Inscrutable His ways are, and immune
To catechism by a mind too strewn
With petty cares to slightly understand
What awful brain compels His awful hand.
Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:
To make a poet black, and bid him sing!
– Countee Cullen, Yet Do I Marvel
By Doni Glover, Publisher
Unapologetically Black: Doni Glover Autobiography
The Doni Glover Show on WOLB 1010 AM (Thurs. 11a-12p)
(BALTIMORE – November 5, 2019) – When pioneers of the Black Press (sometimes called the Abolitionist Press) first hit the American landscape, there was the collective aim of abolishing slavery. That is so because the Black Press cut its teeth on the issue like no other. Sure, there were whites, like William Lloyd Garrison, who adamantly fought against principalities and racial wickedness in high places; but, too, there were the Black journalists like Samuel Cornish, John Russworm, David Walker, and Maryland’s own Frederick Douglass, who made it their life’s mission to destroy the diabolically savage institution of American slavery.
For these legends, writing about America’s malice towards African Americans, such as lynchings, was par for the course. Black people simply wanted to be treated like human beings, but White America felt somehow obligated to ignore their cries and compelled to maintain the status quo – as if their lives depended on it.
That was back in the 1800s. As a matter of fact, the first Black newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, was established on March 16, 1827 in New York City. Considering the challenges of running a news website today, I can only imagine the hurdles these early Black editors and journalists had to overcome. I know it couldn’t have been easy. Hell, in the 1800s, it was illegal in some places for people of color to even learn how to read. So, for some fearless journalists to comprise – week after week – our version of the unfolding events of the day, had to be a daunting task. Surely, there were times when they must have feared for their lives. The ferocious spirit of Ida B. Wells comes to mind. She once stated, “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”
Nearly two hundred years later, slavery in its initial form has been eliminated, but the stained vestiges of slavery and its cousins oh so proudly remain for all to see. For instance, one glance at the American judicial system tells it all: While America has only 5% of the world’s population, it has 25% of the world’s inmates – 44% of whom are Black men and where the fastest growing demographic is Black women. To boot, Blacks only comprise 13% of the US population. Such staggering statistics say it all. I ask, is slavery really over?
Sometimes subtle, sometimes loud – today’s Black journalists still have to combat the hateful stigmas and dogma of mainstream society, perpetuated by their press, which is still laced with privilege, disconnect, and the audacity to think it speaks for all Americans when quite often it does not. While its head is at the White House and other seats of power, its tentacles extend to all four corners of the earth. We, as a proud people of color, know this by the way foreigners act towards us. It is obvious that they have consumed the ideas held close by many American whites in their home countries for imperialism and colonialism have made race an institutional problem worldwide.
To say the least, it has truly been a blessing and an honor to be able to stand on the soldiers of such African American icons and freedom fighters in this the 21st century. I know that my colleagues and I have the absolutely distinct responsibility of still telling the truth regardless of who does not like the perspective we share.
It is upon this backdrop that the events of November 4th, 2019 come to mind. We were at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture in downtown Baltimore where former Congressman and former CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Kweisi Mfume announced his intentions to run the 7th Congressional seat he once held.
Mfume had Baltimore notables surrounding him, including Dr. Thelma Daley and Bishop John Bryant, all in full support of his timely political ambitions. Many knew of his first campaign where he won by three votes. Political pundit Larry Gibson seemed very pleased to introduce him as he reflected on Mfume’s early days on Baltimore Black radio – an era that ultimately saw the formation and birth of an important Black institution called WEAA, Morgan State University’s public radio station Mfume helped found.
Gibson also discussed how Mfume, after leaving the US Congress, would help turn around the National NAACP that is headquartered in Baltimore. He helped it go from the red to the black.
After the announcement, a press conference was held. In retrospect, it seemed like a walk through American antiquity. I’ll never forget this day for as long as I live.
It wasn’t that long ago that three other African American politicos – Delegates Adrienne Jones, Talmadge Branch, and Dereck Davis – stood in this same museum named after the famous Dunbar alumni who slammed the financial world with his unprecedented buyout of TLC Beatrice and declared a Black political unification the world has never before seen. When the smoke cleared, these three members of the Maryland House of Delegates had agreed that Davis would be their choice for the first Black Speaker of the House.
On both days, I remember the mainstream press missing the mark and, in their own way, dismissing the significance of such occasions. It’s as if the white journalists had marching orders to assassinate Black dreams once again. For those who do not recall, Maryland’s mainstream Democratic politicians – and their press – sought Maggie McIntosh to lead the Maryland House of Delegates; there was seemingly no interest in Davis nor Jones. There was no empathy for the wishes of Maryland and America’s most loyal Democratic voting bloc. The only concern from whites was for McIntosh.
Both press conferences brought home for me the belief that America’s white press will never, ever understand what makes the melanin tick in our souls. White journalists at both press conferences had no idea of what the elevation of people like Davis and Mfume mean to Black Marylanders, nor did they seem to care.
Yesterday, I spoke with Marsha Jews of WKIM online radio after the Mfume announcement. She, former journalist Kevin Brown and I did a LIVE broadcast on Facebook sharing our thoughts of Mfume’s announcement. Jews and I concluded the same thing – that the white press’ first question yesterday was about how many women have been attracted to the illustrious Mfume over the years. Meanwhile, Senior Journalist Charles Robinson’s first question was focused more on Mfume’s itinerary if he should in fact make it back to Congress.
It was this subtlety that put my mind in a chokehold. How could it be that the Black journalists’ first questions were about Mfume’s motives and agenda, but the white journalists initial questions were about #metoo?
I have concluded that the white media will never in a million years understand the plight of what it means to be Black in America. It is too self-consumed with its own delusions that have never been about the empowerment of the African American community, especially in Baltimore. More often than not, the Baltimore Sun and its media partners paint a different picture of the Black community here. Instead of speaking of our glory, they remind us of our frailties. Rather than speak about our power, they remind us of our infirmities.
No, we are not asking for a pass. We are only in search of truth, but we have been to enough press conferences where white politicians, like Martin O’Malley, get a pass to run for President. Yet, in the great state of Maryland, we still do not have a Black US Senator.
A man who arrested one in six Baltimoreans as mayor was lauded to no end, despite the rampant rumors of marital infidelity, the blatant stealing of furniture from the Governor’s Mansion, and the fact that Black millionaire businessman Robert Lee Clay was claimed to have committed suicide during his tenure.
I have concluded that these polluted ink pens from the mainstream press have never been our friends and have never supported our empowerment – let alone any efforts we, as a people, have demonstrated in our search for self-empowerment. Every step of the way, it seems as if some God forsaken pebble is in our shoe – not for the sake of righteousness, but for the sake of reminding us of the ill notion that “black is back and white is right”.
One day, maybe, this mainstream press will get a grip. Meanwhile, however, the ink pens and keyboards of the Black press are steadily producing content for the masses of African Americans – content that will continue to remind us of our collective struggle, that will celebrate our hard-earned accomplishments, and that will propel the dreams of every Black student in Maryland – no matter how impossible – to boldly manifest like never before even in a world seemingly so ugly as ours.
In our community, Mfume represents the tenacity and the temperance necessary to succeed in the hallowed halls of Americana. Despite growing up in a city that relished segregation, he was able to navigate the streets and the suites to rise to one of the highest political levels this country has. And while the mainstream is sluggish to embrace such feats, including a Master’s degree from the ever coveted Johns Hopkins University, he still embodies the sometimes forsaken hope of America’s slaves – both named and unnamed.
One day, I pray this insensitive mainstream press will come to fully understand the hopes and dreams it cannot break and the slave it cannot make. In the unforgettable words of Frederick Douglass I leave you: “I have shown you how a man became a slave. Now let me show you how a slave became a man.”