11-19-2017  7:48 pm      •     
MLK Breakfast
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NEWS BRIEFS

SEI, Sunshine Division Offer Thanksgiving Meals to Families in Need

Turkeys are being provided to fill 200 Thanksgiving food boxes for SEI families ...

NAACP Portland Monthly Meeting Nov. 18

Monthly general membership meeting takes place on Saturday, 12 - 2 p.m. ...

Multnomah County Animal Services Waives Adoption Fees Nov. 17

Special runs from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday ...

Fitzpatrick Presents 'Pathway 1000' Plan Before City Council

Plan would restore involuntary displacement by building 80 homes per year ...

Sisters Network to Hold Monthly Meeting Nov. 11

Meeting to take place Saturday morning at June Key Delta Center ...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

OPINION

Local Author Visits North Portland Library

Renee Watson teaches students and educators about the power of writing ...

Is the FBI’s New Focus on “Black Identity Extremists” the New COINTELPRO?

Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-La.) talks about the FBI’s misguided report on “Black Identity Extremism” and negative Facebook ads. ...

ACA Enrollment Surging, Even Though It Ends Dec. 15

NNPA contributing writer Cash Michaels writes about enrollment efforts ...

Blacks Often Pay Higher Fees for Car Purchases than Whites

Charlene Crowell explains why Black consumers often pay higher fees than White consumers, because of “add-on” products. ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

ENTERTAINMENT

America Divided series
Frazier Moore, The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Norman Lear, a show business legend and full-throated humanist, set out last spring to rent a modest apartment in the Bronx.

The landlord welcomed this incognito white man with a couple of offers.

Not so lucky was an African American man who had come to him the day before. The landlord, insisting nothing was available, brusquely turned that man away.

This undercover mission, as well as Lear's subsequent blowing the whistle on the landlord, was filmed for "America Divided," a star-driven, eye-opening probe into systemic inequality in the U.S. today not only in housing but also education, health care, labor, criminal justice and voting rights.

The five-week docuseries, which premiered Friday, September 30, 2016 at 9 p.m. EDT on Epix, employs the 94-year-old Lear (armed with a hidden camera) as one of its correspondents as well as an executive producer.

"I'm happy to have reached the 1 percent," said Lear, back in New York, where he spent part of his childhood, to shoot his report, "but I started as a kid in the Depression whose father was serving (prison) time. But what was wonderful about America was it offered me opportunity. And it promised that opportunity to everybody else, regardless of the color of their skin. After all these years, that promise has yet to be delivered on. I care about that."

Others who care include:

  • Hip-hop artist and actor Common, who explores disparities in the criminal justice system in his hometown of Chicago in the aftermath of the 2014 police killing of teenager Laquan McDonald.
  • Rosario Dawson travels to Flint, Michigan, to probe how the government poisoned its own citizens, a mostly African-American underclass.
  • "Grey's Anatomy" star Jesse Williams heads to St. Petersburg, Florida, where he finds an educational and criminal-justice divide resulting from what some call "re-segregation."
  • America Ferrera, whose parents and siblings emigrated from Honduras, travels to Texas' Rio Grande Valley to report on the plight of Central American refugees.
  • Zach Galifianakis examines the nation's deepening political divisions as evidenced in his native state of North Carolina.
  • Amy Poehler ventures into the world of the invisible immigrant women who help keep the California economy afloat: domestic workers.
  • And Peter Sarsgaard looks at the addiction crisis in Dayton, Ohio, where the shuttering of America's factories and rampant unemployment exemplifies a heartland epidemic of drug- and alcohol-related deaths.

However unsettling, each story stands as more than a cry of distress. The narratives not only expose wrong-doers and bear witness to victims, but also highlight dedicated reformers.

In Lear's housing segment, viewers meet Fred Freiberg, executive director of New York's Fair Housing Justice Center, which flushes out discriminatory housing practices, then sues the offenders. It is Freiberg's agency that dispatches Lear and his African-American counterpart on their landlord-busting mission.

"With every story, we tried to show causes of inequality and the impacts of inequality, but we also tried to provide models of social action," says Solly Granatstein, a creator of the "America Divided" series. "We try to show that there are solutions and there is work being done, that it's not just simply a problem."

For the series, Granatstein, a nine-time Emmy-winning former producer at ABC News, NBC News and CBS' "60 Minutes," joined forces with Richard Rowley, whose credits include the 2013 Oscar-nominated documentary "Dirty Wars," and Lucian Read, with whom Granatstein teamed on their previous docuseries, "Years of Living Dangerously," which addressed the threat of climate change. (Their Divided Films produced the series in association with RadicalMedia.)

For this new venture, the trio set out to look at what Granatstein calls "the OTHER existential threat to our society and culture."

For this, they enlisted Lear, drawing on his show-business gravitas and his history of social activism. Common, too, signed on as a correspondent-executive producer, while TV hitmaker Shonda Rhimes ("Grey's Anatomy" and "Scandal") came aboard as a behind-the-scenes exec producer.

Then the task began to settle on stories and recruit star-correspondents to report them.

"There's no shortage of stories that we could have done," says Granatstein with a wan smile. "But we were looking for geographical and demographic diversity, and where there were heroic individuals and groups who were struggling to heal the divide, whatever that divide might be."

The project, in the works for more than two years, was timed to air during the home stretch of this election season, when issues from the series might help inform the campaign dialogue.

"If you get people attuned to these issues," said Granatstein, "then, eventually, there could be a whole societal shift."

It's a long slog, noted Lear, whose own crusade to stir the public reaches back to his socially conscious sitcoms like "All in the Family" nearly a half-century ago.

"But I don't want to wake up the morning I don't have hope," he declared. Boasting 34,000-plus mornings and counting, Lear persists among the hopeful on "America Divided."

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