Gil Noble and his award winning program Like It Is, represents some true milestones in my life. With his recent death, due to complications from a stroke last summer, I can’t help but reflect on what his show meant to me. If my life were a movie, Like It Is would have to be included on a television screen in at least two or three scenes.
Like It Is, was the only television show in New York City that covered issues of the African diaspora fully from the perspective of those within the community. It was unapologetic during a time when it was more common to tone down and seek mass appeal.
If you were to ask me to describe a perfect Sunday while I was living in NYC it would include two NYC treasures; Hal Jackson’s Sunday Morning Classics on WBLS and Gil Noble’s Like It Is. I honestly considered not having these two influential programs in my life as a factor in moving. In fact, I was under the incorrect impression when I moved out to the Poconos that the cable company carried the NYC ABC affiliate which I thought would allow me access. Fortunately, I still enjoy the Sunday Classics via the online stream.
There’s no way for me to think about Like It Is or Gil noble without warm fond memories of my father.
My introduction to the show and an afro centric perspective was more like a rites of passage.
My father would watch “Brother Gil” religiously. As a youngster I wasn’t really interested in watching two or more people sitting around a table talking. However, around the age of 13 or 14 my father didn’t ask me to join him he very politely commanded. I was smart enough to obey.
This started a process that would repeat each week until I was ready to go off on my own. I could be in the kitchen getting my favorite “Jungle Juice” fruit punch and my Dad just seemed to appear announcing “Let’s go, Like It Is.” Into his room I would follow taking my place on the floor in front of the television. In the early days, I would hope for the episodes featuring people and things I knew, Dr. King, Malcolm X or the black Panthers. I loved the black and white clips of the 1950′s and 60′s. I would have a hard time staying awake for the round table discussions about Pan Africanism or political issues that I couldn’t understand.
My father would point out elders like Dr. Ben and john Hendrick Clark, making sure I was aware of their importance to our history.
The day came when I graduated from my passage training. My Dad no longer sought me out when he realized I was already in front of the television waiting for it to start. Then I was in my own room watching it alone. I never knew then how much I would miss the early days we shared watching the show together.
I was fortunate enough to meet Gil Noble during a small intimate presentation I attended at Baruch College around 1991. He spoke of his experiences in the media. It was easy to see that he enjoyed these opportunities to hear from the next generation and use the occasion to encourage. He was one of those speakers that seem less concerned with time or a busy schedule and more so with his audience.
I don’t know if my father ever met Mr. Noble. I wish I could have taken my Dad with me to that presentation, but he was already diagnosed and well into his experience with Parkinson’s disease.
As a father now, I know what it would have meant to him to attend the presentation with his son. It was obvious that he wanted to assure that I was equipped with information and a healthy perspective of what it means to be an African American man. In a way it would have been both a confirmation for him that I received what he was teaching and it would have been a thank you gift right back at him.
My Dad wanted for me the same thing Mr. Noble wanted for the community.
Dad knew the importance of instilling a true sense of pride. He knew there were other personalities and stories from our community that would benefit his child’s self-image.
Mr. Noble had the ability to bring the community the other side of stories that mainstream news organizations too often failed to present.
The archive of this show is truly a treasure chest containing over 40 years of information on all relevant issues impacting the African diaspora. From politics to culture Mr. Noble has interviewed them all.
In this age where information is so readily accessible, I would hope that something is done to not only preserve the Like It Is legacy, but make it available to all via the internet.
Thank you to my Dad and Gil Noble for introducing me to the true history of African Americans, Africans throughout the diaspora and subsequently myself.
Now all I can do is my best to pay it forward.