The trade association for Black-owned newspapers is holding their annual conference in Prince George’s County, Md.

The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) annual meeting is taking place from June 20-24 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Md. Benjamin Chavis, the president and CEO of NNPA, told the AFRO that this conference is at a key moment.

The National Newspaper Publishers Association held the opening event for its convention (June 20-24), called the National Black Parents Town Hall Meeting on Educational Excellence on June 20., at the Gaylord International Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Md. The town hall included a panel discussion on the Every Student Succeeds Act by panelists (L to R): Ben Chavis, NNPA President & CEO; Denise Rolark-Barnes, NNPA Chairman; Teia Hill; Yeri Yun; Lynn Jennings; Marietta English, National Alliance of Black School Leaders; Elizabeth Prima and Chris Stewart. (Photo by Rob Roberts)

“This is a pivotal moment for the Black press,” Chavis said. “As we celebrate the 190th anniversary of Freedom’s Journal, it is important that we continue the legacy of publishing and disseminating the truth from a Black perspective.”

The Freedom’s Journal was founded in 1827 in New York City by John Russworm and Samuel Cornish with the famous moniker of “we wish to plead our own cause” and “for too long others have spoken for us.”

The NNPA was founded in 1940 when John Sengstacke, publisher of the Chicago Defender organized Black publishers from across the country to come together for a common purpose – the benefit of Negro journalism. The organization was known as the National Negro Publishers Association but in 1958, that was changed to its present name.

The NNPA, based in Washington D.C., has 211 member newspapers, including the AFRO. Its readership is estimated at 15 million and member newspapers are in almost all major urban areas with a concentrated Black presence.

The organization played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s, publishing stories about the struggles and victories and helping to mobilize Blacks and friendly Whites to the cause.

“We declare that the Black press is more important today than it was 190 years ago,” Chavis said. “We have a president of the United States who questions the value of the press and it is up to the Black press to tell and value the truth.”

The conference’s theme is “Celebrating 190 Years of Black Press in America: Legacy, Innovation, and Empowerment.” Chavis said that the charge for Black publishers is to “reassert ourselves because we are perceived by Black America as the trusted voice of Black America.”

Chavis said the conference has an estimated 500 registrants. The merit awards ceremony/dinner will take place June 22. On June 23, the Lifetime Achievement Award will be given to Martin Luther King III, the son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Days before the inauguration of Donald Trump, Martin Luther King III met with the president-elect to advocate for free voter ID cards for all Americans.

“We decided to give the award to Martin because next April will be the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination and King III has consistently upheld his father’s legacy and continued Dr. King’s dream,” Chavis said.