Pulitzer Prize and Emmy Award-winning journalist Trymaine Lee has one agenda—to find the truth.
But only if it were that simple. Lee, a correspondent for MSNBC, started his career in the black press (at The Philadelphia Tribune) and was drawn to black stories, as well as the stories of marginalized communities. Lee has been on the ground reporting, during some of our country’s most devastating moments in recent history, such as Hurricane Katrina and the Ferguson, Mo. protests. The journalist believes that shining a light on those who often go forgotten is a responsibility, “If I’m not telling the people’s story, what am I doing?” Lee tells The Root.
As the host of MSNBC’s new podcast, Into America, Lee travels to the corners of America and tells the story of everyday Americans. “For me it’s like, I, too, sing America. Whether you’re poor and white in the Midwest, whether you’re black in Detroit or in the rural South. We are all Americans and we experience life and death in different ways,” says Lee, referencing Langston Hughes’ poem, “I, Too.”
His most recent episode, “Into Dirty Air,” examines environmental racism, while taking the audience to Louisiana’s Cancer Alley. The 85-mile stretch of land between New Orleans and Baton Rouge is lined with chemical plants. Lee explains that those who live closest to the plants are often black and poor.
Recent research has shown that in Louisiana, 32.7 percent of the population is black, while comprising over 58 percent of the states COVID-19 deaths (at the time of this recording, black Louisianans were 70 percent of the case). “So when we think about environmental justice, environmental racism and COVID-19, there is a clear overlap.” Lee continues, “We’ll make that notion that somehow those who have hypertension and other health ailments did it to themselves. Oftentimes we will forget about the environment and race.”
I got to sit down for a conversation about being a black journalist in a time of crisis, with Trymaine Lee—see excerpts from our conversation above.