Books by Soledad
Latino in America
The Next Big Story
* * *
Soledad OBrien at Ground
Crisis Interview with
O’Brien has staked her career on reporting breaking news
from domestic disasters like Hurricane Katrina as well
as on location at international hotspots ranging from
the sites of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict to the
terrorist attacks in London to the tsunami in Thailand.
She has also hosted a number of critically-acclaimed
documentaries for the news network, including “Black in
America,” “Latino in America,” “Eyewitness to Murder:
The King Assassination,” “Pictures Don’t Lie,” and the
upcoming “Muslims in America,” to name a few.
is currently, where else, but in Japan, where she is
covering the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and
nuclear meltdown which have devastated the country. She
was gracious enough to grant me an exclusive interview
from the midst of the disaster, checking in by cell to
share her eyewitness perspective of the state of affairs
in the crippled region.
Hey Soledad, thanks so much for the time.
No problem, Kam.
I told my readers I’d be interviewing you, so let me get
right to their questions. Tracy Ertl asks: Do you worry
about being exposed to nuclear radiation? I know that
isn’t a sophisticated question, but there isn’t a person
out there watching your coverage who is not wondering
what I just asked.
O’Brien: No, I don’t worry. We’re careful. We don’t
stand downwind. We haven’t been hanging out near the
reactors in question, etcetera, etcetera. And there is a
great deal of constant concern at very high levels about
where every single person on our team is at any moment.
So, we don’t go anywhere blindly without a lot of
thought or without taking the proper precautions. Right
now, I’m up in the North, way out of the range. Safety’s
always in the back of your mind whenever you’re
reporting from a potentially-dangerous location which is
pretty much every story we’re covering here. But if I
were really worried about it, I’d get on a plane and go
Well according to attorney Bernadette Beekman, some
journalists have been called back because of aftershocks
and the escalating danger of radiation.
Called back by CNN? I haven’t heard about anybody being
called back by this network. That doesn’t make sense,
honestly. Anyone who’s covered an earthquake knows that
you’re going to have aftershocks. Although I still find
them absolutely terrifying, you know you’re going to
experience them if you visit an area that’s just
experienced some substantial seismic activity. But in
every disaster I’ve covered, CNN has quite frankly
always been great. They’ll say, “Listen, anybody who
wants to go, can go,” if there’s a sense that a story
might be emotionally-devastating, physically-grueling,
very challenging or just plain scary. There are certain
stories I won’t cover, like wars. That’s where I draw a
line. But no one I know has been called back.
Wesley Derbyshire asks: What are the mid to long-term
estimates on the range of danger from the meltdown at
the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station?
How far has
the immediate evacuation zone been extended?
We have a team of experts who are in the business of
calculating that, not just for our on-air coverage, but
also for all the journalists.
No one is taking this
lightly and there are some feverish email exchanges
going back-and-forth among us. My strategy is to avoid
the affected area. I’m not near it.
Steve Gertz asks: Are Japanese people allowed by their
society to cry and mourn openly in the way that we are
in Western culture? Are there mental health
professionals available to treat post-traumatic stress
and other mental health issues?
Absolutely! I’ve seen places set up for victims at
evacuation centers where they’re dealing with the first
wave of help which is usually food, water and a place to
sleep. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if there are also
going to be mental health facilities, because they’re
set up similarly to many other organized disaster
situations I’ve covered, where they make sure that
people’s needs are being addressed, clearly including
mental health issues. But Steve’s other question about
culture and society is interesting, because you do not
see a lot of open weeping. I do believe that it’s a
cultural thing here to be relatively quiet and to keep
to yourself. In some other societies, you find people
running up to the camera to share their stories, almost
eager to feel like they’re speaking out to the world.
I’ve already had some excellent opportunities to
interview people since arriving, but Japan’s is a much
more reserved culture, for sure.
Both Steve and Bernadette want to know what you think
they can do on an individual basis to aid the Japanese
people most effectively? People who live near the
nuclear reactors have had to abandon everything. In so
many instances in recent years, the world immediately
reacts by a humanitarian response to a natural disaster,
yet the goods or funds collected do not reach the
intended beneficiaries due to politics or mismanagement.
I’ve always been a big believer in finding a local
charity that you like, read about, or that people you
know have recommended, and help them, whether it’s the
American Red Cross or somebody else. Just give what you
can. The amount doesn’t matter. It’s about making the
gesture of reaching out to your fellow human beings to
let them know that we’re here to support them. That’s
what a donation is. It’s a way of saying “We’re rooting
for you and we care about you.” That message is what’s
Harriet Pakula Teweles asks: Is there a possibility
that Americans are becoming “tragedy weary,” and that it
will be hard for you as a reporter on the ground to
rekindle our willingness to contribute and help out yet
another nation in truly earth-shattering, dire
No, I really don’t sense that. My job is to find
important stories and to flesh them out in a way to make
them relatable and bigger than the individuals I may be
talking to. And if I do my job well, viewers won’t feel
“tragedy weary.” You want to see tragedy weary? Come
live here for a couple days. I’ll show you tragedy weary.
The people I’ve been spending time with are completely
tragedy weary. Why? Because when they wake up in the
morning, they have to look for a place to go to the
bathroom, then go fill buckets with water and scrounge
for food to eat just to get through another day.
Rudy Lewis says that this disaster reminds him of New
Orleans and Haiti. Will they be setting up tent cities
as in Haiti? Or will they be shipping people to other
parts of Japan for resettlement?
That’s a really good question, Rudy. I’m sure there are
plenty of people already relocated. But the scope of the
damage varies. For instance, some towns are just gone.
In that case, the inhabitants who survived have to move
because the village doesn’t exist anymore. However,
there are some cities where there are evacuation
centers, so people won’t have to leave. They’ll be able
to rebuild or have other options. But I do know that
they’ve started shipping in family tents and structures
for use as shelters in areas that were really
Kam Williams: Alan Gray
asks: What did you learn about the Japanese or Japan
that you didn't know before?
That’s an excellent question. Something that I’ve seen
frequently is survivors stopping rescuers from the
Japanese Self-Defense Forces who are searching for
bodies to say “Thank you for doing good work,” or “Thank
you for helping us.” It is a very polite society.
Everybody thanks them for just being there.
Another thing I’ve
witnessed is people who’ve lost everything and who are
trying to hold themselves together come up to us and
say, “We don’t know what to do next,” and ask us if we
know anything. Sometimes, we in the media become a font
of information, so people become willing to talk to us
because they want some help.
Alan also asks: Are the Japanese opening their homes to
people in need?
That’s another really good question, Alan. Yes, I’ve
been told about some folks who have taken in many
homeless family and friends. But I haven’t seen it yet,
because the places I’ve visited are so devastated. Any
homes still standing are uninhabitable because there’s
no power or water. So all the residents are going to
Judyth Piazza asks: What is the culture like during a
disaster? Is it people helping people? People helping
themselves? People forming groups? Or people waiting for
All of the above, depending on the disaster. Human
beings are different. Some rise to the challenge and
become the heroes, and others fall and become the
looters and the criminals.
Reverend Florine Thompson says: I'm sure that it takes a
huge amount of courage to be in Japan right now. Who or
what is your source of faith and courage, Soledad.
And what emotions do you feel walking through the
wreckage there in Japan?
I think the
emotions are always the same. It’s a real sense of
sadness and palpable loss. The scope of it is always
overwhelming to me. And I’m always awed by the power of
a natural disaster, say, to deposit a large boat on top
of a building. I’ve covered numerous tsunamis, yet I’m
always stunned by something like that, no matter how
many times I’ve seen it before. For me, my motivation is
to tell the people’s story well, and to be part of a
team that’s parachuting in to do just that. With the
first few disasters I covered, I found myself asking,
“Where is God?” “How does God allow small children to be
swept out of their parents arms in the middle of a
tsunami?” And thanks to shooting the special “Almighty
Debt,” I had a chance to spend a lot a time with some
pastors who really helped me a lot with sorting that
out. Now, I see it less as a question of faith, and more
as just my job.
Reverend Thompson also would like to know whether you
had any reservations about leaving your family for such
an unstable danger zone.
You always have reservations. I have reservations about
leaving my family in general whenever I get on a plane
to go anywhere. That’s just the nature of the business.
I think we take very calculated risks. Another tsunami
could come through, and if you’re not prepared for it,
you could be in trouble. So we prepare as much as is
feasible, given the possibility of things going awry.
But yeah, sometimes I find myself really missing my
family. That’s the way it works.
Children’s book author Irene Smalls: How does the
devastation in Japan differ from the disaster in Banda
Aceh, New Orleans or Haiti?
It varies. What’s different here is that there’s a lot
of debris scattered across rice paddies, which are big
open spaces. You didn’t see that in Haiti or New
Orleans. But I’ve also seen a lot of damage that
reminded me of Katrina, like the pancaking of buildings.
And of Haiti and Thailand where everything was literally
just flattened out. Rubble… rubble… rubble… everywhere.
Once a storm or a tsunami is powerful enough, it just
shreds everything in its path. The damage looks very
Teresa Emerson: asks if there are any blacks in Japan,
whether in interracial marriages to Japanese or working
as business people, and how they've been affected?
I’m sure the answer is yes, but I haven’t seen any.
Remember, I’m not in a big city, but in these small
Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: What message do you
want the public to take away from your book
The Next Big
Story: My Journey through the Land of Possibilities?
Soledad O’Brien: In a way, I think we’re in the
next big story, and I think that story is the story of
the opportunity for some human beings to decide how
they’re going to live their lives. Are you going to be a
looter or a lifeline? Are you going to be the person who
takes twenty people into your house? Or are you the person
who breaks into stores. It’s really up to you. That’s
what I’m here to witness and to tell stories about.
Debrah Mitchell asks: How did you like becoming a member
of Delta Sigma Theta sorority last month?
The Deltas are most giftgiving-est bunch of people I
ever met in my whole life. I shoulda been a Delta twenty
years ago, Debrah. [Chuckles]
Kent State journalism major Joey Pompignano, wants to
know about your upcoming documentary, Muslims in
America, and the challenge of doing a special report
about an entire race, religion or ethnicity. He asks:
Because there's so much diversity within the underserved
groups, how do you aim to portray a particular subgroup
without making them seem like a monolithic people? Do
you feel any pressure to present a representative sample
of the subgroup on the program?
I’d like to answer that at length, but oh, my gosh! I
have to go do a live shot right this instant.
I understand. Thanks for the time, Soledad. Take care,
be safe, and maybe we can do a separate interview about
Muslims in America after you get back.
I’d love to. It’s an excellent documentary. I think
everyone will find it absolutely riveting whether
they’re Muslim or not. But, sorry, I gotta run. Bye, Kam.
* * *
Soledad O'Brien reports from a devastated farming
community in northern
* * *
radiation alert: Japan faces world's worst nuclear
accident since Chernobyl as experts warn fallout may
reach U.S.—By David
Derbyshire, Richard Shears and Daily Mail Reporter—15
a day of worrying developments in Japan: The official
death toll rose to 2,800 but is expected eventually to
exceed 10,000. Two thousand bodies were washed up in two
towns in the worst affected area in north-east Japan.
Strong aftershocks persisted in the stricken area, and a
4.1 magnitude earthquake jolted Tokyo at about 4pm EST
yesterday. About 450,000 people have been evacuated
nationwide – plus 180,000 from around the nuclear plant,
where 190 have been exposed to some form of radiation.
Almost 2million households are without power in the
freezing north and about1.4million households have been
left without running water. Two other nuclear plants are
also thought to be under threat. At Tokai there were
also fears of overheating reactors as cooling pumps
failed, while high levels of radiation were detected at
the nuclear plant at Onagawa.ut
the main concern remained the Fukushima plant on the
north-east coast, where weary engineers were working
around the clock for the fourth day.—DailyMail
Death Toll Estimate in Japan
Soars as Relief Efforts Intensify
13 March 2011
$5 trillion economy, the third largest in
the world, was threatened with severe
disruptions and partial paralysis as many
industries shut down and the armed forces
and volunteers mobilized for the far more
urgent effort of finding survivors,
evacuating residents near the stricken power
plants and caring for the victims of the 8.9
magnitude quake that struck on Friday.
disaster has left more than 10,000 people
dead, many thousands homeless and millions
without water, power, heat or
transportation. . . . Prime Minister
Naoto Kan told a news conference in
Tokyo late Sunday: “I think that the
earthquake, tsunami and the situation at our
nuclear reactors makes up the worst crisis
in the 65 years since the war. If the nation
works together, we will overcome.”
government ordered 100,000 troops—nearly
half the country’s active military force and
the largest mobilization in postwar Japan—to
take part in the relief effort. An American
naval strike group led by the
nuclear-powered aircraft carrier
Ronald Reagan also arrived off Japan on
Sunday to help with refueling, supply and
rescue duties. The quake and tsunami did not
reach Japan’s industrial heartland, although
economists said the power blackouts could
affect industrial production—notably
carmakers, electronics manufacturers and
steel plants—and interrupt the nation’s
famously efficient supply chain. Tourism was
also bound to plummet, as the United States,
France and other nations urged citizens to
avoid traveling to Japan.—NYTimes
* * *
* * *
Sex at the Margins
Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry
By Laura María Agustín
This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London
* * * * *
The New Jim Crow
Mass Incarceration in the Age of
By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the
rosy picture of race embodied in Barack
Obama's political success and Oprah
Winfrey's financial success, legal
scholar Alexander argues vigorously and
persuasively that [w]e have not ended
racial caste in America; we have merely
redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial
segregation has been replaced by mass
incarceration as a system of social
control (More African Americans are
under correctional control today... than
were enslaved in 1850). Alexander
reviews American racial history from the
colonies to the Clinton administration,
delineating its transformation into the
war on drugs. She offers an acute
analysis of the effect of this mass
incarceration upon former inmates who
will be discriminated against, legally,
for the rest of their lives, denied
employment, housing, education, and
public benefits. Most provocatively, she
reveals how both the move toward
colorblindness and affirmative action
may blur our vision of injustice: most
Americans know and don't know the truth
about mass incarceration—but her
carefully researched, deeply engaging,
and thoroughly readable book should
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
* * * * *
Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
* * * * *
* * *
(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
posted 16 March 2011