Saying Goodbye To The Kojo Nnamdi Show
On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
After 23 years on the air, The Kojo Nnamdi Show sunsets on April 1. Kojo will still host The Politics Hour With Kojo Nnamdi on Fridays, but his daily conversations with Greater Washington are coming to an end.
For legions of listeners, the show is how they kept their fingers on the pulse of the place they call home: its particular politics, rich culture, serious problems and hopeful spirit.
But more than its commitment to the issues the D-M-V cared about, Kojo Nnamdi also brought his inimitable voice into people’s lives — a voice of honesty, civility and good humor.
In the words of local author and screenwriter George Pelecanos: “Kojo Nnamdi is the sound of this city. When I come back to Washington after long periods of out-of-town work, I turn on the radio, hear his voice, and know I’m home.”
We’ll take this last hour to remember and reflect on these past 23 years, from the early days when the show was called “Public Interest” to this tumultuous past year.
And, as always, we’re taking your calls.
Produced by Julie Depenbrock and Lauren Markoe
KOJO NNAMDIYou're tuned in to The Kojo Nnamdi Show for one final time on WAMU 88.5, welcome. In 1998, two graduate students founded a company called Google. My leadership Washington classmate in 1998, Anthony Williams won the D.C. mayoral election. And WAMU invited yours truly to host a daily talk show. Back then it was called, Public Interest, later renamed The Kojo Nnamdi Show. Twenty-three years later we've come to the last Kojo Nnamdi Show. I'll still host The Politics Hour With Kojo Nnamdi each Friday.
KOJO NNAMDIBut, this is the last broadcast of the daily show. For me, it's been an incredible two plus decades. Today with some special guests we're going to take this final hour to remember some of our favorite moments in this show's history. This is no April Fool's Day joke. Today is my last broadcast on The Kojo Nnamdi Show. I'd like to welcome my first guest, the one and only Diane Rehm.
KOJO NNAMDIDiane Rehm is now the Host of the "On My Mind" podcast and for 37 years hosted of the Diane Rehm Show here on WAMU. Diane, welcome. So good to have you on.
DIANE REHMOh, Kojo. It is my pleasure, but I have to say it's a mixed pleasure, because, while I'm so happy you came to WAMU more than 20 years ago and even though you are going to continue with the Friday The Politics Hour With Kojo Nnamdi, I am sad to see the end of The Kojo Nnamdi Show. I want to know how you're feeling today.
NNAMDII have mixed feelings today, Diane. On the one hand, I am going to be only working on a part-time basis and therefore opening up my life and my schedule for other things that I have been wanting to do and postponing for a long time. On the other hand, I have grown to love doing this show. I have grown to love my producers and have grown to love my listeners and I've grown to love the engineers. And so I'll be missing that. So it is with mixed feelings that I am approaching today's day. It is bitter sweet for me.
REHMAnd how is your wife going to feel about your leaving the daily program?
NNAMDIShe is ecstatic about my leaving the daily program, because she thought I should have been retiring years ago. And so it is finally happening and she is ecstatic about that. The fact, though, is that I'll continue to do The Politics Hour With Kojo Nnamdi and at some point that may move back into the station after the pandemic is over. And so like you I will still have a space in the station. And after I have been home so much for the past year, I think she's going to be glad to have me go out every once in a while.
REHMKojo, you know, people have been listening to you for years and years. They may not know your very interesting personal history. You were an immigrant to this country and a naturalized citizen. Tell us where you're from and why you came here.
NNAMDII am from Guyana. It's the only English speaking country in South America. It's bordered by Brazil, Venezuela and French Guiana. And I decided to leave Guyana in the mid-1960s to first attend McGill University in Montreal, Canada. And that was a heady period of the civil rights movements known as the Black power era. And a lot of Black students were moved by the whole notion of Black power. I became one of those students, and as a result of that became deeply interested in the civil right movement, moved to New York for a while to pursue my interest in the civil rights movement even briefly joined a Black Panther party chapter in New York, and then felt that I could get more accomplished if I came to Washington.
NNAMDII had many friends in Washington, who were attending Howard University. And when I came here I found mentors, who had been activists in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, and those activists had formed an organization that I became a part of called The Center for Black Education. That led me to their management at what was then known as Drum and Spear Bookstore. And it was during that period of time that I got to experiment, if you will, with radio. And long story short was hired as a news editor at Howard University Radio in 1973.
REHMAnd eventually became the host of an evening program at Howard University, a television program, which is actually how you and I first met.
NNAMDIExactly right. I was a regular listener to your radio program. And so we decided that we wanted to do occasionally -- I think maybe monthly an episode of the show called "Evening Exchange" in which we tried to essentially put our ears to the ground of what was going on around the world in this region. And who better to do that than a radio talk show host who is doing this every day. And so it was a no brainer to invite you on the show. And then the next thing I know, you had invited me on your show.
REHMExactly. Exactly. Now lots of folks may not know that you're parents did not name you Kojo. What was your name?
NNAMDIMy parents got a little extravagant with the names. They named me Rex Orville Montague and my last name was Paul. So I'm Rex Orville Montague Paul. When I was growing up, the kids in elementary school unaware as my father was aware that Rex meant king in Latin. The only reference my classmates in elementary school had and in kindergarten had for Rex was that it was a dog's name. And so they were like, why would your parents give you a dog's name? No. We didn't know Latin so we didn't know that. And then I think they named me Montague, because they were fascinated with Romeo and Juliet, the Montagues versus the Capulets, and so they liked the name Montague. They got a little carried away.
REHMAnd who chose Kojo?
NNAMDII chose Kojo, because during the period when I was learning more about Black history and Black consciousness, I wanted to have a name that associated me with the history of Black people coming from African and Kojo means born on Monday in a Ghanaian language. And I happened to be born on Monday and that's how I chose Kojo.
REHMWell, I have to tell you, Kojo is the perfect name for you, and I'm so glad you chose it. It's one we all love and know. There is only one Kojo. And so, so happy you came to WAMU.
NNAMDIWell, you should be happy, because you were instrumental in my coming to WAMU. I suppose I do have to thank you for that, but what convinced you before I had even convinced myself, because I was hesitant. What convinced you that this was the role for me?
REHMI believed that your voice and your listening ability, which is just one of your great talents had to be presented to a national audience. And I just knew you were the person for the job. And at first, dear Kojo, you said, no, no, no, no. And I kept saying, but, yes, yes, yes. And so we went back and forth for a while. And you finally did come to WAMU, and present your listeners with a program not only for this community, but for the world. I am a native Washingtonian. I have been here all my life, but I have learned so much from you and for that I want to thank you. I've even had to ask you for whom to vote.
NNAMDIOn occasions you really have because you knew that on The Politics Hour we do all of the local politics. And so Diane always wanted to be informed and she felt if she asked me then she'd actually know who to vote for.
NNAMDIBut I may need some more advice from you, but I'll put it first in the hands of Daniel in Northeast D.C. Daniel, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DANIELThank you, Kojo. There are two show suggestions I have for The Politics Hour. And they're important D.C. African American cultural sites. One is the Howard University Divinity School, which is a beautiful historic site with an amazing art deco building at 14th and Shepard NE. And the other is the McMillen Park that we're trying to save from massive development. And we're at North Capitol with those weird silos. And we'd love Diane Rehm and the producers at WAMU to help the public save McMillan Park, Kojo.
NNAMDIWell, at least you won't be able to do that on The Kojo Nnamdi Show any more. You won't be able to call in pretending to ask about one thing and then ask about something else, which you have been doing for years. But thank you anyway for listening. Diane, we only have about a minute left, but you semi-retired a few years ago ending the Diane Rehm Show after 37 years. I'll be transitioning from a daily show to hosting The Politics Hour on Fridays. Do you have any advice for me at this juncture? You seem busier than ever.
REHMWell, that's what I was about to say to you. The thing you have to learn to do is to say "No". You have to make sure you pick and choose carefully, because I know my friend Kojo Nnamdi is going to be inundated with requests to do this, to do that, to come here, speak there. I know that for a fact. And I wish you all success, dear friend. I love you very, very much.
NNAMDII love you too. And it started happening already. The requests. Diane Rehm is the Host of the "On My Mind" podcast. Diane, thank you so much for joining us.
REHMThank you for inviting me, Kojo.
NNAMDIThen as we go to break, listen to two of my favorites from this region. Late musical icons together Eva Cassidy and Chuck Brown. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back on this final broadcast of The Kojo Nnamdi Show or the Kojo Show as we call it. It's my understanding that we now have a mystery guest. Mystery guest, identify yourself please.
SCOTT SIMONHi, there. Kojo, it's Scott from Foggy Bottom calling.
NNAMDIScott Simon of ...
SIMONLong time fan, first time caller.
NNAMDII'd know that voice any place.
SIMONKojo, my question is I have done, you know, everything, but prostate myself humbly to get on the Friday news roundup. And you, you stop total strangers at Union Station and say, would you like to be on the Friday news roundup?
SIMONSorry. I had to get that off my chest. Kojo, how can you do this to us? How can you leave us when we need you more than ever?
NNAMDIBecause our listeners to this station still have Weekend Edition Saturday, which you host so they'll be able to get some relief from that.
SIMONGod bless you. Look, I want to say something just while I have the chance. You are an inspiration. Nobody and I mean nobody is better with callers than you. Your courtesy, your civility, your understand, your insistent with guests, but your respect for callers, perhaps not me right now. But in any event your respect for caller's and the way you have taken us as your listeners, brought us into the community, brought us into your hearts and mind and expanded our understanding of where we live and who is part of our community and how we relate together.
SIMONI -- I mean, you and I have kidded about this, but I really think that -- I really think that you're a national monument in and of yourself. And you have increased the understanding and humanity of this community when, yes, it's needed it most. And I think -- I think this is a better city, because of the way you have elevated us. Thank you.
NNAMDIScott Simon, thank you very much. Our listeners should know that Scott and I first met when we were both cast in a production together at Studio Theatre. And I discovered that Scott was a veteran of second city TV. So in a future life, Scott, it is my hope that once again we'll be able to get together on the stage someday.
SIMONI was going to suggest that, you know, I mean, we should -- I think we could go on the road together even if, you know, the road is only Rhode Island Avenue, but in any event, see you around.
SIMONStudio Theater 6th Street or something, right. Yeah, who would want -- and my God, do you remember we were profane, weren't we?
NNAMDIOh, gosh, yes. Oh, yes. And we'll be able in future years to wheel ourselves over there and get onstage and perform. Scott, thank you so much for calling.
SIMONGod bless. Thanks for answering. Okay. Look, you and I remain friends. So when I say stay in touch, I mean, stay in touch.
SIMONAnd I know you will stay touch in with your listeners and will still be on the air. But -- you know, I don't view it as a loss so much as an opportunity to mark what you've given this community. Thank you so much. And look, Kojo, on behalf of my children, thank you so much.
NNAMDIThank you very much. Scott Simon is the Host of Weekend Saturday on NPR. Here is Jacob in Arlington, Virginia. Jacob, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JACOBHi, Kojo. I just wanted to call in and thank you. I started listening to you about 13 years ago when I first moved to the D.C. area. And I think you really got me hooked on WAMU, and it's going to be a great loss. You know, you've really become part of my daily routine and listening to you I've had that fortune of being on the air a few times. And it's just always a wonderful show. And it's going to be a big shoes to fill for that hour.
NNAMDIJacob, thank you very much for your call and thank you for listening. Maggie emails, I grew up listening to your show. When I moved to Seattle after college my mom asked me how I was doing. My reply, I'm missing the Kojo Nnamdi Show. Thank you for all your work. You have been a steady presence in the lives of many. Thank you for bringing important voices and perspectives on to the air. So glad you'll be on each Friday for The Politics Hour. And speaking of important voices and perspectives joining us now is Maurice Jackson. Maurice is a Professor of History and African American Studies at Georgetown University. Maurice, welcome.
MAURICE JACKSONBrother man, I'm going to miss you.
NNAMDIMaurice, you and I go way back. I first met Maurice Jackson when I was working at Drum and Spear Bookstore and some of the people, who mentored me had the good sense to hire Maurice Jackson to also work at Drum and Spear Bookstore. Maurice, then we were both young. You were a little younger than I was, but how are you doing?
JACKSONI'm okay, man. I get up every morning and I'm trying to finish a book, but I stop every day at lunch and listen to The Kojo Nnamdi Show. And then I go back to work.
NNAMDIMaurice, what does this show mean to you?
JACKSONYou know, Kojo, you have been just a ray a light and a hard truth. And sometimes they don't go together. You've always told the truth. But it's like Tony Morrison said about King, "You made us look beyond ourselves." And that's what you do. You make us think. You make the local global and the global local. And many people don't do that. They tend to think that if you live in Washington or you live or if you're poor, you're somehow different. You made all of us feel that we are worthy. And that's not something that many people do. So thank you.
JACKSONAnd I have not much advice. But I'm going to tell you this, start working on those memoirs. And then as you know, Sealer James has a great book on cricket and so does Michael Manly. And I'm waiting for the Kojo Nnamdi book on cricket, because I know that's the one thing that you do to get out of your wife's hair. You go to cricket matches.
NNAMDIThat's right. That's exactly right. Maurice Jackson, thank you so much. Maurice Jackson is a Professor of History and African American Studies at Georgetown University. There have been some memorable moments in my 23 years on air. We've been listening back and we've collected a few of our favorites. Give a listen.
NNAMDIFrom WAMU at American University in Washington this is Public Interest. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIHow about the new smartphones.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE ONESmartphones.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE TWOThey started to advertise them a lot here now.
ONEAll the time. They are not only smartphones. They can take pictures. They can make coffee. They can paint. They can (unintelligible). They can do everything. These phones are everything.
TWOI was on the Metro last night and the phone is going beep, bop, bop. The guy was playing a game.
ONEAnd you could do all kinds of things with smartphones.
NNAMDIUnless the thing wants to take out the trash. I'm not interested in it.
NNAMDIAdults, you're welcome to listen, but on Kojo For Kids, it's kid callers only. Here now is six year old Emily in Maryland. Emily, it's your turn. You're on the air. Go ahead, Emily.
EMILYI want to know what inspired you to play basketball.
NNAMDIHere is Keith in White Plains, Maryland. Keith, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NNAMDIElizabeth, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NNAMDIHere now is Lena in Rockville, Maryland. Lena, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
UNINDENTIFIED CALLERHey, Kojo. Long time listener. First time caller.
UNIDENTIFIED CALLERKojo, thanks so much for putting me on, sir. Long time listener, first time caller.
CALLERHi, Kojo. Long time listener and a member at WAMU.
CALLERFirst time caller and not a long time listener, but...
CALLERKojo, you may recognize me.
NNAMDIOh, I recognize that voice immediately.
CALLERI get to say I'm a first time caller, longtime producer.
NNAMDIWait a second. Something is going on in the studio and it is shaking here. That's why. Ah, I guess we're experiencing some kind of earthquake or movement here. But, Deborah, you should know that South African is of particular importance.
NNAMDILet's just do this one time today so we don't have to do it anymore. Sing the song.
SCOTT(singing) Butterfly in the sky. I can go twice as high. Take a look. It's in a book on Reading Rainbow.
NNAMDIWas he off key, LeVar?
LEVAR BURTONYou know, what, Randy would say, "A little pitchy, dog." But, you know, what? I ain't mad at you.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Scott.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERTell your leader or your listeners about -- we did this ...
NNAMDIOh, they are in fact my leaders. You're right. But go ahead.
SPEAKERThat's true. Well, said. Well, said.
NNAMDIJoining us to discuss what this last year has meant for America and his own upbringing in the Washington region is Ta Nehesi Coates. Ta Nehesi, thank you for joining us.
TA NEHESI COATESOh, such a pleasure to be here, Kojo.
NNAMDIRuby Bridges, welcome to the program.
RUBY BRIDGESThank you so much for having me. It's indeed an honor.
NNAMDIBill Nye, welcome.
BILL NYEGreetings, greetings. So good to be on the show. Everybody, be safe out there.
NNAMDIElena Della Donne, welcome to the program.
ELENA DELLA DONNEHey, Kojo. Thank you so much for having me on.
NNAMDISean Doolittle, thank you so much for joining us.
SEAN DOOLITTLEHey, thanks for having me.
NNAMDIJoining us to discuss this is Elizabeth Acevedo. Good to see you again. Thank you for joining us.
ELIZABETH ACEVEDOHey, Kojo. It's good to be here.
NNAMDIChadwick Boseman, joins us in studio. Welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.
CHADWICK BOSEMANThank you for having me.
NNAMDIHarry Belafonte joins us in the studio. He's a singer, songwriter, actor and social activist. Harry Belafonte, so good to have you here.
HARRY BELAFONTEAt long last.
BELAFONTEI'm a big fan of yours.
NNAMDII have been a fan ...
BELAFONTEAnd I've been listening to you for a long time.
NNAMDII am a fan of yours for longer than you know.
NNAMDILonnie Bunch, good to talk to you again.
LONNIE BUNCHIt's always great to be with you. How are you, my friend?
NNAMDIAbby Wambach, welcome to the program.
ABBY WAMBACHThank you so much for having me, Kojo. Really it's truly an honor. A big fan and so is my wife, Glennon.
MICHAEL RAUPPWell, Kojo, it's so great to be back and I just want to thank you so much today for giving voice to about eight million cicadas that are going to appear here in the DMV in just about two months.
NNAMDIJason Reynolds, always a pleasure. Thank you so much for joining us.
JASON REYNOLDSYou got it. Always a pleasure, Kojo. Take care, man.
NNAMDIJose Andres, welcome. And how are you doing, my friend?
JOSE ANDRESWell, now that I am with you, Kojo, I feel amazingly well, because, my friend, I miss you. And every time I listen to your voice, it's kind of a voice that reminds me that I belong to Washington, D.C. And I thank you, I thank you for that.
NNAMDIJust a little bit of what you've been hearing over the last 23 years, here. We got an email from Raynell Cooper in San Francisco: I was an intern in 2013 and part-time producer in 2015-2016, and working on the show was an absolutely memorable experience throughout -- for me too, Raynell -- I appreciated the opportunity to work on fascinating segments on everything from the Purple Line to raw milk. It's heartbreaking that Washingtonians will no longer get this opportunity to listen and speak on these important local issues.
NNAMDIMy favorite Kojo moment were his interviews with Ta-Nehisi Coates. Those interviews were so personal and in depth and truly one-of-a-kind looks into one of our generation's most important thinkers. Because Raynell, in part, as you know, Ta-Nehisi' father, Paul Coates, is a friend of mine, so I very often think of Ta-Nehisi as a surrogate son of mine. And that's why I think our interviews go the way they do. But Raynell, it was wonderful working with you, too. Here, now, is Saundra in Washington, D.C. Saundra, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SAUNDRAKojo, I called to let you know that I am truly going to miss you. I had been listening to you for many, many years, and I also was so -- you know, you have twin sons, and so I'm a twin, also. I'm an identical twin. So, when I found out you had twin sons I said, well, Kojo has to be special. And not only that, you just have so much patience and you let your callers talk, and you listen. And you have a good spirit about you. So, I just wanted to just say goodbye to you. And I wish you well for anything that you decide to do, Kojo.
NNAMDISaundra, thank you very much for your call. And I'm glad you mentioned my twin sons. I have five sons, in all, and a person who knows my sons, and he'll tell you his relationship with one of them, is Ethelbert Miller. Ethelbert Miller joins us now. Ethelbert Miller is a poet, educator and literary activist in Washington, D.C., E. Ethelbert Miller. Ethelbert, thank you so much for joining us.
E. ETHELBERT MILLEROh, Kojo, man, thank you for inviting me. I feel like the last poet (laugh) on your show.
NNAMDIDo you want to tell our listeners how you and I first met?
MILLERWell, it might be at Drum and Spear Book Store.
NNAMDIYep, that's exactly where it was.
MILLERIvy Young was over there, Maurice, who you just had on the air. I mean, that was -- I must've been 17 years old when I met you.
NNAMDI(laugh) Yes. You had just come to Howard University, and one of the first places you found was that bookstore. You have been -- well, you are actually the godfather of one of my children.
MILLERThat's exactly right. Cameron.
NNAMDIMy son Cameron's godfather. You have been on this show many, many times in the past 23 years, on topics ranging from poetry to baseball, and sometimes both at the same time. I don't think there's anything you cannot discuss intelligently.
NNAMDIYou know, as a matter of fact, we had Kevin Young on, yesterday. He is now the new head of the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture. And he was talking about the fact that poets, in a way, have to be historians. I mean, when I follow you on Facebook and read all of your writing, you do a lot of reading of history, don't you?
MILLEROh, sure. And I think I might've gave Kevin Young his first reading outside of the Boston area. (laugh)
MILLERYeah, because, you know -- and I always thought that Kevin Young would probably be poet laureate of the United States, you know. And, in fact, I think of the APP conference, I put my arm around Kevin Young and Natasha Trethewey, and I said, when are you going to be the next African-American poet laureate? And Natasha Trethewey became that, but, you know, I have a lot of respect for Kevin. And also, that Dark Room Collective that he was a part of was just amazing, in terms of genius.
NNAMDIHow has it been for you during the course of the past year, during this pandemic? Because for people who don't know Ethelbert Miller, he roams the streets of Washington. You can look up in any part of this city and see him simply walking down the street, often with a book in hand. How has that worked for you this past year?
MILLER(laugh) Well, it could be bad (laugh) because, you know, yeah, walking, I don't take -- I wouldn't take that on the Metro. I really haven't been out, but I've used the pandemic, like with many other people, you know, in terms of your inner search, you know, the inner journey. And also slowing down. You know, I've entered my seventh decade, you know, and so it's a time for me to be productive, you know, to do the things that I want to do. And so, I'm happy with where I'm at, right now.
MILLERYou know, I've got two books coming out this year. But I want to mention this, Kojo, to your listeners. You are so important to me, personally. And in terms of your love and appreciation for culture, and especially poetry, because if we look at, you know, poets try and get into the mainstream, just getting on ear, just getting their books reviewed, you have that love.
MILLERAnd that's something that, you know, as a person dealing with communiqué (sounds like), you know, you can't take that for granted, you know, that somebody'll be on the show, and they can read a poem. And the person across likes it, (laugh) you know. And so, I just want to say that in terms of many people that you've had on your show, who are probably grateful that you gave them a wider audience.
NNAMDIYou also host your own weekly radio show, and I'll mention the station, WPFW radio in Washington, where the other one I call a young 'un, Askia Muhammad, also works, because both you and Askia are a might younger than I am. (laugh) What do you think local radio offers that is unique?
MILLERI think you can see by the people who called in, you've created the community, you know, and a community of intimacy. You know, you're a place in terms of which issues are race and sex, all of those things can come together and people can sit around, you know, the microphone and share that expertise with a vital audience. So, it's almost like saying, okay, you're around the fire. You stoke it, you keep the rest of us warm, you know.
MILLERAnd that's why I joke, because (laugh) when they honored you a couple years ago at the Howard Theater, you gave away those Kojo mugs. (laugh) You know, look, if anybody can get -- I'm not giving my Kojo mugs to the Smithsonian, Kojo. I'm not giving them to the Smithsonian. Those are going to be passed down to my grandkids, you know.
NNAMDIOh, I really appreciate that. Here now is Joelle in Washington, D.C. Joelle, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOELLEHey, Kojo. We go back to even exchange at Howard University.
NNAMDIOh, this is Joelle Harris.
JOELLEYes, sir, it is. It is.
NNAMDIThe one and only.
JOELLEHey, man. Well, I just want to let everybody know that what you do is not by accident. You're one of the most well-read person who does research on all of his guests. I mean, I think you deserve some time off, because people don't know the hours you put in before a show, to be able to do a show. And because you know these people, even through the writings and the research you do, you can be comfortable with them on the air. I just hope that you can pass that on to younger journalists to understand the work that goes in to get the output on the other end. Thanks for all those years of that.
NNAMDIJoelle Harris and another friend and I tried to launch another project. And we had a couple of meetings at my house to do it, and it never got off the ground. But, Joelle, it is always a pleasure to hear from you. Joining us now is Dan Reed. Dan Reed is an urban planner and author of "Just Up the Pike." Dan Reed, thank you so much for joining us.
DAN REEDThank you so much for having me, Kojo.
NNAMDIDan, before I talk to you about all of the stuff that you do, I think it's -- especially about how long you've been listening to this show, there's something that you've probably been listening to longer than you've been listening to this show. This is the music that Dan Reed probably grew up listening to, "Trouble Funk."
NNAMDIYeah. Dan Reed, is that what you grew up listening to?
NNAMDIAnd how long have you been listening to this show?
REEDAt least 15 years? I mean, as long as I've had control over the radio dial, which I did not, growing up. It was mostly sports radio.
NNAMDIYeah, because you said that, growing up, public radio didn't always feel like it was for you. Why not?
REEDYou know, I think a lot of the voices I heard on NPR (unintelligible) and most of the spaces I would keep NPR in would be like going to the doctor's office or something, right. And what drew me to your show from the jump was being able to hear not only a black voice on public radio, but to hear a voice from Guyana, as my mother's family is also from that country. And it's a small country, and it's a small community here. And, you know, you and your show have helped me feel good, and not just in my family's heritage, but also helped me feel more tied to this place where they chose to make their home.
NNAMDIYou're an urban planner, and you've written a blog focused on our region for the past 15 years. Why, in your view, is local journalism so vital?
REEDWell, I think it's important not just as a means of getting information out to the public, but as a part of telling stories, right. You know, we have, or we want to have shared history and understanding and narrative of this place. And local news is such a big part of that, you know, telling us not just what's happened in our past, but helping to (unintelligible) in this current moment and what we can share together in being present, here.
NNAMDIHere is Greg Carr in Silver Spring, Maryland. Greg Carr has been a guest on this show many times. He's the chairman of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University. Greg Carr, welcome.
GREG CARRWell, Kojo, it's good to hear your voice, brother. Congratulations.
NNAMDIThank you kindly, my brother.
CARROh, of course, of course. Listen, man, I just wanted to call in and lend my voice. And I know there are a lot more coming after me, so I'll keep this very tight. I was reading some Howard Thurman the other night, and he was talking about the universality principles, how all of us, all human beings have common wants and needs.
CARRAnd, brother, I just want to say to you and to everyone listening, that as a person who brings our common humanity over the airways every day, and to do that coming out of your unique experiences as a human being of African descent, you've been a model for me, man, as a teacher, as a convener of a classroom. And the more I learn -- I came to D.C. -- I came to Howard the year after you started the show, here. And to realize listening to your comrades, listening to people in the community and then learn it for myself, when I hear Kojo for Kids, I'm hearing (unintelligible). I'm hearing (unintelligible), man.
CARRI mean, every day, the daily (word?) still comes on (unintelligible) leading into the quiet storm. Y'all, (unintelligible) WHUR and you were the news director, brother. I mean, so folks, please understand, you know, when this brother moved here to join up with the Center for Black Education, I guess that was 52 years ago, you came to learn, to teach. And you have been doing nothing less ever since. So, I mean, just all respect (unintelligible). Thank you so much, brother.
NNAMDIWell, thank you, Greg Carr, for being the great teacher that you are. And, Ethelbert Miller, you should know that just about every time I see Greg Carr, I tell him how his face reminds me so much of Kwame Ture, formerly known as Stokely Carmichael. (laugh) I never let him forget that. And it's something that he's actually pretty proud of. Greg Carr, thank you so much for joining us.
NNAMDIEthelbert, you have written two memoirs, and you teach classes in memoir writing. I'm planning to write my own story, now that I'll have more time. Got any advice for me, as I embark on this project?
MILLERI've got two advices. One, don't write anything trying to get back at anyone, (laugh) number one.
NNAMDIOkay. There goes that motive.
MILLERRight, right. And then, you know, ask just what can a person learn from my life, you know, and what have you been witness to?
NNAMDIOkay. What can someone learn from my life? But the thing that interests me in writing a memoir is precisely the second point you made: What have I been witness to? Because I consider myself an observer of life. And there's observations that I've had since childhood that I would really like to share. So, thank you for that advice. I know you've prepared -- go ahead.
MILLERNo. And also, keep in mind, and maybe your radio show does this, it's also going to be storytelling. You're going to tell a story. So, the anecdotes, the humor, all those things have to come into your memoir, or should come into your memoir.
NNAMDIOkay. I know you've prepared a poem to read. What is it called?
MILLERIt's called "Divine Love." And, you know, many poets have signature poems, you know, like Sterling Brown, his "Strong Men." And so, because this is your last show, I felt this was the most fitting poem. "Divine Love." I wish I had loved you many years ago. I would've loved you like Ellington loved jazz and Bearden loved scissors.
MILLERI would've loved you like Langston loved Harlem and the blues love Muddy Waters. I would love you like Douglas loved to read and Garvey loved parades. I would've loved you like Zora loved stories and DuBois loved suits. I would've loved you like Lewis loved boxing and Mahalia loved to sing. I would've loved you like Carver loved peanuts and Wheatley loved poems. I would've loved you like Jimmy loved Lorraine and Ossie loved Ruby. I would've loved you like Martin loved Jesus and Malcolm loved Allah. Love you, man, Kojo.
NNAMDIThank you, Ethelbert. E. Ethelbert Miller, reading his poem of the day, so to speak. Here now is Sue Boucher in Fairfax, Virginia. Sue Boucher was an employee of WAMU when I first joined the station. Sue Boucher, welcome. Thanks for calling.
SUE BOUCHERThanks, Kojo. I just wanted to say congratulations. I'm so excited for you, even though you'll still be there on Fridays.
NNAMDIWell, just know, that after this pandemic is over when you're having your next cookout, I'd love to be invited.
BOUCHERYou certainly will be invited. And, you know, you said earlier that you had to grow to love your audience, listeners and the staff, and that's not true. You came in loving everybody at the station and treating us all with respect. And it was just a wonderful place to work, and I loved working with you.
NNAMDIThank you very much, Sue. Here now is Joseph in Silver Spring, Maryland. Joseph, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOSEPH FLOWERSHi, Kojo. This is Joseph Flowers. I interned with the station for 2006, until I left the station in 2011, and interned specifically with your show in the summer of 2007. And I just got to say, you know, I appreciate so much of who you are and what you (unintelligible). And I wish you all the best as you transition. And then, also, just want to thank you for all the opportunities with Diane Vogel, Brennan Sweeney and Tara Boyle. And I wish you all the best.
NNAMDIAll names that helped to make this show happen. Thank you very much for your work with the show, too, Joseph. As a matter of fact, speaking of student interns, Raymond Weeden tweets: Thank you for making space for students to amplify their voice and those who support our young leaders to have a trusted partner. You treat each with respect and expertise. Thurgood Marshall Academy will miss you and look forward to hearing about your upcoming adventures. Yes, we actually did a broadcast from Thurgood Marshall Academy and enjoyed it a great deal. Ethelbert, you got any questions for me?
MILLERWell, I think one other person that worked for you was Teri Cross Davis, right?
NNAMDIOf course, the great poet.
MILLERYeah, she's down at the Folger.
NNAMDIShe's down at the Folger, right now. As a matter of fact, we heard from Teri when the station had on, I guess it was Tuesday, the station had a virtual farewell for me. Teri was one of the people who participated in that. And if she's listening, Teri Cross Davis, thank you very much. Any questions for me, Dan Reed?
REEDYes. So, my mother came here from Guyana in 1971, and every summer, she talks about going back. She has yet to do so. You went recently, and I think she would like to know, how was it? (laugh)
NNAMDIWell, the first thing she'll notice is that, since she's been here since 1971, she will see virtually nobody she knows, (laugh) because a lot of those people have also left the country. I have a few friends and relatives still in Guyana. I go back generally for high school reunions. Most of the participants in those high school reunions are people who also live outside of Guyana. But the thing that will welcome her to Guyana is that she will remember the great vegetation and the fruits and the vegetables and the fresh food that we got from the markets. That is still very much there. And that is what I pine for from time to time, and that is what will welcome your mom back to Guyana.
REEDI'm so glad to hear that. (laugh)
NNAMDIAny other questions for me?
REEDWell, yeah. I mean, so I've had the privilege of sitting in your chair as a guest host many times, but I'm curious, you know, as someone who's been on radio for decades, you know, what makes this special for you? What has kept you going, all this time?
NNAMDII like radio because of two things, in particular. One, as a host on radio, I actually do more listening than I do talking. And I think that listening is a skill. We are now so, all of us, involved in communicating on such a variety of media and in such a variety of ways, that it is my view that we don't spend enough time listening. And the one thing you have to do in radio, whether you are a host or literally a listener, is listen. So, that's what I enjoy.
NNAMDIThe second thing I enjoy about radio is its intimacy. Most people listen to radio when they are by themselves. And so, the radio host is only really communicating with one listener at a time, even though a former colleague of mine used to talk about his vast listening audience. You're really talking to one person at a time and as a result you develop a relationship with that individual that can be intensely personal. And I think that -- you don't really get that from any other medium but radio. Now, I think you might be able to get it from podcasts, because people also tend to listen to podcasts by themselves. But for me, that's what radio's all about. Ethelbert, you got any more questions for me?
REEDOther than I'm going to miss you, man. You know, you know, that's why I'm glad I got these mugs. (laugh)
NNAMDI(laugh) Wait a minute, here now is Diane in Landover, Maryland. Diane, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DIANEA much well-deserved goodbye, Kojo. I remember a very young Kojo from Evening Exchange, and look how far you have come.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much.
DIANEI just want to thank you so much for caring from your soul about the other souls you have enriched with your wonderful edification and information about the world and the globe. We love you dearly, and we'll miss you, and all the best.
NNAMDIThank you very much. And as Greg Carr said before the Evening Exchange, there was WHUR radio and the Daily Drum. Here now is Saundra in Washington, D.C. Sandra, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SANDRA JOWERS-BARBERHi, Kojo. This is Sandy Jowers-Barber, and I just wanted...
JOWERS-BARBERHey, how are you?
NNAMDIYou interviewed me.
JOWERS-BARBERYes, and that's what I wanted to thank you for. It was one of my fondest and best interviews. You were so gracious, are so gracious, and I'm just very happy for you that you're taking this time to do what you want to do. And I heard Ethelbert talk about the book. So, now that I know you're doing a book, you'll have to come back, we'll do the interview again. And I'm going to say publicly we need to do your oral history, if it hasn't already been done. So, keep me in mind for doing that. I will follow up.
NNAMDIWell, I have done an oral history with the History Makers, and it's available online, there. But, Sandra, I will look forward to seeing you again. And when things open up, I know I'll see you at The Hitching Post. Here is Diane in Landover, Maryland. Diane, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Hi, Diane, are you there? Well, Diane seems to have left us, momentarily, so I will go to Kimberly in Washington, D.C. Kimberly, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KIMBERLYHi, Kojo. My name's Kimberly Williams, and I came to Washington, D.C. to go to film school at American University in 2004. And I was an eager student back then, and I remember somebody saying that there was somebody named Kojo who was going to do this thing at the I Street Synagogue with a fundraiser. Would you be willing to go film it? And so, I did.
KIMBERLYAnd I have you and somebody else on mini DVD tapes tucked away. (laugh) The footage was never used, but -- and I have no idea of the quality when I think about how long ago that was. But you've been inspiring me for many years since then, and I just -- you know, the caller before, the gentleman that said you are a national treasure, you are. And you have elevated the city and helped to, you know, connect communities. So, thank you very much for everything you've done so far. And we'll look forward to what you're going to do, moving forward.
NNAMDIThank you very much, Kimberly. Josh emails: Thank you for doing the most important thing ever for the statehood movement, telling the life stories of people who live in D.C. You helped show your listeners and the world that we are real people who love each other, our fair city, state and our country. I hope you'll return to the air to help us celebrate becoming the 51st state. Well, Josh, you know that if and when that happens, I'll certainly be there to do that. Dan Reed, thank you so much for joining us.
REEDAs always, thank you for having me.
NNAMDIDan Reed is an urban planner and author of "Just Up the Pike." E. Ethelbert Miller is a poet, educator and literary activist in D.C. Ethelbert, thank you for joining us.
MILLERMany blessings, Kojo.
NNAMDIThis, our final episode of the Kojo Nnamdi Show, was produced by Julie Depenbrock and Lauren Markoe, with assistance from the entire Kojo Show team. I thank them and all the producers and engineers who came before and helped to make this show a success. Over these past two decades, I've had the privilege of sharing thousands of conversations on these airwaves. None of it would have been possible without you, our listeners. You're not only tuned in, you called, emailed and tweeted your thoughts, insights, opinions and questions. You are the ones who made the Kojo Nnamdi Show not just a broadcast, but a community. And for that, I thank you.
NNAMDINow, I'd like to share some words of wisdom from one of my favorite writers, Frantz Fanon, the author of the book "Black Skin, White Masks" and the book "The Wretched of the Earth," words that have guided me over the years. He wrote, quoting here, "It is the role of each generation, out of relative obscurity, to discover its mission and either fulfill or betray it."
NNAMDIIt is my profound hope that this show has fulfilled its mission of keeping the residents of this region informed about events influencing the quality of life, here, and, as a result, have been able to make intelligent decisions about their lives based, at least in part, on what they heard in this space. That said, here's my marching song.
NNAMDIYeah, that song speaks for itself, Bob Marley. I hope you all will continue to join me on Fridays for The Politics Hour. Tom Sherwood and I will continue to raise the issues that matter to you, with local officials. Tomorrow is no exception. We'll welcome D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. Until then, thank you for listening, and stay safe. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
Kojo talks with author Briana Thomas about her book “Black Broadway In Washington D.C.,” and the District’s rich Black history.
Poet, essayist and editor Kevin Young is the second director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. He joins Kojo to talk about his vision for the museum and how it can help us make sense of this moment in history.
Ms. Woodruff joins us to talk about her successful career in broadcasting, how the field of journalism has changed over the decades and why she chose to make D.C. home.