By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA)
Shortly, before the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s (NNPA) annual Legacy Awards Gala, NNPA members elected veteran Chicago Crusader publisher Dorothy Leavell to serve as chairman of the group for the next two years (2017-2019).
Leavell succeeds Washington Informer publisher Denise Barnes, who served in the role for the past two years.
During her first public speech after the election results were announced, Leavell praised Barnes for her hard work and cooperation, noting that the campaign for the chairman’s seat was never personal.
“It’s just the fact that we have some strange times and she’s too beautiful to be out there in the trenches like I can be,” said Leavell. “I can carry a big stick. I don’t have to be cute.”
Leavell also said that she’s looking forward to strengthening partnerships with the companies and organizations that the NNPA and its members have supported over the years.
“We give, we give, we give,” said Leavell. “We need to receive, receive, receive.”
Leavell, previously served as president of the NNPA from 1995 to 1999. During her four-year stint as president of the organization, Leavell helped to increase the visibility and international stature of the Black Press. Leavell has also served as chairman of the NNPA Foundation and, as a member of the NNPA for more than 50 years, she has often been recognized for her philanthropic and civic contributions.
Leavell was honored as the NNPA Publisher of the Year in 1989 and earned the Winnie Mandela Endurance with Dignity Award.
Leavell’s experience should bode well for the NNPA going forward, said Houston Forward Times publisher Karen Carter Richards.
“Dorothy has a lot of experience in the organization and I think she will continue to move it forward,” said Richards, who was re-elected as first vice chair of the organization.
Bernal Smith, publisher of the New Tri-State Defender, was elected second vice chair of the NNPA; Shannon Williams, the president of the Indianapolis Recorder, will continue in her role as secretary and Janis Ware, the publisher of the Atlanta Voice, will continue to serve as treasurer.
Leavell has not only been a great soldier for the NNPA, but she’s also a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, said NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
“I see her as someone to lead the fight fiercely for freedom, justice and equality,” said Chavis.
During an interview with the NNPA Newswire, the newly-elected chairman said that Black newspaper publishers are hurting and that she planned to meet with companies like General Motors and Ford to bring in more advertising dollars to member newspapers.
“We are suffering and with a new administration in the White House, it will take someone who isn’t afraid, someone who will raise a lot of hell,” said Leavell.
Barnes said that her father, publisher and civic leader Calvin W. Rolark, used to bring her to NNPA meetings and after he passed, Dorothy Leavell welcomed her into the group.
“So, it’s up to all of us to make the NNPA great and we can’t sit back and watch her do the work, we have to help,” said Barnes, speaking directly to the NNPA members in attendance at the gala.
Leavell agreed. “I’m ready for the task, but I can’t do it by myself,” said Leavell. “I want everybody to join with me in making this organization better, stepping up where Denise has already laid the foundation.”