“Read. Read any and everything. Newspapers. Billboards. Dictionaries and comic books. And write. Write your thoughts and ideas about what the words mean because it gives you the intellectual discipline.”
Paul Cobb was born on the basement floor of a building on Pine and 7th st in West Oakland. As a kid, he worked as a shoeshine boy. His customers were the gentlemen who traveled across the country, working on the cars of the Transcontinental Railroad; the Pullman Porters.
“The Porters would travel all around the country,” Cobb said, as he sat in the conference room of The Post Newsgroup’s office in downtown Oakland. “And by the time (the Pullman Porters) got to Oakland, they’d have newspapers from all around the country!”
He was fascinated with reading about how African Americans lived all across America.
“I used to cut and collect Mastheads (the title of a newspaper or magazine at the head of the front or editorial page), like some kids would collect baseball cards,” he laughed as he told the story. “People would think I was crazy when I talked about it!”
Cobb progressed from working as a shoeshine boy in front of the grocery store his parents owned, to obtaining his own paper route; and eventually to working for local publications.
Paul Laurence Dunbar Cobb was born to be a writer; his mother made sure of that when she named him after the famous African American poet.
His writing ability took him from the Lower Bottoms neighborhood in West Oakland to Selma, Alabama; where he served as an usher and journalist as he marched right behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
He has the photo to prove it.
In March of 1965, Cobb marched, camped and conversed with King and his cadre of Civil Rights Activists.
“I met (James) Baldwin at the march in Selma!” Cobb leaned forward in his chair as he exclaimed. Cobb says that Ralph Abernathy joked with him, “you’re more excited to meet James than you are to meet MLK!”
He had met Dr. King in Oakland before, but he had never met Baldwin.
A year later, while attending Howard University’s Law School, Cobb wrote an article on Baldwin. Cobb speaks highly of his time at Howard, but his stint was short lived.
Cobb, Marion Berry (former DC Mayor), and Topper Carew (TV producer, Martin and other shows) were students and friends on Howard’s campus. The trio organized a successful bus faire strike, and later a political protest that wasn’t as successful. Cobb says the administration at Howard wasn’t pleased with the political stance he had taken, and asked that he discontinue attending classes at the University.
But that didn’t stop Cobb from reading and writing.
“I never took a single course in journalism,” says Cobb, who now owns the Post News Group.”I’m not bragging, I’m lamenting.”
Cobb says that he relies on his childhood experiences with the newspaper industry for his business savvy and writing skills.
When asked the question: given his life experiences, what would he tell a young person to help them along their life’s path… OG TOLD ME:
“Reading is a discipline for the mind. It is the best self-confidence builder,”Cobb said. He inhaled, sat back in his chair, exhaled and then continued: “incorporating the wisdom of what you’ve read, and communicating it bewilders people.”
He advised me that, “If you put the time in, one hour a day, it will redound to your benefit.”
He concluded by saying,
“You know how some people say, ‘don’t mess with that cat on the chessboard cause he’s that vicious’— well I’m like that on the Scrabble Board. ‘Cause I play with the same attitude as the gangs on the street in the turf.”
He pounded the table with his right fist, “that is my board.”
Courtesy of Pendarvis Harshaw at OG Told Me.