Almost 15 years ago, when I was first ready to put some purpose in the party on TJMS, I brought Tavis Smiley on board because I realized he was a person who could help us get some serious messages across to our audience in the midst of all the fun we were having. It worked. We had issues, and we addressed them. It got to the point where our audience looked to us whenever they heard about injustice. And together, we became radio-active.
It was like back in the early days of black radio when the community depended on the local radio station to tell them where to meet for civil rights marches. Even though we were a nationally syndicated radio show, on hundreds of stations, we were still able to emulate some of the best things about local radio. And it’s one of the things I’m most proud of.
Tavis helped us set the template for becoming activists at the TJMS, and after he left, we kept rolling and have done many things we’re proud of. We were on top of the Jena Six march, we were right there documenting voting irregularities for the last eight years, and we helped elect the first black president of the United States. When we heard that the NAACP was working on behalf of death row inmate Troy Davis, our staff went to work with a plan to play a major role in bringing the issue of Troy Davis to the forefront of Black America.
In case you don’t know, 18 years ago, Troy Davis was arrested for killing a police officer in Savannah, Georgia. He has claimed his innocence from the beginning. And in case you’re asking, “Doesn’t everyone on death row claim to be innocent?” the answer is yes, but there were too questions about the Troy Davis case that just didn’t add up. He has been scheduled to be executed on more than one date, but they were postponed. Too many people know that – in the words of the great Keith Sweat – somethin’ somethin’ somethin’ just ain’t right. Key witnesses have changed their stories, and all kinds red flags have appeared over the years. You can go read more about that in BlackAmericaWeb.com News.
We can’t solve every injustice. We can’t free every wrongly-convicted man. But what we can do – and will continue to do – is to call attention to it and let people know that we will do our part. Any civil rights leader who’s still around – Andrew Young, Rev. Joseph Lowery, Rep. John Lewis – will tell you that it didn’t start out as a huge movement. It started out with one person at a time just deciding that they weren’t going to take it anymore. As the years go by and that era becomes more romanticized, people began to believe that it takes great and powerful people to lead a movement. It doesn’t. It takes one caring person at a time. And it takes something else too. It takes something or someone to keep the flame lit.
The NACCP, Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, the Urban League, the TJMS and BlackAmericaWeb are places you can always come to find out what issues are having an impact on Black America. When this news is no longer hot and sexy to mainstream America, we will continue to be on the case. Because for us, it’s personal.
Troy Davis may not be your daddy, your brother or your son, but when you hear his story, you quickly realize that it could have been. You realize that every time you walk out of your house, you have a bigger chance than your white co-worker or friend to be arrested and convicted for a crime you didn’t commit. You understand that we really ARE our brother’s keeper. Today our brother is Troy Davis. And even though this morning we are celebrating the fact that a federal court in Georgia will hear new testimony in his case, that’s just one step. It’s a big story in mainstream media today, but tomorrow it will probably disappear until something else really big in the case emerges.
I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll say it again: I’m not mad at mainstream media for that. Their job is to cover mainstream news. Our job is to have your backs and the backs of people like Troy Davis. And if you were one of the 35,000 people who signed the BlackAmericaWeb petition to free him, give your back a well-deserved pat.