MetroFocus

FULL EPISODE

MetroFocus: September 10, 2020

WNYC’s Jim O’Grady joins us to discuss his new investigative series, “BlindSpot: The Road to 9/11” a co-production of WNYC studio and HISTORY. Also, as our city, state, and nation is roiled by ongoing protests demanding racial justice, Black artists and creators are coming up with new ways to address the moment.

AIRED: September 10, 2020 | 0:28:36
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

>>> THIS IS "METROFOCUS" WITH

RAF --

RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND

JENNA FLANAGAN.

"METROFOCUS" IS MADE POSSIBLE BY

SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III,

SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA

PROGRAMMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT

ANTI-SEMITISM, BARBARA HOPE

ZUCKERBERG, JANET PRINDLE

SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD,

CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN

FAMILY, BERNARD AND DENISE

SCHWARTZ, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON,

DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN

FOUNDATION.

>>> WELCOME TO "METROFOCUS."

THE PLANE SEEMED TO EMERGE FROM

THE SKY ON THE SEPTEMBER MORNING

IN 2001.

THERE WAS A PATH THAT LEAD UP TO

THE MORNING'S ATTACK.

WNYC'S LONG TIME REPORTER AND

HOST TAKES US THROUGH THE

PROCEEDING EVENTS LEADING UP TO

THE MORNING.

IN A NEW EIGHT-PART POD CAST IN

COLLABORATION WITH THE HISTORY

CHANNEL "THE ROAD TO 9/11."

WELCOME, JIM.

>> THANK YOU.

IT'S GREAT TO BE HERE.

>> YES, WELL, THIS IS SUCH A

FASCINATING POD CAST BECAUSE, OF

COURSE, THERE'S SO MUCH WE DON'T

FULLY UNDERSTAND.

I WANT TO START WITH EVERYTHING

AND BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING.

AS I MENTIONED IN THE INTRO, THE

MEMORY IS ETCHED IN EVERYONE'S

MIND WHO AT LEAST DEFINITELY

EXPERIENCED IT OR HEARD ABOUT IT

THAT MORNING.

THE BEGINNING OF THE POD CAST

YOU TAKE US THROUGH YOUR

EXPERIENCE OF THAT DAY.

WHERE WERE YOU WHEN 9/11

HAPPENED?

>> I WAS LIVING IN STATEN ISLAND

IN A HOUSE ON A HILL RIGHT AT

THE NORTHERN POINT OF THE

ISLAND, AND I WOKE UP TO THE

RADIO TALKING ABOUT THE NORTH

TOWER BEING HIT.

SO I RAN OUT OUTSIDE TO A POINT

ON THE HILL WHERE I COULD SEE

NEW YORK HARBOR, AS I'M

WATCHING, THE SECOND PLANE FLEW

OVER MY HEAD AND I JUST SAW IT

STREAK ACROSS THE HARBOR.

IT HIT THE SOUTH TOWER.

THIS WAS AT 9:03 IN THE MORNING.

BECAUSE I WAS A REPORTER AT THE

TIME FOR THE "NEW YORK TIMES," I

GRABBED A PEN AND NOTEBOOK AND

RUSHED DOWN TO THE WATER FRONT

TO TRY TO INTERVIEW PEOPLE.

WHAT I FOUND, TO MY SURPRISE, IS

STUNNED SILENCE.

NOBODY HAD ANYTHING TO SAY

BECAUSE WE COULDN'T UNDERSTAND

WHAT WE WERE LOOKING AT.

EVERYONE WAS STARING AT THE

SMOKE RISING UP FROM THE TOWERS.

THAT WAS A MAJOR FEATURE OF THE

DAY.

JUST TRYING TO COMPREHEND WHAT

IS HAPPENING TO US IN REAL TIME.

AND, OF COURSE, WE'VE BEEN

TRYING TO DO THAT EVER SINCE IN

THE 19 YEARS SINCE THEN.

THAT'S WHAT WE TRY TO DO, AS

WELL, IN THE POD CAST.

TO CONNECT SOME DOTS AND MOVE US

THROUGH EVENTS AND CHARACTERS

THAT MADE THAT DAY HAPPEN

>>WELL, WHAT IS IT -- OF COURSE,

WHAT HAPPENED AND WHAT HAPPENED

AFTERWARDS HAVE BEEN EXAMINED IN

CRITICAL DETAIL.

>> -- YEAH.

>> AND EXHAUSTIVELY GONE THROUGH

BOOKS.

WHAT IS LACKING FROM THE

NATIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS ABOUT

WHAT LEAD TO THE DAY.

>> OUR STORY COVERS THE 11 YEARS

RIGHT BEFORE 9/11, AND IT'S

REALLY A STORY.

IT'S PART OF THE STORY WE FOLLOW

LAW ENFORCEMENT AS THEY TRY TO

FIGURE OUT -- IT'S LIKE THEY'RE

IN A CAR ON A FOGGY ROAD AT

NIGHT.

THEIR HEADLIGHTS ARE INCHING

FORWARD.

THEY KNOW THERE'S A THREAT OUT

THERE.

THEY KNOW THERE'S AN EMERGING

PROBLEM, BUT WE TRY TO PUT

OURSELVES IN THEIR SHOES AT THAT

TIME.

IT'S OBVIOUS TO US NOW, BUT WE

TAKE THE POSITION OF THESE

INVESTIGATORS TRYING DESPERATELY

TO UNDERSTAND THE CONNECTIONS

BETWEEN PEOPLE AND GROUPS, THEIR

INTENTIONS, AND JUST HOW

DANGEROUS THEY MIGHT BE.

A LOT OF THE STORY, THE FIRST

HALF OF OUR STORY HAPPENS IN NEW

YORK CITY IN DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN

AND IN JERSEY CITY WHERE THESE

CELLS OF GUYS FORMED AND STARTED

MAKING THEIR BIG PLANS.

THESE WERE MOSTLY MEN WHO WERE

VETERANS OF THE AFGHAN WAR THAT

RAGED IN THE 1980s AFTER THE

SOVIET UNION INVADED THAT

COUNTRY AND RADICAL JIHADISTS

FROM AROUND THE WORLD CONVERGED

ON THAT WAR, IN THAT PLACE, AND

WHEN IT WAS OVER IN 1989, THEY

TURNED THEIR EYES TO OTHER

TARGETS, REALLY, INCLUDING THE

UNITED STATES.

>> SO YOU'VE MENTIONED A LOT OF

TH

THINGS I FEEL LIKE MIGHT BE

BELLS PEOPLE WOULD RECOGNIZE

LIKE AFGHAN, AFGHAN WAR, JIHAD.

SO WE'VE HEARD THOSE THINGS

BEFORE, BUT WHEN YOU TAKE --

WHEN THE STORY BEGINS 11 YEARS

PRIOR TO THE ATTACK --

>> -- RIGHT.

>> WHY GO BACK TO THAT POINT?

WHAT WAS THE FLASH POINT TO

BEGIN THE NARRATIVE?

>> YEAH, AGAIN, PUT YOURSELVES

IN THE SHOES OF A DETECTIVE IN

NEW YORK CITY AND WE TALKED TO

ONE GUY.

HE'S OUT AT AN ITALIAN

RESTAURANT IN HARLEM AND THE

BEEPERS GO OFF.

THERE'S BEEN A SHOOTING AT A

MIDTOWN MANHATTAN HOTEL.

THE MARRIOTT.

A RABBI HAS BEEN GUNNED DOWN.

THEN EVENTS UNFOLD AND THEY'RE

TRYI

TRYING TO FIGURE OUT IS THERE A

BIGGER STORY HERE?

YES, THERE WAS BUT THEY COULDN'T

SEE IT AT THE TIME.

THE RABBI WAS THE ULTRA

NATIONALIST, ZIONIST WHO SPEWED

HATRED FOR MUSLIMS IN HIS

RHETORIC.

AND THE ASSASSIN WAS A MAN WHO

HAD HIMSELF BEEN RADICALIZED BY

SOME OF THESE JIHADISTS THAT HAD

COME TO AMERICA TO PREACH AFTER

THE END OF THE AFGHAN WAR.

SO HE TOOK IT UPON HIMSELF TO

KILL THIS MAN AND WHAT LAW

ENFORCEMENT DIDN'T QUITE

UNDERSTAND WAS THAT HE WAS THE

TIP OF THE SPHERE.

THAT THERE WERE OTHERS IN HIS

CELL THAT WOULD GO ON TO COMMIT

OTHER TERRORIST ACTS.

AS A MATTER OF FACT, WHEN HE

WENT ON TRIAL, HE GOT A $20,000

DONATION TO HIS DEFENSE FUND

FROM SOME, AT THE TIME, SHADOWY

FINANCER OVERSEAS CALLED OSAMA

BIN LADEN.

>> WOW.

AGAIN, THOSE ARE THE TYPE OF,

LIKE, BREAD CRUMBS, IN

HINDSIGHT, THE BENEFIT OF

HINDSIGHT COMPLETELY MAKE SENSE

BUT THE PROCESS OF PUTTING IT

TOGETHER.

SO YOU MENTIONED LAW ENFORCEMENT

BUT, UMM, THERE WERE ALSO OTHER

PLAYERS, I GUESS, PLAY A

PROMINENT ROLE IN THE POD CAST

AND ONE OF THEM, I THOUGHT, WAS

INTERESTING.

A MAN NAMED -- I HOPE I

PRONOUNCE HIS NAME CORRECTLY

EMAD SALEM.

WHAT ROLE DID HE PLAY IN TRYING

TO HELP UNRAVEL OR UNCLOUD WHAT

WAS HAPPENING LEADING UP TO

9/11.

>> I'M GLAD YOU BROUGHT HIM UP.

ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL TO THE STORY.

AMAZING MAN.

HE SHOULD BE BETTER KNOWN.

HE WAS AN EGYPTIAN ARMY OFFICER

FOR 20 YEARS AND THEN HE

EMIGRATED TO THE UNITED STATES.

AS THESE CELLS ARE FORMING IN

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN, AND IN JERSEY

CITY, HE'S LIVING WITH HIS WIFE

AND TWO KIDS ON THE UPPER WEST

SIDE.

HE'S WORKING SECURITY IN A

HOTEL.

ONE DAY THE FBI SAID TO HIM

COULD YOU INFILTRATE THESE CELLS

AND GIVE US AN IDEA WHAT IS

GOING ON.

HE HAD NO IDEA ABOUT HIS BACK

STORY, WHICH WAS HE WAS IN THE

PARADE GROUND IN CAIRO ON THE

DAY THAT THERE WAS AN

ASSASSINATION.

IT AFFECTED HIM SO MUCH THAT HE

SWORE IN HIS MIND TO GET REVENGE

ON THE PERSON WHO SENT THAT

ASSASSINATION INTO MOTION.

AS IT TURNS OUT, THE BLIND SHEIK

WAS AN EGYPTIAN E MA'AM THAT

DISTURBED HIM.

HE WAS ASKED TO INFILTRATE THE

CELL.

HE HAD MOVED TO NEW JERSEY.

SO EMAD UNDERSTOOD THE METHODS.

HE UNDERSTOOD THE CULTURAL

LEANINGS OF THESE PEOPLE.

HE GOT INSIDE AND HE STARTED TO

GATHER INFORMATION ABOUT THE BIG

PLOT THEY WERE PLANNING NEXT.

>> AND SO I'M GLAD YOU MENTIONED

THE FACT THAT YOU HAD SOMEONE

WHO UNDERSTOOD, WAS CULTURALLY

SENSITIVE, LET'S SAY.

BECAUSE, OF COURSE, THE YEARS

FOLLOWING THE SEPTEMBER 11th

ATTACKS, EVERYTHING ABOUT THAT

DAY, THOSE EVENTS HAS BECOME

VERY, VERY CULTURALLY SENSITIVE.

ESPECIALLY FOR THE MUSLIM

COMMUNITY.

I WOULD ASSUME THE POD CAST ALSO

TAKES AIMS TO CLARIFY THESE ACTS

OF POWER VERSUS ACTS OF

RELIGION.

AM I MAKING A LEAP IN THAT

ASSUMPTION?

>> YOU'RE NOT.

WE TAKE GREAT PAINS TO SEPARATE

THESE FRINGE EXTREMISTS FROM

MAIN STREAM ISLAM.

THEY HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH

EACH OTHER.

THAT'S POINT NUMBER ONE.

AND, ALSO, ON THE OTHER SIDE THE

WAY LAW ENFORCEMENT TRIES TO

COUNTER TERRORISM, WHAT SALEM

DID WAS VERY DIFFERENT THAN JUST

SORT OF BLANKET SURVEILLANCE OF

ENTIRE COMMUNITIES AND MOSQUES,

WHICH HAS BEEN DEEMED LEGALLY

PROBLEMATIC AND

UNCONSTITUTIONAL, IN SOME CASES.

WITH HIM, THE FBI HAD PROBABLE

CAUSE THERE WAS A GROUP OF MEN

PLOTTING TO KILL CIVILIANS IN

NEW YORK CITY.

THAT'S WHY HE WAS SENT INSIDE TO

INFILTRATE.

IT'S A TRADITIONAL LAW

ENFORCEMENT TECHNIQUE.

LET'S JUST SEPARATE THAT FROM

THE OTHER QUESTIONABLE

TECHNIQUES THAT OCCURRED SINCE

9/11.

SALEM WAS WITH THE MEN WHO WERE

PLANNING TO BOMB THE WORLD TRADE

CENTER IN 1993.

BEFORE HE CAN GET THE DETAILS,

AN FBI SUPERVISOR YANKED HIM

OUT.

WE GO INTO WHY.

AFTER THE BOMBING, HE WAS SENT

BACK IN TO THE CELL AND HE

PREVENTED WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN A

CATASTROPHIC ATTACK ON NEW YORK

CITY.

IT WAS CALLED THE LANDMARKS

PLOT.

FIVE BOMBS EXPLOITING

SIMULTANEOUSLY IN THE HOLLAND

TUNNEL, LINCOLN TUNNEL, GEORGE

WASHINGTON BRIDGE, THE UNITED

NATIONS.

ALL AROUND THE CITY.

THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE COULD HAVE

DIED.

THIS EGYPTIAN EMIGRANT WHO LOVED

AMERICA.

HE'S VERY SWEET AND PLAIN SPOKEN

HOW GROWING UP IN CAIRO HE

DEVELOPED A LOVE OF AMERICA OVER

CHOCOLATE MILK, CHEDDAR CHEESE,

AND THE AMERICAN FLAG.

HE WAS MOTIVATED BY PATRIOTISM

FOR AMERICA AND REVENGE FOR THE

KILLING AND THE END RESULT WAS

FOILING THIS PLOT THAT COULD

HAVE BEEN DEVASTATING IN THE

HISTORY OF NEW YORK.

AND THAT'S PART OF OUR POD CAST.

WE TALK ABOUT WHAT DID HAPPEN

AND WHAT DIDN'T HAPPEN AND HOW

THEY RELATE TO EACH OTHER.

>> OF COURSE.

EVEN THOUGH "BLIND SPOT" ISN'T

THE TITLE, IT'S ABOUT THE MISSED

UNITS.

IT'S THE THINGS THAT WERE

SUCCESSFUL AND DIDN'T HAPPEN.

SO, JIM, I WANT TO SAY LISTENING

TO EVERYTHING THAT YOU'RE LAYING

OUT, AGAIN, THE BENEFIT OF HIND

SIGHT DOES -- WE'RE IN A

DIFFERENT PHASE NOW CULTURALLY,

POLITICALLY, THE COUNTRY, AND,

OF COURSE, NEW YORK CITY WHERE

IT CAN FEEL A LOT LIKE THERE'S A

LOT OF DIFFERENT EVENTS THAT ARE

HAPPENING.

ARE THEY COALESCING INTO

SOMETHING OR ALL RANDOM, ET.

CETERA?

DO YOU FEEL AS THOUGH --

>> -- SORRY.

>> IS THERE SOMETHING FROM

LISTENING TO THIS OR HAVING

REPORTED OUT THE STORIES THAT

YOU COULD APPLY TO WHERE WE ARE

NOW OR IS THAT SOMETHING THAT IS

GOING TO TAKE ANOTHER 19 OR 20

YEARS TO FULLY DIGEST AND

UNDERSTAND?

>> YEAH, WELL, WE'VE HAD 19

YEARS.

WE'RE TRYING TO MAKE THE BEST OF

WHAT WE KNOW AND IB -- INSIGHTS

WE'VE GAINED.

JENNA, WHAT SURPRISED ME WAS

EXAMINING THE MOTIVATIONS OF

THESE MEN WHO DID 9/11, I WAS

SURPRISED THAT RELIGIOUS

EXTREMISTS, FUNDAMENTALISTS,

RELIGIO

RELIGIOUS MOTIVATION PLAYED A

ROLE, CERTAINLY.

THEY CLAIMED TO BE ACTING ON THE

GUIDANCE OF ALLAH BUT THAT WAS

RELATIVELY SMALL FROM WITHIN

THIS FRINGE GROUP OF MEN

COMPARED TO POLITICS AND POWER.

THESE MEN HAD A GRUDGE AGAINST

THE UNITED STATES ON WHAT THEY

TERMED IMPERIALISTIC GROUNDS.

THEY DESPISED THE UNITED STATES

FOR PROPPING UP GOVERNMENTS IN

THEIR OWN COUNTRIES.

SAUDI ARABIA IN THE CASE O

BIN LADEN.

WHO HAS THE POLITICAL GRUDGE

AGAINST THE UNITED STATES AND

WHAT MIGHT THEY DO ABOUT IT?

AND THEN IS NOW ONE OF THE --

AND I HAVE TO SAY MAJOR ASSETS

AROUND THE WORLD HAS BEEN THIS

FACE OF DEMOCRACY AND OF CIVIL

RIGHTS AND OF TOLERANCE.

AND THE EXTEND THAT TARNISHED IT

HURTS US OVERSEAS MAKES US SEEM

VULNERABLE TO OUR OPPONENTS.

SOMEONE POINTED OUT AFTER THE

COLD WAR, THE UNITED STATES

SEEMED TO UNCHECK THE POWER.

IF PEOPLE IN OTHER COUNTRIES

PERCEIVE THAT WE ARE A BULLY AND

WE ARE NOT COLLABORATING WITH

OTHER COUNTRIES AND ACTING AS IF

WE RUN THE WORLD, THAT HAS A

TENDENCY TO PROVOKE A REACTION,

IN THIS CASE, A VIOLENT REACTION

AND ULTIMATELY THE TRAGEDY OF

9/11, WHICH IS NOT TO SAY WE ARE

RESPONSIBLE AT ALL, BUT THIS IS

THE CONTEXT.

THESE ARE THE CONDITIONS WHEN

FANATICS DECIDE WHAT TARGET TO

STRIKE AGAINST.

>> OF COURSE.

AND THE GENIUS OF GOOD REPORTING

IS LETTING PEOPLE KNOW NOTHING

HAPPENS IN A VACUUM.

JIM, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR

BRINGING US THE POD CAST SERIES

"BLIND SPOT: THE ROAD TO 9/11."

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SUBSCRIBE

AND FOLLOW THE POD CAST, YOU.

YOU CAN FIND IT FROM WNYC

STUDIOS ANYWHERE YOU SUBSCRIBE

TO POD CASTS.

THANK YOU, JIM.

>> THANK YOU, JENNA.

>> ABSOLUTELY.

>>> HI.

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN OF "METRO

FOCUS."

GEORGE FLOYD, BREONNA TAYLOR,

JACOB BLAKE.

THOSE ARE THE LATEST IN THE

VIOLENCE AGAINST BLACK MEN AND

WOMEN GOING BACK GENERATIONS.

NOW, AS OUR CITY, OUR STATE, AND

OUR NATION IS ROILED BY ONGOING

PROTESTS DEMANDING BLACK

JUSTICE, BLACK ARTISTS ARE

COMING UP WITH NEW WAYS TO

ADDRESS THIS MOMENT.

HERE IN NEW YORK, WHERE STAGES

ARE CLOSED DUE TO CORONAVIRUS,

THAT HASN'T BEEN EASY, BUT IN

BROOKLYN, THE HISTORICAL BILLY

HOLIDAY THEATER FOUND A WAY.

JOINING ME NOW TO TALK ABOUT

THAT IS TONY AWARD WINNING ACTOR

WENDELL PIERCE.

WELCOME TO "METROFOCUS."

>> THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

IT'S A PLEASURE TO BE HERE.

>> AND THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF

THE BILLIEH HOLLIDAY THEATER.

>> THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

>> I WOULD LIKE FOR DOCTOR, IF

YOU COULD START BY TALKING A

LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT THIS

PROJECT IS.

12 ANGRY MEN AND WOMEN AND THE

WEIGHT OF THE WAIT.

TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THIS

PROJECT FOR PEOPLE WHO MIGHT NOT

BE FAMILIAR WITH IT.

>> ABSOLUTELY.

"12 ANGRY MEN" IS A STORY WE DID

IN 2015-2016, UNFORTUNATELY WE

WERE RESPONDING TO THE RACIALLY

MOTIVATED KILLINGS OF BLACK MEN

AND FOCUSSED SPECIFICALLY ON

BLACK MEN.

WENDELL PIERCE WAS A PART OF THE

ORIGINAL CAST.

AN INCREDIBLE CAST AND THE PIECE

WAS DIRECTED BY STEVEN McKINLEY

HENDERSON.

UNFORTUNATELY, WE'RE AT A MOMENT

WHERE RACIALLY MOTIVATED

VIOLENCE CONTINUES TO BE A

PERVASIVE PART OF THE SOISSUE O

CULTURAL POLITICAL LANDSCAPE

THAT WE AS AFRICAN-AMERICANS

CONTINUE TO LANDSCAPE.

WE'RE DOING WHAT THE

BILLIE HOLLIDAY THEATER HAS BEEN

DOING FOR YEARS.

REFLECTING BACK TO THE AUDIENCE

IS THE STORIES THAT ARE

RELEVANT, THAT ARE PROFOUND, AND

SPEAK TO THE EXISTENCE OF HOW

THEY'RE LIVING IN THE WORLD.

YOU KNOW, WE FIND "12 ANGRY MEN

THE WEIGHT OF THE WAIT" COMES

FROM A TONY MORRISSON QUOTE THAT

NOBODY EVER TALKS ABOUT HOW LONG

WE'VE WAITED FOR JUSTICE.

A JUSTICE THAT NEVER CAME.

AND WE'VE ADDED THIS TIME

AROUND, FIVE YEARS LATER, THE

ELLIPSES AND WOMEN.

BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT THE

KILLINGS OF BLACK WOMEN THEY'RE

NOT -- THEY DON'T SPARK THE SAME

AMOUNT OF OUTRAGE.

IT'S A MOMENT FOR US TO REALLY

BRING THE VOICE OF WOMEN TO THE

FLOOR.

>> YEAH.

UNFORTUNATELY THIS IS A

NARRATIVE THAT CONTINUES TO BE

UPGRADED AND ADDED UPON.

BUT, WENDELL, I WANTED TO FIND

OUT FROM YOU, HOW DID YOU COME

TO BE INVOLVED WITH THIS PROJECT

AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU

PERSONALLY TO BE TELLING SOME OF

THESE STORIES?

>> WELL, UMM, I FIRST GOT

INVOLVED WITH THE PROJECT -- I,

AS AN ACTOR WANTED TO MAKE SURE

THAT OUR CULTURALLY SPECIFIC

BLACK THEATERS WERE THRIVING.

I WANTED TO RECONNECT, YOU KNOW,

I'VE BEEN DOING A LOT OF FILM

AND TELEVISION AND I WANTED

TO -- AND I DO THEATER ALL THE

TIME BUT IT WAS ALWAYS IN THE

COMMERCIAL CONTEXT OUTSIDE OF

THE THEATERS THAT NEEDED -- THAT

NEED TO CONTINUALLY NEED OUR

SUPPORT.

NOT ONLY AS AN ARTIST BUT JUST

AS A COMMUNITY OF THEATER-GOING

AUDIENCE.

I WANTED TO MAKE THAT

RECONNECTION.

I WILL ALWAYS BRING UP THE

EXAMPLE OF STEPHAN WOLF AND

CHICAGO.

YOU HAVE JOHN WHO GOES BACK.

HE HAS A COMMERCIALLY SUCCESSFUL

CAREER IN FILM AND TELEVISION

AND I WANTED TO DO THE SAME

THING.

AND I FIRST CAME TO NEW YORK AS

AN ACTOR AND LIVED NEAR THE

BILLY HOLLIDAY.

I WANTED TO MAKE SURE I WENT

BACK THERE.

SO WE DID THIS PRODUCTION, YOU

KNOW, IN 2016 AND HERE WE ARE

FOUR YEARS LATER AND IT'S STILL

RELEVANT.

AND WHAT HAPPENED THIS SUMMER I

WANTED TO MAKE SURE THAT I WAS

PART OF THE AWARENESS THAT

EVERYONE HAS.

IT SEEMS TO BE SOMETHING THAT

WE'VE ALWAYS KNOWN IN THE

COMMUNITY.

>> UH-HUH.

>> IS THE OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE AN

IMPRINT AND CHANGE PEOPLE'S

VALUES AND MAYBE PUT THOSE

VALUES INTO ACTION.

THAT'S THE ROLE OF AN ARTIST.

REFLECT ON WHO YOU ARE, WHO YOU

HOPE TO BECOME.

AN ARTIST IN THE FORM OF ART IS

WHERE WE COMMUNALLY REFLECT ON

WHO WE ARE, DECIDE WHAT OUR

VALUES ARE, AND THEN ACT ON

THEM.

IT'S NOT JUST A PIECE OF

ENTERTAINMENT.

ART IS A TANGIBLE WAY THAT

SOCIETY MOVES FORWARD.

THAT'S WHY I WANTED TO BE A PART

OF THIS.

THIS IS AN ONGOING VIOLENT TIME

FOR AFRICAN-AMERICANS, MEN AND

WOMEN.

I WANTED TO BE A PART OF THE

VOICE, HOPEFULLY, TO CHANGE

PEOPLE'S MINDS

>>WELL, SPEAKING OF NOT JUST ART

BEING A TANGIBLE THING, AS YOU

WERE SAYING, IT'S NOT JUST THE

PIECES THAT YOU'LL BE PERFORMING

BUT THE LOCATION, BECAUSE IT'S

TAKING PLACE ON THE BLACK LIVES

MATTER MURAL IN BROOKLYN.

I'M WONDERING IF THAT -- IF IT'S

POSSIBLE CONSIDERING EVERYTHING

YOU JUST SAID BUT DOES THAT ADD

ANY ADDITIONAL SIGNIFICANCE TO

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WORKS

YOU'LL BE PERFORMING?

>> ABSOLUTELY.

JUST THE IMAGE OF THAT.

JUST SEEING THAT MURAL WHEN IT

WAS FIRST DONE, SEEING THE

PICTURE THAT BILLIE HOLLIDAY PUT

TOGETHER OF ALL THE ARTISTS,

BLACK ARTISTS WHO HAVE

CONTRIBUTED TO TRY TO GET THIS

MESSAGE OUT.

IT'S IMPACTFUL.

THE MINUTE YOU SEE IT.

THE BLACK LIVES MATTER IT

RADIATES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD.

EVEN IN THIS TIME OF PANDEMIC,

THIS IS IS A SIGNIFICANT PIECE

BECAUSE WE'RE LOOKING FOR A WAY

TO GET BACK TO LIVE

PERFORMANCE --

>> -- DEFINITELY --

>> WHILE WE SOCIALLY DISTANCE.

AND HERE WE HAVE AN IDEA THAT

WILL BE PERPETUATED FOR THE

FIRST TIME, REALLY, OF

UNDERSTANDING HOW WE MOVE

FORWARD WITHIN THE PANDEMIC AND

POST PANDEMIC.

A HYBRID OF LIVE PERFORMANCE AND

THEN ALSO LIVE STREAMING SO THE

WORLD CAN SEE IT.

WHAT WE'VE LEARNED IN THESE

TIMES IS UNDERSTANDING THIS HAS

TO BE A WAY WE RECORD OUR LIVE

PERFORMANCES AND LIVE STREAM

THEM OUT SO THERE'S A HYBRID OF

IT.

THOSE THEATERS AROUND THE WORLD

WHO HAD ARCHIVE OF PERFORMANCES

THAT THEY COULD PUT OUT THERE,

LIKE THE NATIONAL THEATER, GOING

BACK TO CHICAGO, THE GOODMAN

THEATER HAD A COUPLE.

THEY WERE IN A BETTER POSITION

TO MAKE SURE THEY MOVE FORWARD

WITHIN THE TRYING TIMES.

SO WHAT THE BILLIE HOLLIDAY IS

DOING NOW IS THE VANGUARD OF

WHAT LIVE THEATER WILL BE LIKE

DURING THE REST OF THIS PANDEMIC

AND POST PANDEMIC.

THERE WILL BE LIVE THEATER AND

NOW THIS 500-SEAT THEATER OR

300-SEAT THEATER, I DON'T KNOW

THE NUMBERS EXACTLY, AT THE

BILLIE HOLLIDAY BECOMES AN

INFINITE AMOUNT OF SEATS.

THERE ARE GOING TO BE PEOPLE

WATCHING AROUND THE WORLD WHEN

WE LIVE STREAM THIS.

SO THIS IS THE VANGUARD OF HOW

LIVE THEATER IS GOING TO BE

MOVING FORWARD, I BELIEVE

>>WELL, ABSOLUTELY.

I WANT TO JUMP IN QUICKLY --

>> -- UH-HUH --

>> YOU KNOW IT'S ONE OF MANY

THEATERS WHO ARE SERVING BLACK

AUDIENCES THROUGHOUT THE

COUNTRY.

YOU KNOW, WE WERE ON THE FRONT

LINES OF PIVOTING FROM LIVE TO

ONLINE TO WENDELL'S POINT.

WE HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF BRINGING

IN WALTER DALLAS, UMM, YOU KNOW,

TWO WEEKS AFTER ALL THEATERS

WERE CLOSED.

WE WERE ONLINE DOING "AUTUMN"

WITH SEVEN ACTORS AND FIGURING

OUT WHAT ZOOM MIGHT BE TO THE

THEATER KL COMMUNITY AND BEING

GI

GINNY -- GUINEA PIGS.

IT WAS THE LAST WORK THAT HE

DIRECTED.

THESE CONVERGING PANDEMIC OF

COVID-19 AND THE ONGOING RACIAL

INJUSTICES IN THIS COUNTRY.

THE MURAL IS A SIGHT OF

AFFIRMING HOW AFRICAN-AMERICAN

COMMUNITIES HAVE BEEN

DISPROPORTIONATELY IMPACTED IN

THIS MOMENT.

I WOULD ARGUE THAT IT'S IN THE

MOST CONSEQUENTIAL MOMENT SINCE

1918 WHEN WE WERE DEALING WITH

THE GLOBAL PANDEMIC.

JIM CROW AND THE HARLEM

RENAISSANCE WAS EMERGING OUT OF

THAT MOMENT.

SO, YOU KNOW, HAVING OTHER 100

BLACK ARTISTS COME AND PUT THEIR

FAVORITE PRINTS INTO THIS SACRED

GROUND THAT IS A RICH CULTURAL

HISTORY IS PROFOUND.

WE'VE HAD EVERYONE FROM AL

SHARPTON TO SPIKE LEE TO ARTIST

WHOSE NAMES WE DON'T KNOW.

JENNA, IF I CAN ADD MEN AND

WOMEN BUT THE MURDER OF CHILDREN

IN THIS COUNTRY 14-YEAR-OLD

EMMETT THIEL, THE YOUNG

14-YEAR-OLD YOUNG CHILD WHO WAS

EXECUTED, ELECTROCUTED, AND THEN

THEY FOUND OUT THAT CASE WAS AN

UNJUST CASE.

THOSE ARE ALSO THE NAMES PAINTED

INTO THE MURAL BECAUSE AT SOME

POINT WE NEED TO START OWNING IT

ISN'T JUST ADULTS THAT HAVE BEEN

MURDERED IN THIS COUNTRY BUT OUR

BLACK CHILDREN HAVE BEEN

MURDERED AT THE HANDS OF

RACIALLY MOTIVATED VIOLENCE, AS

WELL.

>> AND INSTITUTIONALIZED

VIOLENCE.

>> YEAH.

>> GEORGE WAS ELECTROCUTED.

>> YEAH.

HE WAS TRICKED INTO A

CONFESSION --

>> -- THAT'S RIGHT.

>> HE WAS SO SMALL HE COULDN'T

EVEN FIT IN THE ELECTRIC CHAIR

SO THEY SAT HIM ON A STACK OF

BOOKS SO THEY COULD TAKE THIS

YOUNG BLACK INNOCENT LIFE, YOU

KNOW, AND SO IT'S THE FIERCE

URGENCY OF NOW.

IT'S AN ONGOING THING AND

UNDERSTAND THE VEIL IS LIFTED.

AND PEOPLE SAID IT SEEMS TO BE

MORE HAPPENING NOW.

THIS HAS BEEN GOING ON SINCE THE

BEGINNING OF THIS NATION.

FROM THE ORIGINAL SIN OF

SLAVERY.

>> IT'S IN THE DNA --

>> AN THE ONGOING VIOLENCE IS

SOMETHING WE HAVE TO WORK ON.

>> YEAH.

BEFORE I LET YOU BOTH GO,

DOCTOR, I WANT TO MAKE SURE THE

PEOPLE KNOW IF THEY WANT TO TUNE

IN AND LIVE STREAM THIS.

HOW DO THAT?

>> TUNE IN TO THE BILLIE

HOLLIDAY CHANNEL ON YOUTUBE AND

FACEBOOK AND I IMAGINE PEOPLE

WILL JOIN US ON FULTON STREET

BETWEEN BROOKLYN AND NEW YORK

AVENUE.

>> UNFORTUNATELY WE'RE OUT OF

TIME.

I WANT TO THANK YOU BOTH SO MUCH

FOR JOINING US.

THIS IS GOING TO BE A VERY, VERY

POWERFUL PIECE, I'M SURE.

WE LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING IT

WHEN IT DOES GO LIVE.

THANK YOU, BOTH.

>> THANK YOU.

>> THANK YOU FOR HAVING US.

>> ABSOLUTELY.

>>> "METROFOCUS" IS MADE

POSSIBLE BY SUE AND EDGAR

WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND

SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMMING

ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT

ANTI-SEMITISM, BARBARA HOPE

ZUCKERBERG, JANET PRINDLE

SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD,

CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN

FAMILY, BERNARD AND DENISE

SCHWARTZ, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON,

DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN

FOUNDATION.