“Debt is a bigger problem than racism,” Pastor DeForest Soaries says emphatically at the top of ‘Almighty Debt.’ CNN anchor and special correspondent Soledad O’Brien reports for a 90-minute documentary investigation into the creative and proactive ways an African-American faith community is addressing the challenges of the national economic crisis, followed by a 30-minute dynamic forum. For the documentary, O’Brien follows a student facing a mountain of debt to finance his education, a married couple facing the stresses of an over-leveraged mortgage and credit card debt, another couple struggling following the loss of a job and the loss of income and self-esteem that come with unemployment.
For the forum, O’Brien moderates a discussion exploring the economy, faith, and politics with Pastor Soaries, best-selling author and senior pastor of The Potter’s House megachurch Bishop T.D. Jakes, syndicated financial columnist Michelle Singletary, clinical social worker and public relations executive Terrie Williams, and political pollster Cornell Belcher.
‘Almighty Debt – A Black in America Special’ debuts Thursday, Oct. 21 at 9:00 PM ET and PT on CNN/U.S. CNN.com has launched a multimedia section with special video excerpts from the documentary and “The Black Pulpit,” exclusive opinion editorials from faith leaders across the country on pathways to financial empowerment, can be found at www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/in.america/black.in.america.
Parishioners of the 7,000-member First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, N.J., led by senior pastor Soaries are facing a myriad of financial challenges: Fred Philp struggles to complete loan applications and boost his grades in order to attend college; Mary and Doug Jeffries, both employed in commission-based professions work to secure a loan modification to avoid foreclosure on their home; and Carl Fields and his wife must contend with a monthly personal budget deficit, since he lost his job nearly two years ago. O’Brien reports on their different issues and pathways to adapt to their individual challenges, and how their shared faith is infused in the way they view their challenges.
One of every three Black families is at risk of falling out of the middle class due to job loss, overspending, unexpected financial crises or other issues. African Americans lead in every negative economic indicator – including unemployment figures, foreclosure rates, income, debt and other categories. Although these indicators have worsened for African Americans during the global economic crisis, a recent nationwide Pew Research Center survey on race revealed that African American assessments about the state of Black progress have improved, despite the poor economy.
Pastor Soaries preaches a gospel of personal financial responsibility, and cultivating a value system of “faith in action” – expressed as optimism rooted in reality. He wants to help his parishioners – and Black America – achieve spiritual growth, educational excellence and economic empowerment. Economist and Bennett College president Julianne Malveaux, PhD and financial advice author Melvin Oliver, PhD add a framework of statistics and fact-based cultural insights into the socio-economic and historical factors that limit Black economic security.
The digital press kit for the initiative, including images and video clips may be found at: www.hvc-inc.com/clients/cnn/bia_debt/index.html.
CNN Student News will be offering an online Teacher and Parent Guide that includes discussion questions, a suggested learning activity, and correlations to national teaching standards. It will be made available at www.CNNStudentNews.com by Thursday, Oct. 21.
Michelle Rozsa is senior producer for ‘Almighty Debt.’ Geraldine Moriba is executive producer for CNN’s IN AMERICA production unit.