'Soul of a Nation,' ABC's groundbreaking series on the Black experience in America, premieres tonight.
- It's a groundbreaking new prime time series. "Soul of a Nation" looks at racial reckoning in America, and it begins in Evanston.
BYRON PITTS: The only answer?
- The only answer.
BYRON PITTS: The only answer?
- The only--
BYRON PITTS: That's a big word, only.
- The only legislative response for us is reparations.
- That complicated and controversial word will be examined tonight. Byron Pitts with ABC News is a contributor to that six-part series, is with us live. Byron, always good to see you. Nice to have you with us here in Chicago on this News at 11 o'clock hour here. I want to take you back to Evanston. You traveled here, you take a deep dive into reparations. Can you break down what that means, and what did you find?
BYRON PITTS: Sure. Thank you so much, my friend. Great to be with you, so proud of you. We go to Evanston, a great American city, and we look at its policies with reparations. As you know, Evanston this spring will be the first city in America to pay reparations to a segment of its population, to African Americans who qualify for reparations. It's about $25,000 per person, up to $25,000 if they qualify.
And so reparations is something, as you know, Congress is grappling with. Many parts of the nation are grappling with, but it's your community there in Illinois just outside Chicago, that is taking that first step. So we look closely at reparations. There's a conversation in the piece about where art and activism intersect.
We interviewed the great John Legend to talk about. Then also at the end of the program, he sings a song. So who doesn't like a free concert? So certainly, there are meaty topics in the show but also some light, entertainment for people as well.
- I was going to ask, Byron. This is just week one. What else does this series look at in the weeks ahead?
BYRON PITTS: One night, we look at Black joy. As you and I both know, so often in the mainstream news media, we look primarily at the pathology of the Black experience. "Soul of the Nation" is meant to say that the Black community, like every other community in our nation, is complicated. It's nuanced. There's good, bad, there's in the middle. There's joy and there's pain. We want to look at all those things.
In one of the episodes, we look at Black joy as I mentioned. We look at faith. It seems to me, you can't Chronicle the Black experience in America, without looking at faith-- from the beginnings of slavery through the Civil rights era, to where faith and the church intersects now with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Every week, we'll hear from a different entertainer who will sing. Tonight's show, the host is Sterling K Smith, the great actor. He will host tonight's shows-- a number of names you'll recognize. Tonight's show starts off with spoken word by [INAUDIBLE]. The goal of journalists every single day, the show is meant to enlighten, inform, and also inspire.
- And there's been a lot of focus, too, Byron, on Black people over the past year or so. What would you say makes this series different?
BYRON PITTS: I think it's part of the conversation. I think your viewers will notice one, just the production quality of it. The best of ABC News is involved in this project, so many talented men and women. So I think one, just to look of it, will seem unique and special. And it is It's a conversation you're right, our nation is engaged in. And ABC News, we're bringing the best of our values to that conversation.
And lastly, if I may say, one of our co-executive producers framed it as-- this is a Black family reunion. And we're inviting all of our friends, all of our neighbors-- Black, white, Latino, Asian, everybody, Native American, please come. Sit down at the table, but we're making the potato salad. We're making the ribs and the chicken. It's our sweet tea, our music. Come and enjoy, and see how the Black experience is the American experience, that all of us have a stake in this conversation
- Byron, always good to talk to you. Always good to see you. And looking forward to the day when I can see and connect with you in person again. Looking forward to it.
BYRON PITTS: Amen, Amen. God bless.
- All right. Take care, have a good one. "Soul of a Nation" debuts tonight. Sterling K Brown is the guest host, Byron just mentioned that. Coming up 9:00 right here on ABC 7, then after that, the news at 10:00.