Selena Hill is passionate about social issues and women empowerment and she’s using her skills to make a difference. Truly a multi-media journalist, her work appears in newspapers, magazines, on radio, TV, and online. She created “Let Your Voice Be Heard! Radio,” a platform to inform and educate her listening audience about current events and politics from a Millennial’s perspective. The weekly talk show broadcasts on WHCR 90.3 FM, “The Voice of Harlem,” and is streamed online at www.LYVBH.com every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Guests on the program have included Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Russell Simmons and former MSNBC host Touré.
Selena also works as an TV reporter, assistant producer, and the social media manager for What’s Eating Harlem on PBS, interviewing entrepreneurs, philanthropist and movers-and-shakers in Harlem. And she is a researcher and writer for Black Enterprise magazine.
During the 2012 election, Selena worked as a reporter for Russell Simmons’ Global Grind. In addition, she has freelanced for the New York Amsterdam News, one of the nation’s longest running historically Black newspapers, and has worked at NV (New Vision in Business) Magazine, where she landed on-camera interviews with Rev. Jesse Jackson, Angela Simmons, and hip-hop artist Big Sean.
No matter which medium Selena uses, her voice is being heard by a larger, receptive, and diverse audience. She took time from her busy schedule to talk about how she decided to become a journalist, her training, and the obstacles along the way.
Can you point to one event that triggered your interest in your career?
I knew that I wanted to write about underrepresented communities for a living as a teenager when I realized that my (half) sister would not enjoy the same level of stability and opportunity that I had growing up in a middle class, suburban neighborhood in Queens.
I was raised as an only child by a single mother, and although we were far from rich, she maintained a steady job that afforded us nice apartments in White Plains and Queens Village, NY. I also attended private school for a few years and took vacations to places like the Bahamas, Disney World and Universal Studios in Florida.
However, I didn’t realized how blessed I was until I was 14 years old and my father had his second child. After he separated with his girlfriend, my baby sister and her mother were forced to live in a homeless shelter for several months. Eventually, they were placed in public housing, and they’ve been there ever since.
My sister’s unfortunate circumstances really troubled me to the point where I remember crying and telling my mother that my sister was “not going to have a good life.” In response, my mother told me that God would take care of her, despite the hardships she faced. That same night, I asked God to help me help my sister and those plagued by poverty. It wasn’t long until I realized that my voice and my pen were the biggest weapons I had to combat the systemic ills that contribute to generational poverty and economic and racial oppression.
Years later, my decision to become a journalist was further solidified in 2006 after I volunteered in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. While there I worked to restore one of the most devastated communities in New Orleans, the Lower 9th Ward, which was populated by working-class people of color. Even though the historic flood had hit almost one year prior to my visit, little to no progress had been made in rebuilding this particular neighborhood and most of the residents had been displaced. This opened my eyes to the injustice and neglect poor people of color face across the country and showed me that I had to use my privilege to be their voice.
What about this career choice did you find most appealing?
What I find most appealing about journalism is the platform it gives me to speak, represent and fight for marginalized communities.
What steps did you take to begin your education or training?
To hone my skills as a journalist, I majored in Media And Communications at SUNY Old Westbury and took a number of media courses. I also wrote for the school newspaper and began producing and hosting my own radio show. I now executively produce and co-host the same show, “Let Your Voice Be Heard!,” with an amazing team at WHCR 90.3FM “The Voice of Harlem.”
In addition, after graduating college I interned at Talking Points Memo and WOR 710AM before I landed my first paid position media job.
Along the way, were people encouraging or discouraging?
The mass majority of my family and friends have been extremely supportive of my career decisions and journey. However, I still face opposition from a few loved ones who have harshly criticized my decisions and discouraged me from pursuing my passion. Some have told me that concentrating on social issues as a journalist is “limiting” and a waste of my potential. Meanwhile, others have encouraged me to pursue more lucrative and secure career paths like computer technology and teaching.
Did you ever doubt your decision and attempt a career change?
No. I’m extremely passionate about using my voice and skills to address social issues. I also love every forum of media from television, radio, print, and digital news, and feel extremely blessed to work in each!
When did your career reach a tipping point?
My tipping point came earlier this year when my radio team and I were honored by the New York Press Club at the 2016 Journalism Awards. To be recognized alongside major shows at major stations like CBS Radio and NPR was truly an honor. It also validated that we’re doing something right and that persistence and hard work pays off in the long run.
Can you describe a challenge you had to overcome?
I’ve struggled a lot with self-doubt. I didn’t always believe in myself or that I was smart and talented enough to do what I do. However, with time, prayer and reflection, I learned to stop comparing myself to others and fully embrace and love the person that God created me to be.
What single skill has proven to be most useful?
I work in the field of communication, so naturally my ability to communicate effectively and efficiently has proven to be my most useful skill.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of winning a New York Press Club award for my radio show. It has been a blessing to watch a show I created in college flourish into an award-winning show that lives up to its mission to “inform, educate and empower” others.
Any advice for others entering your profession?
It may be cliche, but never give up on your dreams! You are uniquely designed by God and created for a purpose. Never lose sight of that and be the best person that you can be!