Seeds of Discontent, episode 12 (African American entertainers on their philosophies)
- Publication date
Seeds of Discontent was a 1968 radio documentary series that explored discontented social groups and organizations attempting to improve their conditions in American society. Created by Hartford Smith, Jr. and Wayne State University’s WDET in Detroit, the series addressed topics including race relations, civil rights, poverty, youth, and crime. Smith’s connections with the community as a social worker allowed him to record hours of interviews with people about their lives and their opinions on contemporary issues. This episode is the last of four focusing on African American entertainers. It features the singer Odetta, the musician Leslie Grinage, and the comedian Dick Gregory discussing their personal philosophies on social problems.
The series, distributed by the National Educational Radio Network, was made publicly available as part of the Unlocking the Airwaves project, a digital humanities initiative from University of Maryland and the University of Wisconsin-Madison launched in summer 2021. Learn more at https://www.unlockingtheairwaves.org/.
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- Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, Wisconsin Historical Society, 816 State Street, Madison, WI 53704, telephone 608-264-6466. For reference inquiries or questions regarding specific titles in WCFTR's collection, please email our digital reference service at firstname.lastname@example.org
- 2021-12-07 21:23:25
- Stephen P. Jarchow
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- Speaker 0 This is the 12th and a series of programs entitled seeds of discontent to present the program. Here is Hartford Smith, junior supervisor of the screening and intake unit maintained by the Michigan department of social services, delinquency rehabilitation programs, Mr. Smith Speaker 1 For the past six weeks, see of discontent has taken a look at the problems of the American Negro, who today constitute one of the largest discontented forces in American society. We have attempted to provide some historical insights into the problem. After looking at the historical side of Negro life in America, we are attempting to explore present day realities and obtain a glimpse of the future. We have continually emphasize that one must look at many different stratas of Negro life as the total ramifications of the Negro's plate. And his discontent is to be comprehended more fully. It would be at gross disservice to ask a kitchen mate, to talk about the total needs of the American Negro, or to think that her opinions necessarily reflect the mood and aspirations of millions of citizens. Likewise, it would be sheer fun, like to ask and you grow born and well to explain the Negro problem and speak about the lifestyle, the needs and aspirations of a kitchen mate. Speaker 1 This has qualifications, of course, because some of the problems of living in a racially conscious and prejudice society affects each in similar ways at a given point in the social spectrum, although not to the same degree, another qualification is that we are so classification oriented, that it is very difficult to talk about the problem. Without first setting up some kind of classification scheme, we are trying to strike some kind of realistic balance and confronting the problems of the American Negro. So far, the reflections that you have heard, where they attitudes and feelings of many different Negroes from different walks of life. On our opening three programs on the American Negro, you heard the voices of Negro males and in the age 50 and up bracket, most were laborers. Some had retired. One was a small businessman. Another was a supervisor and private industry on our second three programs, we went to the field of entertainment and some of the top Negro performers to get yet another perspective on the problem of the Negro and coming weeks, we will move to other strategies of Negro life in America. Speaker 1 As we move into these various lifestyles, it should be remembered that there is a tendency to pick or choose bits and pieces of answers, opinions, and propose solutions based upon our own values about what should or should not be done. It should be remembered again, however that the whole range of Negro life must be considered. If we are ever going to move away from the surface and move into the inner dimensions of the total problem on tonight's program, we're going to do a final wrap up on the Negro entertainer. So far, we've listened to their reflections on the field of entertainment and it's opportunity structure, as it applies to the aspiring young Negro performer. The general consensus was that even though the Negro had made significant strides in the field of entertainment, he was still confronted with many obstacles because of race so much so that we have speculated on the probable negative effects on the aspiring young Negro performer locked in a ghetto, trying to find his way out with an inadequate education. Speaker 1 We also asked the top performers to reflect on some of the problems of Negros and the larger society. From the point of view of causation, we felt that this was valid because of the contacts that these performers had throughout various communities in American society briefly stated it was their feeling that the whole area of racial insults of jobs of education of housing had to be radically changed before these problems could be fully worked out. It was there a feeling also that the whole question of the Vietnam war juxtaposed with the issue of injustice in this country had to be settled before there can be meaningful avenues to change. And our final wrap up tonight, these same performers or data, Dick Gregory and Leslie Grenada will talk about their own philosophies. As it relates to Negro life, what can be done? What is necessary, what is meaningful and what is not this philosophical examination is most important. And man's philosophy about his conditions and status in his world may tell us something about his designs or political and social action in the future. If these conditions are not changed, let us begin with Mr. Dick Gregory, Gregory. Speaker 6 Do you feel that Detroit riot was successful from the standpoint of those who wanted, Speaker 2 Oh, I think it was successful. Some more than the standpoint of those who wanted, it was like 6,000 Negroes got hired without taking the test. Sociology has been telling white folks that tests being unfair, but the fire got a little too close to the food plan. And, uh, I think violence have always been successful in this country. Speaker 1 Mr. Gregory qualifies. This concept of violence has a changed technique and later dialogue, as he talks about his position on Vietnam, his participation in the Milwaukee protest and his thoughts on the future with this in mind, then let's continue. Speaker 2 I don't believe in killing period. And I think all countries need an army to clean up after the earthquake, after the tornado flood. And so I would not say I wouldn't join the army. I would join under one condition. If this country's at war wanted, she sent me to the front line immediately without a gun because it's dirty as America. And she's still mom. And I imagine if I was born in Russia, I'd feel the same way about Russia. I feel about man, America is worth dying for him, but I've never met anything where killing for him. And the day that I started killing to solve problems, I'm sure to be that Mississippi sheriff that kicked my wife in the belly when she was eight months pregnant, I showed him about to send me 10,000 miles away to aim no gun at nobody. I don't know. Speaker 1 As indicated Mr. Gregory participated in the Milwaukee protest, which is still being led by father grumpy, a white priest and the following dialogue. He assesses the feasibility and possibility of change by peaceful protest. He explains this and the answer to first, how did father groppy ascend to leadership? And secondly, in response to what has been the result of the demonstrations, Speaker 2 He was just honest that plus a lot of other elements and he had tremendous organization report there that built up a crisis and do dumb white leadership. Uh, the mistakes that the manmade projected him up, let's face it. You know, majority of black folks in this country are racist enough towards neighborhoods that they'd rather follow a white Canton and a black kid to begin with. If he just give us a chance and grump came through and was saying the things we hear, Matt Dylan and statement, same thing, white heroes has been saying, you know, all the way down through dealing with this white man came through, man, Matt Dillon comes on once a week and teach you as a virtue to shoot straight man. But he just, he just was a thoroughly beautiful cat man that was honest and sincere. And they came through behind a lot of mistakes. Speaker 2 The interesting thing was when black nationalism was, it was on the highest level it's ever been in the history of the world that a white cat could come through and lead, which means is that black nationalists and black power. When it comes into a philosophy, it's not a color, it's an attitude, but this is very important that he proved this because we were getting to the point that an albino Negro would have been able to join. The black power movement was getting to the point that we thought it was nappy, had a Malcolm X t-shirt. And we failed to realize that the greatest black national civil lived in the history of this country was not a Negro. It was John Brown. And when he told his son to kill him, if I have crackers in Kansas city and his boss said he couldn't do it, he threatened to kill his son. I don't know when they get American to kill his own baby or his mammy over this movement. And there's a lot of John Brown's around Speaker 1 In reference to the second question on what has been the results of the demonstrations in Milwaukee, Mr. Gregory had this to say Speaker 2 They got an army going, man. It marched for 85 straight days. And the movie industry had fallen off 80% because white folks is still silly enough to believe that when we get jumped on is us the ones that's doing the jumping, which is beautiful. And this is the only reason I would say the nonviolent struggle has a chance to survive. I, this survived as long as it did survive that we had white cats that was making mistakes. Like when you think of Birmingham, you think of bull Connor and king. That's what I feel. Kingship gate burnt bull kind of half that money he got from Nobel prize. And when you think of Selma, you think of king and Clark. And so when then white crackers would make a mistakes, we didn't have a movement going. And so now I think if we realize that you can take the mental picture that white folks have of us, you can put any bank out of business. Speaker 2 You want to put out of business just by getting you some dirty greasy niggas stand in front of the bank. Cause all white folks, majority in the back of their mind, think all niggas going to steal from him, going to rape them, snatch the pocket book. And you just get them cast peacefully protest in front of the bank and why they ain't gonna cross that line with a stack of money. And then eventually you'll cost the bank about twenty-five million dollars in deposits over a month period. He got to bed. And I think that this is what happened in Milwaukee. We went downtown and we marched downtown because we know that in Whiteville think it was us, the ones that was being violent, you know, the good white police is not bad. So you use that image and you March downtown and you keep marching that down and you get you some dirty degrees. Speaker 2 You can, it, you mountains downtown. And he looks at his receipts and he know what you're doing. And so consequently, this is what we were able to do. And Detroit, the motel hotel business as of three days ago is 47% on occupied against last year. At this time, they have not been able to get one engineer from their Ivy league schools where they recruit very heavy because there's too many jobs open for engineers for them to come into that area. The department store business is 25% off the brewery business with we got a bar card against all of them have fallen from like 33 points. When we started down to 27 points a couple of days ago. And so little by little, they feel it. I was tickled to death. We didn't get a quick victory because unless you willing to buck his system and play his game with him, as long as he plays his game fan and I feel we don't deserve it. Speaker 2 And we run out and we've got too many quick victories and we've been out in those streets now we've got an army built up and it's so high advantage into the town's disadvantage in closet. Did they gave us everything we wanted in the morning. We could also demand that the police chief resigned we'll do anything. We want to do that. And I, because we've heard him so bad economically in that town, they think about closing the movies at eight o'clock every night, Christmas season's rolling around in the downtown department stores. Not only have they lost 25% of the business, uh, the, the restaurants, which Milwaukee's have always been known tremendous in this restaurant. That's why they've had good convention. We call it their restaurants. And, uh, the restaurant business is 40 to 60% off. I don't know where they got the spray at the 40 to 60%. They come up in the papers as far as the 60% off. And, uh, they said department store, it is 25% off. What happens there is the tremendous amount of millions of dollars at the department stores have loans and reducing sales to keep people downtown. Speaker 7 One final question I have in terms of everything that you've said, I gather that you are talking about I've mystic in terms of the future. Um, and I'm wondering, looking at the things from your own personal life, certainly you have been subjected to a lot of deals in the last several years. Um, you've also been in touch with a number of people throughout the country, looking at your own personal experience, what this meant to you and to what it's meant to other people. Uh, what do you see in the immediate future? If you feel that there's going to be large amounts of blood shit. Speaker 2 Well, not bloodshed from the standpoint of a man fighting man bloodshed, that when you ever you crumble the system, you know, you know, if I know you're going to demolish this house, then I get out of it. You know, if I don't believe you going to do it, I stay in it. And the bloodshed, all the little bloodshed wasn't aimed at me, you had nothing personal against me. Uh, I've noticed the new attitudes of, uh, black folks and white folks. Uh, it's talking now about how they can destroy cities. I don't worry about this guy at all the idiot guy, that's going to tap a town and sit and tell me a stranger who just comes in town. He's not going to have the time, but the fact he's talking about it means that there's a lot of cancers planning on it. We don't know about that. Speaker 2 Uh, when did he is sitting here, you know, probably a little faggot looking colored camp somewhere now with hard rim glasses on, probably worked for DuPont. You know, finally got his plans already made. He didn't the only purpose of Stokely's in the wrap service. They give the CIA the wrong cap to tap. And so while they ride around tapping on the middle of the can cats, phones, who ain't gonna do, nothing who they should have gave us all metals, you know, after Detroit busted because all the black military cats in this country who was at a black power convention in Newark, New Jersey, was bell telephone paid for. And why did he get so upset? And she would investigate that and find out what bell telephone paid for the black farmer convention. And while we was all out there and Stokely was out of the country, Detroit, and all of the other cities blew up, like he's never blew up before. Speaker 2 And all of us was like in one city talking about why they still, it means that either somebody wanting to get us out of the way, so some things could happen or that when the military casts and he's standing on the corner, talking about a white and a little meek and humble can't go to work. But I think it should be thoroughly investigated to find out why we had explosions this summer. Like we never had before. And all the cats they usually get blamed for. I was laying up there with CIA rooms that they didn't know. Did you go to the, where you got the black part with them? That was the biggest trick in the world. It's been the best hotel in Newark. You paid $25 to register for five days. And with that, with your hotel and five meals a day. Now, I just know him. When you eat three meals a day in five minutes, a day, telephone gave all, all black power casts. You can tell, they got to know miniature princess phone, key chains, bell telephones Gables, which initials Speaker 1 Mr. Gregory, as we have said before, leans towards the revolutionary poll of social and political action, his philosophy, however, it is expansive enough to encompass for violent and nonviolent means of protest and change. Let's move on and listen to the philosophy and thoughts of Odetta. What do you see in the future in terms of America coming to grips with it problems regarding the American Negro? Speaker 5 I think that the national guard will be improved and that that's the way the other side will do it. But, um, the positive side is that there are, as we've traveled around more and more, um, individuals and small groups who are working, um, the best way they know how and, um, within the community, um, the thing that will come out of it, I think the closest thing and most positive thing is that strut, um, that we have, uh, that is there as soon as we recognize it. Um, and if there is an attitude of a group or an individual, uh, where, because of his color, he, he feels he doesn't want you there. It will no longer affect us or put us down, you know, um, with the way that, um, the, um, exec executive branches and the governments are working, um, the closest thing they come to it is, um, ah, yes, that's another thing. Speaker 5 I think there's a beginning of recognition with, with individuals or small groups that are working, um, right there in the neighborhood, um, and helping funding the government help and helping to fund these, these groups that are already existing, um, that are, that are involved in the community. Um, that's, that's very positive. Um, but I don't, I don't see legislation, um, cause that legislation isn't everything either, is it, um, but, or any real attempt by the government to really understand, or, or even to understand that he needs, that it needs to ask real questions of people who are actually involved instead of people that, um, that the government is comfortable with because they know which fork to use. Sometimes I wonder how we remain hopeful, you know, uh, how can we keep up optimism? Um, it may well be that, um, it's sort of the only way to continue. Um, but I am optimistic. Speaker 3 Do you feel that the national mood is such that this country is finally going to recognize certain injustices and make a committed effort towards doing something about Speaker 5 The national mood? Yes. The national mood seems now to be drawing your line and choosing sides. Um, and I remember I was flabbergasted with the thought that when people who objected to equal rights, meaning that the connotation of equal rights is that you have more night have, I, I don't have very much faith in the reasoning and thinking ability of people as a whole. Um, I mean, you get, you get people who go long stomping on people who were peace buddies, you know, um, who don't want the guys there. And you, um, I think for some reason, rather we've been maybe not trained out of thinking. Maybe we've never really been taught how to use the reasoning power, because as you know, in our school system, um, it's better just to have the kids learn the answers and give you the questions and don't worry about it, you know, so you don't have to stay up school up at night, you know? Speaker 5 Um, so this is reflecting itself, of course, in the, in this drawing of line and choosing sides. And, um, I noticed on the newscast in Milwaukee, they, um, anti, um, uh, housing people when they went on their March, they all had helmets. When we went on our March, we didn't have any helmets, you know, and, um, they play field justification what they're doing, um, and ready for someone on the, on the black side to just start a little something, you know, so that they, with the help of God can smash him. I, uh, I don't know what kind of education program would have to be started just to help us start thinking, right. You know, the us as, as a whole of the American nation Speaker 1 With Odetta, the philosophy is want to working within the system for the most part, she places great emphasis on logic, reasoning on small groups, attitude change, and the enhancement of self-concept and social relationships in some respects. However, she is less optimistic than Mr. Gregory. Let's turn now to the professional basis, Mr. Leslie Grenache for his philosophy and vinyl comments, Speaker 4 0The musician, I feel in my own mind as a universal person, I feel that I want to develop a musical dialogue that transcends all ethnic pound Ridge. I want to, I'd like to teach children music on a, not necessarily classical music or maybe to learn, to play the instrument fine, but teach them that this whole there's an expression within that. That can be filtered out through different instruments. There are many instruments, not necessarily trumpets and drums or all sorts of instruments available. And there's also, there's an inner peace that can be achieved that I've learned a bit about. That helps me a bit every day, that transcends religion also. Um, the thing that that would hurt as hurt me the most is that sometimes I, I get a little tinge of guilt when these issues of black and Hawaiian come up, because if it came down to choosing sides, it would be very difficult for me because I love people on both sides of the fence in terms of color. Speaker 4 Now, I don't love any bigots, but, um, you know, I know some awful beautiful people with blue eyes, you know, and I like to introduce my little, my little nephew to, um, you know, and vice versa. And, uh, uh, many people might not agree with me, but I, my whole life and the more I get involved in what I would like to consider universal things like Malcolm found when he came back from America, he said, wow, he didn't know that people of all races and all colors can merge together on a higher level and accomplish that one thing that has to be accomplished before anything else is meaningful. And that is an inner peace, a way to learn, to love myself so you can love somebody else. And, uh, these are the things that I like to keep teaching myself. And we'd like to verify enough that our children should learn it. And we have ways to demonstrate to them without, uh, without, um, without making them uncle Tom's without, without confusing them on, on the issues of well, because my skin is one color. I can, I can't talk to that one. You know, we haven't gotten to the problems of, of, uh, that have always existed between light complected, colored people in dark colored people yet. You know what I mean? So I like to take it a step further. And, um, and, and do some work on that level Speaker 1 Much has been written and said about the role that the Negro performer has played in shaping American history and the early days his music, although closed in the dress religion, was it code language for protests and messages that could not be said during the 20th century, it has been set that the Negro entertainers sold out by perpetuating comfortable stereotypes with the wave of protest of recent years. However, there is a trend towards speaking out toward supplying the very movement itself with a spiritual quality that promotes determined social protests. One only has to remember the early sixties to see how vital the songs of protest were to the entire movement. As a closing note, I should like to play a few verses of a song written by a group of Negro performers called the freedom singers. The song provides an excellent commentary on some issues that are very much at the base of discontent of many Negroes Speaker 8 Last summer in Danville, Virginia, on about June 11, there was a soldier. He came home, he saw what was going on. He handled his uniform. So when he came back home, the secretary of defense, I ain't going to call his name Fisher the statement and said, look, you can go overseas and fight with a uniform, but you can't come over here, pick it and then demonstrate it in your uniform. So, you know, that's on America. So what the fellow did, he got up at a mass meeting and he said, he said, look, I'm an American fighting man. And I'll defend this country as long as I can. And if I can defend it overseas, then why don't you set my people free? the way they treat . Speaker 0 Well, this was the 12th and a series of programs, entitled seeds of discontent presenting the program was Hartford Smith, Jr. Supervisor of the screening and intake unit maintained by the Michigan department of social services, delinquency rehabilitation programs. This program was produced by David Lewis and engineered by Dave Pierce for the Wayne state university tape network. This is Wayne state university radio
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