3 Things We Learned at #HerAgendaLive with Danyel Smith

On August 20, 2015, Her Agenda teamed up with AlleyNYC to present an intimate discussion with one of the co-founders of HRDCVR, Danyel Smith. Rhonesha Byng, who is the founder of Her Agenda, interviewed Danyel at the Animoto Space in New York City to discuss the topics of content, creativity, and career.

Born in Oakland, CA, Danyel is an educator, music critic, novelist, journalist, and editor. She has worked with companies such as Billboard, Time Inc., and Vibe. Danyel has also written for Elle, ESPN magazine, Essence, Time, NPR, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and The NY Times. Danyel is a 2014 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University and has taught at The New School, Skidmore College, and St. Mary’s College of California. Danyel currently teaches at Syracuse University and St. Joseph’s College of New York.

At #HerAgendaLive, Danyel shared with us the importance of doing your research, representing the people in which you serve, and taking calculated risks. We hope that each of these discussion points help you in your career as you continue to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to propel yourself to the next level. Enjoy!

Do Your Research

In Danyel’s experience as an editor, she mentioned that research is often what’s missing when she receives work from young writers. “There’s always a story behind something” says Danyel. Middle names, street names, family, etc. It’s important that you decide to know everything you possibly can in regards to the topics and subjects you discuss and write about. Danyel also mentions that good research helps to “flavor the strength of your piece” which in turn enables you to write with so much more confidence.

Represent The People In Which You Serve

In response to a question from Rhonesha in regards to the “soul of journalism,” Danyel mentions that she believes that journalism needs to truly represent the people that it serves. “People of color, women, people in the middle of the country, people with different gender identifications, poor people, and people of different religions are criminally underserved” says Danyel.

One of the reasons why Danyel decided to become involved in journalism is because when she lived in Oakland, she was counting murders. At the time, she was 20 years old. Every article and news clip was the same. Danyel wanted to be of service to the struggling class and make an effort to over-serve her audience. Through HRDCVR, Danyel continues to be of service to her audience in a beautiful and elegant manner.

Take Calculated Strategic Risks

“It’s important to have money in the bank” says Danyel. 3 months is good. 6 months is great and you’re really boss if you have a year. Once you have 3 months, you may be in a position to begin taking a few risks. When Danyel moved to New York, she worked at one of her jobs for 5 months before she decided to leave. However, before she left, she made sure to secure freelance work for herself. “If you’re under the age of 30 and do not have any kids, do it (take risks)” says Danyel.

When she left her job at the time, it was the best thing that she ever did. 14 years later, she was asked to come back. Nowadays, you can find Danyel traveling across the country and working at her own pace. She continues to document her journey and empower others through her voice and platform. Danyel is truly an inspiration to all aspiring creatives across the globe.


Written & shot by Aquaus Kelley  | |  Read more articles by Aquaus here  | |  Follow him at @Aquaus