Andrew Young Speaks Out

Andrew Young Speaks on Television, World Powers and the Purpose of Journalism

This interview was done by Black Voices…@

BV: How did it feel to integrate television?

Mr Young: You know, that had never occurred to me [that I did that]. I mean, when I came up here in 1957, I was a consultant on CBS on “Look Up and Live” and we were trying to find ways to
to use television to just get young people to think seriously about life. It was a religious program, but we didn’t want it to be preachy and we didn’t want it to be traditional
religion so we used jazz, we used the spirituals, we used. … Dick Van Dyke did a pantomime. It was really breaking ground in many ways, not just racially.

I think that was one of the first programs that put people like Dave Brubeck of the jazz quartet and Bill Evans who just died not long ago [on TV]. We tried to find a way to let jazz speak. It worked on that program, but Paul Tillich, who was the leading Protestant theologian during that time, and I did a worship service.

He heard what I was doing, and he invited me to do a worship service where he was speaking and I used the records of Charlie Mingus’ “Got to Get it in Your Soul,” Ray Charles’ the “Sinner’s Prayer” and the Modern Jazz Quartet doing “Angel Eyes” and I closed it out with Horace Silver’s “The Preacher.”

And you didn’t have to say a word, people had an experience that was real, that was meditative, that was spiritual and it was all done in music. So I’m more proud of that and the fact that we brought in new ideas to television, but honest to God, it never occured to me that I was one of the first black TV hosts. I just never thought of myself that way.

BV: How vital was television to the Civil Rights Movement?

AY: When I went to work with Martin L. King, it was my understanding of television that helped me help him hone his message. On these shows, I had sometimes 45 seconds to a minute to open up and anywhere from 60 seconds to 90 seconds to close it out.

Well, that’s very hard on most preachers, but we stayed up nights trying to figure out what is the message that we are trying to get across in this demonstration and how can we say it so [people can best understand what we are saying.]

The movement could not have happened without television.

BV: What are you watching today on TV?

AY: I’m a news junkie, and since I got my iPad, I even try to get South African broadcast, BBC even Al Jazeera. I even look at Fox [News]!

BV: What do you think about black people and television today?

Well, in Atlanta we are doing pretty good. I think, for the most part, the black media people have been selected for their ability to read scripts and they’re good at it, but I’m more interested in the news directors and the people who write the news. We have one of the largest television markets in Atlanta and its the market with the largest black audiences.

The problem with television today is that it’s become entertainment rather than in-depth reporting.

You do get [serious reporting] with Christiane Amanpour and Bob Woodward. You do have some heavy weights out there, and I can’t forget Soledad O’Brien. That’s what we need to educate America about the world.

We [America] are the richest nation in the world. We have the most powerful military nation in the world, but the problems of the world are moral and intellectual, and there’s nobody else that can give that type of leadership but us. And our military can do it with us and we can do it through them, but they can’t do it through bombs and guns.

With the military training we did in Egypt, for instance, this is one of the things that makes Egypt different from Libya. Since many of those officers were trained in the United States, they have a sense about what the relationship is between the military and a democracy and nobody can teach people that but us.

We have to do the same thing for China, because China’s going to have to get more democratic. And the question is how they respond to the demands of their citizens.

Remember Europe? When the printing press started printing the Bible and people could read it for themselves. It started a 100-year war and it was probably responsible for the founding of the United States of America.

It was people who didn’t want to be under the Pope or King James, so they came over here, but that was a 100-year struggle. Our movement [the Civil Rights Movement] was at best a 20-year struggle, and because we won our struggle, I think the Polish freedom fighters learned from us and they came to me and told me that. They read our books, they read [Mahatma] Gandhi just like we did.

And the kids in China and South Africa and the decolonization effort that was started by Ralph Bunche and ended through Nelson Mandela, with Martin L. King carrying the banner through most of it. It was a tremendous period of history because we did so much and did so little damage and now the power of the Internet and Facebook and these meetups — I don’t understand that but I realize that what Martin L. King said is even more true today:

“Truth forever on the scaffold
Long forever on the throne
But the scaffold sways the future

From behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadows
Keeping watch above his own.”

And it just so happens that God’s on the Internet too!

Nice word from Andrew Young….