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Empowering, uplifting and uniting Black America

Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. | 3/31/2014, 12:24 p.m.

(NNPA) – Every March the National Newspaper Publishers Association and its philanthropic arm, the NNPA Foundation, gather in Washington, D.C., for Black Press Week. I attended this year’s Black Press Week with a heightened interest in how your Black-owned newspapers, together with the Black Church and our Historically Black Colleges and Universities across America can all work together to plan, execute and sustain the economic, social, political, cultural and spiritual empowerment of our families, businesses and communities in every state.

It is indeed a pleasure to share with you that we witnessed a profound sharing of insights, knowledge and experiences from a diverse collective of NNPA publishers, business leaders, academic researchers, theologians, and from a noted group of family, youth and community leaders. It was an intergenerational conference of experts who exchanged perspectives on not just the systemic problems that beset the majority of more than 45 million Black Americans, but also and more importantly on the “participatory” solutions to our problems. Throughout many of the workshops and panel discussions, a common theme emerged: “We all should work strategically together to empower our people in every facet of business, education, technology, media and human endeavor.”

Empowerment may be defined as the process of enabling the attainment of sustainable power. Power is the ability, authority and capacity to do and act in one’s interest unrestrained by external factors, fears, threats or intimidations. Power is not just a mathematical formula involving time and distance, power is also an economic and political reality and condition that impacts the quality of life of humanity.

Black Americans have an annual combined spending or consumer power of more than $1 trillion. We have to express our gratitude to the NNPA and the Nielsen Company for their excellent research that documents the spending patterns of Black Americans. Yet, too many of our businesses are facing severe financial difficulties. The housing foreclosure rate in our communities continues to be the highest rate even amidst a gradual economic recovery of the U.S. housing market. Too many of our HBCUs are experiencing funding and resource development challenges.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released another national study that shows that we have the highest rate of HIV infections in the nation. The CDC reported, “Blacks make up only 12% of the U.S. population but had nearly half (44%) of all new HIV infections in the United States.” But there was also some news: “Despite these numbers, there are encouraging signs of progress against HIV in the black community. Blacks are more likely than other races and ethnicities to report that they have been tested for HIV at least once – 65% versus 46% for Hispanics/Latinos and 41% for whites. And the number of new HIV infections among blacks overall is on target to meet a 2015 national goal to reduce new infections by 25%. As well, black women had a 21% decline in new infections. But more work needs to be done to make sure everyone knows how to protect themselves and their partners against HIV.”