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Interview With Wellcome Trust Director Jeremy Farrar; Interview With Author Selma van de Perre. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired May 07, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): As India shatters yet another daily COVID case record and new variants spread, could lifting vaccine patents be the game-
changer? I asked the U.K. government adviser Jeremy Farrar.
SELMA VAN DE PERRE, AUTHOR, "MY NAME IS SELMA": I didn't want the Germans to have the satisfaction of killing me, of having me dead.
AMANPOUR: Her father, mother and sister were murdered in the Holocaust. Now former resistance fighters Selma van de Perre shares her incredible
story of survival.
CHARLES PERSON, AUTHOR, "BUSES ARE A COMIN'": I could never imagine generating that much hate from people who didn't know me, who had never
seen me before.
AMANPOUR: On the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Rides across America, Charles Person, the youngest original rider, tells Michel Martin about
staring down the Klan in his new memoir, "Buses Are a Comin'."
MAYA LIN, ARTIST AND ARCHITECT: These natural beings that we have helped kill off, they're there to remind us of what nature can be.
AMANPOUR: Giving new life to dead trees. Artist and activist Maya Lin tells me how she's getting at the root of climate change with her latest
installation, "Ghost Forest."
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
The vaccination effort here and in some other countries has been a success. But officials are sending the public a clear message that it is not over
yet. The U.K. chief medical adviser, Chris Whitty, warns the world will continue to see a significant number of deaths, unless more is done to
And in the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci says new variants could be more dangerous than the original virus. That urgently underscores the need to
help the developing world. India, which just set another record for daily cases, and South Africa are leading the demand for temporarily easing
The WHO has praised the Biden administration's support for that plan. But not everyone is on board, as the WTO weighs a decision.
And here to discuss all of this is Jeremy Farrar, a COVID adviser to the U.K. government. And he is also director of the global health research
charity The Wellcome Trust.
Jeremy Farrar, welcome back to our program.
How much of a game-changer will waiving patents be to address the immediate calamity that's -- that we can see unfolding?
JEREMY FARRAR, DIRECTOR, WELLCOME TRUST: Well, it's a historic moment.
And give great credit to the Biden administration for bringing this forward. But I think it's very important to appreciate the time frame that
that will play out. Yes, the discussion at the World Trade Organization, I think, is critical. It shows that the Biden administration is committed to
multilateralism and working with partners.
Those are really important signals. But, in the short term, it's not going to change the vaccine access, I'm afraid. That is going to come about
because countries who have access to a lot of vaccines make sure they're available through the COVAX facility that the WHO brings together, the ACT-
A, partnership, and that those vaccines are made available equitably to the world.
That needs to happen yesterday, it needs to happen today, and it needs to happen tomorrow. This is the only way that we can reduce transmission
sustainably, prevent new variants coming out, and ultimately coming back to haunt all of our countries in the future.
So, it's important, but it's not going to be the immediate response that we need in the next coming days and weeks.
AMANPOUR: So, just let me ask you then to fill in the gaps on that immediate response that is required, because how much longer are we going
to have to wait for that very thing that you just said to actually take place?
It was the promise of the rich and developed world at the very beginning that they would share the vaccine. We will put patents aside for the
moment. But they would make sure the developing world had them as well.
I mean, what more needs to happen to make this take place?
FARRAR: Well, I'm afraid this does come back to the political leadership.
This comes back, essentially, to a small number of countries. It's essentially through the G7, through the G20, and a small number of other
countries and regions -- the European Union is part of this as well -- to vaccinate their own populations.
We all understand the need to do that. But many countries have now made great progress in that. Here in the U.K., an incredible number of people
have been vaccinated, same in the United States. Transmission is now very low. The number of people in hospital dying and with illness from COVID, in
the U.S., the U.K. and increasingly in Europe is now very, very low.
We should be sharing vaccines today. The U.S., for instance, has about 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. I would -- I doubt if those will
ever be used in the U.S. We could make those available now through COVAX.
Some countries, France, particularly, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, have already committed to sharing, and have made some available, but in small
We have got to do this at scale. We have got to get these vaccines, yes, to India, but also to the rest of the world, the rest of the world that is in
danger of the pandemic continuing to spiral out of control in South Asia, in Central and South America, in Southeast Asia, and, indeed, in Africa,
where it would be devastating.
We should have acted yesterday. We can act today. We must act tomorrow.
AMANPOUR: I have to say it is extraordinary, and you put it at the feet of political leadership, that this thing which exists is not being shared as
rapidly and deeply as it should be. And this thing that will take a lot of time is being supported by the United States and others.
So, let's just talk about patents and patent waiving. The U.K. has said -- rather, the USA has said yes. The E.U. has said it's something that it's
going to be looking at and ready to discuss, as well as President Macron. Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel says, no, it has serious implications.
What do you think will happen? What will the WTO, the World Trade Organization, do about the patent waiving issue?
FARRAR: I think it's important. It's crucial it gets discussed. I mean, this is such a vexed issue. It's delicate. It's sensitive. It's been on the
agenda for -- frankly, for decades.
We're facing a global crisis. If now is not the time to do this, there will never be a better time. But I think it isn't about -- it's a bit about
sticks, but it's also about carrots. It's about realizing that manufacturing capacity at the moment in the world is just not sufficient to
provide the vaccines that are needed.
Unfortunately, those decisions could and should have been made in May 2020, when it was clear that we were going to have to vaccinate the world, that,
actually, it was the only route out of this pandemic, that lockdowns and physical restrictions and restrictions on people gathering was a temporary
It bought you time, but it didn't exit the pandemic. The only way of exiting the pandemic is through science, but making that science available
equitably to the world. That means diagnostic tests. It means treatments. It, critically, means vaccines, oxygen, and personal protective equipment.
And we're at that stage now when, unfortunately, the investments were not made in May 2020. I wish they had been in manufacturing capacity. But let's
make them now and make sure that they're available not in 2022, but in 2021, because, if we allow the current transmission in South Asia and
Central and South America to continue, then we will see variants that come back that escape immunity and put us back to some point in 2020.
So this is a scientific and public health imperative. It's a moral imperative. But it's the only way that we're all absolutely going to get
out of this pandemic. And that is to have equitable access to all of the tools that are needed.
I think the World Trade Organization will come to some agreement.
FARRAR: But let's not wait for the World Trade Organization, which isn't meeting, as far as I'm aware, until June or July, to start those
For the rich world with access to vaccines, let's make them available tomorrow to the world that needs them.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you then about the variants.
I mean, how troubling are they? Already, here in the U.K., they say they have seen clusters of the Indian variant. How troubled are you by these?
And can the existing vaccines deal with them? Or can they be rapidly modified to deal with them?
FARRAR: Yes, the vaccine technology and the science of the last 12 months is absolutely staggering.
And the vaccines, yes, they can be adapted. And I believe that science can keep us ahead of the variants that currently exist. But we don't know the
variants that we don't yet know exist. Surveillance for these variants around the world is very fragmented. There's a lot of surveillance in some
countries and very little in others.
We have to improve the knowledge base and the data around variants in the future. But the best way of avoiding variants that will come back to evade
the vaccines and the treatments is to drive down transmission everywhere.
That is the only route by which we can absolutely be sure to prevent the variants developing. And it is much better to prevent them developing than
reacting to them with updated vaccines and updated treatments, much better to prevent them arising in the first place.
And there is a very clear route to do that, reduce transmission and make vaccines available globally. And we have those tools today. The frustrating
thing, if you like, is, a year ago, we didn't have the tools. We didn't have vaccines. We didn't know that there were treatments that worked. Now
And now, as a world, we have a choice. Do we make them available to the whole world and prevent this pandemic continuing to reverberate around for
months and years to come? Or do we stop it? And those are choices we make. We have the tools.
Are we willing to make them available equitably around the world? And I believe that with the situation now in the U.S., in U.K., and, indeed,
increasingly in Europe, we now have the ability to both prevent infection in our own citizens in our own countries, and generously share to prevent
transmission in the rest of the world.
So, very briefly, in our last minute together, do you think that the news over patent waiving and et cetera is a little bit of a -- not a
smokescreen, but it's something for the future, and this idea of the demand now to share those that do exist is getting a little bit sort of covered
up, so to speak, that it's not getting the light that it needs to, because everybody's talking about patent waiving?
FARRAR: It's very important the patent waiving discussion goes on, but let's not wait for those complex negotiations. Let's share the vaccines now
equitably around the world.
That is in all of our interest to drive down transmission. Let the patent discussions go on at the World Trade Organization. Let's commit to
multilateralism and having those debates there. But let's not wait for that to happen, when we can share the tools today.
AMANPOUR: And just very briefly, there is enough vaccine to go around, right? Because all these countries are hoarding them, saying that we need
to protect our people. There is enough to go around?
FARRAR: There is not enough to go around today. We haven't invested in the manufacturing capacity globally, but that is being ramped up.
And, of course, as you see almost every day, new vaccines are now becoming available and getting licensed and registered by regulatory authorities.
So, we will have vaccines available through this year to vaccinate our own citizens, but, more importantly, actually now to vaccinate the rest of the
So this will become less of a problem in 2021.
FARRAR: We just don't need to keep the vaccines back for some future date for our own countries.
AMANPOUR: All right.
It's frustrating. And I can hear it in your voice. Jeremy Farrar, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us.
Now, 76 years ago today, Nazi Germany officially surrendered to the Allies, putting an end to six years of war in Europe. The liberation of several
concentration camps was well under way by then, with horrifying reality of what had taken place becoming undeniable.
Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, including Selma van de Perre's father, mother and sister. She was just a teenager when the Nazis
invaded her home, the Netherlands. She became a resistance fighter and a concentration camp survivor.
Now, at nearly 99 years old, she's out with a memoir called "My Name Is Selma."
And she shared her incredible tale of survival when, both vaccinated, we met for this conversation right here in London.
AMANPOUR: Selma van de Perre, welcome to our program. It's a really big honor to have you.
VAN DE PERRE: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, I want to start by asking you, what was it like there before the war? What do you remember about Holland before the invasion?
VAN DE PERRE: Well, we were not living in a particularly Jewish neighborhood. And we were not friends with only Jews.
I had many girlfriends from school as well. And most of them were Catholic or Protestant. We knew one was Protestant and the other one was Catholic,
and I was Jewish, and so, but it didn't make any difference. We were just all friends.
I remember that very well.
AMANPOUR: You remember everybody living together?
VAN DE PERRE: Yes.
And then everything obviously changed. The Nazis invaded the Netherlands. I think you were 18 years old.
VAN DE PERRE: Seventeen.
What did you know about the Nazis? I mean, did you know that it was then going to be dangerous for Jewish people like yourself?
VAN DE PERRE: Well, I mean, we -- well, we didn't know 100 percent, of course, because the Germans were very careful, very clever. They never told
people, state or countries, what they were going to do.
They just did, slowly but surely. And so we knew what had happened in Germany and Austria and Czechoslovakia, and so on, but not really. We
didn't know about the extermination camps, well, not the public did, at least.
AMANPOUR: Four days after the invasion, Holland surrendered.
VAN DE PERRE: Yes.
AMANPOUR: And, somehow, you knew that you had to get your sister and your mother to safety. What happened to you and your siblings at that time?
VAN DE PERRE: Well, not straight away after the invasion, because, as I said, the Germans were very clever. We didn't realize what was going to
The Dutch thought -- the whole Dutch, Netherlands government and country, people in the country, thought, the First World War, they had been not in
the war, and they had been neutral. And they thought this was going to happen again this time.
So people didn't think about the worst yet.
AMANPOUR: What happened to your father?
VAN DE PERRE: Well, after a year, in 1941, the orders about -- against Jews started, not being able to own the trams, on the trains, in the cafes,
or the cinema, et cetera.
But, in 1942, the Germans, or the Nazis, my friend says I have to say, not Germans -- and the Nazis started, Germans started to call up Jewish people,
first of all the German refugees and so on, and Jewish girls and boys and men. And I got my call-up on the 7th of June, my birthday, 1942.
And my father said: "No, you don't go."
And my father got a call-up in October. And he -- they were told, people were told by the Jewish council, who were told by the Germans, no doubt,
that they were going to a work camp in the north of Holland. That was a call-up. And so we thought -- and also they were told that, if they went,
then their wives and children would be free, didn't need to go to a work camp. And everybody believed that.
AMANPOUR: And, of course, it was a terrible lie.
VAN DE PERRE: And it wasn't true at all.
That's what I tried to tell you. There were so many lies, slowly, but surely, they told. And we were not -- don't forget, we were -- now we know
what happened. But we didn't in those days, you see.
AMANPOUR: Your father was taken.
VAN DE PERRE: Yes. So, my father went to that work camp one evening, and, the next day, they were straight away transferred to a transfer camp,
called Westerbork in the north of Holland, where Jews were later on all the time transferred to before being sent to Auschwitz, the camp, the
extermination camp Auschwitz.
They were also collecting wives and children, so that was not too -- the next day, we were not called, thank God. Otherwise, I wouldn't be sitting
here. I said to my mother, when we heard that my father was sent to Westerbork: "We better go and hide, because if they haven't called us last
night, they will come tonight."
And that's what happened. I called -- I went to friends who knew about a man who had addresses for hiding. And my mother and sister went into a
hiding place in Eindhoven in the south of Holland.
And they stayed there until 1943, when they were betrayed.
AMANPOUR: And did your mother and your sister survive?
VAN DE PERRE: No. They were sent -- straight away, they were sent to Westerbork and then to Auschwitz. And they were killed, murdered straight
I didn't stay...
AMANPOUR: And you were not with them?
VAN DE PERRE: No, I didn't with them.
Number one, it cost a lot of money. And, number two, the woman only could have two. So, you needed people. And there wasn't -- it wasn't easy in the
beginning to find houses where people were willing to take Jews in.
AMANPOUR: And she could only take two people.
So what did you decide to do?
VAN DE PERRE: So, I went -- a friend of -- I went to evening classes to learn typing and shorthand when I left school in '41, and -- grammar
And one girl there with whom I had become friendly said: "If there's any trouble, you can come to us." So, that's what I did. I went to them and hid
there for a week. And then her mother told me that it was getting too dangerous, and could I please go?
So, I was then looking for hiding place again. And I went through several hiding places.
AMANPOUR: You joined the resistance. How did that happen?
VAN DE PERRE: They were short, because all the young people could be -- not be out for that anymore and help with that anymore.
And they needed to. So, I said one evening: "Can I help?" And they said: "Oh, yes. Would you please?"
And I said yes. So, the first -- first week, I just put resistance papers into envelopes, because we weren't allowed to have -- papers weren't
allowed to be published anymore.
AMANPOUR: The Nazis banned all that.
VAN DE PERRE: Yes.
AMANPOUR: So, you also had to change your identity.
VAN DE PERRE: So, yes.
AMANPOUR: You were Selma.
VAN DE PERRE: Yes.
And then the resistance thought I was -- a different name was better, because, by that time, the resistance had influence already with the main
resistance in the Netherlands. They all have joined up with each other, luckily, and good.
And so the resistance asked me, would I be willing to take on another name?
And you became Marga. And in your book you write: "Ever since joining the resistance, I buried my true self."
VAN DE PERRE: Yes.
AMANPOUR: "I consciously denied my essence, my Selma, the whole time."
VAN DE PERRE: That's true.
AMANPOUR: What did that mean?
VAN DE PERRE: Well, it meant that I hid it away. I did -- I went into hiding as Selma.
I tried to forget Selma, because I was scared that I would talk in my sleep, especially when I was in prison. I hardly dared sleep because I was
so scared that I would.
AMANPOUR: That you would betray yourself?
VAN DE PERRE: Yes. I had that all the time, actually.
AMANPOUR: That fear of betraying yourself?
VAN DE PERRE: Yes, all the time I was imprisoned during the war.
AMANPOUR: Well, I'm going to get to the prison in a moment.
But, first, I'd like to ask you to read on page 76 in your book there the passage about fear, about how fear was everywhere, but you had to put it to
the back of your mind.
VAN DE PERRE: Well, you forget -- yes, you forget about fear, because I was busy as well. Like, I was now -- when you're busy, you're able to push
the things away you don't need.
"You can't live in constant fear. Even fear is something to which you become accustomed."
"And the job, the resistance job becomes like any other job. Every day, I did things that put my life at risk. I didn't allow the fear to overwhelm
me. The desire to thwart the Nazis and help people in danger was stronger."
AMANPOUR: I mean, it's really a powerful statement, because everybody wonders how they would act when confronted with such a terrifying
And from what I read, the most terrifying and daring thing you did was go to Paris to Nazi headquarters. Tell me about that.
VAN DE PERRE: Well, it was.
They asked me to go to Paris because they needed some papers from the Germans, and -- the resistance did. So I said, oh, no, it's too dangerous.
I don't want to go. I didn't want to go. I thought it was much too dangerous.
And -- but they said it was needed because they had people, two boys in prison, and they wanted -- a few boys -- and they wanted them out.
AMANPOUR: So, they had captured these Dutch political prisoners.
VAN DE PERRE: Yes.
AMANPOUR: What were the papers that you were taking?
VAN DE PERRE: Well, I didn't see them really. I only had an envelope which I took back.
But the papers were official German papers which the Germans had to carry with them if they wanted to go into a prison. So, the resistance wanted to
go into that prison and get the boys out, which they did.
AMANPOUR: You then did get arrested.
VAN DE PERRE: Yes.
AMANPOUR: But not because you were Jewish.
VAN DE PERRE: No.
AMANPOUR: But you got arrested for your -- as a political prisoner and sent to Ravensbruck...
VAN DE PERRE: Yes.
AMANPOUR: ... the woman's concentration camp near Berlin.
VAN DE PERRE: Yes.
AMANPOUR: What was that like? How...
VAN DE PERRE: That was horrible.
AMANPOUR: Because you weren't taken in as a Jew, did you think that maybe you would be spared the worst? What was going through your mind? What was
VAN DE PERRE: No, because we didn't really know what was happening to Jews. Don't forget that. We do now.
VAN DE PERRE: But we didn't.
So, no, no. I did know, of course, that the Jews might have been very much more dangerous, in a way, being sent to Poland to work. And we did know, of
course, that none of them had come back.
AMANPOUR: What was your experience in Ravensbruck?
VAN DE PERRE: Well, I have had some very horrible experiences there too.
But I survived. I wanted to -- I didn't want the Germans to have the satisfaction of killing me, of having me dead. So, I did any -- everything
to stay alive.
I was quite lucky, in a way, that I became the secretary of one of the chiefs in Siemens factory. I was I had to work in the Siemens factory.
AMANPOUR: The big Germany industrial...
VAN DE PERRE: Siemens.
VAN DE PERRE: Yes, which is now famous for all the kitchen stuff.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Yes.
You said that, to survive, you had to maintain hope.
VAN DE PERRE: Yes.
So, you tried to do your best to survive, which was difficult at some times. I was beaten once unconscious...
VAN DE PERRE: ... when I couldn't get off the loo because my tummy was always upset, you see, and -- because the food and the drinks we got was
terrible or hardly anything.
AMANPOUR: When you came out, you realized eventually that your mother had not survived, your father had, and nor had your younger sister.
Two older brothers had, and they had come here to England. How did you reconcile? How did you process their loss?
VAN DE PERRE: Well, I haven't reconciled with that at all. I think of them every day, every night. Small things happen. And when I slice my bread in
the morning for breakfast, and I half my slice of bread, I think of my mother when she buttered our bread.
I can't help it. It comes into my mind. I try not to, because I think -- I say to myself, it doesn't make any difference. You can't make it undone.
But I can't help it. I think of them every day in that way.
AMANPOUR: Did you talk about it throughout your life? You're now writing this incredible memoir about your life in the resistance.
Was the war something you would talk to your friends about, to your son, to your family?
VAN DE PERRE: No, the first 30 days -- 30 years, I didn't talk about it at all, except perhaps that I had been in the camp, but not detailed, and a
little bit with my husband when I met him, because he told me about his, and -- but not much either.
And then the Dutch association for women of Ravensbruck e-mailed me or phoned me and asked me to go to Ravensbruck with the schools they go to.
And I said, no, I'm too busy building up my life. That was another thing. I was building up my life, you see?
I was trying to get married and have a child. And so I was busy again. And so, no. And I said to them, no, no, no, no.
But then, a few years after that, they phoned and wrote and said, we are having -- we're going to Ravensbruck for a week with a workshop with
teachers, people who have just finished the college for teaching. And they are going.
So, about 80 of them went to Ravensbruck. And I went with them. And I said, yes, that that's a good idea, I thought, because if I could tell teachers
what had happened, then they could tell the children. That was the whole idea of the workshop. And that's what happened.
And since then, I have been every year.
Do you think that your experience, obviously, the experience of the Holocaust, the history, will remain in generations to come? Are you
concerned that, the longer we move away from that...
VAN DE PERRE: Well, a bit, yes, I was.
That's one of the reasons -- there are several reasons I wrote the book. It's one of the reasons I wrote the book, because, with the book there, and
especially now it's been so successful, I hope that it will -- it will remain, yes.
And I hope that people will talk about it still. And -- but the main thing is, because of the experiences, I hope that it won't happen again.
AMANPOUR: So, I was going to ask you, what do you think when you see genocides...
VAN DE PERRE: Something happening now, yes.
AMANPOUR: ... whether it was in Cambodia or in Bosnia or in Rwanda?
VAN DE PERRE: Yes. Yes.
AMANPOUR: Now they call what's happening in China a genocide to the Uyghurs.
VAN DE PERRE: Very disappointed, I am, yes, that people haven't learned from the -- mind you, it is very, very bad, what happens there, but nothing
like the Holocaust.
AMANPOUR: Selma van de Perre, thank you so much.
VAN DE PERRE: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: What a formidable woman. And turning now to another tail of resistance. This week marks the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Riders who
fought to desegregate the south. At 18, Charles Person became the youngest member traveling from Washington to New Orleans in 1961. His new memoir,
"Buses are a Comin'," details the bravery of these men and women instrumental in the battle for civil rights. And here is Michel Martin
speaking to him about his message to young people who are continuing that struggle, even today.
MICHEL MARTIN, CNNI CONTRIBUTOR: Charles Person, thank you so much for joining us.
CHARLES PERSON, ORIGINAL FREEDOM RIDER: Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: How did you decide that you were going to apply to be a Freedom Rider?
PERSON: They must have had a very intensive recruitment process because only application and, you know, especially if you're under age, you had to
get your parents' permission. Also, they evaluated not only your experience as a freedom fighter but other things, other intangibles. And the reason I
say that is that they wanted to make sure that your background was such that nothing about your derogatory could be used not only against you but
against the movement because then that would be a distraction.
When you had an arrest warrant, they wanted it because you were protesting segregation, not because of something else that you may have done or said.
PERSON: But why did you want to go?
PERSON: It was an opportunity to do something beyond Atlanta. Atlanta was just a local. And I knew we were successful there. But here was an
opportunity that I could affect a greater reach because we knew we were going to travel throughout the south. And we knew that -- we had heard that
Alabama and Mississippi were a whole lot worse than Georgia was.
MARTIN: You were just 18. You were the youngest person who was selected from this first two buses. The first 13 people to board two buses in
Washington, D.C. With the goal of challenging the continued segregation of buses and trains and airplanes starting in May. At this point, it was
already illegal but it was still being practices. The route was to go through North Carolina then to, what, South Carolina and then to Alabama
and Mississippi like that was the plan, right?
At what point did you realize it was going to get bad?
PERSON: Things began to get worse when we got to South Carolina. And we had two incidents in South Carolina where John Lewis had won and then they
were attacked. In another town called Spy (ph), Hank Thomas was arrested and bled out in the dead of night into a (INAUDIBLE) when he was able to
So, things had begun to get tense. And we talked about it that, you know, be prepared. And when we got to Atlanta, we had a nice help with Dr. King
and he was warning us to -- he had heard the danger awaited us in Alabama and he said that, the word is that you guys will never get through Alabama.
Now, we respected Dr. King but, you know, we had a job to do.
So, then, next day was Mother's Day, everything was wondering until we got to the Georgia Alabama Line. And when we got there, a gentleman was getting
off the bus and what he says to me indicated that, things may get a little more difficult. And basically, he says to me -- and I see was always the
first one as you get on the bus and he says to me, he says, you (INAUDIBLE) have had it good here in Georgia, but you're in Alabama now.
So, you know, that kind of perked my ears up. But then, again, I say, well, he's getting off the bus. But little did I know in a couple of hours I
would see him again in Birmingham. But that's the first indication that maybe something was awaiting us in Alabama.
MARTIN: Did you have a sense of what you were facing? I mean, you've alluded to it. But did you have a sense of what was going to come?
PERSON: I think our anticipation of violence towards us was basically they might (INAUDIBLE) off the stew. They might squirt condiments on you. They
might spit on you or they might even put a cigarette out on you. But that was about the extent of dangers that we anticipated. Nothing beyond that.
But we had no idea that the Klan had other things in mind.
MARTIN: And what did they have in mind?
PERSON: They wanted to kill the Freedom Riders. And possibly if we had traveled at night, they probably would have. Because people reported they
had all sorts of weapons and some of them had guns. And, you know what they set the bus on fire and what they were chanting while the bus was burning,
it's obvious what they had in mind.
Many of them had just returned from the church. This was Mother's Day, which is a very unique day in American life. But they really were intent on
doing extreme damage to us. You know, they were no brains on them. They had 15 minutes do whatever they want to and took advantage of it.
MARTIN: So, the first bus got to, what, to Anderson (ph), right?
MARTIN: And then the first bus was firebombed, correct?
MARTIN: And then the second bus, what happened? You were on the second bus and then what happened?
PERSON: Well, when we got to Anderson (ph), the bus station was closed. It was just kind of unusual from upper state and there were a small crowd,
milling round (ph), outside the door of the bus station. The bus (INAUDIBLE) talks to them and he gets back and he says, I understand the
gray (INAUDIBLE) bus has been set afire and they're taking the occupants to the hospital while the car loads.
Now, we knew that our friends were on that bus, but not having the technology we had today, we had no idea how bad they may have been. But
still, you know, even to this day, the thought of a fire on an enclosed area like that it's just frightening to me. So, that's our indication of
what had happened to them, the bus and also, we had -- we heard sirens.
But anyway, after, they gave us an opportunity to resegregate ourselves. And when we refused to move to the back of the bus, that's when the
Klansmen got on the bus and physically forced to us to the back of the bus. One eyewitness says they stacked us like pancaked.
MARTIN: You knew that were you there to stand your ground and not to move from your seat. But when they're coming at you and you know that the
Klansmen are there and you know what they're there to do, do remember what that was like?
PERSON: Well, I know that I should have been afraid, but I wasn't and I don't understand why. I didn't feel any pain from the punches that they
through. I mean, I don't understand that. I just knew that I had to remain (INAUDIBLE) and I knew that I was not supposed to kind of block their
punches or their kicks or anything like that. We were determined to be nonviolent regardless of what happened.
Yes. Like I said, if you could -- I could never imagine generating that much hate from people who didn't know what it means, who had never seen me
before, how could they become so angry to the point that they would do the things that they did simply because I was sitting in the front of the bus.
MARTIN: You know, we're kind of in a moment where, you know, people get annoyed when a story that centers black people that focuses on a black
experience somehow turns to the experience, you know, of white folks. But the fact is that these white folks did put their lives on the line along
with you. And I just wondered if you would talk a little bit about that. I'm thinking about Dr. Bergman, Dr. Walter Bergman.
First of all, like how did you feel when you saw that like a white person is going to sit on the bus next you? I don't even know if that had ever
happened before. And what went through your mind and why do you think they were there?
PERSON: That's one of the questions I asked him. I was trying to figure out why are these white people helping here? Because in Atlanta movement,
we didn't have many whites who participate. And Dr. Bergman and his wife, Frances, said, they told me, we're going to take care of you. And they
When we were attacked on the bus in Anderson (ph), Dr. Bergman came to help us and they knocked him to the floor of the bus and began to stomp him in
his chest. And had his wife not -- you know, begged them, they probably would have killed them on the bus. Then when we got to Birmingham, James
Peck and I, we were the designated testers.
And so, when we were into the station in Birmingham, the entire wall of men came towards us and they attacked James and he when down almost
immediately. And I was younger. I was able making my balance. But what we didn't know at the time, Dr. Bergman was headed over to the terminal to try
to help us and he was knocked down. And Dr. Bergman is 61 years of age. And here he is crawling on his hands and knees trying to help us. You know, he
didn't have to be there in the first place. And I can never forget, you know, to me, then 61 who seemed like a very old very old man, it doesn't
seem like an old man today.
But, you know, (INAUDIBLE) comparison on my age to his and to see him on his hands and knees, crawling to try to help this black kid and is -- you
know, it was just -- it's beyond imagination.
MARTIN: You talked about in the book, and this is a really painful part of that, is that you talk about them straining aboard the bus, you talked
about them sort of punching you in the face, grabbing your tie, your first -- you know, punching you in the face and throwing you and Herman to the
back of the bus. But one of the points that you make is that half of them really focused on your two white colleagues, Jim and Walter. You said two
Klansmen held Jim's head in their hands and a deliberate hit after hit.
Here's what you said, you said, I've never been punched in my face. But as violent as that was, the man amplified their fury even more toward these
two white men you in the view of our attackers were betraying white values.
What does that mean? How do you even think about something like that?
PERSON: They didn't like what we were doing but that (INAUDIBLE) would support our cause that they would -- their theory would be increased even
more to less. But I guess the intensity of their hate and the words that they use to describe Dr. Bergman and James Peck. You know, it's just that
they hated us but I think they hated them even worse because they were they felt that they were being betrayed.
MARTIN: You know what I found really shocking it is that you drove, you were in shock, most of you have been beaten bloody, several of you were
unconscious at that point. There were three black doctors in Birmingham, none of them would treat you. Why?
PERSON: Well, I later learned that medical doctors are licensed by the state and then I guess we were called outside agitators. And they didn't
want to be associated with these outside agitators and possible lose their licenses. And I've never talked to any of the doctors since then. But I
understand now. But thank God there was a nurse in (INAUDIBLE) Congregation who did provide some medical treatment for me.
MARTIN: How did you get out of there?
PERSON: You know, faith is a wonderful thing. There was a carpenter (ph) there and he snapped a picture. And when the flash went off, it startled
him and if you see the picture, they all look up at the cameraman, they simply let me go and they attacked the cameraman, they beat him up, they
destroyed his camera and they thought it was a film pack camera and they thought they had destroyed all film pack. But one image -- and to this day,
there's only one image out of Birmingham, and that's the image of me being beating.
But they let you go and I simply walked away. I didn't run. I didn't cover up. I just walk up to the street. And then as faith would have it, a bus,
city bus, came by and I got on the bus and asked the driver to take me somewhere.
MARTIN: It is remarkable, as we said, that yours was the first ride, but rides came for months, some 400 people eventually participated in these
rides. It went on from May, as you said it started, you know, on Mother's Day and lasted through November, until finally it was determined that the
government was in fact going to enforce the law as it was written. Was it worth it?
PERSON: Yes. Yes, I'd do it again. You know, you have to realize, there are a lot of good people in this world. And, I guess, that's what keeps me
going. You know, I'm optimistic. I was optimistic then and I'm optimistic today.
MARTIN: I see you're wearing your service medals. So, I do want to thank you for your service and that realm as well as the one that we're focusing
on. You made significant physical sacrifices in the service of this country and I know that many have expressed their appreciation, as do I. But I do
have to ask, you -- do you -- the irony of it, that you have been so willing to put your body on the line in the service of the country when it
hasn't, at times, offered you the dignity and the equality and the opportunity that you deserve.
PERSON: Oh, what I try to relate to people is this, that when you look at your parents and you see how hard they work for you and you know there has
to be something that's better. And then you'd do anything.
You know, they gave you all of love and (INAUDIBLE) that you have to make back to comfort for you when your brothers and your siblings. And it's -- I
think now, how did they even do the stuff that they had to put at risk and they worked on jobs and they were there every day and their pay was
insufficient, not because they didn't have the ability, it's simply because the system says, this is what they are worth. This is what -- and it wasn't
just in my family. Most black men were in the same situation.
I mean, it didn't matter what your skills were and they built a lot of these companies. I mean, they were there because they know they needed
something to keep their family going. But in despite of two jobs, my dad also did side work wherever he could get it to keep going. And that's why I
think he died so early because he was just worn out. You just can't do that, just year after year after year.
MARTIN: Do you have some advice or -- I don't know if you'd feel so bold as to offer advice to the generation of activists that are now in the
forefront. I'm thinking about the Black Lives Matter movement, for example. Many of the folks who are at the forefront of this movement are the age
that you were when you got on that bus. Do you think, based on your experiences, is there some advice that you would share?
PERSON: Well, first of all, I don't think it's my position to tell them how to conduct their march. I appreciate what they're doing. All I would
say to them is staying on balance, stay informed, keep your community informed about what you're doing. They need to know why you're marching.
And you have to repeat it because if you don't create your own narratives, other people will keep to your impatience. That's what happens. We need
that. Old become content with things as they are, we rationalize them. But young people are impatient and they want to change. As long as we got that
out there and that kind of enthusiasm in our young people, we're going to be all right.
MARTIN: Charles Person, thank you so much for talking with us today. It is truly an honor to spend this time with you.
PERSON: The please has been mine. And thanks for caring.
AMANPOUR: And so inspiring. Another incredible story there.
And finally, tonight, we take a trip to the "Ghost Forest" from the brilliant vision of artist, Maya Lin, comes her latest project. A sprawling
collection of dead trees in New York's Madison Square Park. Lin, of course, famously shot to fame by winning a national competition to design the
Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. when she was just 21 years old.
But more recently, her work has taken on an environmental streak. And she's joining us now to talk about it from her New York studio.
Maya Lin, welcome back to the program.
MAYA LIN, ARTIST AND ARCHITECT: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And we find you in the studio and I think you're sitting, you know, with the model and the image of the "Ghost Forest" behind you. So,
tell me what it is, because it's dead trees but it's not about dead trees.
LIN: Well, there is a phenomenon going on around the world, they've been termed ghost forests due to climate change, vast tracts of forest land are
dying out. Where I spend my summers in Colorado, it's beetle infestations because the winters are just too mild. The insects are not dying. And one
season, you'll see a little bit of rust on the tops of the trees, by next season, entire forest kind of have died off. These phenomena is happening
in California. It's forest fires in the East Coast. It's rising sea salt water inundation.
So, I was invited in to do a temporary artwork for Madison Square Park, which is a beautiful one-and-a-half-acre site in the middle of downtown
Manhattan. And I wanted to bring a ghost forest to Manhattan and I wanted to raise awareness about these phenomena that's going on, a huge loss that
is going on that people might not be aware of in my art. I really like to connect you to what's in your own backyard.
So, these trees that we -- that I brought in and installed, there are 49 of them. They're from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey and they have all --
they're all victims of salt water inundation from a flooding estuary that come in and overrun its banks.
AMANPOUR: So, tell me, Maya, how you got all these trees and what your visual was? I mean, they clearly all look very uniform, same size. How deep
did you have to plant them and how long will they stay there?
LIN: The installation will see it through all four seasons. We've begun it with no leaves on the beautiful stately trees around it. Spring is now in
full bloom. Summer will come. Fall, the leaves will drop. And we'll deinstall the peace in November when all the leaved have dropped off the
So, I'm trying to capture as well as these trees continue to gray out and, in a way, start to decay, then the leaving forests, the nature surrounding
it kind of goes through all its life cycles as well. But as well, I didn't want to, at this late stage, with where we are with the dire effects of
climate change, we are emphasizing through public programs and through 1,000 trees being planted in the fall that will within 10 years more than
10-fold offset the costs of our install in terms of carbon emissions that we really wanted to focus on nature-based solutions to climate change.
Because I didn't want to just wake you up to climate change, I think we don't have much time left.
And I think if we reform our agricultural practices, our forestry practices, our ranching practices and if we protect and restore degraded
lands, both land and wet ones, then we could absorb a significant amount of carbon emissions and protect biodiversity around the world.
AMANPOUR: Maya Lin, your works have been, to an extent, mournful, they have marked great moments of tragedy but also hope. I mean, the tragedy of
the Vietnam War, the hope of the Civil Rights Memorial in in Montgomery. And this, now, your climate work, it's about mourning but it's about hope
as well, about regeneration. This whole year has been about tragedy and grief. But you particularly have faced that yourself. You lost your beloved
husband to a sudden heart attack, the father of your children. And I just wondered whether this was cathartic for you.
How did you get through this particular installation in the wake of your personal loss?
LIN: Well, I think Daniel and I -- you know, I came up with this idea for ghost forest when we were in Colorado. And all last year, we actually spent
from March through August, the whole family, our two girls and I spent our time there. And he -- Daniel and I really talked about the ghost forests
and the beetle kill going on, ravaging the parts of the southwest where we spend our summers. And I really almost feel this peace wouldn't be there if
it weren't for Daniel.
And in a way, the ghost forest is -- it really reminds me of our dialogues and talking about, you know, how was I going to do something temporary in
this spot. So, it's a very near and dear peace to me.
One of the things that I feel that all the works that have dealt with, what I call them are the memory works, is how can the past teach us to frame a
different future? And I think what is missing, and I call it the 5th and the last of the memory works, the memorials, though we start with making
people aware of what is being lost in the natural world, we focus as much emphasis on conservation and hope basically in a nutshell when you trace an
ecological history, if you go to the website, whatismissing.org, you go to these timelines of species, rivers, cities, oftentimes people chose to live
where there was great abundance. First, they pollute it with sewage, then industrial waste.
And then there's this awareness of what they're doing, loss come into effect. And lo and behold, like the temps (ph) hasn't been this clean in
400 years. Beavers now are swimming and finding their way back to the Bronx. Nature is resilient. If we give it a chance, it will come back. It
will not only reduce emissions and absorb emissions, I mean, between Project Drawdown and the Nature Conservancy up to 50, maybe 75 percent of
emissions, if you really push into the wet ones.
These are huge numbers. And we could also make our agricultural practices more resilient and resistant to drought if we can bring that the life of
LIN: So, these are all the things that I think each one of us can help in what we buy and what we eat.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And your work is really, really showing that to us and to the whole world. There's really a lot of hope there.
Maya Lin, thank you so much for joining us.
And that is it for now. Thank you all for watching and good-bye from London.