By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire
Senior National Correspondent

WASHINGTON, DC — This year’s theme highlighted how significant the Black Press remains, its vitality in the many communities it serves, and the transformative vision that has helped keep the millions of subscribers informed.

President Joe Biden helped to kick off the National Newspaper Publishers Association annual summer convention with a ringing endorsement of the Black Press of America.

The President, who campaigned on the promise of equity and inclusion and whose appointments, hires and policy have targeted uplifting Black and minority communities, extolled the virtues of Black-owned newspapers and media companies.

“It’s an honor to join you and celebrate 194 years of the Black Press and 81 years of the NNPA,” the President stated.

“The theme of your conference this year: Black Press Matters, could not be more fitting. The stories we tell, the news we cover matters. The work you do at the NNPA matters.”

The President recalled visiting Tulsa, Oklahoma, earlier this year on the anniversary of the Black Wall Street massacre. “We would not known nearly as much as what happened there if it were not for the Black Press,” President Biden declared.

“The same is true of stories of today. I know times are tough in the industry and every advertising dollar matters. We need your input, we need your important independent voices as much as ever,” he continued.

The President thanked NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., and NNPA Chair Karen Carter Richards for the work that the Black Press does each day.

“Thank you for informing us all,” he exclaimed.

The conference kicked off with a stirring exhibit of more than 100 front pages of African American newspapers sponsored by the Google News Initiative.

Carter Richards, Dr. Chavis, and Convention Chair Terry Jones offered opening remarks.

Dr. Anthony Fauci and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky participated by speaking on the importance of vaccinations and how vital the Black Press of America remains after 194 years.

“The Black Press is critically important,” Dr. Fauci declared.

“Medical co-morbidities are particularly high in African American communities, and that is why getting the vaccine is so important.”

Racism is at the root of much of the health disparities in America, declared Dr. Walensky.

“We must take action,” she insisted. “We are so grateful for [The Black Press’s] voice and to your reporting and commitment to truth.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and White House Senior Advisor and Director of Public Engagement Cedric Richmond, also joined the conference to reaffirm Washington’s commitment to Black America and the NNPA.

The NNPA, the 81-year-old trade association representing the 230 African American-owned newspapers and media companies that comprise the Black Press of America, hosted the annual convention from June 23 to June 26.

While the convention regularly occurs in cities throughout the country, the pandemic forced the NNPA to hold the event virtually for the second consecutive year.

This year’s theme highlighted how significant the Black Press remains, its vitality in the many communities it serves, and the transformative vision that has helped keep the millions of subscribers informed.

Pfizer Rare Disease, AARP, General Motors, Reynolds American, Comcast, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Education Trust, the Small Business Administration, Wells Fargo, American Petroleum Institute, Facebook Journalism Project, and others hosted, sponsored, or participated on panels to provide vital information for publishers and the public-at-large.

Zillow, the Knight Foundation, U.S. Census, Comcast Universal, Molson Coors, Nissan, BHERC, Northrop Grumman, and Nina Turner for Congress, also counted among convention sponsors.

During the convention, the NNPA Fund hosted its annual Messenger Awards to recognize the outstanding work of journalists and newspapers in the Black Press.

Hosted by NNPA Fund Chair Pluria Marshall, Jr., and NNPA Fund Vice Chair Sonny Messiah Jiles with special guests Stacey Abrams and the Rev. Al Sharpton, winners included the St. Louis American, Birmingham Times, Houston Forward Times, The Final Call, Richmond Free Press, Texas Metro News, The Afro American, Michigan Chronicle, New Pittsburgh Courier, Our Weekly Los Angeles, Houston Defender, Savannah Tribune, Atlanta Voice, Jackson Advocate, and the Seattle Medium.

Winner of three Society of Professional Journalists Awards this year, the Washington Informer did not participate in the Messenger Awards.

The NNPA also presented its annual Legacy Awards where Darnella Frazier, the African American teenager who courageously filmed the police officer kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, received the Ida B. Wells National Photojournalism Award.

The Rev. John P. Kee was honored with the 2021 National Gospel Transformative Award, while Earth, Wind & Fire lead singer Philip Bailey was presented with the 2021 National Lifetime Achievement Legacy Award for Outstanding Achievement, Impact, and Creative Genius.

Scotty Barnhart, the legendary Count Basie Orchestra leader, received the 2021 National Performance and Outstanding Leadership Award, and the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson took home the 2021 National Achievement and Outstanding Leadership Award for his work as president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

The NNPA also presented Congresswoman Joyce L. Beatty (D-Ohio) with the 2021 National Congressional Leadership Award and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison with the Outstanding and Courageous Leadership Award.

Dr. Kizzemkia Corbett received a special Leadership Award for her work in developing the life-saving coronavirus vaccine.

Ten-time Grammy winner Chaka Khan received the 2021 National Lifetime Achievement Legacy Award for Decades of Creative Genius and Outstanding Leadership for Freedom, Justice, and Equality in American and Throughout the World.

The legend also headlined a night of entertainment with a mini concert.

The Rev. Kee performed his hit, “I Made it Out,” while Nu-Soul and Jazz artist Candice Hoyes proved a worthy opening act with an electric performance.

We know we are the trusted voice in the Black community, and ‘resilient vitality’ is who we are,” Carter Richards proclaimed.

“Our Black newspapers have thrived, and so many more are getting to the level that we want them to be. I’m so proud of the Black Press for all the work they are doing in the community and for the work they are doing to help each other.”