By Jeff Thomas

The New Orleans city council unanimously passed a resolution supporting local black owned media companies. International superstar actor, Wendell Pierce, made a presentation to the utility committee of the Council.  Pierce is a partner in Equity Media, which owns and operates WBOK 1230 am radio. During his presentation Pierce pointed out that local companies with monopolies are regulated by the City Council.  And these companies are guaranteed a profit from their business operations. 

“Our city can make a twenty-year commitment to them, but they can’t make a two-week commitment to us.”

Wendell Pierce – Speaking before the New Orleans City Council. 

New Orleans is over 60% African American. And New Orleans has a robust, active, and well-regarded group of black owned media companies. But these media companies get very little advertising dollars from locally regulated companies like the power, cable or cell phone companies. These companies have either  monopolies or must access public property in the course of their business operations. They also profit directly from the citizens of this city. Still they  do little to no advertising  with black owned media companies.

Consciousness Campaign

In fact, the media companies – WBOK 1230am, The La Weekly, The New Orleans Tribune, Data News Weekly and – formed a coalition to address these oversights. The coalition launched the Consciousness Campaign to draw attention to the glaring bias against black owned media companies. 

Renette Dejoie Hall is the publisher of the 90-year-old La Weekly.  She continues the family tradition of publishing the paper every week.  “We get the requests for press releases from these companies, but they ignore our requests for ad dollars,” she said.  Beverly McKenna, publisher of the Tribune, said “Black media companies are the main source of thoughts and ideas for a large segment of the black community in New Orleans.”

For their part, every member of the city council spoke in support of the black owned media companies.  Council President Helena Moreno said she gets similar complaints from the Hispanic media companies.  “We have got to do a better job of utilizing our locally owned media companies,” she said during the committee meeting.

The following week, District B Councilman Jay H. Banks submitted the resolution for the full council consideration.  The unanimous vote to adopt is a clear indication that the council understands the importance of supporting our local businesses.  And though the resolution is an important fist step, more work needs to be done.  The resolution is broad and aspirational. 

Resolution Unanimously Adopted

Last week on WBOK the coalition held a forum. Troy Henry, another partner at WBOK gave more focus. “Regulated businesses are just the first step,” he said.  We expect other businesses who advertise to participate.  We are going to put out a score card ranking good corporate partners to our communities.”

Terry Jones, publisher of Data News, spoke of the historic and systemic issues at play.  “For decades these companies have exploited the black owned media companies. They are after the biggest consumer market in the world.”  The economic value of the African American community is the 10 biggest worldwide economy.  But dollars do not circulate in our community. 

Ending the exploitation of the African American community will make everybody safe.  As Wendell Pierce said during his presentation to the City Council, “People with jobs do not smash in car windows.”  Making our city a great place to live must include economic expansion in the black community.  Start with required spending by regulated companies and city agencies with black owned media companies. 

“I am optimistic!”

Jeff Thomas – Publisher and Editor

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