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20th Anniversary — The Future of Journalism and Community Storytelling

How these journalists are using their work in service of community and equity.

November 8, 2023

Journalism is a powerful tool. For centuries, media has been used to villify communties of color but it has also made change for the good. At Next City, we use journalism to spread solutions to social issues. But it can also be used to hold the powerful accountable, highlight the work of community members and change longheld narratives about people, places and ideas.

During this conversation, we’ll speak with community-centered journalists about the current media landscape, their visions for the future of journalism and community storytelling — from checks and balances in the media to empowering communities to take control of their own stories, and how the work they’re doing in their newsrooms is helping to achieve a more equitable future. We’ll also discuss how meeting audiences where they are — in their neighborhoods and on social media — can have a powerful impact on people’s access to information and overall livelihood.

Throughout the 20th Anniversary Solutions of the Year festival, you will hear from dozens of speakers who are making change happen around issues such as reparations, community development, public health and more. Festival programming explores the solutions that we want to see spread from one city to the next. Anyone working for greater justice and equity in cities will be able to take inspiration from this festival into 2024. Purchase a single ticket now to all of the events for just $50, or pay what you wish by registering for each event individually. Everyone who donates will receive a copy of our annual Solutions of the Year special issue magazine.


Deonna Anderson, Editorial Director, Next City

Deonna Anderson is Next City’s editorial director. An award-winning journalist, she has served as a senior editor GreenBiz and worked with YES! Magazine, KLCC (an NPR affiliate station in Eugene, Oregon), The Lily, Atmos and other media outlets. Anderson is an alumna of the University of California, Davis and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. She lives in the Bay Area. She was also Next City’s 2017-2018 Equitable Cities Reporting Fellow.


Akoto Ofori-Atta, Cofounder and Chief Audience Officer of Capital B
Akoto Ofori-Atta is Cofounder and Chief Audience Officer of Capital B, a nonprofit local and national news organization serving Black Americans, set to launch this fall. Most recently, she was Managing Editor at The Trace, where she was responsible for partnerships, special projects, and editorial operations. As a founding editor, Akoto helped secure more than 170 local and national editorial partners for The Trace’s features and investigations. Previously, she held the position of Associate Editor and Social Media Manager at The Root and as a Senior Editor at Essence Magazine. In 2015, she completed a John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University, where she focused on issues surrounding diversity and the Black press. She was selected as a 2019-2020 Emerging Leader for the Institute of Nonprofit News.


Venneikia Williams, Media 2070 Campaign Manager
Raised in Winston Salem, North Carolina, Venneikia now resides in Charlotte, North Carolina and is an active community member. She supports the Free Press team in the development, design and successful implementation of the Media 2070 campaign for media reparations. This includes liaising with coalition partners, fostering external relationships, supporting newsroom training and developing a curriculum and necessary collateral materials. Before joining Free Press, she was engaged in faith and community-organizing work in St. Louis. As a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she uses her talents to amplify Black stories and liberate Black lives.


Wendi C. Thomas, Editor & Publisher, Founder MLK50

Wendi C. Thomas is the founding editor and publisher of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, an award-winning nonprofit newsroom focused on poverty, power and policy. Launched in 2017 with freelancers and $3,000, MLK50 has grown to an 10-person organization that has made a measurable, tangible impact in the lives of working class Memphians.  

Previously, Thomas was metro columnist and assistant managing editor at The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal. She has also worked for The Charlotte Observer, The (Nashville) Tennessean and The Indianapolis Star. Thomas was a 2016 fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. She was a 2019-2020 member of ProPublica’s  Local Reporting Network.

Thomas is the 2023 winner of the I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence. In 2022, Thomas received the Freedom of the Press Local Champion Award from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Other awards include the 2020 Selden Ring Award winner for investigative reporting, the 2019 National Association of Black Journalists’ Best Practices award and the 2018 Journalist of the Year by Journalism and Women Symposium.


Cierra Hinton, Scalawag
Cierra Brown Hinton is a creative strategist who centers imagination, play, and community in her work. She loves building with teams and individuals as they drive toward outcomes that matter in a way that is inclusive and authentic.

Cierra is the Executive Director-Publisher at Scalawag, a Southern, Black-led, Abolitionist media organization reporting with communities on the intersections of culture, race, and systems of power and privilege. Cierra is also a member at Blue Engine, a  collaborative that works with media companies, startups, foundations, and others on revenue and audience growth, product development, consumer user experience and digital strategy. 

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    20th Anniversary Solutions of the Year magazine

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