It’s not every day you get to see Loretta Lynch, the first black woman to be U.S. Attorney General. WUNC Youth Radio’s Kamaya Truitt-Martin and Taylor Walker almost didn’t get that chance.
“At first they didn’t see my name on the list to get in and I thought they were joking,” Truitt-Martin said. “The guy at the front desk was like, ‘Let me get my boss because you two need to be in there,’ and we were like, ‘Um, yeah, we really do!’”
Lynch came to her home state of North Carolina last week to talk about issues like human-trafficking, calling the national problem “modern-day slavery.” Because of a mishap RSVP’ing to the event, Truitt-Martin’s name was left off the media list. Authorities tested her patience for hours outside the doors to the press conference as she waited to get the approval to go inside.
“I was acting indifferent at the time but in my heart I was praying that I would be able to go in,” Truitt-Martin said.
Finally, after an afternoon of waiting, Truitt-Martin was let inside and joined Walker for the press conference… where they continued to wait for the Attorney General for another hour and a half. Nevertheless, Truitt-Martin said it was like “the gates of heaven had opened.”
During her visit, reporters were allowed to ask Lynch one question, just one.
“If you were bold enough to ask two questions the press secretary would scold you so we were trying to put all our effort into one question,” Truitt-Martin said.
The duo decided that Walker would ask Lynch their question for a story Walker is doing about the added pressure African American police officers feel while serving their communities. Walker said her voice was trembling as she began to speak into her microphone.
“I’d never been to a real press conference, so I didn’t know I had to yell to get my question and I knew I had to be legit because I was surrounded by all these professionals,” Walker said. “Loretta smiled at me as I asked my question and I thought, ‘Oh gosh, my cover is blown. She knows I’m not a professional.’”
Walker said she quickly steadied her voice and finished her question:
“What role do you believe police of color play in mending the relationship between law enforcement and the black community?”
And Lynch's response? Walker said it was diplomatic, but satisfying.
"Law enforcement members who are of different ethnic groups have a very important role to play, although frankly I think all of law enforcement has a very important role to play," Lynch answered. "The diversity of one's police force can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so we don't want to just leave it solely on the law enforcement officers of color.
Walker said she took a deep breath of relief after the question. Walker hopes to use Lynch's response in the story she's producing for WUNC's Summer Youth Reporting Institute. But after her work as a reporter was done, Walker says she turned back into her 17-year-old self and approached Lynch for a, well, a selfie.
“Her Secret Service people weren’t too thrilled with us taking a picture, but she told us that we were inspirational and to keep up the good work,” Walker said. “Coming from somebody like Loretta Lynch, that is just amazing.”
Amidst all the waiting and yelling with other reporters, Truitt-Martin and Walker said if they learned anything that day, it was this: “act like you know what you are doing.”
“Because if you look like you know what you are doing then you will act more official,” Truitt-Martin said. “Our baby faces may have discredited us though.”