top of page
884936_359085717537364_2010878874_o (1).
Interview with Sen. Barack Obama, 2007
Callejon de Hamel Art District, Havana, 2013
Freddie Gray riots, Baltimore, 2015
Havana school day, 2013
Trayvon Martin mural, Baltimore, 2015
Alice Marie Johnson and me, 2019


Is a multiple award-winning newspaper columnist, podcaster, mass communication lecturer and intercultural communication scholar whose career has spanned three decades. Tonyaa's awards include the Florida Society of News Editors' Award, the National Association of Black Journalists' Salute to Excellence Award, the Best of Gannett Award and numerous others. The University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications also selected her as a 2020 inductee into its Hall of Fame - an honor that has been bestowed upon only 161 graduates since its creation in 1970.

Tonyaa has appeared on news shows ranging from NBC's Nightline to BET Tonight, Her column have appeared on national websites such as Black America Web, USA Today,, The Root, The Undefeated and The Marshall Project. 

Chavistas, Caracas, 2007

On being a Black fourth grader in the time of Gov. George Wallace and an adult in the time of President Donald Trump...

"I had heard the rumors that if Wallace was elected, he would send all the black people back to Africa.

And I was scared.

My parents, however, reassured me that Wallace, who ran as an independent for president, would not win; that the common sense and the consciences of the American people would ultimately prevail.

And it did. 

Richard Nixon, the Republican, was elected.

But here we are, nearly 50 years later. And Wallace’s doppelganger, in the form of Donald Trump, who began his campaign by demonizing Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists and by vowing mass deportations and bans on Muslims entering the U.S., is now poised to be the 45th president of the United States.

This time, empathy didn’t carry the day. Unlike for me in 1968, for Latino, Muslim, and African-American youths, the nightmare has materialized for them in 2016.

And it still terrifies."

  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram

Her writings explore the impact of social and economic isolation on communities of color and the nation's future.

Her international work has largely focused on Cuba, a nation that she has studied as a template for examining racial and social issues in the U.S. She was also selected as a presenter at the 2019 Latin American Studies Association Congress for her academic research on rural Latinos.

Tonyaa is now bureau chief for Chalkbeat Tennessee - a non-profit news site which focuses on education equity. Through this role, Tonyaa plans to deploy her experiences and insights as a columnist, international journalist and researcher to continue to amplify the voices of marginalized youths and adults in Memphis and the structural disparities and injustices that impact them.


On her unease with "The Talk," that Black parents are told to give to their sons..

"At one point [The Rev.] Guns brought a young man up on the stage who was wearing a hoodie—which Trayvon Martin was wearing in February 2012 when he was stalked and fatally shot by George Zimmerman—and told him that whenever he walked inside a store, he needed to take the hood off.

Better to walk out of the store, he said, than to wind up being killed at age 18 for … well, scaring some squirrelly store owner into thinking you were there to rob the place.

To be sure, Guns’ advice is sound and pragmatic—and a lot of black parents who love their children are probably repeating it. I understand it.

But I don’t like it.

I don’t like it because as practical as it is, it inadvertently feeds the notion that black youths, and black males in particular, ought to capitulate to racist whites in order not to suffer at their hands.

And any white man who believes that black kids ought to turn down their music because he doesn’t like it, even if they are only sharing the same parking lot for a few minutes, isn’t seeking respect.

He' s seeking submission."

Civil rights icon John Lewis, Jacksonville, 2015

Tonyaa's Takes...

bottom of page