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DEMOCRACY IN BLACK: A PANEL DISCUSSION with Soledad O’Brien, Charles Blow, Tara Setmayer and Michele Norris
October 27, 2020 / 7:00 pm EDT
Pictured from left to right: Soledad O’Brien, Charles Blow, Tara Setmayer and Michele Norris
In this special event, we are looking to shine a spotlight on the idea that was put forward in the 2016 book, Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul. That idea is that our country has a “value gap” that has lingered since its founding – that despite abolition and integration, race and racism (and in particular the Black/White divide) continues to affect our pursuit of democratic principles. To have this conversation in a way that is responsive to current events, we want to focus on voices of journalists and others who have been doing work related to race and democracy.
Soledad O’Brien is an award-winning journalist, speaker, author and philanthropist. She is the CEO of Starfish Media Group (SMG), a multiplatform media production company dedicated to telling empowering and authentic stories on a range of social issues.
O’Brien anchors and produces the Hearst Television political magazine program “Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien.” She also reports regularly for HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” and PBS NewsHour. She has appeared as an anchor or contributor on all three major networks, is Philanthropy Editor of Worth magazine, and is a frequent author of op-ed pieces for publications such as the New York Daily News and The Huffington Post.
Her coverage of Hurricane Katrina for CNN earned her and the network a George Foster Peabody Award. She also won the Peabody for her coverage of the BP Gulf Coast oil spill, and her reporting on the Southeast Asia tsunami garnered CNN an Alfred I. DuPont Award. She was also named journalist of the year by the National Association of Black Journalists and one of Newsweek magazine’s “10 People who Make America Great.” Additionally, she won two Emmy Awards for her coverage of race issues, and a third for her reporting on the 2012 presidential election.
In addition to authoring two books (The Next Big Story and Latino in America), O’Brien has co-founded the PowHERful Foundation with her husband Brad Raymond. PowHerful helps young women get to and through college.
Charles Blow is an op-ed columnist at The New York Times, where he tackles hot-button issues such as social justice, racial equality, presidential politics, police violence, gun control and the Black Lives Matter movement.
In addition to being a CNN commentator and a Presidential Visiting Professor at Yale University, Blow is the author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller, “Fire Shut Up in My Bones.” The book won a Lambda Literary Award and the Sperber Prize and made multiple prominent lists of best books published in 2014. People magazine called it “searing and unforgettable.”
Blow joined The New York Times in 1994 as a graphics editor and quickly became the newspaper’s graphics director, a position he held for nine years. In that role, he led the newspaper to a best of show award from the Society for News Design for the publication’s information graphics coverage of 9/11, the first time the award had been given for graphics coverage. He also led the paper to its first two best of show awards from the Malofiej Infographics World Summit for work that included coverage of the Iraq war. He then went on to become the paper’s design director for news before leaving in 2006 to become the art director at National Geographic.
He graduated magna cum laude from Grambling State University in Louisiana, where he received a BA in mass communications, and he holds an honorary doctorate from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. He lives in Brooklyn and has three children.
Tara Setmayer is a CNN political commentator, ABC News political contributor and former Republican Party communications director on Capitol Hill. Setmayer is a 2020 Harvard Institute of Politics Resident Fellow and senior advisor for The Lincoln Project. She is also currently hosting the podcast “Honestly Speaking with Tara.”
Setmayer often appears on CNN’s primetime programs and contributes to ABC’s Good Morning America, Nightline and guest hosts The View. She also has made numerous appearances on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher. Prior to joining ABC, Tara became a household name for her no-nonsense commentary as a CNN political commentator during the 2016 presidential election cycle, where Vulture.com recognized her as one of 2016’s Top 20 Election Coverage Stars on TV. During this time, Setmayer became a strong critic of Donald Trump and she was named as a board director for Stand Up Republic — a nonprofit organization formed in the wake of Trump’s election to unite Americans seeking to defend democratic norms, ideals and institutions.
Having served as the communications director for U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.) for seven years, she successfully led the national effort to free two unjustly imprisoned Border Patrol agents through a presidential commutation issued by President George W. Bush on his last working day in office. She also handled policy issues on immigration and federal law enforcement.
Setmayer also has written for Cosmopolitan, The Daily Beast and CNN.com, and has guest-hosted on SiriusXM’s Patriot and POTUS channels.
Michele Norris, Guest Moderator
Michele Norris, an opinion columnist for The Washington Post and founding director of The Race Card Project in Washington, D.C., is one of the most trusted voices in American journalism. She has interviewed world leaders, Nobel laureates, Oscar winners, American Presidents, astronauts and more.
After college, she wrote for The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times. In 1990, she received the Livingston Award for articles about the life of a six-year-old boy who lived with his drug-addicted mother.
From 1993-2002, Norris was a news correspondent for ABC News and won an Emmy Award and a Peabody Award for her coverage of 9/11 attacks. She left ABC to join NPR in 2002 as host of All Things Considered, making her the first Black female host at NPR. In 2010, she began The Race Card Project, which invites people to submit comments — in six words — on their experience of race in the U.S. She also won a Peabody Award for this project.
Her numerous awards include the National Association of Black Journalist’s (NABJ) 2009 Journalist of the Year Award, Columbia University’s 2008 Alfred I. Dupont’s Award for excellence in broadcasting, and NABJ’s 2006 Salute to Excellence Award for her coverage of Hurricane Katrina, among others. Norris wrote her memoir, The Grace of Silence, after leaving NPR in 2015, seeking to unearth long-hidden family secrets that raise questions about her racial legacy and shed new light on America’s complicated racial history.
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