thumbnail of Direct Connection; 539
Hide -
This transcript was received from a third party and/or generated by a computer. Its accuracy has not been verified. If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+.
The direct connection is made by NPT to serve all of our diverse communities and is made possible by the generous support of our members. Thank you. Tonight the former NWC president and former congressman quite a scene from a live in our studio with your calls. From ome to your call you've made the direct connection with Jeff Zucker. Hi everybody thanks for tuning in for direct connection later in the program Nate Howard will take us inside the new Strathmore Music Hall But first tonight he was a local council member of Congress then became a national figure as chairman of the Black Caucus and president of the NWA sepi. What's next for quite a scene for May Mr. infamy as our guest in the studio tonight sir thank you for being with us. Well that's the first question because we see all these reports saying that you're interested in the U.S. Senate seat presently held by Paul Sarbanes. You've been in Congress. What's appealing about the U.S. Senate.
Well what's appealing to me is that I'm an a legislator I mean I served in the legislative branch obviously in the city council in the Congress. I like the idea of constructing laws I like the idea of trying to create laws that reflect the needs of the wants and desires of people in any given place and so because Marilyn is my own has always been my home. I've always had an attraction toward the Congress or United States. I gave up my seat there as you know after serving for 10 years to take on the job of trying to restore the NAACP in all the why. Left to do a five year stint it turned into nine years and I'm I think more than anything else prepared to just kind of recharge refocus spend time with my family and look around the state of Maryland and find what I can might be able to do in terms of public service so that election is more than a year and a half away. Senator Sarbanes hasn't given a public indication of what he's going to do when you run against him.
Well Paul Sarbanes is a dear friend of mine and he and his wife Christine Christine I've known for a very long time I think I've supported Paul over the last 30 years because I've always believed in him. I have not made any decision about whether or not I would run if he ran. My assumption was that if he chose not to run then clearly I would be very very interested in the seat. Not so much because it's a seat but because the chance to serve all over again and a chance here in Maryland to try at least in terms of public service to do more than I'm doing now. With Barack Obama's election in Illinois he becomes I think only the third African-American since Reconstruction to be elected to the U.S. Senate. Why so few. It's a good question and I'm glad you said reconstruction because shortly after emancipation through the year period of reconstruction in the 1870s and 80s there were two or three Hiram Revels was the first one I believe from the state of Louisiana and then two others. But then after 1900 we have to go all the way up to the nineteen sixties until Ed Brook is elected
from Massachusetts. After that we go from the 1960s up into the nineteen nineties when Carol Moseley Braun is elected from Illinois. And now Mr. Barack Obama coming in from Illinois so you've had three in this period since 1900 almost one hundred five years. I don't know. I think one of the reasons is you've got to run to get elected so people have to if they're in a particular state and they're interested try to find a way to put together campaigns that are good that speak to the issues that address the needs and concerns of people to become candidates if you're not a candidate it's not going to happen in one of the reasons. One of the things that's a fact is that there's been so few candidates for U.S. Senate who have happened have been African-American over the last 100 years. So you've got to get it in two. The mix as a candidate. The other thing I think is that the nation and to a large extent and states really have an incumbent mission to judge people not so much on the color of their skin but rather what they bring what they offer Do they speak to the issues and needs and
do they have something unique that qualifies them to represent them in the United States Senate. Some people have speculated that that unintended consequence of the Voting Rights Act and the way that's been enforced creating majority minority districts is a hindrance to people getting elected statewide. Not exactly sure how this works but if you have a district that is majority minority and you're an African-American politician you don't have much incentive to broaden your your base your appeal beyond that community and perhaps that is a hindrance to people running statewide you see it that way. And I mean in your case would that be an issue. Probably not in my case because I just I love people I love every part of the state. And you know if I ever became a candidate I'd be in every part of the state as I have been as a private citizen but it has served as a hindrance to some You're absolutely right that it's almost been a disincentive. The other thing that it is not that the Democratic Party argues about over and over again is that since 1990 there has been this compact ing and districts of a
usually larger numbers of racial minorities. So if the racial minority count is 70 percent of the district or 80 percent all the others who were quote white and Democrat have been moved out of that and sort of diluted around in other districts. And the argument is from from the Democratic Party is that it has decrease the ability of whites particularly progressives liberals and others to get elected and increase the ability of conservatives and quote minorities to get elected and so hence you see the Congressional Black Caucus growing over the last 10 years from about 22 people to 43. And you also see at the same time the number of ultra conservative members of the House and members of the Senate. Their numbers are going up as well. Let me remind our viewers you can join our discussion by calling the number on the screen or by sending an email through our website and at P.T. dot org. Wrong organization. Now for the moment and you are officially out of that position doing some consulting work as that's now
as of December thirty first I'm no longer with the NAACP. I've agreed to hang around and to be a consultant at least for the first six months of this year as long as they may need me now that I have a great amount of advice to give but if the phone rings out I'll be more than happy to give it. I want to ask about a couple of other topics the Bill Cosby has made some headlines and gotten a lot of press and stimulated a lot of discussion your thoughts on what he has had to say. Well I was there that night. It was the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Brown versus the Board of Education the legal decision in 1954 that did away with segregated schools in this country. And we were at. Constitution Hall Ruby DNI C. Davis were moderating bill came out toward the end to give comments and spoke about a number of things that he thought were wrong pathologies in the larger black community and problems that really had to be addressed. The weather was violence weather was poor parenting where there was this need to try to find a way in Caucasian young
people a sense of responsibility and values. Now the way he said it I think may have Grab some people in the wrong way or at least cause them to think that perhaps he was trying to put some someone down. That's not the case at all in fact I gave him a big hug when he came offstage I missed good and I still understand where Bill is coming from. The other thing is that this is a conversation that takes place every day in barber shops and beauty salons throughout the black community. This whole conversation about responsibility and self initiative because people feel very strongly about it but because it was Bill Cosby and the nation's number one dad I think it got more publicity than it would have gotten. More broadly on the state of civil rights in this country I read a quote by a former chairman of the Maryland State NAACP who said the NAACP is quiet the church is quiet where is the fight we used to have. Do you sense that at all. I don't sense it because just as that person is the head of a branch the NWC P.S. 700 branches nationwide it's really up to local branches to
articulate in their communities what the problems are what the issues are. And so if they're not doing that then there is silence and if they are doing that then there is not. And so throughout 700 communities you're going to find some branches that are very vocal and some that are kind of laid back. I would sense though that part of the real issue is that the she struggles for human rights human dignity and for fairness continues to morph as we go from one generation to another from one decade to another. And it requires I think anybody that's serious about fighting the wrongs of our society to be able to articulate at the level where their interest is. And that means being able to talk to young people on street corners or in prisons it means being able to go to campuses or to go into churches and to find groups of people who are trying to bring about change and talk about how you get it done. Out of that comes action and people have always rallied around action not rhetoric so I don't think that's the case I think it varies community to community. Let's take some phone calls for you. Dorothy in the line
on the line from Baltimore City. Dorothy thank you for calling go ahead. Yes that's quite easy if we accomplish the goal that we set out for him and the NAACP. Thanks for the call of the main thing was to it was to fix the finances. Yeah. The organization was hemorrhaging 10 years ago 11 years ago. It was in many respects like coal go it's own worst enemy. It had run up a significant debt and there were a number of creditors trying to close down the operation. There was a public perception that the organization was riddled with scandal because of a number of things that had happened and the size of the organization was down to a very very almost insignificant number. My job coming on was to try to find a way to eliminate the debt to create cash reserves so that the organization would not be dependent on anyone else who depended on anybody to re-energize the youth programs of the association. We were probably had about 20000 youth members nationwide were up to about 100 80000 young people
now below the age of 21. It was to find a way to grow the size of the association so that now we have bureaus in New York in Detroit in Los Angeles in Atlanta and in Texas. And it was to kind of create a sense of urgency an activism that had long since sort of died away. We got back into the news we were on top of issues we were articulating a certain perspective and I think people began to say OK the NAACP is waking up again. I went there and said that I really didn't come to stay that I was really here to do a job and when I thought it was done I would move on. In 1999 there was this huge push to get me to run for mayor. In fact three former mayors got together held a press conference and there was a lot of support from a lot of good people throughout the Baltimore area. But I didn't leave because I didn't think the job was done. In my opinion what I can do has been completed now is time for me to move on and to let somebody else with fresher ideas and better ideas get involved.
Who should that be. Not necessarily a person. Maybe in terms of the background the experience the age of that individual There was a story I saw from a leader of a NAACP chapter in Philadelphia where the person said that he frequently speaks to classes and school children and goes in and offers a $20 bill for somebody who can explain to him what NAACP stands for and he seldom has to give up the 20. You're talking my jury my desire I guess if one of my presidents and thought well if you're so it does it need to be somebody who can aim for a younger demographic the risk of trying not to tell the NAACP what it ought to do because I don't have that right any longer I'm simply a member of a volunteer like a lot of other people. I think that. You've got to find somebody that's younger in age somebody who's focus now is activism and grassroots activism. Even at a much higher degree and larger scale than what I was able to do it's got to be somebody who
understands how to work both sides of the political aisle both Democrats and Republicans and to try to force initiatives in the Congress United States and state legislatures prepared to file lawsuits against discrimination injustice injustice where they see it but also somebody who through the simple eloquence of their example are able to lead and to cause people to believe in them and to believe in the association. Back to the phones Franklin in one minute County Franklin thank you for calling go ahead. Well I would like that if you could go back and talk about the Bill Cosby I think. You have a valid point and I would like to know what would you do. You put in that position. What would you do to help. Do you know so America. Thanks for the call. Well as I said he does have valid positions I mean that's why I embraced him and thanked him for his comments and you know I've tried when asked at least to not to Bill Cosby needs me to defend him but to defend the spirit in which he
made those remarks and as I said this is a conversation that has been going on every day in black communities around the state and nation long before Bill Cosby uttered those words. I think more than anything else we've got to find a way. All of us who are concerned particularly to connect to the generation he's talking about. You simply can't write off a generation of young people to say well they were involved in hip hop or they don't care and we're only going to worry about the gifted and talented because the gifted and talented does not represent the majority the majority or all those who are teetering right now on whether or not they survive or that they go to jail whether or not they're able to get into school and how they feel about themselves what their esteem level is. And the one disconnect that continues to occur is that often times they don't feel. In many respects that people who are much older either care concerned or are listening to them. So I think more than anything else what I've tried to do and what I think most people have to do is to get involved I work with Big Brothers and Big Sisters with Parents Anonymous.
I was a founder of 100 Black Men here we're dealing with the mentoring programs aimed at young men and young women. You know I volunteer. I do whatever I can and I urge people who feel that there is something that can be done a lot to be done not to wait for tons of people to come rushing after them to be recruited just to do whatever you can in your home in your church or your place of worship or in your community. John in Baltimore City John thank you for calling go ahead. Thank you for having me on the line. Sure. We talked around Christmas and you were the president of the NAACP and our president. I'm an American so he's my president although my vote in putting this president I'm sure the NAACP none the less he invited you to come to the White House to talk would you please as much as you.
Can we have the full U.S. president. John good to be here. Thank you so much for asking a great question but that is a good point. The president did shun the organization for four years that it's a national convention he's the only president who hasn't a dresser but Hoover right and his position was he didn't want to create a situation where the president would be ridiculed and heckled before the world. Well he's dealing with world leaders because he assumed that was going to happen which is the first wrong assumption on his part I think in 2000 when the convention was here I said to the president we'd like to have you here along with Al Gore and along with Ralph Nader as a candidate to present your position to us. Bob Dole who I served with in the Congress called him up and said to him don't go near their convention. It's bad news and they just going to heckle you and gee are you now Bob Dole in 96 chose not to come to the convention in the last so I talked to Governor Bush at the time and I said look you got my word. That's all I have. That if you appear before this National Convention you'll be received like any other presidential
candidate that we have a sense of dignity that these are adults and that people really want to hear what your vision is. He took me at my word he came to Baltimore gave a speech which is probably the best speech I think he's ever given. And I think was a little shocked that people didn't heckle or jeer him they didn't jump up and cheer him but there was there was respect for his word and appreciation of his presence. So why he would not come four years after that year after year is beyond me. On November 3rd the day after the election the president says in his speech to the nation I'm going to be the president now of all the people I want to reach out to those who didn't vote for me and didn't support me. So a bell goes off in my head while I'm watching and I say well gee that's certainly me you didn't vote for him didn't support him. So let me take him up on it before he'd finish speaking I'd written a letter out. Got it off to the White House and next they say Mr. President regulations you won the election. However I'm one of those people didn't vote for you didn't support you but I have something to say and I like to say it to you. And
it took them several weeks almost six weeks but they followed up created a meeting on December 21st. I went to the White House spent 45 minutes in the Oval Office with the president face to face talking about issues. He said When I came in there. Don't worry that I'm the president I said I won't he said. I want you to be very honest with me. I need your advice. Most of all I want to hear your opinions about things and we talked about race in this country he's perplexed about why he could not get more than 11 percent of the black vote he said when I was governor of Texas I used to get 28 percent. He was adamant about his Social Security plan at the time because he said he even from the perspective of black Americans that it was a program that was not necessarily providing them with benefits. He talked at length about why he believed in his faith and faith based initiatives. And we talked about the issue of race in this country from the perspective that if nothing is done to deal with the fact that there's so many different diverse groups in our society we're going
to I said we're going to continue to have many divisions that have plagued us as a nation now. I was pretty tough in what I said to the president the way I said it and I know that he didn't want to hear my opinions but I used to each one of those subject areas to say what I felt in my heart and having worked for so many years to try to find a way to bring people together. I thought that his approach was dividing people. And we talked about that you know in the 45 minutes were up and I left now whether or not this president changes is up to him I did say to him that he was a little different from his father I said I served under your father. I said unlike him you get a second bite at the apple. Your father never got re-elected. You did. You don't have to run for re-election and you don't have to pander to anybody. Now you've got to decide how you want to be remembered in history and only you can do that through your actions over these next couple of years. I think I heard you say to reporters in front of the White House on the news that night that you were there as Mr. In film a private citizen not representing the
NAACP why the distinction. Well because I didn't want to I didn't want to be a cheap trick on the NWC if if the meetings with the MWC people bring in the board and the chairman and the acting president and to meet with everybody. But I didn't want anybody at the White House or anywhere else to assume just because I went there that that meant that this was an official meeting with the NAACP had already announced my resignation from the organization so I wanted to be clear about that. The president understood it but it was important for me to say it again after that meeting. The conventional wisdom on this past election was the Republicans made some significant strides with Hispanic Americans. Significant growing minority group. Not much of a dent in the African-American vote except in Ohio perhaps it made a bit of a difference. How do you see it and are you concerned about being left behind somehow. Well I think what you saw in this election was the president going from 8 percent nationwide to 11 percent in Ohio as you mentioned going from 8 percent doubling that getting 16 percent of the black
vote. But what you also saw in my estimation were a number of African-American voters kind of pulling back from the mold to some extent. And I either not voting or voting at a greater rate for the Republican nominee now wasn't as pronounced as Latino voters. You know what it is pronounced perhaps as Asian voters know. But I think that shifting has been the thing that's given the GOP at least some belief that they're going to be able to win the next election two years from now and the one after that four years from now to build on it. I simply think that there is a lesson of history in all of this. When I registered to vote at 21 because you couldn't register at 18 in those you saw how old I am. I registered as a Democrat my grandmother thought it was sacrilegious unbelievable how could you dare do that she said. This was the party of Lincoln meaning the Republican Party. You have to register as a Republican. Well it was from the Emancipation Proclamation all way
up to the new deal with Franklin Roosevelt. Black people voted nine to one Republican. The Republican Party started taking the vote for granted. Pull back when issues didn't try to address things. The new deal comes along Roosevelt and the new Democrats talking about things that really reflected in the needs of black voters in this country. And then the civil rights movement where the Republican Party is absent. And so 50 years later now you see just the opposite where there is a nine to one Democratic preference and among black voters. I think there's a lesson there both for Democrats and Republicans don't take a group of people for granted and don't ever write off a segment of the population. We're down to a few seconds before the next big chapter in your life is written you're working on some broadcasting projects. Yeah I do a show called A remarkable journey for Hearst and the NBC syndication enterprises and from time to time I will do the This Week program with George Stephanopoulos and working on a book about what Lincoln was really thinking about when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
I hope you'll come back and talk to us about that. Thanks for your time. Thank you very much for shit. A new 100 million dollar Music Center opened this weekend in Montgomery County amputees Nate Howard takes us inside the Music Center at Strathmore. This is a huge space. What do you do with all this right. Well it's two and a half stories high that's the first thing one notes when they walk in. And the reason for that is that we have an entire youth symphony orchestra here every Wednesday night. When you hear one hundred twenty kids start to play anything. Volume you get a sound that feels so much space that you need the high ceiling. Anybody who's been in a band room has felt the effect of just too much sound and too little space with too low a ceiling. That's number one number two this floor. Is a dance floor is actually sitting on a neoprene rubber pads and so this is bringing us to what the dancers require so we could have been sponsors and here is our portable barber shop for
three multifunction And number three you can have a banquet in here and you can put probably to 250 people in here for a banquet. It's gorgeous at night. Those two and a half storey high windows. You come across a bridge and you see this warm glow. It looks like a sort of a want for fireplace so you've got this like face of the building with huge windows and nothing but a life and activity of all ages going on. That's a message that's the first. One. One of the things that you offer your first dance instruction. When people say why do you have dance and music is the answer that question is it can you imagine dance without music or music without They just go together. There's a lot of theatre in your mechanic frankly with robots in the home Ian and all those but this is an opportunity to bring dance and music together. And marry them under one roof so the city Dance Dance Company is in residence here both as a company and as a teaching entity for dance moments and they do have a ballet
modern to it all. These are people who love to work with other kinds of like really classic Youth Orchestra. They're already getting married with new artistic collaboration so it wouldn't happen. What's that about. It's a great space. You can love somebody and you're not seeing me. Check that out. There's so much to see and do at Strathmore But this is the jewel. Right here and it's about 2000 seat capacity. Tell me a little bit about this performance center. Well in this one case we said to the architect. You listen to the crustacean and he could design the rest of it but here we said the acquisition you build the perfect acoustic space and then the architect will make it one. And in fact that's exactly what happened. The physics of this space are designed for one purpose and that is to get an amplified sound. Every seat and every ear that wants to hear them with one thousand one hundred seventy six cents times two hears I think we've probably done pretty well with
all those seats. There is not a bad seat in the house. In fact the architect said one of his goals was to get the audience to be able to see all the other audience. The only place can't do that is if you have a balcony above you but if you'll notice the seating is almost around it actually embraces the performance it goes behind the stage. So really you're always looking not only at the show but all the people who are sharing that experience with you. It's a lot of work to maintain a lot of elbow grease. To keep it looking spotless but boy is it worth it. Well this is one of those places where we can say we don't do windows. This is the architects way of celebrating the fact that this home was built an apartment setting. So we said invite the outside in and with a vengeance he gave us a 70 foot window that says a about 70 feet tall that leans out at a 10 degree angle and I watch guys cleaning it yesterday sort of like on a mountain cliff the rappelling tell me inside. Not only beautiful on the outside it's beautiful on the inside. At night you have this wonderful light in
these people an activity that is showing true that you can see it on a rock or a bike. Everybody that walks out of the balcony is looking out over the landscape. It's really an extraordinary space. Elliot thank you so much for behind the scenes tour of the Music Center at Strathmore. You definitely have a huge success on it. Well I think we've got the right place the right time the right people we need new now you know the audience. I mean we're just a show. We're just the education was so become back and we'll be here. Pleasure. Thank you. Thanks Nate and you can catch all the opening night festivities on an NPT special opening night at Strathmore. It's Thursday night at 9:00 right here on NPT. That is our program join us Thursday night for business connection now for All All of us here at NPT. I'm Jeff Salk and thank you for watching direct connection to die and have a good. Direct connection is made by NPT to serve all of our diverse communities
and is made possible by the generous support of our members. Thank you.
Direct Connection
Episode Number
Producing Organization
Maryland Public Television
Contributing Organization
Maryland Public Television (Owings Mills, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/394-94vhhxkw).
Episode Description
Kweisi Mfume-Former NAACP President 21:00
Broadcast Date
Asset type
Media type
Moving Image
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Copyright Holder: MPT
Producing Organization: Maryland Public Television
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Maryland Public Television
Identifier: 19447.0 (MPT)
Format: Digital Betacam
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:30:00?
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Direct Connection; 539,” 2005-02-07, Maryland Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 20, 2024,
MLA: “Direct Connection; 539.” 2005-02-07. Maryland Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 20, 2024. <>.
APA: Direct Connection; 539. Boston, MA: Maryland Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from