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Basic Black; Unnecessary Fire


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Basic Black
Unnecessary Fire
Program Number


Series Description

THe series was formerly known as Say Brother. Series title change as of 1/8/1998. This series is black produced and is one of public television's longest-running series that is rooted in and reflects the culture, concerns, achievements and history of people of African descent. Also includes controversial issues, African American artists, and events of special interest to the African American community.

Series release date: 1/8/1998

Program Description

The January death of Providence police officer Cornel Young Jr. has again brought the issue of racial profiling in America's police departments to the forefront. This month BASIC BLACK looks at the brief life of Cornel Young Jr. and the effect of his death on the Providence community. In her only extensive television interview to date, Leisa Young, mother of Cornel Young Jr. talks about her son's life, their relationship, and how law enforcement officials treated her during the investigation of her son's death.

"We cut through the political clutter to take a look at man who died in the prime of his life," says host/producer Darren Duarte. "In revealing the human aspect of this tragedy and examining other incidents of racial profiling, we hope to raise awareness that the death of this one young man is not an isolated incident." Duarte talks with noted attorneys Johnnie Cochran, Charles Ogletree, Chris Cooper and Alan Dershowitz, about their experiences in similar cases. The program then turns the spotlight on cases of unnecessary fire in New York City, Nashville, Tennessee, and Louisville, Kentucky.

Attorney Johnnie Cochran, who is handing the civil suit against the state, feels "[this incident] is a case of profiling again." He goes on to say, "When you engage in stereotypical thinking -- when you see somebody of brown skin, they become the bad guy. It's easier to shoot -- it's easier to do what they've done, even when he's the same as you -- and this is a classic example."

As the civil case continues to divide the community, the police remain firm that Young's death was an accident. "This is a diversified city and I was raised in this city, white and black. I have lived in it and I am part of it. We're all human beings and I can honestly tell you that race did not play a role in it," said Michael Marcoccio, president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Providence. "This thing went down in 45 seconds…you walk in our shoes and you can more clearly see how this can happen."



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Social Issues
Race and Ethnicity
Chicago: “Basic Black; Unnecessary Fire,” 05/11/2000, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed December 16, 2018, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_5A3F4DDD0DBF4715BF421F56C75E9D8D.
MLA: “Basic Black; Unnecessary Fire.” 05/11/2000. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. December 16, 2018. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_5A3F4DDD0DBF4715BF421F56C75E9D8D>.
APA: Basic Black; Unnecessary Fire. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_5A3F4DDD0DBF4715BF421F56C75E9D8D
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