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An interview with Dr. J

HERB BOYD Special to the AmNews | 12/22/2011, 2:44 p.m.

Dr. J: I was the member of Pi Lambda Phi. In fact, I was the president of the fraternity and you can see a picture of me holding the architectural plans we had in order to improve and expand our place. When all the controversy was raging about the accusations about me being anti-Semitic, a reporter went to one of my fraternity brothers and asked him, "Was he as anti-Semitic then as he is now?" My fraternity brother told the reporter that I was the best of them and that's why I was their leader. It was the only fraternity on campus that would take me.

AN: This is absolutely astonishing and ironic, given all the accusations of anti-Semitism heaped on you.

Dr. J: This fact may have been a psychological problem for them that I was inside City College, one of their most sacred institutions. I was inside the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity and a leader. I guess they thought I was supposed to be one with them and part of their cover-up, when, in fact, we are the chosen people.

They have to understand that the Biblical tradition they put together comes out of the Nile Valley. They can talk about the Ten Commandments, but the Africans put together 42 commandments...So now every time they see me, I've got a new medallion wearing something new and different...They claim I'm part of some secret society. They say this because that's the way they operate in secret societies.

AN: You being the leader of a Jewish fraternity, the aspect of leadership is something that is practically apart of your DNA, right?

Dr. J: Ever since I was a child I've always been a leader. It started in grammar school where I was the president of the class. It was so inspiring to my girlfriend that she became the president the next year. This was in Newark, N.J., where we went to school with Italians, the Irish and Jews. And this was back at a time when Joe Louis was knocking out a fighter every month, the so-called "Bum of the Month" routine. We Black kids were proud of him and his victories. After Louis defeated Billy Conn, that pretty much ended my relationship with my Irish friend.

AN: Now this was in the mid-1940s, right?

Dr. J: That's right, and not only were we rooting for the Joe Louis, "the Brown Bomber," there was Jackie Robinson who had just been signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers and sent to their minor league team in Montreal. Jackie had been playing in the Negro League where my father played, so this was the beginning of breaking the color barrier in the Major League. My father took me to see him play in Montreal, in Jersey City, in Newark, where the Newark Eagles of the Negro League played.

Because of this, Jackie was my idol, I became him. I even adopted his pigeon-toed walk with my butt hunched up. For two years, Branch Rickey kept him in a strait jacket; he was told not to fight back but to take all the insults, and they threw black cats on the field and called him all kinds of ugly, racist names. But Jackie took it for two years and then broke out in 1949. And Black Americans broke out too. We felt if Jackie could do, so could we. Plus, Jackie had gone to college at UCLA and back then that was my choice.