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Basic Black; Teachers


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Basic Black
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 profiles three Boston teachers using sports, music, and the alphabet to make a difference in the lives of their students. At the Jeremiah Burke School in Dorchester, discipline coordinator John Rice has been keeping kids in line with fairness and respect for seven years. "The word gets around quickly if you’re fair or unfair, and the kids respond accordingly," he says. The former physical education teacher and one-time Celtics draftee coaches girls’ basketball and junior varsity football, giving him yet another way to connect with the kids. "He’s a father figure for a lot of people who didn’t have fathers," says one student.

Despite her personal success, financial analyst Andrea Spence knows from her own family the pain and shame that illiteracy brings. That’s why she is a volunteer literacy teacher for a 65-year-old woman learning to read for the first time. As she teaches her student the alphabet and other skills most of us learn as young children, Spence reflects on how much her student has achieved without knowing how to read. "When an adult decides that they’re going to combat this issue of being illiterate, they’re committed," she says. "We will gain success because we start out with commitment."

For Cambridge Rindge and Latin School music teacher Jimmy Smith, drumming is a means toward his students’ feeling of self-worth. "I have strong relationships with the students when they’re here, because I’m concerned about them not just musically but socially and everything else," he says. Whether teaching a rhythm pattern, working with the marching band, or showing BASIC BLACK host Darren Duarte the basics of drumming, the 28-year veteran gets high marks from his students.



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Social Issues
Race and Ethnicity
Chicago: “Basic Black; Teachers,” 02/11/1999, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed October 25, 2016, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_F7B680621BC7499088A6B80D1D0FF89A.
MLA: “Basic Black; Teachers.” 02/11/1999. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. October 25, 2016. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_F7B680621BC7499088A6B80D1D0FF89A>.
APA: Basic Black; Teachers. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_F7B680621BC7499088A6B80D1D0FF89A
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