In Stanley Nelson's award-winning documentary, 'The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords,' former Columbia University journalism professor Phyllis Garland wrote: "The Black press was never intended to be objective because it didn't see the White press being objective. It [the Black press] often took a position. It had an attitude. This was a press of advocacy."
In 1981, Garland became the first African American and first woman to earn tenure at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.
"A press of advocacy" echoed throughout the early mission of the Black press, from the publication of the Freedom Journal, the first African-American newspaper in 1827 to the more than 200 black newspapers that exist in America today. The pioneers of the Black press have given voice to stories and events that would not have been otherwise published.
Fast-forward to 2010 and the mission is more important than ever before. "We are reaching out to the Black press in our efforts to highlight the importance of African Americans voting in these mid-term elections," said Mike Blake, senior advisor for African American Outreach with the Democratic National Committee (DNC). "This medium is of extreme importance and I think we are highlighting what has been known all along and that is the power of the African American community."
Blake acknowledged that the DNC is playing an active role in the state of Mississippi and has focused a lot of efforts in North Mississippi. "We clearly recognize what the Republicans and the Tea Party folk are doing," Blake said. "Our efforts are working because they continue to pump millions of dollars in areas that we are on the ground in."
For his part, President Barack Obama engaged in a near 30-minute press conference last week via telephone with members of the National Newspapers Association (a coalition of African-American owned newspapers) and acknowledged, 'I still need you." It was during this discussion that Obama was pressed on providing more jobs in the Black community and the need to advertise with the Black press.
Blake stressed the stakes are high in these mid-term elections. "Even though President Obama isn't on the ballot, his vision, his goals are," Blake said. "We must prove to everyone that we know our power. I think with the election of President Obama more attention is placed on the power of the Black vote and the power of the Black press."
Blake said, "It is important for people in Mississippi to know and people all over the country for that matter, that in 2008 we voted to change the guard and in 2010 we must vote to 'guard' the change." "The African American vote can make or break this election and I don't think we want to go backwards."