By Susan Murphy Wood-Barnes, Special to the AFRO
The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) celebrated 192 years of the Black press, with the annual Black press week, which convened March 20-22, in Washington, D.C. President and CEO of NNPA Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Dorothy Leavell, chairman of NNPA and Dr. Amelia Ashley-Ward, foundation chair organized NNPA members and guests from around the country to discuss the state of the Black press, find solutions to continue and honor past publishers and this year’s newsmakers.
March 21 was a major day during the busy conference. Thursday’s session began with the enshrinement of two recipients into The Black Press Gallery of Distinguished Black Publishers, held at Metropolitan A.M.E. Church in Northwest, D.C.. This award honors those of NNPA who championed the cause of the Black press. AFRO publisher emeritus, Frances Louise Murphy II and Marcus Garvey, publisher of The Negro World were this years’ awardees. The Ambassador from Sierra Leone, Mr. Sidique Abou-Bakari Wai and Dr. Julius Garvey, the honored publisher’s son, spoke on behalf of Marcus Garvey.
After words of gratitude, the crowd was uplifted by the AFRO’s publisher the Rev. Dr. Frances Murphy Draper’s acceptance speech. She used the titles of her mother’s column, “If You Ask Me,” as the basis for her words. “If my mother was here to accept this award, I think she would say, ‘If you asked me, I was humbled to be on the same stage as Marcus Garvey.’”
The inception of the column, “If you ask Me,” was the brainchild of her mother Vashti Turley Murphy. She urged her oldest daughter, Elizabeth Murphy Moss, to write, “Good news.”
When Frances Murphy retired as publisher of the AFRO, she returned to Baltimore and picked up her mother’s request to make sure that good news was reported in the paper.
During Thursday’s Torch Awards dinner at the Dupont Circle Hotel in Northwest, D.C., two dynamic women were given awards, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-D.C.) and Alicia Garza, who coined the slogan, “Black Lives Matter,” and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
The evening’s keynote speaker, Dr. Emil M. Thomas, pastor of Jerusalem Baptist Church, addressed the true purpose of the Black Press. Being reminded of the biblical purpose of a scribe, he told interesting stories about truth, drawing from the scripture, Psalm: 68-11, “The Lord gave the WORD; great was the company of those that published it.”
NNPA set a proposal to appeal to millennials.
“We have moved past sayings such as, ‘Say it now, I’m Black and I’m proud,’” Chavis said. “Our new slogan is Black Lives Matter.”