Awarding-Winning Journalist Jami Floyd announces Departure From WNYC & Speaks Out About Alleged Racism & Discrimination At Wnyc With Plan To Sue In Federal Court In NYC

Good morning and thank you for your interest in what I have to say today.

My name is JAMI FLOYD, and until yesterday, I was the leader of New York Public Radio's Race & Justice Unit. Before that, I was the host of All Things Considered here in New York City.

I'm standing in front of the federal courthouse because today I am announcing my plan to file suit against WNYC New York Public radio for gender discrimination, age discrimination, retaliatory workplace harassment, defamation, and violation of my civil rights.

We are standing around the corner from the courthouse named for Thurgood Marshall, who was a freedom fighter long before he was a Supreme Court justice. He risked his life to ensure our country live up to its constitutional promise. 

Inspired by Justice Marshall, that has been my work as a lawyer and journalist. To speak truth to the powers that be about race and racism and equality of opportunity, and that is what I am here to do today. 

For years Black and brown people, in general, and black women, specifically, have had their careers derailed by their time at New York Public Radio. 

Most famously, Suki Kim published her story about John Hockenberry's abuse of his co-hosts, my friends, in 2017. But I am here to tell you that the culture still has not been transformed.

John Hockenberry wasn't the only bully in the building. We had — and still have other — bullies in the building who harassed and hazed me and remain comfortably employed by the organization to this day.

We have had other allegations of severe sexual harassment that I've brought to management's attention.

I tried to discuss the bullying, hazing, and derailing of my career with management but repeatedly hit a brick wall.

I filed complaints, but they went unheeded.

I complained about it to my colleagues, my superiors, and to HR. 

My dear departed colleague Richard Hake told me he felt bullied, and we talked about it regularly. 

He's now dead. He was 51. He felt under siege. We talked about our mutual feeling of responsibility for the organization and the people counting on us to lead the way. 

As a Black woman and in the tradition of the other Black women bullied out of the organization, I felt I had to make this right. So, I stayed.

I'm tough, but I'm not going to walk away from company without speaking out.

I am not the first Black woman victimized in this company, but I AM determined to be the last Black woman who cannot make a successful career at NYPR. 

That's why I have not signed a separation agreement that contained a confidentiality provision and left the money that came with it on the table.

I can name countless Black people who have left this organization painfully damaged—so scarred they have needed therapy to get through to the other side.

Here is just one example of a text from a dear friend who says he cannot speak with me anymore:

"Hey Jami, Thanks again for reaching out, and apologies for my silence. Radical candor: My untethering from your current workplace was dramatic, difficult, and quite stressful. The mental health professional in my life wisely advised me to create and honor serious distance between my now … and my then. Just to heal & focus on starting anew. Nothing personal. Glad you are well."

This was my friend. Someone I love. This place destroys relationships. It destroys friendships. It destroys people.

Another colleague, a Black woman, wrote me:

Hi Jami, nice to hear from you. "My time at WNYC was easily the worst five years of my career. I really don't want to revisit it, even off the record. Thank you so much for the opportunity, but I'd rather not dredge up painful memories."

My friends and colleagues are too damaged and afraid to speak about it. But I am not.

Let me be clear: we are not talking about imagined slights. We are talking about alleged specific hostile and offensive acts that resulted in an adverse work environment that black people are expected to simply brush off.

It is time to talk publicly about their problems with people with retention. Their problems with recruitment. Their problems with race.

Two years ago, in the wake of George Floyd's murder, I launched a Race and Justice unit — a unit I'd been fighting for, for years. Finally, under the glare of the racial reckoning spotlight, the station gave it the green light. 

But that's all they gave it. They didn't give me a budget. They didn't give me reporters — not really. (The reporters assigned to me came to me from other desks, unhappy with their assignments.) And worst of all, despite asking, begging, and demanding, we had and still have no black reporters in the Race and Justice unit. 

That is what I said. No Black reporters. 

In fact, we have no Black reporters in the WNYC Newsroom. None. Zero. Not a single Black reporter in a newsroom covering New York City, a majority Black and brown city.

Our numbers of Latino reporters are nearly as discouraging for a public media station that prides itself on reporting on this multicultural city and region.

There are some wonderful people at WNYC trying to do good work, but they are hampered by a system and culture that doesn't work for them, one that is sacrificing good journalism for pressure cooker hours and talk of "metabolism" over the passion for audio journalism. But missing, most of all, is the commitment to people, humanity, and a diverse newsroom that looks like the city we represent. 

We pretend to have it, but we don't. Just like the NFL, we have a Rooney rule. We interview diverse candidates. But we don't hire them. We say we want Black reporters. But where are they? Don't tell me we can't find them because I've recruited them. I know them. We have simply not HIRED them. They are not in our newsroom. Why not?

I have been agitating around these issues for two years, and in fact, for my entire time at WNYC — taking my concerns as high as the  Board of Trustees. And there are those in the ranks who are unhappy to hear my sober saber-rattling, which is why we are here. Those folks that are worried about their jobs brought us here. Their anger is misplaced. But my focus is unwavering.

I'm turning now to the story of my hero — Thurgood Marshall, returning to a study of how we change the structures of oppression. Ways in which we make real change in this society that need us to remain focused. 

But in the spirit of Justice Marshall, who used the law as an instrument for social change, and in honor of this #metoo moment, I could not sit silently by without speaking the truth.  

Finally, beyond my personal claims against NYPR, I am in consultation with a  prominent civil rights law firm about what I see as the pattern and practice of discrimination against Black people, generally, and Black women, specifically, in public media writ large. 

After George Floyd's murder, a Working Group, of which I was part, delivered an anti-racist vision plan for the transformation of public media. Still, it seems too many CEOs and Boards are not listening. So, perhaps public media needs to be brought to court to understand that equality of opportunity is more than a promise. It is a requirement under the law.

Toni Morrison brilliantly wrote: 

"The function, very serious function of racism is a distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, repeatedly, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language, and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn't shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing."

Toni Morrison was right. So, I'm getting on with my work and letting my lawyers get on with theirs. 

Thank you very much.

Jami Floyd @jamifloyd

Mike Paul
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