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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Randall Pinkston Kicks Off Black History Month

    Jan. 30 – Randall Pinkston, award-winning CBS News reporter, kicked off Black History Month early at the Black History Month Opening Ceremony in the SAC Auditorium.

    Randall spoke with the audience not so much on the matter of racial prejudice — both past and present — but rather how those biases affected him and his work.

    Undoubtedly, if Pinkston were born in the late 1980s, in New York City, he wouldn’t be the Randall Pinkston we know today. In fact, he probably wouldn’t even be a journalist.

    Pinkston would have enjoyed the luxury of drinking from whichever water fountain he wished, sitting on whichever bench he chose and being able to shop wherever he wanted.

    However, he wasn’t so lucky.

    Pinkston was born and raised in Mississippi during the ’60s, at a time when “strict racial prejudice was the norm.”

    He could only drink from a “whites only” water fountain illegally and had to sit on a bench for “colored” people. Yet, while all of this was going on around him, he realized that there was hope.

    “Race limited our actions, but race did not limit our dreams,” he said.

    And it definitely didn’t limit his.

    Pinkston initially attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., where he worked at the university’s radio station for a while. But when his father passed away, he transferred to Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss.

    When he returned to Mississippi, his father’s minister suggested that he work as a reporter at the local television station, WBLT-TV. Pinkston got the job, but race was secretly a factor.

    WLBT was in danger of losing its license due to having discriminatory broadcasts and in an effort to keep the license, the station tried to diversify its staff. As such, they were looking for black people to join them. Pinkston was, of course, one of those people.

    That didn’t matter though, as he learned to “stay focused on what was important.”

    From there on, Pinkston went to work at many different stations, eventually joining CBS News.

    As a reporter for CBS, Pinkston had the opportunity to travel to many places around the world such as Afghanistan and Haiti — the two places he spoke about in his speech.

    In Afghanistan, Pinkston, yet again, observed some racial prejudice.

    While he was there, three of his black colleagues were accosted by a group of Afghan gunmen. These gunmen assumed that his colleagues were Osama bin Laden’s followers as most of the black people in Afghanistan neighborhoods at that time were linked to bin Laden. Luckily they were unharmed.

    Pinkston himself was never approached as such, as he always made it a point to get close to the people he was covering. When visiting a foreign place, such as Afghanistan, he made sure to learn at least one phrase that would be useful.

    For Afghanistan, he learned the phrase “Thank you very much” but being the “dummy from America,” as he put it, he always managed to say “Very, very thank you,” at which the Afghans he met laughed.

    When he was in Haiti, Pinkston had the same mindset.

    Stationed in Port-au-Prince, he made sure to find out what Haitian people were really like; not what people assumed they were like — filthy and violent.

    While he was there, he discovered that Haitians were just like regular people, except they had to make do with the very little they had. He saw the creativity of children that had to make toys from everyday items and the neatness of women who only had dirt paths to sweep.

    Yes, there was violence in Haiti, but Pinkston attempted to focus and report on the hopes and aspirations of the Haitian people during such a difficult time. A skill he said he learned not from journalism alone, but from his own life.

    What he took from Haiti was a “renewed determination to focus on the dignity of people who may not have money, and may not have resources, but have a lot of pride.”

    At the end of his speech, Pinkston noted that while being a black reporter was challenging at times, he said he felt “blessed and privileged” to have been able to witness and experience what he did and share it with others.

    When he finished, he challenged the audience.

    He said, “Keep your eyes open for the possibilities of people no matter what they look like or what you’ve heard. Don’t assume. Find out for yourself.”

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