Too often, conversations on about race, bias, and equity focus on the problems but stop short of confronting essential questions: What happens when the rallies end, the cries for change are silent, and the media has moved on? How do you find the cure that ails us? Renowned journalist and documentarian Soledad O’Brien is working on an answer.
This month, O’Brien is coming back with another installment of her “Matter of Fact Listening Tour.” A topical offshoot of her weekly talk show, Matter of Fact with Soledad O'Brien, the tour focuses on ongoing discussions of race, social justice, and equity on both a micro and macro level. The third segment, titled “Promises of Change,” will premiere this Thursday, December 16 at 7 p.m. EST.
Unlike the previous segments, O’Brien says this installment focuses more on the action of the conversation and not just the dialogue itself. Almost a year and a half has passed since George Floyd's murder and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed, and many of us, including O’Brien herself, are wondering: has anything changed?
The episode, which will debut on matteroffact.tv, will include interviews with social justice leaders and change agents, such as John Legend and Boston mayor Michelle Wu. The idea behind “Promises of Change” is to recognize local activists who are working toward dismantling institutional racism, executive producer Rita Aleman says. “We wanted to say there are people making changes that are realistic and replicable—changes we hope to be inspired by. It’s wonderful to talk to people like John Legend and Dolores Huertas and other well-known names. But we're going to introduce you to some thought leaders and some people making changes we've never met.”
In addition to Wu and Legend, this episode will also feature important and illuminating conversations with, among others:
- Bree Newsome Bass: American filmmaker and activist who gained national attention in 2015 for climbing a flagpole on the grounds of South Carolina’s state capitol to remove a Confederate flag.
- Dr. Ibram X. Kendi: acclaimed author of How to Be an Antiracist and founder of Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research.
- Beth Howard: local Kentucky social justice activist whose works helped restore the voting rights to 200,000 Kentucky felons; creator of the slogan “Rednecks for Black Lives.”
- Greisa Martinez Rosas: immigration activist and deputy executive director of United We Dream, which works for immigration reform at local and national levels.
- Eugenia South: a Philadelphia emergency room physician whose work focuses on improving the mental and physical health of residents living in impoverished communities.
For O’Brien, hearing the stories of activists reframes the conversation to suggest that we all can participate in dismantling unjust institutions—whether it's in big ways or small. “These are people who are tackling racism in their own backyards,” she says. “It’s a pretty interesting look at people who are actually doing the work, and also a realistic assessment of what’s been done—and what needs to be done.”