White Honored as UA Little Rock Alum Making a Difference

Adena White

UA Little Rock alumna Adena White is an experienced public relations professional who always wanted to tell strategic stories that make an impact.

In 2017, White founded Blackbelt Media, the producer of the award-winning Blackbelt Voices podcast. Since the podcast started in 2019, it has been featured by Apple Podcasts, Oprah Daily, and Vanity Fair for its thought-provoking storytelling that honors Black history and celebrates Southern Black culture.

“The idea for the company came about in 2017 after the 2016 elections,” White said. “Even before that, I had a lot of conflicting feelings about living in the South; the Black Lives Matter movement was gaining steam, and there was renewed conversation about living in the shadow of the Confederacy after a white supremacist killed nine Black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina. After the election, I felt defensive of the South. This is my home. As a Black person, I want us to see each other in the South. The invisibility of Black southerners is one reason I wanted to start Blackbelt Media, and I wanted to have an appreciation of all the people that live here. I am changing the narrative of what it means to be Southern from the Black perspective.”

For her hard work, the Department of Applied Communication honored White with the 2022 Alumni Making a Difference Award, which recognizes alumni who have made a difference in their community in the area of applied communication.

“I was very surprised and humbled to receive this award,” she said. “I think highly of the people in the department. When people start noticing what you are doing, it’s a reminder that people are paying attention. I appreciate that they honored me for it.”

White, a Conway County native, is a graduate of UA Little Rock with a master’s degree in applied communication studies. She graduated from Arkansas Tech University with a bachelor’s degree in speech communication and journalism before starting an 11-year career with the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce. She first served as the director of communications and later became the part-time editor of its subsidiary, Conway Publications, so she could devote more time to her business.

Through Blackbelt Media, White was hired this summer as the communications director for Excel by Eight, a collaboration of more than 30 partner organizations focused on increasing Arkansas children’s health and education outcomes. She provides communications support to help achieve policy goals related to supporting families, early childhood education, and healthy beginnings. White is excited by the opportunity to use her skills to help impact social change.

“Blackbelt Media is about social impact storytelling from a PR perspective,” White said. “Excel by Eight is a good fit for the work we do because they look at the whole system to try to make changes. I want to tell stories that inspire change and create action.”

In addition to her work, White has been highly involved in the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), where she received her accreditation in public relations from the organization in 2013. She served on the board of directors for the Arkansas Chapter of PRSA for nine years and was elected president of the 100-member chapter in 2019, making history as the first Black person to hold this office. She is a former executive board member for PRSA’s Association/Nonprofit Section and serves as co-chair of the National Communications Committee.

White advised today’s college students to always be on the lookout for new possibilities and to remain lifelong learners.

“I wanted to do PR for healthcare, but you should always be open to new possibilities,” she said. “I never thought I would work for a Chamber of Commerce, but I loved my work there. You can always use what you have learned to come alive and do good work. You should continue to learn even after school is out. Never stop learning and find out how you can make a difference in your community using the skills you have.”

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