By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)
Congressional Black Caucus Chair Cedric Richmond and Federal Communications Commission Chair Mignon Clyburn were among eight honored with the National Newspaper Publishers Association 2017 National Leadership Awards.
Curley M. Dossman Jr., the president of Georgia Pacific Foundation; William Hawthorne III of Macy’s; former education secretary John B. King Jr., CBC Foundation Chair and Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Rep. Robin L. Kelly (D-Ill.), were also honored at the awards reception held at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Tawanda Jones, a community activist from Camden, N.J., probably received the greatest praise during the evening. Jones serves as a mentor to the Camden Sophisticated Sisters Drill Team, a dance-based, nonprofit youth organization that she founded to help children avoid negative activities in the community.
“I was thinking about how many untold stories there are,” said Jones, who, just before ascending the stage to accept her award, was honored with a video tribute created by the Ford Motor Company that depicted her hard work in the community.
“I can remember our humble beginnings, asking people for donations and how many doors slammed in our face,” she said. “Nothing will stop us from moving forward or paying it forward.”
According to Jones, the group has educated more than 4,000 members and has a 100 percent high school graduation rate, about 30 percent above Camden’s average.
King, the president and CEO of the nonprofit Education Trust, praised the Black Press and urged newspaper publishers to continue their vigilance in being the watchdog for their communities.
“This isn’t an ordinary start to a new school year,” King said, noting many of the changes that have occurred during the new administration.
“This year, kids come back to school seeing Nazi and [Ku Klux Klan] marches…a travel ban on folks practicing a different religion than theirs and wondering if someone might get deported,” King said, adding that, “As truth tellers and story tellers, the role of the [Black Press] is critical.”
Clyburn, a former publisher and general manager of the Coastal Times in Charleston, S.C., also praised the Black Press.
“There will always be a need for the Black Press,” Clyburn said. “A world without the NNPA and its publishers is not a world I want to be a part of.”
Richmond, the Louisiana Democrat who was elected the chairman of the CBC in November 2016 and who also serves on the House Committee on Homeland Security and the House Judiciary Committee, said that the renewed attempt by Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is cause for concern.
It’s also a cause for vigilance, he said.
“For us to continue progress, to keep us from losing the gains we had, we cannot do it without you [the NNPA],” Richmond said.
“Your partnership by far is the most important one that we have at the CBC,” he said.
Later, Richmond said Republicans are just one vote shy of being able to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s signature legislation, the ACA.
“The latest health care bill is a travesty. Out of all the bills, this is the worst,” Richmond said.
Dr. Ortha Thornton, a retired Army Lieutenant, received an honorable mention award from the NNPA.
Thornton served over two decades in the military and was chief of Personnel Operations for the U.S. Forces-Iraq in Baghdad; Thornton also earned the Bronze Star Medal for exceptional performance in combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Several representatives from the award reception sponsors addressed the large gathering.
The sponsors included: Ford; General Motors; RAI Reynolds American; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; AARP; Macy’s; Ascension Health; Honda; Koch Industries; Nexus Service; Pfizer Rare Disease; Volkswagen; American Petroleum Institute (API); AmeriHealth; and JP Morgan Chase.
Meanwhile, Leon Russell, the chairman of the board of directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, attended the reception and announced a renewed relationship with the NNPA.
“It’s time for the NAACP and the NNPA to renew its partnership,” Russell said. “You have to be the voice to the people and let everyone know what’s happening in our communities.”