For over 45 million African Americans there are multiple priorities that need to be addressed in order to ensure that the socioeconomic and political interests of our families and communities are accurately articulated and fulfilled. We live in a multimedia world. Too often, however, we are left with divergent, and sometimes inaccurate, information from so-called “mainstream” media sources when it comes to receiving the true facts about the issues and challenges that impact our overall quality of life.
During the last 188 years, it has been and continues to be the Black-owned press that has been the reliable and trusted vehicle for the transmission of news in a manner that not only represents the truth, but also shares the unique matrix of perspectives and vantage points about our continuous struggle for freedom, justice, equality and empowerment. I believe the Black press is needed today more than ever before.
Since the first publication of Freedom’s Journal in March 1827 in New York City by Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm, Black-owned newspapers and media companies have been on the frontline of being the unrestrained trusted voice of Black America. Both Cornish and Russwurm were abolitionist publishers who knew the power of printing the truth to challenge and abolish slavery.
Publishers Cornish and Russwurm were very clear in the first edition of Freedom’s Journal. They stated, “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us, too long has the public been deceived by misrepresentations…We deem it expedient to establish a paper, and bring into operation all the means with which out benevolent creator has endowed us, for the moral, religious, civil and literary improvement of our race.”
As we approach 2016, the admonition of the publishers of Freedom’s Journal still rings true today. We must plead our own cause for equal justice. We must plead our own cause for economic empowerment. We must plead our own cause for cultural solidarity and spiritual unity. And we must plead our own cause in the upcoming national political elections.
Strategically, the Black Press in America is once again at an important pivotal position. We should not permit our communities to be unaware of all that is at stake in the 2016 elections. There are still millions of unregistered eligible voters in the African American community. The Black Press has the proven track record of helping nationally and regionally to get out the vote.
While many of the Democratic and Republican candidates who are running to be the next President of the United States know the importance of the African American vote in 2016, there has yet to be any serious national effort by the various political campaigns to put as a priority the mobilization of millions of African American voters through the Black Press. The effective power of Black-owned newspapers and their digital properties should not be underestimated.
The ultimate responsibility to improve the quality of life in our communities is in our own hands, but we also should reassert our interests, values and priorities as part of the national and international debates about the present and the future. In my opinion there is too much cynicism and negative focus only on the deficits and injustices that are pervasive in our communities. There should be more balance to include more about the assets and triumphs of African Americans even in the face of racial inequity and injustice.
This is where the Black Press comes in forcefully and strategically. The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) is the national trade association for the Black Press and the NNPA is the custodian for insuring the effective legacy of Black-owned newspapers and media companies.
In 2016, the Black vote nor the Black Press can be taken for granted. African Americans spend in excess of $1.2 trillion primarily as consumers in the U.S. economy. Most of the major Fortune 500 companies enjoy a significant profit margin from African American consumer spending. But power is just not in spending money. Real economic power is measured in real estate holdings, investments, and the ownership of businesses and institutions that serve the interests of one’s community.
Every African American family should have an annual subscription to a Black-owned newspaper. In fact, if you are contemplating a gift for someone during this year’s Kwanzaa celebrations, you should give a Black-owned newspaper subscription as a meaningful and useful gift. The Black Press of America not only has a definite future, it has a powerful strategic place in the world as long as millions of African Americans continue to push forward for equality and empowerment.
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: [email protected]; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc