Living Abroad as a Black American with world-renowned musician, Michael Baker (Ep. #1.7)

September 28, 2020 Host, Cayman Grant and world renowned musician, Michael Baker Season 1 Episode 7
Living Abroad as a Black American with world-renowned musician, Michael Baker (Ep. #1.7)
Show Notes Transcript

Ep. #1.7


Having traveled the globe as a musician--most famously as Whitney Houston's musical director for over 17 years, guest Michael Baker, has seen what it’s like to be a Black man across the world. Now settled in Italy, where he has lived and worked for 15 years, Michael’s insights into racism have evolved and grown. In this episode, we naturally touch on the pandemic and Italy’s response compared to the US response. As one of the hardest-hit countries initially, Michael Baker shares how Italy's community-mindedness helped them overcome the worst of the pandemic. Pointing out, the deep sense of community and responsibility that fellow Italian citizens have and its stark contrast to the individualistic thinking prevalent in the US. Michael talks about his experience of racism in Italy and how he deals with it and although, he has had many uncomfortable moments in Italy, he has never feared for his life as he has in America as a Black man. He recounts stories of being pulled over by cops after being on tour and getting followed around supermarkets in the U.S looking to catch him stealing. Michael discusses the power structure within the US and how the powers that be, are polarizing people and using age-old tactics to even turn Black people against one another-- and that the racist rhetoric coming from the U.S. has taken hold in Italy and other countries--and how the Italy and others are dealing with this. Michael talks about hatred-- believing that it is the "easy" way out --and insists that people focus on the power of story and that the more we can share and get to know one another, the more we can make our own shifts that ultimately accumulate and lead to meaningful change.

 Key Points From This Episode:

·   The Italian response to the pandemic and how it compares to the US’s reaction.

·   What Michael has seen about how Italy treats Black people and immigrants.

·   Comparing Italy’s understanding of Africa with America’s.

·   The difference in Black culture between Italy and the US, from Michael’s viewpoint.

·   Michael’s daily experience of racism in Italy.

·   How being married to an Italian helps serve as an anchor into society.

·   Michael believes that it is important to correctly frame the older generation’s response to him.

·   What life is like for a Black person in America and how Michael feels when he visits home.

·   Michael’s experience of being excluded in the US because he is Black.

·   Why Michael is fueled by people telling him he cannot do things.

·   Racism is something you will experience for a lifetime.

·   How Michael’s children experience racism, given that they are mixed-race.

·   Why Michael would not let his children walk around at night.

·   The assumptions that people make about why Michael lives in Italy.

·   The rise in racist rhetoric in Italy that trickles down from America.

·   How Michael met Clark Terry, the legendary jazz trumpet player.

·   The incredible story of how Michael’s mother got her Ph.D. while raising four children and with limited resources.

·   What is happening in Italy with the Black Lives Matter movement.

·   Michael’s take on whether current social movements will have a lasting impact.

·   A meaningful encounter Michael had with his neighbor when he visited Duluth.

·   A final piece of advice from Michael!

Cayman Grant  0:03  
I'm really excited about our next guest, Michael Baker, who is a multi talented musician, producer, songwriter, and singer. Michael actually was also Whitney Houston's musical director, and drummer for 18 years, Michael has worked with the best of them. He's worked with Aretha Franklin, Annie Lennox, Ray Charles Sting, Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, Bruce Hornsby. I mean, come on, right. Michael and I talk about the music industry. We talk about the stereotypes he experienced traveling the world and what it's like living in Italy for over the past 15 years, Michael actually grew up in Duluth, Minnesota, here in the United States, we talk about the differences between the United States and Italy, in Europe in general, and how different it is as a black man living in both continents. I caught up with Michael in late July from his studio in Italy while we were all and still are in the heart of this year's COVID pandemic. Thanks for joining me, Michael. I'm so excited to have you.

Michael Baker  1:12  
Thank you for having me.

Cayman Grant  1:13  
The COVID thing really took Italy by storm at first now it's Yeah, and now it's here still in full force. But what how's everything over there? How are you guys doing?

Michael Baker 1:23  
Well, we're doing pretty well, you know, actually, you know, town, people are seeing the seams. This has been my observation. But it seems to me that everyone get on board with something, and they decide this, okay, well, this is what's going on in our community. And everybody needs to get on board. And we need to fix this. And so everyone just gets on board, and tries to solve the problem the best they can. And I think that's why we've seen the numbers go down here in Italy, because over in the northern part of Italy, that's when that's when many people died. Like it was like, unbelievable. It was like a matter of weeks, people just dying everywhere, up in the north. So when that when that happened, and then everyone were told to stay in the house and all that sort of thing. Everybody pretty much stuck to the plan. And as they're doing pretty much now, because the Italians are very, you know, really, you know, community community oriented. You know, they love to have touch children kiss each other and all that kind of thing. So, when, when they, when everybody decided, Okay, we can't do that anymore. And they stopped.

Cayman Grant  2:43  
And so in cold turkey Hmm.

Michael Baker  2:46  
Well, they dug on. And yeah, they pretty much did pretty much cold turkey. Because that's kind of how they behave. You know, they're like, Okay, we got to do this. Everybody has to do this now. And so everyone kind of sticks to the plan. And I think that's why they've had been pretty successful in at least containing what's been going on. And yeah, so I think, you know, I think we're doing pretty good out here. So despite,

Cayman Grant  3:22  
how do you think that compares to how America has handled it?

Unknown Speaker  3:28  
Well, the thing is, is that,

Unknown Speaker  3:32  
you know,

Unknown Speaker  3:34  
Italian people aren't really offered the choice to, to be singularly motivated by only themselves, because of the fact that it's such a community based society. So if someone sees you doing something, I'm going to call you out about it. You know, if they see me doing something that's correct. I mean, God got me they see you wearing the wrong shoes and in the wrong time of year, you know, the old people say, What are you wearing? You got to put your shoes on and this summer outside, you see, it's the sun is outside? Where are your winter shoes on? You know, if you go look at somebody else, look at him, he's got the winter shoes on.

Unknown Speaker  4:24  
So they're really like that.

Unknown Speaker  4:27  
Oh, my gosh, they're just like that. So. So it's like, you know, it's not about I just don't get the feeling here in Italy. I could be wrong, but I don't really get the feeling here in Italy, that it's about, you know, it's not about me, it's about what I want. It's about my freedom. No, it's not about that at all. It's about what we're doing as a as a community to stay alive. And if we see if we see somebody doing something, the opposite of that. They're gonna call you out about it. gonna call you out, you know, and you're gonna get, you're gonna get called out by a couple people saying, Yeah, he's right. Look at him. He's not, you know, I mean, you know, they're there. So just pretend that that's just how we are, you know, I mean, you know?

Unknown Speaker  5:18  
So do they,

Unknown Speaker  5:22  
like here in America, it's the frontline workers. And the black community in particular has been very exposed to the virus and

Unknown Speaker  5:36  
major fatality rates.

Unknown Speaker  5:38  
Yes. Look at it. I see it every day.

Unknown Speaker  5:42  
On the news that the same there are, you know, what's, what's the cultural breakdown there? Are there a lot of black people in Italy?

Unknown Speaker  5:51  
It depends, it depends on it depends on where you go. In, in the south.

Unknown Speaker  6:00  
In the south, there's a lots of

Unknown Speaker  6:03  
going down towards Rome. And then if you're going into Sicily, and places like that, then you're going to see a lot of African people, you know, but at the same time, the farther south you go, the more I would say, you know, it's kind of like a thing where the people here seek This is what I this is my take on it so far, but I've been here for quite a while. But the the take on it is that this community and the way to do things, it's a really, it's a big deal in it, you know, and it's when you go down south, we have a lot of people from Africa and people who immigrated, you know, and they come over on boats and all this kind of thing, and you got a, you got a constituency of people that don't want to see any kind of immigration, they don't want to see any black people, you know, real very racist, and also the guy. But then at the same time, you've got, you've got these, you've got a large constituency of Italian people that go out on these voyages and rescue immigrants from Africa that are coming on boats. So you've got both things working at the same time. A lot of it has to do, it's always economic reason to, you know, it's always economic reasons, a lot of Africans come over here in Italy. And but, you know, in my mind, I don't really see too much difference between Africa and middle. You know, I don't really, you know, I don't really see that much difference to the, in the way that that the rhythm of life is very similar. Africa, in Italy, the rhythmic life is very, very, very similar.

Unknown Speaker  8:10  
How does that compare to the United States? And what?

Unknown Speaker  8:12  
Well, there's no comparison, there's no comparison, because I think I feel that America kind of goes out of its way in certain ways, not to the younger generation, they definitely, they are more like, in a way here about the craziness, the racism, and all this other kind of stuff. They because they have their own life to live, they have another life to live, aside from, you know, our older generation people in here in Italy, are they're not ignorant. They know. They know where Africa is, they understand who African people are, they know, the culture. They understand very much now whether they decide to deal with it, or not, because the personal thing on that, but they're not ignorant about Egypt. They're not ignorant about it. They're not, they're not ignoring the fact that they, they went into, you know, went home to African village. And they know that they know what they did. And they know who they are as a people and they know that the main understanding across culture of their culture and African culture, that it's not that dissimilar. It's not, you know, saying they, they know that. And so it's not a it's not a point of being ignorant. It's a point of whether they want to deal with you or not like that, but that's a personal thing. But basically, you know, when you go into Africa, there's all kinds of shades of Africans in As a whole, all kinds of shoots.

Unknown Speaker  10:03  
Well, there's, there's a difference too, between African immigrants in the States, certainly. And then folks who were brought here against their will and in our late labor, that's right, the slave descendants. So the thing,

Unknown Speaker  10:19  
right, because I was talking, I was talking to him. You know, there's, I think the most, I think the thing that any, I think the thing that they might be more afraid of as any culture would be, but I think the Italians are afraid of not having work, not having jobs, and not having money. Because of the,

Unknown Speaker  10:47  
is it the same there? can be?

Unknown Speaker  10:51  
Oh, I'm sorry, tucked over here, because it it cut out? I didn't realize you were talking. Is it the same there were minorities do the labor work? And whites do? The executive jobs? The you know, that? I don't know how to?

Unknown Speaker  11:11  
Well, yeah, well, you don't see anything, you're not really going to see any Africans or any black people basically, in the you know, in the judicial system, or in the courts or anything like that,

Unknown Speaker  11:26  
as lawyers and judges, you mean, they are

Unknown Speaker  11:29  
see that over here, because it's a very closed society, when it comes to that. It's very closed. And, and, and, and they it's prepping as per I know, it's purposely done that way.

Unknown Speaker  11:43  

Unknown Speaker  11:45  
it's just, it's, I think it's just such a cultural difference. Because, you know, the, you know, talent culture is very, very particular. And it's, it's, it's their culture, and they hold on to it, they just hold on to it tooth and nail.

Unknown Speaker  12:02  
So and I don't blame them. They're only Italy. And they're this big, they're small, and they're trying to maintain their culture, you can understand that, do they? I mean, this isn't, you know, maybe an ignorant question on my part, but the, you know, in America, because the slave trade was all over the world, how many people do they have in, in Italy that are slave descendants versus Africans?

Unknown Speaker  12:30  
You know, I wouldn't really know that. I wouldn't, I wouldn't really know that kind of information. There. It's

Unknown Speaker  12:38  
an interesting, I wonder if it's different. You know, I wonder if they

Unknown Speaker  12:43  
yours. There is a older there's a very small minute, older generation of Africans that lives here in Italy. And it's all very sporadic, very sparse, and everybody's kind of spread out. So you wouldn't really know who's who would ever like that?

Unknown Speaker  13:01  
Because to there's no, when I was in Italy, I don't recall seeing Okay, this is a poverty stricken. This is

Unknown Speaker  13:13  
the lightens ticking. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker  13:16  
No, it's not like that here. It's really not like that, like community of community, they take care of each other communities community. And if you see, if you go into a place like Rome or something like that, then it's you're going to see definitely like to see some lines drawn between immigrants who came over on boats and ships, and they're trying to get work. And it's all about work and labor and trying to get money in Time To Live trying to survive. So you're always going to have that, but you're going to have that will also with the Chinese culture here, too. You know, and it's put the Chinese stick pretty much close to themselves. And then you have the Chinese and the Africans working together. They work together with kind of like import importing goods that are knockoffs basically. And they do all that.

Unknown Speaker  14:15  
Okay, that's interesting. So all of that.

Unknown Speaker  14:18  
So, I mean, I don't really know all that.

Unknown Speaker  14:22  
Yeah, yeah. But it's just a cultural thing that you notice. Yeah. Well, I'm remember when I was in Italy, have been there twice. I did see a lot of knockoff bags and menace long.

Unknown Speaker  14:39  
Yeah. And they try and that's like a whole other that's a whole other thing that's involves police and involves, you know, involves also the kind of thing so that's what

Unknown Speaker  14:52  
I mean, they make that stuff in China anyway. So no, you know, that's why it is good to To make your things in America or, you know, North America so that you have more control over your patterns over your, your product, but as soon as you go overseas, it's like, oh, what are you gonna do sue them? You know? Well, I mean, because they're the ones selling your, your patterns, it's not always the accurate manufacturers, usually you're

Unknown Speaker  15:21  
here in this city here, we had a lot of that going on a whole lot of insight granted. And the, and, you know, the city, they just in the whole region, they just couldn't, they couldn't handle it. And they had to stamp it out and put their foot down. And basically, it cleaned up everything quite a bit.

Unknown Speaker  15:46  
And then there's the other side of that, right with that, that was income for people, that was their way of finding a way to, you know, there are people here that sell out of their trunk, the sweat, you know, you know, when you shut the street vendors down, that's an entire underground economy that actually can benefit and hurt, there's a, there's a pro con with everything when you go. So I'm sure that if it wasn't so bad, they would have just let it go. But if it becomes rampid, they have to,

Unknown Speaker  16:20  
you know, well, I can go to a place like Venice or something like that.

Unknown Speaker  16:24  
Tourists kind of places everything. And you have a Gucci store or something like that. You don't check the bottom, whatever. And then you're opening your doors, and then you got got these cats coming up in their bags, and they lay out right in front of your store that's brazen,

Unknown Speaker  16:42  
that's that is brazen, and you can, but they don't know that that's brazen, you know, they they're just trying to survive.

Unknown Speaker  16:50  
They're trying to survive. I think that the I mean, I think they know it's brazen, I think they're just trying to survive like anybody. And, and it's it's the hustle and they wouldn't be there if people weren't buying it. And people do buy that stuff. They buy it on the beach. You know, they'll sit there on the beach, and the guys will come out with all these bags and stuff and the knockoff stuff. And no people will buy it. So if there wasn't an industry for

Unknown Speaker  17:20  
supply and demand that the traditional. So how So how long have you been in Italy for 15 years? Right? Well, yeah,

Unknown Speaker  17:28  
I've been here for about 15 years.

Unknown Speaker  17:32  
And what's the How do you see the difference in black culture between Italy and the United States,

Unknown Speaker  17:43  
um, I, ah, gosh, it's, uh, you know, it's a, it's a, it's a weird kind of thing. Because for me, I'm, you know, I'm, I have a family and, um, you know, I have a daughter and my wife, and we have kind of an individual kind of life. So we so it's, it's kind of hard to say that there's, I mean, there's not much there's not many of us here. And certainly not many of us here in the UK, when you go into regions where we're living in Tuscany, and the beach areas, all kind of stuff. There's not a big, you know, African American population at all, you know, to me, and the people that black people that are here, usually have families in there, you know, they're married, they have kids, and you got families and all this other kind of stuff. And, and then some of the people that here are working in, you know, when they go on the restaurants or restaurants and stuff like that. So they're very, very individual, we don't know each other. So there's like, not a, there's not

Unknown Speaker  18:58  
really a community. We're all but you nod to each other.

Unknown Speaker  19:03  
I always do my daughter on my own. My daughter always says Daddy, you only speak to the black people.

Unknown Speaker  19:09  
We always ask

Unknown Speaker  19:09  
your American thing that's a very American, so we kind of

Unknown Speaker  19:13  
do that. But

Unknown Speaker  19:16  
but but basically, everybody's pretty quiet. You know, everybody's really quiet and pretty much individual. And they just kind of do their thing and they work in the sebab their families and everybody is pretty quiet. We don't know each other or

Unknown Speaker  19:33  
do you have an example of Have you faced racism at all in Italy?

Unknown Speaker  19:39  
Oh every day.

Unknown Speaker  19:41  
Okay, so explain that then. Every single day.

Unknown Speaker  19:47  
Because what happens is you basically you're kind of dealing with your, your kind of this person that they don't understand. And, and, and sometimes you can call it, you may want to call it racism, whatever, but also a class issue. You know, it's a very, they're very class oriented kind of people. So, like, I was making a joke about the shoes, you know, wearing wrong choosing winner, you know, but that's a very real thing. And for them, it's like, okay, you know, if you're on our side, you're with us, then, you know, make sure you're dressed accordingly. You know, make sure that you that you carry yourself accordingly. You know, that when you sit down to eat, make sure that you do like what we're doing. No, don't, you know, we don't want you to, like, be this other thing. Because we want to include you, we want, we want you to be a part of us. But you have to, you have to do the right thing. You have to be with us. If you're not with us, then you're you're something you're the you're the you're doing something else, and we don't like that. And then you can you can call it racism, or you can call it classes and whatever like that. But I think that, to, to gain respect, you know, you're not gonna walk into the Italian society and just Paul a sudden gain respect, because of what, you know, you have to, you know, I think especially the older generation, the respect is earned. You know, you have to, you have to show that you are part you're with us, you know, if you're with us, then you're with us. You know, this is a talent lock of Italian people just as dark as me, you know, so it's not necessarily even a color issue, I think, because they know, they know who you are, they know where you come from, they understand your understand your history, they know where you come from, so they're not ignorant to that. Well as

Unknown Speaker  22:13  
the Americans. I mean, they're Americans that say, right, exactly. Michael, that's what we want. We want people to, you know, conform to our society, in the United States as well, we will, you know, be like us, like, Will. And this is I know what I'm saying when I'm saying this, but this is the what, what, this is what happens, right? And this is the, the other ring aspect, well, I don't, you know, even you know, Muslims don't, you know, don't wear that garb, don't wear the, you know, conform to our society, be our religion be be who we are, you want to live here, then you need to be a certain way. Otherwise, you're the other, you're the othering happens, right? So that that's an element of the problems. You know, but what can you speak to that? Well, I think that

Unknown Speaker  23:10  
I mean, I think so much of it. I mean, I can only speak personally, but so much of it is is like you know, say for instance, you know, you walk into a restaurant, you know, and I've got my wife and my daughter, and they look at you and they see okay, you have Italian wife, and your daughter is a mix between the both of you. And they love it.

Unknown Speaker  23:38  
They love it. They think it's the best thing they've ever seen.

Unknown Speaker  23:42  
Now you walk into the same restaurant or something alone, walking in chewing gum you know, not really being respectful just walking in the place like Okay, show me where I sit, you know, that kind of thing. No, that's not what it's about. You know? And they feel that they feel that level of disrespect like okay, well you just come in No, that's not how we do it here. And that's that means that you know that means a lot to them. Now the older generation they may have this thing about I have never seen an insidious kind of like just racism like okay, black guy comes in here, you know, and like, okay, we just hate this. That's I've never seen that. Because I've never seen where the where they want to disrespect themselves. You know, they want to outwardly disrespect, disrespect themselves and show themselves show people that they don't they don't know how to deal with somebody. So they'll sit calmly, it's cool. They'll check you out and see if you know what you're doing. And check it out to see if you know how to, you know, if you're if you're being respectful, I think so much. So much of it has to be with respect. I mean, I mean, even today, that's just Case in point. Even today, I was at the grocery store. Okay. And now I got two ways to look at this thing. There's an old Italian guy, and he's sitting there, and he's standing there behind me. And he's looking at me, and he's crying. And he's wondering what I'm going to do. Because he's never, he's because he doesn't. He's not used to seeing somebody like me in the grocery store. And so he's kind of like, looking kind of looking at me, and I'm putting my things on the, on the car. And then he sees that I'm not putting the maybe that I won't put the rule cart roller in the right position. Now I can look at that two ways. I have a choice I can look at is all this you know, this is old, racist, Italian man. And he's trying to break my balls just because I'm here. And he, he doesn't want to see black people. No. It's not that it means a lot to him as old Italian gentlemen, that the roller card gets put in the right place. And it's important to him. Now you can you have two ways to look at it. You can say, Well, I don't care what's important to him. You know, I can disrespect him, I can disrespect his country. I know nothing about this guy. I can just say, Well, hey, man, get off, you know, because it was such a little thing. But this is what matters to him. And I when I walked out of this, and Well, look, I said, Wait a minute, you know, this matters to him. And you know, I can call it racism. All the guys just don't like black people he isn't. He thinks I'm this, he thinks I can stack a bunch of stuff. On top of that, I can say that it's a racist culture. Or I can look at it like this guy, this old Italian guy. And he just wants things to be the way that he wants them to be in his country.

Unknown Speaker  27:21  
Okay, so

Unknown Speaker  27:23  
show that much respect.

Unknown Speaker  27:26  
Right? It's about respect. So, so much it is about the

Unknown Speaker  27:29  
steps. So

Unknown Speaker  27:30  
much of it is, but that's there. Right there. Right? That's in Italy. Okay, so tell me about because you grew up in the United States. Right? So you grew up in Minnesota? Yeah. Tell me about what life's like in the United States as a black man. Now, like, how, how that's different for you. And, and why? Why is the United States because a lot of people, all the things you just said, a lot of people say, well, that's my problem with black people here, they don't conform to the way we want to do things, they don't care what how I feel about anything, or, you know, that kind of thing. And I think the point I'm getting at is that it's systemic racism here. And it was the country was built on these laws, and they're, it's not the same thing. So, you know, because because the country because America belongs to everyone.

Unknown Speaker  28:26  
And it belongs to everybody that's there. As a different, it's a different mindset. And, and basically, I think, just basically, in general, that

Unknown Speaker  28:40  
i think that

Unknown Speaker  28:44  
i think that American people, we could all be more respectful of each other. And, and, and more respectful of, of what things mean to each other. Rather than I me, it's about me, it's about this, it's about me, it's about my, my Starbucks, it's about my car. It's about my neighborhood. It's about this, you know, and, and we stack some we've placed so much importance on on, you know, me my mind, it's my, this is me, and, and Okay, now, oh, you're a black guy. And, you know, you know, you're a black guy and what do you what are you doing living over here in our part of Woodbury, Minnesota or whatever, like that, you know, how did you get here? You know, it's like so many questions. How do you, you know, and how can you be this or, you know, it's like, it's like, it's a big, it's a big confusion. And basically, it basically what I feel when I go home, I feel a lot of unnecessary hatred and unnecessary

Unknown Speaker  29:54  

Unknown Speaker  29:56  
animosity, that just keeps going. Just drive home that drives home the point, because we don't know it, you know, in America, you can't tell who's who and you don't know who, who came from what or whatever it what their background is, or anything like that, you know,

Unknown Speaker  30:12  
and no, but everybody knows who's white and who's black,

Unknown Speaker  30:15  
everybody knows who's white, who's black. But I think also that because they that is, that's a, that's a thing that, I don't know, if America will ever get over that. You know, I don't know if we'll ever get over that. And I don't, and then now that everything is the covers are coming off of everything, we start to really look deeper into where that all came from. And it not only extends to black people and everything, but also extends to women. And, and how women have been left out, purposely left out because they're for no other reason. Because they're women. And for no other you know, you know, I mean, I can name like I can. There's a bunch of situations where I've been left out and all kinds of stuff just because, well, the black guns don't do that. Or this is not something for the black guys to be involved in.

Unknown Speaker  31:11  
Or some I'll give give us an example of that.

Unknown Speaker  31:14  
Well, I mean, just kind of like, you know, it's like, it's almost like an unwritten kind of hush hush kind of thing nobody really talks about, it's all it's all under the under the table. But, you know, I've been I mean, I can't I can't really put my finger on it, but I always feel it. We always feel that it's there. And that there's something that is in the air and it's just like it's like, Okay, well, this is not you know,

Unknown Speaker  31:46  
if it was a white guy doing this exact same thing.

Unknown Speaker  31:50  
The women you would wait to you know, it's we understand, yeah. It's like,

Unknown Speaker  31:56  
it's like a film, it's like, Okay, well, and you can tell, you know, it's almost like, even when I went to North Texas State as a, as a first year in North Texas State, I auditioned, I was auditioning for one of the big bands there and school. And one of the guys came up to me and told me that the teachers running weren't even looking at my audition. Okay. They weren't even watching replay. They were just talking. Okay. And it's, this is a university audition. Okay. So, and some like, Okay, and what does that mean, to me as a couple of teachers there that are judging all the drummers coming in to see if they're going to make a band. And he got those couple of guys who are supposed to be watching you paying attention, they won't even watch. And one of the students comes over says, Hey, you know, your teachers teachers don't even want to play, you know, and I, I didn't get the position. Because they didn't feel as though I was worth that. But at the same time,

Unknown Speaker  33:02  
um, but

Unknown Speaker  33:03  
it was no, it was Texas, too. So what year what year?

Unknown Speaker  33:07  
Would that have been the circle on 77?

Unknown Speaker  33:11  
So 77, North Texas.

Unknown Speaker  33:15  
Yeah. I mean, that's two years after for segregate desegregation. So it's kind of like it. That's a tough area at that time. What was that? It

Unknown Speaker  33:25  
was, it was it was music school, one of the biggest music schools in the country. But

Unknown Speaker  33:34  
that's why you wanted to go there.

Unknown Speaker  33:35  
Yeah, but at the same time, at the same time, when I was I was going to school in Duluth, Minnesota, that was going to the university here. And I remember sending my

Unknown Speaker  33:47  
I sent my picture and my,

Unknown Speaker  33:50  
my demo tape into North Texas State University, sent both the picture and the demo tape. And at that time, I was playing. I was playing drums like, crazy. I mean, I was like me 18 something like that. When I was playing, you know, I listened back I was playing some things that

Unknown Speaker  34:11  
just, I was way, way ahead of the game.

Unknown Speaker  34:15  
And I got noticed when I sent my tape and everything and got no response, and that was denied. I was denied to go to school at no toxicity.

Unknown Speaker  34:27  
So I said, Okay,

Unknown Speaker  34:30  
I'll do something else. So I wrote a piano, kind of a piano sonata in my music theory class in a key part of an assignment. And the teacher there gave me an A plus for the piano sonata. And I sent that into the composition department in North Texas State. And I got in the school as a composition.

Unknown Speaker  34:58  
Did you send your picture with It, no, you see,

Unknown Speaker  35:04  
now that sort of thing, that sort of thing has been going on

Unknown Speaker  35:11  
pretty much all my life

Unknown Speaker  35:14  
you know, just that those little small scenarios, after what you know what you can't, you know, you can't let that impair you and you can't let that stop you and you can't stop your drive.

Unknown Speaker  35:28  
You know, what made you

Unknown Speaker  35:32  
have this attitude of You can't let this stop you tell me what it what is it? Please make you the way that you are.

Unknown Speaker  35:41  
Because Please tell me that I can have something, please tell me. Just tell me that, please. Because it just gives me more incentive to go after even more. Please tell me I can't be that, please, you know, just if you do that, you know, because I've got a couple of choices. I can either say, I'm not gonna make it, or I gotta go deal with my mother. So now I'm, I prefer that I prefer not to deal with my mother. So my mother would be the one to tell you, you find a way

Unknown Speaker  36:25  
you find

Unknown Speaker  36:27  
it not every not everybody's built that way, though. I think there are some people that believe the idea that people keep telling you the same thing over and over again, I get

Unknown Speaker  36:40  
anything. I mean, even Italy here every day. You get somebody looking at you driving the car, you get somebody looking at you like Peter, what are you doing here? or whatever? You know. And, and, you know, I was we were in? We're in a place called pietrasanta. That's a beautiful city. About I would say it's about 15 minutes up the road. Just beautiful, old old city. You know, very, very classic old world, Italy and his restaurants and eat outside everything. And. And my my wife was she's pretty sensitive about certain things. And she was like, she says, the people are so mean, since it says the people are just so mean, I just I don't understand why the people have to be so mean, you know? And she said, I'm very nervous today because people have been me. All day. People have been mean all this week. And I and I and I didn't I didn't say anything. I just kind of looked over at it.

Unknown Speaker  37:58  
I said I was thinking

Unknown Speaker  38:02  
Amina another friend, we think about the screen we think about those

Unknown Speaker  38:07  
think about I'm 60 to

Unknown Speaker  38:11  
about 60 years of that life, 60 years, 55 years of that of knowing

Unknown Speaker  38:19  
that every time you walk out of the house,

Unknown Speaker  38:23  
every time you walk now, every day

Unknown Speaker  38:27  
that someone looks at you, or someone does something or says something or has an attitude that is racist all of your life, not not just one week, not a month let's try it for 55 years of just people being

Unknown Speaker  38:51  
and they have no idea.

Unknown Speaker  38:54  
And the thing is, the thing is it turns into it also turns into something like you know, I used to have a house of Woodbury Minnesota. Really nice, quote unquote, really nice white cleanness suburb. You know, big house really, really nice place. And I remember this after my divorce I remember I used to love to be in that house because I'd stay there by myself and like music all night and go out around 12 o'clock 1230 or something like that and go up to the 24 hour. Really nice posh grocery store. In no way no way would be. Nobody would be around. You know, I go there at night. And you know, get a little snack, midnight snack because I've been up all night and most times, three times when I went in there as soon as I go in there. The cops come around the corner, you know and pull into the driveway of the store. And so Wow, okay, cool. And nobody and nothing would happen. I mean, I'd go about my business I go home, then same thing would happen. I, you know, a couple nights later, maybe I go back out to the same store. And sure enough cops come around parked in the lot, because they see a black guy coming in, they don't know nothing about me. They have no clue. You know.

Unknown Speaker  40:27  
And they

Unknown Speaker  40:30  
what was what was so sad about it

Unknown Speaker  40:33  
was it wasn't anybody white that was calling the police.

Unknown Speaker  40:38  
It was the guy that the guy that the gentleman was a black gentleman who was working in the store at night, and he will be the one to call the police. So that bleeds off into this whole other thing, that you know what, we can't even trust each other now, because of what we've been told about each other. You know, you don't have enough decency, when asked me, Hey, man, how you doing listening to the scene up all night, you know, automatically. You know, it's almost like the old slavery kind of thing. You know, I'm protecting Mr. Charlie's land. And I see you coming in here. And I don't protect Mr. Charlie stuff. So I'm gonna call the police wasn't even posting the wipers, the Kong Police. It was a black guy. And I think that is probably the most that's one of the disheartening things about that. Oh, you know, along with the fact that, you know, you know, I bought three houses. You know, while I was in Minnesota, my first my first marriage, we bought about by about three different houses living in three different locations. And I just remember coming over to touring all over Europe, touring all over the world with, you know, with the, you know, the biggest singer in history. For months, you know, maybe six months on run, seven months, you know, and then coming home getting in my rav4. And two days later being pulled over by the police, for driving in my own neighborhood,

Unknown Speaker  42:27  
for driving.

Unknown Speaker  42:30  
In my own neighborhood, where I pay taxes, and where I pay, where I put my house, notice three, three grand a month, you know, that sort of thing. And just being pulled over for no reason. And then also, not only being pulled over, but also being a little bit. They want you to do something, they want you to make a move, they want you to act in a certain way. And then so when you don't act in a certain way, that even make some more man. You know, they get more angry because,

Unknown Speaker  43:06  
you know, they were wrong. Because they they get angry.

Unknown Speaker  43:09  
They get in the Yeah. And that's happened a lot. And I've had, you know, I've had to tell police to say, Look, man,

Unknown Speaker  43:21  
give me my ticket.

Unknown Speaker  43:25  
So very simple. As a speeding officer can give me my ticket, and I'll be on my way.

Unknown Speaker  43:33  
In a lot that.

Unknown Speaker  43:36  
I've had I've had police in Minnesota actually call for backup. Because they saw that I had rav4 and I'm driving my car with my son and back. And I heard on the police I heard in radio that says, Yeah, well the guy says it's his car, but I don't believe him. And we'll see about that. And he calls for backup.

Unknown Speaker  44:01  
Now have you ever been pulled over with your kids in the car?

Unknown Speaker  44:04  
Absolutely. That's what that was one of the that was one of the times I son is sitting in the backseat. And this guy is calling the police because I'm taking my son over to the babysitter and this police pulls me over for a right turn on a stop sign or whatever.

Unknown Speaker  44:23  
Do you remember stopping though? Or did you break the law

Unknown Speaker  44:28  
as I smile and say that you know

Unknown Speaker  44:30  
well what would happen was sight stopped and then I made a right turn on. On on which was never sciences no right turn on red.

Unknown Speaker  44:40  
Okay, see? Yeah, so

Unknown Speaker  44:43  
so you know that's okay. Yeah, we'll give me the ticket. I made a right turn and read

Unknown Speaker  44:47  
my for anyone else. It's either a warning or Yeah, you don't feel for your fear for your life. This guy

Unknown Speaker  44:53  
asked my license. My license he asked for registration was registration Ask for insurance. Here's your insurance. He calls and he radios back. And he says, well, the guy says it's his car, but I don't believe him. And we'll see about that. Can I get a backup? And he calls another cop car. So I've got two police cars in backing me with my son and my in the car. And, and the guy saying, Yeah, we'll we'll see about that. So he was he wanted something to happen. He desperately wants something to happen. I wouldn't give him the satisfaction.

Unknown Speaker  45:30  
I wouldn't give any.

Unknown Speaker  45:32  
Tell me. I mean, you have a son, that's 2021 21 years old. Yeah. Tell me some of the things that you've had to teach him living in America, cuz he's in Minnesota, and you're in Italy? Do you worry about him?

Unknown Speaker  45:48  
Well, I told him, I said, I said, Come on look, said you know, don't sit around and get your blue card, you're happy to do so don't speed around. Don't be just don't don't speed it. is funny, because, you know, he's got that blue car, and he really likes to go fast. Come on, just make sure that you don't. But he has also, he has this acceptable look about him. That that maybe police or wherever they're not. They're not worried. He's one of us. Plus, he had these like stickers on his car that that kind of police stickers or whatever. And he's a very political guy. So I don't really worry about him so much. I do tell him to be careful. But I don't really worry about it too much, because he's kind of

Unknown Speaker  46:43  
what about your nieces and nephews and things that may not have the acceptable look?

Unknown Speaker  46:50  
quote on? Well, I think you know, I think

Unknown Speaker  46:55  
you know, I think that they,

Unknown Speaker  46:58  
I don't really talk to them that much, because they're also mixed two kids. So they don't have that intimidating.

Unknown Speaker  47:09  
intimidating skin.

Unknown Speaker  47:14  
When you were growing up, though, did other things that you knew you couldn't do? Because it would be more dangerous? For an example, an example would be I know someone who won't let their son at night in high school, because he's six foot three Sure. Go out with his friends from high school at night. We're at the park. Sure. Right, where it's just the park and it's dark. And because if something went down, I wouldn't need it.

Unknown Speaker  47:44  
Okay, I wouldn't need.

Unknown Speaker  47:47  
And so explain to me why

Unknown Speaker  47:50  
I would need it because you're because you're tired. You're moving to a moving target, because you're talking about, you know, you, you've given these you giving guns, ammunition, to people with less than high school education. Most of them have never been caught. possible, most of them are not even as educated as the people that could kill it. And so we're giving license to these people. And, and basically,

Unknown Speaker  48:21  
they, you know,

Unknown Speaker  48:25  
what they've seen on television and films and everything, which is an atrocity for black people, for sure. It's a system, it's a huge atrocity. Because he figure, this is the way everybody, this is the way what this is, what this is what we are, says complexness is further from the truth. You know, and you built this whole thing, you built this whole scenario view of society, and built this whole scenario, but people in society, it's not even true. And you built it. So you built the monster that you can now he built a monster that now you're afraid of, because because you built it, you made it, you can know. And, you know, I get this whole thing. I mean, you know, sometimes when I'm coming back from Europe, and I'll be on a plane, and you'll see some white people on a plane, and they're talking about their great vacation, and how much fun they had. And then they asked you

Unknown Speaker  49:31  

Unknown Speaker  49:33  
and then they ask you, you're sitting next to them or something and

Unknown Speaker  49:41  
you're sitting next to them, and they'll say, Well, someone, you know.

Unknown Speaker  49:46  
So you're on vacation, or, you know, why are you you know, it's like basically it's a white person asking you why are you here?

Unknown Speaker  49:57  
How did you get over to Italy? Why are you here?

Unknown Speaker  50:03  
And you go like, well, I look here.

Unknown Speaker  50:08  
And then they go oh, so yeah, military? No.

Unknown Speaker  50:14  
Okay, no, no, no military. Oh,

Unknown Speaker  50:18  
my wife's Italian.

Unknown Speaker  50:22  
And it throws totally experts depose him off guard. Because that's not what black guys do is, you know what the black guys do? Chuck? I don't, I don't really go into that that much. But

Unknown Speaker  50:40  
but it's, it's actually very funny. It's really hilarious. My husband. You know, he always talks about like, everybody always thinks he's famous. So when we go somewhere, when in that kind of scenario, they assume he's famous. So he, he's either an athlete or something. When we go to look at homes, yeah,

Unknown Speaker  51:02  
sure. Oh, they would ask him what team he plays for.

Unknown Speaker  51:07  
You can see.

Unknown Speaker  51:08  
Yeah, and that. Yeah, yeah. But then when he goes to a Macy's or something, or some sort of store, yeah, they'll have, you know, loss prevention. We'll be following I'm so sure. It's an interesting I was, I was in I was in, you know, I was in

Unknown Speaker  51:27  
closing back and I was back in Minnesota, but

Unknown Speaker  51:31  
I want to say about six months ago, or whatever, just finished yoga class. I went to Whole Foods.

Unknown Speaker  51:40  
Prior to my yoga class, maybe it was like,

Unknown Speaker  51:44  
you know, eight o'clock 830 or something like that. And

Unknown Speaker  51:52  
you know, I'm in my

Unknown Speaker  51:54  
dress down and I'm just going to get some couple of things to take back. And I've found myself lately being followed by the whole foods guy. And I'm like,

Unknown Speaker  52:09  
and I'm thinking

Unknown Speaker  52:12  
cuz not following me around isn't SWAT trying to make a to make a test? Go over here. And I can, guys, there we go over here, guys. They're like, I'm thinking, skies falling around the whole full size finish. Taking yoga class. I'm here. And this stupid guy is following me. As if I want to steal something that costs $15. Are you serious? Are you joking? So it's almost like it's not. It's not even a you know. It's not even a point of view. It's almost like it's not even a point of racism. I've never, I've never been followed in an Italian store. I've never been pulled over by Italian police. You know, I you know, that's why I'm saying it's so different. Because I have the keys to this, this big studio here. And I remember one particular night, I was leaving in the moment, one o'clock in the morning, and I'm locking up and police are driving by they're making their rounds. He's the police. And there is a forum in the car. And, and they stop and they just kind of stopped and

Unknown Speaker  53:41  
they're so funny. He's kind of look over to go.

Unknown Speaker  53:45  
Nobody gets out of the car. Nobody goes crazy. Just kind of go like

Unknown Speaker  53:50  
and they kind of go like,

Unknown Speaker  53:52  
and they look and I say Ciao may go. So what are you doing? You know, I'm like, Oh, God. So the studio is my friend's studio. I just finished playing some music. You know? Yeah, you know, I play drums. I play drums and work with some of your famous Italian artists. Oh, yeah. Tom was certain artists they go oh, yeah, we love his music. So I went out again, it's like four guys, four police officers in an Italian you know, four police Italian police guys laughing and joking and having talking about Greg. You love this music. It's a whole different thing.

Unknown Speaker  54:37  
But did you feel the need to make sure it or was that your result is a wound from America that you had to tell them? No, I'm a drummer. I'm a music. No, I mean, I can and

Unknown Speaker  54:49  
I felt that they were making their rounds doing doing their job. And they're looking and because that's their job is to check and make sure that nobody's stealing or anything like that. Cuz there's a lot of crime here and stuff like that.

Unknown Speaker  55:02  
But so you literally just felt it, you knew it was them doing their job, not them targeting you,

Unknown Speaker  55:09  
well, you're just doing your job and nobody, nobody jumped out of their car started pointing the gun to me. And you know, all fours. Okay, well, you do it. Well, you know, what's your name? Give me your documents. They could have asked for my passport, they could ask for my documents, they didn't ask for anything. They just said, Oh, okay, challenge our you know, no problem. You know, who is that simple? You know, I don't want you know, one thing I don't, I don't, I don't go around here from fear of my life. I don't know. And I don't go around, walk around here. I said, I've never been pulled over by the police never been stopped or harassed by the police, or anybody like that. And now lately, there's a little more. A little more tension here, because of all the racist rhetoric that's been going on here in this country. And what people have to remember, certain societies, they're not leaders, they're followers. And they've been following the American ideal, the ideal of America. And what's really sick about is that they don't even like it. Okay, so it's basically they're following something that they don't even believe themselves.

Unknown Speaker  56:31  
Yeah, a lot of a lot of countries, they follow America, and always have, so it's such an influential country. And yet, the hatred, and the racial systems built from the beginning of time here are now kind of the virus of that

Unknown Speaker  56:51  
virus of that what, what is going worldwide, but at the same time, I, you know, I noticed with, you know, I noticed with Italian people,

Unknown Speaker  57:05  
they're not happy with themselves when they do that.

Unknown Speaker  57:11  
Because they're not, they're not, because they because they know better, and they know, they know. So it's almost like they're going against, they kind of go in when they act like that, or if they do, they know that they're going against something that they don't even really believe in, and they don't, they don't really, they don't subscribe to it. And, and, and that's part of what's going on right now, even in society here is that there's a lot of racist rhetoric going on and stuff like that, with, you know, with the immigration thing, and also the kind of stuff and, and the, the people here are kind of like, you know, they're worried about their jobs, they're worried about their social structure, they're worried about all this other kind of stuff. But they don't, they don't want to hate anybody. And they don't want to, they don't want to have that. They don't want it because that's not their, you basically not their character and just to be racist just for, okay, you just don't like this, like, black people. We don't like this. We don't like immigrants. That's just not really.

Unknown Speaker  58:20  
I don't feel that.

Unknown Speaker  58:23  
Well, I mean, it's not built into those systems the same way, right? It's not, you know, they would didn't have the three fifths of a person, and then, you know, label their structures after that.

Unknown Speaker  58:37  
And quickly, we also remember, they also remember the time when were they also remember the time when, you know, when the United States sent 200,000 black troops here

Unknown Speaker  58:52  
to protect them from Germany?

Unknown Speaker  58:55  
And, and Spike Lee did a film about he never really

Unknown Speaker  59:01  
got married? No, let's say Nana, America, Santa Ana.

Unknown Speaker  59:05  
Yeah. And so and people have to, you know, people have to understand that there are descendants of those who knows. You know, if you, you know, you see some of the older, light skinned black people here, everything. Some of them are the descendants of those children. You know, their fathers we wanted, like some of the guys who came over here and saved Italy from the Germans. You know, yeah,

Unknown Speaker  59:28  
that's amazing. We don't

Unknown Speaker  59:30  
hear that. We don't hear about that. See?

Unknown Speaker  59:33  
No, and there are amazing stories. Actually, there's a couple coming in Hollywood that I've seen, that are connected to the Second World War, and how they were brought in and yeah, and it and, you know, it's such a stark, just think that you know, these these men going off to war, fighting for other countries. When they go home, they have no rights themselves themselves. Right. Exactly. And that that's just such a, that's the thing, I'll, I'll never forget this quote, this was my early days of realizing America's racist, I remember seeing a quote from someone who went off to second World War. It was a letter he had written, I think back to the homeland. And he said, you know, you know, you they come they make us, you know, fight for, you know, the Danes, the this the, that the Germans or the, you know, the French and obviously, not the German against the German but, and he said, You know, I may have come over to Europe and and but I sure as hell, I'm not going home is one

Unknown Speaker  1:00:50  
look. Yeah, exactly.

Unknown Speaker  1:00:51  
That quote like hit me because that was the first time I remember. Seeing it that way. Like, oh, yeah, they went, they even made the fight and wars and they didn't give anybody the rights back here. How are you fighting that? And then you learn about Ali? Yeah, and the 60s and how he's like, you know, take take my belt all you want, but I'm not going over to

Unknown Speaker  1:01:14  
your man. I don't even know. I don't even know. Do anything to me. And people have done more to him here

Unknown Speaker  1:01:24  
in America than good rap. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker  1:01:26  
yeah. And he was staying to fight for rights in America. What? You know, if he's gonna put his war, he was doing it in the 60s. And so, and many other athletes did the same thing like john Carlos, Tommy Smith, you know, and they a lot of those guys got drafted, too.

Unknown Speaker  1:01:44  
Well, you know, I grew up growing up in Minnesota.

Unknown Speaker  1:01:49  
Minnesota was quite,

Unknown Speaker  1:01:53  
quite strange in the fact that I was pretty ignorant.

Unknown Speaker  1:01:57  
You know, I was pretty ignorant about racism. And I was pretty ignorant about I didn't feel that I was the other core different. I never felt I never felt that I never, ever got that from Minnesota. And, and all along, it was happening, who's going on? I never got it. And I had this great band director is Jane stone, aka Hall, German, white guy with a big long nose, and gray hair. And just like you look at me to scare the crap out of you just so calm. You know, and this guy

Unknown Speaker  1:02:39  
was abandoned.

Unknown Speaker  1:02:42  
And he,

Unknown Speaker  1:02:45  
he, he's one of the guys

Unknown Speaker  1:02:48  
who, basically, is one of the reasons why I'm here now. And one of the reasons why I've been so successful music. Him. He didn't know anything, but he just knew that he wanted to help him he wanted me to. He wanted me to be successful. And he brought in.

Unknown Speaker  1:03:13  
He brought in Clark Terry jazz trumpet player. Wow.

Unknown Speaker  1:03:19  
The legend carteri played with Ellington bass and everybody quarkus. He brought in Clark, because he wanted Clark to meet the water quite to know who I was.

Unknown Speaker  1:03:30  
So he must have obviously believed in you.

Unknown Speaker  1:03:33  
Yeah. And so he, he could have brought in anybody, but he brought Clark in, as a clinician to icecool. stayed there, you know, stayed there three, four days, as a clinician at our high school. And we had dinner and all this other kind of stuff and didn't, you know, had a great time. And then, when I got to North Texas State, it was like, secretly, there was a big secret on campus that Carter was auditioning. was auditioning people for the his big band. Now, ah, yeah, there was a big kind of big secret, you know, and he was auditioning people. And I found out about it. And so I sent him my demo tape. Quite Terry. And

Unknown Speaker  1:04:22  
with your picture, yeah.

Unknown Speaker  1:04:24  
Yeah. And I got the job. With Quark, I got the job. And that was my first tour. You know, outside of playing rock with my band. That was my first tour and Clark Terry was I was on quite activities tour. And that's when I first came to Europe and everything else, but it was all because of gemstone marker that, you know, he brought Clark in so that Clark would meet me and said, Jamal, he said, you know, maybe carpool. Remember, you get into here and he can see you told him you can maybe he'll remember As you know, was the furthest thing from my mind. I'm like, 16 years old. My band directors tell me all this stuff. So it's, it's, you know, it's really hard to you know, you got Cesar Millan got these angels that come in your life.

Unknown Speaker  1:05:22  
And you don't know.

Unknown Speaker  1:05:25  
But they come. And they change things. And they change things for the rest of your life. And Jim was one of those guys. And Jim didn't have a big understanding about anything other than playing trombone and being band director,

Unknown Speaker  1:05:40  
you know, well, but he also, he just knows talent, right? So, you know, something, but the thing

Unknown Speaker  1:05:46  
that really pained the thing, the thing that really made Jim really uncomfortable is that when we go on his band trips, everything that he has to have a list, all the people that were on the band, and he always, he always had to put down that I was Negro, next to my name, so that the people that would housing us to know that there was a black guy staying in the house. And Jim and Jim, she said, You know, he showed it to me, he said, Look, he said, Look what I have to do? He said, look for CT data, they want me to do you want me to put that in there? So that so that the other parents know that there's going to be a high standard house?

Unknown Speaker  1:06:33  
Okay, hang on a second. So was this guy from Germany, this guy like he was an immigrant and had an accent? Or was he like born and raised in America

Unknown Speaker  1:06:42  
was born in America, but you could still marker and you can speak just No, of

Unknown Speaker  1:06:47  
course. But I'm I'm I find when people come from other countries. They're surprised like I was surprised by the racial disparities here.

Unknown Speaker  1:07:01  
But, so for him, I'm glad he

Unknown Speaker  1:07:05  
he was embarrassed about it.

Unknown Speaker  1:07:06  
That's wonderful that he embarrassed he

Unknown Speaker  1:07:09  
just said, he said, Mike, it says, I hate to I hate that.

Unknown Speaker  1:07:14  
He said he hated he showed it to me just to show

Unknown Speaker  1:07:18  
it. I hate that.

Unknown Speaker  1:07:20  
Well, had you seen that document? Right? It would have been a very uncomfortable thing. So I think he wanted full disclosure for you. And also, in case something happened, that you're aware almost to he's protecting you. He's protecting you. And when was it? Do you have a moment or a an incident that you remember the day? I have my incident where I know, I remember, I recognize the day that I realized America's racist. Yeah, you have the moment where you realize you are black? Because like, you know, like, when you were seven or something like, early on, you had no idea and then later,

Unknown Speaker  1:08:07  
I still haven't figured out that I suddenly

Unknown Speaker  1:08:11  
I still but

Unknown Speaker  1:08:12  
you but you know what I mean? Right? Of course, you know, I do.

Unknown Speaker  1:08:15  
But I mean, it's, but I think I've lived with this other mindset for so long, that it's really hard for me to,

Unknown Speaker  1:08:27  
between hard for me to put that in any kind of

Unknown Speaker  1:08:33  
context. It's hard for me to put it in context. If if people want to see me as something and that's their business. But I put it's really hard for me to even, you know, you know, going through all the things that I've gone through and being and doing as much that I've done my life been fortunate enough to say, fortunate enough to do all the things that I've done in my life. I i've never, I've never felt to be anything but Michael Baker I've never felt to be I didn't know that. You know, me, it's like I didn't know that I was somebody had to tell me that I was what am i black? Look? What

Unknown Speaker  1:09:19  
like a label?

Unknown Speaker  1:09:20  
Yeah, I don't know what that is.

Unknown Speaker  1:09:23  
Well, we talked offline about other things. But I think it'd be interesting for you to share why you had that perception. And what your mother told you because maybe inform the audience and the listeners about how you move to hearing from his hands like no, there was no

Unknown Speaker  1:09:42  
there was there was no excuse. You know, there was no in my head. It was no excuse. And I have to look at it in reality and look at it looks like we're talking about

Unknown Speaker  1:09:56  
we're talking about

Unknown Speaker  1:10:00  
I'm always in awe about my mom and her friends and her and her friends that she, she's all of her girlfriends and old friends that she's known all my life. My mother, she's got a PhD, she became the Commissioner of corrections for the state of Minnesota. She was she's also commissioner of the waste control. In Minnesota.

Unknown Speaker  1:10:25  
It's hard for me to.

Unknown Speaker  1:10:31  
I said, I asked her I said, Mom,

Unknown Speaker  1:10:35  
how the hell did you guys do? How did how did you do that? How did you raise four boys?

Unknown Speaker  1:10:44  
How did you raise four boys?

Unknown Speaker  1:10:48  
Alone basically, and

Unknown Speaker  1:10:52  
got your education went back to school at age 35. cutter education, you get gone. Crabtree PhD? Got all the stuff?

Unknown Speaker  1:11:05  
And how, you know?

Unknown Speaker  1:11:08  
How did you do that?

Unknown Speaker  1:11:11  
With with no resources, with very limited resources. Somebody basically, and society basically telling you that you can't do you can make. And I cannot look at that at her record. And say that I can't make it. I can't do it. And so if that has some kind of label attached to it, you know, if if some stupid person on this planet, lots of

Unknown Speaker  1:11:47  
wants to say that I'm a black guy.

Unknown Speaker  1:11:51  
You don't want to hear what's coming out of my mouth.

Unknown Speaker  1:11:54  
You want to hear because of the fact that

Unknown Speaker  1:11:59  
you know, I'm like, What do you?

Unknown Speaker  1:12:06  
What do you what do you mean?

Unknown Speaker  1:12:09  
What does that mean? You know,

Unknown Speaker  1:12:14  
you got a problem in your mind. And that's, that's your problem. But don't bring your crap to me. I don't understand. You know, like Morgan Freeman said something. He said he was talking to one on CBS interviews. And he said, he said, How about we do this? He said, he said don't get me. He said don't basically stuff. I know he wanted to say, I really want to say it in a different way. So don't get me not fucking holiday. I don't need you. Give me what your day to do. What? Oh, give me your fucking month. I don't need that. He said, How about we start with this? You stop calling me black? And I'll stop calling you Why

Unknown Speaker  1:12:55  
don't we start there? We start with that.

Unknown Speaker  1:13:00  
I don't I don't need I don't need to, you know, he was broken down. And I love that statement. Because I agree. Totally. Don't. Don't give me Tell me about what month it is or this day or only that crap. You know, we don't we just treat each other like human beings and we just keep moving forward.

Unknown Speaker  1:13:24  
Yeah, what?

Unknown Speaker  1:13:25  
What's going on? In Italy right now? Because they were they were really active with the Black Lives Matter movement. Yeah, yeah. What's going on now? Because here, it seems like it's kind of dying down a little bit.

Unknown Speaker  1:13:40  
Yeah, I don't know what's really going on here. Basically, you know, there's, like I said it, you know, there are

Unknown Speaker  1:13:52  
you know, they're

Unknown Speaker  1:13:55  
young know, there could there's a

Unknown Speaker  1:13:59  
you know, you know, I have a, you know, it you know, with Italian with Italian society with the Italian people at the

Unknown Speaker  1:14:07  
same time, sometimes I can't, um, you know,

Unknown Speaker  1:14:15  
this is strange, I find find it to be very strange, but they have a certain part that a certain kind of understanding of basic human decency or basic human decency and doesn't mean that they have to be on Black Lives Matter movement on their side or this side or like that. It's not that it's a basic, common human decency element. And I think many of them try to follow that.

Unknown Speaker  1:14:48  
Can Why do you do you feel America's like that?

Unknown Speaker  1:14:52  
Um, I feel that there are parts of America that are very much like that have very, very high sensitivity Since and we're just basically fighting the war amongst job, you know, but I think that, you know, my, you know, I see that in my mother's friends I see that look, you know, you see that white friends that I've had all my life that I've known all my life since I was a kid. Since I was really young, who's the same people and so there is no color there's no line, there's no barrier, nothing like that. We all came up from Duluth, Minnesota. I mean, come on, you know, we're up in the freakin north of up in the freakin North have gone up there. JOHN, the Great Lakes, you know what?

Unknown Speaker  1:15:44  
To be pissed off about

Unknown Speaker  1:15:46  
me. They say they're practically Canadian up there,

Unknown Speaker  1:15:49  
practically cleaning up there. So it's like, you know, we don't I mean, you know, there was a terrible thing that happened, that a really bad thing, it's kind of a classic race, a really classic picture of three black men that were killed in Duluth. And they acknowledged it just a couple years ago, just to see, you know, knowledge to acknowledge the crime, and then show the pictures and also the kind of thing. So I think that there's, I think that, you know, there are people that are doing things that there, there are people doing things better of doing things and you're trying to make a change, not only for you're trying to make a change for because they got good sense enough to know that humanity needs that.

Unknown Speaker  1:16:48  
Do you feel like this movement right now, is going to actually make a difference this time? Do you think that there's going to be change? I mean, obviously, nothing can get fixed overnight. Right. But

Unknown Speaker  1:17:03  
yeah, I think that, I think that, you know, it's a hard question. Um, I wish I was more knowledgeable. But, um,

Unknown Speaker  1:17:18  
I think that,

Unknown Speaker  1:17:20  
it, you know, I think that any move that any singular person does, on their own, on their own, because I think it starts with the individuals, and starts with people, and recognizing, individually, how we all are as, as human beings, you know, and stop looking at, on, on with this group, or I'm a part of this thing, I'm a part of this thinking that it starts only with the humanity of you have your own soul, your own, your own starts with you. And every person thinks in terms of, of changing things, because, you know, we can be just as little things, stopping for traffic and letting somebody go first, could be sending, you know, sharing something, or could be just little gestures that make that make the world a little more livable, and make society more livable for every human being. And I think, if that takes hold, because I don't believe that, I don't believe that there's going to be I don't believe that everything to take hold and everybody's going to change on their, you know, I think similarly, everyone needs to just do something, do what they can, you know, on their own man to man, person to person back and forth to make life better, you know, better for better for everyone. You know? I've, you know, I mean, like, like, there's a, I'll tell the story, and I get into it going, but I, I tell this one story. This is a guy that I a family that lived next door to us. Yeah, that Hanses. And Mr. Hanson used to work from about four in the morning to come in at 230 at night, come to during the afternoon. That was his day. And then he would say, and I hadn't seen him in a long time. I went back to Duluth. And he goes, and he goes, Hey, Mike is really good to see you. You know, he said, You know, I've been wanting to tell you this for years, but I just didn't know what now we're talking about 45 years later. So I really didn't want to tell you about you know what, or I'm telling you I'm really happy that you started working with them. Whitney Houston girl You really done good for yourself, you know what I tell you. But I have to say one thing for us to practice those drums on the front porch and used to drive me crazy. I say, Gosh, like we said, Mikey Baker will just give us all a break one day.

Unknown Speaker  1:20:21  
I love it. You know, Mr. Hanson, I go here, he says, You know, I come home from como oil, and you'd still be playing those drums. I'm trying to go to sleep, you know, but I didn't want to say not to hear because I thought you're gonna be something one day, so.

Unknown Speaker  1:20:36  
And if he done that, maybe you wouldn't have been able to practice as much right? That you

Unknown Speaker  1:20:41  
can, but you can't by yourself that you can't

Unknown Speaker  1:20:43  
by that. You can't, you can. And he's happy he didn't, right.

Unknown Speaker  1:20:50  
He said he didn't, you know, and that means a hell of a lot to me. That meant I mean, him just saying that meant a hell of a lot to me. You know, I mean, I mean, I mean, you know, you, you know, I tell you, there's some things that, you know, you can play in front of thousands and thousands of people, all kinds of stuff to marry. But there's nothing like that.

Unknown Speaker  1:21:14  
There's nothing like that.

Unknown Speaker  1:21:15  
It's hometown proud is what that is hometown Pro.

Unknown Speaker  1:21:19  
And this is just an old white guy working at the como oil, please turn into oil on for everybody. You know, kicking everybody's house warmer in the wintertime. You know, I love that. So that is what some that's what's important to me. That's, that's, that's that that's what, that's what life means to you.

Unknown Speaker  1:21:42  
And that that is it's those things that that matter. So what's them? What's a piece of advice you would leave our listeners? Because the listeners that are on this are people who want to

Unknown Speaker  1:21:59  
want to help want to make a difference? Well,

Unknown Speaker  1:22:04  
well, like I like I was saying, everything is not always what it seems. Everybody is that racist, and everybody that doesn't agree with you is not racist. And everybody that looks at you differently, is not racist. And I have to teach my site to learn that every day, I have to keep reminding myself that every day, you know, you know, everybody's got story, you know, who, you know? You know, what, you know, like to like a cynic today in the grocery store. In this case, here's all the Italian guy, he's, you know, he's worried about where the dog on food, you know, where the where the, where the rats go for the thing. And he wants you. He wants to make sure that in the right place. I don't know what war he fought in. I don't know. That's his protocol that says, I don't know that that's the way he is able to survive. Because he's been in the military all his life, and he fought for Italy, or whatever he did. I don't know that. But I just can't say, Oh, yeah, he's a racist, because he said to me, you know, you know, he's got good enough sense to know that I'm not from this country, but he's, it isn't. I mean, basically, it's like, you don't know people's story. You know, and I think that if everybody treated everybody that way, by people wiping away people, everybody treated anyone, you don't know my story. We don't know each other's stories. And the more we tell each other stories, that it's like, it becomes a whole different thing.

Unknown Speaker  1:23:45  
It becomes universal, because everybody knows the same feelings. Right?

Unknown Speaker  1:23:49  
Exactly. It's a different thing. You can't, you can't just say, Okay, this is that, and that is that, you know,

Unknown Speaker  1:23:58  
you know, I, you know, I know.

Unknown Speaker  1:24:04  
You know, even my I mean, even my story, I just quickly go online. I don't know how I mean, I know how I got here, but you know, better in a person, if the person is looking at me, like, oh, he said some black guys on black guys walking, okay. And that's what he sees. And that's what, that's where he's starting from. Then he's already lost the battle. He's already lost the thing.

Unknown Speaker  1:24:28  
It will if that's all he sees, oh, you send it, then the issue isn't you It is him.

Unknown Speaker  1:24:35  
And the printing all starts with giving. It all starts with every individual. You know, it's because you don't know somebody. I don't know the story.

Unknown Speaker  1:24:45  
Well, I mean, that quote of people will love you in life and people will hate you and neither have anything to do with you.

Unknown Speaker  1:24:53  
Right? Exactly. And and you know, it's like it's Like, you know, everything is not what it you know, everything is not what he did. But but but it seemed. But it seems to be about anybody about anything and until you know what's what's actually going on and everything in it, you know, keep peeling stuff back far enough. And I find that you're probably even related to somebody that you never know, you could be related to somebody that you thought you were getting ready to, you know, Miles Davis always had this one great thing to say. He said, though, it's, it's tried, tried so hard to hate white people that really is working hard trying to hate white people. He said, everybody's, the only thing is some nice old white lady, some white pair come up here. That for

Unknown Speaker  1:25:52  
me. I love that. You know, it's like, I love that.

Unknown Speaker  1:25:58  
I love that statement too. Because it's just is so real. Because at the same time, you're getting ready to hate somebody or get ready. Okay, put everybody in the same basket, you know, you get somebody that comes on and says, Hey, you know, because I can tell you do this, you know? And,

Unknown Speaker  1:26:17  
and when you hate like that, it means you've given up, right? And so I think that's the message here with this, with this, you know, interview with you and talking with you and conversation with you is that none of us can give up, but it's on. It's on us and it's on you. It's on all of us. It's everyone's problem, you're going on

Unknown Speaker  1:26:41  
individual as to, if you can, my son can kind of what you say was that word, corny, corny, or whatever. But if you can you just, you know, everybody's got everybody's got a story, everybody has a thing and on psyche, just can't. You want to put everybody in the same basket and you say, okay, all these guys are like, all this is like this. And it's, but it's much harder, it's much easier as the easy way out, it's much harder to really look at, on this one, look at the situations really look at it, you know, it's really look, you know, this is an individual, and you don't know what they're going through, and they don't know what you're going through. And it's, it's not necessarily, you know, maybe the powers that be want to make everything race related and berate everybody with that everything sorted by starts hating each other and killing each other. And that's the easy way out for them. But basically, everyone has their thing, you know, to get someone alone long enough, and you break it down, if I find that they got a lot of a lot of baggage, they got a lot of wounds, that stuff that they haven't dealt with, which is an individual thing, you know, which is each individual has a lot of stuff. And if you don't, if if each individual does not work on themselves and work on their issues, then it's going to come out, it's going to come out in a parking lot, wearing about two inches of space in a parking lot. Or I don't want to wear my mask because I want freedom or something.

Unknown Speaker  1:28:27  
Right. It's about community and and us coming together. And, you know, it's um, we just can't give up. And I think that that's the message. And I think that that's a great place to leave it, you know, and hopefully everyone will continue on their journey of being an ally. And our goal is to eventually figure out the policies that we need to change racial policies. That's where we're, that's where we're headed with this. But yeah, I think this is a good place to leave it. So I appreciate you joining us. You know, I'm, I'm, I'm more than happy to have been doing this. I appreciate you so much. Thank you.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai