Honorary Chair: Rochelle Riley

Rochelle Riley
Columnist

Detroit Free Press

Rochelle Riley’s commentary on social, political and cultural issues appears in the Detroit Free Press. She makes frequent television and radio appearances, including on National Public Radio and WDET. And she is a public speaker who addresses college students, women’s groups and business and family organizations around the country.

Riley writes passionately about, among many things, responsible government, community responsibility, public education, children aging out of foster care and Michigan’s reading crisis.  At the Detroit Free Press, she has waged a 10-year campaign against functional illiteracy, recruiting thousands of volunteers and tens of thousands of dollars to the cause.

She received a national Scripps Howard Award for that continuing effort. But Rochelle also is a specialist at shining a light on people who are special – out of the spotlight – writing about the best student at Detroit’s worst high school, the East Detroit man who adopted four “Lost Boys of Sudan” and the way politicians spend our money.

Riley’s career has taken her around the country with stints at The Dallas Morning News, the Washington Post and the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., where her 1996 debut column, which called for a museum honoring Louisville native Muhammad Ali, helped spur an $80 million campaign to build the Muhammad Ali Center, which opened in 2005.

Riley has won many state and national honors, including four Michigan Associated Press Editorial Association awards for best column writing and the 2011 Salute to Excellence Award from the National Association of Black Journalists.  She was the 2011 recipient of the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for community service. She was recently announced as a 2011 recipient of the Neal Shine Award for Media Commitment to Philanthropy from the Association of Fundraising Professionals for her dedication in and work around Detroit.

The Michigan Press Association has named her Michigan’s best local columnist three times, most recently in 2010.  And her columns on the text message scandal involving Detroit’s former mayor were part of the entry that won the Free Press the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for local news.  She earned her journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was named the Harvey Beech Outstanding Alumna last year.  She was a 2007 Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan, where she studied social media, film and creative writing. She is the author of three collections – “From the Heart,” “Life Lessons” and “Raising A Parent: Lessons My Daughter Taught Me While We Grew Up Together; and she has just completed her first novel.

Riley was born in Tarboro, N.C.

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