Word Warrior: April Ryan Talks Being The Longest-Running White House Correspondent And New Book Black Women Will Save The World
28th October 2022

“Being a Black woman who has the audacity to aspire to leadership, we’re always going to be judged by a different set of standards.” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot

This quote opens April Ryan’s first chapter of her latest book, Black Women Will Save The World: An Anthem, an apt title since it encapsulates a belief long-held by the esteemed journalist.

Ryan took on the task of White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks in 1997, and she’s held that role more than 25 years later. This is not only unheard of for most reporters, but even more unique for a person of color. To date, she is the longest running White House press corps journalist as a Black woman, and in celebration of this accomplishment, she reflects on her stunning experience in what she calls a “love letter to America.”

Ryan recently sat down with ESSENCE to discuss her new book, her fears about the upcoming elections and why she firmly believes Black women will save the world…yet again.

ESSENCE: Every page of your book radiates with love and reverence for Black women. At this point in your career, why that so important for you to share with the world?

RYAN: It’s not a just love letter to Black women but it’s my love letter to America, to the world about Black women. And we have to celebrate. I know Bishop TD Jakes told me a few years ago “you have celebrate yourself.” And he’s right. When you have these accomplishments, you can’t just work without celebrating. And I’m hoping this moment is that for me and so many other incredible Black women.

I don’t think we stopped and celebrated Ketanji Brown Jackson’s appointment to the US Supreme Court or seeing Kamala over at the White House. Or the fact that we have so many Black women CEOs across the country. Finally, not only are we in these spaces but we are running these spaces and I want to make sure we revel in that.

ESSENCE: In the book, you described taking a brief hiatus from your post after a series of challenging incidents while covering the Trump Administration. At what point did you realize you wanted to take a pause? What made you want to press the pause button and really take this in? Was there an “aha” moment?

RYAN: It was kind of an AHA moment, but a moment that was building. Black women were coming up to me on the street and offering their support after being so publicly disrespected over and over by the Trump administration.

It got to a point where I cried in that office. It was painful. It was hurtful. Many of us are still crying over it. Many of us. When I say many of us, congresswoman Corey Bush is still crying over being vilified. And like many women working in a challenging environment, it started to affect my health. My hair was falling out. I was losing sleep and instead of walking through those doors with pride and determination, I was filled with dread. So I took some time to reconnect to myself, lean on my sisters and rejuvenate. It’s so important as a Black woman to remember ourselves after trying so hard to save everyone else all the time.

We need to self care. We need to give ourselves the literal and figurative flowers we deserve. Thank yourself. Remind yourself that you are worthy, you are everything. Everything you thought and felt was valid, particularly the Black women working in government and political spaces. What you felt was valid.

ESSENCE: Yeah, I think that last piece is especially important…that confirmation and validation in workplaces that so often Black women don’t really get. Nine times out of ten we’re right about our concerns

I wanted to back up a little bit to touch on what you’d described on the first page of your book. Back to the moment that news broke about Justice Brown’s Supreme Court nomination back in February. You said you had to wrap your mind around the fact that a colleague of yours—a white man—was given the news to break.

Have you had many experiences in your career where you felt overlooked for an opportunity because of your race and gender?

RYAN: Yes, let’s talk about that. So, you know, they were deliberating inside the White House about who would take the story and it went to my colleague Jake Tapper, who’s wonderful but that speaks in a lot of ways to how media thinks a Black woman should be celebrated, if at all. Her story was given to someone else instead of another black woman who’s been there, done that, and who’s been tried and tested just like Ketanji. The dynamic is is really interesting but I’ve just realized that as long as put my best foot forward, other opportunities will present themselves.

I understand that was not for me. That story was not for me to deliver. But there are other stories meant for me to get out there. And I am still April Ryan. I am still April Ryan.

ESSENCE: We love tapping into the mind of incredible leaders like you, and unpacking what keeps them driven. What drives April Ryan forward after more than 25 years?

RYAN: The work has never been never about me. It’s about the greater good and it’s about others. My mother and father instilled humility and service to others. And that goes along with my faith teachings. I give through my reporting. Through storytelling. And celebrating others.

ESSENCE: How important is sisterhood to you? And specifically at the intersection of professionalism… the workplace, how important is sisterhood in that regard?

Sisterhood is everything. Again, my sisters my nurses, my confidantes, my ride of dies. They tell me when I’m wrong and when I’m right. She’s the one that cares when I’m not feeling good. Sisterhood is the wind beneath my wings. I get love from my fiancee’, my children, my mother…but it’s something different about sister love. It’s nurturing, it’s honest, it’s bold, it’s sassy. It’s everything. It’s my savior and I feel good about sharing it with the world.

Source: Read Full Article