I hope all is well. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined sending a memo like this to the membership, but in 2023 -- stranger things have happened.
Over the past several months, the PABJ Executive Board has received grave concerns pertaining to a group of eight PABJ members who appear to have partaken in activity that's detrimental to the stability and civility of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. Several members throughout the year have contacted PABJ board members about conversations/meetings that these individuals have participated in that's considered bad faith actions that have exceeded their scope of as a PABJ member.
Some of them are past PABJ Presidents and/or Executive Board members who are aware of the distinct role of a PABJ Board member and a PABJ member. PABJ board members speak on behalf of this organization and represent the policies and positions of PABJ. None of these individuals are currently entrusted to do such and throughout our investigation, it appears they disregarded this fact.
Our investigation began in December 2022, when we were made aware of a Zoom gathering of past PABJ presidents and leaders who were in disagreement about the unforeseeable split between NABJ and PABJ. Several of them spoke with me directly and with other board members about these concerns and we made ourselves available to quell any misinformation that was spewing from NABJ leadership at that time.
In early January 2023 -- before our first PABJ meeting -- I was made aware that one senior past PABJ president attempted to rally longtime members to attend the meeting in an attempt to call out our split from NABJ. That tension was deescalated after I formulated an ad-hoc committee that included several of them to participate in helping to resolve the tension between PABJ and NABJ. I created this ad-hoc committee because I was under the assumption that this was done in good faith by them to arrive at a better understanding and peace.
That clearly hasn't been the case.
After the ad-hoc committee failed to resolve the split between NABJ and PABJ (which the board had already predicted), one member of the group had stated that such a committee was present before I had created it on behalf of PABJ. At the time, I thought this individual was misspeaking -- but it was truly a Freudian slip -- they were already formulating a group (arguably staging a coup) that was focused more on confronting PABJ executive leadership rather than holding NABJ accountable for the misgivings they had served.
This is by definition a bad faith move on their part. There was a lack of transparency, integrity, and clarity behind their collective motives -- and such wasn't articulated to the PABJ Executive Board.
As if this perceived form of betrayal wasn't already made clear, new information has been given to us regarding the latest conduct of this collective overall. On August 22nd, we received correspondence from a Zoom call that was scheduled for August 24 with members of this group receiving an invite titled "NABJ May Be Coming to Town -- Let's talk!"
And quite the conversation several of them had that night at 8 pm.
The PABJ Executive Board was contacted about it and was astounded by the disturbing nature of the discussion about our leadership and their attempt to usurp it by trying to formulate an alternative Philadelphia chapter in alignment with NABJ. We were informed details of them planning a potential Philadelphia meeting with NABJ in October to carry out such plans, which is beyond audacious, but despicable.
I'll make this clear so that it doesn't have to be repeated -- as the President of PABJ, I am disheartened and disgusted by this behavior. I have always viewed PABJ as a family in spite of some of the jealousy, paternalism, homophobia, and backstabbing I've experienced by some of those members within it. In spite of having disagreements with some of them, I never expected any of them to go to such lengths to try to undermine our current board's leadership.
As a result, under executive order, their membership within PABJ was temporarily suspended until each of them individually spoke with the board about their alleged behavior and the nature of their intentions as a PABJ member in the future. We cannot have this type of alarming behavior threatening the productivity and direction of the organization.
This is not a permanent ban (we're not NABJ, we are more diplomatic), but we're definitely interested an explanation about their current behavior.
As of the posting of this memo, none of the eight PABJ members contacted have reached out to us -- with some of them still attempting to recruit potential members of this "NABJ Philly." Furthermore, NABJ President Ken Lemon hasn't reached out to the PABJ Executive Board as well. PABJ Executive Board members have spoken with a few members on NABJ's board who have informed us that they weren't personally aware of such activity and wasn't made aware that their board meeting would be scheduled in Philly in October.
It's baffling that nearly 50 years of service and engagement for Black journalists within the Greater Philadelphia community is being attempted to be undermined by a small group of disgruntled members who either don't currently reside in Philadelphia, mostly retired, and/or not active within our membership. While it's hilarious that they think they can suddenly reinvent and replicate the nonprofit we have built from the ground up -- it's actually sad they are trying to divide Black journalists at a time when PABJ is fundraising and advocating to keep us united.
Translation: No bootleg PABJ is going to rain on our parade. Knock-offs are not in vogue over here.
To be more transparent -- PABJ will not be permitting current members to double-dip in forming a rival chapter to our organization simultaneously. We perceive NABJ's desire to consider forming another local organization as retaliatory and in bad faith. Those who choose to partake in this collaboration with NABJ during our time of institutional friction will not be granted or renewed a membership within PABJ.
The PABJ Executive Board is more than available to have dialogue with any member about this at our upcoming members-only Tuesday meeting on September 12th at 7 pm.
Respect, loyalty, and integrity are essential to maintaining our organization. We are grateful to the PABJ members who stepped up and whistleblowed this concerning behavior. A lot of the alleged dialogue, plotting, and scheming that took place during the NABJ convention and prior was the red flag that made some step up and report this behavior to us.
I look forward to speaking to the membership in depth next week.
This too shall pass.
President of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists