Capehart ’85 Speaks to Alumni and Patrons at Newark Public Library

Pulitzer Prize-winning alumnus speaks about “White Balance: Distortion of Black Images on Television.”


Didier Jean-Baptiste

Jonathan Capehart ’85 speaks to the audience of students, community members, and patrons assembled at the Newark Public Library on Saturday, Feb. 6.

Mahishan Gnanaseharan, Editor In Chief

Jonathan Capehart ‘85, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and member of the Washington Post Editorial Board, returned to his hometown on Saturday, Feb. 6 as keynote speaker at the Newark Public Library’s Black History Celebration.

Drawing on his experiences as an advocate, journalist, and an African-American, Mr. Capehart spoke about “White Balance: Distortion of Black Images on Television.” He was warmly received by Mayor Ras Baraka and members of the City Council, who issued proclamations honoring this “native son” and his accomplishments.

Guest producer Celeste Bateman invited Mr. Capehart to the library as part of the its annual celebration of African-American history. The St. Benedict’s Prep Advancement Office sponsored a reception prior to Mr. Capehart’s speech where alumni, students and friends of the school met with him separately.

“It was fantastic to speak to such a successful alumnus and learn about his career,” senior Rui DeOliveira said.

Mr. Capehart’s appearance coincided with the celebration of Newark’s 350th anniversary. John W. Johnson Jr., Ph.D. ‘93, Executive Director of Newark Celebration 350, introduced Mr. Capehart at the beginning of the event. “

Prior to Mr. Capehart’s speech, event organizers showed a video, produced by Brave New Films, addressing media biases in coverage of black “riots” and white “protests”. The video highlighted one of Mr. Capehart’s major speaking points.

“As a journalist, I can recognize that media definitely feeds negative impressions of African-Americans,” he said.

He also referenced highly publicized African- American deaths, including that of Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, and Walter Scott, and the controversies that surrounded their fateful encounters with law enforcement officials.

“[Incidents like] this have been going on for years, but they’re coming to light now because of mobile video,” he said.

Mr. Capehart also noted that the notoriety of these incidents have exposed white Americans to the “talk” that many African-American parents have been giving their children “for decades.”

“I’ve spoken to many parents who have asked – ‘What do I say to my children when they are doing nothing wrong but are still scared of the very [officials] who are charged with protecting them?’” Mr. Capehart added.

He concluded by emphasizing the importance of electing officials who can change the media’s tone around African-American issues. “Elections are increasingly won on the black and brown vote, and conversations about the black and brown population are affected by these elections,” he said. “…that was a long way of saying, get out and vote!”