I’ve been on a real whirlwind the past couple of weeks, starting with the “Facing Race” conference (no, I haven’t forgotten there’s a third segment I owe the readers, but I feel a lil’ like Elon James White at the moment, LOL), and then, on Wednesday, I went to the Big Apple to participate in a preview of Soledad O’Brien’s upcoming “Black In America” documentary entry, “Almighty Debt”, which is probably one of her better “Black In America” documentaries, but there was still some meat lacking from this piece.
First off, I am not going to beat up on Soledad’s efforts to portray to the rest of America what it is like to be Black in this country. I encourage you to watch the documentary for yourselves. However, I will post up a live blog where we can all check in while we watch the documentary on October 21, 2010. Additionally, I will be interviewing Soledad herself on October 13, 2010, and will feature a blog post on our conversation, because I’m going to ask her “where’s the beef?” in this documentary.
And, besides, “The Root” did a better job than I could:
In her third trip to the Black in America trough, series host Soledad O’Brien focuses on a progressive Baptist church in New Jersey, First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens, where the recession has hit the congregation hard in terms of unemployment, home foreclosures and insufficient funds for higher education. O’Brien earnestly attempts to present a condensed portrait of desperation that plagues households nationwide.
So, what is the “meat” that’s missing from this documentary? Well, the ROOT touched on that, too:
Unfortunately for those thirsting for salvation from the economic calamity that’s draining Americans’ patience, however, “Almighty Debt” serves up only a trickle of guidance. The special gives sweeping references to faith, hope, prayer and timely intervention from a committed pastor as blacks’ sole source of redemption in this time of fiscal crisis. But the stories surrounding a trio of families who attend one particular church aren’t remarkably different from sad tales that Americans of any ethnicity could share.
Well, some of the meat would be to really address the psychological effects of clinging to one’s “faith”, and the hope that if one “prays enough, the problem will be solved.” As a Christian who has battled depression for many years, that phrase of “pray about your problems” – can I say it?
Those phrases give me HEARTBURN that Rolaids and Maalox cannot FIX. And when you try to share that with the clergy, their reaction is such that one could be forgiven for thinking you put a “contract hit” out on Jesus. Yet, this entire documentary spotlighted five people; two couples and one young man aspiring to go to college, and it discussed the impact of (a) incurring debt, and (b) the impact of a tanking economy = (c) home in foreclosure, loss of employment, one person supporting the family on less than half of the income it takes to live, decimation of the middle class.
How many times have I gone to people for help – Christians, and was told to “pray about it”, but nothing else concrete was coming forth from them? I will give Rev. Soaries credit – his church is trying to get his flock out of debt, and show people how to really be good stewards with their money. Some of the meat here would have been to juxtapose what Soaries is doing in his church, First Baptist of Somerset, New Jersey, with, say TD Jakes and the “Potter’s House” or – Fred K. C. Price and Crenshaw Church out in Los Angeles? You know; that “Prosperity Gospel” as opposed to learning what is wealth (and you get a good, comprehensive definition in the documentary).
For me, I adhere to the “Chris Rock” definition of what is real wealth:
“Shaq is RICH. The guy who writes his check is WEALTHY.”
And that guy passes that wealth on to his kids, his grandkids, his great-grandkids.
Joseph Kennedy was a bootlegger and drug-dealer – but the wealth he built up is still operating on the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port TO THIS DAY. It produced a President and two U. S. Senators, plus three members of Congress and a governor of Maryland. THAT KIND OF WEALTH.
As you can probably see, I’m refraining from letting loose with my criticisms, because I don’t want to cloud your judgement of this documentary until you have viewed it for yourselves. What I will say is that there is a psychological root cause as a result of 500 years of being told you’re inferior; that you don’t deserve what YT has; that you don’t belong – stemming from slavery, Jim Crow Segregation which leads to the lack of wealth that could be passed on through the generations because the playing field was never LEVEL. I could have hugged Terrie Williams for bringing this ugly secret out regarding Black people and mental health issues – no one wants to have a real discussion about that.
The spotlight on Rev. DeForrest “Buster” Soaries – a Bush supporter and grabber of Bush’s Faith-Based Money Pie, preaching at his flock to get themselves out of debt – easy to say – damned hard TO DO. Only Julianne Malveaux, and Terrie Williams in the Town Hall Segment on Wednesday – actually touched on the reasons WHY we choose to go into DEBT.
We feel we deserve the best and the finest because we worked hard. That might be true, but WHY do you feel that way?
We want to feel equal to YT. That might also be TRUE, but WHY do you feel inadequate to YT in the first place?
IOW, the reasons for going into “Almighty Debt” might be more than economical – there may be a spiritual and psychological ROOT CAUSE for the compulsion to use credit cards, take out payday loans, or those title loans on your car. Just trying to “keep up with the Joneses” might be more than that, and only Terrie Williams and Julianne Malveaux were willing to actually put that out there.
None of the men – Bishop TD Jakes, Soaries, or Cornell Belcher said NOTHING – well, to be fair, Bishop Jakes kinda chimed in backing up Terrie Williams. All I really heard at the Town Hall was engage the spirit of entrepreneurship – but Michelle Singletary, who writes a financial column for the Washington Post, was quick to point out that some of us might not have an entrepreneurial spirit and running a business might not be a good fit, so consider other options.
Bottom line – some prayers got answered and some didn’t (well they did, but not in the way the people wanted); some answers about being in debt were given, but admonishing people to do better when they have no clue about the compulsion that’s driving them to go into debt is penny-wise, but pound-foolish.
Here’s a hint – you’ll be cheering for Fred; that’s the young man fighting his way into college. You’ll root for him all the way. If nothing else, Fred is worth watching this documentary. And give Soledad kudos for continuing to try to portray us accurately in America – I just hope she’ll start reaching out to Black Bloggers BEFORE she does these documentaries? We have a lot to offer.
Cheryl Contee aka "Jill Tubman", Baratunde Thurston aka "Jack Turner", rikyrah, Leutisha Stills aka "The Christian Progressive Liberal", B-Serious, Casey Gane-McCalla, Jonathan Pitts-Wiley aka "Marcus Toussaint," Fredric Mitchell
Special Contributors: James Rucker, Rinku Sen, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Adam Luna, Kamala Harris
Technical Contributor: Brandon Sheats