(WEHT) – On Monday, Brad Byrd spoke with Courtney Johnson and Reverend Gerald Arnold about what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. accomplished from the perspective of two different generations.
BB: Welcome to In-depth. On this Martin Luther Kind Day, Eyewitness News is kicking off its annual project on Black History Month with special reports on what Dr. King accomplished and people who made a difference for millions of Americans often in harm’s way.
Joining me tonight are reverend Gerald Arnold, president of the NAACP Evansville chapter and Courtney Johnson, Founder of Young and Established. Thank you so much, Reverend Arnold, and thank you Courtney for being here tonight.
Of course, the Gun rights rally in Richmond, Virginia. Peaceful.
We’re getting perspective from two men from two generations.
It was peaceful. But the fact that that the governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia decided last week that a state of emergency had to be declared because there was the fear we might have another Charlottesville.
What does that tell you about the country we live in now, these times? I’ll give that to you first Courtney.
CJ: I still think we have a lot of work to do, for him to say that. He’s concerned obviously, and we don’t want to see that happen again. There’s a lot to be done.
BB: Reverend Arnold you lived through it in the 1950s and 60’s you see it today.
GA: I’ll give him credit for being proactive. because in the days before it would have happened… and then it woulda been talked about afterward. I give the governor all credit for stepping in and preventing the kind of violence we’re experienced in the days past.
BB: We made so much progress but we were talking in the newsroom. I never thought I would be reporting on events like Charlottesville in this time, in this day and age.
What would Dr. King think about this Reverend Arnold?
GA: I think Dr. King would not be shocked but still concerned about where we are even though we’ve made some gains, even though we’ve made some gains.
BB: Courtney, You visited the aftermath. I remember the first time I talked to you out here. You visited the aftermath in Ferguson, Missouri, the riots that ensued after that. How does that impact your life as a young man? When you went over there and saw the fallout.
CJ: I went to protest because I felt what was going on and I could relate to it. I’ve experienced things and I just wanted to support. I was shocked at the comments and after our interview, the things that were said. There were some racist comments made and I recognized names from social media. I was just really blown away by some of the comments that were made and the things that were said about me. That was right around the time Young and Established was first getting started. So people knew the work and the passion I had for the community and giving back. Just to see some of those comments, it really bothered me a little bit.
BB: Reverend Arnold I know you went through a lot. Your family has been through a lot. I’ll never forget about some family members who’d been taken to jail. What would happen?
GA: They would be taken to jail or in some cases never seen or heard from.
BB: Never heard from again.
BB: Courtney could you imagine that happening today? A loved one or a friend to disappear off the face of the earth.
CJ: That would be rough. I don’t want to say that has happened before, but there were cases that are similar cases. I’m pretty sure there are things similar to that that have happened. It’s not as bad as it used to be but there are a lot of things that are not right.
BB: But there still is subtle racism would you both agree?
GA: Yes. that’s why we continue to address these issues through NAACP a group called Bridge, ( Building Respect & Integrity in Diverse Greater Evansville.) Bringing races, religion, and everything together. To try and address some of the problems that we need to solve here in our city.
BB: You talk to our children, Courtney. I know you talk to our children both black and white. What do they tell you? Just looking and talking with them. What do you think when you see that?
CJ: There’s still racism in our city I’ve dealt with, I still deal with it. I think a lot of people don’t want to have those conversations. I’ve set down with people before and told them some of the things that’s been said to me and some of the things that I’ve had to deal with. A lot of people don’t want to hear it. I think it’s important, Rev. Arnold, and as he said before we shouldn’t wait a year to actually get together to talk. I know we should continue this conversation and figure out ways we can get more people to the table and figure out how we can get people to unite.
BB: With the confines of television we’re gonna have to do that now. I’m going to kinda step back and listen. I think it very important. How would both talk to each other on what you would like to see and what you have seen?
CJ: I would listen. He has soo much knowledge and wisdom. 30 years? Has it been 30 years since…
GA: But I was also involved in Louisiana and Mississippi… and CORE and … all that stuff as well. I also was a black mosaic at one time. We were trying various things to get to where we are today.
CJ: So what would you tell me, some good advice I could use to help push things in the right direction?
GA: Well, I think what you’re doing, constructive things, because you’re working with young folks and that’s what people did with us. People important to us knew how the struggle was — what it was to be a man and have that identity. To stand up and be honest and fight — not just for my rights but also for someone else. I would say continue this generational thing, shaking hands, so we can pass on all the ways we had to survive. We had to walk through the white people’s neighborhood. We had to go to their job, shine their shoes, we had to do all those things. But you had to learn how to do that to get to where we are today. I think a lot of young African Americans need to have respect for the fact that we carved out a road — a highway to get to where are today.
BB: You said something interesting about social media, and that’s very cruel it does a lot of good. But it can do some very cruel things and have an impact on you.
CJ: But it does a lot of bad too.
BB: I’m sure when you were this man’s age you dealt with similar issues in the communication world — not social media necessarily. Well, I wish we had more time and we’ll make more time in the near future. Rev. Arnold thank you for being here and Courtney as always, thank you so much. Take care to both of you and appreciate you being here.
(This story was originally published on January 20, 2020)