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#CIROCSTANDS Celebrates Black Excellence Month During Super Bowl Weekend

CÎROC brings #CIROCStands to Super Bowl Weekend Celebrating Black Excellence

in Sports Media and the influential women paving the way.

It's Black excellence month, and Sean "Diddy" Combs and CÎROC (Official Vodka Sponsor of the NFL) are back for another round of #CIROCStands during one of the most significant events in sports, Super Bowl weekend! Along with the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), CÎROC is honoring all the Black journalists who are making history and elevating the stories told in sports. How awesome is that?!

We're thrilled to announce that Cari Champion, MJ Acosta-Ruiz, Kelsey Nicole Nelson, and Elaine Welteroth, an award-winning journalist, NYT Bestselling author, and TV host, are coming together for a special panel discussion at NFL House! They will be recognizing these amazing women, exploring their inspirational stories, and celebrating their success in paving the way for the rest of us. It's gonna be awesome!

WHEN: Saturday, February 11 | Time: 10:00am - 12:00pm 

WHERE: NFL House [El Chorro Lodge, 5550 East Lincoln Dr, Paradise Valley]


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Editor-in-Chief, Amina sat down virtually with NABJ representative, Kelsey Nicole Nelson (@therealknelson) to know more about the organization's collaboration with #CIROCStands.

Amina: Hi, my name is Amina and I am the Editor in Chief of Black Pepper Magazine. Great to have you.

Kelsey: Hi, everyone. I'm Kelsey Nicole Nelson, a freelance sports reporter and Host Based out of Washington, DC, where I cover all things, sports, from everything from football, to basketball, to probably your favorite celebrities and doing red carpet interviews. I'm so excited and delighted to be here with black pepper magazine. Thank you so much for having me. I am so delighted to be here with you.

Amina: Out of all professions you've chosen journalism, why?

Kelsey: So, oh my gosh, that's such a powerful question. But for me, journalism was always the path for me, you know, the household I come from I remember, we used to always watch the news and watch sports together. And I'll never forget, I asked my parents, you know, like the people on the television, how many people are they talking to my parents are like 1000s, and millions. And, you know, just realizing the power that journalists have that words matter that diversity and representation matters. It knew it was always a path. For me, I think I've always been a storyteller. I've always been that person, you know, going to everybody else, sharing what's happening in the world sharing the news. And so that's always been a joy and delight for me. So to me the power of the pin, the power of words I've always been attracted to. So journalism kind of just naturally I fell into it. And obviously, I've kind of been there ever since. So, it's an amazing career and amazing path. And I really think it's what God has called me to do. On this earth. I really feel like I'm walking in my faith, every single day that I work as a sports journalist.

Amina: Where did the passion for sports come from?

Kelsey: Yeah, so the passion for sports. I'm a daddy's girl, I will admit that first and foremost. So you know my dad. He comes from HBCU roots and only I come from historically black colleges and university roots, all my aunts went to Jackson State University. My dad is a proud graduate of Grambling State University. So I grew up with this HBCU sports world, you know, grew up with Doug Williams posters on my, on my in my, you know, in my bedroom and on the wall. So, you know, just having all of that. And then just being a natural athlete, I think, you know, I was always taller than everybody else. I got into sports super early, I played soccer, basketball, you know, so many different things that I was involved in sports, I've kind of always been in my life, I think I just naturally have a competitive edge, I don't really think wanting to compete. And then of course, just growing up in the DMV area, that's DC, Maryland, and Virginia sports were always there. And I grew up in Georgetown. Boy paranoia was at an all time high, when the University of Maryland basketball was at an all time high, you know, going to Baltimore Ravens training camps, and Westminster, Maryland. It just was always a part of me. And I always just found joy there connecting with folks. So for me, it started with my dad watching those games or sitting on top of his shoulder that basketball games, you know, looking over everybody else, and then it's just kind of has still stayed with me. And he's still the person that I talk to every day about what's happening in sports.

Amina: So every road to success has its ups and downs, right? What has sports journalism taught you?

Kelsey: Oh, my gosh, no, being a black woman in sports journalism, I always said that, first and foremost, because everything I do I enter as a black woman. You know, being in sports journalism, I kind of came in this world as an underdog, you know, being underestimated from the time, you know, I came up my parents were from Mississippi, they moved to Montgomery County, Maryland. And I was so used to being the only one in so many situations, the only one that looked like me and always having to prove myself. But being in sports journalism kind of taught me that same underdog mentality is always there. But it's honestly where I learned how to bet on myself. Because I was overlooked many, many times, you know, for positions and opportunities. It taught me how to really build my own table, when a seat was not offered at a table. You know, I tell young people all the time, you know, just because a seats not offered, it doesn't mean the table is not there, that there's no room at the table. Sometimes it might mean you you know, pulling up a chair. But for me, it's even more than that. I've had to learn how to pull up a chair, put my elbows down on a table and demand that my voice be heard through sports journalism and sports media. Because that diversity, that representation is so important, and it does matter. And so I think for me, you know, just learning that a lot of times you will be under looked and underestimated, but that's not the end of the world. It just means you're gonna find another way to prove yourself because if you're in a room, you're meant to be there.

And then for me, it's meant it meant that I need to prove my worth and I'm going to make sure that I prove what I need to be here and why I'm going to stay here and I think that's what sports journalism has taught me. It taught me how to have thick skin. I get lots of nose I mean You know, even when I first started, and those are the say I keep a folder of all the news, and then you know, I look where I am now and where I want to go. And I just remember, you know, obviously, that just was not meant for me at that moment or at that time, but that's not the end of the world, there will be other, you know, opportunities, I've learned how to be an entrepreneur, you know, through this, I have my own businesses now, because of my work. You know, in journalism, I had to kind of learn that, you know, you don't learn that in many other businesses, maybe. But in journalism, you know, I had to learn it quick, especially when tax season came around. Why that was, you know, kind of so important. And then I've also learned how to brand myself, you know, which is super important, you know, and how to make sure that people know that I'm uniquely me, and standing out as myself. So you know, there's so many things I learned in journalism, I could share a million things with you. But as a black woman, I think the biggest things I've learned is just how to, you know, use myself to the best of my ability. And just to kind of brand that to other platforms in different areas, especially as a freelance journalist, because you know, I consider every day an audition, because I never know where my next opportunity is going to be coming from.




Amina: Such a powerful lesson ! You are also here to announce something special, with the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and their partnership with...

Kelsey: ... with CIROC ! Surprise. Excited to give that announcement to everybody.

I am excited to join the panel on behalf of the NABJ (The National Black Association of Journalists) as a partner of this year’s #CIROCStands for Black Excellence iteration. CÎROC’s support of NABJ’s and our mission to promote diversity, equity and inclusion through advocacy efforts and professional development for Black journalists and media professionals worldwide is an honor.  

I look forward to joining my fellow journalists and sportscasters MJ Acosta-Ruiz, Cari Champion,  alongside host Award-winning journalist, NYT Bestselling author, TV host Elaine Welteroth for meaningful conversation as we share our stories of inspiration at NFL House. I am honored to take centerstage with these powerful women, and toast to our success as we pave the way for others to do the same.

You know, the fact that we have two black quarterbacks going head to head in the Super Bowl, for the first time ever, just 35 years after Doug Williams became the first black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl, I think that means something special. And then again, to me, as a black woman being part of such a phenomenal event, I'm so excited to be representing NABJ on this panel. And then it's gonna be great, you know, all of us trying to push diversity, equity and inclusion, something that both organizations highly promote through their work and advocacy efforts. That is just pushing professional development for black journalists and media professionals, communicators, students, you know, all over the country. So that's gonna be great. It's gonna be at the NFL house, and I'm so excited to be able to announce this special partnership.

Amina: It sounds great. So what exactly is the mission of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ)?

Kelsey: I love that question. And if folks haven't heard about NABJ, well, you're about to get the best kept, which should be not secret. It's an organization that's been around since 1975. Again, since 1975, really helping to push and promote Black Journalists all over the country. 4100 members strong right now, in counting as the largest and oldest of the nation's professional training and advocacy organizations, for journalists of color. And you know, you think about what they do, we have year round, we have career fairs. You know, we have annual conferences, virtual conferences, regional conferences, I'm really making sure that we have diverse hiring practices, and that journalists of color have access to job opportunities. So anytime that you see a journalist of color really means that they have an organization backing them supporting them. And I think that's so many, that's so important, you know, to so many of us in our everyday work lives, you know, you know, you have that support. It's something special, you know, there's nothing like working in a job and you know, just feeling like, you have no one that you can lean on. I think that's what NABJ represents for. So, you know, many people across this country, they've given hundreds of 1000s of dollars, and scholarships, fellowships and grants to members to suit a journalist, and to so many more. So basically, NABJ is a great group to just support everybody who kind of touches Journalism and Media Communications, Academia, this is the group for them.

Amina: Awesome. How has an NABJ been able to sustain its initiative for more than 40 years?

Kelsey: NABJ, founded in 1975, is a nonprofit organization that offers innovative training, career advancement, funding opportunities, advocacy, and support for Black journalists and media professionals worldwide 

Yeah, you know, anytime something's been around for 40 years, you know, they're doing something right. Right. You don't just stay around for 40 years, if you're doing something wrong. It means they're on, you know, the right path. And you know, I think for me, just, you know, looking at the work that NABJ does, I think one they have amazing Task Force One of the taskforce that I'm a part of it sports Task Force. It's been going strong for over 20 years. And the sports Task Force, of course, helps to advocate for Black Sports Journalism, and all facets of the journalism industry. You know, we're working to make sure that diversity is not just there, but that it's a mainstay in sports departments, you know, making sure that not just in front of the camera, but behind the camera that we have that diversity. So that's just one of the things that NABJ does. I think the other thing again, is that they're providing opportunity is for journalists, you know, whether it's the training that's held, you know, year round for journalists to go to, they have leadership training, or training and everything from leadership in the newsroom, which is super important for journalists, you know, to balancing life and mental health, which is also an important part, and facet of journalism, this is some of the things that they do, we also have, we all have chapters all over, for instance,

I'm a part of the Washington Association of Black Journalists where I'm vice president of that great group. So again, you have support on a national and local and regional level, I think that means a lot just knowing that you have so many people that you can turn to, and so many people even count on, again, getting access to career and job fairs, where they really promote the hiring of us. And, you know, it's for us, by us, you know, kind of like the old FUBU, you know, I think is amazing, they have those difficult conversations, you know, in media, in journalism, we have scholarships that we're giving to young people to continue the path, we're not just staying strong, we're making sure the pipeline is strong, and that it gets stronger each and every single year. So that's what the National Association of Black Journalists does. It's why I joined it.

It’s really amazing that the impact of our work doesn’t go unnoticed and is recognized by brands like CÎROC that are a staple in our culture. 


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Amina: What a great organization! Kelsey Nicole Nelson stands for...

Kelsey: I love that. You know, Kelsey, Nicole Nelson, aka k&n would show many people like to call me I think it stands for a girl who followed her dreams and works every day to make that into reality, while also making sure that she's lifting as she climbs and not doing it alone. And a girl that's supported by a village.

Amina: Oh, love that. It's #blackhistorymonth , let's give flowers to past journalists. Name one black journalists from the past, you would like us to know more about?

Kelsey: That's a great question. You know, there's so many great journalists, you know, I think that deserve their flowers and actually love that you're doing this because I think it's so important to give people their flowers every day, and especially giving people their flowers, you know, while they're alive. But you know, for me, I could point even to you know, my journalism teacher, you know, I'll start with Mark Gray. And you know, he's somebody that and I say, give him his flowers, because he's somebody that really put the emphasis on me being able to do the job I do, but making sure that I was prepared for the hard and long journey ahead.

You know, he's the one that kind of taught me what freelancing is, you know, before I met Professor Mark Ray, who also worked as a professional journalist, you know, I didn't really realize that this was a career path and viable opportunity for me, right, I felt like most people, you, you went somewhere, you weren't there, you stay there, however long you have to and then you move on to the next opportunity. So I think he's the one he's the one that also has championed HBCUs for a long time, which I think is super important, making sure that our HBCU athletes and stars get the credit that they deserve and their own flowers, you know, making sure that media attention is brought there, you know, he gave me an opportunity to sit behind the mic and cover live broadcast games.

And he's one that speaks my name, and speaks many names, you know, in rooms that were not in so I think he's one I definitely want to give flowers to, because it's so important. You know, to champion these every day. I call them everyday heroes, honestly, these everyday heroes that are in our communities that are in our lives, that are in journalism that deserve their fair share of flowers, because they're helping to make sure that pipeline is strong, and that we're supporting the next generation of journalists.

Amina: So now on to the last question. Yeah, what are you most excited about this Super Bowl week-end?

Kelsey: I'm so excited to be a part of this amazing panel that we're gonna have sports casters and fellow journalists MJ Acosta Ruiz, Cari Champion and TV host Elaine Welteroth, we're hosting this great panel, it's going to be at the NFL house and we're really championing and supporting Black women and black woman voices and so to be a part of that, you know, and to be able to tell our stories, you know, and tell the whole story not Just the Glory of the Story, but the whole story, which led us to getting here, but also making sure that folks though this isn't the end of the story, but also that a part of our story is making sure that we're bringing up other journalists with me. And with all of us, I think that's going to be so important. So I'm excited for Saturday, it's going to be a fun time. And then just to get an uplifting and celebrating Black excellence, I grew up with black excellence in my household, I push and champion black excellence every day. And so just to know that we're gonna be together for this intimate, you know, conversation, I think it's going to be just super important, you know, and it's just great to know that this work isn't going unnoticed. And that it's being recognized, you know, by large brands, you know, likes CIROC , a staple in our culture right now. So I'm excited for that, you know, being right before the big game, I think it's a perfect way to lead into Sunday and the big game that's coming up that you know, everybody's super excited about.

Amina: Yay, awesome! Thank you very much for your time. It was fun listening to you, you're full of life.

Kelsey: Thank you so much. It was such a delight to be here, you are a fantastic interviewer. I'm loving the black girl magic, you know, on the screen, and thank you so much for you know, uplifting and amplify our stories, you know, in this great event in partnership coming up, you know, I hope this really does help to inspire others and other brands, you know, to work with the National Association of Black Journalists and CIROC for the great work that they're doing in the community, so to say the great need of work that they're doing in the community. So thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Amina: Yes, thank you! My pleasure. I hope you enjoy the rest of your day. Have a great one!

Kelsey: Thanks so much. Have a great day. Bye Bye


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