Remember 2020? That summer when America broiled with long-overdue conversations and protests about racial justice and police brutality following the murder of George Floyd? Some of that talk has gone away, but Soledad O’Brien—veteran journalist, peerless interviewer, and champion of equality—knows the work ain’t done yet. Not even close.
That’s why, more than a year since she launched her deep-dive show Matter of Fact Listening Tour, O’Brien is back with another installment. A spin-off of her weekly show Matter of Fact, the show focuses on broadening conversations of change, race, equity, and justice. Now, after three segments, the tour is ending with the fourth and final installment premiering this Wednesday, June 8, at 7 p.m. EST.
The episode, titled “Trailblazers, Troublemakers, and Dreams,” highlights the national pioneers who are leading conversations about race and justice in micro and macro ways. Unlike previous segments, this final leg challenges the idea of a social justice activist. Are they trailblazers, troublemakers, or both?
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“This segment looks at people who are trailblazers, and maybe the flip side of that are the troublemakers,” O’Brien says. “The whole point was to say, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and a lot of unrest in the country, who are the people who are trying to bring justice to the country? Some of them are boldface names, of course, and a lot of them are people who work every day often on a tiny budget or no budget and often with no recognition. So it’s deconstructing: What does that look like and why do they do it?”
“Trailblazers, Troublemakers, and Dreams” will debut on matteroffact.tv and include interviews from known activists like Billy Porter, the actor, singer, and author; Simone Biles, the Olympic Gold medalist and American gymnast; and local change agents such as the co-chair of 2017’s and 2019’s Women’s Rights March Linda Sarsour and gun-control advocate X Gonzalez, a survivor of the 2018 shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and a cofounder of March for Our Lives.
The episode will also feature enlightening conversations and personal narratives from:
- Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending mass incarceration through racial and economic justice
- Tarana Burke, community organizer and founder of the #MeToo movement
- Nashlie Sephus, an entrepreneur and computer engineer specializing in algorithmic bias identification
- Renee Montgomery, a former WNBA player who’s the first to become an owner and executive of a team
Though this is the last tour, O’Brien says the conversations—and, more importantly, the learning—doesn’t stop here. For O’Brien, since the first segment was launched in October 2020, she has learned not only the names of historical change agents but their personal stories, too. It’s not solely their activism that matters but also their strengths and struggles. “It’s been just an amazing way to tackle something that deserves to be revisited,” she says. “It’s always very disheartening to have a story be for this one day of Black History Month, or for Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s amazing to be like, no, let’s keep trying to solve it. Let’s dig in more and introduce you to people you don’t know. Some of them are famous, and some of them are not famous at all, except in their own neighborhood. But they’re doing interesting things. To me, that’s the real value that journalism can bring.”
Melanie Curry (she/her) is an editorial assistant at Hearst Magazines where she does a little of bit of everything in digital media. Her work has appeared in Men’s Health, InStyle, ELLE, and more. When not writing the day away, you can find her drinking a cold brew at Starbucks, reading a romance novel, or binge-watching the trendiest show on Netflix.