Former CNN Anchor Isha Sesay Becomes First Female CEO of OkayMedia

Isha Sesay
Max Montgomery

Isha Sesay

The journalist and author is also launching production arm SPKN/WRD to elevate voices across the Black diaspora.

Former CNN International anchor Isha Sesay has become the first woman to lead the global Black media company OkayMedia.

The organization, which includes editorial brands OkayAfrica and Okayplayer (the latter founded by Questlove in 1999), is notable in that it showcases culture across the Black diaspora, making the British-born Sesay, who is of Sierra Leonean descent, an apt choice as CEO.

In joining OkayMedia, Sesay also is launching and will serve as CEO of its new production arm, SPKN/WRD, which will look to tell stories through feature films, television, documentaries, podcasts and publishing. And she will serve on OkayMedia's board of directors, which includes chairman and Dataminr co-founder Sam Hendel and The Roots manager and Live Nation Urban president Shawn Gee.

Last month, OkayMedia launched the mental health and wellness initiative Passage: The Practice of Healing, which included an eight-track EP of guided meditations produced by MMYYKK and voiced by talent including Big K.R.I.T., Kwasi Kessie, Deja Joelle and Kenji Summers; a short film edited by Andrew Morrow (Beyonce's Black is King), an event series hosted by FotografiskaNYC, and a fireside chat with Grammy-nominated rapper Vic Mensa.

"This is an exciting company that has long done great work that I have admired," Sesay said in a statement. "I can't wait to bring to life all my ideas to expand our content offerings and ways to expose this fantastic brand to even more people in Africa and beyond."

After 13 years at CNN—during which she received a Gracie Award for Outstanding Anchor and shared in the team's Peabody for her coverage of the 2014 kidnapping of 276 Chibok, Nigeria schoolgirls by the terrorist group Boko Haram—Sesay left in 2018 and a year later published Beneath the Tamarind Tree, her account of the Chibok kidnapping story. As of 2019, 112 of the 276 schoolgirls remain unaccounted for. Sesay also founded the nonprofit W.E. (Women Everywhere) Can Lead to develop teenage girls in Africa to become leaders. Last summer, following the rape and murder of 5-year-old Kadijah Saccoh in Sierra Leone, she partnered with Idris Elba (a frequent W.E. Can Lead collaborator) and activist Asmaa James to launch The Survivors Solidarity Fund for sexual assault survivors in the country.

Said Hendel in a statement, "Isha's leadership throughout her career in shining a light on the most critical and underreported stories from across the globe—from the pandemic outbreak in Africa to her work as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador combatting the ongoing violence against women and girls—perfectly aligns with our mission to tell stories that move a global culture forward."