Soledad O'Brien's The New Promise Land: Silicon Valley
I had a chance to speak with CNN anchor and Smithtown High School East alumnus Soledad O'Brien at a special VIP event at Robert DeNiro's Tribeca Grill which featured a screening of her new documentary The New Promise Land: Silicon Valley earlier this week. As a teacher in the district I know O'Brien has shown her support for her alma mater so I was happy when it was recently announced that she would be returning to a newly revamped version American Morning in January but her new documentary has a number of teachable moments educators might want to use in the classroom as well.
When you’re asked to think of Silicon Valley icons, people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg come to mind, but if your asked to think of African-Americans in Silicon Valley most people draw a blank and O’Brien’s new documentary looks at a group of people that are trying to change that. The documentary which airs on CNN this Sunday, November 13 at 8pm is the latest from her Black in America series and focuses on a group of 8 black technology entrepreneurs from varied backgrounds living together in a summer incubator program which facilitates and helps prepare their product demos.
The documentary is informative beyond even the racial question as it outlines that path that is taken from getting the concept of a product down the path to pitching the demo to investors and even Anthony Frasier, CEO of the video game app Playd, and an entrepreneur featured in the film told me “it’s really just about putting out a great product.” Nevertheless, like anything else, who you know is key and the incubator fast tracks the group toward pitches at Google headquarters and in front of numerous potential investors with interesting and mixed results.
The racial questions that the film stirs up are interesting and the idea that Silicon Valley is a land of “white college dropouts and Asians” is put to the test, but identifying the reality of what it takes to make it in the industry is certainly interesting to watch. There's a number of lessons to be learned from the program and parents and teachers can reference a handy guide to the film's educational angles at CNN's ed guide here: Silicon Valley Guide