Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., National Newspaper Publishers Association president and CEO (Courtesy of NNPA Newswire)
**FILE** Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., National Newspaper Publishers Association president and CEO (Courtesy of NNPA Newswire)

National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. will serve as a moderator for an important national forum in Phoenix on racial equality.

“I’m honored to have legendary civil rights leader and NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin Chavis Jr. moderating the ninth ‘The Bridge Forum,’” said Alan “AP” Powell, the event’s organizer, and U.S. Desert Storm veteran.

Powell is the founder of the HeroZona Foundation, a nonprofit with a strong focus on veteran initiatives and honoring those who have served our country and their family members.

“Dr. Chavis’ commitment to supporting and advocating for our nation’s 230 Black newspapers is crucial in reaching equality,” Powell said. “Dr. Chavis and I are also in conversations with Indiana Attorney General Greg Fisher about bringing ‘The Bridge Forum’ to their markets.”

The HeroZona Foundation announced the Bridge Forum would take place on Tuesday, June 23 from 8 to 11 a.m. at the American Legion Post 65 (1624 E. Broadway Rd.) in Phoenix.

Participants are expected to discuss what it’s like to be Black in America and how to take action to reach equality.

The invitation-only event will also be livestreamed to the public on

The Bridge Forum: Time for Change event will be the ninth Bridge Forum series from the organization to understand different perspectives, attitudes, and beliefs about community policing.

The upcoming forum will focus on current events within the Black community and law enforcement and examine how communities can work together with police to create equality in the nation.

“Bridge Forums are an essential tool in bridging the gap between communities and law enforcement,” Powell said.

“The Black community needs to move from peaceful protest to action and this is what the Bridge Forum is designed to do.”

The Bridge Forum will include panelists such as Phoenix Suns general manager James Jones; Quintin Boyce, superintendent for the Roosevelt School District No. 66; Arizona state Rep. Reginald Bolding (District 27); Arizona Youth & College NAACP President Armonee D. Jackson; Larry White, founder of Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles; Dr. Warren. H. Stewart Sr., senior pastor of First Institutional Baptist Church; Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams; Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel; Reggie Grigsby, chief special agent of the attorney general of Arizona; Dr. Chad E. Gestson, superintendent of the Phoenix Union High School District; Arizona state Sen. Rebecca Rios (District 27) and Charles Fanniel, president of the NAACP Arizona State Conference.

UPS, EPCOR and SRP are supporters of the event.

“As part of the Steering Committee for the U.S. Chamber’s National Initiative to Address Inequality of Opportunity, which will hold a national Town Hall a few days after this event, I know that the Bridge Forum will drive action both in Arizona and nationally,” said Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “The format could also serve as a model for much-needed conversations across America. This is a major American moment and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to being part of the solution. It is crystal clear that inequality of opportunity holds our economy back from reaching its full potential.”

The event will be moderated by Chavis, who once served as the national director of the Million Man March and an assistant to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Chavis first received international recognition in 1971 as the leader of the “Wilmington 10.” He was wrongfully convicted of committing arson and received the longest sentence among the group before successfully appealing in 1980. Chavis then went to graduate school, became a civil rights activist and was the former vice president of the National Council of Churches.

“No one is safe until we are all safe and we know there is no place in any community or anywhere in the world for racism, bigotry or hate,” said UPS CEO Carol Tome.

“We will not stand quietly or idly on the sidelines of this issue. Today, we are reaffirming what we know is right and doing our part to accelerate progress. We will be champions for justice and equality, not just in our words but in our actions here in the U.S. and everywhere we operate around the world.”

“We are proud to support the HeroZona Foundation and its work to bring members of the community together in a collaborative effort to seek social justice,” said SRP Chief Public Affairs Executive, Rob Taylor.

“The Bridge Forum provides a platform for people from all perspectives to engage in meaningful dialogue. This represents a path forward to establish lasting change.”

The Bridge Forum is supported by Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and Bill Gates, Maricopa County supervisor from District 3, .

Honorary guests who will be present at the event include Helios Education Foundation founding Chair Vince Roig; Greater Phoenix Leadership President and CEO Neil G. Giuliano; Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone; and Arizona Manufacturers Council Chair Dawn Grove, among many other notable community members.

“HB” Harold G. Branch III, renowned poet extraordinaire and founder of Homebase Poetry, will be a special guest at the event and read a poem titled “I Can’t Breathe.”

Additionally, Evan Pittman, the City of Phoenix’s Outstanding Man of the Year for 2017 and this year’s Henry Clay College Congress Representative for the state of Arizona,  will be playing the national anthem and the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” on the violin. Terry E. Mackey, senior pastor of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, will be giving the invocation.

“The community is crying out for policy changes all around the world and this has never happened before,” Fanniel said. “The Bridge Forum was created to bridge the gap between the community and the police department. We want to build accountability and review how to have meaningful conversations to allow the police to better understand how we can build improved relationships and trust within our community.”

Bolding said holding dialogue about public safety is important, “but we must lead these conversations into policy change.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing what legislation we can agree on to reform our system,” he said.

Previous Bridge Forums have included both high school and college-age participants in 2017 from South Mountain High School, and in November 2018 included participation from law enforcement and community leaders who discussed ways to better support veterans with recruitment, hiring, opportunities in service, veterans in crisis and support systems.

In January 2018, the Scottsdale Police Department implemented 29 new initiatives from the Scottsdale Bridge Forum 2017, which included establishing sufficient resources for police personnel dealing with trauma, establishing dialogue opportunities with minority communities, enhancing engagement with the community’s youth and identifying ways to address the needs of the community related to behavioral health.

For more information about the Bridge Forum and to stream its upcoming event on Tuesday, June 23, go to

For more information, go to

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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