In a tribute to the late Gil Noble last Saturday at CEMOTAP, Dr. Leonard Jeffries, one of several speakers, told the audience that the gathering was a family affair. And indeed it was. Two of Noble’s children, Lynn and Chris, underscored Jeffries’ announcement. They were joined at the event by Catherine Thompson, the daughter of the late Ambassador Dudley Thompson, and Cinque Brath, the son of Harlem’s legendary activist Elombe Brath.
Brath, who died two years ago on Malcolm X’s birthday, had a vital and intimate connection to Noble. The two of them worked together on “Like It Is,” which was broadcast on WABC-TV from 1968 to 2011, with Noble on camera and Brath behind the scenes. The show was a staple of information on the global Black community.
“Together, Gil and Elombe provided us with a platform where we could see and hear revolutionary leaders from all over the world,” Jeffries explained, recalling the political and educational impact the show had on viewers. “With Elombe by his side for more than 20 years, Gil was able to interview hundreds of important personalities, activists and world leaders.”
When Chris Noble was called to the podium, he reflected on one of the last conversations he had with his father before his father’s death two years ago at the age of 80. “He called me in the din of our house and we had the most heart-to-heart talk we had ever had,” he began. “He told me that I must take a bad situation and turn it into a positive one, find ways to give back to the community.”
During his four years in prison on charges of fraud, charges for which he said he was “railroaded,” Noble found redemption through his association with a member of the Nation of Islam. He said from his experience with the NOI he was soon leading the discussion in his prison on the history and importance of the NOI. “Now that I’m out, I feel that I can continue my father’s legacy, particularly in making the archives of ‘Like It Is’ available as an educational tool for future generations,” he said.
“When it comes to media wisdom, and how the media shapes our personality, no one was better than Gil Noble,” said Dr. James Blake, who recounted Noble’s appearance at the Borough of Manhattan Community College during a time of crisis for Black students there. “He came and discussed with the students the importance of Malcolm X and the power of the media. And I will be forever grateful for his bringing me and the students on his show to talk about many of the issues we faced at BMCC.”
Blake closed by suggesting people put Noble in their hearts, thereby keeping him ever alive. Noble is certainly in the heart of journalist Milton Allimadi, publisher of the Black Star News and a frequent guest on “Like It Is.”
“I used to watch Gil’s show religiously,” Allimadi said, “and when I was invited to be on it I wondered why me? Well, after a brief discussion with him prior to the show, he relaxed me and let me know that he was really just a regular person, though a legend.” Allimadi also said that being on Noble’s show had made him so popular that it was hard to move through the community without being recognized.
During his moment at the podium, journalist Les Payne recalled his first of many appearances on the show that began in 1976, right after the uprising in Soweto. “When I came back from South Africa, Gil put me on the show for an entire hour to talk about the uprising.” Payne went on to discuss an article he wrote after the network threatened to cancel “Like It Is” because the show aired a program that was not favorable to Israel. “Gil Noble is one of the best kept secrets in New York television,” Payne wrote in his Newsday column in 1982. “And he is also one of the finest documentary filmmakers in the business.”
From her radio broadcast on AllBlackRadio.com, “Back to Basics” host Nayaba Arinde, editor of the Amsterdam News, shared with the audience an interview she had with Noble in 2006 and his advice to her about being steadfast and not losing her integrity as a journalist. “He told me that ‘Like It Is’ was not so much a political voice, but a program to inform the people about what’s going on,” she said, with Jeffries repeating her remarks.
Not much was said about Noble as a pianist. For several years he supported his family by leading a trio at local night spots in Manhattan. But his prowess on the keyboard will be forever overshadowed by his ability behind the microphone and in front of the camera, and that is something that CEMOTAP, led by Betty Dopson and Dr. James McIntosh, has promised to honor each year as it commemorates the role he played in supplying our community with the best in journalism, the best platform for revolutionary voices.