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Black publishers frame coalition with Black churches and Black universities to address socio-economic issues during NNPA Annual Retreat

group Black publishers frame coalition with Black churches and Black universities to address socio economic issues during NNPA Annual Retreat

“The Trilogy” comprised of NNPA members, HBCU representatives, and Black clergy, gathered in a show of solidarity at the offices of the Richmond Free Press which held a reception in honor of the occasion

Black publishers frame coalition with Black churches and Black universities to address socio-economic issues during NNPA Annual Retreat

By Charles Moseley

     Members of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) Region II convened their annual retreat Sept. 27-29, 2012 in Richmond, Va. The retreat was hosted by The Richmond Free Press, one of the NNPA’s leading publications.

    NNPA Region II includes member newspapers from eight states from around the southeastern parts of the United States including: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

    The central theme of the NNPA Region II Annual Retreat was titled, “From Surviving to Thriving,” and focused on a plethora of contemporary issues facing African Americans nationwide.

    Richmond Free Press Publisher Raymond H. Boone set the tone for the three-day retreat during his official welcoming speech which marked the opening of several days of spirited panel discussions. Boone admonished the Black community not to become complacent during such an important time in America’s history. Citing Voter Suppression Laws drafted by elected officials from the Republican Party, Boone warned that The Black Press must be actively engaged in ex-posing injustice wherever it occurred. He said that the Black Press still must lead the struggle in the battle for socio-economic and political justice while it still continues its role as the catalysts for positive change in America.

    “We are living in a post re-construction era today in which all of the gains we’ve made have been stripped away. It is time for a regeneration of the Black Press which stands for liberation.”

    Boone made historical references to the Civil War. During his speech, Boone chided those he said who had taken the opportunity to celebrate the cause of the Confederacy during the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War.

    “There are many challenges to help our country to survive.                   

    What this represents is the opportunity to regenerate the mission of the Black Press. Let me remind you that are here, that you are in the capital of Virginia, not the capital of Confederacy. You’re not in the capital of the Confederacy which is often mentioned during this scandalous time when Virginia, like a lot of Southern states are celebrating their 150th Anniversary of the Civil War.

    “We have a very perverted history wherein the winners of the Civil War are degraded, wherein the winners do not get the glory. But you have the losers who stood for slavery, who stood for destroying the nation; they are the ones who get the glory. How perverted can you be? There is hardly a place in Richmond that you can go where you will not find a statue or find a building, or a bridge that is named in honor of those who were traders. What does that represent? It represents an opportunity.”

    During his speech, Boone also made reference to Virginia Abolitionist John Mitchell, Jr., as he recalled the time when Mitchell risked his life to investigate the scene of an apparent lynching of a Black man during the late 1800’s. A historical account of that incident states that Mitchell, with two pistols strapped to his side, is said to have “walked into the jaws of death for his people.”

    “John Mitchell was not only concerned about his people, but he was also concerned about America living up to its promise, “Boone added.         

    Boone helped spearhead the effort to recognize the life of Mitchell by having a Virginia Historical Highway Marker erected in his honor. The unveiling ceremony, which paid tribute to Mitchell, took place at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, on July 14, 2012.

    Panelists representing The Black Press, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and Black clergy tackled a wide range of socio-economic issues. Some of the topics focused on controversial issues such as hazing and the “Stand Your Ground” Laws. Still other topics addressed some of the practical matters such as increasing advertising revenues and formulating partnerships between Black newspapers and HBCUs particularly concerning digital technology.

    Some of the topics discussed included; A Time to Reflect, Renew, and Re-energize, The Power of The Black Press and the Black Pulpit: Let us Unite, A Real Strategy to Increase Revenues/Sales, A Unique Partnership: The Black Press and HBCUs Developing a Strategy for Survival, National Anti-Hazing/Anti-Violence Movement: Motivating the Black Press to rid the Community of the Culture of Hazing, National Save the Family Now Movement: Energizing the Black Press to Save the Black Family, How the Black Press Can Educate The Black Community on How to Change, Repeal, or Modify, Stand Your Ground Laws and The Power of Advertising and Marketing in the 21st Century.

    Rev. Dr. R.B. Holmes, Jr., is the publisher of the Capitol Outlook in Tallahassee, Fla. and the president of Region II of the NNPA. Holmes spoke to the need for Black publishers to be diligent in preserving the heritage of the Black Press in continuing to present news from a perspective which the main-stream media is unable to do. Holmes said that by working together alongside the Black clergy and Black HBCUs, the Black Press would move beyond mere survival but toward thriving as a Black institution.

    “We must continue to tell our story. If the Black Press doesn’t and the Black church doesn’t, then who will? We must focus, focus, focus,” said Holmes.

    Day two of the retreat began with a prayer breakfast which preceded the panel discussion that focused on how the Black Press and Black church could unite to help build a strong Black community by addressing issues facing Black families.

    Rev. Dr. John Grant, vice-president, National Save the Family Now Movement, Inc., president, Unity Fellowship of Churches, Inc., and pastor of the Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Ashville, N.C., spoke on the topic of “hazing” which has been one of major concern recently and received quite a bit of media attention as the result of the death of Florida A & M University drum major Robert Champion, who is alleged to have died as a result of being hazed during last year’s football season.

    Dr. Grant said that hazing often has been dismissed as harmless pranks. He said that hazing was, however, a very serious and wide spread practice which has no place on the campus of any institution of higher learning. He called on the Black church to speak out against and encouraged corporations and the community to do the same.

    “Hazing is an impediment to the educational climate at all schools. We must be concerned with the total welfare of our neighbors. Worshiping in the sanctuary without working in the community is unacceptable,” said Dr. Grant.

    William Tomkins, president /CEO of the NNPA, outlined his strategy aimed at increasing advertising revenues by targeting national advertising agencies who represent traditional as well as non-traditional advertising sources including: automotive, financial services, packaged goods, entertainment, governmental advertising, pharmaceuticals, restaurant chains, and social media. He set an ambitious goal of generating $20 million in ad revenues in advertising annually.

    “The NNPA represents 19 million readers weekly and a trillion dollars in spending potential power. We plan to target advertisers who use print to sell products and services used by Black consumers”.

    Brenda Andrews is the publisher of the New Journal & Guide in Norfolk, Va. Andrews bought the newspaper in 1994 and brought, the company out of bankruptcy and built it into a multi-million dollar company today.

    She said part of the reason she was able to do so was due to her using the newspaper’s archives as a revenue source. She said that tourism is one area that Black newspapers should focus on for potential advertising and pointed to the celebration of the 400th Anniversary of the arrival of Africans to America in 2019 as an additional opportunity to market to advertisers.

    A luncheon featured a panel entitled, A Unique Partnership: The Black Press and HBCUs Developing A Strategy for Survival, which outlined how each institution could play a part in improving communities in a number of areas primarily through research, education, and disseminating information to those communities.

    Former President of South Carolina State University, Dr. George Cooper is the chair of the Council of 1890 Universities. Dr. Cooper, along with Dr. Ann Kimbrough, dean of the Florida A&M University (FAMU) School of Communications, proposed strategies which called upon each institution to work together on things which each had a vested interest. They agreed these institutions must serve as strong economic engines respectively, in addition to being a source of pride and accomplishment to those who work and live in their community.

    “Land grant institutions have continued to serve communities for the last 122 years. They provide opportunities for community engagement, outreach, and support the search for scholarship. The economic impact provided by these institutions has an impact locally, regionally, and throughout the nation.”

    Dr. Kimbrough urged the Black Press and HBCUs to work together, utilizing the talent and resources inherent by students on the campuses of HBCUs nationwide. She pointed out that FAMU in Tallahassee, Fla. and Howard University in Washington, D.C. had partnered to produce a radio show on Sirius Radio. She also said that FAMU was in its eighth year of implementing its Media Sales Institute.

    In summarizing his take on the conference, Bobby R. Henry, Sr. publisher of the Westside Gazette in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., stated, “What I got from this meeting was the reaffirming of my role and responsibilities as a Black publisher. Not an African American publisher, not a negro publisher but a Black publisher and all that comes with being such!”

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    Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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