WASHINGTON — On the 184th birthday of the Black Press, March 16, an odd debacle is underway. The NAACP, the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization, is under fire from Black newspapers around the country over an issue of economic injustice.

NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous admits that “a grave mistake was made” right under his nose when advertising inserts were placed only in White newspapers on the eve of the organization’s annual image awards, which aired March 4. Danny Bakewell, chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), a federation of more than 200 Black-owned newspapers, is demanding justice.

“If the NAACP desires to advertise with the White press, they need to understand and experience the repercussions of going outside of their ‘house’ (The Black Press). The NAACP needs to know that by ignoring the Black Press they are ‘cutting off their nose to spite their face,’” Bakewell said in a March 7 letter to NNPA publishers, obtained by the Trice Edney News Wire. “We have marched side by side with them and been their voice in the African American community. It is truly disheartening to be on the battlefield with someone and not be able to share in the spoils.”

In his first public response to the issue, Jealous released a statement on Sunday after he was contacted by the Trice Edney News Wire.

“This year’s NAACP annual Image Awards television show was a great success,” he wrote in the statement. “However, on the eve of the show, a grave mistake was made: circulars that were supposed to appear in both the mainstream press and Black community newspapers only appeared in the mainstream press.”