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“Still Pleading Our Own Cause”: The Black Voice News Forty Years Later

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A ‘Voice for the Voiceless’ advocates as it celebrates

By Chris Levister

When Ardess E. Lilly, Jr. then president of UC Riverside's Black Student Union, grabbed a handful of flyers, Malcolm X speeches, main stream newspapers and other publications during a 1970’s Pan-African conference in Santa Barbara, little did he know he was about to spark a revolution and birth the venerable “Voice for the Voiceless”: The Black Voice News. The Black Voice News founded at UCR in 1972 by Lilly and a handful of Black classmates has a storied history and an evolving future that is just as bright as it’s past. The Riverside-based newspaper is one of the oldest remaining family-owned newspapers in the U.S. “185 years after editors of Freedom’s Journal proclaimed in the first issue “we wish to plead our own cause,” the Black Press is alive and more relevant than ever,” says Lilly.

Reached in Mississippi, where he is overseeing an international project on alternative fuels, Lilly, talked about the unique role the Black press has played since Reverend Samuel E. Cornish, pastor of the first Negro Presbyterian Church in New York and John Russwurm, one of the first African Americans to graduate from an American college, launched Freedom’s Journal the first independent newspaper for African Americans.

Lilly, now executive director of the non-profit foundation Inland Empire Conversation Corps., notes that the odyssey of the Black press began in 1827 when Cornish and Russwurm published Freedom’s Journal in New York City after a white publisher refused to publish African American responses to a series of articles that falsely scandalized the city’s population. Lilly explains the Black press functioned as the conduit through which Black news moved at a time when white America virtually ignored everything of real concern to Blacks. “Although Black citizens utilized the church, social and fraternal organizations as a means of collective expression and dialogue, the usual channels of public media — particularly newspapers — were denied to them. Exacerbating the problem was the fact that elements of the established press routinely denigrated African Americans in print, even to the extent of questioning both the integrity and morality of the entire race.”

Lilly who grew up in West Virginia reading trailblazing Black newspapers like the Pittsburgh Courier and the New York Amsterdam News, with three BSU students took his ambitious if not naive proposal to the editor of The Highlander, UCR's student newspaper. “I would get asked time and time again: “Do we really need black newspapers?” That question would often come from well-meaning individuals who were of the view that having a separate paper for the black community simply bred division. Couldn't we all just get along? They’d ask,” recalls Lilly. “What I would try to explain was that with mainstream newspapers paying scant attention to stories affecting the black community – and with so few ethnic minority reporters working on those papers – then, yes, we absolutely needed a black newspaper. Naive as that may sound I believed we had the right to plead our own cause.”

This was at the height of Black student activism. Lilly says he wanted a platform for social justice and Black pride. “We asked the Highlander to give us a page - a Black page. What Lilly and his classmates got was a polite no thanks and $1,000. Eventually Latinos, Asians, gays and lesbian students would have a page.”

“They didn't want a Black page in the Highlander. They didn't have Black people writing for them. They weren't interested in reporting about our community. Essentially they said here's a thousand dollars - go create your own newspaper.” Lilly and his BSU members did just that but with a lot of help from road tested local activists like Black publisher Sam Martin, M. Jackie Simpson, Gwen Streeter, Luther Gooden field rep for the late Congressman George Brown, and Riverside's first Black publisher Reggie Strickland among others.

There was and remains a perception that Black folk don't read says Lilly. “Then how does one account for the success of the Black media. It is because we DO read. And when we read articles and essays that are relevant, uplifting and Afro-Centric, we become fortified against the intended derogatory affects of the predominately negative characterizations that are frequently directed towards the African American community by other media.”

"Looking back we were pretty bold but I'm proud to say I had a hand in giving voice to the people" says Mr. Lilly "God is with those who patiently persevere." In 1980 the Black Voice News was purchased by long time Inland activists and community leaders Hardy and Cheryl Brown.

Buying the rights to the newspaper from publisher Sam Martin launched the Brown dynasty, and kicked off a new era of activism and reporting that would propel The Black Voice News from a small Black community publication to a powerful unapologetic voice for the voiceless.

“When we bought the Black Voice we saw a crucial opportunity to transfer influence over to a mostly voiceless Black community at the same time cutting a path to shaping political policy,” recalls Mrs. Brown.

“The Black Voice's mantra – “giving Voice to the Voiceless” is about speaking “truth to power”, she said. “It is just as important to speak truth to the powerless as it is to speak truth to the powerful,” added Mr. Brown. “It is the responsibility of the Black media to serve, support and protect the five fundamental institutions that sustained African-Americans during the horrors of racism, segregation and Jim Crow. These institutions are vital to the survival of our people,” said Mr. Brown: The Black family, The Black church, Black businesses, Black schools and the Black media.”

On any given Sunday, at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in San Bernardino and Black churches across the Inland region the faithful gather to receive spiritual food from the pulpit and intellectual food from the Black press says Connie Lexion.

“It’s a cherished tradition. People line up at the church entrance before or after the worship service to get the Black Voice News, the Precinct Reporter, American News, Westside Story and other publications that tell our story,” said Lexion a Nutrition Family Consumer Science Advisor Emeritus. She retired from the University of California Cooperative Extension after 36 years.

She points to obituaries, health advice, and uniquely Black social functions often ignored by majority publications.

“That information is right here on the front page. When a member of our community passes it affects the village. When a new pastor comes to town or there’s a sorority or fraternity event it affects the village,” she said. “By publishing religious news, community events, nutrition tips, job opportunities, train schedules, and available housing news that relates to us, we become a more informed and empowered population. Ultimately that leads to progress.” Since its inception, the Black Press has been the greatest tool of the African American community in combating racism, promoting self-development, community building and empowerment, says Cheryl Brown.

“By empowering the voiceless, the collective roar of our community can and will become loud enough such that it is heard and acknowledged beyond the “African American World”.

These institutions speak a unique language, says internist and cardiologist Dr. Ernest Levister, a Black Voice News health columnist since 1987.

“Without the Black Press, we would not have a voice and would be forced to accept the definitions created by others.”

Levister says a classic example of spin and disinformation passed on by today’s mostly “talking head” media surrounds the hotly debated issue of health care in America.

“The Affordable Care Act passed by Congress in 2010 has been likened to every ill from so-called “death panels” to a Medicare “death sentence”. Mitt Romney labeled it “Obamacare”, the U.S. Supreme Court called it a “tax”, Rush Limbaugh called it “the largest tax increase in the history of the world”, …Republicans have promised to repeal it,” said Levister.

“Yet day in and day out healthcare professionals laboring in the trenches see the desperation in over-run emergency rooms. We see the pain among the uninsured and under insured, the true disparities of the working class and poor and the need for immediate reform. All the more reason why an alternative perspective on issues that affect Americans in general and communities of color in particular, still matters,” said Levister.

“The Black Voice and the other Black Newspapers are important and relevant because they always have the option of telling our story and pleading our cause. That was and is our vision for the Black Voice and the other local Black newspapers,” said Mrs. Brown. The award winning publication has since broadened its editorial perspective, education and online global reach. This expanded thrust has produced considerable interest and readership from all sectors of the local, national and international communities. Forty years after Ardess Lilly and his UC Riverside classmates sparked a revolution the Black Voice News is still pleading its own cause.


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Black Voice News Staff Report

The San Bernardino based Time For Change Foundation held its grand opening of the Phoenix Square July 25. The organization’s first affordable housing project located at 657 North F St. began back in early 2011 with the purchase of a seven-unit apartment structure that underwent major remodeling and renovation.

The opening event kicked off with praise from San Bernardino City Mayor Patrick Morris, who commended Time for Change Foundation's executive director and founder, Kim Carter for her work in making the project possible.

Carey Jenkins, from the San Bernardino Economic Development Agency called the project a “beacon of hope” for women in transition. Other speakers included Beverly Earl, Director of Catholic Charities, and Board President of Time For Change Foundation, and Dianne Sapp, a Time for Change Foundation graduate and first resident at the Phoenix square.

“This is the model for affordable housing in the Inland Empire,” said Carter. This project is a crime free multi housing meaning, no drugs, no alcohol allowed on the premises. Low income residents who are clean and sober and willing to abide by our crime free addendum and drug free policies are eligible.”

Phoenix square will offer seven furnished units in a newly remodeled building at ‘F’ and Victoria Streets, just north of San Bernardino’s downtown core. The Phoenix Square’s housing is open to very-low-income families and individuals who make less than half of the area’s median income. The $1.5 Million project was financed in part from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and other private donors and foundations. “Thus far, there has been an overwhelming response for this type of housing,” said John Kunkel, director of communications. The Phoenix Square still has two additional phases that need completion. The plans for the second phase include developing a combination of housing and community space, and creating a garden for organic micro-enterprises, which will establish a place where the community can attend educational classes and meetings, as well as a space for residents to manage their respective businesses. The third phase will be to develop a solar-paneled parking structure for reusable energy that is “grid-neutral,” allowing for the Phoenix Square to “go green.”

“The Phoenix Square will be a tremendous asset to the surrounding community,” said Kunkel. “It really sets the standard for low-income housing in Southern California, and it is a prime example of what it looks like to transform a neighborhood into a sustainable community. Our vision is to develop more projects like this in the future.” The Phoenix Square was awarded the CPTED (Crime Prevention through Environmental Design), and the Crime-Free Multi-Housing Certification provided by the City of San Bernardino.

Celebrate With Black Voice News on August 18th

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In celebration of The Black Voice News (BVN) recent 40th Anniversary, a Green Job Fair and reception announcing this year’s 2012 Community Builders will be held on August 18, 2012 from 8 am -12 pm. at the Grier Pavilion (Seventh floor) of Riverside City Hall, 3900 Main Street, Riverside.

The Green Job Fair and public forum sponsored by Riverside Public Utilities will be held from 8 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. featuring special guest panelists and the 2012 Black Voice News Community Builder reception sponsored by General Motors will begin at 10:00 a.m. to 12 Noon. In past years, BVN began recognizing unsung heroes whose commitment to their community have made a difference. This event is co-sponsored by Wells Fargo and the University of California, Riverside and is the kick off for this year’s Holiday Gala on December 1, 2012. These events are free to the public. For more information on BVN celebrations, contact the office at 951.682.6070.

2012 Olympians, World, Olympic medalists headline ’12 Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions cast; tickets go on sale July 20

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INDIANAPOLIS – Members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team join 2008 Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin and her fellow 2008 Olympic team silver medalists Chellsie Memmel, and Alicia Sacramone, in headlining the all-star cast for the Kellogg's® Tour of Gymnastics Champions, which debuts on Sept. 8 in San Jose, Calif. Tickets for the 40-city tour, which runs through Nov. 18, go on sale July 20. The Kellogg’s Tour includes stops in cities big and small across the United States, including Las Vegas, Dallas, Kansas City, Mo., Minneapolis, Louisville, Ky., Hartford, Conn., and Brooklyn, N.Y.

"As our 2012 Olympians head to London to represent their country, we are proud to announce they will be an important part of our cast for the 2012 Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions, which serves as the perfect stage for Americans to celebrate and welcome our Olympians home," said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics.

2012 Olympians currently scheduled to participate in the Kellogg’s Tour are: Jake Dalton of Norman, Okla.; Gabby Douglas of Virginia Beach, Va.; Jonathan Horton of Houston; McKayla Maroney of Long Beach, Calif.; John Orozco of the Bronx, N.Y.; Aly Raisman of Needham, Mass.; Kyla Ross of Aliso Viejo, Calif.; and Jordyn Wieber of DeWitt, Mich. Beginning July 20, tickets may be purchased through all venues hosting the Tour across the country. Ticket prices range from $25-$240 and vary by market and seat location. Platinum and Gold VIP Packages are available in most markets and include special athlete access and a commemorative gift. To find the Tour stop nearest you and order tickets, please visit www.KelloggsTour.com. The complete list of athletes scheduled to perform during the Kellogg’s Tour of Champions. Due to athletes’ schedules and personal commitments, will vary from stop to stop but athletes scheduled are: Women’s Artistic Gymnasts • Rebecca Bross – Plano, Texas/WOGA. 2010 World Championships Team silver medalist; six-time World medalist • Gabby Douglas – Virginia Beach, Va./Chow’s Gymnastics. 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials champion and 2011 World Championships Team gold medalist • Brenna Dowell – Odessa, Mo./ Great American Gymnastics Express. 2010 Pan Am Championships team gold medalist • Sarah Finnegan – St. Louis, Mo./ Great American Gymnastics Express. 2012 U.S. Olympic Team replacement athlete; 2010 Pan Am Championships team gold medalist • Anna Li – Aurora, Ill./Legacy Elite Gymnastics. 2012 U.S. Olympic Team replacement athlete; 2012 U.S. uneven bars bronze medalist • Nastia Liukin – Parker, Texas/WOGA Gymnastics. 2008 Olympic all-around champion; five-time Olympic medalist • McKayla Maroney – Long Beach, Calif./All Olympia. 2012 U.S. Olympic Team member; 2011 World vault and team gold medalist • Chellsie Memmel – West Allis, Wis./M&M Gymnastics. 2008 Olympic Team silver medalist; World gold medalist in all-around, team (twice), uneven bars • Elizabeth Price – Coopersburg, Pa./ Parkettes National Gymnastics Center. 2012 U.S. Olympic Team replacement athlete; 2011 City of Jesolo Trophy team gold medalist • Aly Raisman – Needham, Mass./Brestyan’s Gymnastics. 2012 U.S. Olympic Team member; 2011 World floor floor bronze medalist and team gold medalist • Kyla Ross – Aliso Viejo, Calif./ Gym-Max. 2012 U.S. Olympic Team member; 2012 Kellogg’s Pacific Rim team gold medalist • Alicia Sacramone – Winchester, Mass./Brestyan’s American Gymnastics. 2011 World team gold medalist; 2008 Olympic team silver medalist; 10 career World medals • Sabrina Vega – Carmel, N.Y./Dynamic Gymnastics. 2011 World Championships team gold medalist • Jordyn Wieber – DeWitt, Mich./Twistars USA. 2012 U.S. Olympic Team member; 2011 World all-around and team gold medalist, balance beam bronze medalist Men’s Artistic Gymnasts • Chris Brooks – Houston/Team Hilton HHonors (Cypress Academy of Gymnastics). 2012 U.S. Olympic Team replacement athlete; 2012 Kellogg’s Pacific Rim Championships all-around and team gold medalist • Alex Buscaglia – Stanford, Calif./Stanford University. 2010 Pan Am Championships Team gold medalist • Jake Dalton – Reno, Nev./University of Oklahoma. 2012 U.S. Olympic Team member; 2011 World Championships team bronze medalist • Jonathan Horton – Houston/Team Hilton HHonors (Cypress Academy of Gymnastics). 2012 U.S. Olympic Team member; 2010 World all-around bronze medalist; 2008 Olympic team bronze medalist and horizontal bar silver medalist • Glen Ishino - Santa Ana, Calif./University of California-Berkeley. 2010 Pan Am Games team gold medalist • Steven Legendre – Port Jefferson, N.Y./Team Hilton HHonors (University of Oklahoma). 2012 U.S. Olympic Team replacement athlete; 2011 World Championships team bronze • Alex Naddour – Gilbert, Ariz./Team Hilton HHonors (USA Youth Fitness Center). 2012 U.S. Olympic Team replacement athlete; 2011 World Championships Team bronze medalist • John Orozco – Bronx, N.Y./Team Hilton HHonors (U.S. Olympic Training Center). 2012 U.S. Olympic Team member; 2012 U.S. all-around champion; 2011 World Championships team bronze • Paul Ruggeri - Manlius, N.Y./University of Illinois. 2011 Pan Am Games team bronze medalist and high bar champion • Brandon Wynn - Voorhees, N.J./Team Hilton HHonors (Ohio State University). 2011 Pan Am Games team bronze medalist and still rings gold medalist The Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastics Champions starts Sept. 8 in San Jose, Calif., and ends on Nov. 18 in Brooklyn.

Date City Venue Sept. 8 San Jose, Calif. HP Pavilion at San Jose Sept. 9 Ontario, Calif. Citizens Business Bank Arena Sept. 13 San Diego, Calif. Valley View Casino Center Sept. 15 Los Angeles, Calif STAPLES Center Sept. 16 Anaheim, Calif. Honda Center

Strike Enters 1st Month

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The strike started on June 25 when both sides claim negotiations broke down.

An inland area union and brewery Anheuser-Busch say they are far from the negotiating table. Months of negotiations broke down between the two sides, before Teamsters Local Union 166 and 120 Anheuser-Busch employees decided to go on strike. The brewer wants employees to switch from straight hourly pay to base pay plus commission.

Anheuser-Busch Region Vice President said in an email statement their “offer is one of the best wage and benefit packages in our industry in the Riverside area.” The statement also said “the majority of employees,” under the new payment structure earn more than before. Teamsters 166 official Mike Bergen said that is not true.

“We would end up losing money,” said Bergen. “We want a fair and equitable contract.” He said the new contract would also reduce benefits to current retirees. Anheuser-Busch said this is their final offer. The company has hired temporary workers in the meantime.

“We want to go back to work,” said 20-year-employee Ray Garon. “They’re cutting our wages pretty much... they’re trying to screw us basically.”

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BVN National News Wire