By Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., President and CEO, National Newspaper Publishers Association
The U.S. Census is now preparing to count all who live in the United States of America. For the more than 50 million Black Americans in the U.S., the 2020 U.S. Census is vital. Our numbers do matter and must be properly and accurately counted. Our birth rates count. Our socioeconomic rates count. Our death rates count. The overall quality of life in Black America will be impacted for the next ten years as a result of the 2020 U.S. Census.
The full life journeys of all Black Americans are important. Today, we are observing and celebrating 2020 Black History Month. This is the time for understanding and learning from the past to change the present and to ensure a better future for Black America.
While there has been a lot of appropriate national attention and focus on the beginning of life’s journey, there has not been enough attention on the inevitable transition and conclusions of one’s life journey, particularly from the African American perspective.
This year is the 193rd year of the Black Press of America, represented today by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) across the nation. I am proud of the expansion and progress of the Black Press even amidst trying and challenging economic times for Black owned businesses. The NNPA corporate partners and sponsors, such as Compassion & Choices, immeasurably help to sustain the Black Press.
The NNPA member publishers and newspapers, complimented by their digital distribution of content, including a wide array of social media channels, cover the news that oftentimes gets left out of mainstream news media. One of the reasons why the Black Press continues to be the trusted voice of Black America is because we report on the entire journey of Black America from life to death from generation to generation.
The NNPA began a unique and important partnership with Compassion & Choices to acquire a more in-depth awareness and knowledge about how Black Americans and others are enabled to have a planned, dignified and well thought out, peaceful transition without the sudden unpreparedness that happens too often in many Black American families.
Compassion & Choices is committed to empowering people to get the care they need during a serious illness or at the end of life. One way to do that is by helping people plan well and become good advocates for themselves and their loved ones.
In other words, the entirety of one’s life journey is precious and should be prepared for the end of the journey with dignity and respect. It is really about taking responsibility to ensure that your transition will be handled in a manner that you have pre-determined with the interest of all those you love and who love you.
This is a subject that is often avoided until the finality of death confronts the loved ones of the departed. Our newspapers cover and publish the obituaries of people in the communities in which we serve as a matter of tradition and respect for the untold positive contributions of those who make their final transition at the end of their remarkable life journeys.
We know that we have to show respect to each other in our families, communities, and careers. Black love is about Black self-respect. Too often Black lives are ended in some type of hardship, tragedy, brutality, prolonged sickness, or some unexpected unavoidable circumstance. But all of our final transitions should be observed with the utmost respect and dignity.
Planning for one’s transition does not mean you are ready to die before your time is up or that you are attempting to hurry or rush your departure from this world. To the contrary, planning the final transition of your life is like having a sustainable life insurance policy that removes the burden of your transition from your love ones.
Talking about and planning your transition will not kill you, but it will save your love ones the awful sorrow and agony of unpreparedness. We are grateful to Compassion & Choices for helping us to transfer our reluctance and fear of discussing the ultimate transition of our life journeys into a responsible and respectful plan of love and dignity.
Yes, Black life journeys matter at the beginning and at the end. We all have the opportunity and the responsibility to respond to this issue in a timely manner.
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org