By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO
In 1970 when the legendary activist and performer Gil Scott Heron recorded his classic “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” he probably didn’t understand the prophecy those lyrics would have today. Almost 50 years later journalist, commentator, and activist Roland Martin continues making his mark by distributing a brand of information on a digital platform where his reporting stays relevant, away from conventional broadcast media’s handcuffs.
Without the boundaries of mainstream media, his new digital TV show “Unfiltered” attacks issues with more ferocity than ever. After building a successful cable TV audience on TV One’s “NewsOne Now” despite its cancellation, Martin remains able to satisfy his community of millennial news consumers via social media broadcasts which streams daily on Facebook, Periscope, and YouTube amongst other platforms. While he continues to advocate for education, political literacy and economic empowerment, Martin challenges all sides of the political and social spectrum and is not encumbered by ratings and corporate broadcasting’s boundaries.
Roland Martin is doing activist journalism without the backing of a large news organization. (Photo by Mark F. Gray)
“We’ve got to fund our own freedom,” Martin told the AFRO. “Black folks are always talking about this or that show just got cancelled and we don’t have any news on BET or TVOne. We need to be able to have our own shows and digital allows us do that.”
The digital platform has given Martin a chance to become an outspoken advocate for charter schools. He used the recent 2018 Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference, held in Washington, D.C., as the place to introduce the inaugural #BringTheFunk awards which honored the pioneers of charter schools and political leaders around the country. It was the first time that charter schools had a forum during the CBC’s events.
Martin is an advocate of education in all forms and recognizes the synergy between charter and public schools in urban areas. His journalistic advocacy is helping debunk some the myths associated with the alternative to conventional education.
“There are multiple ways we can educate children,” Martin said. “The charter school allows us to control our own destiny. That means you control curriculum, staffing, budgets and the money. It puts you in place to make fundamental changes in the education of your community. The problem is when we’re not teaching our kids to critically think but when we’re teaching them to take tests all day.”
Part of Martin’s appeal is his ability to communicate politics in simple verbiage that plays to the millennial news consumer. The social media distribution of his program makes it easier to connect with a younger voting base about a political process that has left many alienated approaching November’s midterm elections.
“You have to make it plain for people and explain how government impacts your life,” Martin says. “It doesn’t matter if you’re young, middle-aged, or older you have to tie in what people care about and get them to see why the race matters. What we’ve got to do is ask people what is important to you and then show them how politics has a direct correlation into the issues of their lives.”
Martin isn’t apologetic about holding African Americans accountable for their missteps either. He has been a critic of everyone from Wendy Williams to Omarosa and most recently Serena Williams at the U.S. Open.
“Things could’ve been handled different,” Martin adds. “It’s unfortunate but she lost her focus and the bottom line is the rules are the rules.”
Now that Martin is unfiltered on a digital place he doesn’t have to follow the rules anymore.