I attended the annual conference of the National Newspaper Publisher's Association (NNPA) in Nashville, Tennessee, last week. The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), also known as the Black Press of America, is a 69-year-old federation of more than 200 Black community newspapers from across the United States.
Since World War II, it has also served as the industry's news service, a position that it has held without peer or competitor since the Associated Negro Press dissolved by 1970. In 2000, the NNPA launched NNPA Media Services– a print and web advertising-placement and press release distribution service.
I am always inspired by the gathering of African American giants in the newspaper publishing business. Our struggles and our mission as the voice of Black America is challenging, and yet there are papers who have celebrated as many as 100 years in the business.
These papers have participated in publishing and advocating for the rights and privileges of African Americans across this nation and the world for more than 100 years. Invited guest speakers encourage members on how to keep strong communities moving forward. One of this year's speakers was former NBA player, Kevin Johnson, who now serves as mayor of Portland, Oregon.
Johnson encouraged the publishers to return to our communities and continue promoting a Black agenda that includes economics, education and politics of our particular communities. Using the National Urban League's annual report on the status of Black America, Johnson reminded the publishers that, across America, cities and state governments are spending more on building prisons while closing down schools. In categories that are good, like education, Black America seems to fall at the bottom, while in categories that are bad, like crime, the trajectory of Black America seems to soar at the top. We need a Black agenda to change and reverse the trajectory. Johnson said we need to follow the model of Hispanics. He cited the Civil Rights Movement and said that Blacks say, "We shall overcome", while Hispanics say, "We shall overwhelm."
Other inspiring speakers included actress and activist, Sheryl Lee Ralph, who encouraged the publishers to become more involved in fighting AIDS in America. Sheryl admonished the crowd of publishers that since they are the voice of the Black community, they need to preach to their readers to take Black health issues seriously. "Black America," she said, "is an endangered speecies, subject to high blood pressure and strokes, AIDS, heart disease and cancer. We must educate the public to value our health before it's too late. We are not writing about it and talking about it and not asking it seriously."
My particular inspiration came with the sub-theme of the conference, saying that publishers need to do more than publish their papers as their participation in the communities. While we are involved in a number of initiatives and activities, I want to do more with the educational activities, specifically, the Professional Careers Institute that we began some years ago, to introduce the professions to students and expose them to more career opportunities. In that vein, I am planning a seminar on careers and entrepreneurship in the Fall.
Anyone interested may contact me directly at the Journal: (626) 798-3972.