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Archive for October 2010

Debt = Slavery (CNN’s Black in America)

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“Debt is slavery.”  Those words hooked me into watching CNN’s latest installment of its Black in America series, “Almighty Debt.”  This two-hour special focused on how finances and religion intertwine in the            African-American community.  Here’s a link to CNN’s “Black in America” website.

I commend CNN and Soledad O’Brien for tackling this subject.  It would be easy to shoot down this show idea since countless Americans are dealing with financial issues.  But, the special continues to point out that all the economic indicators show African-Americans suffer proportionately worse than the majority of the country in all the major financial categories.   So, it was interesting to see the current and historical factors that have made such a perfect storm of financial instability in a large number of black households.   You can find a one-on-one interview Soledad O’Brien gave to Essence magazine about the “Almighty Debt” special here.

“Almighty Debt” introduces you to a New Jersey pastor, Rev. Buster Soaries of the First Church of Lincoln Gardens.  Rev. Soaries makes the comparison between debt and slavery.  The reverend didn’t stop there.  He also says, “Debt is a bigger problem than racism.”   So his ministry instituted educational and debt relief programs to help his congregation unshackle themselves from their financial burdens. 

The pastor and his mission to rid his congregation of debt is the focal point of the special.  CNN illustrates this point through the financial stories of several of the church members.  The 3 stories can be easily translated to many homes in America.  If you click on the links below you’ll see a short synopsis of each story from CNN.

Story 1: A married couple fights to keep their dream home from going into foreclosure. 

Story 2: A high school student takes on mounds of debt to pay for his college education.

Story 3: A long-time company executive gets laid off, and now he’s applying to hundreds of jobs without getting any callbacks.

Noted economist and Bennett College President Julianne Malveaux, Ph.D., made a profound statement about having a middle class job and actually being middle class.  “You can be middle class by income, but not by wealth.  So, if you’re laid off and you’ve got a little wealth then maybe you can make it a year or two.” says Dr. Malveaux.  But, she goes on to say, if you’re middle class by income, “lose your job and you’ve got a mortgage to pay, you’ve got about a month’s worth of saving, you’re in trouble and that’s the difference.”   It should be noted I teach at Bennett College, where Dr. Malveaux serves as the President. 

The outcome for each subject wasn’t a fairytale ending.  The pastor admits his frustrations that his congregation isn’t completely buying into living a debt-free life.  But Rev. Soaries wants to take the program he’s started to other churches around the country. 

You never know what portions of a story have been aided along because a highly recognizable camera crew is following people around, but in this case most of the stories seemed to be very plausible.  There was extra effort given to get the young man into college, but that’s something that happens for a lot of students during the admissions process. 

The packaging of the story was well told. I felt like the panel discussion at the end of the story was rushed and not well put together.  One of the panelists, Pastor T.D. Jakes, didn’t really need to be there unless he was going to offer a counterpoint to the way Rev. Soaries helps his congregation.  The panel segment tried to analyze situations within the packaged story, but also bring out other topics.  There wasn’t adequate time given to cover the final issues. 

This is a topic local news outlets around the country should also include in their morning meetings.  Even if it’s not billed as Black in (your city), addressing the fact that the minorities in your market are possibly suffering at larger a rate than the majority is newsworthy.  It would be worth looking into the many ways people are learning to cope with even less during these rough economic times.

If you didn’t watch “Almighty Debt” on CNN you can find it broken down in segments on the website You Tube.  The quality isn’t great, but it is viewable.

Does the media have an obligation to do more stories on a particular community when that community is adversely affected more than the general population by an issue?

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Great Topic for My 1st Post: Sesame Street’s “I Love My Hair” Video

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“I Love My Hair”:  Sesame Street created a cute video to discuss a serious problem.

ABC News’ Linsey Davis and Jessica Hopper placed a widely discussed topic in the African-American community into the forefront of the country earlier this week.  They highlighted a new Sesame Street video, “I Love My Hair.”  Click here for the story aired on ABC’s World News Tonight. 

The video showcases a little brown-skinned muppet singing about her love for her hair, and all the different ways she can wear it.  

A producer for Sesame Street came up with the song and idea after his adopted daughter, who’s from Africa, complained about wanting straight hair.  The producer, who is white, wanted to show his daughter and others like her that they should love and accept their hair.  Click here for an extended interview from CNN’s American Morning with the Sesame Street producer, Joseph Mazzarino. 

I believe this is a great topic as a father of two beautiful little girls and I’m glad Sesame Street signed off on the project.  But it does raise a bigger issue about diversity and a lack thereof in the media world.  Black girls and women have been shown examples of beauty from their dolls, tv shows, and movies for years.  Those images typically lack any representation of the African-American community, and when they do the women will reflect the majorities standard of beauty:  long, silky, straight hair. 

This character shows a need for more characters on television shows for kids, teens, and adults to represent the multifaceted layers of beauty within the African-American community.  You also need to see it more in front of the television camera on your nightly local, cable, and national newscasts.  So, you need more decision makers to sign off on the idea and more producers and directors to encourage the various looks.

After looking through Sesame Street’s website I see this isn’t their first time to bring out a brown muppet to teach a lesson.  They have Kingston III who talks about individuality.  He sings about fighting the stereotype that he needs to act, dance, or dress a certain way to fit in with others.  Click here to see videos of Kingston III. 

Kudos to Sesame Street. I would just like to see these characters become more constant figures within the episodes.  It would also be great if my little curly-haired princesses could see some more girls and women who look like them on TV, so that they truly understand mommy and daddy aren’t the only ones who think they are beautiful.

Written by professorkcoleman

October 21, 2010 at 12:34 PM