Saturday, August 01, 2009

Mix of Familiar and new faces takes part in CNN's "Reclaiming the Dream" discussion


Tonight's initial airing of "Black in America 2: Reclaiming the Dream" panel discussion featured some of the same characters from the documentary that premiered last month.

However, after watching it the first time this evening, I see where some new ground was broken.

Same Cast of Characters

When Radio Host, Comedian and Author Steve Harvey was introduced at the top of the two-hour program, my initial thought was 'the same cast of characters.'

Harvey's Father's Day weekend for boys from single-parent homes had been featured in a story previously reported on CNN.com. The host of the "Steve Harvey Morning Show" also took part in CNN's "Moment of Truth" event July 22 in Times Square on the night of "Black in America 2" premiere.


Dr. Steve Perry from Hartford's Capital Prep (featured in Black in America 2: Leaders) and Dr. Pete Thomas from Chicago's Project Brotherhood (featured in Black in America 2: Pioneers) returned for more discussion.

And, Sheryl Lee Ralph, who was a participant in the 2008 "Reclaiming the Dream" discussion also returned this year.


Some Different Faces

But, Soledad O'Brien and Roland Martin hosted what seemed to be a worthwhile discussion with some new solutions and new faces as well.

This seemed to be more the case in the second hour than the first. I was pleased to see a Public Health expert on behavior science featured in the second hour. The African-American scientist from Louisiana State University helped to put into context some of the behaviors of African American men.

A friend from my days in the Atlanta TV market, Morehouse President Dr. Robert Franklin (who previously served at Emory University's Candler School of Theology) weighed in on several of the education issues along with NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous.

Jealous seemed a little out of his element in the first hour as several of the ministers and communicators were a bit more outspoken. But, he came alive in the second bringing a lot more context to the discussion about health care.

Instead of just talking about charter schools or that black men need to go to the doctor, we heard about some innovative community programs like one in South Carolina focused on AIDS in the African American community.


The Role of Jason Carroll

Having CNN National Correspondent Jason Carroll do "on-location" reports from the Essence Music Festival added a dimension to the co-production. However, some of the earlier segments seemed more like promotion for the festival than contributions to the panel discussion.

In the second hour, he featured students from a new technology school that opens in New Orleans this fall. While the audio in this interview was not great, the students' perspectives added depth to the discussion about education.

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