Editor’s Note: This staff list is from 2018. To meet our current team members, please visit this page.

MLK50: Justice Through Journalism is a nonprofit newsroom focused on poverty, power and public policy — issues about which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. cared deeply. Contact us at mlk50@mlk50.com or at 901–602–6868.

Wendi C. Thomas

Wendi C. Thomas is the founder, editor and publisher of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism. A 2016 fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, she’s been a reporter or editor at the Indianapolis Star, the (Nashville) Tennessean and the Charlotte Observer. From 2003 to 2014, Thomas was a metro columnist and assistant managing editor at The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal. When Thomas left the Memphis paper to start MLK50, there were two black women in the city’s history who wrote reported commentary full-time. The other was Ida B. Wells. Thomas is also a senior communications fellow at the Center for Community Change and contributes to The Undefeated and the Christian Science Monitor. A proud product of the Memphis City Schools and a graduate of Butler University, she believes the best journalism disrupts the status quo. wendicthomas@mlk50.com Twitter: @wendi_c_thomas

Deborah Douglas

Deborah Douglas, MLK50: Justice Through Journalism’s managing editor, is a former a Chicago Sun-Times editorial board member/columnist whose adventures in thought-leadership led her to become a senior leader with The OpEd Project, a global thought-leadership initiative dedicated to amplifying underserved voices. She is currently the Eugene S. Pulliam Distinguished Visiting Professor of Journalism at DePauw Univesity. At Northwestern University, she taught in Pakistan and created an investigative journalism capstone on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Douglas was cited in The New York Times for her contributions to the public discourse on race, women and erasure. She is a Great Migration “baby” with roots in Chicago, Detroit and Memphis. deb@mlk50.com Twitter: @deadlinedd

Andrea Morales

Andrea Morales, visuals director, is Peruvian-born, Miami-bred and Memphis-based: After years of existing in spaces heavy with the constructs of socioeconomic binaries, her work moves with the hope of observing the things in between. A decade in community newspapers taught Morales to value both the ceremonial and the mundane while a graduate education in visual storytelling at Ohio University helped her think about giving that life off the printed page. As an independent photographer in the Delta South, she focuses on editorial work through a journalistic and documentary lens. Twitter: Andrea Morales

Peggy McKenzie

Peggy McKenzie is retired from The Commercial Appeal newspaper after working there 35 years as an editor and reporter. She was the first black assistant managing editor for features, and arts and entertainment, and previously was features editor and an editor for suburban news. What she loved most was reporting in her early career, covering education, social services, county government and community grassroots efforts. She was the first neighborhoods reporter at the newspaper, developing the beat that later expanded and grew into a department. She was born and raised in Memphis’ Douglass community, and is a graduate of the University of Memphis (then Memphis State University) with a degree in broadcast journalism.

The following are journalists who contributed to MLK50: Justice Through Journalism in the lead up to and on April 4, 2018, which marked the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination in Memphis.

Reporting/Photography/Social Media

Kirstin L. Cheers

Kirstin Cheers is the communications specialist for United Way of the Mid-South. Cheers is a freelance writer for MLK50: Justice Through Journalism and High Ground News. She graduated from the University of Memphis with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism and a minor in political science. A native Memphian, Cheers enjoys photography, writing creative narratives, reading legislation and tweeting. Twitter @kirstinlcheers

Natalie Eddings

Natalie Eddings is a Memphis artist who uses photography to question life as we know it. Using the camera to depict our ever-inquisitive mind, my work aligns with humanity’s search for truth, light and beauty. She will earn a bachelor’s of fine art degree with a concentration in photography in May 2018.

Melonee Gaines

Melonee Gaines is the owner and lead maven of MPact Media Group, a digital media and public relations consulting firm and has worked as a freelance journalist with MLK50.com, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, The Crisis Magazine, and The Ebony Pearl, the national publication for her beloved sisterhood, Swing Phi Swing Social Fellowship, Inc.® She has also worked in higher and secondary education for 12 years and takes pride in disrupting standard curricula with culturally inclusive texts and perspectives for the next generation of learners. Originally from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Gaines enjoys talking and writing about economic and environmental justice, education, music and film. Twitter: @melohello

Kevin McKenzie

Kevin McKenzie, who turns 59 in April, was a newspaper journalist for more than 35 years and grew up in Western states. He arrived in Memphis in 1985 to work for the editorial page of the Commercial Appeal, but worked as a reporter until he was laid off last September. He currently is contemplating life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Twitter: @KMcknz

J. Dylan Sandifer

J. Dylan Sandifer is a freelance writer and researcher who has contributed to local and national publications, including High Ground News, VICE News, and Choose901. They earned a bachelor’s degree from Rhodes College in 2012 and is currently working toward a master’s degree in sociology at University of Memphis. Twitter: @jdylan901

Micaela Watts

Micaela Watts is a reporter for MLK50: Justice Through Journalism. A lifelong Memphian, she has reported on economic justice, education, race and grassroots organizing for MLK50.com and for the Memphis Flyer, Chalkbeat, Highground News and the Memphis Daily News. She served as a communications fellow for the Center for Community Change in 2017. Twitter: @megawatts2000


Peggy Burch

Veteran journalist Peggy Burch was a news and features reporter, deputy metro and arts & entertainment editor at The Commercial Appeal in Memphis for nearly 35 years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and a master’s degree in English literature at University of Mississippi. Twitter: @peggyburch1

Leanne Kleinmann

Leanne Kleinmann is a longtime journalist who began her career at McCall’s, Seventeen and Health magazines in New York City, before she moved to Chicago to teach journalism at Northwestern University. She moved to Memphis in the 1990 and became the editor of Memphis magazine and the first woman to lead the editorial staff. She joined The Commercial Appeal as assistant managing editor for features in 1994, then went on to a 15-year career there, editing award-winning columnists, developing special sections and major news coverage plans, writing editorials, and launching the paper’s first blog, iDivaMemphis, which won a Knight-Batten Award for Innovation in Journalism. In 2007, she founded the Memphis edition of Skirt! Magazine. In 2009, she became director of advancement at St. Mary’s Episcopal School, leading the school’s fundraising, communications and alumnae relations staff. Leanne grew up in Ohio and received her BSJ degree from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. Twitter: @lkleinmann

This report is brought to you by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit newsroom focused on poverty, power and public policy. Our work has been generously supported by the Surdna Foundation, Center for Community Change and the Southern Documentary Project. Sign up for our newsletter, and support independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today.

Contact us at mlk50@mlk50.com or at 901–602–6868.