According to Karen Carter Richards, the state of the Black Press of America is more robust than it has ever been.
The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) chair and the Houston Forward Times publisher expressed even more optimism for the future.
“I’m proud to chair this organization,” she told NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., during an extensive discussion inside the trade association’s new state-of-the-art television studio and headquarters at the Thurgood Marshall Center in Washington, D.C.
“We’ve always known that we are a resilient people, but the pandemic forced a lot of us to take a deep breath because it was new,” Carter Richards continued.
“A lot of us were print publications, but we had to change the game. We took a breath and started doing what we do. Some of us were already making digital strides, but it was gradual. The pandemic forced us to step it up, and we had a lot of help from the NNPA office, and the publishers helped each other.”
The NNPA represents the hundreds of newspapers and media companies in the Black Press of America family.
From June 23 to June 26, the NNPA will host its national convention. The convention will feature a special performance by the legendary Grammy winner Chaka Khan and Nu-Soul and Jazz artist Candice Hoyes.
The NNPA will also hand out its prestigious Legacy Awards, including to:
• Darnella Frazier, the African American teenager who courageously filmed the police officer kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, will receive the Ida B. Wells National Photojournalism Award.
• The Rev. John P. Kee will receive the 2021 National Gospel Transformative Award
• Earth, Wind & Fire Lead Singer Philip Bailey will be presented with the 2021 National Lifetime Achievement Legacy Award for Outstanding Achievement, Impact, and Creative Genius.
• Scotty Barnhart, the legendary Count Basie Orchestra leader, will receive the 2021 National Performance and Outstanding Leadership Award.
• The Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson will receive the 2021 National Achievement and Outstanding Leadership Award for his work as President and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.
• Congresswoman Joyce L. Beatty (D-Ohio) will receive the 2021 National Congressional Leadership Award, and the NNPA will present Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison with the Outstanding and Courageous Leadership Award.
• Chaka Khan will receive the 2021 National Lifetime Achievement Legacy Award for Decades of Creative Genius and Outstanding Leadership for Freedom, Justice, and Equality in American and Throughout the World.
This year marks the second consecutive virtual convention.
During the convention, Carter Richards will seek election to a second successive term as national chair.
While any potential challengers for the position have yet to identify themselves, Carter Richards’ run as chair has proved impressive.
“We are doing better than we’ve done in the history of the NNPA,” she declared.
Despite the pandemic that forced many out of jobs and a topsy-turvy economy where government stimulus served to rescue most, Dr. Chavis said advertising and other revenue skyrocketed for the Black Press.
Carter Richards credited the national office led by Dr. Chavis, Claudette Perry, the NNPA’s executive administrator, and the staff.
“It feels wonderful to have a great team,” Carter Richards exclaimed.
“I have to give [Dr. Chavis] your due. You’ve done a great job, and we have a great team at NNPA. We can’t do it without the team.”
She also praised the NNPA’s all-women executive committee, Janis Ware (The Atlanta Voice), the First Vice-Chair, Fran Farrer (The County News in North Carolina), Second Vice-Chair, Brenda H. Edwards (New Journal and Guide in Virginia), Treasurer and Jackie Hampton (The Mississippi Link) Secretary.
“I’m loving being with the ladies,” Carter Richards announced. “Black women do what Black women do. We are going to continue to do great things.”
Carter Richards recalled her father’s vision for the Houston Forward Times. She noted that he began planning for the newspaper five years before its 1955 launch when he returned from serving in the U.S. military.
Julius Carter taught his daughter and her sister the value of community and the Black Press.
His steadfastness for bringing forward hard facts led to the Forward Times building bombing in 1971, just days after he published an article critical of the local police department.
Julius Carter died of a heart attack days later, and his wife, Lenora “Doll” Carter, immediately sprang into action to keep the paper alive.
“They were taking bets that my mom wouldn’t last six months at the newspaper,” Carter Richards remembered.
“She was 29 years old, with two little girls. But she took the paper to its 50th year. I was terrified because she had a massive heart attack, and she wasn’t even sick. I was next in line, but I was ready because I had shadowed my mother for years.”
“My mother prepared me for a lot of things that have helped me to do what I’m doing now,” Carter Richards said, noting that both her parents once served on the NNPA’s executive committee.
The upcoming convention theme – “Black Press Matters: Trusted Voice, Resilient Vitality, and Transformative Vision” – could not be more appropriate.
“I think we have hit on all of those points. We know we are the trusted voice in the Black community, and ‘resilient vitality’ is who we are,” Carter Richards determined.
“Our Black newspapers have thrived, and so many more are getting to the level that we want them to be. I’m so proud of the Black Press for all the work they are doing in the community and for the work they are doing to help each other.”
“When I stepped inside this new studio, I was taken aback. It is remarkable. We are on the move, and the Black Press has for 194 years been the trusted voice, and you can say that to the Black community, we are mainstream media. And we are going to continue to give the world information without fear or favor.”
Registration for the NNPA’s virtual convention is free. To register, go to www.virtualnnpa2021.com.