A different kind of show about 'those black guys'

THE BALTIMORE SUN

ONE OF Howard County's national figures is Harry Evans III.

Never heard of him?

Many in Howard or Maryland haven't. But the energetic 40-year-old Kings Contrivance resident appears on television sets across the country with his uniquely named cable program, "That Show With Those Black Guys."

He doesn't expect to beat out "Murphy Brown" in the Nielsens, but he's in prime time, showcasing professional African-American males in one-on-one interviews conducted in his laid-back Southern California style.

Mr. Evans launched his show about three years ago after receiving a $200 grant to produce a community access cable program.

He rounded up a few of his Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity brothers, including a Channel 2 cameraman, and shot the first of more than 80 programs that he sends to cable stations who run the program in Cleveland, Los Angeles, Denver, New Orleans, Buffalo and a few other cities.

All his guests are black males.

"The whole premise of this show is to show different kinds of black men," he says. "I was really annoyed to turn on the TV. If a brother wasn't a comedian, he was an athlete, a civil rights leader, or somebody rapping. These aren't the people I associate with. And these aren't the only people I wanted to present."

His guests have included doctors, lawyers, ranking police officials and television anchors, many without much name recognition outside their offices.

But big names have dropped into his nomadic studio -- he videotapes the show wherever he can set up his camera.

Among them are congressmen J. C. Watts and Jesse Jackson Jr., NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, jazz saxophonist Stanley Turrentine and University of Maryland, Baltimore County President Freeman Hrabowski.

Million Men, one at a time

Mr. Evans is conducting his own Million Man March, one man at a time. He has found a niche market in the segmented universe of cable television, which is the medium's answer to specialized magazines.

He taped two shows at once on the second floor of the Howard County Center of African American Culture in Columbia. His guests were Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert Bell, WJZ-TV news anchor Kai Jackson, local fitness guru Jason Graham, radio advertising executive Carl Hunt and C. C. Jones, general counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives' Banking Committee.

All the guests had gathered on Saturday morning before the start of the scheduled taping of interviews that run either nine or 18 minutes. On this day there was a glitch. The microphone didn't work. The two-man crew had to use the camera's microphone, which could pick up unwanted sound in addition to those of the host and guest, who sat about 10 feet away.

His style is essentially an introduction. Guests get an opportunity to talk about their training and other preparations for getting their jobs, the hurdles they faced, what they hoped to accomplish and their plans for the future.

For Judge Bell, it was an opportunity to talk about being arrested during a civil rights demonstration that led to a case that went to the state's high court where he now sits and then to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mr. Jackson, in a return engagement to the show, talked about how he bounced back after being fired from one job to become a weekend anchor in a larger television market, in Baltimore.

Mr. Hunt gave the unique perspective of an African-American bringing in business for the area's country music radio station.

Mr. Graham gave fitness tips.

Childhood ridicule

And Mr. Jones talked about his determination to succeed after a grocery store owner in the southern state where he was raised ridiculed him as a child when he said he would grow up to become a lawyer. He now is the legal adviser to a major congressional committee.

After the first glitch, the production was seamless. Mr. Evans greeted every guest like a long lost friend he is trying to get to know.

Days later, Mr. Evans was at the Glenelg office of Mid-Atlantic Cable, which lets him use its equipment to edit the tapes.

(The sound quality was fine, despite the microphone problem.)

The host/producer/director, who works by day as a patient advocate for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, had no experience in television, but he pulled off the half-hour shows.

Mr. Evans relies on the generosity of fraternity brothers to help him tape the show. Local television stations give him used videotapes -- golden cartridges to him.

The show is not a money-maker. The host pays some costs out of his pocket, a price he's willing to pay because he believes he is filling a void and just might hit the big time.

Mr. Evans' show doesn't probe deeply, but that doesn't bother me. It offers a refreshing view of African-American men whose televised images too often portray them as being on the wrong side of the law.

Norris West is The Sun's editorial writer in Howard County.

Pub Date: 7/20/97

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