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A "Red Tail" Salutes Black Journalists

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tuskegee Airman Recalls Role of the Black Press

"We Don't Choose Between Being Black, Being Journalists"

Access to Broadband Internet Argued as Social Justice Issue

Abu-Jamal Out of "Hole," in General Prison Population

Arizona Governor's Finger-Pointing at Obama: "Boorish"

Puerto Ricans Charge Disrespect in CNN's GOP Debate

Thomas Tillman Named Deputy Chief of CBS D.C. Bureau

Screenplay on Activist Black Editor Needs a Backer

Short Takes

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet Tuskegee Airmen before a screening of “Red Tails” in the Family Theater of the White House on Jan. 13. On Thursday, the Airmen were with the National Association of Black Journalists. (Credit: Pete Souza/White House)

Tuskegee Airman Recalls Role of the Black Press

Black journalists received a salute from a spokesman for the Tuskegee Airmen Thursday night when Dr. Roscoe Brown told the National Association of Black Journalists, "It was black journalists that brought us to the attention of the black community throughout the country during the time we were flying and fighting."

Speaking at the NABJ's Hall of Fame induction at the Newseum in Washington, Brown added, "Black journalists made it possible for us to pursue our Double Victory campaign" — victory in World War II and victory over racism at home.

Fifteen members of the Tuskegee Airmen — nearly all dressed in their trademark red jackets — were among 300 to 400 people assembled for the annual NABJ fundraiser. The Airmen are enjoying unprecedented attention with the release of the George Lucas movie "Red Tails," but the role of the black press in assisting their cause is not often mentioned.

In fact, as Patrick S. Washburn noted in his "A Question of Sedition: The Federal Government's Investigation of the Black Press During World War II" (1986), some in the executive branch urged prosecuting black publishers for sedition over the "Double V" campaign.

Maureeen Bunyan with Roscoe Brown (Credit: Bill Hart/NABJ)[On Washington's WPFW-FM on Monday, J. Byron Morris, past president of the East Coast chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, said those taken as prisoners of war were surprised that the Germans knew so much about them. It turned out that the German "fifth column" in the United States read the black press and forwarded the personal information published about the airmen, such as names of their family members.]

Brown, 89, was one of 15 pilots who shot down an advanced German Me-262 jet fighter. He later became a professor at New York University and president of Bronx Community College. Wearing a blue jacket but a red tie, at the Newseum he held up a replica of the March 31, 1945, edition of the Norfolk (Va.) Journal and Guide bearing the headline, "Fliers Smash Berlin: The Jet Planes Destroy in Raid on German Capital."

Not only does he still have that newspaper, Brown told Journal-isms later, he has the aerial map he used to target Berlin.

"In all the wars we may have covered, we never did what they did in World War II," Maureen Bunyan, an anchor at Washington's WJLA-TV and a co-founder of NABJ, told the group. "No one of us had to rely on our brothers and sisters the way these men had to rely on each other."

Michele Norris, a co-host of NPR's "All Things Considered," told the Airmen, "Thank you for loving a country that did not love you back." She also acknowledged the women in their lives. "Thank you for loving these men," Norris said.

Inducted into the Hall of Fame were Gwen Ifill, moderator and managing editor of PBS' "Washington Week" and senior correspondent for the "PBS NewsHour"; Pat Harvey, co-anchor at KCBS/KCAL-TV in Los Angeles; Johnathan Rodgers, who retired in June as TV One president and CEO; Ruth Allen Ollison, who spent much of her career in Texas radio and television in news reporting, anchoring and management, then started a ministry; and the late Wallace Terry, former deputy bureau chief for Time magazine and author of "Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans."

Michael Fields, news director at WABE-FM in Atlanta, received the Ida B. Wells Award, "given to a media executive or manager who has made outstanding efforts to make newsrooms and news coverage more accurately reflect the diversity of the communities they serve."

Janice Terry, who accepted the Hall of Fame Award on behalf of her husband, disclosed that Terry left behind chapters of an autobiography that she discovered only last year. She plans to publish it.

"For 40 years, we had a close relationship," Terry told the audience. "We traveled together in the war zone. I didn't know about 'From Selma to Saigon.' . . . I discovered a Wallace Terry I didn't know. Some things he didn't discuss with his family." Terry told Journal-isms that the book discusses "very personal things that he completely overlooked in his drive to be successful . . . emotions were raw and painful for him."

Terry said the material amounts to 10,000 words that she plans to publish first as an e-book, packaging it with chapters from his posthumously published "Missing Pages: Black Journalists of Modern America: An Oral History," and an interview from the oral history collection of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

"We Don't Choose Between Being Black, Being Journalists"

Here are the prepared remarks of Gwen Ifill, moderator and managing editor of  PBS' "Washington Week" and senior correspondent for the "PBS NewsHour," Thursday at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony of the National Association of Black Journalists:

"I wanted to be a journalist when I waGwen Ifill (Credit: Bill Hart/NABJ)s 9. There was no one out there who looked like me or sounded like me. No one in my family had been a journalist.

"But I was a curious girl. I wanted to ask questions. I wanted to demand answers. I was taught by my mother that there was nothing I could not do; and by my father that I should be proud to be everything I am.

"That came in handy when I walked into my first newsroom. For a long time, I was the lonely only. I got my first paying newspaper job only after someone left me, the summer intern, a note that read: 'Nigger go home.' I was 21.

"My first response when I found it was to wonder: Who is this for?

"My second was to take the job they offered me out of guilt. And prove to them that I was good enough to stay.

"And then, in 1983 I discovered NABJ. It was like walking into warm bath water. NABJ filled professional gaps in me that I did not even know existed. Here I made my closest friends (and discovered that some of my paranoia was true, some imagined).

"Over the years, we have all banded together to buck each other up ... to mentor new generations of journalists ... and to redefine and remind ourselves of what it means to be journalists.

"We are of color. We were born that way. It means that we bring a world view to our work that is too often missing.

"But we don't choose between being black and being journalists. We just want to tell all the stories, and tell them well, to the broadest possible audiences.

"Along the way, I have been so so blessed to work for, alongside, or mentor, scores of talented black journalists. We win Pulitzers and Emmys; we challenge presidents and kings; we investigate and we tell the stories of our people and of the world.

"Truthfully, this award makes me feel old.

"But it also makes me feel deeply honored. You are the colleagues, the cause, I love best. And I want nothing more than for NABJ to continue to be the gift to the next generation Hall of Fame that it has been for me.

"Thank you for this honor."

Episode 8 of "Los Americans," an Internet-only series, is described this way: "While everyone worries about the challenges Ariel’s pregnancy presents for the family, Lee has finally lined up his perfect dream job. Pilar is taken away by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, apparently turned in by Victoria’s husband Jack. Things go from bad to horrible when Lee’s dream job interview becomes a nightmare." (Video)

Access to Broadband Internet Argued as Social Justice Issue

The digital divide between people of color and whites still exists. More and more of the business Americans conduct will be performed on the Internet.

African Americans and Hispanics make greater use of mobile phones than others. Those groups are underrepresented in owning companies that do business on the Web.

Madison T. Shockley III promotes his show.The amount of spectrum available for new entities is dwindling. Following the laws of supply and demand, when that space dwindles, the price for it will increase, squeezing out those of low income and of color.

Reconciling these facts was the business of a two-day conference in Washington by the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council, the MMTC Broadband and Social Justice Policy Summit [PDF], which concluded on Friday. "Broadband" refers to high-speed Internet.

David Honig, president and founder of the council, laid out the problem.

"Consider first broadband. More than one-third of our population has not yet adopted this life-changing technology. Those least likely to have adopted broadband include low income and less educated Americans, those with disabilities, rural households and minorities. In 1999, NTIA [National Telecommunications and Information Administration] Director Larry Irving gave these disparities a name: the 'digital divide,' " Honig said.

"Let’s clearly understand what the digital divide is. It is the greatest threat to first class citizenship since segregation. It represents the very real possibility that the opportunities of broadband won’t be available to everybody. We could very quickly wake up and discover that this enormously powerful tool – high speed, affordable, accessible broadband – that we thought was going to be the great equalizer, is instead going to be overlaid on a society already riddled with systematic and structural inequalities.

"That’s a formula for disaster in terms of our competitiveness, our economic growth, and, more than that, our moral fiber as a nation. What do we stand for if even in the Digital Age, even after the passage of the great civil rights laws of the 1960s and the enforcement of those laws, even after the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States, we find these disparities still persisting? Why are we losing this ground?

"One area where we are seeing promise is in the mobile realm. People of color are taking advantage of wireless broadband to close the digital divide. In wireless service and smartphone use, African Americans and Hispanic Americans lead the nation in adoption. But even this accomplishment is threatened by an impending spectrum crunch where demand for wireless spectrum will soon eclipse the supply. To achieve social justice, we have to reverse this trend."

A new report from the council, "On the Path to the Digital Beloved Community: A Civil Rights Agenda for the Technological Age," continued the thought:

"We can achieve complete digital citizenship with clear action from both public and private sectors. The government must propose legislation and policies to promote minority entrepreneurship and diversify the nation's technological workforce. Reinstating incentives like the Federal Communications Commission's former tax certificate program [PDF] would not simply increase minority ownership, but could also create a workforce that advances a diverse range of content.

". . . In conjunction with the private sector and non-profit organizations, the FCC must also assure that universal broadband adoption is deployed and innovative consumer education programs that develop digital literacy and encourage broadband adoption are created. . . . "

Representatives of the Obama administration were present to outline steps they have taken to expand access to the Internet and demonstrate how they are using the Internet to, for example, create websites where returning veterans can easily access job opportunities in their field.

Also present were such innovators of color as Madison T. Shockley III, actor and business manager of the Internet-only show "The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl," and Dennis E. Leoni, president and CEO of Patagonia House, Inc. Leoni was producer of "Resurrection Blvd.," described as "the first and longest running Latino dramatic series in the history of American television," and directs "Los Americans," about the adventures of a Latino family.

"The landscape of broadcast television doesn't really allow for that," Leoni said of the kind of shows he does. "Our problem is raising the funds to do the next episodes." Shockley echoed Leoni's frustration. To compensate, he went the public-television pledge-drive route, raising $60,000 in 30 days, doubling his goal.

Speakers also pointed to the need for more consumer — and voter — education. After the Comcast Corp.'s Rebecca Arbogast, vice president for global public policy, described programs such as "Internet Essentials" that enable low-income people to have a computer for about $150, she added, "Our next generation of challenge is getting teenagers to use it for other than video games."

Blair Levin, who runs the Aspen Institute’s Gig.U project, a consortium of 37 university communities, pointed to a column by Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times that quoted him on the need for "cities and towns that combine a university, an educated populace, a dynamic business community and the fastest broadband connections on earth."

Friedman concluded, "I just don’t remember any candidate being asked in those really entertaining G.O.P. debates: 'How do you think smart cities can become the job engines of the future, and what is your plan to ensure that America has a strategic bandwidth advantage?' "

Abu-Jamal Out of "Hole," in General Prison Population

"As of 1/27/12, Mumia Abu-Jamal has officially been transferred to General Prison Population after being held in Administrative Custody ('The Hole' or Solitary Confinement) at SCI Mahanoy, Frackville, PA for seven weeks. This is the first time Mumia has been in General Population since his arrest in 1981," supporters of Abu-Jamal announced on Friday.

"This comes within hours of the of delivery of over 5,500 signed petitions to Department of Corrections headquarters in Camp Hill, PA and a compliant filed with United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez."

Abu-Jamal is a onetime president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists who became an international symbol of opposition to the death penalty,

He was convicted in the 1981 killing of police officer Daniel Faulkner and liberated from death row in December when the district attorney in Philadelphia said he would not seek a new death penalty hearing for Abu-Jamal.

(Credit: David Fitzsimmons/Arizona Daily Star)

Arizona Governor's Finger-Pointing at Obama: "Boorish"

"Gov. Jan Brewer likes to cast herself in the tough-leader role — and sticking her finger in President Obama's face and jawing at him makes for a handy visual message to her political base. What the rest of the state, along with the nation, sees is boorish behavior from Arizona's top official," the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson editorialized on Friday.

"The image, captured by a photographer as Brewer and Obama had what observers described as a tense discussion, gives the impression that the governor is lecturing the president — turnabout, perhaps, as she claims in her new book that Obama lectured her about immigration reform when they met in June 2010 in the Oval Office.

". . . Brewer's digital gesticulation got attention, and that's what any politico trying to raise her profile wants — and sales of her memoir have jumped.

"But Brewer's jab comes at the expense of Arizona's national reputation and image."

Puerto Ricans Charge Disrespect in CNN's GOP Debate

"Puerto Ricans, the second largest voter group among Hispanics in the US, are 'outraged' and 'insulted' at CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and the Republican candidates for their 'disrespectful' handling of a question centered around the longstanding issue of Puerto Rico’s statehood and independence," Bryan Llenas wrote Friday for Fox News Latino.

"During the live broadcast of the Jacksonville debate, audience members attending the Hispanic Leadership Network Conference, a center right advocacy organization, in Miami were given a chance to ask questions to the candidates. That’s when Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder, the Republican president and CEO of the Puerto Rican Chamber of Florida, asked the GOP candidates where they stood on the issue of the island’s statehood.

"The answer, or lack thereof, she received on national television sent her and a group of about five Puerto Ricans packing early as they stormed out of the CNN sponsored Watch Party mid-debate.

"Rick Santorum was the only candidate who was given a shot to answer the question they said, after Blitzer, who moderated the debate, opted to move to the next question before the other candidates were given their shots to respond."

Thomas Tillman Named Deputy Chief of CBS D.C. Bureau

Thomas Tillman"Thomas Tillman, a 22-year CBS News veteran, has been named Deputy Washington Bureau Chief," Chris Ariens reported Friday for TVNewser.

"Tillman has been filling in for Jim McGlinchy . . . now Senior Broadcast Producer for the 'CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley.'

"Tillman began with CBS in 1989 working as an AP for Newspath. He moved to Politics in 1992 and to the Washington Bureau.

"In 1998 he would join the special events unit, becoming coordinating producer in 2009."

Screenplay on Activist Black Editor Needs a Backer

Nicholas Patler wrote about William Monroe Trotter, the activist editor of the Boston Guardian in the early 20th century, in his 2004 book, "Jim Crow and the Wilson Administration: Protesting Segregation in the Early Twentieth Century." He went on to write a William Monroe Trotterscreenplay about Trotter, envisioning a big-budget epic that would no doubt be the first on that scale about an African American journalist.

Trotter made the front page of the New York Times in 1914 when he challenged Woodrow Wilson in the White House over Wilson's resegregation of the federal work force. "If this organization is ever to have another hearing before me it must have another spokesman," Wilson responded to Trotter. "Your tone, sir, offends me."

"I strongly feel that Trotter's story needs to be told in a sort of epic-fashion," Patler told Journal-isms by email on Friday. "He was such a larger-than-life personality, a looming visionary, someone who had everything and risked everything, a person who dreamed big and tried to chase his dreams down. His story, his life, his struggle, his successes and failures, really challenges the common perception of that time which is usually associated with the mildness of Booker T. Washington and accommodation."

Trotter is the namesake of the Trotter Group, an association of African American columnists. In describing Trotter on the group's website, Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson wrote, "Trotter was perhaps the most 'rude' African-American journalist this nation has produced. The first African-American Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard, Trotter was uncompromising. He attacked both racists and the African-American accommodationists."

Patler said his screenplay was accepted a few years ago by independent director Charles Burnett, "who was very excited about it. But he has sat on it now for more than five years, in part because we realize that this film will require a fairly big budget, since the epic life of Trotter will really only work on the big screen as an epic-type quality film. So I have been trying to think of someone else to send the screenplay to. Also, Trotter's grandniece, Peggy, who was a student leader in the Civil Rights Movement, has also collaborated with me some on this screenplay, both as an advisor and with some of the dialogue."

Anyone with ideas for Patler may reach him at nickpatler (at) or 403 Glen Ave., Staunton, VA 24401.

Short Takes

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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Absence of Black Media Critics in MSM

The absence of diversity in MSM outlets is in part a reflection of the cultural blindspot of white culture . The majority of white america has very little regard for the opinion of Black Americans very few have Black professionals who they seek advice or services from.

Black Media critics also fall victim to this contempt for their views and opinions like their counterparts. This cutural blindspot is in part pathological and a legacy of our country's racial narrative. Black media personalities also must step up and be bold.

The way forward is to of course develop our own media vehicles and platforms to launch our views. The opportunities to express our views and criticisms now exist in many venues besides the traditional MSM outlets.

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