The 19th welcomes its second cohort of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper Fellows

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The 19th is excited to welcome its second cohort in the Frances Ellen Watkins Harper Fellowship, which seeks to create a meaningful pipeline for those historically excluded from U.S. newsrooms. 

Victoria Clark, a Xavier University graduate, has been selected as an audience fellow. Racquel Bethea, a graduate of Bennett College, will join the product and technology team as a fellow. Darreonna Davis, Eshe Ukweli and Merdie Nzanga, all alumni of Howard University, will serve as reporting fellows. The new fellows start at The 19th in early October.

“I’m so thrilled to welcome this talented group of journalists to The 19th as we strive to provide coverage that’s reflective of our communities and of the most pressing, often undercovered issues as we head into a defining election year,” said Kari Cobham, The 19th’s director of fellowships, who is an alum of Bethune-Cookman University. 

The fellowship, named for the “mother of African-American journalism,” provides recent graduates and mid-career HBCU alumni with a yearlong salaried fellowship in reporting, audience engagement, and product and technology. The program includes full benefits, from health insurance and paid time off to a 401(K) plan. 

The program will feature on-the-job training, mentorship and growth opportunities, as well as assistance navigating job placement after the fellowship. The fellowship is funded with a $3.8 million gift from Michelle Mercer and Bruce Golden. Learn more about the fellowship.

“I am so excited to welcome our new class, who will build on the work and example of our outstanding inaugural class,” said 19th editor-at-large Errin Haines. “The lessons and success of our first cohort have only strengthened our commitment to creating the pipeline our industry needs, continuing to prove that so many of the next generation of talented, qualified and capable journalists are hiding in plain sight among our rich HBCU institutions.”

Audience Fellow

Victoria Clark is The 19th’s audience engagement fellow. She is a strong advocate for building community among Black women, which she aims to do with her blog, Identity Black Woman. 

She was previously a Meta HBCU fellow, social media coordinator at EBONY Magazine, and an assistant editor at Minority Business News USA and Minority Business News Texas. She graduated in 2021 from Xavier University, where she studied mass communication and creative writing.

Victoria also interned at Louisiana Weekly and was a fellow for Lede New Orleans in 2020. She said both experiences taught her the importance of advocating for the Black community and their untold stories. She hopes to continue elevating their voices and building community. 

Reporting Fellows

Darreonna Davis is one of The 19th’s reporting fellows. A multimedia storyteller with a focus on digital journalism and playwriting, Darreonna earned her bachelor’s in media, journalism and film communications from Howard University this year. 

At Howard, she was an inaugural News Service Reporting Fellow for Inside Climate News; a production intern for CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” in the Washington, D.C., bureau; a production intern with CNBC’s Specials Unit; and associate interviews producer for The Creative Process podcast.

Darreonna also served as managing editor for 101 Magazine and as news and politics editor for Howard’s student newspaper, The Hilltop. She is a Barbara Walton Playwrights’ Arena Fellow at Arena Stage, where she is working to develop her first full-length play. 

She is from New Orleans and is currently based in Memphis, Tennessee. She is interested in reporting on race and ethnicity, socioeconomics, business, climate, and environmental justice. 

Eshe Ukweli is a reporting fellow at The 19th. Originally from Boston, Eshe is a journalist and digital marketing specialist based in Washington, D.C. A recent graduate of Howard University, she studied media, journalism and film communications with a minor in English. 

Prior to The 19th, she wrote about culture, news and fashion for Refinery29, INTO Magazine and The Washington Informer, among others. She also worked in digital marketing and strategic communications at GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign and Streamlined Media, and served as a 2023 Discover the Unexpected fellow, a journalism program from the National Newspaper Publishers Association and Chevrolet. 

Eshe’s name means “someone who lives truthfully” and she strives to be a changemaker who encourages everyone to find their truths and allow those to lead them to success.

Merdie Nzanga is a reporting fellow at The 19th. She earned a degree in journalism with a minor in French from Howard University. 

At Howard, Merdie earned the White House Correspondents’ Scholarship and interned at NBC News, ABC News, USA Today and D.C. Witness. She was also the Radio Television Digital News Association’s inaugural Lee Thornton scholar, named in honor of the first Black woman to cover the White House for a major news organization. 

Merdie’s work has taken her to Nairobi, Kenya, where she reported on female genital mutilation. She also interned on the Wall Street Journal’s finance desk, participated in the Dow Jones residency program and was a fellow at Reuters News covering how young voters saw the Biden administration. Her goal is to cover politics through the lens of race and equity. 

Product and technology fellow

Racquel Bethea is The 19th’s product and technology fellow. She previously spent almost a decade teaching in North Carolina, where she curated a journalism and media studies curriculum and taught technology. She is a school level 2020/2021 Teacher of the Year nominee.

Racquel studied journalism and media studies at Bennett College, where she served as editor-in-chief of Belle Media Group, which housed the school’s magazine, radio, news and television platforms. She interned at Aberdeen News in South Dakota and the Diversity Institute for Journalists in Nashville and wrote for the Veritas Universidad study abroad program in San Jose, Costa Rica. 

As a teacher, Racquel built a curriculum for a 3rd through 10th grade journalism and media studies program that allowed students to create biweekly news segments. She also served as a technology teacher for kindergarten through 6th grade, teaching coding, gaming, robotics, photography and graphic design. 

Racquel received her master’s degree from Newhouse at Syracuse University, where she studied journalism innovations. She plans to use these experiences and teachings to strengthen the knowledge, accessibility and voices in marginalized communities.

Please join us in welcoming Victoria, Darreonna, Eshe, Merdie and Racquel to The 19th!

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