Masekela ‘Placed Me on the Front Row of African History and Culture’

  • U.S. Photojournalist Was South African’s Biographer
  • Obama-Farrakhan Photo Published for First Time
  • Blacks, Latinos Cite CNN for Objectivity on Cable
  • A ‘Best Actor’ Surprised by Lack of Black Reporters
  • 2 Win $100,000 Each for Freelance Reporting
  • ESPN The Magazine Focuses on the Black Athlete
  • Black Journalist Accuses Progressive Outlet
  • Short Takes
D. Michael Cheers and Hugh Masekela, from the jacket of their 2004 book, Still Grazing

U.S. Photojournalist Was South African’s Biographer

It is unlikely that any American journalist knew Hugh Masekela better than D. Michael Cheers, professor of photojournalism at San Jose State University and co-author of Masekela’s 2004 autobiography, Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela. He has been Masekela’s friend for 30 years.

“This is tough: two mighty trees have fallen....Edwin Hawkins and I were in the 4th year of a documentary project, ‘And Live Rejoicing Every Day - Oh Happy Day’, when he passed last Monday,” Cheers messaged Journal-isms on Tuesday.

“This morning I got the news about Ramapolo Hugh Masekela. . . .”

Hawkins, a Grammy Award-winning singer best known for the gospel crossover hit “Oh Happy Day,” a chart-topper in 1969, died Jan. 15 at 74.


And as Giovanni Russonello reported Tuesday in the New York Times, “Masekela, a South African trumpeter, singer and activist whose music became symbolic of the country’s anti-apartheid movement, even as he spent three decades in exile, died on Tuesday in Johannesburg. He was 78. . . .”

Cheers said by email, “Bra Hugh, as he was affectionately known, opened many doors for me in South Africa and across the continent. He placed me on the front row of African history and culture.


“He helped me gain access to Nelson Mandela and other South African government officials, business people, and of course, a plethora of artists and musicians.

“I remember while researching the book, we spent hours in Witbank, the township near Pretoria, where he was born. Bra Hugh wanted me to feel and understand the rituals and nuances of his upbringing. I remember standing with him on the dusty railroad tracks in the township gaining a deeper understanding of his soul-stirring song, ‘Stimela’ (video). That song is about the life of coal miners from southern and central Africa conscripted to work for long hours and little pay in unhealthy South African mines.


“On another afternoon he was driving me through Alexandria Township when he stopped his sedan, pulled out his horn and began serenading the neighbors. He introduced me to Miriam Makeba, who took me into her confidence, cooked dinner for me on many occasions, and shared stories over the years about her anti-Apartheid work in the [States]. His sister Barbara [Masekela], South Africa’s Ambassador to Washington, D.C. in the 1990s, was another source for details and good conversation.” Masekela and Makeba married in 1964, but divorced after two years.

Russonello added in his obituary, “Mr. Masekela came to the forefront of his country’s music scene in the 1950s, when he became a pioneer of South African jazz as a member of the Jazz Epistles, a bebop sextet that included the pianist Abdullah Ibrahim and other future stars. After a move to the United States in 1960, he won international acclaim and carried the mantle of his country’s freedom struggle.


“His biggest hit was ‘Grazing in the Grass,’ a peppy instrumental from 1968 with a twirling trumpet hook and a jangly cowbell rhythm. In the 1980s, as the struggle against apartheid hit a fever pitch, he worked often with fellow expatriate musicians, and with others from different African nations. On songs like ‘Stimela (Coal Train),’ ‘Mace and Grenades’ and the anthem ‘Mandela (Bring Him Back Home),’ he played spiraling, plump-toned trumpet lines and sang of fortitude and resisting oppression in a gravelly tenor, landing somewhere between a storyteller’s incantation and a folk singer’s croon.

“In the 1970s and ‘80s, he collaborated with musicians across sub-Saharan Africa, constantly expanding his style to accommodate a range of traditions. ...”


In a 2014 interview with Roland Martin on TVOne’s News One Now (video), Masekela bemoaned the lack of respect for black and African history.


In Africa, he said, “We’ve been convinced that our heritage is barbaric, it’s savage, it’s primitive, it’s heathen, it’s pagan. And we’ve bought that, so we celebrate other cultures instead and put ourselves into other cultures and pushed our heritage to the side. We can’t even remember Motown, it’s a little example. . . .

“I was talking to somebody in the dressing room, and I said like, if you look at the British, when Kate and William were getting married, they showed us like their heritage from thousands of years ago.


“ . . . Some of us can’t even remember the Underground Railroad or Harriet Tubman. You can ask an adult today, what’s the Underground Railroad? . . .

“We’re so convinced that our heritage is backward and we are ashamed of it and as a result, we have nothing to sell, and so we are consumers. And so like, just on hair alone, we spent $100 billion a year, and the men are wearing that hair vicariously. I believe that if you’re a society that doesn’t know where it comes from, you’re a society that isn’t going anywhere.”


Cheers said by email, “Hugh and I began discussing jump-starting his memoir project in 1995. He had piles of legal pad handwritten notes from an earlier effort with Quincy Troupe. It took nine years, but we got it done! ‘Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela’ was published by Crown in April 2004. Jacana Publishers released the South Africa edition in 2015.

“We worked on the book his farm in South Africa, my house in South Africa, my townhouse in Oxford, MS, when I was teaching at Ole Miss, and in hotel rooms in New York in between his gigs.


“I was in the 8th grade when I first heard ‘Grazing in the Grass’ in 1968. That’s when his music began to influence me. I met Hugh 10 years later in 1978, when I was a photo intern at Jet [m]agazine in Chicago. I went to cover a concert of his with Herb Alpert. They were performing at the Park West Club on Chicago’s north side.

“My 1995 Howard University doctoral dissertation, which explored African American kinship ties with South Africans and the Anti-Apartheid Movement, laid the research groundwork for Still Grazing.”


In a 2012 video interview, Cheers said he was planning a photo book, “Hugh Masekela: An Illustrated Life,” to be published in 2014.

“I was still in development with the picture book concept with Bra Hugh and his staff,” Cheers messaged Tuesday. “We tabled those plans when his health challenges began taking a toll in 2016. I spent time with Masekela last August in South Africa. We communicated via text during the fall.”


The legendary musician died in Johannesburg on Tuesday after a lengthy battle with prostate cancer.

The family said in a statement, “We will, in due course, release details of memorial and burial services. Hugh Masekela was someone who always engaged robustly with the press on musical and social and political issues. We laud the press for respecting his privacy through his convalescence and during this, our time of grief. . . . “


Robin Denselow, the Guardian: Hugh Masekela obituary

Hugh Masekela official site

Obama-Farrakhan Photo Published for First Time

Then-Sen. Barack Obama (center), with Minister Louis Farrakhan (right), at a Congressional Black Caucus meeting in 2005 (Askia Muhamamd)

It was during a mid-2005 Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) meeting on Capitol Hill when award-winning journalist Askia Muhammad captured one of the most significant photos of his career,” Hazel Trice Edney reported Saturday for her TriceEdneyWire.

“Muhammad had doggedly covered then Chicago Sen. Barack Obama since he ‘first laid eyes on him’ at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Now, here was the Senator in a warm conversation with constituent and fellow Chicagoan Minister Louis Farrakhan. As leader of the Nation of Islam, Farrakhan is another star in Black America, but one whose name is synonymous with controversy.


“Wasting no time, Muhammad snapped the news photo. But moments later, he faced a dilemma.

“Obama had already become the darling of national Democratic politics. And the scent of a presidential run was strong.


“Muhammad and others almost immediately realized that the public release of this photo could mean major trouble down the road. Mainly because of bigotry and fear-mongering, the public release of that photo could doom America’s chances of electing Obama as its first black president.

“Muhammad had not even left the scene when he received a call and the photo was being summoned by a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Muhammad ultimately surrendered the disk to Minister Farrakhan’s chief of staff. And it remained one of America’s best hidden secrets for the next 12 years. ...”


He kept a copy for himself, however.

“For the first time, more than a decade later, the glowing photograph of now former President Barack Obama and Minister Louis Farrakhan has been published in a book by Muhammad to be released Jan. 31 - ‘The Autobiography of Charles 67X’ . . .”


Blacks, Latinos Cite CNN for Objectivity on Cable

Blacks and Hispanics choose CNN as the news source “believed to be objective,” while whites favored Fox News, according to a survey from the Gallup Organization and the Knight Foundation discussed Tuesday.


The pollsters asked respondents to choose among Fox News, CNN, NPR, local news (nonspecific), BBC, MSNBC, “PBS NewsHour” NBC News, the New York Times and ABC News.

Whites chose Fox News, 29 percent to 10 percent each for CNN and NPR; blacks picked CNN, 28 percent to 9 percent for MSNBC and 8 percent for local news (Fox garnered 6 percent). Hispanics chose CNN, 21 percent, with 14 percent for Fox News. The other outlets were 7 percent and under.


The findings came in an overall study that concluded, “Americans believe the news media have an important role to play in democracy, particularly in terms of informing the public, yet they do not believe the media are fulfilling that role.” It also concluded, “Americans’ perceptions of the news media are generally negative, and their perceptions of bias have grown considerably from a generation ago. A majority cannot name an objective news source.”

However, the survey found African Americans, and to some degree Hispanics, on the other side of these issues, with respondents identifying as Republicans and/or white taking the opposing position. Blacks, Hispanics and Democrats expressed more positive views of the news media than did whites, independents and Republicans.


The CNN finding is surprising in that MSNBC released Nielsen ratings on Jan. 8 that showed MSNBC finishing 2017 as the No. 1 network for all of cable in African American viewership for prime time (Monday through Friday, 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.). “MSNBC delivered 483,096 African-American viewers, ahead of CNN, VH1, ESPN, OWN, TNT and BET,” it said.

Among other results, the report said, “a majority of blacks, 55%, rely on TV or radio talk shows to stay up to date, compared with 42% of Hispanics, 40% of whites and 34% of Asians.”


Thirty-four percent of blacks said they shared news stories online, compared with 32 percent of Hispanics, 30 percent of independents, 27 percent of Republicans, 24 percent of independents and 25 percent of whites. Fifty-seven percent of blacks felt that social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter played a positive role in the news environment, compared with 54 percent of Hispanics and 37 percent of whites.

The survey provided a backdrop for a two-hour program, “Americans & the Media: Sorting Fact from Fake News(transcript), Tuesday at the Washington Post, featuring journalists and media critics. In a discussion of the effect of Donald J. Trump on the press corps, April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks said the term “fake news” is “putting a target on our heads,” repeating that she had received death threats.


Ryan spoke as news reports said that Brandon Griesemer, 19, of Novi, Mich., was arrested last week and now faces federal criminal charges following an FBI investigation alleging that he called CNN headquarters multiple times with threats to “gun down” employees of the network for producing “fake news,” as Allie Gross reported for the Detroit Free Press.

Panelists such as Stephen F. Hayes, editor of the Weekly Standard, noted that Trump had elevated genuine “fake news” outlets - which traffic in conspiracy theories, by giving them access to White House press briefings. He cited Gateway Pundit as one such outfit.


Hayes also said that conservatives had complained for years about liberal bias in the media but were too often dismissed as “there they go again.” Panelists faulted the blurring of lines between news and opinion and urged all news media to label clearly the differences. When Stephanie McCrummen of the Washington Post, a native of Alabama, went to interview residents to pursue the story of U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore’s sexual misconduct, residents were surprised that she was there to listen and not assert her opinion, they said.

Trump was portrayed as making his presidency a show, with Jay Rosen of New York University calling him a competing news organization.


The poll results were based on self-administered mail surveys with a random sample of 19,196 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. “Gallup oversampled households known to include harder-to-reach respondents, specifically blacks, Hispanics and young adults,” the organization said.

A ‘Best Actor’ Surprised by Lack of Black Reporters


After the SAG Awards Jaleesa Lashay, a reporter from Blacktree TV, asked Sterling K. Brown one of the most difficult questions he probably had all night,” Olivia Butler wrote Tuesday for TVOne.

“She said, ‘Are you aware of the disparities between the opportunities given to black journalists in comparison to our white counterparts? And do you think there’s any plan in Hollywood to make sure that the media room starts to reflect the diversity that we’re beginning to see in the industry?’


“How did Sterling respond?

“Amazingly well! . . .” Readers were invited to view the video.

“I’m just taking a look around the room, like, you got a point,” Brown said. “It’s a lot of white people. You know what, I’d never paid attention, and shame on me for not having done so.


“But maybe this conversation is the beginning of something taking place. . . .”

The occasion was 24th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, and Brown, star of NBC’s “This Is Us,” became the first black actor to win in the category “Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series.”


2 Win $100,000 Each for Freelance Reporting

Jaeah Lee

Two freelance journalists have won the first American Mosaic Journalism Prize for stories about the struggles of U.S. immigrants and others that the prize founders say have been underrepresented or misrepresented, it was announced Tuesday,” the Associated Press reported.

Jaeah Lee of San Francisco and Valeria Fernandez of Arizona will each receive $100,000, making it one of the richest prizes for journalism. By comparison, Pulitzer Prize winners generally receive $15,000.


“The prize was created by the Heising-Simons Foundation, a family-run charity in Silicon Valley.

Valerie Fernandez

”The award was for a selection of work by independent reporters that appeared in print, digital, audio or TV mass media between July 2016 and August 2017.

“ ‘In today’s journalism, freelancers are both vulnerable and valuable,’ said a statement announcing the awards.


“ ‘With trimming of newsroom staff, many journalists are working without the support of an institution and with limited resources. And yet, some of the most important works of journalism come from these freelance journalists who commit long periods of time to their stories.’ . . .”

The foundation said, “Jaeah Lee’s recent work included a California Sunday Magazine cover story for which Ms. Lee spent 17 months with a mother who lost her son to a police shooting.


“Valeria Fernandez’s recent work included a story for the Phoenix New Times in which she detailed the mental health struggles of a new immigrant in Arizona. . . .”

ESPN The Magazine Focuses on the Black Athlete

Issue available Friday

The latest issue of ESPN The Magazine, in collaboration with The Undefeated, explores the State of the Black Athlete - a glimpse into the creativity, struggles and brilliance of African-Americans in sports,” ESPN announced.

“On newsstands Friday, Jan. 26, the issue is anchored by an essay from The Undefeated editor-in-chief Kevin Merida, ‘Speaking Their Minds,’ which stresses that black athletes need to be looked at in full, starting with their intellect.


“The story ‘The Conscience of a Champion’ looks at the most politically conscious team in the nation’s most politically conscious league: the Golden State Warriors. Senior writers Lonnae O’Neal and Marc J. Spears ask, ‘Why are the Warriors celebrated for it when generations of black athletes were attacked for doing the same? And how long can it last?’ . . .”

Black Journalist Accuses Progressive Outlet

A former reporter for YouTube-centric political media company the Young Turks has filed a racial discrimination claim against the progressive news outlet,” Steven Perlberg reported Tuesday for BuzzFeed.

Andrew Jerell Jones

Andrew Jerell Jones, a black journalist whose work has appeared in the Guardian and the Intercept, alleges that Young Turks founder and CEO Cenk Uygur told him complaining about racial biases within the company was a ‘fireable offense’ and that he should ‘shut the fuck up and deal.’


“In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Uygur said, ‘The quotes attributed to me in the workplace are completely false.’ . . . “

The complaint was filed with the New York State Division of Human Rights.

“The complaint paints a dark picture of a media company that has become well-known for championing liberal causes,” Perlberg wrote.


Short Takes

Growing portions of more than a dozen poor Chicago neighborhoods, “mostly on the city’s South and West sides, are becoming ‘pharmacy deserts,’ say some public health experts,” Ese Olumhense and Nausheen Husain reported Monday for the Chicago Tribune. “The term describes a community with limited access to a pharmacy, whether retail or independent. Hospital inpatient pharmacies are not typically included in these counts, as they dispense medicine only to hospitalized patients. In Chicago, research has shown most of these neighborhoods share a mix of characteristics: Their residents tend to be low-income, immigrants, and/or black and Latino. . . .”

Alice Li

Alice Li of the Washington Post won Multimedia Journalist of the Year in the annual “Eyes of History®” competition of the White House News Photographers Association, the association announced on Sunday. Other winners included Cheryl Diaz Meyer, freelance, in international news; Khalil Abdallah of CNN for general news in the video category; and Andrea Cornejo, University of Maryland, as student video photographer of the year.
Univision Communications veteran Jessica Rodriguez has been promoted to president and chief operating officer of the Univision Networks division, overseeing programming, production and marketing operations for the Spanish-language media giant,” Cynthia Littleton Tuesday reported for Variety. “Rodriguez will also maintain her position as chief marketing officer for the parent company Univision Communications. With Rodriguez’s promotion, Univision aims to streamline the operations of its broadcast and cable networks under a single leader. . . .”
Another one bites the dust at ‘Despierta America,’Madeleine Marr wrote Thursday for “Days after we heard Lourdes Stephen was saying goodbye to the Univision lifestyle show and her [’Sin Rollos’] segment, People en Espanol reports that Orlando Segura is also out of a job. On his Instagram account, Segura, who hosts the ‘Codigo Segura (‘Segura Code’) segment on the morning show, posted a picture of himself smiling with the caption, ‘Thank you. We’ll keep looking for happiness in life, with the hashtag #disfrutandoelproceso (enjoying the process). . . .”
Mosheh Oinounou will replace Steve Capus as the executive producer of ‘CBS Evening News,’ a behind-the-scenes change at the venerable evening newscast that takes place just a few weeks after a new anchor [Jeff Glor] was put in front of the camera,” Brian Steinberg reported Tuesday for Variety. “Capus, a former president of NBC News and a TV-news veteran, is expected to retain his duties as executive editor of CBS News. He is expected to pursue other opportunities within CBS News, but could also find a new role outside the organization. . . .” In 2007, as NBC News president, Capus won the Ida B. Wells Award from the National Association of Black Journalists and the Medill School at Northwestern University for his diversity efforts.

Roxana Saberi

Former North Dakota TV reporter Roxana Saberi, who was imprisoned in Iran for 100 days in 2009, has joined CBS News as a London-based correspondent,” the Associated Press reported Jan. 12.
A TV reporter at a Chicago, Illinois local news station had her dream interview with superstar Ricky Martin,” Nicole Acevedo reported Friday for NBC Latino. “Little did she know that her childhood idol was still listening when she was gushing to her fellow anchors and reporters about him - and her hilarious reaction was all caught on camera. Martin was promoting his new ‘American Crime Story’ series, The Assassination of Gianni Versace, where he plays Antonio D’Amico, fashion designer Gianni Versace’s boyfriend at the time of his murder in 1997. WGN-TV reporter Ana Belaval was asked to join in remotely - from her gym - as the news anchors and the entertainment reporter interviewed Martin. Belaval got to ask him questions about his recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, where they are both from. . . .”


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Richard Prince’s Journal-isms originates from Washington. It began in print before most of us knew what the internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a “column.” Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.


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