Charles W. Cherry II explored the landscape of “The Black-Owned Media in the 21st Century’’ during a Black History month event last month at the Ormond Beach Regional Library.
He was the last speaker in a series produced by Linda Epps and Lawrence Green.
Cherry is publisher of the Florida Courier, his family-owned, statewide African-American newspaper reaching over 300,000 readers weekly, and the Daytona Times, called the “East Central Florida’s Black Voice.”
He’s an attorney, writer, radio broadcaster and strategic business planning consultant. The Daytona native is a 1978 Bachelor of Arts journalism alumnus of Morehouse College.
Toward Freedom’s Journal
Cherry shared how Black people would communicate through drums in Africa, before the written word went global and the printing press was invented in 15th-century Europe.
“Black people had stories that they were passing from generation to generation – just by memory – by continual stories that were told, literally over thousands of years,” he said.
He acknowledged that as descendants, we are approaching the 400-year commemoration of enslaved Africans brought here against their will in 1619.
The Black press provided the means to plead our cause and frustrations, as we stereotypically were perceived as the “happy, inferior slaves’’ because of our skin color.
Cherry said the first Black newspaper came into existence in 1827 known as Freedom’s Journal. It was printed in New York by John Russwurm and Samuel Cornish and was widely distributed in the northern states and throughout Haiti and Europe.
More than a century later, Pullman porters subsequently aided in the development of civil rights by transporting the Black newspapers to the major cities.
Cherry’s dad, the late Charles W. Cherry Sr., started the Daytona Times newspaper and got everybody involved – his wife, Julia; and their children, Charles II, Glenn, and Cassandra.
Cherry Sr. was also a Morehouse alumnus, a local and state NAACP leader, and newspaper publisher. He also was a college professor, accountant, Realtor, union organizer, and a bail bondsman who bailed out his Morehouse College brother, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from a St. Augustine jail. Cherry, Sr., went on to become a Daytona Beach city commissioner.
“There has always been a fight and Black media has always been part of that fight,” Cherry II said, referring to racism.
“The history of Black people in this country is really the history of Black-owned media,” he said. “Black folks understood from an early perspective of how important it was for media to begin to tell our story, in our own way,” he continued.
“As you look at all the historical events of America, the Black Press has always been there,” he affirmed, “and it has always been a different perspective, and I’m proud to be a part of that legacy.”
Cherry, a former South Florida prosecutor, returned to journalism and newspaper publishing upon this father’s death in 2004.
Perils of ownership
He’s the co-founder and former general counsel of Tama Broadcasting, Inc., formerly one of America’s largest, privately Black-owned radio groups, which owned and operated 11 affiliated radio stations from 2001 to 2007.
Since 1990, Cherry has served in various capacities in radio stations in which he has ownership interests, from part-time deejay to general manager.
Cherry said the company’s demise was a result of “resource-robbing, scum-sucking, multinational corporations” who were buying up radio stations.
And, if a small business owner did not want to be bought out, the owner was then left to compete against large, publicly-traded companies. Since no one was “watching the store’’ to protect these small businesses, the antitrust laws did not matter.
Vast opinions matter
In the interest of his Courier readers and the community, Cherry shared that Black media owners had made the decision long ago of not printing “journalistic pornography.”
Moreover, he tries to be even-handed. He knows that folks get upset because in the Courier, a Black Republican may write “right-wing stuff and is published next to a Black Agenda Report commentator who is as anarchistic as he can be.”
Cherry said that he trusts his readers to be wise; plus he prints a disclaimer that the writers’ opinions do not reflect the opinions of the newspaper or the publisher.
One of the unintended consequences of desegregation, he asserted, was the destruction of the Black business class which helped destroy the cohesiveness of the Black communities.
Because of the artificial barriers of racism, which left a limit on where Black folks could go, it’s now an uphill battle to get the best talented writers who are now aspiring to write for the Washington Post or the New York Times.
Daily digital updates
Through the internet and smartphones, more people have been turning to social media for the news.
“God willing,” he said, “we will be here, trying to do some things both from a business and a communications perspective to enlarge our footprint.
“On the digital side, we finally got to the point where it’s cost-effective to do daily updates on both our websites on the Florida Courier and the Daytona Times,” he assured.
“When we talk about getting a newspaper around statewide, it’s like a Pony Express actually.
“You have a piece of ‘something’ in your hand that’s got to go from Port St. Lucie all the way to Jacksonville, Orlando, Daytona, Fort Pierce, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa-St. Pete, and that’s a real thing.
“But because we believe in our product, we know that we are still necessary, we know that we have to be able to give our perspective – we understand that it is difficult – but we are a mission-driven organization, and we are proud of the content we put out,” Cherry noted.
‘Excellence Without Excuse’
The former South Florida state prosecutor earned his juris doctor degree at the University of Florida, Holland Law Center, which is now the Frederick G. Levin College of Law.
At the university in 1982, Cherry earned a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in law.
As a prosecutor, he noticed that the demographics of young, Black men were disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, which now defines the new Jim Crow.
Cherry discovered that in many cases, the stereotypes of broken homes, single-family households, and tough neighborhoods did not apply.
He learned that these young brothers were unable to navigate through the educational system. And while the young men were smart, they did not know how to play the academic game.
Cherry’s book, “Excellence Without Excuse, The Black Student’s Guide to Academic Excellence” focuses on “how the low expectations of Black students’ achievements can get them higher grades. The guide is packed with practical and insightful information for achieving success.”
Another book, “Fighting Through the Fear, My Journey of Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse” was co-authored by Cherry and his former Morehouse roommate, C. David Moody, Jr. It recounts Moody’s victory over childhood sexual abuse.
As always, remember our prayers for the sick, afflicted, the prodigal son, or daughter, and the bereaved.
Belated birthdays to Delcena Samuels, Stephanie Robinson, April 7; Eugene Price and Patrice Straker, April 8. Belated anniver- sary to Bob and Lynne Williams, April 7.
Birthday wishes to Carla Price, Julius Hicks, Joan Robinson, April 11; Irving Robinson Jr., April 12; Ron Smith, Louise Reid, St. Hel- len Mitchell, April 13; Breadon Robinson, April 14; Jillian Glover, Frank Quarterman Sr., April 15; Christine Rooks, twins Nekosha and Porsha Jones, April 16; and Edmund G. Pinto Jr., April 17.
Happy anniversary to Les and Pat Town, April 14.