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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Black in America 2: Reclaiming the Dream

Aired August 1, 2009 - 20:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CO-HOST: Hello, and welcome to New Orleans. I'm Soledad O'Brien, here at the 15th annual Essence Musical Festival. About 250,000 people have come here to rub elbows with thinkers and doers and to celebrate black culture and music. They're also celebrating the election of America's first black president, Barack Obama...

(APPLAUSE)

O'BRIEN: ... who proved that in America, anything is possible. But with today's economic crisis, anything could prove hard to achieve, like fixing America's schools, making health care more affordable for everybody and tackling HIV and AIDS, issues that pose unique problems to 39 million blacks in America. So the solutions, then, also have to be unique. Tonight, you're going to learn more about some of those solutions.

Here with me now, CNN analyst and "Essence" magazine columnist Roland...

ROLAND MARTIN, CO-HOST: Hey!

(APPLAUSE)

O'BRIEN: Hey!

MARTIN: What's happening?

O'BRIEN: So President Obama has been on the job roughly six months. What's next?

MARTIN: Look, that is the most important question, and so you have African-Americans all across the country who are proud and excited, got their buttons and T-shirts, hats, toothbrushes, anything with Obama's name on it. But the reality of the election is over.

(APPLAUSE)

O'BRIEN: President Obama really has made it clear that the social problems facing this country can't be fixed without a strong family unit. Listen to what he has said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our government can build the best schools with the best teachers on earth, but we still need fathers to ensure that the kids are coming home and doing their homework and having a book instead of the TV remote every once in a while. The government can put more cops on the streets, but only fathers can make sure that those kids aren't on the streets in the first place. If we want our children to succeed in life, we need fathers to step up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: He probably used the word "fathers" 43 times in that speech, too.

MARTIN: Oh, yes!

O'BRIEN: So how do you get the fathers, in the president's words to, step up? One answer, start early while the dads of tomorrow are still boys today.

The actor comedian Steve Harvey is one of our guests tonight. He's sitting right over there.

(APPLAUSE)

O'BRIEN: His nationally syndicated radio show is heard in 60 markets. Any given week of course, he's got six million people tune in to hear him. He did something very special this past Father's Day. We want to show it to you. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Xavier (ph), good morning. Time to get up.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Bersa Harris (ph) has her hands full.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are my keys?

O'BRIEN: Every morning. A single mother of four, she works full-time and goes to college. So she relies heavily on her 14-year- old son, Xavier, to help with his younger brother and sister. He helps with the chores.

XAVIER: I vacuum and I clean off the counters and stove and microwave.

O'BRIEN: Xavier often has to bear the responsibilities of manhood, but he does so without a guide. His last adult male influence, his stepfather, left in 2006, and his absence weighs heavily on Xavier.

XAVIER: I wish he was here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And 4, and 3, and 2, and 1. We are back. We are...

STEVE HARVEY, NATIONALLY SYNDICATED RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I want to talk to you about the big mentoring weekend that's coming up on Father's Day weekend. O'BRIEN: Steve Harvey is famous for being funny, but he couldn't be more serious when it comes to the mentoring weekend at his north Dallas ranch, Harveytown.

HARVEY: We're going to fish. I got a fine lake.

O'BRIEN: A hundred young African-American men have been chosen to participate in this first-time event, and Xavier is one of them. All are being raised by single mothers, or other single women. All are looking for positive male role models, and each one is in for Harvey's tough take on what it means to be a real man.

HARVEY: I want these boys to walk out of here and go, You know what? Real men go to work every day. Real men respect women. Real men talk to God. Real men are responsible for their families. Real men have jobs. That's what manhood is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the barrel sock (ph) on the gun. Whenever you're not playing or your ref tells you, just keep your barrel sock on. It's for your safety, all right?

O'BRIEN: Over four days, there's a lot of fun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, go, go, go!

O'BRIEN: But also plenty of plain talk.

HARVEY: Millionaire and thug does not go in the same sentence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Soak up everything that you can get.

O'BRIEN: There are seminars on getting into college...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People respect you when you use your mind.

O'BRIEN: ... on the importance of appearance...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need a tie when you're going somewhere.

O'BRIEN: ... even on learning how to tie a tie.

HARVEY: You want to get a job, you got to look like you're hired. So let's teach a guy how to tie a tie. You can lose a job just on your appearance. That happens all the time. So come on, man, let's get in there and let's teach these boys the things that men have to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep pulling, keep pulling, keep pulling.

O'BRIEN: Someone to show him what to do and how to do it...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Finish it with the knot.

O'BRIEN: That's what Xavier wanted, and after a little patience and guidance, that's exactly what Xavier got...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's how you tie a tie. Excellent, man!.

O'BRIEN: ... at Harveytown.

HARVEY: The majority of you in here will become businessmen, CEOs, entrepreneurs.

XAVIER: I wanted to be able to meet successful men and let them tell us about their lives and what they did and how they came from somewhere small. I learned that -- do what you want to do. Follow your dreams.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(APPLAUSE)

O'BRIEN: Steve Harvey is with us. I love that kid. Are all the kids that come to the ranch like that, just great kids?

HARVEY: Yes. You know, the only requirement was had you to be from a single-parent home headed up by a mother. And we had it on Father's Day weekend, which is ironic because, you know, Father's Day weekend don't interfere with nothing. It's sad, but that's the truth of it, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

HARVEY: So we gave 100 boys a chance to have some fathers in their lives. And every kid in there was a story like that. I mean, it was a very emotional weekend. There was a lot of crying going on that weekend. To hear a boy say, I just thank you for being the father I always wanted for just three days, you know, that's an emotional moment, I mean, when they're standing there crying and they're making each other cry about the same issue, simply of fatherhood.

Boys want a father, desperately, because there is no way a single mother can accomplish that. You can raise your child to be moral. You can make him respectful. You can make him God-fearing. You can make him a good citizen. You can make him disciplined. You can do everything you want to do, but you can't make him a man. It takes another man to introduce him to this very specific skill set.

(APPLAUSE)

MARTIN: You know, Steve, I had a (INAUDIBLE) my mom, asked her, Why does your son always talk about his dad on television and never mentions you? And part of that for me has been very few black men affirm their fathers in a positive way on television. You watch the NBA draft, you always see mom. NFL draft, always mom, Hi, Mom. And so what do you tell those men, once they've had the children -- Look, child's here. Game on. How do you get them to say it's time for you to get the ball?

HARVEY: Well, see, the sad part of it is, a lot of men are performing the way they saw the lack of manhood performed in their life. You have no excuses for not being a man. You was doing all the stuff men do when you was making these kids. You was saying everything a man needed to say to get in there to make the baby. Well, come on, man. Let's finish it up. It's really not that difficult.

O'BRIEN: Can this be replicated? Can someone do a similar thing over a weekend and really make a difference?

HARVEY: Look, you can do it every day. I just did it to a kid in the airport the other day. He was working at one of the little airport serve (ph) companies. I said, Come here, man. You look like you got something going on. What do you want to be? And we started talking.

I said, Well, let me tell you something. Pull your pants up, man. Tighten up your belt a little bit. Look more respectable.

(APPLAUSE)

HARVEY: Every man in here can do that for some kid in the neighborhood. You will be astonished at the feedback you will get from this boy by just having a man talk to him. One little boy told me, I'm intimidated by you, Mr. Harvey, because of your voice. I said, What do you mean? He said, I just talk to my mother and my aunts. I've never had a man even talk to me. I've never had a man hug me or tell me he loved me, you know? And to see this little dude there start crying, you know, I mean, it was ripping me up pretty tough.

So you know, everybody can do it in their neighborhood. Everybody. It's so important not only in boys' lives, in girls' lives. They need to be there for girls, so girls get an idea of what type of man to pick. You know what I'm saying?

(APPLAUSE)

HARVEY: The man is critical (INAUDIBLE)

O'BRIEN: You have two daughters. Why did you decide to focus on young men? I mean...

HARVEY: I got four daughters. Because, well, guess what? Ain't none of them married, and they go from 12 to 26. And I ain't met nobody yet that I'm going to let them marry!

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

HARVEY: So -- I ain't met nobody. So I decided what I probably need to do is get in here, start producing some better boys that turn into better men, so that they'll have the right choice when they come up because when you bring them in my house, see, you're not meeting Steve Harvey, you're meeting Mr. Harvey. (INAUDIBLE) Hey, Steve Harvey, Hey, Steve Harvey, nothing. This is my daughter. I'm going to hurt you if this goes bad.

(LAUGHTER)

HARVEY: I want you to understand that. Really, man. I'm going to do something to you.

(APPLAUSE)

MARTIN: That's what I'm saying. That's what I'm saying. That's what I'm saying!

O'BRIEN: (INAUDIBLE) the conversation from the father to the entire family. At the end of the day, the strength of the family is really at the core of a community. So how do you make families strong? More on that when CNN and "Essence" "Reclaiming the Dream" continues right after this.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. We're talking about building strong families. Along with radio host Steve Harvey, we're joined by actress and author Holly Robinson-Peete, Judge Penny Brown Williams of the TV show "Family Court," who's also an ordained minister, and Angel Burt-Murray, the editor-in-chief of "Essence" magazine, which of course, is one of the country's most influential magazines focusing on black women and families. Welcome to all of you.

(APPLAUSE)

MARTIN: And we'll kick it off with you. Kids all across the country, they say 50 Cent, Oprah, Tiger Woods, President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama -- those are my role models. But the reality is, they don't feed those children. How do we get kids to understand that their parents are actually their role models, not a celebrity, frankly, they've never met?

ANGELA BURT-MURRAY, "ESSENCE" EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Absolutely. And it's their parents that are role model themselves to (ph) other people in their communities. It all goes back to exposure. You have to take your children out and show them people in their communities, in their churches, in their schools, in the businesses in their neighborhood that are doing good things.

It's not about trying to be Tiger Woods. It's not about trying to be 50 Cent. Certainly, it's about being a good person, a productive citizen, a caring person. And those are the things that parents have to instill in their children and show them through exposure.

Every day, every weekend, take your children out to different places, to museums, the library, the park and all those places to show them different messages, instead of what they're spoon fed through the media every single day.

O'BRIEN: Judge Reynolds, you've had great success using college grads to help out and be mentors to kids. Tell me about that program. JUDGE PENNY BROWN REYNOLDS, "FAMILY COURT WITH JUDGE PENNY": Yes. Absolutely. I have a foundation called the Judge Penny Brown Reynolds Foundation because I'm one who believes that to the extent any of us have influence, it's only because we need to give voice to those who are marginalized, disenfranchised and oppressed. And so what you do is you just regenerate what have you in your community. We're talking about role models.

And so if you see someone who looks like you and sounds like you and walks like you go to college be able to be successful, then what does that engender into a whole generation? And so my foundation has been able to pair people together so that they can come back and be role models so that we're not dumbing down generations because if you use correct English, somehow that's wrong in the community.

MARTIN: Steve, in our communities all across the country -- now, obviously, everyone can't travel across the world. But I mean, I can recall parents taking me to museums, to the parks. And so they -- so we didn't have lots of money, but there were still places in our city that we can go and experience a different way of life.

HARVEY: Yes, you know, you don't have the money to travel your kids, but you have a distinct advantage right now. You have the Internet. And the Internet, you can Google any country in the world and be there on a virtual tour practically. But instead of sitting there just using the computer to get your child out of your day for a minute, sit down with them and go through some, you know, some explorations with your kid. You know, do something with your kid.

It's just about timing, man. You've just got to put your time in as a parent. But you know, unless -- we got plenty of great families out there, but unless we get some more men to participate in the family -- I mean, you do have to get somebody else to be a role model, and mothers play a vital role in this. It could be somebody at the church. It could be a program you get your boy in, some type of camp, some type of sports program.

Coaches become fathers. You hear pro athletes talking about it all the time -- He was more my dad than anything. You can get a man in this boy's life, but you got to actively seek him out. You know, there's no one fix for all of it. I'm just offering a couple of little suggestions to just maybe help out.

REYNOLDS: With all of the problems we have, I know people were so fascinated 25 years ago with the Huxtables. We actually have good families in our black communities.

(APPLAUSE)

REYNOLDS: We do.

MARTIN: (INAUDIBLE) doctors and lawyers but (INAUDIBLE)

REYNOLDS: Right. They may not be defined like white America defines them. My aunt is in here, in this audience today. My grandparents helped raise me. My grandfather was there. I grew up without a father. I still don't know my father. My mother was a single woman. But I had all of these other people. The pastor should step up!

(APPLAUSE)

REYNOLDS: We ought to have mentoring programs. Not a man in America, not a black man in America should be walking around, even if you have a child, and not say that I'm not mentoring some child. What you can do is, somebody can stand in. When we baptize at our church, for example, and we ask, Where is the family, and it's clear that this is the first time they've come to church, we all stand up because when I had them coming into my courtroom, when I looked into the eyes of those little black boys and those little black girls, they were my children. And until we all decide that they're our children, you can be the father to as many of these little children as you want to be because we're all obligated to be so.

(APPLAUSE)

O'BRIEN: We've got more solutions ahead. First though, our colleague, Jason Carroll, is on the floor from the "Essence" music festival.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, so Lionel (ph), I know that you were speaking a little bit earlier to our producer out there. You know, there are a lot of subjects that we're dealing with at this particular festival. First of all, let me get your opinion. what do you think of the whole "Essence" festival and what they're trying to do and accomplish here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the "Essence" festival is beautiful. I think it's a great thing that came to New Orleans about a decade- and-a-half ago. It's a great look for the city. There's not much going on here in the summer. And to have an incredible festival that brings so much money, so much positivity, so much great black focus to our city for some activity that people see, I think it's incredible. We need it every year.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

MARTIN: Hey, folks. Welcome back. We're talking about strong, unified families in this horrible economy, the worst since the Great Depression. And we want to focus on issues that can help parents, points that can help them.

Let me introduce our panel again. With me, radio host Steve Harvey, actress and author Holly Robinson-Peete, "Family Court" judge Penny Brown Reynolds and also "Essence" magazine editor-in-chief Angela Burt-Murray.

(APPLAUSE)

MARTIN: Angela, in the August issue of "Essence" magazine, you've got a story on a mother teaching children how to lead balanced lives. And so that's one issue everybody's trying to figure out. And so how do we do that, trying to balance marriages and children and work and all that kind of stuff like that, leading a balanced life?

BURT-MURRAY: Balance is so important, particularly when you're talking about women because we're doing it all. We're working double and triple overtime. And then when we come home from work, that's when another shift starts, taking care of the family, taking care of children, doing laundry, cooking, being with our partners.

But it's very important that women learn to take time for themselves so that they can care of other people. We're always putting ourselves last, particularly as black women. When it comes to medical appointments, we will schedule our children, rush them to the emergency room, get their annual checkups in a heartbeat. But for ourselves, months and years will go by before we schedule our own appointments, or something starts going wrong in our body, we're like, Oh, I'll take care of it later, I'll take some Tylenol, take some Robitussin, whatever, and just keep it moving.

(LAUGHTER)

BURT-MURRAY: But that's not what we need to do. We need to be balanced. We need to take time out. And we need to take better care of ourselves.

O'BRIEN: At the same time, Holly, I know you advocate very heavily for autistic children. Your son is autistic. My nephew, Calvin (ph), also autistic. And that's a syndrome, a disorder where it can kill a family.

HOLLY ROBINSON PEETE, ACTOR, AUTHOR, ACTIVIST & PHILANTHROPIST: Yes (INAUDIBLE)

O'BRIEN: It never ends.

PEETE: I mean, every 20 minutes, a child is diagnosed with autism. This is some serious stuff going on. There's an 80 percent divorce rate, which my husband and I, thankfully, were able to avoid. It can devastate families, especially families led by single moms. It's a line item in your family budget that is so off the charts, when the doctor...

O'BRIEN: When you hear "balance," I mean, don't you -- you almost want to laugh, like, Are you kidding me?

PEETE: Well, you know, Angela was talking about putting yourself first sometimes, but when you have a special needs kid, that child is so important and you have to focus all your energies on that person, on that baby. And then you're told, OK, get the kid intervention immediately. But then when you start to add up what that intervention costs, not covered by insurance, it can be just devastating on families, and mothers and fathers start blaming each other. If you don't have a family around you to really support you, it can be very difficult.

So I've been really talking and trying to talk more to black churches about getting involved, as well, because that's the community that can be really helpful with these special needs kids. But this is an epidemic situation that's going on.

O'BRIEN: We have a question from the audience. Roland's with our questioner.

MARTIN: Casey (ph) in St. Louis, what's your question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My question is, as a married woman of nine years and a mother of two, I feel that my relationship with my husband is an anomaly, as if black parents do not marry one another and that my relationship is an exception to this rule. And my question is to the panel, is that what can black Americans do to emphasize the perception of the black nuclear family, instead of perpetuating the, quote, unquote, "baby mama" and "baby daddy"?

O'BRIEN: Who wants to tackle that one?

REYNOLDS: You can't have that family if the black man is not there. And we need to hold people accountable. We ought to hold black women accountable to make sure that you decide and make decisions. If you're going to be a parent, you want that man there in that house with you, you're not just trying to have a baby just to have a baby, or you just want a warm body with you. You hold people accountable. It's called self-accountability.

HARVEY: You know, women have a dream of getting married one day. Every woman -- my little girls, they dress up in the little gowns and stuff acting (ph). They dream of their wedding day. No man dreams of his wedding day.

(LAUGHTER)

HARVEY: There's not a man nowhere dreaming of the day he walks down the aisle. So until women -- and I'm not just dumping it on women because it's very responsible for men, so please don't take it the wrong way -- but set your standards up early -- This is a requirement to have me. You want the woman of your dreams, I'm all that and a bag of chips, here's what it takes to have me sitting in your house, sitting in your life, loving you, holding you, providing you with my companionship. This is what you've got to have -- it would stop some of this getting left holding the bag.

MARTIN: Well, but also, Angela -- also Angela...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Go ahead.

BURT-MURRAY: ... make the point also, you know, another important component about this conversation is what we've done in popular culture. Like, we have created an entire industry, music, reality television that celebrates this dysfunction. It's just amazing to me...

(APPLAUSE) BURT-MURRAY: ... that you have rappers, musicians who sing about all these things that we know are tearing our communities apart. So it becomes acceptable. We are programming our children to repeat this behavior.

MARTIN: Angela, I also want you -- if you can speak to this for a moment, as well, because Steve talked about in terms of the woman setting the standards, but also getting people to understand that, Look, the two of us are going to grow together. And so although your guy, he might be just out of college, I know you don't have all of these things I might require right now. Let's do this thing together...

BURT-MURRAY: Absolutely.

MARTIN: ... as opposed to saying, Please have this whole buffet and then we can talk.

O'BRIEN: So what's the solution, then?

BURT-MURRAY: When Michelle Obama met Barack Obama, he wasn't president, OK? She was the one that was the rising star in the relationship. He was...

MARTIN: He was an intern.

BURT-MURRAY: There you go. He was interning. So you've got to work together if you're going to get to that place.

O'BRIEN: What's the community solution to that? Because when you talk about, you know, things that were not OK 20 years ago are now kind of OK...

BURT-MURRAY: Right.

O'BRIEN: You know? The whole "Baby mama," "Baby daddy" question is really a sense of, The community said OK.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: How do you dial it back on that?

PEETE: I think it definitely starts with what Steve says, the responsibility of women, young ladies, the self-esteem and really expecting the best for yourself, demanding -- make demands and stick to that. I think that is so key because if they don't do that, that's the first entry, that's the portal to this sort of situation. So that's what I try to tell my daughter. She's only 11, but you got to start early, right?

REYNOLDS: It goes to the issue of self-esteem (INAUDIBLE) because we've sort of glamorized that everybody is supposed to be married, when that's not the case, even from a biblical standpoint. There are people who may just have to be single.

MARTIN: Speaking of the Bible, let's break that generational curse.

REYNOLDS: Absolutely.

MARTIN: We're coming back with the conversation in a moment, folks, that the first step in the strong community is a strong family. Then the next step are strong schools. I want to introduce you to a remarkable man who's done just that in Hartford, Connecticut.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wake up at 4:45 in the morning and I drive kids to school.

O'BRIEN: You take kids to school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do.

O'BRIEN: In your car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to.

O'BRIEN: You pick them up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every day.

O'BRIEN: Why? You're the principal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know. I'm the bus driver in the morning, though. You do what you got to do to get it done.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, Everyone. I'm Don Lemon. More "Black in America: Reclaiming the Dream" in just a moment. First a quick check of your headlines here. Passengers are back on their way at New York's LaGuardia Airport after a security scare disrupted thousands of flights. Police evacuated the airport's central terminal for several hours after officials spotted a device inside a man's bag that resembled a bomb. The device was fake. The man, who is said to be homeless, has been arrested.

President Barack Obama is urging Congress to keep up the momentum on health care, after a sweeping reform bill was approved by a House committee. The bill will have to be merged with versions in two other House committees. Prospects in the full House is -- and in the Senate remain uncertain here.

The National Auto Dealers Association is telling its members not to close any more Cash for Clunkers deals. The warning comes even though the House has voted to put another two billion into the program. The Senate is expected to vote next week. Cash for Clunkers lets Americans trade in their gas guzzling vehicles for more fuel efficient ones. It has been a deadly day for U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. Three American service members died when two roadside bombs struck a patrol in southern Kandahar province. And the French government says one of its soldiers died in a battle with insurgents.

And in Iran, there's word that three American tourists have been arrested and detained by Iranian government. It happened along the border with Iraq, where the Americans apparently went hiking. Senior State Department officials say the U.S. has identified the three detainees and their families have been notified.

Much, much more on those stories tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, here on CNN. Those are your headlines. I'm Don Lemon.

Black in "America, Reclaiming the Dream," continues after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: And we're coming to you from the Essence Music Festival. And we're talking about reclaiming the dream, not only Martin Luther King's dream of equality, but the American dream, too: each new generation getting more opportunity than their parents had.

As General Colin Powell reminds us, education is key.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. COLIN POWELL, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: It is a catastrophe when we have this number of young people who are not finishing their basic level of education. Finishing high school is absolutely basic to being a success at any place in our society. We can't afford this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: So what can be done to reclaim our dream to have schools that are the envy of the world? It starts at the top, with principals who not only strive to set a good example for their students, but are ready to get involved with them; a principal like Steve Perry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE PERRY, CAPITAL PREPARATORY MAGNET SCHOOL PRINCIPAL: Good morning! Good morning! Good morning! Good morning! Where's your coat, man? Tough guy. Good morning!

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT CORRESPONDENT: Every morning at 7:30 a.m., you can find Steve Perry here. He's principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut.

PERRY: What's up, chief?

O'BRIEN: Each and every day, he and Vice Principal Rich Baganski greet each and every student as they walk through Capital's doors. PERRY: How are you today?

O'BRIEN: For Perry, being a principal is all about the details.

PERRY: Whose gray is this? That's not ours.

CAPITAL PREPARATORY MAGNET SCHOOL STUDENT #1: I'm about to take it off.

PERRY: Mr. Carter, you've got to be kidding me. Is that the fastest you can move, son?

O'BRIEN: From uniform inspections...

PERRY: Where's your blazer, son?

CAPITAL PREPARATORY MAGNET SCHOOL STUDENT #2: I have it.

PERRY: Ok. Having it is not enough, right? Put it on.

O'BRIEN: To morning meetings...

PERRY: I know there are quite a few who've not done curriculum mapping.

O'BRIEN: He does it all.

PERRY: I wake up at 4:45 in the morning and I drive kids to school.

O'BRIEN: You take kids to school.

PERRY: I do.

O'BRIEN: In your car?

PERRY: I have to.

O'BRIEN: You pick them up?

PERRY: Every day.

O'BRIEN: Why? You're the principal!

PERRY: I know. I'm the bus driver in the morning, though. You do what you got to do to get it done.

O'BRIEN: And getting it done is priority number one for Perry and his staff.

PERRY: We have a school that is designed to send children to college. If we do not send children to college, we are not doing our job.

O'BRIEN: How many of your kids go to college?

PERRY: 100 percent of our graduates go on to college.

O'BRIEN: 100 percent?

PERRY: 100 percent.

O'BRIEN: Every child who graduates?

PERRY: Every child that graduates from Capital Prep goes on to a four-year college. Period.

O'BRIEN: Children like 18-year-old Glorious Menafee.

GLORIOUS MENAFEE, CAPITAL PREPARATORY MAGNET SCHOOL SENIOR: I honestly believe that if I hadn't gone to Capital Prep, I think I wouldn't have finished high school.

O'BRIEN: In spite of a tough childhood, she's smart, hardworking, a natural leader. And she's thrived, she says, because she's surrounded by other motivated students.

MENAFEE: Everyone has a certain goal, and that goal is to go to college. So when you hear it, it kind of spreads like wildfire. I'm going to college! I'm going to college! I'm going to college!

O'BRIEN: How does Capital send all of its graduates on to college?

PERRY: What we do right is we designed a school that's year round. There is no reason why children should be home during the summer. What we do right is we have a longer school day. What we do right is we go to school on Saturdays. What we do right is work hard to get children to a place where they need to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That's a lot of things that Steve Perry does right. Nice to see you, joining us. A number of people said to me, how did you do it? How did you create this kind of school in an environment where many students fail? How did you do it?

PERRY: Because we started with the expectation that each one of these children are children, that they're not somebody else's kids. My kids I didn't get to pick them. They're the ones who were born to my wife and I. I didn't get to pick these kids either. But my kids are going to college, so why shouldn't these.

So we began with the expectation that every single child can and will go to college. And then we worked from there. We took what works best, and we put it all into one model. We took the private college preparatory school model. We took the Upward Bound model. And we married the two and created a compelling academic experience.

O'BRIEN: Is a school successful because of you? When we see this clip, we see a guy who's clearly running the show. If we were to remove Steve Perry, if someone else tries to do the school in their neighborhood, do they say, without Steve Perry, it doesn't work. PERRY: It better matter, but it ain't just me. I mean, I'm one member of a very good team, but I'm not taking myself off the team. We have a phenomenal team of very bright people. I count myself as sort of a bone collector. I look for the most talented faculty that I can find, who are willing to work harder than they've ever worked.

In the interview I ask people, are you the best in the world at what you do. If they say no, I tell them they need to keep going.

MARTIN: Steve, you have an expectation for children. What are your expectations for their parents?

PERRY: What my expectations are and what they deliver are two different things. We often find ourselves educating in spite of our parents. I'm telling you that one of the problems that our community faces is that our community doesn't care as much about education as we should. If we did, we wouldn't be so bad at it. We wouldn't be dead last in every area.

So I know that I want our parents to be at every football game, every basketball game or some of them. I want brothers to be there for their children, but it's not the case. So we have to educate in spite of the parents very often.

What we need is we need to give children access to quality education. We need vouchers. We need to fight back the teachers unions, who are crushing our children's hopes. And we need to begin to focus on designing schools that are designed to be successful.

We have too many examples throughout the nation of successful schools with children who are black, successful schools, for us to take the foolishness these raggedy schools give us.

O'BRIEN: We are proud of you. Good job.

He's going to continue to be part of our panel. The program apparently is working in Hartford, Connecticut.

MARTIN: Of course, Steve Perry's program is working for Hartford. But can it work in your community? We'll find out in a moment. Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. The theme of the program is reclaiming the dream. And right now we're focusing on reclaiming America's excellence in schools.

With us again is principal Steve Perry of Capital Prep in Hartford, Connecticut. Also joining us Morehouse College President Robert Franklin, NAACP President Ben Jealous, and Tyra Newell. She is dealing firsthand with fixing education right here in New Orleans. Nice to have all of you.

Ben, let's start with you. It's been said many times: education is the next civil rights front. If you look at the history of the NAACP, really, it's a history of litigation over education for African-Americans. So what are you doing to make changes on that front?

BEN JEALOUS, NAACP PRESIDENT: We're in 1,200 places across this country fighting each day. Our biggest struggle is to go from being reactive to being proactive. You look at zero tolerance policies, for instance; we have children being forced out of school because they show up with a table knife and fork in the trunk of their car, and they're expelled for the year. That happened in Chatham County, Georgia, last year for instance.

In that county there were 9,000 kids suspended, 85 percent of them black. So a lot of what we do is we fight for those kids and their families.

We're also on Capitol Hill, because we have to make sure that all kids in this country can have the full school day, you know, be at school from 9:00 to 5:00, not 9:00 to 3:00.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question. We heard on the news, Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, announced that he's going to have a curriculum now for kids in Louisiana that will focus on training kids for blue collar jobs. He's going to lower the academic standards, yes, to make it easier requirements for graduation. His goal, he says, is to try to lower that dropout rate.

Tyra, I see you shaking your head, because New Orleans schools is something you know. When you hear something like that, what's the reaction?

TYRA NEWELL, NEW LEADERS FOR NEW SCHOOLS: It infuriates me because -- at the end of the day, we know that we're lowering the standards for black and brown kids. That's all that it means. At the age of 15, you make the choice whether or not are you going to go to college or pursue a blue collar job. I think it's completely ridiculous. And we're lowering the standards. And that's the last thing that we want happening in Louisiana.

MARTIN: Of course, Dr. Franklin, the problem for you is if you don't have individuals who are able to pass SAT test, ACT, to get into colleges and universities -- they can't take those classes -- it's over for them before they even start. As someone who is, frankly, on the tail end of the education system, what do you think should be the solutions, in terms of trying to deal with secondary and primary schools?

DR. ROBERT FRANKLIN, MOREHOUSE COLLEGE PRESIDENT: Well, to quote the students of Morehouse College, just after Obama's election, there are no excuses. In the age of Obama, no excuses. No excuses.

No excuses for the public sector, for government to cut back on education funding or to dumb down standards, at a time when 80 percent of the new jobs will be driven by science and math literacy. Why would we retreat at this time?

And so one of the things I love about what Steve is doing at Capital Prep is focusing on higher expectations. Benjamin Mays, former president of Morehouse said, it's not failure but low aim that is the great sin in the black community.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk a minute then about role models. What do you have to do so that every kid can go in the door of a school and say, I can go to Harvard. Get As and work hard and be a well-rounded student. It's not that hard. What do you think?

NEWELL: I think it is about high expectations. Most of our kids don't believe -- they don't know about college and they certainly don't believe it, because they haven't seen those examples necessarily at home. And so that's why the staff becomes important at a school, because they instill in them the thought that I can go and I will go.

And part of it is also exposure, where schools take students to Washington, D.C., things that we take for granted because we get on the plane and fly very easily to New Orleans and other places. But they've never seen the nation's Capitol. They may have never seen an airport or a different side of town.

PERRY: The truth of the matter is the area of this equation that we can, in fact, impact is the school. Until such time as we can put some sort of sanction on people having children or put some sort of sanction on people raising -- who don't raise children right, we have no other way but to impact them where we can, which is in the schools.

MARTIN: Steve, I've got to say this. I want you to respond to this. I also think where individuals come in -- my wife and I took control of four of my nieces because my sister and her husband were not doing their jobs. And we raised them. The two the oldest were flunking, 10 and eight, got them in a year, caught up. The five-year- old twins rising fast.

And so when we stand here as middle class African-Americans who are doing well, what often happens is we don't assume that responsibility to say, you know what, I'm not going to allow your kids to fail. So that's -- so then where do we come in as individuals to say I'm going to be accountable as well?

JEALOUS: But we come in as a community. You know, we come in by saying it's not just my kids or my sister's kids. It's about all the kids. It's not just the kids I can see from where I live in the suburbs. It's the kids I see at church when I drive in 20 miles to the old, you know -- and so -- and that's what we've been doing within the NAACP for 100 years, is we see all the kids as all of our kids. We fight for all of them.

MARTIN: So all hands on deck.

JEALOUS: Absolutely. We need to lift up families. We need to encourage families. We need to deal with the problem of joblessness. We have a lot of parents in this country, at the same time, whose kids are neglected because they have to work too many jobs.

O'BRIEN: The good news is in the panel we're going to have a chance to do all that conversation. Talking from charter schools and magnet schools, which really only make up a fraction of schools in America, to all public schools. We need some ideas for improving them right now.

Jason Carroll is down on the floor of the Essence Music Festival hearing some great ideas.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Nearly 90 percent of all-American students attend public schools, and they run the range from terrific to terrible. No surprise that money plays a role. Take a look at Los Angeles, for example, where next year 2,100 city teachers are slated to lose their jobs due to budget cuts.

We welcome back Morehouse College President Robert Franklin, Tyra Newell of New Leaders for New Schools, principal Steve Perry from Capital Prep in Hartford, Connecticut. And joining us now is CNN's Maalak Compton-Rock. CNN featured Maalak's unique program for kids in "Black in America II." You can also read more about her in the august issue of "Essence Magazine." She's writing a book too, called "If It Takes a Village, Build One."

Let's talk, Maalak, about how you're building your village. You're not an educator, and yet you work with public school kids day in and day out.

MAALAK COMPTON-ROCK, FOUNDER, JOURNEY FOR CHANGE: Absolutely. I do something a little bit outside of the box, which we all have to think about. I'm a community member, so I care about everyone's children, mine and everyone else's. But because I'm not an educator and I don't work in the public school, I do programs that raise the bar, the expectations for children outside of school, which I then think have a very positive impact on their schooling when they're in school.

So through Journey for Change we do things like exposing them to travel. I believe you have to take children outside of their six- block radius. I don't understand how someone can say you have to dream, you need to dream this, you need to dream that, if you've never seen it.

I believe that children need to serve. Most kids in the inner city are on the receiving end much aid. You put them on the giving end of service and you instantly raise their expectations of themselves. You give them a sense of confidence.

O'BRIEN: One of the most powerful moments in the story that we told about Maalak in the documentary is where the kids from Bushwick Brooklyn, many of whom are at poverty level or below, start raising money for a girl in South Africa. And now they send a child to school. How has that affected how they feel about school? Do you see that change they're thinking?

COMPTON-ROCK: Absolutely. My kids met children who don't have that possibility of going to school because there's no public education in South Africa, where you have to pay for your own books, your own school supplies, your own backpacks. So our kids said wow, I may be in an inner city school and it may not be the best, but I need to take advantage of what I have.

More importantly, what we're teaching them is to advocate for more. And that's where I think we're going wrong. We don't take advantage of the system of advocacy. People in our communities, we need to know that we have to hold our Congress people accountable, that we need to show up in Washington. We need to write letters. We need to call. We need to advocate.

So I'm teaching my kids how to advocate for what they deserve.

MARTIN: Tyra, Maalak talks about changing how they think and doing things differently. As you're training principals, how are you teaching them to lead differently in the 21st century?

NEWELL: First and foremost, it's making them instructional leaders. In the past, we trained principals to be managers of buildings, just to make sure that there was order, that the kids were in their seats, that they were working quietly, that there was just no disruption.

And now we're teaching them that it's really about instruction. It's about what that teacher is doing in the classroom with those kids from 8:30 to 2:30 or 8:30 to 5:30, whatever the length of the school day is. And it's showing that principal how to lead a group of adults for giving kids what they need in terms of education.

MARTIN: Dr. Franklin, you referenced Dr. Mays earlier. And when you talk to Morehouse men, they often talk about how he taught outside of the classroom, as opposed to just in a classroom. So when it comes to our elementary schools, middle schools and public high schools, do we need teachers and principals who are teaching them about life, how to take care of themselves in, addition to math and science?

FRANKLIN: Absolutely. One of the things that excites me about these educators and leaders is all of them are providing scripts for success. They're teaching students the fundamentals, so that when they do show up at a college like Morehouse or Spellman or Howard, on day one, they're ready to learn and ready to go; study skills, time management, manners, integrity and ethics, and how to be your brother and sister's keeper.

But at Morehouse, one of the thing that Benjamin Mays set in motion, that I think all these leaders would relate to, is the need for a definite script for success. And if the village elders don't step up and provide that, the village idiots will.

O'BRIEN: So, if you can create a school from scratch, what would it look like? The Gentilly Neighborhood right here in New Orleans is doing that. Jason Carroll is with some young pioneers.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joining me right now, very special group of people. They come to us from the greater Gentilly High School, very special school here, trying to do something very unique here, something that hadn't been done before. Tell me how this particular school got off the ground.

I'm going to start with the Laurie Taylor here, the principal of the school. Also joining us, some of the students here, as well. Let's get with Laurie here, as well. The focus of this school, technology. Tell us why you decided to focus on that.

LAURIE TAYLOR, GENTILLY HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL: Well, the steering committee originally came up with the idea of using the new tech models and with that is the tool to integrate technology into project based learning, so that the students are interested are tied to technology, to further their 21st century skills, that they need to be successful in today's colleges and their careers.

CARROLL: We also know that there is a huge gap, especially with students of color, in terms of trying to bridge that gap between science and the rest of the communities. Was that also a factor in choosing technology?

TAYLOR: Absolutely. We wanted a platform that would make all students successful.

CARROLL: Let's bring in some of the students here as you mention right here. Let's talk about some of them. We've got Dustin, Ashley, Matthew and Jameesha (ph). You have a lot of choices out there. And there are a lot of places you could have gone to. What is it about technology and science that interests you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm hoping of having a career in science and computer technology one day as a graphic designer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wanted to be a pediatric nurse. So I have to deal with computers and medicine and stuff. So decided to come here instead.

CARROLL: Are you excited about the whole idea of being the first ninth grader?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I am. I'm very excited.

CARROLL: What do you see as an answer in terms of trying to improve education for all people, regardless of their color?

TAYLOR: I think it is bringing the resources to students. It is finding grants. It is finding additional monies. And it is allowing the students to express their interest and define a school that fits what they desire to do later, just as the students said.

CARROLL: You guys get to choose your mascot. You even get to the choose the extracurricular activities. A lot of students don't get the opportunity to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, extracurricular activity, I would like to see musical instruments, such as --

CARROLL: Musical instruments.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, like -- I like the guitar. That's what I play at my house. And I would love to learn how to play more.

CARROLL: Dustin, how about you? Extracurricular activities. Any thoughts?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe some computer technology, like a Yearbook Club or Photography Club, just so that people can learn more about what they love to do.

TAYLOR: We're looking for students who are interested in learning, who are open to new ideas, who are not afraid of technology, who want to be a part of creating something awesome.

CARROLL: All right. I want to thank all of you. We are all pulling for you. We are pulling for the school. We'll be watching in the fall of '09 as the Greater Gentilly High School opens its doors to anyone with an interest in technology.

O'BRIEN: Jason, thanks.

Final question for Dr. Steve Perry.

So what does a successful game plan look like? If someone says I want that school that you have in my neighborhood. Three steps. What do they do right now.

DR. STEVE PERRY, FOUNDER & PRINCIPLE, CAPITAL PREP SCHOOL: First of all, I know who I want to be when I grow up.

(LAUGHTER)

First thing you have to do is design a school that is prepared for success. That means there's no reason to have children home during the summer. There's nothing good happening when they're home alone.

(APPLUASE)

The second piece is to design teacher expectations that are commensurate with those that are in the most elite private schools. and in the elite private schools they call a triple threat when they coach, teach and advise. We need to stop limiting what teachers do and allow them to grow their expectation.

(APPLAUSE)

And finally, finally, the expectation must be top. You must expect every single child to be the very best that they can be. Every single child can become something great somewhere, but we have to put education first. In the black community, we've used education now as a backup plan. And it cannot be a backup plan. Education is plan one. Not AAU, not basketball, not football, nothing else.

(APPLAUSE)

O'BRIEN: A big thank you for our panelists.

Education, as Dr. Perry says, is on the front burner then certainly educating Americans about HIV and AIDS is not far behind.

When we come back, we'll meet a woman taking her message on the road to try to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. BAMBI GADDIS, FOUNDER, SOUTH CAROLINA HIV/AIDS COUNCIL: We're accustomed to running after folks. You know, we'll run after you to save you, even if you don't want to save yourself. You know, that's part of the mission.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARTIN: Welcome back to the Essence Music Festival.

African-Americans make up roughly 13 percent of this country's population. But they account for nearly half of the new HIV/AIDS cases. They're diagnosed every year. It's a problem that's, so big, so complicated you wonder how one person could possibly make a difference. But we found one. Check this out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GADDIS: So they don't have to sit out.

O'BRIEN: 57-year-old Bambi Gaddis is as tenacious as the disease she's dedicated her life to fighting. Armed with a PhD in human sexuality, she founded the South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council 16 years ago in the garage behind her house.

GADDIS: We're accustomed to running after folks. You know, we'll run after you to save you, even if you don't want to save yourself. You know, that's part of the mission.

O'BRIEN: Today, her organization is the largest of its kind in South Carolina, fighting an uphill battle against the stigma, the shame, and the spread of HIV and AIDS.

GADDIS: This is a community conversation. We can ignore it and we have, and we see the manifestation of our lack of action.

O'BRIEN: The council runs several outreach programs, including the state's only mobile testing unit that travels to rural areas where testing is often unavailable.

It goes where the need is, everywhere from nightclubs...

GADDIS: Time to show your way out.

... to churches.

GADDIS: Can you get tested yet?

O'BRIEN: That's no small feat in the Bible belt. Gaddis's Project Faith program has converted once skittish preachers who learn about HIV and AIDS, then educate their own congregation on prevention and treatment.

ROBERT L. CHINA, PASTOR, SPRING HILL AME CHURCH: The first time we worked with Project Faith to do testing in our area, we had more people come to be tested than they had equipment to do the tests.

ANTHONY A. DICKS SR, PASTOR, FRIENDSHIP BAPTIST CHURCH: They've been able to give me the truth about things so that when I talk to my congregation, I'm not spreading my opinion. I'm talking about things that are true.

O'BRIEN: Funding is a constant problem and with today's economic crisis, it's even harder.

But Gaddis has persuaded the state legislature to give her organization $950,000 a year. She makes the most compelling case.

GADDIS: Do you invest in life or do you invest in death? Do you invest in saving the next future generation or do you look forward to a generation of young people to go into their middle years and their senior years with AIDS? Because that's what's happening right now.

O'BRIEN: Her newest program, Positive Voices, involves exactly the people she's trying to save. African-American women, a demographic that has the highest rate of new infections.

GADDIS: Positive Voices is an empowerment model for HIV positive women where they become the voice, they become activists. They become educators within their communities to help people understand what it is to live with HIV/AIDS.

DEADRA LAWSON-SMITH, POSITIVE VOICES: Even in 2009, with HIV being around as long as it has, men will still try to sleep with you unprotected.

PAT KELLY, POSITIVE VOICES: To be involved is my life. If I wasn't involved, I would be dead.

O'BRIEN: It literally does come down to life or death and that's this isn't just a job for Bambi Gaddis, it's her calling.

GADDIS: You can't do HIV sitting behind your desk. No, you have to go out. You know, and that's probably a barrier. You know, if this is just a job, you know, you'll never get to where you need to be.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(APPLAUSE).

MARTIN: She's tough.

O'BRIEN: Joining us now, actor and AIDS activist, Sheryl Lee Ralph. Phill Wilson is the founder and executive director of the Black AIDS Institute. Judge Penny Brown Reynolds, from the show "Family Court" joins us as well. She's also an ordained Baptist minister. And Van Jealous from the NAACP is back.

Nice to have you guys.

(APPLAUSE).

Let's talk to you, Judge, about the role of the church. You hear Dr. Gaddis in that speech, and she's frustrated. She's frustrated. Sometimes she describes it as having to grab people by the throats practically to get the church members and really the pastors to come along and spread the word. What should the role of the church be?

JUDGE PENNY BROWN REYNOLDS, "FAMILY COURT": Well, it's time for the church to stop condemning and to start being more compassionate because we need to reconcile our theology, which says to abstain, but at the same time, it's impossible to be saved, sanctified, when you are dying of HIV/AIDS. We have to get to the point where the church leadership steps up to the plate. And says, wait a minute, the god thing is about a saving thing and it's not about condemnation. and until the churches decide to come to the forefront in this whole arena, nothing is ever going to change. I think we ought to hold our churches accountable.

(APPLAUSE)

MARTIN: On that point in terms of you're trying to get the church to understand this is a health issue. The public policy standpoint for so many years, dollars have been going mainly towards white gay organizations. There are virtually no new dollars. How do you, from a public policy standpoint, shift the dollars now to the need where largely black women are now the face of HIV/AIDS? How do you do it?

BEN JEALOUS, NAACP PRESIDENT & CEO: And black women and black children. Our children are 16 percent of the population, 69 percent of the new youth AIDS cases. We have to be outraged about that. If you go back and look at groups in the white male gay community, they were outraged about this. They made sure that everybody was outraged about it. Now it's our job, because it's our kids. It's our families.

MARTIN: So outrage, then organize, leads to action.

O'BRIEN: What's interesting about outrage, sometimes I think in the black community where the stigma is so great against HIV and AIDS and homosexuality that people are like, well that's not me. I had nothing to do with that. That whole that's not me kind of gets in the way of outrage, because obviously more than just the people affected have to be outraged. It kind of has to be everybody. What do you do about that, Phil?

PHILL WILSON, FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BLACK AIDS INSTITUTE: AIDS today is not a black disease. It's about all of us. 58 percent of black Americans know someone who's living with HIV/AIDS or died from the disease. And 38 percent of us, that person is in our family or is a close family friend. You know, no matter how you look at it, through the lens of gender or sexual orientation or age or education or economic status, or region of the country where you live, black folks bear the brunt of the epidemic. It's about each of us. And all of us are at risk.

O'BRIEN: Sheryl Lee, I've had girlfriends who have said to me that when they've got to their doctor, their primary care physician, have said, I'd like to get an HIV test. The doctor has tried to talk them out of it. Black women.

SHERYL LEE RALPH, AIDS ACTIVIST & ACTOR: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: They say, no, you don't need that. She said, no, actually, since I'm here, why don't we go ahead and do it. It took three or four times of asking over and over again to push her doctor into giving her an HIV test.

RALPH: And that is something that we have just got to not take anymore. And women in this country, especially young black women, they must get tested.

(APPLAUSE)

Testing is in imperative. It must be made part of your health regime that you get tested for HIV and AIDS, just like you get tested for anything else. Too many people out there have no information. Testing is important.

WILSON: And there's no excuse. You know, most folks don't understand how easy it is to get an HIV test. They're free. Every city in America has places that you can go get tested for free.

Now, if you're at the Essence Music Festival, we're testing on the convention floor for free. It's easy, no more needles, no more blood. It's fast. You can get the results back in 20 minutes. It's free. It's easy. It's fast. And you get information that might save your life. What's not to love about that?

MARTIN: I was at Ohio State University and dealing with accountability and several folks said I want to work in the area of HIV/AIDS. I then I asked them, so you're really concerned about the issue. How many of you have actually asked your friends or your dorm mates have they been tested. Two hands went up. I said, wait a minute. How can you be so concerned, when the people around you, you haven't challenged them?

For the people watching, how do you get the person watching to say, start where are you? How do you get them off their couch to say, get involved in this issue?

REYNOLDS: A couple of things need to happen. Number one, we need to remove the shame and the self worth issue surrounding HIV/AIDS, because to say in the black church, the foundation of our community, that somehow homosexuality, when all of our people who are musicians are homosexuals, and even some of the pastors are homosexuals, that this is not an issue that we're just burying our head in the sand.

(APPLAUSE)

The church, the black church should be at the forefront of this just like the civil rights issues.

(APPLAUSE)

O'BRIEN: I go back to that lack of opportunity too.

In black America, the first documentary we did, we interviewed a young woman named Nia Buckley (ph), who was getting a HIV test. She had a baby, unwed mom. She was 18 years old. Her son was almost 2 years old. And she was telling me about how she assumed her boyfriend was having sex with other women and she told me this in the first eight seconds we met. Right? I said to her, why, why are you continuing to have sex with this guy? And she said, I don't know. And it was a sense of there's nothing else out there for her. She has no other opportunities. So it kind of doesn't matter.

How do you change that part of it? Because I think for young people, that is part of the element.

RALPH: And that's the danger zone right there for young people because it is no longer folks who are over 50. It is no longer people in their 20s and 30s. It is our children. And when I say children, I mean children.

JEALOUS: It's where our kids are. It's about our families. And we've got to treat this like something that we can actually solve because it is. It is a problem that can be solved.

(CROSSTALK)

I showed up to college in Manhattan in 1990 when the AIDS epidemic was full blown. There were condoms everywhere. There were condoms everywhere. They weren't saying have sex. They were saying, look, you're young, in New York City. We know the mathematics. Don't die.

RALPH: That's right. We have to be honest? If we don't really come out and create the script where we are able to talk to our children, if parents do not start having the proper sex education conversation with their children -- it has been said up here before, if you don't talk to your children, somebody else will. And what they will say to them, you won't like it.

(APPLAUSE)

MARTIN: Shirley, we'll have more conversation.

More conversation. Back in a moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you just came out of which seminar?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The HIV and AIDS.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are some of your thoughts? How did it go?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was sitting in there and I planned on sitting there the whole entire afternoon. And they were talking about you can get tested within an hour and get your results. Right here, today. No sticking or whatever. So I left the seminar to go out and find the booth so I can get tested today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Incredible. So you went after attending the seminar?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, it's not even finished.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not even finished.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I decided to leave and go get tested right now.

I didn't know how simple it was to get tested and have the results in an hour. I paid hundreds of dollars to get tested anonymously. That's not important. That was ten years ago. When I was in the military I got tested. But it's something you need to do. And I think it's great they have that ability to test people here today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: You may have heard this before. When America catches a cold, black America gets pneumonia. Whether you like his proposal or not, President Obama has made affordable health care a top priority.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't want our children and their children to still be speaking of a crisis in American medicine 50 years from now. I don't want them to still be suffering from spiraling costs that we did not stem, or sicknesses that we did not cure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Joining us, Carla Harris, who has coupled community activism with her wall street career as managing director at Morgan Stanley; Phill Wilson of the Black AIDS Institute; former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial. He's president and CEO of the National Urban League. And Dr. Pete Thomas, who helps run a Chicago community health clinic called Project Brotherhood.

Welcome to all of you.

(APPLAUSE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. It's good to be here.

O'BRIEN: Carla, let's start with you because, to me, preventive medicine is really about dollars and cents. It's just about money. How do you get people to invest early in their own health care so that, down the road, it's not a visit to the emergency room?

CARLA HARRIS, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST & MANAGING DIRECTOR, MORGAN STANLEY: Preventive health care is not just about dollars actually. It's also about education and if you can talk to people about preventing those instances of catastrophic illnesses early on, and talk to them about what that means in terms of their pocketbook -- because it's cheap to do it when it's about the right nutrition, about exercising, very early on. But when you get sick later, it really costs a lot of money. And it not only costs you in terms of the time away from work, but the time in your pocketbook. And it also has economic repercussions on your family.

One of the ways I think you can do it early on is also a reward system. Just like we have dollars now with spending -- health care spending accounts in your job, maybe there's a reward that you can have deposits in your health care account every year that you have a great checkup or every year that your cholesterol level is at a certain level or every time your blood pressure is at a certain level. so that you can build up a bank, if you will, so that in the event that your child or you become sick later on down the road, you have this benefit, if you will, because have you done the right thing early on.

MARTIN: Marc, public policy. We still see these disparities, these gaps in terms of people of color, and whites, as well. So how do we confront that when you also look at the lack of dollars cutting county bills all over the country, county hospitals, people who don't have health care? How do you deal with the disparity when you have the gaps?

MARC MORIAL, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS: Roland, we have to change the conversation and talk about the benefits of a healthy America. We have to talk about the benefits of closing health disparities. There's too much of a narrow focus on, quote, "what it might cost." And not enough of a discussion of the benefits. The benefits of more productive workers, the benefits of longer lives, the benefits of less trips to the emergency room. The benefits of the demand and the need for more doctors, for more nurses, for more testing, for more health benefits. We've got to change the conversation.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Thomas, I've been in your clinic, and you have the range of patients. Have you patients who come in off the street, no insurance, haven't been to the doctor in years and patients who are insured who come in to see you. If you could pick three things that would literally make a change in our health today, that people could do, that are just simple steps, what would you tell them as a medical professional?

DR. PETE THOMAS, PHYSICIAN, PROJECT BROTHERHOOD: I think the first thing that I think that oftentimes gets left out of the conversation is advocacy. We need for our public officials to advocate for a health care system that is accessible to everybody. I mean, that's the bottom line. (APPLAUSE)

And we're -- because that's critical because, at that point, we can then allow people to access the health care system earlier and prevent this emerging chronic diseases, which of course...

O'BRIEN: Which is number one. What are the other two?

THOMAS: Number one. Then the second thing is to eat fruits and vegetables. That is critical.

(APPLAUSE)

You've got to eat fruits and vegetables. and now again, this goes back to number one again because in many of our communities, we live in food deserts where fresh fruits and vegetables are not accessible to a lot of our communities. So that's number two.

Then number three is exercising. You've got to exercise in order to prevent.

(APPLAUSE)

Again -- and again, that goes back to number one, again, because you've got to the have safe communities so that you can walk and not become a victim of violence in your community.

MARTIN: Don't forget a lot of us don't like soul food.

(LAUGHTER)

And some folks don't want cans of fruits and vegetables. We did find one man who's figured this out on how to find healthy soul food. It's an amazing story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RODNEY CONNER, CHEF, JEFFERSON'S (voice-over): Hello, I'm Rodney Conner chef at Jefferson's on Jefferson Street.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I graduated from high school weighing 135. Now I weigh...

A lot of times when you go to soul food restaurants, the main ingredient is grease and salt.

CONNER: Our philosophy here is I guess we're trying to do some of the soul foods that we like and we're trying to do them heart healthy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I was the first customer. I was across the street. And I got me a fish sandwich.

CONNER: We've got grilled chicken wings on our menu, grilled chicken tenders, three different types of salad. We have a tomato and cucumber salad, salmon salad. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That salmon knocks me out.

CONNER: This is my spice rack back here, white pepper, thyme, Caribbean jerk has a little bit of salt content, but not a lot. I would like for people to start that I canning their health more seriously.

There's ways to eat good foods in a healthy way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we have a choice to come here and I'm glad to be a part of it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(APPLAUSE)

MARTIN: Soledad, I've got to go. I'm hungry. I got to go. You got it?

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: It seems like everyone's saying they're really simple steps, just making change. I want to talk about sexual health so because sometimes I think we leave that off the list of things when we talk about health care. Sexual health should be at the top of that list.

WILSON: When we have that conversation it has to be full and it has to include mental health, sexual health it, has to include nutrition and all those conversations. because at the ends of the day, we are all in this together.

O'BRIEN: When we come back, we'll talk about a more specific issue in health in the black community, the health and well-being of black men. They die on average eight years earlier than white men, partly because they don't want to see a doctor. We're going to tackle that question.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Don Lemon live at the CNN world headquarters. More "Black in America: Reclaiming the Dream" in a moment. But first, a quick check of the headlines.

Passengers are back on their way at New York's LaGuardia Airport after a security scare disrupted thousands of flights. Police evacuated the airport's central terminal for several hours after officials spotted a device inside a man's bag that resembled a bomb. The device was fake. The man who is said to be homeless has been arrested.

President Barack Obama is urging Congress to keep up the momentum on health care after a sweeping reform bill was approved by a House committee. The bill will have to be merged with versions in two other House committees. Prospects in the full House and in the Senate remain uncertain, however.

The National Auto Dealers Association is telling its members not to close any more Cash for Clunkers deals. The warning comes even though the House has voted to put another $2 billion into the program. The Senate is expected to vote next week. Cash for Clunkers let's Americans trade in their gas guzzling vehicles for more fuel efficient ones.

It has been a deadly day for U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. Three American service members died when two roadside bombs struck a patrol in southern Kandahar Province. And the French government says one of its soldiers died in the battle with insurgents.

And in Iran, there's word that three American tourists have been arrested and detained by the Iranian government. It happened along the boarder with Iraq where the Americans apparently went hiking. Senior State Department officials say the U.S. has identified three detainees. And their families have been notified.

Those are your headlines. I'll see you back here at the top of the hour.

I'm Don Lemon. "Black in America: Reclaiming the Dream"" continues in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back. I'm Soledad O'Brien along with Roland Martin. Roland, here's a question for you. Why will black men not go to the doctor?

MARTIN: Hell, if I know - no, seriously, fear, stubborn, but also lack of access to health care are one of the issues there. I went to Chi town where they're doing something about it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETER THOMAS, DOCTOR: Hi, I'm Dr. Thomas. What's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, good, good.

MARTIN (voice-over): Dr. Pete Thomas is battling a grim reality. Black men, here on Chicago's Southside, and across America, die almost a decade earlier than the national average.

THOMAS: Any swelling?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little bit.

MARTIN: To improve those numbers, Thomas helps run a community health clinic called Project Brotherhood.

THOMAS: You can get your salt intake down, we can get the swelling away. MARTIN: It is accessible, affordable.

THOMAS: You had the courage to come in and see the doc. I appreciate you.

MARTIN: And innovative.

THOMAS: We know how to get men to the health centers and it's not by advertising free colonoscopies.

MARTIN: To get black men past their fears of seeing a doctor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: HIV is preventable.

MARTIN: Project Brotherhood uses barber shops where men gather, talk and debate issues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people don't have insurance. And Project Brotherhood, you know, offers you know, free checkups et cetera. So when they hear that there's no cost, you know, they go over and they take advantage of it.

MARTIN: I visited the clinic to see firsthand how Project Brotherhood is saving lives and what obstacles they're up against.

(on camera): I'm just going to throw the first question out. What is the problem with going to the doctor?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where can we go to see the doctor? The access for health care for black men isn't there. Most black men in the health care system to the emergency room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have to get insurance and everything that they don't have. The way medication is, it's high and you have a lot of blacks that really can't afford it.

MARTIN: I accept your points about insurance. So, why were you even afraid of free clinics?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just because it's free doesn't mean it's right. You have to have that trust that, that relationship with that medical provider. You know, things are like Tuskegee experiment.

MARTIN: Which is 75 years old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We still -- there's still racist acts that go on in the health care system for black men. So unless black men trust that medical provider, they won't go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Me not having a whole lot of health issues as I was growing up, I figured, man, I didn't have no reason to go to the doctor. So have I practiced that and then I became accustomed to it. So now here I am, an adult and afraid to really go and get an HIV test because of the results that I might here. Fear. That's fear.

MARTIN: What if I sat here and said that if you get tested and if you are positive, you stand a much better chance to live a lot longer, than if you didn't know, part of the problem is that we find out so late, there's nothing they really can do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

MARTIN: So if that's the case, then why not simply get the test.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did get the test and it did come out negative. With that I went on further and got my blood pressure checked and I'm now being treated for my hypertension.

MARTIN: So had you not got your blood pressure checked, you could have been walking down the street and stroked out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was a dead man walking.

MARTIN: So you had to finally get over those fears.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

MARTIN: How do we get people beyond the fear to the point of getting themselves checked up because (inaudible)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got a lot of people that's misinformed.

MARTIN: So how do you get them informed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have to be able to get into a group like this, like here in Brotherhood. Once you get around and you start talking and seeing that they're trying to educate you all at the same time, as well as letting you find out about yourself and what you can do to help it, you know, you become more relaxed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As opposed to being one-on-one with a doctor, it's a group of us all men sharing their fears and shortcomings and things of that nature, it really helps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so you feel comfortable enough in an atmosphere you're not going to say nothing or do nothing and when you start feeling comfortable again, that's when you're going to open up and let go and that's what brotherhood do, they open up and let you feel comfortable here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: So they're stubborn.

MARTIN: Yes.

O'BRIEN: And they're fearful.

MARTIN: Yes.

O'BRIEN: We'll talk about more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back. We're talking about why some black men just won't go to the doctor. You met Marcus Murray and Dr. Pete Thomas from an earlier piece. They're with Chicago's Project Brotherhood Health clinic. Back with us is actress and aids activist Sheryl Lee Ralph and we're joined by Leonard Jack. He's a behavioral scientist who's researched the issue for 20 years. Thanks to the panel for being with us.

MARTIN: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Let's start with the science. Is it Tuskegee? Is it fear? Is it stubbornness? Is it pig headedness? What is it?

LEONARD JACK, LSU SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: It's a combination of all of that. I think the first thing to talk about is that for men and for women, there are rules that govern how we behave. And these rules play out in how we make health decisions whether or not we choose to go and see the doctor, and for men in the research, there are three rules that we adhere to. Sometimes they can be beneficial, sometimes they can be to the detriment of our health.

Those three rules are that we are always in self-control, we're always in control of our emotions and that we are always self-reliant.

O'BRIEN: Well, that sounds like three strikes for going to the doctor.

JACK: Yes, three strikes. Now, those rules are part of the reason why you've had very successful black men on this stage. In some aspects they play out well. They're beneficial. But when it comes to health, they compete with showing vulnerability, having to say I need help, and asking for help. They're at odds with that, and what we call that in the literature and the research is that it constitutes role strain. You can create different norms by creating the space to have a conversation about what it means to be a male and what does it mean to be a strong black male that can then bring into this discussion to make it OK for taking care of your health. You can still be in emotional control and still take care of your health. You can still be self-reliant and take care of your health. You just have to kind of frame it a little differently.

O'BRIEN: Marcus, what one thing has worked? When you have a client that comes in or you find someone who you want to bring into the clinic, what works? Hand on, what one thing?

MARCUS MURRAY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PROJECT BROTHERHOOD: We created a safe place for men to come to the doctor. We show them love so that love we express for brothers to come in and see brothers like ourselves that have the complexion for the connection works.

DR. PETE THOMAS, PROJECT BROTHERHOOD MEDICAL DIRECTOR: We've created an environment where we've told the men that you deserve to live. You deserve to live. As much as society has told them it's the exact opposite. You're not going to work, you're not going to have opportunities, you're not going to have fresh fruits and vegetables in your community. But we've had to come with an opposite message to say you deserve to live.

O'BRIEN: Roland has a question from an audience (inaudible)?

MARTIN: (inaudible), what's your question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do women get their men to go to the doctor when it's free, they have health insurance and he just won't go?

O'BRIEN: Let's do a quick show of hands in the audience from the women. What Beyonce did last night, all right, ladies, raise your hands if this has been an issue that you've had in your life of trying to get your loved one to actually show up at a doctor's appointment. All right. A lot of people. A lot, a lot, a lot of people. Let's pose that question to Sheryl. What do you do? What's the word you say or is it not a phrase?

SHERYL LEE RALPH, AIDS ACTIVISTS & ACTOR: As the only sister sitting up here, I think sometimes what we have to do as women is love them into their own empowerment as a man. Sometimes we just have to let them know, baby, I need you in my life without a healthy you, I am not the best person that I can be. I need you to do it for me, I need you to do it for our family. I need you to do it for the community. I need you to do it for yourself. I love you that much. The love is important.

MARTIN: So Soledad, (inaudible) cnn.com, say ladies, here's what you do. Your man won't go to the doctor. Fine, no doctor, no sex. Trust me, he'll be there in about 10 minutes. Now some people say that's going too far. But again, you want to get somebody's attention, I would go to the doctor then.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Lots of scientific research on Roland's -

JACK: There are a few things. First of all, I think women need to understand how men view health. There's fear. There's the sense of being invincible and admitting that you're hurting and admitting that you're having an emotional problem which is also a problem in the black community with black men is really admirable for most men and then also I think it's important to help men right down the kinds of questions they need to have, a conversation with their provider to just kind of be a support system for that, to write those questions down and then also accompany the men to the doctor. That's always an important thing to do because sometimes when men go to the doctor they come home and the wife or the partner asks what did the doctor say and they say I don't know and they have to make second call, a call to the doctor and say tell me what you told him.

MARTIN: Not just women. My dad had a cataract for a whole year and wouldn't go to the doctor. I brought him on the radio show, and I say, he didn't know I was on the air and I shamed him. I'm serious. Children also have to do that. I care enough about you.

O'BRIEN: They'll quite smoking because of their shame from their children. No question about that.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: I care enough about you, I want to see you here a long time. He eventually got taken care of. But again, I think - it's not just women but sons also play a role, and say dad, I want you around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole family.

JACK: You know, we're behind with men's health in this country. Women's health is out there, has been out there for a very, very long time. There's an office of women's health at the HHS level. There's not a office of men's health at the HHS level. There are offices of women's health at universities. There are courses that are being taught on women's health. There needs to be a movement policy to create some of the things that need to be put in place to create the conditions that promote good health with black men.

MARTIN: (inaudible)

O'BRIEN: I was describing to someone a little bit about the outreach that you do through barber shops and Project Brotherhood. And a girlfriend of mine, a black woman said, I think it's crazy that barbers have to get black people into the doctor. You know, white people don't go to their hair dresser to get them to go to the doctor. Why can we not make that change ourselves?

JACK: You want to start?

THOMAS: Well, you know, I think that it's an institution that African-American men see as a comfort level. So, when we are in the barber shop, I don't care who you are, if you're a CEO to a janitor, we are all are on one level and we're comfortable. So I believe that is a natural conduit to introduce a health message and maybe the guys who we contact in the barber shop, let's say a third of them won't come to see the doctor.

RALPH: There is absolutely nothing wrong with a brother going to the barber shop to get some good information. Just like if a sister goes to the beauty shop and she gets some good information. Where you get it is good. My husband and I created something called Test Together because we said, well what, can we do for couples to work together to check up on their health? Not just their physical health but the health of their relationship and we said, you know, just as simple as visit testtogether.org. You need to get a checkup. You need a free test, put your zip code in and places will come up where you can go and get stuff done for free because if you're a diva, you got to be divinely inspired and victoriously anointed.

O'BRIEN: And we'll leave it right there.

MARTIN: Right there.

O'BRIEN: Short break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: And welcome back to our CNN and "Essence" special "Reclaiming the Dream." In a bad economy, urban decay can start to claim once-thriving black communities while others say no, they're going to stand their ground, saying not here, not now.

Take the village bottoms neighborhood in Oakland, California. It's where Marsal Diallo has revitalized a community from the bottom up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're standing in front of 1048 Peralta, which was one of the headquarters for the black panther party back in the days, and it's still located right here in the Bottoms.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Today this symbol of black power comes with flowers and fresh paint for a private family home. Now part of the rebirth of a community which had been a battleground marked with drugs and despair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Me and Marsal here one time an AK-47 bullets rang out and we had to lay out all the children down on the ground.

O'BRIEN: Marsal is Marsal Diallo, the man who is trying to turn the village's Bottoms area in west Oakland, California, into an oasis of black economic power. Growing up in a dangerous neighborhood, he said, has helped.

MARSAL DIALLO: It particularly sharpens your senses to how to solve problems. You know, I made it out of that situation myself, so I'm able to pretty much help a neighborhood make it out of that same situation pretty easily.

O'BRIEN: In the last couple of years as a landlord and business owner, Diallo has helped at least two dozen black families move back into the bottoms in restored houses. There's an art gallery now and a curio shop.

DIALLO: We hung the keys to the neighborhood, right?

O'BRIEN: This cultural center, a community garden.

DIALLO: This used to be our old auto wrecking yard and we're transforming it into a working farm.

O'BRIEN:: His own Black Dot Cafe, where Diallo meets with urban planning consultants.

DIALLO: and the rest of it is vacant land that probably can be used to build it up.

O'BRIEN: Diallo's goal - a thriving black presence amid an area already starting to yield to gentrification.

DIALLO: My vision of a west Oakland is a west Oakland that, of course, going to be affected by gentrification and probably will be one of the most integrated neighborhoods in the bay area. I just would like to see that the long-time black inhabitants are participating in the newfound wealth.

O'BRIEN: Problems persists. Diallo says he still gets stopped by cops who see a black man, not a businessman. His original financing came from Asian-American bankers. They gave him a better deal, he says, than the black bank officials. Diallo is not slow to take matters into his own hands.

DIALLO: This house predates the 1860s.

O'BRIEN: This historic house was scheduled to be demolished.

DIALLO: So I grabbed the fork lift and just moved it.

O'BRIEN: This was the first black family home in the bottoms, even before emancipation. Now it sits in Diallo's grandmother's backyard, a bridge between past and future.

DIALLO: I come from the bottom, and I believe that true change happens from the bottoms up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: And let's keep that round of applause up for Marsal Diallo, who's joining us in the audience today. Great work. It's nice to have you being with us today. Can you stand for us?

MARTIN: There he is.

O'BRIEN: It's amazing when you think it only takes one guy to say it's not OK to tear down that house. I'm going to grab it with a forklift and move it to my grandmother's house so it's was saved. It's almost as grassroots as that.

Monique, let's start with you. You run small businesses and historically black neighborhoods. And in some way, that's a solution, too, to pushing back urban decay.

MONIQUE GREENWOOD, AUTHOR: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: A thriving business can do that?

GREENWOOD: Absolutely. My base is in Bedford (inaudible) in Brooklyn. And what I really wanted to do, first of all, is open a bed and breakfast 14 years ago so that people come into a community, into a place where they can see the neighborhood as I knew it to be. And then we went on from there and opened a restaurant, opened a book store, antique shop, coffee house, the kinds of business that's say something about a community. We have tons of 99 cent stores, liquor stores, hair salons but we needed other type of businesses. We wanted to recirculate our dollars in our own community and employ our people.

MARTIN: That's what the National Urban League is all about, that kind of action. But also with Marsal, he didn't ask anyone's permission. He said, I live here. I can actually make this happen. MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT & CEO, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: Community advocacy makes a difference. So we have seen with him, we have seen with the principal from Hartford. We have seen from people who are just insistent on a new direction in their own community, and we've got to inspire people to take charge, not sit back, not wait for elected officials, big business or anyone else. That's how you fight back against gentrification and that's how you rebuild a community.

O'BRIEN: Oftentimes you will hear ownership, ownership, ownership is really the path to power.

CARLA HARRIS, FUNDS SCHOLARSHIPS FOR FORMER HIGH SCHOOL: And to wealth, Soledad. It's about understanding your power. And you're absolutely right, Roland. He didn't ask for anybody's permission. And a lot of times we ask for people's permission and you give people therefore the power to tell you, no. Generally you need to understand you have the power to just act and we don't understand what we can do in our own communities and if you reach out for help as he talked about reaching out to one banker and one banker said no and yet another banker said yes that didn't look like him, take advantage. When somebody tells you no, then the next thing you should say is next, because somebody else will help you and understand - understand the enormous returns of investing right where you are.

I'm a banker, so I think in terms of return. If you are going to invest your time, your talent or your treasure, do it in a way that you're going get the biggest return. Our communities right now offer the biggest return on investment for anybody who's willing to invest.

O'BRIEN: And you need to start early. I know, Malaak, you really have set that very message. You're not an investment banker. You're an activist. To your kids who you work with about investing, investing, investing, why is that so important when really they have a lot of other issues going on in their lives sometimes?

MALAAK COMPTON-ROCK, FOUNDER, JOURNEY FOR CHANGE: Well, you know, you said something about not waiting for the government to advocate for you. And I think that is so key and it's so important. We have to educate ourselves about the statistics of nine million uninsured children in our communities. The amount of children eight and 10 who are not reading at fourth grade. And when you know these issues, you go and advocate for yourself.

I cannot speak highly enough of being your own advocate and not waiting for somebody else to do it. How many times do people call me and say, I want to do something but I don't know how? It's as simple as picking up the phone, writing a letter, bringing people together, petitioning. We have to advocate for our own life and our own communities.

MARTIN: A lot of people were critical during the campaign when it comes to the community organizer running for office. But the reality is, that's how President Barack Obama got started, being a community organizer.

O'BRIEN: Absolutely. And it was the internet. I'm curious to know if the internet can change the game for everything we're doing. We hear so many of the same things over and over again and you see applause from people who clearly want to be on it, too. What do we have to do with the technology we have today that can bring everybody together to do that online?

COMPTON-ROCK: If you have access and you said, we need to ask and one thing I wanted to make sure is I wanted to be sure my 30 kids had laptops so I called Red Dell, and said can you give me laptops? Because I wanted my children to blog about their experiences and not just to blog for CNN.com because that's the cool thing to do, but I wanted them to write.

MARTIN: Of course, Monique, in your area, being a business owner, it's like a homeowner, you have a different attitude about where your business is in your neighborhood when you say I have an ownership stake in this.

GREENWOOD: Absolutely. One of the things I did was, first of all, not rely on the banks. We went back to something old fashion called bartering. What can you do? What can you do? Your daughter's getting married. She can have it in the bed and breakfast. Fix the pipes. You're the plumber, right? Fix the pipes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take some notes.

GREENWOOD: So bartering is absolutely key. Also, if we can buy these properties, one of the things that I did, all of the businesses on my strip were owned by people who lived within two blocks from walking distance from the business. So they're not just invested in their business, their invested in their communities. We walk up and down the street together, we roll up our gates and we service our neighbors.

MARTIN: Carla?

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS: Absolutely. You don't have to live there to invest there but put your dollars there. Can you imagine what ten people with $1,000 can do in a community like that with a small business? Sometimes the small businesses only need $2,000 to $4,000 to take it to the next level.

MARTIN: Carla, I love that, selective reiteration. I like that.

O'BRIEN: I like it, too. It's a good way to end.

I want to thank our panelists. Thank you, also, to our guests in the audience. To "Essence" magazine, of course, our partners, and all of this, and all of you watching on television, as well.

I'm Soledad O'Brien along with Roland Martin at the "Essence" Music Festival in New Orleans.

The news continues now right here on CNN.