Ashanti Blaize-Hopkins (Courtesy photo)

The first Black woman president of the SPJ says, “We have to be our own superheroes.” 

Virginia native Ashanti Blaize-Hopkins grew up watching her mother work as a television news anchor, but it never dawned on her that she’d one day follow in her footsteps.

The summer before her fourth year at Columbia University as a sociology major, she received an internship through a women’s media nonprofit that placed her at ABC News. This internship inspired her to pursue her master’s in journalism at the University of Miami.

Blaize-Hopkins is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, author, speaker, journalism professor,

higher education equity consultant, public relations and marketing expert, and content producer. In September 2023, she became the first Black woman ever elected national president of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).

“I think we are at a time in history where journalists don’t have the luxury to just put their heads down and do their work. We have to be our own advocates for journalism. Because if we’re not, Superman is not coming. We have to be our own superheroes. Our fight is really the fight to save democracy. I just really want journalists, especially journalists of color, to understand what’s at stake at this moment. To understand that advocacy is no longer an option, we have to be advocates for our own industry so that we can save democracy,” Blaize-Hopkins said.

After gaining her master’s in journalism, Blaize-Hopkins sent out around 150 VHS tapes to TV news stations nationwide until she finally got a call from the Fox station in El Paso, Texas. They interviewed her over the phone for a morning reporter position and she took the job sight unseen.

Blaize-Hopkins at SPJ’s 2023 annual convention in Las Vegas. (Courtesy photo)

“When I was in Dallas, I was a weekend evening anchor and reporter at the NBC station in Dallas, Fort Worth. At a certain point, I decided that I didn’t want to be in the business anymore. I had made a promise to myself that the day that I went to work feeling bitter was the day that I needed to find something else to do,” Blaize-Hopkins said.

“I was starting to feel that, and I said, ‘Okay, I think I need to transition out,’ so I ended up adjunct teaching at Richland College in Dallas and then starting my own PR firm and video production company with a business partner.”

Eventually, Blaize-Hopkins met her now husband, an executive producer at the CBS station in Dallas. When the two were dating, he got an opportunity to come to Los Angeles to be an executive producer at NBC in LA and asked Blaize-Hopkins to go with him.

She became a professor of Journalism at Santa Monica College. She connected with Stephanie Bluestein, the former president of the greater Los Angeles Chapter of the SPJ, through her higher education network.  Bluestein offered Blaize-Hopkins a job opportunity with SPJ, to which Blaize-Hopkins admitted that being associated with the SPJ wasn’t ever on her radar.

SPJ’s immediate past president Claire Regan swears in Blaize-Hopkins. (Courtesy photo)

“She reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, listen, I have this board position, and there’s a term that’s left because we had this board member pass away suddenly. Might you want to serve the rest of this person’s term?’  At the time, I was like, ‘I don’t know, to be honest with you. My viewpoint of SPJ is that it’s not really for people who look like me.’ I said, I haven’t seen a lot of diversity, so I shared those concerns,” Blaize-Hopkins said.

After thinking over the position and sharing her concerns with her husband, Blaize-Hopkins realized she could complain about the lack of diversity or become the change she wanted to see in the organization. She decided to join the board and shared her view with other board members at that time. To her surprise, many of them agreed that they would either step down to a lower level or step off the board to make room for more diverse voices.

“ For our local chapter, that made me all in because it was like, okay, these are people who care about not only the causes of journalism and press freedoms and making sure we’re cultivating the next generation of journalists, but they also care about the fact that I’m saying to them, this is an issue- they’re saying to me I hear you, I see you, and we’re going to make a change,” Blaize-Hopkins said.

The summer before her fourth year at Columbia University as a sociology major, she received an internship through a women’s media nonprofit that placed her at ABC News. This internship inspired her to pursue her master’s in journalism at the University of Miami.

She went from being a board member to quickly being vice president, and within a year and a half, being president of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of SPJ. In that position, she built coalitions with Southern California journalism organizations, First Amendment advocacy groups, and media unions to lobby the state legislature to pass a bill into law that strengthened press freedoms in California. This was influenced by the many protests across the country and in Southern California following the George Floyd murder. Blaize-Hopkins wanted to start a dialogue and ensure that someone set ground rules so journalists would be protected while covering protests.

“What we were starting to see is that journalists would be detained, arrested, and injured while covering these protests, by law enforcement.  We slowly were getting to the conclusion of the court case against the officer who killed George Floyd. Our concern as a board was that it was not going to be a guilty verdict. If it wasn’t, we were going to see a lot more protests and journalists were going to get hurt. So that concern started to bubble up at one of our board meetings,” Blaize-Hopkins said.

At the time, the national president of SPJ was Rebecca Aguilar, the first Latina to hold that position; she and Blaize-Hopkins had worked together in Dallas years before. Aguilar reached out to Blaize-Hopkins because she was impressed with the coalition work Blaize-Hopkins had done to increase press freedoms in California legally. Aguilar told Blaize-Hopkins she would be a great future national president of SPJ  and wanted her to run. Blaize-Hopkins thought about the impact she could make and decided to run. To her shock, she won and made history as the first Black woman to hold that title.

“Every decision that I make to take on an opportunity, I only take it on if I feel like I can be impactful. I often have my ancestors in the back of my mind and how much they had to fight just to be seen as human. If I am not taking this life to make an impact in everything that I do, I am dishonoring their legacy. I am dishonoring their fight. That’s really what drives me. I want to make sure that my ancestors are looking down on me and saying, ‘Our fight was worth it. And she’s continuing the fight,’” Blaize-Hopkins said.


For more information on Blaize-Hopkins, visit