Dr. Frances "Toni" Murphy Draper (right), the AFRO Newspaper's CEO and publisher, recognizes Moses J. Newson, who was the paper's editor in the late 1950s, during the AFRO's 130th anniversary gala at Martin's Crosswinds in Greenbelt, Md., on Aug. 13. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)
Dr. Frances "Toni" Murphy Draper (right), the AFRO Newspaper's CEO and publisher, recognizes Moses J. Newson, who was the paper's editor in the late 1950s, during the AFRO's 130th anniversary gala at Martin's Crosswinds in Greenbelt, Md., on Aug. 13. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)

With its vision, legacy, culture and story on full display, the AFRO celebrated its 130th anniversary in style Saturday night with a gala at Martins Crosswinds in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Comedian and D.C.-area native Tommy Davidson served as the night’s host, while Temeka Moore and Absolute Music performed various hit songs.

The sold-out crowd capped the evening with a dance party as famed DJ Kid Capri worked his magic on the turntables.

National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) Chair Karen Carter Richards, NNPA Executive Administrator Claudette Perry, Houston Forward Times Associate Editor Jeffrey Boney, attorneys Billy Murphy and J. Wyndal Gordon and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott counted among the many dignitaries in attendance.

National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. (center) poses with NNPA officials and associates during the AFRO Newspaper’s 130th anniversary gala at Martin’s Crosswinds in Greenbelt, Md., on Aug. 13. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)

“CBS Mornings” host Gayle King, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., the Rev. Al Sharpton, National Urban League President Marc Morial, Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), Maryland Democratic Rep. Kweisi Mfume and White House correspondent April Ryan were among those sending videotaped greetings to the AFRO.

NNPA President and CEO Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. presented AFRO Publisher and CEO Toni Draper with the John B. Russwurm Award for Journalist Excellence and the NNPA’s Publisher of the Year.

“Throughout the years, the AFRO has been a leading voice in the Black community, serving as a reliable source of news and information while providing insight to generations of families in an ever-evolving society,” Scott said. “In times when mainstream media may have forgotten about the Black community, the AFRO was — and remains — steadfast in ensuring that the community is covered thoroughly and fair.”

Mfume, representing Maryland’s 7th District, thanked the AFRO for “being the eyes, ears and voice of our community.”

From left: Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. and the AFRO Newspaper CEO and Publisher Frances “Toni” Murphy Draper pose for a photo during the AFRO’s 130th anniversary gala at Martin’s Crosswinds in Greenbelt, Md., on Aug. 13. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)

“We remain indebted to John H. Murphy Sr., a formerly enslaved man, and his wife, Martha Howard Murphy, for founding the AFRO platform 130 years ago,” Mfume said. “From the earliest days until now, the AFRO has chronicled our lives from the end of Reconstruction through the Jim Crow Era, the Niagara movement, World War I, the Harlem Renaissance, the Great Depression, World War II, the civil rights movement, the first Black U.S. president and vice president, a global health and economic pandemic, and our path forward.”

Draper, who called on AFRO board members, supporters and employees to stand, said for the past 130 years, hundreds of dedicated men and women have worked tirelessly to realize the vision of the AFRO’s founder.

“Today, we are still championing social and political change, still crusading for equal opportunity and access for all — still being the forceful voice for Black Americans in Baltimore, Washington and beyond, still chronicling the joys and sorrows of our community,” Draper said.

“In this age of social media and news on demand, we have exceeded great grandfather’s desire for the AFRO to eventually become a daily as we are constantly posting to AFRO.com, as well as to Instagram, Twitter and Meta, where we have more than 650,000 followers,” Draper continued. “We’ve even ventured into something called TikTok. And, with the help of AFRO Charities, we are working hard to preserve our rich archives so that more people can know about our rich history and legacy.”

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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