National Capital Chapter

Local Black PR Pros Advance Equity and Inclusion

A policy-driven think tank advisor. A C-Suite communications executive. A mission-minded nonprofit counselor. A strategist for one of the nation’s largest HBCUs. These professionals work in a variety of fields but have one thing in common: bringing their unique experiences and expertise to their work in the PR industry. 

Meet a handful of Black leaders among leaders—some who have sprinted into their PR careers in a few short years—all paying it forward in their communities. Learn what moves and motivates them in purpose-driven PR.

Ensuring an Equitable Transition to Clean Energy

Jared DeWese took “an unorthodox” road to DC-based think tank Third Way. After interning on the Hill and earning his degree from South Carolina State University in 2004, he moved to New York City to work in fashion and art PR. In 2012, he anchored in DC and to his original passion: policy. 

As senior communications advisor and member of the Climate and Energy team at Third Way, he addresses how to transition to a clean energy economy to benefit all Americans, grounded by the public opinion research that he led on Black Americans and others disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis. 

“Anyone who works in the policy world knows how important communications is to…legislation, and I appreciate being a part of a process that has the potential to accelerate progress,” Jared said. “Being a Black PR professional in DC can often be rewarding and challenging, but each day we have the opportunity to change the conversation toward equity and justice and away from oppression and exclusion.”

Giving Voices to the Overlooked

Imani Pope-Johns found her passion for elevating voices through public relations early on. She watched her words come to life in a Black-owned national magazine J’Adore Mag, and landed her first client during her junior year in college.  In 2017 she was named “One of the Top 25 Black PR Millennials to Watch” by the National Black PR Society and the Huffington Post

Imani is currently the director of communications for Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) and has devoted her career to championing girls and women and sharing authentic stories from people often overlooked. Prior to this role, she was the PR manager of her alma mater, Howard University, working on initiatives that impact the Black community and communities of color, calling it “a full-circle moment” for her.

“It means a lot to me to be able to be an example for the next generation of Black public relations professionals, who like me needed attainable examples to learn from and support them,” Imani said. “We grow because of the many Black people who (have) excelled in the PR field, both past and present. “

Bringing Together a Multi-Industry Network

“To be a Black PR pro in DC uniquely means that you are not alone,” said Erica Southerland, APR. “There is a multi-industry network at all levels who are largely connected with just a few degrees of separation. Formally and informally, we collaborate and share support, opportunities and best practices.”

As the director of marketing and communications for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Erica manages the brand voice, media relations, and creative operations. She has built a portfolio of multi-industry experiences and led executive communications for individuals at the highest levels of business, education and government. She uses her doctorate in mass communication and public affairs to guide mission-driven organizations and educate the next generation of PR professionals.

Identifying “The Soul” in Public Engagement and Public Affairs Strategies

Antonio White’s work as a C-suite strategist routinely involves public engagement decisions with global impact. As President Biden’s recently appointed deputy assistant secretary for community engagement within the Treasury Department’s Office of Public Affairs, Antonio will lead the Treasury’s engagement strategy with the private sector, community, advocacy and thought leaders. 

He previously served the Treasury Department’s senior advisor for business affairs in the Obama Administration. He was also a 2018 Black Enterprise Modern Man Award recipient and launched his own full-service public affairs firm in 2016. Before returning to the Treasury Department,he was a senior communications officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  

Antonio is fueled by helping leaders “identify the soul in their public affairs strategies and bringing it to life with precision, creativity, and swagger.”  

We celebrate these Black PR pros for their contributions to their communities and civic engagement, commitment to the profession, and inspiring the next generation with their unique journeys.