mississippi. I studied Broadcast Journalism and took a minor in English. My five years at Jackson State were the best of my life. Countless networking opportunities, friendships, life lessons and pertinent skills from the College of Mass Communications prepared me for the many hats I wear today. And my experience with UYIJP allowed me to be accepted by Jackson State’s International Exchange Program my junior year, but the funds were limited. That didn’t stop me; I began to pour my heart and soul into the student newspaper, The Blue & White Flash.

I began as a staff writer, and later became the paper’s first fashion writer before becoming Variety Editor. The Flash was a great experience for me as a journalist. I learned page layout and web design. I gained relationships with A&R executives from record labels, recruited student writers and organized Mass Communications Day. But my most memorable achievements was receiving a letter from Jackson State’s Director of Student Publications Mrs. Sylvia Watley, informing me an article I wrote was used in the “College” section of nytimes.com, the web page operated by The New York Times. I became a writer for YardStyle Magazine, and a YardStyle student representative. I was elated.

I faced so many questions, I thought I was being interviewed. Do I apply for The New York Times Journalism Program at Dillard University? Or do I want to stay in Jackson for grad school? Do I pray I receive an internship from Ebony Magazine? Or should I attend fashion school? I had my work cut out for me.

In May of 2004, graduation time, I heard the lyrics “Now it’s time to say goodbye to all my family” playing in my head. It was a historical day for my family and me because I was the first of my family to graduate from college. I considered it sweet victory: I received my degree. My family and friends helped me celebrate.

As I traveled up Interstate 55 with my parents, I reflected on the reasons I would miss my alma mater and how much it prepared me for what I was about to experience. All I could do was thank God for the things he blessed my family and I with all these years. I vowed to give back to others, as so many of my mentors have done.

After graduation, I landed an internship with Ebony and received my acceptance letter to The International Academy of Design and Technology (IADT) in Chicago. I adjusted from college to parental rules, and quickly got on top of my assignment to contact the HR department at Ebony Magazine to find out the start date for my internship. The expression of happiness was an understatement;I couldn’t wait to meet John H. Johnson, Eunice Johnson and the entire staff of Johnson Publishing Company. This was the start of the “real world.” I was assigned stories by Lerone Bennett, assisted Vandell Cobb with photo shoots and experienced my first taste of the fashion industry with Zondra Hughes. I made sure to take advantage of every lesson. It was time to begin making my mark in the field of journalism as well as fashion.

Toward the end of my internship, Zondra treated me with tickets to the Glamorama fashion event. At Glamorama, I met Barbara Samuels, the woman who would change my outlook on fashion. Samuels, fashion director for N’DIGO became my fashion mentor and a mother-like figure. Although the design academy taught me about fashion from a textbook perspective, Barbara made sure I was well-rounded in life. For a while, I thought I was enrolled in charm school, with lessons in fashion journalism, how-to examples of the proper letters for image and look book request forms. I gathered contacts for local and national designers, managed backstage production for shows and learned proper etiquette for grammar and personal style. My plate was full.

My skills grew stronger and my journalism and fashion portfolios gained range and depth. With graduation approaching, I began to take the initiative to start branding my name and reputation. I would take classes twice a week, intern at N’DIGO three days a week and self-promote on the weekends with side projects or helping Barbara and Markus Ford with fashion shows.

Another opportunity presented itself and allowed me to develop one of my untold passions of being a stylist. I worked with True Star Magazine as an editorial director and fashion stylist. Alongside other styling projects, I gained connects with local and national boutique owners, designers, photographers and upcoming models.

Besides graduation and intern duties with Hartman Publishing Group, I’ve grown within the company as well as a person. Now, I work as the online content editor for ndigo.com and savoymag.com. It is an ever-changing career; there are no limits with journalism, and I have experience in all mediums (broadcast, newspaper, magazine and online). Now its time to continue to tackle the world and build my dream fashion firm. Fashion world: look out!

As the scripture quoted above says, I will not stray, nor will I become disloyal because my teachers from my parents to my mentors set great examples and morals. Why would I detest my faith?

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