LifestyleBlack Press Week: NNPA commemorates 197 years, stresses voting

Black Press Week: NNPA commemorates 197 years, stresses voting

In a stirring celebration of 197 years of unwavering advocacy, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) convened for Black Press Week to celebrate the March 16, 1827, founding of Freedom’s Journal. This year’s observance, which featured NNPA’s annual Board of Directors meeting, State of the Black Press luncheon, and a visit to the White House, emphasized the theme: “Getting Out the Black Vote.”

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis delivers the State of the Black Press as part Black Press Week, celebrating 197 years of Black-owned media. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)
During the week, NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis urged Black publishers and citizens to seize the power of the vote as a tool for change. 

“Our cause and purpose are to work hard and get the vote out in America,” Chavis proclaimed, echoing the sentiments of generations past who fought tirelessly for justice and equality. 

Founded in 1940, first as the National Negro Publishers Association, NNPA is the trade association of the more than 250 Black-owned newspapers and media companies, originally created to collectively work together to advance African American journalism and empower Black communities. Six new publishers were recently accepted for membership.

Celebrating Zora Neale Hurston as a Publisher, Black Press Archives Digitization Project 

The week of activities highlighted NNPA’s partnership with Howard University, with the first day of celebrations kicking off at the university’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center on March 14.  There, African drummers led a procession into Founders Library for a ceremony to enshrine Zora Neale Hurston in the Gallery of Distinguished Black Publishers.  

A journalist, author and folklorist, Hurston joined the Howard literary club and helped publish the inaugural issue of the university’s newspaper The Hilltop in 1924. Among other accolades, Hurston counted as one of the preeminent writers of 20th-century African American literature.

Guests were treated to a fascinating discussion and tour of Howard University’s Black Press Archives Digitization Project. Senior Project Manager Brandon Nightingale illuminated the painstaking process of digitizing over 2,000 newspaper titles, preserving the Black experience for future generations.

State of the Black Press Luncheon

At the heart of the week’s observance was the State of the Black Press Luncheon, held at the prestigious National Press Club. The event opened with a compelling video montage tracing the civil rights struggle, and setting the stage for impassioned speeches and reflections, including a video tribute from South Carolina Democratic Congressman James Clyburn.

In addition to publishers and members of the Black Press, longtime aide to the Rev. Jesse Jackson Shelly Davis and White House Director of Black Media Rodericka Applewhaite, counted among those in attendance.

Members of the Black Press convene at Howard University during Black Press Week, celebrating 197 years of Black-owned media. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)
Applewhaite led publishers to the White House for a special gathering.

The week received widespread support from partners and sponsors, including Reynolds, Pfizer, the Google News Initiative, American Petroleum Institute, Comcast NBC Universal, Diageo, Nissan, Hyundai, General Motors, T-Mobile, and AARP— underscoring the importance of collaboration in advancing the cause of justice and equity.

The Rev. Mark Thompson, serving as the master of ceremonies, skillfully guided the proceedings where guests also heard remarks from AFRO Publisher Dr. Frances Toni Draper, NNPA Chairman Bobby Henry, and Dr. Benjamin Talton, director of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center.

Talton paid homage to the resilience of Black publishers.  

“I salute the publishers. I grew up on the Black press. I probably would not be sitting here as a professor and the director of Moorland Spingarn Center without the Black Press,” Talton said. “I grew up in Harlem, New York, where the Amsterdam News weekly was in our house. We only visited newsstands that carried the Amsterdam News.”

The keynote address by Chavis stirred the audience to its core.

“Our cause is to publish and speak truth to power,” declared Chavis, his words resonating with conviction and urgency. “We will not bow down to the reappearance of the flags of the Confederacy or the flags of Nazism, racism, or anti-Semitism.”

“I get emotional when I think about all of our people who swung from trees and people today dare to talk about swing states,” said Chavis, now in his 11th year as NNPA’s president and CEO. “We’ve been swinging from trees, we’ve been swinging from branches trying to get equality, freedom, and justice not just for ourselves but all of God’s people.”

Chavis surprised the gathering by breaking the news that an original NNPA book about the Transatlantic Slave Trade is scheduled for release on June 19, and Select Books, Inc., has provided an exclusive NNPA-Black Press of America imprint.

“Our cause and purpose are to work together for our people’s continued liberation and advancement,” Chavis continued. “I’m concerned about suffering going on in Middle East, but I don’t hear a word about suffering in Africa; or about millions of people who has died in the Congo. We’ve been so conditioned not necessarily to accept our suffering but conditioned to see our suffering as normal. The Black Press must call out the abnormality; we must call out those things that are not right. Our cause and purpose are to work hard and get the vote out in America.”

Source: Washington Informer

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