Fresh Air For the Windy City

The Chicago Defender newspaper recently named Emma Asante (left) one of their Women of Excellence for 2016. The award celebrates African American women who inspire others through their vision, leadership and exceptional achievements in community service. That’s exactly what she does as vice president for special projects and community relations at NBC Chicago. Asante plans special events, like a recent Gospel concert with recording artist Erica Campbell and NBC Chicago anchor Art Norman (pictured above). Her efforts are dedicated to giving hope and relief to residents, many of them stricken with grief after recent outbreaks of violence in the city.

By Emma Asante ’97

AsanteIt’s been nearly impossible to watch the news lately without seeing the widespread outbreak of violence in the city of Chicago. A fair amount of that coverage takes place on NBC Chicago/WMAQ where I work as vice president of special projects and community relations.

I have spent most of my NBC career focused on community relations in local television markets, and it’s been an amazing opportunity and responsibility to use the power and influence of media to inspire communities.

That responsibility is what led me to a recent Gospel concert at Chicago’s House of Hope venue. The free community event drew in more than 3,000 attendees to hear Gospel artist Erica Campbell belt out her set list, filled with inspirational lyrics like “I need just a little more Jesus…”

The clapping, dancing and singing was a welcome reprieve for the community. Like every city, Chicago has challenges that can make the task of delivering the news both daunting and discouraging.

But on any given day in Chicago, there are thousands who bring a little more Jesus into the community by feeding the hungry, comforting families who are mourning loved ones lost on the streets and mentoring teens with big dreams to change our current reality. My job is to enable our team to tell these stories as part of NBC Chicago’s Making A Difference outreach initiative.

An integral part of this initiative has been the station’s outreach to Chicago’s faith-based community. Ministers are the beacons of comfort and hope in neighborhoods that are coping with the violence. We hold town hall meetings to unite church leaders with news leaders, and hearing from ministers in the trenches has empowered us to make a difference.

Making that difference is what I’ve always wanted to accomplish through broadcasting. My calling to the field found me when I wasn’t looking for it. I arrived at Evangel in August of 1993 after missing the scheduled class registration for freshmen. Luckily, several professors stuck around to help, and when Dr. Cameron Pace heard me mention that I needed a job, he offered a position with the campus television station.

I didn’t know anything about broadcasting, but I was eager to cross one “to-do” off my list. It only took a few days for me to fall in love with broadcasting and I declared it my major by the end of my first semester. From that point until my graduation ceremony, I was laser focused on my new path and loved every minute of it. Through triumph and trial, I’m still loving the path I’m on today.

As the Gospel concert ends and Erica Campbell exits the stage, the concert emcee Art Norman tells the crowd to tune in for coverage that evening. The concert is likely to be the brightest spot on that evening’s newscast, and that thought makes me smile. Another night of outreach is done, and hopefully I’ve helped make Chicago a little brighter for those who call it home.

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