“A popular government, without popular information, or the mean of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or perhaps both,” declared James Madison, the author and champion of the Bill of Rights. “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
This is still the essential truth of an American experiment that can only be advanced toward the equal and inclusive justice that did not exist in Madison’s time by a broadly informed and broadly engaged citizenry. When journalists are harassed, intimidated, threatened and detained, retaliated against because of speaking truth to power, the basic premise of democracy—that the great mass of people, armed with information and perspective, and empowered to act upon it, will set right that which is made wrong by oligarchs—is attacked.
TheNation.com discusses this in dept in their August 18, 2014 article, “Defend Journalism That Speaks Truth to Power: From Ferguson to Washington.” John Nichols article made the case that the First Amendment is under assault. Americans must preserve “the freedom that allows us to verify the existence of all other freedoms.”
Speaking truth to power. Just four little words that comprise a powerful expression, one you’ve probably heard a lot this past year. The phrase that pays was originally coined by the Quakers in the 1950’s, “speaking truth to power” is certainly not a new way of taking a stand and mobilizing society around change.
“It is a powerful nonviolent challenge to injustice and unbridled totalitarian forces, often perpetuated by government, sometimes not,” says Judith Sherwin, Attorney at Law, Adjunct Professor, Loyola School of Law. “Sir Thomas More did it at the cost of his life when he spoke truth to power against King Henry VIII; Martin Luther King Jr. did it at the cost of his freedom when he ended up in the Birmingham jail and eventually at the cost of his life.”
Fast forward to the eve before 2016, set against a backdrop of #SayHerName, #BlackLivesMatter, #LoveWins, #MuslimAmericanFaces and #codeofslience. In this year of uncloaked injustice and agitation, we’ve heard plenty of people being heralded as speaking truth to… and/or for …. power. – excerpt for a Dec 2015 article in the Huffington Post titled Speaking Truth To Power.
Speaking Truth To Power can be dangerous whether it’s against the federal government or a retaliatory small town or city government like Mount Vernon, New York. The risk of speaking up doesn’t make one popular, while many stories are written on the greatness of say a Dr. King or Malcolm X, many unsung heroes especially journalists that break the stories others dare to touch go unmentioned and die broke. But someone still has to dare speak up against the injustices and fight for those who can not fight for themselves.
“The trick about speaking truth to power is to do it from your inner conviction of moral truth and not for a desire for approbation —- and not to be deterred by condemnation either – and to let your sense of the rightness of things overcome the fear of not speaking, Judith Sherwin, Attorney at Law, Adjunct Professor, Loyola School of Law, Chicago was quoted to in the aforementioned Huffington Post piece. “While not all of us have the great causes of More and Dr. King we all have the obligation to speak truth to power in our lives to forces great and small – to defend the powerless, to stand for justice and to recognize the situations in which we are required to do so.”
In a time of increasing threats to journalists worldwide, Associated Press Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll said in her article, ‘Is The Story Worth The Risk?,’ that news organizations need to carefully weigh the risks of reporting against journalists’ passion for telling untold stories.
Carroll said: “I think the real question for all of us, as news consumers and as news employers, is: ‘Is the story worth the risk?’ And that’s a question we often ask ourselves both in the field and back at the home office. And the answer is sometimes, ‘no.’”
In closing, Carroll called on news consumers to care: “This is work that people are doing at great risk to educate you, so give a damn. Read the paper, read on your tablet, engage in the news, be a citizen of the world. Make some effort to understand what it is that these people are taking great risks to bring you.”
Black Westchester Magazine, an online News Magazine for African-Americans was created to carry the tradition of ‘Black Press As Agents of Black Thought,’ documenting and examining every major movements from the Harlem Renaissance to Civil Rights, and explore everyday life of the black community, becoming the voice of the voiceless.
Our credibility has been brought into question by the current former administrations in Mount Vernon, a police blog, Blue Lives Matter as well as a few local blogs. There have been several acts intimidation against members of Black Westchester and its affiliate including myself to silence us. For writing about and fighting against the illegal closures of two Mount Vernon businesses, OK Freddy’s Meat Market and Mega Beverages, for exposing the invidious comments from two White Westchester Cops about Black Lives Matter, which lead to the suspension of one officer and possible future suspension of the other, for example.
While there has always been a major attack on independent media especially Black owned media and black radio, we must continue the fight. We must continue to uplift, education, inform and encourage the black community and communities of colors. In doing so, there will always be opposition from those who benefits from the community being misinformed or just out right uninformed. It was easier to justify when that opposition is the white man, but what happens when your oppressor looks just like you? When those who you are speaking up for will defend the oppressor and attack you. Too many in the inner cities of America do not want to be unplugged from The Matrix.
Malcolm X explains this very issue; “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
“Black newspapers were the ‘dominant means of communication of black culture.’ These papers functioned as the conduit through which black news moved at a time when white America virtually ignored everything of real concern to blacks. Because black problems and interests were remarkably similar nationwide, but access to information from distant communities was extremely difficult to obtain, important black newspapers such as the Pittsburgh Courier, the Chicago Defender, New York City’s Amsterdam News, and the Baltimore/ Washington-based Afro-American carried extensive national news, and the Defender and the Courier grew into truly national newspapers.”
Black Westchester moves in the spirit of those who came before us…
Atlanta Daily World (1931-2003) The Atlanta Daily World had the first black White House correspondent and was the first black daily in the nation in the 20th century.
The Baltimore Afro-American (1893-1988) was the most widely circulated black newspaper on the Atlantic coast. It was the first black newspaper to have correspondents reporting on World War II, foreign correspondents, and female sports correspondents.
Chicago Defender (1910-1975) A leading African-American newspaper, with more than two-thirds of its readership outside Chicago.
Cleveland Call and Post (1934-1991) was founded by Garrett Morgan, inventor of the gas mask and traffic light. Contributors included noted journalists Charles H. Loeb and John Fuster. The newspaper is well-known for its support of the Scottsboro trial defendants with letters, clothing, stamps, and donations to the defense fund.
Los Angeles Sentinel (1934-2005) is the oldest and largest black newspaper in the western United States and the largest African-American owned newspaper in the U.S.
New York Amsterdam News (1922-1993) This leading Black newspaper of the 20th century reached its peak in the 1940s. TheAmsterdam News was a strong advocate for the desegregation of the U.S. military during World War II, and also covered the historically important Harlem Renaissance.
The Norfolk Journal and Guide (1921-2003) was the only black newspaper to provide on-the-scene, day-to-day coverage of the Scottsboro trial, and was one of the best researched and well written black newspapers of its time.
The Philadelphia Tribune (1912-2001) the oldest continuously published black newspaper, is dedicated to the needs and concerns of the fourth largest black community in the U.S. During the 1930s the paper supported the growth of the United Way, rallied against the riots in Chester, PA, and continuously fought against segregation.
Pittsburgh Courier (1911-2002) was one of the most nationally circulated Black newspapers, the Courier reached its peak in the 1930s. A conservative voice in the African-American community, the Courier challenged the misrepresentation of African-Americans in the national media and advocated social reforms to advance the cause of civil rights.
With each story, news brief or editorial, we carefully weigh the risks of reporting against journalists’ passion for telling untold stories, like Associated Press Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll spoke of and ask the question, Is The Story Worth The Risk? Occasionally there may come a time when the answer will be no, but 95% of the time the answer will always be YES, because the risk is worth the reward. We understand the attacks are coming from those who are being exposed, as well as some of we are exposing the issues for, but despite the attacks we may have, will have and for that matter, are facing right now, WE WILL NOT STOP SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER!
We are Black Westchester Magazine, giving you the News With A Black Point of View, two years strong and counting! We will continue to put the PEOPLE BEFORE POLITICS, REAL TALK!!!!
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company, Host & Producer of the People Before Politics Radio Show. AJ is a Father, Brother, An Author, Journalism Fellow (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism), Hip-Hop Artist - one third of the legendary underground rap group JVC FORCE known for the single Strong Island, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian, Documentarian, Activist, Criminal Justice Advocate and Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Daily Challenge Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine, Word Up! Magazine, On The Go Magazine and several others.
Keep doing what you are doing at Black Westchester. Do not allow anyone to threaten & intimidate the great journalists & staff, who are reporting the truth,facts, & issues that affect our communities.
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