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Same Spirit. Same Mission. New Vision.

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Karen is a native Houstonian and is the CEO and Publisher of Houston Forward Times, the South’s largest independently-owned and published newspaper. Her parents always stressed the importance of the Black Press to her, and the value of sustaining its consistent voice.

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Karen Carter Richards, Newly Elected Chair of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, Shares Her Vision for the “Original Black Press” of America

By Jeffrey L. Boney, NNPA Newswire Contributor

“You down with O.B.P.? Yeah, you know me!”

That was the chant being sang by many people, as they attended the recent Annual Meeting of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), in support of the newly-elected chair of the NNPA, Ms. Karen Carter Richards, publisher of the Houston Forward Times.

Carter Richards was overwhelmingly elected as the new chair of the NNPA in a landslide victory, garnering 78 percent of the vote from her peers.

Running on a theme of “Same Spirit. Same Mission. New Vision.”, Carter Richards emphasized throughout her campaign the importance of the NNPA being fully recognized and identified as the “Original Black Press” of America. Her focus was to build on the foundational and historical standards that have helped the NNPA and its members make a significant impact in this country since its inception, while also strengthening every NNPA member publication to make even more of an impact during the challenging social and political climate in this country.

“I’m a second-generation publisher and my family has been a part of the NNPA for over 50 years,” said Carter Richards during her acceptance speech at the NNPA Annual Convention that was held in Cincinnati, Ohio this past week. “It’s time for a NEW VISION and leadership that goes beyond where we used to be.  We are the Black Press of America, the National Newspaper Publishers Association, so when I ask are you down with O.B.P., I am talking about letting people know that we are the ORIGINAL BLACK PRESS, and we aren’t going anywhere!”

The NNPA, a trade organization which represents over 200 Black-owned media companies across the United States, is celebrating 79 years of existence this year, while the Black Press of America is celebrating 192 years since Freedom’s Journal was published as the first Black newspaper in this country in 1827.

Karen is a native Houstonian and is the CEO and Publisher of Houston Forward Times, the South’s largest independently-owned and published newspaper. Her parents always stressed the importance of the Black Press to her, and the value of sustaining its consistent voice.

At the age of seven, Karen’s father, Houston Forward Times founder Julius Carter, put a basket on her bicycle and had her delivering the newspaper in her neighborhood.

As part of her father’s foresight, Karen was exposed to a world of politics, culture and business, which had a lasting impact on her emotional growth and professional development, allowing her to develop a strong work ethic and a sense of timeliness at an early age.

Karen was often told by her mother, and eventual Houston Forward Times publisher Lenora “Doll” Carter, that her father would often say to her that if he died on a Monday, be sure to bury him on that Tuesday and get the paper out.

For Karen, those prophetic words from her father came true, and impacted her family and business on two separate occasions. In 1971, the Houston Forward Times reported a story that subsequently led to their building being bombed. From all of the pressure, Julius Carter died of a massive heart attack four days later. In honoring her husband’s wishes, “Doll” Carter did not miss the next issue and immediately took over the reins of the Houston Forward Times in 1971.

Karen states that her mother was like a drill sergeant, making her arrive early and stay late. She had to learn everything from the front door to the back door, and at the time, she did not realize that “Doll” Carter was preparing her and grooming her for one of the most devastating events in her life.  As a result of a massive heart attack on April 10, 2010, “Doll” Carter unexpectedly passed away and just like her mother, Karen had to take over the daily operations of the Houston Forward Times without a traditional transition of power.

Upon taking the mantle, Karen immediately turned the Houston Forward Times into a multi-media powerhouse that continues to remain one of the strongest and most trusted voices for African Americans in the Greater Houston area.

Karen believes the challenges and the adversity she faced as a newly minted publisher, coupled with the things she has learned from being around her fellow NNPA Publishers, have prepared her for her new role as the newly elected chair of the NNPA.

“I’m a Publisher,” said Carter Richards.  “After my mother unexpectedly passed away in 2010 and our Editor of 40 years passed away two (2) months after her, I was faced with the responsibility of taking a challenging situation and making it work. I knew it would be hard, but I was up for the challenge. Ten (10) years later, the Forward Times still stands strong and I stand even stronger because of what my parents taught me and because of what I learned from the NNPA publishers. The publishers are my first priority. We must educate, equip and empower all of our NNPA Publishers so they can make an even greater impact in their respective markets.”

Karen will be working with an all-women Executive Board to begin her tenure as NNPA Chair, with Janis Ware (The Atlanta Voice) being elected as First Vice-Chair, Fran Farrer (The County News) as Second Vice-Chair, Brenda H. Edwards (New Journal and Guide) as Treasurer and Jackie Hampton (The Mississippi Link) as Secretary.

Karen expressed her excitement about the future of the NNPA, stating her eagerness to work with her fellow colleagues to move the organization forward, and make sure the organization is in a better position to strengthen all of its member publishers and their respective newspapers.

Some of her top priorities as chair of the NNPA include:

  • Educate, Equip and Empower the publishers with the tools to make it easier for them and their sales teams to talk with advertisers and make their newspapers more attractive, not only nationally, but in local markets as well
  • Developing a nationwide marketing campaign to highlight every NNPA member newspaper in their respective markets
  • Create an Editorial Committee to collectively take on issues that are affecting the Black community across the country

Carter Richards states that there are many more initiatives that she hopes to work with her colleagues to implement, but really wants to focus on doing some immediate things that will help all NNPA member publishers – short and long term.

Jeffrey Boney is a political analyst and frequent contributor for the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com and the associate editor for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Jeffrey is an award-winning journalist, dynamic, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur and business development strategist. Follow Jeffrey on Twitter @realtalkjunkies.

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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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