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Interview With Mara Wilson; Interview With Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN). Aired 2-3p ET

Aired March 04, 2021 - 14:00   ET




Here's what's coming up.


REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): We don't know what to expect. We are still traumatized and terrified after the events of January 6.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): The U.S. Capitol on high alert. We talk to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar about security and delivering on the legislation

that voters want.


From "Matilda" to "Mrs. Doubtfire." Actor Mara Wilson looks back at the ugly treatment she faced as a young and famous female star. Then


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is good news out there. There is a COVID-19 vaccine. Yay! But the bad news is, as black folks it's hard to trust what's

going on.

AMANPOUR: Setting the record straight on vaccines. Our Hari Sreenivasan talks to Dr. Rhea Boyd and Joia Crear-Perry about their new video campaign

that is aimed at black communities.


AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

Security has stepped up outside the U.S. Capitol today after intelligence revealed a militia group might be plotting to breach the building yet

again. The threat appears to be inspired by a QAnon conspiracy that says ex-President Donald Trump will be re-inaugurated today, obviously a

ridiculous thought.

And the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee is now calling on Trump to speak up about it.


REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): President Trump has a responsibility to tell them to stand down. This threat is credible and it's real. It's a right-

wing militia group.


AMANPOUR: Now, the government is having to manage security threats as it works to advance legislation. But that's easier said than done in a system

that is still stuck in a state of semi-paralysis, despite one party controlling both the executive and legislative branches.

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar represents the Minneapolis area of Minnesota. And she is a member of the so-called Squad, a group of progressive lawmakers.

And Representative Ilhan Omar is joining me now.

Welcome back to the program, Congresswoman.


AMANPOUR: And I might just start by saying that you are, I believe, at home and not in Congress, because today's session has been canceled.

What can you tell me about that? Because, at first, we were told that it was about security, and then Speaker Pelosi tended to play that down.

OMAR: Yes.

I mean, there obviously is a credible threat that had to be considered. But, to the speaker's point, we were only going in for one vote. And so it

was easy for things to be moved around for this particular day.

AMANPOUR: Let's just play what she said, and then I'm going to ask you about the state of security at the Capitol.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I don't think anybody should take any encouragement that because some troublemakers might show up that we changed

our whole schedule. No, we just moved it a few hours. And it largely will accommodate the Republicans going out to their own session.


AMANPOUR: So, it is kind of a defiant statement, saying that we are not going to be derailed from continuing our legislative agenda.

But just give me an update, Congresswoman, on what you have been briefed about the security situation. Apparently, today was a target date that

people, security were watching, but maybe also over the weekend. What's going on?

OMAR: Yes, there seems to be a very credible, legitimate threat to overtake the Capitol and harm members of Congress, specifically Democratic

members of Congress.

And I think the defiant response from the speaker is warranted. But I would also urge for the seriousness of what has taken place and what continues to

transpire not be diminished.

I mean, we currently are unable to be at the Capitol. There are barricades. There is an intense level of security at our nation's capital, at the seat

of our democracy. This is all happening because of domestic terrorism. It's happening because of the former president and what he has incited.


It's happening because members of Congress and the Republican Party have encouraged a rebellion against our government and political violence. This

is not something that is going to go away by defiant speech.

It is something that we have to figure out a legitimate way to deal with. There are people who continue to radicalize their base, to think about

harming those who are governing our country.

AMANPOUR: I'm struck by the fact that you, yourself, as a young Somali, had to flee the war in your own country.

And you said in an interview after the storming of the Capitol on the 6th of January that you didn't know whether you would make it out of there. I

mean, it was really something very, very scary for you. Do you feel safe? And was -- yes, I mean, what sort of trauma did that trigger?

OMAR: It did.

You know, I realized on the 6th, when I got there, just how dire the situation was and what was unfolding, having the experience of knowing just

how quickly things can dissolve into chaos and how real political violence is and the effects of civil unrest.

And I think, for a lot of people, to them, this is politics. To them, this is about a conversation speech and different things different people have

said. But, to me, this is real. And if we do not address it, investigate it, and hold people accountable, we are at risk of seeing this become the

new norm.

AMANPOUR: So, let's talk about how it impacts your duty as legislators. Obviously, people voted for certain issues. They voted for President Biden

because of some of the things that he promised.

So, let's first talk about voting rights. Last night, the House passed a sweeping voting rights bill and also government ethics. And it comes at the

time when some state legislators are actually trying to restrict voting rights.

Let me just read what the Brennan Center for Justice says. There have been at least 253 bills with provisions that restrict voting access in 43

states. Now, many of these proposals were being pushed by Republicans, and they're in quite a lot of the swing states, like Arizona, Georgia,

Pennsylvania, that the president won.

What do you make about these efforts to continue restricting voting rights and access? And will they actually work?

OMAR: I mean, they're shameful, that the Republican Party does not have ideas, so they know, if they don't have a policy they can run on and get

the ability to convince people to vote for them, they're going to limit the amount of people that can vote, so that they can continue to have the

ability to get elected.

We believe that the more people that have the ability to vote and participate in our democracy is what makes our democracy work, and we're

going to continue to fight them on local levels. But we're also going to do something federally.

And that's what we did last night. We passed the People's Act, H.R.1, which is our pro-democracy legislation that creates more accountability and

transparent democracy. And this is sweeping legislation that creates automatic voter registration, that gets rid of partisan gerrymandering,

that allows for there to be early voting processes, that gets certain interests and dirty money out of our politics, and allows for more people

to believe in our democracy, and know that it is supposed to be of the people, for the people.

AMANPOUR: So, that is an ongoing struggle to make sure everybody has access to voting. And, of course, it's targeted at voters of color, as we

have seen in the past, which generally tend to vote Democratic.

Now, on a bigger -- not a bigger issue -- an issue that is front and center, and that is the COVID relief bill, the stimulus bill. One of the

things that was really big in that and that, in fact, Joe Biden ran on as president was raising the minimum wage in America to $15 an hour.


And yet that was stripped out of the bill when it got to the Senate, and it was done so by a so-called nonpartisan and certainly unelected

parliamentarian. I mean, I'd never heard of this role before. I'm not in the United States.

But it is interesting to know that that happened and she was able to remove that from the Senate version of the bill. Explain the significance of that,

of removing the $15 minimum wage

OMAR: I mean, this is something that is outraging so many of our voters that gave us the ability to have the majority in the House and the Senate

and to have a Democratic president in the White House.

This is a policy that is popular with two-thirds of the American people. And it's quite unfortunate that an unelected official that has a sole role

of giving advisory is now able to stop the raise of the minimum wage for 28 million people. I mean, $15, really, hike over five-year period is already

a compromise.

It's something that doesn't even catch up with inflation. And it should be a priority policy for Democrats, as they have said on the campaign trail.

And I still believe that the Democratic senators can still do everything within their power to make sure this policy stays.

And the administration can work to overwrite this ruling and deliver this particular change on behalf of the American people.

AMANPOUR: So, some are saying that, in the Senate, even the Democrats may not have the votes for that. And Senator Bernie Sanders, a fellow

progressive, obviously, he has proposed, like, carrots and sticks, disincentives and incentives for individual CEOs, company, business

leaders, to actually pay their workers that sum, $15 an hour.

Do you agree with that proposal? Would you be able to support it? Would that fill in the gaps, if it doesn't get attached to this stimulus bill?

OMAR: So, that proposal is no longer being considered. We know that Senator Bernie Sanders, the chairman of the Budget Senate Committee, is

always working really hard on behalf of working Americans and is trying to -- constantly coming up with solutions.

But, unfortunately, we know that that policy proposal is not going to be part of this package; $15 within the reconciliation process is the only

chance that we have in raising the minimum wage, because a stand-alone bill really was sent in the last Congress, when we passed it out of the House to

the Senate. They didn't bring it up for a debate.

We know that, when we do send them a stand-alone bill, they're not going to be able to have the votes to send it. Ultimately, the only chance we have

right now is for the administration to decide to overwrite the parliamentarian ruling and for the Senate to vote on the reconciliation

bill as it is, as we have sent to them, because that is what is popular with the American people. That's what we have a mandate for.

And that's what we have got to deliver.

AMANPOUR: So, the parliamentarian, as I said, she is nonpartisan. She's respected by both parties. She has been in the job for quite a few years


But you were pretty angry about this and you tweeted the following: "Abolish the filibuster. Replace the parliamentarian. What is a Democratic

majority if we can't pass our priority bills? This is unacceptable."

And, OK, so I want you to expand on that. You know, I mean, clearly, it is important for so many of the Democratic base to see the promises made to

them delivered. In the real world in which you live, how do you think that is going to be possible?

And on this minimum wage thing, let's just remind everybody that even President Biden in his last interview, I believe, with CBS, I think he said

something like: "I put it in there, the $15 an hour. But I don't think it is going to survive."

He didn't think it would even survive.

OMAR: Yes. Things don't survive if you don't fight for them. That's why we're here, is to fight for them to survive, because it's tied to the

survival of the people we represent, the -- economically are struggling.


And we have a moral obligation to do everything that we can to make sure that we can alleviate their struggles. At the moment, there is a process to

overwrite, again, the ruling of the parliamentarian, which is advisory. It's not binding.

And there is a process that has been deployed many times. Republicans, when they wanted to pass tax cuts for corporations and fill the pockets of their

rich friends and donors, not only were willing to overrule a parliamentarian, but they were willing to fire and replace a


And we can do the same thing. We can try to deploy every strategic opportunity that we have in fighting for the working Americans who sent us

to represent them.

AMANPOUR: And what about the filibuster? Because that something that basically enervates quite a large number of Democrats.

You again in the same tweet said: "Abolish the filibuster."

You are not the only one who says that. On the other hand, the now Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has tweeted the following, basically,

beware of what you ask for. "If Democrats ever attack the key Senate rules, it would drain the consent and comity out of the institution. A scorched-

earth Senate would hardly be able to function. It wouldn't be a progressive's dream. It would be a nightmare. I guarantee it."

So, comment on that, and particularly on what happens if they then do the same thing, if they were able to force through their agenda if they were in


OMAR: They have. They have been able to force through their agenda.

Mitch McConnell has already been a nightmare, not just for Democrats, but for Americans. This is why he is no longer the majority leader in the

Senate. And to allow the minority to threaten us and stop us from delivering on key policies on behalf of the American people is doing

unjustice not just to ourselves, but to the people who elected us.

If we don't get rid of the filibuster, we're not going to be able to pass the People's Act, H.R.1 that strengthens our democracy. We are not going to

be able to pass the $15 minimum wage. We are not going to be able to get immigration reform. We're not going to be able to reform our health care

infrastructure. We're not going to be able to pass infrastructure legislation.

We're not going to be able to do anything. And that's what Mitch McConnell wants. And that's why he is threatening Democrats, because he knows that,

if we are given the opportunity to legislate on behalf of the American people, he is never going to have the chance to be a majority leader again.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you something about your own district.

You are a congresswoman for the district in Minneapolis that is also the hometown of George Floyd. And, yesterday, the House passed a police reform

bill named for George Floyd. And, as we know, on Monday, the trial starts of the officer charged with his murder.

How are you feeling about the impending trial starting? How do you think it might -- just the -- just how are people in your district feeling about

this legal process starting?

OMAR: Yes.

So, it was such an honor last night to preside over the debate on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. You know, our community is still

traumatized. And many of us are still dealing with the horror of watching George Floyd's murder for eight minutes and 46 seconds as the life was

being stifled out of him in the hands of those who were sworn to protect his life.

And as the trial begins on the 8th, the community is again living through that trauma. We are obviously looking for justice and preparing for what

the trial might produce.


I mean, we have all seen what happens when police officers go on trial after they harm or murder a black man or a black woman. And many don't want

history repeated and are wishing for the best and wishing for justice to be delivered.

AMANPOUR: And given how much his murder has affected the whole world and not just the United States, do you believe there is an extra burden that

justice will prevail? Are you confident that justice will prevail?

OMAR: I mean, we are certainly feeling that burden.

I know that those who are litigating this case, the prosecutors, are feeling that burden. Many of the electeds in Minneapolis and Minnesota are

feeling that burden. We can be as optimistic as we want to, but we just have to wait out and see as the case unfolds.

History tells us not to be optimistic. Hopefully, things will be different this time around. And I know that my predecessor, Congressman Keith

Ellison, who is now the attorney general in Minnesota, who's handling the case, is going to do everything that he can to deliver justice for George

Floyd's family and for our communities that have been traumatized by this incident.

AMANPOUR: Not only your country, but the whole world will be watching.

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, thank you for joining us.

And turning now to another issue as pervasive as it is persistent, the unfair treatment of women, especially young women. The New York governor,

Andrew Cuomo, is facing allegations that he engaged in inappropriate behavior with young women. He's apologized and he's denied any

inappropriate touching.

This amid a new reckoning about the way society, including the media, actually treats young women, like Britney Spears, for instance. Previously

on this program, we featured "The New York Times"' documentary "Framing Britney" that shows how she was at once extolled and exploited, as were

many other female child stars, like Mara Wilson.

You will remember her from blockbusters like "Matilda, "Mrs. Doubtfire," and "The Miracle on 34th Street." She has recently written about how that

happens and what it feels like.

And Mara Wilson is joining me now.

Welcome to the program.

And thanks for agreeing to talk about this, about this issue.

I want to start by asking you the way you frame the problem. You wrote in your op-ed for "The New York Times" about the narrative, how young women

are expected to behave in your business.

First of all, tell me what the narrative is.

MARA WILSON, ACTRESS: The narrative is, I think, the expectation that child stars are going to fail, that, when they're in the public eye,

something -- that something will befall them and they will have this massive downfall, this massive fall from grace.

And I think it's something that we kind of want to see and it's something that we encourage. I think that society wants to see young women taken down

a peg and sort of punished for any kind of ambition and sexuality.

And I think this is across genders. But I do think that this is something particularly that we do love to see in young women.

AMANPOUR: Did that happen to you? I mean, you also were so young when you started out. You played these amazing young characters in these films that

I listed and many more.

Did that happen to you? Were you a victim of the narrative?

WILSON: I definitely think I was a victim of the narrative. I think that it wasn't to the extent, obviously, that Britney Spears had. And I also was

not in the public eye so much when I was a teenager, so that was not as much of an issue.

But I think that I felt like I had a lot of people sort of rooting for my downfall. And when I turned 13 or so, I had people commenting on my looks,

commenting on my body, both in a sexualized way and a critical way, and doing things and saying things that would be extremely wrong to do to any

teenage girl.

But because I was in the public eye, it was seen as acceptable. So, I had newspapers writing about what a brat I was and what a horrible person I

was. And then I also had people talking about how I wasn't cute anymore. And then I had grown men writing me letters about my body and my face and

all of these kinds of things and telling me they were in love with me and sexualizing me all over the Internet and the newspapers and all of these

kinds of things.


So, I felt like I had that kind of pressure. And there was always the expectation that I had to be a good girl, I had to be a people-pleaser,

because, otherwise, people would think that I was a brat and they wouldn't want to work with me anymore, and that would be the end of my career and

essentially my life.

And that was what the implication was to me, that I had to just tolerate it and I had to deal with it, because, otherwise, I wouldn't be able to

function and I would lose the love and career that I had.

AMANPOUR: So what happened? Because you did take a break from that career that you had. How did it -- what was the denouement for you?

WILSON: It was really just too much pressure for me, I think.

And I think, at that point, I was sort of tired of Hollywood, because Hollywood was very sort of regimented, and I felt very much like I had to

do this and I had to be this. And I felt like I was struggling with that.

I also was in a very awkward age where I didn't have the look that Hollywood wanted, and I felt sort of like I was being rejected with fans. I

didn't understand the term objectify, but that's what I was. I was an object for people's consumption. And I felt kind of like the same way that

a lot of girls throw away their dolls or destroy them or draw faces on them and things like that when they get older.

I felt like I was being thrown away too. And I had an interest at that point in my performing in theater and in choir and in comedy. And so I

pursued that. And I took time away from that. And I am very lucky, because I had parents who said, why don't you take time away from this and why

don't you do the things that you really love to do?

And I got to do that instead. And, instead, I went on to study theater and film and production of them and things like that. And I do still act

sometimes, but I'm not in the public eye the way that I had been, because, honestly, it just felt like way too much pressure.

AMANPOUR: And it is kind of ironic, because Matilda, one of your big roles, there is this young girl who uses her superpowers to turn on her

abusers. So, it's kind of ironic that that happened to you as well.

WILSON: Yes, it is.

I mean, I think that "Matilda" is probably my favorite movie that I was in for a reason, because I really felt like it reflected my values. And it

went beyond, this girl is cute. And I felt like some of my other roles kind of reduced me to that.

And when I was very young, that was fine, because I was very young and I wasn't expected to do much more beyond being cute. But "Matilda" felt like

a movie about empowering and using the power of knowledge and friendship and justice for good. And I really liked that.

I thought it was the sort of allegory for knowledge and -- knowledge and power and fighting for justice. And I really loved that. And I still really

love that. And I felt like that is really what I wanted to be known for. But I also felt like, when I got older, it was harder. I felt like you kind

of got sexualized right away. And, sometimes, that went really well and, sometimes, it didn't.

Or you were kind of rejected. And I felt like I was told all the time, you can't be this, you can't be this, that there was this narrative forced upon

me that, no matter what I did, I was going to be seen as a failure. I was either going to be seen as too sexy or not sexy enough. I was either going

to be seen as, like, a failure in Hollywood because I couldn't get jobs anymore because of the way I looked.

And the thing is, though, that Hollywood -- people love to talk about how immoral Hollywood is, but I always say that Hollywood isn't immoral, it's

amoral, because, at the end of the day, it is all about making money.

So, Hollywood is just giving people what they like. And if it feels like somebody isn't making money anymore, they are a has-been, then Hollywood is

not going to invest much more in them. And at the end of the day, I had negative experiences in Hollywood, but it was the media and the public that

really gave me the worst experiences.

AMANPOUR: So, that's what I want to ask you about, because you said you never were and never felt sexually harassed on set. And you worked with

greats like Danny DeVito, obviously Sally Field, but I think Pierce Brosnan, Alec Baldwin.

So, just expand on that. They were supportive. But you're saying the public and the media were not. That is where you got the lion's share -- well,

that's where you got targeted.

WILSON: I was very lucky.

I did work with a lot of really wonderful people, like Robin Williams, and Danny DeVito, and Rhea Perlman, and Michael Ritchie and all of these just

really fantastic people, Chris Columbus, who cared about me. And I could tell that they cared about me.

And film sets are also very regimented. I had a lot of wonderful studio teachers that took care of me there as well. So, I had a lot of protection

on film sets. And film sets, to me, felt -- it felt kind of like going to school or working on a big project together.

Sometimes, it felt like summer camp. Sometimes, it felt like work. But it was when I wasn't on a film set anymore that I felt very vulnerable,

because I had people, I had reporters asking me if I had a boyfriend. I got asked if I had a boyfriend hundreds of times, which -- why would you ask a

child that? There is nothing funny about that.


I was asked, you know, who I had a crush on and who I thought was sexy and I was asked about, you know, Hugh Grant, soliciting sex worker. And I was

asked about all of these things that were really inappropriate for a child to be asked. And, you know, it went from innocuous to do you have a

boyfriend to what do you think about, you know, somebody's arrest?

And I also had all kinds of fan and fan mail and things and all kinds of horrible things on the internet that no 12-year-old should have to see, you

know, especially not of themselves. I stumbled on these things all the time. And I think a lot of people think, oh, well, Hollywood puts people in

this position, but I also think that the media and public need to also take responsibility for the way they talk about, you know, children's bodies and

the way they feel like they own people.

AMANPOUR: And, obviously, we saw a lot of that in the "Framing Britney Spears" documentary. All these old men and some women who are asking her

about her boyfriend, her breasts, whether she was a virgin or not, you know, when she was still, you know, kind of prepubescent. I mean, it is

actually grotesque.

But I want to read a little about what you wrote also in your op-ed. You wrote, our culture builds these girls up just to destroy them. Ms. Spears

had been labeled a bad girl. Bad girls I observed were mostly girls who showed any sign of sexuality. And there, you talk about the sort of

collision. On the one hand, any sign of sexuality is treated as we've seen Britney treat it, as you have explained yourself. Even though you didn't.

You wrote that your parents made you wear, you know, calf length dresses. It is not like you were appearing in any strange or sexualized way.

But you also say that some older -- you know, once they get into teenage years, some of these girls feel that they have to embrace -- like they're

forced to do it as a way to, I guess, continue in this public life. What recommendations would you have for, I don't know, child actors, child

stars, particularly young girls for their parents? I wonder if you've thought about whether there can or should be any code of conduct or

regulations around kids who act or who are in the public eye?

WILSON: I think about this a lot. I think about this every single day. I think that children should probably not be one-on-one with adults on film

sets. I think that there should be on set psychologists the same way there are intimacy coaches, the same way that there are sports psychologists. I

think there should be people like that. I think that -- you know, that the unions should probably intervene there more. I think that that would be

very important.

But I also think that the media needs to establish a code of conduct around young child stars. And, you know, there was -- I wrote an article for a

newspaper about maybe -- or for an outlet about the way that we treated child stars and I noticed that that outlet was still publishing things

about child stars and, you know, what they were doing on their Instagrams and things like that. And I feel like we need to stop treating that as

news. If somebody is, you know, under 18, maybe even under 21, we need to let them be, you know, a child.

And so, that I think is something that is very important. I think that, you know, there are always going to be, you know, creeps and abusers out there,

but I think that the way we cover children in the media and the way we talk about them shouldn't be as big of a deal. There shouldn't as much watching.

I think that parents need to be told that they can say no to things and teenagers need to be told they can so no, too. Because some children are --

you know, some teenage girls are naturally very sexual and want to express that about themselves and some really don't. And I think that we need to

make sure, you know, that they know they can say no. Because I think that people pleasing streak.

And that's the thing, people always talk about child stars being brats but in my experience we're mostly people pleasers and I think we need to make

sure that they know what that they can and what they can't do. And that they can say yes to things and they can say no to things. So, we need to

empower them to be able to do that.

AMANPOUR: So, I interviewed the director of "Framing Britney Spears," Samantha Stark, and she was commenting on how, back then, it was really

natural to behave this way, to young girls. Let's just play this and I'll get you to react.


SAMANTHA STARK, DIRECTOR, "FRAMING BRITNEY SPEARS": When you look at it through this lens of today it looks appalling. But back then, you know,

there was no outcry about it. This was just how we treated young women in our society.


AMANPOUR: Do you have any hope or do you have evidence that things might be changing post #MeToo or in the new, more sensitive Hollywood or wherever

we look right now?

WILSON: I do think that things are changing. I think that we have -- I am so happy about what has happened with #MeToo because so much in Hollywood

that was just pushed under the rug. Although, I do feel like Hollywood is kind of just another big institution and big institutions, you know,

governments and even religious organizations and things like that, they can tend to get away with these things very easily.


So, I do think that -- I am very glad there is an acknowledgment there and there is this belief and, you know, renewed interest in the safety of

children. I think that that is incredibly important. But people ask me sometimes, they say, oh, it must be so hard with social media, but the

thing is you can kind of opt out of social media and I do think there are a lot of kids who -- you know, they'll have somebody else in their family run

their Instagram and they'll do those things. That I think is very good to have somebody else do that so they don't personally have to think about


I do think that, yes, 20 years ago, I think it was harder because I think that people didn't really think of young women in the public eye as young

women, as young girls. They thought of them as objects. And I think that we are starting to now actually realize that they are human. They're people.

And they need their freedom and their space and they need to have their own bodies and their own lives and their own choices respected.

AMANPOUR: Indeed, we do. Mara Wilson, thank you so much indeed for joining us.

Now, there is a new campaign out today on YouTube trying to remedy the fact that the black community is the hardest hit by COVID-19 and, also, the

least likely to get vaccinated. "The Conversation: Between Us, About Us" is a video series featuring black doctors, nurses, scientists to provide

credible information about COVID-19 vaccines, also cultural figures as you can see. Here is a clip from the trailer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. First question. The vaccine happened fast, like super-fast, like you say bolt headed to the bathroom fast. Is that

something we should be concerned about?

JOIA CREAR PERRY, OB-GYN AND PUBLIC HEALTH ADVOCATE: Having an emergency authorization for these medications was critical but that doesn't mean any

steps were cut.

DAMON FRANCIS, MD, INTERNAL MEDICINE: Anything where money could be traded off for time, that was happening. Like money was no object.


AMANPOUR: Now, Dr. Rhea Boyd codeveloped the series. She's a pediatrician and a public health advocate. Dr. Joia Crear Perry is one of the doctors

featured, and she's OB-GYN and founder of the National Birth Equity Collaborative. Here they are talking to our Hari Sreenivasan about all of



HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Thank you, Dr. Boyd and Dr. Crear Perry, for joining me.

First, Dr. Boyd, what is the campaign you're rolling out and why is it necessary right now?

RHEA BOYD, PEDIATRICIAN AND PUBLIC HEALTH ADVOCATE: So, it's called "The Conversation: Between Us, About Us," and it is so critical because what

we're seeing is that despite black folks making up the second highest COVID mortality rates in the country, they are now second to last in access to

the COVID vaccines. And so, this campaign is specifically to speak directly to their concerns, to ensure we are respecting those concerns and treating

them as legitimate and to answer them so that folks can have their questions answered as they make this critical choice.

SREENIVASAN: Dr. Crear Perry, one of the first sort of questions that we get from anybody who is a little hesitant is this idea of warp speed. OK.

They did this really fast. We, from what little I remember and high school biology class, it takes years and years to get a vaccine. But here we are,

in just under a year. Why should I trust this?

JOIA CREAR PERRY, OB-GYN AND PUBLIC HEALTH ADVOCATE: Well, you know, a lot of times we take a long time to do things because we want to be extra

careful and then sure, but we also have years of research that leads up to this moment. We've known that there was going to be some type of virus or

some type of pandemic for many -- for a long time.

And so, it's not -- although, warp speed happened rapidly recently, it was built upon years of research. And so, this idea of having a vaccine

quickly, we didn't skip over anything we needed to do. The federal government, I trust the FDA, I trust that the people who are putting

together these medications, the drug companies, really followed all of the safety protocols because they had years of research to build it upon. So,

although it was fast, it was not new. We've known things were coming and we knew that this is important.

SREENIVASAN: OK. Dr. Boyd, early on, one of the, I guess, almost rationales that was offered of why black Americans were not getting

vaccinated was, well, you know, there is deep distrust in the community ever since the Tuskegee experiments. They had reason not to be, you know,

first in line. Are we conflating that kind of hesitancy with just plain old access to health care?

BOYD: Absolutely. I think we in health care have completely misdiagnosed the real barrier that's keeping black folks from accessing the COVID

vaccine. And as you said, it is not their own hesitancy, it's that black folks don't have equal access to information about the vaccine and they

don't have equal access to actually receive the vaccine in their neighborhoods if they are interested in getting it.

Recent data from Kaiser Family Foundation told us that although the rates of folks who are interested in the vaccines among black populations is

increasing, there is still about more than a third of people, about 37 percent who are still waiting to see. And among those groups, the vast

majority have common concerns. The number one concern is, is this vaccine safe? That's not a concern that's unique to black folks. It is the number

one concern of our medical establishment when we created the clinical trials to actually determine if we would give the vaccine to anybody.


Another high concern that 50 percent of folks had who are still waiting to see is if they have to pay for it. People are still concerned about cost.

And so, it's critical that people understand that not only are these vaccines safe but they are also absolutely free. And folks are working to

make sure that they can receive it in their own backyards.

SREENIVASAN: Dr. Perry, that leads us to one of the questions that people also have is, how safe is this? I hear kind of a technological skepticism.

This mRNA stuff, is this messing with my DNA? Is this actually putting the virus into my body?

CREAR PERRY: You know, we understand -- our understanding of viruses has evolved so much even since I was in medical school in the late 1990s and we

recognize that having pieces of the virus are just as effective as trying to take the whole virus and then put it inside of your body. So, we know

that the effectiveness is above 90 percent for most of these vaccines and we have vaccines that we've given to the general public that don't have the

same actual effectiveness. And we know it is effective in keeping us from dying and from becoming really ill. And that's what we want to stop.

No, there's no vaccine makes us impenetrable. I think the best what people are looking for that there's this medical one shot that makes you never get

sick or never to have anything. But we do know that this is highly effective, more than many of the other vaccines we have from you actually

dying. And that's what we want to stop people from doing, from becoming really ill and from dying.

SREENIVASAN: Dr. Boyd, you mentioned cost, but access also in ways has to do with proximity. I mean, you know, there was a story recently about how

dodger stadium, one of the mass vaccinations sites, is right next to China Town but it was drive through only. So, here were people in China Town who

didn't have cars who couldn't go to the thing that was technically right next to them.

BOYD: Absolutely. Access for people isn't just that we make it affordable, it's that we bring it to people. And honestly, if you look historically

about how the federal government has done vaccination campaigns in the past, sometimes we actually had to go door to door, particularly in rural

areas where people don't live proximate to a pharmacy or proximate a regular provider, and I think that same -- that may also be true right now.

That for people to really have open access to the COVID vaccine, that we actually have to bring it to them.

We saw a great example from a black health care worker led initiative in Philadelphia where after they just brought the COVID vaccines into people's

neighborhoods, people weren't hesitant. They lined up around the block to get it. We have to decrease people's barriers to getting it by making sure

it is available at hours when they're not at work and in places that are near where they live so that they can easily receive it if they're


SREENIVASAN: Dr. Crear Perry, one of the things that we hear from women and perhaps their partners is, are there concerns with infertility or

should people take this if they are pregnant or trying to get pregnant? What should the rule be?

CREAR PERRY: We are not actually sure if COVID -- actually the virus was not going to impact people's fertility, right? And so, we have to be really

clear that we know it impacts blood vessels. And so, there is a long-term conversation we haven't even gotten to yet around actually contracting the

virus can cause harm.

But what we do know is that the vaccination is safe. That we're trying to keep you from contracting a virus that could possibly impact fertility. We

also know, I was part of the study out of UCFF looking at all of the pregnancies and births across the United States during COVID and we know

that the vaccine is safe in pregnancy. They are not going to articulate that. We know that they're not going to -- we haven't tested in pregnant

people but many birthing people and pregnant people are currently taking the vaccine and they are fine and they are healthy. So, if your provider

says that it's OK for you to take it, then you should take it.

SREENIVASAN: Dr. Boyd, some of the questions that I am asking are things that you hear kind of through the grape vine but then there's also this

really enormous news source which is the internet. What kinds of challenges does the internet pose when it comes to misinformation and then

disinformation that you're having to dispel in the black community?

BOYD: That's a major concern of ours and it is part of why we started this project before a single vaccine even had emergency use authorization. We

already saw black folks being targeted online for misinformation, in social media comments, on message boards that are centered around social justice

issues that attracted large black audiences. Folks were going there peppering in messages that were complete lies and myths about the COVID


And so, we created a campaign that in one respect will live always on the internet. To make sure that right where misinformation lives, we now paper

over it with the truth that comes from black health care workers. But we're also making sure that it doesn't just live on the internet. The other part

of this campaign that is absolutely critical is that we actually bring it to people so that they can have their questions answered live, in person,

with a health care provider. Because we know 1 in 5 black folks across the country don't have access to a regular health care provider.


And so, we are making sure that our network, our providers who helped us create these resources are also available to everybody across the country

at different periods. And for folks who are interested in that, they can visit our website to learn more about joining one of

those live conversations.

SREENIVASAN: Now, Dr. Crear Perry, when you watch some of the videos as part of the campaign, you realize how just shocking it might be to see 15

or 20 black scientists and doctors in the same place on a video because this just -- it doesn't -- it kind of hits you. I think the image in itself

is powerful, but some of this comes down to trust. People walking in and seeing a doctor who they can connect with and say, I trust her in a way

that I might not trust someone else.

CREAR PERRY: Yes. And we know segregation was a really effective tool, right? This idea that we have lived for generations not near each other,

not able to go to school together, like that government sanctioned tool caused harm, that we still live the replications from today.

So, people feel trusting when they see someone who looks like them because we created structure and that is what we saw in each other. So, I'm more --

a black patient is more likely to feel trusting in me because most of their life they're spent in black places, in black neighborhoods, in black

churches, in jobs, in sororities, in fraternities. And so, there's a level of community that was orchestrated and created that creates this space that

we are in now.

So, it doesn't mean that a white provider can't be trustworthy but we created a structure where people see others who look like them most of the

time. And so, they are more willing and more likely to trust in information that they share. We also have data that shows out of Oakland that there are

providers who when they -- there were black men who were more likely to get the vaccine when they had a black provider tell them about the vaccine.

So, that -- we cannot let go of that history and legacy that comes with why we have segregation, the history of white supremacy, the history of racism,

like that is real. So, it's important for us to say, OK. How do we then move forward and ensure people feel trusted, feel valued, feel heard? And

so, that ensures that we have providers who look like their patients (INAUDIBLE).

SREENIVASAN: Yes. Dr. Boyd, it seems like this is an opportunity to address or begin addressing some far more structural and deep-rooted issues

about health care access and equity.

BOYD: Absolutely. I think the major thing that drives racial health and equities as Joia just shared, Dr. Crear Perry just shared, is lack of

access and that lack of access is a reflection of racism and particularly antiblack racism that we have not built a health care system that is

equally accessible to everyone regardless of your racial and ethnic background. That instead, we have a health care system that tends to tier

the quality of care you receive by your insurance status, which is an incredibly effective way of tiering the quality of care you receive by your

racial and ethnic group.

And so, we as a health care system are also having challenging conversations to confront the ways we have profited from and benefited from

racism and the ways that white supremacy is still manifest and how we distribute resources from the COVID-19 vaccine to COVID testing to COVID

care to all of the preventative services that our health care system should be providing.

SREENIVASAN: Dr. Crear Perry, I know this is part of why you are in the campaign and why you're involved in this, but pivoting a little bit, how do

we change that on a doctor to patient basis or a member inside a community basis? What do we do to start having this kind of transformative or this

necessarily transformative conversation?

CREAR PERRY: Well, for me, it started with myself. Many people who are my age or older or people who look like me who were taught by their professors

that the reasons that we have racial inequities is because there is some biological basis of race. And even when we stop teaching that, that belief

is still undergirding how we treat patients, how we think about things like the C-section calculator or the way we talk about people's kidneys being

differently capable of maintaining kidney function or your lung capacity. All the racist ideology that's embedded in our health care system and the

ways we teach medicine in public health is really showing up today.

So, what we have to do is unlearn all of that. We have to work really hard to say, well, why would we ever say that? What would be magical about

melanin production that has anything to do with my kidneys and how they operate? Why would we say that it is something that -- there's a connection

between our ability to have a C-section and the amount of melanin we produce?

So, really undoing that belief as a biological construct and replacing it with understanding racism, the impact of a belief of a hierarchy of human

value based upon skin color, based upon ethnicity, and that is where you see differences in outcomes.

So, when I say racism, I'm not calling you a bad name, I'm not saying you are a mean person. Even when we talk about this public health response and

the racist -- in ways that it's happening, it's not because we are saying people are sitting down saying, oh, you're worthless valuable. So,

therefore, I harm you. Because the belief is so innate, we automatically do it. So, we have to be truthful about that.


So, you'll see places give vaccines like in the District of Columbia -- I mean, D.C., trying to give vaccines to the neighborhood and the communities

that have the highest risk, but people coming from other parts of the city to take those vaccines, right? And so, we'll say, well, that's just how

that goes. It's not how it goes, right? We create a system where we could say, you should not come -- you cannot get this vaccine unless you actually

live in this community. You can make policy that proactively stops harm to the people who are the most harmed, who are the least centered. And that's

how you undo the racism that we've been (ph).

So, we can't have survival of the fittest. We can't continue with this narrative that those who work really hard are the ones who are deserving of

actually having access. It's never been a truth. People who work really hard are now the essential workers who are still working, who are still

dying, who are still taking care of us. And so, they are fit. They just have never been invested in and they've never been valued. So, how do we

ensure that they get first access to the vaccine?

SREENIVASAN: Dr. Boyd, sort of same question to you. Where do we start that conversation on a personal level and then kind of on a national scale?

BOYD: I think we have to start within our own homes and our own relationships about the choices that we're making. That as Dr. Crear Perry

said, one of the ways that white supremacy can show up is in the choices that we make to also try to take resources that are attempting to

prioritize communities who are disproportionately affected and say that we still, as a white person or as a white community, want to have that just

for ourselves.

We have to ask ourselves what drives that and then people then have to try to surrender that advantage, to instead of trying to have more access than

other groups attempt to have equal access. Because the truth is, even as these efforts are trying to place vaccine access, for example, into people

of color's community, it is never at the expense of white communities, right? Like people don't need to go to that extent.

I think even just the recent announcement where the Biden administration said that, you know, they are committing that by May we will have vaccine

doses for every single Americans. We do not have to continue to believe that there is this scarcity around the resource that our federal government

has put enormous resources in such that then people don't have to try to continue to reassert a hierarchy about who should receive that based on

people's racial or ethnic background.

So, I think that starts with conversations just between people and themselves and introspection with their own families and communities. And

then, hopefully, it will filter into how our systems work, which is where the work of Dr. Joia Crear Perry and I lives, which is shifting how our

systems respond to communities such that we have responses that give communities resources commiserate with their need and not simply

commiserate with the power that they have.

SREENIVASAN: Dr. Crear Perry, how do you make sure that black Americans have physical access to it? I mean, if you look across the country right

now you can say that there are food deserts, you can say that there are news deserts and there are certainly health care access deserts. So, how do

we make sure that we are taking something not just like this particular shot door to door but using this as a pathway to say, hey, this is an

opportunity to increase access to all kinds of medical information and medicines?

CREAR PERRY: Both Dr. Boyd and I are not surprised that this is what's happening because we have all this other evidence that this is what always

happens. But what we hope -- but I'm hopeful and I'm optimistic. So, this might not happen. But I'm an optimist that we recognize when we don't

invest in the communities, that all of us die, right?

You can't -- that the virus doesn't care about our biases. The viruses do not have a hierarchy of human value based upon (INAUDIBLE). The viruses

say, OK, if you are going to decimate black and brown communities, I'm coming for the rich person next, right? I'm coming for your rich. Because

the virus can go that quickly.

So, hopefully, this is a moment of empathy, of combined humanity for us as a country to come together and say, we will no longer allow health care

resources to only go to certain communities because they have more power and they have access to it. We're going to say, let's center the most

impacted, let's ensure that they get it first. Because when they do, man, we're going to all thrive. I know from my work around black maternal

health, if we could get hospitals to treat black mamas well, man, it would be amazing for everybody else, right? So, when you (INAUDIBLE) people who

are the most impacted, if you actually ensured that Wards 7 and 8 got all the vaccines, trust me, the rest of us are going to thrive.

SREENIVASAN: All right. Dr. Rhea Boyd, Dr. Joia Crear Perry, thank you both.

CREAR PERRY: Thank you. That was fun.

BOYD: Thank you so much for having us.

CREAR PERRY: Appreciate you.


AMANPOUR: It would be amazing indeed. And, finally, look out for my extraordinary conversation about Justice Defenders. The organization

teaching law to prisoners in Africa so that they can defend themselves and get a fair hearing in court.

I'm joined by the founder and director, Alexander McLean, and Jane Manyonge. She is an inmate in Kenya who became a paralegal to defend

herself. And here she is explaining how she found herself on death row in the first place.



AMANPOUR: Jane, why are you in prison? You were convicted of murder, right?


AMANPOUR: Murdering your husband?


AMANPOUR: Did you do it?

MANGYONGE: I did it.

AMANPOUR: So, you believe that some punishment or punishment is due to you, correct?

MANGYONGE: Oh, my. Yes. Some. But not all the way because you find that like in prison, most of us women, we are here because of domestic violence

whereby you with stand it several years and you reach a place where you break down and you think you are defending yourself only to find that you

have broken the law and you are in prison.


AMANPOUR: And we'll have a lot more on that amazing story and, of course, the incredible success of the Justice Defenders.

That is it for now. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.