PHILADELPHIA ASSOCIATION OF BLACK JOURNALISTS STRONGLY ENDORSES MANUEL MCDONNELL SMITH FOR NABJ PRESIDENT
Change isn’t an option, but a mandate -- something that requires swift action, not passive consideration.
When evaluating the two candidates currently running for president of the National Association of Black Journalists, the decision could not have been any more clear to the PABJ Executive Board.
Our chapter strongly endorses Manuel McDonnell Smith for NABJ president because his steadfast leadership, vision and ability to enact real change within the national organization is desperately needed now more than ever.
It’s clear that both candidates are passionate about NABJ and our members. Both have been faithful servants to the organization, volunteering countless hours to ensure that NABJ is as strong as it can be.
But passion alone isn’t enough to keep an organization relevant, innovative and transparent. Smith has demonstrated these latter qualities in his service to NABJ and PABJ, more than his opponent. And for that, NABJ members should take note of this when they cast their virtual ballot starting next week.
As the immediate past president of PABJ, Smith transformed the chapter into a highly engaged nonprofit that has generated more than six figures in grant fundraising -- a rare feat for a local NABJ chapter.
With more than 300 paid and active members, PABJ is the largest local chapter in NABJ. Under his leadership, Smith revamped chapter task forces and committees, helping to provide direct funding support for their specialized activities and projects.
Smith’s advocacy for Black journalists dealing with diversity issues at major media companies such as The Philadelphia Inquirer, made national headlines and prompted immediate institutional reaction at Philadelphia's paper of record. He’s led an intersectional and multi-generational board that includes millennials, Gen Xers, and Boomers that represent various career tracks, gender identities, LGBTQIA identities and other diverse backgrounds. His leadership helped make PABJ a finalist for the 2020 NABJ Chapter of the Year, along with other record-breaking honors and accolades.
As a long-time volunteer and producer for NABJ events and convention programming, Smith has seen the national organization at its highest levels and during its most challenging times. PABJ believes that he has the relevant insight, strategic vision and inclusionary drive to modernize NABJ as the organization approaches its 50th year in service. His fiscal leadership is impeccable and his ability to speak truth to power for Black journalists is noteworthy. NABJ would be in great hands under his presidency.
While we appreciate NABJ President Dorothy Tucker’s years of service to the national organization, our rationale for not endorsing her boils down to our concerns with her current leadership. Right now, NABJ is stagnant in its advocacy efforts, fundraising model, leadership development and overall support for local chapters and members.
As Smith found new fundraising streams and kept morale high within his local chapter during the pandemic, Dorothy’s leadership has been less stellar in terms of membership engagement and overall advocacy. Yes, NABJ has released statements speaking out against mainstream media diversity issues -- but such tactics have been more talk and less walk from an organization that represents thousands of Black journalists.
Recent concerns around the organization’s nearly $1 million fiscal surplus has left more questions than answers, as NABJ Task forces and committees continue to not be funded and convention registration fees have continued to stay the same as the year before.
There have been ongoing problems and structural inequity for local chapters without 501(c)3 status trying to fundraise for themselves -- and no strong support from NABJ for those caught up in the confusion.
We strongly condemn the inequitable split that was supported by the NABJ Board of Directors during President Tucker’s presidency in November 2019 that only mandates a 70 percent/30 percent split for registration fees -- and only an “up to 50% split of the profits” from their total partnerships with local chapters via regionals and other events. Host chapters and its members do the lion’s share of the work -- as volunteers -- in making regional conferences successful for both members and NABJ, so the split needs to better reflect that work.
Looking at the bigger picture, PABJ is greatly concerned that NABJ is becoming more of a price-gouging enterprise that pontificates on Black journalism advocacy, rather than acting as a full-functioning non-profit that seeks to support intersectional leadership at all levels with a pipeline for sustainable growth and transparency. We believe that a Smith NABJ presidency will bring about the immediate change our national organization so desperately needs -- because we have already seen how his leadership has revolutionized PABJ, the association’s founding chapter.
Starting on Monday, July 12 through Friday, Aug. 20, we are asking for NABJ members who are eligible to cast their vote in this election to support Manuel McDonnell Smith for NABJ president because we truly believe it’s the last chance to significantly reverse the stagnant state of a national organization that PABJ is the founding chapter of.
We appreciate anyone who steps up to serve on the NABJ board. But it’s time for a real change -- not another two years of business as usual.
In solidarity with NABJ members and chapters across the nation,
Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists Executive Board
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