Even though nearly a week has passed since the premiere of the much-anticipated "Black in America 2" documentary, the program is STILL sparking conversation in my world.
This week, I had a follow-up conversation with a friend who attended both nights of our local "Black in America 2" viewing party and discussion here in Tuscaloosa. We talked about some of this person's observations and found that we were on different sides of issues.
Both African American educators with terminal degrees, my friend and I were still looking at the African American experience through slightly different lenses.
Our different viewpoints about "Black in America 2" were just indicative of how different our lived experiences have been.
Our nearly hourlong phone conversation eventually moved from just talking about "Black in America 2" to the recent incident involving Harvard University's Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Recalling a personal incident of being harassed by police, this friend told me how one
could identify with Dr. Gates' experience.
I had nothing much to say about it. But, it illustrates how the "black experience" is hard to convey.
It's often been said that African Americans, like any other race of people, are not monolithic. In other words, we don't speak with one voice or have a single lived experience that can be represented in a single portrayal.
Black in America 2's Personal Impact
Even after TWO four-hour documentaries last July and last week, we STILL have not completely depicted what it means to be "Black in America."
While I conveyed the feelings of those attending the local viewing party and discussion, I never reported my own personal reactions.
In three words, "MOVED TO ACTION" are what I would use to describe my own personal feelings after watching "Black in America 2: Pioneers."
As one of the charter members of 100 Black Men of West Alabama and a member of a local school dropout prevention task force, I'm already personally involved and invested in some concrete efforts to deal with problems facing African-Americans here in Tuscaloosa.
The stories depicted in "Black in America 2" show me the potential of having an even greater impact.
On a deeper level, as an avid viewer of Tyler Perry's cinematic offerings (especially this summer), I am more educated about the "Man Behind the Movies."
I was raised at Howard University as a journalist with a conscience, empowered to OWN not just work in the media. Tyler Perry reminded me that ownership STILL must be a goal.
I enjoyed hosting the local events here at University of Alabama last week, in part, because they inform the research that I'll be doing in the next few weeks charting the progress (or lack thereof) that we've made in area of representations of the "black" experience in the news media.
Reclaiming the Dream
Still, I am looking forward to the discussions and debate that CNN Will be providing us this weekend (August 1 & 2) as "Reclaiming the Dream" panel discussion pre-recorded earlier this month at the Essence Music Festival will air.
One question we have is what is the true benefit of CNN and Essence teaming up? We've watched their "Making a Difference" segments. But, I believe the panel discussion will add an entirely different dimension to this media partnership.
Until then, I will continue to reflect on all I saw last week and how a television program like "Black in America 2" can shape the very dialogue one can have with a friend.