By Jackie Hampton
Members of The National Newspaper Publishers Association came together March 14-16 in Washington D.C. to celebrate 191 Years of the Black Press, ‘Publishing Truth to Empower.’
Live streaming of many of the events throughout the four day celebration allowed viewers to celebrate with the African-American publishers, editors, writers, photographers, sponsors, speakers and special guests from across the country to be a part of this birthday celebration held at the DuPont Circle Hotel. Dorothy Leavell, chairman of NNPA reminded participants that Black Press Week is in commemoration of the first black newspaper, ‘Freedom’s Journal” which was founded March, 16, 1827. It is also a time in which NNPA honors individuals that have made signifi cant contributions to the country in various areas.
A welcome reception and the presentation of the NNPA 2018 Newsmaker of the Year award took place at the Rayburn House Office Building Wednesday evening with music by the Earl Carter Trio.
Amelia Ashley-Ward, chairman of the NNPA Foundation, presented the Honorable Kamala Harris, United States Senator (D-CA) with the Newsmaker of the Year award. Harris is the second African-American woman and first South Asian-American senator in history. She has spent a great deal of her life fighting injustice. Harris stated, “We are a great country but this is the moment in time we must fight for the best of who we are; we must fight for the meaning of those ideas that were behind the writing of the Constitution, and are; we must fight for the meaning of those ideas that were behind the writing of the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence
that states we are all created equal.”
Congressional Black Caucus President Cedric Richmond commented, “Politicians worry about the next election but statesmen and stateswomen worry about the next generation.” He said Harris is a stateswoman. He said whereas some may be interested in what is going on with Stormy Daniels, Harris, and other members of the CBC, are keeping their eyes on such issues as school nutrition and criminal justice reform.
On Thursday night a Torch Awards dinner was held at the Dupont Hotel. The keynote speaker was Rev. Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III. Haynes
gave a powerful and moving message that generated thunderous applause throughout his speech. He received a standing ovation at the end of his address. Haynes is the senior pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.
Foundation Chair Ashley-Ward presented three individuals Torch Awards for outstanding leadership.
The Honorable Barbara J. Lee (D-CA) was presented the “Outstanding Leadership & Achievement Award for Empowerment of African Americans. In 2001, Lee received national attention as the only member of Congress to oppose the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) in the wake of the horrific events September 11. She believed that this AUMF would become a blank check for endless war.
James E. Farmer a longtime advocate of the Black Press received the “Outstanding Leadership & Service Award” for over 50 years in the
Automotive Industry. Farmer held numerous positions with General Motors before retiring in 2004. He has traveled the world as a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, (Viet Nam, China, India, France, Cuba, Japan.)
Rev. Dr. Amos C. Brown was presented the “Outstanding Leadership & Achievement Award” for over 60 Years in Civil Rights and the NAACP. Brown, a longtime social visionary and strategic promoter of freedom, justice and equality, was one of only eight students who took the only college class ever taught by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Each of the three honorees expressed their appreciation for the honors they received and encouraged the Black Press to continue their important work in the communities they serve. Friday morning, a conversation and panel discussion was held on “Striving for African American Excellence in Public Education:
The Role of the Black Press. Panelists included Denise Rolark-Barnes, publisher of the Washington Informer and past NNPA chair; Robert Kirton Jr., CEO DNAA of Educational Solutions & Support; Hilary Shelton, NAACP’s Washington Bureau; and Curtis Valentine, of the PG School Board. The discussion was moderated by Lannette Woodruff, OSSE Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Taskforce and Elizabeth Primas – ESSA program manager.
A Friday luncheon was held at The National Press Club. Donna Brazille, former chair of theDemocratic National Committee, was the keynote
speaker. Brazille has devoted her life to working for progressive change. She said she was never afraid to speak to any president regarding the uncomfortable issues that face this nation. She said we need more people of valor to run for office because Congressman John Lewis and Congresswoman Maxine Waters and others of valor can’t do it by themselves. Brazille had high praise of NNPA President & CEO Ben Chavis
and Rev. Amos Brown for their fight in Civil Rights over the many years.
Other highlights of Black Press Week included a discussion on “How Public Policy Can Help Shape the Future of Sickle Cell Disease. Ben
Chavis, NNPA CEO moderated a discussion with Dr. Kevin Williams and Angela Riemer, senior, director of Federal Government Relations with Pfizer. Deborah Clark was present with her son Benjamin who has suffered with Sickle Cell Disease his entire life.
Black Press Week is a function of the NNPA Foundation. Chavis said Black Press Week was a great success. He thanked the partners and sponsors for their participation and support. Partners included Ford, GM, RAI, Pfizer and Bill & Melinda Gates. Sponsors included AT&T,
Comcast, Wells Fargo, Volkswagen, AARP, Northrop Grumman and AmeriHealth.