San Francisco’s first black woman mayor, London Breed, Sun Reporter Publisher Amelia Ashley Ward and United States Senator Kamala Harris.
Being at the helm of an African-American newspaper that has continuously published for 75 years counts as one of Amelia Ashley Ward’s greatest accomplishments.
In the more than 20 years since she’s taken over as publisher of the San Francisco Sun Reporter, Ward has achieved the kind of success that is rare in today’s world of click bait, paywalls and fake news.
By combining community activism with powerful content across the pages of her popular newspaper, Ward has played a vital role the elections of San Francisco’s first black woman mayor, London Breed; and the city’s first black District Attorney, Kamala Harris.
Both Harris, who is now a U.S. Senator and one of the leading Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential election, and Breed were among the 1,000 or so on hand May 9 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown San Francisco to celebrate the Sun Reporter’s 75th anniversary.
“Seventy-five years of still publishing an African American-owned newspaper is certainly a great feeling because we struggle to get advertising and struggle to stay afloat,” said Ward, who also serves as the Chair of the National Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation (NNPAF), a nonprofit organization that has traditionally focused on pre-professional training and encouraging excellence in the publishing industry.
“We can tell the stories that connect our communities and people who want to talk to our communities know they have to use the Black Press to do so,” Ward said, adding that she doesn’t take for granted that the paper is still in business.
The Sun-Reporter was founded in 1944 and it quickly became a social and political advocate for African Americans on issues like civil rights, discrimination, housing and education as well as a vital source of information at a time when there was little media coverage of Blacks in the mass media.
Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett reportedly acquired the newspaper through a poker game, and the publication, as we know it today, was born out of a merger between the Sun newspaper, which Goodlett owned, and another African-American publication, the Reporter, which was edited and published by his close friend, Thomas C. Fleming.
Goodlett served as publisher of the paper until shortly before his death in 1997.
Since then, Ward, who started her career as an intern at the Sun-Reporter, has run the publication which she said is guided by the wisdom and vision of its founder.
“We had a tribute to Dr. Goodlett who was the first NNPA President to get them into the White House,” Ward said.
NNPA Chairman Dorothy R. Leavell, owner and publisher of Chicago’s Crusader Newspaper Group; current NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.; NNPA Publishers Thurman Jones of the North Dallas Gazette and Kerri Watkins of the New York Daily Challenge were also on hand to celebrate the Sun Reporter’s anniversary.
They also paid tribute to Dr. Goodlett, whom former Mayor Willie Brown immortalized by naming the address at City Hall in his honor.
But the night clearly belonged to Ward, who proudly shared the spotlight with Breed and Harris – the trio entered the hotel’s ballroom to Alicia Keys’ hit song, “Girl on Fire.”
“The Sun-Reporter has been there for us, celebrating our community and telling our stories,” Breed said.
Ward said the achievements of many from the African American community like Breed and Harris “shows you the power of the Black Press and it shows that we are the most trusted voice in our community.”
“I was able to put the paper behind young African American women who wanted to ascend to power and help lead in a political way to make our communities and the world better,” she said.
Frederick Haynes of Friendship West Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, also saluted the Sun Reporter, Ward said.
“The theme of the night was ‘Truth Marching On,’ so Haynes spoke on that topic and then he summarized it by borrowing a phrase from Muhammad Ali when he was beating the drums and said, ‘The Champ is here,’” Ward said.
“Like with Kamala Harris, when everyone in the community is down and out and no one thinks they can do, the Sun Reporter will rise and be like ‘The Champ is here,’ and they will fight the battles,” she said.