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OP-ED

Tom Joyner Morning Show mocks Black-Owned newspapers

( DAYTON , Ohio ) – Recently, on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, he and his staff made deplorable and disrespectful remarks about African-American-Owned newspapers that warrant an apology.  I normally don’t use an editorial as a lead story, but since opinions are so important nowadays, it's visibility need to be insured and read throughout the world.

This behavior has been documented, graded and will go down in history.  By the way the grade for Joyner and his staff’s performance is zilch.

Consistent with the deplorable remarks, he called them “Black newspapers,” as if the color of the papers are black and the news in it are only fit for black folks to read.

“’The purpose of our satire is to get people to think.’  ‘I hope that we've at least got people thinking about our Black newspapers,’” said Joyner.

“A satire about our Black newspapers” – to the best of my recollection, using Joyner’s language, the satire went as follows:

Joyner said:  Somebody oughta tell black folks bout dare newspapers – dey has too many group pictures and talk bout community stuff. Hee, Hee, Hee!!  Why dey gotta always put da group pictures in da paper?

The psychic lady, you know, the one that tells you to count the number of curtain rods in your kitchen curtain and play that number in the lottery said:  Yeah, dey gotta always put a lotta group pictures in da paper; pictures of birthday parties, Valentine parties, clubs, fraternities, sororities, and families – wit da toothes showing.  Somebody need to tell’em bout the group pictures so dey can quit. Put sumelse in dare!  Hee, hee, hee!!!

Obviously, Joyner and his allegedly Ebonics talking staff [rumor has it that they could be writing a book in Ebonics] does not respect African-American-Owned newspapers.

“I abhor people that call our newspapers ‘black papers.’  They are African-American-Owned newspapers that publish news for all races.  Most of our successful media people get their experience from working with Black-Owned publications.  After we train them, mainstream media then hires them,” said Loretta Floyd, former editor of The Dayton Defender.

The alleged satire above is just one of the few things that are deplorable on the Tom Joyner Morning Show.  Often times their conversation can be clearly defined as being sexually explicit.  I have never in my lifetime, seen such tacky and unprofessional behavior over the radio waves.  While Chairman Michael K. Powell , of the Federal Communication Commission, is investigating and finding ways to clean-up family-time on television because of the Super Bowl, I recommend that he add radio, also.  The Tom Joyner Show could be a prime example to use.

I personally felt that Joyner’s behavior is a result of racism.  Black men in key positions to influence black people, such as Joyner and some black leaders have always used black folks to their advantage, by fooling them.  What he did was to attempt to hurt African-American-Owned newspapers by literally mocking them and make a condescending remark about it being a mere “satire.”  He exhibited the crab-in-the-bucket mentality.  After all, we do have some of the same advertisers (customers) as his syndicated show.  This could have been his senseless way of competing.  Additionally, this could have been a great opportunity to let the people know how important these newspapers are to both white and black communities, and give a little history of the paper for Black History Month.

Obviously, because of the disrespect that Joyner showed on his show for African-American-Owned newspapers, an apology is warrant.  Therefore, I recommend that Radio-One make an apology to all African-American-Owned newspapers.

History of the African-American-Owned Newspapers:

African-American-Owned newspapers came into existence before the Civil War as a medium of expression of abolitionist sentiment.  In 1827, Samuel Cornish and John B. Russwarm started the first African-American-Owned periodical, called Freedom's Journal.  Freedom's Journal initiated the trend of African-American-Owned papers throughout the United States to fight for liberation and rights, demonstrate racial pride, and inform readers of events affecting the African-American community. Unfortunately, because the African-Americans were unable to support the paper and the white abolitionists were few, the paper ended its circulation in 1830.  Also, during the antebellum South, other African-American-Owned newspapers came about.  One of these, the North Star, founded by Frederick Douglass, had the same fate as Freedom's Journal.

As African-Americans migrated from fields to urban centers, virtually every large city with a significant African-American population soon had African-American-Owned newspapers.  Examples were the Chicago Defender, Detroit Tribune, the Pittsburgh Courier, and the ( New York ) Amsterdam News.  While it was certainly important for African-American-Owned newspapers to report the news of the day, it was not their primary purpose.  Most cities already had daily newspapers that were aimed to the general public.  The idea of an African-American-Owned newspaper was to give African-Americans the news through the lens of their own eyes.

From an economic perspective, African-American-Owned newspapers were formed in order to make a profit.  According to a study of early African-American-Owned newspapers, the "primary motivation" of African-American-Owned newspaper proprietors was "not uplift, but profit."  In addition, from a social standpoint, these newspapers were a source of pride for the African-American community and a focal point for African-Americans to stick together and fight the constant oppression they were under.  Taking this into account, it seems apparent that it was most beneficial for African-American-Owned newspaper editors to be motivated by both uplift and profit.

In the United States today, it is not uncommon for cities to have a variety of newspapers (printed in a variety of languages) that are aimed at specific racial, ethnic, and religious groups.  Because large newspapers tend to cover the news that would be of interest to the majority (and thus not the minority) of people, it is easy to see why people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds would be interested in hearing about events from people who might see the world with the same cultural lens as themselves.  

Black Newspaper Publishers dream of Equality and Respect

ST. MAARTEN, Antilles (NNPA) - As America’s Black Press continues its traditional role of protecting and defending the rights of African-Americans, the 177-year-old institution still has a dream of equality of its own, says the chairperson of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a federation of more than 200 Black-owned newspapers.

“That common dream that we share basically amounts to the fact that we are looking for equity in advertising. We are looking for mutual respect in the newspaper industry and among our peers,” Sonny Messiah-Jiles told NNPA members at its annual mid-winter conference in St. Maarten , Netherlands , Antilles last week.

“But, more so, we dream of a day when our news holes will be judged for the character of its content, and not by the color of its publishers or its leaders.”

Messiah-Jiles, elected chairperson of the organization last June, was giving her first “State of the NNPA” address at the conference. She says the organization must take advantage of every opportunity to assert its readership clout and historic mission as leverage to win economic equity for its readers as well as itself. “As we sit here as NNPA members, the Black Press of America, one of the most powerful tools that we have is we serve 15 million people,” says Messiah-Jiles, publisher of the Houston Defender. The NNPA’s target market has an annual buying power of $572.1 billion, according to a University of Georgia study.

“We’ve worked hard,” she says. “We’ve had some good times and some bad times, but through it all, one of the premises that we continue to live by is something that was said by Frederick Douglass … That is that power concedes nothing without a demand.” Not just African-Americans face discrimination. So do Black businesses, according to the publishers gathered here. “They come up with all kinds of excuses not to advertise,” states Robert W. Bogle, publisher of the 120-year-old Philadelphia Tribune, the nation’s oldest continuously published Black-owned newspaper. He says some will note that many Black newspapers are not audited by Audit Bureau of Circulations, the nation’s most respected auditing agency.

“Many daily newspapers are not audited by ABC,” Bogle says. “Then they want to talk about our failure rates. The Philadelphia Inquirer has lost more circulation than any other daily newspaper in the country, but advertisers still buy ads.” Others say Black publishers need to stop making excuses and run their newspapers in a more business-like fashion. “We can no longer say, ‘We are Black’ and expect them to just buy,” explains Joy Bramble, publisher of the Baltimore Times in Maryland . “They will be asking us for the numbers just like everybody else.”

Publishers say Black newspapers must expand their readership base and that, in turn, will lead to more advertising dollars. The average reader of NNPA newspapers is about 49 years old. “We have to refocus our target audience. Our target audience has always been the leadership of the Black community,” says James E. Lewis Sr., publisher of the Birmingham Times in Alabama . “We must refocus on the young minds of the Black community, something that we’ve been unable to accomplish.” Some papers are already moving in that direction. Chris Bennett, 33, among NNPA’s youngest publishers, says his Seattle Medium plans to cover more little league sports as a way of attracting younger readers.

“There’s got to be something in the paper that encourages that young person to pick up that paper and start reading it, to appeal to younger folks to train them to become loyal readers,” Bennett says.

Founded 62 years ago, NNPA also has a news service, run by the NNPA Foundation, a separate entity, chaired by Brian Townsend, publisher of the Precinct Reporter in San Bernardino , Calif. It is America ’s only Black newspaper wire service. The emphasis on attracting younger readers does not mean coverage of political and social issues should be sacrificed, says Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of the Washington (D.C.) Informer.

“We can’t get tired and we can’t lose focus. I think that’s what inspires us, to recognize that our viability is important and remains strong,” Barnes says.

 “When an administration accosts affirmative action, when you still have cases of redlining in communities, when you can’t get loans and we have predatory lending, these are issues that not only affect us in the housing industry but from anything from gaining credit to buying cars. Check-cashing places and predatory lending are creeping into our communities. In a lot of ways, economically, a lot of us have fallen through the gap.”

 Some publishers say that in a difficult economy, advertising dollars will be even tougher to come by. The key to achieving the dream will be Black newspapers taking stands to work together and with community groups to establish our own credibility, Messiah-Jiles says. “We have to roll up our sleeves…We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Messiah-Jiles says. “Our legacy is built upon the track record of Black publishers who have come before us like Samuel Cornish and John Russworm. And they said, ‘We wish to plead our own cause. For too long others have spoken for us.’”
 
 
Throw-away People
By James Clingman, Jr

There are two categories of leaders in our communities, especially when it comes to issues and activities related to economic empowerment. According to Dr. Carter G. Woodson, "Negroes … sometimes choose their own leaders but unfortunately they are too often the wrong kind. Negroes do not readily follow persons with constructive programs. Almost any sort of exciting appeal or trivial matter presented to them may receive immediate attention … and liberal support." That dilemma cited by our Elder has never been more pronounced than it is today.

There are so-called Black leaders who, despite their unseemly tactics, their portrayals of themselves as "honest" brokers, and their shadowy deal-making and sellout prowess, seem to be exempt from exposure by our people. While Black folks have always had to deal with these scoundrels, we have been reluctant to call them out - to expose them for what they really are.

On the other hand, we have leaders among us who are totally dedicated to the collective economic advancement of African Americans. These are the ones who are usually sacrificed by Black people -- thrown out because they are a threat to the establishment or because they are "too Black." That frightens some people and, sadly, we play into that fear by participating in the demise of the very people who would help pull us out of our economic ditch.

This is not conjecture; I speak from personal experience. In my hometown, I have witnessed the "death" of brothers and sisters who go all out for their people, do not take sell-out bribes, do not back off when it comes to speaking up for Black people, and are unafraid to be Black. These conscious brothers and sisters are virtually thrown-out, in many cases simply because someone from the establishment thought they were crossing the line and getting out of their place. They are let down by the very brothers and sisters they have helped. Through our acquiescence and apathy many of us turn our heads, afraid to speak up for the ones who speak out for us.

I have, on the other hand, seen certain folks stroll through our communities and be held up as paragons of Black liberation, all the while filling their pockets with the filthy lucre from their sell out deals with the powers that be. They lurk in the shadows, afraid to come out in the open, and use lackeys to promote their causes. They have their hands in every deal, every program, every transaction, and every scenario that involves Black people, making certain that they will be the first in line to be paid. They rob the community and blame that same community for not moving forward. How can we move forward with crooks like these among us?

These are the ones we should throw away. These are the ones from whom we must run. These are the very ones who will continue to hold us back because they will sell us out for their individual benefit and acclaim. The saddest aspect of this reality is that we accept it. For years we have seen the same persons in our neighborhoods and our communities selfishly plot and scheme to fill their pockets and then make some shallow overture to their brothers and sisters who ignorantly hold them in high esteem.

We have seen these people move up, economically, while those they are suppose to be helping move further away from the realization of their economic dreams. We have also seen the brothers and sisters in the opposite category fade into oblivion, never to be heard from again. And then, more times than not, we sit around and reminisce about not having listened to them and not having followed their prescriptions for collective economic success.

We must learn, as a people, to identify, respect, and follow our true leaders. Heed the words of Carter G. Woodson and do not be swayed and mesmerized by charisma and rhetorical ranting. Fake leaders are very good at the things that will not take Black people where we need to go, especially economically. They will not and cannot put the collective first because they are too wrapped up in themselves. It makes me wonder if they ever think about death, responsibility, legacy, and accountability. They may not have to account for their actions to us, but one day that accountability will come. Most of us would be fearful of that day. But these fake leaders not only have no consciousness, they have no conscience. So what do we do about these people? The first thing to do is look at what they have done for our people - not what they have said, but what they have done. Look behind the deals they bring you; see who else is in support of them. Check them out completely before you place your confidence and trust in them. If they are using you to do their dirty work, afraid themselves to come out in the open and speak, be wary of them. They mean you no good. If you see their fingerprints on everything that has money attached to it, none or very little of which is being used to truly empower our people, watch out. It's very likely they are getting theirs off the top (and probably off the bottom as well) leaving very little for you. Look for the common thread that always leads back to this person. After a while you will be able to discern the nuances and modus operandi of this person because he will do the same things, say the same things, plan the same things, and always have his hand out for his cut. Let's begin to throw the scoundrels out, as they say in political circles. Those who are dedicated to serving rather than merely appointing themselves as leaders (or being appointed by white folks) are the “keepers.”

Would African Americans Still Be A Minority Group?

By Reverend Edward K. Braxton, Ph.D., S.T.D.

Special to The Dayton Defender – Permission given to reprint article from July 1989

(July 1989) – One of the most significant consequences of the current discussion of the name African American might be a greater awareness of the subtle racism that is often implicit, even if unintentional, in the way the words “minority” and “minority groups” are used.  Ordinarily, minority means that one group consists of fewer members than another group whose larger number constitutes it as the majority.  For example, “Only a minority of the world’s nations have nuclear capability.”  However, when used in reference to race and ethnicity, the word can be subtly shaded.

In the United States when the term “minorities” is used, it frequently is presumed to refer primarily to certain groups: people of African, Hispanic, or Asian origins.  More recently it has come to include Native Americans.  However, it is rarely used in references to other groups such as Indian, Japanese or Jewish people, though the size of each group is far smaller than the African American population.  Why is it that these groups are not often referred to as minorities?

A growing number of people are recognizing that the reason is the fact that the word minority is by no means neutral.  In newspaper editorials and television documentaries, the word minority is often associated with a host of problems.  For instance, poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, drugs, violence, and unwed parents are associated with minorities.  It can be used in such a way that the large group is perceived as normative.  Thus, a story about minorities in America can easily evoke images of a group that is weak, passive and inferior, lacking self-determination, possessing little that others desire, and having few resources for solving its problems.  The majority group, on the other hand, is strong, active and superior, self-determining, possessing what others need and want, and having the resources for solving its problems.  Further, what is true of the groups becomes true of their individual members.

The peculiar use of the word minority becomes very obvious when we think of how it is not used.  The annual number of graduates from Harvard Business School is small but are they thought of as a minority in the business community?  Only a small number of Americans earn over five million dollars per year, but does anyone think of them as a minority group? Why not?

The repetition of the term minority group in almost all references to Black Americans can be a tragic reinforcement of the status quo, a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Are you poor and unemployed:  Of course you are, you are in a minority group.  You will always be poor and unemployed, because your identity is defined as and determined by your not being a part of the majority.  This insistence on the use of the word minority to categorize and contain certain groups of people reaches laughable proportions when newspaper articles and television news reporters makes statements such as “Experts predict that by the year 2010 the majority of people living in the cities of Washington, DC, Cleveland, Detroit, and Newark may be minorities.”  Thus, even when Hispanic Americans or African Americans make up well over half of the population of a given city, even when they are the numerical majority, they must still be categorized as minorities.  That is, they must be defined by their relationships to White people even when White people are the minority in the city in question.

Because of this pre-established understanding of the meaning of the word, it becomes impossible for White people to ever be a minority.  Thus, while much was made of Michael Dukakis, as the son of Greek immigrants during the Presidential campaign, he was never described as a member of a minority group.  But, how did the white population of the United States, which is made up of people of so many different ethnic and national backgrounds, come to be one massive monolithic group, the majority?  In spite of the so-called melting pot of suburbs, most Caucasian people in this country are very aware of and justly proud of their ethnic link with other lands.

There are Irish Americans, Italian Americans, German Americans, Polish Americans, Swedish Americans, Jewish Americans, and many others.  People of these distinct national groups generally cherish their origins.  They are concerned about political events in these countries.  They tell stories about and travel to the “Old country.”  They celebrate the languages, music, art and cuisine of their homelands.  The differences among these groups are by no means slight.  In the past and present these differences have led to fierce conflicts and even to open hostilities.  However, because they are members of one racial group, the fact that they have different national backgrounds is not always immediately evident.

Almost every ethnic group that has come to this country has suffered from prejudices and residues of this prejudice exist to this day.  Each one of these groups, strictly speaking, is a minority.  That is, it is smaller than the whole.  But, Americans of European origins are able to be simple Americans, when they want to be, only occasionally calling attention the their specific ethnic heritages. As a result, a somewhat homogenized population made of many different national backgrounds and simple called “White people” has become the so-called majority in relation to all others, who are forever minorities.

Black Americans do not have this freedom.  There are very few circumstances, if any, in which they are treated simply as Americans.  Yet, the name “ Blacks” does not link them to a larger group or a larger history beyond the United States.

Because of the ravages of slavery most African Americans have no way of tracing their origins to a specific country in Africa, such as Nigeria, Ghana, or the Ivory Coast, even though the parts of Africa that were most heavily involved in the slave trade are known.  Nor can most Black Americans sort through the complex tangle of African ethnic and tribal groups and identify their roots definitively as Ibu, Yourba or Mandingo.  Thus, the name African American associates them with the whole continent of Africa and its ancient, rich, complex history and culture.

It links them with the over 450 million people in Africa itself as well as the tens of millions of people of African stock in the Caribbean, the West Indies and South America.  If the name African American helps people of color in this country to become more conscious of their historical and racial links with over 600 million people all over the world who have Africa as their genesis, this might go a long way in combating the negative connotations that are almost immediately associate with the expression minority group.  The world is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural habitat for humanity.  White people do not constitute the majority of the world’s population.  The eventual banishment of this problematic use of the word minority would challenge all people not to focus attention on who and what people are not, but on who and what they are.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Reverend Edward K. Braxton, Ph.D., S.T.D., a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, is the Official Theological Consultant to William H. Sadlier, Inc., a Manhattan based publisher of religious education materials.  He has traveled frequently to Africa and is the author of many articles on African American Catholics.

Please NoteThe editorial comments on this page do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publishers or staff of The Dayton Defender.

Last Updated:  April 22, 2004

©2003 The Dayton Defender All rights reserved.


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