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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien stops by Atlanta for book signing

Soledad-book-signing 2

CNN special projects correspondent Soledad O’Brien is usually a whirl of energy but she fell off a horse in early October and messed up her knee.

“It’s taught me the value of slowing down,” she said last month at CNN Center, visiting from New York to sign her memoir “The Next Big Story: My Journey Through the Land of Possibilities.” “I’m now using a cane.”

O’Brien, 44,  will recover. But she isn’t stopping her mission to illuminate Americans on the sensitive topic of race and ethnicity. It’s a subject she knows well: her mom is a black immigrant from Cuba and her father is a white man from Australia. They were an inter-racial couple before it was technically even legal in Maryland for them to marry. (They had to travel to D.C. to do so.) “They came here as immigrants with a tremendous sense of possibility,” she said.  “They were successful in an environment that was not necessarily supportive of them.”

She grew up in Smithtown, N.Y., an affluent, mostly white Long Island suburb from the late 1960s through the early 1980s.  As a mixed race person (Jesse Jackson, she noted in the book, didn’t even know she was black in any way) said she is often criticized for not being “fully” black or “black enough” to do documentaries on African Americans. Others feel she is the right person since she can bridge the gap. “I’ve always welcomed the debate,” she said. “I was happy to be part of it. But I never put myself in the reporting. The book was my ability to talk about race and ethnicity giving perspective of where I came from.”

Her book definitely reflects her own optimistic tone. She likes to tell stories where people are doing the right thing, be it after the Haiti earthquake or Hurricane Katrina. “I learned in my childhood that around the corner of something crappy is something good,” she said. “That’s the reality and nuance of life.”

She also writes about how “Black in America,” the surprisingly popular CNN documentary in 2008, started simply as an assessment of the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. but grew from there. That led to a sequel and “Latino in America.” She is now working on “Muslim in America.” “It’s going to be so hardcore,” she said. “I can’t wait!”

O’Brien said she has learned to be “fearless” when interviewing people about race. “Plus, I not only have to just ask the question but ask the followup and dig a little more,” he said. “Dig into the wound. Dig into the point. Dig into the issue. Sometimes, it’s a little painful. That’s been the hallmark of the series.”

She admitted that her “Latino in America” series last year became a bit overshadowed by Lou Dobbs, a CNN anchor at the time who was vehemently covering the illegal immigration debate in a way that alienated many Latinos. “I felt like my project was being hijacked,” she admitted. “I wanted to talk about the documentary. They wanted to talk about Lou Dobbs. As a journalist, I totally understood. As a human being, I was really frustrated and annoyed.”

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By Rodney Ho, rho@ajc.com, AJCRadioTV blog

13 comments Add your comment

Maya

December 21st, 2010
10:51 am

I admire Ms. O’Brien and enjoy her work. I look forward to reading her book. I received a gift card to B&N for Christmas, and now I know how to spend it!

newsBoy

December 21st, 2010
9:47 pm

she’s horrible. sorry, but she’s a warmed over katie couric who nobody watches. like two people are gonna buy her book, just sayin’

Tim

December 21st, 2010
10:15 pm

Hey, Soledad (you listening)? Since CNN is based in Atlanta and tends to give attention to stories out of Georgia, can CNN cover the violence and brutality inside of Valdosta State Prison? The Correctional Emergency Response Team (CERT) is routinely beating down inmates. Someone needs to expose these thugs before they kill someone. They like to send prisoners from metro Atlanta down there, so they can make it difficult for their families to visit. This is how the CERT gets away with beating prisoners for fun. Prisoners in Georgia went on strike because it’s modern-day slavery in these Georgia prisons.

Prisoner mistreatment and brutality gets ignored by the media. It’s shameful.

To all the reporters at the AJC: You’ve been covering the Atlanta public schools cheating scandal AD NAUSEUM. You think you could give that type of attention to Georgia prisons? I’m telling you, the prison guards at Valdosta State Prison need to be indicted. You can look it up for yourself on the internet, there is a class-action lawsuit against this prison by former inmates there.

Jay

December 21st, 2010
11:33 pm

Who cares about thugs in prison, Tim? I hope the thugs that robbed me are getting daily beatdowns and more by guards and inmates. I hope life sucks for all of them.

Tim

December 22nd, 2010
1:05 pm

@Jay

Are you foolish enough to believe that the majority of people in prison are there for violent crimes? So just because YOU had a bad experience with some current prisoners, you think all of them should suffer? Most prisoners are there for nonviolent crimes. We’ve got people sitting in jail for marijuana possession in GA, while in other states all they receive is a citation.

And what about all the people that have been wrongfully incarcerated, and then freed because of DNA evidence? Many people are in jail because they accepted a plea deal, since they couldn’t afford a lawyer. The situation is a lot more complicated than your simplistic generalization.

A spotlight needs to be shined on Valdosta State Prison. The prison guards down there are out of control.

Jay

December 23rd, 2010
8:59 pm

Tim, are you stupid enough to believe that every piece of crap in prison for “only” a drug charge has never committed other crimes, especially violent ones? I don’t care about the prisoners and I don’t like people like you who cry about how these thugs are treated. I bet most of the prisoners getting beatdowns from the guards deserve it. These thugs mouth off and act like feral animals, so it’s no surprise that someone has to put them in their place. What should happen is that these thugs get beatdowns from the general public too. I learned my lesson after dealing with these turds. Next time the state and the taxpayers won’t have to foot the bill for any spooks that try to rob me. Instead their grandma’s will be paying for their funerals.

Tim

December 24th, 2010
1:42 pm

Yeah, I hear your tough talk. Your family would probably be attending your funeral.

It’s silly the way you say “only” a drug charge, as if there is some justifiable reason to send a person to jail for drug possession. As usual, people like you never address the real issue, and instead generalize an entire population. What about the people that took the plea deal because they couldn’t afford a lawyer? What about all the innocent people that were freed by DNA evidence? I see you just bypassed those questions.

According your your twisted logic, a person should be beaten while in jail, no matter the crime. It’s people sitting in jail for public urination. The prison-industrial complex is big business, it’s not about protecting the public. Without the War on Drugs, we would not have overcrowded prisons.

“Thugs”, “feral animals”, Their grandma’s (not their parents) will be paying for their funerals. Interesting.

“I don’t care about the prisoners”. Of course you don’t. You feel there should be no distinction in how nonviolent and violent prisoners are treated. In your world, tax evasion is the same as mass murder.

The Correctional Emergency Response Team (CERT) needs to be indicted at Valdosta State Prison! Those are the real thugs!

Jay

December 25th, 2010
2:37 am

Oh, my bad Timmy. It’s also limp-wristed liberals like you that should be beaten.

Gosh, what justifiable reason could there be for sending someone to prison for a drug conviction? Hmmm…well, it’s against the law. But why should that matter, right? You only care about the law when prisoners’ rights are violated.

There are so many freakin strawmen in your argument I could burn them all and stay warm until next Spring. The fact is most of these feral apes in prison deserve the beatdowns they get because of they way they act. It’s pretty simple logic: Chimpout = Beatdown. It used to work real well in the good old days when the slaves got out of line. Most of these knuckle-draggers won’t achieve jack squat once they’re released from prison, so why not put them out of the misery now and save everyone from future threats and welfare checks to Dontavious and his multiple offspring.

Tim

December 26th, 2010
3:41 pm

This blog wants to censor my comments, but you allow racist vermin like Jay to freely spout all that garbage.

Tim

December 26th, 2010
3:45 pm

Atta boy, Jay.
Why use codewords like “thug” (which is the new N-word for these racist Confederates like Jay) “feral animals”, and talking about their grandmas’s will be paying for their funeral. Just say what you really feel: Call them chimps and reminisce about the “good-ole” days of slavery.
You are one worthless turd. Georgia will never change until racist vermin like you finally die off. Why don’t you point out the “strawmen” in my argument? You still haven’t answered any of the questions about the plea deals and the innocent prisoners that have been released. Don’t bother, we both know you have no answer. And white people receive more welfare checks than anybody, you brainwashed clown.

Tim

December 26th, 2010
3:48 pm

You say they should go to prison because it’s against the law. Drug laws are unjust laws. Consuming alcohol was against the law in the 1920’s. You drink alcohol don’t you Jay? So do you think that people should have continued going to jail for alcohol possession, or do you think that legalizing and regulating alcohol was a wiser decision?

Tim

December 26th, 2010
3:54 pm

Many of the guards are racist neo-Confederates just like Jay in these Georgia prisons. Do your job CNN and cover the brutality at Valdosta State Prison.

Tim

December 26th, 2010
4:02 pm

What did your family do for Christmas, Jay? Did you sit around by the fireplace and sing carols about evil Mexicans, Muslims, and Blacks?