Contact Us

All Things CNN is an independent blog that has no affiliation with CNN.

If you wish to contact us with tips, comments or suggestions our email is

To contact a specific CNN program please check our CNN programs link at the top of this page.

To contact CNN
click here.


All Things CNN
is now on Twitter.
twitter / AllThingsCNN

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Black in America

Over the last few months CNN has been promoting the 4 hour documentary "Black in America" which was the follow up to "Eyewitness to Murder: The Assassination of MLK" This promotional ad has been airing for a while to get the momentum going for the upcoming special.

Well after the long wait "Black in America" premiered Wednesday night with the conclusion airing on Thursday. After the long build up I can personally say, it was certainly worth the wait and I really enjoyed it.

Soledad O'Brien spent the past 2 years preparing this documentary. With the help of poet Jon Goode, I will give a run down of the program. I will do my best to get the main points from the four hours.

The focus of Wednesday night's program was the Black Woman and the Family. The show opened with the Rand Family reunion. The Rand family has over 300 members on their way to their family Reunion. We met Rubystein McGhee who is the Rand family historian. In her investigation of her family history, Rubystein comes to learn that her great great grandfather, William Harrison Rand was a white man. The Rand family includes both black and white members including Martha Hicks. The two women found each other but not had the opportunity to meet. With the help of Soledad, Rubystein and Martha finally meet. If was a very emotional moment.

There is a crisis in education among the black community with the drop out rate climbing rapidly. Victor Keys and other volunteers in Houston try to convince drop outs to return to school. Brandon Gully is one student who dropped out, re-registered only to drop out again which seems to be a trend.

Next up Soledad investigated a new initiative of paying students to learn. Harvard economist Roland Fryer works with some fourth grade students in a Brooklyn elementary school. The students can earn up to $25 dollars per test with a grand total of $250 for perfect scores. There are about 5000 students in the program throughout New York which is privately funded.

One of the students in the program, Eric Kennedy Jr along with his sister and single father Eric Kennedy Sr. are about to lose their home. Eric Sr. went to court to try and prevent his landlord from converting his apartment building into a single family home. The Kennedy would eventually have to move out of their apartment. The Kennedy's are living in poverty which is high in the African American community.

Soledad takes a look at health care for many blacks, which has become the emergency room at hospitals. Soledad speaks with patients and doctors. Are black people biologically different then white people??? It may be a salt sensitivity thing but there is no proof so right now it is just a theory. Trying to find healthy food in many black communities has become more difficult as well. Soledad goes to Brooklyn to meet up with Sabra Abdullah, the patient she met in the hospital. Sabra has to go 20 plus blocks to go to a supermarket that has fresh produce.

The second hour of Black in America really focused in on women and the family. Soledad takes a look at the Smith family. The Smiths are a two parent household with 5 children who are attending or have attended college. We also meet Ira Johnson and her five children. Ira is single and having a hard time in supporting the entire family. Ira ends up moving to a smaller home due to finances.

Maryanne Reed is the creator of "Marry Your Baby Daddy Day", a program which helps couples work towards getting married creating more stable families in the black community.

We next visit the single black woman. We see Chris Turner, a successful screenwriter in Hollywood who is unsure if right now she wants to give up the life she has to get married. Chris is also open to dating men out of the black community....

Which leads to interracial relationships. We meet married couple Kimberly and Tom. Kimberly and Tom have two children. After the children were born, members of the family made racial comments. Kimberly and Tom did not have a conversation before they married on how they would raise their children as either black or white. Seems like some communication needs to be hashed out soon.

The face of AIDS today has changed from the face of AIDS 20 plus years ago. The faces are young black females. Soledad spoke with Marvelyn Brown who contracted HIV when she was 19 years old. Soledad goes with 18 year old Nya Buckley to take an HIV test. Nya test comes back negative.

49% of the murder victims in America are from the black community. Dr. Carnell Cooper works with people who come into the hospital and try to help them get back on "the straight and narrow" from their hospital bed until they leave the hospital and for the rest of their lives. Dr. Cooper's hope is that these people never come to the hospital again due to violence.

On Thursday night, the program's focus switched to the Black man.

The second night starts out with Butch Warren and other students who went to school in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1968. The men recall the day that MLK died and how the white students reacted.

Following the men as they recall their lives after MLK death, we have some who fell into a life of crime and others who have been successful. There are nearly a million black men in prison right now. Drugs are a big reason for this and crack is the number one drug.

We see some black men who go out on some job interviews and are given the run around. Those who had criminal past had difficultly finding work.

In as much as there is struggle, there are also success stories. With the success comes the accusations of becoming "white"

Jonathan Warren is a District Attorney in Arkansas. There are only two black district attorneys in his district. Jonathan can see how the law sometimes seems to work against those in the African American community

Comedian D.L. Hughley a former gang member was able to leave a gang and gain success in Hollywood. With all the success D.L. still has a strong distaste for the police.. He has taught his son how to deal with police if the need arises.

Black men and education has some good and bad news. The number of black men who have graduated since 1968 has quadrupled but still many black men do not finish school and many of those drop outs end up behind bars.

Where have all the fathers gone? A cycle of fathers leaving their children's lives and then those children having their own children and doing the same thing. Nearly 60% of black children are growing up without a father in their life. There are also men out there who are tremendously involved in their children's lives.

Black men in the corporate world. Malcolm Gilliam is an ad executive. Malcolm has to deal with the worries that come with being a black man in a predominately white business and he also has to deal with friends who think he is "too white".

Spike Lee, a major Hollywood director has to deal with a business that has a certain idea of what "the black stories" are for movies. It is aggravating to Spike when he can not portray all kinds of stories from the African American community

Today's rap music is being criticized. It has drastically changed from the original roots of hip hop. Rapper Lupe Fiasco went from being a "gangsta rapper" to hip hop star.

Two brothers Micheal Eric Dyson and his brother Everett have ended up completely different. Michael is a successful minister and Everett is in prison for murder. It all boils down to choices that we make but the issue of dark skin vs. lighter skin was brought up.

Black in America will be re-airing on Saturday and Sunday night at 8PM in case you missed it. If you did I strongly suggest watching it over the weekend. The stories brought to us by Soledad makes us all whether black, white, Latino, Asian or any other group of people stop and think and discuss. That I believe is what Soledad and CNN wanted this documentary to do and I believe the conversations are beginning.
You can also purchase Black in America on iTunes and on video on demand (VOD) 24 hours following the premiere. Check your local cable providers for VOD availability.

All content, unless otherwise cited, is © All Things CNN and may not be used without consent of the blog administrator.


Anonymous said...

I thought Soledad did a wonderful job telling the story of black America. I found PartI far more interesting than Part II. Perhaps because we all are well acquainted with the black male stereotypes that have often been presented and Part II seemed to be a rehashing of that same stereotypical black male.
I also didn't care for Jon Goode's poetic introductions. I realize he is a an educated poet, but he is speaking to a multi-racial audience who really isn't as hip as his lyrics. He belongs on HBO. Maybe it was CNN's idea to grab those youth oriented "white folks" but as a "baby boomer" his attempts at satire were unappreciated.
Having said that, Soledad did a great job and I hope she gets a chance to do more and her ratings showed it.

Phebe said...

Thank you so much for the wonderful review. CNN and Soledad did an amazing job with BIA, and the ratings were fabulous. Nice to see viewers watch when the topic is so relevant.