Gray clouds filled the sky last Friday night as media elite descended upon the bucolic but hip Washington, D.C restaurant Masseria for the 2nd Annual Politics & Inclusion dinner, a White House Correspondents weekend affair that celebrates diversity and inclusion in Capitol Hill journalism, but as guests sheltered from spotty showers, hope was in the air at this year’s upscale fete.
Hosted by CNN personality Abby Phillip and ColorComm Corporation founder and CEO Lauren Wesley Wilson, high-profile attendees including CBS morning anchor Gayle King, The View’s Sunny Hostin, ABC president Kim Godwin and comedian Roy Woods, Jr. posed for photos, sipped Moet, and noshed on a multi-course meal that included potato gnocchi, ribeye steak, baked chocolate mousse, mascarpone and homemade gelato.
"Hosting the Politics & Inclusion Dinner during White House Correspondents' Weekend is an opportunity to honor inclusivity. We celebrate the rising stars, established journalists and executives who help strengthen the voices of those who are often underrepresented in the media industry and political discourse," says Wesley Wilson.
The sea of media professionals including MSNBC anchor Symone Sanders Townsend, Washington Post writer Jonathan Capehart and veteran White House correspondent April Ryan—all of whom served on the event’s official host committee—flanked long wooden tables with the likes of corporate heavyweights from Google and Walmart.
“I wanted to create a space where people could sit down, connect and lift each other up,” explains Phillip. “It’s a moment of encouragement for people who work in this field and don’t often receive it from each other, from their peers, from their mentors, from their friends. We are in a moment in society where it’s not about token-ism, its about true representation and elevating the voices that actually reflect the people that we cover.”
With recent terminations of high-profile Black news personalities seemingly presenting a clear and present danger in how the news is accurately covered and represented, Politics & Inclusion provides a safe space for voices to be heard while generating momentum for diverse and honest coverage.
“When you think about political journalism, our media in that vein doesn’t reflect the true diversity of our country,” says Hostin. “This is a hard landscape to cover. I’m nervous. I feel our voices are being silenced. [But this dinner] gives me some hope, because we know that we are here and that we will support each other.”
Other notable guests included 2022 EBONY Power 100 honoree and PBS Newshour anchor Geoff Bennett alongside his co-anchor Amna Nawaz, CNN’s Omar Jiminez, and an expecting Yamiche Alcindor of NBC news.
“If you look around the room, it’s filled with journalists of color, and while we recognize there are a lot of us in this room, there are not a lot of us in these news organizations,” Capehart tells EBONY. “That’s what’s important about this dinner… to remind us that we are as essential to this town and the coverage of politics as the larger celebration that this weekend represents.”
In addition to the high-powered diners, this year, Politics & Inclusion welcomed ColorComm NextGen HBCU Fellows who engaged with the leading journalists in attendance.
“Our goal was to encourage the next generation of leaders to build community, create their own spaces and not wait to be invited. Collectively we can make a difference by honoring the established industry leaders and celebrating the rising stars,” says Wesley Wilson.
Expect mainstream coverage of this weekend’s activities to be focused on the Correspondents Dinner itself, but it’s worth noting that journalists of color are unified and covering politics with a purpose and intention. The Politics & Inclusion dinner was like a reunion of sorts to catch up and have a good time, but also to celebrate who we are, what we do, and most importantly, where we are going.