Alumna's "The Race Card Project" Honored with Peabody Award

Michele Norris (B.A., '05), former regular host of NPR's "All Things Considered" and now special correspondent for NPR, was honored with the Peabody Award for excellence in electronic media from the University of Georgia for her self-funded "The Race Card Project."

The project asks people to condense their thoughts about race into one sentence, using only six words.

"It's not always easy," Norris said of talking about race to NPR's Denis O'Hayer in April 2014. "Pain and anger are put on the table. But this lets people be at the table. It's a place to have that conversation and keep people involved in the conversation."

MicheleNorris.jpgWhat began as a small experiment garnered tens of thousands of submissions, which are featured on The Race Card website. The statements, which came in through all avenues: mail, Twitter, online submission and by hand, have been used by schools, churches, businesses and the military to foster conversations about race. Sentences such as "What do you mean by 'they'?", "I'm a conservative, not a racist!" and "Yes, but where are you from?" opened up the dialogue for race in America.

"I say that talking about race is a little bit like cooking with onions. It might make you cry . . . but it always deepens the flavor," Norris said.

Finding the stories so powerful, the submissions became the basis for a series of reports on NPR's Morning Edition, which explored identity, prejudice, pride and equality.

Norris created the project in 2010 while promoting her book, "The Grace of Silence," a family memoir exploring her family's complex experiences with race in America. "I knew I would be asking people to engage in conversation about race when I began doing lectures and public talks about my book," Norris writes on The Race Card website. "I thought I needed something to encourage people to participate in a dialogue about a subject that often sends people running for the hills."

Norris hopes the project and conversation continue. "I want to continue to build this archive," she said. "And I truly hope this is an archive that people can look back [at] to understand this moment in history."

Norris shares the Peabody Award with a team at The Race Card Project and NPR's Morning Edition news magazine.

The George Foster Peabody Award recognizes radio and television stations, networks, online media, producing organizations and individuals for distinguished public service. The Award aims to recognize excellence is quality, rather than commercial success. Every year, 25 to 35 winners are selected from more than 1,000 entries. -S.H.

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