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Black in America 2: Parent and Teacher Discussion Guide

  • Story Highlights
  • CNN's Soledad O'Brien investigates challenging issues facing African-Americans
  • O'Brien reports on solutions that transform the black experience in America
  • O'Brien uncovers pioneers and leaders making a difference in their communities
  • Use these questions and activity to facilitate a discussion about the programs
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Teachers and Parents: Watch with your students or record "Black in America 2" when it airs on CNN on Wednesday, July 22 at 9 p.m. ET and Thursday, July 23 at 8 p.m. ET. By recording the documentaries, you agree that you will use the documentaries for educational viewing purposes for a one-year period only. No other rights of any kind or nature whatsoever are granted, including, without limitation, any rights to sell, publish, distribute, post online or distribute in any other medium or forum, or use for any commercial or promotional purpose.

(CNN Student News) -- With "Black in America 2," CNN deepens its investigation of the most challenging issues facing African-Americans. CNN's Soledad O'Brien journeys to South Africa and criss-crosses the U.S., reporting on groundbreaking solutions that are transforming the black experience in America. O'Brien uncovers pioneers who are making a difference: people inspiring volunteerism, programs that are improving access to quality health care and education, and leaders working to address financial struggles and develop strong families. Before and after viewing these programs, use our free Discussion Questions and Learning Activity to facilitate a conversation with your middle and high school students.

Black in America 2: Part I - Today's Pioneers
Program overview: In "Today's Pioneers," O'Brien profiles community organizers across the country who are facilitating progress at a local level. These pioneers address health, education, and other critical needs of the black community. Black in America 2: Today's Pioneers airs in HDTV on Wednesday, July 22 at 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. EDT. Click here to access Discussion Questions for Black in America 2: Today's Pioneers.

Black in America 2: Part II - Tomorrow's Leaders
Program overview: "Tomorrow's Leaders" focuses on people who are developing future African-American leaders. The importance of education, mentoring programs and diverse experiences are explored as black Americans strive for success in a competitive world. Black in America 2: Tomorrow's Leaders airs in HDTV on Thursday, July 23 at 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. EDT. Click here to access Discussion Questions for Black in America 2: Tomorrow's Leaders.

Before-Viewing Discussion Questions
Before watching Black in America 2, ask students to share their responses to these questions:

  1. What are some problems facing Americans today? What are some problems facing the African-American community?
  2. What solutions have you seen to any of these problems? Who are the local, national or international problem-solvers you would identify as heroes to Black America?
  3. How do the successes of others help all of us to move forward and solve problems?

Black in America 2: Part I - Today's Pioneers
Post-Viewing Questions: After viewing the first part of Black in America 2, offer these questions for student consideration and discussion. There are specific questions for each new story within Black in America 2.


  1. According to the documentary: What percent of black households were headed by a married couple in 1963? Approximately what percent of black households are currently headed by a married couple?
  2. In your opinion, what factors have caused the marriage rate decline among black families? Do you think that other races have experienced similar drops in marriage rates? Why or why not?
  3. Who are James and Tina Barnes? What do they say has caused the conflicts that have adversely affected their marriage? What steps have they taken to improve their relationship? Do you think that their efforts will help save their marriage? Why or why not?
  4. According to the program: What is the purpose of the Wedded Bliss Foundation? What percent of marriages are reportedly helped by the foundation?
  5. According to the report: To what does Wedded Bliss founder Nisa Muhammad attribute the problems with marriage in the black community? What is Muhammad referring to when she states, "When white America has a cold, Black America has pneumonia"? What advice does Muhammad offer married couples?
  6. In your opinion, what are the foundations of a solid marriage?
  7. Do you think that the trends in declining marriage rates can be reversed? Why or why not?

Triple Negative Breast Cancer

  1. How is triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) different from other breast cancers? What treatments are available for TNBC? What role do mammograms play in the fight against TNBC?
  2. According to the program, how much more likely are black women to get triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) than white women? What theory has Dr. Lisa Newman proposed regarding the racial disparities associated with TNBC? What evidence supports her theory?
  3. What have been the milestones in Dawn Spencer's fight against TNBC? How do Spencer's doctors characterize her current cancer status? To what does Spencer attribute her survival?
  4. What medical procedure is being performed on Dr. Newman in the program, and why? What are the results of Dr. Newman's biopsy? As seen in the report, how does Dr. Newman react before her surgery and after she receives her results?
  5. Have you or has anyone you know been diagnosed with cancer? If so, describe the experience and treatment that was sought, if any.

Project Choice

  1. What percent of former inmates in California return to prison within three years? According to the program, what percent of inmates that successfully complete the Project Choice program end up back in prison?
  2. What support does Project Choice offer to released inmates? What conditions do you think that Project Choice mandates when it offers support to recently released inmates?
  3. How does former inmate Chris Shurn describe his neighborhood and life before prison? How has his life changed since he was released?
  4. According to Everrett Highbaugh, what are some keys to success for participants in Project Choice? What do Shurn's caseworker and Highbaugh say regarding Shurn's chance of success?
  5. What statement does Shurn make regarding the possibility of going back to prison? What is Shurn's status at the end of the segment?
  6. In your opinion: What obstacles do inmates face upon their release from prison? What factors may help ease their transition to life on the outside?
  7. Do you think that governments should offer support to recently released inmates? If not, why not? If so, what type(s) of support should be offered?
  8. What factors do you think might be indicators of crime rates in a community? In your opinion, what can be done, if anything, to reduce the influences of these factors on members of the community?

Project Brotherhood

  1. What were the Tuskegee Experiments? What was the outcome for many of the subjects in these experiments? According to the documentary, how have these studies affected attitudes of some blacks toward healthcare?
  2. What other reasons are given in the program for why black men do not access the health care that they need?
  3. Who is Dr. Pete Thomas? What does Dr. Thomas include in what he calls his "health model"? Can you think of any other aspects of life that you might include in your health model? If so, how do these factors impact your overall health?
  4. What are the goals of Dr. Thomas' Project Brotherhood? What role do barbershops play in Project Brotherhood?
  5. What outcomes are seen in the program for the men who participate in Project Brotherhood?
  6. Do you believe that you live a generally healthy lifestyle? Why or why not?

The Harlem Children's Zone

  1. According to the program, what challenges do students who live in Harlem face?
  2. What is the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ)? How many students are serviced by HCZ?
  3. Who is Geoffrey Canada? What are some of the tenets of Canada's philosophy regarding education, as illustrated in the program?
  4. According to the documentary, how much does it cost to run HCZ? Where does Canada get the funds to support his initiatives?
  5. According to the program: What are some solutions that have been implemented in HCZ? What are some of the outcomes for students who live in HCZ?
  6. What percent of Harlem's students are reportedly overweight?
  7. How is Canada addressing the issue of obesity in Harlem?
  8. How has the wellness program affected student Taniqua Williams?
  9. What challenges do you think that the students in HCZ will face as they move into middle and high school?
  10. What programs are in place in your school or district to help you succeed? Have you taken advantage of these programs? Why or why not?

Tyler Perry

  1. Who is Tyler Perry? How does he describe his youth experiences?
  2. How is Perry's journey from poverty to success depicted in the documentary? What challenges did Perry say he faced along the way to success?
  3. According to the program, what is the representation of blacks in the television and film industry?
  4. Why did Perry feel the need to open his own studio? What types of productions does Perry's studio produce?
  5. According to the segment: What criticisms have been raised regarding Perry's characterization of blacks in his productions? How does Perry respond to his critics?
  6. Who is LaVan Davis? How does he describe the roles offered to him in Hollywood? What types of roles did he want to play?
  7. Who is Cicely Tyson? How does she describe her experiences in the film industry?
  8. Do you think that images of blacks portrayed on TV and film mirror the realities of black society? Why or why not?

Black in America 2: Part II - Tomorrow's Leaders
Post-Viewing Questions: After viewing the second part of Black in Amertica 2, offer these questions for student consideration and discussion. There are specific questions for each new story within Black in America 2.

Journey for Change

  1. Who is Malaak Compton-Rock? What does she do in an effort to help young people to expand their horizons?
  2. How would you describe Jeremy, Jonathan and Latoya? What obstacles do they each face every day? What unique talents and gifts does each of these individuals have?
  3. What do Jeremy, Jonathan and Latoya expect to gain from their "Journey for Change"?
  4. Describe some of the things that the 30 students from Brooklyn experience in South Africa.
  5. How does the trip change Jeremy, Jonathan and Latoya? How does it help these students redefine the limitations that they face back home? What do they do to help the South African orphans that they met?
  6. What happens when the students return to Brooklyn? What does it mean to say that someone is a "work in progress"? Are you optimistic for these students' futures? Explain.
  7. Have you ever had a life-changing experience that helped you to capitalize on your talents and gifts? If so, share what that experience was and how it changed you.

Management Leadership for Tomorrow

  1. Why do you think that CNN's Soledad O'Brien describes Mia Jackson as "successful"? Would you agree that this is an accurate description? Explain.
  2. Why is Jackson prepared to walk away from everything she has achieved so far? Would you take a similar risk? Why or why not?
  3. How many Fortune 500 CEOs have been black? According to the program, what are some obstacles that may prevent some African-Americans from obtaining the skills needed for management positions?
  4. What makes John Rice successful? Why did he leave corporate America? What is the name of the program he founded?
  5. How is the MLT program different from a "formal education"?
  6. What does "scrappiness" mean? Why does John Rice like "scrappy"? Why do you think that Mia Jackson is described that way?
  7. Who are some of the other successful individuals who have worked with John Rice? How has he been a mentor to these individuals?
  8. What goal does Mia Jackson achieve as a result of the MLT program?
  9. Do you have a mentor? If so, what has that individual done to help you maximize your potential? If not, what could you do to seek one out?

Tuxedo Ball

  1. Who is Bertram Lee, Jr.? How would you describe his daily life?
  2. How does Lee say he is constantly questioned and judged by both blacks and whites?
  3. Why do you think that Dr. Carlotta Miles calls wealthy, black Americans "invisible people"?
  4. What does "stereotype" mean? What does Dr. Miles say is the stereotype for Black America? Do you agree or disagree with her? Explain.
  5. What is the Tuxedo Ball? Who attends it? What events precede the ball? Why do you think that Dr. Miles created it? Do you think that this event is a good idea? State your rationale.
  6. Dr. Miles says that "to be black in America is a challenge for many people, whether you are privileged or not." What is your response to that statement? Do you think that the challenges for affluent and poor black Americans are similar to or different than the challenges facing other groups? Explain.

Capital Prep

  1. Where is Capital Preparatory Magnet School? Who is its founder?
  2. What percent of Capital Prep's graduates go on to college? What else do you notice about Capital Prep that makes it different from other schools you know?
  3. What did Glorious Menefee want to do before she enrolled in Capital Prep? How has this school changed her?
  4. How does the school's founder and principal, Steve Perry, work to motivate and mentor to his students? What do you think he means when he tells them that sometimes "you have to play hurt"? How does Perry's background help him understand what his students are going through?
  5. What obstacles do students entering Capital Prep face? What obstacles does Perry face as a principal? In spite of the obstacles, what factors does Perry credit for Capital Prep's success?
  6. What makes Perry angry? What is his message for parents?
  7. What does Menefee want to do with her life? Why?
  8. What do you think of Capital Prep? Could you see yourself as a student there? What might you gain from the experience? Do you think that there would be any downsides to going to this type of school? Discuss.

Post-Viewing Summary Discussion Questions
After watching Black in America 2, use these general questions to facilitate a discussion focused on the issues and solutions raised in the documentaries.

  1. What qualities can you identify in the individuals featured in the documentaries that enable them to be the pioneers and leaders of their communities?
  2. Do you know of any projects or foundations that could have been added to the documentaries? If so, what are they?
  3. Do you think that you could benefit from any of the organizations featured in the programs? If so, how? If not, why not?

Post-Viewing Learning Activity

Discuss the success stories you have seen in Black in America 2 and your reactions to them. Then, look around your community for other solutions to the problems facing African-Americans today. Is there a community or church leader, an organization or a business trying to improve the quality of life for others where you live? Conduct interviews with leaders and participants in these programs to help others see what can be learned from their experiences. Produce a video, an online news article or a Web special to share with others, that highlights the positive work being done to address issues facing black Americans.

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