Officers for the National Newspaper Publishers Association present Roy Lewis (second from left) with a Torch Award for his outstanding achievement during Black Press Week at the Dupont Circle Hotel in northwest D.C. on March 23. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)
Officers for the National Newspaper Publishers Association present Roy Lewis (second from left) with a Torch Award for his outstanding achievement during Black Press Week at the Dupont Circle Hotel in northwest D.C. on March 23. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)

The National Newspapers Publishers Association (NNPA) on Thursday presented esteemed individuals in the black community with awards for outstanding work in their respective fields.

In celebration of the 190th year of the Black Press, the NNPA held its annual Torch Awards at the DuPont Circle Hotel in Northwest to honor standout African-Americans in their respective fields, including Donna Brazile, Wade Henderson and Roy Lewis.

“On behalf of General Motors we are proud to be a partner with the NNPA for over 20 years and are excited to celebrate 190 years of the Black Press,” said Cherie Wilson, General Motors’ director of federal and administrative affairs. “I want to first thank Dr. Ben Chavis, [Washington Informer publisher] Denise Rolark Barnes and members of the NNPA for their tireless efforts to ensure the voices of the black community is heard through more than 200 African-American-owned community newspapers throughout the United States.”

Wilson had a special message for Brazile, who suddenly fell ill and was unable to make the ceremony.

“To Donna, especially since it’s Women’s History Month, thank you for what you represent to little black girls everywhere,” Wilson said. “You helped inspire my interest in politics well over a decade ago.”

Brazile received the award for Outstanding Leadership and Achievement in Political Empowerment, Henderson for Outstanding Leadership and Achievement in Civil and Human Rights and Lewis for Outstanding Leadership and Achievement in Photography.

“We named this award years ago because we needed to pay tribute to those among us not only for their outstanding contributions in their fields, but also for the contributions made that have had sustainability to it,” said Chavis, NNPA president and CEO. “In this work there is a lot of tension, and a lot of stress. If you know anything about the civil rights movement you know about tension and stress.”

Chavis lauded Brazile as a “champion, warrior sister and leader who led the Democratic Party through some hard times.”

“I don’t think the nation as a whole has really thanked her for her service,” he said. “It’s easy to not let people ride off into the sunset, but die in the sunset of life. I want to make sure that we give her this award in person in June when we reconvene for our national convention of the NNPA.”

Chavis also championed Lewis, a renowned veteran photographer.

“He’s been all over the world — the Caribbean, Africa all over the United States,” Chavis said. “Roy Lewis has used the camera to document and tell our stories of the struggle for freedom, justice and equality.”

Lewis asserted that he feels privileged to have been on the road for so long.

“When I started covering the NNPA maybe 40-50 years ago, you would have me and maybe one other photographer,” he said. “Now look everybody has a camera. It’s wonderful.

“I tell people my work is not really for today,” Lewis said. “I think of my work as the same as the people that built the pyramids. They built the pyramids for us to see how great we are, so in one hundred years when people look at my work they will see this period. We’re living in history right now. Let’s keep making history.”

Of Henderson, Chavis said that he has personally witnessed the president of Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights rise to the occasion thousands of times.

“The name Wade Henderson is synonymous with civil rights,” Chavis said. “He epitomizes what it means to be on the front line of the struggle.”

Henderson praised the NNPA for their truth telling in this new political era.

“The fact that the NNPA is here in Washington right now on March 23 is no mere coincidence and no accident,” he said. “You are here because it was intended that you be here and do what you can do to tell the truth.

“There is a serious challenge to truth as we know it,” Henderson said. “There is no such thing as alternative facts. Alternative facts are lies. Thank God for the First Amendment, because [otherwise] there would be no Black Press.”

For the second year, the NNPA joined with the National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP) for a legislative summit and strategize jointly.

“We are demonstrating what it means to collaborate and build bridges, to build new opportunities, new visions, and face challenges with increased strength when black and brown people work together,” said Al McFarland, chair of the NNPA Foundation. “This is a unique and powerful partnership between the NNPA and the National Association of Hispanic Publications.”

NAHP President Martha Montoya said the partnership “is a gift from God, because we are all stronger together.”

“This partnership is allowing us to go out and speak one language which is the language of opportunity,” she said.

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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