The local Black press continues to publish stories “from our own lens”
By Charles Hallman
This year, 2013, was historic as well as a year-long full of highs and lows: Two MSR reporters were among the national and international press that covered America’s first Black president’s second inauguration in January.
Said Atlanta Daily World reporter Kenya King, a member of the Black press who was covering the Obama inauguration for the second time, “I’m here to capture…the moment of this historic occasion [and] to make sure that the message that should get across, does get across.”
A ‘new Black agenda’ was discussed by the Council on Black Minnesotans and others during the organization’s Lobby Day at the State Capitol on March 19. The MSR asked several Blacks in attendance that day if they felt new voices and perhaps a new message is needed from Black Minnesotans. “I think it is time for new voices to be heard,” believed Greater Friendship Missionary
Baptist Church Pastor Rev. Billy Russell in our March 28 front-page story.
The MSR also continued its coverage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the introduction of MNsure, the state’s new health-insurance exchange program and how the new healthcare law will benefit Blacks. Alfred Babington-Johnson, a member of a state task force that made recommendations to the governor and the state legislature on how to set up the health exchange said in a March 14 story that the Black community and other communities of color must be actively involved in this process. “We need to be involved to make sure that there is a fair and equitable distribution of resources,” he pointed out.
Later in the year, several local Blacks expressed disappointment in how MNsure officials seemingly ignored Black organizations in awarding outreach grants as well as the Black citizenry in its Paul Bunyan promotion campaign. “I put out a broad list [of community organizations so] that the MNsure people [would] know who they were before they went to this [selection] process,” noted State Senator Jeff Hayden in an October 17 article.
Among this year’s top local stories included two ugly incidents at two Minneapolis city high schools: a Black doll was found hanging inside Washburn High School, and a lunchtime incident at South High School escalated into a fight between students. Both incidents and the meetings involving students, parents, school and district officials and community residents were covered and discussed in the MSR.
The MSR also published stories on the Minneapolis Civil Rights contract monitoring process, the city’s park board’s efforts in changing the workplace culture for Black employees, and three multi-part series: a Black history series, which featured stories on Toni Stone, Jimmy Lee and Dred Scott (January-February), Black student suspensions in Twin Cities suburban and urban school districts (May-June) and Black businesses (September-November).
Our spring and summertime coverage unfortunately also included articles and commentaries on two tragic events: locally, the Terrance Franklin shooting in May, and the George Zimmerman trial regarding Trayvon Martin in Florida. In both cases, community residents and groups staged several protests and rallies.
The MSR exclusively talked to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, who offered our readers an explanation why or why not a grand jury decides not to criminally charge a police officer, especially when Blacks are involved in a police shooting.
“Police officers never shoot their gun unless [they] fear for [their] life, your life or someone else’s,” said Freeman in an August 15 article.
Among the top national stories this year included the Detroit bankruptcy filing in August: “The idea that Detroit is completely dead and without hope is a bunch of [nonsense],” said retired journalist and executive director of a Detroit-based community organization Luther Keith, who spoke to the MSR for our August 22 issue. He argued against those who blamed the city’s Black leadership. “Detroit has suffered from population and business losses unlike no other city in America,” he added.
This fall’s Minneapolis mayoral election that featured the largest field of candidates (35) in city history — the MSR selected three candidates, including eventual winner Betsy Hodges and asked each to present their positions on police-community relations, the new Vikings stadium and Black economic development. The election also saw not only the city’s second female mayor elected but also a more diverse city council with its first Hmong, Latina and Somali member being elected.
Last week we featured a sit-down interview with Mayor- Elect Hodges, who told us that among her top priorities is work on closing the achievement gap between Black and other students. This was among several such interviews the MSR published this year, including Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau, U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison, newly named Council on Black Minnesotans Executive Director Edward McDonald, Minneapolis Park Board Superintendent Jayne Miller, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, U-M Vice President of Equity and Diversity Katrice Albert and two of South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s daughters during a visit to the Twin Cities last spring.
Our community and our world lost several individuals way too soon this year: Minneapolis School Board member Hussein Samatar, longtime mortician Richard Estes among the local notables; actors Lou Myers and Lee Thompson Young, musicians George Duke and Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, and most recently former South African president Nelson Mandela.
Finally, as we turn the page to a new year, the MSR still will provide our readers excellent coverage you won’t find elsewhere. “We [as the Black Press] have a unique position to be able to tell the story from our own lens,” concludes Kenya King of the Atlanta Daily World.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to [email protected].