STAFF & GUEST BLOG
February 10th, 2011, by Staff
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When The Wall Street Journal slapped the “Why Chinese Mother’s are Superior” headline on an excerpt of Amy Chua’s book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, it sparked a national controversy about parenting that took Chua by surprise.

The problem with the subsequent controversy and hate mail that the Yale Law professor received is that it was not reflective of what she had originally written.

As Chua states in her conversation with Tavis tonight, her book is a memoir, not a parenting guide. The author goes on to say that she feels she “got caught in this amazing perfect storm,” which is partially fueled by every mom or dad’s concern with being a good parent as well as Americans’ growing fear of a rising China.

Watch the clip below, where Chua talks about the pressures she felt while raising her two daughters, and tune in to the full conversation tonight, when she clears up all of the misconceptions surrounding her book.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
February 9th, 2011, by Staff
JohnLegend2

Six-time Grammy-winner John Legend, whose latest project “Wake Up!” finds him paired with The Roots, discusses the socially conscious project tonight.

“I was always a bit of a political junkie, even as a kid,” says the singer/songwriter, who is nominated for five Grammy Awards for this latest album.

And when it comes to making music with a political or social message, Legend says, “it’s a risk that I’m willing to take.”

Watch the clip below, where Legend reflects on the price that some artists can pay for being outspoken. And tune in tonight for the full conversation.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
February 4th, 2011, by JUDY LUBIN
JudyLubin-rs

It was two years ago at a Black History Month celebration that Attorney General Eric Holder observed that we live in a “nation of cowards” unwilling to have an honest conversation about race. Holder’s remarks sparked a firestorm of criticism from conservatives who felt his comments painted America in a negative light. But was Holder right?
   
In recent months, we have been reminded that American history is all too often the subject of revisionist interpretations that whitewash the nation’s past to score political points. These insults on our historical consciousness are far too easy to cite.
   
Take for instance a January speech by Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) to Iowans for Tax Relief, during which she declared that America was always a resting place for people of all colors. “It didn’t matter the color of their skin, it didn’t matter their language, it didn’t matter their economic status,” she said.

Ignoring the plight of black slaves who first arrived in 1619 — more than 100 years prior to the founding of America — and the enduring fight for racial justice, Bachmann went on to say that the nation’s founding fathers were ardent abolitionists. “The very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States,” said Bachmann. While the founding fathers professed that “all men are created equal,” that sentiment did not apply to the slaves many of them owned.

Interestingly, when the Republican leadership decided that members of the House of Representatives would read the Constitution as the first major act of the new Congress, the sections on slavery, including the one that indicated slaves were only three-fifths of a man, were conveniently left out of the reading.
 
And in December, presidential hopeful and current Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour in an interview with The Weekly Standard praised his hometown’s White Citizen Council for their support of integration. This is the same White Citizens Council movement that has long been on record as a white supremacist organization and known for launching campaigns throughout the South to intimidate blacks who were active in the civil rights movement. Barbour, in the same interview, appeared to not comprehend the injustices that led to the struggle for equality. “I just don’t remember it as being that bad,” he said.

There has been no shortage of examples of the cowardice that Attorney General Holder referred to a few years ago. But these convenient errors and omissions should not be taken lightly. It may be easier and far less uncomfortable for some to rewrite history than deal with the reality that the nation has struggled with living up to its ideals. But we do ourselves and future generations no favors when we pretend that an entire segment of our population was never denied basic human rights or the chance to fully participate in society.

As Holder noted in his speech, “if we’re going to ever make progress, we have to be honest with each other.”

Judy Lubin is a writer, communications strategist and Ph.D. student in sociology. She writes about the intersection of race, class and gender in the media and in politics on her blog LeadingVoices.org and on The Huffington Post.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
February 3rd, 2011, by Staff
Photo by: Van Evers, TS Media, Inc.
Photo by: Van Evers, TS Media, Inc.

If you haven’t yet heard of The Fighter, you will.

The film – starring Mark Wahlberg as boxer “Irish” Micky Ward and Christian Bale as Micky’s half-brother Dicky Eklund – has received seven Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress, a category that two of the film’s actresses – Amy Adams and Melissa Leo – received nominations in.

On Friday, Tavis will talk to Best Actress nominee Melissa Leo. The award-winning actress, who played Micky’s mother Alice Ward, discusses what it was like to play the mother of Mark Wahlberg’s character when she and Wahlberg are nearly the same age.

Watch the clip below, where Leo also discusses her apprehensions about portraying Alice and what it took to get her to take the role.

For the full conversation with Leo, tune in Friday, Feb. 4. Check local listings here.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
January 31st, 2011, by Staff

Country music duo Meghan Linsey and Joshua Scott Jones of Steel Magnolia discuss the success of their first album and share their thoughts on the sophomore jinx.

Watch the clip below and tune in to the full conversation tonight.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
January 27th, 2011, by Staff

Academy Award-winning actor Sir Anthony Hopkins, who stars in “The Rite” and “Thor,” describes the origins of his acting career.

Watch the clip below and tune in to the full conversation tonight.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
January 25th, 2011, by Staff

In a preview of tonight’s State of the Union address, Former Senator Bill Bradley explains how the unemployment rate impacts President Obama’s chances for re-election. Bradley suggests that President Obama would increase his chances of re-election if he guaranteed the unemployment rate will be at 7 percent the summer of 2012. Tavis pushes Bradley on whether unemployment will get anywhere near 7 percent by the presidential campaign season.

Watch the clip below, and view the full conversation here.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
December 2nd, 2010, by MARGUERITE DE BOURGOING
Photo by Van Evers
Photo by Van Evers

The first time that I went to a taping of Tavis Smiley was after getting back from lunch with my WNET team, and I saw Nas. As I glanced behind me, here was the “Illmatic” — as Tavis would greet him later — nonchalantly talking on the phone, without sunglasses. This was my cue to go on set.

(Watch Tavis’ conversation with Nas and Damian Marley.)

As I discovered, it’s the little details that make the show’s behind-the-scenes interesting: Nas and Damian Marley sitting silently watching the monitor and bobbing their heads to the beat, entranced by their song “As We Enter” as if they were hearing it for the first time. Venus Williams effortlessly elegant, changing into a pair of low-heeled ballerina pumps and covering her arms with a cropped, slightly military-style jacket as she sits down.

(Watch Tavis’ conversation with Venus Williams.)

But the thrill of being behind the scenes is witnessing the object of the interview unravel live as Tavis engages in a question/answer type of dialogue with different personalities. Witnessing it live is an experience very similar to the viewer’s, but with the added tension of the build-up to the interview.

What makes Tavis a great public broadcasting talent is his ability to be a catalyst for an in-depth exploration of a subject matter that is often disregarded for a more superficial and consensual approach. A prime example is when Tavis goes straight to the matter with his interview of Nas and Damian Marley introducing the “Distant Relatives” project as “an African heritage exploration.”

Just like he implies in one of his questions to Nas, it’s not a topic that the general public or regular hip-hop audience is particularly interested in. A couple of years earlier when he interviewed Nas on the controversy that surrounded his solo album, Tavis was probably the only interviewer to pronounce the “N” word when he explained to the audience “what Nas had originally intended to call the CD.”

Again, by calling a spade a spade, he enables the conversation to go beyond its more controversial aspect and settle in a more progressive realm.

Tavis’ approach is hermeneutic, like when he goes back and forth from Nas to Damian, keeping the audience and the interviewees on their toes, establishing a rhythm to the talk.

This approach was obvious with photojournalist Stanley Greene. I was curious to see how Tavis would translate into words the work of a cultural agent who produces a visual universe. Two impressions emerged from the interview. The first is that this was a great exercise of improvisation. After the last-minute briefing from his production team, it became clear that he’d made up his mind to focus on Greene’s work in New Orleans instead of his overall work.

My second impression is that he’d found and grabbed an angle that he just went at. To make the interview more visually appealing he focused on the material side of the photographer’s work: the traveling exhibition van, the objectified vision of the New Orleans disaster.

(Watch Tavis’ conversation with Stanley Greene.)

Again, I admired this ability to make the unseen visible. In this case I thought the material angle he chose was a good way to anchor the viewer’s attention, while at the same time bringing up the Katrina disaster that culminates with the airing of his own Tavis Smiley Reports episode “New Orleans: Been in the Storm Too Long.”

The interview with Oliver Stone was great to watch, as the attention was on the documentary South of the Border, arguably a subject with not too much headline appeal, instead of the eagerly awaited sequel to Wall Street. As a non-U.S. citizen, I thought it was a fascinating way to bring up U.S. foreign policy as the film itself was less in focus than what was discussed in the film. For Oliver Stone, it was a great platform to voice some of his opinions.

(Watch Tavis’ conversation with Oliver Stone.)

Again, Tavis’ approach to Oliver Stone was to ask him why the subject of Latin American politics was so important to talk about: “What are we are not being told?” The importance isn’t so much the biased — or unbiased — approach by Stone (Tavis alludes to it later when he says he enjoys controversy), but the talking about it. It just throws in a completely different perspective: “Six of these countries have gotten together with democratically elected presidents who are from the people, who came up from the roots, many of them poor.”   

Finally, one of my greatest delights is to witness the interaction between Tavis and the production crew. From the recording booth to the set, they are like a family, where everyone knows their place, the atmosphere is always relaxed in between the takes, and once the recording starts, all the energies, including those of listeners like me, focus on the talk. On set, it isn’t rare to see Tavis bring up one of the crew members in the conversation and even, in some cases, in the shot — like when John Mellencamp was surprised by a producer with a cake. The Tavis Smiley show is especially the result of a great team effort.

Marguerite de Bourgoing moved from London to Los Angeles to complete a master’s in communication at University of Southern California. She is in the midst of producing her first documentary via LAStereo.TV, the multimedia hip-hop Web site she founded.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
October 12th, 2010, by Staff
ronchernow-RS

In a recent opinion piece in The New York Times, Ron Chernow, biographer and author of Washington: A Life, takes on the Tea Party’s attempts at identifying with the nation’s founders.

Chernow states in the opinion piece, “…any movement that regularly summons the ghosts of the founders as a like-minded group of theorists ends up promoting an uncomfortably one-sided reading of history.”

After the interview with Chernow about his new book, which aired Tuesday, October 12, Tavis continued the conversation by asking Chernow to address the topic of the opinion piece. That two-minute Web-exclusive conversation is available below.

You might be surprised at what the biographer reveals in the Web-exclusive — not about the Tea Party, but about the founders.

If you missed the broadcast, click here to watch the video of to watch Tavis’ full conversation with Chernow, and check out our Web-exclusive below.

Read More »»

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
October 4th, 2010, by ROBERT PHILLIPS AND ANGELA GLOVER BLACKWELL

“America is hemorrhaging talent. We can no longer waste the skills and dreams of countless young men and boys of color.”

That truth was echoed throughout a two-day national town hall in Los Angeles to address the health disparities facing boys and young men of color across California and the nation.

Researchers and community leaders at the town hall looked at how communities either foster or limit the life chances that young people have. Communities can give you access to resources like transportation, good schools, parks, health services and jobs. But communities can also expose young people to stressors — like crime, environmental hazards, unemployment and inadequate housing.

While these issues touch every part of our communities, they are particularly tough for boys and young men. This is because the bad policies and practices that institutionalize disadvantage, disproportionately affect boys and young men of color.

In particular, America’s growing preoccupation with crime has toughened schoolhouse policies to what might have been labeled “boyish” mischief in the past. Making a mistake is often more costly for boys.

Rather than making our schools better places to learn, boys and young men of color are more likely to do worse. Studies have linked suspensions to an increased likelihood that a young man of color will drop out, which means that he will find it harder to get a job, be more likely to be connected to crime and prison and less likely to be connected to community.

Of course, we want our children to grow up with a strong sense of responsibility to themselves, their families and their communities. But we must also take responsibility to protect them from harm and provide them with an open door to opportunity.

The first step is to recognize that place — homes, schools and neighborhoods — matters. The second is to change the policies and practices that shape place.

To do this, The California Endowment in partnership with PolicyLink is supporting work in three communities — Oakland, Fresno and Los Angeles — to build the leadership needed to overcome challenges facing boys and young men of color.

We will measure our success at achieving four big goals, which we see as the strongest indicators of a healthy community. These include ensuring that everyone has a healthy home (or usual source of care), reducing childhood obesity, reducing youth violence and improving school attendance.

Doing so will have positive implications for California and the nation.

The good news that emerged from the town hall is that we know how to keep a child in school; we know how to help a young man become a productive community member.

Getting there will not only require new policies, but new politics — particularly the courage to declare that America cannot afford to ignore the challenges facing young men of color. From workload to tax revenues to gross domestic product, the future of the nation depends on the very people who are often least prepared by their current conditions to shoulder the burden.

We know what we need to do. If we take action now and do it right, we can help not just young men and boys of color but all of us. Let’s invest in them — and let’s invest in ourselves.

Robert Phillips is the Director of Health and Human Services for The California Endowment. As director of the Health and Human Services program, Phillips leads the foundation’s efforts to develop initiatives to reduce barriers to efficient, effective functioning health systems that promote the health of low-income communities and communities of color.

 

 

 

Angela Glover Blackwell, Chief Executive Officer of PolicyLink, founded the organization in 1999 and continues to drive its mission of advancing economic and social equity. Under Blackwell’s leadership, PolicyLink has become a leading voice in the movement to use public policy to improve access and opportunity for all low-income people and communities of color, particularly in the areas of health, housing, transportation, education and infrastructure.

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