Tribute To J.D. Livingstone: "What's Up Doc?"

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J.D. Livingstone, second from left, shown when he visited with Guerrilla Journalism in November. Rev. Conrad Tillard, front, was also in the house next to Sitser Ollie McClean our hostess and founder of Sankofa Academy


"What's Up Doc?"

I will never hear that greeting again.

And that infectious laughter. Long and hard.

J.D. Livingstone could laugh. Even when it was bad political news; such as some no-good scheme or Congressional political blockade the Tea Party or the rest of the Republicans were up to.

He would always be able to point out something absurd about the whole affair; or the rank hypocrisy involved. He had a way of seeing through the spin. I think that's why we liked each other.

J.D. loved my editorials. He loved The Black Star News. I've never come across anyone who loved this publication more than J.D. Livingstone.

"You guys are the only ones left doing investigative journalism, man. You guys are the real journalists left," he would often say.

"I'm telling you man, if I had a million dollars to spare it would go to The Black Star News. I wish you could become a daily," he would say.

And I believed him.

He'd been a fan of The Black Star News since the paper launched in August of 1997.

When the paper was new he and Imhotep Gary Byrd made sure we came to the studio when it was still on Park Avenue and 34 Street during Inner City Broadcasting's heyday.

Gary Byrd interviewed me several times when The Black Star was new; this helped spread the paper's name and the reputation grew. During the weekly roundup of Black-owned newspapers Byrd would read headlines from some of The Black Star's news scoops.

Both Byrd and J.D. were big boosters of newspapers that "Speak Truth To Power."

They had also been fans of the legendary The City Sun, published by the late Andy Cooper. Many now well-known names in journalism cut their teeth at The City Sun, including: Errol Louis; Wayne Dawkins; Hugh Hamilton; Utrice Leid; Maitefa Angaza; Karen Juanita Carillo; and many others.

After I graduated from Columbia's School of Journalism, I interned with The Journal of Commerce and The Wall Street Journal, then I was a freelancer with The New York Times metro news desk for a few years. But after I started writing for The City Sun around 1995, I never looked back. Cooper believed in news, big stories, and investigative journalism; Cooper didn't believe in protecting anyone just because  they were Black if they were engaged in practices or policies that harmed the community.

Cooper's editorials were legendary.

When The City Sun folded after Cooper started struggling with poor health I never even considered trying to get a job at The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times.

I wanted to carry on the legacy of The City Sun. On the day that the newspaper's door was shut for good, I started writing a business plan  -- then I sent it out to people I knew had very deep pockets. Many didn't respond; some wrote polite rejections, wishing me luck and success.

Camille and Bill Cosby sent me a check for seed money. And The Black Star News was born.

And J.D. Livingstone may have been even happier than I was when we printed the first issue and delivered it to him in the radio studio.

We'd sometimes deliver copies to the National Action Network where J.D. volunteered, helping to promote NAN's justice work. He wanted to make sure people who came to hear Rev. Al Sharpton's Saturday morning sermons read The Black Star News.

J.D. felt like he was a part of the paper; and we felt that he was indeed part of the family.

Sometimes he even referred people facing injustice to The Black Star News. "J.D. said if anyone can crack this story then it's The Black Star News," they would invariably say.

Our friendship became even much more tight over the past five years; after Gary Byrd started the Obama Watch show during the 2008 campaign. What started as a once-a-week show to analyze and critique the 2008 presidential campaign has now lasted into 2014.

Herb Boyd was once also on the reporters' panel. Now, the weekly panel includes me, Cash Michaels out of North Carolina, and Bankole Thompson, out of Michigan

The man who helped coordinate it all was J.D. Livingstone.

And we'd chew up the news every week. Occasionally, we, the panelists, chewed into each other as well; especially yours truly and Cash Michaels.

Yet it's never out of malice; we all hold strong views and we're passionate about issues, especially the ones that most impact African American communities, such as: disproportionately high levels of unemployment; lack of access to capital for Black businesses; education systems that fail our children; voter disenfranchisement; the prison industrial pipeline of mass incarceration; racist-inspired murders such as that of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis; and, many other issues.

J.D. made sure the shows ran smoothly and seamlessly as the co-producer.

Imhotep Gary Byrd is of course devastated.  J.D. was more than his friend; he was like a brother to Gary Byrd.

In recent years J.D. had battled with serious illness that caused him to be hospitalized a number of times.

Still, towards the end of last year, there was J.D., participating in Guerrilla Journalism workshop, the free community journalism class I conduct every Monday evening at Sankofa Academy, in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. He was fully engaged and shared his insights into the week's discussion and critique of stories from the corporate media.

A few months ago I told J.D. that later this year, when Guerrilla Journalism holds its annual awards dinner, he'd be one of the people we'd recognize. He told me he felt greatly honored; I will keep my word.

J.D. had lost much weight and his stride had become shorter and slower in recent months. Yet whenever I ran into him he was quick to smile and ask, "What's Up Doc?"

The last time I heard his voice was two Sundays ago when he called me for that evening's show with Gary Byrd.

On March 14, J.D. Livingstone lost his battle with his illness.

We love him; we will miss him.

May this proud African journalist rest in peace with the ancestors.

It's all right. It's all right. It's all right.......


Note: We will post any information on funeral arrangements. Meanwhile send an e-mail message to [email protected] in case I get information for anyone that wants to get in touch with J.D. Livingstone's family




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