By Harry Colbert, Jr. (Insight News/NNPA Member)
No one is better equipped to tell your story better than you.
And logic stands to reason that no one is better equipped and more passionate about telling our story than us. The stories of Blacks in America are equally as triumphant as they are tragic. And many, if not most, of these stories would be lost to time, if not for the Black Press. And in an age where Black people are both progressing exponentially and under attack daily, the need for the Black Press has never been more apparent. And in a day where all media is under assault from the highest level, we must exalt the nations more than 200 Black newspapers, as they continue to serve as the defenders and the vanguard progress, enterprise and liberty.
Since the days of “Freedom’s Journal” — the first Black newspaper, published in 1827 during the height if slavery — to today, the Black Press has been a voice reason, compassion and defiance.
Margot Lee Shetterly, author of “Hidden Figures,” said if not for the archives of the Black Press such as the “Norfolk Journal and Guide” and the “Pittsburgh Courier” the inspiring story of the Black women geniuses at NASA would not have been possible to tell. If not for the “Florida Sun” in Orlando, the story of the great training in science and technology happening at Bethune-Cookman University – one of the nation’s historically Black universities – would go untold and unnoticed. In Baton Rouge, it may have been a citizen’s lens that captured the senseless killing of Alton Sterling at the hands of police, but it is “The Drum” that keeps Sterling’s memory alive and is shining the white-hot spotlight on those responsible for his homicide. When factions of the so-called “alt-right” – a movement of racism and intolerance – try to co-opt and corrupt the words (while ignoring the actions) of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it was the Rev. Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), who provided a comprehensive and accurate remembrance of the revered freedom fighter.
Weeks after the inauguration of a president that most in mass media are still trying to wrestle with and dissect, trying to figure out how all the major polls got it wrong, it was the Black Press that ran article after article talking about the tremendous voter suppression efforts happening in key battleground states in the aftermath of the United States Supreme Court decision in the Shelby v. Holder case that gutted the Voting Right Act of 1965. Possibly, had the warnings of the Black Press been heeded, maybe, just maybe, the nation and the world would not be in the predicament it now finds itself.
The NNPA wrapped up its mid-winter training conference in Ft. Lauderdale a few weeks ago. Representing more than 200 Black publications, the NNPA, is a trade association of the more than 200 African American-owned community newspapers from around the United States. Since its founding 75 years ago, NNPA has “consistently been the voice of the Black community and an incubator for news that makes history and impacts our country.” Each week 20 million Americans from all backgrounds seeking news from the Black perspective turn to NNPA newspapers, including “Insight News.”
As journalists, our mission is to shine a light in the darkest of corners. That mission was reaffirmed at the NNPA’s 2017 Mid-Winter Conference with a level of commitment and intensity never before seen. “Freedom’s Journal” ran the first leg of the relay. The NNPA and the Black Press have gladly accepted the baton and we are more than capable of running the race. In running that race, what we ask of you, the reader, in this age of digital media and the sharing at the click of a button; that you seek out and share the valuable information of the Black Press with your networks as we must preserve and protect the Black Press.
Harry Colbert, Jr.is the managing editor of Insight News in Minneapolis. An award-winning journalist, Colbert served as a journalism instructor to the National Association of Black Journalists and the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists. He is a past president of the University of Missouri chapter of the NAACP.