Democratic U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters from California will be the keynote speaker at a Chicago gala honoring newspaper publisher Dorothy Leavell who has dedicated her career to serving the black press.
The Oct. 20 anniversary gala begins with a 6 p.m. reception at the Crystal Garden Ballroom in Navy Pier followed by a 7 p.m. dinner.
Leavell is the publisher of the Chicago Crusader and Gary (Indiana) Crusader, two weekly newspapers that cover news affecting the black commuity. Under her tutelage, the Chicago Crusader has grown into the city’s largest black-owned paid circulation. She has replicated that success in Gary.
The soft spoken Leavell is a wife, mother of two, grandmother of three, and a friend to countless others. She is also a longtime member of the National Newspapers Publishers Association (NNPA), an association that represents over 200 black-owned newspapers in the country.
The friendship between Leavell and Waters dates back to the mid-1990s when Leavell headed the NNPA and Waters chaired the Congressional Black Caucus. They jointly addressed the challenge of the federal government’s refusal to extend substance abuse treatment information to the Black community. Through their collective efforts, black advertising agencies were hired and the NNPA newspapers were included in the $5 million annual information campaign.
As far as dinner goes, those lucky enough to get a ticket to the hottest event in Chicago this week will receive a one-of-a-kind gift from Leavell, who is known for having a giving heart like Oprah Winfrey.
“The committee and I did exhaustive searches for what we thought was the most appropriate item or items to commemorate this career milestone. And there came a point when I realized nothing we could buy would be appropriate to say thank you to the people who are coming out to help me celebrate,” Leavell said.
She added she decided to commission a unique commemorative gift that will help the night live on for decades. Those not in attendance will be disappointed when guests will receive it at the end of the dinner.
Over the past 40 years, Leavell distinguished herself in the journalistic community, the Black Press and especially her involvement with the NNPA. Leavell has played a key role in the evolution of the NNPA having served as chairman, which included chairing its foundation – the philanthropic arm that provides college scholarships, and administers the NNPA wire service.
Also during her tenure, Leavell increased the visibility and international stature of the organization.
For example, she led a controversial 20-member delegation to Nigeria to investigate the Nigerian political crisis. As a media advocate, she also was a staunch and visible supporter for the controversial and delayed confirmation of Alexis Herman as U.S. Secretary of Labor. In 1997 she attended the swearing-in ceremony Two years after Leavell introduced the NNPA Newsmaker Award, an award waters is a past winner.
An active member at Holy Name of Mary Church in Chicago, Leavell is currently working on her memoir.
The Chicago and Gary Crusader is published every Thursday and can be found online at www.chicagocrusader.com.