Capital Press Club Honors Media Leaders

James Wright | 11/14/2012, 12:46 p.m.

The African-American organization that includes members from various sectors of the media recently honored three notables from the fields of print, broadcast and public relations for their work to increase opportunities for minorities and vision regarding technological innovation.

John Oliver Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of the Afro-American Newspapers of Baltimore City, Inc.; Maureen Bunyan, veteran news anchor for Channel 7 News and Lon Walls, founder of Walls Communications and current media relations director for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Services Department, were feted by the Capital Press Club on Friday, Nov. 9 at the offices of Venable, LLP in Northwest. Hazel Trice Edney, president of the Capital Press Club, applauded the honorees, and said they've made a significant contribution in their respective professions.

"I believe in Sankofa, which means we should look back while we move forward," said Edney, 44. "We celebrate those we honor tonight but there are still far too few blacks in newsrooms and boardrooms."

The Capital Press Club was founded in 1944 by Alfred Smith because minority and women journalists were barred from the National Press Club. Over the years, the club has hosted forums on a variety of issues and featured speakers such as Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Walter Cronkite, Sergeant Shriver, Dick Gregory, Ossie Davis and Sidney Poitier.

U.S. Reps. Elijah Cummings [D-Md.] and Barbara Lee [D-Calif.] attended the event and Cummings had nothing but praise for Oliver.

"Thank you for being a part of my destiny," said Cummings, 61. "You could have made boo-ku bucks as a lawyer and you are a great lawyer. I want to thank you for what you do and doing it well."

Oliver, 65, said that he appreciated the honor and talked about the staying power of the black press.

"It is great that so many of us are still around," he said. "It is a challenge and it is fun. You reach more black folks than ever before here in the United States and people around the world."

The Afro was one of the first black media outlets to have its own website and has been cited as a leader in innovation for its use of the Internet for the benefit of African Americans.

Bunyan noted the challenges of being a black woman in what her colleague and co-anchor Gordon Peterson called, "a white man's world."

"When I starting working in 1969, I was told that I had to cut my hair because I did not look black enough," she said. "I was told that my name was funny so that I should change it to King and that I did not talk black enough. I did not change anything because I am what I am and who I am."

Walls, in his remarks, discussed the historic event that recently transpired.

"We can celebrate what happened on Tuesday because it was black organizations that made it happen," Walls said, referring to the re-election of President Obama on Nov. 6. "... we made it happen and we are all valuable."

Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of the Informer, political activist the Rev. Anthony Motley, talk show host Joe Madison and noted attorney Donald Temple counted among the distinguished guests who also attended the evening event. However, Edney said that it's the young people who attended that deserved the utmost attention.

"We want to support these young students from Howard University, Bowie State and the University of the District of Columbia with scholarships," she said. "We want to make a difference in these young people's lives."