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Black Troops Fought Bravely at Normandy 75 Years Ago

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Throughout WWII and especially D-Day in 1944, the Black Press dispatched reporters such as the New Journal and Guide’s John Q. ‘Rover’ Jordan, P.B. Young, Jr., Thomas Young, Lem Graves and the ANP’s Joseph Dunbar to the European and South Pacific War Zones to cover the exploits of the Black soldiers.

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By Leonard E. Colvin, Chief Reporter, New Journal and Guide

The United States, Great Britain, France and other allies recently observed the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing on five beaches along Southern France at Normandy on their way to defeat Nazi Germany.

The modern images of the allied leaders, including the U.S. President and other participants, captured by the media at the Normandy Beach event appeared mostly white.

Seventy-five years ago, the mainstream news media and various movies such as The Longest Day” and others also captured the images of white soldiers valiantly fighting on the sandy beaches against withering gunand cannon fire from the Germans.

But thanks to the written words and imagesrecorded by members of the Black Press who were eye witnesses to the action in Southern France to Berlin, the contributions and valor of Black military men and women were recorded, too.

Along with a quarter million Black servicemen, Black newsmen from the Norfolk Journal and Guide, the National Newspaper Publisher’s Association (NNPA)and the Associated Negro Press (ANP) were on hand to recordthis history left out of the mainstream press then and recently.

Throughout WWII and especially D-Day in 1944, the Black Press dispatched reporters such as the New Journal and Guide’s John Q. ‘Rover’ Jordan and P.B.Young, Jr.,Thomas Young, Lem Graves and the ANP’s Joseph Dunbar tothe European and South Pacific War Zones to cover the exploits of the Black soldiers.

In many of the stories printed on the pages of the GUIDE, one could detect the toneof the accounts indicating that the reporters wanted to make clear that Negrosoldierswere making significant contributions.

They worked on the ground and the air in combat, in support roles like driving trucks, operating machinery,medical support units, military police, tactical and leading administrative work.

The tone countered the daily newspapers which catered to its white readership, ignoring any significant contributions of the Black Warriors.

 “If it were not for those GUIDE and other Black reporters, the story of Black men and women on D-Day or in other areas related to World War II would have beenignored,” said Dr. Henry Lewis Suggs, Professor Emeritus of American History, Clemson University, who is retired now.

Dr. Suggs wrote the biography P.B. Young, Sr., Newspaper Man.” Young, who founded the GUIDE newspaper after serving as the editor of its predecessor, the Lodge Journal newsletter dating to 1900, was a leading Black media,political and civic leader in Virginia and nationally from the early 1930s until he died in 1962.

Weekly, during the war, the GUIDE published local,state, national, Virginia and Peninsula editions of the newspaper. Each edition included news about the war and the rolesthat Black soldiers, sailors, Coast Guard and civilians played at home and abroad.

The articles not only pointed out the bravery and professionalism of the Black troops, they also noted the heavy number of casualties Blacks suffered in combat.

The stories which were distributed to other Black newspapers also recorded acts of racial bias against the Black patriots.

There were stories of the many cases where Black and white troops worked shoulder to shoulder” withno tension away from the field of battle and during it.

“In Norfolk, the only source of news Black civilians got about Black soldiers and sailors overseas or at home was from the Black Press,” said Suggs.

Suggs said the contributions of the Black warriors during WWII helped fuel African American efforts after the war to pursue socio-economic and political equality.

Further, the thousands of Blacks who fought in the war, used the G.I. Bill to secure an education and other support to attend Black colleges which helped them grow.

Suggs said that African Americans had their great generation of Black men who participated in the war. They later became the Black lawyers, doctors and educators and other professional and political class whofostered the Black middle class.

“Negro troops did their duty excellently under fire on Normandy’s beaches in a zone of heavy combat,” General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Invasion Forcesdeclared.

That statement was a greeting sent by the General, fondly known as Ike” by the Black troops, to the NAACP’sWartime Conference meeting In Chicago held that year. It appeared in the July 15, 1944 edition of the GUIDE under the headline Eisenhower Proud of Our Troops in France,” verifying history.

It also noted Black leadership’s citing the resistance and their insistance for sending Black Women Army Corps (WACs) to the front.

“Negro” troops in Southern France. Photo by John Q. Jordan/NJG Archives

“Negro” troops in Southern France. Photo by John Q. Jordan/NJG Archives

John Q. Jordan, War Correspondent

John Q. Jordan, who lived in Portsmouth, worked for the GUIDE as a correspondent before, during and after the crucial landing at Normandy and observed firsthand the activities of Black soldiers.

He also served as a pool reporter, recording and dispatching back bits and pieces of information for white and Black reporters toiling for news outlets sitting onboard ships or on land in England, the main staging areas for the massive invasion force.

During the first hours of operations on the Omaha Beach, Jordan was one of the first journalists to view the action.

He was positioned to peer down at 800-plus of ships sitting or moving in the waters below and the troops scrambling to the beaches.

In an article in the August 19, 1944 edition of the GUIDE, under the headline Germans Only Attack Negro Group Invasion Day; Rhodes Gets One,” he described those hours of operation.

Jordan wrote,Many Negro troop units land on Beaches; Fliers handling the role in softening up second Invasion coast.”

He described how on D-Day (June 6) weeks after, “Theonly fighter opposition (the Germans) encountered by the formations which flew protective cover for the Armada of heavies (bombers)and medium bombers who blasted a path for the invasion…on the coast of southern France was met by fighter pilots of the Mustang Group under (the command of) Col. Benjamin O. Davis Jr.,” an African American.

Better known as the Tuskegee Airmen, the article described how 2nd Lt.George M. Rhodes of Brooklyn, New York shot down a German plane —the first.

The Black men who manned and operated the huge machines hailed from all over the country, including Little Rock, Arkansas, parts of Texas, and Philly.

“They have been in operations over the whole length of the beach since D-day. These units were formed in Camp Gordon Johnson, Fla. and the first colored company of its type.”

These amphibious ships were used to transport troops and supplies back and forth from the beaches,including taking wounded Black and white men to the awaiting hospital ships.

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U.S. Business Leaders Step Up to Fight Inequities in the South

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

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Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr./ NNPA Newswire

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

This toxic atmosphere has left them incapable of addressing pressing, yet ingrained issues like the racial wealth gap, the digital divide, and vast inequalities in everything from health care to home ownership.

With COVID-19 still an omnipresent concern and the country’s recovery still very much in jeopardy, individuals, families, and communities – particularly communities of color throughout the South – are struggling to deal with issues that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

From impediments to wealth creation opportunities and a dearth of education and workforce development to a lack of access to reliable broadband, substandard housing, and inadequate political representation, communities of color have suffered an outsized toll during the ongoing public health crisis.

Yet political leaders can’t even agree on basic facts that would allow the nation to implement a coherent national strategy for combatting a pandemic that appears to be entering a new wave amid the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant that is currently ravaging parts of the South.

Against that disillusioning backdrop, there is at least some reason for hope. Moving to fill the vacuum created by the inaction of our political class, a group of business leaders in the technology and investment sectors have embarked on a far-reaching – and perhaps unprecedented – campaign to address the social inequities and systemic racism that has historically plagued our country’s southern communities.

Known as the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI), the campaign was founded by financial technology company PayPal, the investment firm Vista Equity Partners (Vista), and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

SCI was formed to work with local elected officials and advocacy groups to tackle the ubiquitous problems of structural racism and inequalities facing communities of color in six communities throughout the South. SCI notes that these areas – Atlanta, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., Charlotte, N.C., Houston, Texas, Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans, La., – were chosen in part because they are home to around 50% of the country’s Black population and are where some of the greatest disparities exist.

SCI is aiming to drive long-term change, as outlined by PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, Vista CEO Robert F. Smith and BCG CEO Rich Lesser. 

In Atlanta, for example, SCI is working to bridge the wealth gap that exists among the region’s African-American residents. While there is a strong Black business community in the city, and high levels of Black educational achievement thanks to the regional presence of several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and the voice of the Black press, there is still an extremely low level of Black entrepreneurship and business ownership with only 6% of employer firms being Black-owned.

To remedy this disparity, SCI is working with the Southern Economic Advancement Project to create entrepreneurship hubs and accelerator programs to increase the number of minority-owned businesses. The corporations behind SCI are also using their networks to help other companies work with minority-owned supply companies.

In Alabama, SCI is seeking to bridge the massive digital divide in an urban area where 450,000 households are without connection to the internet. In order to tackle the crisis, SCI is leveraging relationships with local schools and libraries to distribute laptops and service vouchers. Another tact SCI is taking is to partner with the owners of multi-unit buildings in low-income neighborhoods to install free public Wi-Fi for residents.

The lack of access to capital is another reason Black communities throughout the South have been traditionally underbanked. In Memphis, where 47% of Black households are underbanked, SCI is partnering with Grameen America to cover the $2 million per year per branch start-up cost to build brick-and-mortar banks in minority communities.

This alone will provide 20,000 women access to more than $250 million per year in financing.

Beyond these initiatives, SCI is partnering with groups like the Greater Houston Partnership and the Urban League of Louisiana to provide in-kind support to improve job outcomes for minority college students, expand access to home financing through partnerships with community development financial institutions, and harness the power of technology to expand health care access in underserved urban and rural neighborhoods.

The issues facing these communities throughout the South are not new nor will they be fixed overnight.

Fortunately, SCI is taking a long-term approach that is focused on getting to the root of structural racism in the United States and creating a more just and equitable country for every American.

A once-in-a-century pandemic and a social justice movement not seen since the 1960s were not enough to break the malaise and rancorous partisanship in Washington. Fortunately, corporate leaders are stepping up and partnering with local advocates and non-profit groups to fix the problem of systemic injustice in the U.S.

We, therefore, salute and welcome the transformative commitments of the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI). There is no time to delay, because as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so accurately said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

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NNPA – Black Press w/ Hendriks Video Interview

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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