By Lee Brown
I have fond memories as a child of my mother reading the newspaper each day. She has continued to do so for the last 50 years. It was her love of the daily news that encouraged me to learn to read. Later in life, as I mastered the art of reading, I continued to be fascinated by the words that would jump off the black and white pages. I would come home from school and immediately pick up the paper, which by that time had been folded and rearranged multiple times. Now my focus was different. The days of reading the paper for sheer educational purposes had been replaced by a thirst for knowledge. I found out that the paper gave me information – it allowed me to realize that there was an untapped world out there to explore. I could read news from countries and cities that I could only dream of visiting. It provided me with scores from my favorite teams and it also forecast the weather and it had comics and crosswords. I did not know this as a child, but that paper provided me with tools that I deploy today.
When I would visit my grandmother in Savannah, Georgia, she always had a copy of the Savannah Morning News on her coffee table. I would pick it up and peruse it to get an idea and a flavor of the goings-on in Savannah. She also had a different paper on the table as well. It was the Savannah Herald. The Herald was far different than any paper I had previously read. Yes, it had stories and pictures and news – but I couldn’t put a finger on its uniqueness. I asked my grandmother what kind of paper this was, and without missing a beat, she told me that this was a paper written by and about black people. Huh? “You mean people that look like me?” “Yes, people that look like you.” I was hooked! Before long, I knew all of Savannah’s black churches, as they were frequent advertisers. I knew whenever the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes (now known and the National Urban League), the NAACP, Jack & Jill would have events. I knew when prom season would arrive with the photos of the boys and girls in their formal wear.
My question is in 2019, why all African Americans do not have a subscription or retrieve papers from independent, black-owned newspapers offices or newsstands? Most cities with even a modicum of a black community have multiple papers. These papers were and are the heralds and clarions of our community. There was a time when everyone had a subscription to one of these treasured publications. Today, it seems as if the independent, black-owned newspapers are suffering from a lack of advertisers and readership. In today’s times, our community must be able to get the type of news that is so important to us. We have to do a better job of supporting these publications that place such a premium on bringing us the news and keeping us abreast of issues that affect all of us. If we don’t, they may not be around much longer. The result would be a further isolation of our community and a preponderance of misinformation.
Side note: Though my grandmother is gone, my mother still has an active subscription to an independently owned newspaper.