By Stacy M. Brown | NNPA Newswire
(NNPA) – When the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) stripped Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.’s interim president and CEO tag in 2014, NNPA board chairman Cloves Campbell, let members know the civil rights icon had the talent and connections to make an immediate impact.
Campbell, the publisher of the Arizona Informant, also highlighted another of Chavis’ intangibles that would benefit black-owned media companies: energy.
Eight years later, and a decade after leading the NNPA on an interim basis, Chavis has continued to display the kind of energy you mostly see in people under half his age.
He also led the NNPA, representing the 195-year-old Black Press of America, to financial prosperity as newspapers and media companies universally struggle to keep doors open.
Among the most recent achievements under Chavis, the black press finally gained full access to the White House.
It was Chavis leading a large contingent of Black Press editors in Charleston, South Carolina during the 2020 primary season where they met candidate Joe Biden.
At the time, Biden was trailing powerfully in the polls and needed a victory in Dixie to survive. Chavis’ interview with Biden went viral, the former vice president then received a crucial endorsement from Rep. James Clyburn (DS.C.), won the primary and his campaign rode the wave to the White House.
He has also negotiated agreements or strengthened partnerships with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, GM, Reynolds, AARP, API and many others.
As he traveled the world – in protective gear – during the pandemic, Chavis, through his skillful actions and deal-making, often reminded publishers, partners, sponsors, employees and others of the catchphrase he has lived since his wide-eyed 14 years serving in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference under Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“A luta continua” – or “the struggle continues”.
Because of her dedication and steady hand, the historic all-black female NNPA Board of Directors unanimously selected Chavis as the recipient of the NNPA Lifetime Achievement Award.
They will present this honor at a special gala during the NNPA’s annual winter training conference.
Themed “Digital Innovation, Training and Engagement of America’s Black Press,” the conference will be held February 1 at the brand new Westin Beach Resort at Frenchmen’s Reef, Estate Bakkeroe, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. .
“I am very honored to be considered by the NNPA for this esteemed award,” remarked Chavis.
“I believe that, if anything, my life represents a life as a freedom fighter. However, I would like to emphasize that acceptance of this protection should in no way be interpreted to mean that the fight for freedom has been completely won.
“We have made tremendous progress over the past 100 years, but we still have a lot of progress and freedom to fight.
“If I’ve learned anything in my past 75 years, it’s that when you gain freedom to some extent, you have to fight to preserve that freedom. You have to fight to protect that freedom, endow that freedom and maintain that freedom.
“Thus, I am not willing to step back from my role as a freedom fighter. So, I accept this award as an incentive to continue fighting for the freedom of people of African descent, Americans and around the world. .
Chavis has a well-documented history.
Leader of Wilmington’s 10 political prisoners, Chavis is also renowned for his early fight for environmental justice.
In the 1980s, he coined the term “environmental racism”.
Chavis has advised many prominent politicians and artists – many like hip-hop and business mogul Russell Simmons refer to Chavis as a mentor.
A former president of the NAACP, Chavis organized the Million Man March and co-founded the Hip Hop Summit with Simmons.
A younger generation of fans still approaches Chavis, marveling at his appearance in the classic hip-hop drama, “Belly.”
Many of all ages continue to revere Chavis as a civil rights leader and reverend.
“Dr. Chavis gave meaning to the words of Micah 6:8 in the Bible,” said Dr. John Warren, editor of San Diego Voice & Viewpoint.
Quoting the King James Bible, Warren said of Chavis, “And what does the Lord your God require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
Chavis has served the NNPA and “the people of this country with honesty, integrity and selflessness, without seeking rewards, recognition or accolades,” said Janis Ware, NNPA vice president and editor of Atlanta Voice.
“Today we celebrate a man who leads with heart, love for his God and all people from all walks of life. He is truly a rare human being. One to go down in the annals of human history as special and one for the ages.
NNPA Treasurer and Texas Metro News Publisher Cheryl Smith also praised Chavis for “living a life of service.”
“He is a true servant leader who takes the pulse of our people, our communities and the world,” Smith said.
“I so appreciate his leadership, his wisdom and his support,” she added.
Pluria Marshall Jr., chairman of the NNPA Fund and CEO of Los Angeles Wave Publications, called Chavis a powerful and stabilizing force.
“For more than ten years, Ben has been a powerful and stabilizing force for the NNPA and its NNPA nonprofit fund,” Marshall insisted.
“He is a visionary consensus builder and community advocate whose calm and deft communication skills have helped make the black press an even stronger media force in America.”
“From his lifelong commitment to civil rights to his burning passion for fairness and justice, Ben has always proven himself to be an accomplished public servant.
“He is richly deserving of this lifetime achievement award, and I am delighted to endorse his selection for this prestigious honour.”
Chavis noted that those feelings mean a lot.
“This award is especially significant because it comes from my colleagues, fellow editors, journalists, editors and writers,” Chavis said.
“It reminds me of what James Baldwin reminded me of when he said the pen is mightier than the sword.”
“I am grateful to have been able to use my pen as an instrument of freedom. I accept this award on behalf of the Chavis family, a family fighting for freedom around the world for over 250 years.
Westside Gazette editor Bobby Henry says it’s been a while since anyone stood on the shoulders of story makers to demand freedom, justice and equality for all , especially for black people after enduring pain from combat.
“I’m one to say that because of Reverend Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.’s strength, courage, and courage, the Black Press of America, the NNPA, and the world are a better place because of him,” asserted Henry. .
“Congratulations, Dr. Chavis. A struggle continues.
While preparing for the conference, Chavis said he was far from done.
“When I came to this position ten years ago, I came with a sense of optimism,” Chavis recalls.
“Now, ten years later, my optimism has grown exponentially because I see the potential of the black press. I am very happy to see so many young Gen Z journalists, writers, photographers and content creators.”
“I think the future in this digital space… it’s not just that we should be in this space, but moving the space forward. So my optimism is still intact and has increased because I have seen not only the expansion and success of the Black Press over the past decade, but I have seen glimpses of a brighter future.
“The biggest challenge is the economic and equity issue. We need to work on it to economically and equitably support Black-owned businesses, especially Black-owned media. This is the next hurdle, and I will live my years making sure we miss nothing to improve the economic fairness of black-owned businesses and black-owned media companies.
For discounted rates for the NNPA Midwinter Training conference in St. Thomas, and for more information, visit www.nnpa-events.com.