MetroFocus: September 10, 2020

WNYC’s Jim O’Grady joins us to discuss his new investigative series, “BlindSpot: The Road to 9/11a co-production of WNYC studio and HISTORY. The 8-part show looks at the events that led up to the attacks through extensive archives and interviews with more than 60 people including FBI agents, high-level government officials, journalists, experts, and even people who knew the terrorists personally.

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake. Those names are sadly just the latest in a long line of violence against Black men and women going back generations. Now, as our city, state, and nation is roiled by ongoing protests demanding racial justice, Black artists and creators are coming up with new ways to address the moment. Here in New York, where stages are closed due to coronavirus, that hasn’t been easy. But in Brooklyn, the historic Billie Holiday theater has found a way. The theater’s Executive Director, doctor Indira Etwaroo and Tony award-winning actor Wendell Pierce join us tonight.

TRANSCRIPT

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAF -- RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION.

> WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THE PLANE SEEMED TO EMERGE FROM THE SKY ON THE SEPTEMBER MORNING IN 2001.

THERE WAS A PATH THAT LEAD UP TO THE MORNING'S ATTACK.

WNYC'S LONG TIME REPORTER AND HOST TAKES US THROUGH THE PROCEEDING EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE MORNING.

IN A NEW EIGHT-PART POD CAST IN COLLABORATION WITH THE HISTORY CHANNEL 'THE ROAD TO 9/11.'

WELCOME, JIM.

THANK YOU.

IT'S GREAT TO BE HERE.

YES, WELL, THIS IS SUCH A FASCINATING POD CAST BECAUSE, OF COURSE, THERE'S SO MUCH WE DON'T FULLY UNDERSTAND.

I WANT TO START WITH EVERYTHING AND BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING.

AS I MENTIONED IN THE INTRO, THE MEMORY IS ETCHED IN EVERYONE'S MIND WHO AT LEAST DEFINITELY EXPERIENCED IT OR HEARD ABOUT IT THAT MORNING.

THE BEGINNING OF THE POD CAST YOU TAKE US THROUGH YOUR EXPERIENCE OF THAT DAY.

WHERE WERE YOU WHEN 9/11 HAPPENED?

I WAS LIVING IN STATEN ISLAND IN A HOUSE ON A HILL RIGHT AT THE NORTHERN POINT OF THE ISLAND, AND I WOKE UP TO THE RADIO TALKING ABOUT THE NORTH TOWER BEING HIT.

SO I RAN OUT OUTSIDE TO A POINT ON THE HILL WHERE I COULD SEE NEW YORK HARBOR, AS I'M WATCHING, THE SECOND PLANE FLEW OVER MY HEAD AND I JUST SAW IT STREAK ACROSS THE HARBOR.

IT HIT THE SOUTH TOWER.

THIS WAS AT 9:03 IN THE MORNING.

BECAUSE I WAS A REPORTER AT THE TIME FOR THE 'NEW YORK TIMES,' I GRABBED A PEN AND NOTEBOOK AND RUSHED DOWN TO THE WATER FRONT TO TRY TO INTERVIEW PEOPLE.

WHAT I FOUND, TO MY SURPRISE, IS STUNNED SILENCE.

NOBODY HAD ANYTHING TO SAY BECAUSE WE COULDN'T UNDERSTAND WHAT WE WERE LOOKING AT.

EVERYONE WAS STARING AT THE SMOKE RISING UP FROM THE TOWERS.

THAT WAS A MAJOR FEATURE OF THE DAY.

JUST TRYING TO COMPREHEND WHAT IS HAPPENING TO US IN REAL TIME.

AND, OF COURSE, WE'VE BEEN TRYING TO DO THAT EVER SINCE IN THE 19 YEARS SINCE THEN.

THAT'S WHAT WE TRY TO DO, AS WELL, IN THE POD CAST.

TO CONNECT SOME DOTS AND MOVE US THROUGH EVENTS AND CHARACTERS THAT MADE THAT DAY HAPPEN

WELL, WHAT IS IT -- OF COURSE, WHAT HAPPENED AND WHAT HAPPENED AFTERWARDS HAVE BEEN EXAMINED IN CRITICAL DETAIL.

-- YEAH.

AND EXHAUSTIVELY GONE THROUGH BOOKS.

WHAT IS LACKING FROM THE NATIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS ABOUT WHAT LEAD TO THE DAY.

OUR STORY COVERS THE 11 YEARS RIGHT BEFORE 9/11, AND IT'S REALLY A STORY.

IT'S PART OF THE STORY WE FOLLOW LAW ENFORCEMENT AS THEY TRY TO FIGURE OUT -- IT'S LIKE THEY'RE IN A CAR ON A FOGGY ROAD AT NIGHT.

THEIR HEADLIGHTS ARE INCHING FORWARD.

THEY KNOW THERE'S A THREAT OUT THERE.

THEY KNOW THERE'S AN EMERGING PROBLEM, BUT WE TRY TO PUT OURSELVES IN THEIR SHOES AT THAT TIME.

IT'S OBVIOUS TO US NOW, BUT WE TAKE THE POSITION OF THESE INVESTIGATORS TRYING DESPERATELY TO UNDERSTAND THE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN PEOPLE AND GROUPS, THEIR INTENTIONS, AND JUST HOW DANGEROUS THEY MIGHT BE.

A LOT OF THE STORY, THE FIRST HALF OF OUR STORY HAPPENS IN NEW YORK CITY IN DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN AND IN JERSEY CITY WHERE THESE CELLS OF GUYS FORMED AND STARTED MAKING THEIR BIG PLANS.

THESE WERE MOSTLY MEN WHO WERE VETERANS OF THE AFGHAN WAR THAT RAGED IN THE 1980s AFTER THE SOVIET UNION INVADED THAT COUNTRY AND RADICAL JIHADISTS FROM AROUND THE WORLD CONVERGED ON THAT WAR, IN THAT PLACE, AND WHEN IT WAS OVER IN 1989, THEY TURNED THEIR EYES TO OTHER TARGETS, REALLY, INCLUDING THE UNITED STATES.

SO YOU'VE MENTIONED A LOT OF TH THINGS I FEEL LIKE MIGHT BE BELLS PEOPLE WOULD RECOGNIZE LIKE AFGHAN, AFGHAN WAR, JIHAD.

SO WE'VE HEARD THOSE THINGS BEFORE, BUT WHEN YOU TAKE -- WHEN THE STORY BEGINS 11 YEARS PRIOR TO THE ATTACK --

-- RIGHT.

WHY GO BACK TO THAT POINT?

WHAT WAS THE FLASH POINT TO BEGIN THE NARRATIVE?

YEAH, AGAIN, PUT YOURSELVES IN THE SHOES OF A DETECTIVE IN NEW YORK CITY AND WE TALKED TO ONE GUY.

HE'S OUT AT AN ITALIAN RESTAURANT IN HARLEM AND THE BEEPERS GO OFF.

THERE'S BEEN A SHOOTING AT A MIDTOWN MANHATTAN HOTEL.

THE MARRIOTT.

A RABBI HAS BEEN GUNNED DOWN.

THEN EVENTS UNFOLD AND THEY'RE TRYI TRYING TO FIGURE OUT IS THERE A BIGGER STORY HERE?

YES, THERE WAS BUT THEY COULDN'T SEE IT AT THE TIME.

THE RABBI WAS THE ULTRA NATIONALIST, ZIONIST WHO SPEWED HATRED FOR MUSLIMS IN HIS RHETORIC.

AND THE ASSASSIN WAS A MAN WHO HAD HIMSELF BEEN RADICALIZED BY SOME OF THESE JIHADISTS THAT HAD COME TO AMERICA TO PREACH AFTER THE END OF THE AFGHAN WAR.

SO HE TOOK IT UPON HIMSELF TO KILL THIS MAN AND WHAT LAW ENFORCEMENT DIDN'T QUITE UNDERSTAND WAS THAT HE WAS THE TIP OF THE SPHERE.

THAT THERE WERE OTHERS IN HIS CELL THAT WOULD GO ON TO COMMIT OTHER TERRORIST ACTS.

AS A MATTER OF FACT, WHEN HE WENT ON TRIAL, HE GOT A $20,000 DONATION TO HIS DEFENSE FUND FROM SOME, AT THE TIME, SHADOWY FINANCER OVERSEAS CALLED OSAMA BIN LADEN.

WOW.

AGAIN, THOSE ARE THE TYPE OF, LIKE, BREAD CRUMBS, IN HINDSIGHT, THE BENEFIT OF HINDSIGHT COMPLETELY MAKE SENSE BUT THE PROCESS OF PUTTING IT TOGETHER.

SO YOU MENTIONED LAW ENFORCEMENT BUT, UMM, THERE WERE ALSO OTHER PLAYERS, I GUESS, PLAY A PROMINENT ROLE IN THE POD CAST AND ONE OF THEM, I THOUGHT, WAS INTERESTING.

A MAN NAMED -- I HOPE I PRONOUNCE HIS NAME CORRECTLY EMAD SALEM.

WHAT ROLE DID HE PLAY IN TRYING TO HELP UNRAVEL OR UNCLOUD WHAT WAS HAPPENING LEADING UP TO 9/11.

I'M GLAD YOU BROUGHT HIM UP.

ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL TO THE STORY.

AMAZING MAN.

HE SHOULD BE BETTER KNOWN.

HE WAS AN EGYPTIAN ARMY OFFICER FOR 20 YEARS AND THEN HE EMIGRATED TO THE UNITED STATES.

AS THESE CELLS ARE FORMING IN DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN, AND IN JERSEY CITY, HE'S LIVING WITH HIS WIFE AND TWO KIDS ON THE UPPER WEST SIDE.

HE'S WORKING SECURITY IN A HOTEL.

ONE DAY THE FBI SAID TO HIM COULD YOU INFILTRATE THESE CELLS AND GIVE US AN IDEA WHAT IS GOING ON.

HE HAD NO IDEA ABOUT HIS BACK STORY, WHICH WAS HE WAS IN THE PARADE GROUND IN CAIRO ON THE DAY THAT THERE WAS AN ASSASSINATION.

IT AFFECTED HIM SO MUCH THAT HE SWORE IN HIS MIND TO GET REVENGE ON THE PERSON WHO SENT THAT ASSASSINATION INTO MOTION.

AS IT TURNS OUT, THE BLIND SHEIK WAS AN EGYPTIAN E MA'AM THAT DISTURBED HIM.

HE WAS ASKED TO INFILTRATE THE CELL.

HE HAD MOVED TO NEW JERSEY.

SO EMAD UNDERSTOOD THE METHODS.

HE UNDERSTOOD THE CULTURAL LEANINGS OF THESE PEOPLE.

HE GOT INSIDE AND HE STARTED TO GATHER INFORMATION ABOUT THE BIG PLOT THEY WERE PLANNING NEXT.

AND SO I'M GLAD YOU MENTIONED THE FACT THAT YOU HAD SOMEONE WHO UNDERSTOOD, WAS CULTURALLY SENSITIVE, LET'S SAY.

BECAUSE, OF COURSE, THE YEARS FOLLOWING THE SEPTEMBER 11th ATTACKS, EVERYTHING ABOUT THAT DAY, THOSE EVENTS HAS BECOME VERY, VERY CULTURALLY SENSITIVE.

ESPECIALLY FOR THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY.

I WOULD ASSUME THE POD CAST ALSO TAKES AIMS TO CLARIFY THESE ACTS OF POWER VERSUS ACTS OF RELIGION.

AM I MAKING A LEAP IN THAT ASSUMPTION?

YOU'RE NOT.

WE TAKE GREAT PAINS TO SEPARATE THESE FRINGE EXTREMISTS FROM MAIN STREAM ISLAM.

THEY HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH EACH OTHER.

THAT'S POINT NUMBER ONE.

AND, ALSO, ON THE OTHER SIDE THE WAY LAW ENFORCEMENT TRIES TO COUNTER TERRORISM, WHAT SALEM DID WAS VERY DIFFERENT THAN JUST SORT OF BLANKET SURVEILLANCE OF ENTIRE COMMUNITIES AND MOSQUES, WHICH HAS BEEN DEEMED LEGALLY PROBLEMATIC AND UNCONSTITUTIONAL, IN SOME CASES.

WITH HIM, THE FBI HAD PROBABLE CAUSE THERE WAS A GROUP OF MEN PLOTTING TO KILL CIVILIANS IN NEW YORK CITY.

THAT'S WHY HE WAS SENT INSIDE TO INFILTRATE.

IT'S A TRADITIONAL LAW ENFORCEMENT TECHNIQUE.

LET'S JUST SEPARATE THAT FROM THE OTHER QUESTIONABLE TECHNIQUES THAT OCCURRED SINCE 9/11.

SALEM WAS WITH THE MEN WHO WERE PLANNING TO BOMB THE WORLD TRADE CENTER IN 1993.

BEFORE HE CAN GET THE DETAILS, AN FBI SUPERVISOR YANKED HIM OUT.

WE GO INTO WHY.

AFTER THE BOMBING, HE WAS SENT BACK IN TO THE CELL AND HE PREVENTED WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN A CATASTROPHIC ATTACK ON NEW YORK CITY.

IT WAS CALLED THE LANDMARKS PLOT.

FIVE BOMBS EXPLOITING SIMULTANEOUSLY IN THE HOLLAND TUNNEL, LINCOLN TUNNEL, GEORGE WASHINGTON BRIDGE, THE UNITED NATIONS.

ALL AROUND THE CITY.

THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE COULD HAVE DIED.

THIS EGYPTIAN EMIGRANT WHO LOVED AMERICA.

HE'S VERY SWEET AND PLAIN SPOKEN HOW GROWING UP IN CAIRO HE DEVELOPED A LOVE OF AMERICA OVER CHOCOLATE MILK, CHEDDAR CHEESE, AND THE AMERICAN FLAG.

HE WAS MOTIVATED BY PATRIOTISM FOR AMERICA AND REVENGE FOR THE KILLING AND THE END RESULT WAS FOILING THIS PLOT THAT COULD HAVE BEEN DEVASTATING IN THE HISTORY OF NEW YORK.

AND THAT'S PART OF OUR POD CAST.

WE TALK ABOUT WHAT DID HAPPEN AND WHAT DIDN'T HAPPEN AND HOW THEY RELATE TO EACH OTHER.

OF COURSE.

EVEN THOUGH 'BLIND SPOT' ISN'T THE TITLE, IT'S ABOUT THE MISSED UNITS.

IT'S THE THINGS THAT WERE SUCCESSFUL AND DIDN'T HAPPEN.

SO, JIM, I WANT TO SAY LISTENING TO EVERYTHING THAT YOU'RE LAYING OUT, AGAIN, THE BENEFIT OF HIND SIGHT DOES -- WE'RE IN A DIFFERENT PHASE NOW CULTURALLY, POLITICALLY, THE COUNTRY, AND, OF COURSE, NEW YORK CITY WHERE IT CAN FEEL A LOT LIKE THERE'S A LOT OF DIFFERENT EVENTS THAT ARE HAPPENING.

ARE THEY COALESCING INTO SOMETHING OR ALL RANDOM, ET.

CETERA?

DO YOU FEEL AS THOUGH --

-- SORRY.

IS THERE SOMETHING FROM LISTENING TO THIS OR HAVING REPORTED OUT THE STORIES THAT YOU COULD APPLY TO WHERE WE ARE NOW OR IS THAT SOMETHING THAT IS GOING TO TAKE ANOTHER 19 OR 20 YEARS TO FULLY DIGEST AND UNDERSTAND?

YEAH, WELL, WE'VE HAD 19 YEARS.

WE'RE TRYING TO MAKE THE BEST OF WHAT WE KNOW AND IB -- INSIGHTS WE'VE GAINED.

JENNA, WHAT SURPRISED ME WAS EXAMINING THE MOTIVATIONS OF THESE MEN WHO DID 9/11, I WAS SURPRISED THAT RELIGIOUS EXTREMISTS, FUNDAMENTALISTS, RELIGIO RELIGIOUS MOTIVATION PLAYED A ROLE, CERTAINLY.

THEY CLAIMED TO BE ACTING ON THE GUIDANCE OF ALLAH BUT THAT WAS RELATIVELY SMALL FROM WITHIN THIS FRINGE GROUP OF MEN COMPARED TO POLITICS AND POWER.

THESE MEN HAD A GRUDGE AGAINST THE UNITED STATES ON WHAT THEY TERMED IMPERIALISTIC GROUNDS.

THEY DESPISED THE UNITED STATES FOR PROPPING UP GOVERNMENTS IN THEIR OWN COUNTRIES.

SAUDI ARABIA IN THE CASE O BIN LADEN.

WHO HAS THE POLITICAL GRUDGE AGAINST THE UNITED STATES AND WHAT MIGHT THEY DO ABOUT IT?

AND THEN IS NOW ONE OF THE -- AND I HAVE TO SAY MAJOR ASSETS AROUND THE WORLD HAS BEEN THIS FACE OF DEMOCRACY AND OF CIVIL RIGHTS AND OF TOLERANCE.

AND THE EXTEND THAT TARNISHED IT HURTS US OVERSEAS MAKES US SEEM VULNERABLE TO OUR OPPONENTS.

SOMEONE POINTED OUT AFTER THE COLD WAR, THE UNITED STATES SEEMED TO UNCHECK THE POWER.

IF PEOPLE IN OTHER COUNTRIES PERCEIVE THAT WE ARE A BULLY AND WE ARE NOT COLLABORATING WITH OTHER COUNTRIES AND ACTING AS IF WE RUN THE WORLD, THAT HAS A TENDENCY TO PROVOKE A REACTION, IN THIS CASE, A VIOLENT REACTION AND ULTIMATELY THE TRAGEDY OF 9/11, WHICH IS NOT TO SAY WE ARE RESPONSIBLE AT ALL, BUT THIS IS THE CONTEXT.

THESE ARE THE CONDITIONS WHEN FANATICS DECIDE WHAT TARGET TO STRIKE AGAINST.

OF COURSE.

AND THE GENIUS OF GOOD REPORTING IS LETTING PEOPLE KNOW NOTHING HAPPENS IN A VACUUM.

JIM, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BRINGING US THE POD CAST SERIES 'BLIND SPOT: THE ROAD TO 9/11.'

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW THE POD CAST, YOU.

YOU CAN FIND IT FROM WNYC STUDIOS ANYWHERE YOU SUBSCRIBE TO POD CASTS.

THANK YOU, JIM.

THANK YOU, JENNA.

ABSOLUTELY.

> HI.

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN OF 'METRO FOCUS.'

GEORGE FLOYD, BREONNA TAYLOR, JACOB BLAKE.

THOSE ARE THE LATEST IN THE VIOLENCE AGAINST BLACK MEN AND WOMEN GOING BACK GENERATIONS.

NOW, AS OUR CITY, OUR STATE, AND OUR NATION IS ROILED BY ONGOING PROTESTS DEMANDING BLACK JUSTICE, BLACK ARTISTS ARE COMING UP WITH NEW WAYS TO ADDRESS THIS MOMENT.

HERE IN NEW YORK, WHERE STAGES ARE CLOSED DUE TO CORONAVIRUS, THAT HASN'T BEEN EASY, BUT IN BROOKLYN, THE HISTORICAL BILLY HOLIDAY THEATER FOUND A WAY.

JOINING ME NOW TO TALK ABOUT THAT IS TONY AWARD WINNING ACTOR WENDELL PIERCE.

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

IT'S A PLEASURE TO BE HERE.

AND THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE BILLIEH HOLLIDAY THEATER.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

I WOULD LIKE FOR DOCTOR, IF YOU COULD START BY TALKING A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT THIS PROJECT IS.

12 ANGRY MEN AND WOMEN AND THE WEIGHT OF THE WAIT.

TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THIS PROJECT FOR PEOPLE WHO MIGHT NOT BE FAMILIAR WITH IT.

ABSOLUTELY.

'12 ANGRY MEN' IS A STORY WE DID IN 2015-2016, UNFORTUNATELY WE WERE RESPONDING TO THE RACIALLY MOTIVATED KILLINGS OF BLACK MEN AND FOCUSSED SPECIFICALLY ON BLACK MEN.

WENDELL PIERCE WAS A PART OF THE ORIGINAL CAST.

AN INCREDIBLE CAST AND THE PIECE WAS DIRECTED BY STEVEN McKINLEY HENDERSON.

UNFORTUNATELY, WE'RE AT A MOMENT WHERE RACIALLY MOTIVATED VIOLENCE CONTINUES TO BE A PERVASIVE PART OF THE SOISSUE O CULTURAL POLITICAL LANDSCAPE THAT WE AS AFRICAN-AMERICANS CONTINUE TO LANDSCAPE.

WE'RE DOING WHAT THE BILLIE HOLLIDAY THEATER HAS BEEN DOING FOR YEARS.

REFLECTING BACK TO THE AUDIENCE IS THE STORIES THAT ARE RELEVANT, THAT ARE PROFOUND, AND SPEAK TO THE EXISTENCE OF HOW THEY'RE LIVING IN THE WORLD.

YOU KNOW, WE FIND '12 ANGRY MEN THE WEIGHT OF THE WAIT' COMES FROM A TONY MORRISSON QUOTE THAT NOBODY EVER TALKS ABOUT HOW LONG WE'VE WAITED FOR JUSTICE.

A JUSTICE THAT NEVER CAME.

AND WE'VE ADDED THIS TIME AROUND, FIVE YEARS LATER, THE ELLIPSES AND WOMEN.

BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT THE KILLINGS OF BLACK WOMEN THEY'RE NOT -- THEY DON'T SPARK THE SAME AMOUNT OF OUTRAGE.

IT'S A MOMENT FOR US TO REALLY BRING THE VOICE OF WOMEN TO THE FLOOR.

YEAH.

UNFORTUNATELY THIS IS A NARRATIVE THAT CONTINUES TO BE UPGRADED AND ADDED UPON.

BUT, WENDELL, I WANTED TO FIND OUT FROM YOU, HOW DID YOU COME TO BE INVOLVED WITH THIS PROJECT AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU PERSONALLY TO BE TELLING SOME OF THESE STORIES?

WELL, UMM, I FIRST GOT INVOLVED WITH THE PROJECT -- I, AS AN ACTOR WANTED TO MAKE SURE THAT OUR CULTURALLY SPECIFIC BLACK THEATERS WERE THRIVING.

I WANTED TO RECONNECT, YOU KNOW, I'VE BEEN DOING A LOT OF FILM AND TELEVISION AND I WANTED TO -- AND I DO THEATER ALL THE TIME BUT IT WAS ALWAYS IN THE COMMERCIAL CONTEXT OUTSIDE OF THE THEATERS THAT NEEDED -- THAT NEED TO CONTINUALLY NEED OUR SUPPORT.

NOT ONLY AS AN ARTIST BUT JUST AS A COMMUNITY OF THEATER-GOING AUDIENCE.

I WANTED TO MAKE THAT RECONNECTION.

I WILL ALWAYS BRING UP THE EXAMPLE OF STEPHAN WOLF AND CHICAGO.

YOU HAVE JOHN WHO GOES BACK.

HE HAS A COMMERCIALLY SUCCESSFUL CAREER IN FILM AND TELEVISION AND I WANTED TO DO THE SAME THING.

AND I FIRST CAME TO NEW YORK AS AN ACTOR AND LIVED NEAR THE BILLY HOLLIDAY.

I WANTED TO MAKE SURE I WENT BACK THERE.

SO WE DID THIS PRODUCTION, YOU KNOW, IN 2016 AND HERE WE ARE FOUR YEARS LATER AND IT'S STILL RELEVANT.

AND WHAT HAPPENED THIS SUMMER I WANTED TO MAKE SURE THAT I WAS PART OF THE AWARENESS THAT EVERYONE HAS.

IT SEEMS TO BE SOMETHING THAT WE'VE ALWAYS KNOWN IN THE COMMUNITY.

UH-HUH.

IS THE OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE AN IMPRINT AND CHANGE PEOPLE'S VALUES AND MAYBE PUT THOSE VALUES INTO ACTION.

THAT'S THE ROLE OF AN ARTIST.

REFLECT ON WHO YOU ARE, WHO YOU HOPE TO BECOME.

AN ARTIST IN THE FORM OF ART IS WHERE WE COMMUNALLY REFLECT ON WHO WE ARE, DECIDE WHAT OUR VALUES ARE, AND THEN ACT ON THEM.

IT'S NOT JUST A PIECE OF ENTERTAINMENT.

ART IS A TANGIBLE WAY THAT SOCIETY MOVES FORWARD.

THAT'S WHY I WANTED TO BE A PART OF THIS.

THIS IS AN ONGOING VIOLENT TIME FOR AFRICAN-AMERICANS, MEN AND WOMEN.

I WANTED TO BE A PART OF THE VOICE, HOPEFULLY, TO CHANGE PEOPLE'S MINDS

WELL, SPEAKING OF NOT JUST ART BEING A TANGIBLE THING, AS YOU WERE SAYING, IT'S NOT JUST THE PIECES THAT YOU'LL BE PERFORMING BUT THE LOCATION, BECAUSE IT'S TAKING PLACE ON THE BLACK LIVES MATTER MURAL IN BROOKLYN.

I'M WONDERING IF THAT -- IF IT'S POSSIBLE CONSIDERING EVERYTHING YOU JUST SAID BUT DOES THAT ADD ANY ADDITIONAL SIGNIFICANCE TO THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WORKS YOU'LL BE PERFORMING?

ABSOLUTELY.

JUST THE IMAGE OF THAT.

JUST SEEING THAT MURAL WHEN IT WAS FIRST DONE, SEEING THE PICTURE THAT BILLIE HOLLIDAY PUT TOGETHER OF ALL THE ARTISTS, BLACK ARTISTS WHO HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO TRY TO GET THIS MESSAGE OUT.

IT'S IMPACTFUL.

THE MINUTE YOU SEE IT.

THE BLACK LIVES MATTER IT RADIATES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD.

EVEN IN THIS TIME OF PANDEMIC, THIS IS IS A SIGNIFICANT PIECE BECAUSE WE'RE LOOKING FOR A WAY TO GET BACK TO LIVE PERFORMANCE --

-- DEFINITELY --

WHILE WE SOCIALLY DISTANCE.

AND HERE WE HAVE AN IDEA THAT WILL BE PERPETUATED FOR THE FIRST TIME, REALLY, OF UNDERSTANDING HOW WE MOVE FORWARD WITHIN THE PANDEMIC AND POST PANDEMIC.

A HYBRID OF LIVE PERFORMANCE AND THEN ALSO LIVE STREAMING SO THE WORLD CAN SEE IT.

WHAT WE'VE LEARNED IN THESE TIMES IS UNDERSTANDING THIS HAS TO BE A WAY WE RECORD OUR LIVE PERFORMANCES AND LIVE STREAM THEM OUT SO THERE'S A HYBRID OF IT.

THOSE THEATERS AROUND THE WORLD WHO HAD ARCHIVE OF PERFORMANCES THAT THEY COULD PUT OUT THERE, LIKE THE NATIONAL THEATER, GOING BACK TO CHICAGO, THE GOODMAN THEATER HAD A COUPLE.

THEY WERE IN A BETTER POSITION TO MAKE SURE THEY MOVE FORWARD WITHIN THE TRYING TIMES.

SO WHAT THE BILLIE HOLLIDAY IS DOING NOW IS THE VANGUARD OF WHAT LIVE THEATER WILL BE LIKE DURING THE REST OF THIS PANDEMIC AND POST PANDEMIC.

THERE WILL BE LIVE THEATER AND NOW THIS 500-SEAT THEATER OR 300-SEAT THEATER, I DON'T KNOW THE NUMBERS EXACTLY, AT THE BILLIE HOLLIDAY BECOMES AN INFINITE AMOUNT OF SEATS.

THERE ARE GOING TO BE PEOPLE WATCHING AROUND THE WORLD WHEN WE LIVE STREAM THIS.

SO THIS IS THE VANGUARD OF HOW LIVE THEATER IS GOING TO BE MOVING FORWARD, I BELIEVE

WELL, ABSOLUTELY.

I WANT TO JUMP IN QUICKLY --

-- UH-HUH --

YOU KNOW IT'S ONE OF MANY THEATERS WHO ARE SERVING BLACK AUDIENCES THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY.

YOU KNOW, WE WERE ON THE FRONT LINES OF PIVOTING FROM LIVE TO ONLINE TO WENDELL'S POINT.

WE HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF BRINGING IN WALTER DALLAS, UMM, YOU KNOW, TWO WEEKS AFTER ALL THEATERS WERE CLOSED.

WE WERE ONLINE DOING 'AUTUMN' WITH SEVEN ACTORS AND FIGURING OUT WHAT ZOOM MIGHT BE TO THE THEATER KL COMMUNITY AND BEING GI GINNY -- GUINEA PIGS.

IT WAS THE LAST WORK THAT HE DIRECTED.

THESE CONVERGING PANDEMIC OF COVID-19 AND THE ONGOING RACIAL INJUSTICES IN THIS COUNTRY.

THE MURAL IS A SIGHT OF AFFIRMING HOW AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITIES HAVE BEEN DISPROPORTIONATELY IMPACTED IN THIS MOMENT.

I WOULD ARGUE THAT IT'S IN THE MOST CONSEQUENTIAL MOMENT SINCE 1918 WHEN WE WERE DEALING WITH THE GLOBAL PANDEMIC.

JIM CROW AND THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE WAS EMERGING OUT OF THAT MOMENT.

SO, YOU KNOW, HAVING OTHER 100 BLACK ARTISTS COME AND PUT THEIR FAVORITE PRINTS INTO THIS SACRED GROUND THAT IS A RICH CULTURAL HISTORY IS PROFOUND.

WE'VE HAD EVERYONE FROM AL SHARPTON TO SPIKE LEE TO ARTIST WHOSE NAMES WE DON'T KNOW.

JENNA, IF I CAN ADD MEN AND WOMEN BUT THE MURDER OF CHILDREN IN THIS COUNTRY 14-YEAR-OLD EMMETT THIEL, THE YOUNG 14-YEAR-OLD YOUNG CHILD WHO WAS EXECUTED, ELECTROCUTED, AND THEN THEY FOUND OUT THAT CASE WAS AN UNJUST CASE.

THOSE ARE ALSO THE NAMES PAINTED INTO THE MURAL BECAUSE AT SOME POINT WE NEED TO START OWNING IT ISN'T JUST ADULTS THAT HAVE BEEN MURDERED IN THIS COUNTRY BUT OUR BLACK CHILDREN HAVE BEEN MURDERED AT THE HANDS OF RACIALLY MOTIVATED VIOLENCE, AS WELL.

AND INSTITUTIONALIZED VIOLENCE.

YEAH.

GEORGE WAS ELECTROCUTED.

YEAH.

HE WAS TRICKED INTO A CONFESSION --

-- THAT'S RIGHT.

HE WAS SO SMALL HE COULDN'T EVEN FIT IN THE ELECTRIC CHAIR SO THEY SAT HIM ON A STACK OF BOOKS SO THEY COULD TAKE THIS YOUNG BLACK INNOCENT LIFE, YOU KNOW, AND SO IT'S THE FIERCE URGENCY OF NOW.

IT'S AN ONGOING THING AND UNDERSTAND THE VEIL IS LIFTED.

AND PEOPLE SAID IT SEEMS TO BE MORE HAPPENING NOW.

THIS HAS BEEN GOING ON SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THIS NATION.

FROM THE ORIGINAL SIN OF SLAVERY.

IT'S IN THE DNA --

AN THE ONGOING VIOLENCE IS SOMETHING WE HAVE TO WORK ON.

YEAH.

BEFORE I LET YOU BOTH GO, DOCTOR, I WANT TO MAKE SURE THE PEOPLE KNOW IF THEY WANT TO TUNE IN AND LIVE STREAM THIS.

HOW DO THAT?

TUNE IN TO THE BILLIE HOLLIDAY CHANNEL ON YOUTUBE AND FACEBOOK AND I IMAGINE PEOPLE WILL JOIN US ON FULTON STREET BETWEEN BROOKLYN AND NEW YORK AVENUE.

UNFORTUNATELY WE'RE OUT OF TIME.

I WANT TO THANK YOU BOTH SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THIS IS GOING TO BE A VERY, VERY POWERFUL PIECE, I'M SURE.

WE LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING IT WHEN IT DOES GO LIVE.

THANK YOU, BOTH.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING US.

ABSOLUTELY.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

WNET

© WNET All Rights Reserved.

825 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10019