By Stacy M. Brown,
NNPA Newswire Correspondent,
The Black Press of America entered its 195th year in 2022, highly engaged in the continued fight for freedom, justice, equity and equality.
Just one year after the Jan. 6 insurrection not only threatened America’s democracy but freedom for people of color, the United States and the hundreds of millions of news consumers demonstrated a need for the Black Press like never before.
Fake News and the growing number of overt racists who dispensed misinformation and false reports had taken over social media and mainstream headlines.
But like in 2020, when the Black Press was the first to reveal that the coronavirus was airborne, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) issued facts on which African Americans and others could be certain.
The NNPA is the trade association representing the more than 230 African-American-owned newspapers and media companies that comprise the Black Press of America.
Reeling from the deaths of American icon Sidney Poitier, Civil Rights leader and legal scholar Lani Guinier, Helen Chavis Othow, the beloved sister of NNPA President and C.E.O. Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., and many others, the Black Press challenged Congress.
Many urged lawmakers to eliminate the racist filibuster that suppressed needed laws like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) responded, calling for a vote to change the filibuster on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The vote failed, but America heard the clarion call from the Black Press.
When the Black Press noted President Joe Biden’s declining approval ratings among African Americans, the commander-in-chief responded on several fronts.
First, the Biden-Harris administration took a historical approach to advancing racial equity, including directing every agency across the federal government to address the lasting impacts of systemic racism on black communities.
Maya Angelou became the first black woman on the U.S. quarter, and Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first black woman appointed and confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. With the help of federal authorities, the killers of Ahmaud Arbery received life in prison.
Black Press U.S.A. ran the headline, “Will Commission Conclude that Trump was Negligent in Jan. 6 Insurrection?”
In December, the Jan. 6 Commission referred criminal charges to the Department of Justice, emphatically stating that the former president should face a judge and jury for inciting the insurrection.
Having already spearheaded a lawsuit against prison officials in Mississippi over conditions there, hip-hop superstar Jay-Z and his team publicly demanded that authorities investigate racism and corruption in the Kansas City Police Department.
In February, the nation’s historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) began facing bomb threats, while Howard University’s Lacrosse team met racial slurs during a game in South Carolina.
As critical race theory proved all the rage, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton called on Congress for $30 million to combat implicit bias in schools.
In a year of black achievement, Snoop Dogg purchased Death Row Records, the label that made him, Dr. Dre and many others famous.
The three officers involved in the murder of George Floyd finally received the justice many had sought, each pleading guilty for their role in killing the black Minneapolis man.
As Russia invaded Ukraine, the Black Press reminded the world why black lives should matter in Ukraine. Russia responded to America’s assistance to Ukraine by taking WNBA star Brittney Griner hostage, charging her with possessing a small amount of cannabis oil. A Russian court found her guilty, and the basketball player received a more than 9-year sentence. However, in a December prisoner swap, Griner finally returned home in exchange for notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
The P.G.A. Tour reiterated its commitment to the Black Press and continued offering scholarships and grants to HBCUs and other initiatives to people of color.
Meanwhile, an emotional Tiger Woods opened up for the first time. During his induction into the Pro Golf Hall of Fame, Woods spoke candidly about the racism and discrimination he faced as a child.
As African-American homeowners continued to face bias in real estate, Vice President Kamala Harris released a plan to stop appraisers from putting an unfair low value on the homes of black people.
Congress also passed the Crown Act, which ends discrimination against natural black hairstyles.
In Entertainment, despite the controversial Will Smith slap of Chris Rock, Florida A&M graduate Will Packer led an all-black production team for the 94th annual Academy Awards.
Deion Sanders, who survived life-saving surgery that resulted in the amputation of two toes, led Jackson State University’s football team to another successful season. Sanders then signed a multi-million-dollar contract to lead Colorado State in 2023.
The Black Press made news with outstanding accomplishments within its ranks.
William Garth, Sr., a philanthropist, community leader, activist, political influencer, and freedom fighter, earned posthumous enshrinement into the Black Press Archives and Gallery of Distinguished Black Publishers at Howard University’s historic Moorland-Spingarn Research Center.
The guiding force behind the Chicago Citizen Newspaper Group, Garth joined a host of others enshrined, including Lenora “Doll” Carter, Marcus Garvey, Frances Murphy, Dr. Mary Ellen Strong, Charles Tisdale and M. Paul Redd.
Dr. Toni Draper, the publisher of the AFRO, earned NNPA Publisher of the Year honors, and won selection as one of “25 over 50” by Editor & Publisher Magazine.
Texas Metro News Publisher and IMessenger Media boss, Cheryl Smith, also earned the same distinction. Additionally, Smith earned induction into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame. She was also named Distinguished Alumni by Florida A&M University School of Journalism and Graphic Communications.
Additionally, Houston Forward Times Associate Editor Jeffrey L. Boney, who serves as Mayor Pro Tem in Missouri City, has received appointments to two crucial national posts. The award-winning journalist, author, and two-term councilmember earned an appointment to the National League of Cities (N.L.C.) 2022 Community and Economic Development Federal Advocacy Committee (C.E.D.) and the 2022 Race, Equity, And Leadership Council – or REAL.
Dr. Chavis continued to bring the Black Press and NNPA to a global audience with his PBS TV and PBS World show, The Chavis Chronicles.
Meanwhile, the NNPA’s live morning show, Let It Be Known, continued to attract mainstream viewers and celebrity guests like Gabrielle Union, LisaRaye McCoy and Skip Marley. The show remains the NNPA’s premiere public-facing entity and, on Dec. 31, airs its 500th episode.
With its vision, legacy, culture and story on full display, the AFRO celebrated its 130th anniversary in style Saturday night with a gala at Martins Crosswinds in Greenbelt, Maryland. Comedian and D.C.-area native Tommy Davidson served as the night’s host, while Temeka Moore and Absolute Music performed various hit songs. The sold-out crowd capped the evening with a dance party as famed D.J. Kid Capri worked his magic on the turntables.
During the signing of anti-lynching legislation, Vice President Harris sang the praises of the Black Press. “Ida B. Wells,” Harris stated midway through her speech, “The courageous nature of that incredible American who used her skill, her profession, her calling, as a journalist to help open the eyes of our nation to the terror of lynching which speaks to the role – going off-script – and the importance of the Black Press and making sure that we have storytellers in our community, who will tell the story when no one else is willing to tell it.”
The Black Press also called out how white people were more likely to ignore safety precautions like wearing masks and social distancing during the pandemic when they realized the various and disproportionate ways COVID-19 affected African Americans. Psychologists at the University of Georgia’s Department of Social Science & Medicine made those conclusions following an in-depth study of racial disparities during the pandemic.
In releasing the 2022 State of Black America report, National Urban League President and C.E.O. Marc Morial said factions of state and federal lawmakers, working in concert with shady political operatives and violent extremists, are dangerously close to dismantling American democracy and establishing autocratic rule.
The report outlined “the conspiracy and the urgent case for a national mobilization to protect and defend our most sacred constitutional right,” Morial noted in the report titled “Under Siege: The Plot to Destroy Democracy.”
Karine Jean-Pierre became the first black woman to hold the White House press secretary job, while colleague Erica Loewe continued to open doors for black media at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
White Supremacy again reared its racist head with the massacre at Tops Supermarket in Buffalo. An 18-year-old white male, Payton Gendron, killed ten people and injured three others Saturday, May 14, in a venue where blacks make up the most significant percentage of shoppers and count as the majority of those who died.
Once again, Americans grappled with the nation’s latest example of senseless and unprovoked violence. This time, the dead included grandmothers, fathers, sons and sisters whose only “crime” would be picking up essential groceries for their families. The victims in the shooting included a former police officer and a beloved wife and grandmother who served as the primary caretaker for her husband, who lives in a nursing facility.
Federal and state governments, including in California, failed to protect black artists, culture-makers and media-makers from discrimination and simultaneously promoted discriminatory narratives, according to a report done by a task force investigating reparations for citizens in the Golden State.
State governments memorialized the Confederacy as just and heroic through monument building while suppressing the nation’s history of racism and slavery, said researchers for the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans.
When the U.S. Supreme Court abolished Roe V. Wade, individuals like the Rev. William Barber held a “Moral March on Washington,” helping to push the Biden administration and local governments into action to protect women.
In June, the NNPA wrapped its 2022 convention in New Orleans with a cruise aboard the Creole Queen Riverboat along the Mississippi River. But the convention, which celebrated the 195th anniversary of the Black Press in America and featured a live concert by Stephanie Mills, wasn’t about smooth sailing – especially given the issues facing African Americans and other marginalized communities.
Mark Thompson, the decorated journalist, and host of the podcast “Make It Plain,” moderated the topic, “Amplifying Voices of Generation Z and Millennials Through the Black Press of America.”
Electrifying the audience were on-air personalities Jonita “Go J.J. Go” Buchanan, DaNeshia Bell, Joshua McMillian, Lafayette Barnes and Melony Mainor.
Erica Myles, the senior consultant and senior vice president of Diverse Segments, Representation, and Inclusion for Wells Fargo, discussed the topic, “Relationships and Resources: Tools to Move Black-owned Small Businesses from Surviving to Thriving.”
A General Motors contingent spoke with NNPA President and C.E.O. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. about “The Path to Inclusion is Electric: How G.M. is Building an All-Inclusive Workforce to Build an All-Electric Future.”
Representatives from G.M. and Wells Fargo also sat for a live interview on the NNPA’s national news program “Let It Be Known.”
“The Google News Initiative Lab: Growing Digital Advertising Revenue” panel featured publishers James Washington of the Dallas Weekly, Janis Ware of the Atlanta Voice, Google News Initiative employees Eric Rosato and Casey Pallenik, and Association of Alternative Newsmedia Manager Todd Stauffer.
Munson Steed, the Rolling Out National Publications publisher, presented the topic: RIDE (Rolling Out Innovation Digital Entertainment) Lab for NNPA Publishers.
The year of Black Excellence continued despite repeated attacks on blackness.
In 2021, Rihanna achieved billionaire status. In 2022, Forbes acknowledged that the Barbadian beauty is now the youngest self-made billionaire in America. The 34-year-old, who recently gave birth to her first child, ranked 21st in the latest Forbes list of billionaires.
For the first time in its 246-year history, the Marines have a black four-star general. In addition, lt. Gen. Michael Langley was confirmed to lead all U.S. military forces in Africa as chief of U.S. Africa Command.
Democrats elected New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries as the party’s leader, making him the first black ever to head a major political party in Congress. The congressman, who once quoted the late Notorious B.I.G. during one of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment hearings and has maintained a vow to oppose Republican extremism, takes the reins from longtime House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who earlier this month stepped down from the party leadership role she held for nearly two decades.
For the second time in as many years, voters in Georgia have delivered a Senate runoff victory for Democrats.
Incumbent Raphael Warnock, who won a runoff in January 2021 against Republican Kelly Loeffler, defeated G.O.P. nominee Herschel Walker Tuesday in a close contest that saw both candidates earn nearly 2 million votes. Warnock’s victory underscored the major disappointment experienced by the G.O.P. after pundits and Republicans anticipated a so-called red wave that never materialized.
Harvard University has announced Claudine Gay as its new president. The dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Gay, becomes the first African American to serve as the university’s leader and the second woman president in the institution’s illustrious history. Founded in 1636, the university has graduated Barack Obama, John F. Kennedy, W.E.B Du Bois and other famous individuals and leaders.