An Interview With Roland Martin

by Nanette Massey

Journalist Roland Martin will be in Buffalo on Tuesday, February 27, to help the Afro-American Society of Canisius College celebrate their 50th anniversary, serving as their keynote speaker. The program begins at 8:00 at the Montante Cultural Center, 2001 Main Street. Until this past December, Martin was most visible as the managing editor and host of the weekday morning news program News One Now on the TV One cable network. He spent years as a contributing pundit with CNN, most notably during the 2008 presidential election cycle.

He has served as political analyst for the Tom Joyner Morning Show radio program, been awarded Journalist Of The Year by the National Association of Black Journalists, and has authored and contributed to a long list of top selling books. He is also the former founding editor of BlackAmericaWeb.com.

In the morning, Martin is slated to address a group of six hundred middle and high school students during an empowerment summit held at Zion Dominion Global Ministries in Amherst. When it comes to kids, Martin cautions it is not enough to just teach “racism is bad” and think we’ve done our job. “Kids are not innocent bystanders in what is happening in this country. If we shield them from [conversations about race] we do them a great disservice.”

Right after the election of President Trump, there were reports of school children taunting others with rhetoric about going back to their own country. “Peers need to be in a position to check their peers when incidences like that occur. We need to give them tools and authority to be able to respond as early as seventh grade to say ‘hey, that’s not right.'” Kids with predisposed ideas grow up to be adults and bring those ideas with them. It is important to begin engaging young people and challenging them to think critically. “If they are aware, they’re going to make different decisions when they become eighteen and twenty.”
Martin says he’ll call on kids to look at the “silos” of sources of information they may be keeping themselves contained in, and ways that they may self-segregate. “What are they reading? Who are they inviting over for dinner? Are they largely having lunch with only people that look like them and think like them?” These are good places, Martin suggests, for young people to begin.

As a public figure during Black History Month, Martin will use his evening talk to encourage people, Black and White, “to push beyond existing boundaries in their lives relative to history and race.” He recalls an episode from his college days when a White kid inquired of him “the names on the back of your jacket, are those people I should know?”

Looking back, Martin says “I appreciated that. He was thinking to obviously have these individuals’ names on the back of my fraternity jacket must say something”, and Martin was happy to use this as a teachable moment and an opportunity for two individuals to branch outside of their respective circles.

“Black history is American history. I want folks to stop thinking in terms of 28 days and ask themselves what are things I don’t know?”, hoping to encourage us to make active searches and explorations year round. While pondering the influence of Blacks (or lack thereof) in today’s news media, Martin unloads a bullet. “All these Black voices appearing across all of these networks during Obama’s eight years, how about they all disappeared when he left office. Ask yourself why? The question is did White t.v. executives only have them there because they were Black? If they truly valued their opinions, then why would you not value their opinions now that Trump is in office?

That’s one of those things that if you’re not paying attention you might miss.” Look for his upcoming interview on TV One with Xernona Clayton, who served as the confidante and media gatekeeper to Coretta Scott King after her husband’s historic 1968 assassination. One of the fascinating stories told to Martin involves Clayton “climbing into Dr. King’s casket herself to reapply makeup to his face and neck because the funeral home did such an awful job.”

Back here in Buffalo, doors open at 7:30 for the evening presentation at Canisius College. Parking is challenging, all are advised to plan accordingly.

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