The talk radio world has a new contender with the recent launch of the Rock Newman Show in Washington, D.C. An innovative sociopolitical, edutainment forum has emerged in the nation's capital, through a creative partnership between Rock Newman and social entrepreneur Andy Shallal, owner of Busboys and Poets Restaurant and Bookstore, where the radio show airs its live broadcasts.
Best known to some, for his presence in the heavyweight championship boxing arenas of the 1990's, Newman's return to radio represents a reigniting of a love affair that began over 30 years ago when he worked with Cathy Hughes at WOL, the flagship station of her Radio One empire. With his newest venture -- which one might describe as a unique blend of talk radio and a community gathering -- Newman has created an engaging platform that captures an authentic dialogue rarely heard. The show's tagline, "We R One," is evidenced in the eclectic voices and backgrounds of his guests and the diverse issues he tackles.
Guests run the gamut from high profile personalities, politicians and scholars to a college paleontology student who helped excavate 15 million year old whale bones and a 90 year old business owner around the corner from his current venue. Newman's contagious enthusiasm and gracious intelligence allows him to handle his varied guests -- many of whom simply drop by the show to chat -- with equal agility.
A renaissance man himself whose wealth of experiences would make a compelling biopic, Newman's guest list is a who's who of national news makers, thought leaders and everyday people like author and professor, Nikki Giovanni; professor and social critic, Michael Eric Dyson; Cleveland hero, Charles Ramsey; Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton; Fox News contributor, Juan Williams; South African ambassador to the U.S., Ebrahim Rasool; and author and educator, Dr. Julianne Malveaux.
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, The Rock Newman Show will air a special broadcast on Saturday August 24th 2013, from 5pm "until you get enough," live from the Langston Room at Busboys and Poets, 14th and V Street NW, Washington DC. It will also stream live on the internet.
The guest lineup includes, Johnetta Cole, Executive Director, Smithsonian Museum of African Art, Marc Morial, President CEO National Urban League and William Jones author of "The March on Washington: Jobs Freedom and the a forgotten History of Civil Rights." Listeners and viewers will also be treated to a informal gathering of surprise guests who plan to visit the show to share their memories and insights of the historic march.
Established in 2005, Busboys and Poets is a community restaurant and bookstore that is a gathering place -- a community resource for artists, activists, writers, thinkers and dreamers. The business model has been so successful that It is now located in four distinctive neighborhoods in the Washington Metropolitan area. The Rock Newman Show broadcasts regularly from Busboys and Poets at the 14th and V Street NW location on Saturday mornings from 9am to noon. Streaming live, the show is also archived on YouTube.
Interview with Rock Newman
The last time I saw you were on TV at a heavy championship fight -- How did you get from there to here?
Before I got into the world of boxing I did radio some 33 years ago here in D.C., when radio WOL was the flagship station of Cathy Hughes' Radio One empire. When she and her husband Dewey Hughes purchased WOL they changed it from an R& B format to a talk radio format. I actually knew Dewey and shortly after, I started to do some work with them. I was covering Sugar Ray Leonard fights and then I started sitting in for various hosts who couldn't make it for their shifts. Then I got a regular show of my own in 1981 which I had for a year and a half before I got involved in boxing. With all the things I did in the next 30 odd years, I always missed radio...there were times during that period where I would sit in for people. No matter what I did, the radio bug was never far away and I realized at one point -- back in May 2012 when I did an hour long interview at WHUR. After I walked out of that small studio -- I had an epiphany. I said this is what I must do! My inaugural show was February 23rd 2013 and I never looked back.
What made you choose Busboys and Poets as the venue for your show?
I'll tell you what... let me try to describe it this way. Thirty-five years ago I saw a picture of this sister in a friend's photo album-I asked who she was and she replied "that's my friend so and so."
I had been hearing about this friend for about three or four years. She said "that's who I've been talking about."
I said, "Call her. Just get her on the phone!"
When she did I snatched the phone and I said, "You don't know me but I'm going to marry you one day."
She was very formal and just wanted to get back on the phone with our mutual friend. Five years later, on Oct. 22, 1983, we were married. We have now been married for 30 years this October. I tell you this story because in looking for the ideal venue to do what I wanted to do, it had to be a very compatible environment.
Initially I was broadcasting from a station in D.C. I kept hearing about this emerging iconic place. Mark (the show's producer), told me that Busboys and Poets was considering doing some kind of broadcast. A bell went off in my head and I called the owner. I set up a meeting and arrived earlier to take a look at the place. When I saw the venue I felt just like I did when I met my wife. It has the perfect vibe for promoting inclusiveness. The first time I was there, there were some real sort of hip hop brothers and a sister sitting together and there was this very French lady having whatever she was having -- she had a tam on her head -- it was just a wonderful juxtaposition of cultures. It's a place for everyone.
The theme of my show is "We R One." Couple that with the fact that when I walked into the back area -- which is called the Langston Hughes room -- there were photos on the wall of Martin Luther King, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and nelson Mandela. I said, "Oh yes this is the place for me!"
Fortunately the owner Andy Shallal -- who refers to himself as a social entrepreneur -- embraced the chemistry also. We just knew we were made for each other. We combined our brands and we are very happy.
What do you want to accomplish with the show?
I grew up in a family of truck drivers and homemakers and all of my seven brothers and sisters were married by the time they were 20 -- no one had a college education -- and they all had large families. I was 12 years younger than my next brother -- my mother was 46 years old when she had me. Growing up, I dreamed of a whole different life...a completely different existence.
I have lived that dream. I wanted to have an education...I wanted to be involved in big things and I have. Meeting the pope or the president was nothing compared to meeting Nelson Mandela.
What I want to do with the show -- as naïve and idealistic as it may sound -- I want the show to help the world be a little better place to live in. I'm unapologetic about having that aspiration! The background to this attitude is...I've been told since I was a child, "You can't do it that way -- that's not the way it works." My mother's nicknames for me were "hard headed" and "mannish". So this is what I am hard headed and mannish!
What does the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington mean to you and how will you celebrate it on your show on August 24th?
I remember watching the march on TV. I was 11 years old and I was a fanatical sports fan and one of the things that stood out about that march for me was Bill Russell in the audience. I remember hearing the speech -- seeing people enthralled with what was happening on stage. I remember my chest swelling my chest up with pride. I knew it was something special and it just made me swell up with pride.
What I would like to do on that day is to be a platform for people to come and reflect on and recollect what good came out of that and what good we can practice moving forward. I intend to have a gentleman who has worked, literally around the corner and across the street from busboys for 70 years! He's in his '90s, he's spry -- and this man has not one wrinkle. He's had a business for 70 years, his name is Duke and he has a biz called Dukes Shoe Shine. I'm equally thrilled to speak to Duke as I am Mark Moriel. The Rock Newman Show is a platform where all voices can be heard and there are no barriers -- social, economics, race, creed or religion.