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Preview: Black in America 2

Aired February 28, 2009 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to a special 360. A lot has changed since CNN aired BLACK IN AMERICA last July.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you prepared to take the oath, Senator?



COOPER: Not quite four months later Americans elected their first black President --


OBAMA: So help me God.


COOPER: Barack Hussein Obama.

That historic day a turning point in the nation's troubled story of race; a day that changed the way some white Americans see black Americans.


OBAMA: A man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant --


COOPER: A day that also changed how some black Americans look at each other and how the rest of the world sees this nation.


OBAMA: -- can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

PUBLIC: Yes, we can.


COOPER: President Obama's story struck a chord with millions of voters of all colors, all races. Many of the details familiar, a young boy raised by a single mom in a household of modest means but filled with immense love and high expectations.


OBAMA: Honesty and hard work.


COOPER: A familiar story but also unique -- a son with ties to three continents, exposed to different cultures, experiences that would shape the man he would become.


OBAMA: Greatness is never given. It must be earned.


COOPER: President Obama's path to the White House filled with learning and hard work and achievements, proof that assumptions don't have to define the man or his dreams; recognizing a world beyond your own back yard, valuing education and setting the bar high, achieving.


OBAMA: A moment that will define a generation.


COOPER: Tonight we'll be talking about all of these issues.

Here's Soledad O'Brien.


Just about a year ago we brought you "BLACK IN AMERICA," a documentary that took a hard look at just how far African-Americans have come and how far we still need to go to achieve the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Our program got a tremendous response. And then the question became, well now what?

Well, now, a black President lives in the White House. And this July we'll be bringing you "BLACK IN AMERICA 2." Tonight we have a preview.

The stories you'll see in many ways reflect President Obama's journey to the White House. The themes are part and parcel of just how he got there.

Tonight you'll meet children from one of New York City's poorest neighborhoods who traveled to South Africa and are inspired to dream big dreams.

You'll meet a principal who holds everyone accountable at his school from the students to the teachers to the parents, and the results that he gets shatter the usual statistics.

And we'll take you inside a privileged corner of black America whose members say they often feel invisible. They are the elite of black America. They are wealthy, accomplished and well-connected.

In all these stories you'll meet people who share a page from President Obama's Chicago playbook. They are putting ideas into action and making a difference in their own communities.

Before we meet our panelists -- there are eight of them, pioneers and powerhouses in their own right -- here's a jumping off point to the conversation.

Not long after becoming the first black Attorney General, Eric Holder said something that caused a bit of a stir. He used the word "coward" to describe how Americans deal with the issue of race. Let's listen.


ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We have always been and we, I believe, continue to be in too many ways essentially a nation of cowards. Though race-related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about things racial.


O'BRIEN: Nic, do you think cowardly is a good word?

NIC LOTT, MISSISSIPPI OFFICE OF RENEWAL & RECOVERY: I don't know if cowardly is a good word, but I agree with the intent of his statement, that a lot of Americans sit next to each other and have a totally different outlook on America. And I think President Obama addressed it during his run for President when he gave this speech on race, where white Americans and Asian-Americans and black Americans all see things differently. And I think the more we talk and have panels like this and talk about it, the easier it becomes to relate to some of the things that need to be discussed.

O'BRIEN: At the same time, Gloria, as a woman who is knee-deep in finance and really a small business operator to a large degree and having worked at Harvard Business School, the economy being bad.


O'BRIEN: Does that make those conversations easier to have or harder to have?

MAYFIELD BANKS: I think it makes the conversations easier to have because everybody is trying to find a solution, and everybody is energized to help everybody else do something about the situation.

Coming from a base where I deal with so many women who are looking at this opportunity of the recession as a creative way to bounce into another place and financially support their family, I think this opportunity gives us a chance to do something that we've not done before, pull together as a community and deal with the issues.

O'BRIEN: It's interesting to lock (ph) though, one of the things that Eric Holder got a lot of flak for was the word cowardly. There are probably more conversations about the use of the word cowardly than there were frank conversations about race which is what he was calling for in the first place.


O'BRIEN: Do you agree with him that it's cowardly?

MALAAK COMPTON-ROCK, THE ANGELROCK PROJECT: I do. I mean, I think that even with the election, I think that we talk about race in terms of, yes, Barack Obama is the first black man to run for President or to be elected for President or could be elected President but we didn't really talk about why, why we have these issues and why we still are where we are.

I think that we kind of smoothe over it. We didn't really, really get into it in-depth enough.

STEVE PERRY, PRINCIPAL, CAPITAL PREPARATORY MAGNET SCHOOL: I think that the bigger issue when we have a discussion around race is not the interracial discussions but the intra-racial discussions.

We don't have a conversation as African-Americans about what we actually value and within our community where those cleavages are. Like, for instance, we don't have a conversation about why it is that so many of our schools are so badly underperforming within our own communities run by African-Americans within communities that have always had black politicians.

O'BRIEN: So you're saying it's not a black/white issue, it's a black needs to discuss black issues.

PERRY: We spent -- one of the biggest issues that we've had is when someone who is African-American speaks about African-Americans outside of an African-American community.

COMPTON-ROCK: When Bill Cosby brought up race, look at the upheaval, the uproar of what he said when he tried to be so honest with us and wanted us to reflect on ourselves and deal with the issue ourselves, you know, not blame it on somebody else. Black people -- it was an uproar.

O'BRIEN: When we did "BLACK IN AMERICA," some people would say, you know, there's only four images of African-Americans, maybe even specifically men. There's the ballplayer, there is the rapper. There is the entertainer and there's not enough, so when we would even do stories about ballplayers or rappers, oh, you know, more of this we don't need that.

We need to see more investment bankers, black investment bankers, we need to see more of the other, the young men who come to you in your -- in this camp, in your foundation, are they -- is their dream to be, you know, is there a dream to be a ballplayer, or is there a dream to be President?

KENNY SMITH, ANALYST, NBA ON TNT: I think everyone's illusion of grandeur is they want to be in front of the camera. I think when you first say --

O'BRIEN: What do you mean illusions of grandeur? It's a job, man, don't knock it.

SMITH: But if you look at what we are now, if you look behind the cameras if we could, you would see that there's not a lot of people behind the cameras of our color. So I think the one thing that we have to understand is that -- and I went back to the fear, the fears that our parents had sometimes are passed on.

What you can say to a white person, and what a white person can say to a black person, and those fears are passed on, and so what happens is, before racism was kind of if you would look at it on a beach, it was that wave. But now it's kind of the undercurrent so you get sucked in and you don't really know what's going on a lot of the times.

And bringing those -- those avenues, those different vehicles and those different people, in different professions like you have up here and say, well, I'm the only ballplayer up here then you have all these different people, then it sets a precedent and a tone that people can achieve other things.

O'BRIEN: We live though in a society that's all about the eight- second sound bite and you can be trying your hardest to have a very clear and thoughtful conversation about race and say something as a friend said to me, well, you know, I don't support affirmative action, oh, you know. That eight-second sound bite is all that anyone will remember and people are afraid.

Lisa, this is -- your show is about sound bites.

LISA BLOOM, ANCHOR OF "IN SESSION" Well, it is, but that doesn't stop us when we're off air and most of us spend most our lives off air, from sitting down and having a long conversation with a friend of another race and that's what it's really about. It's about a respectful dialogue and getting to know one another as human beings.

It's about children in school understanding that somebody who is African-American can be smart. They can be dumb. They can be mean. They can be nice. They can be anything. It's not a racial stereotype.

That's true for any race, it's true if you're tall or you're shorter or you're gay or you're straight. That's why it's so important for people to know people of other races and to know not just one, not just a token.


O'BRIEN: You were the Admissions Director at Harvard Business School.

MAYFIELD BANKS: Right. O'BRIEN: I mean, do you see that change clearly?

MAYFIELD BANKS: I think that there has been change. And I think what Lisa was talking about there's been a cultural change. And what we see here now in America is that their culture is such that the conversation can now come about.

But I do also say that there's still the glass ceiling, and there's still looking at you when they see me, they still see a black woman first before they'll see a prepared woman. And so I still fight with those things on a daily basis.

That's going to go on when we're trying to start that conversation --


MAYFIELD BANKS: -- but the point is that's critical is that there's a culture now where we can have the race conversation.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The other thing about this though is that when you have that conversation, there are still some code words that jump in there. An African-American man on the job who speaks well and is aggressive becomes arrogant. Or a black woman who does so is confrontational whereas in some other settings people of other races might not be seen the very same way. So you still have a real challenge to actually talk about race, and this is what Eric Holder was talking about.

It's a question of being afraid to confront it, sit down and have a calm conversation. Sometimes it's easier to talk about sex or bodily functions than it is race.

O'BRIEN: Oh, my God.

PERRY: It's essential and I think that we have the conversations about those words that people say, and I hear what you're saying, Kenny, about the fear that people have, but at some point we accept it or not.

At some point we decide that this is in fact going to determine our life or it's not. And if we decide that we're going to accept those code words as a definition of us, if we accept someone's first impression of us as a definition of us, then we accept their racism or their ism --

O'BRIEN: Right.

PERRY: The greatest impact of racism as I see it as I work with children every day, most of whom are African-American or Latino, my job is to show them that it matters not what someone says about you, it matters who you are.

O'BRIEN: Let me stop you all there because we've got to take a break or this will be the longest show.

We're going to hear more from our panelists in just a moment and throughout the hour, of course.

And just ahead, they traveled 8,000 miles, saw poverty but mingled with diplomats, went on a safari. It was trip that changed the way they see the world and their own lives. We'll introduce you to some of these young amazing students.

That story straight ahead.


O'BRIEN: For black children growing up poor in America, the wider world can sometimes seem out of reach. It's hard to imagine what you never had a chance to see so the Angel Rock Project is doing something about it.

It's run by Malaak Compton-Rock; she is an activist, a fundraiser for impoverished children and also the wife of comedian Chris Rock. Take a look.



O'BRIEN: It took interviews.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to make me change my life.

O'BRIEN: Essays, recommendations and 18 hours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is your mentor and stay together.

O'BRIEN: To get these 30 kids from Bushwick, Brooklyn 8,000 miles to Johannesburg, South Africa. Bushwick is a poor community and many of these children are on the receiving end of government aid.


O'BRIEN: But on this trip they will be givers, volunteering in South Africa's shantytowns where every single person lives in crushing poverty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you need stuff for school?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I need stuff for school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes you need to say you need your books.

O'BRIEN: Home is a tin shack. The toilet is at the end of an alley. There's no money for school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The kids will do all the shopping for you, and we'll come back and bring you what you said you need.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was hard, like -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The baby's feet were dirty and stuff, and I felt bad for them.

O'BRIEN: The program is called Journey for Change, and its purpose is to give kids from a troubled community plagued by crime and drugs and dropouts, confidence, hope and opportunity.

COMPTON-ROCK: You know our government is not perfect, we know that, but there are safety nets for our children, you know, that allow them to go to school for free, that make sure that they eat. And so I thought by bringing these kids here and seeing what real poverty is and also seeing kids who are dying to go to school, dying to learn, that they would then take advantage of not only the blessings that they have in the U.S. but then use those blessings to continue to serve.

O'BRIEN: Malaak Compton-Rock is a tireless advocate and fundraiser for these children.

COMPTON-ROCK: Oh, you did a wonderful job. I'm proud of you.

O'BRIEN: The wife of comedian Chris Rock, Malaak's Journey for Change program selected 30 Brooklyn kids for this life-changing journey, including 14-year-old Latoya Massey, a struggling student. She loves dance and poetry.

What do you think was the thing that they needed the most?


O'BRIEN: Yes? That's a great thing to say.

Jeremy Baker (ph), 15 years old, he shrugs off his father's imprisonment, but is clearly devastated by it. Tashima Walker (ph) is 14. She's timid but friendly and hugs everyone she meets. And 14- year-old Jonathan Severe (ph) is so painfully shy we thought he wouldn't make the cut, but he did.

In South Africa they meet children who lack everything, food, parents and something many of the Bushwick kids don't take advantage of, free school. And they experience a culture they never dreamed of.

How will it change them?


O'BRIEN: And will those changes last?


O'BRIEN: Malaak, we have spent so much time following those kids because part of your program not only took them on this trip but followed up. Why South Africa? Why go so far?

COMPTON-ROCK: We spend a lot of time asking children to dream. We spend a lot of time asking them to have big aspirations but how do you do that if you've never been out of your neighborhood?

I also wanted them to serve. I think that when you give, it makes you feel good, and these kids need to feel good. They need to understand that they have something to give. And the other thing I said in the piece was that I wanted them to come back and take advantage of the blessings that they actually do have in Bushwick in a crime-ridden neighborhood.

They do go to school for free. They don't in South Africa. They don't have to pay for uniforms and they don't have to pay for their supplies. I wanted them to understand their blessings and to do something about it.

O'BRIEN: More conversations with our panelists right after this short break. We're back in just a moment. Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

So clearly helping others can be empowering.

Before the break we showed you that group of kids from Brooklyn who learned a lesson while volunteering in South Africa.

Let's get right back to our panel. Kenny, you are an analyst, I've got it right that time, former NBA player and you also run a foundation where service is the theme, too. Why service? Why is service so important in these projects?

SMITH: Well, I think when you serve, I think the one thing that you do you have to learn. And then when you learn you know, and you know all of a sudden you're confident.

And I think that's what service is all about, about learning about yourself; and then the other part of it is that you're able to give back to someone who you think that needs more than you. And I think when you have that overall feeling, and it gives -- it gives our young men an opportunity to say -- think if you played -- your watching an NBA game, right, and you never saw anyone dunk, or if you watched -- or you went to a trial, you wanted to be a lawyer and you never saw someone actually trial a case.

So it's important for you to go to those places to actually see it happen and be part of it. And that's why, you know, for us, I have 200 kids that play Division I basketball that kind of thing and it's great because Barack Obama is really one of us.

He's gone to all of the same programs.

O'BRIEN: He's not just black he plays ball.

SMITH: Yes but all of those programs that he went through, all of those, you know, the way he got his college scholarship, the way he played -- that's what those kids see -- so now and they see a whole different light. And it's so encouraging to see that the maturation of the young men.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question because when Malaak had some of these kids, Steve, you meet the boys and they were too cool for school. These were -- you know, they were a little hard, they were a little tough. And then you would go with them to South Africa, and it was the boys in the orphanage who would be reaching out to touch the babies.

The number of pictures I have of the boys holding an infant -- often an HIV-infected infant -- holding these babies and nurturing them and caring for them and I'm like we need to get a picture of this. No one will believe this.

PERRY: But our children have to wear an armor very often to make it home on a regular basis. There are children that I have who won't carry books for fear that by carrying them it makes them look like a punk. There are kids who won't wear glasses because it makes them look soft.

I mean, they think this much about their life. We don't often think about what children think about but these are the thoughts that go through their head. And so being a caring, and loving, individual in fact in many ways is very difficult for them to express. And so we also sent children to South Africa as well as the Dominican Republic and those people, most impacted, those children most impacted were the boys.

O'BRIEN: It feels sometimes, Valerie, like a drop in the bucket, you know, when you look at that shot of (INAUDIBLE) in the shantytown and this goes on forever, and our cameras didn't even capture actually how big (INAUDIBLE) is, 100,000 is a tiny percentage of what's there.

How do you engage a problem, whether it's in South Africa or here in this country and not feel like, "God, I'm chopping off one little tiny piece of rice in the big bag of rice?"

VALERIE LANCASTER BEAL, EDUCATIONAL CONSULTANT, ABYSSMIAN DEVELOPMENT CORP.: Because one tiny grain of rice is what starts it all, and that our children have to understand that -- the end starts with their beginning and they have to become engaged.

The biggest thing we do, we were also a social service school, and we insist upon giving back to the community because they have to know that change begins with them. And what they do externally then begins to impact them how they take on and become engaged as students. So it's not just giving externally but to take that into their own lives and understand that they have power not only over their external life but they now have power over their own educational lives as well.

O'BRIEN: Well, one thing that struck me for these kids was it wasn't just about seeing, you know, kids who were in more dire poverty. It was really I think understanding that they are Americans; that they are American citizens, and I know everybody was happy to get back to America, although they loved to travel.

Why does that matter? I keep hearing refrains of that in what President Obama is saying.

JOHNS: It's relative. You know, I mean, when you look at what's going on in the United States and you look at the poverty levels, then you go to a place like somewhere in South Africa, somewhere in Haiti, then you -- you start looking at yourself as a person who does have some blessings, and who does have some gifts and things that you can share.

I know this has happened to me. When I look and see what's going on in the world, I realize I'm very lucky to be an American. And I can actually do something to help people who are worse off than me.

BLOOM: And we're all part of the global world now. What happens in the shantytown in South Africa affects all of us, and we talk about writing checks. My mother always said to me work for change, not for charity.

The charity is important, but let's talk about the root causes of why there's so much poverty in South Africa and in other countries and in the United States and address those root causes. And perhaps some of those 30 from Bushwick have the revelation of what can be done. They may be the leaders of tomorrow to affect change.

Writing the check is important and children have to be fed and they have to be educated now. But we have to talk about the root causes and how do we prevent this in future generations.

PERRY: It's certainly a challenge.

O'BRIEN: Right, we've got to take a short break.

Still ahead we're going to take a look at a school that is changing the way an entire community thinks about college. And the principal, right over here, knows every student's every single detail.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, I'm Randi Kaye at CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. The "BLACK IN AMERICA 2" preview special continues in a moment. Here's what's making news.

Applause and fist bumps all around for Rush Limbaugh speaking at the annual conservative political action conference in Washington. Limbaugh lashed out at President Obama saying he's driving America deeper into debt. That's not all he said.

Much more on the CPAC conference and Limbaugh's words at 11:00 p.m. Eastern. We have a panel that is ready to rumble.

Plus, a Mexican drug war creeping north of the border. All that and much more at 11:00 p.m. Eastern.

Back to CNN's BLACK IN AMERICA 2 preview special after a quick break.



ROLAND FRYER, PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: We've got to get in there, roll up our sleeves, and do anything we can to get these kids educated. I've said it before. Education is the fundamental civil right. It's the ball game.

I don't care if you go into a voting booth. If you can't read who's on the ballot, it doesn't make much sense.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST: That's Harvard Professor Roland Fryer in CNN's BLACK IN AMERICA last year, talking about the state of emergency that exists in many of black America's classrooms. We hear more on that issue in BLACK IN AMERICA 2, which airs this July.

Tonight, as part of the preview, a really remarkable story about a principal of an inner city school where every graduate goes to a four- year college. Take a look.


STEVE PERRY, PRINCIPAL, CAPITAL PREPARATORY MAGNET SCHOOL: Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. Where's your coat, man? Tough guy. Good morning.

O'BRIEN: Every morning at 7:30 a.m., you can find Steve Perry here.

PERRY: How's everything?

O'BRIEN: He's principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in, Hartford, Connecticut.

PERRY: What's up, chief?

O'BRIEN: Each and every day, he and the vice Principal Rich Baganski(ph), greet each and every student as they walk through Capital's doors.

PERRY: How are you today?

O'BRIEN: For Perry, being a principal is all about the details.

PERRY: Whose grade is this? That's not ours. OK. Mr. Carter, you've got to be kidding me. That's the fastest you can move, son?

Mr. Carr, you've got to be kidding me. That's the fastest you can move, son?

O'BRIEN: From uniform inspections --

PERRY: Where's your blazer, son?


PERRY: OK. Having it is not enough, right? Put it on. O'BRIEN: --to morning meetings.

PERRY: I know there's quite a few that have not done curriculum mapping.

O'BRIEN: He does it all.

PERRY: Then keep your mouth shut.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't do anything.

PERRY: Just keep it shut.

I wake up at 4:45 in the morning and I drive kids to school.

O'BRIEN: You take kids to school?

PERRY: I do.

O'BRIEN: In your car?

PERRY: I have to.

O'BRIEN: Do you pick them up?

PERRY: Every day.

O'BRIEN: Why? You're the principal.

PERRY: I know. I'm the bus driver in the morning, though. You do what you've got to do to get it done.

Come on, Jordan, get to where you need to be.

O'BRIEN: And getting it done is priority number one for Perry and his staff.

PERRY: We have a school that is designed to send children to college. If we don't send children to college, we're not doing our job.

O'BRIEN: So how many of your kids go to college?

PERRY: Well, 100 percent of our graduates go on to college.

O'BRIEN: One hundred percent?

PERRY: One hundred percent.

O'BRIEN: Every child who graduates?

PERRY: Every child who graduates from Capital Prep goes on to a four- year college, period.

O'BRIEN: While numbers of black students enrolling in colleges are rising, they still fall behind that of whites. In 2006, 44 percent of all white high school graduates entered college, while just 32 percent of black high school graduates enrolled.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And if you disagree, raise your hand. That's fine.

O'BRIEN: So how does Capital, a school with more than 80 percent black and Latino children, send all of its graduates on to college?

PERRY: What we do right is we design a school that's year round. There's no reason why children should be home during the summer. What we do right is we have a longer school day. What we do right is we go to school on Saturdays. What we do right is work hard to get children to a place where they need to be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, sweetie, after you're finished --

O'BRIEN: Children like 18-year-old Gloria Menesee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My blazer is in my locker.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I honestly believe if I hadn't gone to capital prep, I think I wouldn't have finished high school.

O'BRIEN: In spite of a tough childhood --


O'BRIEN: She's smart, hard working, a natural leader.

And she's thrived, she says, because she's surrounded by other motivated students.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, OK. I know how to do this.

Everyone has a certain goal, and that goal is to go to college. So when you kind of hear, it's like -- it spreads like wildfire. I'm going to college. No I'm going to college. I'm going to college.

O'BRIEN: Perhaps her biggest inspiration is her principal.

PERRY: You're supposed to be the upper classman.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He went through the same struggles as some of us did, and he overcame it.

O'BRIEN: And, hopefully, today Perry's words of encouragement can help Gloria prep for her first college interview.

PERRY: Talk about what you do well. Focus on the best that you have to offer.


PERRY: I know you're a hard worker, which you are.


PERRY: They'll know you're a considerate person which you are, and that you're going to take very seriously your study of social work.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, how are you. It's nice to meet you.


O'BRIEN: Wow. Steve Perry?

PERRY: You've been trying to get me to cry ever since you met me. It's ridiculous.

O'BRIEN: Gloria, we're not going to tell you how that college interview goes. You have to watch BLACK IN AMERICA 2, which airs in July.

But really to watch you -- I was afraid standing next to you in the hallway.

PERRY: Yes, Soledad was scared.

O'BRIEN: But where you're really are angry with is with the parents sometimes.

PERRY: The greatest thing you can give to a child is access to a better life, better than the one that you were given.

The fact that you didn't have one should have nothing to do with what your child has. Every single parent is going to be determined by what he or she does to improve their child's life.

And so when I go to a -- you didn't see it there--when I'm at a football game after being up at 4:30 in the morning and the game doesn't end until 9:00 at night, and I see eight, nine, ten parents in the stands. I'm freezing. I had to switch with my wife to get my kids to go somewhere. I miss my kids tonight.

I'd like them to be there with me supporting their children. I think there is something inherently wrong with a parent that doesn't take the time to be there for their child.

I told a parent at a PTO meeting. He told me, "Dr. Perry, I don't entirely disagree with you." You can disagree, but you're wrong. You need to be there for your child. It's simple, simple.

O'BRIEN: We're going to take a break. On the other side we'll continue our conversation about education in America. Stick around. We're back right after this.



BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It's not just quitting on yourself. It's quitting on your country. And this country need and values the talents of every American.


O'BRIEN: President Barack Obama in his first televised address to congress.

Before the break we were telling but that magnet school in Hartford, Connecticut, where all the graduates go on to four-year colleges. The school sets the bar high, the students rise to meet it.

So, really, Dr. Perry's work is, Gloria, all about accountability for everybody. Where do you see that working in the communities that you were--back when you were the assistant director of admissions at Harvard Business School, and even now as you run a sales team?

GLORIA MAYFIELD BANKS, NATIONAL SALES DIRECTOR, MARY KAY INC.: It's major accountability, because it makes people perform to a level, a standard of excellence.

And when you have to perform to a standard of excellence where people are watching you, you sit up straight and you do more, and you have results that come because of the accountability.

I think that the kids that apply to different schools have to show up. And if they get accepted, it's because of what they've done. And if they're not accepted, it's because of what they've chosen not to do.

O'BRIEN: I thought Lisa was very interesting when he talking about the dropout, sort of saying you're not just hurting yourself. We're all in this boat together. And this boat is not a boat of black people or a boat of white people. This is a big giant boat full of Americans.

NIC LOTT, MISSISSIPPI OFFICE OF RENEWAL AND RECOVERY: There's another issue that I wanted to ask Dr. Perry about, and it was accountability as it relates to the parents. There are some parents who, like in my state of Mississippi, who are working two and three jobs to make ends meet and support their children.

And I'm certainly one to believe in accountability, but what do you say to those parents who can't attend their kid' football games, but they're working hard to pay for school?

PERRY: I say that when you are a parent, you are a parent first. And at times you will have to work when your child has something to do. But you can't have to work every single time. You can't be that busy.

If the president of the United States of America can find a way to spend time with his children, it's not just because he has a home office. It's because --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a grandmother who is taking care of those kids full-time.

PERRY: But he gets to spend time with his children.

LOTT: But he's the president of the United States. I'm talking about someone who works in a factory --

PERRY: And therein lies my point. He's busy. The rest of us have a job. So we find a way to get things done.

I find that there are too many of us making too many excuses as to why somebody else should be responsible for raising our children. In our communities, in excess of 70 percent to 80 percent of our children are being raised by one person. That means we're one person down, and typically we're one man down.

O'BRIEN: When we were doing this shoot, that football game, you talked about, there was a bus load of white students in similar economic situation--

PERRY: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: --similar economic situation. And they needed two busses because all their parents came.

PERRY: When I don't go to a game, the children wonder where I was, as if I could possibly have nothing else to do. It matters to them that we are there.

Children know that we care about what we participate in. Children, as I mentioned before about an educational audit, they do a life audit. And if we don't spend a part of our life in their life, then they see it as a problem.

But that's not the only issue. The last point here is this--the bigger issue for us is not the parents, to be very honest with you. It's the teachers. It's the teachers' unions. It's these organizations that keep setting up organizations that fail.

It's hard to call a school a school when it doesn't educate. It's hard to call a school a school when only 30 percent of its children graduate.

I wouldn't get on a bus that had 30 percent chance of making it somewhere.

KENNY SMITH, ANALYST, NBA ON TNT: When you talk about confidence, because I've been in the profession where the elite of the elite athletes, the NBA, in terms of there's no one better, no one does it better. But the only thing that separates an average player from a good player and a good player from a great player is confidence.

Now, confidence can't be given to someone. You can't give someone confidence. I can't tell you, Soledad, you can go out there and you can guard Kobe Bryant tonight. I can't give you that confidence.

But I can take it away from you if I'm not there, and if I don't support you, and I don't tell you that you are good.

So you can take confidence, but you can't give it. And that's what he's doing by being in there, those parents being there.

When I used to look up and see my mom and dad in the stands, it gave me a confidence and self accomplishment, saying that people support what I'm doing, and it's right. And it fed into my confidence and didn't take it away.

VALERIE LANCASTER BEAL, EDUCATIONAL CONSULTANT, ABYSSINIAN DEVELOPMENT CORP.: Soledad, I'd just like to add, even if you can't get to the game, something very simple as, say, not accepting failure.

I have students who say, I only got one "f." And a parent accepting one "f" is not acceptable.

And so we -- if you can't get to the game, but you can surely look at the report card.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I really believe in the village mentality.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're the one --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it takes a village.

MALLAK COMPTON-ROCK, THE ANGELROCK PROJECT: I look at them as me own, and I also encourage them to find someone else if their parents can't be there.

So we have guidance counselors who show up. We have godparents that show up. We have grandparents that show up.

I do believe that children need someone in their life, absolutely they do. But I often find that it cannot be the parent.

So what do we do next? My problem is when the parents aren't involved, that's it. We lose that child. You have to figure out a way to work the system, and you bring somebody else in to be there for that child.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I agree with you.

LOTT: And you mentioned something else earlier about teacher accountability. And there are several unions and different systems that are in place that continue to fail our children, and we stand back and allow that to happen because they've been there all this time.

I think we've got to hold teachers accountable and reward teachers that are doing very well. And those that aren't, fire them.

PERRY: I'll give you a different way. I would be willing to say the union leadership, if they want to run schools, let them run their schools. Let them keep their people in their schools.

And let the rest of us who don't want that, let us have an open competition, them against us. Whoever wins, whoever wins, wins.

And what are we winning? We're winning the opportunity to transform people's lives. Most of us do what we do because somebody along the way virtually kissed us on the forehead from an educational perspective, and said "You can do this."

JOHNS: School choice.

PERRY: 100 percent for vouchers.

JOHNS: This is a very controversial thing in some segments --

PERRY: I support school choice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But people don't talk about it.

PERRY: It's because we don't want to -- we talk about courageous conversation. One of the courageous conversations is about why are these people failing us?

I challenge the people who stand behind teachers unions to do this. When you send your child to the same raggedy behind schools that pay your salary, then you can talk to me.

But until such time as you do that, then you fall back and let us do what we came to do. Let us be those ones who want to be in the children's lives.

Think about this for a second. If Soledad O'Brien wanted to teach journalism in Harlem school, she couldn't. Not in a public school, because she doesn't have certification.

JOHNS: So you don't buy the notion that if you give money to school choice or one of these private schools, you're taking money away from public schools.

PERRY: Yes, you are. You're taking it away from failing schools. And you should. They should be shut down, closed, never to be reopened.

BEAL: The only caveat I have with that is if they get the money, then they have to be able to take every student that the public school -- you can't pick and choose the students.

O'BRIEN: Short break. Thank you.

A preview of BLACK IN AMERICA 2 will continue in just a moment.



BISHOP T.D. JAKES, SR. PASTOR, THE POTTER'S HOUSE: Even amongst this new generation, this younger generation of African-Americans, there are lots of bright, intelligent, smart, upwardly mobile people of color.

They don't get the interviews. They don't often get the front stage or the front page. But they are there. They are in the shadows.


O'BRIEN: That's Bishop T.D. Jakes from CNN's BLACK IN AMERICA last July. He was talking about the incomplete picture Americans have of black America, incomplete because many success stories are missing.

It's an issue we'll cover again this July in BLACK IN AMERICA 2. But right now a preview, looking inside the world of the black elite.


DR. CARLOTTA MYLES: There are lots of wonderful people in America who are black, who are never seen.

O'BRIEN: They are America's upper crust, the a-list, the black elite.

It's a world ignored by mainstream media and unknown to most Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, welcome to the ball. Welcome to the ball.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Carlotta Myles has lived in this privileged world all her life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was so nice to see you again.

O'BRIEN: Do you think most Americans, whether they're black Americans, white Americans, any Americans, have no clue that privileged, wealthy, well connected black people exist in decent size numbers?

MYLES: Unfortunately, you are right.

O'BRIEN: No clue?

MYLES: We're invisible.


MYLES: We are the invisible people.


MYLES: Because we don't match the stereotype. The stereotype for black Americans is failure--poverty, failure, victimization.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody look this way.

O'BRIEN: The black elite are high achievers. They fill the ranks of the nation's top business, law, medical, and government offices, setting expectations, maintaining long family connections.

Dr. Miles created the high society gala known as "The Tuxedo Ball"--

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good evening and welcome to the tuxedo ball.

O'BRIEN: --for the children of these elite 23 years ago.

MYLES: Everywhere that we went, we heard the same thing. Our children don't know each other. We live in a suburb, or "My child is developing a very strong white identity, but knows very little about black history."

MYLES: We are delighted once again this year to have two wonderful topics.

O'BRIEN: The day of the ball, the lessons begin early--seminars on leadership.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I actually think everyone can be a leader.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Be real and honest about how you feel.

O'BRIEN: Relationships.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really interesting how people value beauty differently.

O'BRIEN: That evening, the main event. Fathers arrive, mothers wrapped in mink, the young adults in tuxedos and flowing, floor-length gowns, mingle, catch up, and watch as honors awarded for achievement.

MYLES: The Tuxedo Ball 2008 award for excellence in media is awarded to Nicky(ph) Webber(ph).

O'BRIEN: How come you don't do a similar thing for kids who are not privileged?

MYLES: Well, because it's not our mission. There are tons of things that are done for children who are not advantaged. There was nothing for the privileged black child, because to be black in America is a challenge for many people, whether you're privileged or not.

O'BRIEN: First-time attendees at this year's ball agree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of the stereotypes is that a lot of African- Americans are poor or entertainers or rappers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am very privileged. But at the same time, that doesn't go very far unless I do my part.

MYLES: We tell them that is their responsibility to make the world a better place than we found. To whom much is given, much is expected.


O'BRIEN: Those kids from Bushwick(ph) among the poorest of the poor. Carlotta Myles is dealing with the most well-off people in America. And yet the same quote.

COMPTON-ROCK: I disagree that the black elite, if you would call it, are invisible.

I think that white elites don't necessarily have to talk about it or get upset that they're not being shown.

I went to Howard University, which is a historically black university. And we can talk about race again, and talk about things that are uncomfortable about race.

But the black elite at that university had a lot of color issues. When you apply to Howard University, you have to send in a picture as part of your paperwork. Even when I was there, which was a long time ago, but not too long ago, there was a secret club of fair-skinned black girls, and who could be in it if you were fair enough to be in the club.

BANKS: There's a serious statement that the black elite is there, and they're doing a lot, and it's not highlighted. And that's where I think it tends to be invisible, when they're out there doing what they're doing, but because it's not the proper thing or the hot thing, they're not shown a lot.

And so I think that they're doing a lot, but it's not highlighted a lot.

SMITH: Because you've gone to school, you have a great education, a great job, and you're doing well, that makes you elite?

Like, for me, that's not elite. Like when I -- when I see the NBA all-star game, 12 basketball players--they're the 12 best because of a certain reason. When I see the Supreme Court Justice, those people are there for a certain reason, it becomes an elite.

But to categorize things that are expectations that we should already have for ourselves as elite sometimes gets construed, too, in that same message.

O'BRIEN: But there's an interesting point she was making, which was this--she said a lot of times our kids go on to schools or we move to suburbs, and they are the one or two black faces in a sea of white faces.

BEAL: As one who belongs to the links in Jack and Jill, my children joined that organization because I live in the city, but they went to private schools. And they were the only black kids in those schools.

And so I don't have any -- I'm not defending, I don't feel the need to defend it.

I also told my children that, in particular my son, he had to be as comfortable on the Rutgers (ph) playground, because he plays ball, as he is in a corporate board room.

And that that's the dilemma, or that's what they have to deal with in their lives, in making sure -- and I feel that my responsibility as their parent is to make sure that he and my daughter are as comfortable in all worlds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they will be --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And they will be comfortable in all worlds.

BANKS: As we have these panel discussions, is that there's a lot of different ways to go at a problem. And sometimes when we feel like you have to go that way, the other way is wrong.

You have to do some of this, and you have to do some of that, and you have to do some of this to cover the scope of the issue that we're dealing with.

JOHNS: The challenge is to straddle, a lot of times, the different cultures. In other words, if you're able to go and talk in the hood to somebody there as easy as you can talk to somebody in the board room, then you've sort of got a full range of a personality there.

But it does seem to me to be a problem for people to just seal themselves off.

LOTT: Having this on display. I mean making sure our kids can see that there are people who are out there who look like me that are doing very well. And so can I.

I think that's an important part of it.

PERRY: As do I.

O'BRIEN: There is a number -- I will tell you this when we were working on the story, the number of white colleagues who said, there are -- there's a black elite?

PERRY: And for me, I say again, I think for telling the story of blacks in America, it's a necessity to tell the story in all of its beauty.

Likewise, as the story is being told, I think there's an opportunity for us to, as reasonable people, disagree with what we could and should do with our time.

BEAL: We're making a position that that's how they spend all of their time --

O'BRIEN: And Carlotta Myles is very clear about that. Many of the people involved in the Tuxedo Ball, that is a social event --


COMPTON-ROCK: You know what I wish? I wish that the group, the actual cotillion part, the social part, was more inclusive. Absolutely the links, the cotillions, AKA's, they are great service organizations. One of my scholarships to Howard university was an AKA scholarship that I still remain appreciative for. But I wish that they were more inclusive on the social front as they are in giving back to the community, just like when you asked can that little girl --

SMITH: I heard this from Bill Russell, one of the greatest basketball player ever. He says an African-American, how can you not be inclusive? It's impossible not to be.

O'BRIEN: That's going to be our final word. I thank our panelists. Kenny Smith with us today, and Gloria Mayfield Banks, Lisa Bloom, and Joe Johns. Also Nic Lott, starting on this end, and Valerie Beal, Malaak Compton-Rock, and Steve Perry. Thank you so much.

We want to remind you that BLACK IN AMERICA 2 will be coming this summer. There are so many stories that we be been talking about. We will be putting them on our Web site over the coming months at

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Thanks Soledad, and thanks for joining us for this special preview of BLACK IN AMERICA 2. We hoped this stories and the discussions have raised questions and piqued your interest.

Most of all, we hope they've left you wanting more.

BLACK IN AMERICA 2 airs July 22nd and 23rd at 9:00 p.m. eastern. We hope you join us as we continue the journey.