Memorial services were being planned this week for Thomas Maurice Sengstacke Picou, a longtime businessman and black media executive who died here last week of a heart attack following a medical procedure. He was 76.
Picou was former president and chairman of Real Times, Inc., corporate owners of the Chicago Defender, the iconic newspaper whose attacks on racism and promotion of opportunities for blacks almost single-handedly fueled the Great Migration of southern blacks to northern cities from 1910 through the 1930s.
Picou also was the nephew of longtime Defender publisher John H. Sengstacke, who assumed the helm of the historic newspaper at age 28 and made his mark by establishing the Negro Newspaper Publisher’s Association – a federation of black newspapers - and converting the Defender from a weekly newspaper to a daily.
Sengstacke and his wife, Myrtle, raised Picou as their own son after Picou’s mother died in the 1950s. From that point on, Picou was a vital part of the Sengstacke and Chicago Defender families, longtime associates said.
During his long tenure at the Defender, Picou evolved into a hard-working, community-minded executive who had his foot planted firmly in the past but his eye focused sharply on the future, said longtime friend and associate David M. Milliner.
“Tom was that rare breed of journalist who honored the historic ‘service mission’ of the black press while still understanding its need to modernize and develop stronger business practices,” said Milliner, a Real Times board member. “He was, in that sense, a rare blend of activism and capitalism.”
Milliner said, however, that Picou was more interested in serving the black community than in making lots of money.
“He always focused more on mission and service than on profit and personal gain,” said Milliner, himself a former publisher of the Chicago Defender. “In my book, that makes him one of the most important black media executives of the last half of the 20th century.”
Picou was born in Los Angeles on Oct. 25, 1937, to Inez and Maurice Picou, who had moved to California from Louisiana. After moving to Chicago as a teenager to live with the Sengstackes, he began working for the Defender, where he assumed various jobs before taking on management responsibilities as an adult.
In 1984, Picou moved to south Florida where he was involved in several entrepreneurial ventures, including the purchase of the Tousley-Bixley construction firm in Indianapolis, best known for its construction of the Indianapolis 500 track. As chairman and CEO, Picou waged a drive to involve more minority sub-contractors in the state's lucrative construction industry.
From 1990 to 1999, Picou secured consulting contracts with publishing giant Gannett, the Times Mirror Group, and three other Sengstacke-owned newspapers.
After his uncle died in 1997, Picou returned to Chicago and began devising a plan to buy Sengstacke Enterprises. In 2003, he gained control of Sengstacke Enterprises and created Real Times Inc., the holding company that owns The Chicago Defender, The Michigan Chronicle in Detroit, The New Pittsburgh Courier, and the Tri-State Defender in Memphis.
He remained a major stockholder in the company until his death.
In 2005, Mr. Picou was honored by the American Diabetes Association and the Father’s Council as a Father of the Year. “Being a father is the most important aspect of my life, which makes this an honor I am extremely proud to receive,” he said at the time.
Picou served on the trustee boards at Chicago State College and Florida International University; served as an alternate on President Lyndon Johnson's initial National Alliance of Businessmen; and on numerous local and state quasi-government committees.
He also served as an honorary chair for the Red Cross, the NAACP's annual fundraising dinner and the Chicago Urban League's annual businessmen's luncheon. He was a member of the American Newspaper Publishers Association, The American Society of Newspaper Editors and The National Newspaper Publishers Association (formerly the Negro Newspaper Publishers Association.
Over the years, he enjoyed collecting gold coins and art, and was an avid sports enthusiast, with college basketball being his favorite spectator sport.
Picou is survived by his daughter, Tracey Picou of Little Rock, Ark.; his sister, Judith Picou Garrett of Los Angeles; his longtime companion, Loretta Walker; and by other beloved relatives, including his first cousin, Robert Sengstacke.
Memorial services are pending.
We're losing our young black men at an alarming rate. By sharing positive stories about black men nationwide; we are able to accentuate the positive in our communities as well as inform a world where ignorance and prejudice prevail, and help eliminate racism aimed at stifling the achievements and positivity deeply rooted within our communities. -Fred Willis
BMe Community, is a 3,000+ community of inspired black men leading positive change
Today, a national story-gathering campaign kicked off to acknowledge black men and boys as assets to society. BMe Community, a high-growth, mission-driven social enterprise is leading this campaign, and has set a goal of getting thousands of people to share stories about black males they know who help others.
Trabian Shorters, former vice president of communities for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and founder of BMe Community said, “We believe that black men and boys are assets to society. So, we are asking people to share the stories about the black men they know - the coach, the pastor, the neighbor, the co-worker or the friend who inspires in an everyday kind of way.”
Shorters believes such stories are plentiful if we stop to think about them. He quotes data from the U.S. Census, W.K. Kellogg Foundation studies and researchers such as Ivory Toldson showing that one quarter of all adult black males are military veterans; black people start businesses at a higher rate than other Americans, black Americans give 25% more of their income to charities than do white Americans, and that black males are nearly twice as likely to be in college as they are to be in prison.
“Patriotic, enterprising and generous is far more normal than the other views of black males. If we told that truth more often, America would be stronger for it,” says Shorters.
The Everyday Stories campaign will share remarkable facts and true stories from black leaders, influencers, millennials, change-makers and community builders as well as their friends and coworkers from all walks of life.
Individuals of any race and gender are invited to join the conversation by sharing their own story or taking a pledge to acknowledge the good that they see black males do. BMe Community already has over 3,000 first-person testimonials from inspiring and engaged black men who do their part every day to help build better communities.
Founding BMe board member and DonorsChoose.org CEO Charles Best said, “I’m involved with BMe because of its positive orientation and because the stories of these men, and men like Trabian are inspiring. It’s uplifting to share these stories.”
Some of the people who submit stories will be eligible later this year to become “BMe Leaders” and receive $10,000 to apply towards their community-building work. There are already 70 BMe Leaders total in Baltimore, Detroit and Philadelphia. In 2013 these men provided services to more than 65,000 neighbors on issues ranging from youth development to public health; stopping violence to helping former inmates; protecting the environment to community farming; and spurring entrepreneurship to improving financial literacy.
Headquartered in Miami, Florida, BMe operates in Baltimore, Detroit, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with plans to grow nationally. BMe is backed by leading foundations; including the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, and the Heinz Endowment.
BMe builds caring prosperous communities inspired by black men. We are a high-growth, mission-driven social enterprise developed and backed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in partnership with Open Society Foundations. We accomplish our mission by increasing public awareness of inspired black men, awarding grants to them, co-sponsoring events led by them and building a membership network of them and others of all races and sex.
Special thanks to Amanda Rodrigues-Smith and BMeCommunity.org for this special report
This is our blog. We like to keep you informed so come on, read all about it!
Like Us on facebook!
SoulProsper Media Group
News you can use is on tap when you read the SP Media Blog. This is your one stop destination for the gospel music news, press releases and other information. Don't be fooled, this information isn't everywhere, but it is HERE in the SoulProsper Media Group blog.
Examiner.comRead all of Fred's published gospel music articles here.