By MICHAEL A. GRANT
I write this brief essay with two goals in mind: First, I want to extend a warm welcome to the National Newspaper Publishers Association to its annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee. And secondly, to try to share with your readers the powerful impact that the Black Press continues to have on our struggle for total equality in America.
From Frederick Douglas’ The North Star to Ida B. Wells’ The Memphis Free Press and all subsequent members of the Black press, the plight of African Americans was chronicled and a beacon of hope was provided through the journalistic efforts and trials of the country’s heroic Black Press. I cannot begin to capture the countless ways that the Black Press acted as the vanguard and the persistent battering ram against forces of oppression in this country. What I would like to do is to act as an eyewitness to the enormous contribution that NNPA member papers made during the last thirty years where I had a bird’s eye view of their reporting.
It was around 1992, while serving as branch president of the NAACP here in Nashville, that I had cause to contact NNPA’s office in Washington, D.C. We, at the branch, were reaping the benefits of an initiative to restore the voting rights of felons who had served their time and were interested in enfranchisement. I contacted the local Elections Commission Office and requested that it move its operations one Saturday to the branch office. The campaign was a huge success so we decided to broadcast our efforts nationally in hopes that others would follow suit.
After reaching out to Hazel Trice Edney and Rosetta Miller-Perry, the word was disseminated around the country. The rest is history.
My next encounter with the NNPA centered on a marketing strategy for Athan Gibbs’ TruVote Voting System. Arguably, Gibbs’ ingenious invention of the TruVote validation and verification voting system saved American democracy. I know this is a bold assertion but after experiencing the debacle that was the 2000 presidential election, I witnessed (as vice-president of marketing for TruVote) first-hand how Gibbs’ accounting skills helped the country to move to a voting system where confidence could be restored in the voting process.
Although he was not given credit for revolutionizing voting in America, I shudder to think of how the country could have survived the attempted coup in 2020 if our voting systems were as flawed as Gibbs found them to be during of the 2000 presidential election. I also noticed, years after Gibbs’ untimely death, that I voted on a system that looked remarkedly like Gibbs’ invention, which was widely covered by NNPA member papers.
Lastly, and again, I had to tap into the journalistic excellence of Edney to help raise the consciousness of Black Americans about the need for building intergenerational wealth. Three national organizations, with the help of Congresswoman Maxine Waters, kicked off a movement called Black Wealth 2020 in 2015. The founding organizations were the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters and the National Bankers Association. The presidents of these groups were Ron Busby Sr., Jim Winston and Michael Grant, respectively. The coalition expanded to several other organizations.
Black Wealth 2020 set three ambitious goals: To significantly increase the number of Black-owned businesses and their gross receipts; to increase home ownership by two million; and to increase deposits in and loans with Black banks. At its Winter meeting, the goals of Black Wealth 2020 were ratified by the National Black Caucus of State Legislators a year after the coalition was formed. NNPA newspapers thoroughly covered the movement and led millions of Black Americans to a realization of their buying strength and the power generated by a unity of purpose.
This partial recounting of the great work of the NNPA is not meant to be exhaustive. It is, however, a reminder that the medium is the message, and no other media will tell our story with the same passion and desire for Black progress that NNPA members have demonstrated.
Thank you, NNPA, and welcome to the home of Tennessee State University, Meharry Medical College and Fisk University. I hope you enjoy Southern hospitality at its very best.
Michael A. Grant, J.D. is president of United Security Financial, Inc., a full-fledge, Black-owned mortgage company. He is also former president of the National Bankers Association.