|Fox 30 newscaster shares his own story, talks race relations|
|The Press - Features|
|Written by Kelley Lannigan|
|Friday, 13 May 2011 09:50|
Anyone who tunes in to the evening news on CBS 47 or FOX 30 is no doubt familiar with anchor-reporter Mark Spain.
Mr. Spain, who has anchored the evening news in Jacksonville for the past 11 years, was the guest speaker at the April 20 Baker County Rotary Club meeting.
He shared captivating testimony about his experience growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, his career as a television reporter and his positive hope for race relations in the future.
“I believe it’s important to get out of the studio so the public can learn a bit about the people who deliver the news,” he told Rotarians. “The world is changing at a rapid pace and it constantly reinvents itself. The news now happens around us 24/7 and 365 days a year. There is no escape from it. I think I have the best job in the world. I get to capture moments in time and share them with you.”
Mr. Spain related how reporters spend a lot of time trying to be the first to cover a story, to get that first interview. The subject matter ranges from shootings and crime to fires, extreme weather, local government and the Jaguars.
“But we also report on the ordinary people who do extraordinary things that make our lives in our communities better,” he said.
As a young biracial boy growing up in the Glenville neighborhood of Cleveland in the early 1960s, he remembers some of the events leading up to the social upheaval that was to come: the presence of law enforcement in the city, race riots, buildings ablaze and physical violence.
His mixed heritage was sometimes problematic. According to some people in his neighborhood, he was too white and didn’t belong there.
As a youngster, he just didn’t understand the “color thing,” and remembers thinking “what difference does it make?”
But amidst the unrest there was another side to his childhood as well.
“It was fun,” he said. “I remember hopping the fence at Patrick Henry Junior High School, going out on the athletic field and dreaming about playing ball for the Cleveland Browns. It then became my dream to go to school at Ohio State and play for coach Woody Hayes.”
But his path would take a different route. During his youth he delivered newspapers and as he puts it “got the ink in my blood.”
He earned a communications degree from Cleveland State University, making honor grades and footing the bill on his own.
During his career he has won numerous journalism awards and is a frequent speaker at clubs, organizations and forums for continuing education.
Mr. Spain attributed his success, his personal philosophy and positive outlook to his parents John and Lucille Spain, a biracial couple who met and married in the racially tumultuous 1950s.
The Spains taught their children valuable lessons about behavior and how people, all people, should be treated.
“The most significant thing I can tell you about my parents is they were great teachers,” he said. “Especially in the compassion and common sense arenas.”
He described how his parents chose to navigate the Jim Crow south, subject to rejection, verbal abuse and even violence. They approached life with courage and non-judgement, always remaining hopeful that their own children would one day help set a racial tone of tolerance and acceptance.
“My mother had a saying: ‘There but for the grace of God go I,’” said Mr. Spain. “She would not tolerate anyone making fun of anyone else. She used that saying to bring to our attention how man’s fate isn’t entirely in his own hands and how someone else’s situation or misfortune could easily have been ours and was not only by God’s grace.”
It was a profound life lesson for the youngster. His father had lessons to teach as well.
“I’ve seen my father on many occasions give someone, black and white, $20 from his pocket when they desperately needed it. He once brought home a recently divorced, out of work white man who had no place to go to stay with us until he could get on his feet again,” described Mr. Spain.
He compared his parent’s conduct to the teachings of Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Dr. King had a dream that one day his children would live in a world where they were not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. In the Spain household, it wasn’t just a dream. This lesson was being passed on even before Dr. King spoke it,” he said.
Mr. Spain recounted many of the changes in race relations since the 1950s, a time when the military was segregated and minorities and women could not vote.
He then talked about people along the way, those he described as trailblazers, whose actions courageously took society forward in a positive way.
“Ghandi said, ‘be the change you want to see in the world,’” he said. “I believe in putting this to work in my own life and realize I have certain people to thank for paving the way so I can do so.”
He called attention to the previous accomplishments of Leon Good, the first black journalist seen on television in the US in 1962 and of a personal friend, Leon Bibb, the first black man to anchor the prime time news in Cleveland.
“Because of people like them there is a Mark Spain sharing the news with you each evening in Jacksonville. I owe it to all who came before me to do the best job I can,” he said.
He described the current racial climate of the nation as having come far, but still having a long way to go.
“I want to dispel the belief that many people still hold of Martin Luther King Day as being a holiday only for black people. It’s not. It’s an American holiday. Dr. King’s work was about trying to bring people, black and white, together.”
His hope and sincere desire in his professional life is to help people “connect the dots,” to have open minds, to actively work at adjusting their perspectives and changing with the times.
“We make history each day and we have a fantastic opportunity to build a nation of ‘one’ and build it from the inside out.
“If we can learn to do this then Baker County, Clay County, Duval County, North Florida, and all the rest will be a better place and our own lives will be enriched in ways we can’t imagine.”
|Last Updated on Saturday, 14 May 2011 09:14|