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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  November 16, 2017 6:00am-6:31am PST

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good evening from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. it was 30 years ago this month that the good people of chicago and many of us around the world for shocked by the death of harold washington. today we will speak with his former press second. and his impact of the city which remains to this very day. and actress carmen ejogo on the film ramon j israel easquire. glad you can join us for the
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show in a minute. ♪ and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. ♪ please welcome alton miller to this program. 30 years ago on the day before thanksgiving, when chicago's first black mayor collapsed in front of him and never gained consciousness.
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he has a book called harold washington, the mayor, the man. and he is teaching a course on dr. king's challenging year in the windy city. good to have you on the program. >> my pleasure. >> take me back to that day, and being with the mayor. >> i started the day with a groundbreaking down on the south south side and in the car on the way back, he does complaining about some kind of congestion. got to his office. and i took out a notebook and talked about the things we didn't finish. e he is sitting there, there is a desk and i'm sitting there enter he went -- hit his face solidly on his desk. i thought that was -- everything happened in microseconds but i thought at first that he was reaching under his desk to pick up something he may have dropped
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on the floor. but it was clear that he was not. so i ran into the adjacent office and the security detail came in, and i ran to secoretar and said call 911. the mayor just collapsed. and they were up there in 90 seconds or so. and he -- although he had a slight pulse according to frank lee, one of the supreme couecur he was probably gone at that time. out of respect for his fiance and his family at the time, he -- we didn't announce his death until after last rites had been performed. but we lost him in morning. >> and the official cause of death? >> massive heart attack.
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his heart was twice the size it was supposed to be. he had been putting on weight but he had told me in the airplane coming back from washington. he was joking with the security guard and talked about how some aspect of his fiscal performance had improved when he went to the doctor. and he turned to me and said i just had a complete physical and everything is okay. i was a little concerned. a week later, he is dying of a massive heart attack. it was a double surprise. >> i can imagine. that's how it ended. which is sad for those of us who loved and supported harold washington. so the end was sad. but the joy on election day when harold washington pulled off the unthinkable. take me back to that joy. >> well, there were a number of
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such moments. because he had won re-election as well and he to run through a primary and the general, not normal for the mayor of the city of chicago. normally you win the democratic primary and everything else was a given. he had multiple good times. and you know, i was a panel with david axelrod this week on his institute for politics. and he was remembering the night that obama cinched the senate election in chicago, they were at one of the precincts where the mayor had had lost and been insulted by the racists that were picketing us all the time. and the mayor wrote at that time, the mayor is smiling down on us right now. and he sort of coined the notion that the -- that the obama
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experience was an act -- second act of the harold washington experience. which a lot of us felt at the time as well. >> harold washington is an interesting figure in part being there every day, he was both beloved and for many voters in chicago, the most beloved mayor. he is beloved on the one hand. and to your early point, so conversation on the oth controversial. how can one guy embody all that? >> besides being a good story teller and a fast man with a metaphor, to ease a problem, and a black man who knew instinctively that number one, mission today, do not be -- allow yourself to be cast as the angry black man. that -- he had those sensibilities going for him. he was a natural performer.
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and a natural orator. much more e effective as a speaker from the heart than he was someone who read like the state of the city speech. but, you know, when we talk about a charismatic leader, we can sometimes do that and think that is all there is. a pretty face and a nice smile. but i always he hsitate to star with a man with a great smile. bus it tends to trivialize what his worth was with. >> but the smile -- >> his smile eased a lot of problems. >> absolutely. what do you think even all these years later, three decades later, is still under appreciated with regard to the substance of his legacy, beyond the smile, beyond the symbolism. >> what an effective manager he
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was. he was a member of the congressional black caucus and he had privilege on the floor. he was in washington and back frequent frequently. he was a legislator that was given to compromise, that was the legislative lifestyle but as an executive of the city, he had to actually make things happen. and i think that if you ask him what his legacy, what his most -- what he was proudest of, he would have said -- ironically, he would have said his ability le tility as a manan and manage a city, a $2 billion budget which was in the red and bleeding money. and corrupt in its management. and to be able to do all that and keep that smile. his management skills above all. >> what might harold washington
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be saying about his city today? >> well, for one thing, he was the second most proud moment for him was signing the executive order, the very first thing he did, opening up the city's books to whatever had a legitimate reason to look at limb. no more deals in the closet. no more sneak ing around. in addition to that executive order, he also ordered a 25% bmi and a 5% wbe. >> business enterprise. >> minority business enterprise and women business enterprise. that is tooth taste that can never go back in the tube. when second mayor daily was elected, he had to sign that into order. and i think we could have continued to see an is city with a role model, with a track
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record and with a lot of community pressure. you know, most cities, big city mayor, when they wanted to get a program of reconstruction, they have the assistance of the business community, they have the media in their corner and they have a consensus that we need to be doing things differently than we needed to. and we needed to figure out how to make him a one-perm mayoterm. and a lot of the boys -- >> say nothing. all the other politicians like fast eddie. >> well, that too. both eddies. >> barack obama is a different kind of negro than harold washington was. i don't want to put too much on
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obama any mar than washington. because one man with a magic wand cannot solve all the problems of chicago. but i have a feeling that harold washington would have been vexed by the crime in chicago in a ray that raum and daily may not be. >> well, we didn't have that. while he was mayor, there was demographic reasons and other chns. that would have been a huge issue for him and e he would have been up front on the ak 47 legislation, putting serial numbers on ammunition. and in general, undoing the social problems that led to -- that lead to the -- >> and i also want to believe when i say he is a different kind of negro, i want to believe that his voice resonated in a way that nobody else's voice does in chicago. >> he would have been the
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primary role model i'm talking about. not only his example but the people that he brought around him. the people that he made, the commissioner and members of his cabinet and heads of his departments where t s were thee that were charging the day, yelling at the mayor to make the changes that needed to be made. when he replaced these pacs with the ngo, the people who ran the nonprofit organizationses that keep the city lubed and rolling, not only did the intelligence quotient go up, but it was just a good vibe. everybody involved in the harold washington administration knew all through the time they ran it and in the end what an adventure
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they this been on. >> we celebrate 30 years later, the life and legacy of harold washington, the first african-american mayor in the city of chicago. every time guy to the peer, i say harold washington started this. >> that's right. >> thanks for your memories. good to have you on the program. >> thank you. >> up next, actress actress carmen ejogo from the new movie "rowan j. israel equire. stay with us. please welcome carmen ejogo from "roman j. israel eesquire. here is a scene from the film. >> i have been going through my own struggles. you know, trying to balance what
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i do. the sacrifices. and i have asked myself so many times, why do i see things so differently than other people? why do i care so much that our humanity is connected to each other? i have moments. i have extended periods of real doubt. i'm just holdi ining on by a th. so hearing you, and understanding what you've been through, i mean, honestly, roman, you're inspiring. >> i was watching you watching the clip. and at one point, you turned away from it. >> yeah, no, those words really
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resonate and that's why i took the role on. i really mean what i say in that scene as my other character had played. but it also -- i feel that stuff in my gut. i'm that very same person in many ways. as an artist, and a human being that feels very connected. i have deep, deep empathy. >> does it happen often or just happen when you saw the script? >> it's happened a few times. most recently "selma," the speech that was write by the director. that was phenomenal and i felt very personally. it's really down to the truth in the writing. there is a truth in the page, i will sense it and gravitate towards the ma tier ya. and maya was one of the
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situations -- dan gilroy has such soul and playing an activist character can get very two dimensional potentially. but there was somethinging so earnest and you a theauthentic voice -- >> tell me more about maya. >> yeah, maya is working for an organization. she is somebody who really lives by passion and conviction. but she's had to make sacrifices along the way to do that. she's had to probably sacrifice family. you don't really get into her back story but you get the sense when she walks with roman. you get a sense they have led similar lives in some level. they have given up the potential of family, family life to be of
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service. so when roman comes into her office looking for a job, he is a lawyer who is of another generation whose mentor has died and he is out on a limb wonder writing do you go from here? and he comes to her office not realizing they are all volunteers and there is no money to be had. and she has a great sense of empathy and compassion and she realizes she is looking at herself in 20 years potentially. and that really moves her and they embark on an interesting soul mate comrade journey throughout the film. which is really, really unusual in that you have a man and a woman who the potential can be there for romance but it really runway mains a relationship of meeting minds of similar purpose and it's never about mromance. >> why does it stay there?
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>> i think the age difference. >> that never stops hollywood. that never stops hollywood. >> that's true and it makes the writing unusual in many ways and i think there is enough respect between the two of them for what their journey is and they understand that's why they have come across each other. that's how they met and that's where it should stay. >> tell me a little more about roman. everybody has seen the billboards and denzel in this get up. tell me about roman. >> geez. he's a man of another era and he's also somebody that i think denzel intentionally layered characteristics of somebody who is a savant or on the spectrum, whos has major social anxiety. he is not comfortable around people in general. not around women. but like maya, he is someone who
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has absolute conviction and determination to live a life that is worthy, that is about service. however, at some point, there are mar tier yal seductiterial to grapple with and that is where he starts so slide, not long after he met me. >> you seem -- not that many actors are not, but you seem picky about the roles that you play. how does that make for a journey in this business in. >> kind of similar to maya's in many ways. in that i'm very comfortable with my resume. i feel good about every job that is on it with the exsengs of one or two. and i know the motivation to get in on a project is a good one. i don't have a great house, great car.
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i'm not living in the fast lane in many ways and i perhaps could be. i'm making choices along the way. but as an artist that is how i want eed to be and i took time t have kids. that is a big decision to make as an actress in hollywood. >> i saw a great photo of you on instagram of you and your two kids with angela davis. >> yeah. >> it leads me to act how your children impact the decisions you make? >> it does in time. in a way, the practical things. but in times of work, i have tried to stay very true to my own creative path. and, you know, i don't feel -- i don't feel as though the choices i make -- would i be embarrassed to have my kids watch something? frankly, no, i just did a show
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called "the girlfriend experience" which gets racy at times and actually my son watched it and it's a conversation about feminism and how men and women interact. i am more concerned about them watching the horror films and the violence. that stuff. and sometimes as an artist, i give myself permission to play with. yeah, no, as a mother, i think i have just become sort of a more rich personality and character and they are roles i understand more beefly that i am suited for now. >> one, you mention the girlfriend experience. i'm glad you went there. i'm skucurious, you shared this. what kind of conversation do you have with your son about feminism? what are you saying to your son in a moment like this. i go back to the picture of you
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in the women's march. what are you saying to your son about this moment in our country and the role that women play and the patriarch -- how old is your son? >> my son is 16. and i guess it starts with that it's his job to be a feminism as much as it's mine. we dragged him to the mavr torc. and he would have rather been elsewhere. to recognize that it's as much his responsibility and ha whwha should look like is part of the conversation. >> and you should be interested
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to know that kcorretta scott kig was there? >> yeah, i got to the meet her and she gave me her blessing and was very happy with the material and gave me more encouragement to play it the second time, knowing she'd approved the first go around. yeah, i tried to raise my kids to be conscious and aware of the other generation of leaders and activists. that is something in the movie that is really interesting. the preaching of the gap that happens, that roman represents a bygone era, and maya is working with more youthful activists and she understands there is a meeting of minds that happens in the middle. it's great if my children can see e there's something to be learned from that older generation. but like wise for elders, and
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older people to see that they should understand and try to listen to the voice of the youth think it's part of what may be missing right now. >> there is a dialect missing there. let me go back to a point you raised earlier. i love mike. his writing is so crisp. the writing on this, pretty profound. >> insane, yeah, yeah. >> i always begins right in the page. i helps to work with a writer/director. i have had that option a few times and there is such a depth of understanding of what they are doing and there is a confidence on set with those kind of directors b s because t know what they went out of the actor. they understand what they have written, there is no confusion what it should look like and in dan's case, it give me and denzel free reign to do our job. that is a joy when you have a
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director who knows their joy so much and the writer so much. that meant we really got to play. >> you want for him to have you and denzel on the set as well. the project is "roman j. israel." you have been seeing the posters and billboards everywhere. wonderful film. highly recommend it. thanks for your time. >> good to me you. >> thanks for watching and as always, keep the faith. ♪ for more information on today's show visit tavis smiley at hi, i'm tavis milegy. join me about the film mud bound with dee rees, and jason mitchell. that is next time. we'll see you then.
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>> and my contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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. . first, a look at chronic fatigue syndrome. and then smoky robinson, with his new album, we're glad you joined us coming up


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