By Rosetta Miller-Perry
Black celebrities often only have one dependable champion when it comes to media outlets. That’s the Black press. Black newspapers, magazines, and radio stations, as well as the handful of Black owned TV properties, rally behind Black celebrities and politicians when others attack or abandon them. Yet all too often, those celebrities don’t support the Black press as far as advertising, or even bothering to get subscriptions. They give priority interviews to mainstream media, appear on those stations first, even take out huge ads in mainstream newspapers, but don’t even bother to give Black media any attention.
It was very instructive many years ago to see when O.J. Simpson, who had spent his entire professional athletic and acting career ignoring and avoiding any links to the Black community suddenly decided to embrace it when he was on trial for murder. Likewise many big name stars will immediately run to the Black press whenever they get in trouble, or want to patch up relationships that are caused by mistakes in judgment or questionable comments. The Black press remains the one place where there’s not an automatic assumption of guilty any time there’s a crime and a Black suspect. So many Black stars have white management and/or representation, and these people simply don’t consider the Black press important enough to include in their promotional efforts.
Interestingly, we’ve reached a point in this country where the Black press is actually getting more notoriety than usual due to who’s in the White House. Because the Black press has never gotten favored treatment from the White House, even during the Obama administration, we’ve never viewed ourselves as anything other than watchdogs and guardians of the public interest. We cited and vigorously criticized the racist comments of politicians towards the President and the disrespectful attitude of the Republican Party in general. But we also didn’t hesitate to criticize the President if we felt he wasn’t doing enough in regards to Black America’s problems. Some of his harshest (some would say TOO much so) critics were Black websites like The Black Agenda Report and Breaking Brown. There were other prominent left-wing and radical Blacks who didn’t mute or downplay their criticism of President Obama, despite his enormous popularity nationwide and especially among Blacks.
But with Trump, the Black press knows there’s someone in the White House hostile to our interests. We’re not in conflict about anything in regards to Trump other than his policies. That’s why you’ll see Black papers, websites and radio continue to mount public pressure against Trump’s efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. He’s already announced plans to dismantle two programs that former First Lady Michelle Obama championed, including one for Black girls.
The Black press also continues to support Black celebrities, even those who keep ignoring us. It would be thrilling for instance to see regular interviews in the Black press with the biggest stars in film and TV. You do see occasional ones, but nowhere near as many as you will in the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, or any big mainstream paper. Thankfully many Black politicians understand the historical importance of the Black press, and understand that it is still a place where many Blacks get their news. But sometimes some of them forget about us until they’re accused of ethical or criminal violations. Then they have no problem requesting front page coverage, supportive editorials and extensive feature stories.
So for us it is very simple. We’re asking all these folks who today are starring in big feature films or heavily watched TV shows, people who are on the radio or television regularly, and big name athletes and entertainers, to please support the Black press. Our advertising rates are nowhere near as expensive, but we are also well read and there are many people who still don’t have broadband access and depend instead on the Black press for information. Top musicians when you come to town for concerts, take out promotional ads in Black papers just like you do in the mainstream and alternative press. Black athletes playing football, basketball, baseball or hockey, do some promotional spots for Black radio and then do some interviews with the Black press.
Because the day inevitably comes when you do or say something that alienates or angers your white fan base. Then you have to come back to the Black press, tell them your story and hope that they are sympathetic. Frankly, it is getting to be a bit old that the only time you see a prominent Black athlete interviewed in a Black paper is when they’ve been accused of a crime or on draft day. How about doing some of those one-on-one interviews with Black sports editors and writers, and not just Black publications or websites owned by whites. ESPN’s The Undefeated for instance does many fine stories and has on staff many topflight Black journalists. But ultimately it is still a corporate entity, with all profits going to the Disney corporation.
We can’t force Black stars, celebrities, entertainers, or athletes to do anything. Cultural pride and awareness can be cultivated, but if you don’t have it, you don’t have it. Just as their are too many Blacks who won’t support Black businesses for a variety of reasons, we have the same phenomena in regards to the Black press. It is frankly lunacy that no one thinks anything is wrong if Italians support Italian establishments, Asians do the same for the businesses they own, but Blacks have a hard time convincing each other that we need to support ourselves.
So depressing that we even have to make this appeal, but the bottom line is that the Black press needs dollars and support to continue publishing. We simply ask all the big names whom we’ve helped become stars and wrote about when no one else in the media really cared to step forward now and do your part to keep the tradition of activism and information uninterrputed.