ATLANTA—Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) welcomed members of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) to Atlanta Friday night at the organization’s 2012 Legacy Awards Dinner. The event honored both Ambassador Andrew Young and Danny Bakewell, Sr., former NNPA chairman.
“I’m glad tonight to see that you are honoring two of my favorite people,” Lewis said. “They have made unbelievable contributions to our society.”
A renowned Civil Rights leader, Lewis thanked the Black Press for its role in helping get out stories about the movement.
“If it hadn’t been for members of the Black Press, the Civil Rights Movement would have been like a bird without wings,” the congressman said. “Thank you for telling the story.”
While studying at Fisk University in Nashville, Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters across the city.
In 1961, he joined Freedom Rides, a civil rights tactic designed to test the Supreme Court’s ruling in Boynton v. Virginia (1960), which declared segregation in interstate bus and rail stations unconstitutional. Lewis jeopardized his life by frequently by sitting in seats reserved for white customers. He was also and was beaten ruthlessly by irate mobs and detained by police for challenging the prejudice of Jim Crow segregation.
The congressman called upon the Black Press to continue its social activism by reporting stories on voter discrimination practices.
“There is a deliberate, systematic attempt to steal the upcoming election before it takes place,” Lewis said. “You have to tell the story. You have to print the story. They are trying to make it hard, difficult and impossible for people of color, for young people, for our seniors to cast a vote. It’s not just in the South but it’s throughout our country. You must not let that happen. We struggled for the right to vote, some of us gave a little blood.”
According to The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a non-profit legal organization, voter suppression efforts are in high gear across the nation. The committee states that photo identification requirements are being proposed or becoming law in many states such as Ohio, Wisconsin, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Montana, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas, are particularly burdensome on minority, low-income, elderly, disabled and student voters.
The committee also states on its website that photo ID laws disproportionately affect those who are least able to afford it. A 2006 survey concluded that voting-age citizens earning less than $35,000 in annual income were more than twice as likely to lack a government-issued ID as those earning more than $35,000.
Danny Bakewell, Sr. is immediate past chairman of NNPA and during his two year tenure from 2009-2011, he chartered new territories for the organization.
Through exposure and partnerships with auto giants such as Ford, Toyota and General Motors, Bakewell helped the Black Press gain the advertising recognition it deserves.
The revered leader thanked NNPA members for their cooperation during his leadership.
“I asked you to trust me and you did,” Bakewell said. “I asked you to make sure you made a commitment for all of us to be on the same page about the power of the Black Press and to mean it.”
Bakewell continued by saying that the duty of NNPA members is not only to print newspapers but “to but to agitate and to aggravate and to make sure people understood the importance of the Black Press.”
“Our responsibility is not just printing out newspapers; our responsibility is making life better for our people,” the former NNPA chairman declared.
A steadfast proponent of the power of the Black Press, Bakewell thanked NNPA members for their support during his tenure.
“It is your pen, your ink; your papers that makes America recognize the talent that is among them,” he said. “I will be forever indebted for the trust you put in me to be your chairman.”
A successful businessman, Bakewell was born in New Orleans and in 1974, he co-founded the National Black United Fund (NBUF), which created and forged a nationwide benevolent vehicle for populations that were either ignored or undeserved by popular charitable organizations, forming 22 NBUF affiliates throughout the country.
Ambassador Andrew Young, Civil Rights leader, former Congressman and mayor of Atlanta was introduced during the event by Xernona Clayton, founder, president and CEO of the Trumpet Awards Foundation, Inc.
Young is a staunch humanitarian whose work spans decades and the globe. An ordained minister and top aide to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he has made significant contributions to society. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Young to serve as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. He served two terms as Mayor of Atlanta and was Co-Chairman of the Centennial Olympic Games in 1996.
Known as a progressive thinker and leader, Young shared his thoughts on civil rights for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender” (LGBT) Americans. “You got to be willing to love others as you want God to love you,” the ambassador said. “And the reason most people get upset about other people’s sex lives is they haven’t been able to face their own…We can unite the world if we quit worrying about the speck in our brother’s eye and deal with the log in our own eye.”
While presenting Young, Clayton said he was “a man respected all over the world.”
“How fortunate we all are to be in his midst and to be made privileged to sit at his feet and listen to his experiences,” Clayton said.
By Thelma Sardin