All Articles Tagged "Black In America"
UPDATE: “This Is A Conversation You’re Clearly Uncomfortable With:” Soledad O’Brien Responds To Criticism Of Her “Black In America” Series
Soledad O’Brien recently discussed modern journalism, social media, and her Black In America series at Harvard’s Institute of Politics with Callie Crossley, a Boston-area journalist with WGBH and producer of the documentary series Eye On The Prize, and had some very straightforward and colorful things to say about responding to criticism of her popular series.
“It was only white people who ever said that… If only we could see beyond race,” O’Brien says at one point in the video. “OK, white person, this is a conversation you’re clearly uncomfortable with,” O’Brien continues in her hypothetical conversation. LOL.
In the video, Soledad O’Brien also discusses some of the conditions of modern journalism, such as the impact of social media, which has its pros and cons, as demonstrated in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. The discussion is part of The IOP’s John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum. You can watch the whole one-hour conversation online here.
You’ll recall that O’Brien was named Distinguished Visiting Fellow for 2013-2014 at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, in part to talk about just these issues. What’s interesting — and refreshing — is the candor with which she speaks about them.
UPDATE: With that in mind, O’Brien is taking her response a step further and says that a series called “White In America” is in the works. TVNewser quotes her saying, “As a journalist, my job is to probe the uncomfortable topics to drive conversation. I’m happy to see that’s still happening as a result of ‘Black In America,’ and I look forward to continuing that conversation as we continue to tell the stories of who we are. We’re not just working on BIA, but also developing a ‘White in America.’ Stay tuned for that one.”
She also takes a jab at the blogosphere for what she says are “ taking the conversation out of context and ginning up headlines” by calling out her previous comments.
Will you watch “White In America?”
Check out the clip below.
Soledad O’Brien will form her own production company, Starfish Media Group, that will produce documentaries for CNN as well as other networks, The New York Times is reporting.
“So she will be a free agent, hosting documentaries for CNN part-time, but able to take hosting and reporting jobs elsewhere at the same time,” the paper says. The article goes on to say that O’Brien could follow in Katie Couric’s footsteps and do a syndicated show, but “at this moment, I really want to work on projects,” she said.
Yesterday the New York Post quoted sources who said that O’Brien’s brand of hard-hitting journalism “doesn’t seem to fit the direction the network is going.” With a deal for a primetime show yet to be determined, their sources said that her departure was imminent.
Today, O’Brien sat down with Wendy Williams today and addressed the story
“As you know, it’s been reported that the morning show is going a different direction, so we’re talking about what ways I can contribute to CNN. Doing stuff like I like to do which is hard-hitting journalism,” she said during the interview. TVNewser references a source who says that O’Brien really wants to stick with CNN, and an evening program “may not be the only option.”
To that end, the resolution reached this afternoon is in between. She’s leaving her permanent anchor position at the network, but she maintains a relationship where she had the freedom to report on the things she wants to cover. The Times says that she’s working on two more installments of the Black in America series. She also has an idea for another series – Poverty in America – that she’ll have the freedom to pitch to other networks if CNN doesn’t bite.
According to the Times, Starting Point had low viewer numbers, reaching only 234,000 viewers on an average morning.
(The Loop 21) — Since the nation’s first African-American President walked into the Oval Office in 2008, CNN has taken a vested interest in producing shows telling stories of “the Black experience.” There’s the one about the Civil Rights Era photographer who reportedly doubled as a spy for the Feds. The recent recap of the Rodney King beat-down and resulting LA Riots. Don’t forget the well-known “Black In America” multi-part series on Blacks and education, culture, economics, and much more. While these shows provide plenty of answers and explanations, the question on my mind is, why is CNN so interested in Black folks now?
Of all the large news organizations that are struggling for footing in the digital media reality, CNN has invested in covering people of color in the U.S. at a time where the Black presence on cable and network news outlets is limited to the occasional on-air talent. “It’s not just about the color, we want to focus on issues that simply have been under-covered,” says CNN anchor and special correspondent Soledad O’Brien, who leads a unit called “In America,” that produces these programs, the next being O’Brien’s special report on Muslims in America. “I think that if our unit can be successful, and I mean critical success, rating success and with viewers. I think that if you do well, audiences will look and say, ‘Gee, I didn’t really think about it before.’”
by Mike Green
“How do you hide important information from a Black man?” my friend asked.
“Put it in a book.”
It was one of many such jokes I would be told by Whites who befriended me during my 12 years of service in the Navy. I was one of very few Blacks who qualified for propulsion engineering schools upon entry into the military in 1982. I didn’t know it, but I was entering a universe of technology that had seen very few Blacks in leadership roles.
Not much has changed over the years. Technology based industries, which make up the bulk of investments each year and fuel the fast-paced productive path of American innovation, have relatively few Blacks.
Ongoing efforts to motivate, educate and recruit Blacks into technology sectors are fragmented and in dire need of strong support. Industry associations, like TBED21.org (Technology-Based Economic Development for the 21st century) led by Dr. Chad Womack, are providing pathways and opportunities to help build an infrastructure for tech innovation among Black entrepreneurs.
Dr. Womack understands the crisis at hand. A statement on the TBED21.org website reads:
“Underserved communities and urban centers continue to be disconnected from the promise and opportunities of the 21st century global tech-based economy.”
Tech innovation is the fuel propelling entrepreneurship in the 21st century, unconstrained by geographic boundaries. In order for Black American entrepreneurs to add to this rapidly evolving productivity, as well as capitalize upon it, Black America needs to exponentially grow its numbers in the technology fields.
It is a critical time, requiring critical mass.
Coalitions and concerned cohorts must collaborate to ensure Black America isn’t left out of the STEM evolution. The key response will be entrepreneurial innovation.
Dave Lavinsky, Co-founder
Dave Lavinsky is the co-founder of Growthink. He is a successful entrepreneur who advises, develops and invests in entrepreneurs and their ideas. I picked his brain to reveal the challenges entrepreneurs face today. Dave was candid with both problems and solutions. (see interview below).
An Entrepreneur in Training: Circuitous Route
My personal story began with military training in Great Lakes, Illinois, which included a series of increasingly difficult engineering schools, an apprenticeship in a working plant and orders to the fleet aboard the first of two combat ships. Prior to arrival, I had received an elevated enlisted rank and a service record containing the Navy League Award, one of only two awards given to selected recruits from among 700 during boot camp. I was also second in my engineering class.
“Who did you piss off to get orders to this piece of Shyte?”
Walking the pier alongside a mammoth assault vessel that carried Marines and SEALS around the globe, I shielded my eyes and stared up at the flight deck where I would ultimately witness many helicopters land before my five-year sentence aboard the USS Anchorage would mercifully end. The sailor who welcomed me with a provocative statement laughed. I would never know who the silhouetted prognosticator was, but I still recall his prophetic words to this day.
Indeed, my education seemed irrelevant. My work ethic didn’t matter. My eagerness to learn was abused. I spent the next two years as a messenger, serving coffee to engineers in the propulsion plants, diving in the bilges to retrieve tools dropped by my White counterparts and being barred from the chem lab, where only White sailors were allowed.
Things did eventually change … well, a little.
I used my time wisely beneath the deck plates searching for lost tools in the oily seawater amongst hot pipes that formed water, steam, oil and fuel systems. I digested data from engineering tech manuals that served as my recreational reading. I watched. I helped. I asked questions. I volunteered to work with others who would willingly allow me to do their job for them.
And yes, I was angry.
But my big break eventually arrived.
Today, there are millions of young Black men abused by life’s circumstances, barred from entering certain arenas and feeling like they’ve been relegated to the position of whipping boy. Some seek shortcuts, only to find out too late there aren’t any.
Many times I wished there had been someone other than a military recruiter to point me in a good direction and set my feet upon a productive path. Like so many Black boys and young men today, I grew up without a father. But my mother instilled within me the qualities of an entrepreneur: attention to detail, flexibility, eagerness to learn and excel, competitiveness, endurance and perseverance.
I used all those internal elements to prepare for the day opportunity would knock.
When a team of experts arrived aboard the ship to test our engineering division, we spent several days out at sea failing miserably. At the end, a number of officers emerging from a lengthy meeting offered me congratulations, though I had no idea why. It turned out the team of experts told the captain there was one bright spot within the disastrous training episode: me.
Apparently, there was quite a conversation over why I was a just a messenger.
That day changed my career. Within six months, I was a propulsion plant supervisor. In 1987, I received Sailor of the Year. I was the first Black sailor aboard USS Anchorage to receive such honor. I went on to receive many more accolades during my military career and eventual media career.
Today, as an entrepreneur, I’m applying all of those lessons learned through two careers. Fortunately, there are many successful business leaders willing to offer their wisdom to help me navigate the stormy seas of entrepreneurship.
Dave Lavinsky spends his time developing entrepreneurs into innovative leaders across a variety of industries through his company, Growthink.
For most entrepreneurs, the interview below is the closest you’ll get to picking his brain.
Q: How important is entrepreneurship and innovation?
A: Innovation is absolutely critical to America’s future. America is a country that was started by entrepreneurs and is fueled by entrepreneurs. Without innovation, our country loses its competitive advantage. There’s a lot of entrepreneurs throughout the world and we’re seeing a ton of things coming out of China, Korea, etc. and we need to continue our innovation in the United States because there’s always a better mousetrap.
If there is no innovation, let’s say in the United States, innovation is going on in the rest of the world. Now, essentially, the world is the land of opportunity. You can start a business pretty much anywhere and grow it and take market share. The startup costs are a lot less than they were previously. Innovation is absolutely critical to our economy, to our way of thinking. Our children always need to be thinking of a better mousetrap and how they are going to change the world.
Not everyone is going to do that, but it’s very important that we always have that mindset to get more entrepreneurs and continually evolve and innovate because innovation results in job growth and products created, and stirs up the national and global economy.
Q: Why are so few Black entrepreneurial ventures funded by angel and venture capital?
A: One of the keys to keep in mind is that virtually all of venture capital financing goes to technology companies. My impression is that African Americans are under-represented in the technology fields and as a result they are under-represented in raising venture capital because venture capital is tied to technology.
In the angel space the majority of financing is also technology. The largest sectors, software, health care and industrial energy comprise about 71 percent of angel fields. If African Americans are under-represented in the technology fields, it would make sense they would be under-represented in raising angel and venture capital.
Q: What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
A: Probably the most important point I can make to budding entrepreneurs is what I call a “funding pyramid.” The bottom of the pyramid is very wide and there are sources of funding typically associated with bootstrapping like credit cards — using your credit card to get $5,000.
As you move up the pyramid, there is what I call “institutional equity” or “venture capital,” which is the largest segment of institutional equity, which is extremely hard to raise. And below that (top layer) are angels. They are really, really challenging to raise (capital).
Most entrepreneurs fail because they go right for venture capital. And its just not the right source of funding for them.
Everyone wants to be the next Google. Google started by raising money with credit cards. Their first $35,000 was from credit cards and they maxed out their credit cards. Then I believe they got bank loans. Then they got $100,000 in angel funding. And then, later on they raised venture capital. But they were turned down initially by venture capitalists because they weren’t ready for it.
So, entrepreneurs, and in this case African American entrepreneurs who are under-represented in angel and VC (investment fields) — also Black entrepreneurs may be starting less technology companies, which is pretty much a requirement for particularly venture capital and to an extent angel capital — should be looking at other sources of funding: like credit card funding, like bank funding, like crowd funding, like creative funding.
There’s a lot of strategic financing. There’s a lot of ways to raise funding other than angel and venture capital. In fact, angel and venture capital I consider the hardest two ways to raise funding.
Q: Talk about some of the alternative ways of financing a company.
A: One I like is vendor financing.
Take Kenneth Cole, the shoe guy, who did $4.5 billion in revenue last year. In the 80s he was nearly bankrupt and had no money. He wanted to start a company … he found a struggling Italian shoe manufacturer that manufactured hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of shoes for him on consignment. So he then essentially raised hundreds of millions of dollars that he didn’t have to get funding for, and didn’t need, because the shoe manufacturer made them (shoes) for him and he didn’t have to pay until after he sold them.
So, entrepreneurs, in terms of bootstrapping and starting, let’s get creative. And let’s think about, can our customers fund us?
Q: Consignment is creative. What’s another option?
A: There’s a new source of funding called “crowd funding,” which is really getting your customers to donate money to you and giving them a reward for that.
SUCCESS comes in many forms
Q: If an individual comes from a background of poverty and all of his or her family and friends are similarly situated, what advice would you offer them?
A: An individual has to prove themselves before getting funded.
So if you say, I’ve had a hard background and I’ve never achieved any success, but if you give me $100,000 I’m going to be successful, I’m likely going to say, no. I’m not interested if that person can’t show me some sort of background of success — a track record of successes.
And success could be that they excelled in school. An 18-year-old entrepreneur may show they did really, really well in school and couldn’t afford to go to college and they’re hungry. Or they started at a very low level at an organization and had a tough break but started excelling in that role or position. I want to see some sort of track record of success.
Establish Track Record of Success First
I wouldn’t recommend, for the most part, starting a business that requires funding if you’re in a situation and don’t have a track record of success. If you’re dead set on starting a business and you don’t have that credibility (track record of success), that great, but you have to start a business that … requires very little capital. Figure out a business where you can sell a product and you don’t have to buy the product before you sell it. Or online marketing where the startup costs are really, really low. You’ve got to get some success under your belt.
And then, once you have achieved that success, regardless of your background — if you come from great poverty — to me, that’s a selling point. Look where I’ve been and look where I’m going and look what I’ve achieved. To me that’s a selling point as an adviser or investor. It says this person is dedicated to becoming successful. But you need to prove that you’ve been able to achieve success in other positions through other endeavors.
Q: How can crowd funding be used if an individual doesn’t have a crowd to which they can appeal?
A: I understand that if you come from a poverty background, your friends and family (funding options) are very limited. However, with social networking tools, I believe a lot of entrepreneurs have created networks beyond just their families and relatives.
Social Networks: Affinity Groups
Through online tools like Facebook, videos on Youtube, you can create a following. I’m a big fan in getting involved in your affinity group.
For example, if you’re selling a product to bird watchers, what Facebook groups are made up of bird watchers and bird lovers? What social networks are there? Go onto this, what we call an “affinity group,” and become a trusted and valuable member of that group, of that society. And that doesn’t cost any money. That’s just time.
Know Your Business
Clearly, to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to know your business really well. You need to have some sort of track record and have paid your dues. If you want to start a restaurant, you can’t do that without having worked in a restaurant before and worked from the ground up and understand the business. So whatever business you’re getting into, you need to know that business and you need to pay your dues. I’m not saying you need to spend 20 years paying your dues, but you need to spend time paying your dues.
When I started a juice business many years ago, I was doing it while I was in business school. And during the summer, when everyone else was getting high-paying jobs, I worked at minimum wage at two different juice bars to learn the business. I was a 28-year-old MBA student working for minimum wage. And I did that to learn the business. It just took me two months to do, but I learned the business.
You have to learn the business and then use your expertise in these online and offline affinity groups. Offline, the Association of Bird Watchers could have an event. Get intertwined in your affinity group and use that to create relationships. And then once you do that and you become a trusted and valued member of that community, then you can leverage that into finding someone in the group worth being an adviser or funding your business.
I think any entrepreneur can meet lots of other qualified people online very quickly just by commenting on blog posts and establishing themselves as an expert and then leverage that into more connections and then leverage that into all types of relationships you need to grow a business: employees, funding, partners, etc.
Investing in Entrepreneurs
Q: How cautious should an entrepreneur be about exposing their idea?
A: Investors bet on the jockey and not the horse. It’s really (more) about the people who are going to execute the idea.
However, a lot of entrepreneurs are extremely nervous that somebody is going to steal their idea. If your idea is so easily replicable, then you probably have a big problem on your hands because the second your idea is successful, every Tom, package and Harry is going to jump into that idea. Particularly, larger companies will see it’s working and compete against you. So you have to be careful about ideas that are very easily replicable.
But overall, you should not be too concerned about letting other people know your ideas. Because every idea you have, you could probably say with pretty good certainty, that somebody has thought of that already. There are so many entrepreneurs out there that it’s likely someone is conceiving the same idea you are.
Many ideas will be conceived; Few will be executed
It’s not the idea — yes, it helps to have a great idea — but it’s about the execution of the idea. Because most individuals will conceive the idea but very few will take the first step (which is the most important step), which is to say I’m going to turn this idea into a company, and even fewer have the ability to go through the steps in executing on the business opportunity.
Business Plan / Presentation
Q: How important are business plans and presentations?
A: The two go hand-in-hand.
In terms of raising funding, the presentation is more important, in my opinion. Nobody wants to invest by reading a document. You’re investing in a person. It’s a face-to-face interaction where ideally (entrepreneurs) can convey that enthusiasm, get them excited, show them that you’ve thought through the venture and that this is something that is going to be worth their time. If they’re a bank, they’ll get their money back with interest; if they’re in investor they’ll get a nice return, etc.
However, it’s very hard to create the presentation without going through the process of writing your business plan.
The business plan forces you to think through how much money do I really need to make this happen. How long is it going to take? What are the key milestones my team needs to accomplish? Who do we need to hire upon getting funding? What are the marketing tactics we’re going to use to be successful? What’s going to make us uniquely qualified to succeed? The process of creating a business plan forces you to think through all the issues you’re going to present in the presentation. And if you don’t present them in the presentation, it will give you the answers to the questions investors will raise. So, going through the process of creating the business plan is critical.
To print out a 50-page document is worthless. Nobody wants to read it. But you need to, for your own purposes as an entrepreneur, go through the process of creating a business plan.
There are critical aspects of the plan. And I definitely want to see a great executive summary. You will probably need that before the meeting in order to get the meeting. And you’ll need a great presentation. In a lot of circumstances, you’ll still need a full business plan to present to investors during their due diligence process.
Republished from The Huffington Post
(AOL Black Voices) — I was recently checking out some of CNN’s special, “Black in America,” the show they seem to do once a year. In the series, African Americans are analyzed like lab rats in a cage, with producers highlighting every dysfunction imaginable, as if we have a monopoly on counter productive behavior. Although I’ve always had a good relationship with CNN, I can barely stomach some of what I see. This is not to say that black folks are perfect: but the idea that we are somehow less perfect than whites is nothing short of paternalistic, White Supremacist thinking.