A sophomore named Flynne Bailey at Howard University wrote this in response to watching CNN’s documentary on Blacks in America: 

While CNN’s special documentary on Black America left many viewers thinking the network had underutilized its many resources, it is important to recognize that, in some segments Soledad O’Brien did manage to positively highlight the institution of family, a cornerstone of the black community.

Although the documentary seemed to mainly focus on the negative aspects of the black family by gathering high divorce rates and out of wedlock birth statistics, O’Brien did show some of the positive side of the black family structure in America.

This highlight might not compare to the negative connotation of blacks in America if you are not accustomed to attending a family reunion or looking forward to seeing that crazy uncle who can never remember your name but can’t wait for you to tell him your latest achievement. But as a member of the Rand family, which was featured on the first night of “Black in America”, I can say that I do appreciate O’Brien’s brave delve into helping Americans of all backgrounds better understand what it means to value togetherness.

As for my family attending the family reunion, that occurs every other year, means much more than good food and fun. It involves learning your family history and meeting the matriarchs and patriarchs of your ancestry. Attending a family reunion and getting schooled by great uncles and aunts won’t ensure that any of us stay out of jail or not drop out of school. But what it does ensure is that when I do encounter that fork in the road or experience that shadow of a doubt I know that there is unit, a family that I can turn to for a reality check. For many black Americans like me this truth is self evident.

Now don’t get me wrong. Yes, it is discouraging to see that one of the world’s top news outlets can’t manage but to reiterate age old stereotypes. And…yes… I do consider it poor journalism to only investigate the rising cases of “baby daddy’s.” But it is necessary that, as members of a targeted community, we continue to strive to disprove the media’s statistics. And by choosing to challenge the documentary that was presented to viewers across the world we are doing just that.

It is important for us to understand that being Black in America is a relative concept and differs from person to person. To try and condense the black community into a homogenous glob will never produce an accurate portrayal of the triumphs that blacks have achieved or troubles that we encounter. As the black community loses another man to the jail system, it is important to remember that at that same time there is a black man walking across a stage and receiving a degree or saving a life in an operating room.

As we witness the nomination of America’s first Black presidential candidate we can choose to say “This is what it means to Black in America.” As we sit in the classrooms of one of the country’s most competitive universities, we can honestly say that “This is what it means to be Black in America.” As you read this article and you ponder over your own values you can say that ….”This….is what it means…to be BLACK…in America.

BCKSays:According to television network CNN,”I Am:Black In America is a new feature built on the belief that the labels we use for one another don’t really reveal who we are.We present a collection of people who may surprise you. They not only defy their labels, but they’ve done it in very public and dramatic ways.” Do you feel that CNN has done a good portrayal of “defying labels ” of Blacks?Thanks to reader Maryamb for bringing on this discussion…


~ by blackcelebritykids on August 5, 2008.


  1. I don’t know if you posted after reading my post in the Obama’s but thank you. I really appreciate it and I would love to see what everyone has to say.

  2. Yeah,it was posted after reading your comment..that is why you were given a shout-out:) Thanks again

  3. @Maryamb…long time friend.

    To answer your question…I did watch Black in America (awesome)…thought-provoking. About the congressional apology…I found it SUPRISING that they even thought to apologize but felt that it needed to be followed up by some kind of recompensation (40 acres and a mule)…

    I haven’t been directly affected by slavery (with me being 1st generation Nigerian-American) so, the closet event that I could relate to was the Biafra War of Nigeria (a civial war) or the mass genocide in Rwanda with the Tutsis and Hutu…mass killing, destruction, seperation of families, etc.

    …with those events taking place, a simple apology would NOT be enough…**just had a thought**…but at the same time, the apology would be taken with a cold heart…and I would have decided to move on.

    (Copied and pasted from my previous post)

  4. I wouldn’t say they did either a good or a bad job as far as showing how we defy labels. My reason being is they only did a condensed four hour segment. It is hard to truly show the challenges we face as well as our achievements as a race in that short period of time. I think what is most important about them doing the show at all is the fact they are acknowledging. They are even acknowledging how hard it is for a black man to get a job that has a degree as well as no criminal record. They stated it is just as hard for them to get a job as as black man with a record. I did show a lot of negative things and I can’t remember his name but the guy that played as Denise’s husband on the Cosby show is a good example of how out of. The fact they are bringing up these topics will bring on more discussions. This to me is just a start of more to come. Both good and bad. Lol I saw you did post this because of me. Thank you. I love this board.

  5. Sorry for the typos. I meant out of touch people could be. The fact that they did this can be an eye opener for lots of people. I hope Joseph C. Phillips and anyone out there that think the answer to black men staying out of jail is so simple realizes that it has so many variables than not doing things wrong. If that is all you know, you don’t have positive role models out there letting people know there is a better way this is what you get.

  6. Nia Ja Gal I liked the show as well. I agree about the 40 acres and the mule as well. What get me is this. They why since we were wrong so long ago why were we the last to be apologized to. Why do they feel so threatened by black men and women. I think they fear us coming from a more powerful position. I think they know what we are capable of and it scares them and they is why they show us being in such a negative light most of the time. I love Spike Lee’s segment the most. He is so real. If they brow beat us and continue to use weapons of mass detraction on us will we ever be able to reach our full potential? I think Obama running for and making it as the Democratic party candidate is making a lot of things that should have been brought to light come to light.

  7. @ Maryamb

    Here are my thoughts:

    America has been built on the back of others…Native Americans, Chinese and Japanese Americans, Africans and African-Americans and I feel as if the “leaders” of those days felt that they had a hold or owned the listed minorites…unfortunatley, it was the African-Americans that were held captive the longest while the other minorites prospered or (sadly) died out.

    America’s past, with slavery, still plays a role in today’s African-American society…there is constant oppression (welfare, imprisionment) that America uses to this very day to “control” African-Americans like they used to back in the days of slavery…until recently (well, at least in the past 10 years), I don’t know what happened but we are seeing more positive African-American images such as sitcoms with BOTH mother and father in the household, commericials with African-American physicians, nurses and lawyers and finally…Obama.

    With the new and rising images, I feel as if White America is now looking at African-Americans in a different light along with an obligation to do right…hence the congressional apology.

    To answer your question, that is why I feel like it has taken so long to finally get an apology.

  8. I don’t mean to be technical, but Flynne Bailey mentioned this:
    “As the black community loses another man to the jail system, it is important to remember that at that same time there is a black man walking across a stage and receiving a degree or saving a life in an operating room.”
    Though I do hope that a great deal of recognition is given to those who are able to break the fold, eventually doing away with it all together, but the facts speak differently on what he just said for right now. Here is an article released about the census report that showed 3 times as many african-americans live in prison cells than in dorms.
    I hope that this can facilitate constructive discussion on this matter. I apologize for not answering the question posed in this blog discussion, but I did not have a chance to wathc the documentary. I hope that some great reform can come about so that african-americans, as well as all other americans, can enjoy a life in which a college education is a common occurence and jail time is a rarity. The power for change is within the family. Strengthen that and there is no telling the kind of progress that we can make in America.

  9. Naija I have to say good things come to those who wait.

    I have to say even though they do have shows with african- american families with two parent homes, I think it would be better if the shows were more like the Cosby show. I think that was one of the best shows out that depicted what we could have as black people. I don’t know about anybody else but when I was growing up watching it I wanted my family to be just like them. I think Bill had the right idea and I feel what he said about us needing to be more involved in our children’s lives he was 100% correct. I still haven’t figured out why he got so much flack for what he said. Most black people work so hard to take care of their families but don’t have much to show for it because they don’t have the knowledge to build wealth. Also because so many of us still have this slave mentally we don’t work together the way we should to be uplifting to one another instead it is more of the crab in the barrel syndrome. Whites bring home their knowledge and know how and pass it on to the people around them, where as most of the black people are trying to make sure the next person is not getting more than them. We have some positive role models out there but we so more of the negative. I love India Aire. Where is she? We need more like her. All the mainstream stuff is Beyonce who is singing about her freakum dress.

  10. I agree with Barack, give me a better life with better schools and jobs, then a few pennies that will run out and I will be in the same situation.
    As is being reported by the AP, Barack Obama has stated once again that he is opposed to giving reparations to the descendants of american slaves. Obama was quoted at a town hall meeting as saying:

    “I have said in the past — and I’ll repeat again — that the best reparations we can provide are good schools in the inner city and jobs for people who are unemployed,”

    When asked about this issue he stated:

    “I fear that reparations would be an excuse for some to say, ‘We’ve paid our debt,’ and to avoid the much harder work.”

  11. Hey I’m a sophomore at Howard… I know that girl 🙂

    by: David W. Johnson, Jr.

    Why should our enemies care if we rob and kill one another
    If we destroy one another, it saves them from having to do it
    African Americans, wakeup before this madness goes any farther
    Mothers, teach your daughters they have something more than a slit

    We must start to work together if our children are to have any future
    The younger generation these days sees no reason to get an education
    For too many African Americans children education is just conjecture
    If children are to have a future, adults must began building a foundation

    Brothers and Sisters, we are putting our children in graves and prisons
    Yes, our children are joining gangs and dropping out of schools is true
    Not children but adult’s neglect is burdening them with cruel afflictions
    Think about it adults, without proper guidance what are children to do

    If a son has been neglect by his father, chances are he will do the same
    If a daughter sees her mother sleeping with man after man, she follows
    Children form the opinion that having a mate in their lives is just a game
    For some, destruction of African Americans is an easy pill to swallow

    Senator Obama said, African American Men should step-up and be MEN
    Instead of getting upset with what he said, we best start paying full attention
    African American Women, start looking for Men on whom you can depend
    You need someone to help, not someone to cause you unnecessary tension

    A dead or imprison child is proof that, “you can do bad all by yourself”
    If children had, two Parents and more Mentors things would be different
    It is very difficult for a Mother or Father to raise a child by him or herself
    REAL Men just do not impregnate Women then become totally indifferent

    A lack of education, bullets and drugs are destroying African Americans
    Smarten up and becoming more responsible will help us go a lot farther
    If not, in a few years we will be off to prisons and graves by the caravans
    You remember this, our enemies are saying, “Let Them Kill One Another”

    Is This Future Black America… Or This…

  13. If We Save Our Children…We Save America
    1719 Stella Court
    Baltimore, Maryland 21207

    Let 2008 “Be A Positive Turning Point For Our Children”

    Re: Making A Difference In Our Children’s Lives

    Greetings Brothers & Sisters (We Are All Brothers & Sisters):

    We are now eight (8) months into 2008 and already there have been far too many deaths of our young people. Most, as you know are African Americans. It is beyond scary how too many of us are ignoring the deaths of our young children and adults.

    So you tell me, what will it take adults to become fed-up and sincerely want to do something to help our children? Last year, setting at the dinner table, I was wondering how many young people were having the luxury of sharing Christmas Dinner and would live to enjoy Christmas 2008 with their parents, grandparents and other family members, in the same homes, at the same tables.

    Recently, I spoke with police officers investigating an incident where an elderly woman was assaulted and robbed on her way to the drugstore. In their communication with the Precinct, they were informed it was the second robbery of an elderly person, in that area, in eight hours. The victims were both Caucasian women. The perpetrators, African-American males. To me, crime is crime and race should not matter however; in today’s society, a lot more effort goes into apprehending and convicting African Americans for crimes against non-African Americans. Why, because once again, we are becoming increasingly UNIMPORTANT!!

    Too many of our children have no real lives and no one who truly cares about them one way or another. Many of them have only one parent (the mother) and that parent works two and three job just to pay the rent, bills, cloth and feed their children. The men on the other hand are out making more babies, dealing drugs, doing time or deceased.

    Police and private citizens are becoming increasingly afraid of young African American males and females. Do you know what that means? It means they are going to start shooting first and asking questions later. When our children leave home, it will be the “luck of the draw” as to whether or not they return.


    Our young females are not getting the love they need at home so they are turning to teenage gangsters, drug dealers and pathetic older men. End result, they end up pregnant; their lives ruined, or deceased. Our young males do not have any REAL father figures, so they turn to gangs. End result, they end up in prisons or worse, morgues.

    Teachers who try to educate and motivate our children end up being abused by their students, their student’s parents or both. How can we expect children to respect teachers if their parents do not respect them? Education is the main key to success. We do not seem to want our children to succeed these days.

    Driving through our streets, I am truly frustrated and angry at the negativity I encounter. When I listen to the News in the afternoons, it is heart wrenching to hear about yet another dead child. On the positive side, when I visit schools or churches during the weeks or on Sundays I am overcome with emotion at the number of positive intelligent young people I encounter. All sides need positive adult involvement if they are to turn their lives around or continue to excel.

    The situations that exist for our children today are not going to vanish in thin air. Adults are going to have to be the ones to turn things around. If we do not step-up and bring about a positive change for ourselves and our children, the Federal Government will. There change will not be positive and we will not like the change. When the government starts building “holding pens” and having federal troops, patrolling our streets there will be nothing we can do.

    Take it from someone who knows because I read and inter-act constantly, with Representatives on Capitol Hill and in State Capitol’s. They tell me, they are growing impatient and increasingly tired of what is happening in major cities across America. You can be assured the African-American communities will be the first to feel the brunt of their impatience.

    Many of us believe our children are just hoodlums, drug dealers, gangsters, baby makers, etc. THEY ARE NOT!!! Young people are hoping and praying for the same opportunities our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents gave us. One of the problems today, adults who are in positions to offer children the kind of support, encouragement and leadership they were given, are turning their backs. Those same back-turners had Great, Productive Leaders and Role Models who were determined to offer their and the next generation a better way of life through education, motivation, love and support.

    If you are in positions to mentor, volunteer at schools, provide an academic scholarship or financial aid that will help our children march proudly across high school and college stages, I urge you to do so. Our communities are losing too many young people. Ask yourself this question, where will our children, grandchildren great-grandchildren, godchildren and children over-all end up, without our help?


    So let me say in conclusion, it is the responsibility of parents to be parents. It is also the responsibility of neighborhoods and communities to work for the betterment of our children. Yes, I said “Our Children” because all children are, “Our Children.” If all of us, especially parents, do not stop children from committing violence by showing them love and discipline, the police and National Guards will show them prisons and graveyards, by using nightsticks, mace and bullets. THE CHOICE IS OURS!!! We can start turning things around for our and our children’s future or continuing a genocidal trend.


    David W. Johnson, Jr., Founder & President
    Jacqueline M. Johnson, Vice-President & Treasurer
    If We Save Our Children We Save America
    (410) 265-0028 (H/O)
    (410) 984-3086 (C)
    (410) 646-5187 ext. 14 (D/O)

  14. Biography
    David W. Johnson, Jr.

    I am a father, stepfather; grandfather, brother, uncle, great uncle, nephew, cousin and friend. I am an African American male living in America who has been blessed to see age fifty-eight but not because I grew up in a strong family environment. For ten years, I was fortunate enough to have a set of terrific, grandparents. God chose to call them home when I was ten-years old. From then on, I was more-or-less on my own. Handed off like a football from one family member to the next until I were in my early teens.

    There is a humongous difference between living with a family and living with a loving family. After my grandparent’s death, my first understanding of a non-loving family came when I was forced to live with my mother, her boyfriend and four of my siblings. That lasted about three years. My mother’s boyfriend was an abuser. While my brother and three sisters were willing to look the other way, I was not, so I was handed off to my grandmother on my mother’s side.

    The story and the madness continued for years to come, until I was old enough to join Job Corps and then the Army. For a longtime after that, life “cut me little or no slack” and the streets raised me. I was able to survive and reach the point I am today, thanks to the love and caring of mostly strangers, along the way. I sincerely believe if I were a teenager today I would not make it to twenty-eight and surely not fifty-eight.

    This book is about lifting spirits, changing and saving lives of today and tomorrow’s young people.

    When I was growing up neighbors, teachers, the community police officers and the judicial systems were not about just doing a job but they cared about children overall. It is not just a saying that, “It Takes A Community To Raise A Child.” It is the TRUTH and it is more IMPORTANT today than it has ever been. The obstacles standing in young people’s way today is almost insurmountable. We must stop caring about what side of town, skin color, race or nationality, country, county or city and start caring that it is all children that need our help.

    Oftentimes even with parents, the road to survival and success is a difficult one for young people. Surviving without parents, or dedicated parents is next to impossible but I am here to tell you, it is not impossible. I would not want any young person to live my young life, if it is at all avoidable.


    Parents, teachers, neighbors, friends, police officers and communities, what I am saying is this, if you have children do what you must to standby them and keep them on the right track. Try to see that they have a better life growing up, than you had. No matter if, your childhood was terrific. Show them love, respect and give them lots of support.

    There is nothing sadder or more discouraging for a child than having parents who are nothing more than “figure heads,” or “parents who only give birth.

    I can attest to the fact that if parents are not good to and for you, you have the tendency not to be good for and to your children. It took me a while and many trials and tribulations before I came to understand and appreciate what it means to be a father and grandfather. Like any human being, I am still lacking in some areas but I am quickly improving.

    What I know for sure, unless all men, but especially African American men do not step-up and give women a much needed hand raising our children we will be facing self-destruction akin to genocide, in the very near future.

    Some may think my last statement is perhaps “overstated” but I assure you there is not a lot of “grey area” between “self-destruction” and “genocide.”

  15. David Johnson i met you at cj in owing mills.My name is Donald Singleton and email is

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