The Rev. Al Sharpton, denounced traditionally Black owned media as he spoke before a Black Digital Media organization recently. Sharpton implied the Black Press and Black owned radio is a thing of the past and that “the youth do not know when our weekly papers even come out and they get their information from electronic instruments.” He did not consider the great strides Black media has made just like other press into the digital environment. He has tossed the vehicle that brought him over under the bus.
Now mind you it was the Black Press who gave Sharpton his claim to fame by carrying stories on him and his National Action Network organization in New York. It was the Black Media who supported and defended him when the mainstream media described him in unflattering terms whenever a racial incident occurred. It was the Black Press that carried his weekly column in their newspapers at no cost to Rev. Sharpton. It was the Black Press that gave him a podium to speak on issues important to him during their annual conferences. It was the Black Press members of NNPA that would invite him to speak at local events to further his organization.
What Sharpton has done reminds me of the fable of an injured snake lying on the side of the road. A man comes along, picks up the snake, and carries him home to care for him. Then, after the snake returns to full health, it bites the caregiver. The caregiver asks why and the snake replies, you knew I was a snake. We are not calling Sharpton a snake because he has done a good job as a builder of our people. Sharpton once took on Wall Street, when Wall Street said they wanted clients not suspects. But now Sharpton turns and decides to bite the hand that fed him during the time that no one knew him other than those in the Black community who got their news from the Black Press.
What Sharpton is doing is no different than what other Whites and Blacks have tried over the two hundred years of Black owned media in America. First it was those who described the Black media as yellow journalism and only fit to wrap fish in on a Friday. Companies would not advertise their products or services to our readers, yet we published. They talked about our grammar and sentence structure or words that were misspelled even though the dailies made the same errors, yet we published. They burned our buildings and publications, yet we continued to publish.
What has the Black Press done in America since the Freedom Journal first rolled off the press in 1827 in New York where Sharpton lives? Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm wrote in their first editorial, “we wish to plead our own cause… Too long the public has been deceived by misrepresentation in things that concern us dearly.” This is true today regardless of one’s color who decides to speak out on what the Black Press is or is not doing, as Sharpton has done. The 2002 Miller Brewing Company Gallery of Greats focuses on the remarkable achievements of African Americans in the Black Press. The Gallery of Greats illuminates the success and contributions these honorees have made.
If Sharpton had done just a little research he would have found that many of our publications have websites and most have an online presence with Facebook and Twitter. Black Voice News has had an online presence since 1995 before our local daily paper and we currently have 35,000 unique monthly visitors and more than 500,000 page views with over 2.5 million hits monthly.
Currently our president Danny Bakewell has settled a agreement with Toyota USA to advertise with Black owned media. He was successful in showing Toyota the $2.2 billion that Blacks spend to purchase Toyota automobiles. And Toyota agreed to become a good corporate partner. Our papers can compare to any others. For the past twenty years, we have covered the Olympics around the world reporting on Black athletes. The NNPA sent a delegation to Nigeria and covered their national election back in the 90’s, headed by then NNPA President Dorothy Leavell from Chicago. President Tom Watkins of New York took a delegation of Publishers to Taiwan; Republic of China back in the 80’s to learn about trade opportunities. It was the Black Press that helped Louis Farrakhan pull off the only successful Million Man March in Washington DC when other media outlets did not believe there was even going to be a march. Over a million Black men showed up without any incident or disorderly conduct. In New York the Amsterdam News took aim at and got rid of a problematic mayor.
To my fellow publishers I say, a poisonous snake comes in all colors. We have rattlesnakes that are brownish or tan with diamond shapes on their backs and make a noise before they strike. We have cobras with a glossy black color and a head that flattens, making a growling or hissing sound when in a striking mode. Down south we have a snake called the White Oak and yes it is poisonous too and gives no sound before it strikes. People are like that some times. Those who look like you can get the closest, and the damage they cause, depends on how you react once bitten. Of course we have snake bite kits for those of us who get bit. The best thing is not to get a snake bite of any kind but that is almost impossible in this world where so many live. So when you find or see one you must take preventative action, such as staying clear or making a loud noise so the snake will move on.
As for Sharpton, I say let us keep him out of our papers and let him go into cyberspace with his newly found friends.
See Sharpton’s speech at: http://newsone.com/newsone-original/newsonestaff2/sharpton-black-digital-media/
You can also find more information at: http://www.blackpressusa.com
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