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Project Director
Research Associate
Research Associate

Danielle K. Brown, PhD (she/her) is the LIFT Project founder and director. She recently joined Michigan State University as the 1855 Community and Urban Journalism Associate Professor, but originally began this project at the University of Minnesota where she served as the Cowles Professor of Journalism, Diversity and Equality. Keep an eye out for her upcoming book "After a Reckoning." She is an award-winning, political communication researcher investigating the intersection of media, historically excluded communities, and social justice efforts. She is known for her media critiques of protest coverage and is now interested in producing solutions-based research that intervenes with power systems that oppress. Read more about her work here:

Denetra Walker, PhD (she/her) is an incoming assistant professor at the Grady School, University of Georgia. She is an award-winning television news journalist and journalism scholar. Dr. Walker’s research focuses on the experiences of marginalized and underrepresented journalists in the digital age, social justice and activism, police shootings, maternal health, and has a growing interest in racialized mis/disinformation. Her dissertation focuses on the experiences of Black journalists and their connections with the Black community. Previously, Walker worked in several behind-the-scenes roles in television news markets including Augusta, GA; New York, NY; Houston, TX; Las Vegas, NV; Columbia, SC—covering some of the nation's biggest stories. Walker’s experience working in and managing a T.V. newsroom inform her teaching and academic research. 

Miya Williams Fayne, Ph.D. (she/her) is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research investigates the Black press in the new media age via qualitative methodology and analyses of web metrics. Dr. Williams Fayne is a Tow Center research fellow and an affiliate of the Center for Critical Race and Digital Studies.

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Research Associate
Research Associate
Research Associate

Jarrad Henderson is a 4x Emmy Award-winning visual journalist and respected educator who has produced industry-recognized content in large newsrooms for over a decade. A highly sought-after multimedia alchemist, Henderson is a trusted industry leader who seeks to democratize journalism by empowering new voices to share their stories. He is a 2022 Knight-Wallace fellow, a journalism program hosted at the Knight-Wallace Center for Journalists at the University of Michigan. A forward-thinking, solution savvy media expert, Henderson helps others pursue their dreams of becoming visual storytellers through his roles as a multimedia judge at the Hearst Journalism Awards Program, as past Academic Representative for the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Board of Directors, as a member of the Filmmaker Development Council for the Video Consortium and as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies. His experience includes being a Senior Multimedia Producer at USA Today, where he worked with the Enterprise and Investigative Storytelling team. While at USA Today, Henderson’s work was honored by organizations such as the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Robert F. Kennedy Awards for Excellence in Journalism, Livingston Awards for Young Journalists, Sidney Hillman Foundation, News Leaders Association, and White House News Photographer Association

Marisa A. Smith, PhD is an assistant professor in the Department of Advertising + Public Relations and the School of Journalism at Michigan State University. Her work highlights that a critical component for understanding the sociopolitical implications of digital information environments involves examining its implications for racial attitudes. Her research considers the intersection of race, politics, and power to understand the effects of mediated messages on stereotype endorsement, public policy support, political polarization, and civic engagement.

Christina L. Myers, PhD (she/her) is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism at Michigan State University. Employing qualitative methods, Dr. Myers' research bridges Critical Race Theory concepts and Mass Communication theory to offer fresh perspectives on the intersection of race and media – specifically examining depictions of Black experiences and the presence of implicit racial bias and racist ideologies in narrative creation in the areas of music, sports and news. Her previous journalism postings include Equity Reporter, covering the intersection of race, culture and policy, for The State Newspaper (SC), political reporter for The Associated Press (SC) and national desk writer for NBC News Channel (NC).


An itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Rev. Terrance M. McKinley is a Senior Staff Member at Sojourners, the nation’s largest Christian messaging, media, and mobilizing organization. Throughout his ministry he has demonstrated his commitment to the work of faith and justice. Rev. Terrance McKinley is the Director of Racial Justice Mobilizing and provides leadership to three of the organizations key efforts focused on voting rights, racialized policing and justice reform, and radical truth-telling and repair for African Americans that properly acknowledges and memorializes our nation’s legacy of racial injustice, and is a catalyst for progress that ultimately eliminates persistent racial inequities. Rev. McKinley is also the Pastor of the historic Campbell AME Church in Washington D.C. Prior to his most recent appointment, he served as the Pastor of Hosanna AME Church in Darlington Maryland, on the Ministerial Staff of Reid Temple A.M.E. Church, and The Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York in his hometown, Queens New York. He is grateful to have also served in an interim role as Pastor of Mokone Memorial AME Church in Soweto, South Africa. Rev. McKinley has served in ministry the AME Church for over twenty years. He is an Alum of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York where he earned his Bachelor of Science Degree and holds Honors. He is also an Alum of Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. Essence Magazine recognized him as a “Do Right Man” because of his community activism. The African American Pulpit Journal honored him as one of “The 20 to Watch Leaders Under 40”. He received the Distinguished Clergy Leadership Award from the Skinner Leadership Institute a storied organization committed to producing high character leaders, social innovators, and community builders. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for Black Christian Influencers (BCI), a fast growing, online network of young difference makers who are using digital platforms to amplify and share stories with the world. He serves on the National Advisory Committee (NAC) for the Culture of Health Leadership Institute for Racial Healing. He also serves on the Board of Examiners for the Washington Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Over the course of his career, Rev. Terrance M. McKinley has been committed to scholarship, leadership, justice, and relevant ministry that meets the needs of people and confronts broken systems. He is committed to ministry that impacts the community, the nation, and the world.

Jasmine Snow, University of Minnesota, undergraduate research assistant
Christina Harisiadis, University of Minnesota, summer research assistant
Tracy Gunapalan, University of Minnesota, graduate research assistant
Calvin DeFoster, High school research assistant
Dr. Ryon Cobb, Rutgers University, consultant
Dr. Valérie Bélair-Gagnon, University of Minnesota, consultant

Dr. David C. Wilson, University of California Berkeley, consultant



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