Talking with Lissa L. Jones is not so much merely having a conversation as it is enjoying a revitalizing experience, a most stimulating interaction. Indeed, it isn’t much different than catching her on the radio, doing her KMOJ program Urban Agenda.
As producer-host, she fuels the program with an animated, fluidly articulate stream of engaging thought. And she couldn’t do a better job of personifying the station’s credo “The People’s Station,” conscientiously holding forth on issues salient to African American sensibilities.
The show, airing Thursday evenings at six, easily qualifies as the station’s best bet for syndication. Strongly relating to her local audience, she has conducted entertaining, enlightening interviews with such national figures as Congressman Keith Ellison, authors Walter Mosley and Isabel Wilkerson and activist Tim Wise as well as renowned Twin Cities historian, scholar and community griot Mahmoud El-Kati.
Urban Agenda’s premise, she states, is “Knowledge is power. By examining and discussing the intersection of Black history and Black present, we can understand what went down is what’s going down and, if we’re wise, we understand what’s about to go down. Our answers to what’s happening to us in 2012, 2013 and 2014 really lie in Frederick Douglass and Malcolm X, Dr. King, Fannie Lou Hamer and Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison, Langston Hughes.”
Another historic figure, Marcus Garvey, said that a man with no knowledge of himself is like a tree with no roots. Accordingly, grounded in self-awareness, she is not about to go for the head fakes our society continually perpetuates.
Jones follows up, “Answers to the perplexing questions the United States presents around Black people: This whole ‘people of color’ thing is a watered down way [of] trying to lumps us all together just because the [country] is getting more global. But, when we’re taking about race in the United States, people need to be clear we are talking Black people and White people. There’s a great benefit to somebody being able to have the wisdom of Frederick Douglass who’s never met Frederick Douglass.”
Jones is bringing back from hiatus her Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder commentary column, “Voices of the Village.” Her philosophy there is to “spread love in the village and let it reign. Let Black people speak the language of love and peace to each other. Let us figure out that we’re in this thing together.”
Her high-profile opinions, expressed on Urban Agenda, in “Voices of the Village” or at a guest speaking engagement, tackles tough issues without being bitter. For instance, she reflects on a recent, searing hot day visiting a public swimming pool.
“I watched kids from Freedom School last week in Minneapolis. A White mother, when the children got in the water, complained right away ‘The Black kids are splashing.’” As if children, period, don’t splash each other, especially on a hot day. “Another mother stopped her child from playing with one of the Freedom School youngsters. It stunned and hurt both children. It’s a shame when they’re five and 12 years [old], the Black kids [later] had to be debriefed about racism. That doesn’t seem right to me.
“The way Jim Crow segregation has reared its ugly head without the signs for ‘Colored’ and ‘White’ only speak to my heart about the necessity of Black people [determining] for ourselves who we are and what we are in the world. The best thing to do is teach our children about the ways of love. Of peace.”
Busy as she is doing her professional thing, Jones blends being an autonomous Black woman with being a happily married wife, wed these past six years to Jonathan Lofgren. They enjoy an easy rhythm that eludes many a relationship.
“I would give him more credit for that than myself. He’s a laid-back person, an unassuming man.” So, it’s true. Opposites attract.
“He is very loving,” Jones says of Lofgren. “Jonathan makes it very simple to keeps things smooth and easy.”
Generally not one to worry about others’ opinions, she does acknowledge it’s “a pet peeve of mine” that some label her militant. “It bothers me a great deal with people trying to box me in. For Black people, it seems that when we want to know the answers to the questions asked by Malcolm X, ‘Who are you and what do you have? Who stole your history and why did [they] steal it?’ Somehow the endeavor to be able to answer those questions for ourselves is labeled militant.”
Jones goes on to say, “I’m all about Black people being able to answer the questions for ourselves. Because the answers the world gives are all negative and inferiority oriented. I resist the idea that Blacks are not beautiful, that we’re not intelligent, the idea that Barack Obama is an exception in the Black community. For me, that’s not militant. It’s common sense.”
Challenging the idea that the word itself is inherently negative, there’s the standpoint that militant simply means strong-willed, convinced of a principle and determined not to be moved. That she is not forcefully against anything, but, instead, strongly for the well-being of Black people.
“Exactly!” she states with a bright smile. “If that’s being militant, then, yeah, I’m militant!”
You can drop in on and contact Lissa L. Jones at www.lissaljones.com.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.