By Pharoh Martin, NNPA National Correspondent –
WASHINGTON (NNPA) - The Nation's only association of Black newspaper publishers has chosen to commemorate it's 70th year of existence in New York City - the birth place of the Black press - with a line up of civil rights giants, issues panels, glitzy gathers and a first annual Legacy of Excellence dinner.
The National Newspaper Publishers Association's annual summer convention will take place at New York’s Sheraton Hotel & Towers June 16-19. This year's theme is "Power to Influence Black America."
"Our agenda is how do we find common ground in working together to reinforce the challenges of the Black press with advertising?" said Danny Bakewell, chair of the National Newspaper Publishers Association and publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel. "These companies have mega budgets but they don't advertise with the Black press. Many of our major companies like AT&T, General Motors and Ford have come back online and reunited with the Black Press as major partners."
The week's string of events are expected to draw big name civil rights leaders and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
"It benefits the reputation of NNPA to have all of our colleagues - those who we work with in the struggle - to join us to not only commemorate our 70th anniversary, but also to plan with us and gather with us to focus on how we can work together on our mutual agendas," Bakewell said.
The conference will kick off with a "Press and the Pulpit" breakfast hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton and a lunch with Dr. Bernice King , daughter of civil rights icon Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The following day, a breakfast and lunch is scheduled with Marc Morial, president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League and the Rev. Jesse Jackson followed by a panel where national civil rights leaders will discuss the crisis in Black America. The panel will also include Morial, Jackson, NAACP's president and chief executive Benjamin Jealous, Dr. Michael Lomax, the president and chief executive officer of the United Negro College Fund, Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree and Kathy Times, president of the National Association of Black Journalists.
On Thursday evening, following the MillerCoors A. Philip Randolph Messenger Awards, the annual staple event will take place. That’s the glitzy NNPA Merit Awards gala, hostessed by Black press icon NNPA Foundation Chair Dorothy R. Leavell. Among the string of coveted awards, the top John B. Russwurm Trophy will be given to the newspaper receiving the most points in all 22 Merit Awards categories. Also, for the second year, the Thomas Morgan III Merit Award for HIV/AIDS Education will be given to the NNPA member newspaper which demonstrates the most exemplary original HIV/AIDS coverage from last year.
The first annual Legacy of Excellence dinner gala and awards presentation will anchor the week. The event will award U. S. Rep. Charles Rangel and Motown Records founder Berry Gordy. Lead singer of the O'Jays Eddie Levert will highlight that evening's entertainment.
"Both men represent excellence in achievement that is unmatched," Bakewell said. "They come during a time when they set and achieved goals that prior to them people never would have believed could be accomplished by Black people. They were on the threshold of excellence much like the Black press was on the threshold of excellence. We think that they are befitting to be recognized as representatives of the levels of achievement that occurs in our community all the time by people who refuse to accept barriers as an excuse and accept other people's opinions about what we can do and can't do."
With the founding of the nation's first Black newspaper, the Freedom's Journal, in 1827 by two free Black men, John Russwurm and Rev. Samuel Cornish, New York is the official birthplace of the Black press. Bakewell said that he wants to commission a plate or a cornerstone to memorialize the site of the founding of the first Black newspaper. Today there are historic Black newspapers in New York City that are members of NNPA- the New York Amsterdam News, the New York Beacon, the New York Carib News, and the New York Daily Challenge, as well as eight others around the state and immediate area.
The city also holds the distinction of being the media and advertising capital of the world as well, a particular draw for a media outlet that traditionally lacks the same access to resources as their mainstream counterparts. But, Bakewell is optimistic about the future for Black newspapers.
"This has been a landmark year for the Black press," Bakewell said. "We have resurfaced bigger, bolder than ever and it's because of extraordinary leadership of Black publishers across the country and this is just the beginning."
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