Eloquent tributes from a stream of religious leaders, elected officials, academics and celebrities punctuated a three-hour funeral service for journalist Gil Noble, who was gratefully remembered in New York City on Friday as the nation’s “electronic griot.” He died April 5 at the age of 80.
At the service, held at Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, notables such as Minister Louis Farrakhan; former New York Mayor David Dinkins; actor Danny Glover; and Susan L. Taylor, retired editor of Essence magazine, offered glowing appreciation for Noble’s effort to inform and educate African Americans over four decades on his WABC-TV show Like It Is. Despite professional risk, his show — America’s longest-running issues-oriented Sunday show aimed at black Americans — overflowed with powerful documentaries and, often, controversial guests who were misunderstood by many mainstream Americans.
Harlem’s Abyssinian Church has long featured high-profile funerals for African-American luminaries. Among them have been services for both Adam Clayton Powells — the father and his son, the famous congressman Adam Jr. — Ossie Davis, Count Basie and jazz singer Dakota Staton. The service for Noble followed in this tradition.
Amiri Baraka, the Newark, N.J.-based poet and fiery political activist, delivered a resolution, read by Abyssinian’s senior minister, Calvin Butts III, commending Noble’s dedication to informing black Americans and equipping them with knowledge. It was signed by Newark Mayor Cory Booker and all City Council members.
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the largest such collection worldwide, also paid homage to Noble in a tribute sent by Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, its director.
Noble, who died at his Montclair, N.J., home after suffering a debilitating stroke in 2011, was as magnetic in death as he was in life. Adoring New Yorkers also packed the church Thursday evening for another three-hour service, during which venerable New York journalist Les Payne announced that “Gil loved him some Harlem, and Harlem loved him back!”