2011 NABJ speech

Acel Moore speaks at the National Association of Journalists "Salute to Excellence" gala.

 

On Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011, the National Association of Black Journalists presented Acel Moore with its Lifetime Achievement Award. Here is his acceptance speech:

“Good evening … As many of you know, I am fond of pointing out that there are only two kinds of people in the world: those who are from Philadelphia – and those who wish they were.

Since you are all here in Philly tonight – that makes you honorary citizens – my homeys. And I am very proud to have you visit the city I love.

Most of you are also members of the organization I love: NABJ.

Tonight I am struck by how far we’ve come since 1975, when 44 of us gathered in Washington DC, fired by the idea that coming together as black folks committed to journalism might enable us to support each other in our work, and also to better serve our communities and our profession.

Back then, there were fewer than 100 black journalists at the 1,800 daily newspapers in this nation. That 2,500 people are attending this convention is surely a sign of progress. That so many young people aspire to the profession – even in these tough times – testifies to both the importance of journalism to democracy and the passion of our children to continue what my dear friend and NABJ founder the late Reggie Bryant called “the pursuit of truth.”

As we have seen this week, the truth is that the struggle continues: the sour economy continues to hurt most those who have least. The news media have been “in transition” as well – a process that has cost hundreds of jobs and cut short many careers. The NABJ Job Fair is busy. But I know you who are facing change will carry on: embracing opportunities that arise out of crisis.

Looking back over my life in journalism,I have been blessed with many opportunities: 43 years in one newsroom – is rare and virtually unheard of today.

My earliest days at the Inquirer were no picnic: if I’d done what was expected back in 1962 when the rewrite guys yelled “Copy!” or called the other copy boys by name – but chose to call me and other young black men by shouting “Boy!” we might be talking about the 43-day career of Acel Moore. I stood my ground by not answering to what was not my name – and took the fellow aside who yelled “Boy” loudest and most frequently. I told him, quietly and privately, that calling a black man boy was a classic, racist insult and if he said it again that night, I would meet him after work and we could discuss it outside. When he sobered up, and thought about what I said, the behavior stopped. Before too long, he was telling his colleagues to watch themselves as well.”

In my life, as in the life of NABJ as an organization, struggle has always preceded progress: you have push – sometimes push a boulder uphill – to get where you want to go.

I certainly know that feeling, as I work to regain mobility in physical therapy several times a week. It is a difficult … slow and painful challenge. An uphill battle. But it is a challenge not unlike the challenge facing us as journalists in the 21st century: to look at the world as it is with clear eyes – and then to be strong and determined to uphold and build on the best traditions of our craft in this digital age, with its 24-hour news cycle and demands for more and faster information and analysis.

I am deeply, profoundly thankful for the honor you have bestowed on me tonight. (My wife will tell you I have almost jumped out of this chair multiple times in anticipation of this event!) I want to thank …

– God for His grace and guidance

– My family for their support and love

– My fellow Founders for their friendship and dedication to our professional goals and dreams; and

– All of you – the National Association of Black Journalists: this vibrant and dynamic and wonderful organization of friends and colleagues.

As three Philadelphia girls said it best in song: We are family!

And I am grateful to be here, to feel your love … to be at home.

Thank you.

 

 

 

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