Paulette Brown-Hinds, PhD
Certain milestones cause you to stop and reflect on what you have achieved in life and the goals you have yet to reach. And because my personal life is so clearly linked to my professional life, on my fifty-year anniversary on this earth, I find myself thinking about the institutions I have inherited, especially the newspaper since it’s also National Newspaper Week. My stewardship philosophy has been shaped by the Ghanaian Sankofa proverb, “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.”
When my family assumed ownership of the Black Voice Newspaper, I was in middle school. That was 37 years ago.
We opened an office on the Westside of San Bernardino for a number of reasons:
- That’s where we lived;
- That’s where most Black people lived because of redlining;
- That’s where all the Black churches were because that’s where all the Black people were forced to live.
The office was a converted liquor store that was owned at the time by Neal Baker, the founder of the Baker’s fast food chain. We eventually bought the building. Our darkroom was in the far back of the building where the liquor used to be stored. We kept the layout sheets on the racks where the refrigerators used to be, the latched doors were still there, covered, in part by the old Compugraphic typesetting machine.
Because we were a paper adjudicated in the county of Riverside, my parents needed a presence in the city of Riverside. They couldn’t afford an office so Pastor Levonzo Gray and his wife First Lady Ira Gray allowed them to rest at their home when they were out delivering papers. They eventually opened an office on University Avenue, in a converted house they shared with a beautician. Of course, the Eastside of Riverside, was also the place where the Black businesses of Riverside were located. Yes the Black homeowners and churches were located there as well.
As publishers my parents’ philosophy was in alignment with the founding credo of the Black Press of America, “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us. Too long has the public been deceived by misrepresentations, in things which concern us dearly.”
They covered news that they believed should be important to the Black community. They covered politics and government and I believe had a keen understanding of public policy and how those policies shape our lives. They became influential by having a clear point of view. They wanted to right wrongs, give voice to the voiceless, and shed light on discriminatory practices and unfair treatment, in both the public and private sectors.
Today, we may have expanded what we do but our core mission has remained the same. We have embraced new technologies and new methods of storytelling and education. We tell the stories of the community and continue to monitor important issues and public policies that affect the most vulnerable and the voiceless. From our immersive week-long study tours to our production of independent films to our geospatial mapping projects, we utilize a diversity of platforms to educate, advocate, and inform. I’m happy to share my birthday with this important national celebration. Happy National Newspaper Week!