- Andrea (Morehead) Allen
Journalist Andrea Morehead's passion for telling stories expands far beyond the newscasts she delivers at 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. on WTHR Channel 13.
The show, which is in consideration to be picked up by public television stations nationwide, dovetails with Morehead's own genealogical journey as she traced her heritage back to Louisiana sharecroppers and slaves.
Her ties to those people and their shared heritage Morehead credited with making her who she is today — a native Hoosier, graduating summa cum laude from Howard University in journalism/communications, a doctor of jurisprudence from Indiana University, a mother, wife and Emmy Award winner.
The desire to bring positive programming, especially for African Americans families, led to her connection with the Glenn, Glover and White families of Sheridan, Ind., descendants of the first black families in the town. Morehead and her crew joined the family at a triennial family reunion held in Hamilton County, Indiana, that reconnects members from all over the country.
Footage she collected in interviews and at last year's reunion provided the foundation for her pilot. And yes, like any good television, there's a twist thanks to Ancestory.com.
The genealogy service's work with Morehead on her own roots helped inspire her to dig deeper than she already does at her regular news-desk job — to get up earlier and stay up later.
"It's been quite an experience to watch the project develop all the way from 'I got this idea ...' until tonight," Archie Allen, Morehead's husband, said at a special preview screening for the show's featured family and assorted media and friends.
"After awhile I didn't say, 'Babe, go to sleep. I just went to bed.
"She's seizing every moment to make sure this was special not only for us but for you all — the Glenns, the Glovers and the Whites. She wanted to make sure your story was told correctly and how you see yourselves as that weekend unfolded."
Allen is vice president and chief operating officer of Clover Lane Media, the production company he runs with Morehead along with an attendant creative team.
Accurate, positive, inspiring stories about African Americans is the story theme Morehead pitched to her Washington D.C.-based legal counsel as she solicited their aid in launching the pilot.
One of those attorneys, Greg Olaniran, one of the entertainment attorneys at Mitchell Silberberg Knupp LLP, attended the screening to congratulate Morehead on her dedication, vision and final accomplishment with the pilot.
"She was always very clear that she wanted to tell about "us" in a positive way," Olaniran said. "I deal with television and there is room for everybody including positive stories about African Americans."
Part of that story involves confronting cold trails and painful truths about American history.
On Morehead's personal journal with Ancestory.com, she discovered evidence of brutal of poverty — along with more encouraging evidence that helped her arrive at a deeper understanding of her heritage.
"If they can endure the challenges that they did back in the day, we as African- Americans, we as a people of the human race, we have no excuse," she said. We need to let our young people know that they have no excuse; they can be anything they want to be in life. Our ancestors paved the way.
"Wayne [Glover] said it ... It may sound rhymey, but it's so true: If you can believe it, you can achieve it."
Morehead said she feels a duty to keep these stories alive.
"I want to see more of this on T.V.," she said. "Not to denigrate the Kardashians or "Love & Hip Hop Atlanta," but I believe that American families want to see American families who love each other, who celebrate each other, who honor the past and who recognize that because of our ancestors we are.
"The lesson here is we need to continue to tell the stories.
"As we continue to talk about this — this airs on Sunday— tell everyone to watch because we have great stories right here in Indiana that need to be told not only across the state but around the world."
Her maternal great-grandparents, Zula and Arthur Lewis, started Louisiana's first African-American church. Strong faith remains evident in Morehead's presentation.
Morehead told her audience that she wants her life "to be full of purpose and I want to intentional in everything I do ... I want to it to be a life that inspires and encourages people and I'm open to any vein to do that."
It may sound far fetched when Morehead talks about being able to find time for a family, full-time career plus producing "It's A Family Reunion: What's Your Story?" But her passion makes her position clear.
"I love being an anchor at 13 and telling stories," she said. "I find a way to fit it all in. If it's something that's really important to you — you make it a priority you find the time.
"This was God inspired; my steps have literally been ordered. This was nothing I planned. It just happened."
Still, passion does not mean perfection. For Morehead, being in the hands of God means embracing the ride, even when it means you may be so excited about taping a pilot that you forget to buy gas and need to be reminded by the friend that pulls over to help you stranded on the side of I-465 just as you're discovering that both the mobile phones you carry are also dead.
Morehead laughs off such trivialities. She's on a journey and her priorities are set on positive stories that will uplift people.
"There are not enough words to thank you," she told the Glenns, Glovers and Whites at the advanced screening. "God could not have put more perfect families in my life. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I know it wasn't easy with me calling all the time, me emailing.
"But you all set the foundation — the bar is high. I know I came from a family that loves me and supports me. And I know you all do, too. And I know there are other families out there that look just like you and me.
"Thank you all for being the catalyst and being open to this. I cannot thank you enough. I'll always be indebted to you forever."
The pilot of "It's A Family Reunion: What's Your Story?" airs at 6 p.m., Sunday, July 1, on WFYI with additional showings scheduled locally throughout the summer as stations nationwide mull wider distribution.
Editor's note: The original posting of this story referred to Clover Lane Media as Cloverland Media.