A little over 100 protesters assembled last Thursday in front of WABC-TV, and among the most fervent chants were “What’s the word? Gary Byrd,” and “Get in step with Imhotep.”
Both chants centered on the demand that Imhotep Gary Byrd, a broadcast stalwart of considerable talent, be either the host or co-host of the new show launched last Sunday to replace “Like It Is,” Gil Noble’s internationally acclaimed public affairs show of 43 years.
“This is not a rally but a declaration of war,” said Dr. James McIntosh, co-chair of CEMOTAP, who was mainly responsible for organizing the demonstration. Despite a constant drizzle, McIntosh read a list of other demands, including reparations for the veteran activist Elombe Brath, who, like Noble, has been incapacitated by a stroke, and that the community be involved in the naming of the show and its weekly content.
“Not ‘Here’ and not ‘Now,’” said Councilman Charles Barron, referring to the new show’s name. “We’ve heard that two people have already refused to appear on the show.” One of them was State Sen. Eric Adams; however, Noel Leader of 100 Black Men in Law Enforcement appeared to talk about the pressing issue of stop and frisk by the NYPD.
“No Toms on the air,” Omowale Clay of the December 12th Movement cried, charging that some of Noble’s sickness must be blamed on WABC.
Betty Dopson, co-chair of CEMOTAP, pointed out that Noble was among the lowest paid hosts at the station and that “Like It Is” constituted but one hour out of nearly 200 hours of airtime at WABC. This was the community’s hour of power, she suggested, “and we’ve got to keep it.”
Keeping it may require some additional pressure and other tactics, because the show appears to be moving ahead. News reporter Jeff Pegues is moderating the show that, in its debut, included a discussion on infant mortality with Tanya Lewis Lee, Spike Lee’s wife, providing important insight on the topic, and Earl “the Pearl” Monroe speaking on diabetes and the NBA lockout.
“Gil would have asked questions that could elicit the relationship of infant mortality in poor communities in New York and infant mortality in depressed regions of Africa and other parts of the so-called Third World,” McIntosh said of the programming. “He might have also explored [the connection between] racism, drugs, chemicals and other manmade toxic environmental factors in Black communities worldwide and the higher rate of infant mortality for Blacks worldwide.
“He certainly would have tied the issue of stop and frisk to prevailing social conditions. Perhaps he would have explored the possibility that the spate of shootings in the Black community of New York City can be traced to guns sold by cops.”
Dopson added to this point. “If the current leadership of WABC-TV does not hire a replacement for Gil that is familiar with the Black community’s history and social conditions,” she said, “the community will probably never have issues such as gunrunning police even mentioned in a discussion of crime in the Black community, much less explored in depth.
“And the title of the show would by necessity limit any discussion of international affairs, for example, the murder of Muammar al-Gaddafi, grounded as it apparently is with a ‘Here and Now’ designation.”
One protester at the rally noted that if you scramble the words “here” and “now,” you get “nowhere,” “and that’s where this show is destined to go,” she said, choosing not to give her name.