Black Press: The Voice of Black America
By Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. NNPA Columnist
(Last of Five Parts)
Our voice for the cause of freedom, justice, equality, and empowerment is the consistent voice of struggle and self-determination representing the interests of 45 million Black Americans and others who yearn for a better quality of life. The Black Press of America, primarily through local and regional newspapers printed weekly across the nation, continues the long tradition of being the effective voice of social change. It is with both a sense of pride and humility that we serve the cause of liberation and the quest for economic prosperity not only for Black Americans but also for all who believe in equality and the oneness of humanity.
We all should never forget that the only reason we have basic knowledge about our long struggle for freedom is because of the continued existence and persistence of the Black Press of America. Thus, this is not the time for us to start taking for granted the value and importance of having and supporting our own newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and other forms of media.
In addition to personally telling me that “The pen is mightier than the sword,” James Baldwin also emphasized, “Our Black-owned newspapers are at the vanguard of our struggle for freedom because they dare to print the truth about our situation in America and in the world. And that is the news that we need to first read!”
The eloquent and penetrating words of James Baldwin are still true today. Take for example the recent case of brutal police brutality on a defenseless Black grandmother, Marlene Pinnock, on the streets of Los Angeles that was once again captured on video tape. This whole violent drama is a direct reminder of the Rodney King brutality case that was also recorded by a witness videographer in Los Angeles.
If it were not for the persistence of the Black Press of America, this case would have an ended as just another anonymous case of an alleged un-provoked assault on a police office in the performance of duty under the law. Thanks to The Final Call and the Los Angeles Sentinel, millions of people will now know the truth about that tragic racially-motivated, vicious assault on Marlene Pinnock by a bulky white California Highway Patrolman.
National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) Chairman Emeritus Danny Bakewell, Sr. and publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper stated, “This time it’s a Black woman. Last week it was a Black man. Last week it was our son, and we want to make sure that next week it’s not us…. There is no belief that the highway patrol can investigate itself.”
Of course police brutality is not just a problem in Los Angeles. It is a national issue and in nearly every city and town in the United States the occurrence of racially-motivated police misconduct and brutality is well documented.
The hateful and prejudiced physical assaults on Black Americans will not go unchallenged. The NNPA will continue to report this news and we will continue to raise our collective voice in opposition to all forms of brutality and oppression. It is important to note that we are also witnessing more political assaults on the voting rights of Black Americans and others who have been historically denied the right to vote.
Next year with mark the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. But as we approach this historic milestone to ensure fairness and equality in American democracy, the Supreme Court of the United States and right wing controlled state legislatures in many states are systematically attempting to dismantle the enforceable mandates of the Voting Rights Act.
As the demographics of the U.S. as part of the “Browning of America,” the efforts of those who want to take the nation backward to the days of “Jim Crow” and de jure racial discrimination and exploitation appear to be gaining some political momentum. The good news is the Black Americans and Latino Americans will increasingly hold the margin of victory in many Congressional races and statewide elections in the majority of the important “swing states” in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
All of this simply means we have work to do. We have social change movements and political and economic development organizations to build and sustain as we look to the future. In the face of those who want to take the nation backward, we must re-assert our determination to strive to excellence in everything that we do and in everything that we invest our time, money and energy.
We will assure you that the “Voice of Black America” will do its part to inform, wake-up, organize and mobilize. There are more opportunities to advance the cause of freedom and equality than ever before. Let’s work together. Let’s pray together. And let’s pool our considerable financial resources to invest in our children, families, communities, businesses, and institutions.