“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.” – Lori Lightfoot is Chicago Mayor
This quote opens April Ryan’s first chapter of her latest book, An Anthem for Black Women Who Will Save The World:The title “The Eminent Journalist”Because it captures an old belief, it is very appropriate.
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 common for most journalists, but it’s also rare for someone of colour. She is the longest-serving Black woman journalist in the White House Press Corps. She writes about her incredible experience to celebrate. “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: Your book is filled reverence and love of Black women. Why is this important?
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. We must celebrate. I still remember Bishop TD Jakes telling my story a few decades 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. There are so many Black women who hold leadership positions in this country. We are not just in these spaces, we also run them. This is something I want to make sure we all enjoy.
ESSENCE: After a series difficult incidents while covering Trump Administration you took a brief hiatus. What was the moment that you realized you needed a pause? What was it that made you want to pause so you could really take in the moment? Did you notice an “aha” moment?
RYAN:It was a sort-of AHA moment but one that was steadily building. After being publicly disowned by Trump’s administration, black women came up to me and offered their support.
It got to the stage where I was able cry in that office. It was difficult. It was very difficult. Many of us still grieve over it. Many of us. I mean many of us. Corey Bush, a congresswoman, continues to rage over being vilified. It started to affect me health, as it does for many other women who work in difficult situations. My hair was falling out. I was losing my sleep and instead of feeling proud and determined, I felt overwhelmed with dread. I took some time to rest, to reconnect with my sisters, to recharge, and to renew. It’s so important as a Black woman to remember ourselves after trying so hard to save everyone else all the time.
Self-care is vital. We need to give ourselves the figurative as well as literal flowers we deserve. Thank you. Remember that you’re worthy and that you are everything. All that you thought or felt was valid, especially for Black women working in politics and government. You felt what 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 In February, the Supreme Court appointed a new judge. 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.
Did you ever feel you were being overlooked because of your race or 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 am sorry. I wasn’t qualified to tell that tale. There are many other stories I could tell. And I am April Ryan. I am April Ryan.
ESSENCE: We love to listen to the thoughts of extraordinary leaders and find out what keeps them motivated. April Ryan’s drive to succeed after more than 25 years.
RYAN: It’s never been about me. It’s about the greater good and it’s about others. My father and mother instilled humility, service, and compassion in me. This is in accordance with my faith teachings. I give through my reporting. Through storytelling. Sharing stories.
ESSENCE:What is the most important thing to you? Sisterhood And specifically at the intersection of professionalism… the workplace, how important is sisterhood in that regard?
Sisterhood is everything. My sisters are my nurses and confidantes. They are also my ride of the dyings. 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 like a breeze under 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.