NNPA Fellows report on challenges and aspirations of Black America

— The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) commends the dedication, vigilance and vitality of our eight “Discover the Unexpected” NNPA Journalism Fellows: Brandi Montgomery, Brelaun Douglas, Briahnna Brown, McKenzie Marshall, Victoria Jones, Rushawn Walters, Tatyana Hopkins and Sidnee King.

Over this summer, the NNPA Fellows were in the streets in Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Houston, Cleveland and Philadelphia reporting on the news that will impact the quality of life of African Americans.

Thanks to the academic and professional guidance of the Howard University School of Communications, the NNPA benefited strategically from having this group of talented millennials as the first group of undergraduate student fellows in 2016. This unique fellowship program was made possible by the generous support of Chevrolet.

I witnessed firsthand the diligence of some of the NNPA Fellows at the NNPA National Convention in Houston in June and at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last week. During both events, I observed the fellows’ thirst and passion for gathering the news and for reporting their insights and perspectives to black America.

Today we are challenged by numerous issues on voting rights, politics, education, healthcare, employment, housing, economic development and criminal justice reform. Yet, the aspirations of black America to push for more progress, justice and equality have not been diminished or reduced. In fact in Cleveland at the Republican National Convention, as well as at the DNC in Philadelphia, the demands of black America for fairness, respect, justice and equal opportunity were well articulated and reported in the Black Press across America. It was inspiring to see young activist journalists, videographers, podcasters, bloggers and photographers do their work with enthusiasm and zeal.

“This new partnership represents the next phase in the relationship between Chevrolet and the NNPA, allowing our Chevrolet brand to help shape and support the next generation of black journalists and publishers,” said Michelle Alexander, General Motor’s Diversity Marketing Manager. “These young, aspiring journalists had the opportunity to get hands-on experience and guidance from the leading publishers in our communities.”

Briahnna Brown affirmed, “I am grateful to both Chevrolet and the NNPA for my opportunity with DTU, which has enabled me to take lessons from the experience and professionalism of the top minority publishers in the country to tell stories that are often overlooked in the communities I represent.”

Recently in Washington, D.C. NNPA Fellow Victoria Jones reported on the importance of African America iconic leaders to share their success stories and journeys with young emerging activists and leaders in our communities throughout the country. Jones’s news feature title was “Icon Talks’ Event Celebrates African American Success.”

Media mogul Cathy Hughes, civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson and actor Omari Hardwick were honored and saluted at the Icon Talks’ event at the Mead Center for American Theater.

“The performances and conversations….. explored paths to success and provided a platform to engage, entertain, and inspire,” explained Jones.

We look forward to the next phase of the Discover the Unexpected (DTU) Fellowship Program with the NNPA. As we face the future, we are more determined and confident that we will continue to advance the cause of freedom, justice and equality. The Black Press of America will remain at the vanguard of the global movement to change the nation and world into a better place for all.

Benjamin Chavis is president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association

Discover the unexpected: NNPA journalism scholars are breaking the news

— Today people are exposed to 10-minute news segments six times per hour in a 24-hour news cycle in terms of television and radio news. Twitter, Facebook and other social media are now used for instantaneous news, commentary, and the sharing of perspectives by hundreds of millions of people throughout the world.

Yet, Black-owned newspapers in the United States remain in high demand even amidst the growing digital age of communications and multimedia news services. Social media compliments and extends the reach of the Black Press.

Thanks to Chevrolet, the Discover The Unexpected (DTU) NNPA Journalism Fellows Program is giving undergraduate student scholars from the Howard University School of Communications the opportunity to “Break News” in Detroit, Chicago, Washington, DC, and in Atlanta. Tatyana Hopkins, Sidnee King, Briahanna Brown, McKenzie Marshall, Brandi Montgomery, Brelaun Douglas, Victoria Jones, and Rushawn Walters are all now working with NNPA member newspapers in the aforementioned markets.

On the ground and in the streets, these gifted and talented young journalists are helping not only to bridge generations concerning vital news coverage, but also the NNPA Fellows are using multiple media platforms to help reach new readers across the nation and global community. As more young readers are now consuming their news, sports coverage, and cultural aspiration via the Black Press, then the future sustainability of Black-owned newspapers is further assured.

The point here is that the print Black Press in America is content rich and therefore is invaluable in today’s context of national and international content distribution. There is a substantive difference between sensationalism to get media attention and good journalism that renders objective facts or that delineates informed opinions.

For more than 189 years the Black Press in America has represented the best in presenting the facts, news, struggles and triumphs of African American life and empowerment. The baton is now being pass to a generation of journalists and publishers who are equally fearless, courageous, and articulate.

We are proud of the opportunity and the engagement that the DTU is offering to the NNPA family and community of publishers and media owners throughout the nation. Already some of our NNPA Fellows’ news entries have made the front pages of our newspapers. In addition the published stories by the NNPA Fellows have significantly increased the NNPA’s media impressions via social media.

It should be noted here that President Barack Obama on the occasion of the White House observance of the 2016 Juneteenth Celebration commented on the importance of continuing the struggle against all the lingering vestiges of slavery, racism, injustice, and inequality. The Black Press is today the most capable and responsible vehicle to continue to strive toward fulfilling the goal of racial, social and economic equality.

President Obama stated, “Juneteenth is a time to recommit ourselves to the work that remains undone. We remember that even in the darkest hours, there is cause to hope for tomorrow’s light. Today, no matter our race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, we recommit ourselves to working to free modern-day slaves around the world and to honoring in our own time the efforts of those who fought so hard to steer our country truer to our highest ideals.”

Learn more about Discover The Unexpected (DTU) at http://www.nnpa.org/dtu/ and use the hashtag #DiscoverTheUnexpected on Twitter @BlackPressUSA and @NNPA_BlackPress

Discover the Unexpected: Continuing the Legacy of Freedom’s Journal in 2016

History is more than the memory and documentation of the past. We all learn from the trials, tribulations and triumphs of prior generations. History sets the stage for the transformation of the present into the future. Such is the case today for more than 45 million African Americans and millions of others across the United States.

This year is another national election year. The value and purpose of the right and responsibility to vote is more important today than in 1965 when the Voting Rights Act was first made law. Yet, if we somehow forget that the right and opportunity to vote were only gained as a result of struggle, sacrifice and vigilance, then too many of us will take for granted both the past and the present.

The genius of the Black Press in America has always been its audacious courage to print and distribute the truth even in the face of injustice and inequality. Frederick Douglass said it best when he declared, “Freedom is a constant struggle.” Douglass was a writer, publisher, orator, scholar and a freedom fighter.

Next year will mark the 190th anniversary of the Black Press. On March 16, 1827, John Russwurm and Samuel Cornish began Freedom’s Journal in New York City as the voice of Black America. From the very first publication of the Black Press up to today, our newspapers covered local, state, national and international news about the conditions and progress of African people as well as all of humanity.

Keeping the legacy of Freedom’s Journal alive in 2016 is vital and mandatory. The struggles for freedom, justice, equality and empowerment continue with new vibrancy and urgency. Each generation has to rise to the occasion pushing forward to ensure that the quality of life in our communities is improved and celebrated.

Today there are more than 206 African American owned newspapers and media companies in the United States who are members of the National Association of Newspaper Publishers (NNPA). Thanks to a longstanding partnership between General Motors and the NNPA, Chevrolet Malibu is now supporting and actively engaging to help the next generation of emerging African American journalists, publishers, and media scholars.

Discover the Unexpected (DTU) program launched by Chevrolet and the NNPA has eight NNPA Journalism Fellows from the Howard University School of Communications: In resident at The Atlanta Voice newspaper are Brandi Montgomery and Brelaun Douglas; at the Chicago Defender are Briahanna Brown and McKenzie Marshall; at The Washington Informer are Victoria Jones and Rushawn Walters; and at the Michigan Chronicle are Tatyana Hopkins and Sidnee King.

Recently, NNPA Fellows Brandie, Brelaun, Briahanna, McKenzie, Victoria, Rushawn, Tatyana, and Sidnee were all together in Detroit to learn about the inspiring innovative and success example of Ms. Crystal Windham, Director of Design at General Motors. Ms. Windham worked on the design of the new 2016 Chevrolet Malibu that the NNPA Fellows are using this summer to research and file their stories for the NNPA News Wire Service and NNPA member newspapers.

Learn more about Discover The Unexpected (DTU) at http://www.nnpa.org/dtu/ and use the hashtag #DiscoverTheUnexpected on Twitter @BlackPressUSA and @NNPA_BlackPress

Discovering the unexpected on the journey to empowerment: Young NNPA black scholars

— The legendary scholar, writer and visionary James Baldwin once personally confided in me that he had come to know that the “power of the pen” for black people in America and throughout world was “truly transformative and irreversibly impactful on the consciousness of all those who cry out for freedom, equality and justice.” Baldwin’s prophetic words from the 1970’s are still true today.

We take note with pride that currently there are a growing number of young, gifted and talented journalists who are emerging on the campuses of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and in the offices of our nation’s black owned newspapers and media companies. Baldwin’s audacity and legacy to write and speak truth to power are finding a new resonance among today’s young journalists.

Thanks to the game-changing efforts and support of General Motors Chevrolet Malibu, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) together with the Howard University School of Communications have launched “Discover The Unexpected” NNPA Journalism Fellows Program.

Over the next several months in Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, and in Washington, D.C., eight NNPA Journalism Fellows from the Howard University School of Communications will be working with NNPA member publishers to sharpen their pens and to files stories that capture and amplify the challenges, struggles, triumphs and realities of Black America in 2016.

This will be a program that will benefit the students, the university, the Black Press, and the African American community. We will have the opportunity to help shape the scholarly preparation of a new emerging generation of freedom-fighting print journalists and social media innovators.

We should not play down the importance of academic preparation matched with the practicum of putting into practice the craft and skill of journalism from an African American perspective. James Baldwin was an activist author, but he also was a scholar. Alex Haley was an activist author, but he also was a scholar. Maya Angelou was activist poet and author, but she was also a scholar.

Remember the names of these NNPA rising scholar fellows: At The Atlanta Voice newspaper are Brandi Montgomery and Brelaun Douglas; at the Chicago Defender are Briahanna Brown and McKenzie Marshall; at The Washington Informer are Victoria Jones and Rushawn Walters; and at the Michigan Chronicle are Tatyana Hopkins and Sidnee King.

MC Lyte is a global icon in hip-hop and popular culture. MC Lyte is an activist writer and pulsating orator, but she is also a scholar. MC Lyte not only endorsed the launch of the “Discover The Unexpected” with her motivating presence at Howard University with the NNPA and Chevrolet, she also is a tremendous living role model of what it means to use audacious talent, genius and commitment to promote positive social transformation and empowerment. We also note that MC Lyte founded and Chairs the Hip Hop Sisters Foundation that has donated thousands of dollars to scholarships for deserving students across the nation.

Learn more about Discover The Unexpected (DTU) at http://www.nnpa.org/dtu/and use the hashtag #DiscoverTheUnexpected on Twitter @BlackPressUSA and @NNPA_BlackPress.

New Year’s resolutions for Black America in 2016

— Whenever we begin a new calendar year, it can be useful to make New Year’s Resolutions to prioritize and focus for the immediate future. Beyond the traditional litany of making very personal and oftentimes private resolutions at the beginning of a new year, black America as a whole, I believe, should be vocal and public about our determination to keep pushing forward for freedom, justice, equality and economic empowerment.

What should be our collective goals and strategic objectives over the next 12 months? Recent academic studies by the Dominican University of California on the importance of “goal setting” to overcome individual and social procrastination revealed that writing down your resolutions and sharing your goals with others that you care about will help you work more diligently to achieve those goals.

Every time I pick up and read a black-owned newspaper in America during this season of annual proclamation, it is always informative to see a written list of New Year Resolutions that challenge black America to continue strive for excellence and achievement in all fields of endeavor. I am obviously proud of the trusted impact of the Black Press of America. Check us out at www.NNPA.org and ww.BlackPressUSA.com.

We have another critical election year coming up in 2016 and the black American vote will have to be mobilized in every primary election and across the nation next November in elections in every precinct in every state, county by county. Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) efforts, therefore, will be a top priority and we must collectively resolve that in 2016 we will ensure the largest voter turnout of black voters in the history of the United States.

Remember, we had a record voter turnout of black voters both in 2008 and in 2012. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “66.2 percent of blacks who voted in the 2012 presidential election, higher than the 64.1 percent of non-Hispanic whites who did so. This marks the first time that blacks have voted at a higher rate than whites since the Census Bureau started publishing statistics on voting by the eligible citizen population in 1996.”

We cannot afford to let the black vote be taken for granted in 2016. Politics and economics are inseparable in the United States. Yet, even though black Americans spend in excess of $1.2 trillion annually in the nation’s economy, that kind of spending volume has not translated into real economic power: increasing the ownership of global businesses and billion-dollar revenue generating investments. We still have a long way to go to achieve economic equality and parity in America.

We should resolve, therefore, in 2016 to improve and expand the economic development of black American families and communities. Although the American economy continues to recover under the Obama Administration, for black Americans we have not closed the wealth gap. White Americans today have 12 times the wealth of black Americans. We must without hesitation and apology, be more determined to end poverty and to generate more wealth for black America. Therefore, we join in complete solidarity with the resolve of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) in the goal of striving to increase black homeownership in 2016.

We are very encouraged that the 2016 NAACP Image Awards will once again be broadcast on TV One. We all should support Radio One, TV One and Interactive One. We all also should support The Impact Network and other black-owned media companies as well as the publishers of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA).

Ending mass incarceration, reforming the criminal justice system, and stopping police brutality are related urgent matters that demand the resolve and activist involvement of black America. Yes, in 2016 our national outcry will continue to be “Black Lives Matter!”

The highest quality education for our children and our young adults requires our vocal support and energetic involvement from pre-school to post graduate higher education. At every level of the educational process and journey we must be vigilant in our demands and commitments to attain the best education for our families.

Thus let’s renew and strengthen our dedication to support the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) as well as work to sustain all of our Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and predominantly black institutions (PBIs). Lastly, we are a spiritual people. All African people are spiritual. We resolve lastly to support and strengthen our religiously institutions: churches, temples, mosques and synagogues.

I asked the Chairman of the NNPA, Denise Rolark Barnes, who publishes the Washington Informer for her perspective about 2016 New Year Resolutions. She emphasized resolutely, “In 2016, our first priority should be to commit our lives and our dollars to those individuals and institutions that represent our best interests. Let’s strive to be the ones that will make a difference in our own communities. Be mindful that ‘If it is to be, it is up to me.’”

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached at: dr.bchavis@nnpa.org.

Lilly Endowment funds Black Minds Matter

— The Lilly Endowment practices what it preaches and exhibits outstanding corporate social responsibility.

There is an old African proverb that says: “Where you put your wealth signifies where and how your life’s priorities are ordered.” Such is the case when one views where and how corporate America invests its wealth beyond the boardroom and the stock market. There are some companies, however, like the Eli Lilly and Company and the Lilly Endowment Inc. that have had a long track record of investing portions of its wealth to support the education of Black America.


Our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs) of higher education are struggling today financially to survive. I serve on the national board of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) that represents all the presidents and chancellors of HBCUS and PBIs. I know something of the fiscal balancing act that the leaders of these important institutions of higher learning have to endure annually.

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) is the largest minority education organization in the United States. Since 1944, the UNCF has raised more than $4.5 billion and has helped more than 400,000 students receive college degrees at UNCF-member institutions through scholarships and other forms of financial assistance.

Each year the UNCF works to enable more than 60,000 students each to attend college. We all should know or remember that UNCF iconic saying “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” This is so true today more than ever before. In fact, I affirm that “Black Minds Matter!” and “Black Lives Matter!”

The Lilly Foundation recently announced a commitment of $50 million for UNCF to launch the UNCF Career Pathways Initiative. Through this initiative, UNCF will award competitive grants to four-year historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and predominantly, black institutions (PBIs) to help students gain the knowledge, skills, training and academic rigor needed for meaningful employment in a technology-driven, global economy.

“We have designed a program that we envision will serve as a model of best practices to solve the unemployment and underemployment crisis among recent college graduates…In today’s marketplace, students need both the knowledge and soft skills to compete in the global economy. Sadly, too many of our nation’s talented students are having difficulty finding good jobs after graduation. Our goal is to work with students, faculty, colleges, alumni, and employers to better connect the student experience with the jobs of the future,” said UNCF president and CEO, Dr. Michael L. Lomax.

The point that needs to be emphasized here is that the UNCF Career Pathways Institute would not have been possible without the financial investment of the Lilly Endowment. We need more American corporations to follow the good example of Eli Lilly and Company and the Lilly Endowment.

As the economy in the U.S. continues to recover with renewed vitality and corporate profits, more private corporate investments in higher education needs to happen. We cannot afford to divert or miss encouraging a generation of young Black American scholars, scientists, teachers, inventors and innovative business leaders.

“This grant for the UNCF Career Pathways Initiative builds on this long-standing support and furthers the Endowment’s belief that a high-quality college education fosters an enhanced quality of life for individuals and their families,” explained N. Clay Robbins, Lilly Endowment’s chairman, president and CEO.

Robbins is correct and on point. The Lilly Endowment practices what it preaches and exhibits outstanding corporate social responsibility. Their support of cultivating and developing young black minds and the genius of those who strive for academic excellence in black America deserve our resolute salute and acknowledgement.

By sharing some of their wealth with UNCF and with HBCUs and PBIs, the Lilly Endowment exhibited in a profound manner that Black Minds Matter. We should recognize and lift up those companies and foundations that help to make a positive difference in our communities. The education of our youth has to be our highest priority. Our lives matter and our young people deserve the highest quality education possible.

Yes, thanks to Lilly, Black Minds Matter!

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached at: dr.bchavis@nnpa.org.

Black and latinos working together

If there was ever a propitious time for African Americans and Latino Americans to unite to advance the cause of freedom, justice, equality and economic empowerment, it is now. Today, more than ever, the rapidly changing national demographics and the potential political and economic power as a direct result of Latino and Black unity in America cannot be overstated.

We are now in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 to October 15, across the United States. It is important to note that during this year’s observance of Hispanic heritage, Latino leaders are also articulating the strategic value and need for more unity between blacks and Latinos.

In a recent column to the New York Amsterdam News, Bronx Borough President Rueben Diaz Jr. stated, “As we face heated, dangerous rhetoric on the issues that concern us the most, the Hispanic community must not only stand together but to also unite with our allies of different backgrounds, such as the African-American community, to fight for the betterment of our communities.”

I know Borough President Diaz and I believe that one day he may become the first Latino mayor of New York City. Fighting to improve the quality of life in our communities is exactly what our long mutual struggles for justice and empowerment continues to be about. The two largest people of color groups in America are Latinos and blacks and if blacks and Latinos unite in New York and elsewhere, it will achieve more effective political and economic results.

President Barack H. Obama issued a proclamation in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month stating: “America’s Hispanic community has woven unique threads into the diverse fabric of our country and played an important role in shaping our national character as a people of limitless possibility.”

We are witnessing a political challenge to the nation’s diversity with the exponential increase in residents of people of color in every region of the country. Some studies show that the racial-disparity divide in America is becoming more and more pronounced in housing, education, business, immigration, and mass incarceration.

Going forward will require a serious effort to ensure a massive voter turnout of Latinos and blacks in the 2016 elections. Neither the black nor Latino vote can be taken for granted. The political future of the U.S. will swing in the balance and scale of how Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) efforts will be financed, advertised, staffed and mobilized.

Neither elected officials nor Corporate America can effectively reach the black and brown communities by ignoring their media outlets. And a promising sign of increased unity between the two powerhouse groups is that the National Association of Hispanic Publishers (NAHP) and the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) have announced the establishment of a NNPA-NAHP National Advertising Task Force. The purpose of the coalition is to educate marketers on the benefits and importance of the African American and Hispanic newspaper markets.

“With close to 97 million African Americans and Hispanics in the U.S. today, representing 33 percent of the total population, this consumer segment demands attention,” said Martha Montoya, VP of the NAHP. “The buying power of the African American and Hispanic communities, currently at over $2.3 trillion combined, continues to outpace the national average.”

NNPA Chair Denise Rolark Barnes emphasized, “This task force also marks a historic partnership between the NNPA and NAHP, the nation’s most influential publishing organizations that are currently led by women. Martha and I have a shared vision and commitment to empower our communities by strengthening the voices of the media we serve.”

The potential force of African Americans and Latinos working together in business, politics, education, housing, family and community development are enormous. The challenge will be to achieve and maintain this unity not just for one year or two, but for a lifetime of solidarity and action to represent and defend the interests of our communities respectively.

Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA). He can reached at: dr.bchavis@nnpa.org.

Jay-Z and Beyonce are following a rich tradition

— Hip-hop culture is about transformation. It is more than a global genre of music. Hip-hop is a transcendent cultural phenomena that speaks to the soul, mind, body and spirit of what it means to dare to change the world into a better place. Hip-hop is not just about acquiring funds or “stacking paper.” It is also about giving back. I have personally been a long term advocate for the unbridled intellectual genius and social consciousness of hip-hop.

So when I heard that recently Jay-Z and Beyoncé travelled together to Baltimore, Md. in the wake of the massive “Black Lives Matter” protests, I was not surprised. In fact, I give them both a big thumbs-up salute in gratitude for their leadership example. The impact of the injustice of the horrific police killing of Freddie Gray was profound not only in Baltimore, but also across the nation.

They did not wait for a “cooling off” period before going to the scene of the protests. Jay and Bey also spent some quality time consoling Freddie Gray’s family. Giving back sometimes involves more than financial contributions. Taking sincere acts of solidarity and empathy with those who cry out for equal justice is also a meaningful expression of caring and lending one’s public brand to support the demand for justice.

One of the reasons why I believe that the combined creative talent of this gifted couple will continue to soar with career success is that they both believing in giving back. They give back substantively to their communities in New York, in Texas and throughout the world. From assisting global Red Cross efforts to helping the United Nations to provide safe clean drinking water to millions of people in Africa, Jay-Z and Beyonce continue their transformative philanthropic campaigns.

Of course whenever public icons such as Jay and Bey attempt to help make a difference for besieged and underserved communities, there will always be a cynical group of “player haters.” But all of the negative responses to the goodwill actions of Jay and Bey will in no way be successful in tarnishing their righteous acts of helping others.

I well remember when the Godfather of hip-hop, Russell Simmons, was joined on New York City in 2001 by P. Diddy, Sister Souljah, Queen Latifah, Jay-Z, Will and Jada Smith, and many other hip-hop icons to establish the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN) as a nonprofit advocacy organization. The artists decided that the theme of HSAN would be “Taking back responsibility” for the empowerment of families and communities in America and internationally.

Jay-Z and Beyonce have helped HSAN immeasurably over years to register millions of young people to vote and to encourage Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) programs in many cities and states. Again, it was not surprising to hear Jay-Z’s latest rap featuring lyrics about the unjust deaths of Freddie Gray, Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin. In classic Jay-Z style, he poetically said, ““You know when I work, I ain’t your slave, right? You know I ain’t shucking and jiving and high-fiving, and you know this ain’t back in the days, right? Well I can’t tell how the way they killed Freddie Gray, right? Shot down Mike Brown how they did Tray, right?”

Beyonce also has a very long list of charities that she supports financially, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Oxfam, UNICEF, Global Poverty Project, and Keep a Child Alive. Yet, probably one of the most private and telling acts that Jay-Z and Beyonce have done over the past year anonymously was the paying of thousands of dollars for the release from jail bails for the hundreds of persons arrested in Ferguson and in Baltimore who were protesting police brutality.

In the 1960s, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, James Baldwin, Dick Gregory and many other performing artists and authors would pay the bail money to get hundreds civil rights workers out of jails during the many struggles for equality and justice. Thus, Jay-Z and Beyonce today are continuing that proud tradition of giving to support the causes of freedom, justice and equality.

Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: dr.bchavis@nnpa.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc

Michelle Obama resists taking the easy way out

— More than any other first lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama continues to stand above those who would attempt to distort her leadership. First Lady Obama’s recent commencement address at the Tuskegee University in Alabama exemplified her courage to speak truth to the world without fear of repercussions.


Benjamin Chavis, Jr.

Michelle Obama’s resilient optimism is refreshing as well as sobering. I am certain the class of 2015 at Tuskegee will always remember the strong and poignant words of wisdom that they were given during their graduation ceremonies. But we all can learn from her timely remarks.

We live today in an increased atmosphere of racial polarization in America since the election and re-election of President Barack Obama. We, therefore, should welcome public utterances that transcend the prevalent negativity surrounding any attempt to address the question of race in the United States.

Michele Obama is perfectly qualified and strategically positioned to use her leadership in a constructive manner to advance the interests of Black America and all those who struggle and cry out for freedom, justice and equality. As a talented Harvard Law School graduate, devoted mother, and loyal spouse to the president, the first lady has risen to become one of the most admired persons in the world.

The first lady eloquently stated, “But here’s the thing – our history provides us with a better story, a better blueprint for how we can win. It teaches us that when we pull ourselves out of those lowest emotional depths, and we channel our frustrations into studying and organizing and banding together – then we can build ourselves and our communities up. We can take on those deep-rooted problems, and together – together – we can overcome anything that stands in our way.”

In other words, we should strive to avoid complacency and the cynicism of hopelessness. The history and the centuries-old legacy of African people in America and throughout the world proves our ability to overcome the hardships of oppression and injustice. It was also good to hear Michelle Obama call for Black American unity and “banding together.”

Our families and communities across the nation are certainly in critical need of greater unity and collective resolve to stand up together to provide leadership and direction in particular for our youth and young emerging leaders. We cannot afford to permit the evolution of an ahistorical generation of young people who have not been given the truth of our history nor given the encouragement that they need to excel and make their mark on history today.

In fact, over the next weeks we will witness numerous graduation ceremonies in particular at other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The good news is that thousands of Black American college graduates from HBCUs and from other institutions of higher learning will be pushing forward to demand greater access to wealth-building careers with the intent on giving more back to the communities from which they have emerged. Like the first lady, I am optimistic about the future to the extent to which we continue to stand up to injustice while at the same time pressing forth to economically empower our families and communities.

Education and empowerment are both goals that must be attained and each generation has to rise to the occasion with persistence and focus. There will be setbacks and sometimes disappointments in everyone’s life. Yet, the enduring lesson from Michelle Obama’s magnificent address was that when those life challenges happen, do not let your problems or critics define who you are. We have to have faith in our own capacity to rebound and to stand for truth even when it might not be the popular or politically expedient.

We are a resilient people. We resist oppression. We are against inequality and injustice. We stand for liberation and freedom for ourselves and for all people. The more we stand together, the more we make progress. We are grateful that in our lifetime we are privilege to witness how the first lady epitomizes what it means to be a freedom fighter with courage and grace, but most of all, with a glowing resilience that motivates and inspires others to excel.

Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: dr.bchavis@nnpa.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc

Attacking economic racism

— Despite ill-intended efforts to do it for us, Black Americans have a responsibility to define our own reality. It is a fundamental human right recognized and respected by the United Nations. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to define, without apology, the deadly and debilitating manifestation of racial discrimination and injustice as “economic racism.”

Why are so many Black Americans still mired down in intergenerational poverty, lack of health care, inadequate education, raging unemployment, disproportionate imprisonment, the highest rate of housing foreclosures and housing discrimination, the lowest rate of bank lending and overcall exclusion from access to sustainable wealth generation in every region of the nation?

How is it mathematically possible for Black Americans to spend more than $1.2 trillion annually in the United States, and yet the overwhelming majority of the companies that make huge profits from the annual spending of Black Americans do nothing more than invest far less than 1 percent of their profits back into Black-owned businesses and grassroots organizations throughout the country?

Why does the American economy remain racially segregated in 2015? Why are Black Americans consigned to poverty and economic inequality?

The answer is amazingly simple: It is the reality of economic racism, defined as the intentional racial discrimination against Black Americans and other people of color to prevent economic equality, justice, parity, advancement, and empowerment; it is the systematic racial exclusion of Black Americans and other people of color from economic policy-making at local, state and national levels in both corporate and governmental entities; and, it is economic institutionalization of racial oppression, stereotyping, and profiling coupled with the ignorance of racial prejudice and hatred.

Yes, this is an admittedly complex definition of economic racism. The matrix of complexity concerning economic racism, however, does not make it impossible to challenge and to overcome. No one is born a racist. We can and will eventually liberate ourselves from all forms of of racial oppression and economic racism.

We have not concentrated on economic racism as much as we should have because of the overemphasis on politics. But we eventually had to recognize that even our political system is controlled by economics and politicians tend to be more responsive to those who support their campaigns economically.

The economic liberation of Black America will require establishing more internal unity and more external coalition-building and partnering with those who stand for freedom, justice and equality with their money, words and deeds. Organizing and mobilizing an effective movement to challenge and overcome economic racism is long overdue

The perpetrators of racial injustice and discrimination are always reluctant to confess or acknowledge the reality of these centuries-old phenomena. In the United States, in particular, there is a historic and contemporary denial of how race plays a determinative role in all aspects of society. As former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ) was fond of saying, “Slavery was America’s original sin, and racism remains its unresolved dilemma.”

And we see that racism manifested in so many ways.

Today, it now appears that the only way to get people to acknowledge racially-motivated police misconduct against Black Americans and other people of color is to have a video tape of the transgression. Thank God for the recent videotape of the police murder of unarmed Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C. Sometimes, as was the case with Eric Gardner in New York City, we can have videotape and rouge cops still escape punishment.

Racism in all of its oppressive manifestations must not only be consistently called out and challenged, but also we must be vigilant and diligent to make sure that we are effective in the elimination of the undergirding factors that cause racism to exist and persist in the first place.

In my home state of North Carolina more than 32 years ago, while helping to lead civil rights protests against the digging of a massive toxic waste landfill in predominantly African American Warren County, I coined the term “environmental racism.” Warren County was also the place where Congress of Racial Equality Chairman Floyd B. McKissick Sr., the first African American to receive a law degree from the University of North Carolina, attempted to build Soul City as an economic empowerment zone and a new city for Black Americans and others who considered themselves progressive.

Environmental racism is the intentional racial discrimination in the deliberate targeting of ethnic and minority communities for exposure to toxic and hazardous waste sites and facilities, coupled with the systematic exclusion of racial minorities in environmental policy making, enforcement, and remediation. As a result of the definitive work that we did on this issue back in the 1980s, today there are effective and transformative environmental justice movements and organizations across America and throughout the world.

One day, I hope we’ll be able to look back and say the same about economic racism.

Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: dr.bchavis@nnpa.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc