The Defender has exciting news about our investment in new digital products to help expand our reach and better connect with you, understanding our readers’ needs and interests. 

We launched a new concept called DN+, channels (on the Defender Network website) catering to Black Women, Community Central and those Under 40.

Three Defender staff members are at the helm as mini-publishers: Managing Editor ReShonda Tate, Associate Editor Aswad Walker and Education Reporter Laura Onyeneho. Visitors can expect engaging, enlightening and educational original stories geared toward those groups. 

“DN+ was created to spotlight the audiences we value,” said Defender Network CEO Sonny Messiah Jiles. “The Under 40 generation is our future and it is important that we arm them with the information and tools needed to navigate this life and be successful. Our Under 40 publisher Laura is not just writing about and for this age group, she is one of them and shares their interests,” she said.

Knowing that Black Women have been the foundation that much of our heritage is built upon, there is no better journalist than award-winning author ReShonda Tate to capture the triumphs and tribulations of these women from multi-generations.

The icing on the cake is our cultural leader and spiritual conscience Aswad Walker, the publisher of Community Central, the nucleus of institutions that have served as the cornerstone of our existence as Black people. Those institutions include faith-based, social, civil rights and civic organizations and our Black businesses.”

DN+ allows the Defender to get one step closer to our audience in serving their needs and wants, and that is our ultimate goal

Defender Network CEO Sonny Messiah Jiles. 

Check out some of the amazing original content on each channel.

ReShonda Tate, Black Women’s Channel Publisher

ReShonda Tate

Mini-Publisher: Black Women’s channel

Motto: “A place where Black women in the Houston area can learn, grow and bring their voices.”

The Black Women’s channel is all in the name. It’s a space to uplift, educate and share diverse and resourceful stories. Black women make up 13% of the female population in the United States, but time and time again, they have shown how influential they are in society.

Not only are they breaking glass ceilings in corporate America and taking their seat at the table in many significant leadership positions, but Black women are also the fastest-growing demographic of entrepreneurs in the country, with nearly 2.7 million businesses nationwide. They are achieving the American dream of social and economic mobility and doing so despite the societal pressures and challenges thrown at them. Need I say more? 

“Whether we’re talking about how Black women can best flex their political muscles or highlighting the 10 best spots for brunch, we’re making history (and chronicling every minute of it) on the Black Women’s Channel,” Tate said.

In May, the Defender hosted its second State of Black Women (SOBW) Health Forum at HISD’s Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy. It was a two-fold event for young Black girls and adult women to address the healthcare needs unique to them. The SOBW had a lineup of speakers and panelists sharing resources for long-term physical and emotional health.

November elections are also a hot topic among Black women. So, the Defender hosted an exclusive premiere of “The Woman King” in September to kick off its SOBW Power of our Vote rally on Oct. 22. More than 300 guests were in attendance to enjoy a film that honors the power and influence of Black women. 

Aswad Walker, Community Central Channel Publisher

Aswad Walker

Mini-Publisher: Community Central channel

Motto: “Where Blacks in the Houston area meet neighbors, learn about Black businesses and share experiences.”

The Community Central channel is the gathering place for the latest happenings in the Black community and beyond. If this channel could be described in one song, it would be “Family Reunion” by the O’Jays. 

The channel takes this ancient, traditional Black concept and value and places it online so we can vibe virtually, from wherever you may be, with the good folk from Houston to Havana, from Acres Homes to Accra. There is a proverb that says, “Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.” Black people come from a long line of storytellers with a history that must be told with care and respect. 

“The Community Central Channel is going to be as interactive as you want to be because it is a space where you can be seen, heard, and most importantly, felt,” said Publisher Aswad Walker.

Some examples include the story of Ken Haggerty, owner of Agenda Houston, a popular urban sneaker and streetwear retailer that the Galleria Mall was pushing out. He spoke to the Defender to share his story with other small business owners and how it impacted his business model significantly.

Also, check out the monthly “Local Artist you Need to Know” series showcasing the best creatives in the city who rightfully deserve their flowers. Stay tuned for what’s in store for the upcoming months.

Laura Onyeneho, Under 40 Channel Publisher

Laura Onyeneho

Mini-Publisher: Under 40

Motto: “From finance and health to career and relationships, we’ll help you navigate it all.”

The Under 40 channel is dedicated to the bold, passionate and driven Black millennials and Gen-Z. Each week the channel will prepare our readers to take control over their lives and equip them with the knowledge and resources to level up in four categories: finances, careers, health and relationships. 

Young people are going through many challenges, from student loan debt to mental health issues, generational wealth gap, and soaring living costs, to name a few. Instead of focusing on the negative, the Under 40 channel will highlight the movers and shakers of the city, and readers will also learn about financial investments, ways to improve their self-care routine, and how to thrive in their personal and professional lives.

“If you’re starting out in college, entrepreneurship, a new career, starting a new family, making career pivots, working on health and wellness, or stepping your financial game up, the Under 40 channel will be there to guide you,” said Publisher Laura Onyeneho. 

We cover trends like what Black millennials think about Houston’s dating scenes, their personal experiences before and after the COVID-19 pandemic, and the top five lucrative side hustles to put extra money in your wallet.

The channel also covers events produced by local young professionals, such as the Battle of the Canvas Competition, where 16 local artists battle head-to-head in three rounds, showcasing their best work in under 20 minutes to earn bragging rights and a cash prize. 

Don’t miss out on the latest news happening in Black Houston. If you have a story idea that fits into these categories, the Defender is all ears. 

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Laura Onyeneho

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...