For 190 years, the Black press has been on the job — sharing stories that would have gone untold, highlighting the achievements of members of the Black community and bringing a perspective that’s inclusive, accurate and essential.
This week, beginning June 20 and continuing through June 24, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) convenes at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at the National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, where the publishers of Black-owned newspapers from across the U.S. will once again strategize for the years ahead. This year’s theme, “Legacy, Innovation and Empowerment,” serves as a testimony to the men and women who have sacrificed all for the betterment of the Black community.
Terry Jones, NNPA convention chairman and publisher of the New Orleans Data Weekly, says he’s confident that the organization continues to move in the right direction.
“I think our conventions and the NNPA are getting better with each year that passes,” he said. “This is an election convention when we choose our national officers and we want to keep the drive alive. It’s my hope that we’ll keep the team that’s now leading us in place so we can continue to move forward.”
Jones commented on some of the workshops, training seminars and special events that will take place during the convention.
“One of our panels will feature the publishers of newspapers that have been around for 100 years or more,” he said. “Sometimes people forget about the longevity of the Black Press. As an organization, the NNPA has been in existence for 190 years. It’s important to look back at the past and allow it and the lessons we’ve learned to guide our future. We also have several second and third generation publishers. Some of our older publishers are stepping down or have died. For all of them and their achievements, we must continue to shine a light on their accomplishments.”
Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of the Washington Informer and chairperson for the NNPA, talked about the ongoing mission of the Black press.
“Prince George’s is fortunate to be served by three NNPA publications: The Afro-American, The Baltimore Times and The Washington Informer,” she said. “Publishers Jake Oliver, Joy Bramble and yours truly, respectively, are proud to serve as the hosts for the NNPA National Convention and a celebration of 190 years of the Black Press. We have done our best to ensure a fun and informative convention. Our theme encapsulates the mission of the NNPA and the state of the Black Press.
“Legacy defines who we are and why we still exist — to be a voice for our people through stories, photographs, videos and through social media that tell our stories from our perspective. Innovation describes the challenge we have accepted to adopt new technology to extend the unique content we produce on a daily basis to even larger and broader audiences. Lastly, Empowerment addresses our purpose, which is to inform, educate and empower our readers who historically and continuously contribute to the greatness of America in extraordinary ways. Yes, the Black Press sheds light on the ‘hidden figures’ that others too often diminish or ignore.”
There will be something for everyone during the convention including: a national Black parents town hall meeting focusing on educational excellence; a screening and discussion of the movie “Wilmington Ten: Pardons of Innocence; an interactive dialogue with NNPA member publications that are 100-plus years in business including the oldest, the Philadelphia Tribune (1884); the NNPA Foundation 2016 Merit Awards; workshops on sickle cell and the impact of menthol cigarettes in the Black community; a discussion with millennials who weigh in on how to engage their peers; the NNPA 2017 National Legacy Awards Gala during which Martin Luther King III will be honored; and the election of national officers.
NNPA President and CEO, Dr. Benjamin Chavis said he’s especially pleased to present the 2017 Lifetime Legacy Award to the son of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“For decades, more than anyone else, Martin Luther King III has continued to personify and represent the living legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for freedom, justice and equality,” he said.
One of the convention’s participants, a District-based leader in education, said partnering with the NNPA has afforded her added opportunities to assist Black parents in their efforts to secure quality education for their children.
“The NNPA has launched a public awareness campaign on educational excellence, making sure that our Black children are reaching their full potential,” said Dr. Elizabeth Primas, NNPA, ESSA program manager. “Many teachers don’t understand how our children learn so we are making sure our parents are engaged and involved. It’s essential that Black children are given everything they deserve and not just what’s left over. They all have gifts and talents. We must make sure they believe that they can excel.”
Two Howard University students majoring in journalism, are currently working at the Washington Informer in a national fellowship program, Discover the Unexpected. They talked about their experiences and what they’ve learned this summer as Informer writers.
“Before my DTU Fellowship, my extent of knowledge on the Black Press was limited. We talked about it in my communications classes briefly but we never had a chance to fully delve into the importance of the Black Press and its legacy,” said Noni Marshall. “Never have I had the opportunity to write stories specifically about our issues for a paper that has a vested interest in our communities. I’ve already met so many influential players in the Black Press and I’m humbled to have been given this opportunity to be a part of the Black Press family.”
Her colleague, Alexa Spencer, agreed.
“I’ve had a close relationship with the Black Press since I was a child. My grandmother had a collection of stacks and stacks of Black magazines. I read them every time I got a chance. My earliest and most vivid memory of Black publications is reading an article on Emmett Till in Jet magazine,” she said.
“Later, I learned about Ida B. Wells and my entire way of thinking shifted. I consider her my spiritual guide as she has guided me to be relentless and unwavering in the pursuit of truth. She’s inspired me to challenge systems of injustice as an investigative journalist. This summer I have covered several significant events in Southeast D.C. and in doing so, I’ve been able to amplify the voices of my people. Being a part of the Black Press means demanding that our truth be heard. I’m honored to be part of this institution.”