by Helena Witzke and Katy TerBerg
Sonya Bernard-Hollins has taken her Bachelor’s in Journalism (’93) and found a spot where she can do the most good…as editor and publisher of “Community Voices,” a free quarterly publication, available at several locations throughout West Michigan, highlighting the people, places, and events in the Kalamazoo community.
Now, Bernard-Hollins is scheduled to speak at the WMU Center for the Humanities on “Discovering Merze Tate: How to Uncover the Hidden Treasures in Your Archives and Bring them to Life.” The event takes place March 22 at 4 p.m. in Knauss Hall. Bernard-Hollins will talk about her search for information on African American graduates of WMU and how she discovered Merze Tate, a 1927 graduate of WMU and donor to the University.
After graduation Bernard-Hollins held internships at Kalamazoo Gazetteand the Akron Beacon Journal before becoming a reporter for the Battle Creek Enquirer, where a colleague complimented both her quality of writing and her warm demeanor. “Sonya didn’t just report the news but left the individual that was interviewed with the feeling of not [being] just another story, but an important individual that was part of the greater good…her strengths are empathy, compassion, and strength in putting the story together the way the interviewee [intended],” said the colleague.
At the Enquirer, Bernard-Hollins rose to Neighbors editor, and later Features editor. She founded the “Leader of Tomorrow” youth recognition award for community service, and in 2005 became a stay-at-home mom and a freelance writer. It was then that she met Arlen Washington, founder of Community Voices.
“I was approached by Arlen Washington to take the helm of the periodical,” she said. “With the assistance of my husband, Sean Hollins [founder of Fortitude Graphic Design and Printing], we have given the periodical an online and print facelift which has been well received,” she said. “My goal has always been to provide a positive image of African Americans and other people of color in the media, and Community Voices allows me the freedom to do just that.”
The Merze Tate exhibit, which consists of photographs, letters and tickets that document her travels and accomplishments, will be on view at the University Center for the Humanities March 1-30, 2012, and Bernard-Hollins’ talk will be held March 22 at 4 p.m. in the Humanities Center in Knauss Hall.
Bernard-Hollins also is the author of “Here I Stand: A Musical History of African Americans in Battle Creek, Michigan.”