D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a staple of the civil rights movement, and Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, who has helped define the millennial generation, received top honors during the recent National Newspaper Publishers Association’s annual Black Press Week.
Black Press Week, which took place this year from March 20-22 at the DuPont Circle Hotel in northwest D.C., celebrates the achievements of the 215 African-American-owned newspapers that operate in 40 states, the District and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The newspapers primarily consist of dailies and weeklies and work to report the international, national and local news of African Americans.
Norton received the “Torch Award” while Garza obtained the “NewsMaker of the Year” citation at the Torch Awards dinner on March 21.
Norton, who has served as the District representative to the U.S. Congress since 1991, has expressed concern about the dearth of federal government advertising in Black media.
“I am well aware of what the African American press has meant to our people,” the delegate said. “The federal government is the biggest advertiser in the media but very little of that has been spent with the Black Press.”
Norton requested that the Government Accounting Office looked into the federal government’s spending with the Black-, minority- and women-owned press and found that only five percent of $4.3 billion of that went with those firms.
Norton said she will sponsor legislation that basically would mandate that agencies report the monies in their budget that deal with advertising dollars for Black and women-owned media firms.
“If an agency has to report that, the number will go up,” Norton said. “Stay tuned.”
Garza told the audience of 55 that she appreciated being dubbed the NNPA’s “NewsMaker” and said the truth should always be told.
“The truth is inconvenient,” Garza said. “Black Lives Matter always tells the truth to bring about the world we deserve.”
Garza said African Americans can always blame Whites for many of their problems but needed to look at what Black people do to each other.
“Black women and children are being abused,” she said. She encouraged Blacks to stop “ignoring what is being done to us” and speak up.
Garza birthed the BLM in 2013 with Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors largely as a response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of teenager Trayvon Martin. BLM has grown since to a global network of 40 cities in four countries that has committed itself to seeing that people of color are treated fairly by the police and various political systems.
Black Press Week takes places annually in the District with receptions, dinners, workshops and tours for Black newspaper publishers and their staffs.
Dr. Benjamin Chavis, NNPA president and CEO, noted the importance of the Black Press.
“We forthrightly reiterate that the Black Press is needed more today more than ever because of the contemporary challenges and opportunities facing people of African descent in America and globally throughout the African Diaspora,” he said.
On March 16, 1827, John Brown Russworm and Samuel E. Cornish published the first Black newspaper in the U.S., Freedom’s Journal in New York City. Since that time, hundreds of newspapers owned by African Americans have been founded and maintained by such historic figures as Frederick Douglass (The North Star), Ida B. Wells-Barnett (Memphis Free Speech, New York Age) Robert Sengstacke Abbott (Chicago Defender), John H. Murphy Sr. (The Baltimore Afro-American), Daisy Bates (Arkansas State Press) and Dr. Calvin Rolark (The Washington Informer).
On March 20, two prominent Black publishers, Marcus Garvey and Frances Murphy II, were inducted into the Black Press Archives and Gallery of Distinguished Black Publishers for 2019 at the Metropolitan AME Church.
The late Garvey, an early 20th century advocate for the rights of Africans throughout the world, published The Negro World, a weekly that ran from 1918 to 1933. Garvey’s views on African empowerment got the attention of Britain and France, to the point that they banned its sale or possession in their colonies.
Garvey’s son, Dr. Julius Garvey, showed gratitude for his father’s induction.
“I accept this on behalf of my father, my family and his legacy,” Garvey said. “My father was a very special person. Marcus Garvey was a gift from God.”
Murphy, onetime the publisher of the Washington Afro-American Newspaper, worked as an educator and newspaperwoman all of her life. A Baltimorean by birth and a descendant of the founder of the Afro, John Murphy Sr., and daughter of its publisher and editor, Carl Murphy, Murphy watched her father run the family business as a girl.
Murphy graduated from Douglass High School in Baltimore and received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and master’s degrees from Coppin State University and Johns Hopkins University. She taught journalism at SUNY-Buffalo and Howard University and led the news division at Morgan State University.
She served for two years as the chair of the Afro’s board of directors. She published the Washington Afro-American from 1986-1991 and wrote editorials for the Baltimore and Washington editions and a fun, gossipy column “If You Ask Me” until her death in 2007.
Murphy’s eldest daughter, the Rev. Frances “Toni” Draper, who serves as the publisher of the Afro, said her mother always stressed the importance of family, Black awareness and good community journalism.
On March 22, after workshops and meetings, Black Press Week participants met at the Library of Congress, where they received information on its massive holdings. The Library of Congress has the most possessions of any library in the world.
Washington Informer contributing writer Eve Ferguson talked about the Frederick Douglass collection and editions of The Negro World and a publication of the Afro also presented.