About Sonja

Sonja D. WilliamsI can’t deny it. I’m a lifelong lover of music, literature and the media – having nurtured these passions in my New York City (specifically the Bronx) hometown while listening to my father’s singing, the music flowing from my parents’ stereo system and a wide range of radio stations.

My parents also made sure that my brother and I took advantage of a multitude of cultural and educational opportunities. All-City Chorus. Shakespeare in the Park. Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. Hayden Planetarium. And I am a proud graduate of the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and the Performing Arts, the Manhattan School of Music Preparatory Division, Columbia College Chicago (Bachelor of Arts) and Ohio University (Master of Arts).

Those educational and cultural excursions, along with a rather healthy sense of curiosity (some would say nosiness), helped fuel what I would describe as a fulfilling career as a media producer, writer and academician.

 

Media Producer

Through the years I have written and produced numerous features and documentaries for National Public Radio (NPR), Public Radio International (PRI), the Smithsonian Institution and local radio stations nationwide. Several of those productions were award-winning – including three consecutive (1994-1996) and prestigious George Foster Peabody Awards for Significant and Meritorious Achievement – as a producer for the following groundbreaking series:

Smithsonian Productions and Public Radio International’s  Black Radio: Telling It Like It Was
NPR’s Making the Music
NPR and Radio Smithsonian’s Wade in the Water: African American Sacred Music Traditions

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See a selected list of my media productions, articles and awards.

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CD art from Uncrowned Queens

Interested in hearing examples of my documentary work? If so, you can listen to as many episodes as you would like from the Uncrowned Queens: Voices of African American Women radio series for which I served as co-executive producer. This series honored extraordinary black women community leaders living in Buffalo and western New York. Uncrowned Queens was hosted by celebrated actress Phylicia Rashad and narrated by Buffalo producer Lorna C. Hill.

In 2009, Uncrowned Queens earned an American Women in Radio and Television’s “Gracie Allen Award” for exemplary programming by, for and about women.

You may also listen to two programs; one about singer and bandleader extraordinaire, Betty Carter; the other about the talented trombonist, composer and arranger Melba Liston  that I originally produced for NPR’s celebrated Jazz Profiles series. With Grammy Award winning singer Nancy Wilson, serving as host/narrator, this series was a loving tribute to legendary jazz masters.

 

 

Educator

cropped-Sonja-at-Howard.jpgFor as long as I can remember, I have had an affinity for and commitment to acquiring and sharing knowledge. As a child, I loved to read and benefited from the wealth of educational and artistic experiences indicated above. I often couldn’t wait to share my adventures with others, usually starting with the captive audience of my brother and parents, and then other relatives and friends.

In the mid-1980s, a small Historically Black College and University (HBCU) – Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Florida – needed someone to help develop and manage its newly established journalism and mass communications undergraduate program. I became that “someone” and quickly fell in love with college teaching, curriculum development and program management.

I continued to hone my teaching and management skills at Winston-Salem State University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina before landing in my current academic home: the Howard University Department of Media, Journalism and Film in Washington, DC. My students and their curiosity, talent and accomplishments, past and present, have fed my soul and continue to inspire me.

Additionally, I feel blessed to have been able to teach internationally. Starting in 2000, I lectured about media trends and communications history to young media producers and college journalism students in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, South Africa. During the next two years, I trained community radio producers and journalism students living in South Africa’s Western Cape to produce radio documentaries and dramas about issues of social concern. In 2003, their half-hour documentary, Voices of Change: Communications and Resistance in Apartheid South Africa, aired on the Voice of America Africa Channel and on Bush Radio – a vibrant community radio station in Cape Town, South Africa.

 

Author

During the early 1980s I served as a reporter/editor for the news service then known as the Caribbean News Agency (CANA). Based in Barbados, West Indies, CANA provided news coverage to print and broadcast media outlets in English-speaking Caribbean nations. Shortly thereafter, I became an arts and entertainment editor for the Brooklyn, New York-based City Sun weekly newspaper.

Although I have published several newspaper and a few encyclopedia articles in the past, Word Warrior: Richard Durham, Radio, and Freedom is my first book. [Read More]


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