TV journalist rocks braids, empowers others

Treasure Roberts in braids with WMBD backdrop

Treasure Roberts stuck with her braids in her video reel and has now brought them out at the anchor desk.

Applause for Michigan State journalism grad Treasure Roberts, now a reporter and fill-in anchor at WMBD/WYZZ News in Peoria, Illinois.

Roberts had the spine to disregard the advice of a new director about her reel, the compilation of video clips that broadcast journalists use to get job interviews. The director told Roberts to cut the clip of herself doing her work in braids. He said the braids would hurt her chances in the job market.

This month, Roberts wore braids on air for the first time in her professional life. Her tweet about it has brought in 150,000 likes so far and a call from Good Morning America, which interviewed her about the support she received.

Roberts told Good morning America, “Representation matters. If anyone gained the confidence to wear their natural hair or protective styles like braids to work because of my post, then I did something right.”

Book cover for 100 Questions & Answers About African AmericansOn her Instagram account, Roberts wrote, “I remember asking for feedback on my news reel a couple years ago before landing a job in the industry. I filmed a captivating stand-up in front of a protest in South Africa. Regardless of the quality of that stand-up I was told to take it out of my reel because I wouldn’t get a job with braids in my hair. That was … discouraging. Despite the feedback, I decided to keep that stand-up in my reel. The way I wear my hair doesn’t affect my storytelling. With that same stand-up at the FRONT of my newsreel I landed my first professional job in news. From that day forward I always said one day I will wear braids on-air. Since then I’ve worn my hair in more natural styles than I ever thought I would on air and now here we are. Braids are professional.”

The story should never be about the hair — except when the story is about the hair, like this one.

As a student at Michigan State, Treasure handled all media and knew how to get to good stories. On Election Day, 2016, she appeared on TV with the MSU project, MI First Election, she did a radio interview with WKAR and then she she wrote the lead story for the website. One of her photographs, from a protest, won recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists. She was also president of the Michigan State student chapter of the National association of Black Journalists.

Black hairstyles are such an issue that the Bias Busters guide, “100 Questions and Answers About African Americans,” includes a video about them. The fact is, we had so many questions about Black hair, we felt we should answer as many as possible where people could see them, rather than spend 10 questions on them. We though that so many questions about hair would distract from the many other issues we wanted to get to.We had lots of help on the video from the Michigan State student group Curlfriends.

“100 Questions and Answers About African Americans” is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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