Hidden Stories


Christina Ayele Djossa ’10 is always on the lookout for a good story. But the reporter and audio producer doesn’t want to tell just any old tale. What motivates her is finding overlooked subjects and sharing them.

“I look at blind spots in media coverage,” she said. “I try to find the people and stories that fall through the cracks.”

Djossa’s insatiable curiosity paired with solid news-gathering skills and vivid writing, earned her the 2019 Kim Wall Memorial Fund award from the International Women’s Media Foundation. The prestigious prize, named in honor of the esteemed Swedish journalist killed on a submarine in 2017, helps women cover important, underreported stories.

Take a recent piece she wrote for National Geographic that describes how the National Parks Service is trying to make its spaces more welcoming to people of color, LGBTQ communities, and people with disabilities. “The National Parks are a reflection of our cultural and physical history,” Djossa said. “It’s not just about Yosemite, it’s also about the Stonewall National Monument and the African Burial Ground National Monument in Manhattan.”

National Geographic approached Djossa and asked her to write “hidden stories” after reading works she published as an editorial fellow at Atlas Obscura. For Atlas, Djossa dug into the controversy behind the image of Franklin Roosevelt on the U.S. dime. The mint’s chief engraver gets credit, but many experts now say Harlem Renaissance sculptor Selma Burke inspired the design.

Another piece describes how hand-painted wooden signs used by barbers in Ghana since the 1930s to advertise the latest hairstyles reflect American culture—and are now selling at a brisk pace in U.S. antique shops, far from the barber shops they used to adorn.

Djossa is Ghanaian-American and has traveled extensively. She spent a year in Nepal as a Princeton in Asia fellow, working with World Education Nepal. There, she helped create documentary films about programs that support women entrepreneurs, help brick makers escape exploitative labor, and provide financial literacy skills to earthquake victims. She wrote about her experience in Nepal in On She Goes, a blog by women travelers of color, where she reflected on meeting many people who had never seen a black woman before. While this led to some uncomfortable exchanges and microaggressions, Djossa also found in her travels a community of “nerds” there who, like her, enjoyed anime.

Now back in New York—she was raised on Long Island—she is a production assistant intern at the Brooklyn-based podcast production company Gimlet, recently bought by Spotify. Among other duties, she works on a show called “Reply All.” It was described by The Guardian as “an unfailingly original exploration of modern life and how to survive it.”

At “Reply All,” Djossa is still on a quest to find and tell the untold story, a quest, in part, born at Williston. As a Wildcat, she made friends from all over the world, including Japan, which influenced her to study in Tokyo during college. “I would never have gone if I hadn’t gone to Williston. It taught me to be eternally curious,” she said, “and to jump into the unknown.”