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Equal Access Dominates Discussions During Black Newspaper Publishers Conference

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By Richette L. Haywood, NNPA Contributor –

St. Thomas, VI – Equal access. Those two words dominated discussions, during the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) 2011 Mid-Winter Conference. Recognizing the need to grow its reach into federal and corporate arenas, the oldest and most influential Black newspaper association had executives/consultants from the top 25 Fortune 500 companies and industry insiders present the publishers with concrete lessons learned and best practices to expand its penetration into those markets during the country’s economic recovery.

“We pride ourselves on being very on point. We focus on the influence that we have. And, we have a responsibility to enhance the quality of life for our Black brothers and sisters,” NNPA Chair Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. told the group. Collectively, the association needs to implement a strategy to gain equal access to advertising revenue.

Based upon an audit of the country’s Black owned and operated newspapers, Chuck Morrison, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Uniworld, pointed out that the Black Press had no advertising reciprocity, based on the data he compiled. Specifically, he said that of the top 25 companies with a significant market share in the African American community, some firms did no advertising with the Black Press during the review period. The 13 worst offenders, in alphabetical order were; Allstate, Anheuser-Busch, Chrysler, Coke, Kraft, Johnson & Johnson, Miller Coors, Nissan, Pepsi, Sony, Toyota, U.S. government and Walt Disney. The companies that consistently spent advertising dollars with the Black Press, in alphabetical order, are; AT&T, Comcast, Ford, General Motors, Home Depot, and Macys.

Developing strategic approaches positioning the Black Press to gain equal access to federal and corporate advertising dollars were discussed during several workshops. Dennis Hunn, NNPA Executive Vice President Advertising and Marketing stressed “… we need to know where we are, define where we need to be, and, finally, develop a step by step plan to describe how we get there.” Among the strategies discussed to help the newspapers generate revenue was marketing and special events. In addition, as a part of its overall strategy, the NNPA is developing an enhanced infrastructure to expedite execution of its internal processes.

The call for equal access did not end with its members. But, extended to the people of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, the conference site. Mr. Bakewell told the publishers the association’s support of the U.S. Virgin Islands 30-year agreement with the owners of locally produced Cruzan Rum, was the right thing to do. The Black Press will continue to support economic development in St. Thomas, specifically as it applies to the competition between St. Thomas and Puerto Rico to secure the manufacturing rights for Cruzan Rum. Nathan Simmonds, Senior Policy Advisor for the United States Virgin Islands told the publishers “the benefits of the rum agreement are not just paper deals.” Economically, the agreement with the company will generate $50 million in revenue this year and is projected to triple within in the next six years. Applauding the publishers for not “believing the hype”, Mr. Simmonds said “thank you for getting the facts and utilizing your power of the press to help us move forward.”

During the closing night Salute Dinner, award winning actress and author Victoria Rowell thanked the membership for its coverage of the on-going challenge faced by Blacks to gain equal access to jobs in the entertainment industry. She commended the association for its support that recently resulted in the hiring of the first African American writer on the popular daytime soap opera “Young and the Restless”, where she appeared for 17 years. “This is only step one” said Rowell, referring to the three time award winning writer being hired on a six week trial basis for the show. “None of this could have been expedited had it not been for you. The Black Press has always been good to us. We have a long way to go in Hollywood. But, none of this could have happened, the way it happened, had it not been for the Black Press. We need access. And, this is what the fight is about.”

Steele Comments on Future Plans Following RNC Ouster

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American Newspaper –

While politicos continue to debate whether the circumstances surrounding Michael Steele’s withdrawal from the race for Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman were fair, he said he is still looking to make a nice living in politics.

“He’ll be fine,” said conservative political analyst Raynard Jackson. “He’ll do some TV and probably some book tours.”

Reports say Steele is mulling over offers from CNN and Fox News to become a political analyst. Fox News would make the most sense, as Steele served in that capacity with the conservative news network before becoming RNC chairman.

Steele recently expressed his eagerness to return to television in an interview with FrumForum, a conservative Web site dedicated to the Republican Party and conservative politics.

Steele said he plans on “doin’ some TV here and there. There’s a presidential cycle coming up; I plan to play in that a little bit. Maybe a lot.”

Steele also reflected on the reasons he was unable to gain enough support to retain his position as RNC chairman, telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that perhaps the party wanted someone with a different style.

“I've been trying to figure that one out myself as well, and I think the reality is they wanted someone different in there,” Steele said. “They wanted someone who had a different tone than I did. That's fine.”

He had more pointed words for some of his colleagues, especially new RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. Steele said that Priebus, who he appointed to the position of RNC general counsel, ran against Steele when he saw an opening.

“I know exactly how Caesar felt,” Steele told FrumForum. “It is what it is. I trust my friends. Well, I guess the adage is right. In Washington, you should get a dog.

"We put a lot of resources in Wisconsin over the last two years,” Steele said of Priebus, who is also chairman of the Republican Party in Wisconsin. “That’s what you do for the team."

Black Press Push for Social Media Presence

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By Richette L. Haywood, NNPA Contributor –

St. Thomas, VI – Black newspaper publishers attending the National Newspapers Publishers Association (NNPA) Mid-Winter Conference know what they want. Their focus was on how the Black Press can and should use social media networks to drive awareness of the Black Press as a brand, develop an enhanced digital engagement with Black America, and develop stronger partnerships with advertisers and its readership.

“The rise of social media networks like Facebook and Twitter has given print media a unique opportunity to develop even deeper relationships with our audience and marketing partners,” said Dorothy R. Leavell, chair of the NNPA Foundation. “This event is designed to explore all the possibilities that social networks offer newspapers. Newspapers excel at attracting communities of like-minded users and this event will help newspapers take community building to the next level.” Reaching that next level has been a difficult undertaking for traditional print industry, as both minority and mainstream publications struggle financially to hold on to their print market while competing in a digital age.

Reader interest start, where it has always started, said Eric Easter, an AT&T consultant and print journalist from Washington, D.C. “It’s all about the story, first,” said Easter. Deciding what is the best way to tell the story does not mean changing a publication’s brand or voice. “You don’t need to stop being who you are,” said Easter. “The key is to find out ways to engage (readers) on a daily basis. You have to understand your audience to expand.”

To accomplish that goal, AT&T consultant and owner of Capitol Consulting Group, Kevin Parker communicated to publishers that they have to “integrate being the most trusted voice in Black America” into its presence on the internet. “They need to figure out how to make the social networks work for them and they need to find out where their readers are (from a digital perspective).” Most importantly, Parker said, newspapers must target and capture a more youthful demographic.

Scott Davis, publisher of The Nashville Pride newspaper and one of the younger members of the association, said he will incorporate strategies discussed during the workshops into his newspaper’s operation. “I have a popular entertainment and sports writer. We will be looking to translate his stories (online). Social networking gives us another reach our community and I am excited about that.”

Keeping that enthusiasm alive among its members is critical, said NNPA Chair Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. “We are helping each other to grow into this next phase. We want to make sure we have value added workshops to take us into the future.”

Staying true to its conference theme - Value, Trust & Influence – the four-day event attracted corporate sponsors, including General Motors and Ford, both of whom have undergone their own financial issues. “Business is about relationships and understanding what our needs are. And, hopefully, we can find solutions that would work for both of us,” said Eric Peterson, Vice President of Diversity at General Motors.

Held in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, the conference kick-off event was the NNPA Chairman’s Reception, hosted by Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., which was attended by past and present government officials. The hospitality of St. Thomas was extended to the NNPA by John P. de Jongh, Jr., governor of the Virgin Islands who hosted a reception at the governor’s mansion.

Interview with Civil Rights Icon Charlayne Hunter-Gault

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By A. David Dahmer, Special to the NNPA from The Madison Times –

Charlayne Hunter-Gault did not plan on becoming a civil rights hero. She just wanted to go to school. But, her own personal courage and determination to exercise her right to a public educational facility 50 years ago this week made her just that.

Civil rights history-maker Charlayne Hunter-Gault will visit Madison to serve as keynote speaker for the 26th Annual City-County King Holiday Observance on Monday, Jan. 17, at the Overture Center Capital Theater. Hunter-Gault has earned acclaim in her career as an award-winning journalist, both on television and in print. She is known for her work in Johannesburg, South Africa as National Public Radio’s chief correspondent in Africa and later for her work as CNN’s Johannesburg bureau chief. Her awards are numerous, including two Emmys and a Peabody for her work on “Apartheid’s People,” a NewsHour series on South Africa.

She took some time away from the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of the University of Georgia (UGA) festivities recently to chat with The Madison Times from her home in Athens, Ga. That tense and very chaotic first day of school at UGA, she still remembers like it was yesterday.

Interested in journalism, a young Charlayne Hunter wanted to attend a college with a strong journalism program. In Georgia this meant the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens, which in the early ‘60s did not admit African Americans. Fifty years ago this week, an impeccably dressed teenager walked through an angry mob of screaming and howling White students to attend her first day of classes at the University of Georgia, breaking the long-existing color barrier at that school. At the time, Hunter-Gault was taking on more than just those students, she was taking on the entire state of Georgia.

“That atmosphere was quite charged,” remembers Hunter-Gault. “I actually think that it wasn't a lot of students who were doing all of the yelling of racial epithets. It just seemed that way. I think a lot of the students were just curious. But, there was enough of them making noise.”

On Jan. 9, 1961, the University of Georgia accepted its first two Black students — Hamilton Holmes and Hunter-Gault. On that first day at the school, Holmes and his father, and Hunter-Gault and her mother had no security escort as they walked on campus with their lawyer Vernon Jordan, who gained respect as a civil rights activist and later a close adviser to former President Bill Clinton.

“It was a very busy time because we began our enrollment in the morning and the judge who ordered us in suddenly gave a stay of the order so we had to stop registering,” Hunter-Gault remembers. “Halfway through that day we were re-ordered in by another judge and we managed to get through the crowd and finish registering.”

That night, a mob rioted and chanted outside of her dormitory room. It took a suspiciously long time for the police to get there to disperse the students, Hunter-Gault remembers.

“Ultimately, they had to use tear gas. I had heard this '2-4-6-8... We don't want to integrate.... cha, cha, cha, cha' all night long. That first night, I would eventually go to sleep with that peculiar lullaby in the background. The next night, when I expected the same thing, a brick came through my window and I thought, 'Well, this changes things!'”

The university came in and made the decision to suspend her for her own safety. “But, the next day our lawyers went to court and got us readmitted,” she remembers.

Hunter-Gault's struggles to attend classes at the University of Georgia shone a national light brightly on an inherently racist system and bigoted society and was a huge event in the civil rights movement. Did Hunter-Gault realize the magnitude of what she was doing at the time or was she too young to appreciate fully what was transpiring? “I was a pretty mature 19-year-old, but I couldn't imagine that 50 years later we would be having the kind of celebration that we are having,” Hunter-Gault says. “Without being falsely modest, at the time our principal concern was not so much making history, but entering the state university — which we were entitled to — in order to realize our dreams.”

For the ambitious Holmes and Hunter, their goal wasn't to attend Atlanta's Georgia State, as their legal team suggested — but instead to go to the state's flagship school. After all, UGA offered the best pre-med and journalism courses in the state.

“ [Hamilton Holmes] could have gotten the basic education he needed at Morehouse [University], which he loved, [but] the university [of Georgia] had the facilities par excellence and they were facilities that were enabled by the taxes of our parents,” says Hunter-Gault. “So, we felt pretty much entitled to attend the University of Georgia.”

Unfortunately, there were many that didn't harbor those same sentiments at the time including the governor, the regents, the legislature, and the judiciary, and the university system of Georgia. The university did everything conceivable and possible — legal and illegal — to keep them out. But they could not.

“As time went on, we began to recognize the breadth of this and the impact in the larger society,” Hunter-Gault says. “But, when we first decided to do it, it wasn't with the idea of making history nor did we even think about being exposed to the kind of hatred and venom and even the rioting that took place outside of my dormitory the second night I was on campus.”

This week, Hunter-Gault returned to Mahler Auditorium at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education to give speeches to mark the 50th anniversary of when she and Hamilton Holmes, who passed away in 1995, became the university's first two Black students. She took part in roundtable discussions on racial issues that she hopes will turn into a year-long series of television and radio programs, and ultimately even a college course. The 50th anniversary festivities allowed her to meet many eager young people — some more knowledgeable about the Civil Rights Movement than others.

“I think for the most part it’s kind of ancient history for a lot of them. I spoke with some students and I mentioned SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] and they were like, 'What was SNCC?'” Hunter-Gault laughs. “But, that's what I will be talking about today — the importance of history and why we must preserve memories. From everything I was able to see last night at the opening reception, where we had an attendance that was just mind-blowing, there were so many students, Black and White, who came up to me and hugged me and thanked me for what I had done.”

Hunter-Gault says that it's important that we understand and learn from our past as we continue to fight and struggle in the future.

“We do make progress, if those who believe in justice continue to fight in whatever way they are equipped to fight,” she says. “There are enough positives in our struggle for freedom and dignity and justice and equality that should inspire us no matter what the challenge is, but we can be more empowered and encouraged to fight those fights if we look at the battles that we've fought in the past and won. “You know, Barack Obama said when he was campaigning in Selma in 2008 that he stands on the shoulders of giants,” she adds. “Well, Barack Obama wouldn't be president of the United States if all of those people going back generations had not fought for equality and justice.”

How much progress have we made in race relations since a young Charlayne Hunter fought through that angry mob of White students to get to class 50 years ago this week?

“We've made progress in the advancement of Black people to positions that they might never have been in before and wouldn't have access to prior to the 60s,” Hunter-Gault says. “But we still have challenges that revolve around race, that revolve around class, and that revolve around gender. It doesn't serve us to say that we haven't made any progress, because we have. But, there are new challenges out there and we need all hands on deck to meet those challenges.

“I think we should be encouraged by the progress that we've made in this country, yet when you look at the Gallup polls that show people's reaction to race since the Obama election, Blacks are more pessimistic than anybody else about race,” she adds. “You have a rise in hate crimes, you've got airwaves that are populated with vicious, venomous racism that isn't even muffled. You have a resurgence in the kind of things that can get very bad unless good people do the right thing. So that's what I hope to see.”

Racial Disparities in Dallas Foster Care System

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By Imani Evans, Special to the NNPA from The Dallas Examiner –

No one will ever pretend that the Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) has an easy job. As an agency charged with protecting minor children from abuse, neglect, and exploitation - and empowered to remove children from homes, if necessary - DFPS will always be a political hot-button. Concerns about equity, fairness, and effectiveness have always dogged the agency, which is why it's not surprising that certain state legislators, notably State Senator Royce West, seek to make DFPS reform part of the legislative agenda for the 2011 session.

Last month, West, in conjunction with the DFPS in Region 3, sponsored a town hall meeting at Head Start of Greater Dallas to solicit comment and raise public awareness of racial disparities within the foster care system - DFPS' domain. The issue at hand is emotionally charged: the overrepresentation of children of color in the foster care system in Dallas County. Despite being 20 percent of all children, minority children are 42 percent of confirmed victims of abuse and neglect, 50 percent of children removed from homes, and 42 percent of children waiting adoption at the end of the year.

The speakers at the town hall included Audrey Deckinga, assistant commissioner for Child Protective Services, and Joyce James, director of the recently established Center for the Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities, a division of the Texas Health and Human Services System.

"The purpose of the meeting was to revisit the community and the issues that had previously been brought out in a town hall meeting about five years prior, when the work began," said Sheila Sturgis Craig, Disproportionality Project Manager. "And Senator West wanted to have folks really come back out and talk about what unfolded as a result of the efforts that had been made around addressing disproportionality."

According to Maxine Jones Robinson, DFPS Disproportionality Specialist for Region 3 which includes Dallas and Tarrant counties, "African American children are overrepresented in the child welfare system and there are many, many causes for this. When you see the numbers, they are continuously going up, but if you look at Anglo children's numbers, they are constantly decreasing."

Last month’s town hall meeting also served as a progress report of sorts for the DFPS Disproportionality Project, which was created as a result of DFPS' effort to understand and remedy the issue since submitting two reports to the Legislature in 2006. The first report was a study of the problem, the second a remediation plan. As part of the effort, DFPS formed an advisory board consisting of community leaders, educators, service providers, and judges.

"We're trying to bring people to the table that our families often have some kind of contact with," said Robinson of DFPS. "For instance, oftentimes our families come into contact with public housing and with the food stamp system. They come into contact with the judicial system. They come into contact with law enforcement. Oftentimes, the same families that we're serving are also being served by these other entities and so we have found that there are many, many causes for the disproportionality."

Recognizing this interconnectedness between the concerns of DFPS and the practices of other institutions that Black families interface with is a central feature of the remediation effort.

"It is not just a Child Protective Services problem. It's a problem that occurs in the juvenile justice system, the health care system, the school system, etc. There are many systems where African American families have disparate outcomes as a result of their interactions with those systems," Robinson said.

According to Craig, the town hall meeting was successful. It touched on issues such as support for caregivers, the challenges faced by prospective foster and adoptive parents who are African American, and airing community concerns. Although disproportionality on the whole has not decreased in Dallas County, according to Craig, although there has been a reduction in removals. Craig attributes this to intensified efforts to work with birth families in the interest of keeping children in their homes.

The DFPS analysis also emphasizes the multifaceted nature of the problem, defying one-size-fits-all solutions. For example, Robinson points out that families served by DFPS are often younger, less educated, and mired in poverty, all variables that co-mingle with race. Reporter bias, as shown by caseworkers unable to clearly distinguish between neglect and poverty, also plays a role.

In its totality, the situation may be best described as the vexing result of systemic weakness combined with the failure of some front-line CPS workers to take stock of their own cultural prejudices, or lacking guidance on how to do so.

"We're looking at our policies and practices to make sure that any policies and practices that we have that create a disparity between groups we bring to the attention of our leadership in Austin so that we can look at possibly trying to change," Jones said. "Some things we can't change because they're legislatively mandated. That's why we're working with legislators as well so they can have a good understanding of disproportionality, cultural differences and disparities."

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