Cardinal Ritter College Preparatory High School will host its third annual “Celebrating Success in Urban Education” Gala on Friday, February 28 at Kemoll’s Restaurant, 211 North Broadway. Native St. Louisan Margena A. Christian, senior editor for Ebony magazine and Cardinal Ritter alumna, is the keynote speaker.
Christian will speak about the importance of supporting schools like Cardinal Ritter, an Archdiocesan Catholic high school, and how attending the school shaped her life.
“Cardinal Ritter is where the foundation and the groundwork was laid,” said Christian, who graduated from Cardinal Ritter in 1985.
Her life was changed forever when Sister Barbara, knowing Christian’s love of writing, suggested that she participate in a journalism workshop.
“It was a nun who did not look like me,” Christian said of Sister Barbara, “but she saw something in me.”
Although Christian was only a sophomore and the workshop was geared toward seniors, Sister Barbara encouraged her to give it a try. Christian became the first sophomore to participate in the Minority Journalism Workshop, sponsored by the Greater St. Louis Association for Black Journalists.
Her mentors were industry professionals like George Curry and the late Gerald M. Boyd, former Post-Dispatch staffers and founders of the Minority Journalism Workshop.
By attending the workshop, she discovered her calling to be an entertainment reporter. She shared her aspirations with Curry, whom she described as a “hard-nosed” reporter. She recalled Curry (who is now editor in chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service) saying, “If that’s what you want to do, then go for it.”
“That really shaped me as a person, having somebody behind me in the industry,” she said. “It showed me that writing is writing, and it doesn’t matter what kind of story you’re telling – whether it’s a news story or something about entertainment.”
Christian interned at The St. Louis American and Sylvester Brown Jr.’s respected, now-defunct news magazine Take 5. She later worked as a language arts teacher at Bishop Healey Catholic School during the day and wrote entertainment columns by night – and began to accumulate clips of her professional work.
Then John H. Johnson, founder of Chicago-based Johnson Publishing Company, publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines, hired her as an assistant editor in 1995.
“As luck would have it, the person whose place I took was actually leaving the company to become an educator,” she said, “and I was leaving from education to become a writer.”
Christian has been an adjunct English professor with the City Colleges
of Chicago since 1997. Most recently she earned a doctorate in adult and
continuing education at National Louis University. Her dissertation was
titled John H. Johnson: A Historical Study on the Re-Education of
African Americans in Adult Education Through the Selfethnic Liberatory
Nature of Magazines.
She worked directly under Johnson’s tutelage until his death in 2005. From Johnson, she said, she learned that failure was never an option and to keep the faith.
“That faith helped him to do what hadn’t been done before,” she said of Johnson. “He knew that African Americans had stories to tell and that we were doing more than what the world was willing to show.”
She joined Ebony in 2009 as a senior writer. She is also the editor of Elevate, a section that addresses health, wellness and spirituality.
Michael McMillan, president and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, will serve as emcee for the February 28 Cardinal Ritter gala, and Carol Daniel, KMOX news anchor, will serve as mistress of ceremonies.
John Saunders Jr., advancement director at Cardinal Ritter, said the gala’s theme “Celebrating Success in Urban Education” reflects the school’s 35-year history of providing a quality Catholic education to predominately African-American students.
The student body is comprised of young African-American men and woman from across the socioeconomic spectrum, according to Saunders, and 95 percent of 2013 graduates were accepted into various colleges or universities.
Tickets for the event are still available. All proceeds benefit Cardinal Ritter’s financial assistance and scholarship program for deserving students and their families.
The gala will begin at 6 p.m. February 28 with cocktails. Business attire is requested. For more information about the gala or how you can give, contact John Saunders Jr. at 314-792-7732 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists will host a fundraiser for the Minority Journalism Workshop 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb 27. at BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups,700 S. Broadway. Adults 21 and over may purchase tickets for $10 in advance at gslabj.eventbrite.com and $15 at the door. For more information, contact GSLABJ@gmail.com.