Community Service Award Winner
By G'Ra Asim, NABJ Program Assistant
Nationally syndicated columnist and personal-finance guru Michelle Singletary will soon go to prison. It won’t be the first time. Singletary volunteers to teach money management to incarcerated men and women every month. The initiative is an extension of Prosperity Partners Ministry, the finance project she founded and directs at First Baptist Church of Glenarden, Md.
"Someone asked me why people with a life sentence in prison want to learn about money,” Singletary said. "My response: Just because they have a life sentence doesn’t mean they don’t have a life or that they don’t influence people on the outside.”
Singletary’s dedication to improving the lives of others has earned her this year’s NABJ Community Service Award. Recipients of the annual honor are recognized for making a positive impact on the black community beyond the typical realm of journalism.
"Michelle is truly worthy of this honor,” NABJ President Kathy Y. Times said. "Through her column and community outreach she uses her gift and knowledge of personal finance to help people break free from debt.”
Singletary’s community work has taken shape in a variety of ways. She hosts a live online chat on washingtonpost.com and her widely circulated newsletter is among The Post’s most read. She has led a major bible study session at her church and been a frequent workshop presenter and keynote speaker at several women’s conferences.
During her career, Singletary has provided the public with insight on topics like the importance of saving and investing and how to raise economically conscientious future generations.
"There are few journalists who are more connected to their audience,” said Kevin Merida, national editor of The Post and 2000 NABJ Journalist of the Year. "[Singletary] is of the community and has the kind of following most reporters only dream of. And there is a reason for that, other than the stellar work she regularly produces. She also has a heart that is big and full.”
A frequent contributor to local and national television and radio programs, Singletary has appeared on ABC, NBC and CBS and the "The Diane Rehm Show” and "The Yolanda Adams Morning Show.”
"So often people spend so much time focusing on their careers or their inner circle of friends and family that they don’t reach out to their community,” Singletary said. "I urge people to serve because one day they might need to be served.”
Earlier in her career, Singletary was a regular correspondent on BET’s "Real Business” and Howard University’s evening news radio show "Insight.” She has led workshops and presentations for Essence magazine, Simmons College School of Management and Georgetown University.
"[People’s] money issues have little to do with the money that they have or don’t have,” she said. "It’s about priorities and getting rid of the issues that lead to money problems.”
Prior to becoming an award-winning columnist, Singletary worked for the Evening Sun in Baltimore as a business reporter who also covered politics, police, religion and zoning. She joined The Post in 1992, covering local and national banking and bankruptcy.
NABJ awarded Singletary an Ethel Payne fellowship in 1994 to report on female-owned small businesses in West Africa. While there, she wrote about the election of Nelson Mandela, sharing the lead story on Election Day with The Post’s foreign correspondent.
"My most rewarding experience as a journalist was being there on the day of the South African elections when blacks were finally able to vote,” Singletary said. "That day made me realize how important freedom is. It was an assignment of a lifetime, including dancing at the victory party with Nelson Mandela.”
She added: "I couple that experience with my community service because it was watching people vote for the first time that made me realize I shouldn’t take for granted what God has given me. So I give back because someone sacrificed for me.”