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African Voices Featuring The Women Who Shine On The International Stage; Supreme Court Blocks Citizenship Question; Ten Cities to be Raided on Sunday; Tensions Between U.K. and Iran Continues; Louisiana to Brace Tropical Storm Barry; Big Ben Turns 160. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired July 12, 2019 - 03:00   ET



GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Census turnaround. The U.S. president gives up on including the question of citizenship on the 2020 census but plans to get the controversial information another way.

Bracing for Barry, the tropical storm moves closer to the already flooded Louisiana Coast, the big easy suddenly on edge this day.

And Big Ben's birthday, the iconic Bell Tower in London celebrates a milestone without making a sound.

We are live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta and we want to welcome to our viewers all over the world. I'm George Howell. CNN Newsroom starts now.

Around the world, good day to you. The U.S. president is dropping a controversial plan to include a question about citizenship on the 2020 census. Instead, Mr. Trump is issuing an executive order. It was -- it requires the U.S. government agencies to provide the Commerce Department with documents on records citizenship and non-citizens.

President Trump says he will not back down on efforts to determine the citizenship status of the U.S. population.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: With today's executive order, which eliminates long-standing obstacles to data sharing, we're aiming to count everyone. Ultimately, this will allow us to have an even more complete count of citizens than through asking the single question alone.


HOWELL: Even though two weeks ago the Supreme Court blocked the president from adding the question, the attorney general says the citizenship question is justified, they just run out of time, he says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: So, as a practical matter, the Supreme Court's decision closed all paths to adding the question to the 2020 census. Put simply, the impediment was not a logistical impediment, not illegal one, we simply cannot complete the litigation in time to carry out the census.


HOWELL: So why is the U.S. census such a big deal? My colleague Cyril Vanier explains.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: This is roughly how many people live in the U.S., right, so 309 million at this moment. The U.S. Census Bureau says the constitutional basis for conducting the census is to reapportion that U.S. House of Representatives dividing the 435 seats among the 50 states.

So, another is saying that is how much weight every state is going to have in the country's affairs. Those seats are not based on the number of U.S. citizens, instead are based on the number of residents.

Based on a number of recorded by the census, the number of residents states can gain or lose seats every 10 years. Now let's take an example, consider Pennsylvania to begin with. In 1910, a large percentage of Americans lived in Pennsylvania, so it had a large say in the country's affairs.

That state at the time had 36 seats in the House. But over the years, things changed and by 2010, Pennsylvania had only 18 seats. Now look at California, it goes the other way.

In 1910, it had 11 seats in the House, and as more people moved west, a century later that number had jumped to 53 seats.

Again, these seats are based on population, that citizenship, critics say the move to add the citizenship question is meant to scare migrants into not filling out the census, therefore skewing the results.

If they succeed, states that are thought to have many migrants, like, for instance, California which is a strongly Democratic states, you want to keep that in mind under this Republican administration, could lose seats.

HOWELL: Cyril Vanier, thank you. And on the topics of citizens, non- citizens across the United States, thousands of immigrant families who have already been given court orders to leave this country, now they have reason to worry.

Deportation raids are expected to start Sunday in 10 different cities. They'll be targeting some 2,000 migrant families across the United States.

Our Ed Lavandera has been speaking with many of these undocumented families, many of the people who are worried they could be rounded up and others afraid they could become collateral damage. ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you talk to undocumented

immigrants that we have spent the better part of the last year doing, this is a fear that these people live with constantly.

So, it's nothing new, when it gets announce like this, which is rather out of the ordinary, it does send a shock waves and those ripples of fear through this undocumented immigrant communities.

[03:04:58] And mostly because by and large what you will find is you will find undocumented immigrants living in a home with U.S. citizens.

It really is a complex, and very sensitive situation as all of these stories will begin to unfold over the coming days. This is the fear that looms over these people's heads all the time.

One of the things that I've discovered in talking to a lot of these people over the years is they've made contingency plans, a kind of plan on what to do if a teenage child comes home from school and discovers that their parents didn't come home from work, you know, they have packets of information, phone numbers, bank account numbers, they have that kind of stored away so that they know what to do in case something like this happens.

Those plans are being essentially dusted off here over the weekend. I mean, we've spoken with undocumented immigrants who say they plan on, like almost they are preparing for a hurricane, where they're buying up supplies here, food and water, because they don't plan on leaving their homes for most of the weekend.

HOWELL: Let's talk more about this now with Siraj Hashmi. Siraj is a commentary writer and editor at the Washington Examiner, joining this hour from Washington, D.C. Thanks for your time today.


HOWELL: Let's talk with some of the president's remarks around this question on citizenship, because it was the Supreme Court that ruled, he couldn't include it in the census, but Mr. Trump has the blame elsewhere. Listen.


TRUMP: A shocking as it may be, far-left Democrats in our country are determined to conceal the number of illegal aliens in our midst. They probably know the numbers far greater, much higher than anyone would've ever believed before, maybe that's why they fight so hard.

This is part of the broader left-wing effort to erode the rights of the American citizens, and is very unfair to our country.


HOWELL: Again, keeping in mind it was the conservative leaning Supreme Court that made this final decision, but the president passing blame elsewhere, how significant is this moment with regards to checks and balances?

HASHMI: It's a pretty big moment, George, because what would happen if a citizenship question was added to the census, we would see a reallocation of federal funds to districts based on however many people were recorded in those particular districts, whether they are citizens or non-citizens.

And that also would change the landscape in terms of congressional races based on where congressional districts are drawn, because for basing however, many citizens vote in a particular congressional district, and you have say one district that has more non-citizens than another, then it's going to change the numbers quite a bit. It may be favor one party over the other, say a Republican over a Democrat.

In this particular case, Justice -- Chief Justice John Roberts saw that the reasoning behind the Trump administration's adding of the citizenship question was based on more partisan reasons and seeing to more contrived and a pretext of something that could be considered more partisan in the future.

HOWELL: The president clearly backing down on this, instead ordering the entire government to get him the numbers on citizenship. Clearly, this is an avenue that has been available already. So why the extensive court battle? Taking it all the way to the Supreme Court, again, if this was already an option?

HASHMI: A lot of this has to do with politics and specifically with Trump's base, because President Trump came to office on an immigration reform platform, from building the wall to curbing both illegal and legal immigration.

With respect to this particular census question about adding citizenship, just by going to a court battle, it's showing his base that he's at the very least fighting.

And even if he loses, he can at least turn to his base and say, hey, I tried my best, but the establishment is against me, far-left Democrats are against me, and we are just going to have to try to win reelection so we can actually add it next time.

HOWELL: With regards to the issue of immigration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has indicated it's prepared to start immigration raids around the country, coming on Sunday. So, you'll remember those same rights they were called off weeks ago, Mr. Trump said that he delayed those raids at the request of Democrats.

So, in this game of what seems to be political leverage, with Mr. Trump now following through on these raids, does it put more pressure on Democrats around immigration reform?

HASHMI: One hundred percent because Democrats, in many ways, have been seen as sort of obstructing the Trump agenda, in many ways, and that comes to immigration in particular because, if you'll remember, earlier this year we had the 35-day government shutdown, and what happened was, Trump eventually caved to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

[03:09:58] And while that level of obstruction works for the Democrats, it's a little bit different when it comes to ICE raids. Because ICE raids, at the very least, are given by court orders.

And if there are particular people who are in this country illegally, or don't have documents, then there is very much a warrant -- there will be a warrant issued for their arrest and eventual deportation.

And it really puts Democrats in the bind here because there's not a whole lot they can do, at least on the congressional level, to stop those.

HOWELL: And to your point, the president always points this out, that these are people who courts have ruled are in the country illegally. What are your thoughts about the overall impact of these raids, that they're being announced so publicly, again?

HASHMI: Well, in many ways, this is just to try to get the Democrats to talk to the negotiating table. Say Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer came to the negotiating table and saying hey, President Trump, we will give you funding or more funding for the border wall if you call of these raids.

And that could be simply a political tactic, I can't 100 percent say that is -- that's 100 percent the case, but it is something that at the very least, saying it or announcing it publicly will at least get Democrats to stir a bit, and that's kind of what the Trump administration is after right now.

HOWELL: All right. Siraj Hashmi, we appreciate your time and perspective. Thank you.

HASHMI: Thank you for having me.

HOWELL: We are learning more about Wednesday's maritime scandal between the United Kingdom and Iran. British media report the U.K. had raised the threat level towards tankers in the Strait of Hormuz just one day before Iran allegedly tried to intercept the tanker in that region.

CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen has more on that incident.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Iran has denied trying to seize a British tanker, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps came out with a statement saying that its forces in the Persian Gulf had not encountered any foreign vessels, and certainly no British vessels as well.

The Revolutionary Guard Corps went on to say that if they wanted to seize a ship, its forces would be able to do so quickly and effectively.

Iran's foreign minister also chimed in, also denying that the Iranians have tried to take the vessel, and said that any sort of a rhetoric indicating that they did was trying to add fuel to the tensions in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the British government has praised its forces and said that they were upholding the rule of international law as they said, by protecting that tanker against what the Brits say was an attempt by the Iranians to try and seize it.

The Russians, for their part, who of course have been longstanding allies of the Iranians, have come out and called Britain's behavior in the Middle East outrageous, not just because of the incident with the tanker in question, but of course also the Brits themselves seizing a tanker in the Strait of Gibraltar.

All of this, of course, coming as the tensions between the U.S. and its allies and the Iranians continue to simmer and indeed increase President Trump just on Wednesday, coming out with a tweet saying that he believes the Iranians were, as he's put it, "secretly enriching uranium." The Iranians came out and said that that is a route absolutely outrageous, that they have every right to enrich uranium.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Moscow.

HOWELL: All right. Fred, thank you.

Here in the United States the singer R. Kelly has been arrested again in Chicago. A source telling CNN the 52-year-old is facing 13 new charges, including sex trafficking in New York, attempting to influence a pending investigation here in Atlanta and child pornography.

The singer was already facing 21 other charges including sexual assault and sexual abuse. R. Kelly has denied any allegations of sexual misconduct.

Still ahead here on Newsroom, Tropical Storm Barry it looms on the horizon as a potential threat, a hurricane possibly, and it is taking aim at the city of New Orleans. We'll explain what that city is doing next to get ready.

Stay with us.


HOWELL: Here in the United States the National Hurricane Center warns that Tropical Storm Barry could bring life-threatening storm surge along the coast of Louisiana. That state's governor, as well as President Trump have both declared an emergency in Louisiana with the storm getting closer and stronger.

For the very latest, CNN's Natasha Chen is in the big easy.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The governor of Louisiana said that the state usually floods in three ways, from store surge, from high river levels, and from rain, and they're about to get all three together this weekend.

Here's what we're looking at with an already record high flooding stage here. The Mississippi River is at about 16 feet. Neighbors tell me that they're typically supposed to be able to walk all the way out to where you see the trees there, and the utility poles, so you can see just how high this river is.

We're well past 250 consecutive days of the river being at flood stage, the longest stretch in history, so add a tropical storm, possibly a category one hurricane to that, and you have some serious flooding issues.

Now over there, that's a floodgate that we saw crews closing earlier today, they are closing dozens of those along the river in part of the preparation for the weather to come. We are expecting the worst of it to come on Saturday.

There are a couple of parishes here where certain sections have been told there is mandatory evacuation, a couple of other parishes are under voluntary evacuation.

The city mayor here says that the pumps around the city are all operating optimally, but this is not a situation they can just pump their way out of, so she is telling people to prepare to shelter in place.

So, we are seeing a lot of people making some preparations, being particularly cautious, even though this is a category one hurricane, potentially we are dealing with unprecedented factors like a high river here, and potential flash flooding to come.

HOWELL: Natasha Chen on the story. Thank you. And now Derek Van Dam, our meteorologist following this. And Derek, you've been telling us about this for many weeks now, that flooding, the severe storms right along the upper Mississippi, all the water coming down, right, raising the Mississippi, and now this storm pushing toward the mouth of the Mississippi.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it's really uncharted territory for the U.S. and New Orleans specifically because we have this tropical system moving towards the mouth of the Mississippi River when the Mississippi River is at flood stage and that water is trying to exit, evacuate that area.

There is going to be a collision. There is going to be a tug of war and some things are going to play out and it could lead to disastrous consequences for New Orleans and the surrounding areas.

First, I want to get to the details of Tropical Storm Barry. Here's the latest from the National Hurricane Center. Eighty-five kilometer per hour sustained winds, storm getting more organized as the days or as the minutes and the hours clock on.

The official track from the National Hurricane Center has a land falling strong tropical storm or weaker category one hurricane right along the south coast of Louisiana to the south and west of New Orleans, but that puts New Orleans in a very precarious position. And I'll touch on that in just one moment. Here's the latest warnings. The shading of red that's a hurricane warning, the shading of blue, including Lake Pontchartrain and the New Orleans region, that is a tropical storm warning, and that is valid right through Saturday afternoon and evening.

We have a high likelihood of flash flooding across all of Central Louisiana, that extends into portions of Mississippi as well, that's because the potential exists for up to 500 millimeters of rainfall with this slow-moving meandering storm system that's going to make its way inland once it reaches the shoreline of Louisiana.

Now, on top of that we have our storm surge to that. There's the storm surge warnings and watches, the New Orleans area, by the way, included in a storm surge watch as we speak.

[03:19:55] Now, when we talk about New Orleans specifically, we know that hurricane Katrina had disastrous impact, but we also learned a lot of lessons we were able to upgrade the levee system there, but now it is going to be tested in a new way like it never has before.

We have a tropical system and a flooded Mississippi River all working together and this could cause some disastrous consequences. The water will eventually move up the Mississippi River.

Remember, New Orleans sits in a bowl and much of the city is actually below sea level, so any levies that are actually below 20 feet, and there are several of them, just downstream from New Orleans, we have the potential to see some over topping levies, and of course, that means the potential for flooding exists and that is what we are expecting.

There's the forecast river crest for the Mississippi River in New Orleans. And by the way, those were all the plots behind me, of all the levies below 20 feet. George?

HOWELL: Right. And then they are certainly aware of what happens there on the ninth ward, the lower ninth ward when that water comes in. We'll follow it. Derek, thank you.

A milestone birthday for London's iconic Bell Tower. Big Ben turns 160 years old. Ahead, we'll look at what makes the historic landmark so special.


HOWELL: Welcome back.

One of London's most iconic landmarks is celebrating a huge birthday. Big Ben, the clock tower looms over the British parliament, it just turned 160 years old.

CNN's Nick Glass takes a look now inside the building and shows us why it is so historic.

NICK GLASS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The great clock tower to the right is sheaved in scaffolding. For the moment it could pass for a launch pad for a space rocket, without its usual silhouette, it does lose some of its romanticism.

The gothic revival architecture is under a shroud.

You have to remember what it was like before that river setting so appealed to a young Frenchman called Claude Monet. Monet wasn't so interested in precise dimensions, more in capturing the light.

Of course, we all know it simply by its nickname Big Ben, although strictly speaking, that's the name of the great bell inside what's now officially called the Elizabeth Tower.

Just two years ago, we could still clearly see all the clock faces and hear all the bells. This was the last time that they were properly struck before restoration work began.

Big Ben and it's great hammer. A close quarter giving up tremendous year jangling reverberations. For 160 years, a time keeper for Londoners and beyond. And perhaps most famously in the Second World War, heard on the BBC world service, a reminder that Britain was fighting on.

A masterpiece of mid-Victorian engineering, cogs and wheels and weight and springs, the great clock of Westminster, the most sophisticated clock of its time, a mechanism driving four clock faces.

[03:25:01] Note the pile of Victorian and Edwardian pennies, whenever the clock gains or loses a second or two, they remove or add a penny to adjust the swing of the pendulum. The mechanism was fixed in placed way back in 1859.


PAUL ROBERSON, CLOCKMASTER, PALACE OF WESTMINSTER: We've never had to hold it all in one go, so we fairly (Inaudible) for them and we won't have any major problems when it comes to clock, and we will check it all over and it will go back together.


GLASS: The great clock, 11 tons of it has since been dismantled and removed from sight for servicing. Up here in the bell free, all five bells are remaining in situ. The four chiming quarter bells, and the great one-hour bell itself, Big Ben.

The reasons are obvious. Big Ben is nine feet wide and over seven feet high, weighs about the same as a pair of African elephants, some 13 tons.

The most visible part of the restoration so far is on one clock face, the so-called North Dial. Twenty-three feet across, the lattice of cast stone has been blast-cleaned and re-glazed. Some 300 pieces of oakwood colored glass.

The clock faces also reverted to its original color scheme, gold leaf, and a paint of Prussian blue. Nothing much has stopped the clock over the years, the occasional mechanical grumbling, the odd flurry of snow, and on one occasion a flock of rusting starlings, and of course, it's had its dramatic moments in the movies.

The actor Robert Powell hanging on for dear life in the spy thriller "The 39 Steps" in 1978, the minutes hand reached a quarter to 12, the clock tower would've been blown up by dastardly Russian secret agents.

At midday in reality, Big Ben was silent again as it largely has been for the last two years. Restoration should be complete by 2021. So far, everything has been ticking along very nicely thank you, it's rather quietly.

Nick Glass, CNN, with Big Ben.

HOWELL: And that's our time this hour. Thanks for being with us. I'm George Howell at the CNN center in Atlanta. African Voices is up next. But first, your world headlines right after the break.


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN News Now I'm George Howell. President Trump has backed down from his plan to include a question on citizenship in the 2020 census. Instead the president is issuing an executive order that requires government agencies to turn over data on citizens and non-citizens to the Congress Department.

The U.S. City of New Orleans will soon face one of its biggest weather events in many years. Tropical storm Barry is expected to make landfall early Saturday, possibly as a hurricane. There is concern that storm surge and heavy rain would spill over the city's levies.

Monsoon rains are causing extensive damage at Rohingya Muslim refugee camps in Bangladesh. Thousands of families there have been displaced this after landslide destroyed their makeshift homes. UNICEF says, at least two children have drowned and there is more rain in the forecast there.

Eleven people have been killed in a terrible crash in Pakistan, 67 people were injured as well. This happened in Punjab province on Thursday, just after two trains collided. Pakistan's railways minister blamed it on human error and negligence. That is your CNN News Now, African Voices is next.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Meet the Rwandan dancer getting worldwide buzz for her choreography in one of this year's most watch music videos.

Then see how this (inaudible) in Spelling Bee champion, when she enters one of the world's most renowned spelling competition.

And we will follow one of South Africa's most acclaimed opera singers, as she prepares to perform in a historic venue in New York City.

Watch how these women shine on the international stage next.

On the new, changing perception pushing limits. Today's Africa is not framed by the past a new generation is stepping up embracing tradition while blazing a new path. Giving voice a unique style, connected in ways others before were not. This is where the urban passed meets creativity and a new culture thrives. This is African Voices.

SHERRIE SILVER, AFRICAN DANCE CHOREOGRAPHER: I want to be a pioneer, get African dance as an actual genre to be seen as ballet or street dance or all those other styles. Obviously I'm born in Africa. I'm born around people in the church dancing like this, you know, in my country they're always dancing, so just came naturally. In fact I have no choice. My Africa is unity, my name is Sherrie Silver, I'm an African dance choreographer and actress, and I'm originally from Rwanda, East Africa.

Hey guys!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Age turning 23, Sherrie Silver is one of the world's most in demand choreographers of dancers. This is due in part to the role she played in the internationally acclaimed video, "This is America," featuring Childish Gambino. She choreographed the dance routines in the video that has already been viewed more than 300 million times on YouTube alone.

SILVER: My work with Childish Gambino came about through Childish Gambino's manager, he actually seen one of my videos, and showed it to him, and then he showed it to Childish Gambino, and then Childish decided that, you know, we should have this girl on the video.

The dance choreography is a lot different African dance moves, because I wanted to not just, you know, represent Rwanda, where I'm from, but also other parts of Africa, Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, there's so many different types of dance in there.

Five, six, seven, eight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The success of the video spawned has had a huge impact on her life.

SILVER: It's definitely a lot busier, I've got a lot more to juggle, already trying to juggle a lot of things so, the good thing is, you know, I'm building a team of people.

[03:35:10] It's amazing, you know, people's attitudes towards me have changed a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the latest chapter in what has already been an extraordinary life.

SILVER: I'm born in East Africa, 1994, and then I came to the U.K. when I was five years old. I was always a show off when it came to family parties and friends parties, because I always wanted to show myself, and that is what my mom could tell that I was kind of interested in that side of work, although African parents normally see it as work, so, you know, she put me into stagecoach, which is a school, and then she got me to start performing at the Rwanda's community events, I was performing in church, then one day, I think I was about 13, I had got an opportunity to perform for President Kagame, president of Rwanda right now, and they recommended me for film.

I didn't take dancing seriously until about 2012, because it was never the plan, I wanted to be an actress, danced shows me, basically. We've (inaudible) so diverse, I believe it provides a natural audience for what I'm doing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her work is seen her travel extensively throughout Africa.

Saturday means a performance at a huge music festival in London.

SILVER: In the next few hours were going to get ready, were going to rehearse a bit more, so things have changed a lot so we have to change are whole set literally this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before taking to the stage, there is just time for some last-minute rehearsals.

SILVER: Feeling great and feeling more relaxed, about to go on stage for in about an hour or two. I don't know what time it is right now. And, we are about to perform and shutdown Rwanda arena.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make some noise!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make some noise!

SILVER: It was amazing! Did you hear the crowd? The crowd is going crazy. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sherrie's success has meant that she is now in a position to help others. Life wasn't always like that.

SILVER: I've grown up in London, it was a happy childhood, I was bullied sometimes, because I was very dark when I came from African very, very dark, and every time I go back they told me, you used to be so dark. So I was bullied a lot about that. I was thought I was special in the sense of, I don't know if it's because I'm an only child, so my mom always made me feel like I'm the best human being in the whole world, I was an overnight success, dancing is so terrifying as a career, because sometimes you just wouldn't get any work, and when I started I remember when I first started my first 20 pounds, I was so excited about that, and that is really enough to keep you going, but I just kept, you know, having faith that things would get better and obviously I was in a University, so student loan was helping me at the time, it was more when I got out of University that I was like, awe this is not paying the bills! But, you know, it's paid off in the end, it's just about persistence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sherrie is heavily involved in projects helping children in Rwanda and Nigeria. When she is not dancing, she dedicates a lot of time to them.

SILVER: Every human being has a duty, I think there is enough money in the world to help everybody, but it's just not distributed equally. So, I know from the small amount that I get from teaching African culture, I am obliged to go back and give back to the people who originate these things.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Professionally she appears to have the world at her dancing feet, but perhaps she feels the most important thing of all is being a good role model.

SILVER: A lot of people call me an African queen, because I think a Queen is supposed to be somebody who is inspirational and give that positivity, somebody who gives back to their community that they love so much, probably that is a hero and positive in that and that is all I'm trying to be for my continent which I love so much.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was the moment when a young girl from an unexpected place became a champion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're champion for the year 2018, who is going to represent Ghana and the rest of the African continent in the United States of America, put your hands together one more time, for Shifa Amankwa-Gabbey, a champion!

SHIFA AMANKWA-GABBEY, SPELLING BEE CHAMPION: My Africa is tenacious, my Africa is auspicious, my Africa is like a p-h-o-e-n-i-x, phoenix. I'm 12 years old and I'm Shifa Amankwa-Gabbey from Kumasi Ghana and I'm Africa's only speller in the 91st national spelling bee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before she became a champion, Shifa was a typical mild mannered student.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is always with her books, she doesn't play much. She is very good in class.

At age seven, she told me she wanted to take part in the spelling bee, and I said, no, (inaudible), so I discourage her at that point.

AMANKWA-GABBEY: We all forgot about this until last year. I enrolled myself, I had too much interest in it, and it went on for a while, I told him and he said fine, he had no problem with it.

C-R-A-M --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shifa's father began training his daughter at home, because he knew this wasn't just any spelling bee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Ghana, we have a local version of national spelling bee.

AMANKWA-GABBEY: I think it's a Greek word.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will be an 11 speller we are sending to the U.S. to represent Ghana.

AMANKWA-GABBEY: They came to our school to select those who qualify for the training session.

So it's a noun.

I think you've it in the entomology.

She then breezed through the regional rounds in Kumasi, qualified for the Ghana nationals.


AMANKWA-GABBEY: I never expected to win, until I realized I was really advancing in the elimination rounds and I realized I was the only person from Kumasi and this boosted my confidence.

[03:45:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's get into what could just be are final round.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're next word is Wamara.



AMANKWA-GABBEY: May I please have the origin?

This options weighed on me, whether I should double the m, or if I should make a single m.

W-a-m-a-r-a, wamara.

I was waiting for them to ring the bell to see (inaudible) but I heard shouts and they're like, you've gotten the word right, so I couldn't control my tears.

It's a great honor, when I knew I had a big task ahead of me, but it's still an honor to represent my country and my continent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When she turns to Kumasi, she was greeted like a rock star.

AMANKWA-GABBEY: I hadn't planned this welcome. Everyone was standing on top of the building.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had never had a spelling bee champion from Kumasi. Kumasi is typically seen as a trading center and so people tend to think that the focus is on trade than education.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shifa proved that stereotype wrong, was able to represent Kumasi all over the country, and meet the highest officials.

AMANKWA-GABBEY: Visiting the president, it is actually a dream come true. I have dream about that day and it finally came true. And it was also an honor to meet (inaudible), of Kumasi, (inaudible) kingdom. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shifa enjoyed her victory tour, but her work was

not done.

Good morning!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The young educators foundation enrolled her in a cross school so she could work with their best trainer the month leading up to the competition.

In D.C., Shifa pass the computer test in round one, and made it to the stage with some of the best spellers in the world for round two. Her father and sponsors were there to support.

AMANKWA-GABBEY: As I got up the stage, oh my god! Yes, it was so, I don't know how to explain it, I was so nervous. And my heart was beating, I thought it will all sound in the mic or something, the word was pleurodynia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And she got it right advancing her to the next round. Shifa and her team were elated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was so happy, I waved my flag, our flag, I was so happy, very, very happy and proud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So how do you feel about the next round?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think she will do it, she will do it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another round means more training, so Shifa was up early the next morning with her trainer to prepare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Round three the words will be a little more difficult technically, they word would come from anywhere and everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shifa's next word was one she had never heard of, fortunately, her best attempt to spell it wasn't good enough.

AMANKWA-GABBEY: I had the word the Decennial, it's a Latin word, so I tried to apply the rules, and it didn't work out, and I didn't know the word, the most painful part of that, I was so close.


AMANKWA-GABBEY: At least I have gotten the exposure and everything, I plan to move on and at least I'm proud of myself for coming this far. Having to be like representing my country, it was really an honor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She may not have gotten to win in D.C., but back in Kumasi, she will be remembered as a champion.


PRETTY YENDE, SOUTH AFRICAN BORN OPERA SINGER: I truly, truly believe that this art form is a gift to humanity as a whole. I find great joy in sharing it with as many people as possible.

My Africa is extraordinary, filled with endless possibilities, I am Pretty Yende, performing artist from Mkhondo, South Africa.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: South African born opera singer Pretty Yende, sees herself as a global citizen. Performing in countries all over the world. But today she is in the city where she learned her craft, Cape Town.

Pretty credits her old teacher Angelo Gobbato for developing her sense of theater.

ANGELO GOBBATO, OPERA TEACHER: Pretty Yende was one of those very rare in special creatures, you gave her a finger at one session and at the next session she came back and gave you the whole arm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pretty's to open a concert with her sister, Nombulelo who is following her star studded footsteps.

Pretty first heard this flower duet as a school girl, and her life was never the same again.

YENDE: I heard those first 10 seconds of that music, something in me says it's something I should know, but my mind didn't know anything about it, because for me, at 16 years old, it's sounded so supernatural, so out of the ordinary that I could not believe it was humanly possible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was on the hunt for opera, imitating what she heard on the radio.

She audition for the University of Cape Town's music school on the slopes of Table Mountain.

GOBBATO: We were extremely impress, we immediately took her into the opera school, we helped her with getting the rights allowance for her studies and bursaries and so on, and it's been not an uphill walk, but a flight to the heavens since then.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Conductor (inaudible) has worked with Pretty since the first day she heard her sing in her rehearsal room in this very theater.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She sang (inaudible), and the polish and the style of it seemed so natural. So I remember sort of making a note that it was of great interest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pretty soon started taking the leading roles and local productions here at arts cape, but her critical moment came far from home in New York in 2013.

[03:55:10] At the Metropolitan Opera House, she stood in for another artist, under pressure, Pretty says she learned the opera in a week.

YENDE: On opening night, I entered the stage, so afraid I could literally hear everybody's heartbeat, and it had to take me falling down in front of that audience, and I had never fallen on stage, and at that moment I noticed something, that this is a big change for me, in a human sense, that may feet should always stay on the ground, and no matter how much glory I can have, no matter how many ovations I can have, I'm still just a human being sharing my gift in the most extraordinary stages of the world.

It was really an amazing night, ovations like never before and that ovation from that night from that audience said to me, it doesn't matter, we love what you love, we love music, it doesn't matter that you don't know, we love what you have and we are enjoying it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pretty no longer has fear of stepping on to some of the world's greatest stages. She's back in New York to rehearse for a concert at the world famous Carnegie Hall.

YENDE: Well, I'm excited because it's my first time making my debut at this stern auditorium, I did my recital debut in 2014 in the Vial Hall, and so to be on that big auditorium that we've seen in movies and dreams of, I'm very, very excited!

I really, really feel that the journey, more than a musical journey, it's a human story, somebody like me coming from (inaudible), in a small town, having no experience whatsoever with this art form, is able to be where I am, if my life should be anything it should be a testimony that really nothing is impossible.