Since 1968, Basic Black (formerly Say Brother) has captured the stories, people, and issues that illuminate the African American experience in the Boston area and beyond.
Kim McLarin returns as series host for the 2008–2009 season of Basic Black. She is the author of three novels and is writer in residence at Emerson College in Boston.
Meet Kim McLarin
Coming up on Basic Black
All programs premiere Thursdays at 7:30pm on 2. (Find more airings)
Conversation and Poetry with Elizabeth Alexander
Jan. 22, 2009
Host Kim McLarin speaks with poet and Yale professor Elizabeth Alexander, who was selected by President-elect Barack Obama to compose and read a poem at his inauguration on Jan. 20. She will become only the fourth poet in US history to read at a presidential inauguration.
In this encore presentation of Basic Black, Alexander reads from American Sublime, and her latest collection, Miss Crandall's School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color. She discusses the importance of language and other artistic expression in the composition of a poem.
Previously on Basic Black
Capturing Black Life: A Conversation with Photo Historian Deborah Willis
Jan. 15, 2009
Photographer and photo historian Deborah Willis has been capturing the African American image for more than 30 years. Recipient of a MacArthur "genius grant" in 2000 and current chair of the Photography & Imaging Department at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, Willis discusses her most recent work, Obama: The Historic Campaign in Photographs.
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Searching For Sally Hemings: Author Annette Gordon-Reed
Jan. 8, 2009
Professor and author Annette Gordon-Reed is best known for her 1997 book, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy. In that examination of the 38-year liaison between the third president and his house slave, Gordon-Reed looked at how historians and biographers had treated evidence of the affair; DNA tests have since proved that Jefferson indeed fathered children with Hemings.
On this episode of Basic Black, Gordon-Reed discusses her new book, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. Winner of the 2008 National Book Award for nonfiction, her return to the subject offers an exhaustive account of the Hemings family saga.
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Jazz and Rock Drummer Cindy Blackman
Dec. 18, 2008
Cindy Blackman discovered her love of drumming at age 7. "I was begging for drums prior to that — all my life, really," she says. "When I listened to music or when I was fortunate enough to see a live band, the drums and the drummer were the one thing that always caught my attention."
Today, Blackman navigates the worlds of jazz and rock. In a career that has spanned more than 20 years, she has played for many jazz greats, including Pharoah Sanders, Jackie McLean, Hugh Masekela, and Cassandra Wilson. She and her jazz quartet have released several albums. And rock fans know Blackman as the drummer for Lenny Kravitz.
In this episode of Basic Black, Blackman discusses her musical influences, the phone call that led to Kravitz, her experiences as a female drummer, and how she connects to music spiritually. Then we go backstage with Blackman during an impromptu drumming session at her alma mater, Boston's Berklee College of Music.
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A Conversation with Author Cora Daniels
Nov. 27, 2008
"That is so ghetto." The phrase has become part of mainstream American parlance — what once was a place is now used to describe a mentality or a behavior.
"Historically, it's been neighborhoods for poor people of color," says author Cora Daniels. "Now I think that it's jumped from noun to adjective. It's become no longer where you live, but how you live."
The first ghettos were European settlements where Jews were confined. The new ghetto is a sort of mental settlement: one of degraded standards, attitudes, and ways of life — at least according to Daniels's book, Ghettonation: A Journey into the Land of Bling and Home of the Shameless. It's a phenomenon that has exploded in popularity and marketability.
In this episode of Basic Black, Daniels talks with host Kim McLarin about how the concept of ghetto has permeated popular culture, how this mind-set affects communities of color, and what the stakes are for remaining a Ghettonation.
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Poetry & Conversation with Afaa Michael Weaver
Nov. 20, 2008
"Drive careful and watch out for the fresh tar." Afaa Michael Weaver remembers his father, the son of sharecroppers, telling him this long ago, before he drove his father's car into town. "It was a metaphor for life," Weaver says.
Hearing Southern proverbs like this, which flowed easily in the Weaver household, inspired the young poet's early love of language and moved him visually and emotionally. When he writes, "Sometimes the words just roll around the way I imagine a musician hears sound," he says.
Today, Weaver is one of the most celebrated African American poets of his generation. Currently an Alumnea Professor of English at Simmons College in Boston, Weaver has been named a Pew Fellow in Poetry and has published 10 collections of poetry.
In this edition of Basic Black, Weaver speaks with host Kim McLarin about the life stories that inspire his work. He also reads from his latest collection, the 2008 Pushcart Prize-winning The Plum Flower Dance: Poems 1985 to 2005, which draws on his decades-long study of Chinese culture and philosophy.
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A Conversation with Boston Superintendent Carol Johnson
Nov. 13, 2008
As the economy puts a squeeze on education budgets, the superintendent of Boston Public Schools, Carol Johnson, faces the challenge of saving money while improving academic opportunities for nearly 57,000 students.
"In order to maintain our commitment to closing the achievement gap and ensuring the success of all students, we are going to have to make some tough choices. We have to identify major reductions, and we are committed to doing so with the least possible impact on classroom teaching and learning," said Johnson in a press release, recounting her meeting with the Boston School Committee in February 2008. She spoke of a $32 million shortfall for the $782.9 million budget for fiscal year 2008, resulting from inflation and declining government help.
Before the Boston School Committee appointed Johnson to her new post in June 2007, she was the superintendent of Memphis City Schools — the largest district in Tennessee, with 119,000 students. There, she was credited with developing programs to address failing schools and students needing remedial education, which helped take more than 100 schools off the state's No Child Left Behind "high priority" list.
Johnson joins host Kim McLarin in a conversation about her goals for the Boston public school system and the challenges that she faces.
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2008 Postelection Roundtable
Nov. 6, 2008
The 2008 presidential election has been one of the most exciting in US history. In this continuation of Basic Black's special election coverage, our guests return to assess Election Day results. Joining guest host Callie Crossley are Massachusetts State Representative Linda Dorcena Forry, former ABC News anchor and senior correspondent Carole Simpson, Peniel Joseph, associate professor of Africana studies at Brandeis University, and Howard Manly, executive editor of the Bay State Banner.
We look at how the press covered John McCain's and Barack Obama's campaigns and early media polling vs. the actual Election Day outcome. Did the "Bradley effect" take hold in states predicting an Obama win? Were significant numbers of voters swayed by speculative reports concerning Obama's race, religion, or patriotism or doubts about electing McCain, the oldest presidential candidate in US history?
Also, what does the world think of America's choice for president? What does Obama's win mean for US foreign relations and our standing in the world?
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2008: The New Black Politics
Oct. 30, 2008
Television and radio commentator Callie Crossley (shown) hosts a live roundtable discussion about what has been called the most important presidential race in US history. Our guests Massachusetts State Representative Linda Dorcena Forry, former ABC News anchor and senior correspondent Carole Simpson, Peniel Joseph, associate professor of Africana studies at Brandeis University, and Howard Manly, executive editor of the Bay State Banner weigh in on the campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain.
Our guests explore the issues of greatest concern to the black community and which problems will be the most important for the next administration to tackle. Also, does Obama's bid for the presidency symbolize that America is on the cusp of a new era of black political leadership, one that is not driven by a race-based agenda but is anchored in American solidarity?
back to top Funding for Basic Black is generously provided, in part, by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.