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By Miranda Reale
WASHINGTON, D.C.– The first Black-owned newspaper in the United States was founded on March 16, 1827 by Samuel E. Cornish and John B. Russwurm. Within their first editorial reads, “in short, whatever concerns us as a people, will ever find a ready admission into the Freedom’s Journal.”
The trade association of the more than 230 Black-owned newspapers and media companies that comprise the Black Press of America, The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), honored the 195th anniversary of its origin last Thursday. In an exclusive discussion with publishers from the NNPA, Vice President Kamala Harris discussed various issues from voting rights to Roe v. Wade and racism in the United States, but above all, applauded the Black Press. “I just want to thank you for your endurance, your strength, but your voice is so incredibly important, especially when I think about this moment in the history of our nation,” she said. “195 years celebrating an anniversary, and now more than ever, in a very different way we are dealing with so much misinformation,” she continued.
NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. directed questions at Vice President Harris, focusing on gun control, voting rights, and the role of more Black women to the federal court. Noting the appointment of former Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marcia Fudge as secretary of Housing and Urban Development, she said, “One of the big issues affecting our country right now is affordable housing, and one of the accomplishments of our administration is the work we’ve been doing on home appraisals and how Black families’ homes get appraised for less than white people.”
Additionally, Harris offered concern about racism within politics, precisely calling it an epidemic of hate. “When you look at the epidemic of hate, all that says is that we as leaders have to make sure that we use our platform,” she said. “We have to speak the truth and speak with the spirit of trying to unify our communities.”
The mission to unify is easier said than done of course, as the environment of disinformation and hate seem to rule mainstream media coverage. Chavis highlighted the differences between the Black Press and mainstream media, “Why do you think the mainstream media does not focus on the progress of the Biden-Harris administration?” he asked. “I think there is an obvious, burning difference between the focus of the mainstream media versus the focus of the Black media,” he continued.
In response, Harris agreed with him, observing that the current administration has a lot to be proud of. “I’ll say that I think this administration and President Joe Biden have been exceptional,” she said.
The discussion ended on a celebratory note as Vice President Harris concluded with sharing her Juneteenth plans for the weekend. Opening her own official residence, not to celebrities or politicians, but to families and individuals from the various wards in the District of Columbia, she described Juneteenth as a celebration of the principle of freedom. “What does freedom mean? Who has freedom now? And recognize that the history of that concept in the United States directly flows to the deprivation of freedom of Black people in America,” she concluded.