Racist attacks plague Black newspaperBy Askia Muhammad -Senior Correspondent- | Last updated: Apr 15, 2013 - 1:38:30 PM
The Creekwood neighborhood home and even the car of the Rev. Dr. O. Deshea Cuthrell in Chesterfield, Va., was hit with an intentionally set fire and racist graffiti in the pre-dawn hours March 21. Police are investigating the suspicious incident.
Days before that incident, a gunshot damaged a window on the second floor of the offices of the Richmond, Va., Free Press newspaper, ripping window blinds and scattering debris in the paper’s newsroom, the weekly reported in its March 14 edition.
“Thankfully none of our staffers were on duty when our window was bullet-holed and desks were dotted with glass,” the newspaper reported, adding that the March 3 vandalism was reported to the FBI as well as to local police.
“The FBI has been on this case for about a year,” Free Press editor-publisher Raymond Boone told The Final Call, “but they have come with no progress in regard to curbing this vandalism, or this criminal activity.
“Be as it may, we’re going to keep the faith. We’re going to continue to publish, consistent with what’s right and keeping faith with the people,” he continued. “We do not know the source of this criminal behavior, but we do know that it is an uncivilized act that fits in the same category as past and ongoing schemes to shut down the Free Press.
In the past, and with increased intensity during last year’s presidential campaign, the paper’s distribution boxes have been flattened by big-tire vehicles; copies of the paper have been burned in their distribution boxes; racist messages have been scrawled on the front of the distribution boxes; the boxes themselves have been stolen and the papers were thrown into trash containers; and distribution boxes have even been fenced to block reader access to copies of the newspaper.
Despite the newspaper’s staunch defense of President Obama’s re-election, which may have earned it enemies in the city which was once the capital of the Confederate States of America, the Obama administration may not have been as supportive of the Richmond Free Press and other Black newspapers, according to Mr. Boone.
“President Obama has acknowledged that he is standing on the shoulders of Civil Rights advocates, including the Black Press. There’s an old political rule that you reward your friends and punish your enemies. The president, I don’t believe, has done that.
“If you look at the advertising for instance, all of his advertising budget during the campaign was spent—I would say—99 percent with White media, media that have historically opposed Black people, the Black vote, which put him in office. When it comes to poor people, in his many speeches which stress equality, there is the omission of the poor people, people who need his help the most, people who helped him the most. So I think that the president needs to not only acknowledge the contributions that the Black community, particularly Civil Rights advocates have done to put him in the White House, but he needs to return rewards to the Black community for the investment that the Black community has made in him. I don’t think we have received that return,” he said.
Black political empowerment has not necessarily meant improvement in the lives of the poor, Mr. Boone points out, even in jurisdictions such as Richmond where Blacks have maintained political control for 35 years, but where poverty among Black remains at levels near 40 percent.
“We need to put as much emphasis on economic empowerment as we in the past have put on the vote. You and I and others were a part of misleading, to some degree, that if we got the vote, that would set us free,” Mr. Boone, who previously served as editor-in-chief of the Afro-American newspaper chain, and who served multiple terms as a judge of the prestigious Pulitzer Prizes said.
“What we need to do, is keep the vote, of course, but we need to put as much emphasis on Black economic empowerment as we put on getting out the vote, or knocking down barriers to the vote.”
The various Obama administration cabinet members must learn to keep their word and protect the integrity of the president, Mr. Boone insisted. Two years ago, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack pledged to promote an obesity campaign through advertising in the Black Press, but he failed to do so, Mr. Boone said.
“The Department of Agriculture has an awful record in terms of discrimination, going back to Fannie Lou Hamer, from Mississippi, who was also a good friend. What would be a better medium than the Black Press to reach the audience that is affected by obesity to an extreme extent?”
Mr. Boone said he spoke with Education Secretary Arne Duncan at a White House briefing for National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) members during Black Press Week in mid-March. “So I requested Secretary Duncan to sit down with Secretary Vilsack and educate him about the importance of integrity and living up to his word,” he said