Birmingham Times, SJL embark on historic journalistic partnership

By Richard Friedman and Keila Lawrence

The Birmingham Times, a historic newspaper serving Birmingham’s Black community; Southern Jewish Life magazine and its sister publication, Israel InSight magazine, and Miles College, an HBCU in Fairfield, have come together to create a joint journalism internship for a Miles student.

The purpose of this new internship is to provide an aspiring journalist with a premier educational experience while writing stories of interest to the Black and Jewish communities. The program began in December 2022. Kiara Dunlap, who is from Quartz Hill, Calif., is the first intern.

Dunlap, a senior communications major, describes her experience: “It has been really great. I feel like I am learning a lot and appreciate the opportunities I have been given to grow. Learning more about the relationship between the Black and Jewish communities has been one of my favorite parts, especially gaining a deeper understanding of the Jewish community.”

She meets regularly with Barnett Wright, executive editor of The Birmingham Times Media Group; Richard Friedman, associate editor of Southern Jewish Life, and Keila Lawrence, a Miles graduate who is her peer mentor. Lawrence is an Assistant Account Executive with Clyde Group, a leading public relations and public affairs boutique agency in Washington. She has been at the forefront of building ties between young Black and Jewish leaders.

The Black and Jewish communities have supported each other in the past, and efforts to maintain these ties continue. Dunlap’s first story focused on a University of Alabama at Birmingham panel discussion about the current state of Black-Jewish relations.

Writing about the UAB program was a great experience, said Dunlap. “My mentors gave me great feedback. Every time I received additional edits, I would feel myself growing.”

The internship evolved from discussions between Wright and Southern Jewish Life Editor and Publisher Larry Brook. They felt it was important to strengthen ties between Jews and Blacks, which were strong during the Civil Rights Era but have waned since then and, even at times, become frayed.

“This project allows a deserving HBCU student to gain valuable journalistic experience from seasoned editors who work with the student on stories that are of value to the African American and Jewish communities,” said Wright. “These are often stories that are overlooked, but crucial given the long history that the two communities have had partnering to face respective challenges.”

“As one who has been involved in dialogue groups in Birmingham since the 1980s, I have always believed that knowing more about different people and communities is best for Birmingham as a whole,” added Brook. “I am excited about this new venture which can help readers of both publications become more familiar with each other. It also has been fantastic working with Miles College and one of their highly-talented students.”

Funds to underwrite the internship were raised from donors in the Black and Jewish communities.  These include Lisa and Alan Engel, Dr. Jesse J. Lewis, Ronne and Donald Hess, Cathy and Paul Friedman, Ingrid and Steven Hairston, Hilary and Scott Gewant, Carole and Michael Pizitz and others who want to remain anonymous.

The Consulate General of Israel to the Southeastern United States also is providing support. “We are proud to support this important and innovative project. The Consulate is committed to deepening ties and promoting mutual understanding between the Black and Jewish communities, and to enhancing knowledge about Israel in the Black community,” said Consul General Anat Sultan-Dadon.

Dunlap will visit Israel this summer. The trip is sponsored by Philos Black, an Atlanta-based organization dedicated to educating young Black leaders about Israel and strengthening ties between them and their Jewish counterparts. She will write stories about her trip for both publications.

As she continues to grow as a young journalist, Dunlap expresses her gratitude for the internship opportunity. “My mentors support and trust me and are always communicative and responsive. On my UAB story, my hand was held in a loving and helpful way. They have been very patient with me from beginning to end.”

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