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Encore: Black in America: The Black Woman and Family

Aired July 26, 2008 - 20:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the next two hours, you will see the joys as black women climb the corporate ladder and buy houses. And the pains as many of them fall on hard times and raise their kids without spouses. You'll see the challenges that black women face from their health to their faith to dating outside of their race to trying to keep their kids away from drugs and thugs and on the path that's narrow and straight. We'll explore all of this and more in "Black in America."
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's just after midnight in Houston, Texas. And the Rand family sets out for a family reunion.


GROUP: We are the Rands!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The mighty, mighty Rands!

GROUP: The mighty, mighty Rands!

O'BRIEN: At the same time, similar scene in Dallas, New York, San Francisco, from all corners of the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's get it on the road because we're on our way to Atlanta, Georgia, for the Rand family reunion.


(SINGING): I'm going to view that holy city one of those days...

O'BRIEN: Who are the Rands? They are mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles and cousins. Theirs are stories of struggle and success.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When one person in this family succeeds, all of us succeed.

O'BRIEN: And when one died, they all feel the pain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I couldn't believe that I had lost another child?

O'BRIEN: Hundreds of miles later, they reach their final destination.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, we made it, ooh, in the rain and all. O'BRIEN: More than 300 Rands descend on the city of Atlanta. Rain showers force the festivities inside, but it doesn't dampen their family spirit.

VALERIE CARPENTER, 4th GENERATION RAND: I can't tell you how disappointed I am in the weather, but when God says it's going to rain, guess what, it's going to rain.

O'BRIEN: Rand reunions are held every two years. It's an opportunity to celebrate and pass down a rich family heritage to the next generation.

BAXTER: This is the manifestation of some of Dr. King's dreams happening, you know, to be able to travel around the country, to be able to bring our kids together and show this proud, positive heritage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We tell our children, when you have nobody, you have family.

BAXTER: Sixty-five and above, forward. Taller people, please work your way to the back!

O'BRIEN: At every reunion, a tradition, the family portrait. But there is a mystery surrounding the Rand family.


O'BRIEN: A missing link that very few know about. We travel to the small farming community of Lodi, Texas where part of the Rand heritage began more than a century ago.

RUBY STEEN MCGEE, RAND FAMILY MEMBER: It's just good to know your heritage and where you came from.

O'BRIEN: Ruby Steen McGee is known as the family historian.

MCGEE: That is part one.

O'BRIEN: Everything she's learned over the years is recorded in these huge albums.

MCGEE: There she is. I started two years ago, after I received the picture.

O'BRIEN: A picture, but, more importantly, a name. From that, Ruby Steen was able to ro date her great-great grandfather in this cemetery, Buried here, William Harrison Rand, the patriarch of the family, and a white man.

MCGEE: And I thought, oh, how about that?

O'BRIEN (on camera): So, you were reading it as, these are my roots?

MCGEE: These are my roots, yes. O'BRIEN (voice over): With this discovery, Ruby Steen's curiosity grew. She knew there had to be more. Using the Internet, she traced the Rands back to London, England. They were a family of doctors and architects who came to Virginia in the mid-1700s and fought in the Revolutionary War. They were also business owners, farmers and, according to these old documents, slave owners.

In 1847, William Rand decided to move West. No one knows exactly why, but Thelma Rand, Ruby Steen's cousin, has some theories.

THELMA RAND, FAMILY MEMBER: I used to hear them say that my great grandfather, Harold Rand, was run out of North Carolina to Mississippi because he was -- he had a black woman living with him and his wife and he came to Texas.

O'BRIEN: Here, Lodi, Texas, from old records, Ruby Steen put together a family tree. William Rand fathered seven children by his white wife, Sally. And six children by his black mistress, Ann. Court documents show the two families lived close to each other. While little information exists about Ann's life, family members believe she was not a slave. Wanting still more, Ruby Steen's research led to an even more surprising discovery.

MCGEE: And this is the branch where Martha is.

O'BRIEN: Martha Hicks, also William Rand's great-great granddaughter. And Ruby Steen's white cousin. Today, Martha lives 400 miles away in Kerrville, Texas.

MARTHA HICKS, RAND FAMILY MEMBER: This is my great-grandmothers. I put an ad in the "Gemological Helper" and a couple months later, I got a letter from this wonderful lady.

MCGEE: I said, "Dear Mrs. Hicks," and I went on to tell her that I was the great-great granddaughter of William Harrison and Ann Rand and boy, did she really write me back.

O'BRIEN (on camera): What'd she write?

MCGEE: And she said: Now, we are cousins and you either call me Martha or Cousin Martha. She won me over right there.

O'BRIEN: So there's a white branch to the Rands, which you're part of.

HICKS: Right.

O'BRIEN: And a black branch of the Rands.

HICKS: Right, right.

O'BRIEN: In a lot of ways, the stories of the Rands is the story of a lot of families. Have you met your black cousins?

HICKS: Not yet. O'BRIEN (voice over): That was about to change. Two days later, we arrange for Martha, her husband Carl and their granddaughter, Natalie, to meet their black cousins in Lodi.

HICKS: Oh, look at you!

CARL HICKS, MARTHA'S HUSBAND: Hi, cuz, how you doing?

O'BRIEN (on camera): What was that moment like?

HICKS: I wanted to cry. I really did.

MCGEE: That's how we feel.

O'BRIEN: Officially kissing cousins, as they say.

Before I met you, I wasn't sure if you were going to be excited about having black cousins. There are a lot of people who -- that would not be good news.

MCGEE: It would not have happened 40 years ago. I think we've made quite a bit of progress. It's an honor for us to be an example of progress.


MCGEE: It is really...

HICKS: Well put.

MCGEE: honor.

HICKS: Well put.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a handsome guy.

O'BRIEN (voice over): The Rands, a heritage born from a family tree with black and white roots.

MCGEE: A Kodak moment.

O'BRIEN: We followed the Rands for more than a year and examined the struggles and successes of being "Black in America."

When we come back, a crisis in education.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A black kid in America scores below any other developing country.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If knowledge is the key, how do we talk the dropouts off the ledge and back into their seats? See, the state of education and the fight we're in, from the family to the schools to the streets, as "Black in America" continues.

VICTOR KEYS, VOLUNTEER: (INAUDIBLE) Keys. Doing OK? OK, we're looking for Latisha. We want her, we want her back in school.

O'BRIEN: Victor Keys 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.

KEYS: I'm Victor Keys from Washington High School. I spoke with you on the phone a few days back...

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

KEYS: He didn't show up. We're trying to get him back in school because he's so close. We try to get him back in school to finish. We're not going to let him go.

O'BRIEN: Keys wants to convince Brandon than a high school education is his ticket to future. While 70 percent of all high school students graduate in four years, that number drops to just 50 percent for black students.

KEYS: Brandon. Brandon, how you doing man?


KEYS: We come here to get you back in school. You didn't register, man, this year. Matter of fact, I'm going to let you go -- matter of fact if you don't have a shirt, I'm going to get you one of mine, we'll take you back to school and get you registered.

O'BRIEN: Without saying so much as a word, Brandon simply turns around and walks back inside.


KEYS: We're not going to take no for an answer from Brandon.

O'BRIEN: But Keys is determined to make a difference.

KEYS: We have a lot of history, Brandon and I. He's so close. We're going to try to get him out of here.

O'BRIEN: And his persistence pays off.




KEYS: He's going to ride with us and you guys got to walk.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Woo! We have one! O'BRIEN: That same day, Brandon registers as a senior; one month after the school year began.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Brandon, wonderful! We're so glad that you have decided to come back to school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show up bright and early Monday morning.

O'BRIEN: But Brandon changes his mind, again. And never returns. He's one of more than a million high school students who drop out each year, one student every 26 seconds. And those numbers are not lost on Anthony and Levon (ph) Smith, fourth generation Rand. They've lived in inner city Houston all their lives. In spite of everything around them, their children are succeeding.

LEVON SMITH, RAND FAMILY MEMBER: So many black men fall down by the wayside because of trends. The jail cells are overcrowded with African-Americans and I did not want my children to be part of that statistic.

O'BRIEN: So, when it came to their children's education, the Smiths enrolled them in magnate schools, across town. The strategy paid off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go, baby!

O'BRIEN: Bensel (ph) a senior and plays on the Rice University football team.

BENSEL SMITH, SON: I remember at a very early age, my parents always encouraging us to do good in school and how doing good in school could allow us to do a lot better in life.

O'BRIEN: Anthony Jr. studied dance at Juilliard, one of America's premier schools for the arts. Courtney is a senior at Syracuse University, majoring in finance and Brittany graduated from the University of Texas with a business degree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brittany Lynn Smith.


O'BRIEN: For her, the path to success was paved by her parents.

BRITTANY LYNN SMITH, DAUGHTER: Because I have big shoes to follow, that's my parents. I'm just trying to be as good as they are, maybe even better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this the right way?


O'BRIEN: This weekend, the Smith family traveled to Florida to enroll youngest daughter, Lesley, at the University of Miami.


A SMITH: This is the Texas connection, the Texas gang.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Call me if you need me.


A SMITH: We love you.


Bye, mama.

O'BRIEN: They've had to do it before. But, saying goodbye to a child is never easy.

A SMITH: She be all right. Five down and one to go.

O'BRIEN: That one more is their youngest son, Ryan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1, 2, 3! Let's go!

O'BRIEN: He'll follow in his father's footsteps when he enrolls and plays football at Southern Methodist University in the fall.


RYAN SMITH, SON: I had no excuse for not succeeding, because I have siblings before me that did nothing but do good.

O'BRIEN: The Smith's are part of the growing number of blacks enrolling in college, up 40 percent in the last decade. But 54 years after a historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling made equal education for all children the law of the land, the achievement gap between white and black students is appalling.

GROUP: Liberty and justice for all.

O'BRIEN: And that has challenged Harvard professor Roland Fryer to act.

PROF ROLAND FRYER, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Education for me is the fundamental civil right. It's it. It's the ballgame.

O'BRIEN (on camera): If you could close that achievement gap between black kids and white kids, what do you think you could solve in this society, today?

FRYER: Things like income disparities, wealth disparities. I'm not saying they will be totally gone, but I'm saying that I think some significant portion of that we would alleviate if we could close the achievement gap.

We're preparing for you coming today.

O'BRIEN: Are you going to visit?

(voice over): Professor Fryer believes he has come up with a solution. He takes us to Public School 399 in Brooklyn to visit some of the students he's paying to learn.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome Dr. Fryer, everyone.

O'BRIEN: You heard right, he's paying these students to learn.

FRYER: How are you?

GROUP: Fine.

FRYER: The fact is that these kids understand money already at fourth grade and they really -- but they don't understand how education is going to help them get that. And so this program makes that connection very explicit.

Oh, she beat me, that's...


O'BRIEN: It is a controversial experiment, to be sure. But professor Fryer says he's prepared to deal with all critics.

FRYER: A black kid in America scores below any other developing country. That means we might as well take them out of Brooklyn and move them to Turkey.

What math you learning in school?

O'BRIEN: Next...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Subtraction, addition.

O'BRIEN: The kids speak up.

(on camera): Do you think it's ruining your love for learning?


O'BRIEN: Wow, that was a resounding no.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should education be its own reward? Or should those at risk and bored be afforded a little more? Let's examine if this is a good investment or setting a bad precedent as "black in America" continues.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I look in the mirror --

GROUP: When I look in the mirror.


GROUP: What do I see what I see?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A great somebody.

GROUP: A great somebody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Looking back at me.

GROUP: Look back at me.

FRYER: What I'm always so struck with is when you look into a fourth grader's eyes, that means they're nine or 10 years old, you're going to see nothing but opportunity. And the question is how do we take full advantage of that?

I got a game we can play, today. You want to play a game?


O'BRIEN: Harvard economist, Roland Fryer, is convinced he can help close the achievement gap between black and white children...

FRYER: What math do you learn in school?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Multiplication, subtraction, addition...

O'BRIEN: paying them to learn. He introduces us to some Brooklyn fourth graders who are earning money for their progress on a series of 10 assessment exams.

(on camera): All right, I need help. Who's going to be my helper?

All right. Come on. We'll be a team. We'll be team O'Brien. Come on.

(voice over): Exams they took this year.

(on camera): Oh, team O'Brien wins. Good job, good job.

FRYER: They can get up to $25 on each test, so that's $250 for perfect scores all the way through. Go ask the kids, I think they'll tell you they like taking tests, now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I think I want -- it makes us want to learn more.

O'BRIEN (voice over): Jason Dowling, Eric Kennedy, Ras-Judah Carter and Chelsea Gardner are all fourth graders who are earning by learning.

(on camera): Do you know how much money is in your bank account?


O'BRIEN: $61?


O'BRIEN: $65.75? What are you going to do with the $65.75 that's in your account?

GARTNER: Well, I would like to save it for college. And if I get a scholarship, I could use it to buy a house.

O'BRIEN: So, someone who said, "that is crazy to pay you for a test, because you should be studying anyway," aren't you studying heard?

RAS-JUDAH CARTER, 4TH GRADER: Adults, they just get money and then the kids, they get nothing. So, now it's time for kids to get their money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, Miss Brown.

GROUP: Good morning, Miss Brown.

O'BRIEN (voice over): Principal Marian Brown has seen real progress with Fryer's experiment.



I think the incentives are important because we spent a great deal of time holding children accountable for the negative things that they do. It's important for us to focus on the positive.

We are glad you are a part of our class. Congratulations.


O'BRIEN: To date, over 5,000 students in the New York City public school system are participating in the privately funded program. Similar incentive programs are under way in Atlanta, Dallas, and Baltimore.

PROF PEDRO NEGARA, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: I always say, most important ingredient in every school is the teacher.

O'BRIEN: There are critics. Pedro Negara is a professor at New York University.

NEGARA: I think it's based on a false assumption that just a little bit of money might get kids to work hard or try harder, ignoring the fact that some of those kids are not being taught by well experienced or well-trained teachers. Some of them in schools that are overcrowded and dysfunctional.

FRYER: I'm not trying to focus on incentives without thinking about teacher quality and the other things, but as one step in that direction, let's see how much of the test score gap we can get back if kids are fundamentally motivated.

O'BRIEN: Final results of the two-year experiment won't be released until next year. But, the kids see the results already.

(on camera): Do you think it's like getting paid for test, you're ruing your love for learning?


O'BRIEN: Wow, that was a resounding no, oh, my goodness.

ERIC KENNEDY, JR., 4TH GRADER: It's just encouraging us to do more work. It's not ruining our chances of getting good grades, it's actually highering it.

O'BRIEN (voice over): Eric's father, Eric Sr., could not be more pleased with the results.

ERIC KENNEDY, SR., FATHER: He wants the money in the bank, so he's trying to get the best scores he can get on his test so he can get the top dollar.

O'BRIEN: But, for 10-year-old Eric Jr., the money he makes will also help his family.

ERIC KENNEDY, JR.: Half the money I will give to my dad to pay some of the bills off.

ERIC KENNEDY, SR.: Because he sees how hard I struggle, wants to make things a little bit better, so I always tell him that good grades can get you that job that you can make everything better for everybody.

O'BRIEN: Roland Fryer understands the struggles of these kids and their families. Like Eric Jr., Fryer also grew up in the inner city.

FRYER: The idea of going to Harvard was something very, very far-fetched. I didn't even know where Harvard was. I'm like the kids in New York City, you ask them where's Harvard? Queens. You know, that's the kid I was and so I didn't grow up thinking I was ever going to be a Harvard professor.

O'BRIEN (voice over): After his parents separated Fryer split his time between his father, who was in and out of jail, and his grandmother who lived in inner city Daytona Beach.

Fryer was lured to the fast life of the streets at a young age and knows just the type of pull it can have on kids today.

(on camera): What's out there?

FRYER: Gangs. Drugs. All the things that you see. All those things are out there for the taking.

O'BRIEN(voice over): And those are the things that Eric's father is trying to protect his son from.

ERIC KENNEDY, SR.: You got to just stay on top of your child. I mean, you got to know -- hey, let me see that homework. What did you do at school today? How are things going with you? Anybody bothering you? You have to be on top of this stuff. If you're not, the child's just gonna run wild.

What you do today?

ERIC KENNEDY, JR.: Nothing. Nothing, I can't tell you.

ERIC KENNEDY, SR.: OK, all right.

O'BRIEN: Coming up, the Kennedy's discover the penalties for being poor and black in America.

ERIC KENNEDY, SR.: I basically got kicked out of my apartment, so I have to find another place to live, me and my kids.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight, we'll learn that sometimes it all comes down to what you earn. Because being black and gifted won't keep you from being evicted. And being a man of conviction won't keep you from being convicted. As "Black in America" continues.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Eric Kennedy Sr. (ph) is going to court. He's trying to prevent his landlord from converting his apartment building into a single family home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gene Louis (ph) against Eric Kennedy. Are you Mr. Kennedy?

O'BRIEN: He awaits the judge's verdict that will determine if he and his two kids have to move, again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, the fact that your lease expired and it's not a rent-stabilized apartment means that the new landlord does have a right to take back the property.

O'BRIEN: And just like that, the Kennedys' lives have been turned upside down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I basically got kicked out of my apartment. I have to be gone in three months. So I have to find another place to live, me and my kids.

O'BRIEN: He breaks the news to 10-year-old Eric Jr. and 7-year- old Manara (ph) on their walk home that evening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have got to move in about three months.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In three months...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know, I know, I know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do we have to move in three months?

O'BRIEN: And three months later, with no prospects for a new home, Eric Sr. appeals the eviction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you're in the process of looking right now, is that correct?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Have you found anything yet?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The court basically only has jurisdiction to give you an extension for up to a period of six months.


O'BRIEN: Finding a place for his family to live is just one of the worries a single father has.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the only thing i know how to do, this one single braid. That's all I can do.

Say grace.

CHILDREN: God is great, God is good...

O'BRIEN: Eric Sr. and the children's mother separated years ago. Since then, he has had to balance work with child care. He works part time and receives an additional $1,300 a month from Social Security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's rough when you're trying to lay down a job and your son has chronic asthma and you have to go get him twice a week out of school and -- to lock down a job.

If you're going to be a parent -- a single parent, and you're not well-off, it's sort of rough.

O'BRIEN: The Kennedys live in poverty. They lived in a homeless shelter once before. But now live in subsidized housing. When classes begin in the fall, the Kennedy children will likely be in another school. Just about to enter fifth grade, Eric has already attended five different schools.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard for me, going away from my friends and teachers and stuff. And then when I have to move, I have to make new friends just to make up for them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just hoping and praying I do find something within the neighborhood so he can stay in this school. If not, well, next chapter.

O'BRIEN: In the meantime, they make do, grilling burgers on their makeshift patio, playing basketball wherever they can. It's children, like Eric Jr. whom Harvard professor Roland Fryer (ph) is trying so hard to reach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're dealing with, you know, neighborhoods where they see drug dealing happening. There's violence in the neighborhoods. Some of the neighborhoods aren't safe. So what we are trying to do for these kids is give -- afford them the same opportunity as they would have if they grew up in a middle-class neighborhood.

O'BRIEN (on camera): How do you make that connection between material wealth and education? How come the middle class people with middle class children and middle class values have been able to make that connection very clearly and here they struggle?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think if you grew up in a middle class family, education is tangible because it's all around you. You've got an investment banker uncle. You've got someone else who is in advertising. They all went to college, et cetera. If you live in some of the poorer neighborhoods of the United States, you don't see those examples to light the way.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): The U.S. Census Bureau reports that one- third of all black children live below the poverty line, compared to just a tenth of white children. And according to NYU professor Pedro Nogera (ph), poverty has a direct impact on the quality of education in America today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We consistently spend the least amount of money to educate poor kids, particularly kids of color, and so black children are concentrated in schools with the fewest resources.

O'BRIEN: A different school with fewer resources is what Eric Kennedy Sr. now worries about on top of having to find a new home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just hoping I do find something or I'll be forced to be homeless. You know, me and the kids would have to go back into the shelter system.

O'BRIEN: Eric Jr. is wise beyond his 10 years. While he has saved more than $150 in Fryer's school incentive program, he plans to give half to his dad to help pay bills. The rest is for the future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saving it for college and spending on some games.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, this is about every day going to battle in an intense way to try to get the ball rolling down the field when it comes to progress for black Americans in America. O'BRIEN: It's a battle he's inspired to fight each time he sits at his desk, where a picture of a triumphant Muhammad Ali looks over at him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That picture is the epitome of intensity.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Competition?


O'BRIEN: Winning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what this is all about.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Coming up, sick, hurting and dying too soon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This woman said on the program recently, she can find a gun in her neighborhood faster than she can find a tomato.

O'BRIEN: The reality of disparity.


COOPER: I'm Anderson Cooper, "Black in America" continues in a moment. But I want to take a second and tell you about an investigation we're working on that's coming this fall. "Planet in Peril: Battlelines," the second installment of our award-winning series. Lisa Ling, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and I are traveling around the globe. From the forests of Central Africa, to the oceans of Southeast Asia. We're reporting from the front lines of the conflicts over our natural resources, fights over oil, wildlife, food, disease. A CNN special investigation, "Planet in Pearl: Battlelines" coming this fall.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of black folks report that our lives are so short due to injustice and stress. Which is so. But we must also confess that the salt grease and pork doesn't help. See the disparity in health and longevity of life, as "Black in America" continues.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): An ambulance, a stretcher, an emergency room. For far too many blacks, this is health care in America. Ms. Sabra Abdullah (ph) is 60 (ph) years old. For her, Harlem Hospital Center is all too familiar. Like so many others who are black, sick and poor, the ER is often their only access to health care: injection, IVs, EKGs, dizziness, chest pains, and tears.

(on camera): This is a real struggle for you, isn't it?


O'BRIEN: It's OK, it's all right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been struggling to breathe (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You thought you had a heart attack and a heart failure during the procedure.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Iselma Fergus (ph) is the head of cardiology at Harlem Hospital Center. She sees it, the devastating impact of stress, poverty and sometimes access. Dr. Fergus believes all are key factors in explaining why blacks face a number of health disparities when compared to whites.

Blacks are more likely than whites to die from cancer, strokes, asthma and heart disease. This is why Dr. Fergus also believes it's important to reach out to the community on a street level, with health fairs like this one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are trust issues where we have some of the patients really do not feel like they can trust an institution to carry out the right testing. There are issues with discrimination, in terms of language, socioeconomic barriers. So I think we have to look at it from another aspect, coming out into the community where they live, work and play.

O'BRIEN: Harvard economist Roland Fryer agrees. But he argues that those disparities don't fully explain why blacks don't live as long as whites. On average, blacks die about five years earlier.

Fryer believes the answer may actually lie in the twisted legacy of slavery and the grueling trans-Atlantic voyage or Middle Passage of black slaves brought to America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in Switzerland and I'm reading this history book. And there's this beautiful illustration of a slave trader licking the cheek of a potential slave to get on the boat. And I thought for a minute, what the heck is he doing? And then it occurred to me that he might actually be trying to check the saltiness of the potential slave's skin to see if he could actually make the voyage across the Middle Passage.

O'BRIEN (on camera): What does salt have to do with being able to make the voyage?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're very salt-sensitive, it means you hold on to your salt and you can live in conditions very hot, very humid, little water. So being salt-sensitive is great for long boat rides in horrible conditions, absolutely terrible for hypertension. And that's the irony of this.

O'BRIEN: The people who could best survive a slave voyage... to America


O'BRIEN: ... to America are going to, generations later, be some of the people who are most likely to get hypertension.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. And that's a theory that's out there.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Many doctors and researchers say the problem with the salt sensitivity theory is that there isn't any medical proof to support it, arguing that chronic diseases like hypertension and heart disease are just too complicated to write off to genetic predisposition.

But Fryer sees the possibility of a powerful genetic link. What he's saying is that blacks in America may actually be biologically different than whites. It's a controversial idea to say the least.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't care what the answer looks like. If it's salt sensitivity and I can show that we eliminated salt sensitivity, and I can show that if we eliminated salt sensitivity, if I can show that, and I can decrease life expectancy gap by half, I don't care if the answer makes people uncomfortable.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Do you worry about rubbing people the wrong way, angering people, maybe saying things that aren't particularly politically correct?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely not.

O'BRIEN: Not a little?


O'BRIEN: You're doing well, you look good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel much better.

O'BRIEN: You look much better.

(voice-over): A few weeks after we met her in the hospital, Ms. Abdullah invites me to her Harlem neighborhood. She was feeling better, but still struggling.

(on camera): One of the things you said when we were in the hospital, when you were there and I was visiting, one of the things you said was the stress of sort of all the pressure on you really affects your health. What do you mean by that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, just look, I mean, there is nowhere to do anything. I mean, the supermarkets are just lousy.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Poor neighborhoods, poor choices, simply finding, let alone affording healthy food is a constant challenge in many black communities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a question for you, how does it feel to be black in America?

O'BRIEN: It's a concern radio talk show host Michael Baysen (ph) says he hears often from his listeners.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This woman said on the program recently she can find a gun in her neighborhood faster than she can find a tomato. Isn't that something? And you know, it's true. And that's a real issue when you can't eat healthy, food is your medicine. We're not taking our medicine every day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For me to go to buy a tomato or vegetables in general, I have to go to 110th Street and Broadway.

O'BRIEN (on camera): So a solid 20-some-odd blocks?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or better, because I have to go up and then down. And it's expensive but it's worth me going there. But then I have to take a cab or take the bus there and the cab back.

O'BRIEN: How long does that take?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I took the bus, it would take me maybe 35 to 40 minutes to get there and I would have to take a cab back.

O'BRIEN: So you're telling me it would take you an hour total time?


O'BRIEN: To buy a fresh tomato in the middle of New York City?


O'BRIEN (voice-over): And in many other urban centers in this country, whether it's access to fresh vegetables or basic health care, many in black America are struggling, hurting, and dying too soon.

Coming up: families without fathers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Income, if I don't make it, guess what, we don't have it.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our second hour will continue to command your total attention as you're shown black women trying to raise their kids and earn a living on their own, trying to embrace dating outside of their race because they're tired of living on their own as "Black in America" continues.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Anthony (ph) and Lavon Smith (ph) are living the American dream. They have a loving family and a bond that has lasted more than 25 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the day we were married, from our first child, I worked, you know, we worship together, we eat together.

O'BRIEN: And together, they own a successful construction company.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been doing construction for about 20- plus years now. Lavon's dad was kind of like the pioneer. And we worked under his study actually until he basically kind of retired his business and we just kind of took it from there.

O'BRIEN: Smith Mobley (ph) is one of a million black-owned businesses across the country. Over the last decade, black businesses have increased 45 percent. And that's a success story that Bennett College President Julianne Malveaux says is ignored by the mainstream media.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And part of the range of our story is the guy who gets up in the morning and goes to work. And he has never been arrested. Most back people have not been arrested. Most black people are not poor. Most black people are not engaged in pathologies.

O'BRIEN: In fact, the Smiths represent a glowing black middle class, in 2006, 32 percent of black households had an income of at least $50,000 compared to 18 percent in 1970.

On Sunday mornings, you'll find the Smith family here, at the Fifth Ward Church of Christ (ph) where many of the families are headed by only one parent. Minister Gary Smith (ph) is Anthony's young brother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to be known for helping parents how to parent, helping people how to live.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Are there a lot of single parents here?


O'BRIEN: Single mothers?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Single mothers, good mothers. Some of them are doing quite well. Some of them are struggling.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): In most inner city neighborhoods, the church provides more than spiritual worship, it's also a lifeline for many who are teetering on the edge of survival, people like Ira Johnson (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From our strength, I need it, just need to pray for us, thank you.

O'BRIEN: The church, she says, has quite literally saved her life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was out of the church for a few years. I was lost, depressed, suicidal. I can't go back to that. O'BRIEN: Ira attends service with her five teenage children, including her niece whom she adopted as a toddler. And while the Johnson and the Smith families are separated by just one pew, their lives are worlds apart.

(on camera): How hard has it been to be a single mom?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sometimes, like, I need a break. I need a breather. I need to walk away from that situation and put everything in perspective and say, OK, we're next.

(singing): Happy birthday to you.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Ira struggles to provide for her large family, working two jobs as a real estate agent and a licensed massage therapist. Her day begins before sunrise, making sure the kids get ready for school. Then she's off to work making cold calls to drum up business and showing houses to potential buyers...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do we have lights? We do not have lights.

O'BRIEN: ... well into the night.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you're going to need to do a fence if you've got it.

I can't stop. I push myself more now than I ever have. There are times, especially the summer time, I didn't come home until like 8:00 at night sometimes.

O'BRIEN: Her life is one of constant juggling with no easy choices. Does she pay the phone bill, does she keep the lights on, does she get the kids something they need or ask them to go without? Ira's life is the rule, rather than the exception, in black America, as the number of women who are raising children on their own is skyrocketing.

In the mid-1960s, 25 percent of all black children were born to unwed mothers, an alarming statistic. But consider this. Today, that's jumped to nearly 70 percent.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Every conventional wisdom that we have seen has proven to be false. Nothing has held up.

O'BRIEN: On his daily radio talk show, Roland Martin discusses issues important in black America, issues like single-parent families.

MARTIN: Looking at all the stats, looking at all the numbers, looking at everything, it will show you, when you are operating from a stable two-parent household, children are more likely to be educated, more likely to go to college, more likely not to be in jail, more likely not to get pregnant, more likely not to do drugs.

BISHOP T.D. JAKES, PASTOR, THE POTTER'S HOUSE: I need a breakthrough. I need a delivering. I need a cleansing.

O'BRIEN: Bishop T.D. Jakes is the pastor of The Potter's House, a 30,000-member mega-church in Dallas, Texas.

(on camera): What's the impact, do you think, on the community to grow up with no fathers, to a large degree?

JAKES: It's dealt detrimental to boys, because a father kind of gives you some sort of a preview of where you're going. He kind of guides you. He girds you.

But, for girls, it's also dangerous, because they're enamored with male attention, to the degree that they will do anything to get the love of a man that they should have gotten at home.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): That's exactly what happened to Ira Johnson. Her mother died when she was just 16. And, while her father lived at home, Ira says he was seldom there, leaving her to raise her baby brother. So, when an older man pursued her, she was more than flattered by his attention.

IRA JOHNSON, SINGLE MOTHER: He would have to be in his early 30s at that time. I was young and wanted to have fun. Then, after I got pregnant, I was like, OK, maybe this is something I should start thinking about, because I didn't use any protection, no contraceptive, nothing. And I got pregnant.

O'BRIEN: By the age of 29, Ira Johnson was a single mother to four children by the same man.

(on camera): Why not get married? Because it's not like one kid. You had four of them.


JOHNSON: I was...

O'BRIEN: What was the decision-making process in your head?

JOHNSON: There wasn't one. I was -- at that time, I was young, but I also was depressed. And I didn't know I was depressed, because I didn't know about depression, but I knew something was wrong with me. And I just didn't tell anybody.

As you can look around, you see the houses look older.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Today, Ira is still unmarried and bears the responsibility of raising her large family on her own.

JOHNSON: It's doing everything by myself. Income, it's my income. If I don't make it, guess what? We don't have it.

O'BRIEN: Next: Ira's carefully orchestrated juggling act is about to come crashing down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ma'am, we have November rent.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got to give you three days, ma'am.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight, you will see the challenge of working seven days a week to make ends last and meet, against the growing price of rent, gas, and beef, and how that almost gets the Johnsons cast into the streets -- as "Black in America" continues.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Ira Johnson has had a hard life. Since the birth of her first child, Terrence (ph), in 1989, Ira's been a single mom. Today, she supports five children, and her struggles and challenges are even greater.

JOHNSON: My money is short, short.


JOHNSON: But, you know, I love my kids. We're happy with each other. So, you know, that's the best thing.

O'BRIEN: But the last few days have been tough. First, her minivan breaks down. The repair is an estimated $1,200. It's Ira's only means of transportation. Now she's relying on her brother.

JOHNSON: He's been helping me out. And he's got another car that he says he's going to let me use.

O'BRIEN: Her jobs depend on it.

JOHNSON: It's very stressful. And I can't up and just buy or get my transmission rebuilt. I don't have that kind of money.

O'BRIEN: And that's the least of her worries. Ira's landlord has informed her, the lease would not be renewed. Now she's behind in her rent, and time has run out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, Mrs. Johnson?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing? I'm Woody (ph). I'm the new manager here.

JOHNSON: Uh-huh. How you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ma'am, we have November rent...



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they just sent this to me. They looked into everything. This is what we have come out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have got to give you three days, ma'am.

JOHNSON: Well, I'm moving out now.


JOHNSON: I'm moving out this weekend. Actually, I was supposed to be out by the 31st of the month.




JOHNSON: Yes, October.


JOHNSON: So, I was supposed to be out of here. My house wasn't ready.


JOHNSON: And, so, I'm -- actually, I'm packing up now.


O'BRIEN (on camera): Is it hard to never feel like you're completely getting ahead? You're sort of always looking to that date when you're going to get paid.

JOHNSON: Oh, my God. I'm thinking, you know, it seems like, no matter what I do, I -- if I get ahead a little bit, it's always something that comes around and pushes me a step or two back.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Someone who knows Ira's dilemma all too well is comedian Whoopi Goldberg. Before the fame of Hollywood, Whoopi was Caryn Johnson, a divorced mother who, in 1974, was trying to raise a daughter on just $300 a month.

(on camera): How difficult was it for you to be being a single mother with a 1-year-old in California by yourself?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, COMEDIAN/ACTRESS: It wasn't difficult at all. Thank God for the welfare system, because the welfare system helped me unbelievably.

O'BRIEN: How so?

GOLDBERG: It allowed me to take a breath, take care of the business at hand, which was the kid, and really get myself together. O'BRIEN (voice-over): Her experience led her to Capitol Hill in 1995, where she credited part of her success to the welfare system. And, today, she continues to advocate for single mothers.

GOLDBERG: What these people need is, they need some dignity. They need a job. They need a job that they can do. And they need some supplemental dough, so they can do what needs to be done in their lives. That's what they need.

O'BRIEN: And it's always the children who are hardest-hit.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 50 percent of black children raised by single mothers live in poverty, compared to 38 percent of white children. Studies show, if you're born into poverty, you're likely to stay poor. It seems to be a vicious cycle. But is the solution simply not having babies out of wedlock?

DR. AVIS JONES-DEWEEVER, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF NEGRO WOMEN: Oftentimes, young girls who grow up in very disadvantaged communities don't see career paths. They don't see an avenue towards higher education. They don't really see a lot of options, but they know that they can be a good mother.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever says the alarming number of single mothers in America has become a crisis. And the causes are complex. But economics is near the top of the list.

JONES-DEWEEVER: We are a community that is disproportionately impacted, for example, by poverty. So, when you have the stressors of the economy, of poverty all weighing down on you, it becomes very difficult to maintain relationships.

O'BRIEN: Maryann Reid is the creator of a relatively new program called Marry Your Baby Daddy Day.

(on camera): How many have you married since 2005?

MARYANN REID, CREATOR, MARRY YOUR BABY DADDY DAY: I have married 40 baby mamas and daddies.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): The term baby daddy means a father who is not married to the mother of his child.

REID: I love that term. I have no problem with that.

O'BRIEN: The goals are ambitious, to create more stable communities in the black community through marriage.

Maryann was raised by a single mother. At 33, she's never been married and has no children. She's just one woman hoping to reverse the trend in her New York community, 10 couples at a time.

REID: In a community where you have just women raising children, it's not always the most stable community, because I believe fathers are a vital part of our social ecosystem. I mean, we need them. O'BRIEN: The program is much more than pomp and ceremony. Couples go through a rigorous selection process. And, if chosen, they must agree to three to four months of premarital counseling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With this ring...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With this ring...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... I thee wed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... I thee wed.


O'BRIEN: Then it's an all-expenses-paid wedding.

(on camera): The clergy must have loved this. I mean, didn't the churches open their doors and say, this is fantastic; black couples who already have kids marrying; wow, this is great news?


O'BRIEN: Not at all?


O'BRIEN: Resistant?

REID: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Really?

REID: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Why were they so resistant, do you think?

REID: There are some connotations with the word baby daddy. Is this going to be ghetto and crazy? and it was not even like that. It was so nice, so fun, just love.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): And that's what Nancy Blissett remembers about her wedding day, when she married the father of her two daughters. Now, three years later, the kids are happier and more secure, and Nancy and her husband are committed to their family.

NANCY BLISSETT, WIFE OF ORVILLE BLISSETT: I felt as more closer to him and more open with him today, being married, than I ever did before, when we just were living together and we were dating. When you're married to someone, you can't just leave that easily. Or, when there are problems, you don't just give up. You know, you work on them. You talk. You communicate.

ORVILLE BLISSETT, HUSBAND OF NANCY BLISSETT: We talk about stuff in the future, investing, what we have to do with our kids, what we plan on doing with ourselves. It's definitely a different feeling.

JOHNSON: Yes, this is the master, very small.

O'BRIEN: But Ira Johnson's future is far less certain.

JOHNSON: And this would be my room.

O'BRIEN: She was able to find a new home for her family, but she continues to struggle to make ends meet.

JOHNSON: That's what I tell my kids now. Don't have kids until you get married. And, boys, if you get married, and you separate after the kids are born, don't leave your kids. You be the opposite of what your dad was.

O'BRIEN: Ahead: Successful women make tough choices.

KRISS TURNER, HOLLYWOOD SCREENWRITER: If it's between living a life that I want to live and getting married, I don't know.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had a homegirl tell me one night that she had done everything she wanted to do with her life, except be a wife. Then, she said, if the brothers won't act right, she's ready to start dating white men. See, the challenges black women are facing in their social and dating life -- when "Black in America" continues.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You guys ready to party? Yes, in 48 hours, I will be a married woman.


I'm always asked, why am I not married? When am I getting married? When am I having children?

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Karima Powers, a fifth-generation Rand, is setting those family pressures aside to celebrate her friend and niece's upcoming wedding.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... (INAUDIBLE) and to drink with them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you got your man.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you got your man.


O'BRIEN: Kriss Turner is a successful Hollywood screenwriter. TURNER: I have had some major discussions with people that say, your lifestyle is intimidating. But, if it's between living the life that I want to live and getting married, I don't know.

O'BRIEN: Kriss and Karima, a special education teacher, are part of a growing phenomenon in America today. They're educated, financially independent, black, and single.

ANGELA BURT-MURRAY, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "ESSENCE": There certainly is this concern that I have done all these things, I have checked off all the boxes, and, you know, where's my partner?

O'BRIEN: Angela Burt-Murray is editor in chief of "Essence," a top-selling magazine for black women.

(on camera): Why are so many black women not getting dates and not getting married, when they want to be?

BURT-MURRAY: What we're hearing from women is that they are just not meeting men at their workplaces, in their neighborhood, that there are fewer men in school when they are going to college, so there's less opportunity for them to find a partner.

KARIMA POWERS, FIFTH-GENERATION RAND: I just want to make sure I'm not underdressed.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Tonight, Karima Powers has a blind date.

POWERS: It's almost like you're in a -- on a chase. You're having to compete against so many other single women to win the affections of one single man.

Nice to meet you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice to meet you.

POWERS: Thank you for coming.

O'BRIEN: And the competition is fierce. Forty-five percent of black women are not and never have been married. That's nearly twice the rate of white women. Those numbers are alarming.

And Bennett College president Julianne Malveaux blames it on three things, education, economics, and incarceration.

(on camera): I have a lot of friends, successful, attractive, smart black women who can't find a mate. A pool of equal...



O'BRIEN: ... black men not there.

MALVEAUX: There are a couple of things we certainly want to look at. There are a million more black women working today than African- American men. If employment is a requirement, there's already a gap. And so we know that exists. If education is a requirement, and that's a gap. We know how to get people involved in education. We have chosen not to do it for African-American men.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): As a result, there are nearly twice as many black women in college today as there are black men. Since 1970, the number of black women over 25 with college degrees has more than tripled.

POWERS: Having an advanced degree does play a role in the types of men that I meet and the reactions of men that I meet. It builds your intelligence, obviously.

O'BRIEN: So, what outlook are some professional black women now adopting?

BURT-MURRAY: This is a woman who is trying to build a wonderful life, not only through her career, but through her family and through her friendships. And, yes, would she like to have a partner? Absolutely. If it happens, great. If it doesn't happen, she's still going to live a very nice life.







O'BRIEN: In the film "Something New" screenwriter Kriss Turner proved art can imitate life.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I'm just tired of being classified as a victim, single black professional woman destined to be unhappy and alone. I mean, I just have to keep believing I will find the one.


TURNER: Thank you God for my experiences, because it forced me to write that movie. That movie had to be written.

O'BRIEN: Kriss based the movie on her own life. And like her film's main character, she feels a tug-of-war between waiting for her ideal black man and dating outside her race.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Is dating white men on your list now?

TURNER: You know, I don't know if it's on my list. I think what it is, like, if a great nice white guy comes, I'm going out. O'BRIEN (voice-over): Kriss says, though her success may intimidate some men, she refuses to settle.

TURNER: Am I picky? I probably am. But, you know, life is good. So, if somebody comes to the party, it's just got to make the party better. If a guy can't handle, like, a car or a house or a job, I was like, then I can't be myself, and then that's not the guy for me.

O'BRIEN: Kriss has even tried meeting men online...

TURNER: Get out.

O'BRIEN: ... but says reality too often sets in.

(on camera): Oh, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.

TURNER: And he spelled whose wrong. OK. I'm sorry.

MICHAEL BAISDEN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Welcome back to the party, family.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Relationships and marriage are often a hot topic on Michael Baisden's popular radio talk show.

BAISDEN: Why is there a breakdown in marriage in the black community? Give us a call now.

O'BRIEN: Baisden has issued a challenge to black men.

BAISDEN: What can that man bring to the table, even besides money? Because, if she's got her own money, that's not her issue. Until men start reading, start broadening their own life experience, you're not going to have an experience to share with that woman who's been overseas, who has read a book, who started a business.

O'BRIEN: Kriss Turner feels, the solution lies in this advice, "Don't just date black men," given to her by a superstar comedian.

TURNER: Chris Rock is like, listen, brothers have been exercising their options forever. I don't know why sisters don't.


O'BRIEN: As for Karima, a great date reaffirms her commitment to hold steady and wait for her ideal black man.

POWERS: I just feel like my commonplace is with a black male. That's what I feel like I'm made for.

O'BRIEN: Up next: racial boundaries exposed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were embarrassed that he had a child who was half-black.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They say, if you have a bucket of white paint, and dripping in drop of ink, it can never be called white again. This logic seems to extend to cover marriages and children. See the relationship bridges we burn and the racial bridges we're building in -- as "Black in America" continues.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did my little world tour. I dated a guy from Lebanon, a guy from South Africa.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I had made up my mind a few years earlier that I had to be more open.

O'BRIEN: Being more open to other races led Kimberly Mitchum (ph), a young, educated and successful Atlanta real estate entrepreneur to marry Scott Rasmussen, an account manager who is white.

SCOTT RASMUSSEN: When I shook her hand, I'm like, something is going to happen with this girl. I had no idea it would be this, here.

O'BRIEN (on camera): What was the reaction when you said, "Mom, Dad, we're getting married"?

S. RASMUSSEN: Well, you know, it was news to them. It was a little bit of a shock. Because they didn't -- like I said, it wasn't a long engagement. But very happy.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Race has caused tension in their six-year marriage. After their first child, Dane, was born, some of Tom's relatives made comments Kimberly says were racist.

KIMBERLY RASMUSSEN, WIFE OF SCOTT RASMUSSEN: They were embarrassed that he had a child that was half black and Dane somehow damaged the family's reputation by mixing their blood with the blood of black people. You know, some of the most offensive, racist things that you could actually say.

S. RASMUSSEN: But I have to say since then, you know, they've expressed a great deal of remorse for saying that. Not to me personally. We don't have communications because of that.

O'BRIEN: And now race remains a factor in how they're going to raise their kids.

K. RASMUSSEN: Are we going to raise them as African-American children? That's my preference. S. RASMUSSEN: My son had said recently that he feels he's white. He said that. And I stopped him and I'm like, "Son, you're both white and black."

O'BRIEN: But can he be both black and white in America?

ROLAND FRYER, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: If you take kids who one parent is black and one is white, three-quarters of those kids, if you ask them, which race do you more strongly identify, say black.

O'BRIEN: A black man is how presidential candidate Barack Obama describes himself. Senator Obama is the son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas. Earlier this year, he spoke to the nation about his heritage.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles, and cousins of every race and every hue. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slave owners, an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters.

O'BRIEN: Biracial Americans like Barack Obama and golfer Tiger Woods, actress Halle Berry, singer Mariah Carey, and 33-year-old Ryan Kernan are some of the seven million other Americans born to parents of different races.

Brian, like Obama, refers to himself as black. And he says he never had a choice.

RYAN KERNAN, UCLA INSTRUCTOR: Not identifying and trying to reach out to the black community could get -- got me at times into trouble when I didn't make enough of an effort or wasn't perceived as making enough of an effort.

O'BRIEN: His parents, Claudia and Keith Kernan, are professors at UCLA. They've been married for 40 years.


R. KERNAN: It was a week.

O'BRIEN: As a child growing up in Los Angeles, Ryan never thought of his parents as being white or black until others pointed it out.

R. KERNAN: It's really when you start hitting up against the world and your mom starts dropping you off at kindergarten and your dad picks you up. And the kid says, "Are you adopted?" or something like that.

O'BRIEN: And often the parents of those kids questioned Ryan's mother.

C. KERNAN: Sometimes I would think that people thought I was the maid and not the mother. Because they sort of look and then, you know, they'd see how the children were behaving toward me. And then kind of sort it out, oh...

O'BRIEN: As Ryan grew up, the teasing became harassment.

R. KERNAN: There were kids who were like -- you know, if you didn't like the looks of me, I'd get every statement from cracker to porch monkey, right?

O'BRIEN: Today, Ryan lectures about comparative literature at UCLA. He says being biracial means he only partly fits in both worlds.

R. KERNAN: You get this sort of access into two communities that -- both of which almost accept you.

K. RASMUSSEN: Careful, careful.

O'BRIEN: Kimberly Rasmussen believes her children will be more accepted by blacks than by whites.


K. RASMUSSEN: This is the cultural standard. You know, this is how I'll raise my children. And I think that the African-American community embraces biracial children as African-Americans.

O'BRIEN: As for the racial tension within their marriage, the Rasmussens say, they're still working through it.

K. RASMUSSEN: I think that if I had considered some of the issues there before us that have, you know, a bearing on race and how we raise our children and how we view the world, I think if we'd had some of those discussions, we would have probably considered marriage a lot more than we did.

O'BRIEN: Coming up, one of the most devastating diseases plaguing the black community. And no one is saying enough. These empty chairs, this empty room, speaks volumes.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I'm Anderson Cooper. "Black in America" continues in a moment, but I want to take a second and tell you about an investigation we're working on, coming this fall.

"Planet in Peril: Battle Lines," the second installment of our award-winning documentary series. Lisa Ling, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and I are traveling around the globe, from the forests of central Africa to the oceans of Southeast Asia. We're reporting from the front lines of conflicts over our natural resources: fights over oil, wildlife, food, disease.

A CNN special investigation, "Planet in Peril: Battle Lines," coming this fall.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The face of AIDS is female, mid-20s to middle-aged, and black. In fact, the epidemic is affecting black women at such an alarming rate, it's hard to keep pace with it. See how some women intend to give AIDS a facelift when "Black in America" continues.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): She's young...


O'BRIEN: ... confident, outgoing.

BROWN: There she is.

O'BRIEN: She's Marvelyn Brown. She's 24, and she's HIV positive.

(on camera) How old were you?

BROWN: I was 19 years old. I was in and out of ICU. I had a fever of 106.

O'BRIEN: You had no idea what was wrong with you?

BROWN: No idea what was wrong with me. But at this time, I was stabilized and I was just in the room by myself, basically waiting to be released from the hospital, when it was a knock at the door and the doctor was like, "Marvelyn, I have something more serious to tell you."

And I looked at him and I said, "Am I pregnant?"

And he was like, "No, you're HIV positive." And I just looked at him.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): For blacks in this country, AIDS is an epidemic. The toll is shocking. Blacks account for nearly half of all the HIV cases in America.

PHIL WILSON, BLACK AIDS INSTITUTE: Sadly, AIDS in America today is a black disease.

O'BRIEN: Phil Wilson is the head of the Black AIDS Institute. He is also living with AIDS.

WILSON: No matter how you look at the epidemic from the lens of gender or sexual orientation or age or socioeconomic class or education or region of the country where you live, black people bear the brunt of the AIDS epidemic.

O'BRIEN: And nowhere is this more evident than in the shadow of our nation's capital, where blacks account for more than 80 percent of all new HIV and AIDS cases.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Washington, D.C., it is really the worst in the country.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Anthony Fouchy (ph) is a pioneer in the research of HIV/AIDS. He's deeply troubled about the AIDS rate in Washington. It's nine times the national average, with one in twenty residents infected with HIV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five percent of the entire population is infected. That's not just the adult population. It's the entire population. That's entirely comparable to countries like Uganda or South Africa, places like that.

O'BRIEN: The deplorably high rate of infection in D.C. is why Marvelyn Brown is here. An AIDS activist and the author of "The Naked Truth," Marvelyn is here to tell her story to a gathering in Anacostia, one of the hardest hit communities in Washington.

BROWN: I was in monogamous relationship, and I only had unprotected sex one time.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Why do you think there's so much stigma in the black community about HIV, when the problem is so huge in the black community?

BROWN: It's the misinformation. I really -- everything I do goes back to education.

O'BRIEN: So what do you mean by misinformation?

BROWN: Thinking that it has a look. Thinking that it cannot happen to them. And it's not that they don't know about HIV, because they've heard of it.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Marvelyn is used to speaking before a crowd, but Jackie Baldwin, an AIDS activist in Houston, would like to speak before anyone. But the grim reality of AIDS in the black community is laid bare in this empty room at the Fifth Ward Church of Christ. An education and prevention seminar, and not one person attends.

JACKIE BALDWIN, AIDS ACTIVIST: I'm going to do like they used to do. Maybe stand on top of a building or start a fire. But I'm going to have to think of something to do in order to get the attention of my people.

GARY SMITH, MINISTER: What are we supposed to be doing in the church? How are we supposed to be acting? What is the church for?

O'BRIEN: Minister Gary Smith is trying to balance the sacred and the secular. Black churches have been criticized for their slow response to the AIDS crisis. And Minister Gary and other religious leaders admittedly have struggled to address the epidemic.

(on camera) How does the church deal with HIV and AIDS?

SMITH: Well, I would say that we have probably not done a good job of meeting the direct need. Our members are affected. O'BRIEN: A lot?

SMITH: You know, nobody wants to be public with that type of information. We have members that have been affected. That are affected right now.

T.D. JAKES, MINISTER: We've got to do better than that. Let's thank God for Jesus.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Mega-minister T.D. Jakes knows the challenges facing the church when it comes to HIV/AIDS. But he also knows HIV's devastating impact.

(on camera) Is there a contradiction in the church talking about abstinence but then also confronting HIV/AIDS, because that assumes sexual intercourse?

JAKES: I don't think there's a conflict between abstinence and the church talking about HIV/AIDS. We have to deal with -- we have to preach ideals and focus on realities. Abstinence is the ideal, but we also have to be practical enough to understand that all of us fall short of our ideals.

O'BRIEN: This is 18-year-old Nia Buckley (ph), a single mother living in the Bronx. She's sexually active with a boyfriend she doesn't completely trust, and she's worried.

Nia (ph) meets with Patricia Harriet Jackson at the Montefiore Medical Center's adolescent outreach program.


O'BRIEN: She's here to get tested for HIV. But first, Pat has some frank questions.

JACKSON: So since you have a child, I'm going to assume that at one point in your life you did have unprotected sex?


JACKSON: OK. Are you still engaging in unprotected sex?

BUCKLEY: Yes, sometimes.

JACKSON: OK. What's sometimes? Eight percent, 20 percent?

BUCKLEY: Twenty percent. A strong 20.

JACKSON: A strong 20. OK.

O'BRIEN: The test begins. It's quick, a painless swab.

JACKSON: Come out and get you.

O'BRIEN: In 20 minutes, Nia (ph) will know if she's HIV positive. Shockingly, AIDS is now the No. 1 killer of black women ages 25 to 34. Among women recently diagnosed in this country, 2/3 are black. Will Nia (ph) be next?

JACKSON: Want me to tell you your result?

BUCKLEY: Go ahead.

JACKSON: Your result is negative. You can breathe now.

O'BRIEN: Is it a relief?

BUCKLEY: Yes, it's a relief.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): but has Nia's (ph) test taught her anything?

(on camera) And does that strong 20 percent of the time that you don't use a condom, does that change at all?


O'BRIEN: Really? To what?

BUCKLEY: Nothing -- no percentage at all. No percent.

O'BRIEN: You genuinely will not have sex without a condom?

BUCKLEY: I won't.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): When we continue, violence and one man's response.

CARNELL COOPER, DOCTOR: I'm not going to save them for the long term.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Carnell Cooper is trying to stop the violent deaths of black men that we've gotten so used to, trying to encourage the youth to value themselves more than shells, sales, and Derringers. He'll try to save the future as we continue with "Black in America".

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Every 30 minutes, a murder is committed in America. Forty-nine percent of the victims are black. It's a staggering statistic, especially when you consider that black Americans make up just 13 percent of the population.

Baltimore, Maryland. The R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center is the state's busiest hospital for violent injuries. Victims of beatings, stabbings, and shootings come here to be saved. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. We're going to lean you back. OK?

O'BRIEN: It's here a young man is struggling to survive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. One, two, three.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two three.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Come on back.

MARTIN PINCKNEY, GUNSHOT VICTIM: I felt like I was dying. Like a feeling I never felt before. Everything was dark.

O'BRIEN: He's 17-year-old Martin Pinckney, and he has a bullet lodged near his spine. His life was spared by mere metrics: if the bullet had gone two inches in a different direction, it would have hit his aorta and killed him.


PINCKNEY: My back still hurts.

O'BRIEN: Young men like Martin are nothing new at this trauma center, and Dr. Carnell Cooper estimates he's operated on hundreds of them. He's grown tired of saving patients, only to see them return months later with worse, or sometimes fatal injuries.

C. COOPER: Using that scalpel blade to save their life is the first step, in our minds. The next step is to try to do the things to keep them from coming back.

O'BRIEN: For 18 years, Dr. Cooper has worked in Baltimore, where 93 percent of homicide victims are black. In 1999, he launched VIP, the Violence Intervention Project. It begins in the hospital recovery room.

C. COOPER: Part of the goal of the program is to help you get back on your feet again and moving forward. You're a little bit angry right now, and a lot is going through your mind.

O'BRIEN: In Martin's condition, he's hesitant. And then a moment of truth.

C. COOPER: Are you interested in the program?

PINCKNEY: Not really, but yes.


O'BRIEN (on camera): When you visit a young man who's in the hospital recovering from a gunshot wound, and you say, "I'm going to help change your life," what's the reaction?

C. COOPER: First of all, they're surprised, because it's not what they expect. Look, you know, here's an opportunity. We're going to help you find a way to get out of the game. And we're going to help you get your GED, help you get a job. We're going to help you move forward, and we're going to be there to support you.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): That support includes weekly therapy sessions where they teach life skills.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a responsible father now due to the program.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we all have got news now -- we know where we're going at.

O'BRIEN: How to apply for jobs, resolve conflicts, become responsible parents. Skills that young men rarely learn on the streets.

Nadine Bailey is Martin Pinckney's mother. She's raising five young boys on her own.

O'BRIEN (on camera): What are you thinking about?

NADINE BAILEY, MARTIN'S MOTHER: Looking at my son laying in this bed, can't walk out. It's like -- I don't know why -- why somebody would want to hurt my child. I love my kids. Why? Why? Why?

O'BRIEN: Have you been hanging with bad kids?


O'BRIEN: Yes. So what Dr. Cooper's offered then, you're ready to give it up?


O'BRIEN: What kinds of things do you think you might ask for help from this program with?

PINCKNEY: Probably the GED program. That sounds good. To help me, like, finish up school and everything else.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): For Martin and his family, the road ahead will be very difficult. The bullet shattered his spinal cord and has left him paralyzed from the waist down. Even with rehab, Dr. Cooper says Martin will likely never walk again.

PINCKNEY: With me getting shot, it's like it's hurt my whole family. I just want to get better, make everybody feel happy.

O'BRIEN: But if Martin sticks with the program, his life has a decent chance of getting back on track. An internal study found VIP clients are more likely to be employed, less likely to be arrested or convicted for violent crimes than those who don't enroll in the program.

O'BRIEN (on camera): You could just patch people up, poof, the end of the day, go home to your family, which I'm sure is in a nice neighborhood, which is not in the inner city, which is not plagued with crime. There are reasons why I'm confused why you do it.

C. COOPER: I grew up in a neighborhood very similar to the neighborhoods they come from. So they can be any one of my close friends or family. The majority of them are not the hardened criminals that we can't impact.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): For young black males from their teens to their 30s, the No. 1 cause of death is homicide.

Fiola McElroy's (ph) son was part of that terrible statistic. Dion was murdered at the age of 27.

FIOLA MCELROY (PH), SON KILLED: The man that killed Dion also stabbed another man. It does not make sense. And I am angry, very angry about that.

O'BRIEN: Dion had dropped out of high school. He had several arrests for drug possession, aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a firearm.

MCELROY: Dion made a few bad choices, but he really wasn't a bad kid.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Was there a point after he made a couple of bad choices that you said, as a young black man he's heading down a path that he can't get off of?

MCELROY: The last Dion and I talked, I had hoped that he had. When I lost him, it was like a piece of hope shattered me, too.

O'BRIEN: As Lavonne (ph) Smith, a Rand (ph) family member, said so proudly at their family reunion.

LAVONNE (PH) SMITH: We tell our children, when you have nobody, you have family.

G. SMITH: At our reunions, we have a time where we -- we recognize those who have passed away. We all hurt. We all -- we're saddened. We try to support each other and be there for each other.

O'BRIEN: For Fiola McElroy (ph), that is especially comforting, because her family is the Rand (ph) family. She's fourth generation.

MCELROY (PH): I would hate to even wonder how would I make it without my loving support from my family. It would be terrible.


O'BRIEN: Through all the challenges and joys that being black in America has thrown their way, the Rands (ph) have always stuck together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We all enjoy getting together, you know, and seeing each other.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The lineage and the -- the legacy is not lost.


O'BRIEN: Beyond the Rands, America's extended black family offers all kinds of stories that stop you dead in your tracks and make you confront the way life is really today.

Like this story: two brothers. One gets a Ph.D. from Princeton. The other is serving a life sentence for murder. How did that ever happen? Tomorrow, black men and the two Americas they live in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just saw the dynamic fight that black women and their families are in. The battles already won, the battles they're still determined to win.

Tomorrow, the telling of the equally compelling second half begins as "Black in America" reports on the state of black men. Tomorrow at 9 p.m. right here on CNN. See you then.