Michael D. McCarty Intro
My mother taught me the idea that this is worthy of my life. Committing might be my entire being too, and it causes disruption of my existence. Fine. It's worth it to have taken a stand,
Arielle: In this very special episode I get the chance to catch up with Michael D McCarty, the subject of the first film and our belonging in the USA stories from our neighbor’s documentary series, the story of Michael D McCarty, you can catch a trailer to that which will link in to in the show notes on our website Belongingintheusa.com. This conversation goes all over the place but hopefully lands right in your heart and feeds your soul. As with nearly every conversation I have I learned more about Michael and myself to the act of honest vulnerable, heartfelt communication conversation, or what the Zulu called deep talk.
Welcome everybody to another episode of the belonging in the USA podcast we are so excited. We have Michael D. McCarty here .
He just took a little bow you can't see that if you're just listening but for those of you who are not familiar with Michael yet you will be active at the end of this, but also there are so many places to check out his work including his own website, have mouthful run it, that calm, and you can also watch the trailer and eventually film the story of Michael D McCarty and on our website belong in the usa.com.
So last year I was doing Facebook Lives, and you were like no more and expressed wanting to come on a podcast. I was excited about that then we decided not to do any more Facebook Lives and here we are. And I was thinking when I was going to interview, I was like Wow, I feel like I've asked you, every single question a person could ask another person. So, I thought of more actually but then I also decided to ask our community of people who have heard of your story, seeing the film whatever questions they have for you, but I also was very curious to find out last year when you expressed desire to come on Facebook Live like what you had been hoping to express on a podcast.
Michael: Well, I just, I just like reaching out. Just FYI, the other day, Friday, I did a presentation for a elementary school. And for the middle school, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade, maybe fifth through eighth grade. Those kids have heard me sell all their school lies I've said that school for at least 10 years. And so, I show, I had the I sent to the school I had to show the middle school kids, the documentary they showed them half of the documentary. So, these kids are the case. Last year when I did a presentation for them, I did an excerpt from my happy path or a one man show, and they came with questions they came with questions, insightful questions, profound questions dealing with stuff counter questions. It was, it was wonderful. I love telling these kids. I love telling these kids!
Arielle: That's amazing that you get that continuity connection over all those years of making such an impact that would have been four years ago this month, Black History Month four years ago, I came out to LA and did the interviews with you.
Michael: Oh yeah, oh yeah, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep,
Arielle: This was the beginning, four years ago this week of like the project and getting it out there and do you remember what prompted this whole thing of me making fun on yourself.
Michael: I think just your you've heard so many of my stories, and you're a filmmaker. And I remember you wanted to do something about the madness the Trump madness, in terms of making people aware of belonging, beware, be aware of others. And I think that all that came together for that, and you're done good.
Arielle: I couldn't have done it without you and your, your amazing voice and stories and energy, Because I feel like your energy, your vibes have been the impact that has made so many people in my community and have seen the film, continue to think about you wonder about you look to you as sort of a source of, I would say inspiration. So, yeah, I just wanted to acknowledge the passage of these four years and how much has happened with films journey. So, I just watched the film last night. Judas, and the Black Messiah, really feel mad, which I was so excited, I mean I stayed up way too late watching it, I wanted to watch it before we talked today, and I loved that I saw your credits. So, tell me about, I mean, well you. I didn't know you were involved in that and how did they contact you?
Michael: What happened was that Carla's mom my first wife. Is she teaching acting theater at Spelman and some other colleges and so she knows these folks? I can't remember. Maybe it was her who contacted me but made the connection because they wanted to get some feedback from people who were there who were part of the Illinois chapter the Black Panther Party. And so, I haven't been in Chicago, John was in Chicago. So, the director came and interviewed us and then he interviews with some other folks on that trip, but that was a story I was glad to be a part of, I'm glad that has been told.
Arielle: And for anyone who doesn't know yet that's it's a film, I mean it's to film about Fred Hamptons assassination. Yeah, the FBI and the way the dirty tricks as they were warmer, warmer, warmer, and I'm so, obviously, you've seen the film. Oh yeah. And what are your I was so curious watching it, I just, I almost couldn't watch it because I was thinking about. I wish I was watching it with Michael, and I wish he could tell me in every moment is this sensationalized Hollywood this Is this accurate.
How did it feel watching it?
Michael: Here's the things, what is the movie. It's not a documentary. It was made by Hollywood studio, which is miraculous.
Arielle: Why do you say that?
Michael: Well, Hollywood studios, when they do a film, they're thinking, money, money, money, money. All right, they're not thinking about all this, because we should let them pick the way they pitched the film was the thing that hooked him.
Arielle: It was up to my friend said it was like The Departed. Right. It's like a mob movie.
Michael: Yeah. And so because the thing about Hollywood is that you got to speak that language. To get something done. And the thing was I wanted to see a movie, I wanted to see more movies about the Illinois chapter and other than the Black Panther Party. So once people see this, then they start asking questions, then they want to read books then they want to look up stuff on YouTube and what have you, and that's what's been happening. That's what's been happening. And so I'm very happy. Yeah, there were things that there's a scene where they have Fred, doing the presentation to the young patriots. All right, in real life. That was Bob Lee, who did that, but it was Fred who set up, so I understand why they did that that's a way to bring it all, all together.
So, I'm very, I'm very happy, because people, I mean a lot of people have been pissed for, and I understand that. I understand that for any number of reasons, but my concern was one that people become aware of Fred, and the party in general Illinois chapter, and two people know about the dirty tricks the skullduggery the machinations that the government did, to bring about this murder, because that's what it was, it was a straight up.
Arielle: And to destroy the whole party. I mean, that was the whole book it was. And it was so it was sick. I don't want to give too much away the film because I do think it's a valid worthwhile film to watch but I guess I felt listening. It did feel very good glamour Hollywood eyes and will only ask you, there's the breakfast for children, obviously I love that they, they sold those programs right, but they also to me made it seem like it was like an indoctrination camp, and that's not my, that's not my understanding from you if it was about serving the community right.
Michael: It was breakfast, and I must think about it, the breakfast, the food giveaway the clothing giveaway. Those are the things that people don't know about.
Arielle: And I don't think that on a mass scale people know who Fred Hampton was necessarily unless you've had some so it is a beautiful introduction, and hopefully it will make people be curious and want to find out more and hopefully see your film too because I was thinking that I was like well this is a great segue on trade on here, you know, and I kept watching I was like, oh, clearly they did not make any character in this film like Michael. You know why because you would have overshadowed the whole thing. Right, you weren't watching it being like, Ooh, there I am, right there, I felt like the background characters were very background.
Michael: Yeah, yeah, they did, there was some little issues about how certain people were represented or not represented. But see, I said, all of that is suffering. But the main thing is the film is out. People are talking about it. I have over a dozen reviews from newspapers websites and what have you, people have been contacting me, one of my storytelling friends in Northern California. He texted me, he says, I just saw a friend in the film. I saw your name at the end of the film is that you because he didn't, he didn't know. So, I sent him. I told him and I sent him the link so you can check out there, and people are being aware, people are paying attention. And in this time, with all this going on right now is very, very crucial. People are aware of what happened in the past and efforts and struggle and understand the things that they can or should do in the present, because that's one of the things that I've been getting contacted next week or two weeks. I'm doing a presentation for aside, a young adult group baggie somewhere, because people want to know what's going on, what is the rate, what's the background of the racism of this country. And then, what can we do. Yeah, so I've got a lot of stuff like that coming up
Arielle: One of my friends was going to be also on the podcast Sarah you met her a few times and screenings. She asked me to ask you this question I'm going to say, she said it very eloquently so I'm just going to basically hold her. Does that you've been part of the black liberation movement for so long. What do you think of the events of the past year, in the context of the history of the movement where do you think things could go from here or where do you hope they go from here?
Michael: Good, good question. Is the continuum. The struggle began when slavery began, and it's never stopped and it will continue if there is abuse going on if there's prejudice and racism, which means it'll be going on for a long time. It will be going on for a long time, but that's the thing, because I see now, especially as young people are the age that I was when I got for me that was around 1956 when I had that incident with the guy getting jumped on by the gang and tried to go to the police for help and what have you. And I see people waking up, asking questions, and wanting to know, what do we do, what do I read, who do I talk to. It's an amazing thing to see. People are saying, enough. And they say, it should have been enough. A long time ago, but more younger people are getting involved and staying involved. You always have people who come and then go on about the business, but you we've got people now who are locked in, committed, they're committed because we must be, because it can happen to anybody.
Arielle: And that's your story, and the financing story and the whole story of that your generation and that time what is so insane to me and continues to boggle. Me and disturb me and keep me motivated to keep doing what I'm doing is that everything you were fighting for. Still manifested it still exists today. Now it's different degrees different shades, it's probably a bit more covert even because sometimes it's Moreover, there's so far that's more covert right it's like, I think people often enough people have now, maybe I'm wrong, but I think that there's enough people who are outraged about, let's just say segregation in Chicago, there's more people aware of it than before, or more people that care about that. But then there's probably still a great many people who built their white people, I'm talking about. And I think it does take what Frank was trying to do what you all were trying to do it does take bringing everyone together to say, this is a communal collective human problem.
Michael: Here's the filter thing that gets me almost half of this country voted for that. Again, which means what they're saying is, we don't mind this racist fool, being a racist. We don't mind all these black, Latino, poor people being denied rights being just attacked assaulted, and so it's even more important that we keep this up, and we keep outreaching we keep outreach. Outreach. Because the bottom line is this, what they do to us in terms of people of color. If you are a multimillion billionaire, you are in the same boat. You just think you're not; you just stay here yeah; we add Trump and everything he says Here Y'all. Y'all go over there.
Arielle: Well, It's the history of the way that they've divided and conquered us from, from the beginning of this country. And if any of BNF before that, I mean, it's all deeply embedded in us actually in ourselves at this point because it's this trauma of the trauma of separation. And so, when people come to you and say, Michael, what do we do, what you said.
Michael: Well, first thing I encourage people to do is to study, to read, to watch documentaries or films.
Arielle: and let's just be clear for people who don't know your story you were a Minister, the Minister of Education or faith I was.
Michael: I was education Lieutenant Che was the deputy minister at my side was the National Army education contract for the party Illinois chapter, which I was also like looking in those scenes for the, I was like Michael's not because I can only imagine how you because you're amazing storytelling teacher so yeah so, the first thing you say is, here's some research, do your research, learn about this.
I just sent out, did a presentation last week for a company a national company. And one of Greg's youngest, Greg Meyers his youngest daughter is, is a part of that so she connected it up, so I did the presentation. And then I said to her reading list. I recommended things for them to watch or what have you. So that's the first thing. Educate yourself. All right, and, and don't think after you heard something that looked at something that now you know everything, keep finding out. I've been studying black history since the 60s and I'm still, I'm still learning stuff. So that's the first thing.
Arielle: And I want to just say that you study black history, but you also study all kinds of history, you're not in a silo, I feel like that. I spread the word. I mean you study world as you say human history.
Michael: Yeah. My mother instilled in me that belief that you need to know to get them to work you need to know.
So, I studied religions I studied movements as if I don't know about it and I see something about it. I pick it up. And I check it out. So that's the first thing, educate yourself and then I tell people, okay, in terms of make acting. What are you, what type are you are you someone who does demonstrations you march and boycott and stuff like that? Are you someone who wants to share stuff connect people? What is your way, find the things in all of this, find the thing that's important to you for me, for instance, as you know I give away books? I think that people need to be aware, generally, not just about these issues but generally, so I give away books, that's one of the things that I encourage, I encourage people to do what I did this presentation a couple of weeks ago, and I told people I gave away books and people said oh we want to send you books and I said, Great.
Send me books, but you take some books out and find the kids, given kid a book, somebody could be somebody, you know, whatever the scenario is, find out what can you do that suits you. So, after the Black Panther Party stopped. There was still free medical clinics, there was still fee free food programs that have gone on and been going on all over the world, all over the world.
Arielle: Not only that were started by the Black Panther Party and model, but that also brings us together serving the community, not relying on the systems and we're not going to be there for you.
Michael: That's right. What can you do and do it? How do you bring something about? And then the other thing that is, and this is my personal observation. I don't know. All right, I'll discuss. I'll talk. I will argue when I was at one prison. And this officer was dissing Black Lives Matters using Dr. King's I Have a Dream speech, and I listened to him doing this, and I'm not there for that I'm there for to my work in the prisons.
Arielle: And so everyone knows Michael goes into the prisons and helps people incarcerated people learn about storytelling itself and learn to tell the story that.
Michael: This goes when they go to a parole for, they must be able to tell the stories when they go for a job and if you reconnect with family and friends, they must be able to tell us their story. So instead of arguing this guy listened to him, and I offered him a card, pop over card. So, he pops open the car looks at he says oh that's nice, thank you, black officer walks up and I know these guys I see him just about every week, and I offer him because he's I'm not taking any car from you.
You got that wack ass car on the bumper stickers I don't know what you given me the white officer says to the black officers no man takes the card. It's a good thing. So, I give the black officer the card he says oh okay, and just about every week, I would see one or both, and I'd give him a card. The last time I saw the white officer, he was having a bad day. He was saying that he's bringing home less money now than he did eight years ago, and he was you know, he was concerned, and I listened to him, and I offered him a card. And he took the card and looked at it and thanked me and then he said, this is it.
I just got to say, I look forward to you coming in here every week you have such a great smile and you're so positive, anything that I could have argued with him. From that first time till the end of time and not made a difference. But at least for that day, that moment, there was an impact. And that's, that's great.
Arielle: So I guess that was one of the things about the film that I struggled with watching it was how in the Hollywood fashion it was really pitting, you know, the pigs against the Panthers and I'm not saying that that wasn't a real thing and it isn't doesn't continue to be an obviously we have to find a way to educate people about the origins of the police and the FBI and all these government agencies that are in that were put in place basically to subjugate and oppress people for white supremacy continues to reign.
And that needs to be talked about because I feel like the way it's talked about in a lot of pop culture context, just seems it trivializes, the true issues of what is going on. So that, that's not to be and I guess, and because I was thinking of you, and I was thinking Well Michael has had to. I mean that first encounter that you really have it was so traumatic with the police but then you've had to encounter officers, and all of these, you know people throughout your life, and you were, you know you're a veteran you were in the sort of you were embedded in that system. How have you been able to shift. It's almost like shift your energy to not hate, because I think that is the biggest obstacle for so many people.
Michael: Exactly. And it's very interesting because in martial arts, you learn to utilize your opponent's actions your opponent's force. And, for instance in some odds like a takito. The idea is to redirect that energy that comes at you with violence and redirected disperse it. And that's basically the mindset I have. I listen to people and their people I was like Okay, see you. But then I'll, if they can be a conversation, I'll have a conversation, if we can do it, civilly and the thing is that I am not tied to try to make somebody change their mind in this moment. I want to make people aware, because maybe you're not aware, and usually people are not. So, I tried to make them aware of things that I leave that I plan to see. And hopefully that seed will lead to something else.
Arielle: And showing the difference, that there are many paths that there is not just one way or one way to think, and I think that what you're saying is really, and I feel, I hope that I've tried to do, like, I really do my best is to, well, most personal assume good in some ways because people who are acting from ignorance or ethical ignorance they really don't know, there was really a lot of indoctrination programming. There is a lot of indoctrination programming for all of us, we all are brainwashed, in whatever community we are brought up in. And so, it's, I mean you've traveled the world gets exposure. It's learning about its wondering it's being curious but it's also sometimes just being willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt and not jump into defensiveness judgment. And because that's never going to open a connection.
Michael: Arguing fussing ain’t it!!!
Arielle: And also, you are very active on social media. I mean I must stay away from those because it's just seemed so toxic How do you even. How do you handle that and how do you handle that world of where people feel entitled to say whatever they want and, you know, it's like the claws come out because there's no real connection…?
Michael: There. Look, I transfuse with, with, with people, are locked on whatever sometimes stuck on stupid!
Arielle: [chuckle] makes me an over thinker.
Michael: I'll make it. But when I when I see stuff like that. I step back, because I'm not when I'm not wasting my time, I'm not here to argue if you want to argue, and fuss fine you go on about your business. If you want to discuss, I'm open to them. If you want to dialogue, I'm open to them. If you want to give me something I can. Okay, I can help you with that. I don't bother with nonsense I don't have time. I'm 17 years old I got all kinds of health issues.
I got a lot left, less years in front of me that I do behind me. I don't have time wasting on frivolous arguments and nonsense. I don't have time for it. But if I see someone or a group of folks want to do something want to have an understanding, I've talked, I've had friends of varying races, who have called me because again, they're trying to understand. Alright, they may, they may be here from another country, so they don't have the historical reference, and they'll ask me if I answered their questions as best I can, I'll suggest the books I'll send them books you know me, I'll send the book. In fact, there's a, I don't remember the little helpful store that we went into when I gave out the cards over here in Inglewood, across the street from them now. Somebody set up these shelves, so you could put food out and clothing out or books. So, whenever I can I go there I leave a box or two of books and you plant seeds, you plant seeds do gooders do something nice for somebody. Not because it's gonna get you anything, but just because just because I had a friend. This is one of my Sai Baba friends who was in New York. Every morning, before he left for the day, he would make 10 to 20, bags of sandwiches, have a little lunch bag. One or two sandwiches candy bar or something like that. And he just gave them to people as that he saw throughout the course of the day, and that's it. There was no. Alright, if you want to. I'll give you this if you listen to me do my spiel, no. You hungry, have a sandwich have something to eat.
Arielle: And apparently, hearing from one another.
Michael: Yes, yes yes yes yes yes yes. I mean, I've been so blessed in my life I've gone through so much stuff in my life and had friends who helped me, took care of me. Whenever I was going through some stuff, pay it back. Pay it forward.
Arielle: I guess what it said was a regular. When people watch your story, you're like, sorry, I mean, and by the way I was thinking about stories we fell in this documentary is the PG version…
Michael: Hahaha! Oh Yeah!
Arielle: That is already a version that we do not put in things you to get them through. I think one of the most miraculous parts of you being new is a how your higher intelligence was ever in question or incapacity, and you're just bringing energy spirit soul is brighter than ever. There was a time where it was, you know, harder, or less, you know, more challenging, that you had to get through. So, your own journey your own process of becoming the Michael, I see you know now how you frame that for yourself, and everything that you had to go through.
Michael: Well, it's because of everything that I've gone through, is because of all that stuff that I went through, especially the stuff during the party after the party would ever live with FBI was on my button. It was, I mean, that day. My first day of basic training at Fort Polk, Louisiana. When I'm sitting there, and one group of guys is being tough because they're gangbangers who had to join the army. Rather than go to jail. The other folks up there for the GI Bill, and they didn't know the gangbangers and they're looking scared because of gangbangers, and then there's me. Really, I was in a good space. I was I've gotten away from the crap that was destroying my life. And I did that day. Life is too short to feel bad. That became my philosophy of life, and whatever I mean I go through stuff, because we all have our moments, but I always come back to that. Once, when for when faced with a situation. What can I do? And then I find out what I could do if I can't do anything. Okay, I can't do anything. I go, sweating, and I'm not gonna put myself out.
Arielle: And you were so young, when you were in the party and what you went through was so traumatic for me but what made you join it to everything he saw and I wanted to ask you about this like so do you. Did you know this, or did you know, I know you knew that there were people for you are aware of [inaudible] story going on, as it was going on. What was the story, the story that's depicted in this biopic?
Michael: Well, no, because the okay so we knew that the FBI would be coming after us, we knew that there would be informers there would be agent provocateur, but again, you cannot get stuck on that because that'll stop you from doing anything. So, you look and say, Alright, what are we about, we have our 10 Point program, we are going to carry this out, we have these service programs, we're going to carry these things out, you want to do all this dirt. Fine, that's your problem. We got stuff to do. And we will do it. And the beautiful thing about it is that those actions transcended the organization. After the party was done, the actions were not done. People, former party members, people who are influenced by the parties they became doctors, and whatever they did, they want to help the poor, they became lawyers, whatever they did, they would do some something from folks who couldn't afford them. All right, people found a way to get back the difference yes to give back to make a difference.
Arielle: And honestly, even in this, I mean it's amazing because you just never know. You never know what your legacy is going to be but you're deciding, and each moment what that is. Um, so I look at now, you know finances legacy or your legacy I mean, this is something that's evolving over time, and I think, probably, I don't know I'm totally speculating here but if Hoover were to see this film and see those ones come along with me, he essentially created this hero figure murder, which was not his attention right. But, so, of course nobody wanted him to be murdered but to see what is on the side of justice, and true connection and love. And then you see the sort of nefarious evil work, and, and it's clear.
Michael: It's very clear with one of the things that I watch.
Arielle: Yeah, so I look at now, you know, for him it was like a car your legacy. I mean, this is something that's evolving over time, and I think, probably, I don't know I'm totally speculating here but if Hoover were to see this film and see this what's come of all there's me essentially quiz this hero figure martyr, which was not his intention, right. But, so, of course nobody wanted him to be murdered but you see what is on the side of justice, and true connection and love. Yeah. And then you see the sort of nefarious evil work, and, and it's clear, it's very clear when
Michael: One of the things that I watch. When I'm someplace that people are watching this. Because the scene about the murder hasn't been depicted before. When people hear that at the end of that race. Fred was still alive. So, unconscious, and when they hear that these cops said he's still alive. And then, bam, bam, they put two bullets in his head, what is good and dead now. Now they know the man was unconscious. The man was unconscious, and they put two bullets in his head. So, you would jawjack. All you can't, you want to about law and order, when you don't know nothing about law and order, obviously, you know nothing about law and order one of our CO Barbara. Barbara Clark when she was talking about. Fred's murder. There were people, lots of people. They didn't, they didn't like the Black Panther Party they didn't know about the Black Panther Party. They assumed we were just three street dogs or a gang. But when they saw that the lines that came to see that apartment. They got woke. They got inside. I never heard. You heard me say this, I remember coming home, and hearing my mother on the phone with one of her friends defending the party, and our actions. Whoa, Whoa, whoa.
Arielle: Because they got it.
Michael: Yeah, yeah. And so, the party was important, the party is important, because all these actions where people stand up against injustice, whatever kind of injustice. That's humans. You know, that's human.
Arielle: Because the human spirit, what it is come here for I think we both agree on this is, is here to be free. He is a freedom seeking best it's like I'm seeking this freedom for this vessel that we happen to be in this body, and anything that is corrupted and corrosive to their freedom, we're going to fight against, it's just not, and children understand if you look at little kids, they want to do what they want to do, and you try to pamper them. They're gonna push back against it and, and then that doesn't stop and when there's massive injustice and massive in humanity, our humanity our shared humanity must come to the surface and shine through and be transcendent, of all the evil.
Michael: Thing about it is this and this is this is this was important for me when I was during my spiritual quest. There's a quote from the Dallas philosopher Guangzhou. And it goes something like this. Those who think that someday.
The world will be just pure peace and harmony, and there will be no conflict. They have not understood, I understood the purpose of this place. The purpose of the process that dynamic that's constantly shifting the enemy is constantly shifting once for me. Once I came to an understanding that all of this is part of the phenomenal world. You can't have just yet, you can't have this young, and it's got to change its gonna end as the, as how growth happens. That's how development happens we're frameshift working against obstacles, there was a, I think I've told you this, I'm a, I'm a sci fi fan and Stargate, does the Stargate TV series, there was this one scenario in Stargate Atlantis where there were these creatures that were destroying this whole galaxy, the race, and every planet in a galaxy, they had developed techniques to high, or to defend themselves or something to deal with this. There was this one planet that was protected by this very powerful beam, but because of that protection, these people develop, nothing. They develop no skills to deal with this situation.
And so, when they came a time where this man wasn't there, they would almost wipe out. It is in dealing with obstacles that we grow, and then we move forward that we progress, that's the real world.
Arielle: And yet, we can't discount that the struggle and the trauma and the pain of having to deal with those obstacles does impact us, but I guess when I look at you are seeing somebody who has made powerful choices to evolve and to not let it again, ruin your life, or ruin or destroy your spirit or kill your joy.
Michael: Often, was saying, if you put me up under a rock. Hey, I'll be having a good time. Under the rock.
Arielle: So, and that's what I guess I mean when I say, say, I think, again, I agree with you, this film is important and it's going to lead to a lot of people's awareness and curiosity and continue learning but I think it just like. a lot of you brought to our chapter so and I met Che and I know he has a very different energy than you and so you know it's like there's a lot of different people and personalities and energies and choices that were going on just like in any organization, and I feel because we live in such a racist country and world. I feel like whenever you are depicting a group of people who have been dehumanized over and over, it is very important how you tell the story, so that there's a chance to sit for the fullness of everyone’s spirit and personality to get to be illuminated. And I think the song gets there a little bit, it doesn't you know, I feel like, you know, people need to watch your film to get another, another story because, you know, yeah, there's never just one story in an organization like that.
Michael: In fact, that's the whole thing with figuring out a story when you're telling a story, for instance, whether I if I'm doing a personal story or historical story. Either one of those things. There's all these situations and you can't put them all into one story, so you got to pick. What is it that that has a continuity, what is it that's a story that will have an effect that will have an impact? you can’t tell everything.
Arielle: It has to it has to be compelling enough to keep you on edge, to keep you wanting to engage with it. And I guess to open your curiosity to more stories related to it because that's what, again, the hope is I think in this day and age we can Google things we can do there is no lack of information and by the way, anyone who's listening we have put together with Michael's help an incredible resource guide that has I mean anything you like podcasts, we've got to like reading we've got so many books you could never get through in the next year I think it would take you 10 years to read all those films all the things so we'll add that in the show notes here too, but a lot of what Michael, you know some of Michael's favorites, even music, you want to listen to a song and the songs for me. Music has been a touchstone of what has kept me motivated and inspired, continuing to move forward over time because when you look at some Bob Marley song and that song war. It's a Marcus Garvey speech, I believe. Yeah, but it's, I mean it's just incredibly brilliant.
Michael: There was a song Try Jah Love I love by third world. And I remember, I hadn't, it's interesting. I had this song in 1982 when I was traveling around the world and in India, I had this, these buddies of mine had made these cassette tapes for me as a way back with, I have a Walkman. And there's a song Jah Love I love a lonely soul was I without direction I didn't know which way that I had to go. I thought the glue was to life on answer questions my mind's heart had to know. I heard your call while wandering through the darkness. I'd walk a million miles to find that in this voice that speaks to me when I am in temptation, echoing my choice. Those who will see, they will find, I read with you through all time that I had had, I had my encounter with Sai Baba in August of 82. I had, I started that trip in April, so I've been listening to this tape, Day after day after day after day after day. But then I had this encounter, and then when I put that song on it had a whole “nother” meaning added like expanded mind expanded consciousness, it was all that.
Arielle: That is worth the power of music and lyrics I mean those lyrics that can just take on your entire journey. This planet this crazy planet. One.
Arielle: The only scenario, what is this year been like specifically for you. And how are you getting through I know, you know, I know you've had some profound losses.
Michael: This past year. So, for those who aren't aware, end of February, have diagnosed with prostate cancer, February 2020 February 2020 A couple of weeks later, my brother sits into a coma. A week later, he's gone, right around that time COVID Shut Down to Earth. So, then there's all the financial stuff, or emotional stuff or what have you, and dealing with all of that. And then, Thanksgiving, my sister, Thanksgiving, even though my sister died. And again, you're dealing with stuff you're dealing with stuff you're dealing with stuff, and it's, it's, it's, it's not what I think I told you I just connected with a friend who I haven't spoken to it over 50 years. I just found out that her younger son had just passed away. We are always confronted with obstacles, challenges, we're always confronted with challenges, how do you deal with it. Do you, do you get into a position where you can flow with it, or do you let it crush you, or do you let it crush you. And sometimes I mean, there were two times in my life, that, that stand out when I tried to kill myself. I think both was because I was [audible]
Michael: I got through that stuff. And essentially after I got through it I said, Well, go do that. No, I'm not going to do that anymore. But life will always be confronted. And you remember Mr. Magoo?
Arielle: Yes, for those of us who don’t tell us about him for.
Michael: You who are who are young y'all deal with this cartoon character Mr. Magoo. Mr. Magoo was sweet, and kind, blind as a bat, could hardly hear, and he was he would walk out the door and he, he'd be walking along, and there was a big hole in the street that he didn't see, and he's just walking along and just as he takes a step, a big beaver board is placed in front of him but he goes right along, oblivious to what's happening, oblivious to the things around him.
Arielle: And sort of oblivious to the pitfalls and potential dangers.
Michael: because everything is, everything is a blessing, everything is great.
Arielle: How you got to become Mr. Magoo? You became Michael Magoo.
Michael: There's a friend of mine, a storytelling Fred [inaudible] as he was the first story I'll tell on that who introduced me to the world of storytelling. He tells the story about this man who was in, in a concentration camp during World War Two, Jewish man who was in a concentration camp, somehow or another, he found an orange. And it was like gold, but he never hated. And when he was feeling bad when he was feeling down, he would go to that orange, and he would just scratch the skin and smell the smell of that fresh orange.
And that gave him the strength to get through to the next day, and he survived, he survived, we I mean God people we go through stuff we all go through stuff and some of us go through horrific stuff. And again, some of us are crushed by it. Most of us. We survived it, and we become stronger because of it. When we develop techniques, we develop tolerances we develop ways of coping with these challenges. Sometimes we just lose our blankety blank and minds and go up. We all have our moments. Everybody got that got that moment, it's like an experience. Yeah, it's like Jesus at the at the temple with the with the with the people selling all that stuff at the table.
Arielle: You know I don't know what you're talking about.
Michael: When Jesus went to the temple, all these sellers these businesspeople had taken over the temple area, and the temple had become a place of commerce, and he will He overturned tables I pretty sure he slaps people upside down.
Arielle: So basically, though, he said basically some people some people let things crush them. Some people don't. What do you think makes that difference, you know you, I think of you as somebody who you walk down the street, you connect with everyone you see you go to a place you never meet a stranger, basically? Yeah, so this year I can imagine has been incredibly challenging and not being as able to connect with the world. But how do you, you know, are there practices that you do, what do you, you know, do meditate is it reading is it just one.
Michael: Those things I meditate. I read I study, observe people. I study human interactions; I pay attention to my own stuff. I self-analyze what are the things I did when I joined the Army is I went through this whole I'm okay, you're okay. I read all these books. I read an interesting book it's very hard to find it's out of print, I believe. The book is called The Art of Selfishness, and I remember seeing this book when I was in Korea. It was in a bookstore, and I'm like the Art of Selfishness, and so here's what here's what here's the example that I remember from the book. This young man in the US was notified that he had received, let's say as a Rhodes scholarship. So, he had this opportunity to go to United Kingdom and study everything take care of that. Finish. But everybody told him he couldn't go because his mother was sick and they expected that she would die sometime in the not-too-distant future, he decided to go. His mother lived for decades, and he had to look out for himself. In this instance, because the bottom line was that okay, he goes, If something happens, he comes back, he comes back home.
Arielle: But there's always another choice on this, like you're not, it's not a one dimensional, you're making this path, it's going to be a path forever you've made this decision. One of the questions honestly that some people have for you also has to do with your relationship with Carla, and he has such a good relationship, you're very close. And I also want people to know you know that your siblings who passed away were in effect, I mean they're 20 years older than you.
Michael: My brother was 14 years older; my sister was 20 years old, my oldest brother who died some time ago was 25 years old.
Arielle: I mean you were by all definition the baby of the family and so, you know you're the elder of the family but Carla you know was instrumental and taking care of you. She was in Chicago, so were your siblings. I guess this one community member who has a little boy probably around Carla's age maybe when you went into the Army. I was just wondering about like how did you manage to have such a good relationship, despite the times that you work there. Luckily or mentally right like.
Michael: The thing was always included my daughter in anything so when I'd send stuff home I said stuff for her, I called to the home I talked to her. When I got home, we, I took I took her places we did stuff we did to museums, we, we, we go someplace to eat, we watch movies or what have you. And I would just sometimes just sit and hang out with her, just talk with her. And there was a lot of time her and her cousin, my brother's daughter, they were a year apart. So, I took them a lot of places together. We hung up. Always, always. And the other thing too is that when she was going through her knuckleheaded stuff when she was a teenager. And she was being a teenager, I knew, I knew anyone who will deal with you. I just I wasn't gonna get twisted out of shape over anything that she might have said or done. I mean I've given her daddy looks sometimes. But here's the bottom line, when she was in her mid-20s She called me up and she said, Daddy, I was a real pain as a teenager wasn’t I?
Arielle: You I mean, I know, I know from my own experience of hanging out with you as a team and so you have a way. We have a way with people. I mean, you clearly have a way with people. And I think one of the things about you is, at least you appear to be nonjudgmental.
Arielle: Very hard. Yeah. But we're human. Right you are.
Michael: Have been known to let people know that.
Arielle: That was a strange if you did that, I mean, and I guess what I learned from all the people in my life that I deeply know and love, is that we are all the stereotypes. We cannot look at the surface of anything can be defined by that this is not true. And I think if, you know, and that's what I was, I I'm excited, maybe this film it will happen next, but I want to know from Fred Hampton, I want to know more about him as a person, because that film didn't really do that it was the gangster movie version.
Michael: it dealt with a very, very important subject, because people need to be aware, to this day. If you are doing something where you are challenging authority. Authority is gonna push back.
Arielle: It's dangerous you're putting in.
Michael: Danger. Yeah, yeah, it's dangerous. And people will go out of their way to destroy.
Arielle: But that's what I guess I worry about because okay I don't know if I told you this, but when Maya, my daughter was five, I think, and she sort of kindergarten year, he may talk about MLK right and he's learning about his assassination, and you'll never forget because she wrote a book about it. I happen to be at the school to came up to me and she was coming. She was sad. She basically was like so if you speak out for the right thing. You'll be killed. And so I have to just tell you, not that I, oh I'm comparing myself to him because there's nothing, there's nothing like that but, as he's grown up and see me go and be in front of people and I know she's afraid of just me presenting a film, because there's a narrative and it's a truth in our society that when you do speak out for what's right, you are putting yourself at risk. Yeah. So, I guess, how do you balance that, how do you do the right thing?
Michael: You know you got to piss people off. The question you must ask yourself, Am I willing to face the consequences of standing up to this, because when you, when you watch. When you watch the Freedom Riders and when you watch them the marchers in any scenario where you see these, these, these with Bhutan's with Riot rifles, and they're beaten the heck out of somebody I just watched something yesterday. And this guy's walking away and they're coming after him, they're, they're hidden. Sometimes you have to you have to stand up, you must face the consequences. You must face the consequences that you may die doing this. Is it being it important to you? Yeah, okay, I'm willing to deal with that, I'm willing to deal with that.
Arielle: I guess it's, in some ways, forces you to be a student of spirituality of transcendence. What is that, right, because I think to be able to do something worthwhile like that and to stand up for what's right and to face violence or torture or these horrible human rights things violations that have been perpetuated over time. That's how people keep people oppressed, right. You must, in some ways come to terms with your own death right, so I think people have a various way of doing that. But when you were in the Panther Party. I mean you still are I know you think it’s still a continuation cause Here you are. Yeah. What was your process like or what was the sort of conversation around facing death, and facing that potential facing violence or facing, you know?
Michael: Well, the bottom line was that from jump. This is something I said this is what my mother taught me, you see something wrong, you got to do something about it let somebody know about it. And the idea that this is worthy of my life, permitting my being, my entire being too. And if it causes disruption of my existence. Fine. It's worth it to have taken a stand. Okay, it's worth it to I've taken a stand. It ain't easy out there say. I mean some people will say that's heroic, but that's not your mindset. Something's wrong. I gotta do something about this. Consequences be damned!
Arielle: And this is a weird question, but I must ask it, at the tail end of it, that question which is, do you have any empathy for these informers. Do you have any empathy for this man?
Michael: Like O’Neil Oh hell no. Because, okay, as I as I think I mentioned, my biggest concern with this bill was that they would try to make O'Neill seem like a victim of the FBI. They tried with O'Neill, but I knew Neil and I knew the consequences of some of the stuff that he perpetuates people got killed people get went to jail. People are still in jail because of stuff he did. This is beyond what he did to Fred. He did a bunch of mess. And so, no. When I found out that he had committed suicide, this is back in the 90s, I believe, at what I found out he had committed suicide, he walked out on the Eisenhower Expressway in front of a car, truck or something, my only thought was that in God to them. I'm sorry I would love to see them do a lot more suffering. Because he what he did was horrific on every level. and that kind of betrayal can’t stomach it. Can’t stomach it. Yeah, so no, no.
Arielle: Just had to ask that. Because I was, I was as I was watching the film I was wondering, I get it does sometimes feel not empathetic, but it does feel like it's, it's almost more history. Sometimes there's in the history more than the Panzer story you know,
Michael: People hear people talk about that and that doesn't this our story. If this is interesting. Judas was an essential part of the Christ story. Right, Judas was an essential part of the Christ story.
Arielle: It couldn't have Christ without that story.
Michael: That that, that, that, yeah, exactly. It's a setup of the Holy See, the thing about it is that no matter whatever you do. I don't care how good nature intended or what have you, there will be somebody who opposes, you might say I want to give people food. Well, they should be able to get their own food. So, somebody is going to pose, whatever you do, whatever you have to deal with people like that you're gonna want to encounter them. And sometimes, stuff happens to them as
Arielle: Well and obviously I mean, I imagine that. I don't know but I imagine that for the rest of his life he was tortured and. Right, I mean, I should.
Michael: Hope so. Yeah, I should hope so. The best proof of that is the fact that he committed suicide after he did that interview with the, the film as it applies to. Yeah, yeah. So good. Yeah.
Arielle: There's a fierceness that has lasted in you. In all these decades. And I know what I got to see you this past year for a minute and again there's something about no matter what is going on in the external world maybe because of all you've been through, you rise above it, or you. I don't know, I don't know what it is but there's some way in which you keep moving forward, been through a lot. This past year, but you're learning all the time, and I think that, oh, when is the best thing so I want to leave people with this last question, what in this time where you are not able to, we probably still are on some level, but you're not able to connect as much with people and you have these limitations and what you can do and all everyone is facing in the health risks and all these things. Where are you finding the most inspiration?
What is lifting your spirit?
What is giving you hope?
Michael: Once you've done questions that people asking that you took the time to make this film. These films, the films that you've made, again, see. My attitude is this, you see something you want to it's not right; you want to, you want to change it. What can you do, you said, I can make films, I can do, I can do this, and you change the world? Sometimes it's giving a child a book, sometimes it's, it's buying somebody a meal. The thing about it is that you do something, whatever you can do. Do that thing. And the answer to that is, here's the thing. We don't do this stuff to aggrandized ourselves we're not like me I'm doing stuff, because that's what you do, you can, like I said, it can be. I think I told you. One day, my neighbor's, one of my, my neighbor's oldest son was by with his girlfriend and her daughter was about 12. And there was a cousin, a boy cousin who was a couple of years younger.
And I give away books so I got all these books out in my, in my parking space I have, like, two, two cabinets bookshelves that I can like, I got 1000s of books back there. So, I said Hey y'all come in. I said, I had all these books I said, have some books coming year and a half, two years go by, I seen the girl once again, but I hadn't seen the moon boy. So, I saw my neighbor's son I said Hey, whatever happened to the little boy, he said, Oh man, I've been meaning to tell you before you gave him those books. He got bad grades in school. Ever since those books, he's getting AIDS, he's reading. He's writing. He's also started drawing, he was making his own comic books, he was making his own comic books, just because he has a book out here here's the trick. About the full thing. In that case, I let the kids pick whatever book they want and when I offer kids’ books, I have a variety of books. So, if they want if they, if I got a book about some civil rights or something like that and they want that fine if they don't find i That's a Marvel comic books, whatever it takes you meet them where they're at.
Arielle: Well thank you and you know I love you as you know and I'm so grateful that he's allowed me to help you share your story with more people and I hope that this conversation we've just had is going to make people more curious to find out more about you and want to watch your films and hear your stories and connect with you, you can hire Michael to come to your organization, I mean this is a time where we need to support artists we need to support storytellers, we need to support people who, you know, make our world better through the simple act of being themselves and giving a gift to the world and you are one of those people. Yeah, I'm grateful to know you and, you know, your faith in me, to be someone who you allow to tell your story helps to convey the voice in my head that's like what are you doing with your stories because I have that voice, it's very loud sometimes and it and continuously.
Because of you I have been put into situations communities experiences that have expanded my horizons and helped me learn and meet people who may seem different than me but are just incredibly welcoming, here we may do a part two of this and I couldn't see if we could talk forever Michael so if you have more questions for Michael send them to us connect with us on social media, Facebook belongingintheUSA and at belonging in the USA also an Instagram and belongingintheusa.com is the website so you can connect with us, ask us your questions we'll pass it along to Michael and we'll put things in the show notes, and just keep doing that thing that one thing you can do and I think I love what you say Michael because it's not about doing everything because nobody can do everything but it's picking the thing that you, that naturally comes from you. Yes, and giving that to the world because it's gonna feel that effortless because it is an effort you gather books that, but you would get pleasure in the gathering of the books and you get pleasure in the giving of the books and maybe that's that connection between that sort of idea of, quote unquote selfishness that you were talking about that selfishness, it's self-awareness.
Michael: There you go.
Arielle: I love you [Michael] toodles [Arielle] do the sound [Michael] sound Ohhhh! Boop, boop, boop [Arielle] Another people that will do all yours. No one will know what that means unless I do it tell the story quick because everybody, I want you to I want you to know this story.
Michael: So, when Arielle was born, I was still living in Chicago, and I saw her for about the first three or four years of her life. I would go over to see her parents I would play with her, and they didn't have that Simon game with the lights going. But I would press her belly and go boop boop boop, until she was sick of me. And then I left Chicago, the next time I saw her, she was about to graduate from high school, I got oversee Jeff and Michelle, they went to bed, it was you and one of your classmates and I'm telling you all stories, and at some point, you said to me, Michael D. I really don't remember you I said of course, you were just a baby. I used to press your belly and go boop boop boop, and her eyes got bigger saucers, she remembered me she remembered the apartment, but what was on the wall, she just remembered all kinds of stuff. And we've been like that ever since.