Black Chamber Honors Black Press
By Eliz C. Dowdy, Staff Writer
The Southern California Black Chamber of Commerce held their third annual Black History Awards Luncheon over the weekend. This year’s honorees were the publishers of the Black newspapers that continue to tell “our stories,” They have told the real stories of the collective communities across the country for one hundred and ninety years. The first Black owned newspaper in the United States was Freedom’s Journal, a weekly newspaper that was founded by free Black men in New York City. It countered the racist rhetoric of mainstream newspapers of the day.
One hundred ninety years later Black newspapers are continuing the role of highlighting positive images and events within the communities they serve.
The luncheon was held at the Rezek Center, which previously served as the chapel for the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word who operated St. Bernardine’s Hospital and also lived on the grounds. The exquisite setting was the perfect backdrop for the occasion.
The program was opened by Mistress of Ceremonies Sandra Williams, who introduced the president of the Inland Cities East Branch, James Chapman. The next speaker was Rich Wallace, president of the Southern California Black Chambers of Commerce, who told the attendees to make sure they are reading the Black newspapers and get involved with the Black media.
Dan Murphy, Dignity Health V.P. Office of Philanthropy, welcomed the attendees to St. Bernardine Medical Center and saluted the honorees. He shared snippets of history about the hospital and its continued role as a service provider for the community.
The keynote speaker for the afternoon was Stephan Taylor, who took a moment to thank the Black Press. Taylor grew up in the Altadena/Pasadena area, and excelled as an athlete at St. Francis High School. However, after graduation from St. Francis, but before he accepted an offer to play football, he was diagnosed with a form of Leukemia at eighteen years of age. Taylor shared his saga to make clear the point of maintaining a positive attitude. He expected the go home after one week in the hospital, but actually stayed four weeks, followed by six months of outpatient care. He returned to the gridiron, played college football for one year before transferring to Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA. He works closely with youth, is an avid runner, is the immediate past president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and leads a very full life.
The honorees that received beautiful plaques for their years of publishing community newspapers were: Brian Townsend, second generation publisher for the group that consists of three newspapers, the Precinct Reporter the flagship publication; the Tri-County Bulletin, serving all of Orange County and the Long Beach Leader. The Precinct Reporter is the largest and oldest Black newspaper in the Inland area. Townsend has served on various boards within the community.
Clifton Harris, publishes the San Bernardino American Newspaper. Harris served a combined 26 years with the San Bernardino and Riverside Counties Sheriff Departments in the capacities of Deputy Sheriff, Superior Court Bailiff, Sheriff’s Detective, and other assignments within the departments. He brought this plethora of knowledge to the publishing business that he took over from his late father-in-law, Samuel Martin.
Another second-generation publisher, Dr. Paulette Brown Hinds, is founder of Voice Media Ventures. Dr. Hinds has a plethora of involvement in community work both in leadership and boots on the ground. She was recently named to the board of directors of the James Irvine Foundation, a private foundation that awards funding annually to not for profit and educational institutions throughout California.
Barbara James keeps Victor Valley informed through High Desert Inland Valley News. she started the print publication in 2001 that launched the first Christian print news in the high Desert. When the economy went south in 2008, instead of shuttering the doors, James converted the print media to digital E-blast promotions.
Ethel Martin-Miller is the publisher of Yes We Can Newspaper, which she started in 2010. The goal was to provide a newspaper that published positive news, articles and information. She even gave veterans their own page as a way to thank them for service to the nation. Martin-Miller and her husband also started a non-profit organization called “Loving On Our Youth,” to encourage, empower, inspire, and boost the morale of youth so they are ready to step into the shoes of leadership.
Wallace & Josephine Allen publish the Westside Story Newspaper. This marks the thirty-first year for the publication. Allen also hosts a radio/internet program called “Empire Talks Back.”
These are the publishers that are burning the midnight oil to provide coverage for the Inland Valleys to keep the communities informed, engaged, and empowered. Pick up a free copy of the publications, and visit their websites. When you have advertising needs, seek out your community newspapers that are in the struggle with you!!!
Rich Wallace, president of the Southern California Chambers of Commerce has a long history of helping Black businesses to grow and prosper.