Civil rights icon Jesse Jackson Sr. received the Lifetime Legacy Award and legendary Rep. Bobby Scott received the 2018 Congressional Leadership Award at the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s annual convention in Norfolk, Virginia.
The convention, which celebrated 191 years of the Black Press in America, was hosted by the New Journal and Guide, one of the oldest and continuously published African-American-owned newspapers in the country.
The six-day conference, which concluded Sunday, July 1, held the theme, “Sustaining, Engaging and Mobilizing Black Communities.”
The event included several informative and interactive workshops and sessions, such as the second annual National Black Parents Town Hall meeting on education excellence and the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Volkswagen, Wells Fargo, General Motors, Ford, Koch Industries, Reynolds America, American Petroleum Institute and Pfizer Rare Disease were among the sponsors who sent officials to participate in panel discussions.
Panelists such as retired police Sgt. Cheryl Dorsey and retired police Chief John Dixon spoke openly about the ongoing problems of police brutality while District resident Lamont Carey, founder of the nonprofit Contact Visits, gave a passionate presentation about the need for criminal justice reform in the African-American community.
Nathan Richardson, an accomplished author, poet and orator, gave a stirring portrayal and reenactment of Frederick Douglass while urging the Black Press to carry on that legacy of truth-telling.
The Washington Informer captured two awards in the categories of Best Editorial and Best Column Writing during the 2018 NNPA Foundation Merit Awards ceremony held during the convention at the Norfolk Hilton The Main Hotel.
Jackson received the NNPA Lifetime Legacy Award for his decades of service as one of the country’s foremost civil rights, religious and political figures.
After a video tribute that chronicled Jackson’s life and a surprise solo performance of “Hero” by Jackson favorite Audrey DuBois Harris, the iconic preacher accepted the award from NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. and NNPA Chairman Dorothy R. Leavell.
“I’m not easy to surprise,” Jackson told the crowd, which gave him a standing ovation as he headed to the podium to accept the honor.
Born in 1941 in Greenville, South Carolina, Jackson began his theological studies at Chicago Theological Seminary but deferred his studies when he began working full-time in the civil rights movement alongside Martin Luther King Jr.
“This honor takes on a special meaning for me because my first job was selling the Norfolk Journal and Guide newspaper and then the Baltimore Afro-American and then the Pittsburgh Courier,” Jackson said of the iconic Black-owned newspapers.
“We couldn’t see the other side of Jackie Robinson. We couldn’t see the other side of Sugar Ray Robinson,” he said, noting that the Black Press told the full stories of those sports heroes.
He reminisced about the fateful night in Memphis in 1968 when an assassin’s bullet cut down King.
“I was with Dr. King on that chilly night in Memphis and I went to the phone to talk to Mrs. King,” Jackson said. “I couldn’t really talk. I told her I think Dr. King was shot in the shoulder, even though I knew he was shot in the neck. I just couldn’t say it.”
During the General Motors-sponsored ceremony, Leavell and Chavis said Jackson has carried King’s legacy well.
“We still need him,” Leavell said of Jackson.
Chavis agreed, calling Jackson “a long-distance runner who’s made a difference not only in this country, but all over the world.”
Meanwhile, Bobby Scott, who arrived in Congress in 1993 and currently serves as the ranking member on the Committee on Education and Workforce, thanked the Black Press for its 191 years of serving the African-American community across the country.
“You have a difficult role now and in the era of fake news someone has to have the confidence of the public,” the Virginia Democrat said while accepting his award. “That role you have is more important with Justice Kennedy being replaced and we won’t be able to rely on the Supreme Court to protect our rights.”