The Blackest Questions

Blackest Questions Podcast: Marc Lamont Hill

Episode 1
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Philly native, author, activist, and TV personality Marc Lamont Hill taps in with Dr. Christina Greer to kick-off the first episode of The Blackest Questions. Will Marc do it big for Broad Street?

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Dr. Christina Greer [00:00:06] Hi and welcome to The Blackest Questions. I’m your host, Dr. Christina Greer, politics editor for theGrio and associate professor of political science at Fordham University. In this podcast, we asked our guests five of the Blackest Questions so we can learn a little bit more about them and have some fun while we’re doing it. We’re also going to learn a lot about Black history, past and present. So here’s the way this works. We have five rounds of questions about us, Black history, the whole diaspora, current events, everything. With each round, the questions will get a little bit tougher and the guest has 15 seconds to get it right. If they answer the question correctly, they will receive one symbolic Black fist and hear this. If they get it wrong, they’ll hear this, but we’ll still love them anyway. After the five questions, there will be a Black bonus question at the end just for fun. Our guest for this episode is Marc Lamont Hill. He’s a professor, author, activist and television personality. A Temple University Alum. Dr. Hill also received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, is a proud Philly native and owner of Uncle Bobby’s Coffee and Books. That is one of my favorite bookshops. And, you know, I’m a Philly girl myself, so I am so excited to have you here. Marc, thank you so much for joining the Blackest Questions.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:01:17] Oh, I am very, very happy to be here, although I got to tell you, I’m a little nervous.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:01:21] No, don’t be nervous. You know, like Philly, people will never, ever, ever let you down. This, you know, it’s going to be great. So let’s just jump right into it. Are you ready? Okay, let’s get started.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:01:35] So the votes are in. A few months ago, Ketanji Brown Jackson was the first Black woman to become a Supreme Court justice. But in 1967, HE was the first Black Supreme Court justice who was he?

Marc Lamont Hill [00:01:47] I’m going to go with Thurgood Marshall.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:01:51] That’s right. He is nominated by my favorite president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and he served on the highest court in the land from 1967 through 1991. But before that, he graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, then Howard Law School, and he died January 24th, 1993, when he was 84 years old. So when you think of Thurgood Marshall, what sort of comes to your mind? Because, I mean, I remember growing up and just having like this reverence for him. You know, he seemed so tall and, like, debonair, but so brilliant. And that was before I even knew about his landmark civil rights cases. So when did you see that first thing about Thurgood Marshall?

Marc Lamont Hill [00:02:26] I knew about him, you know, grew up in Philly, all the Lincoln people, and, of course, Howard people were claiming him. So I knew a decent amount about him in that way. When I started to learn about Brown versus Board of Education and, you know, how significant a role he played in 54 and 55 I was, I became even more sort of of an admirer of his. But I think you mentioned in 91 when he’s when he leaves the court. I was thinking about how he could have just waited like another 18 months, another 20 months til Bill Clinton became president. And then we wouldn’t have Clarence Thomas.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:03:10]  I love me some Thurgood Marshall, but I sometimes he was the first justice I wish could have hung on a little long or left a little bit earlier. You know, I understand he couldn’t he would have had to leave in the Carter administration, you know. So I understood why he was hanging on. Like maybe he thought George H.W. Bush was going to win reelection. And so he’s like, I can’t wait anymore. He obviously passed. But if I was him and I couldn’t be, I’m not that smart.  I would have hung with Bush and Reagan as president. I was hung on. I would have died in that seat.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:03:39] Right. But I think you make a really interesting point, though, because there is this incumbency advantage. And George H.W. Bush, by and large, was, you know, people were like, oh, he’s not that bad. I mean, you know, he he made a fatal flaw where he promised not to raise taxes and he had to for the good of the nation at the time. And so all of a sudden, we see this this young upstart with a rap sheet of scandals coming out of nowhere from Arkansas. So, yeah, I’m sure Thurgood Marshall was like, I can’t hang on for another five years, basically. Right. But then he’s sort of like the anti RBG where it’s like I feel like, you know, he left too early were RBG. And like “Hey sis!  You knew that the times were getting tough. Like you don’t want to retire and spend some time with your grandkids. “

Marc Lamont Hill [00:04:20] Right. She had an exit strategy. She could’ve left.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:04:23] Mm hmm.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:04:24] Right. And and and. And some of that was about the desire to wait for Hillary initially. Right. I mean, was was that the idea.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:04:30] Yes. 

Marc Lamont Hill [00:04:31] And I’m like, we don’t have that luxury.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:04:34] No.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:04:35] We don’t have that luxury. The stakes are too high. You’ve got to go when it’s time to go.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:04:39] Absolutely. But now we have Ketanji Brown Jackson, who is you know, as we’ve seen time and time again, justices keep getting appointed at a younger and younger ages so they can stay longer. What do you most excited about in a Ketanji Brown Jackson court?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:04:57] Even though she’s most likely going to be in the minority in many opinions. But.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:05:02] For me, it’s just the momentum, you know? Well, two things. One, as you know, she’s a very smart jurist, which I think is important. I think that anyone would agree that she’s thoughtful and careful, that she’s well read and and well trained. And when I watched her confirmation hearings, I was overwhelmed and impressed by her poise in her responses. Because as she’s talking, you could hear what she was thinking as a Black person. You could hear what she wanted to say.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:05:35] You know, there’s so many black women. We were her translators like  “Listen! Ask me that question again. Keep asking me that question!”.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:05:45] Exactly. That’s why I love Twitter. Because I was I was watching black women translate for her and it was perfect.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:05:49] And so I appreciate that. But also, you know, again, a young left leaning jurist I think is significant right now given everything that’s going on in the world. And so I’m not hopeful of any bad thing befalling anybody on the court. But if Clarence Thomas were to slip on a banana peel right now, you know what I mean? We’d have we’d have even more momentum if Joe Biden is able to replace the next or place, appoint rather as the next the next Supreme Court justice. And I like this idea of appointing people who are young and vibrant and who have a long time on the court. That means a lot to me.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:30] Well, I agree. The only thing is it’s like Brett Kavanaugh is young, Amy Coney Barrett is young, you know? It goes both ways, unfortunately. But I do think that, you know, if we could also get a court that looks a little more representative of the United States. You know, I always ask my students, like, do you think it’s fair that nine people represent 330 million and the responses they get, you know, because so many of them don’t see themselves represented in any capacity, not just descriptively, but even ideologically in some ways. Okay, so you ready?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:02] I’m gonna keep it moving.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:07:04] I’m getting nervous.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:05] Now. Don’t you be nervous.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:07:07] At least I got one I was going to have, like I just wanted. I need at least one. at least one.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:11] To earn that PHD.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:07:12] Exactly.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:14] You can. Now you can let your parents listen to this. Right?

Marc Lamont Hill [00:07:16] Exactly.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:18] Okay. So this one, let’s see. Name the musical group that was formed in 1987. They currently consist of 12 members. They hold three Grammys, an Oscar and serve as the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:07:34] The Roots.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:35] The Roots. The Roots.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:37] So the first two members of the group were Questlove and Black Thought, where they met in high school. They went to the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts. I believe that’s where Boyz II Men went as well. That’s right. Added members along the way. They have 14 studio albums. I actually, you know, when I was doing this research, I did not know that their first album, Organix, was released in 1993. So we were in high school and their most recent was in 2014, and some of the soundtracks they’ve appeared on were in Men in Black, The Wood,  The Best Man, Blade 2, and the Hamilton Mixtape. I mean, listen, I’ve loved The Roots for a really, really long time. And I know you’re Philly boy. Are you a Roots fan?

Marc Lamont Hill [00:08:14] I’m a huge Roots fan. I mean. Everything they do, every place they go, I try to support. You know, I love Amir and Tariq.  Blackthought and Questlove. Personally as friends, you know, I think they’re dope people, really sincerely dope people. But they’re such great artists. It was such longevity. You know, Organix was the album that people didn’t really know about, but, you know, that was back when they were the Square Roots and people thought that, you know, you know, they were this underground hip hop group that may pass. They had a buzz, but, you know, people didn’t know. Right. And then as as, Illadelph Halflife and  oh, my brain is freezing. But the one that had Silent Treatment on it.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:08:56] Yes. Do You Want More.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:08:58] Once those songs hit, you know, they got even more of a buzz. Do You Want More? Thank you. That’s what I’m trying to do. You want more? And then Illadelph Halflife. And by the time they got to, Things Fall Apart with that beautiful cover. And Eryka Badu, you know, singing the hook on You Got Me and Jill’s I mean, not Jill. And Eve doing the rap, even though she wasn’t named by it, was like, Oh, they’re on or something, you know? And then they got a little more mainstream buzz with some songs, you know, Break You OOff and stuff like that, The Best Man soundtrack as well. And like, I just love them. But what I love about them is how creative they are and how boundary pushing they are. They both of them, really. All of know you, even Malik B and Dice Raw and you know, James Poyser, all of them. You know, Hub, who just passed away. Like, I love all those dudes, man, because they’re also creative and gifted and hard working. And these dudes was doing 300 tour dates a year.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:09:55] Yes. I mean, when you talk about college shows and festivals and you name it, I mean, they really, I think, sowed the seeds. Like when people say their Roots fans, it’s like, yeah, they earned those fans. You know, they were doing, every single, you know, college campus  across the United States. And then they were going to Europe. I mean, I really I think that the album cover for Things Fall Apart is when I when I realized I liked them more than the music. And I was like, these guys. These are actually really well read and thoughtful in a way that I kind of knew it, but it made me go back and read, listen to their albums in a whole new way, and then they’ve just expanded. And I always love, you know, this is, I guess, with time and as we get older, you know, we’ve now known each other for quite some time. How, you know, let’s just take Questlove. You know, he’s gone into, like, the food world and like, you know, I have some of his his beautiful coffee table sort of food books. To say nothing about that Oscar for Summer of Soul, where, you know, I wrote an op ed asking him. And so, listen, next time you text him, text him and say, Chrissy Greer wants you to… I really want him to create a website for all of our parents to upload their pictures from the sixties and the seventies. When they were wearing those afros and those miniskirts. And they were listening to that music in real time. Because when I watched it with my friends mom and aunt, they started going through their phones and pulling out pictures of themselves. Like he tapped into something that reminded them of that happiness. Even though it was rough times politically, we know that. But I think Questlove really did tap into the beauty of Black people in that moment.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:39]  Despite what was going on around them. And I think we have to we have to tap into that now with all the madness that’s going on around us.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:11:46] Absolutely. Summer of Soul was a great a great kind of story being told of culture and art. And the backdrop of politics is there, too. And I loved it, you know, and I loved watching it and I loved experiencing it. And I actually went it was the only time I’ve been to a movie theater since the pandemic started. I was like, I got to go to Harlem and watch that. There’s only about four people in the theater. But I was like, This movie has to get watch. I want to experience it in a certain kind of way. And it was worth it, man. It is so beautiful. And and their love of Black people and their curation of content that shows us at our best. I mean, imagine being, you know, one of the best drummers of your generation and saying, you know what, now I got to write. I got to open restaurants. I got to write books on food. I got to write an amazing memoir, Mo Betta Blues. I got to I got to go I got to direct a film, right. And imagine being in my mind one of the top five emcees of all time. Blackthought and say you know what, I’m going to make plays well.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:12:54] Like it’s just like. They they’re committed to doing art and stretching the boundaries in a way that inspires me every single day. Like, I literally watched them be like, Yo, I need to do something else. I got a million jobs. They got like 5 million jobs.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:12] Right. After they worked all those years.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:13:14] That’s something. I was I was like, they work. Every day, five days a week, at least doing Jimmy Fallon, they make albums, they produce, they do all this stuff. And it was like I think it was 4th of July weekend. We were down at the Dumbo house and. My partner and I, we were at Dumbo house in Brooklyn. And who’s DJing but Questlove. He walked in and I was like, Oh, he’s here to kick it. Nope

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:36] No, no, no. To say one thing. You know, he’s always deejaying in Brooklyn. I mean, I think he also wants to have access to the community, and he wants the community to have access to him. You know, it’s like I’m just I’m just I’m y’all. Like I may be on television, I may make movies, but here we are.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:54] Okay. So we we basically, the two of us, we just have a podcast called We Love the Roots and. All right. Okay.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:01] You ready for number three?

Marc Lamont Hill [00:14:03] I think so.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:03] You’re doing well.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:14:05] It’s harder. I already know. I’m gonna get at least two wrong.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:07] Okay. This person is credited as the co-creator of the high five, was standing in the on deck circle when Hank Aaron broke the home run record and is the first African-American manager to win 2000 games. Who is he?

Marc Lamont Hill [00:14:22] Oh, I don’t know. Let me think.  He was standing…… hmm. 

Marc Lamont Hill [00:14:34] So he wasn’t the manager when? Hank. Okay, I see what you’re saying.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:14:37] So I. If I were. Guessing, I would say Dusty Baker.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:43] That’s right, brother. That’s right. Dusty Baker. As a player, Dusty played 19 seasons. He was a two time All-Star and won a World Series with the Dodgers. He was also the first manager to win division titles and make the playoffs with five different teams. And he’s been the manager of the Houston Astros since 2020 and made his second trip to the World Series as manager in 2021. So that is Dusty Baker. Now, are you a baseball fan?

Marc Lamont Hill [00:15:07] I am. What confuse me was I was thinking that he was a manager when Hank Aaron was. That’s why I was like, who’s that old to be doing that and still.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:15:17] Yeah, I am a baseball fan. Baseball was my first love, both watching it and playing it, and I wasn’t that good, but I enjoyed it. And my dad, you know, was a my dad was born in 1929. So, you know, basketball wasn’t a thing for him.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:15:34] Right.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:15:35] You know, like that. What? I mean, he came to like basketball, but when he was growing up, you know, the NBA wasn’t around yet.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:15:41] Right. As we’re all learning from Winning Time, it was like in the seventies and eighties, barely holding on.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:15:45] Exactly. Exactly. My dad’s older than the NBA, so like or was older. He passed away last year. So when we were growing up, we would watch the baseball game and we would sit on the porch and listen to the baseball game on the radio. So, you know, my oldest memories of sport are sitting on a porch listening to pitch counts, you know, you know, with the Phillies, with like Mike Schmidt in the 1980s.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:16:11] Wow.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:16:12] Well, you know what? I’m always fascinated by the number of Black people who were into baseball, grew up listening to baseball, watching baseball, playing baseball. But it doesn’t seem as though a lot of young Black boys really play baseball the way they did, say in our generation or even my father’s generation. And, you know, everyone’s like, well, there’s some class components to it and it’s expensive. And, you know, basketball obviously is taken over. But it is really sad to me because there’s so many great players from the Negro Leagues who also integrated MLB, but it doesn’t seem like young Black boys necessarily are into baseball. See the way you were as a kid?

Marc Lamont Hill [00:16:50] It’s a couple of reasons for that. I think. I think one is, is baseball is not in our neighborhood, you know, like that. You know, NBA and NFL are far more popular, far more visible. You know, people want to be LeBron, you know, who is the baseball player at some I want to be?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:17:07] And for us it was like Ken Griffey Junior, right?

Marc Lamont Hill [00:17:09] Yup. Ken Griffey Junior. I love him . I love Barry Bonds, too. I love Rickey Henderson, you know, and we just don’t have those kinds of role models and same level anymore. But it’s also, you know, that the game itself isn’t in our neighborhood anymore. I mean, how many baseball diamonds are there in right in the hood and baseball.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:17:26] And how much is the MLB invested in our hood? Because it seems as though they’ve gone to the Caribbean and sort of Latin American countries as their their new way to invest in and repopulate the profession.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:17:37] Exactly right. They’d rather go to D.R. and mine talent there than to come to, you know, East New York or something. And and it’s unfortunate, but it’s also about money. I mean, resources like baseball is an equipment sport. Like you got to buy cleats, you got to get back into baseball. If I would play basketball, I got to walk to any hood, any a few blocks and somebody is going to be hoop. And all you need is a hoop is already up, right? So you just need a basketball, you know, me and so and you don’t need a whole bunch of people and all the things that are necessary to make baseball or hockey happen. Just as you know that, I supposed those sports that are kind of out of our way. And then baseball lost a lot of fans, you know, after… Baseball shut down, after the lockout, there was. This is when Michael Jordan, you know, quit baseball as well. It was very difficult to to get people back, of all races, back into the game. There was a lot of energy in baseball when when Barry Bonds and before him, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were smashing home runs out of the stadium. And people will look to them. And then that kind of went away, you know, with all the steroid, you know, debates and controversy, which I still think is unfair to the players. And we ended up ultimately with a sport that kind of like hockey, where the dyed in the wool fans stayed. But a whole lot of folk just don’t watch. It’s enough to keep the sport going and to be lucrative, but it’s not enough to grow and expand the way the NBA is.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:19:03] Right. And I’d be curious to see in the next 10 to 15 years where baseball is, you know, especially in the American imagination, because we’ve seen, you know, a lot of folks, even though, you know, the blackening of basketball has, you know, had people clutching their pearls, folks are still tuning in. In a way, I mean, the three point game of the NBA right now is enough to just make anyone interested to see what these guys do.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:19:27] It’s high scoring, right? I mean, people like scoring. That’s what made baseball kind of have that renaissance was because people kept hitting home runs and people kept smashing them all out of the park. Barry Bonds, you know, went from having 300 plus career homeruns, having 700 plus career homeruns over a very short window because he just kept setting new records and setting a new record. Set a new record. And fans were attached to that. You know, people don’t want to watch a baseball a baseball pitcher step off the mound five times. They don’t want to watch a batter, call a time out three times and work a pitch count. That’s not exciting to people. Just like in basketball watching, you know, a strong defensive team might be might excite me, but people want dunks and threes. Right. And I.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:20:05] I want to see Steph Curry get this half court shot!.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:20:07] Let’s keep pushing. Okay, so another podcast idea, Chrissy and  Marc, just talk about sports. because you know.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:20:14] That’s a good idea. I mean I’m down with all them. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:20:16] You know why Philly is such a sports town. You know, we grew up Randall Cunningham was our first black quarterback. You know, we’re coming off of Dr. J. There was Allen Iverson. Like, I just think that, you know, to be a Philly sports fan is to have a really, you know, A) frustrating life at some point in time. But we saw some real iconic Black superstars come through our town and really excite us in various ways.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:20:43] That is absolutely true.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:20:45] Okay. You ready?

Marc Lamont Hill [00:20:46] I think so

Dr. Christina Greer [00:20:49] You’re doing really well.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:20:50] Thank you. Dusty Bake had me tripped up. So I at least pass, well I don’t know if I pass. At least I got a 60 so far. I’ll take that.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:20:56] Yeah right. The professor in you is  like okay did I pass this class.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:21:00] Exactly .

Dr. Christina Greer [00:21:01] Number four. Born in Thayer, Nebraska. This person invented ranch dressing around 1950. Who are they?

Marc Lamont Hill [00:21:10] I have no idea.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:21:11] So here we go. It’s Steve Henson. He was just in the news not too long ago. He was originally a plumber, but he came up with the recipe when he worked in Anchorage, Alaska, and he moved to Southern California with his wife in 1954 and named his property Hidden Valley. And as the popularity grew over the years, Henson sold it to Clorox, the Clorox company, in 1972, for $8 million, and so he passed away in 2007. So in 2017, Hidden Valley Ranch products brought in $400 million. So when when you’re eating your ranch dressing with your buffalo wings and your carrots and celery, that is Steve Hansen’s invention.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:21:51] Wow!!! I would never eat ranch dressing, but I’m impressed.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:21:54] Okay. So here’s my question for you, because I was really afraid that I was going to get my Black card pulled. I don’t like ranch dressing.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:22:02] Oh, hell no!.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:22:03] I support Steve, but I don’t like.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:22:05] I support the idea of it. I want…. Right now.  I may even order, you know, because when you order food, you do have to get blue cheese or ranch. I dont eat either. But I’ll order the ranch just just to support the legacy of this Black man.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:22:15] Solidarity. Yeah, we are pro Black people. We will support. I do not like ranch dressing. I don’t like anything like that on my hot wings. But I do. You know, I’m always fascinated with this idea of Black inventions. And I think it does kind of dovetail really interestingly on this like CRT debate of really trying to erase us from history in so many different ways. Because, you know, I think when we were in middle school and elementary school, you know, we learned usually not in school, but from a relative or church or wherever about all the inventions that Black people have made, you know, over time that we just didn’t know. And, you know, all the like the household items and, you know, the traffic light and, you know, all these ways that Black people have contributed to our society and these really robust life saving ways in a lot of in a lot of instances. And we’ve just never gotten the credit and the solidification of our true accomplishments in this nation.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:23:15] That is absolutely true. I mean, I had no idea about this this brother, Steve Henson, you said making ranch dressing or creating Hidden Valley or any of this stuff. But you’re right, it goes so much deeper. Right. And it’s not just that we miss out on random factoids, it’s that there is a concerted effort to kind of hide or at least not engage our history, our tradition, our our experiences, you know.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:47] And I think it also goes in like the lack of wealth production, which, you know. I know you talked about. And written about extensively, but, you know, to not get the credit is also not to get the financial compensation always for that. And like, yes, Mr. Henson was compensated, but like $8 million is not the same as $450 million.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:24:06] For a family or a community.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:24:08] Exactly. Exactly. And I think about what it means to hold on to our own stuff and to continue to grow and produce it. And I don’t know if he could have done that or what that would mean if he had. But but I’m I was struck by the number $8 million is a lot of money for that time period when, you know, when you adjust for inflation, it’s a lot of money. He probably was fine for the rest of his life. But, you know, he could have held onto something potentially that could have created intergenerational wealth for him and helped invest in Black communities more broadly. But you’re right, we don’t even know that, but we don’t even know that. And I also think about the young people who could be inspired potentially by him, not just in terms of making money because it’s not my thing, but like being inspired to create and inspire to like to do things that we never even considered before. I’m. I’m actually so glad you told me that. I’m mad I got it wrong, but I’m excited that I learned this fact and also this idea. I’m glad that we have some solidarity here around not putting ranch on chicken wings. I just I just I just if it feels, it just feels wrong to me.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:25:11] It feels wrong. But I also, you know, the whole point of this podcast and I so appreciate you coming on because it’s not about making people feel bad about what we don’t know. Right. But it’s really to help us remember, there’s so much about Black history that we can still learn, beyond MLK and Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. No disrespect to those four amazing Americans. However, there are literally millions of Black people who have contributed to our world that we just don’t know about. And we should, right? Because to not know Black history is to not know American history, to not know our history. And that goes for everyone listening to this podcast, whether you’re Black or not. Okay, you’re doing incredibly well. I think we should move on to number five.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:25:52] Uh Oh, okay. This is a big one.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:25:55] In 2001 and we’re academics, so I’m just going to give you a little clue. So in 2001, this person became the first African-American to hold the position of president of an Ivy League school. Who are they and what school was it?

Marc Lamont Hill [00:26:10] I was about to say it wrong, too. It’s Ruth Simmons and it is Brown University.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:26:21] Absolutely. Absolutely. Dr. Simmons. So Ruth Simmons from Houston, like Barbara Jordan and served as Brown University’s 18th president from 2001 through 2012. And prior to that, she was the ninth president of Smith College in 1995. And I actually spent some time at Smith right after she left. And I tell you, you would have thought that Ruth Simmons was still there because the shadow of Ruth Simmons was so long. The faculty talked about this woman every day and the innovative changes she made and how she made faculty and students feel like they belonged in this institution in ways. And most recently, she president of Prairie View A&M. So she goes from the Ivy League to an HBCU to use her talents, resources, and I’m sure her fundraising scrolls to help uplift Black communities. And so Ruth Simmons for me in academia has just been, you know, obviously a beacon. But, you know, both of us went to two Ivies and we know that those places can be lonely and cold. And I can’t imagine what it’s like to be the first president, president of an Ivy League institution.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:27:29] It is rough, man. It’s rough for me. I know she was at Princeton before she was at Brown at one point. She was a I think she’s the provost there or dean. And I just I’ve just heard the stories of how consistently how innovative she was, how creative she was, how great her leadership was or poise or character, her, you know, all the things you’d want to hear. But you’re right. Being the only one is never easy in this kind of context. And she’s been a trailblazer at all stretches, straight intellectual room of all kinds of traditions and ideas. She’s made faculty feel protected. She’s made students feel safe and valued and welcomed. I mean, she’s she’s extraordinary. And of all the things she’s done, all the ivy she’s been at, all the places she’s run the thing and you pointed to this already, but the thing that mattered to me the most was that when it was all said and done, she went to Prairie View that she had the ability to go anywhere, any she had the ability to go nowhere. She didn’t need a job at that point.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:28:23] Yeah. I mean, she could just retire. I mean, her legacy is set., you know, she can walk. She can walk into this room tomorrow and she doesn’t need to say or do anything. And we’re like this is Ruth Simmons.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:28:34] Exactly. But She said. There’s a space for me here. There’s something an opportunity is a calling I have. And to say, you know what? I’m going to invest my time and my talent, fund raising, my treasure, you know, in Black people and in a Black institution. And she didn’t have to, but she wanted to a matters. It was important to her that that happened. That, to me, said everything about who she was. And I don’t think every Black person needs to teach an HBCU, I think there’s Black people at lots of institutions. And we need them. They deserve to have faculty, too, you know? Right. I don’t think I don’t think Black students who go to Fordham shouldn’t have a Black professor, you know, or or a Temple or what have you. But I do think to some value in and make a concerted effort in an attempt to be at an HBCU and to educate us and to lead us. And she she took it. And I have such admiration and love for her. But with that for me was like. That took it to another level. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:29:33] Right. Well, you know, I always tell people I went to an HWCU, right? In the same way HBCUs are historically, Black colleges and universities are set up for the production of Black knowledge. I’ve always gone to universities that were set up specifically for the production of white knowledge. So, you know, I don’t call them PWI as predominately white institutions, I call them HWCUs  because they were they’re historically white. Right. But I do think that is important for Black students at HWCU to see Black professors. But I think equally it’s important for white students to see Black professors. And I think that that was part of Ruth Simmons legacy at so many of these elite white institutions. To to understand, you know, most of my students have never interacted with a Black person in a position of power. You know, they’ve had babysitters or nannies. They’ve had people in the service industry, but they’ve never, you know, reported to a Black person. They’ve never had a Black teacher or professor. So I do think it’s equally as important for not just my Black students to see me in the front of the classroom, but for white students to see people who look like us in front of a classroom as well. And I feel like Ruth Simmons put in her time doing that and then was like, okay, well, we can bring it on home. You know, like, I don’t I don’t begrudge anyone who goes from HWCUs to HBCUs and back and forth because I think that there’s a space and a need for all of us. 

Marc Lamont Hill [00:30:50] Yeah Agree. 100%.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:30:51] Okay. Well, listen, I’m very impressed. We got four out of five. I think, you know, an 80 is a respectable, solid solid. And we’re going to think every time you see ranch dressing, you’re going to think about Steve Hansen. And I hope that it sparks something in you. But before I let you go, we got some quick bonus questions.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:31:11] Okay. I’m ready. So I’m playing with house now. I feel good.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:31:16] Yeah. You know, listen, this is all gravy right now.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:31:19] Better, Philly classic? Dreams and Nightmares or Summertime.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:31:29] Oooo. That is a. Hmm. Mm hmm. I am. Ooh. I’m going to say Summertime. Okay. And I’m going to say that only because Summertime has proven to be a classic over 30 years. Whereas Dreams and Nightmares, we can’t say yet. I think it will be.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:31:50] We might have to revisit.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:31:52] Yeah. I mean, they  play it in elementary schools right now at the start of school.

[00:32:04] -Summertime Sample-

Marc Lamont Hill [00:32:08] But like, we’ll see what happens.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:32:10] Okay. Spades or dominoes?

Marc Lamont Hill [00:32:13] Spades.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:32:15] Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes on Boys II Men.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:32:18] Mm. I’m gonna go with. Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes. Only because you get the double kind of Teddy Pendergrass piece in there. Right. So you get, like, multiple Philly legends that way.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:32:31] That’s right. My little niece lives there, so some Teddy P.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:32:34] Martin or Fresh Prince?

Marc Lamont Hill [00:32:36] Fresh Prince. Martin doesn’t hold up to me like when you watch Martin now. It’s okay. I mean, it’s some good episodes, the Varnell Hill episode….but, you know, as a few.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:32:45] The Biggie episode. 

Marc Lamont Hill [00:32:47] Right exactly. But Fresh…The Biggie episode’s a classic classic but life Fresh Prince holds up episode to episode as a sitcom. It’s actually still funny.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:32:56] Now we’re going to have to talk about this off line because I actually went back and rewatched Martin during lockdown, and I think that he is teetering on a comedic genius with all the different characters he played. So we might have to debate that because like when I watch Sheneneh, I don’t see anybody but Sheneneh. I don’t see Martin Lawrence at all.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:33:14] I’ll give you that. I think Martin is a comedic genius and a great physical comedian. I just I don’t think. I think Martin holds up. Martin Lawrence, I don’t know if the show holds. Like when I watch the episodes, I just don’t be cracking up no more. And then there’s also the colourism with Pam and Gina.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:33:32] Yes, yes, yes. There’s some problem there and definitely some problematic pieces. But, you know, someone told me a long time ago who’s a child of immigrants, she said that her mother liked Martin. But why is that? And she said, because my mom doesn’t speak English and she can follow the show completely without knowing anything that they’re saying, because it’s so flamboyantly over-the-top in their acting. So I don’t know. 

Marc Lamont Hill [00:33:57] Well that’s interesting.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:33:59] Okay, here we go. We got two more.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:34:01] Better food?Funeral repass chicken or baby shower meatballs.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:34:07] Funeral repass chicken for sure.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:34:09] That’s right. In the basement of that church.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:34:11] Oh, my God.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:34:12] With the sisters.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:34:13] Yeah. Right, right. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:34:17] Exactly. We don’t need to know what’s in it. All we need to know is that styrofoam plate is holding it together.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:34:23] Give me some hot sauce. Keep the ranch away. And we good.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:34:26] We good. Last one. Wah Wah? Or 7-Eleven?

Marc Lamont Hill [00:34:29] Wah Wah.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:34:30] Of course.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:34:31] You can get your beverage. You can get a pretzel. You can get deli meat. You can get a sandwich. Wah! Wah is the truth. Absolutely. No doubt about it.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:34:40]  oh, goodness. Okay, well, we gotta link up in Philly so we can have a day at Uncle Bobby’s bookstore.

Marc Lamont Hill [00:34:45] Yes,

Dr. Christina Greer [00:34:47] And we can hit up Wah Wah afterwards. Marc Lamont Hill, I just want to thank you so much for joining me. And I thank you all for listening to The Blackest Questions. The show is produced by Cameron Blackwell, Justin Sloan and Richard White. If you like what you heard, please give us a five-star review and subscribe to the show wherever you listen to your podcasts and share it with everyone you know.