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Prophet of possibility Pt. III

Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman

Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman and the roots of black power in Detroit

By Paul Lee
Special to the Michigan Citizen

Pt. III of IV:
Spotlight on Black Power
Our special series celebrating the 97th birthday of Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, formerly the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., the founder and First Holy Patriarch of the Shrines of the Black Madonna of the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church (PAOCC), concludes with the transcript of a rare 1968 interview with him on “Spotlight,” WXYZ-TV, Channel 7.

Now called “Spotlight on the News,” this award-winning show, created in 1965, is the longest-running news/public affairs program on Michigan television.

Our series on Jaramogi Agyeman was supposed to end with this installment, but we have added a fourth because of enlightening interviews that we were fortunate enough to obtain from Jim Herrington, the sole surviving member of the “Spotlight” team that questioned Jaramogi Agyeman, and Nancy Fyffe, the widow of the show’s creator and first moderator.

Additionally, Chuck Stokes, the show’s current host, and economist Dr. Karl D. Gregory, a former aide of Jaramogi Ageyman’s, kindly provided helpful statements.

Lost and found

The half-hour “Spotlight” interview was taped in color at the station’s Broadcast House in Southfield on Feb. 29, 1968, and aired on Sunday, March 10, at 1:00 p. m. According to the transcript, the interview was broadcast in two parts, with this being the second.

The transcript was discovered at Wayne State University’s Walter P. Reuther Library in the records of New Detroit, Inc.

Founded in the wake of the 1967 Detroit Rebellion as the New Detroit Committee, it was a coalition of business, civil rights, labor and industry leaders, headed by Joseph L. Hudson, Jr., the young department store magnate, which sought to identify and address the entrenched social problems that led to the uprising.

Original “Spotlight” panelist and longtime moderator Jim Herrington recalls that the program did make transcripts available in those days, but it appears that this one was produced from an audiotape by New Detroit, probably as part of its wide-ranging effort to collect information that would help it to understand Detroit’s diverse black community.

Sadly, the audiotape has apparently been lost and there is no transcript of the first part of the interview.

Similarly, WXYZ-TV did not retain any of the films or videotapes of first decades of “Spotlight.” “Our track record on saving stuff wasn’t real good,” laments Herrington.

Creator and panel

“Spotlight” was the brainchild of the late William C. (Bill) Fyffe, WXYZ-TV’s legendary news director. Fyffe is credited with transforming the station from a “bad third,” as Herrington puts it, into the city’s television news powerhouse.

“Fyffe created Channel 7 News, literally,” says Herrington. “Channel 7 News was nothing until Fyffe came in and built it.”

(Herrington and Fyffe studied together at Northwestern University at Evanston, Ill., where Herrington hired Fyffe for his first job in broadcasting at the local WEAW-FM radio station.)

“Spotlight” was created because Fyffe thought that WXYZ-TV “should have a program of that sort to discuss issues, interview people, expand on the story of the week,” explains Herrington.

The program’s original format was copied from NBC’s venerable “Meet the Press,” with a moderator — Fyffe was the first — and a panel of reporters who questioned the guest.

Along with Herrington, the original panelists were reporter Bob Maher, who had worked for the now-defunct Detroit Times, and anchor Barney Morris, who, along with Bill Bonds, was hired from WKNR-FM radio (known as “Keener,” now WNIC).

Bonds, who would become Detroit’s most celebrated news anchor, often rotated with Morris. In fact, Bonds was originally slated to help question Jaramogi Agyeman, according the WXYZ-TV news release published in the March 11, 1968, Michigan Chronicle.

(After Herrington took over as moderator, he hired Detroit News reporter Tony Snow as a panelist. Snow would later serve as a press secretary for President George H. W. Bush. Herrington and Bonds are the only survivors of the original panel.)

Center of the storm

From July 23-27, 1967, the mostly black rebellion against police brutality, poor and inadequate housing conditions, economic exploitation, political marginalization and other social injustices, which many black Detroiters considered the spokes of a single racist axle, exploded into the worst urban disorder in U. S. history.

It would only be exceeded by the Los Angeles Rebellion 25 years later.

In the aftermath of the Detroit Rebellion, white civic and business leaders and black community leaders eyed one another warily over competing visions and strategies on how to rebuild and improve the mostly black inner-city core.

Jaramogi Agyeman was at the center of these black reconstruction efforts.

The charismatic 56-year-old Agyeman was also the chairman of three secular organizations: The Inner City Organizing Committee (ICOC), which was essentially the political arm of his church; the Citywide Citizens Action Committee (CCAC, pronounced “SEE-sack”); and the Federation for Self-Determination (FSD).

The latter two groups were established after the Rebellion as black united-front organizations that sought to bring about the “transfer of power,” as Jaramogi Agyeman put it, from whites, who then held it, to African Americans, who were quickly becoming the majority as whites fled to the suburbs and elsewhere.

In this wide-ranging interview, Jaramogi Ageyman discusses, among other things, the following topics:

- His definition of black self-determination, also called Black Power.

- His concept of a black “nation within a nation” uniting the urban and rural black “centers” throughout the U. S., not geographical separation, as was then being advocated by the newly formed Republic of New Africa (RNA).

- His rejection of racial integration as “the white man’s problem.”

- His plans to rehabilitate urban properties, which would be pursued though ACCORD, Inc. (see the sidebar by Dr. Karl D. Gregory).

- His terms for federal government and white private investment in the “black nation,” which would not conflict with the “basic principles of self-determination.”

- His answer to the charge of “reverse discrimination.”

- The “reality” of racial separation and integration as a form of “white control.”

n His efforts to promote cooperative economics through such ventures as the Black Star Co-op Market, the Black Star Shell Service Station and Black Star Clothing Cooperative (see Pt. II of this series, “The economics of power,” June 22nd-June 28th, 2008).

- His negotiations with “white industrialists and capitalists regarding investments in the black community.”

- The myth that Black Power was a threat to the white suburbs.

- The need for black political power.

- His lack of interest in a “bloody revolution.”

- The importance of black bloc voting, as he had advocated as a co-founder, state chairman and gubernatorial candidate for the nearly all-black Michigan Freedom Now party in 1964.

- His interest in helping to elect a black Detroit mayor “who is willing to go all the way with the ideas of self-determination” as a “model for what a black community could do if it had some kind of political power.”

- The changing mood of African Americans, particularly the younger generation, exemplified in their growing preference for being called “black” rather than “Negro.”n His belief that, if any “major disturbance” were to occur that summer, a fearful white community would provoke it.

‘Spotlight,’ March 10, 1968
Pt. I

[Narrator] This is “Spotlight,” a program designed to question, probe and perhaps clarify events, subjects and people that change and influence our world. Now, here’s our moderator, WXYZ-TV News Director Bill Fyffe.

[Bill Fyffe] Good afternoon. A philosopher once said, in effect, that there is nothing as powerful as an idea which has reached its moment. Today there are many who believe that the ideas of black nationalism and Black Power have reached their moment here in America.

One man who believes this is our guest today. He is the Reverend Albert Cleage, the chairman of the Federation for Self-Determination, an organization which believes the black man not only has the right but the duty to be master of his own fate.

Mr. Cleage is also pastor of the Shrine of the Black Madonna here in Detroit. Mr. Cleage will be questioned today by our panel of reporters: Barney Morris, Bob Maher and Jim Herrington.

Our topic is “Black Power.” Our question now from Barney Morris.

Self-determination

[Barney Morris] Last week, as we finished the program, Mr. Cleage, we tried to get the sum definition of what self-determination means in the Negro community as you use that phrase, a phrase that’s used a lot. I’m sure that a great deal of people both black and white don’t understand it. What is your definition of it? What does it mean? Does it mean segregation of the whites?

[Albert B. Cleage] No. It means black control of black communities, and that can be easily translated into black control in the area of economics — that is, we want to own and operate businesses in the black community.

In the area of politics, we want to use our political strength to elect black officials in the city of Detroit. We think by 1969 that we should be able to elect a mayor and the city council and we should have enough votes to do this kind of thing.

We want much more control over the schools. We feel that the schools are one of the basic weaknesses in the black community; that inner-city schools do not educate black children; that black children are two to four grades behind grade level in achievement; and that the educators do not feel accountable to the black community.

So some change has to be made here so that the educators in the schools become accountable to the black community, some kind of community control to schools.

In all areas, then, we want black control of the black community, which we think is not an un-American idea.

Black nation within a nation

[Morris] In other words, in the framework of the thinking of some of those who are members of your church and who are active in organizations you are active in, they feel that things are in such a state now that a separate city, a separate nation, a separate government is really the only solution, at least for the present. Now, do you go that far?

[Cleage] No. I use the concept “a nation within a nation”; that we are separate to the extent that we can consider ourselves a black nation within a nation — that is, black urban centers in the north, black urban centers in — black rural ghettos in the south; that together we have a common heritage, we have a common sense of objective, a common oppression, and this has brought us together and made us a nation within a nation.

But certainly we don’t advocate — at least I don’t advocate — a separate state or separate country, a separate geographic separation, any more than the geographic separation that the white man has already given us in America.

[Morris] But there would be boundaries, is that correct? Let’s take the city of Detroit, for example. In the city of Detroit, would there be a white community and a black community?

[Cleage] We don’t have any plan for changing it. Just what is it now? It’s a black community and a white community in Detroit.

[Morris] Absolutely. Almost half the amount.

[Cleage] It will stay that way, except black people will be coming in so they will be increasing in percentage of the population and white people who are fearful will be leaving, so they will decrease the white percentage in the population. But essentially there will be no pressure on white people to leave unless they just don’t like to live in a city where black people have economic and political control.

The white man’s problem

[Morris] Have you given up on the theory that America should try to work towards some plan of integration of the races? Do you think we should stop trying that because it doesn’t work and go to this self-determination thing?

[Cleage] I think essentially that’s the white man’s problem, that’s his responsibility. He set up the pattern of segregation, of separation. Now, if there is to be any integration in the sense of breaking down the barriers that separate black people from white people, black people can’t do it. White people will have to do it. They have established it.

They have the real estate conspiracy that keeps black people confined to certain areas. The whole pattern of American life keeps black people separate. Now, if there is to be any dream of integration, it is going to have to be the white dream of integration. As far as we are concerned, we have to face the reality and deal within the framework of reality as it exists.

Rehabilitating property

[Morris] Okay, Mr. Cleage, let’s deal with reality. There are buildings in Detroit in which Negroes live that are owned by white people. There are stores in Detroit that Negroes shop at that are owned by white people. There are homes in Detroit that are owned by white people, although, as you said last week, most of them are owned by Negroes where the Negroes are living.

Now, do you propose that the white people who own these properties and the white people who maintain the power at City Hall, for instance, just turn it all over to the Negro community and say, “Here. Here are the buildings. Here are the stores. Here’s the power. Go with it!”?

[Cleage] No. I would have no objection to making such a proposal. I don’t think it is reasonable in the sense that they are going to do it. I think most of them have already milked the property. If you’ve seen most of that property that they are renting in the inner city, they have already gotten four times its value. It’s already dead property in terms of any economic yardstick that you might use.

But I would advocate that that property — that there be a system whereby that property can be purchased by black people, that the ownership can be transferred to black people.

Now, I’m interested in a corporation that is undertaking that kind of a program to develop new property and to rehabilitate old buildings, but that means to really rehabilitate them, not just take a little, you know, paint and whitewash in there, you know, and say that we have fixed up the apartment. You know, strip them down and really rehabilitate them and then sell them on a co-op basis to the occupants at a reasonable price.

Investing in the black nation

[Morris] Somebody has got to pay for all of that, and I presume that you’re thinking is that it should be the federal government.

[Cleage] No. A private business is willing to invest in the ghetto if they can be guaranteed a reasonable return on their investment. The federal government is already investing, but usually it invests through white corporations rather than a black corporation.

We would insist in the future that the federal government invest in the black community through a black corporation, but private — white private business is not opposed or antagonistic to investments in the black community and they are not opposed to the basic principles of self-determination.

We will say any white company, any white industrialist, any white bank that wants to invest in the black community has to first set up a corporation, give black people a controlling interest on the board of directors, give a controlling interest to black people in the community as far as voting stock is concerned, and make provision that, after a reasonable return on an investment has been received by white investors, that the property automatically reverts to the black people in the community.

Reverse racism?

[Morris] In other words, you want to discriminate against whites for a change?

[Cleage] No. We just merely want whites to stop exploiting. We want them to invest in our black nation, nation within a nation, on the same basis that they would invest in Cambodia or the Congo or anyplace else.

If white capitalists go to any country in the world to invest, they have to accept these same principles of self-determination. They go in and they have to take the government or private people from that country into partnership in the corporation, that there has to be a voting control of the stock and the ownership has to revert back to the nation in which they’re going.

We are only saying we are a nation within a nation, and don’t just come in and try to exploit us and take everything out. Realize that we have the same right that you would give any people in the world that you would, you know, any country that you would go to invest in.

The legacy of ‘Spotlight’

By Chuck Stokes
WXYZ-TV Editorial Director and “Spotlight” Host

I commend The Michigan Citizen for digging up what I would call a vintage and, in many ways, typical piece of “Spotlight On the News” history.

“Spotlight” is Michigan’s longest-running public affairs program, but, unfortunately, we don’t have any of those early shows from the 1960s in our Channel 7 archives. So the stories I’ve heard about “Spotlight” in those days have been through word of mouth.

This is the first time I’ve had an opportunity to actually see a transcript of a show that dates back that far. It brings to light why this program was started and, I think, has continued all these years.

It reinforces the newsworthiness and consistent role that this popular Sunday-morning public affairs program has played in television broadcasting history since 1965. I think the transcript will drive home what this show has meant to the Detroit area community and the State of Michigan.

Thanks to “Spotlight” founder Bill Fyffe, various “Action News” reporters and retired long-time host Jim Herrington — who, after his 20 years at the helm, I affectionately refer to as the “dean” of “Spotlight” — newsmakers have always felt comfortable appearing on “Spotlight.”

On any given week, the questions may be tough to the guests, but I think they know we have a rich history of being fair and hopefully informative.

We also can’t take for granted the strong support that the show has had from various Channel 7 station managers. It’s remarkable that not a single one ever said, “Okay, enough of that program.” They’ve all continued it, including program director Marla Drutz and our current vice president and general manger, Bob Sliva, who, as a Detroiter, grew up watching Channel 7 and “Spotlight.” They appreciate the history and the program’s ongoing contribution to our community.

ACCORD, Inc.
The noble experiment

By Dr. Karl D. Gregory

I was a loyal administrator of Rev. Cleage, even though I disagreed with some of the views others had of him.

After the rebellion in 1967, landlords were fleeing Detroit. Property was much reduced in value. It was possible to buy a multi-unit apartment building for the very low price of between $2,000 to $5,000 a unit, depending on location and condition.

One could put from $3,000 to $10,000 in substantial rehabilitation costs and have a very decent apartment, condo or cooperative structure upgrading the inner city and strengthening the property tax base.

It was Jaramogi’s dream to attract private investors for a reasonable return to invest in an African American-owned and -controlled corporation to buy these properties and rehabilitate them.

Several objectives were sought: the removal of exploitative white property owners from the inner city, providing jobs for African Americans in the construction industry and recruiting more black apprentices for development as journeymen in the very discriminatory construction industry, increasing the wealth of some of the new owners from property ownership, and safe, affordable and livable housing run and operated by persons from the community.

The Inner City Business Improvement Forum (ICBIF) collaborated with the Federation for Self-Determination in establishing ACCORD, Inc. Jaramogi was the prime mover, for he had the respect of the white leaders, attorneys and bankers, who would invest the money and lend the corporation their names by membership on the board of directors in addition to financing.

Jaramogi asked me to serve as the chairman, president and CEO of the board. The late Edgar Brazelton was the vice chair. Jaramogi was on the board along with many black and white leaders of their respective communities, all of whom stated they believed in self-determination.

The corporation began a few purchases and rehabilitations using privately raised money only. It failed after being in business for a short time because of two primary problems. First, the prime interest rate shot up to over 21 percent in the early 1970’s under the administration of Richard Nixon prior to his implementation of price controls.

Secondly, our largest project was sabotaged. Persons advised me that organized labor did not want a black-controlled corporation enabling trained black construction workers to enter their ranks. I could never prove the latter.

The most serious damage was done to an apartment unit on Dumbarton, as I recall, with over 80 apartments. ACCORD, Inc. kept the strong outer walls but took out all the plumbing and most of the inner walls to completely rehabilitate the building.

After putting in the new plumbing stacks on all floors, we went to work one morning and found someone the night before had poured cement in all of the stacks, necessitating their removal. There was not enough money to do so. ACCORD Inc. declared bankruptcy. That noble experiment came to an end.

Economist Dr. Karl D. Gregory is distinguished professor emeritus, Oakland University. He was the executive director of the Federation for Self-Determination from November 1967-January 1968.

Continuing the dialog
Jim Herrington and Nancy Fyffe remember

Former “Spotlight On the News” moderator Jim Herrington, now retired and living on the central west coast of Florida, vividly recalls the circumstances surrounding the 1968 interview with Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman and the turbulent tenor of the times in which it occurred.

In a recent telephone interview, Herrington, who succeeded the late WXYZ-TV news director and “Spotlight” founder and moderator Bill Fyffe, shared his recollections in a voice familiar to millions of Metro Detroiters — a unique blend of rich, brass resonance highlighted with almost musical cadences.

Fyffe’s philosophy

“I was the guy that recommended that we put Reverend Cleage on,” Herrington remembers, using Agyeman’s former, or “slave,” name, Albert B. Cleage, Jr.

“Jim had a great idea, but Bill had to make the call to put Cleage on the air,” adds Herrington’s longtime friend Nancy Callaway Fyffe, Bill Fyffe’s gracious widow, in a separate telephone interview from her home at Indianapolis, Ind.

It was a “management decision,” she emphasizes, which expressed Fyffe’s fundamental perspective and commitment: To do something important for the community, to bring issues to light, not just chase ambulances.

“And he knew Jim would do a great interview,” she adds. “He trusted Jim. Bill had put together a team of reporters and producers who all shared his mission about news.”

Fyffe wanted “Spotlight” to broaden the reach of the station’s news department and focus on the issues of the inner city to balance the typical heavier focus on the viewers in the suburban audience. In Detroit, that meant paying attention to the black community, which, at that time, was nearly half of the city’s population.

“I think ‘Spotlight’ was very important to him because it gave him a way to express to the community that WXYZ was their station,” Mrs. Fyffe says.

“One of his guiding principles was: Local television was local television. There should be no color lines, religious lines. ‘This is a station that serves the community,’” she remembers him saying, referring to the rich racial, ethnic and cultural diversity of Metropolitan Detroit.

After Fyffe left WXYZ-TV for WLS-TV, Chicago, later in 1968, he transformed the latter’s news operation into “an urban broadcast,” one of the first in the country. He hired African Americans, Hispanics and Asians, not only as on-air talent, but also as producers who helped shape news content.

In Detroit, Chicago and later at Los Angeles, New York City and Green Bay, Wis. Mrs. Fyffe continues, “He was speaking directly to people [through his stations’ newscasts] about things that were part of their lives. … I think that was his great gift to broadcasting.”

Respectful hearing

Since Jaramogi Agyeman was advancing ideas, tactics and strategies that were gaining popularity among black Detroiters and causing anxiety among their suburban neighbors, it was natural that “Spotlight” would give him a respectful hearing.

According to Herrington, “The ’67 Riot slash Rebellion, depending on your point of view, certainly made it clear that the voice of the black community was rising and Cleage was a major representative of that voice.”

“I had probably talked with Cleage more than anybody else there prior to the ‘Spotlight’ because I’d interviewed him several times on the street and at the church, as a matter of fact, a couple of times.”

Herrington felt that they shared a mutual respect.

“He decided I was a fairly straightforward, honest reporter and I knew he was a very intelligent man, very much involved, and that his voice … was more than his voice: His voice was a large piece of the black community,” says Herrington.

‘1967 made us’

This was particularly true in the wake of the July 21-27, 1967, uprising, which reshaped the economic, political, social and cultural landscape of the increasingly black and self-aware city of Detroit and its mostly white and nervous suburbs.

It also catapulted WXYZ-TV to the forefront of Detroit television news. “We were extremely aggressive in covering that event. … We literally lived in the streets — Bob Maher, [photographer] Ladd Carleton, Ken Thomas and myself,” says Herrington.

Bill Fyffe “put a very good team together,” including “Spotlight” panelists Bill Bonds, Herrington, Bob Maher and Barney Morris, and also Ken Thomas and later Ven Marshall, “but July of 1967 made us — us and the Free Press,” which “did an outstanding job,” Herrington notes.

“I used to say it was like the Free Press and us were in one city and the rest of the guys were somewhere else,” Herrington laughingly recalls. “I thought we were just so far ahead of them and I think the community sensed that, too. …”

Like their competitors, they dutifully covered the round of news conferences of Detroit Mayor Jerome P. Cavanaugh, Michigan Governor George W. Romney and the National Guard, but WXYZ-TV distinguished its reporting by “talking with the people who were directly involved, directly affected.

“We talked to people whose houses were burned out. We talked to guys that torched buildings,” Herrington says.

“I felt from the start that we were ahead of the curve. We were paying attention to what the black community was saying way before anybody else in that town, with the notable exception of the Free Press.”

As a result, WXYZ-TV won the National Headliner award for its coverage and the Detroit Free Press received a Pulitzer.

Later, Herrington himself won a “Reporter of the Year” award from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. “Dr. Claude Young nominated me and said, ‘Jim was always honest with me and always fair with us.’ It would be OK to put that on my tombstone,” he says.

Social mirrors

From WXYZ-TV’s new position of strength, it produced a series of thoughtful, hard-hitting documentaries on the issues that divided the races and regions. Among them was “The Incredible Rumor Mill,” a five-part series produced by Herrington, which began the day after Jaramogi Agyeman’s “Spotlight” interview, running on the morning, afternoon and evening newscasts from March 11-15, 1968.

“Fear itself,” Herrington observed in a news release published in the March 9 Michigan Chronicle, “may be a more real danger to our community than the possibility of violence.” Fear was spreading false, “inflammatory” rumors, he continued, in the black and white communities, both of which dreaded a repeat of the previous summer.

Herrington thinks that he’s the first television reporter to put Donald Lobsinger, the white extremist leader of the right-wing Breakthrough group, on the air, which he’s proud of.

“Initially, the media tried to ignore him,” observes Herrington. However, after WXYZ-TV covered a Breakthrough meeting at a Warren high school gymnasium that was “wall-to-wall and turned away people,” the station concluded, “We’d better start paying attention” to this phenomenon.

Herrington recognized that, like Jaramogi Agyeman, Lobsinger reflected popular sentiments in his community. Therefore, he featured Lobsinger in the “Rumor Mill” series, which helped to solidify his station’s growing reputation as must-see TV.

Looking back

In retrospect, Herrington thinks that the Jaramogi Agyeman interview was probably difficult for many whites to take.

“…Rev. Cleage was pretty blunt, and I’m not too sure that a lot of white people were too terribly used to hearing a very articulate black [being] that blunt in that era, in that time.”

“He made it clear that a new generation simply would not accept ‘business as usual.’ He stressed that political and economic equality and clout were the aims and would be achieved,” Herrington recalls.

WXYZ-TV considered the interview newsworthy enough to use clips in its news broadcasts.

Asked to assess the interview four decades later, Herrington muses, “Some of the questioning, I thought, was incredibly naïve. But, then I thought to myself, ‘Well, sure, that’s now, but, at that time, these were things that weren’t talked about much.’

“I mean, nobody was talking about [black] self-determination, for Pete sakes, which Cleage brought up. That’s one of the first times, I think, probably we heard that phrase” on television.

For his part, Herrington thinks that Jaramogi Agyeman was “fairly pleased. You know, it went pretty straightforward and he got to say what he wanted to say, and we didn’t edit it. … It was fair-handed, even-handed.”

On the other hand, “He probably thought a couple of the questions were kind of dumb — but so did I,” Herrington says with a chuckle.

Legacy

Better than most local reporters, Herrington knew Jaramogi Agyeman and appreciated the significance of his efforts on behalf of Detroit’s long-suppressed black community.

“I always enjoyed interviewing and talking with Cleage,” Herrington says, “because he was an extremely bright man and, you know, had spent a lot of time thinking about this, working out where he thought the black community ought to go and what it needed to do.

“And, of course, he didn’t succeed in putting a black mayor in City Hall in 1969,” as he’d forecasted on “Spotlight,” “but it wasn’t too long after that that Coleman Young moved in.

“And the Black Slate, which … [was] issued every election, was very, very effective and got people elected to council, got people elected to the school board and eventually to the mayor’s office.”

Young was elected the city’s first African American mayor in 1973.

“The Shrine of the Black Madonna — and he [Jaramogi Agyeman] was the voice of it — exercised considerable clout in Detroit.” Similarly, the Black Slate “was very, very well put together, very effective and had an impact.”

Dialog continues

“We were starting to understand, we were starting to ask the right things then,” Herrington says of himself and his WXYZ-TV colleagues. “And so much has happened since then, but so much has not happened also since then.

“Not all of Al Cleage’s dreams have come to pass, at all. At all,” Herrington says with a note of sadness in his voice. “Some have, but not all. And things in some cases just haven’t worked out well.

“The Detroit schools, you know, under black control? Absolutely, they are. Is it a really good school system? No, it is not. It wasn’t before and it still isn’t,” laments Herrington, who remains a strong Detroit booster.

“I’m sorry, but that’s part of the truth that’s come out of this” period of Detroit history. “There’s plusses and minuses that came out of that. We’ve learned a lot, we’ve done a lot since then, [which] came out of that time and that era, but so much hasn’t happened, hasn’t been done yet.”

Fortunately for viewers in Metro Detroit, “Spotlight On the News” is continuing that important dialog, which began in 1968.

Copyright © 2008 by Paul Lee

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