By Gloria Zuurveen, Editor-in-Chief
“There is no democracy without the freedom of the press, because the press is the only thing that can hold the government accountable.”
Ben Cohen, Ben & Jerry’s founder
NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Freedom of the press has been the mission of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) for 196 years and from June 28 through July 1, 2023, NNPA held its Annual Convention to celebrate and honor those who defied government and took a stand against gun violence by standing up for gun control reform that disrupted House proceedings at the state capitol. Justin J. Pearson, Tennessee House of Representative, 86th District and Tennessee House of Representatives 52nd District, Justin B. Jones were recipients of the NNPA Legacy Award.
In March of 2023, the two along with Gloria Johnson were expelled from the Tennessee House by vote. Johnson who is white survived the vote. Johnson cited her race as the reason she was not expelled. Both were subsequently unanimously voted back in to their position of leadership serving the people of Tennessee. Jones credited the Black during his acceptance speech. Keith M. Ellison, Attorney General for the State of Minnesota received the Courage and Leadership Award.
Under the theme The Black Press of America Amplifying Progress, Excellent and Voices of Black America, more than 240 Black publishers were on hand to show their freedom and the power they have collectively with the power of the message they deliver through their newspapers and digital media companies. Under the leadership of Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., NNPA Chairman and CEO, publishers from all over the United States were present at the JW Marriot Hotel in Nashville prepared to elect NNPA’s new leadership.
Dr. Chavis said, “In the aftermath of the COVID 19 pandemic, we are reminded that Black America continues to be the “Soul of the Nation” and the importance of the Black Press as the “trusted voice” of Black America cannot be overemphasized in 2023.” President Joe Biden even emphasized the importance of the Black Press in his remarks during the Annual Convention. Dr. Chavis said, “The NNPA is especially honored to hear directly from President Joe Biden for his continued support and advocacy of the importance of the Black Press of America.” “As we celebrate 196 years of the Black Press, it’s always gratifying and encouraging to have the support of the President of the United States.”
Freedom of the Press was necessary 196 years ago and today, nearly two centuries, press freedom is still critical and crucial for holding government and corporate America accountable. Dr. Chavis said, “Thus as we recognize and celebrate the 196th Anniversary of the Black Press, we also are recommitting our media publications to promote and to represent the best interests of the millions of people in the communities that we served. We are pleased to note and to acknowledge that the NNPA is intergenerational and multifaceted in print and digital distribution systems including all of the major global social media platforms. We also continue to innovate while ensuring that we are engaging the industry’s best practices in journalism and enhancing the goals and objectives of overall Black owned business development in America.” This leader of the Wilmington 10 is leading the NNPA into prominence and it was evidence during the 2023 Annual Convention.