A desire to teach was initially Duke Eatmon’s passion. He had plans of going back to school so that he could become a teacher. At the time Eatmon was a recent revert to Islam, and learned about the transformative power of education in the life Malcom X. The way he saw it, as a teacher he could shape the lives of many and Brother Malcom discovered Islam while incarcerated. He took it to mean there could be meaningful change could be found behind bars.
“This man (Malcom) went on to change the lives of Black Americans,” Eatmon explains to the CONTACT. “One of the key places where we go wrong is in the prison system. So I wanted to be a teacher. I want to teach high school education, but not in the high school but in prison, so that I can contribute to helping the next Malcolm X or the next Elijah Mohammed or the next whoever.”
However, a chance opening at a radio station for a music show opened up and Duke on a whim took up the chance not knowing this would get him on a musical odyssey that has seen him teach millions across the airwaves on music, culture and Black history. His classroom for the past 20 years has been the studios at CBC. Teaching audiences on the power of music and the story behind the songs.
Duke’s interviews with musical titans like Angie Stone, Pink, and Wyclef Jean were not mere celebrity chit-chats but deep dives into the artistic essence of music, steering clear of personal controversies. “I focus solely on the music, its creators, and its impact,” Eatmon explains.
“Because I’m not getting into who they slept with last night or if they were jailed. I keep it all about the music,” he adds. I” got into this business to be a radio host, television, a writer. Not necessarily for the audience, but for the music makers. Obviously, I wanted the audience to enjoy it, but I did it strictly for the music makers. And I was lucky that somewhere along the line the audiences loved it too.”
And loved it they have. Duke Eatmon continues to be a vital part of CBC, where he contributes not just in the music department but also in current affairs and politics. His work has been essential in shaping the cultural and musical landscape of Montreal. To this effect, his two-decade career at CBC has had many highlights but what Duke is most proud of is the recognition he has got from his community.
“Of all awards that I’ve gotten that I mean the most to me have been given to me by my people. I’ve had good writers write about me, but the people that have given me the most accolades are people from the black community not necessarily the music industry. I’ve had more support from my people that I’ve had the industry.”
Duke will be the inaugural recipient of the Egbert Gaye Award for Excellence in Black Journalism in Quebec at the Monnaie Money talent show on February 24.
This award focuses on acknowledging individuals or organization that have demonstrated excellence in media from journalism, broadcasting, digital media, and other forms of media communication. It embodies the values and culture spearheaded by the founder of the Montreal Community Contact, Egbert Gaye.
Speaking about Egbert, we both pause but Duke affirms that the CONTACT and the work of Egbert Gaye has been instrumental in giving a platform to many Black journalists.
“If Egbert wasn’t there, I don’t know if we would be. He held out a door open for us. After a while, became like a friend and family. We would argue we would fight, you know, and we would disagree with that because that’s what normal people do. That’s what family does, right? Family fights and argues. Family also never closes the door and he never closed the door. And. It was always there because we needed and even after I was here at CBC Egbert still asked me to continue writing for the CONTACT. And would continue paying me to write articles. And he allowed me the freedom to talk about anything which is unlike any other place I’ve been,” he muses.
A remarkable journey that began with a desire to teach and evolved into a legacy of educating and inspiring through the power of music and media. His influence, both in Montreal’s cultural scene and in nurturing future generations, highlights the profound impact of dedication and community connection. The Monnaie Money talent show will happen on February 24 at the Oscar Peterson Hall.