February 1972 - 'Doin' It,' 1st KCET Program on African American Community, Debuts

Thandeka (formerly known as Sue Booker)
'Doin' It at the Storefront' producer Thandeka (formerly known as Sue Booker) on set at KCET for a taping of the station's 50th anniversary special. | Photo: KCET

In February 1972, KCET premiered "Doin' It," its first public affairs series on L.A.'s African American community.

Just seven years after the Watts Riots, and hot on the heels of the success of the Chicano public affairs show, "Ahora!" some at the station felt there was a need to serve and give voice to Southern California's black community.

Created and hosted by producer Sue Booker, who had previously produced the award-winning documentaries, "Soledad" and "Cleophus Adair" for KCET, "Doin' It" was a nine-part, half-hour program which was designed "to provide our Los Angeles brothers and sisters with a vehicle for expressing all of our various means of 'doin' it,'" as she was quoted in an interview with the Los Angeles Sentinel.

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"There is drama to express reality; dance to express the history and strength, beauty, and victory of a people; and prose and poetry to express our efforts to overcome the racism in society," Booker explained to the newspaper in March 1972.

The premiere episode of "Doin' It" focused on the issues of black inmates in America's prisons and how they were being transformed into political revolutionaries. Other episodes featured performances and discourses into African American art forms, such as dance, jazz music, and poetry. The program was also shown nationwide on various PBS stations.

On November 1st of that year, the program was updated as "Doin' It at The Storefront," a weekly, half-hour program which broadcasted out of a KCET satellite studio and media center known as "The Storefront," in an actual rented storefront on 4211 South Broadway in South Central L.A. The show depicted the various issues and perspectives of L.A.'s black community featuring interviews with local and national figures. With a shoestring budget of $250 per episode and a staff of three, the series was an experiment in the use of public space -- the storefront -- as a form of public engagement.

"The Storefront" space served as a resource locale for community members needing information on the media, and as a meeting space for workshops, and other events coordinated in conjunction with organizations in the local African American community. Programs featured a forum on reading deficiencies among black youth, an exploration of the public education system, rent strikes at public housing projects, a look at churches in the black community, and a profile on a local black-owned business that made positive role-model toy dolls designed for African American girls.

"You never knew from week to week what you would see on the storefront -- news, public affairs, arts, because we wanted to be in touch with [whatever was] 'in the moment!' said Booker, who now goes by the name Thandeka, in a recent interview with KCET. "We interested politicians, celebrities, the man on the street; We wanted to get sense of what was happening behind the scenes that allowed South Central Los Angeles [to be] more than suffering, to have a sense of its communities [which were] struggling and winning victory after victory."

Towards the end of its run, Lois Hale took over as the show's host. "Doin' It at The Storefront" lasted only 10 episodes, but was instrumental in helping to establish KCET's programming to cover underserved communities of color.

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