tv Charlie Rose WHUT December 30, 2011 3:00am-4:00am EST
>> rose: welcome to our program. to want, from the 92nd street y here in new york, a conversation with actor and activist and singer harry belafonte. >> it was not just the fact that i had discovered folk music. i found a culture. i found a life. i found people whose passion and whose deeper essences were rooted in social concern. the songs were about people and conditions. >> rose: belafonte for the newshour, next.
captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in neyork city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: harry bell on the stay an actor, a musician and an activist, he is perhaps known for his banana boat song. he has deep roots in the civil rights movement. his activism brought him close to historical figures like martin luther king, eleanor roosevelt and bert kennedy. he'slso a great friend of the actor sidney poitier. belafonte has written a book called "my song, a memoir." i spoke with him at the 92nd street y earlier this month and here is that conversation. is it easy t bare your soul like you did in this book? >> no, it's not easy but it was necessary.
and what i needed to import to those who will read the book was a more nuanced sense of the history that i experienced and the intimacies exchanged with a lot of the principles, whether it was eleanor roosevelt or bobby kennedy or mandela and a host of people that folks have never heard . you try to make a point that will take care of myths forever so i find myself having to say a lot in the book because there were a lot of assumptions and a lot of people who thought things stories, that they had heard and i felt the necessity to set some of that straight. in order to do that, i had to delve into a deeper sen of intimacy and a greater sense of
personal relationships and defining them and describing them. so it was an unusual experience for me. >> rose: the most important person in your life was your mother. >> yes. and i discovered that before i met freud. (laughter) >> rose: i didn't know that! >> yes, my mother. i never really understood how profound the influence was that she had on me until i began to meet the ways of the world. and each time i looked for an swer to a puzzling moment i found that somewhere in the journey she had prepared for me a lot of things but they were wrapped in metaphor. they re wrapped in strange tales and if you could decipher the tales you could find the kernel of the truth she was
trying to import. my mother was not an educated woman in the formal sense but she had incredible instinct and her capacity for survival was one of the true wonders for me of the universe. how she did it, terribly young when she brought into the world, much too young to have been doing that. d then to find that all the worst of conditions were upon her, she married a man who was a flanderer, a man of great violence and an alcoholic and he was most of the time away. so she was falling into purposes of a single parent and she had to bring her children up as an immigrant woman here in new york expecting to find that the myths of what america is about would have been abundantly available to her only to find out that each promise was met with a failure.
and she settled her bargain with life and with poverty for very little. and by that i mean once she understood that this was not going to be an easy journey for heshe began to invest in how to best help her children. and by so doing began to look at what bargains could be made. and the one that meant most to her was that that her childre would be educated that i would go to school and go to high school and eventually ride by on the trolley passing city college. she'd look at the ititution and say "one day you'll be there." and my mother watched her children struggle with life and when i fell out of high school she went into a decline from which she never reall recovered. >> rose: her name was millie. >> her name was millie.
>> rose: your father's name was george. >> harold or george, yeah. >> rose: and he was a cook. >> yes. >> rose: on a banana boat that went back and forth. >> he worked for the united fruit company, he was a seaman, a cook:. >> rose: away from home a lot. >> yes, away from home. >>. >> rose: and she worked in other people's homes. >> she was a domestic worker and she worked in other people's homes and in that context i had a chance to see people in life in ways that i would not have seen life had itnot been how she greeted each day, each moment, each place she worked. the people for whom she worked and the stories she would bring home about other customs, other horizons and some of the homes that she worked in were quite fluent and people were quite educated and she saw in them a longing for her own children and how she imparted her own
descriptions of many dreams that she met, of many wealthy people ma that she met, of many new yorkers that she met, of fellow caribbeans that she met. so almost everything was really throug her prism. and i am blessed in a way that she was the one because it was... had it not been for her i would not have come upon many of the things i engaged to help me survive and deal with life. >> rose: she told you wherever you have a chance to do something about an injustice, do it. >> yes, she felt that the greatest offense that many of us caught in the abyss of poverty could commit would be to an an opportunity to do something about injustice and fail to engage whatever the act was. she said never let a day go by that you let the opportunity to
defy injustice go unattended. d i was quite young when she said that and and i never quite derstood the metaphor that was there d i never quite understand howrophetic the remark was because i understand that injustice was everywhere and was constant and therefore the menu of life was always filled with things to do about injustice. not just from the perception of the... not just from the point of view of the law but from the injustice of our humanity or our absence of humanity. >> rose: your dad was physically abusive. >> my father was a... yes. everything reduced itself to violence. his rage, his anger, his sense of... sense of accomplishment.
he looked around at our condition and bemoaned it but it also robbed him of his manhood. he always felt that for his children he should have been able to do better and because he wasn't able to do better it robbed him of his esteem and he then became a daily illtration for him of how much his life had failed. and in that context, instead of embracing us, he struck out against his children and took out a lot of his animosity on us. but mostly on my mother. i mean, i'm talking about real violence, real brutality. blood and beatings and screams in the night. and al the kind of things that may be a perfect candidate for psychiatry and i have a great sense of... a great sense of luck and fortune that a man by the name of peter newbauer was
the psychiatrist that tended to my needs the second time around but the brutality of my father took its toll but it helped me derstand once i started bringing children in into the world/may not have known all the things i should have done but i certainly knew a host of things i would never do. >> rose: we should say that there's one moment that's very touching in what your dad was going to go off to do something fun with you and your mom said no, you weren't going and so your dad... take up the story. >> well, as a kid i the 1930s and the 1940s in harlem there were not any ro models that were ailable to us. certainly not in the abundance that exists now.
and one of the real heroes of the day was joe louis and he could do absolutely no wrong. and my uncle, whose name was ling don love, was a gangster and he had a powerful position in the numbers business and he had a relationship to the sports world and when joe louis came to set up training in new rsey he could go to the camp and there was always... it still is open to the public. the way they pay for training and the gate was to have a paying public. and on this particular sunday lenny had tickets and we were all going go in his packard... two pack archdiocese, as a matter of fact. >> rose: (laughs) >> to get out there. and i have done some mischief and my punishment was that i would not be able to go with the group. >> rose: imposed by your mother. >> that's right. you're not going to go see joe
lewis. and it was a rather severe price to pay for whatever it was that i had done and if it was less than murder... (laughter) ... the penalty... >> rose: did not match the crime. >> but what struck me was that i would have to stay alone and at that very moment my father said "no, i'll stay withim. you can all go." and i was stunned at that offer anthen he changed his attire because he was dressed for the event, got into his casual clothes and took me on the roof of the building and we played marbles. and in that moment i discovered things in him that i had never knew existed and i hunted on several occasions to recreate that moment, but since i didn't know what all the parts of it
were, i didn't know how to do that. but i discovered something in my father that made me look at him in a way that was just anguish and pain and anger. i looked at him knowing somewhere? n there there was humanity because of this experience and i kept that in front of my mind whatever i had to define him to myself or those around me. >> rose: another fascinating aspect is that they too you and your brother, dennis, back to jamaica. >> yeah. >> rose: to live. >> well, and... >> rose: and they stayed in new york. >> my father had nothing to do with that. my mother made the decision. she so often had to leave us alone and we were under severe conditions of silence and secrecy. we're told never toe answer the door if anyone knocked. now, you have to understand, this is at the age of five and
six and seven. these are very much in the formative years and... >> rose: that was because of the fear of immigration or... >> well, first ofll, she was an illegal immigrant. she came here legally and overstayed her visa and, like thousands of others, got lost in the maze of harlem and all the different people of color who resided there. and new york city overwhelmed her. >> rose: you went into the navy and had a chance to read, came out of the navy and came back to new york city and one night went to the theater. >> in that context, my past, my work, my job, was as a janitor's assistant and i did a repair in an apartment and as a gratuity i was given two ticket to the american negro theater. and although i knew what dance halls and music halls were, because i hung out all my life at the apollo, i'd never been
into a theater. dramatic. or what drama was about. so i went out of curiosity. when the lights went down and the curtain opened and the players entered it was my first real epiphany. it was... it struck me for the force that was obviously... it was just absolutely stunning and as i watched these black people on stage manipulating poetry and words that could make you laugh in a itant andad in the next and gripped you drama i knew that that was an environment in which i very much wanted to be. this was a place where i would like to reside. i would want to service this culture, these people in any way that i could having not the foggiest idea that i would be an actor or singer. my ambition was about the culture and the environment and anything i could do to be around
the environment it stimulated me. whatever i missed in the form of study in school this environment gave to me. and that was my first exposure to what would become my lif and i begged at the end the play to let me... what were the rules what does one have to join this crowd? and i didn't come as an artist but i came as a technician. somebody who could really make your faucets work and fix your toiletand get your dressing rooms clean. and they permitted me to join up. the day i walked in and signed up to be part of this theater i ran into a young man who had pretty much same history and the same ambitions and his name was sidney poier. (audience acts) and in thismerican negro theater group was ossie davis, ruby dee.
so this little circle of the black intellectuals and black artists became the place that i could not wait to reside in all hours of the day and stayed thirsty and hungry for all it had to offer. and then they gave me a part in a play. >> rose: "on striver's row." >> "on striver's row." and... (laughs) >> rose: (laughs) >> one night in walked paul robeson. and when we heard he was there we were all terribly exited, never met him before. knew all about him. and he stayed and talked with us and from that meeting on i made it my business to know all there was to know about him, to be i his presen, to be in his environment socially and politically and to b in his
service. and in that environment i began to meet a lot of intellectuals, a lot of people. >> rose: let's go back to sidney. you we bor eight days apart. >> yes, he's eight days older. (laughter) >> rose: which rses the question, was there any competition between the two of you? >> it was fierce. >> rose: (laughs) >> and to a great degree there's still this sense of competitive as we play it out. and our path has been an interesting one. i'm very fortunate that sidney is in my life and we met that we did. we were bh 19 year old. and we both hit in the profession at a time when our capacity to emerge and to get up the ladder of success did not elude us with any ferocity. we were able to overcome it and
we were challenged for ways in which there was no barometer. there was no one to draw from that had been on the path that we found ourselves on. there were no major black stars of the theater. >> rose: robeson. >> well, robeson and canada lee. i think you could name four. and they only worked occasionally. it waso black theater, there was no broadway for us. there was no hollywood for us. and certainly there were no planes for us because nobody spent time writing about frederick douglass and toussaint or all the great figures in black history. we were... there was a paucity of plays and things we could do. and... but we also... it was interesting because i was in a
play and when the casting was done at the american negro theater i was cast to be the juvenile lead in the play. and sidneyas my understudy. (laughter) >> rose: you say that with a certain... (laughter) >> that arrangement was very satisfactory. (laughter) >> and in order to do the play-- we were not paid, it was a community theater-- i had a job as a janitor's assistant and at 9:00 every night i had to haul the garbage. i had to get the dumb waiters back there, get the cans back up start them cleaning and smelling fresh and that job was critical to my existence. my... the economics of my life and i paid a guy $1.50 a night whatever i word at the theater
to haul th garbage. this particular night he couldn't and i looked desperately for somebody and he told me this at 6:00. i begged him and could not find anybody to take that night so i called the director at the theater, her name was osceola archer. i said "i'm sorry, i can't come tonight, my understudy will have to go on." and she said she was sorry to hear that, she hoped everything worked out and sidney went on. now, on this very night two agents had come from... (laughter) ... broadway. >> rose: to see you? >> no, to see... looking for black actors and actresses to play in a version of a play they were doing, an all black version and they were lookin for actors and when they came and they saw that play then they saw sidney they signed him up immediately.
(laughter) and my anguish at having had to surrender the evening was compnded by the fact that the opportunity knocked for sidney and i was completely overlood. >> rose: is it fair, tn, that i can report to sidney that you said you are responsible for his career? (laughter) >> yes, but let me just tell you this much. not only responsible for his career... (laughter) ... but when i had to remind him of that fact what i sty him is that... because the play... to get on this w this quickly the play lasted three days. the worst play ever in the history of theater. (laughter) and they crucified it. but on the second night of the play, scouts came in from california to find a young black actor somewhere in new york to star against... opposite a young white actor they were grooming to become a big star at 20th and that was richard widmark. so they saw sidney in this
terrible play, brought them to california, gave him a screen test and "no way out" was the name of the film and it starred richard widmark and sidney poitier. and i looked that the with further envy. (laughter) and sidney, as we just said, as i pointed out to him that his career was... i didn't say based upon the fact that he took my place but i said wherever he's boasting about his success i said "always remember the reason you're successful is based on garbage." (laughter and applause) 6-. >> rose: so then you startedut as an actor, not a musician, a singer. how did the singing come about? >> we did a play at the new school "of mice and men."
d they shaped the play in a very unique way and one of the characters that hay had written for the play was a bam ladeer and the character was supposed to be available for set changes and mood changes and he sang the songs of woody guthrie and the songs of led belly. and i played that character and i loved the opportunity and as the play went on through the night i did my turn singing a caella over the scenes helping to set mood and evoke humor. dissolve. i now some years later am working. i'm out of the school looking for work but i was very friendly th musicians down in the royal roost, which was the jazz nightclub with charlie parker, miles davis and young modern jazz musicians. >> rose: max roche? >> max roche, thelonious monk et
al.. i needed to find work desperately and there was nothing in the theater for any of us. and it was lester young who sai the manager's nameas mty kay. said "ask monty for a gig." i said "doing what?" he said "sing." i said "i'mnot ainger." he said "i hear you at the school, man." so i said "well, i don't have any songs." he said "oh, really. " i said "i don't have any musicians." he said "i'll take care of that. we'll get you a piano players and get songs together and you'll be the intermission singer." which means i didn't need a vast repertoire, just enough to fill the stage that people were being seated and waiters were clashing glasses and stuff. and i put together a group of songs. but first it was called "pennies from heaven" and i thought it was a wonderful pathetic kind of here i was broke, busted and manna from heaven.
so "pennies from heaven" is what i'll open with. and when i rehearsed these songs with al hague we rehearsed a routine because i was not deeply rooted as a musician. he had togive me things that was enough to follow and when he set up "penniesrom heaven" ♪ ♪ ♪ every time... (scatting) opening night i'm announced by a little guy name pee-wee marquette, who's a midget. (laughr) he was the funniest thing you ever saw in your li and he was given the task of announcing me and he called me belafashdootle-dot. couldn't pronounce my name for anything. and before i could open my mouth up came tommy potter, a base
player. and tommy was with his bass and i said "oh, wow, tommy's going to sit in." but then almost as... the moment that tommy it this stage, so did max. and i id, oh, my god. and then right after them came bird, charlie parker. (audience reacts) and charlie parker hooked up his horn and looked at... twisted his piece and looked at al and al said "pennies from even, e-flat." and so i'm waiting there, waiting for (scatting) but al gave the count, one, two a-one, two... (scatting) (applause)
i was absolutely wiped. i was lost, couldn't find one, nothing. and al got the message and he went...(scatting) and got back on track. but the point of the story is that the very first night i stepped out professionally to sing before an audience can you imagine what it meant to the world at large that my backup band was charlie parker, max roche, tommy poter? i mean, i was launched. i mean, i was set for life. and i hate to tell you that they didn't stay on every night, just that one night to let feel comfortable. but that generosity launched me and i never looked back. i soon learned the jazz world and pop scene was not for me. i have no credentials for that other than the desperation for work. and i left it.
after having had some fairly decent responses to my effort. but i went do to the village vanguard and saw for the first time woody guthrie and and... >> rose: folkusic... >> folk music. and i saw ledbell lay week or two later and i found in this place where i needed to reside. this was the place i needed to be so i got into thelibrary of congress, i began to listen night after night to pete seeger, to the folk, everything to do with folk music and i tried to find my own place in it. i was not of the church. i didn't come from the black tradition except from the caribbean and i hadn't even paid attention to that fact now that i was in the world of folk music. but i've put the repertoire together and went to the vanguard and on my opening night
i was just stunned with w the way in which the audience received me and from that night until this moment i never, ever looked back. and it had not... it was not just the fact that i had discovered folk mic, i'd found a culture. i found a life. i found people whose fashion and whose deeper essences were rooted in social concern. it was about peopl rooted in songs and conditions and for me it was paul robeson. this man not only sang but wrote and spoke and read in 22 different languages. his advice to me was "get them to sing your song and they will want to know who you are." and that rather ophetic remark lingered with me. i di't understd... i had an
idea what it meantut i didn't quite understand "and they'll want to know who you are." until i recorded for r.c.a. and i had a couple albums but i wanted to do the songs from the caribbean and one of the songs in the album struck the public's fancy and when the album came out i woke up one day and found that the entire world was singing the banana boat song. >> rose: ♪ dayo... (applause) >> you haven't seen anything untiyou've seen an audience of 50,000 japanese... (laughter) ... singing day o. and when i got to japan and i did this and i saw the audience i said "oh, my god."
this was my first real visitation with my power. >>ose: calypso" was the first l.p. to sell more than a million copies. >> yes. >> rose: the first. >> the first. i delited in that fact. (lauter) >> rose: how did sidney feel about thatact? (laughter) >> the truth? he was very happy. he was... well, you know, this stuff that i talk about in our competitiveness with one another it has had its severe moments, but on serious issues, never this light farehat i'm talking about. but sidney was always very supportive. he questioned what happened when we tried to find parts in the theater because we struck a bargain with one another. in many ways it was more silent based upon what our emotional and spiritual nuances fed us. it was what we had to do.
we had to be responsible for an image of black culture. it was not abundant. the parts we selectedere testimy to our masculinity, was a testimony to our manhood, was a testimony to our blackness was a testimony to our oppression. was a testimony to our feistiness in the hunt for liberation and whatever hollywood calle, these were the litany of things we had to address to see what accommodated and embraced these goals. if you didn't, we just didn't do it. and to a great degree we had to walk through this minefield and as hard as i tried to deal with this fact of hollywood and its own dilemmas and its own cruelty
was i understood that trying to change hollywood was not the game in order to get hollywood to change, you have to change america. you have to change the way in which this system works d from the second world war into the experiences of all the things that we'vetalked about here and up to this moment i real undetood that it w about changing america. so my activism became more intense. and that's just about the time when we were... the house un-american activities committee was very active. i was blacklisted. certainly not like the extent that many of my colleagues were but enough to feel the sting of the viciousness of the blacklist and mccarthy and how much that impacted on my life and so i decided that wouldecome deeply immersed in social
activism through the labo movement, through a lot of organizations that i admired, through eleor roosevelt and robeson and others and i ten nishsly pursued changg the social landscape in america. >> rose: the friendship with eleanor roosevelt is remarkable and i want to move to martin luther king. but she knew of the fact you'd been denied an apartment and she wrote a column about it. >> well, eleanor roosevelt wrote for the "new york post" which in those days was 180 degrees differenfrom what is now. (laughter) and when she got wind that i was moving to the west side, found an apartment that i liked and when i applied for it, in the beginning they didn't know what the name was. they were not familiar with who was harry belafonte. but when they discovered after having made the commitment to the apartment that i was black the whole group went to an
upheaval and wouldn't rent to me. and mrs. roosevelt got wind of the fact and wrote this article denouncing the segregation... theilent segregation and invited me publicly in t column to come liveith her and... (laughter) i kind of wanted to accept the idea that racism was eternal but i could hang with iif i could live with eleanor. (laughter) but i didn't take up at offer. i thinit was meant more in spirit and in reality. but you would have done in the reality, too. >> rose: then came the call from martin luther king saying... >> saying that he wanted me to be... he called and he said "you don't know me, but my name is martin luther king, jr. and i'm coming to new york and i'd welcome an opportunity to meet with you." and he was coming here to speak
to the religious community, trying to encourage them become more engaged in the movement that he had started, the montgomery bus boycott with rosa parks and i said yes and when he came he went to abyssinia to speak and i listened to him speak for the first time and i was blown away by his articulation. well, you've all heard him so you know what his passion can be like and how moving and then we retid to the basement to speak for... he said only a few minutes. it was almost four hours. (laughter) but when he got through and i heard about the service through the journey he was embarked on and i would ser it with honor and asuch passion as i ft. and from that day on ibecame a
part of the... officially part of the movement in specific to the s.c.l.c. and to meet all of these people who i eventually met and took my place not only as a supporter to the movement from the financial point of view doing concerts and pulling together large masses of people but to become a strategist at the table, planning the campaign. and in that secondor, in that... in that oigation ihen began to overture the kennedys and the big players. >> rose: but senator kennedy thinking about running for president came to see you, too. >> yes. >> rose: and he did not have, at that time, a stirring commitment to civil rights. >> no, he didn't. as a matter of fact, certain behavior that he'dvidenced potically was that he was no great friend of the civil rights vement or the aspirationsof
black people. he did not work for getting a civil rights bill while he was senator. and jackie robinson, was who was the figure of the time, was very ch on the liberal side of the cloth. but when he and the democtic party evidenced the behavior they did in relationshi to the segregation issue he then endorsed nixon. >> rose: but your recommendation... when kennedy comes to you, even though he did not have a stirring record in civil rights was that he needed to get to nomar tin. >> when he came to me and began to talk to me in terms of celebrity and being black and what he needed and what not i just told him very quickly that you're really not bringing the message you need to bring. getting a room full of celebrities may serve a purpose but that purpose will be hugely minimal in terms of the game that we're engaged here in and
you know nothing about cil rights, you know nothing about our struggle and until you evidence some real understooding about what this is, i don't think you deserve any black vote or any black infusion here. and when he left, he had heard for the first time in... with some passion who dr. king was. and i said that if he were to make such overtures and show some evidence of caring about that he would then not have to worry about celebrities. he would have to include in his platform some sensitivity to this and one moment in this period dr. king was arrested in some minor traffic violation and because he was an activist violated the conditions under which he was released from sentence 30,-day sentence in jail. and when he went i think that
said he violated his parole and they gave him two years on the chain gang. (audience reacts) and that was very threatening. and we went into complete mobilization on saying the first thing to do is get martin out of the chain gang because his life is in severe jeopardy. and it would be easy for the state to maintain some derange convict killed him and we petitioned to nixon and the kennedys. nixon ignoreds all together but the kennedys wrestd with it and when bobby took the lead and talked to the governor of georgia and got dr. king released the expectation was that dr. king would now endorse the kennedys campaign publicly. but a couple of us had the feeling that that would be not a
good move. we did not know who kennedy was. weid notknow what his platform was. d if you're a traiter playing in the marketplace of politics, that's one thing. but if you are a leader of martin's caliber at his station you don't make cheap deals. you don't say "get me out of jail and i'll endorse you." because what happens after his first year in the presidency we e decimateed by something that kennedy does. you don't know who this man is. what he'll do. so what's the payback? the payback is that others of us will endorse him, you don't. and yocan write an open letter, which he did, to the "new york times" thanking publicly kennedy for what he had done in helping him get released which was tantamount to an endorsement but he did not say
it. if this fact that dr. king didn't endorse them got to the attention of the kennedys and they were really ticked f. (laughter) and i was held to be chaed that it was my influence. in fact, it wasn't. it was a collective influence. but it was a good method because not too long down the pike i had to meet the people at another level in another way and the had that resentmt in the corner of their space because i didn't play the games they thought i should. and in this add adversarial place... it was adversarial, too because bobby kennedy had been a counsel for the house un-american activities committee. he had been with mccarthy, they were very close. as a matter of fact joe mccarthy the senator was the godfather of
one of his children. >> close to the father. >> and when he became attorney general a loot of us who were on the blacklist and suffered from this mccarthyist period saw anymore thes very strange confrontational terms. but dr. king said that he understood all that we felt, all these wrinkles in the kennedy dossier and all the things we hato look for but he felt that we had no choice. we needed the federal government we needed these men on our side and he said the task is... he said your task is to go up... in this man resides good. your task is to go and find his moral center and win him to o cause. well, that was a rather daunting
instruction. and we had to really press ourselves to find how do you work this turf, how do you get to that place? and although we werenother, essentially the kennedys and particularly bobby and i came to a place where we began to rely on one another for information and for intervention given moments when things could not be on the record or directly exposed to where the person would have access. and in the space of confidentiality we developed a friendship that was to endure up to the time that he, too, was murdered. the last time i saw both those men in the same space-- king and bobby-- was when i hosted the "tonight show" for a week and the first time anyby had done that with johnny carson.
and in that week were bobbynd dr. king and both men said ings that were most revealing and interesting to the audience only to find that it was a matter of months later both were murdered and that what they said that night on the johnny carson show became archival. >> rose: president obama. assess what you expected and what you have seen. (audience reacts) >> what i expected was not really quite that evident. i made assumptions that with his inordinate intellectual capacity in his harvard cdentials and law school and first writing
editor for the law journal and for his work as a community... >> rose: organizer. >> yes. he promised. he gave the image. and when he caught the fancy of young people i worked for him... not i worked for him, i contributeto his campaign wn he ran for the senate in illinois and i met him through sargent shriver, a foundatio that we worked together on and i met him and when i met his wife i really felt that here resided promise. the civil rights movement and everything we struggled for could t be represented in any richer mix of these two people who had become players for the white house. and he said to me, yes, we can,
i, like others, filled in the abstract. he never said yes we can what. (laughter) we filled in what we thought he was talking out. >> ros it was a blank canvas. >> and everybody had their own place and when he stepped to the plate and his moment came what was a bagger in our sense of justice were the things that he contued to sustain as the president. i think fact that the homeland secuty laws are still on the books is a shame and a terrible shame on this country and that with his executive power he could do a lot about reshaping those laws and saying things and instructing the justice department on what to do. not violating the law but interpreting the law.
since... but eleanor roosevelt, franklin delano roosevelt not included. but starting with john kennedy there has not been an administration in office where some of us who hold a certain set of credentials within the black community, within the progressive movement, within where we reside that are not solicited or reached out to for opinions and points of view and when you look at the progressive forces in this country-- not just the radical left but anything to do with the left there are no players at the table on the left as i define the left in brab's inner circle. he doesn't have us. nobody speaks for our vision of
the candidates. >>ose:f you could nominate someone, who would you nominate to be there. >> me. >> rose: you? (cheers and applause) >> let me naught in context. i have absolutely no ambition for power or to lead anything. i was deeply devoted to service. whether it was eleanor roosevelt or dr. king or mandela, i served and i would serve him faithfully and with great instruction. (applause) my life with dr. king and with malcolm x and stokely carmichael and the left has not been for naught. i've come to certain realizations that he needs to understand that he needs to hear and if he's heard it and then dismisses it that's one scenario. but if you've never heard it, how do you know what to act upon. >> rose: has he ever reached out
to you. >> never. (audience reacts) >> rose: have you sought access? >> yes. i remember i said to him once during the campaign when i was busy raising money for him he came to talk to the business community here in new york and he met for the first me all the wall street people and i was in the audience and at the end of his dialogue, parsons was the host, he said all he neededo say... >> rose: dk parsons? >> yeah, dick parsons, and he said all he needed to say to the bankers and at the end going back to the green room to greet him his first words out of his mouth, he said "when are you going to cut me some slack?" and it was a very aggressive thing, cutou some... and my answer to him was, well, what kes you think we haven't? (laughter)
(applause) and he was caught by that response and he had to fill out what did i mean that you have already cut me slack? we cut him a lot of slack. we did nothing to impugn or to besmirch his campaign as he saw it. the left didn't make any noise, let him have his head because we think he might be a man of honor and a man of ideas, let slim a chance to display them. so we stepped back. and in stepping back, he saw that as an act of weakness, not an act of strength and now we're on the march. >> rose: so do you think he's similar play man of power and ambition and not a man of conscience and authenticity? >> well, let me put it this way, if he has all tho other ingredients othe than power he has not displayed it. i'm not quite sure what his
moral center is about. but he's silent on all these issues. silent on all these things and until he gets some engagement from him i don't know how to interpret that other stuff because he's doing all the politicians do: looking for power,ooking for alliances, coming to new york city messi up the traffic. (laughter and applause) i wouldn't mind him messing up the traffic if my heart leaped for joy. but so far he's a hurd that will has to be gotten over. i don't like what i hear. and i've got to tell you, this is not personal. i don't know the young man. all i'm looking for is justice and no way does what my mother said, in the way in which you started this interview, ring more clearly and loudlythan it does when i look at barack obama and say "what is your message to
justice? what are you saying? what are you doing to waterboarding? what are you doing to prisoners. la what are you doing to people? everything about you is expedient... expediency. there's something wrong here and i can't let color... because i have a lot of african americans who are passionately involved with barack obama and see him as deity, see him as the messiah and i say don't be too hasty. >> rose: you have lost none of your souand your fighting spirit. (cheers and applause) captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org d