By George Kevin Jordan, Special to the AFRO
He has been the voice of our city, interviewing more politicians and public figures than we can count, all with the goal of understanding the big issues of the day so D.C. residents can be informed citizens and make smart decisions about their lives.
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser proclaimed May 13 as Kojo Nmandi Day in honor of his work and legacy.
“Kojo has been doing this for more than two decades and, in many ways, is the heartbeat of D.C. and embodies everything it means to be a Washingtonian,” Bowser said in a ceremony for the broadcaster. ‘Everybody in this building knows you go to Kojo when you have something to say.”
“Kojo is tough but fair and definitely aided by that sweet carribean accent in asking the questions that drive at the truth and hold our public officials accountable,” Bowser added.
“Kojo Nmamdi Day” is a precursor to a burst of events in celebration of Nnamdi’s 20 years hosting “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” every weekday at noon on WAMU.
A native of Guyana, Nnamdi immigrated to the United States in 1968. He was deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement. He hosted “Evening Exchange” a public affairs television program broadcast by WHUT-TV at Howard University from 1985 – 2011. Prior to that he worked as a news editor, and then news director for the local program “The Daily Drum from 1973 to 1985.
Nnamdi told the AFRO that he still pushes to get real answers from each person he interviews.
“The challenge for me is to try to get the individuals I’m interviewing, especially someone who’s a public figure who interviews quite frequently, to get that person to either A) say something they haven’t said before or B) take a deeper look at policies or statements,” Nnamdi said. “I try to get little nuggets that keep the listener interested.”
Working as a radio host for years has its benefits and challenges according to Nnamdi.
“Being on radio has advantages and disadvantages,” Nnamdi said. “A disadvantage is people can’t see you. But that has its advantages. Since people can’t see you they are forced to use their imagination and figure out what I look like, what our guests look like.”
“It’s also intimate. The relationship to radio is so much more intimate.”
Having interviewed countless people, Nnamdi said he doesn’t keep a dream list of possible interview subjects. But he does find himself discovering a passion for someone he didn’t think he would until they were in the booth with him.
One example Nnamdi used was Harry Belafonte, actor, musician and activist.
“I could never imagine myself interviewing Harry Belafonte, but followed his career for a long time,” Nnamdi said. “He’s fascinating.”
As far as the next big scoop, Nnamdi is pretty clear where we need to turn the needle of focus.
“The next big story of our time is the rise of White nationalists around the world,” Nnamdi said. “I think most of us have never lived through a period were we saw a marginalized population being pushed back against the way we are seeing it now.”
He added that maybe our ancestors during reconstruction felt the push back that many are feeling and seeing now.
Thankfully Nnamdi is here to guide us through the process every step of the way.
“Kojo 20 Celebration,” is set for June 6. For more information please go to: https://thekojonnamdishow.org/2019/04/26/get-tickets-kojo-20-celebration-june-6th