Earlier this month, Don Lemon hosted a discussion on CNN posing the question “are today’s black radio personalities black america’s new civil rights leaders?” He went on to explore with his guests, April Ryan, Bev Smith and Warren Ballentine, whether or not they spoke for or represented the voice of the “people”….black people. While no one actually claimed the titled of civil rights leader they did agree that it is through their broadcast that the issues most pertinent to black people get discussed, exposed and dealt with.
It’s certainly true that black radio personalities very often cover topics not necessarily addressed in the mainstream media. Its also very true that back in the day, black radio was a powerful force during the civil rights movement to mobilize the black community around common goals. Even still, I couldn’t help but scratch my head at the mere allusion to black radio personalities being the “voice” of all black people and the next generation of civil rights leaders. This would mean that some how Tom Joyner, Michael Baisden, Brian McKnight, Steve Harvey, MoNique and Roland Martin all speak for me? Rarely, if ever, is there an assumption that white radio personalities speak on behalf of all white people. Is it me or hasn’t our diversity of thought and experience as black people, outgrown the ability for a chosen few with a mic to be able to speak on behalf of all black people? Moreover, do we as “minorities” undermine our impact and reduce our reach when we allow our radio personalities, television personalities, etc. to speak as if there is only one “black view point?”
Vyne readers, tell us what you think: Do black radio/media personalities speak for you?
Only a couple short days ago, our President emerged from his situation room to let us all in on what happened the day of the failed bombing attempt on a Detroit bound flight this past holiday. Since then, and even prior to President Obama’s press conference, the media has been having a field day trying to shine the light on airport security flaws. Everything from drug sniffing dogs not passing their tests to unidentified “passengers” entering through the exit doors and cameras that fail to record have graced the media headlines, morning, noon and night. While we can appreciate the media’s attempt to keep us all informed, at what point does their “expose” style of reporting endanger our security? If some nut case wanted to penetrate our transportation system, they need only watch the news for ideas on how to do so. As frequently travelers for business and leisure, the amount of openness that our media has on this subject matter is quite unsettling to us.
Let us know what you think Vyne Readers. Is the media our new security breach or are they helping to fix the problem?
By Keesha Boyd
I suppose we should have expected it. In the age of Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, iPhones and blogging, we should have expected that not even the news could resist the allure of 24 hour content. It makes sense that traditional news programming would want to be a part of, if not lead, the charge to provide compelling content faster and meet the “on demand” terms of the American public. That said, the other day I was tuned into CNN and two thoughts occurred to me while I was watching the weekend news segments: 1) “Didn’t they already talk about this?” and 2) “Is this CNN or TMZ?”
Perhaps I had not paid close attention in the past or maybe I only watched 15 minute blocks of news at a time. But somewhere around the 15 minute mark it became starkly apparent that the “so called” 24 hour news was looping. I watched as Suzanne Malveaux kept reaching to make heads or tails out of the breaking Tiger Woods story by continuing to report the same scant details that were reported five minutes earlier. No disrespect to Suzanne but it made me think, is there really such a thing as 24 hour news if it’s simply the same story looped and spun a variety of different ways?
Which brings me to my second thought, “Is this CNN or TMZ?” Last I checked, reputable news networks like CNN and MSNBC would not dare stoop to run tabloid-esque stories. But as sure as I was sitting there, eating left over Thanksgiving dinner, Suzanne was reporting on Tiger Woods’ alleged affair like it was Watergate. While I can appreciate the entertainment value, it begs the question, what really constitutes “news” these days? When TMZ content is passing as hard hitting journalism and networks fill their schedule with show after show of the same “news” stories, it gives the illusion that there is such a thing as 24 hour news. But at the end of the day the reality may very well be that in the age of Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, iPhones and blogging, perhaps our concept of news has been reduced to trending topics and bite sized pieces of compelling gossip just short enough to be looped, tweeted or fit into a status update. No judgement, just something to think about the next time you tune in to the “news”…
“I define myself as multiracial. Definitions are important to other people. They make no difference to my life. I think my parents were sort of like. You’re a black girl. You’re a light skinned black girl – that’s what you are, and I don’t know if it was ever a really big issue…” – Soledad O’Brien
She was the investigative force behind CNN’s much talked about series, Black in America and Latino in America. Next to Roland Martin, she is usually the most outspoken journalist on CNN, often not afraid to say the tough things. Award winning journalist, Soledad O’Brien is no shrinking violet.
She was born Maria de la Soledad Teresa O’Brien in Long Island New York to Edward and Estella O’Brien. Both of her parents are immigrants, her mother a black Cuban and her father, a white Australian. As the fifth of six children, Soledad had the great fortune to be born into a family that valued education. Her mother was a French and English teacher and her father a mechanical engineering professor. Clearly it was the example they set that led to them raising six children, all of whom graduated from Harvard. Soledad’s sibling’s professions range from law professor and corporate attorney to eye surgeon and anesthesiologist. Soledad attended Smithtown High School East in Smithtown, NY and was often faced with the race question. She says of her middle school days:
“…when I was 13 I’d be stopped in the hallway, with a question: “If you’re a n—–, why don’t you have big lips? [or]…“Why is your name so weird?” People would apologize for asking me if I was black. I didn’t know how to take the apology. I just ignored them and pushed forward with a quest to become a typical Long Island teenager. I chopped off the end of my name and had people call me Solie, which I spelled with a heart over the “i” in true Long Island high-school-girl fashion. But my hair would never “wing” like Farrah Fawcett’s.
Despite the challenges, Soledad went on to attend Harvard University in the footsteps of her siblings. She did not immediately graduate, choosing instead to postpone her degree in favor of pursuing her journalism career. She started out as an associate producer and writer for an NBC affiliate in Boston. She went on to join NBC news in New York as a field producer for the Nightly News and Today. It wasn’t long before she became on-air talent for an NBC affiliate in San Francisco, the Discovery Channel and eventually began anchoring the weekend morning show on MSNBC. She continued writing and contributing reports for the Today Show and NBC Nightly News. In 2000, the same year that she was named one of People magazines “50 Most Beautiful People in the World”; Soledad completed her studies at Harvard and received her Bachelor of Arts.
Soledad’s career trajectory and accolades are beyond impressive. Since joining CNN she has covered some of the most significant stories of our time, from Hurricane Katrina to the 2008 Presidential election. Her most recent success has come from her special investigative reporting series, Black in America and Latino in America. As a mother and wife with a successful career, Soledad continues to demonstrate for women the world over that the sky is the limit.
Whether in the courtroom, the boardroom, the school system or the White House, women of color continue to shatter the proverbial glass ceiling. Such is definitely the case with Brown University President, Ruth Simmons, the first African American female head of an ivy league University.
Raised in the segregated town of Grapeland, TX, Ruth Simmons was one of twelve children between her sharecropper father and a mother who did domestic work for a living. Although neither of her parents were formally educated, the life lessons and personal values they demonstrated on a daily basis would prove far more valuable to Ruth’s future. Lessons like attention to detail, doing your best work, being civil and respectful to others regardless of “their limitations – and their hostilities” were ingrained in Ruth just by observing her father and mother at work and experiencing the rich spiritual traditions of her family.
Growing up, the expectation of society in the south was that children of sharecroppers would join their families in the field, not attend school. Such was the case with Ruth until she reached elementary school age and her family moved to Houston to make a living. It was at this time that Ruth entered public school. Sure she experienced hatred, discrimination and low expectations on the part of society. But despite those realities, Ruth set her sites on the goal of being the first in her family to attend college. In 1967, with the help of teachers who sent her money and clothes, Ruth graduated summa cum laude from Dillard University and went on to receive her master’s and doctorate from Harvard University in Romance Literature. Shortly thereafter she became a professor of Romance languages and a dean at Princeton University from 1983 to 1990. Additionally, she served as provost at Spelman College from 1990 to 1992 and in 1995 was selected as president of Smith College.
Ruth’s accolades and accomplishments span the gambit. She is a celebrated essayist and sought after board member for some of the country’s most powerful corporations. Currently she serves as the 18th president of Brown University. Her story is truly that of the American dream. The irony that a woman raised in the segregated south by parents with no formal education would grow up to attend the most elite educational institutions and become the first African-American woman to head an ivy league school is a beautiful irony only possible in America.
By Kailei Richardson
When I read on Target Market News that it wasn’t CNN’s “Black in America 2” that took the #1 spot of black households last week but rather it was BET’s “Tiny & Toya,” I was more than heated! Maybe it was my disconcertion with BET and/or the lack of diverse images of Black Americans on television; or maybe it’s the unfortunate reality that though the most powerful couple in the United States is educated and Black, the media continues to perpetuate the stereotypes.
So why is it that shows like Tiny & Toya, Flava of Love, and The Real Housewives of Atlanta receive higher ratings than CNN’s “Black in America 2,” TV One’s “Unsung,” or former sitcom “Girlfriends”? Is it that less stereotypical images of blacks are not considered compelling TV? Or is it that the demand for more positive images is just not there? Perhaps Centric’s upcoming Keeping Up With the Jonses and some of OWN‘s programming will generate more ratings than its predecessors, but only time will tell. In the meantime, tell us what you think!
Tonight CNN premiered Black in America 2 (2nd half airs Thursday, July 23), featuring stories including underprivileged Brooklyn teens’ exposure to and service in South Africa, a young affluent black male’s experience in a predominantly white private university, and the Management Leadership of Tomorrow MBA prep program. After last year’s first installment of the Black in America series, many criticized, with some feeling like CNN did not depict an accurate portrayal of “blacks in America.” Others were excited that CNN spent the time and resources to shed light on the unique experience of being a black person in this country.
Tell us what you think. Do you think Black in America 2 did justice to the Black American experience?