TGR: Support Independent Black Media Although … (“Much of black media really is awful”)
Keep speaking truth to power!
By Doni Morton Glover, Founder & Publisher
“Much of black media really is awful,” observed former Capitol Hill staffer Yvette Carnell of BreakingBrown.com.
(BALTIMORE – July 18, 2012) - Support Independent Black Media: Given that August is Black Business Month and that we, here at BMORENEWS, are about to celebrate a decade of www.bmorenews.com, I found the questions recently raised in the black media world about the independence and relevance of the black press incredibly apropos.
Apparently, the recent blogosphere discussion on black media began with a facebook post (noted above) by Journalist Yvette Carnell of www.BreakingBrown.com. Then, Bruce Dixon responded with a piece, The Black Press Is Dead. Get Over It. And Marc Polite responded with his own piece (“Can The Black Blogosphere Carry The Torch For The Black Press?”).
Topped by a provocative headline, I knew I was going to love or hate Dixon’s piece (I loved it). After all, it was discussing a topic near and dear to my heart: black media content. I am a huge proponent of uncensored, free and original press – especially as it relates to black folks. Black media is what I engage in every single day. What’s more, I am always curious as to what other independent-minded black journalists are thinking – if they, too, generally see what I see.
Upon reading Polite’s piece – along with Dixon’s piece, I immediately knew both writers were speaking truth to power. The truth is often painful. However, this industry is not only important to people who appreciate having an un-bossed voice, it is critical for the sake of the survival of black America. Why? When you are un-bought and free, you can speak your mind.
Truthfully, black people can ill-afford to be oblivious to the developments happening all around us – often to our exclusion. I see it in my hometown, Baltimore. I see it in DC and Phillie. I see it in Harlem and Brooklyn. Black America, despite some of us who have attained a certain lifestyle, is in a state of emergency. We actually fared better economically during segregation. Once we integrated, we began the process of abandoning our communities. Those who were able to flee in the exodus called “urban flight”, our ‘best and brightest’, - well, they haul-assed to supposedly better neighborhoods. Since that 50-year exodus, they have come to find that the challenges to our development don’t leave us just because we relocate. They have since learned that critical thinking is most essential. From the mortgage lending crisis to the underperformance of black students to the record-number of black males dropping out to the over-incarceration of black males in America to the tune of being 39.4% of America’s inmates despite the fact that blacks comprise 13.6% of the US population to health care disparities galore – black America has progressed the least of all other Americans. Even more, the church has been compromised to the core like never before. Black politicians often have to depend on white financiers for campaign funding because black people are generally strapped for cash – and if they got it, they are still apprehensive to give it to black candidates especially in light of the wave of corruption allegations repeatedly coming at them off the break. Black lawyers find it less lucrative to take on unnecessary pro-bono cases – especially in the midst of the worst economy since 1929. Further, fighting for Civil Rights just ain’t en vogue.
Hence, black newspapers and radio stations are businesses, first. And when advertising dollars dictate your content, it means that black people in America have to go without a voice.
To me, being voiceless makes us slaves. Maybe we are not wearing shackles, however – when there is no independent black media, it means that we are no longer thinking and writing for ourselves. It means that somebody from outside of the community is determining what is good for us.
This, my friends, is antithetical to the black press tradition as demonstrated by the likes of John Murphy, the founder of the Baltimore Afro American Newspaper. Even more, it is antithetical to black – and white freedom fighters whose blood, sweat, and tears soil the ground beneath our feet. Souls like Harriet Tubman, Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, Gabrielle Prosser, Toussaint ’Overture, Nanny the Maroon Queen, Steve Biko, and Walter Rodney come to mind. They, along with those like W.E.B. DuBois, Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, and Nelson Mandela fill my spirit and remind me of the path.
For me, the black news tradition is steeped in an uncompromising tradition of freedom which demands equal access for black people. Bottomline: Many black newspapers felt at some point that they had best take on an accommodating, more passive mindset in order to eat. After all, they have employees, suppliers, vendors, leases, mortgages, insurance, and automobile notes they have to pay each month.
So, to an extent, I understand toning down the pro-black and pro-freedom rhetoric for the sake of not losing advertisers. I have worked at white and black media outlets – like many – in my 18-year career as a journalist. Additionally, I have owned a media outlet for the past decade. Hence, I have a perspective on the issue of independence like few others. For the past ten years, independent black media has been a part of my calling, my purpose, and my mission. It is what I’ve been groomed for all these years to do: “To tell the story of the hunt from the perspective of the hunted” – as said to Frederick Douglass by Wendell Phillips.
And, quite honestly, it can be a lonely and/or unpopular journey. You are constantly reminded that telling the truth isn’t popular.
You are constantly confronted with lowering your standards for telling the truth – just for the sake of a few dollars.
And, you always know that you can sell out. Hell, you just look at others and see how easy it is to turn a blind eye to the injustices happening to black people – to play as if you don’t see the madness that relegates blacks like we were in the Antebellum South. But, that – again - is easy to do.
What’s more difficult is to write the truth and deal with the consequences – like accepting the fact that many of your own still don’t understand why their support of black press is so important. Another consequence is when some of your own people go so far as to criticize or try and derail your earnest efforts to tell our people’s story.
And then, some of us do things to support white media when we could in fact use black-owned media – including websites, blogs, and email newsletters. You know: Support your own? Instead, we subconsciously find it somehow more prestigious, for instance, to have our business ads, commentaries and op/eds featured in the better-funded white daily news outlets as opposed to black outlets in general – let alone the independent-minded black media outlets. I guess some still believe that the “white man’s ice is colder.” Go figure! In 2012!
This is exactly where black newspaper owners probably had to draw the line: it was either conform to mainstream America – meaning not tell the entire truth about the black experience for fear of losing advertising dollars (which, I might add, pays the bills), or it was risk the money for the truth. The former, according to Bruce Dixon’s piece, was deemed the path of least resistance. Again, people just really want to feed their families. The idea of being involved in revolutionary, independent-minded efforts all of the time is tiring for many; to tell the truth about the black experience in America becomes too costly – financially.
This is exactly where I have come to believe that the good Lord has a special blessing for the black entrepreneur – including the black news business folks. This is exactly where I revert to the Bible, the Qur’an, and everything else holy for that sense of faith because there is no way on God’s green earth that black people in the 21st century should be with bridled, shackled, and chained minds – in fear of speaking about the injustices that inculcate this American-born institution marked by racial supremacy and structural racism. To not speak about this for fear of reprisal is a modern-day travesty.
Call it denial. Whatever! I just cannot fathom the thought that black people in America – despite our challenges and in light of our successes – are no better off than in the days of American slavery. To cut a man’s voice is to eliminate him from the conversation. This makes blacks invisible and irrelevant to the broader discussion.
Nonetheless, despite the fledgling support of independent black media outlets – some of us, like www.TheBlackAgendaReport.com and www.BMORENEWS.com – insist on doing our jobs regardless of what others are or are not doing. The actions of others are irrelevant. At the end of the day, I have to be accountable for myself and be able to look myself in the eye and be able to sleep with my decisions.
Given the powerful black news tradition out of which I was born, one characterized by the establishment of black periodicals even during the period of American slavery, there is no way on God’s green earth that I will ever betray the efforts of Jamaican-born Americo-Liberian John Brown Russwurm, his coeditor Samuel Cornish, and the third cofounder of Freedom’s Journal in New York City in March 1827 - Father Peter Williams, the second ordained African American Episcopal Priest in the US. I cannot and will not forsake the call to spirited action as espoused throughout David Walker’s Appeal in 1829, in Marcus Garvey’s newspaper, Negro World, founded in New York City in 1918, Frederick Douglass’ North Star founded in Rochester, NY in 1847. The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, the oldest minority owned business in the state of Minnesota established in 1934 by Cecil E. Newman, also comes to mind; prior to the Spokesman-Recorder, Newman founded the Twin Cities Herald about 1927 and published the Timely Digest in 1932.
Indeed, I have a job to do and will continue to do it – as these and countless other pioneers did. That is not happening. Instead, it is time for more independent entities, like www.PoliteOnSociety.com, to be birthed so as to better tell the story of the black journey in America.
From day one, our agenda has remained the same: business, public education, ex-offender services, affordable housing, and universal access to health care. And, as we mark our first decade’s milestone, I am recommitted to the black news tradition that affords black people in America – and beyond – an uncompromised voice.
We simply have to better circle the wagons, better embrace 21st century technology – including our usage of Social Media, better play to our strengths, and continue to spread the message of freedom.
To my comrades in the struggle, like Bruce Dixon: Never fear. Never give up. Never allow the voice of our people to be silent! And, please – keep speaking truth to power!
What do you think?
1 comment(s) on this page. Add your own comment below.
Excellent piece Brother Glover!
"Since that 50-year exodus, they have come to find that the challenges to our development don’t leave us just because we relocate." #deep