Featured / Local / National / Opinion & Editorial / U.S. News / Virginia

Sierra Jenkins, beyond the walls of journalism

Sierra Jenkins
Sierra Jenkins (File Photo)

NORFOLK, VA — To know Sierra Jenkins was to know that while she was graceful, she was also not afraid to stand up for herself and others.

Jenkins, a reporter for The Virginian-Pilot, was one of three lives claimed by Chicho’s Pizza Backstage shooting in downtown Norfolk on March 19. She was 25 years old. 

Born and raised in the Hampton Roads area, Jenkins relocated to attend Georgia State University and worked at Atlanta Magazine and CNN before coming home to Norfolk in 2020. A friend and fellow Virginian-Pilot reporter, Saleen Martin, recognized Sierra’s journey as it was similar to her own and instantly forged a connection. 

“Sierra reached out to me before she even started working at the Pilot. She reached out just to say that she had some questions and she wanted to know ‘can you tell me what’s a day like for you?’; just to get a rundown. I talked to her on the phone and told her what my experience was like.” 

While Martin and Jenkins worked in different departments until Martin left the company for USA Today, the two remained friends outside of the newsroom. Martin reflected on their last outing together.

“We had been planning to go out, talk and catch up. We kept having to push it back,” Martin said. “It was nice, we were talking about everything. We talked about work, our home lives and what it’s like living with family…it was just so nice to just sit down and exist.”

Jenkins was known for her unique tastes as Martin remembers the popsicle-shaped watermelon earrings that Sierra wore to their last night out. Sierra recently moved into her new apartment and documented her moving chronicles on Twitter. One of her previous tweets referred to a mirror that she proudly thrifted at HomeGoods. In the attached photo, books from her collection, such as “The 1619 Project,” “Assata” and “Between the World and Me,” held her mirror in place as her father made repairs. 

Martin remembered her friend as an avid reader who used reading as a stress reliever. 

“She used to read a lot more before she started working full-time and she had just been so busy that she didn’t have the time to do it as much. So for some reason, the only thing that could really calm her down and that she could get through was the Zane books.”

There were no recent developments in the murder case. Family, friends and others, who followed the case, took to the streets on April 26 and marched from the crime scene to the steps of Norfolk City Hall demanding answers. Martin implored anyone who might have been there that night to come forward to help with the investigation. 

“It’s something that needs to be done because without you doing that, someone can get away with taking away someone’s future,” Martin said. “Sierra was an amazing person and she should still be here.”

Although Jenkins was not a member of the Hampton Roads Black Media Professionals (HRBMP), the organization President Lisa Godley said in a statement that regardless of her membership status, she felt that it was essential to show love and support to Jenkins’s family during the grieving process. In addition, HRBMP and the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) held a fundraiser in her honor. They presented the undisclosed amount to the Jenkins family on the eve of her memorial service. 

The Virginian-Pilot released a statement in the wake of Jenkins’s death saying, 

“For two years, she covered the stories of Hampton Roads with compassion and care. She worked at Atlanta Magazine and CNN before coming home to Hampton Roads in 2020. Most recently, Sierra has been reporting on school policies and issues across the region. Sierra was funny, energetic and full of enthusiasm. We are absolutely heartbroken. Our community is better because of her reporting.”

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