By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) honored Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza during a lively ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, March 21.
Norton received the NNPA’s Torch Award, given annually to someone that has made a positive impact in the African American community, while Garza received the NNPA Newsmaker of the Year in recognition of her work as an organizer, writer, public speaker and difference maker.
The NNPA is a trade association that represents more than 220 Black-owned media companies in the United States and promotes the profession of journalism and the business of publishing, while celebrating the evolution of the Black Press in America.
“What an honor to receive this affirmation from what I refer to as the source,” said Norton, who has fought to help the Black Press receive advertising from the federal government, whose various agencies has spent nearly $5 billion on ads over the past decade but just 5 percent of those dollars spent with African American-owned media.
After meeting with the Black Press of America two years ago, Norton sought a report from the Government Accountability Office detailing on what government agencies spend on advertising.
“I wasn’t surprised by what I found,” Norton said. “Very little goes to the Black Press and we are working to change that.”
Norton has prepared legislation that would require all government agencies to detail their advertising budget and who they’re placing ads with.
“I’m pleased that Democrats have captured the minority and that’s going to mean a lot for African Americans, period,” Norton said.
“I will be introducing a bill addressed to the appropriators and it’s very important it will be appropriators because they can demand in order for the agencies to get their money they have to do certain things,” she said.
Norton believes holding those agencies accountable will lead to leveling the playing field for black publishers.
Garza, who in 2018 founded Black Futures Lab that works to make black people powerful in politics, said she appreciates holding the torch alongside the Black Press.
“I feel like we got some work to do together,” Garza said.
A 2017 Sydney Peace Prize recipient, Garza said while the work of Black Lives Matter has shined a spotlight on police shootings of unarmed African Americans, it’s also important that black women are given their due respect.
“Black Lives Matter has always been about telling the truth… and the truth of the matter is there’s somethings we’ve got to talk about. Black women… our experiences were devalued and erased and told our job and role is to serve others even at the expense of yourself,” Garza said.
“My sister Dream Hampton, the executive producer of the television series, ‘Surviving R. Kelly,’ she’s walking around with security teams because we’re not able to tell the inconvenient truth that black women have been abused. Black women who have been telling their stories for decades are being abused and we have the ability to stop it,” she said.
The ceremony featured addresses by NNPA President Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., New York Carib News Publisher Karl Rodney, NNPA Association President Dorothy R. Leavell, and NNPA Foundation Chair Amelia Ashley-Ward.
Dr. Emil M. Thomas, the pastor of the Jerusalem Baptist Church in Palo Alto, California, served as the keynote speaker of the evening and brought the crowd to its feet with a stirring speech about truth, the ineptitude of the current White House administration, and the importance of the Black Press.
“Keep telling the truth,” Thomas said, urging Black Press members in a fiery dissertation that concluded with standing ovation from those in attendance.
Double O Entertainment, featuring the One Vision Band and singer Elyscia Nichole, provided live music during and after the ceremony.