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Basic Black; Persons Of The Cloth Beyond Church: Non-Traditional Ministers


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Basic Black
Persons Of The Cloth Beyond Church: Non-Traditional Ministers
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

Basic Black highlights three local ministers, their roles in the community, and their personal search for meaning.

Ministers, George Kenney, Irving Fryar, Jeffrey Brown A professional football player with a legacy of bad behavior. An HIV-positive former drug addict. A divorced single father. These are hardly the profiles of traditional men of the cloth, yet they describe three ministers whose unusual backgrounds give them a unique ability to connect with their parishioners.

George Kenney credits a brief stint in prison for helping him find God, and it’s his 30-plus years of drug abuse, he says, that helps him understand his parishioners, many who are former and current addicts, at the Church of United Community. "A lot of times, the church wants people to change, but the church is not willing to change," he says. Kenney "meets people where they are," he says, talking to his worshippers about addiction, HIV and AIDS, homelessness, abuse, and hunger. HIV-positive, Kenney practices what he preaches, going so far as to make condoms available in church. "It’s not very traditional, but very essential," he says.

Now playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, Irving Fryar is a hot commodity in that city, sought-after for appearances on radio, television, and in commercials. Yet when he played for the New England Patriots, his many run-ins with the law gave him a bad-boy image. "I had it all, and I was trying to throw it away," says Fryar of his Patriots wild days. "I asked God to change my life." Fryar says that the Lord called him to be a minister, so now he saves souls on the sidelines. "One of the reasons I do this is because nobody did it for me," he says of his ministry.

When Jeffrey Brown became minister of the Union Baptist Church in Cambridge ten years ago, he was just 26 years old. Although in his youth and inexperience he was "scared to death," he soon realized that being just a few years older than the many young people he saw being lured into gangs and violence could work to his advantage. The widespread youth violence that gripped Boston in the early 1990s "served as a wake-up call for me and others," Brown says. "We had to come out of the four walls of our sanctuary and meet our young people and try to build relationships with them." Brown’s status as a divorced single father disturbs some parishioners but comforts others. "I’ve had a lot of single fathers come up to me and tell me that they want to be more involved in their kids’ lives," he says.



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Social Issues
Race and Ethnicity
Chicago: “Basic Black; Persons Of The Cloth Beyond Church: Non-Traditional Ministers,” 01/14/1998, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed December 16, 2018, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_DB9E1EDD762B44938A2D411C014B3989.
MLA: “Basic Black; Persons Of The Cloth Beyond Church: Non-Traditional Ministers.” 01/14/1998. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. December 16, 2018. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_DB9E1EDD762B44938A2D411C014B3989>.
APA: Basic Black; Persons Of The Cloth Beyond Church: Non-Traditional Ministers. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_DB9E1EDD762B44938A2D411C014B3989
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