Staff & Writers

Our mission is to empower our communities through quality journalism. We are a team of experienced leaders with a long history of giving back, helping out and speaking up. Using our combined talents and resources, we can support the publications that give voice to all Americans and provide them the information they need to reach their highest potential, no matter what their aspirations.

“With tough, unflinching and unbiased investigative work, Urban News Service will bring to light some of the toughest issues in Black America, as well as take a deeper and more analytical look at some of the best solutions.” –Andre Johnson, Founder


  • Andre M. Johnson Staff Photo

    Andre M. Johnson

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    Mr. Johnson is the founder of ProImage Communications, LLC. He has represented former Mayor of Washington, D.C Marion Barry, professional boxers Tony Thompson, Anthony and Lamont Peterson and former NBA star Steve Francis. Johnson orchestrated the earned media campaign that took the Rev. Al Sharpton from the pulpit to the leadership of the Democratic Party. He serves as both Publisher for the Urban News Service and Vice President of Distribution for parent company American Media Institute.

  • Niger Innis Staff Photo

    Niger Innis

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    Mr. Innis is the national spokesperson for the Congress of Racial Equality. He is a frequent guest on network television and cable news. His appearances include MSNBC, CNN, and NPR. He is co-chairman of the Affordable Power Alliance. In 2014, he was elected to the executive board of the NAACP.

  • Eric K. Easter Staff Photo

    Eric K. Easter

    The name staff_job_title is already in use.

    Mr. Easter is the CEO of BLQBOX, a start-up streaming network featuring non-fiction films, shorts and original series on the global black cultural experience. A veteran of political media and campaign consulting, he served as press secretary to Rev. Jesse Jackson and advised on communications for many campaigns.

  • Joe Louis Ruffin, Jr. Staff Photo

    Joe Louis Ruffin, Jr.

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    Mr. Ruffin served as a strategic management consultant to a variety of organizations, including Public Campaign, the DCCC, NATO, the President’s Council onY2K/Field Strategies and more. He served as Washington Museum’s political director for the arts and also as the director of a MLB-RBI training program. Most recently, he served as the director of outreach for DC Votes.

Our Writers

  • Curtis Bunn Staff Photo

    Curtis Bunn

    The name staff_job_title is already in use.

    Mr. Bunn is a national award-winning journalist and best-selling author of seven novels. He covers general news and has written about some of the largest events and personalities in sports for more than three decades at The Washington Times, N.Y. Newsday, The New York Daily News, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and various other media outlets. His work spans coverage of the Olympics, NBA Finals, Super Bowls, NCAA Final Fours, World Series, championship boxing, college football bowl games, six Masters golf championships and more. Among honors received are awards from the Professional Basketball Writers Association. The Associated Press Sportswriters Association and the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists.

  • Kevin P. Chavous Staff Photo

    Kevin P. Chavous

    The name staff_job_title is already in use.

    Mr. Chavous is our special correspondent for education reform.As a leading national advocate for educational choice, Mr. Chavous helped to shepherd the charter school movement into the nation’s capital, which now serves nearly half of D.C.’s public school children. He assisted in shaping the District’s three-sector education partnership with the federal government which brought$60 million in annual federal dollars for D.C.’s public schools, public charter schools, and the first federal scholarship program which has provided access to private schools for nearly 6,000 children from low-income families since inception.In recent years, Mr. Chavous has worked to advance charter school and parental choice programs in a host of jurisdictions around the country. A prolific writer and much sought after speaker, Mr. Chavous’ opinion editorials have appeared in many major newspapers and he has given education reform speeches in nearly every state. His books on the subject include Serving Our Children: Charter Schools and the Reform of American Public Education, and Voices of Determination: Children that Defy the Odds.

  • Michael H. Cottman Staff Photo

    Michael H. Cottman

    The name staff_job_title is already in use.

    Mr. Cottman, award-winning journalist and author, is senior correspondent for, part of the nation’s largest black-owned media company. Mr. Cottman covers the White House, focusing economic, education and health-care policies. Mr. Cottman’s article on Eric Holder for Ebony magazine was the attorney general’s last lengthy, sit-down interview before his resignation. Mr. Cottman is heard regularly on XM Satellite Radio, Radio One, National Public Radio, and has co-hosted the nationally-syndicated radio show Keeping it Real with Rev. Al Sharpton. Cottman has received numerous awards including journalism’s highest honor, the Pulitzer Prize, which he shared with a staff of reporters and editors at Newsday in 1992.

  • Del Walters Staff Photo

    Del Walters

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    Mr. Walters is the morning anchor for Al Jazeera America, and one of Washington’s most prolific investigative reporters. During a broadcast career that spanned three decades he was awarded more than 20 Emmys for investigative reporting and hundreds of other national and international awards. For two decades he was an investigative reporter at ABC News Washington D.C. An award winning documentary film producer, political columnist, and broadcaster, Walters has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, been a commentator on the Chris Matthews show, and Unsolved Mysteries to name a few. His film, Apocalypse Africa made in America premiered at the Cannes International Film Festival.

  • Clem Richardson Staff Photo

    Clem Richardson

    The name staff_job_title is already in use.

    Mr. Richardson is an award-winning newspaper reporter, editor, special projects writer and columnist, whose work has appeared in The Anderson Independent, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Miami Herald, New York Newsday and the New York Daily News.He is a two time winner of the New York City Press Club’s Father Mychal Judge “Heart of New York” Award, and received the New York Association of Black Journalists’ 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award.

  • Nick Chiles Staff Photo

    Nick Chiles

    The name staff_job_title is already in use.

    Mr. Chiles is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author. Over  his 29-year career, Mr. Chiles has become known as one of the nation’s foremost chroniclers of African-American life, culture and celebrity. He has won over a dozen major journalism awards, and recognition from Publisher’s Weekly, Blackboard, Essence, and others. He won the Pulitzer Prize while writing for New York Newsday and while he was on the staff of The Star-Ledger of New Jersey, he won three consecutive New Jersey Press Association awards. In 2014 and 2015, he served as Editor-in-Chief of the website, the largest Black-owned news site on the web.

  • Yolanda Woodlee Staff Photo

    Yolanda Woodlee

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    Ms. Woodlee is a former Washington Post reporter who has covered local politics and government for some of the country’s major newspapers, including The Detroit News, The Miami Herald and The Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. She is particularly known for her coverage of the historic re-election of the late Mayor Marion Barry after his conviction on drug possession in 1994. She was the lead reporter in uncovering the forged and fraudulent signatures on Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ nominating petitions. Yolanda began her career in her hometown writing for The Louisville Defender. She is a graduate of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, then located at the University of California, Berkeley. Yolanda has a B.A. in Communications from Rockhurst University, Kansas City, Missouri.

  • Josh Peterson Staff Photo

    Josh Peterson

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    Josh Peterson is a writer living in the Washington, D.C. area focusing on technology, politics, culture, and national security. His current areas of interest include Internet governance, intellectual property, surveillance, and artificial intelligence.

    Peterson’s work has been featured by major news publications including US News & World Report, Yahoo News, RealClearPolitics, and the Drudge Report; citations by major outlets include The New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Reuters, and The Hollywood Reporter. Past radio and television appearances include BBC Radio 5 Live, Voice of Russia, and One America News Network.

    Peterson has also been cited in several legal journals, including the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology, Loyola of Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Review, William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, and the Federal Communications Law Journal.

    Peterson graduated from Hillsdale College in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Philosophy, and is an alumni of the National Journalism Center. Previous experience includes, The Daily Caller, The Heritage Foundation, and Broadband Breakfast. Peterson currently contributes to Urban News Service, the Washington Free Beacon, and The Federalist.

  • Terry Johnson Staff Photo

    Terry Johnson

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    Mr. Johnson is a retired Naval Officer with 40 years of experience making photographs in the United States and elsewhere around the globe. He has significant specialized history in photography of ships and weapon systems and has recently gained experience with portraits and landscapes. He lives in Reston, Virginia and takes pleasure in documenting life in Washington DC.

  • Curtis L. Taylor Staff Photo

    Curtis L. Taylor

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    Mr. Taylor is an award-winning journalist, best-selling author and communications executive based in New York City. He is a former investigative reporter for Newsday, where he was a finalist for journalism’s most prestigious award, the Pulitzer Prize for his series on real estate fraud. He began his career as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times.

  • Sheila R. Cherry Staff Photo

    Sheila R. Cherry

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    Ms. Cherry is a journalist with more than 20 years experience covering local, national and international government, politics and policies to publications as diverse as People magazine and the Washington Post. Cherry was inaugurated on Jan. 31, 2004 as the 97th president of the National Press Club. She was the seventh woman and first person of color to hold that post. The National Press Club is the largest and most prestigious private club for journalists and media professionals in the world.

  • Araia Tesfamariam Staff Photo

    Araia Tesfamariam

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    Araia is our consulting creative director. He is also the President of and Creative director for Liberator Media LLC, a digital media production company in Alexandria, Virginia. For the past fifteen years, Araia has held key roles in various aspects of film and video production.  He has impressive production experience and has won a “Telly” award for his work as a copywriter.

  • Jennifer Carroll Staff Photo

    Jennifer Carroll

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    Jennifer Carroll is an Urban News Service contributor covering defense, technology and entrepreneurship. She also appears regularly on WJXT CHANNEL News4Jax Jacksonville, Florida, as a political analyst addressing state and national political issues, ballot initiatives, government, local and national races. Her autobiography When You Get There is a best seller.

  • Jocelyn Augustino Staff Photo

    Jocelyn Augustino

    The name staff_job_title is already in use.

    Jocelyn Augustino is a Washington, DC-based photographer. Her work appears in USA Today, The Guardian, and Time Magazine, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Newsweek, The New York Times, on news websites such as-MSNBC, CNN, Bloomberg, and in other prominent worldwide publications. Her work includes coverage of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) responses to the crash site at the Pentagon on 9/11/2001, to New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina, and to New York following Hurricane Sandy. Her work is included in the National Archives, serving as a permanent historical record. She has photographed every sitting president in the last 20 years.

  • Taylor Gordon Staff Photo

    Taylor Gordon

    The name staff_job_title is already in use.

    Ms. Gordon is a recent Georgia State graduate who has spent several years covering world news and analyzing global issues for a variety of digital publications. Her reporting for Atlanta Blackstar includes an in-depth analysis of the impact social media played in the months following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and an investigative piece the death of the Charles Smith in Savannah. In addition to writing, Ms. Gordon’s expertise includes video production, live event coverage and technical writing.

  • K. Barrett Bilali Staff Photo

    K. Barrett Bilali

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    K. Barrett Bilali is an independent journalist and editor. He is the author of Newburgh (Arcadia Publishing). He specializes in urban issues, education, arts and culture and African-American history.

  • David Tulchinsky Staff Photo

    David Tulchinsky

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    David Tulchinsky is a Washington, D.C.-based photographer. After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, he attended the Washington School of Photography. He has exhibited at the National Press Club and FotoWeek DC. His work has been published in Endocrine News and Business Insider. He enjoys nature, travel, landscape, and street photography.

  • Patrice Gaines Staff Photo

    Patrice Gaines

    The name staff_job_title is already in use.

    A summer day in 1970 changed Patrice Gaines’ life forever. She was in a Charlotte, N.C. jail, charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin and possession of a needle and syringe. Her mother, unable to bring Patrice’s two-year-old daughter Andrea inside to visit her, directed Patrice to look out the window when she returned to her cell. Staring out a narrow opening, Gaines saw her grandfather in front of the jail holding her daughter while her mother pointed to the third floor window. Her daughter looked all about.”She is searching for me and she can’t find me,” Gaines thought, as tears trickled down her cheeks. In that moment, she vowed to do all she could to change her life.Thus began a long and arduous journey, which Gaines chronicles in her autobiography, “Laughing In The Dark: From Colored Girl to Woman of Color— A Journey from Prison to Power.”

    Before that memorable day Patrice had been a heroin user satisfied to go from man to man in search of love while her mother took care of her child. But staring at her daughter, Gaines committed herself to change. At times the task seemed overwhelming. Gaines returned to jail for shoplifting and though she stopped using heroin, she used other drugs. She was beaten and raped by a boyfriend and battered by a husband. Yet, she persevered. She went to school at night, discovered a passion and talent for writing, and took creative writing classes at a community college. She became drug free, studied life; entered psychotherapy, read everything she thought would help her and meditated on the meaning of God.
    Then eight years after her arrest, Gaines, who had worked for years as a secretary, was selected for a national journalism education program and became a newspaper reporter. She worked for several newspapers during her career as a fulltime reporter, spending the last 16 years as a reporter for the Washington Post in Washington, D.C. While at the Post, she won awards for journalism and for her contributions to the community. She investigated a 1985 murder case for six years, finding evidence that raised questions about the guilt of eight young, black men sentenced to 35 years-to-life for the killing. Based on the evidence she found, lawyers from the Innocence Project of the National Capitol Region are seeking a new trial for the men.

    Gaines outlined her path to change in her inspirational book, “Moments of Grace, Meeting the Challenge to Change.” She has been a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show and was featured on a segment of Dateline. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Essence Magazine. She has been a commentator on National Public Radio and Pacifica Radio. Today, Gaines is a freelance journalist, writing teacher and motivational speaker, telling her story at colleges, conferences, prisons and drug rehabilitation programs around the country. She is a restorative justice trainer and a “justice reform activist,” who encourages discussions on forgiveness in her lectures and coaxes people to redefine “justice.” Her goal is to drastically change the U.S. judicial system and prison industry.

    Gaines is also devoted to working to empower women, especially those who have been incarcerated. To that end, she and longtime friend Gaile Dry-Burton opened The Brown Angel Retreat Center. The Center offers a respite from judgment, a place for healing and learning as well as a program of courses and counseling aimed at assisting women in becoming mentally, spiritually and financially healthy.

  • Ronda Racha Penrice Staff Photo

    Ronda Racha Penrice

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    A lifelong interest in African American history and culture has served Ronda Racha Penrice well in her extensive career. As an English and History major at Columbia University, she challenged herself academically by tackling big topics like African American female missionaries to Africa, the Race Riots of 1919 and the life and work of Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker and Toni Morrison.

    Her interest in African American literature aided her tremendously as a contributing editor at The Quarterly Black Review of Books, a game-changing publication that coincided with the Black publishing renaissance of the mid-1990s that made Terry McMillan, Walter Mosley and E. Lynn Harris household names.      

    Following a brief stint at New York University where she pursued individualized course study focused on the works of Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston, the Chicago native headed to Mississippi, from which her family hails, to pursue Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi, adding Ernest Gaines to her “writers of interest” list. But it would be popular culture where Penrice would make her biggest mark.  


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    Avis Thomas Lester is an award-winning journalist who serves as the president and CEO of Thomas Lester Communications LLC, a public relations and media consulting company. She spent 22 years as a staff writer, editor, producer and blogger for The Washington Post. After leaving the Post, she served for two years as the executive editor of the AFRO-American Newspapers in Washington D.C., Baltimore and Prince George’s County.

  • Andrea Billups

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  • DeAngelo Starnes Staff Photo

    DeAngelo Starnes

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    Mr. Starnes is a writer and attorney who resides in Denver, Colorado. He hosts the weekly podcast The Decoding Society which can be found on iTunes, Soundcloud, and Blog Talk Radio.

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