april ryan book cover - the presidency in black and white

*April D. Ryan is veteran journalist who has been a White House correspondent for the past 18 years. She also serves as the Washington bureau chief for the American Urban Radio Networks.

Besides covering the Obama administration, April’s responsibilities include hosting “The White House Report,” a syndicated show airing on about 300 radio stations around the country. The Morgan State grad still lives in her native Baltimore which is where she is raising two daughters, aged 7 and 12.

Here, she talks about her new memoir, “The Presidency in Black and White.”

Robertson Treatment: What interested you in writing a memoir?

April Ryan: A friend told me that I could not sit in that room and not write one. I basically started journaling from day one. I tried to work out a book deal during the Clinton years, but it was too soon. During the Bush years we did get a bite, but the editor got fired. Then, when President Obama was elected, my agent and I looked at each other, and said, “This is it!” And it was time. [Chuckles]

RT: What would you describe as the high point of your years with the White House Press Corps?

AR: There have been a lot of high points, professionally. But, I’d say it was the 100th anniversary of the White House Correspondents’ Association. My proudest moment was to be the third African-American on the board in the history of the organization. That board was founded by all white men. So, as a black female I was very proud to be in that picture alongside the first black President and First Lady. Things have changed, and I’m very thankful to be in the history books.

RT: You are in a unique position as a White House correspondent. How much do you think the “troubles” between Congress and the President can be attributed to race and how much to differences in political philosophy?

AR: I believe “race” is that piece of this presidency that people don’t want to acknowledge, but it’s there. We know that there are those who don’t like Barack Obama just because he is African-American. For instance, look at how Loretta Lynch is having a hard time in her confirmation hearings as Attorney General. She is more than qualified, and has been confirmed before. On Chris Matthews’ show, I predicted that it would be difficult for her. And I was right. There are some things you know inherently as a person of color. So, what’s going on is not a surprise to me. Race does play a major factor with what’s going on between President Obama and Congress.

RT: In your opinion, what are some things the president can do to improve race relations in this country?

AR: I think I’ve already answered that. The speech he delivered in Selma on the 50th anniversary of the march was very powerful. It tore me up when we went over the Edmund Pettus Bridge. However, the most poignant moment of the day was when Congressman John Lewis said, “If anybody had told me 50 years ago, that I would be back here introducing the first African-American President, I’d have said, ‘You’re crazy!’” I got goose bumps. It was moving, because John Lewis is not only a hero to me but to so many other African-Americans. If it were not for his getting clubbed over the head and knocked unconscious, along with others who were beaten with Billy clubs, bitten by dogs, and sprayed with fire hoses, we would not have the right to vote, and I would not be in the White House being called upon by name by the last three presidents. That experience touched every part of my being, because that history is a part of me.

RT: How do you feel about the lack of attention or focus by the Obama administration on poor and working-class black and brown people has died down. 

AR: I believe that Dr. West, Tavis and many of the others have some legitimate beefs, and that there’s a need for them because they’re applying pressure. But there’s also a need for a Donna Brazile. In response to one of my questions, President Obama said that African-Americans have been doing better since he became president, and that he’s still trying to bridge gaps. We have seen a lot of improvement, but more work still needs to be done. And I don’t think those communities would be served well if everyone were in agreement with him.

RT: What has been your biggest disappointment with the Obama administration?

AR: If I have a disappointment, it would be with the black unemployment numbers. He couldn’t be expected to make a drastic enough change in six years to get it on par with white America’s unemployment rate, but I would still like to see him focus on it more, because the figure is extremely high.

RT: Who is the most likeable of the presidents you covered, and who was the smartest?

AR: [LOL] I don’t want to answer that. [Laughs some more] Let me say this. All three are likable. One thing that many people forget is that they are human beings as well as presidents. When I had a soul food dinner with Bill Clinton and other black journalists, he said, “I came because you invited me and I like you, and I like the food.” He said it made him feel like he was back home again, and that you’d be surprised how, after becoming president, people only invite you out for a fundraiser or for this or that official function, but not for a simple dinner where you could just relax and be yourself. That was so telling. I actually felt sorry for him. President George W. Bush and I laughed so much, and President Clinton and I laughed a lot. They’re more gregarious than President Obama, but he’s funny, too. And he’s a nice guy. But he’s had to be more cautious about he’s perceived. All three of the presidents are very smart, although Bush played on the fact that people had low expectations of him. He looked more like the average person than Clinton or Obama.

RT: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

AR: I see a woman who’s trying to make it. I see someone who’s aging, who’s getting older. I see a single-mother with two girls whom I adore and who love me back. And I see someone who’s trying to contribute to society by raising two children to become wonderful women who can contribute to society themselves.

RT: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

AR: Yeah, how are you feeling? How was your day? You never know what someone’s going through. I always make a point of asking my daughters that. Adult-to-adult, most people assume you’re strong when you want them to care about how you’re feeling, instead of always taking, taking, taking, or wanting, wanting, wanting. Sometimes, I’d like somebody to tuck me in.

RT: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

AR: This business has changed from when I started out in the Eighties. You don’t have to major in broadcasting anymore because anybody who has a personality and a big following on a blog or on Twitter, can basically get on the air, participate and say whatever you want. I wouldn’t study journalism. It could be a hobby along the way while you’re doing something else. So, the delivery system is changing, so I would really rethink the idea of entering this industry.

To order a copy of The Presidency in Black and White, visit:  http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1442238410/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

BEST BETS – JAZZ ON THE GARDENS

More than 60,000 people descended on Sun Life Stadium for “Jazz in the Garden,” a concert series that has rapidly evolved into one of the most important music events in America. Recently held in the Miami suburb of Miami Gardens, FL., the two day concert featured top names from Jazz, R&B and Hip. Music lovers from as far off as California, New York, Chicago and Atlanta made the pilgrimage for this event, which was originally organized in 2005 and is now presided over by current Miami Gardens Mayor, Oliver Gilbert.

My weekend in south Florida actually kicked off with a women’s summit held on Friday before the festival that recognized local residents for their efforts to empower young women. The afternoon then segued to a lovely evening cruise that reminded everyone why Miami is a perennial U.S. destination.

Under the sun-kissed Florida sun, I greeted Saturday with a sumptuous brunch in South Beach, before heading off to the first day of Jazz in the Garden. We made it just in time for a hot set by Sheila E, who was followed by the soulful melodies of Freddie Jackson; a superb Jeffrey Osbourne and a supremely elegant Peabo Bryson. Next up came the delectable Toni Braxton, whose sensuality provided a perfect set-up for the evening’s main event – Mr. R. Kelly! Home boy completely wrapped the audience up with his special brand of R&B that the audience wanted to keep going forever.

Although I had to leave the next morning for an early flight to Los Angeles, my colleagues tell me that Sunday night was even better, with performances from Brian Culbertson, Erykah Badu, Run D.M.C. and Maxwell.

The Jazz on the Gardens has made a believer out of me and I would strongly recommend that all lovers of good music included it with an asterisk on their calendars!

Grade: A

AUTOMOTIVE SPIN

2015 Honda CR-V TRG

Already a proven performer with appeal to both solo and family drivers, the 2015 CR-V comes with some new features that will certainly improve its standing among drivers. With updated exterior styling, alongside some upscale interior enhancements, the CR-V makes a good first impression that made me eager to take it for a drive to see what else it offers.

Wow Factor:   The size of the CR-V’s interior cabin is spacious enough to accommodate both routine loads and the kids, which is a big plus for busy families. The ride has a rear seat that folds collapses in one swoop making it easily manageable for drivers who don’t have lots of time on their hands. The CR-V gets another A+ for its strong safety record (forward-collision warning and autonomous braking, lane-departure warning, and lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control), as well as its newly improved powertrain that greatly increases fuel economy (28 combined city/hwy.).

Ride: Outfitted with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, the CR-V will deliver enough power to handle everyday driving goals. The ride’s continuously variable transmission performs wells and offers responsive to meet normal driving. In LA’s busy streets, it performed well.

Comfort: The interior materials on the CR-V have been greatly improved from earlier models. Its seats offer great support for driver and passengers and its controls are easily accessible, which will improves driver safety.

Spin Control: With an MSP in the early to mid-20s, the CR-V is competitively priced for a vehicle in its class. Given its strong pedigree and improved features, I expect that it will find a plethora of new devotees who will value its driving experience.

Grade: B+

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