For Dr. Renaldo Hemphill
(1979-2015), and all the producers and board members who have gone on before him.
Sometimes you won’t admit the fact of a death - can’t admit it - until you actually see a photograph in an obituary, be it online or in a newspaper. Mistakes are made all the time after all, right?
But not in this case.
There are families we all emerge from, where we are bound by the bonds of blood and DNA, and there are families that are created around us, through work, activism, hobbies, or what-have-you, where folks who might never have met each other, who at first glance might think they have nothing in common come to value and respect each other, and are made stronger by their mutual association.
Among folks who know nothing of public access - but think they know all about it, because they have seen Wayne’s World, or seen the garbled accounts of “scandals” reported by TV anchors who know as little ads they do - there is a tremendous ignorance of the passion, intelligence and dedication of the average person who is drawn to public access television.
I have written enough about public access over the years that I hardly need write a dissertation on it today, though let me tell you the story of Renaldo Hemphill - sorry, Doctor Renaldo Hemphill - and how he exemplifies the spirit of public access across this great country of ours, and Fayetteville in particular.
In 2012, Renaldo reached the milestone of being free of leukemia for a quarter of a century, and the list of accomplishments this young man in his early 30s had achieved would put most of us to shame. Though he suffered from health problems (due to compromised lung function) throughout his life he still managed to graduate from high school at the age of 16 - by doubling his coursework during his junior year.
In addition to receiving both the Daisy Bates/Southwestern Bell and the Thurgood Marshall Foundation scholarships, he graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff - at the age of 19.
His life was spent in helping his fellow members of the human race, particularly those with disabilities. To that end, he worked as executive board member of the National Youth Leadership Network, which is an organization dedicated to the training of young people with disabilities, as well as serving on the National Council of Disabilities Youth Advisory Committee.
After achieving his Master’s Degree in Microphotonics-Microelectronics , he chose to return to Pine Bluff and offer remedial help in mathematics to disadvantaged youth so that they might excel at math and physics.
And somewhere along the way, he found time to discover public access in Fayetteville, becoming a Community Access Television
board member, which is where I met him. And though I liked him, and we communicated a great deal by email, I never got the chance to get to know him as well as I would have liked, or should have.
But I do know this: Renaldo Hemphill - as opposed to the slacker image promoted by folks who don’t understand public access - embodies the very spirit which has made public access what it is over the years. A place where folks of all faiths or views are welcome, where folks who may vociferously disagree with the views of someone else will gladly help them with their program - because that’s what public access is: a community.
A community of folks who embody the quilt of diversity that is Northwest Arkansas. A community I am proud to be part of, and proud that men like Renaldo Hemphill were a part of it, as well.
Renaldo Hemphill: How to go to College in Seven Easy Steps
A few years ago Renaldo began the Renaldo J. Hemphill Foundation, which was formed to help the Delta Region utilizing the the E’s approach: Empathy, Education and Economic Development. Four years ago his foundation distributed 15,000 flyers which showed folks how to save money on college expenses.
He also wrote a book: How to go to College in Seven Easy Steps
maybe in the next life we’ll get to know each other better, my friend.
Quote of the Day
There is something wrong in government where those who do the most have the least. There is something wrong when honesty wears a rag, and rascality a robe; when the loving, the tender, eat a crust, while the infamous eat at banquets. - Robert Ingersoll