Since February 2007, I’ve spent nearly every Saturday from 11am to noon serving as the lead host of the Saturday Morning Solutions Show.
If you do the math, you’ll notice that I’ve joined my co-hosts Gail Strange and Rev. Clay Calloway in using approximately 520 hours of radio airtime to help our primarily African-American listening audience learn how to “talk-the-talk and walk-the-walk” to improve their communities.
Unbeknownst to many, my decade of on-air “solutions” work has been a labor of love that I’ve offered as a non-paid community service. That means, there has been no paycheck associated with my 10 years of research, writing, producing, planning, on-air interviews or advocacy campaigns, which were all intended to make life better for many of the nation’s underserved and underappreciated populations. Nevertheless, I contend that I’m richer for having had the experience.
I’m especially richer in knowledge about my beloved African-American community and the problems it must solve in order to overcome a beleaguered quest for full equality.
My decade of on-air encounters with victims, activists, critics, politicians, business leaders, medical doctors, ministers, public education administrators, artists, authors and even some crafty saboteurs has provided me with perspective-changing insights that evaded me 10 years ago.
Therefore, in the spirit of Black History Month and before I bring an end to my 10-year tenure as the lead host of the Saturday Morning Solutions Show on Feb. 11, I offer this list of The Top Five Things I’ve Learned as a Black Radio Host as my last “solution” contribution.
Here’s what I have learned:
My willingness to challenge popular thinking on the Saturday Morning Solutions Show for the last 10 years has produced some expected and unexpected attacks from private citizens, organizations and politicians whose very existence would be upended if I succeeded in convincing African Americans to embrace some alternative approaches to solving their problems.
Surprisingly, the greatest attacks I experienced were from the very people I attempted to help. Their commitment to an irresponsible form of groupthinking caused them to vehemently reject any new notion that solutions to their old problems could be found in people, institutions or political parties that didn’t fit their well-established stereotypes of what a “solution” should look like.
The danger with such stubborn stances is that it boxes African Americans into unhealthy leadership trends, political parties and rigid ideologies that suggest there is only one way to skin a cat.
What’s worse, is that the mean-spirited and often very public attacks from those who subscribe to popular group-thinking philosophies have a tendency to cause well-meaning people with alternative ideas to withdraw their perspectives and resources from venues designed to improve the African-American experience. And who can blame them? What person in their right mind would welcome a vicious attack from the proverbial firing squad of the self-proclaimed defenders of Black righteousness?
My experience has shown me that more and more people who find themselves in this scenario are opting to abandon almost every opportunity to engage in very necessary forms of public discourse regarding African-American issues.
Unfortunately, that only helps to create a vacuum of close-minded ideas that sadly have produced very little for African Americans in the last 50 years.
Using a popular talk-radio show to address issues that are important to African Americans naturally attracts a variety of advocates who often have specific agendas they hope to advance.
When my co-hosts and I leverage the radio show to discuss new frightening levels of violence in the community, we unsurprisingly draw the attention of many grassroots inner-city residents who dial-in to share their solutions and concerns about a problem that plagues their specific neighborhoods. Our audience changes and becomes much more sophisticated, however, when we take on more highbrow topics like economic development, wealth creation and legislative policies.
After 10 years of toggling back and forth between many of these types of isolated on-air topics, it has become very clear to me that the notion of a singular African-American agenda is as real as the Loch Ness Monster.
In 2017, African Americans are probably more divided in their political and social thinking than ever before.
Some African Americans still believe political engagement is the way to a better future. Others have such apathy for the political process that they have abandoned voting booths in pursuit of cooperative economic strategies in order to gain their piece of the American pie.
In many cases, African Americans are now divided by class – mostly because middle-class African Americans not only have moved away from the neighborhoods where poor Black people still live, they also seem to have abandoned agendas that are primarily relevant in the ghetto.
Not to be outdone by class issues, some Blacks who live next door to one another in rented inner city homes or others who share the same plush zip codes in suburban neighborhoods are learning more often that it’s not their socioeconomic status that separates them. Instead, it’s political affiliations that create their divide.
While not nearly as vocal as their liberal counterparts, there is a growing population of politically independent or conservative African Americans who have freed themselves from the longstanding grip of the Democratic Party and now seek solutions for their priorities elsewhere. And because they are greatly misunderstood and often maligned by Black traditionalists, an increasingly antagonistic relationship is developing between these two groups that is worthy of cautious observation.
Sadly, the deepening chasms between certain African-American populations often go unnoticed among people who rely on media outlets that use the same familiar talking heads to serve as the voices for all black people. The truth is, African American agendas have become so splintered that it is now a lazy insult for media outlets to force-feed audiences the belief that one spokesperson could speak for us all. Nevertheless, the burgeoning ideologies of African Americans are rarely fairly represented in mainstream discourses. Instead, they mostly remain relegated to intimate, private forums.
Despite a long history of evidence to the contrary, there still remains a frightening percentage of African Americans who believe that some altruistic government agency, non-profit organization or corporate entity is planning to send in a special cavalry to rescue them from the social, emotional and economic hardships that have become mainstays in too many of their communities.
Unfortunately, wishfully relying on an outside savior has stagnated African-American progress by failing to turn inward for the solutions it seeks.
Far too often, the listeners who have called into the Saturday Morning Solutions Show hoping to find solutions to their problems have placed a higher priority on pressuring the government and businesses to do right by them than instead of doing right by themselves.
They regularly underestimate the intellectual capacities, resources and political power that exists among the people in their own backyards.
In fact, the greatest observation I’ve made in the last 10 years of hosting the Saturday Morning Solutions Show is that African Americans habitually fail to realize just how capable they are to solve their own problems. Overlooking their collective power to sway political elections and influence investment trends are some of the most crippling shortcomings that continue to keep African Americans dependent on others to make life better for themselves.
If there is a race of people who knows what it feels like to struggle, it’s African Americans. Enduring slavery, Jim Crow, voter suppression, redlining and institutional forms of racism has produced in many African Americans a seething intolerance for injustice.
But many of the battles against injustice that African Americans fight in 2017 aren’t necessarily their own.
The hypersensitive reactions that Blacks have to inequality, discrimination and any other forms of unfairness are more commonly resulting in protests that leverage African-American voices, money and strategies. They don’t, however, yield results that help alleviate African American suffering.
It appears for the sake of embracing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s philosophy that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, African Americans have developed a willingness to forsake their own best interests for the best interests of others.
Instead of holding fast to a “Black agenda” that prioritizes the needs of the Black community, many African Americans seem more willing today to embrace “melting pot agendas” that are designed to advance communities other than their own.
For example, when the refugee community issued a national distress call after President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order to temporarily halt travel into America for certain immigrants, many African Americans immediately joined the chorus of protesters to declare the policy unjust and demand that it be reversed.
The protests ultimately inspired the CEO of Starbucks to make a public commitment to hire 10,000 refugees as a show of support for their fight. Ironically, many of the African Americans who protested the refugee policy live in communities where the unemployment rate among people who look like them is astronomical – usually at least twice as high as their white counterparts. Which means their protest of a refugee policy is partially responsible for ensuring that a minimum of 10,000 African Americans are denied access to jobs that many of them desperately need.
Needless to say, this growing trend of Black activists who seem to function as rebels in search of a cause has created some confusing blurred lines for people expecting them to always operate in the best interest of the African-American community.
In 1968, when many African Americans were enduring humiliating racial cruelties, James Brown – the Godfather of Soul – released a song that helped fundamentally change how Black people talked and felt about themselves. His record “I’m Black and I’m Proud” infused an overt sense of self-worth in African Americans that made them walk with their heads held high, unapologetically celebrate their culture and vehemently reject any notion that they should be treated as second-class citizens.
Fast forward to 2017 and my 10 years of experience in using the Saturday Morning Solutions Show as a platform to discuss the many social and emotional issues that still confront African Americans has taught me that a strong and peculiar sense of James-Brown-like pride continues to permeate the hearts of the nation’s most consistently challenged demographic.
The irony that one of the nation’s most historically underprivileged populations maintains an almost unwavering sense of pride in themselves and their communities is a perplexing juxtaposition that is often difficult to reconcile for those who are on the outside looking in.
Nevertheless, it’s that audacious sense of pride that usually undergirds the commitment many Black people have to help advance perennially-troubled inner-city communities regardless if they live in them or not. It’s what causes droves of Black audiences to flock to theaters to watch heroic underdog movies like Hidden Figures. And despite the disheartening infighting that often occurs inside the Black community, it’s that unfailing sense of pride that causes them to unite when any outside forces violate their collective sense of self-worth.
In my 10 years of hosting the Saturday Morning Solutions Show, I don’t believe I’ve ever had an exchange with an African-American adult who couldn’t articulate (in their own unique way) how frustrating and challenging it can sometimes be to walk in their shoes as a member of this nation’s most oppressed minority group. That notwithstanding, I’ve personally never met an African American who wanted to wake up in the morning and be anything other than Black.
If you can’t tell by now, I have an affinity for Black people and talk radio.
They both have been very good to me. As a result, they both hold a special place in my heart.
And after 10 years of being the host of a Black talk show, I have a unique appreciation for how radio can be used to enlighten, encourage and empower the African-American community. That alone, is enough to predict that I’m going to miss my microphone and live audience every Saturday morning.
But although I’m using my tenth-year anniversary on February 11 to say goodbye to a loyal group of longtime listeners, don’t expect me to fade away into the night.
Make no mistake about it: Just because I won’t be on the air after February 11 doesn’t mean that I will stop seeking an empowerment revolution for African Americans. It just may mean that the revolution won’t be broadcasted.