CNN’s Soledad O’Brien to Speak for Af-Lat-Am’s 40th Anniversary

Phillips Academy will welcome CNN journalist Soledad O’Brien to campus tonight to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Andover’s Afro-Latino-American (Af-Lat-Am) society. O’Brien will speak on the importance of mentoring, her own cultural identity and diversity in the media. A group of Andover alumni decided to bring O’Brien to campus, and Okyeraa Ohene-Asah ’09, President of Af-Lat-Am, said that she received an Abbot grant to make the event possible. O’Brien has reported news stories from around the world and has produced groundbreaking documentaries on important world issues since 2003. Her two most recent documentaries with CNN include “Black in America,” an examination on the lives of black Americans 40 years after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, and “Escape from Jonestown,” which focuses on the living conditions of New Orleans residents following Hurricane Katrina. O’Brien is the recipient of many renowned awards due to her effort to spread multicultural awareness through her journalism. In 2005, O’Brien received the Hispanic Heritage Vision Award. The next year, the National Urban League awarded her its Women of Power Award. In 2007, O’Brien received many significant awards including the President’s Award from National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Clara Barton Humanitarian Award from the American Red Cross. O’Brien’s multicultural knowledge and identity make her the ideal guest for Af-Lat-Am’s historic 40th anniversary. Linda Griffith, Instructor in English and Dean of Community and Multicultural Development, said, “[O’Brien] is not only the embodiment of multiculturalism, but through her work in journalism, she has kept America and the world informed of the challenges and rewards of living in a nation of many cultures. O’Brien will discuss three primary topics that are becoming increasingly important in today’s multicultural world: diversity in the media, her identity as an Afro-Latino and the need to mentor youth. Ohene-Asah said, “Af-Lat-Am has a mentoring program that I have participated in for years. Mentoring is extremely important both to the organization and to O’Brien. It has helped shape her life. This is the goal of the mentoring program – to positively influence others.” O’Brien will also address the portrayal of blacks and Latinos in the media and its impression on the American public. O’Brien’s reportage often focuses on the growing number of immigrants in America and educational opportunities for minorities. In addition to O’Brien’s visit, a variety of other events also planned for Af-Lat-Am’s anniversary. According to Karina Hernandez-Guarniz, college counselor and faculty advisor for Af-Lat-Am, the weekend will include several panels and group discussions with current students, alumni and faculty members. On Saturday, alumni will share their college and career experiences with current students in two panels, “Af-Lat-Am Past and Present” and “Life After Andover.” Hernandez-Guarniz said, “Current students will have the opportunity to hear from alums what Andover and the club was like 40 years ago. The alums are also eager to hear about how the club and school have changed since they graduated.” Daryl Cohen ’92, an alumnus attending the event said, “The event provides a much needed forum for interaction between students and alumni. Current students will have an opportunity to learn about Af-Lat-Am’s history and the kinds of challenges that students faced in previous decades.” He continued, “Alumni will learn how Af-Lat-Am has changed and what kinds of challenges the current students are facing. Most importantly, the event will provide an opportunity for alumni to mentor current students and reinforce the continuity of Af-Lat-Am as an organization.” Christopher Auguste, another alumnus attending the anniversary event, said, “To the more than 150 alumni who will be returning to PA this weekend, Af-Lat-Am was critical to their success and well being at Andover.” “In the 1970s, there were approximately 20 to 25 black and Hispanic students out of 1,200 students at Andover. Af-Lat-Am was a comfortable place for black and Hispanic students to get together and to support each other,” Auguste said.