Jemele Hill has been stirring up conversations with her writing since her days at Michigan State University. In our “The First Time” video series, the Atlantic columnist and former ESPN broadcaster recalls when she participated in activism through her journalism — her story about reverse racism set a record at her school for the most hate mail ever received. The moment helped her realize that even if people are angered by her writing it “could move the needle in a conversation.”
Hill talks about her journey from working on the college newspaper to reporting live on the sidelines, sharing the story of how she fumbled her way through coverage of a Michigan State game. “I remember being so embarrassed, especially when I watched it back because I look like a crazy person,” she says. That didn’t stop her though. Hill went on to become an on-air personality at ESPN.
During her time at the sports network, Hill didn’t realize she was reaching some big-name households. She found out when she visited the White House. She shares how President Obama told her that her show was one of his favorites. “He said to me, ‘I love the way you hold your own against men.’”
While Hill is an inspiration to many women, she credits her mother for being her biggest influence. “Seeing how she overcame so many traumatic issues,” she says, “it was the first time that I understood what the meaning and the true definition of resiliency and resolve actually was.”