A display wall showcases the front pages of the nation's black newspapers. (Travis Riddick/NNPA)
**FILE** A display wall showcases the front pages of the nation's Black newspapers. (Travis Riddick/NNPA)

As the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) returns to the District for its three-day (March 14-16) annual gathering, Black Press Week 2018, the venerable 191-year-old, U.S.-based organization of publishers, fueled by the efforts of more than 220 Black-owned media companies, will again be joined by media professionals, civil rights leaders and lawmakers from across the country in conversations that will touch on this year’s theme: “Publishing Truth to Empower.”

Highlights will include the honoring of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the 2018 Newsmaker of the Year, chosen because of her determination to secure wage increases for the working class, reform the criminal justice system and expand access to healthcare. The week will also feature Democratic strategist Donna Brazile as she shares her perspective in an address that speaks to the state of the Black Press in America.

Far from a group which yields to or publishes news stories that endorse the status quo, the Black Press, since John B. Russwurm and Samuel E. Cornish printed their first issue of Freedom’s Journal almost 200 centuries ago, has continued to strive with razor-sharp efficiency to facilitate the empowerment of Blacks so that our communities might be better equipped to determine their own destinies and to define themselves.

One example of recent initiatives aimed at strengthening their base and extending their voice has been the “new strategic alliance between the NNPA and the NAACP,” which Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., president and CEO of the NNPA, says “bodes well to advance civil rights and the economic, political, and cultural empowerment of Black America.”

He further notes that the annual gathering convenes “at a time of profound opportunity and responsibility to ensure a record turnout for Black American voters in the upcoming midterm elections across the nation.”

The Black Press has seen its share of ups and downs throughout its history, threatened by, yet somehow surviving, the possibility of financial insolvency, race-based destruction and even the glutting of its talented forces when mainstream publications temporarily decided to integrate their own newsrooms — that is before putting us out in record speed.

But we have refused to close our doors. We have refused to be bought or bossed. We have refused to present our communities and our people through a negative, non-productive lens. And we have remained resolved to tell our stories — positive examples that affirm life, honor love and demand liberty — stories that are rarely seen on the evening news or shared by the non-Black media.

And with God’s grace, we’ll remain true to the goals of our predecessor when the Black Press marks four centuries in America. We are the Black Press and, in a fashion, similar to that of the Black Church, we still matter.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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