Black Press of America Elects New Chairman: Danny Bakewell Aims to Harness the Power

by July 1, 2009

Danny BakewellMINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (NNPA) – Los Angeles Sentinel Publisher Danny Bakewell, the new chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a federation of more than 200 Black-owned newspapers, says he aims to fortify the power of the Black Press of America by unifying its ranks while also uniting with other civil rights organizations.

“It’s important to lift the stature of NNPA at least to a place that it is at least equal to other major Black organizations in this country, such as the National Urban League, the NAACP, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, etc,” Bakewell said in an interview the morning after his election by fellow publishers during NNPA’s annual summer conference, held in Minneapolis, Minn., last week. “We must have constant collaboration with them. They need to be a part of us and our agenda needs to be a part of them.”

NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous this week applauded Bakewell’s election.

”We welcome the news of Danny’s election and his vision for forging an even stronger relationship between our organizations. I look forward to working with him,” Jealous said in an email.

NUL President and CEO Marc Morial, a long time friend of Bakewell’s, has already begun to reach out.

”Danny Bakewell will utilize his extensive experience and network to increase the profile of Black newspapers nationwide,” says Morial, also chair of the Black Leadership Forum. ”As a longtime colleague and friend of Danny’s, I think he is an excellent choice as the new chair.

He and I spoke yesterday, and I pledged the cooperation and support of both the National Urban League and the Black Leadership Forum to him.”

The Black Press, Black civil rights organizations, the Black church and Black businesses have long worked together for the advancement of Black people. But, in recent years, although leaders from those entities have spoken at each other’s conferences, there have been few instances in which the organizations have actually met and collaborated on specific issues.

Bakewell says NNPA in and of itself is among the most powerful organizational forces in the nation.

“What we have is a national member organization. But, we talk about it from a local perspective. We distribute 15 million papers into the households of Black people per week. And if you take that and multiply it [by the number of people who actually read each paper], you could get to maybe a hundred million people,” Bakewell says. “There is no stronger or potentially stronger organization in America than the Black Press. We are talking directly to the people.”

Even during the current economic downturn, Black newspapers are struggling like others, but none of NNPA’s member papers have gone out of business. Bakewell says he will lead the organization to leverage its own power to gain advertising dollars from places where they have been withheld.

“You take the federal government. It is the only remaining governmental body that still has set-asides,” he says. “There’s a 10 percent mandate set-aside in every federal government agency” that must be allocated for contracts with minority firms.

John B. Smith, Sr., immediate past NNPA chairman for four years, who was elected first vice chairman last week, has begun this effort in earnest. Smith wrote a letter to top Obama aides in April, asking why agencies were not spending advertising dollars with the Black Press to educate the Black community about the economic stimulus package. Congressional Black Caucus Chair Barbara Lee has written a letter to Vice President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, pushing for follow up and a meeting on Smith’s questions and concerns.

Danny Bakewell is widely known as a savvy and successful businessman and community activist. He’s the founder and CEO of the Brotherhood Crusade, a philanthropic organization that addresses issues in the Black community and other communities of color. He is also co-founder of the United Black Front, founded in the late 1960s to unite 50 Black power organizations seeking to address the remaining vestiges of White supremacy. The former advisor to the late L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley bought the now 76-year-old L. A. Sentinel in 2004. The Sentinel was also a 2007 NNPA Russwurm Award winner. This prestigious designation is nicknamed “the best Black newspaper in America.”

Bakewell says he also intends to help strengthen some of NNPA’s smaller papers by creatively escalating the organization’s push for advertising dollars. As a start, he committed to working with U. S. Rep. Charlie Rangel, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, the most powerful finance-related committee in Congress. Simultaneously, a coordination of messages among the NNPA member papers would influence public policy as it pertains to civil rights and the advancement of Black people, he says.

“If we ever coordinated our messages and take that to the local audience as an overriding public policy address, nobody can beat it. That’s our game,” he says. “That’s the way that we get a real bang for our efforts. And we’ve also got to get a lot more visible. People have got to see us as America’s Black Press.”

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