Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

Russell Brand Denies Allegations of Sexual Assault; Movie Studios and the Writers Guild of America Resuming Talks This Week; Interview with NPR TV Critic Eric Deggans; Jann Wenner Removed from Rock Hall of Fame Board; Rolling Stone Co-Founder Faces Backlash Over New Book; Red Cross Declares National Blood Shortage; CNN Spotlights Champions for Change; Colorado Buffaloes Against Colorado State Rams. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired September 17, 2023 - 08:00   ET




AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, everyone. Welcome to CNN THIS MORNING. I'm Amara Walker.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell, always a pleasure to be with you on the Sunday morning.

We're starting this hour with a historic United Auto Workers strike against the Big Three automakers, Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis. Union members said they had reasonably productive talks with Ford Saturday, but the union and the three major companies are still far apart on wages and benefits.

WALKER: Yeah, Ford and General Motors have responded to the strike by threatening layoffs for non-striking workers due to the lack of parts from striking plants. General Motors says they will lay off up to 2,000 workers this week, if the strike continues. The workers walking the picket line say they are going to stick it out until they get a deal that suits them.

CNN's Gabe Cohen is in Ohio with more.


GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, Amara, on Saturday, we saw the first small signs of any progress in these negotiations between the union and any of the Big Three automakers. This, after the union met with Ford, a source with the union telling CNN, we had reasonably productive conversations with Ford today. Certainly no deal, but a big step in the right direction, after days of this hostile back and forth between the sides.

Ford saying in a statement that they are committed to reaching an agreement with UAW that rewards our workers and allows Ford to invest in the future. But we're also starting to see the ripple effect from these three

plants that are now shut down by the strike. General Motors and Ford announcing at least 2,600 workers will be laid off in the days ahead, because their facilities can't operate while these three factories are on strike. So many of the workers that have spoken with, who are on the picket line now, making $500 a week in strike pay, tell me they're ready to strike for as long as they need to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Their longer $20 proposal is to pay is ridiculous. Six years, and I have not had a raise in almost two years now. I kept out at $19.28.

COHEN: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So I've been making $19.28 for two years, trying to raise a family, and with inflation. It's hard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes me hopeful that their make getting the message that were on strike, and we're ready for this, and we've been preparing. We are bringing you bring a good offer to the table.

COHEN: And why did you want your daughter to be here today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just brought about to get her involved, just so she knows what's going on with dad at work.

COHEN: And the head of the auto workers union, Shawn Fain, has said that more factories could go on strike in the days ahead, depending on how these negotiations play out -- Victor, Amara.


WALKER: All right. Gabe Cohen, thank you.

With roughly four months until the Iowa caucuses, Republican presidential hopeful spent yesterday courting the state's conservative evangelical activists. Nearly all the major candidates addressed the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, and it's full banquet Saturday.

BLACKWELL: Nearly all. Former President Trump, confident in his polling numbers, did not show up for the event. His absence, though, gave a little more breathing room for the other candidates to talk about some key issues with social conservatives.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny, reports.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Amara, four months before the Iowa caucuses open the Republican presidential nominating contest, field of candidates were in Iowa on Saturday evening, with the exception of front runner, Donald Trump. The candidates were reaching out to evangelical voters, a critical part of the constituency here. But there were several distinctions that were made on key issues, most notably, on military promotions.

Of course, one issue on Capitol Hill in Washington has been Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville's blockade of military promotions.


Well, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the only veteran in the race, said he supports the senator's actions.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes. I support what he's doing. First of all, what the -- what the Defense Department is doing is outside the law. They are breaking, violating the law, by funding abortion tourism with tax dollars.

ZELENY: But former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley who's husband Michael is currently serving on a tour of duty, said she disagreed and she said military members should not be used as political pawns.

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So why go and create all of this and hold those who sacrificed so much for our freedoms, why hold them as political pawns. When all you have to do is get in there, and ask for an upper down vote in the House, and the Senate. Those differences underscore an increasing sense of competition between DeSantis and Nikki Haley, as they tried to reach out to undecided on Iowa Republican voters.

ZELENY: Now, later in the evening, former Vice President Mike Pence said he unequivocally supported that the House impeachment inquiry against President Biden.

MIKE PENCE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't -- I don't want to jump to conclusions about this, but I must tell you -- whether smoke there's usually fire in Washington D.C. And the American people -- the American people deserve the facts. And I'm going to be out there championing and defending House Republicans, as they bring the facts to the American people, and hold Joe Biden and his family accountable.

ZELENY: So, President Biden, of course, the center of much of the criticism. Former President Donald Trump not on hand, and rarely spoken about. His supporters were here in force though, and they say he will be campaigning aggressively. In fact, he's coming back to Iowa on Wednesday. The question is, can any of these rivals catch up? Or is this race for second place? Victor and Amara?


BLACKWELL: Thank you, Jeff.

WALKER: NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg offered a dire prediction on Russia's attempt to expand territory, saying we must prepare ourselves for a long war in Ukraine. Now, Stoltenberg made those comments in an interview with a German newspaper.

BLACKWELL: Meanwhile, new video shows the brutality of that long war for Ukrainians. The Ukrainian military release this video of the now destroyed settlement of and brief crowd near Bakhmut. It shows part of Ukraine's attempted retake that region.

Senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is with us from Kyiv. So, talk to us about these efforts to retake territory.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it's quite important for the Ukrainians, Victor, but some of that video obviously is extremely shocking that we've seen there from Andriivka, which is actually south of Bakhmut, with those Ukrainian forces moving in there. It's not a very large settlement, and never had a lot of houses to begin with, and certainly not ones that substantial and could offer a lot of cover. But as we can see in that video, pretty much complete destruction of that area. We obviously have that filmed in the fog as well.

So that certainly is something where the Ukrainians say for them, it is really important. We have a bit of an update for you, from that region as well. We are now hearing from some sources in the Ukrainian military that the Russians are extremely angry at having lost that settlement, that they are now blanketing that area with artillery, apparently.

So, the Ukrainians have taken that territory, but the Russians are certainly firing at it with some pretty heavy guns. The Ukrainians also saying that the fact that they were able to take that territory makes it easier for them to interdict supply lines of the Russians near Bakhmut. But, of course, it also shows they have some momentum, as far as the counter offensive that is concerned.

Difficult in the south, but this is in the east of the country where the Ukrainians say that they are making some headway, and that, of course, is also going to be one of the messages that Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenskyy will take with him as he goes to the U.S. this coming week, to not only go with the U.N. General Assembly, but to also meet with President Biden as well.

And the Ukrainians are telling us that they essentially have three things that they're going to continue to be asking for, on the one hand those ATACMS longer range tactical missiles, to hit the Russians in the rear echelon, but then, also, of course, in the long run, F- 16s.

But in the short run, they say, the most important thing for them is more munitions. More artillery munitions, 155 millimeter, and more munitions for the HIMARS as well. It was quite interesting, we are able to speak to the deputy defense minister of this country, and she told us that as the Ukrainians are trying to move forward in some areas, the ratio of artillery munitions that they have is about one to 10, with the Russians being able to fire 10 times where the Ukrainians able to fire once.

And that, of course, makes it very difficult for them to move forward. That on top of the fact that the Russians do have some pretty substantial defenses in the south of the country as well.

So, the Ukrainians are saying things are tough for them, on pretty much all battlefronts, but they also say that on all battlefronts, they are the ones who have the initiative.


They are the ones who are pushing the Russians, and the Russians right now only with defensive actions, guys.

WALKER: Yeah, it sounds like the counteroffensive is a bit more productive. Frederik Pleitgen, thank you very much.

To discuss, I want to bring in David Sanger. He's a CNN political and national security analyst, as well as a White House and national security correspondent for "The New York Times".

David, good morning.

So, as you know --


WALKER: So, as you know, as we heard from Fred, I mean, Ukraine is continuing to plead for more weapons from the West. I wanted to show you this because Ukraine secretary of the national security of the National Security and Defense Council wrote an opinion piece, in a Ukrainian paper, and he said this. He was criticizing how the West provides weapons and batches.

And it reads in part, quote: The practice of providing military aid to Ukraine in doses, for fear of irritating Putin and provoking further escalation, is fundamentally flawed. When emergency surgery is required, one should not engage in drug therapy.

How do you think the U.S. and Western powers would respond to this view?

SANGER: Well, it's not a new criticism, Amara, and it's not unwarranted either. You know, as the war started, 19 months ago, President Biden was quite concerned that certain kinds of weapons would cross the red line for the Russians and lead to an expansion of the war, either, horizontally that is to say elsewhere beyond Ukraine, or vertically, that is to say he would begin to reach for tactical nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction.

That concern has abated a little bit by 19 months of experience, and that's why the administration appears to be edging towards giving the Ukrainian something that, months ago, they said they never give them, which was the ATACMS. These longer range artilleries that can be fire from the HIMARS and be going pretty deep behind Russian lines. So, while I understand the Ukrainian frustration here, you could imagine the alternative, which was to give them everything at the beginning, before they actually knew what they meet needed, and hope that there wasn't a red line that we were crossing a unknowingly.

WALKER: I guess the other alternative is for Ukraine to produce its own weapons and then ammunition, right? And President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced on Saturday that the Ukraine will be hosting the defense in injury for, with 21 countries participating to try to find ways to do just that. From a political and strategic standpoint, what are your thoughts?

SANGER: So, that's a very good and important long-range goal because over time the whole idea here is to make Ukraine capable enough that Russia would never again attempt abroad attack to take the entire country. But you don't have a long range unless you have a short term, and the short term emergency as you heard before is for that kind of ammunition.

By the way, that applies the Russians as well. And there's a reason that Kim Jong-un has been on this four-day extravaganza tour of Vladivostok and other parts, of Russia -- if the Russians are trying to get a steady supply of artillery shells as well. In fact, some of the earlier Ukrainian shells came from South Korea. So, it wouldn't be surprising if the Russians reach to North Korea.

You're going to hear a lot about this in the coming week as President Zelenskyy comes to the United Nations, and then comes to Washington as well to make an appeal for this. And he's clearly worried that there is some war fatigue setting in, not only in the United States, but in Europe.

WALKER: Yeah, on that point about North Korea and Russia, of course, that will be a subject of discussion as the UNGA convenes this week. But on the topic of Biden and Zelenskyy meeting at the White House, for his third White House meeting, what -- and, of course, Zelenskyy will also be on Capitol Hill. What will you be watching for in those meetings?

SANGER: Well, the big target for Zelenskyy at this point is to try to shore up the Republican Party. The Democrats are pretty much with Biden on providing the Ukrainians pretty much whatever it is that the Ukrainians need. The Republicans are deeply split. The top three candidates for the nomination have all, on the Republican side, for the nomination for president, have all said that they would not give this level of support to Ukraine.


So, Zelenskyy's got to be worried about what things look like after November of next year. The mainstream of the party remains committed, and, you know, the mainstream of the Republican Party was for decades the core of the anti-Soviet, anti communists, and later skeptical of Russia coalition.

And so, Zelenskyy's got to try to make sure that part of the party holds on. My suspicion is that the U.S. will continue to offer support, but Zelenskyy will need support, as you heard before, from the secretary general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, they're going to need support for years and years to come. And we're not set up for that, right now.

WALKER: You know, you -- I'm sure you've heard of the variety of views from the Republicans presidential candidates on, you know, how the U.S. should or should not be involved in the Ukraine, or -- I imagine there would be some trepidation and Zelenskyy's part, you know, watching and listening to the rhetoric, looking to 2024.

Whoever becomes president -- I mean, they could really make or break Ukraine. You think that's a correct assessment.

SANGER: Absolutely, Amara. Look, there are three ways, as you have a and I have discussed before, there are three ways that the Russians win this.

The first is that the Ukrainians run out of ammunition. The second is that the year Europeans crack their support. So far, they've held on, but there is a right-wing movement in Italy elsewhere that has long been admiring of Putin.

And then the third way is if former President Trump or another candidate wins among the Republicans who believe the United States should be not be engaged in this conflict, then it would pretty much be game over, because it's the U.S. that's been whipping the support, it's not only U.S. providing the money, but keeping NATO together and keeping all of the European allies, Japan, South Korea, others, contributing to the efforts. And if they see the U.S. isn't doing it, they're not going to do it either.

WALKER: David Sanger, appreciate the conversation. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Still to come, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton survives the impeachment trial and is reinstated, but still legal troubles ahead of him.

WALKER: Plus, startling new details on the U.S. Border Patrol's treatment of migrant families. We're going to have more on what a new court filing claims.

BLACKWELL: Also, four and a half months into the writer's strike, movie and TV studios in the writer's guild are expected to resume talks this week after weeks at a standstill.



WALKER: The embattled attorney general of Texas, Ken Paxton, will keep his job after being acquitted in the state Senate impeachment trial. The right wing conservative, and Trump ally, face 16 articles of impeachment, which stem from accusations that he repeatedly abused his office to help donor.

BLACKWELL: The acquittal is not the end of his legal trouble.

Ed Lavandera has details.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Amara and Victor, Ken Paxton is celebrating his victory, his impeachment trial, by calling the case that was brought by House impeachment managers as a sham, and the shameful experience. Paxton's lawyers say that the vote in the Texas Senate was a total

vindication, and it was a resounding victory for Ken Paxton, of the 18 Republican senators that were voting on the 16 articles of impeachment, only two of them voted to convict Ken Paxton. He was acquitted on all 16 of the 20 articles of impeachment that were brought in this trial. The other four charges were also dismissed.

Paxton says he is ready to get back to work.

DAN COGDELL, PAXTON DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This is a trial that should have never happened, period. Full stop. The right result happened, but it shouldn't have got this far.

TONY BUZBEE, PAXTON DEFENSE ATTORNEY: We are proud of the case we put on, we should not have had to prove our innocence, but that's what we did. And we believe that the court reached the right verdict, we are very proud of the work we did.

LAVANDERA: This impeachment vote has erupted what can only be described as an all out civil war among Texas Republicans. The Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick who oversees the Senate, after the trial, spent several minutes blasting House Republicans for voting on these articles of impeachment, and bringing these charges to the Senate side.

On the House side, the Speaker the House Dade Phelan shot back at Dan Patrick, saying it was clear, based on that speech, but this entire voting process was orchestrated from the very beginning, essentially accusing a senators of predetermine their vote before hearing the all the evidence, and also going on to say that this process cheated the voters of Texas of justice in this case. And also, Democrats and some Republicans saying, that this vote is essentially condoning corruption at the highest levels of Texas politics.

ANN JOHNSON (D), TEXAS HOUSE IMPEACHMENT MANAGER: Our lawyers, the board of managers presented overwhelming evidence that Ken Paxton is the most corrupt politician in the state of Texas, at this time. And the Republicans in the Texas Senate just returned him to the office of top cop. I will rely on what I said on the floor of the Texas House, God help us.

LAVANDERA: Ken Paxton is still facing legal troubles. He has state security fraud charges, and these are charges that have loomed over him since he first took office. And those charges are expected to continue moving through the court system.


And he's also under federal investigation for the very same issues that came up during this impeachment trial. So, there are still many legal troubles that Ken Paxton will be facing in the weeks and months ahead. Amara and Victor?


WALKER: Ed Lavandera, thank you. BLACKWELL: "STATE OF THE UNION" starts at the top of the hour. This

morning's guest: 2024 GOP candidate and former vice president, Mike Pence, also Senator Bernie Sanders.

Still to come, Drew Barrymore has deleted a video in which she apologized for resuming her talk show amid the ongoing writers strike. We'll have more on that controversy, next.


BLACKWELL: In a video shared on social media, actor Russell Brand is defending himself against what he calls, very serious criminal allegations regarding his past. Watch.


RUSSELL BRAND, ACTOR: But amidst this litany of astonishing, rather baroque attack, are some very serious allegations that I absolutely refute. These allegations pertain to the time when I was working in the mainstream, when I was in the newspapers all the time, when I was in the movies. And as I've written about extensively in my books, I was very promiscuous.


Now, during that time of promiscuity, the relationships that I had were absolutely always consensual. I always transparent about that then, almost too transparent. And I'm being transparent about it now.


WALKER: OK. We do want to point out that CNN only edited that video at the beginning and ending for length. It was posted a day before several British outlets announced the findings of a joint investigation into claims from four women who accused Brand of sexual assault.

These incidents allegedly occurred individually between 2006 and 2013. One of the women reported being 16 years old at the time of the alleged assault while Brand was 31. The identities of the women remain anonymous in the report and CNN has not independently verified these allegations.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: After about four and a half months now on strike, there could be progress in Hollywood. Movie studios and the Writers Guild of America, they are resuming talks this week. Despite the shutdown, a lot of shows are making a return, and there is some backlash.

NPR TV critic, Eric Deggans is here with us now. Eric, good morning to you. So, listen, we won't know whether there is progress, whether they get close to a deal, but getting back to the table, continuing to talk, does that suggest there's some cooling, that there's a new environment now after weeks of standing still?

ERIC DEGGANS, TV CRITIC, NPR: I think it suggests that there's a lot of pressure on both sides to figure out this unfolding mess. People have been out of work, on strike for months. And the question now is, how long can the strike go before, for example, the broadcast TV networks have to admit that they can't do much new programming throughout the entire broadcast TV season?

So, you know, we are getting to the point where the harm towards the industry is growing every week, and that puts pressure on both sides to come to the table to make a deal, which, you know, in some ways is the point of the strike.

BLACKWELL: Speaking of new programming, Drew Barrymore announced that she would be taping new episodes of her show. She posted a video defending and apologizing, then deleted it. But in the interim, we got the video. Here's a portion of what she said.


DREW BARRYMORE, ACTRESS, SHOW HOST: When things are so tough, it's hard to make decisions from that place. So, all I can say is that I wanted to accept responsibility.


BLACKWELL: OK. So, she has new episodes coming, the "Tamron Hall" show, "The View," "Live With Kelly and Mark" airing new episodes, "Jennifer Hudson" show, "Sherri Shepherd" will return to tomorrow, "Real Time with Bill Maher" is back, simply returning to air, is that a violation of the contract? Are they, I guess, separating themselves with the other members of the WGA? How does this work? Is this a violation simply coming back to work?

DEGGANS: Well, as with all things related to this strike, it's complicated and tough to par sometimes. There are some talk shows and daytime shows that never employed WGA writers. And so, they wouldn't necessarily be in violation of the strike.

But what is drawing people's attention is shows like "The Drew Barrymore Show" and "The View" which have employed WGA writers, and those writers are on strike. And then, the question becomes, are other people on that show being tasked with doing the kind of duties that writers would normally undertake?

Now, some of these shows are saying that they don't have scripts, that people are kind of going on and winging it, but it is hard to imagine that a show as complex as "The View," for example, that has several people who chime in and interview guests, then nothing is written down. And it would be hard to imagine a show like "Real Time with Bill Maher," for example, that depends on a lot of comedy, that no one will write things down. I mean, Bill Maher himself, the WGA says he is a member.

So, there's some concern that either WGA members will be doing some writing tasks in violation of the strike or that other people who are not writers will wind up writing things down and then be performing the work of WGA writers, which is also in violation of the strike. BLACKWELL: Yes, you are right. It is complicated. I don't know how Bill Maher does new rules and the monologue without writing any of that down, but I guess we will see. Maybe they have to take the --

DEGGANS: He (INAUDIBLE) he is not going to do that.

BLACKWELL: OK. So, he's not --

DEGGANS: He said he's not going to do that.


BLACKWELL: OK. So, I know we are here to talk about television, but I have to ask about Jann Wenner and this controversy around his new book, "The Masters." Check the title of the book. In which he picks these seven white men, no women, no black people, as the masters of songwriting. We're going to put it up on the screen for you.

And this "New York Times" article promoting the book, he was asked about, you know, the people who did not make the list and he said specifically to black performers, they aren't in (INAUDIBLE), "They didn't articulate on that level," and women like Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks, they didn't make the test. Stevie Wonder didn't make the list. Prince didn't make the list. Eric Clapton.

If you're doing a list of just white male singers and songwriters, Eric Clapton, James Taylor didn't make the list, what did you make of what you read from Wenner?

DEGGANS: Well, you know, some of things, you know, I started my career over as a pop music critic back in the '90s. And back then, we always had criticisms of Rolling Stone and it was interesting to watch in the wake of this article people from back then speaking up and noting how magazines -- competing magazines like "The Source" and "Vibe" that focused on black artists and focused on rap were created in part because of the way "Rolling Stone" seemed to underplay those types of artists in this coverage back then when Wenner was much more involved with the magazine.

You know, beyond that, I guess we're in a moment where people are saying the quiet part out loud now. I mean, I was kind of amazed that he would actually admit this stuff. But as somebody from back then who remembered being critical of "Rolling Stone's" coverage, at least you have some validation that what you observed back then was real and that some of the concerns that we had about how the magazine was treating women and artists of color were -- turned out to be valid. And unfortunately, he's pulled this back to the bad old days when baby boomer males, white males controlled so much of pop music coverage in the industry itself.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Jann Wenner, of course, a founder of "Rolling Stone" magazine. He has now a former member of the board of directors of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after he has been removed after these comments. He has apologized.

Eric Deggans, thanks so much for being with us. We will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


WALKER: This morning, the American Red Cross is sounding the alarm that there's a critical drop in the U.S. blood supply since August.

BLACKWELL: The organization says that donations are now urgently needed for hospital patients, but climate disasters across the country are playing a major role in donor turnout. CNN Health Reporter Jacqueline Howard has details.


JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: The American Red Cross is warning the nation about a critical shortage of donated blood. According to the Red Cross, the United States blood supply had dropped nearly 25 percent since early August. This is partly due to some large blood drives being canceled recently because of extreme weather and climate disasters like Hurricane Idalia.

Donor turnout also fell due to a busy travel season this summer, followed by back-to-school activities. And this all has contributed to a shortfall of about 30,000 donations in August alone. The Red Cross says now donors of all blood types are needed and there's an emergency need for type O and platelet donors.

To give blook or platelets, simply visit or call 1- 800-red-cross to learn more about how you can help. And donations are important for emergency situations but also for some people with conditions like cancer or sickle cell disease who rely on blood transfusions as part of their care.


WALKER: All right. Jacqueline Howard, thank you.

BLACKWELL: CNN once again is spotlighting ordinary people who are breaking new ground. One of those change makers, Alex Acosta is inspiring change, next.



BLACKWELL: CNN's series "Champions for Change" is back there week. It places a spotlight on people making a difference. My champion, Alex Acosta created Soul Food Cypher. It helps people raise their voices, their confidence and their creativity through the positive power of hip-hop.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You the say they're rapping, embracing their freestyle and see just how it happens. BLACKWELL: So, I chose this story, first, because I love the art form. I love the music. Hip-hop and rap had been the soundtrack of my teen years, my 20s, 30s and now 40s too.


BLACKWELL: And often when we see these ciphers or we see or hear hip- hop or rap people assume that it's negative. But it these ciphers, that's not what we see. What we see is people telling their truths and sometimes they are difficult, but these are loving spaces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so, it reels (ph) up the lungs. We're giving it to him. Do you want some? New cause (ph) want some.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New cause (ph) want some.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to switch it up.



BLACKWELL: Alex, also know Cost One, creates this safe place where people feel comfortable to talk about what is happening in their lives and where they want to go. It's aspirational as well.


BLACKWELL: Tell me about how you got not just loving the cipher, loving hip-hop but doing something with it? Where did that start?

ALEX ACOSTA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SOUL FOOD CYPHER: I realize that there was a magic there. By design, ciphers are femoral. They pop up and then they dissipate. Why not create a permanent cipher?

So, I brough some of my best friends together and we created Soul Food Cypher.


ACOSTA: We are an organization that has been around for 11 years and we look to showcase the positive elements of hip-hop culture through our cipher events and also our workshops and performances as well.

So, a lot of times rap music, especially, popular mainstream, et cetera, et cetera, the music and the message that you hear justifies a historical negative that black men are violent, misogynistic, black women are overly sexualized, X, Y, Z.

[08:50:00] So, why is the lyrical content important? It's important that we change that narrative.

BLACKWELL: Outside of the monthly ciphers, Soul Food Cypher goes into schools. And this is the part that I think is the most fantastic. What I've learned also from some of the instructors is that it helps them grow as well.

BUNDUKE, TEACHING ARTIST, SOUL FOOD CYPHER: As we come through the curriculum and I'm teaching them and allowing them to express these gifts that are already inside of them, they get this feeling and it builds a connection, it builds a bond. They'll share some things that's like crazy. And it's like, dang, that's what you're going through at home? You know, and it's like, oh, can you come to my soccer game? Nobody comes to my soccer game. Bro.

I used to be that kid. Like that truck is crazy to me, man. So, I'm like, I got to come back.

BLACKWELL: You get, obviously, a lot out of it as much as you give to these students. Speak to the question of why it's important to pass the art form to the next generation.

ACOSTA: We're using English language in order be able to inspire, influence. Because sometimes our voices only is the only thing we do that. But then you're reminded by Instructor Bunduke, Enan (ph), Breathless (ph), Soul Food Cypher that you have a power and that your voice matters.

We are building community and we've done it before between people, and it's a very, very powerful thing to have like hip-hop church. You're going to see love and you're going to see respect, knowledge, joy, you're going to smile.


BLACKWELL (on camera): You know, and I thank everybody for sharing that story. The -- going into the schools and giving these young people an opportunity to not only learn writing skills because it takes, you know, some work to come up with these rhymes, but these are things sometimes it's children talk about or students talk about that they wouldn't talk about in the therapy session.


BLACKWELL: They wouldn't just tell a teacher, but you start with an art form they love they know and it creates a space where maybe they will add something that they other ones would not discuss.

WALKER: There are so many layers to this. It's so beautiful that they create the safe space for healing, right?


WALKER: This art form allows them express themselves in ways that they probably wouldn't with anyone else. BLACKWELL: Yes. I loved it. I loved it.

WALKER: Beautiful.

BLACKWELL: Thank you to Soul Food Cypher. And be sure to tune in Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for the "Champions for Change" one-hour special.



WALKER: Coach Prime's Colorado team faced her biggest challenge of the season so far, and delivered.

BLACKWELL: Deion Sanders had turned his team into the hottest ticket in college football. Lil Wayne even led them out on the field against their oldest rival.

WALKER: It's so cool.

BLACKWELL: Coy Wire is here now. The game had it all.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes. Colorado was one and 11 last year. They are three and zero now. And Coach Deion Sanders, he does not conform to what people thing he should be as a college football coach. He wears flashy shades and hats at press conference.

And Colorado State's Jay Norvell, he said their head coach through shade (ph) at Deion during the week, he said that he takes his hats and shades off when talking to adults because that's what his taught him. Well, Colorado took that personally. The 130-year rivalry, yes, Victor, it was heated. This game had it all.

The Rams though, they came out and they were up by eight with seconds to go. But Deion's son, Shedeur Sanders, threw a dart to Jimmy Horn Jr., a 45-yeard touchdown. They would convert the two-point conversation and tie it at 28. It went to double overtime.

And check out Shedeur again. This time, his fourth score of the game to Michael Harrison. Colorado State did have a change in the end, but it's intercepted in the endzone. The 18th-ranked Buffalo's roll on. 43-35. Here's Coach Prime after the game.


DEION SANDERS, COLORADO HEAD COACH: To be great, you're going to have to be resilient. You got to overcome adversity. And that was a tremendous amount of (INAUDIBLE), and we overcame. I am proud of my kids, but I'm proud of this team. This team is phenomenal. The (INAUDIBLE) is phenomenal. They were resilient. I mean, we started off doing like hot garbage, but we got it right and we got the big premium (ph). And that's all it counts. We got the W.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WIRE: All right. For one hottest ticket to another, Messi mania has taken MLS by storm. Fans flocking across the street to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta last night. They paid big bucks to see him, only to find out last-minute that he didn't even travel with the team. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I paid a lot of money for coming to see Messi. Messi no coming.

DON RIDDELL, CNN HOST: Do you mind if I ask how much you paid?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to go home right now.

RIDDELL: Really? You want to go home?



WIRE: Our Don Riddell in disbelief. Like this 70,000 plus sellout crowd to see Inter Miami facing Atlanta United. They didn't even get a glimpse of the GOAT. The nosebleed tickets that were selling for hundreds of dollars over face value ended going for as low as $30 as the news broke.

But there was a perk for the hometown fans. Atlanta United dominating five-two, handing Miami its first loss since Messi signed with them almost two months ago. Miami is seven points now from the final playoff spot with eight matches to play. Bummer.

WALKER: Took my jaw off the table.

BLACKWELL: For $2,000.

WIRE: All right.

BLACKWELL: That's like Renaissance tour.

WALKER: Oh, my goodness.

WIRE: I know. I feel so bad for those folks.

BLACKWELL: All right.