Black History Month Profile: Shearon Roberts
Manship graduate Shearon Roberts is an assistant professor of mass communication at Xavier University and serves as a fellow at the Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University and an affiliate faculty member for the African American and Diaspora Studies program at Xavier.
Roberts supervises student internships, practicums and media research projects, and trains students in digital media. Her research focuses on comparative media systems/theories, media and the developing world, framing foreign news, disaster and crisis news, international development, Latin American and Caribbean studies, and Haitian studies.
After graduating as valedictorian from Dillard University in 2005, Roberts earned her master’s degree from the Manship School in 2007 and her doctorate in Latin American and Caribbean studies from Tulane University in 2014. Roberts has also worked as a news reporter and international correspondent for several media outlets, both local and national.
Roberts speaks French, Spanish and Haitian Creole and has visited Latin American and Caribbean nations. She conducted research with Haiti’s leading news outlets in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. She also researched news organizations along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, which became the subject of the 2014 book, Oil and Water: Media Lessons from Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon Disaster, which Roberts co-authored.
This year, the United Negro College Fund chose Roberts as the Henry C. McBay Faculty Fellowship Award recipient, which is awarded to faulty at historically black universities to pursue research important to marginalized communities.
“The fellowship provides me with up to $15,000 to pursue research in Haiti from 2015 to 2016,” Roberts says. “My research in Haiti will explore three areas: how media organizations in Haiti advocate for ordinary citizens given the country’s most recent natural disaster and its challenges with economic and political recovery; how ordinary Haitians define a sustainable recovery for their country; and how civic organizations work with the media and citizens for social movements.”
Roberts says Black History Month offers the rare opportunity to tell stories that missed the headlines – stories of black history like that of Haiti, the first black republic in the world and only place to successfully overthrow slavery and colonialism at the same time, long before the U.S. Civil War.
“The news is the first rough cut of history,” she says. “Who gets to tell those stories determines whose stories get told. The more diverse our media landscape becomes – from black anchors like Lester Holt to black filmmakers like Ava DuVernay – the more stories of the #blacklivesmatter movement make it to the NBC Nightly News roundup on a regular basis, and films like Selma get funded and greenlit for production every year.
“These stories are important for people of color to reclaim a sense of worth and identity, but also to correct injustices to people of color that have become systemic or institutionalized.”