Of Race and Two David Wilsons

Apr 6, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The documentary “Meeting David Wilson” is the 90-minute centerpiece of a big evening that begins at 9 p.m. EDT Friday on MSNBC. It includes a 90-minute live discussion of race on the cable channel immediately following, as well as a broader off-air initiative aimed at young people.
Long before presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama gave his speech about race and the need for a discussion of it in America, one David Wilson, a 28-year-old African American who grew up in Newark, N.J., began a genealogical and metaphysical journey that would bring him face to face with another David Wilson, a 62-year-old white North Carolinian.
Just a few generations ago, the latter’s family owned members of the former’s family.
“There’s no blueprint for the experience I’m about to have,” the younger Mr. Wilson says shortly before he shakes hands for the first time with the elder Mr. Wilson.
Over the course of their time together, the two David Wilsons have a conversation that is fraught with halting straightforwardness on both sides and is punctuated with some genuinely suspenseful pauses.
Both David Wilsons will participate in the live discussion, which will be moderated by “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, who is scheduled to be joined by Tiki Barber, the New York Giants star turned NBC News correspondent.
NBC VP Lyne Pitts, one of the executive producers of the evening, told The Insider that booking for the discussion began several months ago.
The timing of the evening, with Sen. Obama’s phrases still resonating in the political zeitgeist, ought to work well for the world premiere of “Meeting David Wilson.” While the candidate’s speech did not become the template for the live discussion, it did suggest white resentment and black anger as additional topics.
“Those were not subjects that we had on the table for our discussion, but we started to think about whether this is an opportunity to give voice to some issues that we ought to talk about. [David] certainly feels [that] people should say what’s on their mind and people should speak truthfully about these issues,” Ms. Pitts said.
At a screening and discussion at NBC earlier in the week, the younger Mr. Wilson noted that his documentary is rooted in long-running discussions he’s had with a very good friend, who is white. It’s a discussion he thinks this generation is more willing to have.
He hopes that “Meeting David Wilson” will help start a conversation he feels is too often stifled by political correctness, and help kids embrace who they are by being proud of who they are.
Because Mr. Wilson wanted his documentary to reach young people, “Meeting David Wilson” first was pitched as something appropriate for NBC News’ educational initiatives, headed by NBC News Chief Financial Officer Adam Jones. Mr. Jones snapped up the rights, confident that his colleagues could see the bigger audience and broader impact in Mr. Wilson’s story.
Ms. Pitts, who is also part of the NBC Universal diversity team, said, “It was really important that we make an event of it.”
As for young David Wilson, who several years ago was a production secretary for executive producer Susan Zirinsky at CBS News’ “48 Hours” and now is an independent filmmaker, this is not likely to be the last “event” showcasing work he’s done.
“’Meeting David Wilson’ is “fantastic,” said Ms. Zirinsky, one of Mr. Wilson’s mentors during production of the documentary. “It’s a blow-away film.”
The Insider could not have put it better.


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    A Conversation about race
    A cry for Honesty
    Thank you for your time,
    Sean C. Brown

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