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Islandista who keeps rising – Soledad O’Brien

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Everyone wants a piece of Soledad O’Brien.


The famous CNN journalist and Special Investigations host was born in the United States to a black Cuban mother and white Australian father of Irish descent.

Looks simple written there but when you hear that she is a member of both the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and that she has been awarded by the NAACP once,  named as one of 100 Top Irish Americans twice and awarded a prize as Groundbreaking Latina of the Year, you see what we mean.

Everyone – black people, Hispanics, Irish folk, Aussies and yes, now islandistas – proudly stake their bit of a claim to this fabulous islandista by descent.

Yes, we’re claiming Soledad too – as a Cubana doing well in the world, she makes us proud to claim her.

Her documentaries are smashes. Both Black in America and Black in America 2 were the most-watched documentaries of the year on CNN in 2008 and in 2009 (so far).

The follow up will be (of course) Latino in America, set to air in October this year.

Could ‘Irish in America’ and ‘Australian in America’ be far behind? We kid, we kid…

The story of Soledad’s unique, multi-cultural ancestry goes back to John Hopkins University in Maryland in 1958 where interracial marriage was still against the law. That didn’t stop Soledad’s father Edward, from pestering Estella, the alluring Cubana he saw every day at Mass (both were Catholic).

Solead told Irish Central (of course!):

“As students at John Hopkins in Maryland they used to both go to daily Mass. My father would ask her every day if she would like a ride home, and every day my mother would refuse – you didn’t take a ride from a man you don’t know. But one day she eventually said yes, and that’s how they started dating.”

Of course, their dating was severely hampered by segregation – they couldn’t go out to most restaurants, bars or even the movies, so Estella cooked for Edward at home. One year later, in 1959, they got married – going to neighbouring Washington D.C. since they could not legally marry in Maryland.

Soledad is well aware that everyone sees a little bit of their culture in her and want to claim her and she’s cool with that.

In the interview with Irish Central, she says:

Every culture sees their own culture in me. I remember my uncle from Australia said, ‘You look so Australian.’ It’s the freckles.

“I look like an O’Brien. If you saw my dad you’d agree. When I was filming Latino in America and I interviewed a wife who was Dominican and her husband who was Puerto Rican and she said, ‘I read your mother’s Cuban, I knew you were one of us!’

I love that in the black community that people consider me to be someone who contributes on all fronts.”

Her multi-culti background has also helped her very nicely as a journalist, which she owns to.

” There’s something very nice about being an insider and an outsider. As a journalist I think there’s a plus to that. “Whether it’s working moms, or Afro Caribbeans, or Latinos or Irish people or Australians, you can see the inside story and the outside one.”


By Me

island ~ ista
From Latin -ista via Portuguese -ista
one who follows a principle; an adept.

As an islandista I live, embody, exude the spirit of the Caribbean islands.

One reply on “Islandista who keeps rising – Soledad O’Brien”

Soledad is one of my favourite journalists. I’ve liked her since she was at NBC. She really has a genuine interest in helping the downtrodden. I will never forget her work during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

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