If there ever was a person who provides proof to Walt Disney’s oft-quoted phrase “If you can dream it, you can do it,” that person is Jill Darden.
Darden founded the Fort Worth Black News along with her mother Chris Lott. In print and electronic media across two decades, Darden has shaped her own destiny and has helped Fort Worth’s Black community tell their stories, their way.
Tell us how and why you founded Fort Worth Black News.
“I give God credit for shaping my life’s course. I founded Fort Worth Black News in 1997 when I was 23. I was looking for a paper that informs inspires, and that appealed to me. Every publication at that time did not answer the questions: What activities are going in the Black community, and what’s happening?”
When there’s only one narrative, it’s assumed to be true.
“I wasn’t looking for stories that fit a particular narrative. In mainstream media, they talk about the bad things that happen but we also need to talk about the good things.”
What role does the publication have locally?
“Fort Worth Black News serves an important role in how Fort Worth is perceived. Diversity matters here. We give a voice to people who often don’t have a platform for speaking or would be drowned out. Important for visitors to know that there is Black news – it helps highlight diversity.”
"It’s also important as I raise my son Jiles. The images he sees and the stories he reads -- it’s important for him to see we’re doing more than what you see on the news every night. If I’m speaking about a problem, I offer a solution because I don’t want to leave the reader without hope.”
Do you have any favorite interview stories?
“One of my favorite interviews was Oprah Winfrey. I interviewed her in person for my cable TV show. I admired her as a media entrepreneur. But I’ve met so many great ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Jewell Kelly was the music and choir teacher at O.D. Wyatt High School for years, and she trained (gospel singer) Kirk Franklin. She said ‘If you love what you do you never work a day in your life and I’ve never worked a day in my life.’ Coach Robert Hughes was the winningest high school basketball coach in history. He coached at Dunbar High School. I asked him why he continued, and he said ‘I just never thought about quitting. When you don’t think about quitting you just keep going.'”
What excites you about the future?
“It’s a very exciting time to be a person who covers the Black community in Fort Worth. Two Black councilmen (Dr. Jared Williams of District Six, and Pastor Chris Nettles of District Eight) were elected. And I love the developments in Stop Six where they’re breaking ground on Cowan Place, a new senior living center. It’s exciting to cover these new leaders and new developments on their journey.”
Congratulations on your upcoming silver anniversary.
"It will be 25 years old this coming May 2022. I want to have a big celebration, pending the pandemic, and invite the different people we’ve covered over the last 25 years. It will be a true celebration of Fort Worth community.”