For his third Tavis Smiley Reports primetime special, Tavis Smiley will travel to New Orleans to capture the mood and spirit of the city’s courageous residents five years after the levees failed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

This special comes out of a ongoing collaboration between Tavis Smiley and Academy-Award-winning director Jonathan Demme that began in 2006 when Smiley aired Demme’s documentary “Right to Return: New Home Movies from the Lower 9th Ward” as a weeklong series on PBS. Demme has spent the past five years chronicling the people of New Orleans as they struggle to recover and rebuild their city. Smiley now returns to interview some of the city’s most resilient residents who share their rich cultural heritage as they rebuild schools, churches and homes against enormous odds.

Joining Smiley in this hour-long special are:

  • Jazz musicians Ellis and Branford Marsalis
  • Actor John Goodman, long-time resident now starring in the acclaimed series “Treme”
  • Actor Wendell Pierce, a third-generation native also starring in “Treme”
  • New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu
  • Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun, whose experiences were chronicled in Dave Eggers' award-winning book “Zeitoun”
  • Heroic residents including educators, environmentalists, activists, and religious leaders

“In many ways, New Orleans remains a lightning rod for issues of race and class in this country,” says Tavis Smiley. “We see two sides of the city – the tourist areas that have been redeveloped with federal funds, and the devastated neighborhoods where everyday people have taken it upon themselves to get their homes rebuilt, their schools reopened, and their lives back.”

Tavis Smiley will be shooting on location in New Orleans May 12-16. The episode, entitled “Been in the Storm Too Long,” premieres, July 21, 2010 at 8pm/7pm Central on PBS.

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