NNPA Motivates and Mobilizes Black Publishers at Black Press Week in Washington D.C.

ABOVE: 2018 NNPA Torch Award recipients Rev. Dr. Amos C. Brown, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and James Farmer of General Motors

Gathering under the theme, Celebrating 191 Years of the Black Press of America: Publishing Truth to Empower, Black publishers, media professionals, civil rights leaders and lawmakers from all across the United States descended upon Washington D.C. for the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s (NNPA) annual Black Press Week.

After handling their standard NNPA and NNPA Foundation Board of Directors business to start this year’s gathering, publishers and other attendees boarded a charter bus and made their way to the Rayburn House Office Building for the annual Chairman’s Welcome Reception.

Attendees were entertained by the Earl Carter Trio, as a precursor to NNPA Foundation Chair and San Francisco Sun Reporter publisher Amelia Ashley-Ward introducing The Honorable Kamala Harris, United States Senator (D-CA), as the NNPA 2018 Newsmaker of the Year.

Ashley-Ward recalled how the Black community and the Black Press rallied around her friend, Senator Harris, as the race to become the district attorney in San Francisco became challenging.

Ashley-Ward stated how her newspaper, the San Francisco Sun Reporter, rented a cable car and had some of the most powerful women leaders in the area join Harris as they traveled all across the city of San Francisco to help get her message out to the community, while going up against the White establishment. Harris eventually won and her career has catapulted ever since, becoming California’s Attorney General and now the junior Senator from California.

Upon receiving her award, Harris thanked Ashley-Ward in her acceptance speech, as well as the Black Press for helping her get to where she is today.

“We all come from somewhere and it’s important that we remember from whence we came,” said Harris. “The Black press has always played a role in making sure that our community has something it can trust. Black newspapers know that the best way our voices can be heard is when we use our voices to tell our stories instead of leaving others to tell it. When you can connect your past to your present and have those connections remain strong it is very empowering. This is a room full of leaders and I recognize that the Black Press best represents the vehicle in which real and important stories can and have been told.”

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) congratulated Senator Harris and took the time to deliver a stinging rebuke of President Trump, his proposed policies and the United States Senate in which Harris currently serves, calling it a “billionaire boys club.”

Other congratulatory remarks were provided by NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. and NNPA Chairman and Chicago Crusader publisher Dorothy R. Leavell.

On Day 2, publishers and attendees boarded a chartered bus to attend the annual NNPA Black Press Archives and Gallery of Distinguished Black Publishers Enshrinement Ceremony, which honors deceased Black publishers and the contributors who have made an impact on society as a member of the Black Press. It also continues the tradition, conceived in 1965 by William O. Walker, Editor-Publisher of the Cleveland Call and Post, that provides a setting in which historical records related to the Black Press, as well as photographs, the accomplishments of Black Press notables and the newspapers themselves, are collected, preserved and made available on permanent display to scholars, students and the public.

For 2018, the Enshrinement Ceremony was held at Metropolitan AME Church. Family and friends of the enshrined joined NNPA publishers and others in attendance to honor Dr. Milton A. Reid, former Journal and Guide publisher out of Norfolk, Virginia, and Mary Ellen Brady, former publisher of The Milwaukee Defender Newspaper out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The Gallery of Distinguished Newspaper Publishers and the Black Press Archives have been housed at Howard University’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center since 1973.

On July 12, 1973, Dr. Goodlett, President of the NNPA and editor/publisher of the San Francisco Sun-Reporter, wrote then-Howard University President James E. Cheek to propose the initiation of a joint project to establish at Howard University an “Archives of the Black Press in America” and “a gallery honoring the famous and outstanding Black newspaper publishers, beginning with John Russwurm, publisher of Freedom’s Journal and founder of the Black Press.” This idea was received enthusiastically by Dr. Cheek, and in 1973 he authorized the creation of a joint Howard University-NNPA project to create the archives and gallery as a unit of the MoorlandSpingarn Research Center. Recognized as one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive repositories for the collection and preservation of materials documenting the history and culture of Black people in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and United States, the Research Center is an ideal location for the archives of the Black Press. It includes a stunning gallery of publishers and historic newspapers including pioneers John B. Russwurm and Samuel Cornish, the founders of “Freedom’s Journal”, as well as Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, and many others.

Later that evening, the NNPA honored three individual leaders for their contributions to African Americans at their annual Black Press Torch Awards Dinner held at The Dupont Circle Hotel.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), James Farmer of General Motors and Rev. Dr. Amos C. Brown, who currently serves as the pastor of Third Baptist Church of San Francisco, as president of the San Francisco branch of the NAACP and who was only one of eight students who took the only college class ever taught by Dr. King, were this year’s honorees. They were chosen as individuals who have demonstrated excellence in their chosen profession or endeavor.

The dinner ceremony included remarks from NNPA Vice Chair and Houston Forward Times’ own publisher and CEO Karen Carter Richards and many others.

Attendees were blessed with some empowering words from keynote speaker Dr. Frederick D. Haynes, III, Senior Pastor of the Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, and entertained by Jackson Caesar, the nephew of gospel great Shirley Caesar, and the group, One Vision Band.

On Day 3, attendees heard from several educational experts during a special breakfast session at The Dupont Circle Hotel surrounding the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Public Awareness Campaign being championed by the NNPA.

The breakfast session titled, “Striving for African American Excellence in Public Education: The Role of the Black Press,” was moderated by NNPA ESSA project manager Dr. Elizabeth Primas and featured panelists such as NAACP Washington Bureau Chief Hilary O. Shelton; former NNPA Chair and Washington Informer publisher Denise Rolark Barnes; DNA Educational Solutions and Support CEO Dr. Robert L. Kirton Jr.; Prince George’s County School Board Member Curtis Valentine; and ESSA taskforce member for the Office of the State Superintendent of Education in Washington, D.C., Dr. Lannette Woodruff.

Attendees then took part in an important discussion with Angela Reimer of Pfizer related to exploring the impact of public policy on sickle cell disease and how public policy impacts this rare disease community.

Publishers and attendees closed out the conference at the National Press Club, where they heard a passionate message from political analyst and former Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair Donna Brazile regarding the “State of the Black Press in 2018.”

“You (Black Press) are carving out stories that the mainstream media won’t,” said Brazile. “You’ve been at the forefront of change, even before change was in vogue. That’s why I’ve always supported the Black Press. You’re making sure untold stories find themselves in your newspapers and this is a moment when our story needs to be told. We’ve come a long way and we need your coverage. We especially need the Black Press, now during this crisis.”

As a point of emphasis throughout the conference, including at the closing luncheon, Dr. Chavis emphasized that the NNPA has partnered with the NAACP and that the coalition has a dedicated goal to register more than 5 million new Black voters by August, calling 2018 a “payback year” for African Americans.

NNPA Foundation Chair and San Francisco Sun Reporter publisher Amelia Ashley-Ward, The Honorable Kamala Harris, United States Senator (D-CA), the NNPA 2018 Newsmaker of the Year, Dorothy Leavell, NNPA Chair and Dr. Benjamin Chavis, NNPA CEO and President

Dr. Frederick D. Haynes, III, Senior Pastor of the Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas