Alums Power Breakthrough Project

Racial Reckoning, 2021.
The Racial Reckoning project sent ThreeSixty alums Samantha HoangLong (left) and Feven Gerezgiher (right) into the courtroom for Derek Chauvin’s trial as well as into the community to document stories other news organizations were overlooking. (Courtesy Samantha HoangLong)

The journalism field is struggling with a high turnover among people of color. Racial Reckoning: the Arch of Justice is working to change that. 

The initiative was created by KMOJ, The Minnesota Humanities Center and Ampers, Diverse Radio for Minnesota Communities in March 2021 during the Derek Chauvin trial, the former Minneapolis Police Officer who murdered George Floyd.  

The project is aired on KMOJ 89.9 FM, as well as 16 other radio stations in Minnesota. Racial Reckoning focuses on challenging stereotypes, correcting problematic narratives, and giving a voice to underrepresented people.  

“Women of color are leading the editorial decision-making,” Combs said. “You’re getting access to stories that would never have come up in mainstream newsrooms.”  

The reporting team is made up of all women of color, five of them being ThreeSixty alums: Samantha Hoanglong, Feven Gerezgiher, Hlee Lee, Chioma Uwagwu and Safiya Mohamed.  

“I’ve definitely been relying on some of the skills I’ve learned at (ThreeSixty),” said Gerezgiher. 

The University of Minnesota alum holds two degrees in Economics and Global Studies. After college, she worked for a couple of campaigns.  

Gerezgiher reconnected with ThreeSixty during fall 2020 and expressed an interest in getting back into journalism. When the opportunity to join Racial Reckoning came in February, Gerezgiher knew it would be a good match.  

“I am making an impact by reporting on our communities the way we want to be reported on,” Gerezgiher said.  

She has reported on police reform in Minnesota, voting rights, and how Juneteenth is celebrated in the Twin Cities.  

Chioma Uwagwu, a University of St. Thomas alum and Racial Reckoning’s social media and digital producer, said this project gives budding media professionals a chance to get their foot into the door. 

“Everyone who’s on the project has either just graduated or is still in college,” Uwagwu said. “We’re covering the stories in Minnesota from a different angle.”  

Uwagwu’s role entails posting daily updates, managing Racial Reckoning’s social media platforms, and giving the reporters story ideas and leads. 

She has also produced a couple bylines, reporting on protest art, Indian residential schools, and childbirth disparities between women of color and white women.  

She said ThreeSixty “taught me that you don’t have to do it by yourself. You have this community of people behind you to help you succeed, and that’s so needed.”  

Having ThreeSixty alumni on the team is an asset, according to Combs.  

“When they walk into the door, they already have a good grounding in basic journalism skills,” Combs said.  

Combs hopes this project becomes a platform for young journalists to launch their careers. 

“My dream for this project is that it’s recognized as essential,” Combs said. “Whether it’s the Racial Reckoning Project or whether it’s in some other form, we continue to create opportunities for young journalists of color.”  

As for Uwagwu and Gerezgiher, both echoed similar sentiments of wanting more young people to continue the work of Racial Reckoning.  

“I hope we can continue bringing in young reporters, because they are talented,” Uwagwu said.