In the midst of an era where we could quite possibly have an African American male claim the position of the President of the United States of America, it only seems befitting that CNN would air a series that dedicates content and commentary to the lives of Black citizens in this country. The two day series entitled Black In America aired on Wednesday, July 23rd from 9pm-11pm and Thursday, July 24th from 9pm-11pm as well, and had special encore presentations as well. Special Correspondent Soledad O’Brien not only shed light on issues that most African Americans face on a daily basis, but also interviewed some of Hollywood’s Black elite: such as actress/comedian Whoopi Goldberg, director Spike Lee, actress Vanessa Williams, comedian D.L. Hughley, professor/author Michael Eric Dyson, and Bishop T.D. Jakes.
The first night of the documentary series consisted of an in depth look into the lives of the Black woman and family in America. It focused on topics such as attitudes towards interracial relationships, disparities between White and Black students in the classroom, experiences of the Black middle class, the progress of Black women professionally and within universities, and the disturbing climb of HIV/AIDS rates within the Black community. On the second night, CNN aired the conclusion of the series, which focused exclusively on the Black male and his plight within American society. CNN made it a point to not just expose negativity regarding some of harsh realities that Black men faced, but also took the initiative to shine a light on some of the achievements and successes that Black men have accomplished. This was equally done during the second segment by showing paralleling stories of two Black men that were both graduates of the 1968 class of the historically significant Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Both men vividly expressed stories of the racial prejudices that they faced at a school that was monumental in segregation during the Civil Rights movement, and explained how they reached the point where they are today: one as a school district superintendent, and the other a former felon and current preacher. The segment continued by also following the trails of the sons and grandsons of both men and their experiences with interracial dating, being classified as “acting white”, and battling law enforcement and the growing rate of Black males within the prison system. The segment concluded in the same fashion, by highlighting the life of author Michael Eric Dyson and his road to becoming a Princeton scholar, a Georgetown professor, and a well respected figure in African American Civil Rights issues, as well as featuring the story of his brother Eric Dyson, who is currently serving a life sentence in prison for murder. Michael Dyson touched on the “light skinned vs. dark skinned” complex within the Black community, and his brother finalized both of their predicaments by following the question posed by Soledad O’Brien, “how did two men from the same household and upbringing end up on such different paths” with the reply that simply stated…“choices…it all comes down to choices”.
CNN did a competent job of showcasing a documentary that touched on issues that many African Americans encounter on a daily basis. Some strings were left untied and a few stories were left with holes, however, there was content available that the majority of American society may not be knowledgeable of. The series was a reminder that although we have come very far as a people, we still have a long way to go to achieving a desired level of progress within this country. It is truly going to take the unity of the Black community as a whole to combat many of the disparities that are faced daily, however, I think welcoming the idea of African American president is certainly the first step. That accomplishment alone could be a factor that turns the tides in a massive way. As Eric Dyson stated, in the end, it will all come down to our willingness to fight for a change, and the choices that we decide to make. So what will yours be?
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