Soledad O’Brien Explores Racial and Ethnic Identity in Provocative Black in America

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States, Videos on 2013-11-12 02:16Z by Steven

Soledad O’Brien Explores Racial and Ethnic Identity in Provocative Black in America

CNN Press Room
Cable News Network (CNN)

Who is Black in America? Debuts Sunday, Dec. 9 at 8:00 p.m. & 11:00p.m. ET & PT
U.S. Encore: Sunday, January 27, 2013,  20:00 p.m. ET, 23:00 p.m ET, and Monday, 02:00 ET
International Debut on CNN International: Sunday, January 13, 02:00Z and 10:00Z (Saturday, January 12, 21:00 EST and Sunday, January 13, 05:00 EST). View regional schedules here.

“I don’t really feel Black,” says 17-year-old Nayo Jones. Her mother is Black; she was raised apart from her by her White father, and she identifies herself as biracial. “I was raised up with White people, White music, White food so it’s not something I know,” she says in a new documentary that explores the sensitive concepts of race, cultural identity, and skin tone.

For the fifth installment of her groundbreaking Black in America series, CNN anchor and special correspondent Soledad O’Brien reports for Who is Black in America? The documentary debuts Sunday, December 09 at 8:00p.m. and 11:00p.m. ET & PT and replays on Saturday, December 15 at 8:00p.m. and 11:00p.m. ET & PT.

Is Jones Black? Is Blackness based upon skin color or other factors? The 2010 U.S. Census found 15 percent of new marriages are interracial, a figure that is twice what was reported in 1980. One in seven American newborns were of mixed race in 2010, representing an increase of two percent from the 2000 U.S. Census. Within this context, O’Brien examines how much regarding race and identity are personal choices vs. reflections of an external social construct.

Tim Wise, an author and anti-racism activist believes in self identification, but says, in practice, society often will remind biracial people like Jones of their Blackness, “in a million subtle ways,” he says in the documentary.

As the hour unfolds, O’Brien follows Jones, and her best friend and fellow high school student Becca Khalil, as they take part in a spoken word workshop led by the Philadelphia-based poet, Perry “Vision” DiVirgilio.
Vision, who is biracial, says he never felt quite White or Black enough to fit in with friends who had parents of one race.  Vision identifies as Black, and says that identity is more than skin – that identity encompasses experiences and struggles.  Through his workshop, he encourages young people to think, talk, and write about identity, as well as the concept of colorism, which he blames for his early struggles with self-esteem and identity.
“Colorism is a system in which light skin is more valued than dark skin,” says Drexel University’s assistant teaching professor for Africana studies, Yaba Blay.  Blay tells O’Brien that, as a young African-American woman growing up in New Orleans, she felt discriminated against – often by lighter skinned African Americans – due to her dark skin tone.
Blay’s work focuses on how prejudice related to skin tone can confuse and negatively impact identity and self esteem.  She aims to help others also develop positive images of cultural identity – for African Americans of all shades.
Often complicating concepts of identity beyond multiracial heritage is skin tone.  Khalil, who has light-colored skin and two parents who are Egyptian in origin, identifies herself as African American.  She feels contemporaries dismiss her African American identity due to her light skin tone.  She says in the documentary that she wishes she had darker skin.
Writer, producer, and image activist, Michaela Angela Davis says she accepts that race is a social construct, but she feels it is important for people to name and claim their own racial identity: “You are who you say that you are,” she says in the documentary…

Read the entire press release here.

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Soledad O’Brien and three of the interview subjects from her docu discuss the fifth installment of CNN’s Black in America series

Posted in Articles, Interviews, New Media, Social Science, United States, Women on 2012-12-10 17:35Z by Steven

Soledad O’Brien and three of the interview subjects from her docu discuss the fifth installment of CNN’s Black in America series

Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien
Cable News Network (CNN)

Soledad O’Brien, Host

The fifth installment of CNN’s Black in America Series focused on the question, “Who is black in America?” That single, seemingly simple question unravels the complicated, densely packed issue of racial identity in this country. To continue this important conversation, three of the interview subjects from the documentary: Fmr. Editor, Essence Magazine Michaela Angela Davis, “(1)ne Drop Project” Artistic Director and a consulting producer for the documentary Yaba Blay and poet and mentor Perry “Vision” DiVirgilio join “Starting Point” this morning…

O’BRIEN: Joining us to continue this conversation three of the subjects in the documentary, Mikaela Angela Davis is the former editor of “Essence” magazine, Perry “Vision” Divirgilio, a poet and teacher, and Professor Yaba Blay is the artistic director of the One Drop Project and she was a consulting producer on our documentary.

It’s nice to have you all with us. So why do you think this touches such a nerve? I mean, all you do is sit for a minute on my Twitter feed timeline, and realize like people were angry, freaked out, emotional about this. Why?

YABA BLAY, CONSULTING PRODUCER, “BLACK IN AMERICA”: It touches on our lived experience. I think, you know, I don’t know that I’m biased, but I think of all of the black in America iterations, that this is one that everyone can relate to, whether it’s them personally, as a mother, father, grandmother.

All of the feedback I was getting online, always included a personal testimony, how this reminds me of my grandmother, this reminds me of this, I have a story, and I think it’s one of those things that people tap into on a personal level, and it’s — there is an emotion there.

O’BRIEN: The documentary focused on two young poets in your class. You mentor both of them. How unusual were their story? They grapple with racial identity. You picked two people who were the dysfunctional ones. Is that — is that the case or do you think their quest typical?

PERRY “VISION” DIVIRGILIO, POET AND MENTOR: I don’t think it’s dysfunctional. I think what they are doing is very normal for teenagers just brave enough to throw it out there, let the world know this is who I am, how I feel. You heard these lot during workshops. You know, folks look at that’s a young black man or young black woman, were checking other, were not wanting to identify with race at all. I’m a man, woman, I’m human.

O’BRIEN: Many people actually also, I mean, on Twitter, who knows who many is. Listen, kumbaya real progress would be when we don’t have to talk about race it all. We’re just Americans.

MICHAELA ANGELA DAVIS, FORMER EDITOR, “ESSENCE MAGAZINE”: Acting like it doesn’t exist doesn’t heal and this incredibly emotional response as Yaba said. America as a family this is our taboo issue. This brings up so much — triggers a lot of black girl pain.

It triggers a lot of secrets and bias. It triggers emotional things in life. Any family — when we go into our history and say this horrible thing created this characteristics, people don’t like to look at it. This is the road to healing. The only way we’ll feel hole, we talk about where we’re fractured.

O’BRIEN: So John Berman is our token white man on the panel this morning, John Berman, in all seriousness.

BERMAN: I am white, all seriousness.

O’BRIEN: This conversation, was it one that you were ever aware of?

BERMAN: I was just thinking what makes this so interesting, the minute you put a question mark on it, you know, who is black in America or what is black in America, it makes everyone ask a question of themselves…

Read the entire article and watch the video clip here. Read the transcript here.

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