NNPA Conference Focuses on ESSA, State of Black America

From left: Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP; Leon Russell, the chairman of the NAACP; Dorothy Leavell, the chairman of the NNPA, and Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., president and CEO of the NNPA sign a strategic partnership agreement to join forces in focusing on key issues that affect the Black community, during the 2018 NNPA Mid-Winter Conference in Las Vegas. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)
From left: Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP; Leon Russell, the chairman of the NAACP; Dorothy Leavell, the chairman of the NNPA, and Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., president and CEO of the NNPA sign a strategic partnership agreement to join forces in focusing on key issues that affect the Black community, during the 2018 NNPA Mid-Winter Conference in Las Vegas. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), special announcements by Ford and Nissan and comprehensive dialogue on the State of Black America were among the items that dominated the agenda at the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s annual Mid-Winter Conference in Las Vegas.

Also, at the conference held from Wednesday, Jan. 24 through Saturday, Jan. 27, NNPA President Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. and Chair Dorothy Leavell joined NAACP Chair Leon Russell and President Derrick Johnson to formally sign a memorandum of understanding for the two organizations to work closely on issues that affect African-American and minority communities.

“Sometimes you have to take a step back and reconnect in order to move forward,” Russell said. “Signing this agreement is taking that step back and it says it’s time for us to recommit to each other and work together to move our people forward.”

Chavis, who once served as president of the NAACP, called the partnership historic.

“This [signing] consummates a working relationship of two of the world’s largest organizations that’s dealing with the empowerment of Black people,” Chavis said.

Leavell echoed her pleasure with the new partnership.

“I attempted to do something similar in the 1990s and I’m very determined now,” she said. “We are going to set a precedent and I hope we will be able to repeat this with many other national organizations because if we solidify our strength, things will be different for all of us in the United States of America.”

Johnson said one of the goals he and Russell have in common is maintaining the rich tradition of the NAACP.

“Anytime we move away from that, we lose our way,” he said.

In 2017, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave NNPA a $1.5 million grant to support a three-year, multimedia public awareness campaign focusing on the unique opportunities and challenges of ESSA.

“It’s critical for our parents to be involved and the Black Press is strategically embedded in our communities so we have more opportunity to get the word out about ESSA,” Chavis said.

Elizabeth V. Primas, project manager for the NNPA/ESSA grand and a longtime educator, said the ESSA law was established to help increase the effectiveness of public education in every state.

Under ESSA, states must adhere to more flexible federal regulations that provide for improved elementary and secondary education in the nation’s public schools.

The law also ensures that every child, regardless of race, income, background, or where they live have the opportunity to obtain a high-quality education.

“Education is the pathway out of poverty,” Primas said.

Ford, Nissan, Pfizer and Wells Fargo announced new commitments to strengthen their relationship with the Black Press and communities of color.

During one workshop, top representatives in education, real estate and the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) reported robust growth and strong impact in their respective organizations.

Lezli Baskerville, president and CEO of the National Association for Equal Opportunity (NAFEO), spoke passionately about the state of higher education for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) while Julius Cartwright presented an encouraging report from the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB).

And while the Rev. Tony Lee of AME argued passionately about the strong state of the Black church, it was a fiery, no-holds-barred speech from Amos C. Brown that brought the capacity crowd to its feet.

Brown, a civil rights icon who serves as the senior pastor at the Third Baptist Church in San Francisco and president of the city’s branch of the NAACP, touted the virtues of the oldest civil rights organization in America and its importance today.

In what amounted to a sermon worthy of any Sunday service, Brown said the Black Press must tell the story of African-Americans.

“Let no one else tell it for us,” he said before providing a vivid picture of his foray into the civil rights movement as a teenager.

“One of the problems with the Black community today is that we don’t have enough rituals of remembrance,” Brown said.

“‘The Man’ is doing today what he’s always done,” he said, alluding to the current administration and its policies. “They say to make sure if you’re Black, you get back. If you’re brown, you stick around and if you’re White, you’re always right. … They’re not any better than we are. We came from Mother Africa.”

Baskerville, a 2014 Harvard University Advanced Leadership Fellow, said the state of HBCUs remains strong.

“From my vantage point, HBCUs in 2018 are strong and getting stronger. In fact, it’s harvest time for HBCUs,” she said.

The vitriol coming from the White House and its policies jeopardizing voting and other rights are reminiscent of the time when HBCUs were born, Baskerville warned.

“The actions and words and legislation that’s taking place will turn back the clock if we let it happen,” she said. “But I say it’s harvest time for HBCUs because it’s the 50th anniversary of the sanitation workers’ march and the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and we are still going strong.

“We are 106 strong and if you read fake news, HBCUs are closing,” Baskerville said. “We have lost just one and we are still struggling to get it back. I say its harvest time because while HBCUs are just 3 percent of schools, we graduate 20 percent of African-Americans across the country. Sixty-percent of graduates are African-American public health professionals, 50 percent of African-American public school teachers and more than 40 percent are STEM professionals.”

Cartwright said NAREB — the oldest such African-American group — is working to help Black homebuyers.

“Most African-Americans were stripped of their wealth with the housing decline with trillions of dollars lost,” he said.

Cartwright cited a recent report that found the net worth of African Americans who don’t own real estate was $1,000, compared to $70,000 to $80,000 for Whites.

While the net worth of White women is $41,000, it was a mere $5 for Black women, he said, citing the report.

“Real estate is the cornerstone of wealth,” he said. “That’s the equity we need to pass onto the next generation.”

Cartwright said that NAREB is committed to helping effect change.

When it comes to the Black church, Lee cautioned African-Americans not to be dissuaded by megachurches and television evangelists.

He said the AME is united and membership is on the rise, as are mobilization efforts such as in Alabama recently during the contentious Senate race between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore.

“The Black church isn’t seeing the type of radical drop-off in its membership that White churches see,” Lee said.

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About Stacy Brown 499 Articles
I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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