By Karen Reedus Jasper
Special to the NNPA
from The Chicago Crusader
In celebration of the 184th anniversary of the founding of Freedom’s Journal, the first Black newspaper on March 16, 1827 by John B. Russwurm and Samuel E. Cornish in New York City, the National Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation held three days of activities to commemorate the milestone as part of Black Press Week.
The activities were coordinated and planned by the National Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation’s Chair Dorothy R. Leavell, publisher of the Crusader Newspapers in Chicago, Illinois and Gary, Indiana and Black Press Week Chair Harry C. Alford, president and chairman of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.
Activities held during Black Press Week included a visit of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument, which was sponsored by General Motors Corporation and was led by Jocelyn Allen, GM’s Regional Grassroots and Diversity Communications Director. More than 40 Black Publishers and guests were greeted at the monument by Harry E. Johnson, Sr., president of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc., Dr. Ed Jackson, Jr., executive architect, and Richard W. Marshall, Chief Financial Officer, and Lisa Anders, of McKissack & McKissack, senior program director. During the event, the publishers were briefed on the construction process that has taken nearly eight years to complete. The publishers marveled at the beauty and concept that captures the life of the Nobel Peace Prize recipient and civil rights icon.
Also, a welcome reception for participants was sponsored by Wells Fargo, represented by Michelle Thornhill, senior vice president and African American Segment manager. Thornhill welcomed the publishers to the nation’s capitol and Black Press Week. Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., chair of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, brought greetings, as Dorothy R. Leavell, NNPA Foundation chairperson served as presider.
The annual visit to Capitol Hill began with a breakfast meeting attended by several members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (DMO), CBC Chair, served as host of the gathering that included Reps. James Clyburn (D-SC), Donna Christensen (D-VI), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Danny K. Davis (D-IL), former CBC chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), Bobby Scott (DVA), Mel Watt (D-NC), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Karen Bass (D-CA), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Al Green (D-TX), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), and Laura Richardson (D-CA). Joining the CBC members was Democratic Leader and House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who expressed her appreciation and pleasure in meeting with the Black Press each year during Black Press Week. Sharon Jenkins, a representative for Cong. Bobby Rush (D-IL), also attended.
During the two and one-half hour meeting on Capitol Hill, the Black publishers, political leaders, discussed issues affecting African Americans and the nation.
Following the Capitol Hill event, Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., presented the power of the Black Press message during a National Press Club luncheon, at which he also announced a NNPA initiative to have the Wilmington 10 pardoned. Emceed by noted journalist and NNPA columnist George Curry, the audience was spellbound by the video of the Wilmington 10 and remarks by the most well-known member of the group, Dr. Benjamin Chavis, who is now President of the Education Online Services Corporation.
Among the highlights of the activities was the Newsmakers of the Year ceremony. More than 200 guests attended the semi-formal event that honored Newsmaker of the Year Shirley Sherrod, former employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Lifetime Achiever Publisher Emeritus Garth Reeves, of The Miami Times; NorthStar Community Service award recipients, John Boyd, of the National Black Farmers Association and Timothy Pigford, a Black Farmer from North Carolina, who filed the class action lawsuit to aid Black Farmers; and the 10 members of the Congressional Black Caucus Financial Services Committee that took a courageous stand to benefit African American citizens, as well as the Black Press.
NNPA Foundation partners – the National Cancer Institute, represented by James Alexander, Centers for Disease Control, represented by Dr. Robert Bailey, and a representative from the University of Maryland – discussed their relationship with the Foundation and the publishers. The Republican National Committee, represented by Rick Wiley, Political Director, also spoke with the publishers about a collaboration with Black publishers.
The culminating event for Black Press Week was the Enshrinement of Deceased Publishers in the Gallery of Distinguished Publishers at Howard University’s Moorland Spingarn Research Center. A highly emotionally charged ceremony was attended by the family members of the deceased Publishers honored during the event, including Cloves Campbell, Sr. and Dr. Charles Campbell, publisher of the Arizona Informant, Charles W. Cherry, publisher of the Daytona Times and Florida Courier newspapers, and N.A. Sweets, publisher of the St. Louis American, all of whom joined the 63 other NNPA Publishers inducted in the Gallery of Distinguished Publishers. Dr. Clifford L. Muse, Jr., University Archivist of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, received the plaques of the deceased publishers to add to the Gallery.
Publishers in attendance lauded the coordinators for one of the best Black Press Week observances in recent memory. Cheryl Pearson McNeil, senior vice president, Public Affairs and Government Relations for The Nielsen Company, Larry Waters, director of Multicultural Relations, for MillerCoors Brewing Company, and Chuck Morrison, UniWorld Group, representing Ford Motor Company, were major supporters of the events.