Rock Newman, one of the major political players in Washington during the 1990s, is back in town and attracted a powerful group of elected officials to the launch of his new radio program Feb. 23 at a small studio in Southeast Washington.

Those who took to the microphone to participate in the first Rock Newman Show included former D.C. mayors Marion Barry, now a council member in Ward 8, and Anthony Williams; D.C. Shadow Senator Paul Strauss; Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker IV; and one of his predecessors, Wayne K. Curry, the first African-American elected county executive in Prince George’s County. Former Mayor Sharon Pratt phoned in. Current Mayor Vincent Gray pre-recorded a message to Newman’s listeners.

“You are the only person I know who can get us all together,” Barry said, as the panelists gathered at the We Act Radio studio in Anacostia.

Newman, a millionaire, lived in Las Vegas for eight years before returning to the District. He grew up in Prince George’s County and has been an influential figure in D.C. politics. In the mid-1990s, he was instrumental in organizing Barry’s comeback to the mayor’s office after Barry was jailed in connection with an FBI investigation into his drug use. In 1998, Newman endorsed Williams, then the city’s chief financial officer, for mayor. At the time, residents viewed Williams as a numbers cruncher who lacked passion for working people. Newman’s endorsement offered a strong boost to the campaign.

Now, Newman is returning with a radio show. He promised his audience to use as his “energy and voice” to offer insight and information that will improve the quality of life for District residents. The show is scheduled to air on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon on WPWC 1480 AM. Besides politicians, Saturday’s show featured civil rights activist Dick Gregory, Lorenzo Creighton of MGM Resorts International, the first African American to be named president of a major Las Vegas casino resort and Judge Greg Mathis, of television fame, who talked to Newman by phone.

“This is going to be the best three hours of radio,” Newman said repeatedly during the Feb. 23 broadcast. “The name of the radio station is ‘We Act.’ My voice is intended to get people to act.”

Those who passed through the studio were treated to fried chicken, macaroni and cheese and green beans, which were served up with tough questions and friendly debate.

Among Newman’s questions: Will the Redskins move from Prince George’s County back to the District? Will District residents get statehood? Did Barry beat Williams in tennis?

“Ask him,” Barry quipped, as a smiling Williams sat beside him. “It was a whooping.”

The more serious questions, “What about the stadium and statehood?” remained unanswered.

Curry told the audience the two municipalities need to work together for the good of projects that create jobs for residents of the city and the county. Pratt echoed, saying Prince George’s County and the District need to form a strategic partnership; D.C. has the cash and Prince George’s has the land. Together, she said, and with a broader vision, they can create a successful economic partnership.

Barry, in his trademark straight-no-chaser style, said he doubted the Redskins would return to the city.

While Baker said much of the growth in the area is in Prince George’s County, he said the goal should be to make this “a seamless urban area.”

There also was some unity among Newman’s guests on whether they would like to see the District as the 51st state.

Newman told the audience that District residents have died in wars and paid taxes without representation on Capitol Hill “for too long.”

“It’s an absurdity,” he said. “This is the nation’s capital and we don’t have democracy being practiced.”

Strauss urged residents to continue the fight. Baker said he supports statehood. “Rome is D.C. and if Rome falls down, we (Prince George’s County) are affected,” he said.

After the show, Curry said it was important for the guests to participate in Newman’s program.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for those of us who have history to come together and symbolize by our careers that we can do things,” he said. “People need to see the energy that we stimulate.”

Yolanda Woodlee

Special to the AFRO