With deep roots in D.C., Danzell Bussey brings zeal for digital media and mentoring to YMG Board
By: Kymani Hughes
Danzell Bussey never anticipated a career in journalism or education, but a decision to switch majors at Florida A&M University (FAMU) led him to the route he's on now, teaching high school students how to ‘master’ the media.
As a third-generation Washingtonian, Bussey considers the district to be "the capital city of all capital cities."
He grew up in Southeast Washington but attended Woodrow Wilson High School in more affluent Northwest D.C. in the 1990s, where he was exposed to a multiethnic environment. That, he says, allowed him to become culturally well-rounded and interested in a variety of activities, including baseball and basketball.
Being recruited to play basketball at FAMU was an opportunity that led him to his life's work, he says. While he began his academic career as a business major, when he was unable to qualify for FAMU’s business program, he pivoted to focus on what he truly desired to do.
Bussey had one major goal in life: to be on television! After pondering how he could appear on people's television screens while also earning a degree, he came across FAMU's journalism program. He earned a B.A. in journalism and media arts and has worked in the media ever since.
When he had to write a major story about the LGBTQ+ community for FAMU's publication, he realized his determination to make a difference. A student wanted to discuss his personal life in the newspaper and "come out." He chose to retell the story as a play on 2 Chainz's song "I'm Different," and wrote a popular — and sensitive — story. He realized then that he had taken on a role as the “voice of students.”
Bussey began his teaching career at FAMU, focusing on how to implement digital journalistic practices as technology became a growing force in the industry. Bussey helped students at FAMU become successful on YouTube and create content for other social media platforms.
"I always said, if I was in the position, I'd want to help kids become successful," he says of his motivation for teaching.
In 2012, he became the lead instructor and curriculum co-creator for ROXIE at Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media Arts. This program’s acronym stands for Reaching Our Excellence in Education and is named after Richard Wright's hometown in Mississippi.
The program supports students in acclimating to a wide range of media arts classes, including radio, print journalism, cinema, photography, and dance. Bussey helped establish a curriculum and training, and pioneered a new digital and social media format aimed at today's youth.
Bussey's primary goal as lead instructor was to get more children interested in and involved with the media from an early age. He guided students in becoming well-rounded artists with a variety of professional skills and certifications in Adobe, Logic Pro, and GarageBand. "They had no idea they could develop such art forms, but now they do," Bussey said of introducing kids to the media industry's job opportunities.
Due to Bussey's efforts, Richard Wright Public Charter School was able to revamp and develop a publication, called The Wright Pages, which is appealing to all members of the school community, regardless of background or educational level.
“I want my kids to be the voice of their community since they are the sole speakers of their language. Our publication, like the phrase ‘made for the common man,’ is made for the common student."
Bussey was one of YMG’s founding board members, joining the organization in 2019. His desire to help more young people gain reporting opportunities and meaningful connections to bring further change to the world drove his partnership with YMG.
"I wanted to put children in the optimal place for success, and YMG is that place,” he says. "Youthcast Media Group teaches young people how to efficiently and effectively report stories and produce media.”
He hopes that the organization continues to expand and the curriculum is shared nationwide so that more people can regain trust in the media. He advises aspiring journalists to be well-versed in the fundamentals while also being receptive to the development of new ideas, which is inspired by his favorite Socrates quote: "The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new."
Bussey hopes to be remembered for his efforts to open the media field to more young people, and intends to continue mentoring the next generation of media industry leaders.
“When you’re young, nobody gives you an opportunity to be great,” Bussey says. “I did that.”