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Diabetic Amputations A ‘Shameful Metric’ Of Inadequate Care

CHICAGO CRUSADER — On his regular rounds at the University of Southern California’s Keck Hospital, Dr. David Armstrong lives a brutal injustice of American health care. Each week, dozens of patients with diabetes come to him with deep wounds, severe infections and poor circulation — debilitating complications of a disease that has spiraled out of control.

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By Anna Gorman | Kaiser Health News

On his regular rounds at the University of Southern California’s Keck Hospital, Dr. David Armstrong lives a brutal injustice of American health care.

Each week, dozens of patients with diabetes come to him with deep wounds, severe infections and poor circulation — debilitating complications of a disease that has spiraled out of control. He works to save their limbs, but sometimes Armstrong and his team must resort to amputation to save the patient, a painful and life-altering measure he knows is nearly always preventable.

For decades now, the American medical establishment has known how to manage diabetes. Even as the number of people living with the illness continues to climb — today, estimated at more than 30 million nationwide — the prognosis for those with access to good health care has become far less dire. With the right medication, diet and lifestyle changes, patients can learn to manage their diabetes and lead robust lives.

Yet across the country, surgeons still perform tens of thousands of diabetic amputations each year. It’s a drastic procedure that stands as a powerful example of the consequences of being poor, uninsured and cut off from a routine system of quality health care.

“Amputations are an unnecessary consequence of this devastating disease,” said Armstrong, professor of surgery at Keck School of Medicine of USC. “It’s an epidemic within an epidemic. And it’s a problem that’s totally ignored.”

In California, where doctors performed more than 82,000 diabetic amputations from 2011 to 2017, people who were Black or Latino were more than twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to undergo amputations related to diabetes, a Kaiser Health News analysis found.

The pattern is not unique to California. Across the country, studies have shown that diabetic amputations vary significantly not just by race and ethnicity but also by income and geography. Diabetic patients living in communities that rank in the nation’s bottom quartile by income were nearly 39% more likely to undergo major amputations compared with people living in the highest-income communities, according to one 2015 study.

A 2014 study by UCLA researchers found that people with diabetes in poorer neighborhoods in Los Angeles County were twice as likely to have a foot or leg amputated than those in wealthier areas. The difference was more than tenfold in some parts of the county.

Amputations are considered a “mega-disparity” and dwarf nearly every other health disparity by race and ethnicity, said Dr. Dean Schillinger, a medical professor at the University of California-San Francisco. To begin with, people who are Black or Latino are more at risk of diabetes than other groups — a disparity often attributed to socioeconomic factors such as higher rates of poverty and lower levels of education. They also may live in environments with less access to healthy food or places to exercise.

Then, among those with the disease, Blacks and Latinos often get diagnosed after the disease has taken hold and have more complications, such as amputations. “If you go into low-income African American neighborhoods, it is a war zone,” said Schillinger, former chief of the Diabetes Prevention and Control Program at the California Department of Public Health. “You see people wheeling themselves around in wheelchairs.”

Part of the outrage for researchers is that medical science has made so much headway in diabetes treatment. Nationwide, fewer than 5 adults out of every 1,000 with diabetes get amputations.

But for those who do, the consequences are profound. More than half of amputations in California from 2011 to 2017 occurred among people ages 45 to 64, according to the KHN analysis, meaning many people are left disabled and dependent on others for care during their prime working years.

From Mother To Son

Jackson Moss leaned back on his couch and raised his right leg. His wife, Bernadette, sprayed antiseptic on a gaping wound on the sole of his foot before dabbing it with Vaseline and re-wrapping it with gauze.

A stocky man who used to deliver poultry, Moss, 47, said he had to stop working after his left leg was amputated below the knee about 10 years ago. Later, he lost part of his right foot. With Bernadette’s help, he is trying to save the rest of it.

“If I didn’t have my wife, I don’t know where I’d be,” said Moss, who wears a prosthesis on his left leg and uses a wheelchair. “I can’t get around good like I used to.”

Moss, who lives in Compton, embodies many of the characteristics of people most likely to get diabetic amputations. He is African American with a relatively low family income: about $30,000 a year from his Social Security disability check and his wife’s job with the county mental health department.

Moss has not always received regular medical care. His mother, who also had a leg amputated from diabetes, would take him to the doctor when he was a boy. But he stopped going as an adult. He didn’t have insurance during much of his 20s and 30s. Medical care just wasn’t a priority, he said, until about 25 years ago when his blood sugar shot up so high he passed out at home.

After he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, he started seeing a physician more often. He tried to avoid sugar, as his doctor recommended, but bad habits die hard. “It takes a lot to eat right,” he said, “and it costs more.”

One day, about 10 years ago, he bumped his toe on the bed. He thought little of it until he developed an infected wound. A fever sent him to the hospital, where his lower leg was removed. A few years later, with his diabetes still poorly controlled, he lost the toes on his other foot.

In recent years, Moss and his wife said, health providers have sometimes ignored their concerns. They recalled trips to the emergency room when they had to convince doctors his fever came from a diabetes-related infection. “They wouldn’t take my word,” he said. The couple did not see it as discrimination, more like dismissiveness.

Now, Moss goes to a clinic run by Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital, which serves a large Latino and Black population in South Los Angeles. On a recent visit, his doctor asked if he was staying off the foot with the wound. “I just get up when I have to go to the restroom and to get in and out of the bed,” Moss responded.

Moss hopes someday he will be able to do more — get back to taking his grandsons to Chuck E. Cheese or playing dominoes with friends.

“I just sit here all day long,” he said.

‘The Most Shameful Metric’

Amputations typically start with poorly controlled diabetes, a disease characterized by excess sugar in the blood. Untreated, it can lead to serious complications such as kidney failure and blindness.

People with diabetes often have reduced sensation in their feet, as well as poor circulation. As many as one-third of people with the most common form — Type 2 — develop foot ulcers or a break in the skin that can become infected.

Amputations occur after those infections rage out of control and enter the bloodstream or seep deeper into the tissue. People with diabetes often have a condition that makes it harder for blood to circulate and wounds to heal.

The circumstances that give rise to amputations are complex and often intertwined: Patients may avoid doctors because their family and friends do, or clinics are too far away. Some may delay medical visits because they don’t trust doctors or have limited insurance. Even when they seek treatment, some find it difficult to take medication as directed, adhere to dietary restrictions or stay off an infected foot.

Californians with diabetes who have a regular place to go for health care other than the emergency room are less likely to get amputations, according to an analysis conducted for Kaiser Health News by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. If they have a plan to control their diabetes, they also have less chance of amputation.

The analysis shows that many amputations could be avoided with better access to care and better disease management, said Ninez Ponce, director of the center.

“It’s the most shameful metric we have on quality of care,” Ponce said. “It is a health equity issue. We are a very rich state. We shouldn’t be seeing these diabetic amputations.”

An amputation often leads to a cascade of setbacks: more infections, more amputations, decreased mobility, social isolation. Research shows as many as three-quarters of people with diabetes who have had lower-limb amputations die within five years.

The health system bears surprisingly large costs for what remains a relatively uncommon problem. A single lower-limb amputation can cost more than $100,000. By far, government programs — Medicaid and Medicare — pay for the most amputations.

Experts say the best bet is to intervene well before they become necessary. People with diabetes are “very much in need of the simplest, basic, cost-effective, easy-to-implement treatments,” said Dr. Philip Goodney, director of the Center for the Evaluation of Surgical Care at Dartmouth.

Along with basic measures to control diabetes, regular foot exams are key. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates somewhere between 11% and 28% of people with diabetes get the recommended podiatric care, a yearly foot exam to check for loss of sensation and blood flow. Under federal rules governing Medicaid, the government program for low-income Americans, such care is optional and not covered by every state.

California includes it as an optional benefit, limiting access to such care. An analysis by UCLA researchers estimated that the use of preventive podiatric services saved the Medi-Cal system — California’s version of Medicaid — up to $97 million in 2014, based on avoided hospital admissions and amputations, and that savings could be much greater if more patients had access.

Fighting For Jesse

Jesse Guerrero is 12, but already knows what diabetes — and amputations — can do to a family. He has seen how life changed since his mom, Patricia Zamora, had her first surgery. She had to stop working as a group home supervisor. They were evicted and eventually moved into his grandmother’s house in Pomona.

Now, they stay home a lot more than they used to. “I want her to get better so we can finally go places,” Jesse said.

First diagnosed with gestational diabetes, Zamora, 49, eventually was diagnosed with conventional Type 2. Though her mother has diabetes, she said, she didn’t understand the risks.

Her serious troubles started in 2014, when she stubbed her big toe and it turned black and purple. When she finally went to an ER, doctors said it had to be amputated. The next year, after another stumble and another infection, doctors removed the remaining toes on her right foot.

Now, she is fighting a third wound and risks losing the limb below her knee. She uses a scooter and wears a boot to keep the pressure off.

Many days, she wants to give up.

“But I can’t,” she said. “I have Jesse.”

His health is also a concern. Though only in middle school, Jesse is overweight, putting him at greater risk for Type 2 diabetes. She recently took away his PlayStation and signed him up for flag football so he would be more active.

Jesse, too, is scared.

“I don’t want to get my foot cut off,” he said. “I’d rather have a full life than a short one.”

The Gift Of Pain

As hospitals have seen the impacts — and cost — of amputations, some have made efforts to reduce them. Some, like Keck Hospital, have started limb preservation centers, which use cross-disciplinary teams and technology to treat wounds and help patients improve disease management.

Even with a team of specialists, however, saving a limb often depends on patients coming in early rather than waiting until their foot has become dangerously infected. But because their sensation is dulled, they often don’t appreciate the danger.

“How do you get someone to come in if they don’t have pain?” Armstrong said. “They need the gift of pain.”

One of Armstrong’s patients, Cirilo Delgado, has a wound on his heel that could cost him his lower leg. He already lost a toe.

Delgado, 41, knew diabetes ran in his family. His father, 68, has diabetes. His mother, who had diabetes and kidney failure, died at 67. His diabetic sister died at 35 of a heart attack, a possible complication of diabetes.

“I saw them die young,” he said. “I don’t want to be the next one.”

Like Moss, Delgado didn’t always have insurance. And he didn’t seek care for his diabetes until the symptoms got dire.

Delgado used to work at a dry cleaning shop but had to stop because he doesn’t have the balance he once did. His blood pressure fluctuates dangerously, and he needs dialysis three times a week for kidney failure. He has moved in with his father, a truck driver who stopped working to help care for him.

In November, doctors used a skin flap from his leg to try to heal his latest wound. He’s praying he doesn’t get another.

“I know there’s a prosthesis,” he said, “but it’s not the same as a limb.”

METHODOLOGY BOX:

Kaiser Health News analyzed 2011-17 data from California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) on diabetes patients discharged after lower-limb amputations. OSPHD grouped the amputations into these racial and ethnic categories: white, Black, Hispanic and other; and these age groups: under 45, 45-64, 65 and over. To compare amputation rates across groups, KHN calculated crude rates using California population data for each year from the U.S. Census Bureau, and calculated the final age-adjusted rate for each racial/ethnic group using U.S. 2010 population distribution as weights.

California Healthline ethnic media editor Ngoc Nguyen and Kaiser Health News data editor Elizabeth Lucas contributed to this report.

This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

This article originally appeared in the Chicago Crusader

Activism

How the Black Press Told the World About Emmet Till

Reporter Simeon Booker and photographer David Jackson covered the story for Jet. Other Black news outlets, including the Defender, also later published the photos, though not a single mainstream white outlet did, according to the New York Times. The photos turned Till’s story into “the first great [national] media event of the civil rights movement,” according to historian David Halberstam, who chronicles the murder in his book “The Fifties.”

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Mamie Till speaks to the press after her son was lynched in Mississippi in 1955. Wikipedia.org photo.
Mamie Till speaks to the press after her son was lynched in Mississippi in 1955. Wikipedia.org photo.

By Brandon Patterson

The story of Emmet Till has made its way back into the news in recent weeks on the heels of a new TV miniseries and new developments at the federal level.

Earlier this month, the historical docuseries “Mothers of the Movement” premiered on ABC. And last week, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill to posthumously award Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, the Congressional Gold Medal.

Emmett Till’s story remains with us to this day, but lesser known is the role of the Black press in bringing his story to light — and in so doing, helping to catalyze the modern Civil Rights Movement.

One of the earliest news outlets to cover the Till story was the Chicago Defender, at the time one of the most influential Black weekly newspapers in the country, with two-thirds of its readership located outside the city, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The account of reporter Mattie Smith Colin, who covered the arrival of Till’s body at a local train station, captured the anguish of his mother as she received her son. Then, Jet Magazine became the first news outlet to publish the gruesome photos of Till’s body at his funeral, which his mother insisted be open casket.

Reporter Simeon Booker and photographer David Jackson covered the story for Jet. Other Black news outlets, including the Defender, also later published the photos, though not a single mainstream white outlet did, according to the New York Times. The photos turned Till’s story into “the first great [national] media event of the civil rights movement,” according to historian David Halberstam, who chronicles the murder in his book “The Fifties.”

Later, Booker’s coverage of the Till murder trial for Jet helped bring the trial to a Black and national audience. Other significant Black newspapers that covered the Till story included the Amsterdam News in New York City, which, by the 1960s, was the largest weekly community newspaper in the nation, the Pittsburgh Courier, and the Atlanta Constitution.

Coverage of Till’s story was notably different in Black news outlets compared to mainstream white papers. In the South, coverage was often sympathetic to Till’s murderers, notes researcher Michael Oby in a 2007 paper on the Till case.

Black papers, however, framed the story as an obvious and horrid injustice. At the same time, they began encouraging their Black readers to get involved in civil rights organizing, and to donate to the NAACP, which was central to the Till case.

Booker, who worked for Jet for nearly five decades, went on to receive an award from the National Press Club for his lifelong coverage of civil rights in America in the 1980s. At the award ceremony, according to the Chicago Tribune, he said of his work: “I wanted to fight segregation on the front lines. I wanted to dedicate my writing skills to the cause. Segregation was beating down my people. I volunteered for every assignment and suggested more. I stayed on the road, covering civil rights day and night. The names, the places and the events became history.”

Because of his work and other Black journalists and news outlets, we know the story of Emmet Till, and so many other critical stories.

This story was written using reporting from the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, and academic research by Michael Oby at Georgia State University.

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NATIONAL DAY OF RACIAL HEALING

CHICAGO CRUSADER — January 21, 2020 is the fourth annual National Day of Racial Healing. The day was established in January 2017 by more than 550 leaders from throughout the United States. All across the country people are marking this day in powerful and moving ways, with events and actions of all kinds.

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The National Day of Racial Healing is Tuesday, January 21. Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Greater Chicago are bringing together people from throughout the city – concerned citizens, business leaders, faith leaders, nonprofit and government leaders, artists, and community organizers – to kick off a citywide effort to confront and heal from racism.

TRHT Greater Chicago will host 3-days of city wide racial healing circles at community centers, government agencies, nonprofits, schools, corporations, and more. Racial healing circles are designed to raise awareness, consciousness and empathy among those who participate.

January 21-23, 2020

Various locations. Visit website for more information.

Sign up to host a circle (organizations)

Sign up to participate in a circle (individuals)

RSVP to attend the NDORH culmination event – Solidarity Heals CommUNITY Celebration featuring guest speakers and musical entertainment, by Chicago’s own Funkadesi.

January 21, 2020 is the fourth annual National Day of Racial Healing. The day was established in January 2017 by more than 550 leaders from throughout the United States. All across the country people are marking this day in powerful and moving ways, with events and actions of all kinds.

So many of the problems plaguing Chicago – violence, troubled schools, health, wealth and opportunity gaps – are rooted in racism that is embedded in our city’s history. The dehumanization of people of color throughout our city’s past and present has caused forced separation, racial inequity, and injustice that impacts our economy, neighborhoods and relationships. This racism is so obvious to some, but not to others.

Racial healing recognizes the need to acknowledge and tell the truth about past wrongs created by individual as well as systemic racism and address the present consequences. We believe it is essential to pursue racial healing prior to making change work in a community. Because, before we can transform systems and structures, we must do the work on ourselves/our people FIRST.

This article originally appeared in The Chicago Crusader.

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IN MEMORIAM: Garth C. Reeves, Sr., Retired Miami Times Publisher, Dies

CHICAGO CRUSADER — Regarded as a titan in the Black Press, Reeves was widely respected in Miami for using his power and influence to advance the agenda of the city’s Black community. After experiencing the pain and humiliation of segregation in parks, schools and the U.S. military, Reeves grew into an uncompromising crusader who smashed racial barriers in some of the most prominent organizations in Miami and the nation.

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Retired publisher, Garth C. Reeves, Sr., of The Miami Times’, died on Monday, November 25. He was 100.

By Erick Johnson, Chicago Crusader

Garth C. Reeves, Sr.

Garth C. Reeves, Sr., The Miami Times’ retired publisher who became the enduring patriarch of a family newspaper dynasty after decades of fighting the political establishment and while guiding the Black community through the city’s racial problems, died on Monday, November 25. He was 100.

Regarded as a titan in the Black Press, Reeves was widely respected in Miami for using his power and influence to advance the agenda of the city’s Black community. After experiencing the pain and humiliation of segregation in parks, schools and the U.S. military, Reeves grew into an uncompromising crusader who smashed racial barriers in some of the most prominent organizations in Miami and the nation.

During his lifetime, Reeves’ newspaper got a police chief fired, ended the career of a a Miami Mayoral, supported a boycott that cost Miami Beach’s tourism industry millions, and unapologetically called riots “protests” or rebellions. He stared down Miami’s political establishment that for decades had been accused of shutting out Blacks in government as Hispanics rose to power in the city’s political and business establishments.

THE MIAMI TIMES became the “Voice of the Black Community” after publishing stories that advocated for people of color during the Civil Rights Movement. (Courtesy of the University of Florida/Miami Times Archives)

He urged his journalists to write from a Black perspective, one that saw the struggle through a different lens than white newspapers.

His newspaper career spanned at least eight decades. At the height of Reeves’ leadership, The Miami Times earned the name, “The Voice of Miami’s Black Community.” One of the last great Black publishers, Reeves’ death closes a significant chapter in The Miami Times’ illustrious history.

Reeves was born February 12, 1919 in Nassau, Bahamas. That same year, Reeves’ father, Harry Ethelbert Sigismund Reeves, moved to Miami where he founded the Magic Printing Company in Overtown, the city’s historic Black, once-thriving neighborhood near downtown. Harry Ethelbert Sigismund Reeves in 1920 founded the Miami Sun, which closed because of a paper shortage during World War I. In 1923, The Miami Times was founded. Reeves was just four years old.

Garth C. Reeves, Sr. was among many Blacks who attended Miami’s esteemed Booker T. Washington Senior High School, the city’s oldest predominately Black high school that was built when students of color were not accepted at white public schools. Black students at Booker T. were given secondhand text books and football gear that came from white schools.

THE MIAMI TIMES iconic headquarters. The newspaper moved four times before settling in Miami’s predominately Black Liberty City neighborhood.

In 1923, Harry Reeves started The Miami Times at NW 8th Street and 3rd Avenue. It would move four more times in the Overtown neighborhood. When Interstate-95 was built through Overtown, it displaced thousands of Blacks. Many fled north to the Liberty City community, where The Miami Times sits at its present location, 900 NW 54 Street.

In 1940, Reeves graduated from Florida A&M University, a major, historically Black school in Tallahassee, FL. In 1942, Reeves was drafted to serve in the Army during World War II. During an interview in 1999, Reeves recalled a trip on a train to the Pacific coast to go overseas. Despite repeated requests, a white train conductor refused to give Reeves something to eat in spite of him having meal coupons. Reeves went to the military police, who told him to do what the white conductor said, or face being locked up on the train. Reeves was forced to pay for his meal because he could not go into the segregated dining car.

Experiences like those would fuel Reeves’ passion for Black journalism’s role in exposing racial injustices while advocating for the needs of disenfranchised people of color.

After completing his service in 1946, Reeves returned to The Miami Times. By then, Blacks could not sit at segregated diners downtown. Members of the Klu Klux Klan would often parade through Miami’s bustling downtown. Parks and schools did not accept Blacks either and living conditions among Blacks worsened as slums in Overtown increased.

Reeves joined Reverend Theodore Gibson, the president of the local NAACP Chapter and began leading protests for better conditions for Blacks in Miami. Out of 28 beaches, only Virginia Key Beach was open to Blacks. On November 7, 1957, Reeves led a group of seven Black leaders to Crandon Park, a segregated white beach near Miami. Reeves and the men earlier talked to several county commissioners, saying that as taxpayers they had the right to frequent Crandon Park or any segregated beach. Wearing their bathing suits under their clothes, Reeves and the men took off their slacks and went into the water while several police officers watched. Blacks began frequenting other white beaches after the incident.

Blacks were not allowed to play at city-owned golf-courses in the 1940s. But that changed when Reeves and Gibson filed a lawsuit that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a landmark case, Rice v. City of Miami, the Supreme Court ruled that the city could not continue accepting tax money to build and maintain golf courses while denying its use to all residents.

In an interview on the History Miami Museum website, Reeves recalled an experience he had when Dr. Martin Luther King came to Miami during the Civil Rights Movement.

“When Martin Luther King came down, I attended some of his meetings. My friend was a good friend of King’s and I used to attend meetings where he would preach to us about nonviolence. I remember talking to Martin a few times and I said, “Martin, you really believe that if I was somewhere and a white guy spat on my face, you think I would walk away from that? I said I’d try and kill that son of a b—-. He said, ‘That’s why you’ve got to try to learn to control yourself.’ I liked him.”

That was Reeves the activist.

GARTH C. REEVES, SR. in 1981 reviews the front page of The Miami Times with son Garth C. Reeves Jr., who died in 1982. (Photo Courtesy of History Miami Museum/The Miami News).

Reeves, as the publisher of The Miami Times, was just as fierce. It was the only job Reeves would have throughout his life. He worked his way up the ranks as columnist, reporter, managing editor, and editor. When Reeves’ father died in 1970, Reeves became publisher.

By then The Miami Times had established itself as the Black newspaper of record.

During the 1960s The Miami Times ran a front-page story advocating for the termination of Miami Police Chief Walter Headly, whose Stop and Frisk policy of searching Blacks lit up racial tensions in the city. Headly was eventually fired and the Times readership grew.

When four Miami police officers were acquitted in May, 1980 of killing Arthur McDuffie, a Black salesman, Blacks took to the streets. White newspapers and local television stations described it as a riot. With Reeves at the helm, The Miami Times called the incident a “protest.” When another Miami police officer was acquitted in 1993 for killing two Black motorists in Overtown, The Miami Times called the civil unrest a rebellion.

There were other highlights under Reeves’ leadership at The Miami Times.

In 1985, Mayor Maurice Ferre lost the Black vote and was defeated in his re-election bid after The Miami Times ran a series of editorials criticizing the mayor for firing Howard Gary, Miami’s first Black city manager.

In 1993, Reeves and The Miami Times published editorials and stories supporting a boycott of Miami Beach hotels that cost the tourism industry millions of dollars.

Black leaders accused county leaders of snubbing Nelson Mandela after they withdrew plans to give him a proclamation and key to the city when the anti-apartheid leader publicly expressed his support for Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro.

The National Bar Association and ACLU were among many organizations that did not bring their conventions to Miami Beach in support of the boycott.

The boycott lasted three years and cost the tourism industry between $20 to $50 million. Mandela was given an official proclamation and the hotel industry implemented programs to boost Blacks in its facilities. Miami Beach got its first Black-owned luxury hotel, the Royal Palm Crowne Plaza.

“It was important that we had a communication outlet to get our message out,” said H.T. Smith, a prominent Miami attorney who spearheaded the boycott. “The mainstream media would not give us any coverage. The Miami Times was essential to the boycott’s success. The boycott would not have been successful without The Miami Times. And our friendship grew as a result of this partnership.”

Former Miami Times executive editor Mohamad Hamaludin, who worked for 15 years at the newspaper, said, “Reeves was a fine gentleman. By the time I got to The Miami Times, he and the staff had already established it as a voice for people who didn’t have a voice.”

Reeves was the first Black to serve on the boards of the Miami-Dade College, Barry University, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, and the United Way of Dade County. He also served as organizing chairman of the board for National Industrial Bank, which was the first integrated bank in the State of Florida.

While serving on many of these boards, Reeves pushed them to hire more Blacks when they were reluctant to do so. As a board member of Miami-Dade College, Reeves threatened to lead a vote to stop doing business with the school’s law firm because it resisted his calls to hire Black attorneys in its offices.

Reeves assisted Crusader Publisher Dorothy R. Leavell in bringing the NNPA Annual Convention to Gary in 1983 after Black political power gained a foothold in the Steel City.

“He believed in the Black Press very deeply,” said Leavell who first met Reeves in 1962. “Whatever he did, he was always on the right side of the battle. He remained a forward thinker to the very end. He was truly one of the last of the great Black publishers from the old school in the Black Press.”

Today, The Miami Times is the oldest and largest Black newspaper in the Southeast. For the past two years it has been named Best Black Newspaper by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), which represents over 200 Black newspapers across the country. In 2011, NNPA named Reeves Publisher of the Year. In 2017, Reeves was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame.

In 2017, Miami recognized Reeves with an honorary street sign at 6 Street and NW 2 Avenue near the Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida where he was a board member.

Reeves was a life member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and a founding member of the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Miami, Florida.

He was awarded honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Miami, Barry University and Florida Memorial University.

For years, Reeves had provided scholarships to aspiring journalism students at his high school alma mater, Booker T. Washington.

Reeves served for 10 years as president of the Amalgamated Publishers Inc. in New York City, which represented over one hundred African American-owned newspapers throughout the United States. He was also elected to serve two terms as president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

He retired in 1994 and assumed the role of publisher emeritus but Reeves remained active as a prominent leader in the Black community.

Reeves outlived both of his children. In 1982, Reeves’ son, Garth C. Reeves, Jr., died of colon cancer when just 30 years old. This past September, Reeves’ daughter, Rachel died at 68. His grandson, Garth Basil Reeves now heads the family newspaper dynasty at just 29.

This article originally appeared in The Chicago Crusader.

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