A civil rights activist, a radio host with more than 25 years of experience, and a human being that’s generous, maybe even to a fault — that is SiriusXM Progress host Mark Thompson.
SiriusXM Indie host Pete Dominick revealed this intimate side of the Mark It Plain host when Thompson stopped by Stand Up! a few months back. Thompson, who grew up in Nashville, Tenn., explained how his hometown was a predominantly academic environment, with three African-American colleges in close proximity to his mother’s house.
“I grow up in an environment where it was surrounded by education and black academia and a pretty thriving black middle class,” Thompson said.
His mother — who was, as Thompson describes it, the “centerpiece” of his family — worked as an administrator at Fisk University. It was from her that he learned the values of humility, service, love and generosity. Those notions of service and generosity helped fuel a passion for civil rights activism, a passion that was first sparked around the time Thompson was in high school. It was then that he was involved in Jesse Jackson’s first presidential campaign.
“That was a big deal … it was to our generation very similar to what Barack Obama’s first campaign to this generation,” Thompson said. “Nothing like that had ever happened before.”
Shortly after, in 1988, Thompson took his first radio job when he was 22 years old. (Thompson joked that the only thing that he’s been doing longer than radio is activism.) Merging his passion fpr justice and human rights with his ability to broadcast and reach out to hundreds of people, Thompson made it his mission to stand up for those that had no voice, regardless of race, nationality or gender.
“One might assume that as an African-American man that that’s the place in which I lean, but what I do mostly and what I do my very best to do on the show is to point out all the forms of injustice, and loss of human rights and discrimination that affects so many people,” Thompson said. “I think if more people did that, we’d have a lot more regard for each other.”
The SiriusXM Progress host admitted that it is only when people come together and help one another out that progress is made. Thompson explained that people have more in common than they have differences; one group’s struggle isn’t greater than another’s.
“I’m expected to advocate and be a voice for African-Americans because I am an African-American. But the strength lies … when men can stand up for women, when citizens can stand for those who are not citizens, when whites can stand up for blacks, when straight people can stand up for LGBTs and when those who are well off and doing well can stand up for the poor and unemployed,” Thompson said. “That’s what’s not expected.”
Despite discrimination against African-Americans, Thompson noted that it is not only black citizens that are getting hit hard. He explained that there is currently a “war on women,” that the population of poor individuals is increasing and that even white males aren’t entirely safe.
“In this economy there is a dwindling middle class,” Thompson said, “because there is a one percent that has decided they don’t give a damn about you either.”
To Thompson, it is the actual foundation that America is built upon that has caused this huge divide.
“One of the ways America and capitalism has been successful, is dividing us all. So you’re lead to believe that … others are competing with you for this piece of the American pie, but you only end up with a sliver yourself,” Thompson said. “There is no more middle class, at best we have a working class and at worst we have a working poor.”
As an advocate for human rights, Dominick wondered if there was anything in particular that annoyed Thompson about other groups of people. Does the Make It Plain host have any prejudices? Turns out Thompson is a righteous man through and through.
“The only thing that I guess I’m conscious of and that I’m always on the lookout for is cruelty and injustice,” Thompson said. “When I see that in an individual, when it’s clear and present, then we have a problem.”
How does one avoid being unjust to others? Both Dominick and Thompson agreed that only by both knowing the importance of history can someone rid themselves of all racial predispositions – one must not only know the general “his-story,” but the factual history of all mankind.
“Without history we don’t even know when it’s [the same mistakes] repeating itself. We need to know all that is necessary about history. And history in an objective sense,” Thompson said. “We need to tell some more of her-story, our-story as opposed to just his-story.”
This year, Indie’s Pete Dominick interviewed various SiriusXM hosts for an exclusive series on Stand Up! With Pete Dominick. To listen in on more host-to-host interviews, check out the below playlist. And stay tuned for more exclusive host chats.
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