USA Network Teams Up With Tom Brokaw for New Characters Unite Special “Bridging The Divide”
Documentary Introduces Champions of Change Who Work to Fight Hatred, Bullying and Intolerance
Programming Centerpiece of USA’s Characters Unite Month, Special Premieres Friday, December 10 at 7/6c
Characters Unite Campaign Established to Combat Prejudice and Discrimination
NEW YORK, NEW YORK — As part of its Characters Unite public service campaign to combat prejudice and discrimination, USA Network has teamed up with NBC News Special Correspondent Tom Brokaw to assess America’s progress in the nearly 50 years since the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. TOM BROKAW PRESENTS BRIDGING THE DIVIDE is the programming centerpiece of USA’s Characters Unite Month, which launched Thanksgiving week to shine a special spotlight on efforts to promote tolerance and respect. The thought-provoking documentary premieres Friday, December 10 at 7/6c.
The one-hour special, hosted by Brokaw and produced by Peacock Productions, looks beyond recent inflammatory headlines, sensational stories and politicized rhetoric to where our increasingly diverse country really stands on a range of civil rights issues. Speaking to a wide array of renowned experts, Brokaw explores the status of racism, gay rights, access for people with disabilities, bullying among kids and discrimination towards immigrants.
Brokaw explained, "At a time in America when there are so many divisions, we set out to find those who work every day to heal the wounds of cultural and racial discrimination – and we discovered that essential part of the American character that always manages to come through."
Brokaw introduces champions of change, ordinary citizens doing extraordinary work in communities around the country to help put an end to social injustices. Candid profiles include a couple who have dedicated their lives to teaching kids to accept one another’s differences; a woman who uses her disability to change the way people think about beauty and possibility; a coach who draws on the game of soccer to unite kids from war-torn countries and their new American community; an advocate for the right to comfort a dying partner, no matter his/her sexual orientation; and a combat war veteran and business leader dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty and violence in which he could have easily been trapped. The stories point to new direction and ways everyone can help to reach across barriers, overcome odds and foster a more united USA.
To coincide with the documentary, USA will release the results of its second annual “United or Divided” nationally representative opinion poll on Americans' views on a range of civil and human rights issues, conducted by Hart Research Associates (D) and Public Opinion Strategies (R).
Details of the stories featured include:
Aimee Mullins — Inspiring new thinking on possibilities for people with disabilities. Born without fibular bones, Aimee had both of her legs amputated below the knee when she was an infant. She learned to walk on prosthetics, then to run -- competing at the national and international level as a champion sprinter, setting world records at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta. She was on the dean's list at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University where she was the first “disabled” woman to compete in the NCAA on their nationally ranked Division I track team. She is also an actress and model who has walked the catwalk for world-class designers, including Alexander McQueen. With her amazing spirit, she helps others recognize their own potential and talents, despite what obstacles they may have to overcome. She serves as a motivational speaker and co-founded HOPE (Helping Others Perform with Excellence) to aid disabled people wanting to train and compete in sports.
Coach Luma Mufleh and the Fugees — Using soccer to unite a diverse community. Clarkston, Georgia has a population of just over 8,000 residents, more than half who are refugees from war-torn countries around the world. At the center of this town is the story of a boy’s soccer program called the “Fugees” (short for refugees) where children of conflict learn to make good with strangers and reach their potential in a very different and sometimes hostile place. This once sleepy town was transformed into one of most diverse communities in the country. The story documents how The Fugees’ coach, Luma Mufleh, born in Jordan and educated in the U.S., came to the town to bring together the children through soccer and became a transformative force in the community.
Wes Moore — Working to end racism and bring opportunity and accountability to inner cities. Wes, the author of “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates,” is a decorated combat veteran who served in Afghanistan with the elite First Brigade of the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division. He was a Rhodes Scholar who graduated from Johns Hopkins and Oxford, served as a White House Fellow and special assistant to Condoleezza Rice and is a highly regarded authority on the rise of radical Islamism. Growing up on the streets of Baltimore with a single mother after his father died, he could have taken the wrong path but instead prospered. Years later, when his local paper published an article on his successes, Moore noticed another story in the headlines: another local man, also named Wes Moore – same age and life story – was being sentenced to life in prison. Moore was fascinated with the coincidence of their shared nomenclature and vastly disparate fates, and formed a relationship with the man that Moore would eventually detail in his book. The juxtaposition between their lives has had a profound impact on Wes and he has become a mentor and advocate to help break the cycle of inner city poverty and violence.
Charlene Strong — Fighting for hospital visitation rights for same sex partners. Charlene was prevented from visiting her partner of ten years as she lay dying in the hospital because Washington State did not recognize their relationship. She went on to become a tireless advocate for equal rights, after testifying before the Washington State legislature in support of legislation for domestic partnership rights, was recognized by the Governor as she signed the bill into law. She has since been appointed human rights commissioner for Washington State and travels the country advocating equality. Currently, 44 states still do not grant same-sex couples all the rights of married couples.
Yvonne and Rich Dutra St. John — Challenging kids to respect and accept one another. Husband and wife team Yvonne and Rich Dutra St. John share decades of experience working with teens and families, specializing in prevention and intervention programs for teens. Together they launched a nationally recognized program called “Challenge Day” that has been used in schools in 40 states and across Canada, for students in grades 7-12. Challenge Day is an intense one-day program to address the increasingly common issues seen in schools today including negative judgments, teasing, harassment, stereotypes, intolerance, racism, sexism, bullying, violence, homophobia, hopelessness and apathy.
Also participating in the special are renowned experts and advocates including Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Eliza Byard of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network; John McWhorter, William Simon Fellow at Columbia University and contributing editor, The New Republic; Eboo Patel of the Interfaith Core; and Sirdeaner Walker, the mother of Carl Walker-Hoover, the 11-year-old boy who committed suicide after enduring relentless bullying in school.
In addition to the special, Characters Unite Month includes on-air promotion and Public Service Announcements (PSAs); extensive digital content, such as a new Facebook game application; star-studded community storytelling events and education workshops in partnership with The Moth; and the Characters Unite Awards. USA and Brokaw also partnered on the Characters Unite Town Hall in December 2009 and the documentary “American Character Along Highway 50.”
TOM BROKAW PRESENTS BRIDGING THE DIVIDE is executive produced by Colleen Halpin of Peacock Productions. Knute Walker and Benjamin Ringe are executive producers, and Sharon Scott is the executive in charge.