“We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.” —Freedom’s Journal, first African-American newspaper (1827)
Roland S. Martin is no regular newsman. He is a seasoned, outspoken and bold change agent who uses his national platform as a prominent African-American journalist to talk about the issues, politics and policies affecting African Americans that most journalists and media outlets dare not touch. Martin is considered controversial by some and courageous by others. But anyone who knows him knows that he is about the business of his family, his community and his faith, first.
TV One in November 2013 launched a morning news show featuring Martin as the host and managing editor. The show was a first of its kind on a black cable-news network. On Monday, Sept. 14, the program is moving from 9 a.m. ET to the coveted 7 a.m. ET time slot to better compete for African-American viewers against mainstream newscasts. We caught up with Martin for a Q&A about his new time slot and what we don’t know about the man behind the show.
The Root: Who is Roland Martin?
Roland Martin: I am a man who is unapologetically black. Not afraid to say I am a black man. A Christian man. A heterosexual man. Like the late Shirley Chisholm: I am Unbought and Unbossed. I think we live in a world where people are two-faced and wishy-washy and who do not have integrity. They change with the wind. It’s important to have convictions and principles. I try to do that as a journalist and as a man. I do not encourage people to fall into the trap of trying to please others. It is a dead end.
Bottom line: I am not trying to downplay who I am. I am comfortable with me. I am not trying to put my blackness on the back burner to make others more comfortable. That covers how we speak, dress, talk and show up in the world. This is who I am. And I am bringing my experiences to bear.
TR: Talk about your love of family and community.
RM: I grew up with cousins who came to live with us. My family spent our time together as a family. I don’t have lots of friends. My conditioning was and is my family. I was raised to understand the value of family. I am godfather to my nieces. I take that role seriously. It means standing in the gap. Not just there for Christmas and birthday gifts. We can’t keep talking about the village without realizing we are the village. That is why I push us as a people to do better. We are our own village. We don’t need permission from others to love and take care of us.
For example, my wife, Jacquie, and I agreed to raise my two nieces when we had only been married just six months. We decided we would rather step in now, than to have to deal with the aftermath of them as damaged adults. You can’t just be caught up in your life. You must be caught up in the lives of those you love as well. My spouse, Jacquie, had the same values as me. So we eventually ended up raising all of the girls. And it has blessed our lives as much as we pray it has theirs.
TR: Tell us about your show and why it’s relevant in a world of morning shows like Morning Joe, Fox & Friends, Today, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning and New Day?
RM: The show is 2 years old this November. My goal is to see us reprogram black people by bringing them to serious news on black news networks. Usually our networks focus on comedy, dramatic or reality series, and entertainment. Which is fine. But we need to try to feed people a new diet. We need to be serious about our news and our business.
You have to take time to build, develop and feed people something new. And that is what NewsOne has done. I think we are relevant because we present a perspective that no other network or news outlet covers or cares about, to be frank.
TR: Why the time change?
RM: More people watch the morning shows at 7 a.m. Our hope is that we will pick up those viewers. Build the first hour, so that you can get to second and third hours. Which is my hope.
Our focus is on the core black audience and bringing them home. “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.” That is my mantra from an 1827 newspaper editorial founded by black men.
We need to watch the news formed and shaped by people who look like [us]. Who share our experiences and cultural perspectives, who can bring us the news, talk about our kids, our finances, education, etc. We are going to talk about the news that helps us. You get to see black people who are generals, money experts, economists, dating experts, family experts, etc. You do not see that on mainstream networks.