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CDC Advisory Panel Votes to Approve COVID-19 Vaccines for Children as Young as Six Months; President Biden Defends Administration's Record on U.S. Economy During Interview; Wages in U.S. Rise as Stock Market Falters, Mortgage Rates Increase, and Inflation Continues; House January 6th Select Committee Details Pressure Former President Trump Exerted on Former Vice President Mike Pence to Overturn 2020 Presidential Election; Donald Trump Criticizes Former Mike Pence During Speech at Faith-Based Voters Event; Former CNN Host Mark Shields Dies at Age 85; Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner Interviewed on City's Successful Efforts to Reduce Homelessness; Singer and Choreographer Debbie Allen Discusses Celebrating Juneteenth. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired June 18, 2022 - 14:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: It's been great honor and pleasure to have talked with him and met him over the years as he was a former comrade of my late dad, who was also a Tuskegee airman.

And over McGee's career, he has completed more than 400 air combat missions across three wars, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. On Friday, family and friends gather to lay the former fighter pilot to rest at Arlington, his casket draped with the American flag and escorted to the service on a horse-drawn carriage.

McGee died in his sleep in January. He was 102 years old. We forever salute him.

Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Major breaking news. Moments ago the CDC's vaccine advisory panel voted in favor of authorizing the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for children between the ages of six months and five years. The White House says those vaccines will now be available in states as soon as next week.

CNN's Miguel Marquez has been following this key vote. So Miguel, this is a welcome moment for many parents across the U.S. and a lot of pediatricians who had been hoping for this.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a lot of people across the country hoping for this. But look, it is not clear how significant uptake will be given where we are in this pandemic. But certainly, this was the last big tranche of Americans that weren't able to be vaccinated. It's almost 20 million of our youngest, most vulnerable Americans that will now soon be able to get two different vaccines. They had a long meeting today and they took a lot of questions. They

had questions and statements for about an hour-and-a-half. Some of the things they focused on is they came to conclusion on with these two vaccines, is that vaccination is certainly effective against severe illness. They don't have a ton of information, but that was one of the broad themes that they had.

Also, vaccination is much better protection than previous illness. They also said the side effects, they are there, just like they were for me or you or for whoever got vaccinated, but they are manageable. And then they talked a lot about the practicality of distributing and administering all these vaccine across the country. We're talking about two different vaccines here, Moderna and Pfizer, slightly different in the way they're given out. The Moderna is a two-shot vaccine regimen that goes over several weeks, and then Pfizer is three shots over several weeks as well. Both of these are much smaller doses than you'd have in either older kids or in adults.

Now it's a matter of getting them to the states. Many states have already ordered them, many of these vaccines are already being delivered. And cities like New York say they'll be able to put them into arms starting on Wednesday. Back to you.

WHITFIELD: That is close. Miguel Marquez, thank you so much.

Now to the growing concerns about the U.S. economy. Wall Street just wrapped up another rocky week after the Fed implemented its biggest rate hike in decades, sparking fears a recession is near. The S&P 500 closed out its worst week since March of 2020 when the pandemic hit. And the Dow closed below 30,000 for a second straight day.

Meantime, President Biden is trying to reassure the American people that a recession is not inevitable. For more now, let's bring in Arlette Saenz, who is traveling with the president in Delaware. So Arlette, the White House is trying to strike an optimistic tone, but a lot of Americans are on edge right now.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred, and the White House is keenly aware of the economic anxiety that so many Americans are seeing as they are seeing these skyrocketing prices when it comes to what they're paying at the gas pump and also for food at the grocery store. And President Biden is trying to show that he's trying to get a handle on the issue of inflation. Take a listen to what he had to say on this topic yesterday.


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the United States, I'm using every lever available to me to bring down prices for the American people. And our nations are working together to stabilize global energy markets, including coordinating the largest release from the global reserve, from the global oil reserve, in history.


SAENZ: But even as the president says he's trying to use every lever possible to try to lower prices, he has also acknowledged that there is little he can do in the short term to lower gas prices and the cost of food. The White House is evaluating constantly, they say, options to try to lower prices. One thing that they're discussing is the possibility of gas rebate cards, though a White House official say that it's unlikely they would pursue that type of program because it would be difficult to administer and also difficult to keep track of whether people are actually using that money for gas.


The president also told reporters today that he is in the process of trying to determine whether he will lift those Trump-era tariffs on China. The White House is trying to evaluate what kind of impact that might have on lowering prices, and the president said at some point he does expect to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

But the president also, as he is pushing this economic message, recently did an interview, what's become a very rare interview, with the Associated Press where he said that he does not believe a recession in this country is inevitable, even as some economists are warning a recession could be looming, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And then, Arlette, something very unexpected happened today. The president was out trying to get a little exercise with the first lady, and then something happened. Explain.

SAENZ: Yes, so President Biden was out for a bike ride with first lady Jill Biden. And he took a moment to go over to say hello to a group of people that had been gathered. And the president took a little bit of a spill, falling off his bike. Take a look at this video of that moment.




SAENZ: So as you could see there, his foot actually got caught in the bike a little bit, and then the president tipped over on that bike. Secret Service quickly swarmed around him to ensure that he was OK, and before leaving, the president did tell reporters that he felt good, he spent a few minutes talking to the group that had been gathered there. And the White House later said that the president was feeling fine at that moment and that he did not require any medical attention for that fall off his bike this morning, Fred.

WHITFIELD: At every angle that looks like a painful fall, like possibly right on his knee or hip or shoulder. But any bike rider who uses clips knows how easy that can happen, but I don't think he had clips on his shoes. But still, that was a close call for the president. We're glad that the White House says he is fine. Arlette Saenz, thank you so much.

So this week's historic Fed rate hike is aimed at taming inflation but is already causing wages to spike. And it comes as wages in the U.S. are climbing at their fastest rate since the mid-80s and unemployment remains low. But there are serious concerns the Fed's decision could lead to a recession. CNN's Matt Egan breaks down the mixed signals on the U.S. economy.


MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: This was another brutal week for the American economy. Stocks are down, inflation and borrowing costs are up. And all this is causing real economic anxiety for families. The good news is that the jobs market is still pretty strong. Historically low unemployment, layoffs are relatively uncommon, though they are picking up a bit.

The bad news is even the White House concedes that the jobs market needs to slow down to get inflation under control. Inflation is so high that the Federal Reserve is resorting to the most aggressive interest rate hike since 1994. The goal is to slow the economy just enough that prices chill out, but not so much that it causes a recession. And that's not going to be easy.

In the meantime, borrowing costs are surging, especially in the housing market. Mortgage rates are spiking at the fastest pace since 1987. The average 30-year fixed rate mortgage is now 5.8 percent. That's almost twice as high as a year ago. And this will price some people out of the housing market. The higher mortgage rates go, the less home you can afford.

Business leaders and investors are getting nervous. A new survey from the conference board found that 60 percent of global CEOs and executives expect a recession by the end of next year, and 15 percent say we're already in a recession. Recession fears have helped cause more market mayhem on Wall Street, with U.S. stocks falling sharply this week. And these losses are shrinking investment portfolios, 401(k) plans, and college savings plans. Hopefully these economic worries are overdone and the Federal Reserve is able to get under control without causing a recession. But the risks are clearly rising. Back to you.

WHITFIELD: Matt Egan, appreciate that.

Joining me right now is Danielle Hale. She is the chief economist for Danielle, good to see you.

DANIELLE HALE, CHIEF ECONOMIST, REALTOR.COM: Nice to be here. Thanks for having me, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Let's try and dive in with this market and how it's looking for people. Mortgage rates just had their highest weekly jump since 1987. The average 30-year mortgage rate is now approaching 5.8 percent. Do you expect mortgage rates will continue to rise, or do you feel like this is going to peak for at least a little while?

HALE: Our expectation is that we are going to see mortgage rates continue to climb, though at a slower pace. And we might see a little bit of an easing over the next couple of weeks. We might not stay at the 5.8 percent level. [14:10:02]

A lot of this was in reaction to the Fed's rate hike this week, which was bigger than had been expected just a week ago. So financial markets did a pretty quick about-face to adjust for the Fed's surprise. And I think they've done a good job. That might mean a little bit of easing. But the broader trend for mortgage rates is higher. And there's no denying that makes it a bit more challenging for homebuyers in the market today.

WHITFIELD: Oh, big time. In fact, let's look at some of the numbers here and how it translates to real dollars here. Here is an example. The average monthly cost of a 30-year mortgage for a $250,000 home is now about $335 a month more than last year. The price of a $500,000 mortgage is now about $670 a month more than this time last year. So for those who have been in the market looking, is it still a good idea to be in the market and looking or wanting to buy right now before rates potentially rise even higher?

HALE: I think it's challenging regardless of your price point because mortgage rates have gone up so much and because home prices have also gone up. And so our numbers suggest that the cost is up about 65 percent, which is something that's going to probably cause a lot of people to rethink that decision, or at least adjust their price points so that they're sticking closer in line with their budget.

But home prices are up. They are not the only prices that are up. If you look at rents, our metrics suggest rents are up about 17 percent from a year ago. And we know that inflation is a problem across the board. So I think it is really just tough for homebuyers today, tough for anyone looking to move, really, for renters too. And I think people have to be very mindful of their budgets when they're out shopping today.

WHITFIELD: And as you underscore, housing prices have been high. Rent prices have been high. But now, with the rate hikes, do you think that will stop these prices from going up any higher? Those who have been able to benefit from selling their home for incredible price points, with mortgage rates higher, do you believe that's going to level things off now?

HALE: The rising mortgage rates are upping the cost to buyers, and so we do expect that to cause a pullback in demand. So as costs go up, some people are just going to decide now is not the right time for me, or it is the right time for me but I'm going to have to pull back on the price that I was looking at for homes. So we do expect the market to slow.

Interestingly, we just revised our housing forecast last week, and even though we revise it to account for these changing market conditions, even though we do expect home price rates to slow, we actually increased our price forecast because home prices have been so high for so long, they've been a lot stickier than we expected. So I think it's going to take a white for the price to slow because the housing market is very unbalanced right now. We haven't built enough homes over the last decade. And it's going to take quite a bit of higher mortgage rates in order to tame that home price growth.

WHITFIELD: Interesting. And then how do you think all of this has impacted what has been that real trend of investors, corporations, buying up homes, and also helping to drive up the price of homes on the market? Do you think that there will be a change?

HALE: We have seen a lot of investor buyers. It's interest because there's also a lot of investor sellers in the market right now. And our research shows that actually at the very beginning of the pandemic there were more investors selling and trying to get out of the housing market. But as conditions shifted and it became clear that housing was going to do very well in the pandemic as people spent a lot of time sheltered at home and made home buying and renting a priority to get more space while they were at home, we saw investor interest pick up.

And so I think the fact that we've had a decade of underbuilding in this economy has created low vacancy. It's hard to find a home whether you're looking to buy or to rent. And that's created rising prices, which has created this opportunity for investors to come in and take advantage of this market condition.

WHITFIELD: Very fascinating. Danielle Hale, thank you so much. Thanks for being with us this weekend. We'll have you back.

HALE: Absolutely.

WHITFIELD: Coming up, former president Donald Trump lashing out at the January 6th committee after it detailed how he tried to pressure Mike Pence, his vice president, to join in on his scheme to overturn the presidential election. We'll show you what Trump said.



WHITFIELD: This week the January 6th committee detailed how Donald Trump tried to pressure his own vice president to overcome the 2020 -- overturn, rather, the 2020 election. Witnesses testified the former president's plan was illegal and that the U.S. Supreme Court would not support it. CNN reporter Marshall Cohen joining me now with more on the hearings. Marshall?

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Fredricka, good afternoon. This was a big hearing on Thursday afternoon here in Washington. We learned a lot about the pressure campaign from Donald Trump and a rightwing lawyer, John Eastman that he was working with, how they tried to pressure and cajole and twist Mike Pence into using his powers on January while presiding over a joint session of Congress somehow throw the election to Donald Trump.

The problem here for Trump and Eastman is that the testimony revealed that they knew going into January 6th, or at least they were told, that the plan was unconstitutional, the plan was illegal. They showed an email that Eastman wrote where he even admitted that it would require a minor violation of federal law. The committee has been using all that evidence to make the case that this wasn't just some ham- handed attempt to mess with an election. They're calling this an attempted coup.


As we all know, Mike Pence refused to go along with that on January 6th. He did his job. He certified the results for Joe Biden. The next morning, once the dust finally settled, a White House lawyer testified that he told John Eastman that he better find a good criminal defense attorney.

And take a look at what Eastman did after getting that advice. This is based on emails that the committee received not that long ago. It was a big moment. Check it out.


REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA) JANUARY 6TH SELECT COMMITTEE: In fact, just a few days later, Dr. Eastman emailed Rudy Giuliani and requested that he be included on a list of potential recipients of a presidential pardon. Dr. Eastman's email stated, quote, "I've decided that I should be on the pardon list if that is still in the works." Dr. Eastman did not receive his presidential party.


COHEN: The hubris there, right, Fred? "I've decided that I should be on the pardon list." He didn't get a pardon. He denies all wrongdoing, but clearly he had some concerns that his actions leading up to January 6th could get him in trouble. And the committee has made the case that the Justice Department should take action, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Marshall Cohen, thank you so much.

Former president Trump is sounding off at the January 6th committee. Trump lashed out at the House panel and even criticized his former vice president Mike Pence before a crowd at this weekend's Faith and Freedom Conference. And that's where CNN's Kristen Holmes is. So Kristen, tell us more.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, the former president had quite a bit to say, which isn't surprising. This is the first real opportunity he's had to react to these hearings, which we know he has been watching closely, other than on his own social media platform, and he really ran with that opportunity.

He repeated lies about the 2020 election. He attacked the committee. He accused the committee of deceptively editing video interviews in order to make him look bad. And I do want to note that the chairman of the committee has said that they will eventually release those full transcripts of those interviews.

But perhaps the most striking attacks that were leveled by the former president were at his former vice president, Mike Pence, a man who served under him for four years and also, as you just heard from Marshall, it was the day after the committee had laid out just how much danger the former vice president was actually in on January 6th. Take a listen to just some of what President Trump had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I never called Mike Pence a wimp. I never called him a wimp. Mike Pence had a chance to be great. He had a chance to be, frankly, historic. But just like Bill Barr and the rest of these weak people, Mike, and I say it sadly because I like him, but Mike did not have the courage to act.


HOLMES: He certainly didn't sound like somebody who liked Mike Pence in that speech. And one thing I want to point out is about the crowd that Trump was speaking to. Yes, it is full of Trump supporters. We spoke to many of them who said they would support the former president if he were to run again in 2024. But this is also a very friendly Mike Pence crowd. This is a religious conservative conference, one that Pence has spoken at for years. And that didn't stop Trump from mocking Pence over and over again, sometimes even to just tepid applause. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, Kristen Holmes, thank you so much.

And this quick programming not, join some of the biggest stars as they lift their voices for "Juneteenth, A Global Celebration for Freedom," live tomorrow night at 8:00 eastern only on CNN.

We'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: Sad news to report to you. Former CNN host Mark Shields has died at the age of 85. He is best known as the longtime moderator and panelist for CNN's weekly political talk show the "Capital Gang," and for his decades of work as a political analyst at PBS. CNN chief media correspondent and host of RELIABLE SOURCES Brian Stelter joining us now. So Brian, he really was an institution for a very long time, particularly with the capital gang. Tell me what some of his former colleagues are saying about him.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, so many viewers will miss Mark Shields upon hearing this news. He retired in 2020, but I know he still had so many fans who loved to see him on the "PBS NewsHour" and on "Capital Gang" here on CNN. Here is what PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff said today announcing the news of Shields' passing, saying he "for decades wowed us with his encyclopedic knowledge of American politics, his sense of humor, and mainly his big heart. He passed away at 85 years old with his wife Anne at his side." That's Judy Woodruff's announcement of Shields' death.

Shields was like a walking almanac of American politics, as he was once described. His Friday evening partner on the NewsHour, David Brooks, called him one of the most finest and beloved man I'd ever known. He worked on Democratic campaigns for men like Bobby Kennedy before transitioning to journalism and analysis, and then did appear on television for decades, providing insight into American liberalism and pragmatism.

Brooks recalling that Shields was all about optimism and pragmatism, u., "He argues politics is about looking for converts, not punishing heretics. You pass bills and win campaigns by bending to accommodate those whose votes can gotten." So Shields, a realist about politics, trying to educate the public and make arguments in favor of democracy, and sometimes the Democratic Party.


Here is what our former colleague Rick Davis who was once was the executive producer of the "Capital Gang" said about Shields in an email to us today. He said, "We at CNN were so fortunate to work with such a kind, brilliant, funny man who was the same person to the powerful politicians as he was to the youngest staffer on our team." Shields, he says, was "as good a man as you will ever meet in this business." Mark Shields passing away at the age of 85, dying of kidney failure, with his wife by his side, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Thank you so much, Brian Stelter.

Still to come, Houston taking a unique approach to solving homelessness. I'll talk to the mayor of Houston about what they are doing, next.



WHITFIELD: For more than a decade, homelessness in America was on the decline. But with the pandemic, rising rent prices, and inflation, homelessness is now increasing dramatically. In January of 2020 there were more than half a million people without a place to live. That's a surge of almost 30 percent, which has almost wiped out nearly 10 years of previous gains.

But one city is taking a rather unique approach to solving the issue, Houston. Instead of moving people out of encampments and having them scatter, they were moved directly into housing, apartments, houses. Sylvester Turner is the mayor of Houston. Good to see you. Can you hear me OK?


WHITFIELD: OK, good, Mr. Mayor.


WHITFIELD: So you are credited with helping Houston cut homelessness by more than 60 percent in the last decade. And you managed to get the city, working with local service providers, corporations, charitable nonprofits, by moving homeless people into apartments, not into shelters, even if they are not weaned off drugs or don't even have jobs. It sounds both compassionate and risky. Why has it worked?

TURNER: Well, it has worked because instead of waiting for people to stabilize or coming off drugs, we do two things all at the same time. We provide them with places to live, like single bedroom apartments. And at the same time we provide the wraparound services. So it's not just about providing a roof over their head, but it's about providing a roof over their head, a floor beneath their feet. But we also make sure that, for example, if they are in a mental/behavioral health crisis, that we provide the services to address their concerns. If they're on substance abuse, we provide those wraparound services.

So you have to do both. And what we have found is that two years after a person is housed, most of them are still effectively housed. So it is working. And then we've been very intentional about pulling together all of these different nonprofit organizations, for example, that work with the homeless, bringing them all together, putting them under one umbrella, so that we're all rowing in the same direction and working together.

WHITFIELD: Was it a tough sell? What inspired so many of those organizations to get on board with this plan, this approach?

TURNER: I think what you found 10 plus years ago, different organizations were doing some good things. But they were all doing their own thing. And the number of people who were falling through the cracks, ending up on the streets, that number was continuing to grow. So they were doing good things individually, so to speak, but those good things were not addressing the problem in a holistic sense. It wasn't reducing the number of people on the streets.

When we work collectively, and I give a great deal of credit to the previous mayor, Annise Parker, and the group that worked then. They pulled all of these different organizations together and essentially said, if we work together, if we leverage each one's resources, so we're not duplicating effort, and we can utilize our resources in a very impactful way, then why not give that a chance? So all of them came together under the coalition for the homeless and working in collaboration with the city, working with apartment owners, and the solution has worked. So it's housing along with wraparound services all at the same time.

WHITFIELD: All at the same time. So in "The Washington Post" you were quoted as saying, before I leave office, I want Houston to be the first big city to end chronic homelessness. You're serving your final term, and in "The Post" reports that you joined Harris County leaders in unveiling a $100 million plan that would use a mix of federal, state, county, and city funds to cut the local homeless count in half, again, by 2025. Why are you so optimistic and determined?

TURNER: Well, in the last 10 years, we've reduced homelessness in the city of Houston by 63 percent. At one point in time, we were in one of those top cities with a large number of people who were homeless. When you look at the number that we have now, less than 3,000, for example, who are what we would consider to be chronic homeless.


And so with this phase two, working in collaboration with the county, we can continue to decommission the remaining camps that we do have. We can provide the wraparound services. And we believe over the next 18 months that we can effectively eliminate chronic homelessness in the city. And when I say 3,000, Fredricka, I'm not just talking about the city of Houston. I'm talking about Houston, Harris County, some of our surrounding counties. So the numbers have been going down, even through the pandemic, the numbers have been going down. The method that has been put in place is working. And now, if we can get more single family units from these apartment owners, if they would join with us, if we could get more units, combined with the efforts of the city and the county and the nonprofit organizations, we believe we can effectively end chronic homelessness in the city of Houston by the end of next year.

WHITFIELD: So I want to ask you too, in a broader sense, just looking coast-to-coast, both rising crime and homelessness have been front and center in local political races across the country. Case in point, the Los Angeles mayor's race, one of the key campaign issues has been how to handle homelessness and crime. And one of the candidates has said point blank, and I'm paraphrasing, it means moving out people who are homeless. Your program sounds like it's the complete opposite of that. Instead of moving people out, you're helping to provide them a place to live and a place to start again, or start over. Do you think that the issue of homelessness, particularly in large cities across the country, will remain key issues that will inspire voters at the polls in how they select their leaders?

TURNER: Well, homelessness and crime will continue to be key issues until they're effectively addressed.

Let me just speak first to homelessness. The question is not to move them out, because you're moving them out where? No one wants to see people homeless on their streets, on their sidewalks, in their communities. But you can't lock them up, OK. You just can't move them from one location to the other. The answer, personally, that I believe, and what's working in the city of Houston, is to provide them housing with the wraparound services. It does require a great deal of coordination. It does require resources. It does require apartment owners and others working with us. It's very complex, it's very complicated. But it can be done if everybody is rowing in the same direction. So the answer to homelessness is housing with wraparound services.

On crime, for example, yes, we faced our challenges. But we have never defunded police in the city of Houston. A day or two after the murder of George Floyd in the city of Houston, I increased the city of Houston's police budget by 13 percent. So we have never defunded. We have provided even more resources. And you have to give law enforcement all the tools that they need.

At the same time, you do have to invest in crisis intervention. The very same things we're talking about with homelessness, addressing mental/behavioral health issues, homelessness, substance abuse, domestic violence. We've put together a domestic abuse response team, DART, that's working very well, because domestic violence increased in the city of Houston by 40 percent. We're working to bring down those numbers. I will say to you, in January, when you compare our numbers with last

year, we were 65 percent above on the homeless side numbers. As of yesterday morning when I looked at the numbers, we were one percent above last year. And in many of the violent crime categories, they're going down.

And you also have to invest in the community. You have to work in such a way that you're addressing communities that have been underserved and under-resourced. So it's law enforcement and the community addressing crisis intervention. Those things need to be done in a very coordinated way. Just like we're seeing the numbers of homelessness going down, we are also seeing crime going down as well. But it's an ongoing battle and an ongoing struggle.

WHITFIELD: Mayor Turner, thank you for your time. It's so appropriate that I would be talking to you this weekend as well, you being a Texan, here it is, Juneteenth, a federal holiday weekend.

TURNER: Happy Juneteenth.

WHITFIELD: And of course in Texas, 1865, in which people would learn, two years after the fact, about the emancipation, the abolition of slavery. So thank you so much for your time. I appreciate what you're doing.

We'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: Tomorrow CNN will broadcast the first global special, "Juneteenth, A Global Celebration for Freedom." The event features a Hollywood Bowl concert and a lineup on artists to educate viewer on the meaning of what is now this new federal holiday. Joining me right is Debbie Allen, Emmy and Tony award winning, just to name a few, actress, choreographer, producer, the list is so long.


She's also the founder of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. It's so great to see you.

DEBBIE ALLEN, DANCER, CHOREOGRAPHER, DIRECTOR AND PRODUCER: Thank you so much. It's so nice to say hi to you. And we're so excited about the celebration tomorrow.

WHITFIELD: We are, too.

ALLEN: I'm from Texas.

WHITFIELD: Yes, another connection.

ALLEN: So this was something that was always so big. Hello?

WHITFIELD: Yes, I'm hearing you. ALLEN: Can you hear me?

WHITFIELD: Got you. Keep going.

ALLEN: Yes. It was great. So this celebration tomorrow is a big deal because it's a global celebration of freedom, which is something the world is still fighting for. Slavery in the African diaspora is something the world knows about, but it's still something that has to be recognized, acknowledged, celebrated. And this wonderful orchestra that has been put together under the direction Mr. Blackstone is the first all black symphony orchestra to play at the Hollywood Bowl. And I'm so thrilled that my young dancers from the DADA Ensemble will be performing to this wonderful piece of work by Edith, this wonderful composer that we have never really recognized before.

So it's going to be a big -- it's a big deal.

WHITFIELD: It is big. The list is long. Billy Porter, Anthony Hamilton, Yolanda Adams, Khalid, Chaka Khan, of course, you and your DADA dancers, the Debbie Allen Dance Academy dancers. So what are you looking for to for these young people who are part of DADA, what their experience might be? Because that is at the core of who you are. You are always teaching and sharing and imparting. And so, what are you hoping that your young dancers are going to learn from this experience?

ALLEN: Well, young people today are growing up with a lot of challenges. There's gun violence, they're hearing about war all over the world. But they haven't had the challenge that we grew up with, with segregation and racism. Although it seems it's back on the rise in America in particular, and the divisiveness.

And so I think what I'm trying to do at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy is raise a generation of young people who have humanity, who care about the arts and care about the world and care about their fellow citizens. So I think the Juneteenth celebration is going to get engrained in their hearts right now, so they understand what it's about. They didn't grow up with it, I don't think, the way I did. I guess maybe because I'm from Texas, because they have so many freedoms. They have so much.

I took a group to Cuba two years ago and it was good for them to be in a country where young people don't have Instagram, fast food restaurants, TV, but they have themselves, they have the art, they have their community.

So I think what this does for my students, and hopefully for all the young people that are hopefully going to pay attention to this, is start to get them connected to their blood memory and to the history of what this country is. America is still one of the youngest -- it's the youngest country when you look at Spain and Russia and India. America is still one of the youngest. But we are by far the greatest. And to stay great, we have to keep democracy and humanity in the forefront of everything we do. It can't just be the almighty dollar. You have to have purpose in your life. So I'm hoping that this will touch them in their hearts in a way that they walk away with a sense of their history and purpose.

WHITFIELD: Yes. I understand what you mean when you were talking about some of the young people in Cuba. You're really talking about and drawing parallels, while there are deprivations, a lot of young people are doing without, at the same time, they are not, perhaps, as distracted as some of our young people might be here because of the electronics and all that. And you're talking about their connections to the arts. I understand what you're saying on that.

So I wonder, for this weekend, you're involved in so many productions on so many levels. But how this one in particular is particularly maybe so gratifying or hits so close to home for you and how this makes you feel, being part of this project this weekend and leading up to it.

ALLEN: Well, I was really excited to be invited to participate, because as I said, I grew up with this. And I can remember at five years old going to the community picnic and my dad and barbecues and celebration, but always paying homage, and at the same time all the struggles we went through led by Dr. King. When I was a young girl, he came to Houston. All the struggles I saw, all the horrors that I saw, the racism.


So it strikes a chord in me that the world continues to evolve, that the world continues to change is the good news, and that young people are indoctrinated into this is the good news, because we can't forget our history. I think it's a mistake if we ever try to whitewash any part of our history. To whitewash any part of our history is a mistake, because we have to remember lest we forget. There's a book called "Lest We Forget". So we have to think about all the horrors of the holocaust, the horrors of slavery, the horrors that are going on right now, gun violence, where we're losing people. It shouldn't be happening.

And we have to take hold of our world. It's a time for young people to realize they're going to be the ones who vote, and they're the ones that are going to be responsible. I have grandchildren. They're going to inherit this world. And what are we giving them, what tools are we giving them to work with? What are we putting in their hearts and minds that makes them the humanitarians and the people of the world that we know?

America is the leader. I've travelled the world, you name it, and everyone looks to us. We are the litmus test of freedom, of creativity, of possibility. And so we've got to remember who we are not just to ourselves but to the world. So we have a responsibility here. We have a responsibility. And I take great pride in this celebration, this artistic celebration of freedom, but it's a conversation that has to keep going around the world, around the world.

WHITFIELD: And we are all looking forward to it, beginning with tomorrow. And we just so enjoyed talking to you today. Debbie Allen, so good to see you again. Thank you so much. This morning, everybody, you can check out some of the biggest stars

as they lift their voices for "Juneteenth, A Global Celebration for Freedom" live 8:00 p.m. eastern only on CNN.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thank you so much for being with me today. Jim Acosta is up next.