''This is a great organization,'' said the Rev. Barbara A. Reynolds, NNPA religion columnist and former writer with USA Today. ''It is on the cutting edge, and it always will be.''
Special recognition was given to members of the CBC for their contributions to the Black Press by NNPA Foundation Chair Dorothy Leavell.
Leavell presented Ofield Dukes, a member of the CBC Foundation and NNPA board of directors, with an award for establishing the opinion-editorials (known an "op-eds" ) relationship between both organizations.
''We wanted to recognize the Congressional Black Caucus members for their contributions of op-eds that appeared in our newspapers,'' Leavell said. ''It was because of our relationship with Mr. Dukes and his liaison between the CBC and the Black Press of America that for over a year now those op-eds have appeared in our publications.''
Curry, a former New York Bureau Chief for the Chicago Tribune, gave an acceptance speech on behalf of the honorees. In his speech, Curry said the NNPA has served a unique purpose in presenting news of substance to African-Americans.
''When I was with the Chicago Tribune, if had three stories I cared about in all the year of publishing, that was a good year for me. But at the NNPA, every week is a good week for us because we're doing something of substance. So we applaud the NNPA for being a source of news you cannot get anywhere else."
Newly-appointed president and chief operating officer of the NNPA Advertising and Marketing Group, Robert Bush, was also introduced by Leavell during the ceremony. Bush recognized NNPA board members and publishers in attendance and charged the audience to become change agents by getting to know the Black publishers in their communities.
''I can't tell you how excited I am to be making money for Black newspaper publishers and to be able to have the opportunity to move the deal for our marketplace,'' Bush said. ''The Black newspapers are the gatekeepers of our community. Nothing happens in our community unless it goes through the gates. When you pick up a daily newspaper, you see all the bad that happens in the Black community. But when you pick up our papers, you get the real news.''
Hazel Trice Edney, editor-in-chief of the NNPA News Service, likened the columnists to unsung heroes.
"For almost two centuries, 181 years to be exact, the pages of Black newspapers have thrived with the fiery voices of columnists under girding our journalistic mission for freedom, justice and equality," she said, giving the Statement of Occasion. "Those columnists are represented here today in the personage of 16 people who have served faithfully in that historic role."
NNPA co-chairs, Leavell and John B. Smith Sr. presented awards and posed for pictures with the honorees. Smith said columnists serve an important role in the Black Press by helping to cover all aspects of the community.
''I think this may be the Black Press' finest hour, because we may soon have the first Black president,'' Reynolds said. ''Even if we don't we have a movement of change, we need to go about a change of the current system. I think we can play a good role. The leadership, whether it's Barack Obama or McCain, should respect the Black Press enough to bring us in with the other major news organizations.''
Other columnists honored were the following: Harry Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce; A. Peter Bailey, former Johnson Publications journalist and aide to Malcolm X; teacher and author Jim Clingman; Marian Wright Edelman, president and CEO of the Children's Defense Fund; Bill Fetcher, former director of field services and education for the American Federation of Government Employees; Gary L. Flowers, executive director and CEO of the Black Leadership Forum; best-selling author and millionaire entrepreneur Farrah Gray; Nicole C. Lee, executive director of TransAfrica; Larry Lucas, associate vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA); Michael Shinn, certified financial planner and investment advisor for Financial Network Investment Corporation; Dr. Ron Walters, University of Maryland political scientist; and Phil Wilson, founder and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute.