The fifth installment of CNN’s Black in America Series focused on the question, “Who is black in America?” That single, seemingly simple question unravels the complicated, densely packed issue of racial identity in this country. To continue this important conversation, three of the interview subjects from the documentary: Fmr. Editor, Essence Magazine Michaela Angela Davis, “(1)ne Drop Project” Artistic Director and a consulting producer for the documentary Yaba Blay and poet and mentor Perry “Vision” DiVirgilio join “Starting Point” this morning…
O’BRIEN: Joining us to continue this conversation three of the subjects in the documentary, Mikaela Angela Davis is the former editor of “Essence” magazine, Perry “Vision” Divirgilio, a poet and teacher, and Professor Yaba Blay is the artistic director of the One Drop Project and she was a consulting producer on our documentary.
It’s nice to have you all with us. So why do you think this touches such a nerve? I mean, all you do is sit for a minute on my Twitter feed timeline, and realize like people were angry, freaked out, emotional about this. Why?
YABA BLAY, CONSULTING PRODUCER, “BLACK IN AMERICA”: It touches on our lived experience. I think, you know, I don’t know that I’m biased, but I think of all of the black in America iterations, that this is one that everyone can relate to, whether it’s them personally, as a mother, father, grandmother.
All of the feedback I was getting online, always included a personal testimony, how this reminds me of my grandmother, this reminds me of this, I have a story, and I think it’s one of those things that people tap into on a personal level, and it’s — there is an emotion there.
O’BRIEN: The documentary focused on two young poets in your class. You mentor both of them. How unusual were their story? They grapple with racial identity. You picked two people who were the dysfunctional ones. Is that — is that the case or do you think their quest typical?
PERRY “VISION” DIVIRGILIO, POET AND MENTOR: I don’t think it’s dysfunctional. I think what they are doing is very normal for teenagers just brave enough to throw it out there, let the world know this is who I am, how I feel. You heard these lot during workshops. You know, folks look at that’s a young black man or young black woman, were checking other, were not wanting to identify with race at all. I’m a man, woman, I’m human.
O’BRIEN: Many people actually also, I mean, on Twitter, who knows who many is. Listen, kumbaya real progress would be when we don’t have to talk about race it all. We’re just Americans.
MICHAELA ANGELA DAVIS, FORMER EDITOR, “ESSENCE MAGAZINE”: Acting like it doesn’t exist doesn’t heal and this incredibly emotional response as Yaba said. America as a family this is our taboo issue. This brings up so much — triggers a lot of black girl pain.
It triggers a lot of secrets and bias. It triggers emotional things in life. Any family — when we go into our history and say this horrible thing created this characteristics, people don’t like to look at it. This is the road to healing. The only way we’ll feel hole, we talk about where we’re fractured.
O’BRIEN: So John Berman is our token white man on the panel this morning, John Berman, in all seriousness.
BERMAN: I am white, all seriousness.
O’BRIEN: This conversation, was it one that you were ever aware of?
BERMAN: I was just thinking what makes this so interesting, the minute you put a question mark on it, you know, who is black in America or what is black in America, it makes everyone ask a question of themselves…