With a soulful sound completed by thumping bass and a picturesque view of the wind blowing the American flag over the White House, civil rights icon and National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. kicked off a brand-new public television show called “The Chavis Chronicles.”
Chavis, a student and disciple of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and a member of the famous Wilmington 10 civil rights group, began his new show on Sunday, Oct. 4, featuring Major Neil Franklin, the executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC).
Sporting a dark blue suit with a slick necktie and with his NNPA lapel pin for his millions of television viewers, Chavis chronicled the current Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, the battle for equality, and health disparities in his debut.
The program counts as an extension of his duties as NNPA president, one which provides heightened and needed exposure for the more than 200 publishers of the Black Press of America.
“It’s crystal clear that there’s a great disparity in the value of Black lives, and not just in this country,” Franklin declared during the broadcast.
“This is a global issue, and we’ve gotten to a point now where action needs to occur, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to close that gap.”
Clyburn spoke of the future of American democracy, particularly as it pertains to those enduring poverty.
“If you think about the world in which we live and who and what makes up the world, you’ve got to be shortsighted if you don’t know that the future growth and development of this country will be determined by how well we are able to diversify the leadership of this country and how well we are able to diversity the resources of this country,” Clyburn stated.
The program fills a massive void for African Americans on public broadcasting stations that opened after the departure of Tavis Smiley. The Chavis Chronicles is seen as a combination of “Meet the Press” and “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” but with an urban American flare.
Chavis goes beyond the headlines to offer profound insights on matters that impact the public.
Co-produced by Chavis and series creator Clara Wilkerson, The Chavis Chronicles focuses on contemporary reviews and analysis of leaders and innovators of African descent in America and throughout the Diaspora.
According to Wilkerson, Chavis promises lively discussions about “the life-journeys, issues, and historical and social-changing moments of freedom fighters whose genius, courage, and commitments have helped to improve the quality of life for all in the United States and throughout the world in affirmation of the oneness of humanity.”
“Last fall, I had a premonition that America was on the verge of mass social unrest,” Wilkerson stated. “The constant police brutality videos on the news showing blacks suffering and dying at the hands of law enforcement was akin to seeing kindling wood pile up. It would only take one spark to ignite a flame.”
“As we all know the death of George Floyd started this firestorm of protest that continues worldwide. Yet at that time it was just an intuition, but I knew we would need Dr. Chavis’s voice and his leadership as a civil rights icon. That’s why I created The Chavis Chronicles.
“I’ve produced long format documentaries for Public TV for 25 years. I believed Public Television would be an excellent forum for this type of thought-provoking programming.
“I was thrilled when Dr. Chavis agreed to host and collaborate on the series and now we are contracted to provided 52 episodes. It’s a major undertaking, but I am grateful to have the opportunity to bring this TV series to a mass audience with Dr. Chavis.”
American Public Television has ordered 48, one-hour episodes of the Chavis Chronicles which airs in more than 100 cities.
Melody McKinley and Tracie Caldwell serve as senior producers, and Tom Knier, Omar Teitelbaum, and Elie Mosseri also share editing duties.
“We have chronicled in-depth, our voices, our dreams, our pains, our aspirations, our struggles, and our challenges, opportunities, and our commitment to ensure freedom, justice and equality for all,” Chavis declared on air following the initial broadcast.
“Whether it’s Black lives matter, calls for action, and racial justice, health disparities, or income inequities, we’ll be here to report and share freedom’s constant struggle.”