For my birthday yesterday, my good friends the Malphettes gave me a wonderful gift, a book, Deadline Artists: America’s Greatest Newspaper Columns. The gift is fitting for a number of reasons, but timely because this week marks the 75th anniversary of National Newspaper Week, the annual observation highlighting the impact of newspapers on communities.
I am often asked to speak about the history of the Black Press because my family has been publishing in the tradition of the Black Press every week for close to four decades. One of those talks is an annual presentation to the Eleanor Jean Grier Leadership Academy in Riverside, an organization that trains interested adults in community leadership and civic engagement. For this year’s presentation I was asked to talk about the historic role of the minority press and the challenges we face in the digital era.
While the past decade has been a challenging one for the newspaper industry, it is clear that the role newspapers play in our society can’t be replaced. In an editorial marking this week’s celebration, Newseum executive Gene Policinski explains that the newspaper plays “a visible role in the daily life of the nation rooted in real benefit and sustained credibility.” Not only are newspapers the watchdogs for government, they mobilize public opinion on matters that are important to individual communities, the nation, and the world.
As I flipped through the pages of the Deadline Artists book, I thought about the role I have assumed as publisher of the VOICE and the legacy I have been bequeathed as a voice for the voiceless and an advocate for the silenced, a tradition handed down by my father in his weekly newspaper columns. “(Newspaper) columnists are supposed to be truth tellers,” the editors pronounce in the introduction, “literary private eyes working for the public good.” It’s a mission that is at the core of what we do as an advocacy press, and a tradition I am proud to continue in this weekly column.
After my presentation at the Grier Leadership Academy, I received a letter from the academy’s director Katie Greene. The letter reminded me of the lasting impact our words can have, and is a fitting tribute as we celebrate the “Power of the Press” this week.
Sometimes we meander through life without giving much thought about our contributions, supporters and benefactors. But last week as I listened to Dr. Paulette Brown-Hinds, publisher of The VOICE Newspaper, give a fascinating presentation (“The History & Role of the Minority Press”) to Class XII of the Eleanor Jean Grier Leadership Academy I wandered off into deep profound thought.
The Eleanor Jean Grier Leadership Academy owes its existence to a battle waged by Mr. Hardy Brown, Dr. Brown-Hinds father, with the Irvine Foundation. Mr. Brown challenged the James Irvine Foundation to stop awarding grants (monies) to out of town agencies to do work and studies in the Inland Empire. He successfully convinced the Foundation that we had organizations and talented capable people in the Inland Empire who deserved direct grant funding for projects. As a consequence of this appeal by Mr. Brown, in 2006 the James Irvine Foundation provided a $90,000.00 [grant] to the Riverside African American Historical Foundation, Inc. & The Group to create and administer the Eleanor Jean Grier Leadership Academy with the mission “to increase civic and community participation among the underrepresented groups in the City of Riverside & the region”.
After nine years in operation The Grier Leadership Academy has graduated eleven classes and over 140 participants. A Project Advisory Committee that is advised and guided by two Technical Advisors administrates the Leadership Academy.
As the Chairperson of the Eleanor Jean Grier Leadership Academy / Project Advisory Committee and the Project Coordinator for the past six classes, I write this letter to explosively thank and give appreciation to Mr. Hardy Brown and the entire Brown family who was instrumental in not only helping to obtain funding for the Eleanor Jean Grier Leadership Academy to get started but you have remained contributors to the growth of the Grier Leadership Academy.
In proudly watching Dr. Brown-Hinds present during Session Five to the thirteen participants last week gave me such a visceral feeling of gratitude that I stopped this week to write this letter. I want the region to know that the Eleanor Jean Grier Leadership Academy got its lifeline from Mr. Hardy Brown who dared to speak (up) – and to be heard. Thank you Hardy – our benefactor!
Should you want additional information about the Eleanor Jean Grier Leadership contact 951-509-2990.
Katie Greene, Project Coordinator
Eleanor Jean Grier Leadership Academy