Long before I could even fathom the dream of becoming a journalist, the drum solo which served as an intro to “Like It Is” called out to me every Sunday afternoon. Its rhythmic salute to a distant land which is the foundation of my African American roots always lulled me into watching the opening montage. In less than 15 seconds, I got a quick history lesson through images of slavery, the civil rights movement and its icons, and modern day revolutionaries. But, it wasn’t until I assumed the producing reigns of “Like It Is” in 2000 and worked side by side with legendary anchor Gil Noble did I truly get an education in black culture and journalism.
An imposing figure, Gil towered over me, which is a feat since I stand 5 foot 9 inches tall. Yet, he always allowed me to stand on his shoulders and shine. Case in point, one of the first shows we did together was a live broadcast providing reaction to the Amadou Diallo verdict. He allowed me to book the majority of the guests, write the “toss” questions and guide him through his first live broadcast in decades. The broadcast garnered his best ratings in years and taught me the depth of my skills and his at enlightening the public.
A year later, Gil and I did a show called, “A Continuing Look at the World Trade Center Attacks.” It focused on the perspective of the Black Fire Fighter responders. The episode, which aired on December 23, 2001, taught me why his show,”Like It Is,” was so essential. I worked in the newsroom on that faithful day and the months and weeks afterwards. While all of the journalists there did an admirable job bringing the viewers countless stories of heroism and courage, including their own, in the face of the attacks, Gil was the only one to show how the deaths of the African American Fire Fighters ravaged the presence of people of color within the department. Gil and “Like It Is” exposed what was lurking beneath the surface of this and every story; the untold angles and ramifications. Moreover, he taught me to do the same.
So, when I left the show to return to the newsroom after years of aiding Gil in using “Like It Is” to cover joyous occasions like Halle Berry winning the Oscar or the horrors like the effects of drugs on the African American community, I was armed with the knowledge that a complete, fair and balanced picture of a story is what the public, especially the African American community, is clamoring to see.
Gil and my relationship drifted apart in the time since I sat in the office across the hall from him; it was reduced to exchanging pleasantries in the garage as we waited for our cars at the end of a long day before we both began the long drive home to New Jersey. Of course, I figured I had time in the future to share with him, in a serious conversation, what he had meant to me and my career. But, then, one day he wasn’t at the payment window. In the next few days, word went out that he’d been hospitalized with a stroke. He never recovered and I never said thank you to him. However, I live his legacy every day and that, I believe, would be thank you enough for him.