Remembering our purpose – a tribute to James Alfred Washington

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By Bobby R. Henry Sr. 

NNPA Chairman

While in Dallas to memorialize our dear friend, James Washington, my visit routinely found me engaged in stimulating conversations as I saw old friends and met new ones.

The common thread in all these conversations was the future or the plight of America’s Black Press. While I said the common “thread”; it would be more appropriate to label it the common “lament.”

EVERYBODY I spoke to agreed that the “old liberating voice” of the Black Press is needed now – more than ever! For too long others believe they can speak for us.

There was unanimous support for the need to rekindle the Spirit evident in our documentary “Soldiers Without Swords,” to report the news “without fear or favor” and use the pages of our newspapers to “Light the Road to Freedom.” We cannot afford – literally – to fail heeding Frederick Douglass’ admonition that “Power concedes NOTHING without a DEMAND!”

So, I start my “demand” brothers and sisters of the NNPA – the Black Press of America, with US. We must invigorate the content in our pages. As the one true, trusted source of news and information expressly for the benefit of Black People, we have no choice but to draw on the giant historical reservoir filled with the ink (and blood) of those publishers whose memories we laud and cherish.

Succinctly put, we must get out of our comfort zones and “… get about Our Father’s business…!” What do we have to lose, you ask? EVERYTHING!

Why should Black America – jostled and pushed about DAILY, flimflammed, and bewildered by the propaganda mills of some mainstream media, social media – not have the benefit of our rebuttals? Why are our voices silent when the perspectives available online and over the air DO NOT reflect the lives lived in the communities we serve?

The reflections of those who spoke on the life of our dear, departed brother, Jim, convinced me that we – the NNPA – must do something different than what we’ve grown accustomed to doing. Our RESPONSIBILITY to Black America, bequeathed to us by Russwurm & Cornish, by Douglass, Wells, Rolark, Sengstacke, Murphy, Reeves, Goodlett, and all those nameless, faceless SOLDIERS whose labors – today – go unrewarded, is to speak clearly, coherently, and incessantly on behalf of Black America.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am one hundred percent convinced that we are up to the job. I’m simply saying that WE MUST DO IT!

In a nation hell-bent on rolling back the hard-fought gains chronicled in our pages – in a nation that has stigmatized affirmative action, DEI, CRT, while thumbing its nose at the constitutional protections paid for in blood – in a nation that our ancestors – stripped of their humanity, dignity, and the right to pursue happiness – DO WE SIT SILENT??

I say NO! I say that the NNPA – the Black Press of America MUST reclaim its rightful place in the hearts and minds of those who once relied on us for Truth and Justice. Our recent Lifetime Achievement awardees, the Zipperts, affirmed what we know to be true – “…our readers depend on their weekly paper for its news and are upset with any disruption in its delivery.”

It won’t be easy. It wasn’t easy in 1827 when FREEDOM’S JOURNAL exploded into the American conscience. But fear never moved a mountain. And we’ve got mountains that need moving.

Thank you, Dallas. Thank you for the spirit evident in the life of James Alfred Washington. Thank you for rekindling the Spirit that has guided us for 197 years. Long live the Black Press … we’ve got work to do!

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Remembering our purpose – a tribute to James Alfred Washington

By Jackson Advocate News Service
May 13, 2024