Florida and the world lost an African-American media icon recently when Isiah “Ike” Williams, publisher of the Jacksonville Advocate and The Northeast Florida Advocate, took his final journey to the newspaper in the sky!
Ike died Nov. 25 in a Jacksonville nursing home. He was 78, and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease six years ago.
Ike was one of my very best friends. He, Charles Cherry (The Florida Courier), Garth Reeves (The Miami Times), Les Humphrey (Pensacola Voice), Cleve Johnson (Weekly Challenger in St. Petersburg), Levi Henry (The Westside Gazette) and other black media owners welcomed me to the state of Florida with open arms.
When lobbyists and politicians shunned me and demanded that I discontinue my Gantt Report newsletter, and stop writing columns in The Tallahassee Democrat, Florida’s major black newspaper owners all said, “To hell with them, we will publish your columns in our newspapers.”
I love them all. I thank them for their life-long support, and history has proven that a presence in black-owned newspapers can make you just as visible and well known as any white newspaper can.
But Ike and I had something special. Ike and I had something unique.
The bond between Ike Williams and Lucius Gantt was formed and solidified when we discovered we were both supporters and advocates of black nationalism.
Now before you rush to the phone and call the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, let me tell you that black nationalism has nothing to do with militancy or terrorism. If you believe in black nationalism, it only means that you believe the economic, political, social, educational and other pertinent institutions in America’s and the world’s black communities should be controlled by black people.
Black nationalists detest the idea that anybody and everybody can open up high-priced stores that sell high-priced, inferior and unhealthy products in black communities to black people, and run to the suburbs with all the money.
Yes, Ike Williams took me under his wing. Ike took me around the country with him, and when he couldn’t afford a plane ticket and hotel room, he asked my media mama and his lovely wife, Marilyn, to foot the travel bill. I thank Mama Marilyn and love her for that.
One of the things I loved most about Ike was the fact that he was never scared! As mild-mannered as Ike Williams was and appeared to be, he was a real black warrior who provided legal advice and assistance to people such as Malcolm X and The Black Panther Party.
Ike stood up and spoke out for America’s workers, and organized several labor groups and labor unions.
Ike Williams gave and gave and gave to everybody and every cause to which he could give.
It was Ike Williams who nominated me to succeed him as president of The Southeast Black Publishers Association, which at the time was the largest statewide group of black media owners in the United States.
That move was historic because I was only the second person to preside over a black newspaper group when I didn’t even own a newspaper.
You see, back in the day just as today, many black media owners hate each other. Some big city media owners don’t like small media owners. Urban owners might not get along with rural media owners. Elderly owners don’t work too well with younger owners who inherited papers from their parents, and cities with multiple black newspapers constantly bicker with publishers in their own cities and counties.
But Ike loved them all and got along with all except for one recalcitrant newspaper publisher that Ike himself put in the newspaper business.
I love you Ike and I already miss you. The spirit of Ike Williams will live on in Lucius Gantt. If you're up there in the place Yorubas calls “The Land of Plenty,” reading this column, I want you to know, Ike, that you worked magic at your home going service last week.
Your good friend and mine, Dale Shaw, publisher of the South Georgia Journal, and I are planning a huge announcement that will send shock waves throughout America’s black media community. Whatever this proposed huge announcement is, it’s Ike Williams’ fault!
Rest in Peace, brother Ike. I promise you the struggle will continue!
Lucius Gantt is a political consultant based in Tallahassee. He is also the founder of All World Consultants and author of the book, Beast Too: Dead Man Writing. Contact him at www.allworldconsultants.net or call 850-222-3475. You can also find him on Facebook.