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Navigating Truth & Fiction: A World Press Freedom Day Event


Consequential elections on the local, state, and national level are coming, and communities of color are being targeted with disinformation more than ever. Who do you trust for reliable information?

On Friday, May 3, St. Luke Community United Methodist Church hosted PEN Dallas/Fort Worth for a fireside chat, Q & A, and mixer with local journalists, organizers, and community leaders on navigating truth and fiction this election season. We explored how disinformation particularly impacts the Black community in the Dallas area, how the Black press can be a reliable local resource, and strategies for self-empowerment as a trusted messenger in your community. Thank you for joining us.  


Cheryl Smith is an award-winning journalist with more than 30 years in the industry. She is the publisher of I Messenger News Group, which includes Texas Metro News, Garland Journal, and I Messenger. Smith also hosts Cheryl’s World on Blog Talk Radio, is the treasurer of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, and is a Society of Professional Journalists board member.

Patrick Washington is the third-generation Black Press Legacy publisher of The Dallas Weekly. In 2019, Patrick was given the responsibility of the Dallas Weekly and began the digital renovation and expansion of the company into a News Media Brand focusing on African American experiences and life. He was also recently elected second vice chair of Word in Black. After working alongside his wife, Jessica Washington, Patrick promoted her to CEO, and together, they have pushed The Dallas Weekly to its current influential and impactful position.

Sanderia Faye is a PEN Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter Leader, serves on the faculty at Southern Methodist University, and is a professional speaker, activist, and sommelier. Her novel, Mourner’s Bench, won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in debut fiction, The Philosophical Society of Texas Award of Merit for fiction, and The 2017 Arkansas Library Association Arkansiana Award. She is also the host of the LitNight Reading Series.

Faye’s work has appeared in the Southwest Review, Rain Taxi, Nat Brut, the Collagist, and other literary journals. She received “Best Of” honors at the 2011 Eckerd College Writers’ Conference, Co-Directors Dennis Lehane and Sterling Watson, where her winning story was published in the SABAL Literary Journal. She was published in the anthology Arsnick: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Arkansas, and she moderated the grassroots panel for the Arkansas Civil Rights Symposium during the Freedom Riders 50th Anniversary. She coordinated the first AWP African Diaspora Caucus and has moderated and served on several panels.

Shawana O. Carter is the Community Ambassador for Dallas Documenters, powered by the Dallas Free Press, a nonprofit newsroom focused on the South Dallas and West Dallas neighborhoods. Dallas Documenters trains and pays residents of these neighborhoods and others to attend and annotate government meetings, providing Dallas residents easy access to the civic information they need to actualize changes they wish to see in their communities. Shawana’s 11 years of work in Dallas as the Founder and Chief Hope Dealer of Carter’s House, which clothes and provides school uniforms for low-income children and parents, has made her a trusted community builder and connector. She uses these skills in her Dallas Free Press role to build community within the Dallas Documenters and to turn the knowledge, relationships, and capacity of these local residents into a powerful community information resource.

Henry Hicks IV (he/him) is a Washington, D.C.-based writer and organizer. Prior to joining PEN America, Henry has organized with Relentless to build relational-first programs for Democratic and progressive campaigns; with the Kamala Harris For the People presidential campaign; and with Tennessee-based racial justice and voting rights nonprofit, The Equity Alliance. Additionally, Henry has spent time in the offices of former U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), as well as at AmeriCorps HQ, where he supported the mission of the Biden-Harris Administration.

Henry is a graduate of Oberlin College, is a 2020 Harry S. Truman Scholar, and was most recently a finalist for the 2023 Rhodes Scholarship. In his spare time, he works as a freelance writer and reporter. His work has appeared in In These Times, Teen Vogue, The Brooklyn Rail, Bolts, and more.