Since the 1800s, African American journalists have worked hard to tell the stories of those around them and the events that impact their community. Black newspapers alone, are known for being advocates for social justice, equal rights, women’s rights, and human rights. These journalists and newsmakers made it their mission to publicly address and report on the challenges faced by the Black community. Throughout history, it has been the Black photographers, videographers, on camera and radio personalities, the digital media, print publications and so many more who have reintroduced the Constitutional meaning of freedom of the press and freedom of speech.
On Tuesday, February 6, the Los Angeles City Council (LACC), and its president, Herb Wesson, honored Black local media professionals who have helped shape Southern California through the production and dissemination of news. Wesson, along with Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Councilmember Curren Price, led a formal presentation in celebration of African American Heritage Month, as a reminder of the historic impact African Americans have made in journalism and the news.
“I am so proud today because of individuals who are surrounding me at my side, sitting, [and] standing are the reasons why you can go to a small city, a mid-size city, and a big city and turn on the television news and see people of color,” said Wesson.
“The individuals who came before them cracked that door open, and the individuals who stand with me today, are the ones that are standing tall holding those doors open so that anybody who is qualified, and has the drive will have a shot to tell the news.”
Council District 8 representative, Harris-Dawson, stated the importance of the Black press prior to the making of the internet.
“For many years up until the dawn of the internet, the only way to find out what was happening in our neighborhood, in South L.A., Compton, Inglewood, or our community was to get one of our Black papers,” he said.
“You all play a very instrumental role in our community to this day for reflecting not just here, but around the world and what’s going on in our community.”
Councilmember Price, representing District 9, also added his praise and recognition of the importance of the Black press.
“I am proud to be here as we celebrate our media professionals because you are all positive role models,” he said.
“Whether you are in front of the camera, behind the camera…I just want to say thank you because you help tell a story from a different perspective that can change lives.”
Following the presentation, Wesson unveiled the Los Angeles City Council’s annual City Hall Bridge Gallery Exhibit titled, “Write in America” commemorating the month long celebration of the Black press and Black media professionals.
“The 2018 exhibit presents my good friend Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., owner and publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel and L.A. Watts Times celebrating 80 years of informing readers about news, sports, entertainment and religious events occurring in our Southern California communities,” said Wesson who has spearheaded the exhibit for over 10 years.
History maker Bakewell Sr., noted that as the publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel Newspaper, he was proud to carry the message of African Americans throughout the city and the country.
“This is a true honor and privilege, one that we [the Los Angeles Sentinel] don’t take lightly. When things go on in this city, we take the leadership to make sure everybody knows about it. We all stand here on the shoulders of those who have come before us. Mr. and Mrs. Washington who founded the Los Angeles Sentinel did an amazing job with nothing,” he said.
“The will and determination of the Black press has never failed the community. As Herb said, we not only represent the African American community, but we represent all of the community and when we do well, everyone does well. There is a contribution that we have to make and we are committed to forging that contribution forward.”
The LACC also recognized the Black Journalist Association of Southern California (BJASC) and its founding member Valerie Brenda Shaw and Tony Cox, its first president, as well as the National Association of Black Journalist Los Angeles chapter (NABJ-LA), the work of Jefferson Lewis Edmonds who published the Liberator, NBC’s Beverly White, CBS’ Pat Harvey and many other professionals.
The event concluded with Wesson giving a special thanks to the Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilmember Price, Councilmember Harris-Dawson, the Los Angeles Association of Black Personnel, Inc., the Los Angeles Professional Managers Association, Our Authors Study Club, and the Los Angeles Sentinel, the Office of the Chief Legislative Analyst, General Services Department, Publishing Services, and the Los Angeles Public Library.
“It took pioneers to break down barriers in #AfricanAmerican journalism and news,” stated Wesson on Twitter.
“Here I stand surrounded by the leaders who follow in their footsteps, and a few young faces who may even follow in theirs. Let us never forget we stand on the shoulders of giant’s #BlackHistoryMonth.”
The “Write in America” gallery exhibit was designed to inform the public and give Angelenos a snapshot of the “rich tapestry” of African American history in Los Angeles. Currently, the photo exhibit is available for viewing from February 2, 2018- March 20, 2018 on the 3rd floor of City Hall.