NEW ORLEANS—During the recent Black Press convention here, publishers and journalists from across the country gathered for the first time in two years to celebrate the Best in the Black Press and track developments and challenges in an ever-changing industry. Journalism students were also given scholarships to pursue their studies at the college level and young professionals made presentations about how to reach the next generation of readers.
And, publishers said, a strong Black Press is vital to the Black community and harnessing the collective power of the 235 outlets in print and in the digital world is vitally important. Among the conference honorees was Dr. Frances “Toni” Draper, of the Afro American newspaper. “I am grateful to the members of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) for selecting me as Publisher of the Year. There is absolutely nothing more thrilling (and humbling) than being recognized by one’s peers,” she said.
The Afro American Newspapers were also among the winners at the NNPA’s Messenger Awards this year. Among the eight awards won by the Afro, the most notable was the John B. Russwurm Award, which was the pinnacle award of the evening. In total, the Afro won five first-place awards, two second-place awards, and one third-place award.
NNPA represents Black-owned newspapers across the country. For the past 82 years, the NNPA has been the voice of the Black community and is the largest and most influential Black-owned media resource in America. This year marks the 195th anniversary of the Black Press.
The NNPA Fund’s 2022 Messenger Awards ceremony was held during a June 23 dinner. NNPA Fund Chair and Wave Communications President & CEO Pluria Marshall Jr. and Fund Treasurer and Times Weekly Publisher Jayme Cain Casimere presented the Messenger Awards to NNPA journalists and publishers.
The NNPA Fund presented The Final Call newspaper with five awards at the evening gathering. The Final Call won first place entries for Environment reporting in the Equity category based on a story by Final Call contributor Michael Z. Muhammad; and reporting in the Business category by contributing editor James G. Muhammad, who is also a past Final Call editor in chief.
Contributing writer Anisah Muhammad won a second place award in the Health category. A third place Entertainment award was earned for a story written by Naba’a Muhammad and Charlene Muhammad. Production Department designers and laborers Timothy 6X, Nathan Muhammad, Nadir Muhammad and Sundari Muhammad won a third place for tabloid Layout and Design.
The Lifetime Achievement Award was granted to Bobby R. Henry Sr., the publisher and CEO of Westside Gazette Newspaper in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. In addition to working for the family-owned Black newspaper, Mr. Henry has served on the board of various organizations, including the NNPA.
Stephanie Mills, the 65-year-old R&B singer and stage actress performed at the event. She was given the 2022 Legacy Award, along with Rep. Maxine Waters (D–Calif.) and Jackson State University football head coach Deion Sanders.
“Where would we be without the Black press? Before we as Black artists received any press back in the day, we got love from the Black press,” said Ms. Mills, in a statement posted to Instagram. “Too many artists today forget that it was the Black newspapers that covered us. So this award means so much to me. Being honored by my own is so liberating and appreciated. So let it be known, the Black press matters.”
The convention theme was “Amplifying Our Voices for Freedom, Justice, Equality, and Equity.” The NNPA chair is Houston-based publisher Karen Carter Richards and Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. serves as NNPA president and CEO.