It isn’t an ordinary day when someone gets nominated for an NAACP Image Award.
And, it certainly isn’t an ordinary day when renowned journalist Roland Martin is the one texting the nominee and alerting them of the honor.
That’s why Tuesday, Feb. 19, wasn’t an ordinary day – at least not for Dr. Sheila Brooks, the Emmy Award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who has dedicated a large part of her professional life to advocating for minorities, women, diversity issues and small businesses.
Dr. Brooks, the founder, president and CEO of SRB Communications, a full service Washington, D.C.-based advertising and marketing agency, has earned an Image Award nomination in Outstanding Literary Work as one of the authors (along with Clint C. Wilson) of the new book, “Lucile H. Bluford and the Kansas City Call: Activist Voice for Social Justice.”
Dr. Brooks will walk the Red Carpet on Saturday, March 30, in Los Angeles where she’ll find out if her nomination turns into a win at the 50th NAACP Image Awards.
“I’ve known [Martin] since he was 19 and he texted me and said, ‘Congratulations on your NAACP Image Award nomination,’ and I just screamed,” Dr. Brooks recalled.
Still stunned, she texted Martin back and he replied by sending her “the whole nomination and the book cover that’s been announced.”
“I said, ‘I guess I’m going to Los Angeles and walk the red carpet,” Dr. Brooks said.
Her new book discusses the life and pioneering work of Lucile H. Bluford, an activist, editor and publisher of the Kansas City Call during the civil rights and women’s rights movements.
“It traces the beginnings of her activism as a young reporter seeking admission to the graduate program in journalism at the University of Missouri in Columbia, and it details how that battle became the catalyst for her seven-decade career as a champion of racial and gender equality,” Dr. Brooks said.
Buford had already enjoyed a successful career at The Call and historians said she didn’t need further training. However, she saw an opportunity to challenge segregation in public universities.
Though the University of Missouri’s journalism program accepted Miss Bluford based on mailed transcripts, when she showed up to enroll officials saw she was black and denied her entrance.
“She fought the case and it went to the state Supreme Court 11 times and she finally won, but she never did attend the school because it closed, and 50 years later she received an honorary degree,” Dr. Brooks said.
The story has added significance for Dr. Brooks because she grew up in Kansas City.
“The Kansas City Call is the weekly black newspaper in my hometown and I used to play in front of the building,” Dr. Brooks said. “I was very familiar with [Bluford] but not as familiar until I took a deep dive into research,” she said.
The makings of the book began as Dr. Brooks took night courses at Howard University.
She said her plans were to write about a modern day media company owner and decided that most of those stories were already being told. So, she began looking at historical figures where she focused on three individuals in particular:
Mildred Brown of the Omaha Star, Charlotta Bass of the California Eagle and Bluford.
“I decided it was important to talk about Bluford,” Dr. Bass said. “I took a selection of her writings that appeared in the Kansas City Call over a 15-year period and I examined those articles so I could analyze how she articulated a Black feminist viewpoint in her commentary, looking at it from the perspective of women’s rights and civil rights.”
Dr. Brooks ultimately discovered that Bluford used her social authority in the formidable power base of the media she owned to shape and mobilize a broader movement in the struggle for women’s and civil rights.
“She masked her black feminism with a unique angle of vision as it relates to oppression, race, gender and class,” Dr. Brooks said. “Bluford used her voice to break down the barriers of inequity and injustice against both women and Blacks, especially in news coverage that the mainstream news ignored.”