National Newspaper Publishers Association NYC Conference Part II

By Gloria Dulan-Wilson

Welcome to Part II. I hope that you are continuing to read this 3-part report because I've given you some compelling info in reference to NNPA and the Black press and you want to know more.

One of the great things about being at a conference with your peers is that almost as much of relevance happens in between and after the meetings, as does during the workshops. And I felt as though I was walking in “high cotton” -- to borrow a term from my brothers and sisters from the South -- talking to such personages as Xernona Clayton of Atlanta, GA, who is a timeless legendary combination of beauty and purpose. Or breaking bread Pat Stevens of the Harlem Times.

Anyone who lived during the Civil Rights Era, or who has made it past the age of 40, knows perfectly well that had it not been for Black newspapers carrying the stories the white press tried to bury, we would still be sitting in the back of buses, crossing sidewalks to the other side every time a white person approached. We would still be seeing the ignominious signs that stated: “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”, or “for colored only” signs posted on water fountains, bathrooms; or being sent around to the back of a restaurant to take food out in a bag, rather being seated at a counter. The sit-ins at Woolworths i Greensboro, NC and other venues would have been glossed over as minor incidents by a “handful of dissidents” (the favorite dismissive phrase of white papers). Were it not for Black newspapers, Emmett Till’s heinous murder in Mississippi would have been handily swept under the rug.

Black newspapers exposed lynchings, which were marked with pride in the white press, revealing them for the vicious hate crimes they really are. White cops shooting victims in the back, which is recognized as an act of cowardice world wide, gets short shrift in the white press; while Black newspapers expose it for the continued racist, genocidal practice that has continued from the days of slavery.

While there are still problems, the light shed on the perpetrators makes it that much more difficult to be swept under the rug, and exposes the duality and duplicity for what they are.

By the same token, our heroes, who are often depicted as villains in the white media, have a voice to communicate with the people they are pledged to serve and save. Without Black newspapers, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Stokeley Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Angela Davis, the Rev. Al Sharpton , Rev. Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, Don King, Michael Jackson, The Hon. Louis Farrakhan, Assata Shakur, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Mumia Abu Jamal, Johnnie Cochran, Kermit Eady and the Black United Fund (BUFNY), The African Burial Ground, Maya Angelou (need I go on?) would have had no voice -- or it would have been reduced to a quote on the back page of the last one inch column on the inside page.

Think about it. During the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico, two Black men, who were medalists - Tommie Smith and John Carlos -- raised their gloved fists in protest to the racism in America. It was a brave act. The white press tried to label it as radicalism. The Black press applauded them for the heroes that they were. No one can tell our story but us, because no one understands what we go through, what we face on a daily basis, but us.

So important is the Black press to Black people, that boxing impresario Don King, upon learning of the impending closure of his hometown newspaper, the Cleveland (Ohio) Call & Post, bought the paper, and sent Michael House (now publisher of the Chicago Defender) from New York City to run it and get it back on track. It's still alive and well today.

No one understands the importance of Black newspapers more than the Rev. Al Sharpton, who has been parodied and harassed by mainstream media for decades.

I’m paraphrasing his address to the NNPA which gave food for thought across the board: “The white press won’t recognize the Black Press because they don’t want to recognize Black people.” Now to many this is not new news. However, to some, who somehow may have thought we had now arrived, this statement may come as a bit of a shock.

He stated that the two major factors that have influenced Black people over the past 100 years were Black Newspaper publications and the Black church; stating they are the only institutions that speak on our behalf.

Sharpton asserted, “ The white media marginalizes us. If we don’t define ourselves they define us as decadent. We must define ourselves.”

Focusing on our current state of affairs, Sharpton examined how we went from a status where every generation prior to this understood the need to look out for and support our own; to this current generation where it is more bent on “tearing down our women to whores and bitches.”

It’s a question that’s been asked or pondered over by scholars and regular African Americans. How did we go from being descendents of great kings and queens from Africa, to descending into the madness of self hatred, denigration and killing each other (not only here in the US, but in Africa as well?) What would bring us to such a level? And if you say the white press, then I have to ask, how did we become so gullible. Did we suddenly all develop mass amnesia?

One of the factors he cited is the fact that many {‘negro artists’} are paid to do so. White-fronted award shows that applaud artists for tearing down and degrading Black women, Black motherhood, and the Black family. Think about it, Halle Berry, a fabulous actress in her own right, was not nominated for an Academy Award until she did “Monsters Ball.”

On the other hand, Sharpton pointed out that Trumpet Awards uplift and celebrate, and get very little footage in the white press. If you don’t read about it in your own newspapers, you’d think we weren’t doing anything at all.

With Black Hip Hop “artists“ calling each other “n-gg-rs may call it a term of endearment, or telling it like it is, but really, is it the same when white corporate Americans supports it? (by the way in answer to the stupid question posted on the internet, it is not okay for Mel Gibson, or anyone else to use the “n” word in reference to Black people - don’t even try it!)

And it appears that Irish and Jewish publications can write negative information about us, but we cannot do the same in regards to them. The more truth we tell about their actions, the more likely there will be consequences. While at the same time their negativity is somehow either justified or ignored. But we can talk about ourselves in hostile manners and nobody cares. Or, worse yet, they are paid handsomely for doing so.

Sharpton maintains that if we truly have free speech we should be able to talk about everybody, not just N-gg-rs.

That’s the power of definition: “With his pants down and his pride down further he gets paid to talk about his mama You can’t use the “n” word because it’s important where you put yourself. N-gg-rs have no civil rights. It’s scary to let others define us when they don’t want us in a position of power.”

He went on to state that we have a Black president, Barak Hussein Obama, a Black Attorney General, Eric Holder, and forty Blacks in Congress. “But our kids are still four (4!!) reading levels behind whites.”

He’s not attributing that disparity to Obama, but to the fact that somehow African Americans think they can rest on their laurels and just float, and let the President do their job for them. It doesn’t work that way. These next eight years are a window of opportunity that mainstream whites have been working feverishly to close.

It seems, though Malcolm X coined the phrase “by any means necessary”, whites are following that maxim more by trying to keep us down, than we are in trying to empower ourselves (yes, I said it, and I meant it!). Our guys look good in their tailor made European business suits, but their minds and loyalties are now running on empty, as they try to whiten up in their quest to prove themselves “equal” to white businessmen (the same white businessmen, I might add, who just wrecked the entire economy of the US, Europe, and parts of Asia).

In reference to President Obama, Rev. Al warned that if we don’t take care of business, consolidating our efforts and coming up with a new Black paradigm (my words) in the next eight year window of opportunity, it’s not going to happen. Other groups will then step in and take everything and run with it, and will be justified in saying “You had your chance and you didn’t use it.”

If you look at history 50 to 60 years from now, the question will be what was the Black Media and Blak activism doing then? Interestingly enough, the 40 years since the Civil Rights Movement have been likened to the period after Moses received the 10 Commandments, and the people, because of their breach of faith with God’s Covenant, ended up wandering around in the desert.

There are some among us who would rather detract from Obama’s accomplishments -- calling themselves “being objective” -- and, rather than cooperating with and supporting his efforts, spend a considerable amount of time taking snipes at him. We cannot afford to become the next Joshua generation: “We have forgotten what brought us out of Montgomery and Birmingham.” We cannot afford 40 more years of wandering around mentally, spiritually, and physically lost in a desert of self-denigration, self-hatred, self-sabotage, and delusion. Our collective muscle, skills, talents and abilities have to be fixed focus on maximizing this time that we have now. We either seize this time, or are back in the prison of mental (and maybe even chattel) slavery.

(By the way, don’t let that gulf oil spill fool you. Any fool knows those contracts and documents were Bush-generated. And that rules were lax so that they could benefit from more money. Just like the financial crises, they were ticking time bombs that would inevitably explode. The good thing is that it gives Obama the impetus to enact the measures he enunciated in Denver - to end the dependency on fossil fuels, and begin the development of cleaner, more environmental friendly, greener fuels. This is a catalyst, not his denoument - as the white mainstream press would have you believe).

Addressing issues that assail the Black press when it comes to advertising dollars and revenue, Sharpton advised them to stop going to those advertisers like they’re doing us a favor. “What good is it to have Blacks in high places if we don’t benefit from it? If it hadn’t been for a lot of movement on the ground we wouldn’t be here!”

He pointed out that the need for Civil Rights didn’t stop in the 60’s in the South. It has continued through the urban racism in the boardrooms that try to identify us (read pigeonhole).

He spoke of the difference between being influential as opposed to being controversial, asking how is it that you are influential when you fought in the past but present protest activities makes you “controversial.”

“Black press has the power of definition. If we allow white press to define use we’re done, take the chains off our legs and put it on our minds.” If when you are a white businessman or woman you are “savvy”, but when you’re a Black businessman or woman, you’re “slick”, you might want to pay more attention to how you’re being defined. The power of definition has to rest with those being defined. “We must resist the temptation to emulate that have our demise in mind. Once we accept the premise, we are the conclusion.”

Our ancestors, who survived the Middle Passage, and the horrors of slavery were a strong and mighty people., while our contemporaries, and many of the youth of today appear to be stymied (I call it stuck on stupid) “They took nothing and turned the world upside down; we’ve got everything and can’t do nothing.” What with computers, cell phones, fast cars, we’re dumber than they’ve ever been, most of whom were forbidden to read or write, or attend ivy league schools.

What are we so afraid of? If so sit down and shut up and let someone else stand up! Most Blacks were never in the movement. It’s always been the few that paid the cost for the many. We have to be the few. We must recapture the power of definition. Our Black newspapers have to always define who we are. We can’t be a Negro version of what the white folks are talking about. We can’t just have Black faces in high places..” who would do no more for us than their counterparts.

The power of self definition is as important today, in our generation, and the NNPA is at the center of the cultural, spiritual and economic identity of Black America.

Rev. Sharpton, who founded the National Action Network has always been known and loved for bringing it all down front, and telling it like it needs to be told (not just like it is). His vision and mission, not to mention his willingness to put his life on the line and be a voice for the voiceless, has garnered him a great deal of love and respect in the Black community and many other circles world wide.

We need many more Al Sharptons in every community where there are African Americans and people of African heritage, to begin to forge the new message that this time around we will not be moved, removed, or redefined for the convenience and comfort of a structure that essentially proliferated and thrived and survived on the backs of ours and our ancestors labor. That we are bringing together those same strengths in our own behalves, and the next eight to forty years is all about us, from the most positive, powerful, and highest standpoint. And that's not a threat, it's a promise.

Stay Blessed &
Gloria Dulan-Wilson

Part III Congressman Charlie Rangel and Music Impresario Berry Gordy receive prestigious NNPA Award.

PS: Homework: Get a subscription to at least one local Black publication in your area, and one in another area. Contact someone in your hometown and send them a list of the Black Publications in Part I. Encourage them to subscribe to at least two in areas outside their community, or state. We need to reach outside our own circle and become in tune with what's happening with our brothers and sisters in other parts of the US.


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