Preserving the Legacy of Gil Noble

Norma Jean Noble (left), widow of Gil Noble and her daughter, Lisa Noble, celebrate the launch of the Gil Noble Foundation. (Photo by Jasmin K. Williams/Amsterdam News)

To honor the work of African-American media icon Gil Noble, who passed away nearly a year ago, his family has created the Gil Noble Foundation to preserve and maintain the legacy of his 43 years of work as host of ABC’s “Like It Is,” a New York-based show that focused on issues pertinent to the African American community.

Noble’s accomplishments were remembered during the launch of the foundation on March 3 at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, part of the New York Public Library.

Lisa, Noble’s daughter, heads the project and spoke to Amsterdam News‘ Jasmin K. Williams about the foundation’s work.

“We will have an educational base with people like professor Len Jefferies, vice-chancellor emerita of the New York state Board of Regents, Adelaide Sanford and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Les Payne. They know their business. They know what to do and they know my father’s heart. It has to be from an African-American prospective. That’s very important to me, and that’s why people from all over the world want it. It is an African-American talking about his own history, and I would like it to come from other African-Americans. Why not put it in the hands of people who know what to do?

Lisa drew on the Schomburg Center itself as a source of inspiration for the foundation, in terms of a comprehensive center for the “African-American experience.” She wants to build a foundation with works and experiences that will come directly from the original sources, and not “someone’s version of it.”

Noble is hoping the collection will become a valuable resource of information on Black history, like the Schomburg Center itself.

“Whenever you walk into the Schomburg, you get an immediate sense of your history. When you walk into the Schomburg, you know it’s an African-American experience. You know it’s not some offshoot of something. It has everything. If you want to rent a video or use it for a thesis essay, you’re going to get something from the African-American experience, and that’s how I want the archives to be,” she said.

There is worldwide interest in Gil Noble’s work, especially in his profiles of the great jazz artists.

“Jazz is very big in Japan, and he has all these wonderful tapes about jazz artists. When the lights go down, it’s coming from an African-American experience and not someone’s version of it,” Noble said.

This underscoring of having African Americans serve as the storytellers and the sources reflects Gil Noble’s own embrace of being black and the neighborhood in which he grew up.

“He felt comfortable being Black. He felt comfortable being himself in Harlem. He grew up in the heyday [when] there was Langston Hughes. Everyone who was affluent lived there. When the suburbs opened up, he jetted out there, but he always came back to Harlem.”

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