By Naniyah McClain
Student Lifestyle Editor
Growing up in Columbus, Georgia, Brenda Blackmon’s family raised chickens in her backyard. The same backyard had a fence that separated the black neighborhoods from the white neighborhoods. Blackmon didn’t think about the dangers of being the first on every scene because she felt that there was no divide in the world of journalism.
Brenda Blackmon is an author, mother and Emmy-award winning news anchor. As a member of the FDU board of directors, Blackmon is in a group of community leaders who help guide the mission of the university.
Blackmon holds a master’s in communications (‘13) and a bachelor’s in (‘01) from FDU, both earned after she was well into her award-winning broadcast career that started in Georgia, then moved to Tennessee before moving to the biggest media market in the U.S., New York City. She joined WPIX as an anchor for PIX11 News in 2015.
Blackmon accepted her first TV job in Columbus in 1973 before moving to Nashville, Tennessee to become a news anchor, and then moving to New York to work for WWOR-TV News before it was shut down.
The transition to a new state was emotional.
“A friend who worked with me in Columbus told me about a job opening in Nashville and off I went! I cried all four hours during the drive and didn’t shed another tear. First move away from home can be emotional,” Blackmon said.
Through a very vibrant and energetic phone call, Blackmon excitedly described her experiences of being a news broadcaster in her hometown.
“It was exciting. It was wonderful. It was my hometown. I went places I normally wouldn’t go, because I was from a very quiet and conservative neighborhood. There was something different everyday,” according to Blackmon.
“My mom and I had taken a carriage ride through Central Park decades ago while I was working on an assignment in New York for my hometown station. She lived long enough to see me move to the area,” Blackmon said.
Even though Blackmon has accomplished many of her life goals, such as becoming an award winning anchor, she believes that there’s always more to learn. She says that FDU has transformed her into a credentialed professional.
“Without it, I may never have known about my Grandma Jane. She was my great Grandmother, who died at the plow one day in the fields of Georgia when her master wouldn’t allow her to stop and lay down after she fell ill,” Blackmon said. “I feel I stand for her now, every day.”
She attended FDU in 1997 as an adult learner and learned more about her family history through a required course.
Blackmon described a moment when her professor’s husband realized who she was while her professor graded one of her term papers. Blackmon would arrive to class without her Brenda Blackmon image.
“I would go there with a baseball cap, no make-up and glasses. I would attend class in the daytime because I worked at night,” said Blackmon.
Based on her experiences of attending FDU, Blackmon really admired the valuable global experience.
“It can take you literally around the world because we get a global education at FDU. I went to Wroxton and met a fellow Leo woman whom I still keep in touch with and send Christmas cards to,” according to Blackmon.
After graduating from FDU, Blackmon went on to teach and earned her master’s degree. During her education journey so far, she earned the Pinnacle Award and honorary doctorates from Caldwell University and the University of Georgia.
Blackmon says that it’s always been an honor to be a member of the FDU Board of Directors.
Blackmon started Brenda Blackmon Communications, Inc., a communications strategy firm where clients are provided with strategies to enable them to reach their target audiences.
Blackmon felt like she couldn’t offer much in the beginning, but FDU President J. Michael Adams helped her find her voice. Adams led FDU from 1999 until he died in 2012.
“When he gave me my diploma, he recognized me and said “Oh my goodness!” Blackmon laughed.
As a member of the Board of Trustees, her responsibilities are to attend meetings, go to graduation ceremonies, help spread the word about FDU, take care of financial responsibilities, contact sponsors and fundraise.
She feels that it is important to make sure that FDU is receiving more grants by requesting funding because of the trying circumstances that were caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I found I had so much to give, financially, and through community work with FDU. And oh, how sad the loss [of Adams was]. I still have his autographed letter commending me on my first book’s publication.”
Before returning to the Board in 2019, Blackmon resigned in 2016 when she moved back to Tennessee after WWOR-TV shut down.
According to Blackmon, “I sold my house, and moved to Tennessee. Leaving a forty year career and selling my home was a lot, so I resigned from the Board.”
Blackmon states that her greatest achievement is being a mother because it taught her unconditional love. Blackmon’s daughter, Kelly Dawn Kelly, has lupus.
“When I look at what’s important in life, I see it through her eyes: hope, endurance, changes overcome, constant battles beaten, never, never, never, giving up, seeing the light, even a glimmer in the darkest of rooms, on the darkest of days,” Blackmon said.
“She wears an armor of faith. She is my Angel. I am her Mom. She is my greatest accomplishment,” Blackmon said
Kelly inspired Blackmon to pursue her bachelor’s degree in Communication from FDU as Kelly was preparing to finish high school. They both graduated on the same day in 2001 with honors.
Blackmon’s main advice for future anchors is: “Go for it, study hard, read a lot, don’t forget your history, and remember that so many people worked hard to get to where you are.” She also encourages students to use their social media platforms wisely.
“You are no longer limited by your hairstyle, outfit, accent or who you know like I was,” Blackmon said. “So many platforms are available. There is more than just network TV. You can be opinionated but, most importantly, always be factual. Clean up your social media. Words do hurt you and your chances for a job and any future success.”
Blackmon’s life journey is a testament to how we can achieve our goals, break barriers and beat the odds by simply believing in ourselves.
Brenda Blackmon at the 51st New York Emmy Awards Gala on Apr. 6, 2008
Art by Naniyah McClain