Ed Gordon (Courtesy photo)
Ed Gordon (Courtesy photo)

From Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream in the 1960s to Barack Obama’s reality in the 2000s, Black America has made great strides since the civil rights movement.

But for every Oprah Winfrey and Bob Johnson, there remains too many African Americans in poverty.

“So to ask what’s the state of Black America is really asking a broad question,” said former “BET Tonight” host Ed Gordon. “There’s those who’ve achieved great fame and notoriety, some power and some wealth. But there’s some in abject poverty with very little opportunities that come their way that would be able to elevate them out of the situation they’re in.”

Those are just some of the topics Gordon tackles in his new book, “Conversations in Black: On Power, Politics, and Leadership.” For the 272-page book, Gordon sat down with several African American influencers, including Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), actor, singer and activist Harry Belafonte, hip-hop star T.I., famed radio host Charlamagne tha God and former Georgia state Rep. Stacey Abrams.

“When you talk about Harry Belafonte, Stacey Abrams and Maxine Waters, each of those people has a platform and a following,” Gordon said. “I didn’t just want to just talk to traditional Black leadership because as we look out at the landscape today, those are leaders, but so is Charlamagne and T.I. They don’t necessarily see themselves as leaders, but they certainly have an active role, and someone like Harry Belafonte, you know, was an entertainer back in the day, and he was certainly part of the civil rights movement and integral part of it.

“And I think that’s how you define leadership,” he said. “And so what I did is I tried to have a broad base of people who I thought could speak to different elements and different positions in our community.”

For those who argue that Gordon may have missed specific African Americans, he said he couldn’t fill every slot.

“They’ll be people who read into this, and I’ll tell them to write the next book,” Gordon said.

Born in Detroit in 1959, Gordon anchored “BET News” and later hosted “Conversations with Ed Gordon” and “BET Tonight.”

His interviews included President George H.W. Bush, hip-hop star Tupac Shakur, Academy Award-winning actor Sidney Poitier, and superstar singer Whitney Houston.

Gordon, who landed the first on-camera interview with O.J. Simpson after the former football star was acquitted of double murder in 1994, has also has worked at MSNBC and NBC News.

He said he wrote the book in a conversational style, and, in talking to the many celebrities and politicians discussed in the tome, nothing surprised him.

However, the openness of those he spoke with proved surprising, he said.

“There wasn’t anything that either I had already covered, or am covering. But, sometimes we think something is a Black problem, and I say, ‘no, it’s an America problem,’” Gordon said. “We have an issue. This country has an issue. That’s the way it should be looked at. But I was pleasantly surprised by the candor, and in the book, there are times that they speak out against Black leadership.

“There are some who speak out against President Obama, which isn’t always easy to do in our community,” he said. “They deal with issues and I wanted the book to read as if we were all in the backyard at a barbecue around the kitchen table. Just talking politics, and even talking about Madea and what do you think about Tyler Perry?

“Madea is a dilemma in our community,” Gordon said. “You know, many people love what Tyler Perry has done as a mogul, but don’t particularly like his art. There are other people who love in his art and just think that anybody who sees it otherwise are being ridiculous. So we deal with real issues — Black people talk.”

Gordon said Black people must realize the importance of the 2020 presidential election and not only be proactive in getting out to vote, but after the election, they must hold accountable whoever wins.

“It’s less for me about whether Donald Trump gets another four years,” he said. “If he does, as Stacey Abrams says, ‘Buckle in,’ it’s going to be a sad state of affairs for this country. But it’s more about the judicial appointments and the legislative direction of this country. If he gets another four years, he gets the appointments, the lifetime appointments that happen, and some of these federal seats will affect not only us, but it will affect your children and potentially your grandchildren.”

Gordon said he believes the 2020 election will be a good gauge of where Black America is in terms of asserting their power and the understanding of that power.

“We need to not only vote for the people that we think are best for our interests, but we need to then demand of those people that they follow through,” he said. “It’s not enough to complain about Trump. It’s not enough to vote and give it away. It would be best if you did your homework, decide who you’re voting for.

“And, you know, as we know, statistically, we’re going to vote for Democrats,” Gordon said. “But you need to then demand of that Democrat to say, ‘All right. Bernie, Joe, Elizabeth, whomever it is, this is what you owe the Black community.’ If you did it, and when they did it, then you go demand that they pay you back.”

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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