On May 5th, Aisha Karimah celebrated her 45th anniversary with NBC4 in Washington D.C., where her current title is director of community affairs.
A veteran television producer who currently produces two weekly news programs and has served as a mentor to hundreds of students over the years, Aisha also serves, as one of her colleagues says, as "the conscience of the station." In recognition of her long-standing leadership and commitment, Aisha was recognized in the Congressional Record on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the city’s mayor declared May 5th "Aisha Karimah Day."
Q: How did you get your start at NBC4?
A: After living in Atlanta for a little while, I returned to my hometown of Washington because my mom was sick. I needed a job and went to the unemployment office. They sent me to NBC4 because the station was looking for more African Americans to hire in response to community protests about there not being enough minority representation on TV. I got the job. It was in the traffic and sales department.
Q: What fuels your interest in community affairs?
A: I grew up on welfare, in a public housing development. I was 10 years old when I started cleaning houses for people around the city. But I had a mother who cared and a close community around me. Today, things have changed. The gap has widened between the "haves" and the "have nots." What I am most concerned about now are the homeless children and families that abound in our city, right here at the epicenter of the free world… People forget that we are all better off when we work together, and we have to keep at it.
Aisha with Comcast Executive Vice President David L. Cohen on Comcast Cares Day 2013 at Neval Thomas Elementary School in Washington, D.C.
Q: You’ve championed many community causes by leading the station’s outreach campaigns over the years. What are some of your favorites?
A: Through Backpacks 4 Kids, we collect donations to give kids the school supplies they need for the year, gathered inside about 3,000 backpacks that are distributed. For 20 years, we’ve also led Camp 4 Kids, using our airwaves to ask viewers to help us raise money – over half a million dollars to date! – to send kids to camp. And through Food 4 Families, we sponsor a food drive each Thanksgiving and ask viewers to contribute money or nonperishable canned goods to help feed over 3,500 families.
Of course, it’s hard to have favorites, so I also have to mention some of our other campaigns: Beautiful Babies Right from the Start, Drug Free Zones, It Takes a Whole Village, Make the Right Call, and Get Healthy 4 Life.
Q: How does the station support so many causes?
A: I’m a one-person operation, but I have access to everyone internally and the whole region. It’s also hard for me to take "no" from somebody. We have had some of the best general managers ever, who really get it. They understand the business benefit, but are also caring and compassionate people.
Q: After 45 years, are you still excited to wake up and go to work each day?
A: For me, it is a labor of love. I’ve gotten older, so I’m a little more tired and at some point it is time to turn the corner. There needs to be somebody else to come along and take up the banner. Hopefully, at the end of next year, I will ride off into the sunset.