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Roland Martin Prepares “Sunday Brunch”

Sounds of smooth jazz wailing out of Kirk Whalum’s saxophone will be the first intonation to viewers that Washington Week With Roland Martin, TV One’s new Sunday morning public affairs show, will not sound like the rest of Sunday fare. According to Martin, it’s not going to look much like those other shows either.

He speaks of positioning his show as the “Sunday brunch” (a phrase applied to the show by Martin’s wife) to the more sedate talk fare, and the long-time radio host and CNN contributor isn’t afraid to throw a few shots at his new competition: “I don’t want this to be the supremely arrogant news show where we sit here and tell the rest of America what issues are important to us and how smart we are.”

Martin strongly feels there is a lack of diversity on the traditional Sunday morning talk shows. He expressed anger over the fact that when Judge Sonia Sotomayor became the first Hispanic to be nominated to the Supreme Court, few Hispanics appeared on the Sunday talk circuit. “You had virtually no Hispanics speaking at all,” Martin said in an interview this week with B&C. “I look at the listings every single week and you would swear that African Americans and Hispanics are non-existent on these shows.”

His first show will feature an interview with Vice President Joe Biden as well as House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.). But Martin hopes to hear from less well-known names too. If the show focuses on education, Martin imagines putting a member of Congress on with a school principal.

“When you’re able to put a politician and an academic together, I believe you get a different conversation, and if you look at the other Sunday talk shows, they don’t do that,” he said.

Politico’s Nia Malika Henderson and the Washington Post’s Robin Givhan will be regular contributors to Washington Week. The show will also feature a segment called Obama Watch as well as a weekly segment about what African Americans are discussing in the blogosphere. Martin also plans to take cameras along on his various speaking gigs around the country in hopes of getting outside Washington and instead using his show to explore how the city affects people in local communities.

Martin had been in talks with TV One President and CEO Johnathan Rodgers about the show for some time and now that his time has come, the man certainly understands the trust placed in him from his viewers. “Absolutely, I recognize that as host and managing editor of this show and what we are trying to do there is a significant responsibility that comes with it,” Martin said. “There’s no doubt that being an African American and hosting this show you are operating on a different level as well.”

The show will offer an African American historical segment as well, which makes it all the more fitting that Martin says, “When I’m sitting on that set…I am thinking about Frederick Douglas and Ida B. Wells, Langston Hughes, Robert Abbott, I am thinking about these truth tellers, these individuals who are pillars on the black media world.”

It’s a heady group to aspire to but Martin believes strongly in the convictions of those pioneers. “[Those figures] spoke truth to power and did not allow anything else to get in the way. Those are the people I want to represent.”