Recently Nyla N. Branam, a senior Mass Communication/Public Relations major from Baltimore, Md., was selected to be a part of a group HBCU student journalists who took part in a White House press briefing with Vice President Kamala Harris and White House Senior Advisor Keisha Lance Bottom.
Below is an article written by Ms. Branam about the experience:
HBCU students participate in a White House Press Briefing with Keisha Lance Bottoms and Vice President Kamala Harris
By Nyla Branam
On Thursday, Feb. 23, the White House Director of African American Media, Erica P. Loewe led a 1:15 p.m. press briefing with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) students. Also in attendance were U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who is also a Howard University alumna, as well as Keisha Lance Bottom, a graduate from Florida A&M University, who currently holds the position of Senior Advisor to the President of the United States for Public Engagement. During the event, they answered a plethora of questions composed by attending HBCU students.
Ms. Bottoms spoke with HBCU students before introducing Vice President Harris, “I am so proud of you, and so happy for you, and so excited,” she said. “This I know will be something that you will remember for the rest of your lives.”
Ms. Bottoms, who is also the former Mayor of Atlanta, spoke about the life changing experiences she had at her university. She talked about the university’s mission to strengthen the minds of the African American community. She also expressed the importance of Black Literature within the education of African American, and American scholars because it plays a large role in the history of America.
She said that education that propelled her to succeed in life. “I’d never seen anyone like me inside the White House, and here I stand…years later.” Ms. Bottoms also addressed the importance of HBCUs within the Biden-Harris administration. In fact, she noted that, the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCU’s is “led by Dr. Tony Allen, President of Delaware State University.”
A senior from Alcorn State University asked Ms. Bottoms about what is being done to protect the developing minds from large social media platforms, she shared that studies have shown the pandemic has increased people screen time “from 3.8 to 7.7 hours a day,” and “81% of 14-22 year olds use social media daily and constantly.” She added the Biden-Harris Administration takes the issue Americans are facing with social media very seriously, due to its effects on individuals mental health.
Vice President Harris joined the conversation and both women engaged in student-led questions. A senior at Wiley College asked the White House representatives what they feel is not broadcasted enough in the media when it comes to HBCUs, and black education
The Vice President expressed there is a “whole lot that’s not in the mainstream media.” She went on to talk about the importance of family, including her Divine Nine family, where she is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., which she noted many reporters and media outlets were not informed of its historical, and communal relevance until her vice presidency.
In fact, both women are a part of Divine Nine Organizations, Ms. Bottoms is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and both expressed the importance of African American Sororities and Fraternities in Black America.
Vice President Harris also encouraged the students “to share who we are,” as young black journalist who, “have a responsibility, because you have had the good fortune, and blessing of being in an academic environment… of all those who want to nurture you.” She added that the experience at HBCUs gives students the necessary confidence to never feel small.
The Vice President talked about on issues regarding HBCU funding and infrastructure upgrades. She said that creating programs that will lessen student loan debt is a game changer for HBCUs student ecosystem. She also stated that another goal of the Biden-Harris administration is to decrease the cost of medication, public health, and education, and mental health outlets in underfunded communities. She also discussed the importance of young entrepreneurs having access to capital through community banks and of investing in financial literacy to educate young adults on credit management and other necessary tools for success.
Vice President Harris left the HBCU students with this message: “Your voices are so important! You as journalist have such a unique skill and ability to really be a voice of and a voice for so much that is important in our country… continue to use your voices because we need you.
Students walked about with a lot to reflect on and were energized about becoming the next generation of way makers.
Alcorn State University, Senior, D’Marius Jones was one of the students chosen to present his question to Ms. Bottoms. Afterwards, he stated “I’m thankful I got the opportunity to ask Mrs. Bottoms about a topic so impactful to my community as well as myself. It’s a conversation that needed to be had, as well as promoted. I’m just grateful that God, my University and my family continue to drive me to advocate and fight for what I’m passionate about.”
As Ms. Bottoms stated at the start of the day, this was an experience that none of the HBCU students will soon forget.