The time has come for James Middlebrooks, the man who founded The Community Press eight years ago, to put down a paper he poured his heart into. Middlebrooks says it’s time for another chapter in life.
It is the end of an era for the ‘little paper with big news.’ Memories flooded in for Middlebrooks shortly after saying goodbye to one of his most prized possessions: The Community Press.
“So, after eight years, it’s my time to put that down,” said Middlebrooks.
Middlebrooks started the newspaper to fill a void in the black community of Dunbar. He wanted to share stories that inspired and motivated his small town.
“It’s everything positive. It actually shows the spirit of excellence, which is something we all are continuing to strive for,” said Crystal Johnson, a community advocate in Dunbar.
Johnson considered the newspaper a beacon of light and credits Middlebrooks for the positive impact it had. “It is something that will never be forgotten. It is something that will always be talked about, and it will be greatly missed.”
“I am the kind of person, I love a challenge. If you can do it, I can do it,” Middlebrooks said.
Do it, he did. Middlebrooks spent much of his life teaching in Lee, Charlotte, and Collier counties. He became the principal of Riverdale High School, and later, a professor. On top of all that, he’s always worked hard to keep his faith alive.
“On Saturday, my wife and I do what we want to do. On Sundays, I’m at church,” said Middlebrooks.
Dunbar is filled with churches, nonprofits, and influential figures. Middlebrooks highlighted the people and places in The Community Press.
Eventually, the paper was delivered to more than 70 locations across Southwest Florida.
“Good things happen here, so it’s always nice to have someone shining a light on that,” said Johnson.
Black newspapers have been around since before the Civil War. They brought attention to racial inequality when other publications didn’t. Today, there is only a handful left in Florida.
“My ask is this; if there’s anyone in this area looking to start a paper and is willing to do the work of being sociable and welcoming and friendly, and just well rounded, come see us. Think about The Community Press continuing on, and I believe you’ll get a lot of support,” Johnson said.
Middlebrooks feels the same way and hopes somebody steps in to keep the paper going for another eight years.
In the meantime, he’s gearing up for another chapter in life. “That’s me, so I go to another era in my life,” said Middlebrooks.
That new chapter includes helping to build houses and traveling the world.