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The Arizona Informant celebrates 50 years of recording Black history

Posted at 6:25 AM, Jul 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-09 09:29:06-04

Recording history through the eyes of the Black community, the Arizona Informant Newspaper is celebrating 50 years in the Valley.

For the newspaper's publisher, Cloves Campbell, it's been both a passion and labor of love throughout the years.

His father, Cloves Campbell Sr., purchased the Arizona Informant Newspaper back in 1970 for just $1.

The paper, at the time, was little more than just a name.

"They started publishing in 1971," Campbell said. "It was my dad, my uncle, a friend named Walter Pyle, and a van," he said.

In the beginning, the paper served as a platform for Campbell Sr. who served 10 years in the Arizona State Legislature and was the first Black State senator in Arizona History.

"It was a chance for him to get his bills and issues talked about in the paper, and at the same time, record some Black history," Campbell said.

Campbell has fond memories of helping his father and uncle deliver papers in the early days, even the rites of passage that came along with it.

"My dad would take me out with him and do paper routes and he said, 'Ok, we are going to start at this street today.' I get out there and he saw this dog sitting there and he knew that dog was going to get me, so he sits in the car and watches me walk up to the house and take a handful of papers and drop them off. Then I look back and the dog starts coming after me. I threw all the papers up in the air, he's sitting in the car cracking up laughing and I dive through the window of the car to keep the dog from getting me, so that was part of our distribution at the time," Campbell said with a smile.

As the Black community expanded outside just South Phoenix over the years, the paper expanded with it, Campbell said.

The Arizona Informant joined a network of other Black newspapers across the country called the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

"From that group, we learned to do more with our publication and become a better publication as well," he said.

The defining moment for the Arizona Informant came in the mid-1980s Campbell said, as the Black community fought hard to get the State of Arizona to officially recognize the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday.

"That was one of the issues that really put us on the map because our publication and the NNPA publications started the boycott in Arizona back then," he said.

The paper's actions led prominent celebrities to also boycott and not perform in Arizona. The constant pressure eventually led the National Football League to cancel the Super Bowl scheduled to be played in Arizona in 1993. That's when the state finally gave in and put the issue on the ballot and Arizona voters passed a measure to officially recognize the holiday.

"We've done everything we can to be that record keeper for Black history here in Arizona."

Over the next few decades, Campbell watched as the newspaper industry as a whole began to implode and the age of social media took over.

But instead of fighting it, he says they pretty much stayed the course.

"Sure, we have a Facebook page," Campbell said, but there's just something about ink on paper.

"What we've found out is that a lot of people have never seen themselves in print, so when you put their picture in the paper, they go crazy. They come by and pick up 100 or 200 copies sometimes."

Resilient, like the nature of its readers, the Arizona Informant continues to thrive.

"So 50 years means that we're gonna look forward to 50 more years of recording Black history here in Arizona."

Campbell followed in the footsteps of his father, serving four years in the Arizona House.

He and his wife also help run the Black Rodeo.

But Campbell says the paper continues to be his passion. They currently have some 15,000 subscribers.