Regular Sunday columnist Ray Marcano wrote last week that he wasn’t excited for Black History Month.
The event, he wrote, has become “marginalized with meaningless recitations of the figures we know, but no meaningful discussions about how history continues to impact Black people today.”
Marcano’s column should serve as a challenge to anyone “checking the box” of Black History Month, to go beyond name-dropping Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or casually recognizing the other familiar names and accomplishments.
“No one individual, regardless of race, bears blame for the country’s systematic discrimination of the past.” Marcano continued. “But we’re all responsible for what happens now. That starts with connecting the dots, understanding how the past impacts today, and why Black people still face a tough road to equality.”
We often hear about the problems confronting our Black communities and our reporting on these problems is the critical first step in identifying and overcoming them. As we wrote earlier this year, for every topic our reporters cover, there are numerous people in the community whose perspective and expertise can enrich the conversation. Building on the strong reporting from our staff, it is the role of Ideas & Voices to lead discussion and debate about how the Dayton region gets better.
Throughout February, Ideas & Voices will be “connecting the dots” by profiling Black individuals and organizations doing the work to better our communities. Black History Month presents an opportunity to, as Marcano said, understand how the past impacts today and, critically, to turn that understanding into action. These contributors are community leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, volunteers and more. They are problem-solvers, solution-seekers and change agents.
Yesterday, Rachel Ward, Director of Operations & Strategic Initiatives for the Omega Community Development Corporation, contributed a column about mitigating generational poverty through Omega CDC’s initiatives that build pathways to self-sufficiency.
Last week, Y.L.A.G. (Young Ladies Aspiring Greatness) discussed their organization’s goal of changing the narrative around Black teen girls by encouraging growth, activating ambition, self-love and character.
We are excited to share with you many more of these contributed columns throughout the rest of the month as we continue to explore issues important to our Black communities. We are also making it a point to, as much as possible, feature photography from local Black photographers to accompany these columns, including work from Shon Curtis, Imani Mari and Sean Korey.
Shon Curtis, the artist-in-residence at The University of Dayton’s The Hub in the Dayton Arcade, has photographed many of these contributors in a special session.
“For these images, it was important for me to articulate how personal it is to know who is working behind-the-scenes to make our communities better,” he said. “I want these images to feel as though the viewer has been given an intimate access to see these people.”
Curtis and NaAsiaha Simon, whose column about the Gem City Selfie Museum ran on Feb. 1, among others, have been key collaborators with Ideas & Voices to help identify contributors and have put in tremendous effort to help execute this month’s project.
Of course, this commitment doesn’t begin and end in February. Ideas & Voices aims to mirror the diversity of our communities throughout the year. Many of the issues discussed this month are deeply entrenched and these columns should serve as a launching point for further conversation — and action — well beyond Black History Month.
We hope you enjoy this month’s project and invite you to follow along with the rest of our Black History Month coverage at daytondailynews.com/black-history.
What makes a good contributed column?
Ideas & Voices welcomes responses to the columns you find this month as well as new ideas that you feel might be missing or add to the conversation.
Creating an opinion piece that motivates strangers to act is no small task. A good contributed column takes reported facts and research and builds momentum toward action. If you know of a topic has not been reported on that you believe is newsworthy, contact our newsroom at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (937) 610-7502. Ideas & Voices is not the place to report news — it’s a place to discuss the news.
For Ideas & Voices, we look for submissions that:
- Identify a problem in our communities
- Explain the importance of this problem and how readers might be affected by it.
- Propose a solution.
- Offer clear action steps that allows our audiences to be a part of that solution.
Why am I the right person to speak on this topic? How does the topic affect local communities? Is there anything meaningful that readers in our region can do to address it? The more clearly you can answer these questions, the stronger the submission will be.
Other key considerations:
- Prioritize local issues. You can discuss national or global issues, but you should identify how those topics affect local readers.
- Use examples from your personal experiences to demonstrate how the topic is important to you.
- Build a strong, logical argument that cites data, studies and reliable reporting. Every claim should be substantiated.
- Keep a civil tone. Remember, you’re writing to persuade your neighbors.
We can’t overstate the importance of solutions. Asking someone to care isn’t enough — show them how to be a part of the solution. Leave your readers with an actionable goal that will inspire and mobilize them. Keep it simple, concrete and achievable, like donating to a specific charity or volunteering time with a non-profit organization.
It is also important that you know your audience. Though they may be reading, elected officials, CEOs and other community leaders are not the primary audience for Ideas & Voices. You should direct your contributed piece at the everyday readers of the Dayton Daily News. These are your neighbors, your friends, your family. Always keep them in mind as you write and think about how they can help with your proposed solution.
Do you have a photograph or graphic that can accompany the piece? Contributing visual elements with your submission can make it more compelling for readers.
Be prepared to revise and answer questions about your submission. Submissions are fact-checked for accuracy and editors will often have questions about specific claims or suggestions for how to improve elements of the submission. And don’t feel bad if your first draft isn’t immediately accepted — many submissions require multiple rounds of revision before they are ready to be published.
Not sure if you want to write a full 500-word submission without knowing if it’s a good fit? Email your proposed topic to email@example.com and we will let you know if we are interested or how we can make it work.
You can submit the contributed column in the body of the email, as a Word document attachment or you can share a link to a Google Doc (please allow commenting permissions). All submissions will also require a recent headshot of the contributor and a short, one-line bio that tells readers about themselves.
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