Raw footage for the award-winning series The 90's. Skip Blumberg talks with poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron in Harlem about race and racism. "What I meant by the phrase 'the revolution will not be televised' was, the first revolution takes place in your mind. ...It's not something you can catch on film. ...It'll just be something that you see and you just realize, 'Hey, I'm on the wrong page.'"
0:00Copy video clip URL Video opens with shot of cars driving on the street.
0:27Copy video clip URL Shot on the corner of E 106th St. and 2nd Ave.
0:49: Shot of bird chirping in a tree.
1:10Copy video clip URL Blumberg says he is going to meet Gil Scott-Heron. He says that where he is standing is where Gil grew up, or at least where his mother lives now.
1:30Copy video clip URL Blumberg sets up for the interview.
2:00Copy video clip URL Blumberg asks how Scott-Heron would like to be labeled. “I’m a piano player who had a little success.” He says he writes songs, and he started out as a novelist.
2:39Copy video clip URL Blumberg asks Scott-Heron about “this race thing” and Scott-Heron says he’s into the 100-yard dash. Blumberg asks Scott-Heron if he can imagine being white. He says he can’t imagine being anyone other than who he is. He adds that he doesn’t think race matters as much as it used to. Scott-Heron discusses going to school in Tennessee during the “integration” period, and being the first black student to go to a school in Tennessee. Then he moved to the Bronx.
3:49Copy video clip URL He goes on to talk about going to “multi-racial” high schools, but as his education level got higher, there were fewer and fewer black people. Scott-Heron says “I got my master’s at Johns Hopkins, where I was just about the only black person in Baltimore.” He then says he was born in Chicago and lived there for a few years.
4:50Copy video clip URL Blumberg asks what the difference is between races and asks if it’s skin deep. Scott-Heron says it has to do with tradition and what you’re taught. “I was taught that the possibilities I had were as broad to anyone and I should take advantage of the opportunities that were open to me.” He adds that whenever he sees “a youngster with a rebel flag” he feels it’s something he was taught because his [the boy’s] parents were lacking something in character.
5:33Copy video clip URL Scott-Heron says there is still a ways to go in terms of race relations. He believes education is the biggest thing. Scott-Heron says that music has been helpful because when the Beatles came over and said they listened to Ray Charles and B.B. King, that changed the way a lot of people thought. He says “I think the fact that we are not Americans–the Indians are Americans–we’re all foreigners in a sense, has kept a lot of alienation, jealousy and inferiority going on.”
6:10Copy video clip URL Blumberg asks Scott-Heron if he’s involved in any of the issues with Native Americans. Scott-Heron says he has been some, because of meeting some in Arizona and New Mexico on tour.
6:50Copy video clip URL Blumberg asks if the revolution “will be televised in the ’90s.” Scott-Heron says “The first change that takes place is in your mind. You have to change your mind before you change the way you live and the way you move.” He adds that the thing that is going to change people is something you can’t capture on film. “It will just be something you see and you’ll think ‘Oh I’m on the wrong page.’ Or ‘I’m on the right page but on the wrong note.’ You have to get in sync with everyone else to understand what’s going on in the country.”
7:12Copy video clip URL Scott-Heron says “I think black Americans have been the only real die-hard Americans here. We’re the only ones who carried the process through the process. Everyone else sort of skipped stages.We’re the ones who marched, we’re the ones who carried the Bible, we’re the ones who carried the flag, we’re the ones who tried to go through the courts. And being born American didn’t seem to matter. Because we were born Americans and we still had to fight for what we were looking for.”
7:54Copy video clip URL Blumberg asks if the fight is still going on today. Scott-Heron says he sees the fight as necessary because everything taken to the Supreme Court should have been decided ages ago. “Evidently the majority is not important to the law.” Scott-Heron says he still supports the NAACP.
8:12Copy video clip URL Scott-Heron says that Thurgood Marshall was one of the most important people this century. Scott-Heron says he sees the leadership comes from all different races and groups and thinks being integrated in school, sports, etc. leads us to “see ourselves more as people.”
9:16Copy video clip URL Blumberg asks if Scott-Heron has hope for the near future. “I don’t know how near it is. The things I see everyday are very encouraging. There used to be no respect for Dr. King, now he has a national holiday. … You always see hope when you see change, but people don’t see it the way they want to see it. They want to see it instantly, and there’s no such thing as instant change.”
9:46Copy video clip URL Tape ends.