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"Newsweek" columnist Ellis Cose's new public radio series, "Against the Odds," focuses on stories of individuals who endured terrible events, but have made positive contributions to the world.
Cose: "My own background is one that sort of leads me to look at issues of social mobility and access. I mean, I'm basically a kid who came out of the housing projects in Chicago, and so have always been fascinated with this question of why some people get ahead and why some people don't.
"I think there are certainly keys to people who achieve, and part of that is obviously the desire to achieve, the confidence that one can achieve, and you have a sense of optimism about life that is often defeated in people who come from rather dire circumstances. But it's a combination of things and you throw in a little bit of luck and you have a formula for success."
Cose's series is a collection of hour-long programs about foster care in the United States, the Indian caste system, former drug dealers who have turned their lives around, and the genocide in Rwanda.
The program on Rwanda is titled "Hope on a Pile of Bones," and examines how the small African country is pulling itself back together after the 1994 genocide. It all started 15 years ago this month, and before the killing stopped in July, nearly a million Rwandans were dead.
Close on how he chose Rwanda has one of the series' topics: "Rwanda kind of suggested itself ... I had been in Rwanda last year during the memorial ceremony which takes place every April -- April of course was the time when the genocide broke out in Rwanda, and there is a huge commemoration country-wide to acknowledge that and to ... reflect on that.
"It's a very emotional time in the country ... you have a country of roughly eight million people, and depending upon which figure you look at, somewhere between 800,000 and a million of those have been killed as a result of the genocide, so there's nobody there who hasn't been affected by it."
From April to July of 1994, about 10 percent of Rwandans were slaughtered by their own contrymen. Last year, Cose traveled to Rwanda to interview survivors who have dedicated their lives to helping themselves and their nation move forward after that tragedy.
"Against the Odds" can be heard on a number of PRI Affiliate Stations. Use our Program Locator to see if it airs in your local area.
Also in this hour: Corneille is a young R&B artist who was born in Germany, raised in Rwanda, lives in Canada, and sings in English and French. His sound has been compared to Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Sam Cooke. Although he's sold millions of records in both France and Canada, Corneille is relatively unknown in the US. Motown Records plans to change that with the release of his latest CD titled "The Birth of Cornelius." And if the music doesn't move people, the back-story will: Corneille's parents and many members of his extended family were killed in the Rwandan genocide.
Bob Edwards Weekend" is a two-hour interview showcase, in which celebrated host Bob Edwards highlights the life and work of interesting people, from newsmakers, historians, and authors to artists, actors, and regular folks too. The show is produced by XM Satellite Radio and distributed nationwide by PRI.