"Conversations with Al McFarlane" debates the hot topics
By Sheriden Groves, Youth Media Leader
As a Youth Media Leader for SPNN’s Community Productions, I was able to observe the SPNN Production Crew produce five new “Conversations with Al McFarlane” episodes in mid-July, that will begin airing in the beginning of August. Each episode had an in-depth conversation on issues from politics to workforce inclusion.
Two of the episodes were based on the ever-so-present topic of politics: The political campaigns for Hennepin County Commissioner for District 2 and State Representative for District 59B. First, Mr. McFarlane talked to the candidates for the Commissioner position,which is going to be a tough election between several different nominees: Tonia Johnson; Leslie Davis; Paula Pentel; Linda Higgins; Kathleen Murdock; Rolf Erickson and Roger Smithrud. These candidates were joined by Former State Representative Reverend Randolph Staten. The absent candidates were Steve Dehler, Blong Yang, and Don Samuels, who missed out on a great opportunity. A robust conversation that allowed them to do the whole nine yards - advertising themselves, describing what they would do to make the world a better place ,and trying to be more persuasive about how they are far more experienced than the person next to them. Typical politics? Yes.
Then the show went on to the State Representative candidates: Raymond Dehn, Terra Cole, and Bill McGaughey, who are running for a seat in the state legislature, currently held by Bobby Joe Champion. The candidates discussed their track records and entertaining personal stories. They explained what life was like growing up in North Minneapolis and other experiences. Those you will have to watch to find out about. Certainly, it looks like voters have hard decisions to make on August 14th.
Two other topics that the show covered, which are becoming quite the controversy and are making Minnesotans re-evaluate their morals: The Minnesota Same-Sex Marriage Amendment and The Photo ID Amendment. Sarah Walker, Board Member for Minnesotans United for All Families; Reverend McAfee, New Salem MBC; and Michael Cole-Smith discussed the trending topic of the Marriage Amendment. Mr. McFarlane and Insight News disclosed their beliefs first: ”We believe in human decency, dignity, and that every human being and relationship is sacred.” The representative for Minnesotans United for All Families, Sarah Walker, agreed and said: ”This is just like a human rights issue because the government is limiting, not expanding, justice.” But like any controversy, there are always two sides, and here the other side was represented by Reverend McAfee. McAfee believes: ”This isn’t the most important thing the world, let alone the Black community, has faced. What about the poor people or the unemployment rates; why now are people talking about sexuality?” Michael Cole-Smith, who is in a civil union with Jamil Smith-Cole, responded, ”I’m sorry, but it’s our time.” In the end there will always be two-sides to this even if you agree with Reverend McAfee,”I don’t care who you go to bed with, you think I’m going to lose any sleep on that? I got enough problems of my own.” Or like Sarah Walker, ”At the end of the day, you should be able to love who you want and marry them.’’
Another hot topic was the discussion of the Photo IDs for voters. This time Al McFarlane was joined by important elected officials and other individuals. Kevin Lindsey, Minnesota Commissioner of Human Rights; Dan McGrath, Executive Director, TakeAction MN; and Dianne Binns, First Vice President for St.Paul NAACP were in attendance. Dan McGrath asked the question, ”What kind of state do you want to live in?” He got a passionate answer from Commissioner Kevin Lindsey. ”Statistics say that half a million people won’t be able to vote anymore, which will include the elderly, military, college students and no matter how hard we try to forget: the Poor. Also, twenty-five percent of African Americans don’t have an ID.” Dianne Binns voiced her opinion: ”This would be a Jim Crow law under a different name, and a solution looking for a problem!” Whether it’s an equality issue or an issue of inconvenience, the panel agreed that the law shouldn’t be passed.
The last program was a discussion on workforce inclusion and job training for minorities. Mr. McFarlane discussed the issue with Wanda Kirkpatrick, Director of Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity for Metropolitan Council, Kevin Lindsey, Commissioner of Human Rights, and Reverend Randolph Staten. This conversation was necessary because the unemployment rates for African Americans in Minnesota is at an all time high compared to Caucasian unemployment rates. Many people have connected unemployment to the education gap, but Reverend Randolph Staten disagreed. He said, ”What we’re talking about is economic exclusion and the reason for that is white supremacy or plainly, racism. Racism is preventing economic inclusion, it always has, and because of this greater trouble is ahead.” The panel evaluated the economy and what should be done to fix it. Wanda Kirkpatrick added ”In 2010, 24% of the regional population were African Americans, so predictably the number of African Americans in 2040 will increase to 43%.” The panel discussed how employers shouldn’t turn their heads away from African Americans if they consider them uneducated, rather that employers should educate them on appropriate workforce behavior or recommend programs that will prepare them.
“Conversations with Al McFarlane,” will be coming to a television near you in August 2012. You don’t want to miss it! Who doesn’t like watching people debate opinions and issues? Now that’s reality TV.