ATLANTA – Former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young and Danny J. Bakewell Sr., the National Newspaper Publishers Association chairman emeritus and executive publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel and the LA Watts Times, were presented with NNPA's Legacy of Excellence Awards last Friday night (June 22) in recognition of their lifelong work, courage, commitment, sacrifice and achievements.
The awards were presented as part of NNPA's annual convention. NNPA Chairman Cloves Campbell Jr. said the organization's Legacy Awards hold special meaning for African Americans.
"When you're recognized by the Black Press, you're recognized by the No. 1 media source in America for Black folks," Campbell said.
Young, executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) under Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., later served as mayor of Atlanta, a U.S. Congressman representing the 5th District of Georgia and United States Ambassador to the United Nations under President Jimmy Carter.
"Every major issue in your lifetime and mine has been defined and developed and pushed not from the top down, but from the bottom up," Young said in his acceptance speech. "It's your work to kind of turn up a vision for the world that we are now facing."
A major part of that vision includes the continent of Africa, whose 1 billion people (14.7 percent of the world's population) and 11.7 million square miles (20 percent of the world's land) are second only to Asia.
"Six of the fastest 10 growing countries in the world are on the African continent," Young explained. "And I just got back from Gabon (on the west coast of Africa) and I heard white folks get up and say that if the world keeps growing at its present growth rate, in 25 years, the largest middle class on the planet will not be in China, will not be in India – it will be in Africa."
Young, who formerly sat on the board of Delta Airlines, noted that the airline's most profitable routes were from Atlanta to Lagos, Nigeria and to Johannesburg, South Africa.
He also noted that part of Coca-Cola's early success was because it recognized Africa as a viable market. Consequently, it is easier to purchase Coca-Cola in some parts of Africa than buying bottled water.
"We have to help America learn how to do business in Africa now and the best way to do business is to learn to do business in the inner cities," Young said. "That is also a growing middle class."
Young presented a challenge to African-American publishers.
"Looking at the economy of the future, the only answer is the Black Press helping to connect these dots so that the white press can realize that their future is with Barack Obama," said Young.
Bakewell, who served as chairman of NNPA from 2009-11, was praised for lifting the organization from the brink of insolvency to amassing a treasury that exceeded $1 million.
Walter Smith, chief executive officer of the New York Beacon, said the NNPA had little money, low public visibility and the organization's prestige was at an all-time low when Bakewell took over.
"Danny's tenure as chairman of NNPA was one of NNPA's finest hours," said Smith. "But to Danny, it was just another episode in the life of a committed, dynamic community servant."
Bakewell tried to deflect the effusive praise, saying he was successful because NNPA publishers chose to coalesce around his leadership.
"I asked you to trust me – and you did – and I asked you to support me," said Bakewell. "And I asked you to make sure that you made a commitment for all of us to be on the same page about the power of the Black Press."
Bakewell marshaled the power of the Black Press when Toyota slighted African Americans.
Last year, many African-American newspapers published Bakewell's open letter to Toyota, criticizing the auto giant for placing ads in white-owned media thanking customers for standing by it during a safety recall, but bypassing black-owned newspapers and advertising agencies.
Where was Toyota's loyalty to its African-American customers, asked Bakewell, rhetorically.
"Thanking their customers is a smart move on Toyota's behalf and one that I applaud. However, we can't overlook the fact that black people represent almost 10 percent of Toyota's American market share, and with a $1.2 billion annual advertising budget, it is not unreasonable for the Black Press to always expect to have a stake in Toyota's advertising (including Black advertising agencies)," said Bakewell
"Nevertheless, black newspapers were left off Toyota's latest marketing campaign, sending a clear and direct message that the black consumer is still being taken for granted and black people are still being disrespected and undervalued."
Toyota got the message and began advertising with African-American media.
"Toyota since then has been a very good partner," Bakewell said. He listed other NNPA partners – AT&T, Nielsen, General Motors, Ford, and Wells Fargo – who came aboard without any acrimony.
"We represent 25 percent of the market share of many of these companies," Bakewell said. "They have billion dollar budgets and can't advertise with us. How does that make any sense?"