On the entrance wall to our offices on Navy Pier, you’ll find a quote from the late, pioneering investigative journalist Ida B. Wells. It reads, “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”
Those words speak to the power of journalism to highlight injustices, hold power to account, and help shape a better world. Wells exemplified that spirit throughout her life, shining a spotlight on hatred and racism wherever she found its perniciousness, including Chicago, where she lived for nearly 40 years.
Wells figures prominently in WBEZ’s nationally award-winning audio docudrama, City on Fire, which we recently rebroadcast. The play, co-written by our own Natalie Moore and Make Believe Association’s Jeremy McCarter, uses real life events to tell the story of the racially motivated violence that took place in Chicago during the summer of 1919.
In City on Fire, Wells appears as a crusading journalist, pressing public officials about the racial inequities and injustices that contributed to widespread violence in Chicago. At the end of the story, her “ghost” returns 100 years later to pose persistent questions about the shameful state of racial equity in Chicago that remains even today.
As friends and family members gathered today in Houston to honor the life of George Floyd, and as the rest of the nation continues to reflect on the events of these last few weeks, we are all reminded of the essential need to turn the light of truth upon racism and racial injustice.
At Chicago Public Media, we have a vital role to play in that process, telling the stories of our time, expanding perspectives, elevating voices, asking difficult questions, providing context, and connecting people across lines of difference. That’s what our mission in public media calls us to do — and that’s what we are committed to doing.
At the same time, we are also committed to doing the hard work internally: To truly and fundamentally create a workplace that reflects the rich diversity of our community, and that provides abundant, equal opportunities for African Americans and people of all backgrounds to contribute, thrive and grow.
Last month, the Pulitzer Prize committee posthumously honored Ida B. Wells with a special citation for “outstanding and courageous reporting.” We draw inspiration from her example in this moment, to move from talk to action, and to shine a light on the truth, now and always.