BY STACY M. BROWN
With a lively and capacity crowd inside the Renaissance D.C. Downtown Hotel in Washington on Sept. 12, National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., and NNPA Chair Karen Carter Richards presented the annual National Leadership Awards.
The 2019 honorees were U.S. Representatives Karen Bass (DCalif.), Elijah E. Cummings (DMd.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.); Ray Curry, secretary-treasurer of the International Union, UAW; Shani W. Hosten, vice president of Multicultural Leadership, AARP; Dr. Kim Smith-Whitley, clinical director of Hematology and director of the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; and Crystal Windham, director of Cadillac Interior Design, General Motors.
Each of the recipients joined NNPA corporate partners and sponsors to reflect on the importance of the Black Press.
“I’d like to particularly thank the Black Press for keeping sickle cell disease in the light,” Whitley said, praising the NNPA for helping to shed light on the fact that one in 12 African Americans have the sickle cell trait, and the blood disorder disproportionately affects Black people.
Thanked Black Press
Another award recipient, Crystal Windham, also applauded the Black Press for its work.
Windham, the first African American woman director in General Motors Design history, said it was remarkable that the Black Press of America will celebrate 192 years. The NNPA observes its 80th anniversary in 2020.
“Do not stop doing what you do,” she said, before encouraging others to follow her historical path.
“I owe it to the individuals that paved the way for me. I’m just an ordinary girl from Detroit,” Windham said. “If I can do it, you can do it too.”
‘Honored and humbled’
Curry reminded the audience of the role that unions have played in America’s civil rights struggles. He also shared some of his own history as a beneficiary of benefits gained through the labor negotiation process.
“I’m truly honored and humbled to be recognized with such a distinguished award,” said Hosten. “I also want to recognize the outstanding legacy of the Black Press.
“I grew up reading the Richmond Free Press and the Richmond Afro; they were staples in our home, around our community, and in our church. Those stories told our stories, and I thank the Black Press for the continued partnership with AARP, and for 192 years of telling our story in our community which is so critical now more than ever,” Hosten added.
Scott, who accepted the award for his national leadership in education, thanked Chavis and Carter Richards for their guidance of the Black Press. “The Black Press tells news that needs to be told,” Scott said.
Bass reflected, “We look to [The Black Press] for news. America knows the work you do, and we look to you to help tell our story,” she said.
About the awards
The gathering included appearances by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson, NAACP Chairman Leon Russell, Cuban Ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas, and famed film producer and MIT Media Lab research scholar Topper Carew.
The awards honor individuals who are national leaders in their specific fields and whose actions have helped to improve the quality of life for African Americans and others.
The NNPA, the trade organization representing African American-owned newspapers and media companies throughout the country, began the Leadership Awards in 2014 when it was decided that the optimal time to host such an event would be during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference, a week-long gathering that’s held each September.
The shared objective of the conference and the NNPA National Leadership Awards is to network, collaborate, and strategize collectively for the advancement and empowerment of Black America.
“We salute them for the leadership they have displayed in the Black community and for their overall support of the Black Press,” NNPA Chair and Houston Forward Times Publisher Karen Carter Richards.
“The Black Press is needed now more than ever. We are the daily recorders of our history. We are, and forever will be, The Original Black Press of America,” Richards added.