Wendi C. Thomas, Editor & Publisher:

Wendi C. Thomas founded MLK50: Justice Through Journalism in 2017 as a one-year project that grew into a nonprofit newsroom that focuses on poverty, power and public policy in Memphis.

Wendi C. Thomas, MLK50 Editor and Publisher. Photo by Wiley Brown

Previously, Thomas was metro columnist and assistant managing editor at The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal. She has also worked for The Charlotte Observer, The (Nashville) Tennessean and The Indianapolis Star. Thomas was a 2016 fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. She was a member of ProPublica’s 2020 Local Reporting Network and was in its 2019 LRN cohort.

Thomas is the 2023 winner of the I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence. In 2022, Thomas received the Freedom of the Press Local Champion Award from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. In 2020, she was the winner of the Selden Ring Award for investigative reporting and won first place in the Association of Health Care Journalists’ 2019 awards for business reporting. Her “Profiting from the Poor” investigation tied for first place in the Investigative Reporters & Editors 2019 awards in the print/online division 1.

In 2019, Thomas received the National Association of Black Journalists’ Best Practices award. In 2018, she was named Journalist of the Year by Journalism and Women Symposium. She was inducted into the Scripps Hall of Fame for commentary in 2008. She’s a graduate of Butler University and a proud product of public schools.

When she’s not touting the benefits of talk therapy, she’s learning to play tennis and giving skritches to her dog, Ben. Email her at wendicthomas@mlk50.com. Twitter: @wendi_c_thomas 

Adrienne Johnson Martin, MLK50 executive editor. Photo by Wiley Brown

Adrienne Johnson Martin, Executive Editor:

Adrienne Johnson Martin is the first executive editor for MLK50: Justice Through Journalism. She is the former managing editor of Duke Magazine, Duke University’s alumni publication. Martin spent five years as a copy editor and writer at the Los Angeles Times, where she was part of the 1994 Pulitzer Prize-winning team for spot news for coverage of the Northridge earthquake. She joined The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1997, covering radio, television and film — winning an American Association of Sunday and Feature Writers prize — before becoming the associate features editor. 

A Bronx, N.Y. native, she is a graduate of Syracuse University and earned her masters in journalism at Columbia University.

Adrienne lives with her husband Dietrich and her son Gavin in a house with a red door. A good cookie makes her happy. Email her at adrienne.martin@mlk50.com

Andrea Morales, Visuals Editor:

Andrea Morales, visuals editor, 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. 

Andrea Morales, MLK50 visuals editor. Photo by Wiley Brown

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. Email her at andrea.morales@mlk50.com. Twitter: Andrea Morales

Melonee Gaines, MLK50 audience engagement manager. Photo by Wiley Brown

Melonee Gaines, Audience Engagement Manager:

Melonee Gaines is a writer, abolitionist educator, and co-host of two podcasts: On The Phone With Friends Podcast, a show that discusses and witnesses Black women’s friendships; and The Markup, a podcast that gives local news coverage the “red pen treatment.” She is also a journalism fellow with The Peace Studio where she is creating and producing a podcast series and documentary through her digital media firm, MPact Media Group, on Fannie Lou Hamer’s legacy in current-day Ruleville, Mississippi and beyond.

Fueled by Black literary traditions and social justice, her career has included a 12-year tenure with Memphis Shelby County Schools as a reading specialist; the lead programming and outreach director in post-Katrina New Orleans with Southern University at New Orleans Center for African and African American Studies; a public relations and affairs lead with American Black Film Festival and Swing Phi Swing Social Fellowship, Inc.;  and a presenting scholar for the Toni Morrison Society. Other accolades include: Living Cities Year of Reckoning writing fellow for the city of Memphis (2021), Leaders of Color graduate (2021), and VP of Digital Media for the Memphis Association of Black Journalists (2017-2019).

She has written for MLK50.com, NAACP’s CRISIS Magazine, TheGrio.com, Edible Memphis, High Ground, and WKNO public radio.  Born by the water in New Orleans and rooted on her grandmother’s land in Picayune, Mississippi, Melonee has made Memphis her home for over 10 years. She is the proud mama to a teenage womanist-in-training and a happy shih tzu. 

Stephanie Wilson, Digital Editor:

Stephanie Wilson, digital editor, has been working in journalism for 20 years. She spent 14 years working at The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal covering a variety of roles, most recently as senior producer of digital content. She also spent a number of years as a community editor, copy editor, assistant night news editor, and team editor for crime, courts and general assignments. 

Stephanie Wilson, MLK50 digital editor. Photo by Wiley Brown

Wilson was born in Ohio and spent her early years living all over the United States as her father pursued his career in commercial construction. She is a graduate of the University of Memphis with a degree in journalism.

When she’s not working, and sometimes while she is, Wilson spends her time trying to keep up with her young daughter and her Corgi, Jax. She also enjoys reading, crocheting, and trying out new recipes. Email her at stephanie.wilson@mlk50.com.

Jacob Steimer, MLK50 reporter. Photo by Wiley Brown.

Jacob Steimer, Reporter: Jacob covers housing and development.

He is a Report for America corps member.  Prior to joining the nonprofit news organization, he was the lead reporter for the Memphis Business Journal. His best stories there included an investigation into a low-income housing program and an in-depth look at why so few commercial realtors are Black.

Steimer and his wife, Caroline Bauman, have fallen in love with Memphis in their five years here. They are proud residents of Vollintine-Evergreen and attendees of Downtown Church; you’ll be able to find them frequenting Alex’s Tavern, Cozy Corner BBQ, and various breweries.

Email him at Jacob.Steimer@mlk50.com and follow him on Twitter @SteimerSays

Sono Motoyama, MLK50 reporter. Photo by Wiley Brown for MLK50

Sono Motoyama, Reporter: Sono is MLK50’s science writer.

New to Memphis, she lived in France for 17 years, writing freelance articles for such publications as The Verge, The Independent, Eater, The Globe and Mail, and Atlas Obscura, among others. Previously, she was a features writer and editor at the Philadelphia Daily News, as well as editor-in-chief of Baltimore City Paper.

A former food writer, she looks forward to discovering the many nuances of Memphis barbecue. Email her at sono.motoyama@mlk50.com and follow her on Twitter @sonomotoyama

Lupita Parra, MLK50 development director. Photo by Wiley Brown

Lupita Parra, Development Director:

Lupita began her career in the journalism industry in 2018 as an impact-tracking coordinator with SembraMedia, an organization that helps independent newsrooms across Latin America to build sustainable business models. She quickly became passionate about media impact (and how to articulate it to funders). She was previously the development director at Enlace Latino NC, where she co-developed and implemented a revenue strategy from the ground up.

Her background includes 8+ years of experience working with nonprofit organizations whose missions align with principles of social, racial and economic justice. Among them are CASA of Oregon, a leader in affordable housing and financial well-being, and a joint initiative by Latino Network and the Consulate of Mexico in Portland to provide educational resources to immigrant families.

Lupita is a first-generation Mexican immigrant and was raised in Salem, Oregon. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, French, and Spanish (with a minor in neuroscience) from the University of Portland, and a master’s degree in Latin American studies from the University of California, San Diego. She has spent time studying and living in France, Spain and Ecuador, but currently calls San Diego home.

Email her at lupita.parra@mlk50.com

Andrea Faye Hart, Chief Strategy Officer:

Andrea Faye Hart, MLK50 operations and organizational development specialist. Photo by Wiley Brown

Andrea Faye Hart is an award-winning media-based organizer and interdisciplinary educator who believes in moving money for the sake of transformative justice. She is invested in helping local news nonprofits use journalism as a tool for liberation and in bringing her Chicago approach to organizing further south while pursuing a master’s of divinity at Vanderbilt University as a Dean’s Scholar.

Hart serves as the Board Co-Chair for Scalawag, a journalism and storytelling nonprofit that pursues justice and liberation while standing in solidarity with marginalized people and communities in the American South. She is also a co-founder of the Chicago-based civic journalism lab City Bureau.

In 2019 she was honored as a catalyst by Northwestern University for their “150 Years of Women” celebration. She’s a proud queer femme dog mama to a pitbull named Studs (as in Terkel) and serves as Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s first chaplain intern for the program for LGBTQ Health. You can catch her ramblings on Twitter at @lenifaye. Email her at andrea.hart@mlk50.com.