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First of All with Victor Blackwell
IDF Vows To Advance "Anywhere Hamas Is Found"; Palestinian Health Ministry: Gaza's Hospitals And Clinics Shut Down; Andre 3000 Releases An Instrumental Flute Album; Taking Another Look At Celebrating Thanksgiving. Aired 8-9a ET
Aired November 18, 2023 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: First of all, we are seeing the clearest contrast yet between the President and a growing portion of his party on a ceasefire in Gaza. Most Democrats now support cessation according to a new poll. More Democrats in Congress increasingly are backing a ceasefire, including the first Jewish member. She'll be with us in minutes.
Today, their moral case for a ceasefire and the splintering of the Democratic Party on the war. Plus, Dexter Wade was killed by an off- duty police officer then buried and his family had no idea. Now the white family says they've been victimized again. Wade's mother will join us live.
And Thanksgiving is a time for celebration, but it's also tied to our painful reminders of our colonial past. And indigenous leader has an idea about reframing the holiday with truth-giving. I'm Victor Blackwell. Let's start the show.
It's a hard look at the headlines coming out of Gaza and not hard to look at them and not be overwhelmed by the violence and suffering. Yet it may still only get worse. Israel is signaling their offensive could expand into the South and the IDF says it will chase down Hamas fighters wherever they are. The Palestinian health ministry says the majority of Gaza's hospitals and clinics have shut down. They're out of fuel, and doctors say the patients who were on ventilators that they have now died at Al Shifa Hospital.
This week, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar introduced the resolution. Her office says that she would block weapons that would block weapons rather, the quote fund war crimes in Gaza, and two dozen Democrats wrote a new letter to President Biden calling for a ceasefire and citing the impact on children. More than 4600 Dead close to 9,000 injured according to the UN. The political pressure on Capitol Hill follows the activist pressure on the street.
We saw a new Pro Palestinian demonstration in major cities last night, more expected today. One member of Congress defending a ceasefire is Becca Balint. She's the first Jewish member of Congress to do so. In an oped, she explains this. "Like me, there are thousands of Jews that share a deep emotional connection to Israel, because of what it meant for the survival of the Jewish people in the face of extermination. The same history also drives many of us to fight for protection of Palestinian lives. And Congresswoman Becca Balint joins us now from Vermont,
Congresswoman Balint, thank you so much for being with us. Let's start here. I want to play for you what you said in late October when you asked during a podcast, what you thought about a ceasefire. And you said this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLILP)
REP BECCA BALINT, (D) VERMONT (voice-over): And "there is no easy answer here. And I will reiterate, if I thought that calling for that right now would help this situation would help the hostages would help the intricacies on the ground, I would do it.
(END VIDEO CLILP)
BLACKWELL: So Congresswoman what changed?
BALINT: I really appreciate that. I do see this op-ed that I wrote as an extension of what I've been saying for over a month now, which is so many of us agree on so much, which is that the bombing needs to stop, the deaths of civilians needs to stop. Hamas can no longer be in control of Gaza. We need to be releasing all of the hostages. And we need to be moving towards a long-term peace in this region to give a homeland to the Palestinian people and to secure Israelis. And that hasn't changed.
What -- what it became clear to me in talking with my constituents, and the Op-Ed was really geared specifically at Vermonters, who are struggling with this as well is that we need to be able to hold all the complexity. And I heard an interview with President, former President Obama. And that really changed my thinking about this in terms of urging all of us to hold the complexity. And that is what I was trying to do through this op-ed.
BLACKWELL: Does that mean that you will now sign on to this resolution calling for a ceasefire 17 democratic co-sponsors will You join them
BALINT: I will not because the ceasefire resolution does not say what I feel in the way that I would say it. And I feel like it is not inclusive enough of all of the parts of a ceasefire that are required. And I understand it resonates for many people, I needed to find my own way to say similar things. And I think we're getting so bogged down in words, and trying to say things exactly the right way. There is no exact right way.
So I have to find my truth and express to people that -- that so many of us in Congress, we want the same things. And this obsession with trying to get it exactly right is not helping the situation. And it's not helping us all come together to get the things that we want, which is peace in this area.
BLACKWELL: Let me read from your op-ed, you say, "Killing civilians and killing children is an abomination and categorically unacceptable -- no matter who the civilians are, and no matter who the children are." The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says that Hamas and Israel have committed war crimes. Do you believe that Israel has committed war crimes?
BALINT: I believe that is something that is going to have to be sorted out when the death excuse me, the dust clears on this terrible, terrible war that has brought so much suffering. I believe that civilians have died in Gaza, and in Israel, and that we as Americans must hold both Hamas responsible in Israel responsible.
BLACKWELL: I know that you're right in here that you don't have all the answers, right? And I think most people understand how complex this is. But you also right, "Even with Hamas operations, intentionally embedding themselves among civilians, Israel cannot bomb targets, in densely populated areas, the United States must demand it. I mean, the US and the IDF says that in these areas, the -- the refugee camp that they hit twice that there are tunnels. There are Hamas leadership and operatives there. What would you have the IDF do if the goal is to root out those fighters?
BALINT: Look, I think that the important piece for me here is that you have a huge swath of Americans right now that are forcing us into not holding both truths. And so it is not acceptable for Hamas to be embedded among civilians. And we know that they are doing that. They are a terrorist organization. They are not freedom fighters. And Israel must do everything it can to minimize civilian deaths.
And so I think that is what is holding so many people up is that there is a denial that Hamas is doing these things, which is essentially putting its own people in harm's way. But even with that Israel must take all steps not to bomb areas where they're -- they're heavy concentrations of civilians. And so I am not a military strategist. What I know is we all want the same things, for the violence to end for the hostages to be released, for Hamas to no longer be in power, and for both these peoples who have suffered for so long, to have safe and secure homelands.
BLACKWELL: You know, I can hear the people who are listening to you and disagree with you saying if you're not a military strategist, what then under what then supports the call for cessation of military hostilities. But Congresswoman Becca Balint, thank you so much for your first interview on CNN, discussing this op-ed to Vermonters calling for a ceasefire.
A group of 900 black Christian leaders is making the moral case for a ceasefire in Gaza. This week, the National African American clergy network took out a full-page ad in the New York Times they wrote this. "We see the deaths and hear the cries of both our Palestinian and Israeli siblings who all deserve to live safe from harm. We must do what we can to stop the killing of Palestinians and Israelis and respond to the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza." Joining me now is Reverend Michael McBride, lead pastor of the Way
Christian Center in Oakland. He helped coordinate that letter. Thank you so much for joining me, Reverend. I want to start here by playing something that the President said this is his defense of specifically the raids on hospitals there in Gaza, and then I want your response and why you're calling for this ceasefire. Let's play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE USA: The Israeli Defense Forces acknowledges they have an obligation to use as much caution as they can and going after their targets. It's not like they're rushing to the hospital knocking down doors, you know pulling people aside and shooting people indiscriminately way. But Hamas, as I said, said they plan on attacking Israelis again. And this is a terrible dilemma. So what do you do?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: So Reverend, that's the question. If this is to prevent another attack, and we stipulate that you will condemn what happened on October 7, then what should the IDF do if not go after Hamas?
REP. MIKE MCBRIDE, THE WAY CHRISTIAN CENTER: Well, thank you for having us on today. We believe 900 plus clergy and that number has now grown to over thousand. But there's a humanitarian crisis happening in Gaza, that a number of noncombatants Palestinian civilians are being targeted at the number of over 10,000 and over 4,000 of these loved ones are children. We do not believe the way forward is to continue to kill indiscriminately. Palestinian civilians, particularly children. There must be another way forward a ceasefire, we believe, is the most moral way forward to figure out a peaceful long-term solution that includes the returning of hostages held by Hamas, as well as some of those Palestinians being held by Israeli Government and other parts of the West Bank and et cetera. A ceasefire is the only moral way forward and we believe the President ought to listen to the growing number of his own party members, State Department officials, and the country who are calling for a new way forward to help end this conflict between Israel and Hamas.
BLACKWELL: Reverend, when you say that Palestinians are being targeted, that suggests that the IDF is targeting civilians. Is that what you suggest here? Because that would be in line with some have accused the government of and they have denied this -- these makings of genocide. When you say target, is that what you mean?
MCBRIDE: Well, no, what I'm saying is that there are too many Palestinian civilians in harm's way, and they're in the collateral impact and damage is too much monster -- monstrosities for us to continue on in this way. A ceasefire, we believe would allow us to reassess and figure out a way forward that does not continue to cause the number of Palestinian civilians, particularly children to be lost.
This to us is unconscionable. It is a tragedy what happened on October 7th, and it is a continuing tragedy. We cannot prevent October 7th, but we can't prevent and stop this current tragedy and ensure security can be restored to both Israelis and Palestinians as we move forward.
BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about the political angle of this. Your group endorsed Biden-Harris in 2020. Is this enough to withhold an endorsement in 2024?
MCBRIDE: I think it is really important for us to appreciate that right now. There is an erosion of confidence. The hearts of our people are beginning to melt because we see the striking images. We hear the cries of our loved ones, both on the Palestinian and Israeli side.
And so we do believe it is incumbent upon the President and the Democratic Party and all those involved to hear that the base of their party, people who have supported them moral leaders, faith leaders, political leaders, young people, organizers are in distress about this way forward. And there are those who want to push the President to understand that the leadership we want at the top of our government, let's also hold a deep humanitarian commitment to the Palestinian and other folks across the world who are dealing with this crisis.
BLACKWELL: But is that a yes? Is that a yes that it's this might be enough to withhold an endorsement and you know who is on the other side of the ballot, potentially the front runner for Republicans, Donald Trump. I've got little time but is that potentially a yes, you'd withhold your endorsement if there is no call for a ceasefire.
MCBRIDE: I think many of us are wanting to compel the President. Please do not put any of us in a situation to feel so conflicted in this way. We want a ceasefire and we think that it is great governance and responsive governance to do so given the cause of so many of us who voted for this President and who support his leadership over the last four years.
BLACKWELL: Reverend Mike McBride, thank you so much for being with us. A Mississippi man hit by a cop car and killed buried, and his family only found out almost six months later. Officials in Jackson call it a miscommunication. The family calls it a cover-up. Dexter Wade's mother joins us live.
Plus, a settlement is reached by singer Cassie Ventura and music mogul Sean Combs one day after she publicly accused him of rape and years of abuse. And just moments ago SpaceX launched its starship rocket here the moment.
BLACKWELL: On Monday, Dexter Wade will be laid to rest in Mississippi. That will be his second burial the first time his family didn't even know he had died. Dexter's mother had not seen her heard from her son for a few days. This was on March 14. So she called police in Jackson, Mississippi to report a missing but police did not tell her that nine days earlier on the fifth that her son had been hit and killed by an off-duty police officer in Jackson. They say it was an accident and that they were not able to identify him until days after the crash. They also say that they were not able to get in touch with his family because Dexter's contact information was quote, outdated.
[08:20:12] Dexter's mother says she was finally notified on August 24th, nearly six months later. By then the family's attorney says Dexter had been buried in a pauper's field. His grave marked by a pole and a number.
Well, now this past Monday, a new alleged miscommunication and new trauma. The family wanted to witness his body being exhumed so they could have an incident, rather independent, I should say autopsy, and very improperly. But when the family arrived at the agreed-upon time, Dexter had already been exhumed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETTERSTEN WADE, MOTHER OF DEXTER WADE: Is this how the system work? Is this what I'm living in, and I'm living in Mississippi, and just what I got to deal with that I don't even matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Joining us now is Dexter's mother, Bettersten Wade and the family's attorney, Ben Crump. Welcome to you both. And Ms. Wade, let me start just with what you know about the circumstances surrounding your son's death. What have you been told that happened that night back in March?
WADE: Yes, back in March. They come tell him, well, back in March 5th, they said my son died March 14, I filed a missing report. And then August the 24th they came to me that my son, you know, deceased. So after that, you know, I just started looking, you know, are you trying to find out you know, what was going on with him and everything. So after I bought the body back and got his, you know, their death certificate and all that data stuff, trying to find out what grave site where he was locating in. And so finally, someone came through to let me know, you know what gravesite is and everything and --
BLACKWELL: Jackson Police -- I apologize for interrupting. Jackson Police say that they tried to contact you. Do you have any record of a call from authorities during that period to tell you about your son?
BLACKWELL: No record at all.
WADE: No. I don't.
BLACKWELL: Attorney Crump, did police know when Ms. Wade call on the 14th, did they have or have access to his name, his contact information, his address?
BEN CRUMP, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Victor, certainly they did. They found medication on him that had his doctor's office and the doctor's office notified them that Ms. Bettersten waive his mother was his next of kin. But after we exhumed him, Victor, we found out that he had his wallet in his pocket that had his state-issued driver's permit with his address where he lived with his mother. If they wanted to contact his next of kin, it would have been easy for them to do so especially since his mother was suing the Jackson Police Department for killing her brother a couple of years earlier when the police officer was convicted. So they knew exactly who Bettersten Wade was.
And Ms. Wade and her family believes that it was a cover. And it was intentional that they did not contact her.
BLACKWELL: What do you know about what happened that night at March 5, the night that Dexter Wade was hit and killed?
MR. CRUMP: Independent (inaudible) preliminary reports say that he was hit. His body was completely ran over. His leg was amputated. And so this was just tragic, tragic Mississippi manslaughter. But it seems that the aftermath, the cover up is worse. That's what Ms. Bettersten had told me from day one.
BLACKWELL: Ms. Wade, tell me about those months from March 14, where you first submitted that missing person's report to late August where you found out where your son was, what were you feeling? What was happening during that time?
WADE: Well during that time, I was so angry that I couldn't find them. I was upset. I didn't know whether somebody had kidnapped them, or somebody was trying to torture him or whether he had got traffic, you know, traffic and caught up in trafficking. You know, maybe some -- somebody went with somebody, and they did something to him. I just -- oh my knees just praying Lord please, please, please let Dex come home. And I was all on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, please evaded by the South dance to please. Dexter if you're out there, you just don't want me to know where you are, just call and say, "Hey mom, I'm okay." I said, "You don't have to come home. Just let me know you're okay. I was doing everything I could.
Then I tell Jackson police was working with me and then I want didn't want to go out there and do something to put (inaudible). So I told Jackson, JPD would have pressed, you know, somebody for me to contact to try to help me find my son. Tried to get them to put them on civil alert. Everything is just hurting me to my heart.
I cried. I got up every morning and searching. I get up early, trying to see do I see anybody that knows him? All his friends. Nobody. I was just so hurt. I didn't know what to do and I just cried, cried, cried. I just cried.
BLACKWELL: And when you got that information, you were called on August 24. And they said that your son had already been buried. What did you feel what went through your mind then?
WAD: Well, when he first called me and said we found Dexter, I sadi, "Oh, Lord, let him be okay." So I see where he at, you know, going on with him. She said, What I let Officer JIRA come out there and talk to you. The right day in which she said that is just my heart drop, because I knew. You know, I just knew that he was deceased.
And I feel so they -- that I could not find him. You know, it just made me feel bad. And I, you know, when they came and told me, it just hurt. It's so bad. But then what really spike everything when they said a JPD Cruz ran over here. And the first thing I see, you made it to me? You all couldn't take his hand grip to know who he belongs (inaudible). That was the first reactoion.
WADE: Yes. Ben, let me play for you, the County Administrator, and the Jackson Police Chief here what they say happened, did not happen and changes that are going to be made.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNY WAYNE JONES, HINDS COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI ADMINISTRATOR; We are unfortunate. No cover up anything like that, there is miscommunication.
CHIEF WAYNE JONES; HINDS COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI: You would think that we will have a death notification policy, but we do not. We do not. But we will as of today. We understand what the state statute says about the corner and notifications. But we want to make sure that we're giving the best police service to our citizens. So we have a death notification policy that is signed as of today and will roll out today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Your reaction to what you heard there, Ben.
CRUMP: That -- that is hard to take anything they say with a leap of faith, considering that they knew who Ms. Bettersten was, and they certainly knew from day one. On day one they knew who Dexter Wade was. All they had to do was come knock on her door saying, we are regret to tell you your son was killed in the accident before about police cruisers, but they did not. And so we had to exhume his body just like in Mississippi, they had exhume Emmett Till to get some justice. And then they had to exhume Megan Evans in Mississippi to get some justice. Not in 2023, we had to exhume Dexter away to get some justice and we need the Department of Justice to investigate because they killed her brother. They killed her son. And Ms. Wade and her family believes in both situations, they are trying to cover them up. The officer was convicted for killing her brother and Jackson Police officer, and they have been fighting her ever since. She doesn't trust any of the Mississippi local officials.
BLACKWELL: Ms. Wade, we are so sorry that you have lost your son especially to have lost him in this way. I'll be thinking of you. Thank you so much for your time and Ben Crump. Thank you as well.
CRUMP: Thank you.
BLACKWELL: Critics in Texas warned it could lead to state-sanctioned racism. What you need to know about a border bill that the governor of Texas is set to sign and concerns it could put Latinos in the state at risk. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLACKWELL: The governor of Texas is expected to sign what's being called one of the strictest immigration bills in the country. SB 4 makes entering Texas illegal as a state crime. It also gives cops in Texas the power to arrest migrants. State judges would have the power to deport violators to Mexico. More than 40 percent of the state's population is Latino. So when lawmakers were debating this bill, some understandably expressed fear about the risk of racial profiling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ANN JOHNSON (D-TX): Let's say Mary and I are walking together near the border, are they going to look at her skin color versus mine and make a determination, surely she needs to be investigated for potentially crossing?
REP. DAVID SPILLER (R-TX): Well, I think, clearly the officers are going to make -- they're going to look at the entirety --
JOHNSON: Look, and this is not funny because my wife is Hispanic. And there is a difference when I'm driving a car, I see an officer and I wave. There is a difference for people. Chairman Wally said it. We don't live in their skin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: The ACLU is threatening to sue Governor Greg Abbott if he signs the bill. They call it and another one on Wall funding, some of the most radical anti-immigrant bills ever passed by any state.
So ahead, as we get ready to reflect on the things we are thankful for, should we also reflect on the truth about Thanksgiving?
Plus, Andre 3000 dropped a new album last night. We're going to play a little bit of it for you. And spoiler alert, it sounds nothing like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Rap legend, Andre 3000, has released his first solo album. And he's best known as one-half of the iconic duo, OutKast. Their double album, "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below," won the Grammy for Album of the Year. Can you believe it's been 20 years since that was released. It was certified diamond, 13 times platinum. But this new album "New Blue Sun" has no lyrics, it's entirely instrumental and centered around woodwind instruments.
OK, so the first track on this album is 12 minutes long and it's called, I swear I really wanted to make a rap album but this is literally the way the wind blew me this time. Listen to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Yes. Joining me now is Rodney Carmichael, host and hip-hop staff writer at NPR Music. Rodney, good to have you in studio. I want to talk about this in a minute. But we first got to talk about the settlement now between Cassie and Diddy on this $30 million lawsuit accusing rape, sexual abuse. I mean, that was fast.
RODNEY CARMICHAEL, HOST & HIP-HOP STAFF WRITER, NPR MUSIC: It was very fast. I mean, Victor, I think it just really boils down to money and power.
CARMICHAEL: You know, that's the reason that the settlement happens so fast. And it's really the reason why hip-hop has failed to have a Me Too recommend after all of these high profile allegations, you know, facing some of the biggest moguls in the business.
BLACKWELL: But does that happen now? I mean, the lawsuits aside, did his lawyer says that it was settled amicably? He wishes her well, love, he signs it.
BLACKWELL: Is this it for him or do we continue to talk about this now that the lawsuit is done?
CARMICHAEL: That's going to be interesting to see, right, because I mean, we've been here before, hip-hop has been here before. Russell Simmons faced some really high profile allegations. I don't think they faced any legal proceedings. But the kind of reckoning that's happened in Hollywood and other parts of culture just is not coming to hip-hop. And I think a lot of it has to do with just how ingrained, misogyny and misogynoir in this case is in some of the music, you know, it's just something we've come to accept in a lot of ways, you know. And, I mean, it's a part of American culture, but it's definitely part of what's going on in hip-hop as well.
BLACKWELL: All right, we'll see where that goes. Let's talk about this album now.
CARMICHAEL: OK, let's do it.
BLACKWELL: When I heard it, I immediately thought I want to take a bath, not because it made me dirty --
BLACKWELL: -- but I thought, this sounds like what I want to listen to while I'm taking the bath. What do you think?
CARMICHAEL: Yes, the cleansing, right?
CARMICHAEL: Yes. I think Andre is cleansing our earlobes a little bit. I mean, it's amazing to me. I think it's incredible that here we are, like you say 20 years after "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below," Andre has a flute album out. And he's in love with the woodwinds, man. He says it's the closest thing to the human voice to him. And, you know, he's always been about elevating and pushing his audience to come along with him. So I think that's what he's doing.
BLACKWELL: You interviewed him. I want to play a little bit of that interview where he says how he got here. Let's play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDRE 3000, AMERICAN RAPPER AND SINGER: I would love to be out here rapping with everybody rapping because it's almost like fun to being on the playground. Playing like I would love to be out here playing with everybody. But it's like, it's just not happening for me. So this is the realest thing that's common right now, not to say that I would never do it again. But those are not the things that are common right now. And I have to present what's given to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: I mean, we should not expect another Love Below, right? Twenty years later, he has evolved. He's grown.
CARMICHAEL: He's always been about that too. I mean, any OutKast fan will tell you from one album to the next, they always took these creative leaps and these risks and their sound changed, you know, so if you fast forward 17 years into the future. I mean, you almost got to expect the unexpected. I don't think anybody necessarily expected this, but it tracks with who Andre 3000 is.
BLACKWELL: And let me play, and we got to wrap it. I want to play one more snippet here. This is a portion of "Ninety Three 'Til Infinity And Beyonce."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Spa vibes, right? Rodney Carmichael, thank you so much for joining.
CARMICHAEL: Hey, thanks a lot, Victor. Appreciate you having me, man.
BLACKWELL: Ahead of Thanksgiving next week, is it time to rethink how we frame the holiday. I'll speak to one indigenous activist who says it's now time for Truthsgiving.
BLACKWELL: In a few days a lot of us will celebrate Thanksgiving, others may be debating how to mark the day or whether to market at all. No, we all grew up hearing about how the pilgrims and the Native Americans came together with their Cornucopia and celebrated the first Thanksgiving. Of course, that's not the whole story, and left up the history of violence against indigenous people. But for decades, activists have tried to tell the truth about the holiday only to be shut down. In 2019, I traveled to the site of the first Thanksgiving where some Native Americans celebrate a national day of mourning instead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the one day out of the year when all of America balls ahead, give thanks for everything that was taken from us.
BLACKWELL: Eighty-three-year-old Tall Oaks, Rhode Island Home is an archive of Native American history. Amongst the books and pictures and relics there's a copy of a 1970 speech written by his late friend Wamsutta. He'd been invited to a celebration of the arrival of the Mayflower.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, and he had to give the speech. He put it all together. And when he presented it to them, they said that, well, we can't allow you to read that because 90 percent of the people would walk out.
BLACKWELL: We, the Wampanoag, Wamsutta wrote, welcomed you, the white man with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said he wasn't going to change it. And so he withdrew from that.
BLACKWELL: And Wamsutta, Tall Oak and other activists of the American Indian Movement created their own event for the following Thanksgiving Day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We decided that we would declare it a National Day of Mourning for native people.
BLACKWELL: And every fourth Thursday of November since, Native Americans have gathered at the statue of Massasoit on Cole's Hill in Plymouth to tell the truth that Wamsutta could not. (END VIDEOTAPE)
BLACKWELL: When the piece published in the nation this week, two Native American activists discuss whether we should continue celebrating Thanksgiving. One says the holiday they should be decolonize. The other writer is my next guest. He says that we shouldn't be celebrating Thanksgiving, we should move on to Truthsgiving, and tell the whole story of what happened between Native Americans and European settlers.
Chase Iron Eyes is a member of the Oglala, if I mispronounced that correct me, Sioux Tribe and an American Indian activist. Let me hear it from you, Chase.
CHASE IRON EYES, OGLALA SIOUX TRIBE MEMBER: Good morning, and thank you for having me. It's, you know, every year we go through these rituals, these are rituals, these holidays, these concepts, these -- they're part of our collective cultural mythology. And in America, there is a settler, a European foreigner alien settler cultural mythology. From my eyes as an indigenous person, we've been here for a lot longer than the settler institutions are telling us or teaching our children in our schools.
So when we hijack the truth and we put in its place something that is more palatable, something that eases our guilty settler conscience, it sets us up for conflict later on, because truth precedes justice. And justice precedes peace. So when we look at these holidays, you know, we have Native American heritage that's going on right now.
And we're just now in a state where we're consciously deconstructing Euro hetero Christian programming. You could call it settler programming. But that's the truth. When you look into it, I'm a lawyer and I've studied the sources of these cultural mythologies, the mythologies where one demographic is this not only the settler, but the brave explorer, the pioneer, the Cowboys that tamed the wild west and brought under their control and in their subject subjugation, all the beasts of the wild, not only the animals, but they're talking about us.
They're talking about the merciless Indian savages. That is in the United States Constitution. So when we talk about the myths of a people, they provide a purpose, a meaning and a place to people. I couldn't imagine myself going -- yes, go ahead.
BLACKWELL: So you suggest that this should not be Thanksgiving but Truthsgiving. What does that look like? Instead of what we're used to Turkey and football and all that's going to happen on Thursday, what would that day look like if you were to design what it looks like forward?
IRON EYES: We would tell the truth, because that is also what will lead us to reconciling to a state of reconciliation. We tell the truth about the first Thanksgiving, you know. There's many iterations of a first Thanksgiving in 1621. We're talking about the Mayflower landing and Plymouth Rock and the story of the year -- the English who were met by a massive story of the Wampanoag. And we tell the story that then the natives welcomed in the Europeans and we celebrated the first harvest with a Cornucopia. It was so cool to hear that word.
We tell that story because it's more palatable. It's something that is not full of conflict, is not full of the violence, not full of the untruth. And the fact that the truth is, native people took pity, native people were the first philanthropists. Now we're on the other side of philanthropy and wealth. But in the beginning, we nursed this incapable child, the new of the people that were coming to the new world.
IRON EYES: They didn't know how to live here. And we taught them how to live here. We brought them in peace and said, look, younger brother, younger sister you can live here in this land, but we didn't -- we have a story that if you find a wounded snake and you nursed it back to health, and it ends up biting you, then you can't blame this thing. But we didn't know that most of these foreigners were that way, that they would bite us when we nursed him back to health. But that's exactly what happened.
That's why we're on Indian reservations today. So some of the truth is that in 1637 --
IRON EYES: -- another group of European American settlers went out and massacred 400 to 700 Pqua (ph) people not only that, but they enslaved them. And since that time, that they've been playing Indian, European American settlers, who granted --
IRON EYES: -- they were trying to create a new identity and a new sense of place, a new government.
BLACKWELL: Chase, let me get in here.
IRON EYES: Tell the truth of how we took that form of government from the Iroquois.
BLACKWELL: Let me get in here. And I want to read just this from Sean Sherman, who also wrote the other piece, he said, by reclaiming authentic histories and practices, decolonization seeks to honor indigenous values, identities and knowledge. This approach is one of constructive evolution in decolonizing Thanksgiving, we acknowledge this painful past while reimagining our lives in a more truthful manner on those two things I think you to agree. Chase Iron Eyes, I got to wrap it there, but it has been an enlightening conversation. I thank you so much for your time.
IRON EYES: Thank you.
BLACKWELL: Still ahead, the big boost HBCU students just got from a church in Nashville. But first, we want to take you back to Texas where SpaceX just launched the starship rocket. Kristin Fisher is live. Kristin, what happened?
KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, SpaceX is going to view this as a big success. This rocket performed much better than it did during its first launch attempt back in April. All 33 of these massive engines on the starship rocket ignited and worked successfully. And we did have a somewhat successful stages separation where the top part of the spacecraft separates from the booster.
But then that's when things started to go wrong. The booster exploded shortly after that separation, but the starship rocket which someday can carry up to 100 people to perhaps colonize Mars or before that, return American astronauts to the moon. It did successfully continue on, but then a few minutes later, they lost contact, Victor.
So part success, part failure, but SpaceX very happy that some of their improvements from that first launch attempt held and did well today. Victor?
BLACKWELL: The word of the day is progress, and they are making some. Kristen Fisher thanks so much.
BLACKWELL: It is week three of the new show and I'm launching a new segment that you'll see on a regular basis here. It's simple. I see you. We cover so much that is wrong in the world that we have to highlight what is right. And I'm starting with one of my loves historically black colleges and universities. We know the paying for them is hard because they've been underfunded.
So in Nashville the Mount Zion Baptist Church is helping students at HBCUs. They recently gave away more than a $500,000 in scholarships. A lot of that money is going to students from Tennessee State and Fisk University, both historically black universities. WSMB says that the church is setting up a grant program, and they hope to give away a $1 million annually. So Mount Zion Baptist Church and the students at TSU and Fisk, I see you.
Thanks for joining me today. I'll see you back here next Saturday at 8:00 a.m. Eastern. Smerconish starts now.