Dear Culture

Historically Black…Everything with Anthony Anderson

Episode 7
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Join me, your host Panama Jackson, to talk about HBCUs, a wild sneaker collection and a new film hosted by Anthony Anderson called A Dream Delivered: The Lost Letters of Hawkins Wilson. Yes, we talk about slavery too, but there’s a happy ending, so what more could you ask for?

Read the full transcript below:

Panama Jackson [00:00:00] This episode of Dear Culture podcast is brought to you by the all new Honda Cr-V. Every creator is driven by a strong sense of curiosity, and the 2023 CRV is ready for any path that the power of determination can lead to. With sleek exterior styling and a spacious interior, this SUV is a statement piece made to keep up with the pace of your dynamic lifestyle. The All New Honda Cr-V. Learn more at the best looking RV ever. Dot com. 

Anthony Anderson [00:00:31] Air Force Two. And I was going through cabinets, and this is when I knew that we had a black first family. There were packets of great kool aid, if you can go. I had to take a package of grape Kool Aid off of Air Force Two and bring it home dawg. 

Panama Jackson [00:00:53] What’s going on, everybody. And welcome to Dear Culture, the podcast for, by and about Black culture. And we are blessed today to be joined by a celebrity, a special guest, somebody that all of us know from the Black-ish universe. But I got to be honest with you, brother, I go all the way back to Z Boy in the movie Trippin. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time. So we are joined today by Anthony Anderson. How are you doing today? 

Anthony Anderson [00:01:20] I’m doing great, bruh dog. You go big Z boy man. Jeez Trippin.  Yeah, that was that was in the beginning. 

Panama Jackson [00:01:27] Yeah. One of my favorite movies like ever I still I watched that movie every I owned the DVD. I okay when my kids are age appropriate I’ll let them watch it. 

Anthony Anderson [00:01:37] That’s like that has an all star cast. Donald Faison, myself. Deon Richmond, it’s me, Dartanyan. Countess Von, Stoney  jackson. 

Panama Jackson [00:01:47] Stoney Jackson. The great Stoney Jackson. 

Anthony Anderson [00:01:50] Yeah. Oh, man. Yeah. You bring back memories now. 

Panama Jackson [00:01:54] Yeah, man. And, you know, we appreciative of having you having some time here with you today. We’re going to talk a little bit about HBCUs and this great film project that you have coming out. I’ve seen a trailer. It looks to be amazing. I can’t wait to talk about that. But, you know, congratulations are in order to you. You recently finished at the Mecca, Howard University. Finished that degree. You know how we say in the Black community; you finish summa cum laude or thank you, Lorde. But you finished, right? I, I went to Morehouse. So I’m a I’m going to Morehouse. So, you know, I understand that journey. My wife went to Howard. So, you know, I have sympathies for y’all. Like, you know, congratulations. But I have to ask, I’ve never heard this story. How did you end up at Howard in the first place? 

Anthony Anderson [00:02:39] You know, my my senior year, my English teacher, Miss Gayle Spann, who I’m still friends with to this day, suggested that I go to Howard and how it was actually the only university that I applied to. You know, growing up in Compton, living in L.A., graduating from Hollywood, Performing Arts Magnet School, um, I applied and got accepted to the theater program and, you know, started my journey back in 1988. You know, alongside Carl Payne, Wendy Requel Robinson, Wendy Davis, Puff, Taraji P Henson and and countless others. And so that that’s how it all began for me man. And you know, unfortunately had to leave after my junior year due to financial hardship. You know, I couldn’t afford school anymore and I couldn’t depend on my parents to help me out with tuition and having three younger brothers and sisters at home. And so I left after my junior year in 1991. And, you know, my son got accepted four years ago. And so I started the narrative that I was inspired to go back to Howard, to graduate with my son in 2022, and here we are today. 

Panama Jackson [00:04:01] Yeah. That’s an amazing story. I mean, for what? I can’t tell you how many countless individuals I know who had to leave school at some point for financial reasons. Like that’s a it’s a standard issue HBCU story for so many of us, unfortunately. You know, though, thankfully, you were able to get back in there and finish, you know, no matter how long it took, no matter when it took you know, you got back in there. I do have to ask, though, because those years, those early nineties years of Howard are kind of legendary, especially like in hip hop culture, you know, all this like. What was it like being on the yard back in the late eighties, early nineties, when when all those people, like you said, were there, when the hit like like homecoming was still like the the big homecoming. Like, what was that like? 

Anthony Anderson [00:04:43] Words can’t even begin to describe what that was like, man. I mean, A Friday afternoon on the yard at HU, just a regular Friday. Guy would come through and just hang out on the yard and play music. A Tribe Called Quest would come through and just hang out on the yard. Heavy D, you know, later on down the years, BIG would come through. I mean and this was just a Friday afternoon not to not to mention what was going on during homecoming. So like like I say, man, it was. Words can’t begin to describe the energy that was there. I mean, you know, you listen to all the people I just named Carl Payne, Whitney Robinson, Paula J Parker, Taraji, Myself, Puff, Ananda Lewis, Marlon Wayans, the musical group SHY. You know, imagine all of that creative energy in one place at the same time. And if you look at how everybody has gone off in their respective fields to become, you know, the captains of industry that that we are. It’s truly amazing. So can you just imagine? Are all of those people, all of that energy, that creative energy in this little small little town, the little area, a little section on campus incubating. What, what? What? What was in store for the future. Words. Words can’t begin to explain how that felt, man. You had to be there. 

Panama Jackson [00:06:25] You know, it sounds like it. I have this romantic ideology of what it was like there during that time. Anyway, in everybody I’ve ever talked to who speaks about their time at Howard, especially during those years, speaks about it the same way, you know, I went to Morehouse College. I graduated in 2001, so I was all on campus in the nineties when all these celebrities were. You know, Atlanta turned into the new it place, like while I was there. So, you know, it was nothing to see people on. You know, Common would just be sitting in our student center, which is crazy because we didn’t have a lot in our student centers. The HBCU in the nineties, after all, there wasn’t right there for us. But you know, what is it? So what was it like being back on the air for your graduation? I mean, it’s a completely different neighborhood now. Has to look, everything has to be completely different than it was when you were there, at least outside of the the immediate campus. 

Anthony Anderson [00:07:12] Yeah. Yeah. You know, the city has changed. I mean, you know, I got when I got there, justification was starting. And, you know, 30 years later, you see what it’s become. But but, you know, the campus, the yard,  the College of Fine Arts, you know, some things never change and and for good reason. But the energy was beautiful, man. And, you know, it was it was a lot of full circle moments there, you know, my son being there. And unfortunately he didn’t graduate, but my son being there. The dean of the College of Fine Arts is now Dr. Phylicia Rashad, who’s a friend of mine.  The assistant dean to the College of Fine Arts, Denise Sanders Thomas, who was a college classmate of mine. Uh, you know, who helped usher me through graduation and helped me matriculate. She’s there. Taraji P Henson, you know, graduated. Howard was receiving her honorary doctorate and giving the commencement speech. She was my classmate when when when I was there back in the eighties. So for us to have all of these full circle moments was truly amazing. So that that’s what it was like. You know, for me being on the yard, you know, 31 years later, you know, and being in Byrd Gym, you know, walking with my class, my graduating class and classmates, uh, I was just a beautiful thing. 

Panama Jackson [00:08:49] Yeah. It’s amazing. You know, I live here in DC and my wife’s younger brother is now. He just completed his freshman year at Howard, so I was moving him out of Drew. Well, I’m listening to the I’m listening to the speech while you.  Because it was raining. Supposed to be on the yard, but it was raining. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Amazing. So I have to ask. Ah. So on Black-ish. Is Dre’s a sneakerhead? Are you a sneakerhead in real life?  Cause I see. Nike gave you a pair of like got to be one of one Howard University, Jordan Airforce ones. I mean I’m sorry, Jordan Fours. 

Anthony Anderson [00:09:20] When you’re a 1 to 1, all you can receive is a one on one. Oh, I love it. Yeah, yeah, I love it. I am a sneaker head man. I have about four hundred a pair of some exclusive things in my closet at home that that some I don’t wear, others I do. And when I wear white. 

Panama Jackson [00:09:40] When I was going to ask, do you wear your shoes, you just collect the shoes because I’m a I’m a sneaker head, too, and I wear all mine. I have to. My wife is so tired of seeing them. 

Anthony Anderson [00:09:48] I collect them to wear them. That, that that is the reason why I do what I do, you know? You know, growing up growing up in the hood, in Compton, coming from nothing, having nothing, you know, that was, uh, that was status away. Having status for us, getting new J’s. And I, I only earn earned. I only owned one pair of J’s growing up as a kid man. And they were given to me by my boy. They were his high school basketball shoes and they were purple and white. Air force ones were white with purple trim because he went to a school called Glenwood and that’s where their colors and um, you know, he gave them to me after a few wears and that was my first and only pair of J’s growing up. And, you know, it was our dream, you know, it was like, yo, I got to have, I have the New Js, whatever they are. And once I once I made it, once I started making some money is when I started, you know, collecting and getting them for myself. So yeah, I have a 400 pair, but I have, I have friends. Like I thought I was doing something. I was talking to Shannon Sharpe one day. You said, how many? I got about 400. He’s like, You got to catch up, man. You got to catch up, you know? And his number is astonishing. 

Panama Jackson [00:11:14] Wow. Yeah, I’m about I’m about 300 myself. I have. I got shoes in storage. It’s my wife really is over my use of space in our house. Like I said, we live in a townhouse in D.C.. She’s like, Bro, this is getting out. 

Anthony Anderson [00:11:26] Yeah, you’re. You’re telling me I have a house and I have a townhouse? My townhouse is my closet for my shoes and my overflow of clothes. That’s it. That’s that’s how that’s how serious it is for me. 

Panama Jackson [00:11:40] I love it. I love it. Also, I love that you said matriculate because I think that’s a black college word. We used to harp on that word of Morehouse, our matriculation. And I don’t know, I’ve never heard that word outside of HBCU, but I love it. I love hearing that. You have this amazing film project that I want to talk about. Yeah, A Dream delivered the lost letters of Hawkins Wilson. So for starters, like, tell me about this project and how you got involved. Like, what is it and how did you get involved in this project? 

Anthony Anderson [00:12:09] You know, it’s a story of the descendants of Hawkins Wilson. You know, the family just started, you know, building or making their family tree, and they got stuck like like all of us do. You know, I remember growing up, my family tree was the family Bible. And in the family Bible, you know, you had those first couple of pages, you know, grandparents, parents, children. And, you know, I could go I could only go back to my mother’s grandmother. Well, actually, I take that back my mother’s my mother’s mother and my dad’s mother. That was it. I can only go back to grandparents. My children were fortunate enough to be able to at least have their great grandparents in their lives for a time. And so, you know, it’s a story of, you know, this family, you know, trying to put the pieces together to find out, you know, what their lineage is, where they come from, who they come from. And they asked me to be a part of it because I had started my journey as well. 

Movie Trailer [00:13:20] “He understood the importance of bringing together the branches of your family tree. It’s no longer just pieces to the puzzle. They have the puzzle.” 

Anthony Anderson [00:13:31] And to see and to witness, you know, this family go through this process to understand why they were attracted to certain things in life and professions and places to live and to find out that, you know, the mother was or is a ordained minister. You know, Hawkins is was an ordained minister in his time. You know, they kept passing through the city, you know, were family laws and whatnot, not knowing that that is where Hawkins came to settle. And he settled in the church, who was an ordained minister in this church that they would frequent on occasion, not knowing this history. And then, you know, the dominoes started to fall. The information that they were able to find and dig up made everything make sense to them and had everything come full circle. So to be a part of that and to witness that and and to see and experience it for myself was worthwhile unto itself. And, you know, I hope when an audience watches this that they would go out and do the same thing, you know? And during the process, I found out that I or I found out that my on my mother’s side, we can trace it back to 1857, 1859, you know, the mid 1850s.  You know, great, great grandmother, you know, who was possibly enslaved, had a piece of land. Met a man. I started a family, unfortunate, and worked this farm that they didn’t own. Unfortunately lost her husband, found a new husband, blended their family, owned property, owned their own farm. And in 1902 and she lost her second husband. But now she’s a single mother owning farm land and farming in 1910. And then, you know, from there, it went on to birth my grandfather’s father. And so this is the information that I was able to get. So now I’m able to, you know, put these pieces together for my family, you know, and so that that what that’s what makes it all worthwhile for me to connect the dots, because we all have family members that, you know, was oral history for us. Right. You know, my dad came from he was the youngest of 16 children, you know, in Little Rock, Arkansas. And by the time he was born, he had brothers and sisters that were already out of the house, already in other places living their lives. He had brothers and sisters that he never met, that he only heard of.  You know, that he only saw pictures of. Because of my partnership or my involvement with Ancestry. You know, I can put these pieces, some of these pieces together now. And that’s what this family did and that’s what I’m doing. And hopefully other families, when they watch the film, you know, do the same thing. 

Panama Jackson [00:17:00] You know, it’s so interesting. Like, I’m I’m I’m so happy to hear that you were able to trace your family back. I went to I went to Ghana for the year, the return back in 2019. I was one of, you know, thousands of Americans. We all went back there. My wife is actually originally from Ghana, so we went to take a trip to go visit her family and stuff and. You know, I had such an emotional response to being there. And I don’t I don’t know how far back we haven’t traced my family history back. Right. But just the idea of the potential and the possibility that this is where my family could have come from. Like, I’m sitting here standing on a beach while there’s parties going on behind me and I’m just looking out into the ocean like, man, maybe this is where my family was before our history was lost, you know, maybe that. And it was such an emotional thing for me. I had to I had to, like, remove myself separately in several places. I want to go see, you know, the Elmina Slave Castle.  Yeah. I went to go see all that stuff and it just was such a moving thing and it was, it was kind of painful even being there because it’s like, what if, you know, that idea of what if. So I kind of wonder what it’s like for you having made these discoveries. Like, what does that even feel like? It’s wonderful to be able to give that to your family. But just on a personal level, like how does it feel to be able to trace your history back to to know what your history is, back to a certain point that most people, most of us can’t get to or haven’t been able to get to yet. 

Anthony Anderson [00:18:23] You know, it’s like a sense of completion, you know, having everything come full circle. You know, it’s interesting that you bring up that I was part of the original group who put on the year of the return together. So that the year you were there I had to bow out and I couldn’t make it that year. So I was there the year before with Boris Kojo and and his brother Patrick and everybody else. We put that together. So I’m glad that you were able to make that pilgrimage with the group. But I’ve been on the continent five times, man. Ghana, Elmina, Slave Castle. Walked through the Door of No Return, you know, wearing my t shirt that says I am my ancestors. Wildest dreams, you know? And it’s just a sense of pride to be able to come back, you know, to the motherland, you know, to a place where we were never supposed to come back to. And so doing that, being a part of this, finding out the information that I found out about my family, watching other families do the same thing is just a fulfillment that words can only begin to express. 

Panama Jackson [00:19:40] For this film, a dream to deliver those lost letters of Hawkins. Wilson Does it kind of get into how you can go about even finding records of your family? Because I wonder if this is the kind of the kind of thing that might inspire others to try to dig further into their history. Like I saw the trailer and I guess they discovered these letters that had been written and that that unlocks if I, if I’m understanding this properly and that kind of unlocks a door into their history and who they are and everything. And I wonder if most people even understand or know where to even start looking for their history and who they are and where they come from. Like, is that part of the story explaining like how you can even go back in and start to figure out who you are and where you came from? 

Anthony Anderson [00:20:24] I hope that’s what families take from this. I hope that’s what people start to do to take it back further than just Big Mama, you know what I’m saying? Down south someplace, you know, because sometimes that’s all we know. Yeah. That’s all we have. But you know, hopefully people are inspired and and see. And see how this family feels completed. You know, see how, you know, some answers that they have had have felt answered, you know, felt resolved, that that’s what it’s about. And I hope that’s what families take from it. 

Panama Jackson [00:21:10] Yeah, absolutely. I did. I did some digging myself and I got back to just my great great grandfather now. My father knows all the people in the family. He know, you know, their oral history is very strong. But I was able actually I was actually able to find like papers, like death certificates and things like that. And that’s something I don’t think they’d ever seen. They never they never seen anything with his handwriting on it or anything like that. And that in and of itself was just kind of like, it’s just amazing how your own personal history can be so emotional, but unlock things for you. Like, Man, this is really something that a person that I’ve never met but who helped me get to where I am. Like just even the handwriting of somebody. Yeah. You know, it’s it’s it’s really fascinating. And I’m really glad you are part of this project and glad a projects like this exists. I know Henry Louis Gates is part of it. And this is his bag, right? Like this is, you know, this is his whole thing, trying to connect people to who they are. 

Anthony Anderson [00:22:07] But, you know, by going back, you know, just to touch on something that you said. You know, you found, death certificates and whatnot. You know the story of Hawkins. You know this. This man was sold. At age five or six. And he still remembered his family. And with great detail. Man So he went and he couldn’t read or write at the time. So he went and gave this information to someone who wrote the letter, uh, at the Bureau to get this out to find his family. Unfortunately, he was never reconnected with his family. But to see these letters that he now as an adult, ordained minister and all that. Uh, the way he spoke about his family, what he remembered at age five and six. You know, and spoke about where his sisters and brothers were and how he spoke about that. He was like, well, they belong to you know, he’s speaking of his siblings as property. You know, to see those things, to see that letter, those letters, from back then and to see it come full circle now. Even though he never was reunited with his family. Those letters have, you know, really been reunited with his family and is bringing his family together today. That is what’s amazing about this project. 

Panama Jackson [00:23:57] Well, it sounds amazing, and I. I can’t wait to check it out myself. The trailer got me inspired to know more and learn more. And, you know, we appreciate your contributions there and everything that you’re doing to help bring that story to light, because these are the kind of stories we need to have more, more shine on. We need to understand how to find out who we are, where we come from. Because, I mean, it’s everything like like you said, it’s completion is all of that. We do this thing called Blackfessions, where we have you tell us something about yourself where I mean, that most people might not expect to hear from you. Right? Like something about your Blackness that ends up being a confession because, well, you know, it’s just not what we thought we were going to hear. So do you have a Blackfession?  Something that about you that would surprise other black people listening to us? 

Anthony Anderson [00:24:48] Now, the only thing that I can think of right now, I don’t drink Kool-Aid. 

Panama Jackson [00:24:56] Ever. Or like now? 

Anthony Anderson [00:24:58] I haven’t drank Kool-Aid in over 25 years. 

Panama Jackson [00:25:03] Okay. So that that’s fair. And I think that’s probably why you’re why you’re successful actually and probably healthy enough to still be here. So you can actually continue on. In Life

Panama Jackson [00:25:17] Because I don’t think Kool Aid households make it too far, right. I don’t think they do. 

Anthony Anderson [00:25:23] Oh, and I never called it cherry or strawberry. It was always “what flavor you want?” I want Red!. 

Panama Jackson [00:25:29] Yeah. Though funny, I because grape is an actual flavor, but red is also a flavor. I had this debate all the time of people like red is a flavor as far as I’m concerned. It could be cherry, could be strawberry. It could be, was it mixed berry? Whatever. One of the. The one that came in the blue pouch. Yeah. Tropical red too. Tropical. There you go. Tropical. Yeah. You know that’s a Blackfession. And I’m proud to hear. I don’t drink… I haven’t, my children have never had Kool-Aid yet. 

Anthony Anderson [00:25:56] No. Why, thats why we’re diabetics now Panama!

Panama Jackson [00:26:02] Right. Because when you make Kool-Aid, if you want to make a genuine good batch of Kool-Aid, you pour and you pour sugar first and then you add the other… you pour from your heart. 

Anthony Anderson [00:26:11] Yes. 

Panama Jackson [00:26:12] And the heart will lead you astray when it comes to making Kool-Aid. So. So I’m glad you haven’t had any Kool-Aid. I don’t know if we would have got all them seasons of Blackiish, if you haven’t. 

Anthony Anderson [00:26:24] And I also will tell you this, Man. While the Obamas were in office, I took a USO trip to to Afghanistan, and we flew over on Air Force Two, which was, I believe, the first lady’s plane. 

Panama Jackson [00:26:42] Did not know there was an Air Force Two. I’d never heard that before. 

Anthony Anderson [00:26:45] Air Force Two. And I was going through the cabinets. And this is when I knew that we had a Black First Family. There was packets of grape Kool-Aid in the cabinet. I go, I had to take a package of grape Kool Aid off Air Force Two and bring it home dawg. I still have it sitting in my office at home. It’s a little small package, a grape Kool Air that I took off of First Lady Obama’s plane, Air Force Two, that I’ve been cherishing for, you know, quite some time now. 

Panama Jackson [00:27:22] I have Never heard of Them drinking Kool-Aid. You might have just literally dropped like, a bombshell.  

Anthony Anderson [00:27:28] Great….  So grape Kool-Aid on Air Force Two. 

Panama Jackson [00:27:33] That is amazing. Well, look, brother, I appreciate you spending some time with us here today, at Dear Culture. Thank you for your insights, for the information. Thank you for sharing a bit about your your your your Howard journey. I’m always I always love to hear HBCU stories. It’s really, you know, really near and dear to my own heart. So thank you for sharing that. You got, you know, thank you for all the work that you do. Thank you for all the all the roles you’ve taken that bring joy and and pleasure to the Black community and to the community at large. Like truly a gem. Truly a pleasure. So thank you for all of that. 

Anthony Anderson [00:28:06] You got, bro. 

Panama Jackson [00:28:07] And thank you all for listening to Dear Culture. If you like what you heard, be sure to download TheGrio App and listen to more episodes of Dear Culture and more original content from TheGrio’s Black Podcast Network. Email All Questions. Thoughts. Concerns Suggestions. Compliments the Podcast@TheGrio.com. Dear Culture. It’s an original production of TheGrio Black Podcast Network. I’m your host, Panama Jackson, and it’s produced by myself and Crystal Grant and edited by Cameron Blackwell. Taji Senior is our logistic associate producer and Regina Griffin is our managing editor of podcasts. So for myself, Panama Jackson, here at Dear Culture. Have a Black One! . 

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