• Frequency News Exclusive: Michael Baisden Using Airwaves For Change

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    Using their Mic to Implement Change

    By now, you have become accustomed to reading my thoughts on many of the hot topics of the day, but this month we decided to mix it up a bit.  I was able to speak to two of America’s beloved syndicated on-air personalities–Michael Baisden and Rickey Smiley–about their feelings on a wide range of topics, including using the microphone to advocate for social justice.  I think you will agree that they are both compelling and passionate about eradicating injustice in our society.  But, as you will see, Smiley could not resist ending on a hilarious – but dead serious – note.

    Michael Baisden

    What motivates your activism?

    MB: I don’t see ignoring issues as an option.  How can anyone with any degree of responsibility ignore them?  Anyone can report the story, but I want to have an impact.

    Who is/are your role model(s)?

    MB: Malcolm X, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover.  Guys like that who stepped up (and continue to step up).

    You are one of a few in mainstream media to tell the Marissa Alexander story.  Now that the young mother and MBA has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot against an abusive husband, do you continue to try to bring attention to her case?

    MB: We got the Marissa Alexander story late, making it very difficult to reverse the charges.  We need to find out before a trial…and we have to be more uniform in our response.  I am not that difficult to reach.  There is Twitter, Mingle City, and my other social networking platforms.  I understand the inclination to start with the NAACP, which is fine…but reach out to us.  A compelling story doesn’t take CNN to really galvanize support.

    What do you believe is the best way to motivate some of today’s young artists/celebrities to become more socially active and use their platform – musical or otherwise – to raise awareness of social causes that affect the African American community, like mass incarceration, political action, gun violence, etc.?

    MB: That’s a difficult question.  Most top artists are young people, including young adults, who are chasing the money.  And that’s not to be critical….just real.  Most don’t have the background to be “conscious.”  In the 60’s during the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement, most of those young men and women were college students.  And we need today’s African American students to lead.  And we also need them to reach back.  We need them to read, be socially conscious…and lead.

    So, we need readers and leaders?  I like that!

    MB: Absolutely.  And not just to be famous.  That’s not what leadership is all about.

    Are you hopeful about the future of this country, particularly with regard to race relations?

    MB: Yes.  I am very hopeful.  Sometimes things don’t change until things get bad.  If we’re as strong as we think, that’s when we rise to the occasion.  Sometimes it takes pain to go with change.  Remember, the “majority” will soon be the “minority” in this country.  So the race issue will take care of itself.  We just need to focus on these questions:  1.) Are we educated? 2.) Do we have economic power?   Of course, there are other concerns, but these should be at the top of any list of concerns for the Black community.

    Rickey Smiley

    Were you always interested in social action?

    RS: I was born in Birmingham, AL.  So I know injustice…and it’s not good.  I came up under Rev. Edward Gardner [founding vice president of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR), presided over by the Rev. Fred Shuttleworth].

    I grew up in the projects where Muslims were in the early 70’s.  They tend to be more conscious and it carried over into the neighborhood.  Plus, there is the fact that a lot of people really need help today.  Many have no voice, no money, and they can’t defend themselves.

    What’s sad is that today there is no Jim Brown or Muhammad Ali, both activists, willing to take unpopular stands and become unpopular, thus putting themselves (and their careers) on the line.  But not today…even though today’s athletes make a lot more money.

    Who are your role models?

    RS: Reverends Joseph Lowery, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and also, some of the members of the New Black Panther Party of Dallas.

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    How do you handle it when you’re off-stage and people want to treat you like Lil Darryl or one of your other characters that have made you a household name?

    RS: Well, I let it be known that I am not someone to play with.  Onstage is an act.  I am a 40-year-old man and I demand respect as a man.  I don’t coon.  It’s easy to make a joke, but I can also break down most political stories of the day.

    With your busy schedule, how do you stay up on current events?

    RS: I am pretty much an information freak.  I watch CNN, the History Channel, documentaries or some other news programming.

    What do you believe is the best way to motivate some of today’s young artists/celebrities to become more socially active and use their platform – musical or otherwise – to raise awareness of social causes that affect the African American community, like mass incarceration, political action, gun violence, etc.?

    RS: It’s not easy.  It comes down to TV programming, where there is so much garbage…and everything is so dumbed-down.  See, when you keep information from people, you also keep power from them.  We have so many people in our community with misplaced priorities.  Many can’t name a member of Congress, but they can name all the Basketball Wives.

    Are you hopeful about the future of this country, particularly for African Americans?

    RS: To be honest, I’m afraid for our kids. We’re in trouble. Almost every child wants to be a rapper or pro athlete and the odds are against this happening.  But if they study and go to school, the odds are good that many can become doctors, lawyers or other professionals. But everybody wants to be famous. We can barely get our Black children to read. You know we’re in trouble when kids are putting up video of street fights and it’s cool. They might be facing assault charges, but they’re famous.

    Our young men don’t even know how to shake hands.  When they try to give me dap, I make them shake my hand.  And their pants are getting lower and lower…and everything goes.

    I met one young man in the airport recently and I asked him why were his pants sagging like that.  I took my belt off right then there and gave it to him.  I believe he was a Texas Christian student.

    We have to help one kid at a time.

    But, of course, charity starts at home.  Parents have to make children do chores and be responsible.  It’s sad, but we have to use TV to point out examples of what not to be.  Today, we basically have children raising children.  There are no boundaries.  Many parents are trying to be friends with their kids.  And we have pretty much stopped taking our children to church on Sunday.  Be sure to put that in there…in ALL CAPS….in Pig Latin and Braille.

    Thanks to Rickey Smiley & Michael Baisden for sharing their thoughts with us and for using their platform for the greater good!

    by Pamela D. Reed, Ph.D.

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    Originally seen on http://theurbandaily.com/

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