Audience Reacts to Tense Conversation With Malcolm X's Daughter

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Host Michel Martin and Tell Me More's "digital media guy," Lee Hill, review listeners' comments on recent conversations. These include a tragic ending for the case of missing teenager Phylicia Barnes — her body was recently found in a Maryland river. Also, listeners react to a heated conversation with the daughter of the late black leader, Malcolm X. Some say Martin crossed the line with her questioning.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now it's time for Backtalk, where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get to hear from you, our listeners. Lee Hill, our digital media guy, is here with me, as he is most Fridays.

Hi, Lee. What's up?

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel. Well, back in January, one of your Can I Just Tell You commentaries focused on missing black girls and why you say, too often, their stories go missing from the national media. Now, you talk specifically about Phylicia Barnes of North Carolina. The high school honor student and track star went missing in late December while visiting her older half-siblings in Baltimore.

And we have sad news to report, Michel. Yesterday, Maryland State Police confirmed that the body of Phylicia Barnes, along with an unidentified male, was found floating near a damn about 40 miles from Baltimore. Here's Baltimore police commissioner Frederick Bealefeld.

Mr. FREDERICK BEALEFELD (Baltimore Police Commissioner): Our goal simply is to bring closure to Phylicia Barnes' family and figure out what happened and hold those responsible accountable.

MARTIN: Lee, and, of course, our thoughts are extended to all of Phylicia's loved ones. Lee, also, on a sad note, Lashonda Armstrong was laid to rest yesterday in New York. She is the troubled mother who killed herself and three of her four children by driving her minivan into the Hudson River last week.

In Tuesday's parenting roundtable, we talked about the challenges of mothers who feel overwhelmed. Here's a piece of that conversation with our regular contributor, Leslie Morgan Steiner.

LESLIE MORGAN STEINER: I've never wanted to kill my children or myself. But I have had many moments as a mother where I really deeply regretted having children. And I felt like the responsibility was more than I could possibly bear.

MARTIN: We later heard this from Keith, who posted this to our online forum. He writes: I have but one sibling. Fortunately, I was the first born. My mother never fully recovered from her postpartum depression after I was born, thus my sister was neglected, I suspect, more than she should've been. I appreciate Ms. Steiner's comments, as they remind me that feelings are feelings, and whatever quality of feeling it happens to be, it will pass. I certainly need friendships to sustain me, but that's not easy for everyone.

HILL: Thanks, Keith. And, Michel, this week we talked to Ilyasah Shabazz. She's the daughter of the late civil rights leader Malcolm X, and we talked to her about a newly released biography of her father. The book was written by the historian Manning Marable, who passed away just before the book hit bookstores.

And it makes some controversial claims about Malcolm X, including claims about a relationship with homosexual overtones with a former employer, as well as the circumstances surrounding his murder in 1965. And at one point, the interview with Ms. Shabazz became tense.

MARTIN: Why would Dr. Marable want to portray your parents in a negative light?

Ms. ILYASAH SHABAZZ (Author, "Growing Up X"): Michel, I have - you can't ask me that.

MARTIN: I don't know. But you knew him, and I don't.

Ms. SHABAZZ: Michel, I do not say that I knew him. I said I spent time with him. I have no idea why he would do that. And if you want to continue to talk to me about this book, that's not what you said this was going to be the focus.

MARTIN: No, no, I understand. I just - I was - I just didn't know what you were going to say.

Ms. SHABAZZ: So I can't sit here and answer those questions for you. I have no idea why Dr. Marable would want to do that.

HILL: Not long after that, Ms. Shabazz decided that she did not want the conversation to continue. So she thanked us and left. On our website, a majority of those who posted were unhappy about the way the interview was handled.

Here's a post from Penny. She writes: Well, I have to agree with your guest. You were out of line with your continuing to ask her questions she could not answer and focusing entirely on the homosexual affair. You should have dropped it. She obviously was blindsided by your questions. Thanks, Penny.

But we also heard this from Jean. She writes: This interview was weird. And I do not understand why Shabazz was bothered by the line of questioning. I think Ms. Martin, as always, raised some good points and necessary questions. Shabazz seemed to immediately discount anything that was in Marable's book without providing any explanation as to why.

MARTIN: I appreciate everybody who wrote in, but I feel I must say that while I am certainly sorry when anyone does not enjoy the experience of being on this program, our guest was certainly not blindsided. We were absolutely clear that we wanted to talk about the book, among other things. And we certainly do not trick people into coming onto the program. We are certainly interested in other dimensions of Ms. Shabazz's life. And she has an open invitation to return if she would like to.

By the way, Ms. Shabazz did say at one point that we should go on and ask someone who participated in the research and writing of the book, perhaps Zaheer Ali, whom she was certainly did not know that some of these controversial claims were included in the book. We interviewed Dr. Marable's researcher, Zaheer Ali, soon after the book came out. We asked him for a statement about what Ms. Shabazz said. You can find that statement on our website.

Lee, moving on, this week, we marked the one-year anniversary of the Gulf oil spill. We spoke with Shelley Anderson, whose husband was killed in the rig explosion that started it all. That conversation also included her attorney, Ernest Cannon. We also talked to Steve Korris, a reporter with the publication The Louisiana Record, about the legal issues that Mrs. Anderson is now having with Transocean, the company that owned the oil rig.

Now, after our conversation aired, we heard from Ray De Lorenzi. He is with the American Association for Justice. That's formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers. He took issue with the fact that our interview did not disclose that The Louisiana Record is owned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Thus, he believes that the publication has a pro-business slant. Our reporting confirms that the Chamber of Commerce does indeed own The Louisiana Record.

HILL: Finally, Michel, some good news. Miami Herald Caribbean journalist Jacqueline Charles, she's been a contributor on this program several times, well, she has been named journalist of the year by the National Association of Black Journalists.

MARTIN: Well, congratulations, Jacqueline. Well deserved. And thank you, Lee.

HILL: Thank you, Michel.

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