I had a chance to recently sit down and interview a man I consider a friend and industry colleague Mr. Clarence Waldron. He is someone I admire for his career, accomplishments and for what he said best, being “thoughtful and very generous”. I personally believe that it is your willingness to give back to others that separates you from others. I am honored that he would take the time to share some advice and his story to encourage my readers as they embark in the pursuit of their own dreams.
Clarence Waldron specialized in arts and entertainment, education and human rights from 1982 until 2011 while serving as senior editor and writer for one of the countries most prestigious magazines “JET”. He has interviewed and written stories on a long list of celebrities and leaders including President Barack Obama, Aretha Franklin, Maya Angelou, Tony Bennett, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Cornel West, Aaliyah, Queen Latifah, Mary J Blige, Patti LaBelle, Al Sharpton, Nancy Wilson, Bill Cosby, Whitney Houston, Jamie Fox, Rev Jesse Jackson, Jennifer Hudson, Steve Harvey, and Tom Joyner among others. The legendary Eartha Kitt gave him her last print interview that ran in “Ebony Magazine” shortly before she died in 2008. Waldron also served as contributing editor to Ebony, Ebony Man and JET Magazine.
In 1998 Waldron was hired as an adjunct lecturer at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He also became an adjunct lecturer at Columbia College in Chicago in 2007. In 2012 Waldron founded CW Media, a multi-faceted arts and entertainment company specializing in book projects, consulting, public relations and motivational speaking, where he serves as CEO, writer and editor. Waldron also co-authored and edited “Geoffrey Holder & Carmen DeLavallade: A Memoir in Four Movements- The Exhibition Catalogue,” and was the editor for Merri Dee’s book Life Lessons On Faith, Forgiveness & Grace.
Waldron has received multiple awards, including a PASS Award from the National Council on Crime Delinquency, a Legacy Award from Elektra/Atlanta Records, the award of Excellence from Visions Blue Institute in Chicago and the Golden Quill Award for the Feature Writing. In 2010, he received the Legacy Award from the National Association of Black Journalist, and was cited as ‘the dean of arts and entertainment journalist’.
So who inspired you to become a journalist Clarence?
“Well I kinda fell into it, laughed Waldron”. In 1973 Waldron received a full scholarship from A Better Chance to attend a college preparatory boarding school, Darrow School in Lebanon, New York. I went on to attend Columbia University where I earned my B.A degree in English Literature in 1979 and then my M.S degree in journalism from Columbia Graduate School in 1980. While I was a freshman in college I received an internship with Columbia Records. That really influenced me and really shaped my love for music and entertainment. Then in my sophomore year I received an internship at PBS television. This is where I learned to write. I worked on a big project civil rights research project entitled “The MacNeil & Lehrer Report”. After that I knew with certainty I wanted to be a journalist.
What lessons did you learn from the great John Johnson?
Wow…so many things. Mr. Johnson was a great teacher and gave me a great sense of pride as a black man! He taught me how to navigate in business during a very racially charged climate in a our country as a black entrepreneur. He was very smart and innovative when it came to making decisions to level the playing field. Often times using a white person as the front so he could get what he needed accomplished. He taught me that some times you have to use tough language in business to be understood. Not being rude, but firm. I also saw a very humble man who always remained accessible to people despite his success and wealth. He drove himself to the office everyday, shopped for his own groceries and remained very gentle as a man and boss. Mr Johnson created a family environment at Johnson Publishing Inc which was at one time the # 1 Black owned business in the country.
What advice would you give to people in pursuit of their dream?
I would encourage people to locate their passion or what it is that you like to do and that you are good at. What has your name on it. Then educate yourself. Education is the only thing that transforms lives. I would tell them to seek out internships to help discover what you are good at. They can help you build key relationships. It is still about what you know and who you know so that is very important. Internships helped me tremendously in the pursuit of my career and opened up some awesome doors for me. Get your foot in the door through networking and become a member of a professional organization within your passion and career choice. Lastly be patient and willing to work hard to earn what you want in life.
Written by Lee Griffin
Special Thanks to “The History Makers”