When it comes to mentors in the Black community, one person who stands out is Gene Grant. Grant is a veteran journalist and columnist. He has worked for various publications such as The Albuquerque Tribune, Albuquerque Journal and Weekly Alibi, contributed work to Variety Magazine discussing the New Mexico film industry, and penned the “Albuquerque on Film” column for Albuquerque the Magazine.
Grant became a regular panelist on the half-hour opinion show, The Line, on KNME in 2005 and was the host of the program since 2006. An individual who seems determined to find answers, Grant loved sharing what life was like as a child who was full of wonder. “I was curious about the world early on because the world, both the one I occupied and the world at large, was pretty much upside down,” shared Grant. “That stretch from the late sixties, when I was elementary-school age, to the late seventies was exhausting, exhilarating, and a lot more for me. Consequently, I probably had an answer for pretty much anything going on, socially and politically, in the media. I was a real media hound starting young. I was one of those kids. There were sports and hot rods, but I was fairly serious about things pretty young.”
Grant is also an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and former congressional staffer. His love of journalism was not what initially drove him as his career began to develop. “My aim was not so much on the journalist/reporter side of the business that motivated me early,” Grant shares. “It was the men and women whose stock-in-trade was opinion writing. That part of the paper grabbed me the hardest when I was young. In those years, television station GM’s did commentary at the end of news broadcasts, so opinion was always in the air and the most appealing end of the business for me.”
Now a mentor himself, it would seem this impressive individual would have quite a few people that directed his thought processes while navigating his career. I asked who he looked to when he was growing up. The answer was a surprise. “I never really had a mentor because I honestly didn’t have a need. I had a pretty clear idea young where I wanted to be in the industry and entered it exactly at the exact station I wanted to, a big 50,000-watt talk radio station in Boston where it was opinion 24/7,” said Grant. “That’s not changed. When I started writing opinion columns way back for the old [Albuquerque] Tribune, it was because I approached them to see if I was a fit for the paper. I’ve not used a resume in close to 25 years or more. You go where your talents fit.”
Now, host of KNME’s New Mexico in Focus, Grant takes his presence seriously, educating the public on political issues in the state. I remember the first time I saw Grant, dreads and all, on my television screen, and I was mesmerized. That was the start of my understanding of the importance of representation. Embodying that empowerment, Grant is not blind to the importance either, and it factors with every opportunity given.
“It means a lot, for the same reason representation means a lot to me. It may not be top of mind with every project or taping, but it’s never far from my thoughts,” said Grant. “And I might add, especially in a community where we as African-Americans are hovering around 3% of the population. That changes the dynamic in a big way. I’m grateful for the length of time I’ve been able to be blessed with doing this so far and plan on much more because the length of service starts to be an aspirational data point for younger watchers.”
Focus on New Mexico continues to be one of the most informative programs created and still hitting the airwaves in New Mexico. While the current political environment causes frustration for many, Grant still encourages debate, admitting the question took some time to consider.
“I had to think about this question a bit, considering my frustration with both politics and elected folk right now,” acknowledges Grant. “But that would be the point, wouldn’t it? It’s important because it is. It’s that simple for me. We can’t look away from any of this, any day, any hour, ever. It’s part of the commitment you make to yourself if you go down this path. You never turn away because folks are counting on you not to.”
A father of two daughters, Grant loves calling New Mexico home. When you ask him what he loves about the state, the first response is expected, but he continues to share his deepest love for The Land of Enchantment. “I’d say the weather, straight away, but it’s freakishly warm at the start of February as I type this, but there it is,” joked Grant. “But, in all seriousness, the people. It is and always will be the people who live here, especially those born here.”
As we celebrate another year of Black History Month, I’m honored to learn more about the man who began my appreciation of those who not only are Black and proud but who encouraged me to have respect and love for the spoken word. You don’t always know where you will find your role models, but I’m glad that one of mine is just a message away.
*Teresa Robinson is the owner of Graphicbliss LLC, parent company of The Bliss Effect Brand & Entertainment Management (Founder/Brand Manager), New Mexico Entertainment Magazine (Publisher/Editor–in-Chief), and PRIDE & Equality Magazine (Publisher/Editor–in-Chief).