The West Coast chat will include JEFF CLANAGAN, KEITH “KB” BROWN, AND BLACK THOMAS
What were your first thoughts when you heard CNN was doing?
Jeff: I was excited that a mainstream network was attempting to take on the task of producing a documentary outline our struggles and accomplishments in America. Most networks are afraid to properly cover the issue of race.
When we interviewed the exec. producer of the series, Mark Nelson, he said his desire to cover the story of Black men led to the entire series. He stressed that as a White male he wanted to explore the misconceptions the media puts out about Black men. Do you think that people in general, Black, White, men and women are yearning to discuss these issues more than before?
Black: Yes, I think everyday that you get an opportunity to be better understood some one then we can get to a point where you won’t have to be informed because you know I feel it’s an ongoing thing. but as long as people continue to care and get to know those they don’t no matter what the color may be we will achieve that goal.
Jeff: Based on my conversations with people of different races, I don’t think there is an urgency to discuss the issues of Black People in America. Keep in mind that most affluent white people think that everything is ok. They don’t believe that black people are treated unfairly.
Do you feel this series will enlighten?
Too many negatives?
Keith: Yes, they definitely are not painting a pretty picture.
Jeff: Unfortunately there are a lot of negative stuff that affects black people. A large amount of black people live in poverty, the prison population is disproportionably black, education etc… so you have to deal with the negatives
Are they showing Black men in a hopelessly desperate state>?
Jeff: I think they need to offer solutions, but I think it is too early in the program. We need to see how they conclude the show.
Keith: I think they’re doing it to bring issues to light that are often times glossed over…especially on outlets such as CNN. So I appreciate the rawness they’re presenting. It’s driving the point home for me and I feel it will spark conversation amongst people on how to fix the issues discussed.
Black: you know no matter how bad it is there is a point of choice to me. I feel there are so many situations for every person to feel some what responsible about there paths.
We’re almost an hour in; one of our readers wants to know what you as a producer might have done differently, if anything?
Keith: would pick up the pace a bit. More statistics would be great and I’d enjoy commentary from more experts along the way. But so far I’m quite impressed and will be recommending this program to everyone I know!..The spoken word segues are wonderful
They are actually doing a good job. As a producer you could take many different approaches. It is very subjective. I grew up in the bay area and tend to be a more progressive so I probably would have featured used the plight of the Black Panthers as a b story. I would have focused on Oakland since that is where the movement started
You mentioned the subjective nature of putting something like this together. Do you think CNN should have pulled in key black producers, since all of he exec producers on the series are white. Important, or not really?
Jeff: YES! VERY IMPORTANT. The piece is a little sanitized and they keep going back to Dr. King and his philosophy but what about Malcolm, Huey etc…. and the governments role in bringing these organizations down which effects today’s generation.
Keith: I agree with Jeff, that is very odd.
Another reader wants to follow-up and ask, could the age of the producers, mostly older men, play a factor?
Jeff: I think race and perspective play more of a factor.
Black: BT:I feel the color or age of the producers is irrelevant…I respect them for bringing this to the attention of the world. I’m glad somebody is saying something.
CNN has gone all out in promoting the series, with special screenings, etc. Today, they sent over info on a special booklet they created for parents to discuss with their kids. Thus far, are you finding it impactful?
Jeff: Yes, they are making an effort to reach out to the black community. You have to commend them for making the effort
Keith: I’m really liking where they are going with it. They’ve addressed SO many issues and personalities very quickly. I think it’s very impactful.
WOW, Malcolm shouted out The Cool Kids….an awesome group. (Just had to add that in).
What do you think of the experts?
Keith: I mentioned early I would have liked to hear from more ‘experts’ and I’ve decided to take that back. But I think they’ve chosen to focus on the experiences and stories of people instead of expert commentary. I’ve gotten used to the flow now and actually like where they’re going… wish they would have said a bit more about Hip Hop music. Doing rap videos constantly, it’s something I struggle with….the images that are put out there.
With just a few minutes left in the segment, what are your overall thoughts?
Keith: I think the music segment is great. They’ve presented various perspectives for people to form their opinion from.
Jeff: I feel that they did a good job at bringing up and exploring the issues facing black America. There a lot of topics that could have been more thoroughly fleshed out but I do understand they had to deal with time constraints
They should be commended for making the efforts and the success of the show should create more opportunities with other networks for this type of programming
I know ratings will play a part, but do you see other outlets following suit??
Jeff: It will be purely based on ratings and advertiser interest. Let’s hope the ratings are good and potential other outlets like fox are open to more serious black programming
Do you think it helped people better understand black men?
Keith: Well, you know I would have liked to see a whole show on the music and video imaging topic LOL But it was a nice overview. I disagree with Russell’s comment about the top ten rap songs of last year expressing the struggle of the Black community. “We Fly High”, “Pop Bottles”, “Wouldn’t Get Far”, “Show Me What You Got”. Those songs are all flash and a$$. There are tons of songs released addressing “issues”, but they are rarely radio or MTV/BET hits.
Overall I don’t feel like the piece gave an insight into Black men in the way I thought it would. It seemed to be more about issues, but with no answers….versus the mind frame of what it feels like to be “Black In America”…which is what I was expecting. The fact that this aired and is getting so much attention is amazing though. I think it will spark mass discussion at water coolers tomorrow!.
Jeff: Do you mean white people? I think it brought to light issues that we face but I don’t think it was enough to help people understand black men.
The East Coast chat will include Kevin Willmott and Marlon Campbell .
First, what are your thoughts about CNN taking on this topic?
Marlon: I thought that is a very appropriate thing to do. Especially considering we are on the brink of the first African American President.
Kevin: I thought it was a good idea. It is a good time to discuss our problems and issues.
Has anything already stood out in the beginning of the show?
Marlon: Not yet. I appreciate how they have started the program off.
I’m interested in seeing the progression with the show, after the death of Dr. King.
Why did you appreciate the start of the show?
Marlon Because it appears they are going to create a road map, that I can build upon.
Do you feel Black men have gotten a bad rap in the media for the most part?
Marlon: I find the statistic about Black’s in prison staggering however; how fair is the comparison, when Black’s make up only 11% of the population. I believe that without a doubt the Governments practice of “Shock Therapy” creates a one dimensional view of the overall problem.
Kevin: Big time. I think we fail to discuss the causes of crime. They appear to be trying to do that tonight. I think most blacks folks know about the crack issue. About the sentencing discrimination. It seems to be more difficult to explain what is in our heads when we make those choices. I would like to see that discussed more.
When we interviewed the exec. producer of the series, Mark Nelson, he said his desire to cover the story of Black men led to the entire series. He stressed that as a White male he wanted to explore the misconceptions the media puts out about Black men. Do you think that people in general, Black, White, men and women are yearning to discuss this issue more than before?
Marlon: I believe so however; how we discuss this issue is vital. It needs to be open and honest, yet responsible and realistic
Kevin: Yes, people are ready. I have seen that traveling the country with my film, CSA – Confederate States of America. Seeing that desire from people, especially whites, it was no surprise that Obama has caught fire. I like how the show is discussing how difficult it is to find a job and how we struggle with funds. That is something people don’t understand about black men. They think it is easier than it is.
Do you feel the media has been slow to cover this, even though there has been a desire by viewers?
Kevin: Yes, but it not all the media’s fault. They are limited by what sells and what they are comfortable in discussing. The difficult issues of the history of being black in America is still hard to find.
How are you finding the CNN approach thus far?
Marlon: It’s enlightening on some aspects. What’s interesting is that Blacks today 2008 do not need to rely on any race of people White or Other for a job. We have the second highest buying power in the U.S. despite the low percentage of Black’s in the Country. We need to focus on building within our on communities while at the same time, help to educate the ignorance within White
Do you think a show, series like this will help educate others about Black life, or is it only scratching the surface?
Marlon: No, not if the show does not focus on the things that will encourage this understanding. The Black race in America has problems, like every race in this Country, particularly in White America. The show can’t be bias in view or it will simply identify problems and not solutions. Much of what’s being discussed I can relate to however; I spend much of my time focusing on leading by example in addition to acknowledging the issues facing Black America and the world in general.
Kevin: Let’s wait and see. I am of course interested in how there are still a section of whites that hold on to the Confederacy as a positive thing and that slavery was not all bad. I have seen that a great deal from my film. I think that there are some blacks that feel like this is not important. I think it is a symbol of the racism and discrimination that still exists. I think you can’t find equality until you understand our pain.
Sort of along the lines of South Africa‘s truth and reconciliation, which I know many feel we need in America.
As a Black male, is there something you really want them to discuss but have not heard thus far?
Marlon: Yes. I would like for them to demonstrate by example our accomplishments as a Race in addition to what’s being shown..
Marlon: For example, the discussion about the court system and police is something we should bring awareness to but not from the perspective of NEEDING anyone to do something for us, we can control our on destiny. We were and are a great race of people…history teaches us this.
That issue could be a series of show in itself
Marlon: : Exactly. I would like to see us attack this issue from the bottom up. Position ourselves in a way that will force changes within our judicial system, lead by example “who we are”. We as a species have a natural nect for degrading others in order to uplift ourselves. I believe that racism is the extreme version of this. The White Make has always feared what they don’t understand in addition to a different level of respect towards Family. What I mean is that Black people has always been about unity. We just don’t know how to unify. I mean we unify in large numbers in gangs. All that’s needed is to take that same concept and apply different rules.
Do you think an hour is being overly ambitious to cover all the issues Black men would like to see covered?
Kevin: No, they are spreading it around fairly well. There is a great deal to cover and people will always argue what to cover. The facts they are giving are very effective.
Marlon: Unfortunately the show is extremely heavy on the negative side. Being Black in America isn’t just this ONE BIG BAD EXPERIENCE! I believe it’s completely irresponsible. I’ve lived in the number one rated city in Orange County California and with the exception of one incident in 10 years, my experience was great. I’ve traveled all over the U.S., let alone the World and walked with my head up high and refused to be labeled anything other then what I am…A Man!
So you are not finding a well developed picture?
Marlon: No. I never knew my Dad. Oh well, that’s unfortunate for him, to not know me. Additionally, I run TO my responsibility as a Father and find great satisfaction in that. They are many Black fathers like me who are not victims because of our circumstance.
Kevin: There is a lot of negative. Unfortunately, we have some serious problems. I think they are also showing positive people, people who have overcome problems. I think the story about the Dad who didn’t show up to the B-Party was good. He wasn’t a thug – he was a guy who just didn’t seem to understand his role – the role they need him to fill. I think Marlon is right but I don’t mind holding the positives. I don’t know if we need to feel good right now. There is a lot of denial these days.
Marlon: In other words, do we really need someone to spell out our challenges? Those challenges we live every day. The issue is that all these types of shows can offer is what we already know, but it’s still up to us to figure it out. I have therefore; I know other Blacks can.
Not delving deep enough?
Marlon: No it’s not. The fact is that the issues go a lot further then this show can remotely address. I was hoping that because of the Obama for President accomplishment would open up broader discussion about being Black in America.
A long time ago a Black critic complained that August Wilson exposed “too much” about Black life to White theatergoers in his plays. Do you think that some people feel by even discussing the negatives, it’s “telling” too much? Or is CNN striking a balance?
Kevin: I think we sometime like seeing shows like Cribs and seeing how we are celebrities and succeeding, but we don’t learn much from that. I think we learn more from telling how we get our act together. I think they are trying to look at what our problems are and examining what is behind them.
Marlon: I believe that to much of anything isn’t good. It’s one dimensional therefore inaccurate. Do we have these challenges…YES, are we hopeless victims absolutely NO!
It’s funny, they are addressing the very problem I’m talking about.
It’s called “Shock Therapy”!!!
Spike is exactly RIGHT!!!
Speaking of Spike, what do you think of the selection of interviews?
Marlon: I think they are excellent. I disagree with Phillps. He is completely off base in terms of needing to simply justify you’re cost. Hollywood has a formula for Black film and unless it follows this guideline, you will have trouble. This guideline by the way is completely supported by mainstream media. am excited about my film “Oblivious” because it will be groundbreaking for Black filmmakers.
Kevin: That has been my experience in Hollywood. I have worked with Spike and seen it up close and personal. It is about doing the dumbest, most un-important work they can find. There is plenty of money for that, just as Spike said. Spike couldn’t find the money for a film I wrote that he wanted to make – even with J-Lo and Dave Chapelle attached. I use that example to tell my student how it works in Hollywood. Not just for Black folks but really for smart folks. That is why I make my movies in Kansas about the things they aren’t interested in.
As the show is entering that last few moments, your overall view?
Kevin: I have enjoyed it. It could go on for hours and only scratch the surface of what it means to be a black man these days. I think they did a good job with a very difficult array of issues.
Marlon: My perspective of Being Black in America: To be Black in America, especially at this point and time means something extremely special. As a Nation we’ve had to overcome over 200 years of Slavery and Segregation…and we have, yet 200 plus years later we’re on the brink of the Nations first African American President. However, in the process of such an accomplishment, we became divided in certain important areas of our unity process. But like Slavery and Segregation, that to shall change. In the process of this ultimate change, I believe that we need to focus within that infrastructure, on transitioning to a colorless society. Statistically, that is a process that has already started. Inner-racial dating and/or Children has risen expeditiously over the past 10 years, so I believe it’s inevitable. And both White America with its dying belief system of supremacy need to prepare for this change and Black America that may find justice in reverse racism, needs to also prepare. Let me express additionally that this process of preparedness needs to start at the top, in Government, at the same time, with the Citizens of this Nation.
Change can be accomplished simply by DECIDING to make a change. The fact that this has been such a difficult challenge, should automatically make one understand that it our hearts and mind, we need to work on. We need to believe that we can…so we can. Education and experience is the key to achieving this goal. For example; White America have become familiar with Black America through the commercial urban world in music, movies, sports etc however not enough in terms of Doctors, Lawyers, Astronauts like Ronald McNair and Female African American Astronaut Mae Jemison.
Let me go Global for a minute!
Here is what’s sarcastically funny, we as a Nation look at the many, many years of conflict between groups of people like the Palestians and Israelis and I hear one common comment, and that is “how can two groups of people fight so long over the same problems” but look at us. Rather it’s religion, sex or race is still all the same thing…divide! This system of better then/less then is what we all need to start with…and the rest will follow. Propaganda needs to be removed from this process, special interest needs to be removed from this process, and greed needs to be removed from this process!
Hopefully, even just this short show will cause dialogue.
Thanks to all who joined us tonight. Next chat is at 9PM PT.
Bunker Hill, exploring civil liberties in post-9/11 America. It will open at The Santa Fe Film Center on August 9. It stars James McDaniel (“NYPD Blue”), Laura Kirk (“Lisa Picard is Famous)” and Saeed Jaffrey (Gandhi). His next film is The Only Good Indian, starring Wes Studi (Last of the Mohicans), which will be released in 2009.
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THE A-LIST BLOGS LIVE RESPONSES TO CNN’S
“BLACK IN AMERICA: THE BLACK MAN”
FEATURING FEEDBACK FROM HOLLYWOOD NOTABLES
WHO: The premier digital magazine covering a new, diverse Hollywood
WHAT: The A-List teams up with Urban Hollywood notables to gather live response to CNN’s historic series finale: “Black In America: The Black Man.“
WHERE: Turn on CNN, Thursday, July 24, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT).
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WHY: The A-List continues to bring cutting-edge coverage of the issues that matter to multicultural Hollywood. CNN’s “Black In America” has tapped into a much-needed discussion about race in the U.S., and culminates with unprecedented coverage of “Black Men In America.”
The A-List Panelists:
CEO/President, CODE BLACK ENTERPRISES
A 20-year veteran of the industry, Jeff Clanagan began his career in entertainment as one of the foremost concert promoters in the music business. He promoted national concert tours featuring artists such as Run DMC, LL Cool J, Will Smith, The Fat Boys, and MC Hammer. In 1989 Clanagan moved beyond the sole promotion of Hip Hop artists and added the burgeoning R&B genre of music to his resume. Clanagan later added yet another dimension to his professional dossier by entering the realm of theatrical production and promotion with the hit stage plays The Diary of Black Men and A Good Man is Hard to Find. This was followed by his successful promotion of the popular “HBO Def Comedy Jam” Tour.
Clanagan eventually moved into the world of film and television production as president of No Limit Films, rapper/entrepreneur Master P’s film and video company. Clanagan next became president of Mandalay Urban Entertainment. During his tenure at Mandalay, he executive-produced three telefilms for BET, while also producing the official Sundance Film Festival selection Civil Brandfor Lions Gate. Clanagan went on to create and executive-produce the magazine television show “Livin’ Large,” syndicated nationally through Carsey-Werner Distribution. After leaving UrbanWorks Entertainment in 2005, Clanagan formed Codeblack Enterprises, LLC (CBE) as a multimedia entertainment vehicle in motion pictures, television, home entertainment and new media. Targeting the sophisticated urban generation, CBEproduces and acquires the most compelling content for its niche and will distribute content through various media channels, both on-line and off-line. The channels will include but not be limited to: theatrical exhibition, television exploitation, home video (DVD) and emerging digital platforms.
Professor of Film, University of Kansas
Kevin Willmott grew up in Junction City, Kansas, and received his BA in Drama from Marymount College in Salina, Kansas. After graduation, he returned home and worked as a peace and civil rights activist. He attended graduate studies at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts. His play T-Money and Wolfwas selected as part of the New Vision/New Voices series produced by the Kennedy Centerin DC. As a screenwriter Willmott co-wrote Shields Green and the Gospel Of John Brown with Mitch Brian. The script was purchased by Chris Columbus’ 1492 Productions for 20th Century Fox. He also co-wrote Civilized Tribes for producer Robert Lawrence and 20th Century Fox. Producer/director Oliver Stone hired Willmott to co-write Little Brown Brothers about the Philippine Insurrection. He also adapted the book Marching To Valhalla by Michael Blake for Stone. For television, Willmott co-wrote House of Getty and The 70’s, both mini-series for NBC. The 70’s aired in 2000. Ninth Street, an independent feature film starring Martin Sheen and Isaac Hayes, was written, produced, and co-directed by Willmott. Distributed by Ideal, it was released in 1999 on video and DVD. Most recently Willmott authored Colored Men about the Houston riot of 1917. He also adapted “The Watsons Go to Birmingham” for CBS, Columbia Tri-Star, and Executive Producer Whoopi Goldberg. His film CSA: The Confederate States Of America, is about the United States had the South won the Civil War. Willmott’s latest is
Keith”KB” Brown got his industry start in music video production at Universal/Motown Records, working with artists such as Nelly, Lindsay Lohan, Brian McKnight, Akon, 3 Doors Down, Lil’ Wayne, India.Arie. Quickly climbing the ranks, he soon segued to The Walt Disney Studios. There, he worked on soundtrack marketing and music videos to promote films, television shows and DVD releases with an emphasis on urban-oriented material. He worked alongside artists such as Alicia Keys, Missy Elliot, Ciara, Rascal Flatts, Chris Brown , Sean Paul and the Cheetah Girls to achieve record-breaking opening weekends of major films including Step Up, Glory Road, Cars, Stick It, Chicken Little and Herbie: Fully Loaded, along with their accompanying soundtracks.
In 2005, Brown partnered with acclaimed Hip-Hop artist and actor Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones as general manager of Sticky’s production company, Major Independents. This multi-faceted company produces films, music, clothing, television shows, documentaries and packages Onyx tours both domestically and internationally. Major Independents’ first innovative project was A Day In The Life. Keith serves as Executive Producer on a new DVD entitled Onyx: 15 Years of Videos, History and Violence, released June 2008 as well as a forthcoming documentary called How To Make A Major Independent Movie. In addition, KB manages Disney Hip Hop artist and “Caught On Tape” star J. McCoy, rap newcomer M Bars, Step Up 2 The Streets star Black Thomas, Stomp The Yard actor/dancer Sean Riggs, singer/songwriter/actress Heidi Marie, Hip-Hop icon/actor Fredro Starr, “Noah’s Arc” star Jason Steed, actress Lindsay Seim, Cash Money rapper Gotti and Infamous/G-Unit Hip Hop recording artist 40 Glocc. Keith is producing a film adaptation of the best-selling novel B-Boy Blues, a dance instructional DVD called “Hollywood Hip Hop” with Black Thomas and choreographer Chuck Maldonado, the television version of Maurice Jamal’s hit movie “The Ski Trip,” a Sticky Fingaz reality show entitled “Sticky Situations” and a viral television series called “The Real McCoy Of Beverly Hills” for Kush TV starring J. McCoy. On top of all this, KB is also the Head of Music Video Production for Cash Money Records
Actor, Musician, Dancer, Choreographer, Model, Creator
Alfred “Black” Thomas is a native of Miami, Florida. He earned his BA in Theatre from Florida A&M University and perfected his lifelong love of dance before making his move to Los Angeles. Disney’s Box office blockbuster Step Up 2 The Streets gave Black his breakout turn as bad boy villain “Tuck.” Black has made appearances in other feature films including I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, Stomp The Yard and Dreamgirls. He has been featured in music videos for Rihanna, Danity Kane, Mario, Cheetah Girls, Beyonce, Fall Out Boy, Natasha Bedingfield and performed live with The Pussycat Dolls, Jessica Simpson, Chris Brown and Fonzworth Bentley. As an assistant choreographer, Black has lent his talents to television shows such as “That’s So Raven,” “Just Jordan” and “CSI: New York.” In addition, he has been the face of major print/television campaigns for KSwiss, Target and Wal-Mart.Black Thomas will next be seen in RockmondDunbar’s feature film Pastor Brown and The Jump Offas lead character “Randel,” with Cedric The Entertainer and Wayne Brady.
With nearly two decades of experience in the music industry, Marlon Campbell crossed over to the big screen. Campbell, a native of New Orleans, grew up in the same household as his famous Playwright cousin Tyler Perry and ironically Campbell’s mother is characterized throughout Perry’s plays. Campbell got his start in the music industry back in the late ’80s-early ’90s along with his trendsetting band Shy Shy & C.R.I.M.E. Later Campbell’s worked behind the scenes under a moniker “M” performing with and consulting for acts such as Richard Marx, Jagged Edge, Timmy T, DJ Hurricane of The Beastie Boys, and Lauren Lake. In 2003 Campbell joined his cousin Perry and became Perry’s first film distributor under Campbell’s company Majer FilmWerks. In 2005 after a brief stint on a European tour with Grammy Award Winning Whitney Houston; Campbell began writing his latest film Oblivious. The project was placed on hold while Campbell took on the role of president/CEO of 404 Gaming, a MMOG (Multi-Player OnlineGame) company that he shared with other influential names in the biz such as DJ Pooh, DJ Hurricane, AD Rock, and Flava Flav. In the summer of 2008 Campbell’s film Obliviouswill go into production with a release date slated for summer 2009. Campbell has also partnered with business executive Akbar Cojoe to executive produce a new reality show titled “Blaque In The House,” which will feature R&B aritist T-Boz from the group TLC, along with platinum-selling trio Blaque.