MetroFocus: September 3, 2020

In the new “only1ofme” video campaign from the recently formed Black Theatre United coalition and the Stacey Abrams-founded non-profit Fair Count centers, ballerina Misty Copeland joins Black artists who are pushing for census completion among others in “hard-to-count” populations. Tonight, we rebroadcast a very powerful, emotionally raw and timely conversation with Misty Copeland – the first Black principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre – on her fight to break down ballet’s color barriers.

In the early days of the civil rights movement, Freedom Riders risked their lives traveling through the segregated South to end generations of bigotry and inequality. Two of those civil rights warriors- Luvaghn Brown and Lewis Zuchman take us “Back On The Bus.”

TRANSCRIPT

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

METROFOCUS IS MADE POSSIBLE BY SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III.

PROGRAMMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMTISIM.

BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG.

SHERL AND PHILLIP MILSTEIN FAMILY.

DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION.

FUNDING FOR CHASING THE DREAM IS PROVIDED BY --

THE INCOMPARABLE MISTY COPELAND, SHE WILL BE BACK CENTER STAGE THIS SPRING FOR THE AMERICAN BALLET SEASON THAT GETS UNDERWAY IN MAY.

SHE MADE HISTORY IN 2015 BECOMING THE FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN BALLERINA TO BE NAMED A PRINCIPAL DANCER IN THE COMPANY'S 75-YEAR HISTORY.

SINCE THEN THIS BOLD BALLERINA BROUGHT PLENTY OF NEW FANS INTO THE THEATRE WHILE PUSHING TO MAKE THE WORLD A MORE DIVERSE AND INCLUSIVE PLACE.

SHE IS LOOKING BACK AT THE BLACK DANCERS THAT PAVED THE WAY FOR HER WIDE INCLUDING ONE OF HER MENTORS, WILKINSON, WHO DIED IN DECEMBER AT THE AGE OF 83.

A CAREER THAT SAW HER OVERCOME DISCRIMINATION AND SEGREGATION AND BECAME ONE OF THE FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICANS TO PERFORM WITH A MAJOR BALLET COMPANY.

MISTY COPELAND WILL HOST A CELEBRATION OF WILKINSON'S LIFE.

WE TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT BOTH OF THESE TRAIL BLAZING BALLERINAS.

WE WILL WELCOME MISTY COPELAND BACK TO METROFOCUS.

THERE IS SO MUCH MORE WE WANT TO TALK ABOUT AND WE ARE GOING TO TALK ABOUT THE CHANGES YOU ARE SEEING.

BUT I WANT TO FOCUS FIRST ON RAVEN WILKINSON.

HOW DID YOU FIRST LEARN OF HER?

IT IS REALLY INTERESTING.

IT IS SOMETHING THAT I DISCOVERED AND FOUND, I FELT LIKE IT WAS SOMEWHAT A PART OF MY PURPOSE.

YOU KNOW, NOT JUST TO BE A CLASSICAL DANCER OR A BALLERINA, BUT REALLY TAKING OWNERSHIP AND RESPONSIBILITY IN MY POSITION AS A BLACK BALLERINA AND HOW I AM SEEN.

I THINK REALIZING THAT I DID NOT HAVE THAT TO LOOK AT GROWING UP.

THEY WERE THERE AND EXISTED BUT I WASN'T SHOWN IT.

IT IS NOT SOMETHING YOU CAN EASILY ACCESS.

THE FIRST TIME I SAW A BLACK BALLERINA WAS LAUREN ANDERSON, IT WAS SHOCKING.

I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT IT WAS.

I COULDN'T IDENTIFY IT.

THE FEELINGS THAT I HAD.

BUT IT WAS RAVEN THE FIRST TIME THAT I FELT LIKE IT ALL CLICKED.

I WAS ALREADY A PROFESSIONAL DANCER.

I WAS IN THE BALLET, I BELIEVE, AND I WAS WATCHING A DOCUMENT AARY ON THE COMPANY THAT SHE DANCED WITH.

IT IS NO LONGER IN EXISTENCE NOW, IN THE 1950s.

SHE CAME ON TO THE SCREEN AND SHE STARTED SPEAKING.

I IMMEDIATELY STARTED TO BALL MY EYES OUT LIKE IMMEDIATE RECOGNITION THAT I NEVER EXPERIENCED.

SOMEONE THAT PAVED THE WAY FOR ME.

I COULDN'T EVEN TRULY ARTICULATE OR UNDERSTAND WHY I WAS SO EMOTIONAL.

THAT IS WHY I UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF ME BEING IN THIS POSITION, JUST SIMPLY TO HAVE A YOUNG PERSON LOOK AT ME AND SEE AN OPPORTUNITY THROUGH ME, LIKE THEMSELVES THROUGH ME AND AN OPPORTUNITY WHETHER YOU ARE A DANCER OR NOT, BUT SOMEONE SUCK SIDING THAT LOOKS LIKE THEM.

RAVEN THAT WAS FOR ME AND IT LITERALLY CHANGED MY WORLD IN THAT MOMENT.

WHEN YOU LEARN ABOUT HER LIFE, WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT HER AND WHAT CONFRONTED HER AND HOW SHE HANDLED IT?

IT WAS REALLY JUST EYE-OPENING, YOU KNOW, CLEARLY IN THE PAST AND THROUGHOUT HISTORY, JUST BEING AFRICAN-AMERICAN, YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE EXPERIENCED JUST SO MANY HURDLES AND OBSTACLES THAT COULD HAVE CLEARLY GONE EASIER FOR US NOW.

WE STILL HAVE SO MANY ROADBLOCKS, AND TO FEEL THAT I WAS THE ONLY BLACK WOMAN IN AMERICAN BALLET THEATER FOR OVER A DECADE.

YOU KNOW I AM SITTING THERE THINKING LIKE THIS IS SO HARD FOR ME AND I AM FIGHTING AND THEN I WATCHED THIS AMAZING WOMAN SHARE HER STORY.

SHE DANCED FOR A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME BECAUSE HER LIFE WAS BEING THREATENED BY THE KKK, AND THAT IS WHAT ENDED HER CAREER.

TO SEE THE STRENGTH IN HER, SHE WAS SO CLEAR ABOUT HER IDENTITY AND WHO SHE WAS AND HOW SHE WANTED TO BE PERCEIVED, BUT WANTING TO DO WHAT SHE LOVED.

IT IS EASY FOR A BLACK DANCER IN THAT TIME TO BE PRESSURED INTO, YOU KNOW, PASSING THEY SAY.

RIGHT.

SHE TALKS ABOUT THAT.

SHE WAS ENCOURAGED TO TRY TO PASS.

YES.

AND THAT WAS NOT SOMETHING THAT SHE WAS GOING TO DO.

I JUST RESPECT HER EVEN MORE BECAUSE OF THE PERSON THAT SHE WAS AS A DANCER AND THE PERSON THAT I GOT TO KNOW WHICH WAS ABSOLUTELY -- I NEVER IMAGINED THAT I WOULD ACTUALLY BECOME A VERY CLOSE FRIEND OF HERS.

WHAT THAT WAS LIKE FOR YOU WHEN YOU FIRST MET HER AND HAD THE OPPORTUNITIES.

NOW YOU KNEW WHO SHE WAS AND WHAT SHE HAD DONE AND YOU SAW WHERE YOU HAD GOTTEN NOW.

WHAT WAS THE FIRST REACTION?

WELL, IT WAS JUST -- I FEEL LIKE EVERYTHING HAPPENED SO QUICKLY.

YOU KNOW, TO GO MY ENTIRE ADOLESCENCE OF TRAINING AS A DANCER AND NOT HAVING THAT PERSON AND SHE THEN IS THRUST INTO MY LIFE.

I AM SO MOTIVATED AND INSPIRED, YOU KNOW, TO BE A VOICE FOR THE BLACK COMMUNITY AND ESPECIALLY THE BLACK DANCE COMMUNITY.

AND THEN I STARTED TO WORK WITH MY MANAGER VERY EARLY ON IN MY RELATIONSHIP.

I WOULD SPEAK ABOUT RAVEN IN EVERY INTERVIEW.

LOOKED HER UP, FOUND OUT SHE WAS LIVING AND SHE BEING LIVED A HALF BLOCK FROM ME.

SHE WOULD COME AND SEE ME PERFORM THROUGHOUT MY ENTIRE EARLY CAREER.

THE FIRST TIME THAT WE SPOKE WAS ACTUALLY LIVE ON A RADIO INTERVIEW TO PROMOTE A PANEL DISCUSSION THAT WE DID OF TWO GENERATIONS OF BLACK BALLERINAS AT THE STUDIO MUSEUM IN HARLEM.

IT WAS SO OVERWHELMINGLY EMOTIONAL.

THERE IS A MARVELOUS PHOTOGRAPH THAT I SAW OF HER COMING ON STAGE WITH FLOWERS.

IT WAS ONE OF WANT MAJOR PROFESSIONAL HIGHLIGHTS IN YOUR CAREER.

YEAH.

TELL ME ABOUT THAT.

YOU WATCHED THAT AND YOU SAID HERE IS A PROGRESSION FROM ONE PIONEER TO ANOTHER.

I JUST FEEL VERY FORTUNATE THAT I AM SURROUNDED BY A TEAM OF BLACK WOMEN WHO ARE STRONG AND THAT UNDERSTAND ALL OF THE IMPORTANT POINTS IN MY CAREER, AND MY MANAGER MADE THAT HAPPEN.

THAT WAS A MONUMENTAL MOMENT THAT I DON'T THINK WOULD HAVE BEEN LENT TO ME TO HAVE LAUREN ANDERSON, THE FIRST PRINCIPAL BALLERINA WITH HOUSTON BALLET, SHE FIRST CAME ON TO THE STAGE IN MY DEBUT AS THE SWAN QUEEN IN NEW YORK CITY AND PRESENTED ME FLOWERS AND THEN RAVEN CAME OUT AFTERWARDS.

YOU KNOW, I GOT PHOTO AND I BLEW IT UP.

YOU LOOK AT RAVEN'S FACE AND IT IS AS IF SHE IS IN A SENSE NOT JUST HOLDING THE FLOWERS BUT SHE IS EMBRACING YOU AND WHAT YOU HAVE BECOME.

THERE IS A REAL SENSE OF PRIDE THERE AND A SENSE MAYBE OF OWNERSHIP.

YEAH.

IT CAME FROM ME AND IT COMES TO MISTY.

I DON'T KNOW IF SHE WOULD EVER ADMIT THAT OR SAY THAT BUT THAT IS WHAT I KNOW AND FELT.

I THINK IT IS IMPORTANT FOR THIS GENERATION OF BROWN PEOPLE TO SEE THAT COMMUNITY AND THAT SUPPORT FROM TWO BLACK WOMEN.

IT WAS LIKE SHE WAS PASSING ME THE TORCH.

THAT IS WHAT IS SO AMAZING.

SHE SAID TO ME ON MANY OCCASIONS SHE DID NOT EVER THINK SHE WOULD SEE A BLACK BALLERINA THIS CALIBER OF HER LIFETIME.

FOR HER TO HAVE WITNESSED IN.

GREAT FOR YOU TO HAVE DONE IT AND MARVELOUS FOR HER TO BE THERE AND STILL TO BE WITH US AND HAVE WITNESSES.

YEAH.

LET ME TALK ABOUT OPPORTUNITIES AND SOME OF THE THINGS YOU TALKED ABOUT AND PLACES YOU HAVE BEEN AND WHERE YOU ARE NOW.

I WAS STRUCK WHEN I WATCHED ONE OF THE INTERVIEWS AND FIRST OF ALL, IT IS INTERESTING THAT YOU DIDN'T START TO DANCE UNTIL YOU WERE 13.

THAT IS SORT OF AN ETERNITY.

YEAH.

YEAH.

AND YOU TALK ABOUT THE FACT THAT WE MENTIONED ROADBLOCKS AND HURDLES AND PEOPLE WOULD LOOK AT YOU AND SAY YOU DON'T HAVE THE BODY OF A DANCER.

YEAH.

ANYBODY THAT HAS SEEN YOU DANCE.

I SAID WHAT CAN THEY POSSIBLY BE TALKING ABOUT.

THANK YOU.

WHAT DID THAT MEAN?

WHAT KIND OF A HURDLE DOES THAT BECOME?

IT IS REALLY FASCINATING.

THE REASON THAT I WAS DISCOVERED AT A LATE AGE WAS BECAUSE THEY WERE LIKE, WOW, YOU HAVE THE BODY OF A BALLERINA.

THIS IS GOING TO BE REALLY EASY, YOU KNOW, YOU WERE VERY CAPABLE.

I WAS FLEXIBLE.

I HAD MUSCLE.

LEAN, LONG MUSCLE.

I WAS STRONG.

HYPER MOBILE AND ALL OF THE THINGS THAT ARE HUGE ASSETS.

I GET TO THE POINT LATER IN MY CAREER WHERE I AM A PROFESSIONAL AND THE WORDS ARE USED IN A COMPLETELY OPPOSITE WAY.

IT TOOK ME A WHILE TO DECIPHER WHAT THE LANGUAGE MEANT AND THAT IS SOMETHING EVERY BLACK DANCER, IT IS A LANGUAGE THAT THE BALLET WORLD CAN USE.

KIND OF A CODE.

YEAH.

AND IT MAKES SENSE.

THAT'S EVERYTHING.

IT IS NOT WRONG TO SAY THAT I AM SORRY YOU DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT LOOK OR THE RIGHT BUILD BUT THAT HAS BEEN USED AS A WAY TO KEEP BLACK AND BROWN BODIES OFF OF THE STAGE IN MAJOR CLASSICAL COMPANIES.

I HAVE BEEN COMFORTABLE BRINGING THAT DISCUSSION TO THE FOREFRONT BECAUSE I THINK IT IS SO IMPORTANT AND NECESSARY TO HAVE.

YOU KNOW, JUST TO BE UP FRONT AND TO BE HONEST ABOUT MY EXPERIENCES.

YOU KNOW, OF COURSE I HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF MYSELF AS AN ATHLETE AND DANCER.

THIS IS MY INSTRUMENT.

IF I DON'T HAVE THIS I CAN'T DANCE.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO BE HEALTHY AND TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF BUT THERE IS ONLY SO MUCH YOU CAN CHANGE ABOUT YOUR BODY, AND MY SKIN COLOR I CANNOT CHANGE.

I THINK IT IS AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE, YOU KNOW, A THING FOR YOUNG PEOPLE TO SEE.

IN MANY WAYS YOU ARE AN AGENT OF CHANGE AND WANT TO BE AN AGENT OF CHANGE.

WHEN YOU ARE ON STAGE AND YOU LOOK OUT.

YEAH.

ARE YOU SEEING SOMETHING DIFFERENT NOW WHEN YOU LOOK OUT INTO THE AUDIENCE.

WHEN I AM ON THE STAGE IN A CLASSICAL BALLET OR THEATER, YOU CAN'T SEE THE AUDIENCE.

THAT IS WHY I LOVED IT SO MUCH.

I WAS SO SHY AND INTROVERTED, I CAN DO WHAT I LOVE.

THAT IS A GREAT THING.

BUT IT IS AFTER THE PERFORMANCES OR BEFORE WHEN PEOPLE SHOW ME PICTURES OF THE LINE THAT IS STRETCHING FROM THE STREET IN FRONT OF THE METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE INTO THE BOX OFFICE.

IT IS A VERY LONG WAY AND IT IS FULL OF BROWN PEOPLE, AND I DON'T THINK THAT HAS EVER BEEN DONE AT THE METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE IN A LOT OF BIG, CLASSICAL THEATERS.

IT IS SO IMPORTANT FOR THIS GENERATION TO SEE THAT THEY ARE WELCOMED IN THOSE SPACES.

HOW ABOUT WHEN YOU ARE ON STAGE AND YOU LOOK AROUND, AROUND YOU AND BEHIND YOU.

ARE YOU SEEING CHANGE THERE TOO?

NO.

IT IS MUCH SLOWER.

YOU KNOW, I AM VERY FORTUNATE THAT I AM IN A POSITION WHERE I AM SEEN BY SO MANY PEOPLE AND NOT JUST IN AMERICA.

SO I THINK IT IS MUCH EASIER TO GET AUDIENCE MEMBERS THAT ARE MORE DIVERSE AND WANT TO SUPPORT YOU.

THEY FINALLY HAVE SOMEONE TO SHOW THAT IT IS NOT LIKE THEY CAN TAKE THEIR CHILDREN AND IT IS LIKE WHY AM I GOING TO PUT THEM IN THE FIELD IF THEY ARE NEVER GOING TO SUCCEED AND HAVE A PERSON THEY CAN LOOK UP AND DREAM TO.

THAT IS AN EASIER WAY OF GETTING PEOPLE THROUGH THE DOOR.

BUT IT IS THE WHOLE SYSTEM AND THE STRUCTURE.

WHY ARE WE NOT SEEING MORE MISTY COPELANDS?

IT IS SO DEEP, TRYING TO CHANGE SOMETHING.

IT IS A EUROPEAN ART FORM.

I THINK WE ARE READY TO BREAK AWAY FROM THAT AND MAKE IT AN AMERICAN ART FORM.

IT IS CONSTANTLY EVOLVING AND I DON'T THINK IT JUST BELIEVES TO THE FRENCH AND THE RUSSIANS AND THE ITALIANS ANYMORE.

I THINK WE HAVE OUR OWN WAY OF CREATING BALLET IN AN AMERICAN WAY.

I THINK THAT IT IS REALLY JUST ABOUT CHANGING PEOPLE'S PERCEPTIONS AND WHAT IS POSSIBLE.

YOU KNOW, IT IS LIKE EVERYONE HAS TO LOOK THE SAME AND DANCE IN UNISON.

WHEN YOUDOM DO DOM -- YOU COME THEATER AND IT IS FANTASY.

PEOPLE TAKE ON ROLES.

THROUGHOUT HISTORY WHITE DANCERS PORTRAYED BEING A GREEK PERSON OR INDIAN, SO WHY CAN'T WE BE ANYTHING WE WANT TO AS BLACK DANCERS?

NOBODY IS A SWAN QUEEN, YOU KNOW.

YOU ARE CREATING ART.

IT SHOULD BE FANTASY.

YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO CREATE ANYTHING.

IT IS ABOUT GETTING TO THE ROOT OF THE OPPORTUNITIES AND THE FINANCIAL BURDEN.

JUST BRINGING DANCE TO THE COMMUNITIES WHERE THEY DON'T HAVE ACCESS TO HAVE TEACHERS THAT LOOK LIKE THEM IN THE COMMUNITIES MAKING IT ACCESSIBLE AND AFFORDABLE, BRINGING IN DANCERS THAT ARE OF COLOR WITHIN THE TOP COMPANIES AS WELL.

BUT IF YOU DON'T HAVE A LARGE GROUP OF DANCERS THAT HAVE THE TRAINING THEN THERE IS NOBODY TO CHOOSE FROM WHEN YOU GET TO THE TOP TIER COMPANIES.

YOU KNOW, GETTING THERE.

SO IT IS GOING TO TAKE A LONG TIME TO REACH THE POINT WHERE WE WILL SEE A BIGGER, YOU KNOW CHANGE.

ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC?

DO YOU THINK WE ARE MOVING IN THAT DIRECTION?

I AM DOING EVERYTHING THAT I CAN AND I WON'T STOP AS LONG AS I AM HERE.

I AM CONSTANTLY TRYING TO FIND WAYS TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN.

I THINK THE MORE THAT I HAVE A VOICE AND THE MORE THAT I USE IT ON EVERY PLATFORM THAT I HAVE AS WELL AS EMBRACING AND SUPPORTING OTHER BLACK DANCERS.

YOU KNOW, I FEEL LIKE I AM JUST A VESSEL FOR SO MANY DANCERS THAT HAVE PAVED THE WAY FOR ME AND FOR FUTURE DANCERS.

IT IS NOT ABOUT ME.

IT IS NOT ABOUT ME.

IT IS WHAT I REPRESENT.

THAT IS WHY I DO WHAT I DO.

WELL, I WILL SAY THIS.

YOU SAY THAT IT IS NOT ABOUT ME.

I KNOW YOU BELIEVE THAT.

I CAN TELL YOU THAT IT IS ABOUT YOU AND YOUR FANS WILL SAY THAT.

THE PEOPLE THAT LOOK TO YOU FOR INSPIRATION.

WE LOOK AT WHAT YOU HAVE DONE, I KNOW YOU ARE CERTAINLY PROUD OF HER ACCOMPLISHMENTS.

WE KNOW BEFORE SHE LEFT US AND STILL TODAY I AM SURE SHE IS EXTRAORDINARILY PROUD OF WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN ABLE TO DO.

YEAH.

I WANT TO THANK YOU FOR SPENDING SOME TIME WITH US BECAUSE YOU ARE AN INSPIRATION TO SO MANY AND SUCH A DELIGHT TO WATCH PERFORM AND TO TALK WITH US.

THANK YOU.

FOR SEVEN MONTHS IN 196100S OF CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS DESCENDED ON BUS STATIONS ACROSS THE DEEP SOUTH TO PROTEST RACIAL SEGREGATION IN PUBLIC SPACES.

THE FREEDOM RIDERS OCCUPIED LUNCH COUNTERS AND BATHROOMS IN AN EFFORT TO BRING ATTENTION TO SEGREGATION THAT WAS JUST RULED ILLEGAL BY THE SUPREME COURT, THEY WERE ARRESTED, JAILED AND OFTEN FACED VIOLENCE FROM ANGRY MOBS.

LAVON BROWN WAS 16 WHEN HE JOINED THE FREEDOM RIDERS.

LEWIS JUMPED ON A GREYHOUND BUS.

GENTLEMEN, WELCOME TO YOU BOTH TO THE SHOW.

THANK YOU.

SO, FIRST I WANT TO START OFF WITH WHAT WAS IT THAT LED BOTH OF YOU TO JOIN THE FREEDOM RIDERS?

MINE WAS MOSTLY ANGER AT WHAT WAS GOING ON IN JACKSON.

YOU COULDN'T GO DOWNTOWN TO EAT OR TRY ON CLOTHING OR GO TO A MOVIE.

YOU WERE A SECOND CLASS CITIZEN.

THE ONLY WAY THAT I KNEW HOW TO DEAL WITH THAT IS WITH VIOLENCE.

TWO GENTLEMEN WERE TRYING TO RECRUIT PEOPLE FROM JACKSON TO JOIN THEM.

SO IT WAS THROUGH LISTENING TO THEM THAT I CAME TO UNDERSTAND THAT MAYBE WE CAN DO SOMETHING.

MAYBE WE CAN USE THIS NONVIOLENCE TO DO IT.

THE RIOTS WERE GOING ON.

I FINISHED THAT SCHOOL IN JUNE.

JULY IT WAS THE FIRST ARREST.

IT DID NOT TAKE LONG.

I WAS WALKING WITH JIM TRAVIS THROUGH DOWNTOWN JACKSON AND WE PASSED A WOOLWORTH WHERE WE COULDN'T EAT AND WE DECIDED TO GO IN AND GET SOMETHING TO EAT.

WE WERE ASKED TO LEAVE.

WE SAID NO.

THEY BROUGHT THE MANAGER OUT.

SAME THING HAPPENED.

THEN THEY CALLED THE POLICE.

WE GOT ARRESTED FOR SITTING AT THE WHITE LUNCH COUNTER.

WE WERE TAKEN TO JAIL.

AND I THINK THAT FROM THEN ON I WAS INVOLVED.

I STAYED INVOLVED WITH THE VOTER REGISTRATION PIECE THAT WE DID LATER.

BUT IT WAS MOSTLY ANGER.

AND IT WAS THE FACT THAT PEOPLE LIKE LOU AND OTHERS HAD GOTTEN ON BUSES AND COME DOWN AND ALMOST GOT KILLED TO HELP US.

FOR MYSELF THAT WAS IMPORTANT TO ME.

LOU, I HATE TO SAY IT BUT THE WAY THAT PEOPLE UNFORTUNATELY LOOKS AT THINGS, IT MAKES SENSE TO GET INVOLVED.

THIS WAS AFFECTING HIS LIFE.

BUT YOU WERE HUNDREDS MILES OF WAY AND IT WASN'T DIRECTLY AFFECTING YOUR LIFE.

THERE ARE MANY REASONS I GOT INVOLVED.

MY FATHER COMMITTED SUICIDE WHEN I WAS 2 1/2.

MY IDOL WAS JACKIE ROBINSON.

NOT JUST BECAUSE HE WAS A GREAT BASEBALL PLAYER.

JACKIE STOOD UP.

HE STOOD UP ALL THE TIME.

HE WAS IN THE ARMY.

HE REFUSED TO SIT IN THE BACK OF THE BUS AND WAS COURT-MARTIALED.

19 I WAS WATCHING TV AND THERE WAS THIS SHOW AND ON THE SHOW WAS HANK THOMAS WHO WAS ON THE ORIGINAL FREEDOM RIDER BUS THAT WAS FIRE BOMBED.

WHITNEY YOUNG HEAD OF THE URBAN LEAGUE AND HEAD OF NAACP AND JACKIE ROBINSON.

JACKIE ROBINSON SAID IF THESE YOUNG PEOPLE FEEL THIS IS THE TIME TO STAND UP WHO ARE WE NOT TO SUPPORT THEM.

THE NEXT MORNING I DECIDED TO GO DOWN.

THE LAST THING THAT I WANT TO MENTION, I'M JEWISH.

I GREW UP RIGHT AFTER -- I WAS BORN IN 1942 DURING WORLD WAR II.

IT WAS AS MUCH MY FIGHT AS AFRICAN-AMERICANS.

I THINK THE FACT THAT WE ONLY FEEL PEOPLE SHOULD STAND UP FOR THEIR OWN PARTICULAR IDENTITY GROUP IS ONE OF THE REASONS THAT WE DON'T PROGRESS MORE IN TERMS OF SOCIAL JUSTICE.

I FELT IT WAS MY FIGHT AS MUCH AS ANY AFRICAN-AMERICAN AND WENT DOWN WITH THAT SENSE OF JUSTICE AND DETERMINATION.

LET ME ASK YOU BOTH THIS, NOT ONLY FOR MYSELF BUT FOR ALL OF THE OTHER PEOPLE THAT HAVE BEEN BLESSED ENOUGH TO HAVE GROWN UP POST CIVIL RIGHTS ACT.

ALL OF THIS IS HISTORY FOR US THAT WE READ IN HISTORY BOOKS.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO BE INVOLVED IN THE FREEDOM RIDES WHERE YOU WERE ON THE BUSES AND FACING THE MOBS.

IN SOME CASES, AS YOU MENTIONED, DID KILL PEOPLE.

I DON'T KNOW.

I ALREADY KNEW THAT PEOPLE COULD DIE.

BECAUSE I LIVED IN JACKSON.

I WAS 11 YEARS OLD.

THEY WERE UPSET.

THEY DIDN'T WANT THE BOYS OUT LATE AT NIGHT.

WHITE PEOPLE HAD A WAY OF TAKING IT OUT ON ANYBODY.

EVEN THOUGH WE LIVED IN THE CITY, THERE WAS A LOT OF FEAR.

SO, IT WAS NOT NEW TO ME THAT PEOPLE COULD DIE FROM DOING THIS.

I WANT TO TURN TO THE ORGANIZATION YOU ARE WORKING WITH AND THE OUTREACH WORK THAT YOU ARE DOING WITH YOUNG PEOPLE.

WHAT IS THE ADVICE THAT YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE WHERE WE SEEM TO BE SEEING A RESURGENCE, KIDS WANTING TO GET INVOLVED AND MAKE A CHANGE FOR THE BETTER.

WHAT CAN YOU TELL THEM OR THAT YOU ARE TELLING THEM?

WELL, FOR MYSELF, YOU KNOW, THIS IS AN ORGANIZATION THAT IS DEDICATED TO INSURING THE HOLOCAUST IS REMEMBERING NOW SOCIAL JUSTICE AND CIVIL RIGHTS.

ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE HAD DISCOVERED, WHICH IS REALLY INTERESTING, BOTH OF US HAD MESSED UP CHILDHOODS.

WE WERE ABUSED.

WE ACTED OUT.

WE DID ALL OF THE WRONG THINGS THAT COULD HAVE ENDED UP WITH BOTH OF US NOT BEING HERE A LONG TIME AGO.

HOW LUCKY THAT WE WERE TO BE FREEDOM RIDERS AND HOW FORTUNATE WE WERE.

WHAT I TRY TO DO IS TO HELP OUR YOUNG PEOPLE.

VALIDATE THE FACT THAT THERE IS A LOT WRONG IN THIS WORLD BUT HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT DEALING WITH THAT IN A WAY THAT DOES NOT INJURE YOURSELF.

FACING HISTORY ALLOWS US TO GO OUT AND TALK TO CHILDREN AND TALK TO THE YOUNG PEOPLE THAT ARE READY TO GO OUT AND VOTE.

WE FAILED THEM.

WE DIDN'T FINISH.

THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT DID NOT SOLVE EVERYTHING.

WHEN THEY TALK ABOUT THINGS LIKE VOTER REGISTRATION, WE TALK ABOUT VOTER REGISTRATION.

WE TALK ABOUT POLL TAX OR WHATEVER.

THEY ARE DOING THE SAME THING.

IN PENNSYLVANIA WHERE THEY HAVE THE VOTER I.D., VOTER I.D.

IT IS JUST LIKE WE USED TO FIGHT FOR RIGHTS TO VOTE.

PEOPLE ARE NOT CHEATING OR LYING OR DOING ANY OF THAT.

BUT THE CHILDREN HAVE TO FIGHT THAT.

TO LISTEN TO PEOPLE LIKE MYSELF OR OTHERS OR PEOPLE THAT DON'T AGREE WITH THEM.

YOU TELL THE CHILDREN THIS.

YOU GIVE THEM DIRECTION.

YOU TELL THEM THAT EVEN THOUGH WE THOUGHT THAT THERE WAS NOBODY OUT THERE THAT COULD TELL US ANYTHING, THERE WERE PEOPLE THAT REPRESENTED US IN COURT.

THERE WERE PEOPLE THAT HELPED TO STRATEGIZE.

WE CAN DO THAT FOR THEM.

THEY HAVE TO TAKE THE LEAD.

I THINK, YEAH.

THAT IS A BEAUTIFUL NOTE TO LEAVE IT ON.

YEAH.

GENTLEMEN, I WANT TO THANK YOU BOTH FOR YOUR BRAVERY AND CONTINUED WORK TO MAKE SURE THAT HISTORY IS NOT FORGOTTEN AND REMEMBERED.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

♪ ♪

METROFOCUS IS MADE POSSIBLE BY SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B.POYTA PROGRAMMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMTISIM.

JUDE AND HE 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.

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