The tragic murder of George Floyd, and countless other lives taken at the hands of law enforcement, has opened the curtain to the masses of grave injustices meted out upon Black people for centuries. It’s not that Blacks, and their allies, have not complained, protested and demanded fair and just treatment; this time, their voices are being heard. The response is coming in ways formerly demanded but hardly anticipated.
Federal, state and local legislators are dismantling laws that long upheld the status quo of injustice and inequality for many. They are removing symbols of inequality, including statues, flags, names on buildings and street names. Corporations are doling out millions of dollars to support Black causes and defunding ad spending in companies like Facebook that hold onto policies deemed harmful to all Americans, regardless of race. Organizations are engaging in the “hard conversations” around race and equity, while activists are keeping a steady drumbeat of protests in cities all across the nation, including D.C. and in front of the house where President Donald Trump lives.
The media is taking a good look at itself, as well, and acknowledging its lack of diversity in newsrooms, and the imbalance of coverage of stories that provide a fair and balanced perspective of communities of color. Change is happening at the same time as media organizations are still trying to figure out their sweet spot within the print and digital spectrum, when traditional ad dollars are declining and the future of journalism is unclear.
In the midst of all of this, hope is still alive. Among the hopefuls are members of the Black Press, including The Washington Informer, who support an effort to “reimagine the Black Press” through an initiative to raise $25 million for the Fund for Black Journalism. The visionary is Elinor Tatum, the second-generation publisher of one of the nation’s oldest Black-owned newspapers, The Amsterdam News, in New York. Other owners supporting this effort are publishers of The Atlanta Voice, The Afro, Houston Defender Network, St. Louis American, Michigan Chronicle, The Dallas Weekly, Seattle Medium and The Sacramento Observer, with 10 more Black-owned media organizations (including broadcasters) to soon join.
If there was ever a time when the Black Press needs to be front and center, it is now. We report the stories and interpret their meaning. Still, the Fund will help us to amplify solutions to current problems, including police reform, fair housing, access to affordable healthcare and equitable education, to name a few. The Fund, with the support of the Local Media Foundation, will help make this possible. Thanks, in advance, for your support.