WXXI AM News

African Americans

The seventh season of PBS' "Finding Your Roots" with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. offers another series of compelling stories about well-known people tracing their family ancestries. The episode that airs tonight features music artist Pharrell Williams, who learns some painful truths about his ancestors. Like many African Americans, Williams was unable to find much information about his genealogy due to a dearth of records before emancipation.

This hour, we talk with the lead genealogist from "Finding Your Roots" about the new season, about the challenges African Americans face in tracing their ancestries, about resources available in the process, and we hear from two women who found their roots. Our guests:

  • Nick Sheedy, lead genealogist for “Finding Your Roots,” season seven 
  • Cheryl Wills, award-winning journalist, anchor for Spectrum News NY1, and author of “Emma,” “The Emancipation of Grandpa Sandy Wills,” “Emancipated: My Family’s Fight for Freedom,” and “Die Free – A Heroic Family Tale” 
  • Teej Jenkins, host of WXXI’s “Arts in Focus,” and producer for WXXI-TV 

For more information about "Finding Your Roots" and resources to help trace your ancestry, click here.

The pandemic has hammered Black-owned businesses, according to new data from the National Bureau of Economic Research. The organization found that 41 percent of Black-owned businesses have closed during the pandemic, compared to just 17 percent of white-owned businesses. That's what makes Annette Campbell's story so unusual: she just opened her own business in Rochester called The Tax Experience.

Campbell has overcome significant personal hardships, including financial hardships, and now hopes her business will put others on the track to financial stability. We discuss her path to opening a business, and the challenge of doing it during a pandemic. Our guest:

Historic abuse of communities of color through medical research has many Black Americans hesitant about getting a COVID vaccine. Dr. Angela Branche is working to address those concerns. She joins us along with community activist Justin Morris and vaccine trial participant Jackie Dozier to discuss a number of issues and questions surrounding the vaccines, and how to ensure communities of color feel informed.

Our guests:

  • Angela Branche, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Medicine (Infectious Diseases), and co-director of the Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit at the University of Rochester Medical Center
  • Justin Morris, community activist
  • Jackie Dozier, vaccine trial participant

Jeanette Ortiz-Osorio/American Red Cross

The American Red Cross is urging more Black people to donate blood to help sickle cell disease patients, whose treatment depends on closely matching blood types. 

Sickle cell disease is a genetic blood disorder that affects about 100,000 people in the U.S., most of whom are African American.