A Tribute To Radio Legend Hal Jackson

Host Michel Martin and Tell Me More editor Ammad Omar comb through listener feedback and give news updates from past stories. They remember pioneering African-American broadcaster Hal Jackson, who died this week at age 96. They also give an update on Hikaru Nakamura, who recently won his third U.S. chess championship.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And now, it's time for Backtalk. That's where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and hear from you. Editor Ammad Omar is here with us once again.

What do you have for us today, Ammad?

AMMAD OMAR, BYLINE: We've got a lot of news updates today, and we want to start in the Middle East. There's news there that Zainab al-Khawaja has been arrested and jailed for a month in Bahrain. We spoke to Zainab on this program in April. She and her family have been demonstrating against the monarchy that rules that nation, but according to the Associated Press, Zainab was accused of abusing a police woman at a protest. She'll reportedly have another court appearance this weekend.

Zainab's father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, is a Bahraini dissident who's been sentenced to life for his part in what supporters say are peaceful protests. He's been on hunger strike and she's been calling for his release. Here's a clip from our conversation with Zainab last month.

ZAINAB AL-KHAWAJA: I mean, we have been punished for a very long time now. My father is one example, and the price that he had to pay for that is the way that he was arrested. They broke his jaw in four different places. My father now has more than 20 metal plates and screws holding his jaw together. He was tortured for more than two months. He was kept in solitary confinement.

OMAR: Well, Zainab's father is continuing his hunger strike and he was in court in a wheelchair this week. He is reportedly having his life sentence reexamined.

MARTIN: And we are going to continue to follow this important story. Ammad, what else?

OMAR: Well, on a lighter note, we mentioned earlier this week that Hikaru Nakamura won the U.S. Chess Championship over the weekend. We spoke with him earlier this month as part of our Game Changer series for Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

On Saturday, Hikaru kept an undefeated run to the championship. Since then, he's been to New York for a charity chess event there and he's flying off to Russia, now, to take on some of the best players there. Oh, and he's got a $40,000 winner's check to help him enjoy those sights and sounds.

MARTIN: What? Oh, well, congratulations, Hikaru. And, Ammad, I think you also have some news from the Twitterverse.

OMAR: Earlier this week, we spoke to Julian Bond - he's the chairman emeritus of the NAACP - because the historic civil rights group came out in support of gay marriage. Bond said he hoped the NAACP resolution would encourage people of color who oppose gay marriage to reconsider.

Well, we got a tweet from the user, Mimi1PokerDiva(ph) that said, just because the NAACP endorses gay marriage, it doesn't mean African-Americans and Latin-Americans will follow their lead. The NAACP no longer represents the majority of African-Americans and Latin-Americans.

MARTIN: Well, actually, we have some news about that, too. There's a new ABC News Washington Post poll just out today that says that the number of African-Americans who do want to legalize same-sex marriage is on the rise. Fifty-nine percent of black respondents to that poll said that they do want to legalize same-sex marriage, and 65 percent said that they favor President Obama's position on the issue. So there it is. It's an evolving story.

Anything else?

OMAR: Well, we wanted to end by taking a moment to remember Hal Jackson. He was a broadcaster who broke down color barriers in radio. He died Wednesday at the age of 96. Here he is talking to NPR a little over 10 years ago about how he walked into a D.C. radio executive's office and asked for his own show back in 1939.

HAL JACKSON: He said to me - he used the N word. No N will ever work on this radio station and I doubt any others. They're none working in Washington, you know. I said, I know how much it would mean to the black people of Washington if you had a show.

OMAR: Well, Hal Jackson rounded up his own sponsors and bought air time through an ad agency for an overnight slot and he just walked into the station again 15 minutes before air time.

JACKSON: Everybody was stunned that I was scheduled to go on. They couldn't locate the manager, wherever he was. Anyway, we went on the air and the phones just lit up.

MARTIN: Hal Jackson's career took off from there. He wound up hosting three different daily shows on three different New York stations in the mid-1950s. He worked hard in the civil rights movement. He pushed for integrated swimming pools and organized integrated concerts and he worked throughout his life to help young people.

In 1990, he became the first black person elected to the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame, and he kept doing his weekly radio show on WBLS in New York until just a few weeks ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW)

JACKSON: Good afternoon. Good afternoon. Good afternoon. Welcome to the Sunday Classics. I'm Hal Jackson.

MARTIN: It is truly the end of an era and our condolences go out to his family. Thanks, Ammad.

OMAR: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And, remember, with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. To tell us more, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522 or visit us online at npr.org/TellMeMore. Please remember to leave us your name. You can also find us on Twitter. Just look for @TellMeMoreNPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: Coming up, documents and police interviews are shedding light on the death of Robert Champion. He's the Florida A&M drum major who died after a hazing incident. We'll ask the Barber Shop guys about whether this tragic episode will affect attitudes about hazing once and for all. Also, Mitt Romney and President Obama make their latest pitches to Latino voters. We'll try to find out who has the edge next on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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