Picnic Perspectives: Interview with Tyrone Cato

| July 8, 2013
Eric Hackley interviews Tyrone Cato

Eric Hackley (left) speaks with Tyrone Cato about Frost’s free community picnic, speaking your mind and slave mentality (Photo: Michael Patterson)

Picnic Perspective
Queen Nefertiti
Winston Pearson
Joe Ayers
Rick Stevenson Jr.
Tyrone Cato
James Redmond


Eric Hackley: Why is this picnic important for the community?

Tyrone Cato: First of all, thank you for asking me. I think anytime there’s an opportunity for the black community to get together to celebrate and acknowledge something positive, I think it’s a serious statement for the rest of the black community and it’s a serious statement that we need to get together more often on a positive tip to celebrate us being here. The fact that it’s a celebration and an acknowledgement of a Black Media is incredibly important because the Black Media has always been vitally important to the black community. And the fact that we’re celebrating Frost Illustrated’s 45th year of existence, man that’s incredible!

This is good for the black community especially in light of all the rash of violence and the negative things that have been in the media, I think we need to get together more often like this to make a statement. This helps to redefine us.

EH: At any event, too many of us are afraid to speak out and let our views be known?

Tyrone Cato: We as individuals sometimes overlook the power of a single voice. A lot of people feel like, “hey, life happens.” There are other priorities and they don’t see the importance of speaking out. Sometimes it is out of fear. One of the biggest obstacles to anything you want to do or need to do is fear. A lot of people say it’s time, a lot of people say it’s money. I think it all equates to a fear of something. A fear of retribution, a fear of ridicule, a fear of criticism or a fear of whatever. But I do think that we as individuals need to step up and speak out and once you do that, you’ll see that you are not alone. There is power in numbers and usually you’re not the sole voice speaking.

EH: Are we in the mode of perpetual psychological enslavement?

Tyrone Cato: I’m glad you asked me that. We continue to deal with the aftermath of slavery. It was a serious psychological blow. It was passed down generationally and it’s something we’re still dealing with. I think it’s something that we as a people have yet to overcome.

EH: Some blacks say that the best way to get rid of slave mentality is to stop talking about it.

Tyrone Cato: Oh no! Once you stop talking about it, once you stop giving it the attention that it’s due, ignoring it is not going to make it go away. That’s just like having an illness. If you have an illness, you seek a cure. Ignoring it will not make it go away. We are dealing with a collective mental illness, a collective psychosis. Ignoring it will not make it go away. As a matter of fact, I feel like a lot more attention needs to be drawn toward it. I believe there are a lot of solutions already in existence that we tend to underplay and we give them a lot less value than they’re due. There are a lot of solutions that we need to reinforce and support to deal with the psychosis.

EH:Many blacks confuse confronting their dilemma with not liking white people, so therefore, they choose to remain silent to remain safe.

Tyrone Cato: That’s part of the trick bag. That is part of the conspiracy. That’s part of the whole intentional conspiracy to suppress us as a people. To confuse us, keep us in the darkness. Anytime you want to say something that’s pro-black, that does not necessarily equate to anti-white. You can be pro something and anti something else. Historically in the aftermath of white supremacy, it’s something that doesn’t really need to be discussed anymore because we know pretty much collectively how things came about, but as far as dealing with solutions, too many of us get caught up in playing the blame game. It’s too late to play the blame game. You can continue to blame and condemn people for what they did. But, I think it has more to do with what we can do as a people than what has been done to us.

EH: Our ability to do something as a people has a direct connection to the dictates of white supremacy.

Tyrone Cato: Yeah it does, but white supremacy isn’t something you can change. I don’t think it’s something you can eliminate. It’s almost like butting your head against the wall. Pretty soon, you’re going to end up dead, or unconscious.

EH: I agree with you, but unless you discuss white supremacy to let people know it is a real phenomena that’s in place, it gives you a better barometer as to what’s going on. Thinking blacks have to enlighten non-critical thinkers that it does factually exist and that it is not an abstract concept.

Tyrone Cato: Okay, I agree. From that standpoint you have to be able to identify it in order to deal with it. But once it’s been identified, you need to go to the next level and come up with a solution

EH: I was speaking recently with a black pastor about slave mentality when he told me that he could not interview with me because I might ask him something controversial. He went on to say that his answer might upset powerful white pastors who have the influence to appoint him to certain prestigious boards that he wants to sit on for reasons associated with prestige.

Tyrone Cato: We all get too caught up in what white people think. Bottom line is, I really don’t care what white people think. I’m more concerned with what my people think and what we think of each other. Because white folks are going to be white folks and I’m not saying that in a disparaging way. People are going to be who they are. A lot of times you can’t change that. So you have to find what you can change, what you have control over and take steps from there.

EH: How did you acquire your philosophy of people?

Tyrone Cato: Just from living and being here. The more that I learn and am exposed to, the more I realize how little I really know. So it’s a constant effort to be exposed to things, certain concepts and certain ideals. It’s import to study history, because people talk about knowing where you come from. You have to recognize the origins of where you come from, where other people come from and you have to acknowledge and respect that. And, you have to put things in a proper perspective.

EH: How do you speak to a black person about the plight of black people when the shut their ears to the impact of slavery and the 1960 era?

Tyrone Cato: A lot of people are uncomfortable with the concept of not knowing. They don’t want to look like they don’t know things that they should know so they get defensive about it. As a result, they act out in a kind of distraction from the fact that they don’t know. As far as young people are concerned, it’s a monumental task. They have so many distractions that we have allowed that have taken away from things that are really important. People talk about obsessions with social media, texting and different thinks like that. All of that is a distraction from important real issues that affect the lives of young people. The best I can say is, every opportunity you have to affect change in a young person’s life, you have to do it.

Initially you may think that’s insignificant because it’s only one person. But, change starts with one person and you will never know what you might say to a young person that might change their whole life. It’s a monumental task and I think we need to be conscious of the fact that we have the ability to affect change and we need to take every opportunity you have to bring about change. Even if it’s just a brief encounter with someone. That’s part of the solution.

Tyrone Cato is a local entrepreneur, artist and social commentator living in Fort Wayne. He also spent considerable time working as a mentor to area youth, particularly as former instructor for the Three Rivers Jenbé Ensemble and elder to participants.

Eric Hackley is a veteran independent journalist, television show host and producer focusing largely on history, particularly family history in the black community. His award-winning public access television shows have featured a host of local and national icons. Hackley can be contacted at hackonomicstv@gmail.com.

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Category: Local, Opinion

About the Author ()

Eric Hackley is a veteran independent journalist, television show host and producer focusing largely on history, particularly family history in the black community. His award-winning public access television shows have featured a host of local and national icons. Hackley can be contacted at hackonomicstv@gmail.com.

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