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CNN PRESENTS

Black in America: Reclaiming the Dream

Aired July 20, 2008 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST: Hello. Hard to believe it's been 45 years since Martin Luther King spoke of his dream. An American where people aren't judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. It's been 40 years since Dr. King's assassination.
So what has happened to his dream? For some it's realized. Black Americans are CEOs, secretaries of state, presidential nominees. But for some reaching Dr. King's dream is still a struggle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN (voice-over): We live in a nation of boundless opportunity. So how do we overcome the obstacles in education.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We come here to get you back in school.

O'BRIEN: How do we stem the rising tide of HIV.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I realized I didn't have self-love. I didn't value myself enough because I gave him the power.

O'BRIEN: And how do we help families stay together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just dealing with having a baby at first. Honestly it like, marriage is just another big step.

O'BRIEN: These aren't just black problems -- they're American problems. Tonight, the search for solutions as CNN and "Essence" present "Black in America, Reclaiming the Dream."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN (on camera): Welcome to New Orleans. We are coming to you from the 14th annual "Essence" music festival. Our colleagues from "Essence" have gathered some of the biggest names in black America. We welcome you, our audience as well as w talk about solutions to some of the most serious problems in the black community. We begin with what has become one of the most significant problems, in fact, the number of children who are growing up in single parent homes. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN (voice-over): As a young college student, Nancy K. Mitty (ph) was living the American dream. But her plans took an unexpected turn when she got pregnant.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was young, I was not married, I didn't finish school, I didn't have a career and I didn't have any money.

O'BRIEN: Nancy wanted to raise little Brianna, the way she was raised with a mother an a father.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I also wanted to prove to my parents that I'm not all the things that society says about a young, black girl who was not married, having a child out of wedlock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kick it out, yes, like that.

O'BRIEN: But her boyfriend, Orville Wasette (ph) had different plans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just dealing with having a baby at first. Honestly it was like marriage was just another big step.

O'BRIEN: It is an all too familiar scenario in black America, seven out of 10 children are born to unwed mothers. Although Nancy and Orville lived separately for seven years, Orville did his best to be more than just a part-time father.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me you another fork.

O'BRIEN: But the issue of marriage never left Nancy's mind.

UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: I started to feel very, very worthless. I thought Orville did not love me enough to make me his wife.

O'BRIEN: When news arrived that they were expecting again Nancy presented Orville with an ultimatum.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I said, Orville, I heard about this woman you know doing something about marrying her baby daddy. And he's like what?

O'BRIEN: Enter Mary Ann Reed (ph), neither a wife nor a mother, she started the "Marry Your Baby Daddy" program.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw lack of motivation the community. A lot of them from families who weren't married so they didn't see weddings. They thought weddings were for other people, not them.

O'BRIEN: With private funding, Mary Ann's program offers premarital counseling to 10 couples like Nancy and Orville.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We learned a lot about each other from the counseling. We learned to compromise about things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be my wedded wife.

O'BRIEN: The program culminates in a wedding ceremony which Reed hosts for all 10 couples helping them create a new life as a family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had to do what I had to do in order to make the family complete.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wanted these couples to be like role models in the community. Look if they can get married after 15 years together and two kids we can dot too, it's not too late for us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN (on camera): With the help of our partners at "Essence" magazine we have assembled an amazing panel today, Bishop T.D. Jakes started with a 10 member congregation in West Virginia back in 1979, today the Potter's House in Dallas has 30,000 multiracial members.

Journalist Ed Gordon is well known to viewers of "60 Minutes" and BET. This past Father's Day he launched a nationwide initiative called "Daddy's Promise, a Lifetime of Love" to celebrate the bond between African-American fathers and their daughters.

Dr. Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College for Women in North Carolina, she is an author, she is an economist and she is one of the most influential black women in America.

And Professor Cornel West has published or edited more than two dozen books including his best-seller called "Race Matters" West is a professor at Princeton University. Thank you to our panel for joining us. Thank you to our audience as well.

Boy, people hate that term, baby daddy. I cannot tell you the number of discussions I have had with people saying that is a horrible, horrible term. And the woman in the piece described the resistance she had in the community, absolutely, absolutely, aggressive resistance to her. To what degree do you think, Professor West, that in fact what she, what's happening in the black community, single parents, unwed moms, is at the root of a lot of problems in black America?

CORNEL WEST, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Well there is no doubt, a major, major problem. I think we always have to connect this personal responsibility and the context. But what we have is a -- we have a society in general that is obsessed with pleasure and property and power. And in such a context it is hard for mature love to emerge because when I hear the word marriage, marriage can be empty. It is just some razatinkin (ph) symbol if it is not mature love. A lot of marriages probably don't need to go on anyway if they are just manipulating each other. See what I mean?

Let's just get the core of what marriage is about. What is mature love about? First you have to have a sense of responsibility. But you also have to have attempted to master the art of intimacy. And intimacy requires vulnerability. It requires taking a risk. But if it is all about pleasure and property and power you don't want to be vulnerable, you don't want to take a risk. So you manipulate each other. So the problem is how do we hit that culture head on so it is not just a matter of having more marriages, but having more mature love in a community that has been taught to hate itself.

O'BRIEN: The marriage rate, the number, in the '60s was something like 25 percent. And people were -- were absolutely shocked. Now the numbers are growing. What has to be done? What do you think the church can do, Bishop Jakes? BISHOP T.D. JAKES, POTTER'S HOUSE: I think the church has a significant it can play. And it can only play if it moves beyond the preaching of ideals to the confronting of realities. The church has done a very proficient job of talking about the ideal of how it ought to be. But have got few get to crux of the matter, how it really is and we've got to meet the children where they are not just on the basis of sag you were wrong but they need support and infrastructure once they have made mistakes how they can get back on the right road again. Many, men, the problem is not just unwed mothers but the fact that m are not stepping up to the plate. Women want to get married. It's the men who have not had a marriage modeled for them, they have never trained for it, they have never prepared for it. Our little girls grew up playing marriage with Barbie and Ken, dolls, getting ready to be married. Men don't do that. Then when they have no father in the home too you are asking them lay a role for which they have no script.

O'BRIEN: What does the script look like? We mentioned, Ed, your program, you just kicked off. What's that script look like?

ED GORDON, JOURNALIST: Well I think -- both the bishop and Professor West talked about it. It's about responsibility, it's about personal responsibility. Whether you are married or not if you bring a child into this world, whether you are married or not if you bring a child into this world, that's your baby. That's your baby. And you have to be a part of that child's life. If you can't get along with your baby's mama, which, think about that term, this isn't just 20-year- olds using that term, the expectation in our community you hear a 50- year-old talking about that's my baby's mama. Fifty-year-old, come on, people.

Let's wake up. Let's wake up. It's about personal responsibility. That's why we started daddyspromise.com. Daddyspromise is our initiative to say to black men whether you are with this woman or not you are with this baby girl, you will be there for a lifetime of love.

O'BRIEN: To what degree, finances -- when talk to the couple. I t get it. You guys have been together for 15 years, you have two kids, what exactly is stopping you? He said to me, you know I am just not ready for it. I have got to get finances in order first. I said you have the two kids already. What part of t finances, I don't, genuinely, don't get it. How much of -- I think there is an element of pride that's in there too. He was waiting for a financial situation that he hadn't achieved yet. What's the connection there, Dr. Malveaux?

JULIANNE MALVEAUX, BENNETT COLLEGE FOR WOMEN: Soledad, you will find me uncharacteristically silent in this segment.

O'BRIEN: I'm shocked, actually.

MALVEAUX: For any number of reasons. I don't think that marriage is necessarily the ideal and women should be programmed for a marriage.

If they want children, thy should be programmed for the kind of economic stability that they need for their children. I mean there are aspects that the institution of marriage that we have to look at as Brother West said as being very deleterious.

O'BRIEN: Let me stop you there for a moment. Because a lot of the young women who I talk to are 23 y old. One the other day having her third kid. I do it all myself. And I thought, I'm glad you are able to do it. Should you have to do it? I can do it all myself too, but I don't want to.

MALVEAUX: Not only should you have to ...

O'BRIEN: Honestly. I don't wan her to. It's a lot of work to raise a kid.

GORDON: The reality is you can't do it alone. The reality is you need men and women in raising of children.

O'BRIEN: Absolutely.

GORDON: That's part of the issue. That we have allowed black women to take that mantel, carry it on their shoulder and black men have sat back and all right, baby, go ahead and do it. And now what we have seen. And I will be quiet after this, Julianne. What we have seen, even highly successful black women come to me, finding out about Daddy's Promise and this initiative have come to me and said the one void in my life is I don't really know how to deal with black men because my father was not around.

WEST: There's another crucial dimension. I think about my own personal experience. I had the most magnificent father in the history of the modern world.

O'BRIEN: After mine.

WEST: Well, that's competition.

And I had the most magnificent mother. But you can have ideal parents and even they can't raise children on their own. Shiloh Baptist Church shaped me. The culture shaped me. The people down the block shaped me. You have to have a community as the backdrop for those two raising those kids as a community, then you a problem.

O'BRIEN: Which is an ideal. An ideal. So how do you get that community today, you know, I interviewed spike lee. He will say it is so different. Sitting in his Brooklyn neighborhood on the street where I grew up, this is so different than where I grew up. I don't understand some of these kids. I can't connect with them. That's from the filmmaker Spike Lee who tells the story of black people. How does the church do that?

JAKES: There is a couple things we want to look at. First of all, I reject the idea that the only contribution that the man brings into a relationship is money. It is a very significant contribution, very significant. I pride myself on being a provider but the whole problem causes young girls to fall into the arms of young men prematurely is not just a matter of dad not having money. He is not there. They're trying to experience what male love is like, and they're going in at 13,14, 15. And so I think, I am concerned today that the contemporary ideology that men are optional or it's based totally on finances. We have to rediscover for the black male for him to begin to understand that his contribution is not just makes the most money or has the most degrees, that his presence there is significant. If we don't do that you are going to continue to lose self-esteem.

Second thing you have realize. You are raising as a mother y somebody's husband if you are raising a little boy. OK. Raise him, raise him to be, raise to be the man you wish you had. Because who ever rocks the cradle rules the world. And that's a very important thing. As it relates to the community. We don't have the communities that we did 40 years ago. We don't all live in the same ZIP codes anymore. There is no stereotypical community. And so we have to broker community through our relatives, through our friend surrogate fathers, they may not be across the street like they used to be when I grew up. Say what you doing? I'm going to tell your mother when you get home. That doesn't exist today. I don't know my neighbors across the street. I really don't want them saying anything to my children. But I have a community. I don't. I have a community of friends and associates that I bring around. Whether it is church or family. You have to find a way to enmesh that child within a system that reflects your values.

O'BRIEN: We're going to take a break for a moment. You raise great points. And I want to the question -- well, how? If it is true in fact we learn from our parents, then, it's setting up a problem there is a generation of kids now who have been raised in single parent homes how do you get them to break that cycle and raise their kids with two parents? We're going to tackle that question when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

D.L. HUGHLEY, ACTOR AND COMEDIAN: Like me, I don't know one black man that isn't broken in some way. I do know a lot that have come out on the other de, determined not to be what it was that they had or didn't have. But I don't know one that is not broken.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That's D.L. Hughley. He says there are so many broken men. How do you fix that? Nearly 6 million black children are growing up with one parent. With me, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Bennett College President Julianne Malveaux, author Cornel West has left our panel. But joining our discussion is actor Hill Harper and Ed Gordon is back with us as well. Hill Harper, I should mention -- if you will let me brag on you for a moment. His books "Letters to a Young Brother. And "Letters to a Young Sister" which has just by the way made it to number five on the "The New York Times" best-seller list.

And Mr. Harper's message really to young people is control your own destiny. So let's start with you, when I do interviews with some young people, who will describe very movingly how painful was to not to have a father in their lives. They will tell you it was painful. It was a terrible thing. I miss my father. Boys and girls. Then you look around and see they have repeated the exact same thing. The exact same thing.

The boy has two different girlfriends who are bearing his children. The girl is having children. And she is, it is the same cycle again. How do you break that?

HILL HARPER, ACTOR AND AUTHOR: Well I think that what we have to do, and something that we really don't talk about much in our community, particularly among men and we as black men is, black men holding other black men to task. And we really don't. And we haven't.

O'BRIEN: Give me an example.

HARPER: I'll give you an example. You go out with a brother and you are going to have a beer. You say to the brother before we have e beer when is the last time you called your daughter and said I love you. When is the last time you spoke with her. She doesn't really take my calls. Before we go, you are going to leave a message. Here, use my cell phone. Call my daughter and say I love you. And unless you welling to have that conversation with each other. You know if your friends are fathers. You know if they're spending me with their daughters or sons.

And we as men are going take other men to task and say you are going to have to handle yours. In fact I am not going to hang out with you until you do.

O'BRIEN: Can a mentor replace a father? A generation of kids many don't have fathers. Can a mentor really step in and fill the void do you think?

GORDON: Can't fill the void in terms of this being your biological father. They can fill the void of having le impact in your life. Much of what we have tried do with Daddy's Promise is exactly what Hill said. The first phase is symbolic, there is a pledge on there we're asking men to download and present to their daughters. Simply a pledge to say baby, I love you and I'm here forever. We had 97,000 hits in two weeks on that Web site.

O'BRIEN: Do you think the rap of disappearing black fathers, which is a phrase I've heard a lot, is it an unfair rap? Is it because the media picks up on that and just hammers that every single day or a fair rap?

MALVEAUX: At some level it is real. At some level it is media. I remember when Bill Moyers had the disappearing black family series. A family is a family whether the father is there or not. You want the father there. I want to be clear. The ideal situation is to have both parents. The lack of the ideal. My resistance to some of the conversation, i also want us to surround every child. I am not a mom, but I call myself another mother. Because I have godchildren, I have nephews.

O'BRIEN: You get to give them back end of the day. MALVEAUX: I get to give them back.

Every child deserves to nurtured the fact that the father or mother made a mistake should not have an effect on the material conditions of the child.

JAKES: I totally agree with you. But I think the problem has gone to the other extreme. It's gone beyond accepting the mother who had a child out of wedlock to applauding her to having a child out of wedlock. It has gone too far. You have girls today. When grew up girls did not want to get pregnant out of wedlock. You have girls today who walk up to a guy and say I want to have your baby. And that's absolute madness.

O'BRIEN: What's changed? What has changed from the 60s where we see this massive leap in the numbers? What has changed in society?

GORDON: We keep looking for this complex answer to question what has changed? Expectations have changed. It's exactly what bi suggested. I'm from Detroit. When I grew up. You hate to sound like your parents, but when I grew up -- when a girl got pregnant she all of a sudden moved down south. What happened to Crystal? She down south. We knew what that meant. We knew exactly. Because ma was not going to be embarrassed to watch Crystal grow with all of her -- I'm not saying that's the right thing to do. But there was a certain expectation. And we have allowed those expectations to drop.

HARPER: But it really to me starts with self-esteem and self worth. Unless, all the issues we are going to talk about on this program are future based ideas. Education, final, health, HIV-AIDS, those are future based ideas. If you don't believe you are actually worthy of a future then that falls on deaf ears. So it doesn't matter. So we have young women today that aren't even African-American making pregnancy pacts. It's about trying to figure out a way to make yourself feel better. And if, unless, that's what the -- my whole thing is, we have got to deal with self-esteem, self worth first.

O'BRIEN: And those numbers in reflected not just in the black community, we should add they're across America. That we have seen that across America. So is it problem that can't be looked at and investigated in the black community. The pregnancy pact you're talking about was white girls in Gloucester, Massachusetts, is this a problem we have to approach as Americans not just looking at black America?

MALVEAUX: It hits our community harder. I think any time we see something that hits the African American community harder, we care about other folks but we especially care about what the long term implications are for the African American community. The finance piece I know that people do not hear, we have to hear the finance piece as well. When young people don't have the finances to enter into partnerships that surround children then they're not going marry.

That's just plain and simple.

O'BRIEN: They have had those children ahead of time. The problem with that argument is they have had those children.

MALVEAUX: That's why we have to make sure we have family friendly policies like child care so this young sister can go back to school, so the young brother can go back to school and make something of themselves and create economically stable families. I realize the moral piece is a part of it. But we cannot underestimate the economic piece in terms of the marriage ...

GORDON: As Hill says it really is future expectation. If you teach those children, my expectation of you is to do X, Y and Z, yes some will falter no question about at. But the majority of them will not if they believe from cradle to grave, you do it one, two, three. You know, we didn't get through slavery, we get through the fight for civil rights, we didn't get through by virtue of happenstance. We were taught that, there is a way to do some things. You know?

And we have allowed that to fall by the wayside for fear of being called a Tom, for fear of being called white. I don't give damn anymore what your label is. About what the label is. We have to be a about ...

O'RBEIN: We have got to take a break. The road to success begins at home. So how do you get the path to include success in high school and college. The dropout rate among young black man is atrocious. We look at solutions coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: And welcome back to CNN and "Essence" magazine special, "Reclaiming the Dream."

Good education the key to a good job. Yet for millions of students it is a struggle. No books, no motivation and some times even no security their schools. The number of students who are dropping out is staggering. One dropout every 25 seconds, 7,000 a day. Nearly 1.25 million kids a year. And for kids in black America's largest cities it's even worse. Now there is a somewhat controversial new way to help keep them in school. Pay them. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Jones, how have you been doing? Are you doing OK? OK. We're looking for Latisha. We want her back in school.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Victor Keyes (ph) and other volunteers are confronting America's education crisis head on. They're going door to door, in inner city Houston, trying to convince dropouts to come back to school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I spoke with you on the phone a few days back.

O'BRIEN: This is where 18-year-old Brandon Gully (ph) lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So close. We're trying to get him back in school to finis

O'BRIEN: Keyes wants to convince Brandon that a high school education is his ticket to the future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brandon, how you doing, man? We come here to get you back in school. You didn't register this year. So, matter of fact, matter fact, if you don't have a shirt. I will give you one of mine. Get you back to school and get you registered.

O'BRIEN: Without say so much as a word Brandon simply turns around and walks back inside. While 70 percent of all high school students graduate in four years, that number drops to just 50 percent for black students.

This crisis in education has inspired Harvard economist Roland Fryer to action.

(on camera): If you could close that achievement gap between black kids and white kids what do you think you could solve?

ROLAND FRYER, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Income disparities, wealth disparities, I'm not saying they would be totally gone. But I'm saying some significant portion of that we would alleviate if we could close the achievement gap.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): And so Professor Fryer thinks he has come up with a possible solution. He takes us to visit some of the students he is paying learn.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome Dr. Fryer, everyone.

O'BRIEN: You heard right. He is paying kids to learn.

FRYER: The fact is that these kids understand money already at fourth grade. They don't understand how education is going to help them get there. This program makes that connection explicit.

She beat it!

O'BRIEN: These fourth graders can earn up to $250 depending on how well they score on a series of exams. It is a privately funded program and the kids say it's making a difference.

(on camera): Do you think by getting paid for your test you are ruing your love for earning?

CHILDREN: No.

OBRIEN: Wow. That was a resounding no, my goodness.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just encouraging us to do more work. It's not ruining our chances of getting good grades. It's actually highering it.

O'BRIEN: It's children like Eric whom Professor Fryer is trying to reach.

FRYER: So they're starting off behind. We have to figure out a way to help them catch up. CHILDREN: Yes!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Let's introduce our panel. Professor Roland Fryer who you met in that report, he's professor of economics at Harvard University. Also with us today is Jabali Sawicki, he is the principal of New York City's Excellence Charter School. He promotes another concept that's been labeled by some as controversial, single-sex public schools. Talk radio host, Tom Joyner's syndicated show on more than 110 stations, he is with us as well.

And also with us, Julianne Malveaux, the president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina. Welcome to our panel.

If you take a look -- a poll that we did, CNN/"Essence" poll shows Americans are split on whether you should students to learn. If you break it down, actually two thirds of blacks thought it was a good idea, far fewer whites than that agree.

Let's get right to Dr. Fryer to see is it working?

FRYER: So far so good. I think you should ask the kids. The kids are excited we're seeing some preliminary that their scores are going up. Let me tell you- the kids are saying, "Look, before this program, people when I wanted to stay after school and study, they would say, man, come on hang on the block with us." This in a lot of ways is giving kids an excuse to do well. So I'm not trying to be an academic I do want to make my mo so it is giving kids an excuse to actually achieve in school. The main point here, Soledad, I think is that in affluent neighborhoods we are paying kids to do better in school through allowance and shiny red cars at graduation. This program is just giving back to those who don't have those types of resources.

MALVEAUX: You know, Roland. First of all I'm so happy to be with you, because you have done such interesting work in economics and reading and saying this young brother has some different ideas. That's one of them. In other words, why I think in the short run it makes sense say if you get an A I will give you X, and as you say, they do it in middle-class households. We saw the young man who had -- wouldn't even talk to guy who wanted him to go back to school. What is going on at his school? The long run we have to look at what the schools look like. I go to inner city high schools, they don't have bathroom, doors on the bathrooms they have metal detectors that you have to go through. You make school an undesirable place, I don't care if you give somebody $250 at the end of a semester, you have got to make schools desirable, have got to have the best teachers in inner-city schools, we've got to connect education to careerism, which means if someone understands you don't have a degree you re going to be cleaning toilets somewhere, dude.

So therefore figure out what to do. Great short term program. Let's talk about the long run. And the macroeconomic implications of paying folks to go to school. Who is going to pa f that in the long run? Is the United States government who cannot pay for higher education going to start paying for kids to get $250. Great idea. Love the notion of playing with it. But I put these things in the longer run and what it means in terms of education. Let's look at what our inner-city schools look like, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Some people would say that is a long term approach. Meaning kids like Brandon, that kid who is trying to finish his senior year, that kind of approach may be too far out for him. What's going to happen to Brandon today? He has to finish the last year?

Jabali Sawicki, you work with kids like Brandon, who we saw in that. You don't pay your kids to learn. So what's your formula for success?

JABALI SAWICKI, EXCELLENCE CHARTER SCHOOL: So, the key here is incentive. I think the reality is -- our young boys, our children need to believe in school and they need to be able to celebrate their success in the school. So whether it is financial incentive, whether it is a school that can associate academic success with being an African American male or African American female. That's what we have to do.

The challenge how can we motivate and inspire our children to once again believe that school is a magical place, that school is a place empowerment and overcome the sense of disenfranchisement and disenchantment that many of them feel everyday. At Excellence, which is our school we have a 99 percent African American population of all males. Every single day our teachers, our leaders in he school he to find a way to convince these children, these scholars that school is an empowering place for them to succeed in life.

O'BRIEN: And what's that way, how do you take a kid who may say I don't know anybody who finished 11th grade. Why do I have to finished 11th grade?

SAWICKI: The key is there are people that are successful. But we a school have the ability to bring in adults who absolutely believe that every single one of our scholars can go to college. So college becomes the message of the school. When scholars walk through the door in kindergarten, every single adult is talking about college not as an if, but a when. And by positive messaging by creating opportunities to create a self-esteem and to give them belief and show them models of academic success we feel that we're situated to provide something real and tangible that they can buy into.

TOM JOYNER, RADIO HOST: We spend a lot of time talking about the issues like education and we try to y old school remedies to a new school reality. What, what Roland is doing, that's, that's reality now for these kids. It's not the same s when we were in school, maybe 30 years ago. We had, we had people that were encouraging us to go to college. And we didn't have, I don't think we had the 70 percent dropout rate like you have in Detroit, in Baltimore and Cleveland and stuff like that. We have new realities. These kids today have real responsibilities. You can't expect the parents to be accountable when, when a lot of times they're on drugs, selling drugs. Maybe incarcerated. Maybe they're being raised by their grandparents. And so we have to -- we have to, we have to find some new school realities. We have to apply new school realities to today's old school situations. MALVEAUX: Do you actually think ...

FRYER: Hold on. I got to at least answer your comments from, from the beginning. This is not about short term versus long term. This is about precisely what Tom is talking about. This is about innovation. These kids are dying out there. People are e-mailing me, saying aren't you worried about the higher order, philosophical issues? No, these kids are dying.

So we have to try things. If it doesn't work, I will come here next year, 15th anniversary and say let's stop it all. Bu it does works this program costs $250 per kid per year. That's less than one percent of the operating bdget of these schools. They're paying $15,000 per kid and still the average black 17-year-old reads at the proficiency level of the average white 14-year-old. We got to do something. I refuse to just sit here and let another generation die.

MALVEAUX: But you are saying - I appreciate your passion, I will look forward to the empirical results. And the empirical results will have to be multiyear results. It can't be that the fourth graders got $250 as you know. We'll have a look at the continuum.

FRYER: Absolutely.

MALVEAUX: But believe me I think the other piece of it is the way the school looks has to be important. Do you really think hat, for the Brandons, a $250 payment would make that much of a difference? For Brandon? The young man who would not even talk to the person? Had he been so burned out, turned off, do you think $250, you spend a little more time with your show with some of these young brothers and sisters than I do. I have 675beautiful young women at Bennett College for women, do you think $250 makes a difference? I'm willing to be wrong and willing to be educated?

JOYNER: I don't know. I don't know. I can't honestly say. But I do know that I'm going to make commitment to get involved with inner-city schools. We, we talk about, we talk about what's going on in inner- city schools. But how many of us are this panel, you two, but this whole panel discussion today period, have kids in inner-city schools? Visit inner-city schools? Mentor in inner-city schools? Volunteer and teach in inner-city schools? We, we talk about it -- but you two are the only ones that I know on this panel that are down there in the trenches. And the results of what's happening now affects what's happening at Bennett.

O'BRIEN: Paying to learn is just one solution that people are talking about. When we come back we are going to talk about more options in just a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: In school districts serving mostly lack students the average spending per student is $900 less than in wealthy districts which serve a majority of white students. How do we get closer to giving all children an equal education which of course is the law of the land? With me again to talk about fixing our schools is Harvard professor, Roland Fryer, Bennett College president, Julianne Malveaux, Jubali Sawicki, the principal of New York's Excellence Charter School, and Princeton professor Cornel West, he is also the author of the best selling "Race Matters" is joining us.

We're going to begin before we get to the panel with a question from our audience. Please stand and tell us your name and question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Cindy Hurst (ph). As an independent filmmaker focusing on issues in the black community, I found that many black males between ages of 16 and perhaps 26, believe to be educated s to be considered weak and some times even feminine to the point where I have seen young black men rebuke their male children for reading books. So my question , why and when did this trend get started? And what can we do to encourage and make more black men realize that education is still one of the main ingredients to healing the social ills in our communities?

O'BRIEN: Let's out that question to Professor Cornel West. Why? And how do you fix it?

WEST: Well, I mean one we don't want to over-exaggerate. There are, there may be a e of the black community, a slice of young black brothers and sisters that feel that way. But the vast majority of black brothers and sisters really want to be educated. So we don't want to begin by isolating this slice as if that constitutes the lens through which look at the vast array of young brothers and sisters.

MALVEAUX: Can I just add ...

I think that the media has also really played a role in the perception that being educated is to act white, or certainly with so many young black men that to be educated, not educated is desirable. When you look at the proliferation of certain images in hip-hop culture. Spend a day, or don't, watching those videos. And the pants that sag come straight from the jail house. How do we uplift sagging pants as something that's supposed be desirable. The swaggering any number o images those things are seen to be desirable and easy money. Very few explain that, in order to produce a basketball player how many hundreds of thousands of brothers went by the dust, everyone that wants to be a basketball player is not. Everyone who wants to be a rap artist is not. There are a lot of people who have tried it, and not succeeded. But it looks easy. Whereas education looks more difficult.

O'BRIEN: How do you connect it with motivation? Dr. Fryer, you and I have had this conversation in the past, where young black men who I have interviewed for stories I have done. When you say why aren't you going to school? Do you know you should think about to school? They say it's not me. It's not me.

FRYER: Class is for clowns, yeah, I heard it. This is a solutions panel so let me talk a little about a potential solution. In Dallas, in 40 schools in the Dallas school district. We went down and we recognized this, an this is this particular slice you are talking about. The kids were behaving this way. We came up with a program where we gave them incentives as individuals. We don't care how you do individually, if the group achieves then you all get something that you want to do. You go to the zoo, college scholarships, et cetera. Right?

It was amazing what happened. Right? All the guys who were ruling the hallways now the nerds were their best friends. I want you in my group. You got to be in my group you are going to help rise the average.

So it totally flipped the culture. Because it wasn't about being individualistic, look at me, look at me. It was about the group, the classroom and became the school. I think if we do this we can flip the culture. We have to have community action. The communities can be within schools.

O'BRIEN: We have got to take a short break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back to "Reclaiming the Dream." We're talking about challenges in education facing black Americans. To what degree is a lack of understanding of the options that are out there? Some young men I talked to would say, I don't know any one who to college and don't know anyone who knew anyone who went to college.

SAWICKI: I think that unfortunately, black men are socialized to feel there is a restriction to what they can become. Gone are the days when the responsibility of school is to teach people to read and write and to express their ideas. Part of our responsibilities as schools, at my school, predominantly African American males is to help redefine black masculinity. Every one of our scholars believes again they have access to academic success. At our school first chair violin, an African American male, the student whose hand goes up to ask a difficult social studies question will be an African American male. The student that is most excited about reading will be an African American male.

So it becomes a issue of school culture. Can a school create a culture where African American males feel a seamless association with academic success? It's possible. When announced to every single one of our families and scholars that 100 percent of the third and fourth graders passed with proficiency or advanced the state math exam, everybody in the room.

O'BRIEN: One hundred percent?

SAWICKI: One hundred percent. Everybody in the room, everybody knows that we are speaking about African American males that are successful academically. So it is possible.

O'BRIEN: What can we learn from the women? Go ahead.

WEST: The key really is respect though.

O'BRIEN: What do you mean?

WEST: That is to say the brother who walked away in the door, all right, through the door right?

O'BRIEN: Brandon.

WEST: That we know that the suicide rate among young brothers increasing exponentially. Eight percent of all young folk who commit suicide in the black community are black men, black boys, black brothers. The question becomes how is this other going to get respect? He goes in the studio and does hip-hop he gets respect. A lot of hip-hop artists are brilliant. They actually are. They just channeling the rage in the wrong way often times. So the question becomes, OK, how do we make education the source of respect for that brother? How can his status be elevated by not just being educated but being cool while he is educated?

O'BRIEN: And the answer is?

WEST: Examples.

He has got to be bombarded with examples that tell him you know what? The brilliance -- the brilliance of Li'l Wayne and that's a brilliant brother, I know here in New Orleans, a brilliant brother. You look at him you know he dealing with catastrophic circumstances. It's true. How do you take that brilliance, have the same respect, Li'l Wayne has in the classroom, in the laboratory and as a scientist as a pharmacist as a doctor as a professor.

MALVEAUX: What people see when they come to Bennett, what they see at your school models of African American success that are accessible to them. To the point a young sister was graduating, talk to my graduating seniors what are you going to do what do you want to do, how can I help? What is your plan? She said I want your job. I said good for you. How often would a young black woman say I want to be a college president. It's because the college president is sitting there. She is accessible. It's available. It's an option.

We have to make young people that all these things, that anything anyone can do can also do. That there is nothing outside their intellectual reach.

O'BRIEN: Excellent. All right. We've got to take a short break. When we come back we'll take a look at the biggest health care crisis in black America, it's HIV and AIDS. Stay with us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, ACTRESS: You have got to understand this disease will kill you. It will kill you. And anyone who doesn't care enough about y to put on a condom is not somebody you need to have in your bed. Duh.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: In America, the face of AIDS is changing. African Americans make up roughly 13 percent of this country's population but they account for half, half of the roughly 40,000 new HIV-AIDS cases that are diagnosed every year. Think about those numbers. If you are a black woman those numbers are even more dismal. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN (voice-over): She is intelligent. Confident. And very much her own woman.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm on my way.

O'BRIEN: Twenty four-year-old author Marvelin Brown (ph), will tell you life is marvelous. And, oh, yeah, she will also tell you has got HIV. A new glamorous face for HIV-AIDS. Hardly. In fact, since testing positive, Marvelin has made it her public mission to reveal the ugly truths.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If somebody really loves you and care about you, they'll protect you.

O'BRIEN: But when she was19, it seemed like anything but the truth. She was in love with older man, says she thought she had found her Prince Charming. They were practicing safe sex until one night.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At that moment when told me he didn't have a condom, I felt special, I really felt like he wanted to be with me for the rest of his life because he knew that I was not on birth control so there was a possibility of pregnancy.

O'BRIEN: It turns out her Prince Charming was living in denial. He knew he had the disease, she says, but she blames herself for getting infected.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I realize that I didn't have self-love. I -- I didn't value myself enough because I gave him the power.

O'BRIEN: Today, black women like Marvelin are contracting HIV at an alarming rate. In 2005, black women accounted for nearly two thirds of all new cases among women in this country. What's going on here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need to know what you are dealing with and what it looks like.

O'BRIEN: Some say it is collective denial, ambivalence combined with the misconception that HIV is easily treatable. Regardless of the reason, many believe the solution has to begin in the black community.

PHIL WILSON, CEO, BLACK AIDS INSTITUTE: If we learned nothing Hurricane Katrina, we should have learned one thing, that they're not going to send he boats for us in time. If we are going to survive, we're going to have to be the ones that are going to create an environment in which we survive.

O'BRIEN: And for Marvelin Brown, survival starts with a choice. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: HIV is a 100 percent preventable disease. It is a disease that you have to acquire.

It was a choice that I made. I wasn't raped. I wasn't born with it. I didn't have a blood transfusion. If I simply would have made a choice to use a condom. I wouldn't be HIV positive.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN (on camera): The Centers for Disease Control will tell you'll it an epidemic. And estimated on out of every 20 people, one in 20 in Washington, DC is HIV positive. Joining us to talk about this is actress and activist, Sheryl Lee Ralph, her one woman show on AIDS awareness is called "Sometimes I Cry." And it focuses on black women's struggles with HIV-AIDS infection.

And also back with us, Bishop T.D. Jakes and Julianne Malveaux. Thank you.

Let's begin with a question from our audience. Right over here, what's your name and your question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Gina Brown (ph). My question is how do we reclaim the dream when there are so many people that won't talk about HIV and AIDS and we know it is something that is really affecting our communities.

O'BRIEN: People will not discuss it. People will not discuss it?

SHERYL LEE RALPH, ACTRESS: We have got to break the silence around this disease. We have got to fiend our voice and we must speak up!

We must speak up about it. Because the secret is killing us faster than the disease itself. When I travel around this country, the youngest infected, 11-year-old twins, both of them infected by the same man, Bubba. We've got to talk about that. The oldest, a 68- year-old grandmother who had one man her own life with only one to follow after she became a widow. She got infected because she did not know that sex had changed greatly from the time she was having sex with one person and one person was having sex with her. We have got to talk about it. In our schools, in our churches and in our families.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about in our churches. Bishop Jakes, you and I have spoken about this before. Church leaders across the board have been silent up till now. Silent. Silent. And how much of that is because -- you can't talk about premarital sex and HIV without getting into all the things that the church doesn't quite agree with and believe?

JAKES: I think that we cannot allow our ideals to stop us from facing our realities. And we have, we have an epidemic in this country. And clergy have to find their voice about it. I was a part of - Dr. Calvin Butts and I did a black clergy conclave trying to arm clergy with the speech mechanisms that they need to talk about this disease. Because it is killing our community. And, and that speech mechanism is important because we can't always emulate our secular counterparts. Our positions are different and don't always have modeled in front of us the right way to approach it.

But when clergy speaks about it we touch a whole lot of people in our community because almost every black person in this room either goes to church or is related to somebody who goes church and it is a huge way to get information out our community. We have to talk about it.

O'BRIEN: You are the president of a women's college. When I talk to some of these girls, I don't understand the disconnect. I say you think your boyfriend is cheating on you. You will tell me at. Here you are getting your HIV test. Why are you having unprotected sex. Don't want to be a mother. I just don't understand it. Talk to me about the young women who you are in charge of. What messages are being sent, are you trying to send to them?

MALVEAUX: With our health program we do quite a bit on campus to talk to young women about AIDS but also about sex and sexuality. In a very sexual time we refuse to talk about sex and sexuality. So everybody is doing it. You have got the, out of wedlock births and all the other things but you are not talking women taking control of your sexuality. It is OK to say no you ought to ask for a condom. You are not being dirty. If you are that hot and horny carry them with you. Don't wait for the guy to say I have a condom or not.

These are conversations we have to have. When we have the conversations I occasionally get feedback. Folks say that was just too real. Guess what, I would rather be real than have some one on my hands with HIV.

O'BRIEN: Marvelin Brown said something interesting. She felt special. When he said we're not going to use a condom. She felt special. That to me, I'm not a psychologist. But that's self-esteem 101.

RALPH: It's always someone else. For very woman I have found performing across the country, doing "Sometimes I Cry" I find that HIV is just a byproduct of their living. For of them HIV is just an issue of lack, lack of self-esteem, lack of information, lack of health care, lack of money, and it is deeply rooted in poverty.

MALVEAUX: We have to be willing to have frank conversations in our community. Yes about esteem. But also about s and sexuality. So frank that ...

O'BRIEN: (inaudible) they're handing out condoms church?

JAKES: Say that again?

No. No. No.

O'BRIEN: I mean, you know if we are talking frank, how frank? I mean how Frank?

JAKES: No, I'm not handing out condoms. I'm not handing out condoms from the church. That's not what the church is designed to do. We hand out information. That is what the church is designed to do. We teach ideas and concepts that are very, very important to do. Then we can direct you to where you need to go to get the help that you need. That's why I got tested in front of my congregation so I can dispel the fear about finding out. At least know where you stand. Our people don't even know where they stand.

RALPH: Get tested.

O'BRIEN: We're going to take a break. On the other side of this break we will continue to talk about this massive problem in the black community, HIV and AIDS. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: We're back talking about the AIDS crisis which is plaguing the black community. With us Sheryl Lee Ralph, T.D. Jakes and Julianne Malveaux.

I want to ask you a question about bringing people in. There is such a stigma that even when people are willing to raise their voices and talk. Some of the churches I have gone to to do stories, people are talking to an empty room. No one wants to come in and hear. They're afraid. They are afraid of the stigma associated.

RALPH: Because back in the day when it first started in the 1980s, my whole involvement started as part of the original company of dream girls. And people have forgotten the time when people were just dropping dead, men were just dropping dead. They were sick today and dead tomorrow. Sick today and dead tomorrow. There was no dying process. Not like the ones that we have become used to nowadays. They got sick and they died. And what worse after they suffered and died was the silence that came over their passing. People didn't want to talk about it. People found it easy. Good people, kind people, people of all religions, faiths and belief found it easy to stand in judgment, point fingers, an say that's what they get. That's what they deserve, God will take care of them for being that way. Those nasty ways. The stigma was all mired in the fact that they were gay men.

Gay men and to this day people still want to hold on to the myth hat HIV and AIDS is a gay problem of little consequence to the general population. And don't want to realize that right here in America the number one way to become infected is through heterosexual sex.

O'BRIEN: A black female problem, black woman's problem. So how do you fill those rooms? How you fill those rooms?

JAKES: We have to jump on that. She said something very important. You followed up with something very important. She said initially it was considered a gay disease. Today is considered black female problem. But the reality is an American problem. It is a generational problem. It is a global problem. The idea that people stay in their category is ridiculous. People jump and forth across people groups. So you can't sit and say I'm not black and I'm not gay this is not my issue. People have sex with other colors, other cultures, other kinds. It's everybody's issue. Everybody should be outraged if anybody dies, whether they are of your faith, your religion, or your culture. Nothing to do. The value of human life period demand that we attack the problem. And if we don't do that we are going to lose lives.

MALVEAUX: People are actually doing more with education around HIV and AIDS on the African continent than they are here in the United States.

O'BRIEN: Is it a lack of knowledge? Give me a sense. I talk to young girls who really don't know. Is it with all the information with all the girls online?

MALVEAUX: It's subterranean information, Soledad. Anytime some one goes to the doctor your doctor ought to offer you an HIV test as opposed to you asking for it. Your doctor is going to ask you, take your blood for your cholesterol, they're going to, you know, test ever so why not just say we're going to test for HIV well. Just like anything else. If the stigma were taken away more people would get testing.

Some people don't know. There is stigma. I think about Uganda that got their HIV rate down drastically in a period of about five years.

That country their -- their leader, they went on a campaign. They had billboards that talked about ask for a condom. When is the last time you saw one of those here. Back in the day, you captured that period so well, you see some of these billboards and you are just -- they're amazing for their frankness. A frankness we don't have here in the tell-all culture that we have.

O'BRIEN: Many people believe, HIV, that has been around so long, it's treatable. You can live with that.

RALPH: They look a Magic. And say Magic has been cured. No, Magic has not been cured. Magic has done something that most folks don't do, he got tested very early in his disease, he has access to platinum health care. And he takes his medication because he has got great health care and the ability to do just that. To most folks in America don't do that. Don't know their status.

JAKES: Gets back t health care. Have disproportionately low health care amongst our community, that's something we really need to look into. The other thing that takes us back to government policy is we have a disproportionate amount of young African American who are incarcerated, who are incarcerated at the ht of their sexual prowess, in jail, four, five, six, seven, eight years, they get out often without being tested. They go back home to resume the life they had before. Girlfriend, mamas, everybody is waiting to meet them. All of a sudden they're infecting their whole family with the disease.

O'BRIEN: Step one is no your status.

MALVEAUX: Absolutely.

RALPH: Get tested. Tested. Know your status. If you are a woman don't talk around with a time bomb in your vagina. Get it tested. Find out what's going on. Get informed. Get the proper education and information. If you are a mother, find the facts. Talk to your daughters. Wed to get informed, get involved, get tested. Know your status, people.

O'BRIEN: And we'll leave it at that. Straight ahead -- this year's presidential race has focused in part on race. And leadership. About 75 percent of the people we polled say the country is ready for a black president. And look at how it breaks down. More white people than black people believe that. But how many people in the black community believe that real change will come from within? So straight ahead we're taking a look at leadership at the grassroots level. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: In our CNN/"Essence" poll we asked, has the dream that Dr. King spoke about, has it been fulfilled.

Only 34 percent said yes, 41 percent said no but it's still possible.

So where will the leadership come from? Joining me for this discussion is Cheryle Jackson, she is the Chicago Urban League's first female president in its 90-year history. Talk radio host, Tom Joyner is back, syndicated show broadcast on more than 110 stations. Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Potter's House is back with us.

And actor Hill Harper, author of "Letters to a Young Brother" and "Letters to a Young Sister" joining us again. Thanks.

A lot of the problems that we have been talking about today for the black community are really proems in America. They are problems in America. In many ways the black community has been harder hit but they are the same issues. What can people do at the grassroots level to start making a dent in some of these problems that can feel very overwhelming? Tom, why don't you start us off?

JOYNER: Well I think the first thing we can do is stop looking for the next Dr. Martin Luther King. He's not coming back. And I don't think we'll have another Dr. Martin Luther King. If we had Dr. King today with today's technology and access to information we probably wouldn't have a Dr. King as we know him today. The leadership has to come from you. And so it has, it has to be it has to be a call to action like you are talking about solutions today. That's good. Now let's take those, let's take these programs that everybody is talking bout and let's get involved. And the leadership comes from us. It comes from within.

O'BRIEN: What have you learned from the National Urban League that you able to bring back Chicago. Excuse me. And say these are the best practices I have seen nationally. Now let's institute them here?

CHERYLE JACKSON, CHICAGO URBAN LEAGUE: What I have learned from people in Chicago, is that entrepreneurship is a real solution driving a lot of the social problems that the we see today. You know, having -- not being educated and then not expecting to or not having an ability to be in the workforce, not being trained to have the right kind of job, really sort of locks you into a certain place and status in life that is to get out of. So entrepreneurship like every other community, every other immigrant has come here and they started with building, creating economic infrastructure in their community through building small businesses and then making the investments in education, making investments in their community.

O'BRIEN: Some times it seem likes poverty at the root of a lot of this, a lot of the discussion. Racism and poverty at end of the day seems to be sort of these underlying things. Those are big issues to tackle. Those are not if meet next Friday on that we can turn that around kind of things. How do you start with such big issues and have people who a here and watching show individually feel empowered to tackle something that frankly just seems overwhelming?

HARPER: Well, Tom actually hit on something that I think very briefly that I think is key around leadership. And we, and, that is new technology. And utilizing it in a real effective way. Within the next five year mobile technology will the go-to technology. All of us. You can have effective leadership by utilizing the new technology message and getting messages out to a huge amount of people. Very quickly. If you hit on w what they need to hear the of information, whether it's financial literacy, whether about leadership, community empowerment, social networking, all of these opportunities are here by using the new technology from the leadership stance to create change is a way that I think that we in our community need to think a it. Not necessarily. New technology is truly the new grassroots.

JAKES: It's really very important that we use every med possible to demonstrate to our people that it no longer about they and them, but about we and us. And so, as a church leader one o he things w begin to do is to bring the Gospel down to practical levels, showing people how to get in a home, showing them how to develop a business.

If you are going be a church and serve our community, you have to deal with the issues that our people are confronting. You don't have to do it on Sunday morning but in your programs and structure and what you offer the community, it is about responding to the needs of the community you serve.

O'BRIEN: Is there a black America that is a widening gap where you have black people who have been successful a made it and black people who are struggling and they are beginning not to see each other?

I have had people in interviews tell me I have more in common than the white people next to me and the Asian people next to in my upper middle-class neighborhood and we all drive the same brand of Mercedes- Benz than where I came from. I heard that more than once. How do you - how do you make those people who are in a position to teach financial literacy, in a position to lead and guide and show examples how do you get them to reach back and connect?

JOYNER: You do it just like the bishop said. You come up with real solutions, real programs. People want to know how to do better in life.

JAKES: And we work together. Whether there is a crisis like Katrina, I called him on the phone, he called me. We begin to work together. Just the way CNN is working together with "Essence."

It is critical in our community that we don't divide and fight each other. That is what has held us back for years and years and years. We have to work together.

O'BRIEN: Thank you to our panel. Thanks to all of our panels and of course thanks to our audience today. We appreciate your participation. And a huge thanks to our partners at "Essence" magazine for truly making this day happen. We appreciate it. You want to be sure to join me this coming Wednesday and Thursday, July 23 and 24 for CNN PRESENTS "Black in America." A television event examining successes and struggles of black men and women and families in this country.

I'm Soledad O'Brien and thanks for watching.

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