It's not that I didn't appreciate CNN's "Black in America" series when it first ran last year; I thought Soledad O'Brien did a fine job of highlighting issues some of the most vulnerable African Americans face as they negotiate poverty here in the U.S. I was happy to learn, though, that Soledad is taking a second look with her "Black in American 2," which airs on July 22 and 22rd at 8PM (ET). This series will focus on emerging leaders, innovative community programs and business ventures that are addressing the most persistent and pressing issues and disparities facing African-Americans.
CNN's doing some pretty innovative programming over at its website to help promote the show, including an interactive map chronicling the historic migration of blacks in America as well as clips of stories that'll serve as part of the narrative in the main show. One that stood out for me was a piece on Malaak Compton-Rock, wife of the comedian Chris Rock, who scooped up a bunch of at-risk kids from her husband's native Bushwick, Brooklyn, and took them to South Africa to see what it really means to have little options and even less hope. Here, an excerpt of Soledad's blog, explaining the point Compton-Rock aimed to make with her trip:
Bushwick is recovering now, but half of the children under age 18 still live below the poverty line. A quarter of the adults never make it past the ninth grade and more than half never graduate from high school.
The children on this trip to South Africa are what educators and social workers call "at-risk" -- at risk of having babies as teenagers; at risk of never finishing high school or achieving their dreams; at risk of never knowing the world beyond their neighborhood.
Thirty of these children, between the ages of 12 to 16, have been paired up with college-aged mentors and brought to South Africa... to serve the impoverished and the AIDS orphans in this country with the highest HIV-infected population in the world.
[Compton-Rock]... wants the children to know, "that in the United States of America, even in Bushwick, we have certain services that I want the children to understand that they need to take advantage of."
Compton-Rock is talking about access to free public education, food, knowledge and social mobility -- elusive things for South Africa's impoverished and particularly so for 1.4 million AIDS orphans there.
One of the mentors on this trip is 20-year-old Alicia Gerald.
"I know that in my own experience," Alicia says, "just having someone put their hand out and say 'I believe that you can be great,' has really helped me rise to those expectations."
Click HERE to see a video excerpt of the show, featuring the children of Bushwick's journey to South Africa.
I love it! "Black In America 2" will also study whether barber shops can help black men in Chicago's Southside, where the life expectancy for Black men is eight years less than the national average; it'll also tackle issues like our obsession with the politics of hair, and much more.
I'm most certainly looking forward to the next installment, and hold out high hopes that people not only will appreciate what it has to offer, but use it as a springboard to make a difference in their own communities. Our American communities.
Photo credit: AngelRockProject.com.