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)

The first virtual conference in the 80-year history of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) earned thumbs-up from partners and sponsors.

The successful event’s website garnered tens of thousands of page views.

“We share in your excitement and applaud your efforts in successfully executing the first virtual NNPA Annual Convention,” Lester Booker of General Motors Communications wrote in a congratulatory email to NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.

“Over the past two days, I’ve had the opportunity to view some of the convention and was impressed with its content, execution, and professionalism,” Booker continued, noting that GM officials continue to value and appreciate the company’s more than 50-year partnership with the Black Press of America.

Several other partners and sponsors joined General Motors, including Pfizer Rare Disease, RAI Services Company, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the NFL, Facebook Journalism Project, AARP, BHERC, Hyundai, Wells Fargo, Molson Coors, Volkswagen, The United States Census, Comcast Universal, Compassion & Choices, API, Ascension, Nissan, and UAW.

According to a report from Cision, which tracks such data, the conference website garnered more than 50,000 page views at one point during the event.

“The NNPA overall is pleased with the impact, the reach and the engagement across the United States and throughout the world for our first virtual convention,” Chavis said, adding that the NNPA remains most grateful to its corporate sponsors for helping to make the first virtual convention a success.

“We intend to let the world know that we appreciate our partners and sponsors and their support,” Chavis declared.

Sparking the interests were several important topics and a host of celebrity guests, including livestream interviews and performances by Deniece Williams, Anthony Hamilton, Carlos Santana, Cindy Blackman Santana, Sandra “Salt” Denton, Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman, and journalist Jemele Hill.

“The livestreams were amazing with all of the big names that we had it really brought an element that you don’t always see at a conference, and it really has helped to shine a spotlight on our publishers,” NNPA Chair Karen Carter Richards declared. “The shoutouts to the Black Press from people like Magic Johnson, Sen. Kamala Harris, Rep. Maxine Waters, attorney Joey Jackson, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and the others were simply delightful.”

Following opening remarks by Chavis, Richards, and Convention Chair Terry Jones, Wells Fargo presented a discussion titled, “Navigating Finances through COVID-19,” which was followed by a webinar, “Hope, Misinformation, Fear, Sickness and Death: Physicians Discuss the Impact of COVID-19 on Black Communities.”

That physicians’ webinar included nationally-renown doctors Ebony Jade Hilton, Leigh-Ann Webb, Taison Bell, Cameron Webb and Rochanda Mitchell.

A webinar about the Black Press of America’s future engagement and empowerment included Mississippi Link Publisher Jackie Hampton, AFRO Publisher Dr. Frances Draper, Cincinnati Herald Publisher Jan Michele Kearney, “Make it Plain” host Mark Thompson, and Washington Informer Editor D. Kevin McNeir.

“I thought it was time we show the larger scale folks that we do the same kind of work they do,” McNeir said during the webinar. “I’ve been with the Black Press for 25 years. I believe we have a story that is unique and significant, and it has not gotten old. We give the Black story, that’s who we are.”

Day 1 of the conference concluded with the NNPA National Townhall, “Education and the Future of Black America, From Pre-K to High School and onto College.”

The second day of the conference featured webinars on “Technology and Innovation: The Challenges and the Opportunities,” and “Black Millennial Voices and Visions for Transformation,” hosted by Houston Forward Times Editor and BlackPressUSA columnist Jeffrey Boney.

The conference concluded with a star-studded awards ceremony and performances that included a stirring rendition of “You’ve Got a Friend” by The Temptations, two special songs by Supremes legend Mary Wilson and a prerecorded performance by Ziggy Marley.

Wilson received a lifetime achievement award, and Marley received the NNPA Global Icon Award which he dedicated to his legendary parents, Bob and Rita Marley.

“I’ve received many awards throughout my life, but this one feels special to me,” Marley said in accepting his award. “Music is a powerful tool. Human beings have powerful beings. We can achieve whatever we wish to achieve if we are willing to do what it takes to achieve it. Standing up, or kneeling down.”

Before concluding the night with a special recorded music mix by DJ D-Nice, hip-hop legend, actor and entrepreneur Ice Cube received the Artist of the Century Award.

“It’s an amazing honor, and would like to thank everyone responsible for getting me this award,” Ice Cube said.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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