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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tavis Smiley Confronts the Miseducation of Black Boys in a National Primetime Special

Program is part of public media's American Graduate: Let's Make It Happen initiative to address the dropout crisis

TAVIS SMILEY REPORTS “TOO IMPORTANT TO FAIL” Premieres this Tuesday, September 13 at 8pm on PBS

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 9, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As the school year gets underway, broadcaster Tavis Smiley tackles the subject of education with a new PBS primetime special, an interactive website, and a companion e-book that will examine an undeclared crisis in America—the staggering dropout rate among young black males. Smiley's yearlong initiative kicks off with the premiere of the fifth episode of TAVIS SMILEY REPORTS, titled "Too Important to Fail," on Tuesday, September 13, 2011, 8:00-9:00 p.m. (EDT) on PBS (check local listings). This report investigates the root cause of this calamity and what can be done to reverse it.

Smiley's candid conversations in TAVIS SMILEY REPORTS took place in Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Oakland. These critical conversations with frontline experts and educators, detention center administrators and, most importantly, the boys themselves urge viewers to ponder the societal and economic cost of losing another generation of uneducated young black males to lifetimes of prison, drugs, and poverty.

The experts featured in the special include:

  • Dr. Alfred Tatum, who heads a literacy program in Chicago and is one of many educators grappling with how to reverse the alarming dropout rate.
  • Noted author and educational expert Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, who believes the country's response would be more immediate if this were a crisis involving white boys.
  • Dr. Arlene Ackerman, former superintendent of Philadelphia public schools, who says "we can't leave our young black males behind."

The yearlong education initiative also will include: parent summits; a companion e-book, Too Important to Fail: Saving America's Boys, available on and on September 13, that lists 130 organizations committed to solving this monumental challenge; a reading mobile truck tour; and an online public forum where thousands of Americans can share ideas that reflect the critical role of teachers, parents, community, and government. The online site,, that will also launch September 13, was developed in partnership with Microsoft and Open Society Foundation's Campaign for Black Male Achievement.

Recognizing the extraordinary impact parents can have on the development of their children with regard to learning, the Tavis Smiley Foundation will spearhead a series of parent educational summits aimed at informing parents how to be partners and advocates for education. The first seminar is slated for Oct. 29 in Los Angeles. Details, dates, and cities for future summits will be announced later this year.

TAVIS SMILEY REPORTS "Too Important to Fail" is part of American Graduate: Let's Make It Happen, a public media initiative supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to help local communities across America find solutions to address the dropout crisis.

"CPB, through the 'American Graduate: Let's Make it Happen' initiative, is proud to support 'Too Important to Fail'," said Patricia Harrison, CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. "This is programming unique to public media, and it has the potential to inspire us to help keep youth on the path to a high school diploma. Through the American Graduate initiative, public media stations, locally owned and operated, will be convening partnerships of parents, teachers, business leaders, students, and nonprofit organizations to address the dropout challenge in their specific communities and help identify and share solutions that will keep students on track to earn a diploma."

Visit for more information and Web-exclusive content. Online screeners of the special are available to the media upon request.

TAVIS SMILEY REPORTS is produced for PBS by The Smiley Group, Inc./TS Media, Inc. and in association with WNET New York Public Media. The executive producer is Jacoba Atlas. Funding is provided by The California Endowment, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the National Education Association (NEA).

For additional information, visit

Tavis Smiley is host of the nightly talk show Tavis Smiley on PBS, and the host of The Tavis Smiley Show and co-host of Smiley & West from Public Radio International (PRI). Smiley launched America I AM: The African American Imprint, a world-class traveling exhibition celebrating the extraordinary impact of African American contributions on our nation and the world. The exhibit is on a four-year, 10-city tour and is currently on display in St. Louis, Missouri. Smiley is also the author/editor of 15 books, including The New York Times bestsellers Covenant with Black America and What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America. His most recent book is FAIL UP: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure. In 2009, TIME magazine named him one of the World's Most Influential People. For more information, visit

CPB is a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967 and is steward of the federal government's investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operation of more than 1,300 locally-owned and operated public television and radio stations nationwide, and is the largest single source of funding for research, technology, and program development for public radio, television and related online services.

American Graduate: Let's Make It Happen is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to help local communities across the country find solutions to address the dropout crisis. In partnership with America's Promise Alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CPB and public media stations in 20 "Hub Markets" where the dropout crisis is most acute will provide their resources and services to raise awareness of the issue and coordinate action with community partners to establish and deliver on high expectations that all students graduate.

SOURCE TS Media, Inc.

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