On March 17 National Newspaper Publishers Association President and CEO Benjamin Chavis called on members of the Black Press to engage the younger generations and master technology. (Courtesy Photo)

By Alexis Taylor,
AFRO Managing Editor

Black reporters, editors and publishers recently received marching orders from National Newspaper Publishers Association President and CEO, Benjamin Chavis. 

Capping off Black Press Week, which took place from March 13 to March 17, Chavis highlighted the history and importance of Black news media, their commitment to the truth and how to forge ahead in the current climate.

“The state of the Black Press today, as it has always been is inextricably linked and connected to the state of Black people in America and to the state of African people throughout the world,” said Chavis, speaking to a room full of members of the Black Press, gathered at the historic National Press Club in Washington, D.C. 

The event came just one day after official Black Press Day, which is observed on March 16, the day that the first Black newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, was published in 1827 by Samuel Cornish and John Russmworm. 

“The fact is that Freedom’s Journal, 196 years ago, served as a distinguished template for freedom fighting journalism and activism for the subsequent two centuries of Black newspaper publishers, leaders, activists, academics and dedicated journalists,” said Chavis. 

The NNPA paid homage to the roots of Black Press and acknowledged the close relationship between the faith community and Black newspapers. 

“Black Press actually grew out of the Black church. The Black Press grew out of the urgent yearnings and outcries of a people to be free from the terror from the horror, from the devastating societal economic contradictions and the unprecedented genocide and dehumanization of the transatlantic slave trade and the centuries long enslavement of African people in the Americas– north and south. You have to understand, before 1827, we were enslaved for centuries– not years–centuries. And people look at us today and say what’s wrong with ya’ll?’” 

Chavis called on African Americans to master technological advances, like artificial intelligence, so that they can join the ranks of Black Press and boldly fight for civil and human rights that benefit all Americans- not just Black citizens. 

“We’ve got to get into programming. We’ve got to get into coding and we’ve got to get into developing ways and means to transmit truth… because there’s just not a Black truth, or White truth. It’s just the truth. And that’s where the Black Press comes in,” said Chavis. “Every inch of progress that we’ve made in America benefits all people. It’s amazing to me that the governor [of Mississippi] doesn’t want to help the people in Jackson get drinking water. White people drink water in Jackson. It’s not Black water- it’s water!”

“What kind of world are we living in?,” quipped Chavis. “If we can’t insure water for all human beings, if we can’t insure air free of toxins to breathe for human beings, if we can’t eat food that’s not contaminated with inorganic toxins that are getting into our lymph system and contributing to the maladies of health that we have. COVID exposed all of these pre-existing conditions in our community. We’re not born with pre-existing conditions. It’s because of the disproportionate exposure to these hazards.” 

Chavis issued a call for members of the Black Press to remain strong by aligning themselves with the truth, maximizing the use of technology and reviving the relationship between Black Press, Black communities and Black Churches. He also said Black Press must participate in get-out-the-vote efforts nationwide and put a heavier focus on training up the “new generation of journalist freedom fighters and journalist entrepreneurs.”

“The Black Press in 2023 stands for the truth over the lies that are being propagated by the forces of racial hatred, and oppression,” continued Chavis. “Even after years of racially motivated police brutality across the nation, recently, there has not been a national call to ban hate, or to ban racism, or to ban anti semitism or to ban homelessness, or to ban poverty. Yet, they want to ban books. They want to ban history. They want to ban the truth– we have to do something about that as the Black Press of America.”

The fact is that Freedom’s Journal 196 years ago, also served as a distinguished template for freedom fighting journalism and activism for the subsequent two centuries of Black newspaper publishers, leaders, activists and academics and dedicated journalists, business development and international Building, actually business development and institutional building. 

We’ve been in the black communities during the past 196 years was actually led by black church leaders, and by black newspaper owners, publishers and other entrepreneurs, that well knew that they could not depend solely or exclusively on the benevolence, the charity, and the generosity of slave masters or former slave masters to advance the cause of freedom, justice, equality, and equity. 

Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer