Forward Times Represents Houston as Hosts and Winners at the 2016 NNPA Annual Convention

There’s no place like home!

This past week, Houston played host to the 2016 National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) Annual Convention – one of the biggest events on their annual calendars. The NNPA, which represents more than 200 African American member newspapers, websites and media outlets from across the United States, convened in Houston from June 21-25 at the Omni Houston Hotel, and the host publishers from Houston for this year’s conference were: Sonny Messiah Jiles, Houston Defender Media Group; Francis Page, Houston Style Magazine; and our very own Karen Carter Richards, Houston Forward Times.

The theme for this year’s convention was «Black Press: Penetrating and Sustaining in the Global Marketplace,» and NNPA members and attendees from all over the country came together to hear from industry leaders in select areas of focus; network with one another; discuss new developments in the industry; celebrate the year-long success and work of NNPA member publications and publishers; hold informative training sessions; conduct association business; honor the legacy of some of the nation’s most influential people; and be introduced to the community in the host city.

As always, one of the much-anticipated traditions at the NNPA Annual Convention is the Merit Awards ceremony – an evening awards event which honors the year-long work of the more than 200 African American newspapers and NNPA member publications from across the country. The NNPA Foundation, which is the charitable arm of the NNPA Association, and MillerCoors, which sponsors the awards, announced the new processes that were established to determine the winners of this year’s awards. The NNPA Merit Awards competition acknowledges outstanding journalism in categories such as Breaking News, Commentary, Feature and other important categories surrounding the layout and design of each newspaper.

The Houston Forward Times had an impressive showing in their own backyard, as the 56-year old publication came away with five (5) awards, including taking home first place honors for Best Use of Photographs and for Best Column Writing, which was awarded to Forward Times Associate Editor Jeffrey L. Boney for his award-winning weekly column JBoney Speaks.

In addition to those first place honors, for the second year in a row the Forward Times walked away as the sole winner of the Miller-Coors/A. Phillip Randolph Messenger Award for Digital Excellence for the Forward Times’ interactive and informative website (

Lastly, the Forward Times and contributing writer Tashon Thomas received the second place award for Best Youth Writer, and Forward Times Entertainment Editor Chelsea Lenora White received the third place award for Best Entertainment Section.

Other multiple winners for the 2016 Merit Awards included many others such as the Chicago Crusader, Houston Defender and St. Louis American, who once again walked away with the Russwurm/Sengstacke Trophy for General Excellence. This marked the fifth consecutive NNPA General Excellence Award for The St. Louis American – and its twelfth time winning the prize in the last 21 years. The General Excellence award is named in honor of John B. Russwurm, co-founder of Freedom’s Journal, the nation’s first African American newspaper, and late Chicago Defender Publisher John H. Sengstacke, founder of the Negro Newspaper Publishers Association – now the National Newspaper Publishers Association – in 1940. The winner of the award is determined each year by the paper that accumulates the most points in all categories of the NNPA’s annual Merit Awards. On top of receiving the honor of “Best Black Newspaper” in the nation, St. Louis American publisher Donald M. Suggs, was named Publisher of the Year by his fellow publishers.

Another highlight of the convention was Chelsea Lenora White representing the next generation of Forward Times leadership, by helping kick off an event on Tuesday, June 21st, called Generation Next: The New Black Press, that was held at Texas Southern University. The NNPA held Journalism Careers Workshops on Technology and Entrepreneurship Opportunities, and Chelsea and other hosts discussed the power of the Black press. Chelsea also served on a panel of next generation children, and millennials, who currently work at many NNPA family publications across the country, and are actively involved in the business.

On Wednesday, June 22nd, the host publishers welcomed the NNPA to Houston “Texas-style” at the private Chairman’s Welcome Reception at the Buffalo Soldiers Museum with Texas-style BBQ, cowboy hats, a welcome by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and entertainment by widely-recognized Zydeco artist, Keith Frank.

On Thursday, June 23rd, the NNPA held an inspirational Prayer Breakfast with the theme – Proclaiming the Good News – where Grammy Award–winning Gospel music icon and television host Dr. Bobby Jones was honored. Attendees were blessed with a power-packed performance by Houston’s own Kathy Taylor, who did a tribute to Dr. Jones, who successfully hosted a program called Bobby Jones Gospel on Black Entertainment Television (BET) for 35 years; a program that stands as BET’s longest running series of all time. Attendees were also brought to their feet after hearing a powerful and challenging word from Bishop James Dixon of the Community of Faith Church, who challenged the Black Press and Black Church to come together to deal with the issues in the Black community. The day continued with workshops and a STEM Luncheon that featured Houston’s own Dr. Reagan Flowers, founder and CEO of the nationally-recognized C-STEM Teacher and Student Support Services.

On Friday, June 24th, the NNPA held a Health Breakfast with special guest speaker, the Honorable Mary Wakefield, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. To conclude the evening, the NNPA hosted its annual Legacy Awards Gala Dinner, where legendary radio icon Tom Joyner was honored.

The convention concluded on Saturday, June 25th with additional sessions and activities at the hotel for the member publishers, along with a daytime pool party.

Since its founding over 76 years ago, NNPA has consistently been the voice of the Black community and an incubator for news that makes history and impacts our country. As the largest and most influential Black-owned media resource in America, the NNPA delivers news, information, and commentary to over 20 million people each week.

The 2016 NNPA Annual Convention was truly a wonderful experience for the entire Houston Forward Times family, both as convention hosts and as participants.