Program Note: In the next installment of CNN's Black in America series, Soledad O'Brien examines the successes, struggles and complex issues faced by black men, women and families, 40 years after the death of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Watch encore presentation Saturday & Sunday, 8 p.m. ET
We devote several days on the blog to smart insight and commentary related to the special.
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"In Session" Anchor
I woke one morning thinking about black men. I had dreamt about black men in the night, having been bombarded by images of them the day before.
At the airport, I’d read a long article about the fall television schedule, and then-NAACP President Kwesi Mfume’s calls for more black and brown faces on television.
On the plane, I’d read also about Lawrence Russell Brewer, a white man who had been on trial in Texas for the dragging death – a lynching really – of James Byrd Jr., a black man. (He has since been convicted of murder and sentenced to death).
That night, I turned on the television in my hotel room only to see Martin Lawrence, “steppin' and fetchin'” on Fox. So, I turned off the tube and curled up into bed with Toni Morrison’s nobel prize-winning The Bluest Eye, a book I’d enjoyed to that point. But this night I read a chapter about a black man raping his daughter. Another starkly hateful and negative image of the black man.
So I closed the book and went to sleep.
And I woke that next morning thinking of these black men – and those who hate them: white men who hate black men, black women who hate black men, black men who hate themselves.
That was 2004. It was a presidential election year. And so it is again, this year. But in 2008 there is something dramatically different: Barack Obama is in the race. Race notwithstanding.
I never thought my father would live to see a black man in the White House. I never thought I would see it in my own lifetime. But now, we may both live to see that day.
September will mark father’s 82nd birthday. Born in 1926, he has lived through the Great Depression, a world war, the assassinations of some of our greatest leaders, his heroes. He served in Korea. He has been married for nearly 50 years, and has been a father for 40. He is a good decent black man.
And I know so many other black men. None of them shuck and jive through their days. Where I work, there are many who put in long hard days producing television pieces, carrying heavy camera and sound equipment, and generally contributing to the business of broadcast journalism.
I just this morning visited a family where three generations - father, son and grandsons - live and work together, building strong families and businesses.
I even know my share of famous black men, having interviewed Danny Glover, Lenny Kravitz, and Don Cheadle among many others.
These are the black men I know.
Now, four years after that dream I had in that hotel room that night, I also have a son. His birthday falls five days before his grandfather’s. I can only hope that by the time he is my age – 35 years into the future – we will have come to know the full breadth of the black male experience. The good. The bad. And everything in between. Perhaps, all those years ago, even before he was born, i was dreaming of - and for - my son and the next generation of black men.
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