By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – At a reception during the 45th Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) Annual Legislative Conference, the National Newspaper Publishers Association honored five Black luminaries with its Leadership Awards.
The awards are given to those who have demonstrated leadership in the Black community and support of the Black Press. Held at the Washington Marriott Marquis, which is partially Black-owned, the reception drew a large crowd of conference attendees and Black Press supporters.
Misty Copeland, Roland Martin, Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.), Rahiel Tesfamariam, and A. Shuanise Washington were the awardees for 2015, the NNPA’s 75th anniversary year. Denise Rolark Barnes, chair of the NNPA and publisher of The Washington Informer, along with Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., president and CEO of the NNPA, emceed the event.
Roland Martin was recognized for his work in broadcast media and dedication to Black news, and was the first honoree of the night to address the audience.
“For folks who don’t know, I’ve actually run three Black papers. I’ve always made it clear that the first dollar I earned in media was from a Black newspaper. My first television dollar was from a company that was Black-owned,” he said. “When I’m sitting in the White House with the president, I’m sitting representing Black media, not mainstream media. I have never allowed White media to validate my skill set.”
Each of the honorees thanked the NNPA for its support and its dedication to keeping Black communities empowered and informed.
“When I came into Congress, I said we were going to do something different. I said that we were going to make our paper of record our Black newspapers,” said Congresswoman Edwards. “When we reach out in my office…we reach out to our papers of record. When I decided I was going to embark on this journey to the U.S. Senate, our paper of record on that decision was The Afro and The Washington Informer.”
Rahiel Tesfamariam, writer, activist, speaker, and founder of digital media platform, Urban Cusp, spoke on the Black press’ role in social justice movements.
“The Black Press is a tool of liberation, is it not?” she asked the audience after accepting her award. “Before I sit down, I want to ensure that we understand the power that we hold as Black press. Because at the end of the day, the power of words is the power of life and death, and that is the power of the Black Press.”
A. Shuanise Washington, president and CEO of the CBCF Inc., and Misty Copeland were unable to attend the reception. CBCF vice president of communications and marketing, Shrita Sterlin-Hernandez accepted the award on Washington’s behalf, and Copeland sent her gratitude via video.
Several notables were also in attendance, including Congressmen Al Green (D-Texas) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.); Newport News, Va. Mayor McKinley Price; Sir Hillary McDonald Beckles, vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies in Jamaica; Diane Watson, former U.S. ambassador and former Congressional representative, and many more. Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake were also present and took a few moments to address and thank the crowd.
“I am here really to echo the comments that Roland [Martin] made, and to thank Black media for how you treated Baltimore during the unrest,” Rawlings-Blake said. “I can say that Black media was particularly supportive in so many ways to make sure that…the riots wasn’t the whole story of Baltimore. Thank you for making sure the whole story continues to be told in our communities.”