Marking Black History Month, the roundtable set many questions before Richmond with racial equity in mind.

Cedric Richmond (Courtesy Photo)

On Thursday, February 4, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) recognized the beginning of Black History Month with a virtual conversation with White House Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond.

“We look forward to the next briefing, in the meantime, we’re going to count on you, I want you to count on us, it’s reciprocity,” said Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., president and CEO of the NNPA. “We’re going to do our job and help you get the message out.

He continued, “We know that the American Rescue Plan is so important and if there is anything, we can do to help get it through Congress in terms of raising public awareness, you can count on us.”

“We are the team that can do outreach in our community and with that I’ll just say we thank you for this opportunity,” said Karen Carter Richards, publisher of the Houston Forward Times and chair of the NNPA. “We’re looking forward to more briefings so that we can get this information out to our communities.”

“Let me start off for thanking NNPA for what you do,” said Richmond. “Not everybody knows it, so I will take a second and just let people know—you tell the unvarnished truth, you give it to us unedited and in many places, that is the most reliable news that people can get, whether picking up a copy when they leave church… local corner store or grocery store or, in my case, they’re leaving their Black bank in New Orleans, this is where they pick up the information that they know that they can trust.”

The virtual roundtable was attended online by members of the NNPA including publishers, editors and journalists. On the table for discussion were a variety of topics including the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Census, the American Rescue Plan and federal advertising with the Black Press. Richmond was asked questions by Chavis submitted from members of the NNPA. This is the Q&A from the recent roundtable which can be seen on the NNPA Facebook Page.

Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.: Right now, the CDC has messaging dollars that they’re spending to get the message out helping human services also, what can we do to engage more of the Black Press to help the administration get this word out? I think that in the past, at least over the last four years, there was very little, I mean less than a crumb off the table that came from these agencies that are spending money to get word out, like on COVID-19, but the Black Press has been relatively left out. How can we correct that?”

Cedric Richmond: We have to reach everybody in this country. [The NNPA] reach people that other newspapers, other outlets, other means of communication does not reach and you reach it with a level of credibility that others may not have. It is vital for us to get our hands around this that we include you and we’re not going to ask you to do it for free and there are some things, we are going to ask you to do for free in terms oof public service announcements on certain things, but to the extent that we’re advertising, I think [NNPA] should be a key component because again, in Black and Brown areas, there are outlets that are unique to them that we should be advertising at.

BC: Can you confirm that the Biden/Harris administration will ensure that President Biden’s recent executive orders on racial justice and equity will be enforced and specifically implemented by all of the administration’s cabinet departments, agencies and other federal instrumentalities with respect to a whole of government commitment to advertising with African American and other people of color news and media businesses?

CR: This is part of where I would say let past actions give you an inference. Let me start with saying how serious the president is on racial equity. On his first day, one of his executive orders was establishing a whole of government plan on racial equity and that is holding every agency, every department accountable and finding out where we are now and moving towards progress. We are absolutely dead serious about racial equity.

BC: Has the Biden/Harris administration received a comprehensive list of issues that impact the quality of life of the African American community, such as, a national Black Agenda, if so, can you share with us the major issues of that agenda that have been raised and if not, are you open to receiving a national Black Agenda for consideration?

CR: Yes, we have received many policy papers on what can and should be done to help the African American community. They all provide blueprints for addressing those issues, from the Urban League to NAACP, to Color of Change to Black Lives Matter, to the Black Lives Movement. Everybody has been thought leaders on getting us to an agenda. We’re focusing on a number of areas. When you talk about equity, the president is very clear, equity does not start and end with criminal justice reform. It ends with helping our entrepreneurs and our small businesses have access to capital. I like the fact that we are looking at a number of issues because far too often, when it came to a Black Agenda, people thought it started and ended with criminal justice reform and we know it does not.

BC: How will the Biden/Harris administration increase support for HBCUs and what steps will you take to bridge the widening education gap?

CR: It’s important that we triple Title 1 funding, that would be a key component to not, leveling the playing field, but actually creating some equity in that space and making sure that the communities who need the money the most get the most. How do we get them more money? We get them more money, we put more money in the budget for them. We do the things that are necessary to help them and president made that commitment during the campaign, he knows the value of HBCUs in this country. The other thing [President Biden] knows and this administration knows is the great talent that HBCUs have produced—the technology and the contribution that HBCUs have made to society with limited funds compared to other public universities. We know it, we’re going to invest in it because they are doing an excellent job with limited funding and we want them to do an even greater job with their fair share of funding.

BC: This week, the president has met with republicans, he’s met with democrats about the American Recovery Act, about the $1.9 trillion that’s on the table for legislation. Can you explain to Black America how important the $1.9 trillion figure is and where does the Black community fit in this if it’s passed by the Congress of the United States?

CR: It’s really important when we start talking about money for mobile vaccination clinics, when we start talking about using community health centers or so that we can get to every neighborhood to make sure people have access to the vaccine, we’re also talking about increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit, increasing the child tax credit, those two things alone would reduce child poverty in this country by almost half and so that’s a fundamental and monumental to change in communities of color and the Black community. There’s a large list and part of our American Rescue plan is the importance that racial equity is written throughout that also because as we look at COVID-19, we know that it’s African American communities, Brown communities that are bearing the brunt of it more likely to not survive it and then if you look at the economic aspects of it, we’re bearing the brunt of that also and so we want to make sure that we deal with it all. Also, you have to look at children and getting them back in the classroom because parents can’t go to work if they have to do virtual schooling and so that’s $130 billion dollars in the plan so that we can get children back in the classroom in a safe manner so that we protect the teachers and their families that they go home to and those are things that we’re going to have to do in terms of testing, in terms of smaller classroom sizes, better ventilation and the infrastructure of partitions and not to mention, the most popular part of the plan, which is $1,400 checks to put in people’s pocket right now to help them through these hard times and so those are all key components that I think go across the board, but are valuable to the African-American community.

Danny Bakewell, chairman and CEO of the Bakewell Company, publisher of the L.A. Sentinel and L.A. Watts Times Newspaper and chairman emeritus of the NNPA, stressed the importance of the Black Press advertising with the federal government. He made it a point to let Richmond know “our newspapers are actually dying on the vine.”

“It’s one thing to say we need to support COVID, to give the proper messages to Black people, we can do that, we consistently do that, I can’t impress upon you enough… these publishers on this call, we need advertising, that is the lifeline and life blood of our Black businesses going forward,” said Bakewell. “There’s no Black community, no entity within the Black community, the Black Church, Black business, everybody comes first and foremost to the Black Press, even before you’re known nationally, they’re known within the Black community because of the Black Press.

“We need help.”

Richmond made it clear during the roundtable that getting a hold on the pandemic was a top priority for the president. He stated the importance of the Black Press in getting the message out better than other media outlets and in working more with them in the future.

“In order for us to heal and get pass this health pandemic and economic crisis, people have to take the vaccine,” said Richmond. “I’ve had it, my mother has had it, and so, look, I believe in the science, but part of what it’s going to take is us being very transparent, giving the facts of how the science of this vaccine, both Moderna and Pfizer were created over 10 months, when vaccines usually take a couple of years, we’re willing to do all of that and we have to do it in outlets people believe and we’re going to give [NNPA] the science, we’re going to give you the facts so that you can make those determinations.”

Richmond continued, “We want to make sure that we spend all of our effort, time and energy right now on making sure we can past this pandemic because it is no secret that when America has a cold, the Black community has a flu. So, we have to look at this in a comprehensive manner and we cannot do it without the help of the NNPA.”

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NNPA Roundtable Discussion