Last week at Brooklyn Borough Hall Courtroom, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams hosted Black Press Day, a gathering of esteemed, longtime Black publishers Karl Rodney of New York Carib News; David Greaves of Our Time Press; Aziz Gueye Adetimirin of The Network Journal; Walter Smith of The Beacon; Thomas Watkins of Afro Times; Sandra Blackwell of Westchester County Press; Adrian Council and Jean Nash Wells of The Positive Community; and Pat Stevenson of the Harlem News Group, along with politicians and members of the clergy, to discuss the vital role of the Black press in the community and the increasing lack of advertising dollars going towards its efforts.
The meeting of the minds, moderated by television personality and spokeswoman Denise Richardson, included remarks by Adams; Harlem Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright; New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer; Reverend Dennis Dillon, and others concerned with the inequity at hand, and came on the heels of a NYC Agency Report Card on Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprises recently released by Stringers office. The report, Making the Grade, is a diagnostic tool for agencies to improve performance and transparency in M/WBE spending and reveals troubling, but not surprising results.
New York City spends more than $17 billion on goods and services each year, but less than four percent goes toward Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises, Comptroller Stringer said on the matter. When the City gets a D for how well it is meeting its goals, its clearly unacceptable. Growing the pie for M/WBE firms will be a key weapon in our battle against income inequality while increasing competition in procurement, driving down costs for taxpayers and creating jobs across all five boroughs.
Of the 32 agencies that were graded, most received grades of “D”s and “F”s with the exception of: the Office of the Comptroller, the NYC Law Department, the Department of Probation, the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, the Department of City Planning, the Commission on Human Rights, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the Administration for Children’s Services and the Department of Youth and Community Development, which all received “C”s; and the Landmarks and Preservation Commission, and the Department of Cultural Affairs which received “B”s.
There were no “A”s to speak of.
Still, Black-owned businesses, Black publishers among them, are holding on. Earlier this summer, they formed the New York Black Publishers Alliance to support each other and keep their publications alive. Their mission is to improve the bottom line of all of the publications by offering a group buy for potential advertisers with a focus on New York city and state agencies, real estate developers, banks and select regional corporations.
Via video message, President Barack Obama offered his recognition: The value of the Black press is being a voice for communities that sometimes don’t get heard. You’ve gone from 22 publications to more than 200 newspapers around the country. And in so many cities and towns, there are readers who depend on you for reporting and analysis on issues that aren’t always covered in traditional media sources…everything from the safety in our streets to the achievement gaps in our schools. But your work isn’t just important to the Black community. It’s important to the American community because if we want to be a country that succeeds in a more connected and competitive world, we need all our citizens to have a world class education. We need all our citizens to have access to quality healthcare. We need all our citizens to find work that pays well and helps raise a familly. That’s how we’ll rise together as one nation. That’s how we’ll win the future. Each of you has a critical role to play in that future. It’s your job to speak truth to power. It’s your job to hold those of us in public office accountable. And most important, it’s your job to keep telling the stories of our lives…stories about where we’ve been, where we are, and where we need to go. I know that each of you is dedicated to making that difference, and setting an example for future journalists and publishers everywhere. I hope you have a successful and inspiring week and I look forward to all of the great work you will do in the months and years ahead.
Borough President Adams also spoke passionately on the issue citing a pattern of denying the Black press, “the committed few who are working on its behalf,” and then vowed to take up the fight.
The Black press is the only avenue advocating for our community. If these agencies were audited, we would see where the advertising dollars are going what portion is going to the mainstream press versus the Black press? Do we have a civil rights lawsuit in front of us? Before we start this process, we have to get off the back page and get on the front page. We have to get our marching orders together. When I meet with developers, I ask, Where are you with the Black press? Are you listing with the Black press? The Black press is ekeing out a living when our state is so prosperous. Our kids shop at Macys and Macys takes for granted that our kids will continue to buy there even though they are not advertising with us, said Adams.
The “journey for access,” as Adams eloquently stated, continues.