In an attempt to portray the vast and various experiences of the lives of African-Americans, CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien embarked upon a revealing, cross-country journey that exposed the ongoing struggles black people continue to face.
O’Brien also sought to capture the triumphs of black people since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In an on-air and multimedia two-hour special report, “CNN Presents: Black in America,” real people depict their thoughts on the stereotypes, statistics and identity that are frequently associated with them.
The series, which premiered on July 23 with the segment “Black in America: The Black Woman & Family’’ and on July 24 with the segment “Black in America: The Black Man,’’ has sparked a wide array of criticism and support across the African Diaspora.
Here in South Florida, The 100 Black Men of Greater Fort Lauderdale – inspired by the series – recently held a community forum about why some black people are successful while others remain in poverty.
The organizers joined a crowd of over 500 people who arrived for the 125-seat forum on July 24 at Dave & Busters restaurant in Hollywood.
Most of the crowd, too numerous to fit in the room, was pacified and dispersed by Michael Baisden, the nationally syndicated radio host of “The Michael Baisden Show,” which airs weekdays on WHQT HOT 105 FM.
The group sought solutions to the many challenges highlighted in the series, including overcrowded schools, the increase of high school dropouts, the escalating number of black men in prison, absent fathers, lack of insurance and educational, economic and social gaps.
The series pointed out that, according to the U.S. Census, about 60 percent of black households with children have just one parent.
“Our expectation is that the documentary will be thought-provoking and spark much-needed dialogue, regarding the roles of black men in America,” said Dennis Wright, president of the 100 Black Men of Greater Fort Lauderdale. “It is not only appropriate for us to host this event; we feel it is our responsibility to do so as black men and leaders of our community.”
The forum’s moderator, HOT 105 executive producer Rodney Baltimore, solicited solutions from the motivated audience regarding the first part of the documentary,
“Black Women and Family,” which explored the different experiences of black women and families, and investigated the reasons behind the disturbing statistics of single parenthood, educational divides between black and white students, and health concerns.
“A universal healthcare system is a good proposal, but I think that the problems can be solved within our communities,’’ said Dr. Edwin Hamilton, a medical doctor, in response to a question. “We have organizations such as Memorial Healthcare and Broward Healthcare, sororities and faith-based organizations, and what we need to do is to form partnerships with these organizations to educate our people.”
Another panelist, Delores Smiley, dean of the Office of Community Education and Diversity Affairs at Nova Southeastern University, addressed the alarming dropout rate of African-American students – another issue that was addressed in the CNN series.
“Fifty percent of black males drop out of high school. I believe that if we have a level of support beginning in the home and extending to the schools, I think we will see a better percentage rate than we have right now,” Smiley said.
The forum also included a viewing of the second part of the CNN series, “The Black Man,” which compared the achievements of some high-level black men to others who are targeted by police, imprisoned, or who neglect their children.
The series also evaluated the messages young blacks see and hear in rap music videos and on TV, which glorify violence and depict blacks as pimps and criminals.
These depictions become role models and allow the historical cycle of poverty to become the norm, according to the series.
Some attendees at the community forum were encouraged to unite and stimulate positive ideas, and to continue the dialogue to find solutions to the issues.
“The comments here tonight are that we need to be responsible for ourselves—whether it’s from a health perspective, an educational perspective or an economical perspective,’’ Wright said. “This meeting tonight is a call for action. After we talk about it, we’ve got to be about it.’’