BY STACY M. BROWN
U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) received the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s (NNPA) 2018 Newsmaker of the Year Award last week during a ceremony on Capitol Hill.
The NNPA is a trade group that represents more than 200 Black-owned media companies that reach more than 20 million readers in print and online every week. Dozens of NNPA member publishers traveled to Washington, D.C. to celebrate Black Press Week.
“The theme of this year’s Black Press Week is “Celebrating 191 Years of the Black Press of America: Publishing Truth to Empower,’’ according to a press release about the gathering.
Black publishers, media professionals, civil rights leaders and lawmakers from across the country attend the annual event.
‘On a meteoric rise’
Harris, a graduate of Howard University and the University of California Hastings College of Law, is the second African-American woman senator in U.S. history.
“My friend and fellow freedom fighter and heroine should be honored and I’m so proud to be here to present this award,” said NNPA Foundation Chair and San Francisco Sun Reporter publisher Amelia Ashley-Ward.
Ashley-Ward said she remembered when Harris was campaigning to become the district attorney in San Francisco, more than a decade ago. When the race got tough, Ashley-Ward said that the Black community and the Black Press rallied around Harris.
“The Sun Reporter rented a cable car. We put some powerful women leaders on that cable car with you,” Ashley-Ward said, speaking directly to Harris. “We took you all over the city…you told your story, you were running against the White establishment…Kamala won handily in that race and she’s been on a meteoric rise, since then.”
As San Francisco’s district attorney, Harris worked to, “reduce recidivism by offering nonviolent, low-level drug trafficking defendants job training and other life skills education as an alternative to jail,” according to The Los Angeles Times.
Her office reported that during the first two years of the program, “less than 10 percent of those who graduated from the program were reoffenders — compared to 53 percent of drug offenders statewide who returned to prison or jail within two years of release.”
As California’s Attorney General, Harris, “joined other state attorneys general in brokering a $25-billion nationwide settlement deal with the nation’s five largest mortgage institutions for improper foreclosure practices during the recent housing market crash,” The Los Angeles Times reported.
During a recent Judiciary Committee hearing, Harris, “criticized President Trump’s proposal to arm teachers…following the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., saying it doesn’t make sense,” The Hill reported. Harris also praised students who have risen up to push lawmakers to enact new gun safety measures.
‘Year of the woman’
Harris said she was “incredibly honored” to accept the award, particularly from Ashley-Ward and the Black Press, whom she acknowledged as truth tellers and guardians of information.
“This is a room full of leaders,” Harris told the crowd gathered in the Rayburn House Office Building. “And, when you can connect your past to your present and have those connections remain strong, it’s very empowering.”
‘An inflection moment’
Harris, raised in Oakland, Calif., made history when she became, “the first woman, the first African-American and first Indian American in California history to be elected state attorney general,” when she defeated Steve Cooley in the 2010 election, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Harris said America is at a crossroads.
“This is an inflection moment. It’s similar to when my parents met, as they were active in the Civil Rights Movement,” Harris said. “This is a moment to fight for who we are, to fight for the spirit behind and the principle behind the words from 1776 that we all should be treated equal.”
Harris continued, “Charlottesville made it obvious that racism is real in this country. We have inequities based on race, gender and socio-economic standing. Let’s speak the truth.”
Harris said that the country needs to confront the disparities that exist in our educational system and reform our criminal justice system.
The senator, who took office in 2017, said she believes in America and that Americans can do better.
“I can’t think of a moment in time when it’s been more important than ever to support the Black Press,” said Harris. “Especially, in the face of powerful voices trying to sow hate and dissension in this country.”