This one hurts me a lot. Tell Me More, a radio show hosted by Michel Martin and broadcast on NPR, had its mic permanently turned off last Friday, August 1st.
Tell Me More was unique in that not only was it a show that centered around the stories and experiences of people of color, but it was hosted by a black woman. Because of this, the show was more keen on topics of particular interests to people that are often ignored or forgotten about by mainstream audiences. Sadly, this unique outlet was lost to something all too common within the radio industry these days: budget cuts.
Radio has been fighting a bit of an uphill battle for awhile now, with public radio increasingly facing the pressure of cutting back. While Michel Martin will keep her job at NPR, the same can’t be said for the rest of her staff. Where they go from here is anyone’s guess.
If there are any positives in this, it’s that media is changing and there more outlets than ever to hear previously disenfranchised voices tell their varied stories. TWIB (This Week In Blackness) hosted by Elon James White, is one such show; there’s also 2 Brown Girls, His & Hers, which features ESPN personalities Michael Smith and Jemele Hill; and finally, there’s 2 Guys 1 Show, hosted by Rich Jones and Wisdom Is Misery. So there are still diverse opinions/voices out there, just not on NPR. Where traditional media may be losing out on voices of color, social media and podcasts have begun to fill a void. Don’t let anyone silence your story.
America lost perhaps its most famous child star in cinematic history when Shirley Temple Black passed away last week. Shirley Temple rose to fame in the 1930s at the height of the Great Depression and entertained audiences with her charm and smile. But it was her relationship with Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson that was unique to not only Hollywood, but America at that time as well.
Bill Robinson, better known by his stage name of ‘Bojangles,’ was a well known tap dancer in the early 20th Century. He played before white and black audiences alike, while making a living literally on his feet. When he first began working with Shirley Temple, ‘Bojangles’ was already in his 50s and had been a legendary tap dancer at that point. The pairing between ‘Bojangles’ and Shirley Temple would not be without its critics however.
Though ‘Bojangles’ and Shirley Temple shined well together on the big screen, their roles were anything but equal. ‘Bojangles’ — true to the form of how Hollywood viewed blacks at the time — often got stuck playing Shirley Temple’s butler. His singing and dancing may invoke some unkind parallels to the stereotypical roles another famous black actor at the time, Stepin’ Fetchit, had to play, but it’s worth remembering that these guys were at least getting work. In 2001, Gregory Hines would go on to portray ‘Bojangles’ in a movie by the same name. Below is the famous stairwell dance scene between Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson and Shirley Temple. R.I.P. to both.
This past week was a big anniversary when it came to the fight for justice here in the United States. For it was 50 years ago on August 28, 1963, that the Civil Rights March on Washington took place.
Photo from Hulton Archive
The March on Washington represented a crescendo in the movement for racial equality in America. It wasn’t just that people were marching either. They were voicing their opinions, participating in sit-ins and boycotts, being beaten and even killed for challenging the law of the land in which they were not merely seen as unequal, but forever subjugated to a second class existence.
Martin Luther King typically gets most of the credit and acclaim when we look back on the March on Washington, but there were a bevy of people who also made the moment so special. People such as: Fannie Lou Hamer, Medgar Evers, Bayard Rustin, Dorothy Height, Rosa Parks, and countless other young people as well who took part in the movement. Their sacrifices are ultimately what lead the groundwork for the U.S. finally beginning to live up to its creed nearly 200 years after the signing of the Constitution. As great and symbolic as the March on Washington was in 1963, we can’t stop there. We must keep moving forward everyday.