Inside Life: TT investigative scribe laments passing of Village Voice mentor

Mayor Ed Koch, Peter Noel and Rev. Al Sharpton
Mayor Ed Koch, Peter Noel and Rev. Al Sharpton.
Photo courtesy Peter Noel

When East Dry River, John John native Peter Noel heard about the untimely passing of Village Voice writer Greg Tate on Dec. 7, he became distraught with grief.

A former student at Bethlehem Boy’s Roman Catholic School, Minerva College and The Caribbean Union College in Trinidad & Tobago, from age 10 aspired to path a career Tate seemed to easily traverse.

Allegedly at that same age Noel often told his teachers of his dreams of becoming a journalist.

When bacchanal called pannist to the steel drums and masqueraders dreamt of carnival revelry, Noel set his sights on writing.

Fact is by the time he celebrated his teen years, he boldly walked into the offices of the national newspaper, the Express, and announced that he was ready to write.

He now recalls that he did not know how to use a typewriter, but was convinced his longhand reports would suffice.

Apparently, the intuitive editors at the popular newspaper ignored his precocious assumption, one in particular encouraged him to submit ideas with the provision that he invested in typing lessons.

Before long, Noel perfected a two-finger technique with speed that rivalled those of secretaries who boasted enviable skill recording competitive words per minute.

The quick learning youth was hired to work at the Sun, a subsidiary afternoon publication owned by the Express.

Noel migrated soon afterwards and within months of arrival in the USA earned a journalism scholarship to write for the New York Amsterdam News.

There, at the reputed, Harlem-based, national Black weekly, the immigrant cub reporter distinguished himself among venerable scribes of the time.

He also contributed to the Daily Challenge, NYCs only daily Black newspaper. And his career came full circle when he wrote for The City Sun, an alternative publication that voiced viewpoints from a Black perspective.

For more than a decade his candid and often controversial perspective irked a segment unaccustomed to reading probing stories about community leaders.

Ultra-liberals, conservatives, politicians, police officers and rival newspaper reporters vilified his audacity to investigate.

“They considered me a pariah,” Noel recalled, “but Greg said I was the kind of reporter who should be writing for the Voice.”

Considered one of the handful of Black scribes reporting from the liberal and perhaps most popular weekly, print, outlet, Tate held sway at the Village Voice.

Eventually, Noel was tasked with reporting from Greenwich Village’s progressive newspaper – The Village Voice.

“I never intended to work for traditional media, I felt I could do more working in the Black press.”

“But Tate. Yes it was Tate who convinced me…”

While Tate’s cultural criticisms stirred the sensibilities of creatives, intellectuals and grassroots readers, Noel agitated and irritated many of the same individuals focusing on his Black Advocacy Journalism, a term he owns and dedicates to his pursuit of social change.

His byline indelibly inscribes in-depth reports of Caribbean LGBT immigrants — “Batty Boys in Babylon,” the Central Park Rape Case, hip-hop artists Shyne and Sean Puffy Combs, the Black Political Movement, controversial activists Rev. Al Sharpton, attorneys Alton Maddox and Vernon Mason, the LA Riots following the police beating of Rodney King, and international correspondences from South Africa reporting on pre-election activities that decided Nelson Mandela, the first Black to preside there; and from Israel, where he met Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat.

Noel’s repute as an investigative journalist swelled to spawn radio stints as host of the Peter & Schmuley Show at WWRL where Noel and Jewish Rabbi Schmuley Boteach provided daily counterpoint talk.

Throughout their tenure, NYC buses emblazoned life-sized advertising in promotion of the unlikely duo.

And Noel expanded combative talk when he teamed to summarize the news on KISS-FM’s “Week In Review.”

His fiery comments tagged him “The Flamethrower.”

According to Noel, news of Tate’s death resonated with disbelief, shock and profound sadness.  He lamented the untimely friend of his mentor and friend, saying, “Greg Tate was a master writer, he was a wordsmith, he was my hero, he was my friend, he was my mentor. There will never be another like him.”

In addition to countless VV articles, Tate’s legacy includes books he penned titled “Flyboy in the Buttermilk,” “Everything But the Burden,” “Midnight Lightning; Jimmy Hendrix and the Black Experience.”

He was a co-founder of the Black Rock Coalition, rock n roll and hip-hop promoter and unapologetic champion of Black culture.

Harlem’s premiere showplace celebrated that legacy lighting the Apollo Theater marquee in Tate’s honor.

Born in Dayton, Ohio, the Howard University graduate was 64 years old.

In 2021, we lost legends in every genre –actors Michael K, Williams, Clarence Williams III, Cicely Tyson, Gen, Colin Powell, Supreme singer Mary Wilson, Sarah Dash of the LaBelle trio, bass player/musician Robbie Shakespeare, Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, composer Stephen Sondheim, Britain’s Prince Philip, baseball great Hank Aaron, Virgil Abloh, rapper DMX, South African Roman Catholic Bishop Desmond Tutu and a consummate journalist New Yorkers will recall as Greg “Ironman” Tate.

May they all rest in perpetual peace.

Happy happy New Year to all readers and supporters of this column and medium. With God’s will in 2022 I’ll…

Catch You On The Inside!


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