The Inspiration Behind “Black in America 2”

By Chris Ariens 

John Rice, Malaak Compton-Rock, Dr. Steve Perry, Soledad O’Brien, Cicely Tyson and CNN EP Mark Nelson at last night’s “Black in America 2” screening in Harlem, NY.

Last night we headed up to Harlem for the New York screening of CNN’s “Black in America 2.” The four-hour documentary is a continuation of the Soledad O’Brien series which drew 16 million viewers over several airings last year.

This time around, O’Brien and her team report on the stories of successful community leaders who are improving the lives of African-Americans, including Malaak Compton-Rock, the wife of comedian Chris Rock, who, along with O’Brien traveled to South Africa with two dozen teens for two weeks of volunteer service in shanty towns and orphanages. Actor/producer/director Tyler Perry gives O’Brien a tour of his movie studio – not in Hollywood – but in Atlanta. And there’s the story of John Rice, the brother of U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice (and brother-in-law of “This Week” EP Ian Cameron) who created the “Management Leadership for Tomorrow” program.

In the crowd, Oprah’s BFF Gayle King, actress Cicely Tyson, who is featured in the special, and Warner Music EVP Kevin Liles.

After the screening, several of those profiled in the special answered questions from the crowd gathered at the Shomburg Cultural Center.

The final question came from a Puerto Rican woman who asked, “When are you going to do a ‘Bi-racial in America.'” O’Brien, whose mother is Afro-Cuban and father is Irish, said she’d love to do it.

But before that, O’Brien and her team are already preparing a “Latino in America” documentary which will debut this fall on CNN.

• “Black in America 2, Today’s Pioneers” debuts July 22 at 8pmET and 11pmET. “Tomorrow’s Leaders” debuts July 23, again at 8pmET and 11pmET.