NNPA 2019 Mid-Winter Conference Opening Reception Draws Orlando’s Mayor and City’s Top Business Execs

Orlando Mayor Jerry Demings and NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. / Photo: Mark Mahoney)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent

The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) kicked off its annual Mid-Winter Training Conference at the Hilton Orlando in Florida on Wednesday, Jan. 23, with an opening reception that featured a visit from Orange County’s first Black mayor, Jerry Demings, Wells Fargo executive Cheryl McDonald and Disney Destinations public relations manager Annette Gibbs.

“I can count on the Black Press… …to tell it like it is,” Demings said after offering welcome remarks at the reception which was attended by numerous Black Press publishers, corporate sponsors and partners.

“You can trust what is written in the Black Press. We have to have storytellers who make sure to cover everything — even when it’s uncomfortable to talk about — and that’s the Black Press,” said Demings who, like his wife, Florida U.S. Rep. Val Demings, once served as chief of the Orlando Police Department.

McDonald, a vice president and marketing program manager for Wells Fargo, said it was “absolutely wonderful to be at the [opening reception].”

Noting that Wells Fargo continues to support affordable housing and other initiatives in an effort to help communities thrive, McDonald continued, “I think of 192 years of the Black Press and the contribution to the United States. Wells Fargo is committed to the communities we do business in and work in. We have a number of communities that we have a strong relationship with, and we want all of [them] to succeed,” she said,

“I’m honored to be here amongst the publishers who are keeping a voice in the African American community across the nation,” said Disney’s Annette Gibbs. “Disney Parks values a strong relationship with the Black Press. We’ve enjoyed our relationship over the years and look forward to continuing a strong relationship,” she said.

Scheduled through Saturday, Jan. 26th, the conference theme was “Innovation Training and Global Expansion of the Black Press of America.”

It included training workshops, panel discussions and presentations.

Included among NNPA partners and sponsors are GM; RAI Reynolds America; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Ford; Pfizer Rare Disease; Macy’s; Juul; Volkswagen; Lilly; Ascension; Compassion & Choices; Collaborative for Student Success; Nissan; Koch; API; AmeriHealth Caritas; AACR; and AABE.

“I’m happy to have the conference here,” said James Madison, the publisher of the Florida Sun Newspaper, one of the host publications for the conference. “It’s also an honor to have the first black mayor of Orange County here, so I’m elated,” Madison said.

NNPA Chairman Dorothy R. Leavell fondly recalled that the organization hosted a conference in Orlando a couple of decades ago. “I’m happy to be here and I recall having been here when I was [NNPA] president – a position now called chairman – back in the 1990s and we have had a close [relationship] with Disney.”

Leavell praised Disney’s Dreamer’s Program, where each spring, 100 exceptional young people arrive with ambition, excitement and hopes for the future – and, four days later, they return home with the motivation, guidance and skills to help make those dreams come true.

“It’s clear that as we enter the 192nd year of the Black Press of America, we have to continue to address the various systems of racial injustice and oppression in the United States,” said NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.

“While we have made significant progress, our community and families are crying out anew for freedom, justice and equality. The Black Press is the voice of the black community,” Chavis said.

Also, it’s important now more than ever to lift up Black youth, Chavis said. “We have to raise up a new generation of freedom fighters and I think 2019 is going to be another triumphant year when we shift into a higher gear before the 2020 [elections],” he said.

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