By Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
Former U.S. Rep. Parren Mitchell (D-Md.) once told me, “It is long overdue for Black Americans to understand the urgent and ongoing necessity to defend and to support Black-owned businesses in the United States.” Mitchell was an outstanding freedom fighter and one of the original founders of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) more than 40 years ago. Mitchell was also probably one of the strongest advocates for development of strong businesses in Black America.
The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) is the premier national trade association of nearly 200 Black-owned businesses that regularly print vital news and information that serve to inform and empower Black America and its supporters. The NNPA is the “Voice of Black America.” During the past 74 years, it was well known in our communities that the NNPA had the audacity and courage to print the facts and news that other so-called “mainstream” publications traditionally ignored or intentionally distorted.
Today, a healthy Black Press is essential to the socioeconomic, political, cultural and spiritual liberation and empowerment of Black America. The Black Press not only uplifts Black America, it also helps to bring a more balance to all Americans who affirm the value of diversity in a multiracial, multicultural democracy that continues to evolve.
Cloves C. Campbell Jr., chairman of the NNPA, and I recently attended the annual convention of the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. (USBC) in Washington, D.C. at the newly-opened five-star Black-owned Marriott Marque Hotel across the street from the Water E. Washington Convention Center. It was a great “intergenerational” gathering of Black American and African business leaders. Under the adept leadership of Ron Busby, the U.S. Chambers, Inc. has grown to become a national association of more than 100 self-sustaining Black Chambers and small business associations in every region of the nation.
We take note of the emerging “strategic alliance” between the NNPA and the USBC. We will work together. We will plan together. We will build together. We will win together on behalf of 45 million Black Americans and millions of others who yearn for a better quality of like through economic empowerment and prosperity. Now that is the “good stuff” to report.
As the NNPA, there are some challenges we must take up on behalf of our community, including the hostile takeover of one of the largest Black-led banks in America headquartered in South Carolina. Unfortunately, most Black Americans are not even aware of the plight of CertusBank based in Greenville.
The three top original founders and executives of CertusBank were Black Americans: Executive Chairman Milton H. Jones, Jr., CEO Walter L. Davis, and President Angela Webb. It has been reported that the assets of CertusBank in the first quarter of 2014 were approximately $1.6 billion. Blacks in Greenville and surrounding communities were very proud of CertusBank since its founding in 2010. But in April, without justification, the civil rights of Jones, Davis and Webb were systematically violated as they were unfairly removed from their board and executive position at CertusBank. This was a shock to the Black community. At a time when the American economy is recovering, this is a time for strengthening not weakening the economic base in Black America.
We stand with the Greenville NAACP and Branch President J.M. Flemming in opposing this blatant act of racial injustice. Rev. Flemming, in a recent letter to the new primarily non-Black officials now in control of CertusBank, stated, “But now with the swift termination of the 3 African American executives ‘without cause,’ and aggressive removal of more African American Certus employees, we see a new direction which promotes a climate of bigotry in our community.”
Once again, Parren Mitchell’s wise observation about the need to have an organized approach to supporting and defending Black-owned businesses from racial discrimination and injustice rings true. His advocacy for the establishment of Black Business Legal Defense Fund is still needed. We will keep you posted on this case, which is now in federal court. Let’s not only read and hear the “Voice of Black America,” let’s respond with our activism, energy, prayers, resources, support.
Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the Interim President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: firstname.lastname@example.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc.