Thursday, July 23, 2009

Last night I found CNN's Black in America 2 pretty interesting, but what was even more compelling were the comments some of my friends posted on Facebook about the show.

In case you missed it, the show kicked off with a story of a program called Journey for Change. The program was founded by Malaak Compton-Rock, wife of comedian Chris Rock, and through it Compton-Rock selects 30 at-risk youth from Bushwick, Brooklyn to travel to Johannesburg, South Africa to do service projects for poverty stricken communities plagued by AIDS. Compton-Rock's goal is for the journey to give the Bushwick kids confidence and encourage them to better apply themselves in school.

During the CNN special we do see some of the children blossom and break out of their shells. Some do improve their grades, but some do not, despite their new confidence.

I found the program admirable, but one of my FB pals griped about the media once again highlighting the pain and suffering of Africa. What do you think?

The part of the program I enjoyed most was the story of The Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Conn. This year round college preparatory school has a majority black and Hispanic student population, with many students coming from broken homes. Yet it sends 100 percent of its graduating students to college.

During the program the principal of the school said "education is the great equalizer" and this is a statement in which I truly believe. Most of the life experiences and opportunities I have had and the self-confidence I hold are all results of my education. My belief in this statement is one of the main reasons I'm moving to Birmingham to become a teacher.

But one of my FB buddies brought up a very valid point -- today many college graduates are drowning in debt and unemployed thanks to our country's economic downturn. So is education really the great equalizer or just a waste of money?

The CNN special concluded with a segment on affluent Black Americans. Coming from a low income family, this is a community to which I have never been able to relate. But when a friend of mine called the people in this segment "Afro-Saxons" it struck a nerve. While clever, that little joke implies that wealth is reserved for white America. Is that really the right attitude?

Let me know what you think of these issues and don't forget to tune in tonight for the second part of Black in America 2.
Posted by in , ,  on 8:24 AM 2 comments

2 comments:

  1. Jai, here are my thoughts:

    First, I applaud Soledad O'Brien and CNN for looking at all of this. I think that what is being shown is very relevant.

    As for the suffering in Africa, my response would be, why is there more of a focus on the negative? Why not focus on what the story is meant to show and that is helping youth boost their confidence. I'm not saying that the less than positive conditions should not be considered but I find it interesting that in the midst of something positive, people tend to find the negative to focus on. That's just me.

    As for the Capitol Prep Magnet School story...LOVED IT! I applaud the principal, teachers and the students for their hard work and efforts. It's paying off and everyone can see it. I definitely don't think that education is a waste of money at all. I think that one thing that should happen is that more needs to be done regarding educating students about scholarship opportunities, grants and work-study programs and co-ops that they can take advantage of to pay for school so that all of these loans are not necessary. Additionally, parents need to be encouraged and taught as well to put a few dollars aside each paycheck starting when each child is born in order to help save up for college expenses. I see a lot of opportunity there.

    Lastly, as for the Afro-Saxons, my response is that it is indeed NOT the right attitude to think that wealth (notice I did not say money or richness, because there are folks out there that don't know the difference unfortunately) is reserved strictly for white America. I feel that when people have that mindset, they do themselves a disservice and end up keeping themselves from joining the ranks of the wealthy because they don't embrace wealth as a mindset from jump.

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  2. I think it was appropriate to highlight that AIDS in South Africa is beyond a crisis point because we should care and do something about it. Besides, the show was about blacks in America, and the focus was on how the trip influenced the children.

    I think my thoughts on the value/futility of education are well known, but I must add a couple of caveats to my usual rantings: 1) While a certification or associates degree you can get in two years or less from a community college will better position most of today’s high school graduates for a career in the middle of this economy and for several years in the future, the current economic climate is a pretty unusual circumstance. 2) There is absolutely nothing else you can encourage children in poor or otherwise disadvantaged backgrounds to do to emerge from poverty other than to get an education. The principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School knows that encouraging those kids to be athletes and entertainers just won’t cut it. While I can no longer sell higher education the way it was sold to me—as THE way to a good job and lots of money—I would still encourage any disadvantaged youth to go to college, just for the sake of getting exposed to something different and knowing that there are possibilities.

    I’m glad that the show recognized the existence of wealthy blacks, because we as a country and as black people often don’t. Blacks owned slaves too, and some have been wealthy since shortly after the Civil War. It was extremely rare, but it still needs to be recognized. But I had a problem with the segment. I understand the need of the elite to fellowship with other elites. Most of us just don’t get what their life is like or what problems they may face, and it’s important for them to be around people who do. However, the segment made it look like that’s all they were about. It made them seem very snobby and exclusive, like people who didn’t care about raising other blacks to that same level of wealth and prestige. I suspect that many of them do care and are active in poorer communities, and would have liked to have seen that highlighted as well.

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