By Zoie Lambert
In late 2022, the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists disassociated from the national organization due to an audit that required emails. The leaders of the two organizations view the split differently.
Ernest Owens, president of PABJ, said he believed he was forced out of the organization.
“We were pretty much being coerced into doing something that was not in alignment with our 501(c)(3) status and what our members wanted,” Owens said.
Dorothy Tucker, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, said PABJ made the decision to leave the organization.
“The way I looked at it is that, according to our rules, if you don’t complete the audit, then you are not in compliance. That does not mean you are not part of the organization,” said Tucker.
Initially the two leaders were going to work through their problems, according to Owens, but that changed. Emails were now required.
“They pulled a 180, changed what they said, reneged on an agreement and then basically forced us into a situation where we cannot say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. And as a president, I was not going to renege on my members’ desires,” Owens said.
Tucker said she is not responsible for this decision but the membership committee is.
“It was not me who determined that this was a requirement that should be met. It was the membership committee who looked at the rules that we’ve had, looked at all the chapters and decided this is what we need for verification,” Tucker said.
Some NABJ members are disappointed about the split.
”I’m not happy about it. Many of us worked to grow the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. It was an organization in many ways that was the founder of the National Association of Black Journalists. And I would prefer we work through our differences,” said Michael Days, former president of PABJ.
Condace Presseley, a former NABJ president, said she believed both organizations are at fault.
“At the end of the day, NABJ is a group of communicators and PABJ is a group of communicators. What I feel here is a failure of communication,” Pressley said.
The two organizations have been split for almost nine months and a possible reconciliation is up in the air.
Owens said anything is possible as a new NABJ board is being elected. Tucker simply said she hopes reconciliation will happen.