Since the days of Frederick Douglass and Ida B. Wells the African-American press has been, due to both necessity and demand, an activist one. It was the black press that pushed such issues as anti-lynching initiatives, the desegregation of the armed forces and baseball, and of course the civil rights movement, when many other print and broadcast institutions ignored them, particularly in the South.
More than 69 years ago the National Newspaper Publishers Association began as a federation that united some 200 black community newspapers nationwide. Since 1970, after the Associated Negro Press was dissolved, the NNPA has served a dual function. It's also the news service for African-American publications both domestic and international, consisting of the Web portal Black Press USA and The Black Press USA Network.
This week the NNPA's annual convention comes to Nashville for the first time. It's being held at the Hutton Hotel, except for special events such as Thursday night's NNPA Foundation Merit Awards Reception and Dinner at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. There are seminars and luncheons covering such topics as the future of the black press, combating HIV/AIDS, and the continued growth and impact of social media.
Tennessee Tribune publisher/editor Rosetta Miller-Perry sees the convention's first visit to Nashville as emblematic of the city's growing national reputation for diversity and being a tourist attraction on par with any in the nation.
"We [the NNPA] have usually had our annual conventions in places like Chicago, Atlanta, New York, or in states like Florida," Miller-Perry says. "But Nashville has become a major tourist attraction and a city with a lot of things to offer all types of audiences and constituencies.
"Many of our publishers and editors have never seen the city, though they know about its importance in terms of the civil rights movement and educational institutions. This is an important step forward for Nashville and a great time for the NNPA to visit."
The NNPA will address throughout the convention key issues and challenges facing the black press, including a major one that also affects all print publications in the wake of the Internet revolution and digital age: survival.
"The African-American community puts billions of dollars into the general economy every year," Miller-Perry says. "[The] black press is simply asking for respect and fair treatment in terms of advertising support and interaction from white companies and publications."
An impressive list of national personalities is attending. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., and university presidents Robert Jennings (Lincoln), Glenda Baskin Glover (TSU), James H. Williams (Fisk), Forrest E. Harris (American Baptist) and Earl S. Richardson (Morgan State, president emeritus) are among the panelists who will discuss the challenges facing historically black colleges and universities.
There will also be meetings devoted to board elections, a Legacy Awards dinner with master of ceremonies Dr. Bobby Jones, digital workshops, and a publishers' exchange. Complete details of the conference are available online at nnpa.org. For more information regarding registration and other details contact Jackie Willis, NNPA meeting and events manager at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-588-7348.