At the last meeting of the San Bernardino City Council there was a report given by Heather Gray, San Bernardino City Communications Manager where she received many accolades for her presentation from city council members. I was in agreement until she said that the city had only two newspapers which did not include any owned or operated by Blacks or Latinos.
She also stated that she had met with many in the local media to establish a relationship but according to my staff no formal relationship had been initiated, only casual conversations which occurred at city hall. While casual relationships are alright, it has been my experience that the outcome of this type of interaction is just that, casual and you are forgotten in formal presentations.
Now we have those who heard or saw this presentation thinking that there are only two newspapers that exist in the city. According to U.S. Census data Hispanics make up 57.3% of the population in San Bernardino and I know they have at least one weekly paper that circulates in the city, El Chicano. The Black community makes up 16.3% of the population and circulates four newspapers in the city: The American News, Precinct Reporter, Westside Story and the Black Voice News. I am confident that a formal meeting with us would have produced a different result in Ms. Gray’s presentation. Also speaking for BVN we have 43 business establishments in the city we deliver papers to every week, with one of them being San Bernardino City Hall.
I know her ommission of the minority-owned papers is not simply an oversight, because every time it comes to formal presentations or expenditures of money, people get amnesia or forget we exist. It always puts us in the position of having to call them out or remind them that we exist. I am always reminded that “we have to plead our own cause.” This statement published in the county’s first Black newspaper, The Freedom Journal in New York City 200 years ago is true today as it was then.
To put it another way, I’ll use the famous words spoken by Sojourner Truth, an African American woman born into slavery who spoke Dutch during her early childhood in the state of New York. Truth spoke at an all-White woman’s conference in Akron, Ohio in 1857, she asked the women: “Ain’t I A Woman”? She described herself as being able to do everything White females were able to do -- bearing children while working as hard as any man; yet no one had ever offered her the courtesies extended to White women. So her question to suffragettes as they sought their right to vote was “Ain’t I A Woman too”?
So my question to the communications manager and the city who accepted the report: “Ain’t We A Newspaper too”? I must say I am in agreement with the council, it was a good presentation, until the ommission of The Black Voice News and other minority-owned publications as viable vehicles to communicate not only the city’s message but the message of the community.
In Ms. Gray’s strategic plan she talked about “outreach” but her presentation sends a “chilling effect” to me as a publisher. Now while we do not publish everyday we do publish weekly, which is often enough to keep up with the goings on at city hall. So my question to Ms. Gray is “what are you going to use to get your message out to our community?” We are all legally adjudicated through the courts, we have business licenses, we pay business fees to the city, we print photos in color, and we all print articles with editorial content. So the question is: “Ain’t the Black Voice News A Newspaper too”?