tv Interview with Kevin Merida The Fierce 44 CSPAN February 23, 2020 8:38pm-9:01pm EST
>> kevin, why is espn putting out in a young leaders book called fierce 44? >> for the undefeated, our platform focused on culture we have a digital project in 2017 to the first african-american president titled the fierce 44 we had this idea let's do an all mosh lawn - - homage to the greatest achievement to become president so we did the
list and interaction project it was well received and highly debated and then houghton mifflin publisher said turn this into a children's book. because they are not a lot of african-american biographies so there were these beautiful illustrations so we turned into a book. >> what is the format? >> basically it gives kids just enough that they can learn about these african-american achievers and to absorb the inspiration and
greatness that black americans of this country. >>host: your editor in chief of the undefeated that is part of espn? >> we launched may 2016 the idea of a form are on - - former president that we have a digital project to have a loyal black audience on digital where race and sports and culture intersect this is very much about culture so that came about and i was at the washington post when we
knew each other and then to be presented with this opportunity and then to have a startup. >> you are managing editor of the washington post how much debate happen in your family? >> allied of debate particularly my wife. [laughter] but sometimes you disrupt your own career but then you try something different. it turned out fantastic. >> just to be clear 44 biographical strategies desk etches. >> it's a play off the 44th president. he was exiting the white house and we said we will do 44 it
was originally the undefeated 44 these are the selections there is a lot of fierce debate you can imagine there are many more. we don't say this is the greatest black achievers ever. these are just 44 that we looked at that fit the sensibility of the first african-american president in the sense that they did something pioneering, and disrupting, noisy geniuses are quiet innovators to do something extraordinary in their own space. and we did that and then to
convince the group and that if you are going to add someone you had to say prove that they lost it was a lot of back and forth and a lot of people were left off but i think a lot of great people are on the list. >>host: what do you want young readers to know about barack obama besides being the first black president? >> in chicago happen to have an event my colleague was hosting that had barack obama and it was a discussion about what athletes do and how they use their influence and it was a reminder what someone like obama does to elevate a
discussion and to interact with the athletes and then to think more deeply how they could influence and use their own power for good on social issues. it is hard to become president. i don't care. so to be the first african-american to do that is a signature achievement. >> we have six athletes. and the athletes that we do have on the list like serena
williams and the greatest gymnast ever, simone, michael jorda jordan, not only the first black athlete outside of oj who really who set model for how athletes can do business. and he had style and a swagger in addition to the highflying ability. there's a lot of reasons why various people got picked hank aaron is not on the list and he easily could have been on that list. but i think the athletes that we do have our amazing. >> who is not in the book you personally wanted?
>> not all my choices got picked. some people he argued for i don't think there was much argument. some people were obvious like mohammed ali. thurgood marshall was a favorite because i think his contribution to break the back of jim crow to travel dark roads and then to go into all white courtrooms and doing it under death threat is important to have that legal dimension while everybody else is out in the street protesting and doing a set in. think i argue for jesse jackson as a forerunner to barack obama who first set the
idea it was possible and also as a great orator and inspiring many generations to have hope so there is a lot of debate people getting knocked down and dispirited. >> you are the co-author of a book on justice clarence thomas. was he considered quick. >> he was raised. as a supreme court justic justice, certainly a lot of people were raised we were mindful of not trying to make these choices based on ideology or factors that this
person was is isolated to look at achievement and what was done in with 44 you are missing a lot of people. louis armstrong was another that was debated. the process was we don't want to have it overly weighted with civil rights or activists you could feel the entire book so probably i think we added people and religion is such an important issue. and for those that play such a
role of the more religious figures at some point i think i may have raised it even as a decorated general so that was a nod to our contributions. >> there is a connection between jesse owens and benjamin davis that operated during the same time. then came back to the us to the same old world and many of those other olympians came back and were not treated and welcomed in the way we are accustomed to those olympic champions being welcomed.
>> turning home to the oppression of jim crow working at menial jobs and pumping gas. >> that was a sideshow and a tragic outcome for somebody who was essentially regarded defeating hitler. >> who was robert abbott quick. >> a great newspaper editor. the chicago sentinel was one of the most important for black america. with the migration and as a beacon for truth and abbott
then to do work under threats. they were important defenders above all. and what about sports and politics quick. >> i was a sports fan i followed sports closely the editor and i oversaw the news it as a feature writer i felt comfortable in the sports world. but the biggest difficulty and the transition like the washington post and then going to a startup that did not have
a culture we had to build everything from the ground floor. some encounter all kinds of challenges but it was a great transition. >> why the undefeated. >> it is based on the my angelou quote we face many defeats but we will not be defeated. and really from a spirit standpoint to really come together as an idea our kids lose, we hugged them we know it's not the end of the world and the resilience of what black americans have done in
this country with the triumph of obstacles. >> as you mentioned there are six athletes mentioned in the fierce 44. are athletes inherently role models? >> if they want to be or not they are for many people because they are out doing their work in public and they interact with fans people come pay money so kids look up to them. because many kids grow up playing sports and wishing they could become serena williams. so you see that pipeline so i
think that athletes look up to them and want to become them so they are a role model. >>host: what about colin kaepernick quick. >> yes. at a point in time he had the symbolism of black athletes and certainly sacrificed his career in order to make a point about police brutality and racial injustice. as somebody from the modern day to sacrifice he was definitely considered.
>> there were two people in this book i have never heard of i am ashamed to say one was jean michel. >> he was in off and guard painter and was in right now some of his paintings are up there at the highest resale value and was somebody that a young genius that die too young and never know what they could've become. but even him as a disruptor because there are a lot of other artist that said there should have been others that
were more deserving. so in every genre you have so much success you make choices for a lot of different reasons and i like the fact they expect a person to be in the list. >> so disruptors were important to be included? >> yes i think courage and bravery, taking the chance going into places where others have not gone. all of those should be considered for coach achievement is success. we didn't have a score sheet
and we just made some selections. >> the other i have not heard of doctor drew. >> yes a pioneer in medicine. and in nashville to represent the importance of medical discovery and the sciences and the contribution and a lot of other people that were in the realm of scientific invention discovery. >> who do you hope reads this? >> i hope parents we it with their children to make kids of all races and ethnicities
these are black americans who shook up the world its american history and i hope that kids everywhere can learn something. >> beautiful illustrations. >> rubber ball was an artist we contracted with who is fantasti fantastic. >> the editor in chief of the undefeated. also one of the authors of this book black americans who shook up the world . . . .