By Abby Weingarten
Giulia Heyward found her journalistic voice at New College. She has been amplifying it ever since.
The young graduate student, who earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts in 2018, has already written articles for The New York Times, HuffPost and The New Republic—pieces about issues like political reform and civil rights.
“Due to my upbringing and my status as a black queer woman, I’ve always gravitated toward writing stories about people who have been historically underrepresented,” said Heyward, the former editor-in-chief of New College’s student newspaper, The Catalyst. “A lot of the stories I’ve written lately have either been about the pandemic or the protests. There’s not a huge difference between what I wrote then and what I’m writing now; it’s just on a much larger scale.”
Heyward’s passion for journalism first emerged under the mentorship of anthropology professor Maria Vesperi, Ph.D., who sponsored The Catalyst tutorial as well as Heyward’s thesis, Black Lives Matter! The Representation of Black Activism in the Press.
As a writer, editor and photographer for the campus paper, Heyward would cover local protests with New College students and Black History Month (BHM) events on campus. Today, as an editorial intern for the Washington Monthly (and a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Heyward is chronicling unemployment, police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement in America.
“I think we’re in such a momentous period of time right now where not only are we seeing impactful discussions about issues that have been going on for a while, but we’re also having a larger discussion in the media about what representation looks like and the way newsrooms have been predominantly white institutions for so long,” said Heyward, who is half Black and half Italian. “I grew up in a multiracial household, so I’ve always understood the way race exists in this country. Stories about people like that have always intrigued me.”
Heyward is now living in her hometown of Miami with her family (she flew back from spring break in England the day before COVID-19 travel restrictions extended to the United Kingdom). She is a fully-funded Roy H. Park Fellow and a Tom Wicker Award recipient, as well as a participating member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the Carolina Association of Black Journalists.
The topic of representation in the media is as significant to Heyward today as it was when she was an undergraduate at New College. She was active in the BHM planning committee and, during her third year, her friends Miles Iton and Paul Loriston co-founded the Black Student Union (BSU). Heyward participated in a project with the BSU called “As We Are,” in which she took photos of students of color on campus and documented their experiences. Heyward made connections and friendships with many of those students that have outlasted her New College years (she still talks to fellow alumni on a daily basis).
“I’m inspired every day by the people I went to school with. Had it not been for the people I had around me in the black and queer community there, as well as professors Zabriskie and Vesperi, I don’t know if I would have been able to graduate,” Heyward said. “I had so many people around me doing really cool, important work to make the school a better place.”
In hopes of further improving the College, Heyward co-gave the 2018 commencement address with Iton and student Leen Al-Fatafta. They talked about cultivating a more inclusive campus culture, and it was their wish that the work they did as students would continue after graduation.
“We stand here as a collective of students of color to represent the community that we have built here,” Heyward said in the speech. “We have seen each other through some of the harshest realities of a predominantly white institution and have made it here today only because we stood in allyship and solidarity with one another.”
Heyward is still fostering that solidarity. She is currently working with two other students from her cohort, Bree Nieves and Kailah Santos, on a film project called Comet: A Slice of Life Short Film Set in Panhandle Florida (Heyward is the assistant director and a co-producer). And Heyward is grateful for the guidance she received from Vesperi during her time on The Catalyst that now informs her daily work ethic as a writer.
“Maria Vesperi very much inspired me to be a go-getter and someone who wasn’t afraid to put my nose against the grindstone and write stories,” Heyward said. “I genuinely would not be where I am if it weren’t for her.”
Heyward plans to complete a master’s degree in journalism next year, and her graduate thesis is a collection of news stories about LGBTQ-inclusive legislation in North Carolina. Ultimately, she hopes to work full-time for a legacy news outlet.
“I’d love to have the opportunity to run a newsroom at some point, especially if it means being the first black person or the first black woman or the first black openly queer person to run the place,” Heyward said. “Every time I’ve ever worked in a newsroom, I’ve been the only black person there. I’ve only been one of very few openly queer people there. I want that to change.”
And, in many ways, Heyward feels she is contributing to a larger social shift toward more inclusive reporting in the United States.
“I’ve seen people out on the streets protesting now more than I’ve ever seen before, and that probably speaks to the pandemic and how so many people now have the means to be out there, for better or worse,” Heyward said, pointing to how BLM might be the largest movement in U.S. history. “So I want to be hopeful about the future, because I’d love to see some real, tangible change.”
To read Heyward’s writing, visit giuliaheyward.com/work
Abby Weingarten is the editor/writer in the Office of Communications & Marketing.