Shortly before the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s (NNPA) annual Legacy Awards Gala, NNPA members elected veteran Chicago Crusader publisher Dorothy Leavell to serve as chairman of the group for the next two years (2017-2019).
Leavell succeeds Washington Informer publisher Denise Rolark Barnes, who served in the role for the past two years.
“We have some strange times and we’ve been dealing with some insurmountable problems and our publishers are hurting so bad,” said Leavell, who previously served as president of the NNPA from 1997 to 1999. “We are suffering and with a new administration in the White House, it will take someone who isn’t afraid, someone who will raise a lot of hell.”
Leavell praised Rolark Barnes for her work over the past two years, noting that the campaign for the chairman’s seat was never personal.
“I like Denise and I think she’s done a heck of a job,” Leavell said. “But, I’m ready to get down in the mud for this organization.”
Leavell’s experience should bode well for the NNPA going forward, said Houston Forward Times publisher Karen Carter Richards.
“Dorothy has a lot of experience in the organization and I think she will continue to move it forward,” said Richards, who was re-elected as first vice chair of the organization.
Bernal Smith, publisher of the New Tri-State Defender, was elected second vice chair of the NNPA and Shannon Williams, the president of the Indianapolis Recorder, will continue in her role as secretary.
Leavell has not only been a great soldier for the NNPA, but she’s also a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, said NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
“I see her as someone to lead the fight fiercely for freedom, justice and equality,” he said.
During her two-year stint as president of the organization, Leavell helped increase the visibility and international stature of the Black Press. She was elected chairman of the NNPA Foundation and, as a member of the NNPA for more than half a century, Leavell has served in various roles and she’s often been honored for her philanthropic and civic contributions.
Leavell was honored as Publisher of the Year in 1989 and earned the Winnie Mandela Endurance with Dignity Award.
“My father used to bring me to the NNPA. When he passed, the person who invited me here after that was Dorothy Leavell,” said Rolark Barnes. “So, it’s up to all of us to make the NNPA great and we can’t sit back and watch her do the work, we have to help.”
Ever outspoken and never one to mince words, Leavell said she would immediately go after companies like General Motors and Ford to bring in advertising dollars to member newspapers.
“Denise is too beautiful to be out there in the trenches,” Leavell said, then laughed. “Now, I’m coming.”