Next week CNN will debut Black in America 2. Based on the response from the first Black in America and the preview I saw last week I’m certain that the sequel will be a topic of discussion for days, if not weeks, to come.
One improvement that will be apparent off the top is that gone are the simplified, played out narratives about “being black in America” i.e.
1) Too many of our brothers locked up.
2) It’s hard out here for single sisters to find a good black man.
Instead Soledad O’brien and her team has opted to paint a more complicated and honest portrayal of Black America. They added a key ingredient, one that was missing from the first — in Part 2 everyone in the special has a twist.
There’s the single girl living the life in Atlanta contemplating her future (twist!) and her desire return to school to strengthen her chances of cracking the glass ceiling; The hard working black father that loves his daughters and strives to put food on the table (twist!) even while sacrificing his wife and marriage in the process; And the poor inner city kids who consider the local community center their 2nd home (twist!) the same community center that a young Chris Rock walked the halls in and that his wife, Malaak Compton-Rock, now uses as a headquarters for her outreach.
The original Black in America kind of left a lot of people disappointed. I’m not saying that Black in America 2 will make up for any of that… but the way Soledad explains it, the point of the special is to highlight a few stories of the millions of stories that collectively represent Black America. The people highlighted are not intended to represent anyone other than themselves, a point that in my opinion was poorly communicated the first time around.
She also emphasized that the specials are, and were always intended to be, part of a series. A series that each time around will explore different lives and tell different stories. It’s an ambitious goal, and maybe even a lofty one, but it’s worth championing. If Soledad eventually gets it right then maybe by the time Black in America 35 rolls around WAY MORE of us will feel like America has gotten to know way more OF US… because despite what your current TV guide would like you to believe there’s a lot more to us than the Huxtables on one channel and Franky & Effie on the other.
Here is an exclusive preview: