With a lively and capacity crowd inside the Renaissance DC Downtown Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. and NNPA Chair Karen Carter Richards presented the annual National Leadership Awards.
The 2019 honorees are the Honorable Karen Bass, U.S. Representative (D-CA); the Honorable Elijah E. Cummings, U.S. Representative (D-MD); the Honorable Bobby Scott, U.S. Representative (D-VA); the Honorable Bennie Thompson, U.S. Representative (D-MS); Ray Curry, Secretary-Treasurer of the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agriculture (UAW); Shani W. Hosten, Vice President Multicultural Leadership, AARP; Dr. Kim Smith-Whitley, Clinical Director of Hematology and Director of the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP); and Crystal Windham, Director, Cadillac Interior Design, General Motors.
Each of the recipients joined NNPA corporate partners and sponsors to reflect on the importance of the Black Press.
“I’d like to particularly thank the Black Press for keeping sickle cell disease in the light,” said Dr. Kim Smith Whitley, the clinical director of Hematology and Director of the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Whitley praised the Black Press for helping to shed light on the fact that one in 12 African Americans have the sickle cell trait, and the blood disorder disproportionately affects black people.
Another award recipient, Crystal Windham, also applauded the Black Press for its work.
Windham, the director of Cadillac Interior Design, and the first African American woman director in General Motors Design history said it was remarkable that the Black Press of America will celebrate 192 years.
The NNPA observes its 80th anniversary in 2020.
“Do not stop doing what you do,” she said, before encouraging others to follow her historical path.
“I owe it to the individuals that paved the way for me. I’m just an ordinary girl from Detroit,” Windham said. “If I can do it, you can do it too.”
The UAW’s Ray Curry addressed attendees, applauding the Black Press and reminding the audience of the role that unions have played in America’s civil rights struggles. He also shared some of his own history as a beneficiary of benefits gained through the labor negotiation process.
An NNPA and UAW resolution reads, “Whether it was hosting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he wrote his historic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in Solidarity House, or providing bail for Dr. King’s 1963 release from Birmingham City Jail, the women and men of the UAW have and continue to play a historic role in our nation’s civil rights movement.
“I’m truly honored and humbled to be recognized with such a distinguished award,” said Shani W. Hosten, Vice President Multicultural Leadership with AARP. “I also want to recognize the outstanding legacy of the Black Press; I grew up reading the Richmond Free Press and the Richmond Afro; they were staples in our home, around our community, and in our church. Those stories told our stories, and I thank the Black Press for the continued partnership with AARP, and for 192 years of telling our story in our community which is so critical now more than ever,” Hosten said.
The festive gathering also included appearances by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, NAACP President, and CEO Derrick Johnson, NAACP Chairman Leon Russell, Cuban Ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas, and famed film producer and MIT Media Lab research scholar Topper Carew.
The awards honor individuals who are national leaders in their specific fields and whose actions have helped to improve the quality of life for African Americans and others.
The NNPA, the trade organization representing African American-owned newspapers and media companies throughout the country, began the Leadership Awards in 2014 when it was decided that the optimal time to host such an event would be during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s (CBCF) Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) a week-long gathering that’s held each September.
The CBCF ALC is the largest annual gathering in the United States. The shared objective of the conference and the NNPA National Leadership Awards is to network, collaborate, and strategize collectively for the advancement and empowerment of Black America.
“We are delighted to celebrate this year’s honorees,” said NNPA Chair and Houston Forward Times Publisher Karen Carter Richards.
“We salute them for the leadership they have displayed in the Black community and for their overall support of the Black Press,” Richards said.
“The Black Press is needed now more than ever. We are the daily recorders of our history. We are, and forever will be, The Original Black Press of America,” Richards said.
NNPA’s corporate partners include General Motors; RAI Services Company; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and Pfizer, Inc.
NNPA corporate sponsors include Toyota; Ford Motor Co.; AARP; Northrop Grumman; Eli Lilly; Wells Fargo; Volkswagen; UAW; API; Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts; Comcast; U.S. Census; CBCF; Koch Industries; Ascension; and AmeriHealth.
Scott, who accepted the award for his national leadership in education, thanked Dr. Chavis and Carter Richards for their guidance of the Black Press. “The Black Press tells news that needs to be told,” Scott said.
Bass said, “We look to [The Black Press] for news. America knows the work you do, and we look to you to help tell our story,” she said.
The ceremony also served as a reminder of the all-important 2020 Census count. Tasha Boone, a long-time public servant who now serves as a senior advisor to the Deputy Director at the U.S. Census, addressed the audience.
“We are working tirelessly with partners like the Black Press to get the word out,” Boone said. “2020 is a big year for us. It’s an election year and, just as important is the Census. In March, you will all get an opportunity to participate in the Census. Fill out the survey either online, by mail or by telephone. It’s extremely important, and it’s safe,” Boone said.