Two weeks have flown by since my vacation to New Orleans. My nose continues to trick and tease my mind with a faint mirage of smells that can only be native to area code 504. One of the highlights of my trip to New Orleans included a visit to the Essence Magazine seminar series. The event was held at the convention center and many of the presentations, panel discussions, and exhibits focused on improving the communities in which we live.

CNN, the 24-hour news channel, sponsored a booth this year and was promoting a documentary titled “Black in America” with sneak previews. The initial footage shown at the seminar was promising, so I made a mental note to set the TIVO.

Have you ever followed up on a friend’s overly enthusiastic recommendation to dine at the new upscale sushi bar? Well, some things just don’t live up to expectations. Last week, CNN failed to deliver on its attempt to cover new media territory in “Black in America.” CNN’s special would have one believe that being a black man in America is confined to running for president or running from the scene of a crime.

From my experience, being black in Forest Park means running after the train that’s heading to your downtown office.

CNN’s special would have one believe that being a black woman in America means you’re an angry, HIV infected, single, welfare mother with five children. From my vantage point, being black in Forest Park means being a happily married woman who’s working and/or raising children with her African-American husband. These women commit to joining the school PTA, Big Brother/Big Sisters mentor program, or the library trustee board in order to make a positive difference in their community.

CNN’s news special would have one believe that being a black youth in America means you’re a miracle child who attends a prestigious Ivy League university, thanks to affirmative action. This miracle child has a younger sibling who dropped out of high school in order to make fast cash as a gang leader or drug dealer.

From my vantage point, being black in Forest Park means having young children who appreciate their own heritage and respect the diverse backgrounds of others. They strive for academic excellence and honorable character. They graduate from a variety of community colleges and public universities.

I am not naïve to the reality of the stories profiled in CNN’s documentary. I am just shocked that in 2008 the network media continues to fail to show the reality of being black in Forest Park. While in New Orleans, not only did I have a chance to check out the Essence exhibits, but I ventured out of the French Quarter and the downtown area to the neighborhoods still devastated by Hurricane Katrina. I witnessed rows and rows of abandoned houses. There’s no doubt that some of what CNN portrayed as normal to black America is in fact the norm in these areas.

But it doesn’t have to be. There’s no reason to accept whatever you’re told about limited potential.

Whatever the name, Forest Park exists all over the country. So there’s no need to watch TV to find out what it means to be black in America. Just open your door and meet me where I live, work and play.