CFS46 reflections: Marisa Umeh

Marisa Umeh attends a session during the Committee on World Food Security Conference in October 2019 at the UN-FAO in Rome. (Kim Ossi/PlanetForward.org)

Attending the first day of the Committee on Food Security was like stepping into a history book and being able to witness an inflection point in the international community’s response to food security. It was comforting to know that in a highly polarized political climate, countries are willing to put aside their differences to ensure that the most vulnerable in their society are able to thrive. 

More than ever, after attending CFS, I have a renewed sense of passion for using the camera to shed light on injustice. For me, this revelation couldn’t have come at a more necessary time.

While I have clung onto my dream of being a journalist, amid the rigor of college, my passion for storytelling has, admittedly, taken a backseat. When people would ask me about my plans post-grad, I would hesitantly reply, “Possibly, journalism… but maybe finance, or marketing, or business. I’m not sure yet.”

However, at CFS, I was reminded that journalists serve a worthy and righteous cause as the recordkeepers of history. As attacks on the free press are made around the globe, persisting to tell the truth is a responsibility that is worth the risk; even if it means stepping on the toes of corrupt bureaucracies and being considered a nuisance.

Furthermore, given the complexities of environmental issues, I realized It is not enough to be able to regurgitate facts and statistics. While I have committed myself to the mastery of the production elements of journalism, as delegates from the Sahara to the Pacific spoke, I recognized that developing intellectual insight was an equally, if not more, important element to telling informative, powerful stories. 

As the plane lifted off of the ground from San Francisco, I felt a shedding of my old self. I knew that I was in for a dramatic internal transformation, but I did not know in what ways they would come. However, as I strapped into my seat and left the city of seven hills, Rome, I realized that I didn’t necessarily become a new person but rather I shed the fear, self-doubt, and uncertainty that were quieting my inner self.

I returned back to the 6th grader in me that beamed when she saw her classmates excitedly watch her documentary. I reunited with the 16-year-old version of myself that spent nights studying Amanpour, Winfrey, and Lisa Ling. Most importantly, I made the declarative decision that my aspirations of being a professional journalist wasn’t going to be a mere “possibility,” but my reality.

My name is Marisa Umeh, I’m a Planet Forward Correspondent, and I am going to be a professional journalist.

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