Celebrating the Black Press

The Dallas Examiner | 4/6/2015, 9:02 a.m.
Last week, publishers from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Detroit, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Jackson, Mississippi, Atlanta, North Carolina, New York, ...
The Dallas Examiner Logo Photo by Robyn H. Jimenez

The Dallas Examiner

Last week, publishers from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Detroit, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Jackson, Mississippi, Atlanta, North Carolina, New York, Minnesota, Philadelphia and Baltimore gathered in Washington, D.C., to celebrate 75 years of Black newspapers telling our stories.

One activity was the rededication of the NNPA/Howard University Media Lab, demonstrating our continued commitment to the next generation of journalists. The lab was refurbished with 16 new Macintosh computers, updated software and desks. Journalism students at Howard use the lab for classes and have an opportunity to work directly with NNPA Editor-in-Chief George Curry and his reporters.

During the Black Press celebration, 20 interns from colleges across the U.S. who work at Black newspapers participated in workshops and covered Black Press Week activities. It was a joy seeing the interaction of the young interns with seasoned publishers.

The Trice Edney News Wire hosted a luncheon at the National Press Club, where Hazel Trice Edney honored Black women publishers. Among those receiving awards was the publisher for 30 years or more of The Dallas Examiner, Mollie Finch Belt.

The mission of the Trice Edney News Wire is “to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted” who are in America, all too often African Americans. According to Edney, her wire service offers our content – stories, special reports and perspective pieces – to not only speak truth to power, but to empower readers everywhere with information charting and fortifying African American progress, thereby American progress. You will find news from the newswire published in Black newspapers throughout the United States.

The annual Enshrinement Ceremony of Distinguished Black Publishers was held in the Gallery at the Moorland Spingarn Library on Howard University’s campus. Francis Page Sr., publisher of Houston Newspages, and Ludwald Orren Settipher Perry, M.D., publisher of the Tennessee Tribune, were enshrined during the ceremony.

In March 1827, Samuel E. Cornish and John B. Russwurm founded Freedom’s Journal to give the African American community a voice. Established two months after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, it was the first Black newspaper – owned and operated by Blacks. It spoke to the African American community in an effort to educate and uplift free Blacks. It printed features about the accomplishments of African Americans and encouraged its readers to educate themselves and their children so that they can live up to their highest potential. It also announced births, deaths and weddings, employment and education opportunities, etc.

Moreover, it sought to set the story straight in regard to negative articles and commentary about African Americans that was printed in mainstream newspapers. In the Journal’s first issue, the editors wrote as their first entry a lengthy explanation of their purpose.

“We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us. Too long has the publick been deceived by misrepresentations in things which concern us dearly, though in the estimation of some mere trifles; for though there are many in society who exercise towards us benevolent feelings; still (with sorrow we confess it) there are others who make it their business to enlarge upon the least trifle, which tends to the discredit of any person of colour; and pronounce anathemas and denounce our whole body for the misconduct o this guilty one,” as written in the third paragraph of the Journal, Vol. I.

The purpose of the Black Press hasn’t changed. Today, more than ever, we need Black newspapers to tell our stories; set the record straight; educate and inform the community about decisions being made by the government, events taking place and opportunities; as well as uplift the community through feature stories about those who have overcome great odds and/or obtained a noteworthy achievement.

For the past 188 years, Black newspapers have boldly and proudly championed the cause of the African American communities. And with great passion and purpose, publishers, editors and journalists of Black newspapers will continue this mission.

Join the conversation. Send your letter to mbelt@dallasexaminer.com.