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First of All with Victor Blackwell

Congress Divided Over Whether To Attach Conditions To Israel Aid; Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, (D-FL), Is Interviewed About Israel Aid, IDF Evacuation Map; Conservative Groups' Lawsuit Puts Maternal Health Program At Risk; The "Renaissance" Tour Move From Stage To Screen. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired December 02, 2023 - 08:00   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: First of all, if the White House and members of both parties in Congress believe that Israel's military has killed too many innocent Palestinians and that Israel must do more to protect them, why is the U.S. not doing more to ensure that? Today, how much pressure can and should the U.S. apply on Israel to save innocent lives? A lawmaker opposed to putting conditions on aid to Israel is with us.

Plus candidates running for Senate and Michigan claim their campaigns were offered millions to instead challenge the only Palestinian American in Congress. One of them, actor Hill Harper is here. And we brought you the story of the first now a second family in Jackson, Mississippi says that their loved one was killed and buried and local police did not tell them. The investigative journalist who's reporting alerted the family joins us.

I'm Victor Blackwell. Let's start the show.

Well, the truce is over, the fighting between Israel and Hamas is back and so is the nightmare for innocent civilians. Israel says that it's using QR codes now and interactive maps to tell Gazans where to go. Remember cell service and electricity sparse there. National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby was asked on Friday about the number of civilians who have already died since bombing resumed in Gaza. And he would not say if the Biden administration has seen more deliberately targeting from Israel.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said that he wanted to see Israeli plans to protect civilians before fighting resumed. This is his latest comment.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I have seen the bad information start to get out. I've saw the plans that Israel has in a multiplicity of ways to do everything possible to protect civilians, including making sure that they have the information they need, and that there are ways to accommodate them. And this is going to be very important going forward. And it's something we're going to be looking at very closely.


BLACKWELL: All right. Now, the U.S. is watching, but is there anything more that the U.S. could be doing? One option is adding conditions to any aid in -- that the U.S. provides to Israel. Some Democratic senators support it, House Republicans do not. Plenty of House Democrats oppose it, too. Including Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, she is on the House Appropriations Committee, and she joins me now.

It's been a while since we have talked. So it's good to have you on the show, Congresswoman.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): Congratulations on your new show.

BLACKWELL: Thank you very much.

SCHULTZ: I'm so glad for joining you.

BLACKWELL: Thank you. So let's start with why you oppose putting some conditions on the multibillion dollar package that Israel was -- will most certainly get?

SCHULTZ: Well, Victor, I think it's important that we understand here that we are -- this is not a situation where we don't have the ability to communicate with Israel. They are a close ally, among our closest. Our intelligence and military leadership are sitting together with Israel side by side every day, that communication is ongoing at the highest levels all the way up to President Biden. And we are working with them to make sure as they are already prioritizing and minimizing civilian casualties. It's Hamas that is putting civilians in harm's way, embedding themselves and their headquarters underneath hospitals and U.N. facilities.

And I mean, that's where the accountability should lie, and making sure that Israel can bring their hostages home and Hamas release them and make sure that they can eradicate the terrorists, that is what the priority is. Conditioning aid is not something you do in an emergency situation with an ally.

BLACKWELL: So, you are right that the civilians in Gaza would not be in this position. The estimated more than 14,000 who have been killed since October 7 would not be dead if not for the October 7 attack. But if the point that you're making is that the U.S. has been sitting side by side with Israel since the start of this, well, since October 7 --

SCHULTZ: Well, as --

BLACKWELL: I understand that. But since the start of this, there have been those 14,000 plus killed. There have been, according to UNICEF, 5,300 children killed. So, if it did not influence their decision of targeting before the truce, why are you confident that there will be anything different now as they move into the south?


SCHULTZ: Victor, Israel -- first of all, Israel is held to a much, much higher standard when at war than any other country on Earth. And they have specifically, nearly exclusively in wartime, made sure to notify and communicate in advance with civilians, particularly in this very urbanized environment that they should get out of harm's way. Hamas, the terrorist organization that puts them in harm's way, prevent them from getting to safety. And this is a very dense urbanized area in which Hamas has not actually spent the funds that they have to protect their civilians. They have said publicly in interviews that they spend their money on their tunnel system so they can protect themselves.


SCHULTZ: So Hamas is to blame, the harm that is coming to their civilians.

BLACKWELL: But go where? When you say that the IDF is warning the civilians to get out of the way, and I should say that the leaflets have been dropped over the cities in southern Gaza that they are focusing on now, but they're using QR codes. We have reported that how unreliable cell phone services, the electricity, the internet as well. So I don't know what a QR code does anybody who doesn't have cell phone service and doesn't have access to the internet. But if the IDF has told them to move south, where are they supposed to go now?

SCHULTZ: What should happen here is that Hamas should release the hostages. They should cease their attacks. A ceasefire that they get again broke just yesterday, even before it was determined that the truce was not going to continue. This is on Hamas. That's where this conflict was started.

They have killed 1,400 civilians in an unprecedented attack in Israel. It took 240 women children and elderly people hostage, most of whom they are still holding on to. Where are the -- I mean, Victor, I wish you were asking me questions about how Hamas is being held to account. That is where -- Gaza needs to be freed from Hamas. And we already have the ability, thanks to President Biden.

We are already communicating. We've gotten dozens and dozens, actually hundreds of aid trucks into Israel and into Gaza. And Hamas skims off the top to make sure that they can refortified and be able to destroy --

BLACKWELL: Those trucks are getting in. Those trucks are getting in after a nearly month long blockade on food and fuel and water. And the fuel obviously challenging the desalination plan. But let me ask you about -- you say that this is on Hamas -- yes?

SCHULTZ: -- humanitarian aid for themselves.

BLACKWELL: Understood. I understand that. But here's the question. You say this is on Hamas. I understand that the Israeli government has said that ending Hamas is the goal.

I think most states across the world, most countries can understand that after what happened on October 7 that is the goal. But if the goal is to go after Hamas, and there are innocent civilians between them, what pressure do you think, if at all, is required or is appropriate on Israel to prevent the numbers that we saw in the first 45 days of this war?

SCHULTZ: We are with Israel effectively communicating that it is essential that they minimize civilian casualties. The Palestinian civilians that have been killed as a result of Hamas brutality is devastating. But we already have the ability.

BLACKWELL: If they don't, then what? If they don't then what? There's no consequence. And Congress is not going to put any conditions on the aid. And this is not advocacy, I'm just saying what then is the consequence for Israel?

SCHULTZ: What do you mean by if they don't? I mean, we're already in a situation where worldwide, including the U.N., U.N. women and others have not even condemned Hamas for their attacks, and they haven't condemned them for the brutal sexual violence. I mean, Israel is under a situation where it's me too, unless you're a Jew, and that the higher standard that Israel is held to in wartime when they have suffered a incredibly brutal attack is wildly inappropriate in an emergency. And this disproportionate accountability that Israel is being held to when Hamas completely controls the ability to seize seize the war by releasing the hostages and ending their commitment to eradicating Israel and killing Jews.

BLACKWELL: All right, Congresswoman Debbie --

SCHULTZ: -- in their court.


BLACKWELL: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you so much for being with me. Good to see you again.

SCHULTZ: Thank you as always. You too.

BLACKWELL: All right, the Israel Hamas war has also set up a huge and potentially expensive political battle for several U.S. House races. Several progressive Democrats now have primary challenges after they criticize the Israeli government since the beginning of the war, I should say. But in Michigan, a different kind of pressure campaign may be happening. Two candidates for Senate there say that they were offered $20 million in campaign funding support if they were to drop out of the Senate Democratic primary and instead run against Representative Rashida Tlaib. Tlaib is the only Palestinian American in Congress.

Now the Senate campaign say the offer came from a large donor to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee or AIPAC. A call to that alleged donor were not returned. Nasser Beydoun says that he got that call this week. And actor turn candidate Hill Harper, he is running to replace Senator Debbie Stabenow there in Michigan says he got the call too. He joins us now.

Hill, good to see you again. I want to ask you about the call, the approach. You say this came back in October, but it only became public just a few days ago. Tell us about the offer that you were made.

HILL HARPER, (D) MICHIGAN SENATE CANDIDATE: Sure. You know, Victor, this -- the call came, I was driving to another event outside of Pontiac, Michigan where we weren't going to raise a whole lot of money. Our campaign is a grassroots campaign and we weren't going to raise $20 million. But it was a call that -- it was in -- the way I took it as a twofer. It was a call to get me to stop and not run against a candidate in this U.S. Senate primary, Democratic primary, that the caller supports to get to and then target and run against Congresswoman Tlaib.

And so, it's actually, Victor, not even about that fundamentally about this call, it's about the fact that the system is broken. Our democracy and our campaign finance is broken that someone feels that the ability of the wealthy and the powerful to control elections, to control candidates. And it makes you ask, how many politicians that were actually voting for has said yes to calls like this?

BLACKWELL: Yes, man. Did you consider it at all?

HARPER: I'm not going to be bossed bullied or bought, you know? I'm running to represent the people, you know? And lobbyists have too much power in this country. Corporate interest, big, wealthy interest and money plays a big part. And I think actually, Victor, that's why so many people are not voting.

I mean, our largest voting bloc in this country are people who don't vote because they think and they feel, and I've traveled all across Michigan talking to folks, they feel like their vote doesn't matter because the folks that are going there are listening to the wealthy, the powerful, the moneyed interests, the people who paid for them to get into office and backdoor deals, private meetings --


HARPER: -- are how things are being run. And certainly for me, and I think it's resonating well across Michigan, that folks want someone to represent them. They'll be a lobbyist for the people not listened to lobbyists.

BLACKWELL: Your campaign spokesperson says that this call came from Michigan businessman Lyndon Nelson, he made that offer 10 million in bundles -- bundled donations, $10 million in an independent, probably a Super PAC supporting your campaign. In the decision not to run against Congresswoman Tlaib, there's a difference between not running against her and supporting her reelection? Do you support her reelection to Congress?

HARPER: You know, for me, I am running my race. And I'm not trying to go with this candidate or get with this candidate. I want people to know who I am. I'm not a politician. Right? I'm not going to play political games where I'm running to try to grab these endorsements and these endorsements and do this. I'm running to represent people. I had conversation with Michigan --

BLACKWELL: So that sounds like (inaudible) because -- that sounds -- let me ask you this, do you support the --

HARPER: Victor, no it's not --

BLACKWELL: -- do you support -- let me ask you this, do you support the reelection --


BLACKWELL: -- of President Biden?

HARPER: Let me -- absolutely, I support the reelection of President Biden.

BLACKWELL: So if you can --

HARPER: I'll tell you what else I support --

BLACKWELL: If you can support the election of President Biden, why can't you give me a simple one word answer on Congresswoman Tlaib?

HARPER: Because I don't want folks -- listen, Victor, I think it'd be better for you to ask me, what do I support? Let's talk about this. Seventy-one percent of Michiganders support a ceasefire. I'm one of only two major Senate candidates that have called for a ceasefire across the country. Less than 10 percent of our congressional, Democratic Congressional members have call for a ceasefire.


HARPER: And so, I would rather have you asked me what I support than to ask me what I'm going to do vis-a-vie supporting another candidate. I think Rashida Tlaib is a fiery, amazing, very smart, intelligent, fantastic Congress person who and her folks in her district are going to --



HARPER: -- decide whether she gets reelected. I don't live in her district. OK?

BLACKWELL: But you are running to represent.

HARPER: I live in Detroit.

BLACKWELL: You are running to represent it.

HARPER: Say it again?

BLACKWELL: You are running to represent it in the primary for Senate.

HARPER: I'm asking right to represent her district. And her folks --


HARPER: -- know where my heart is and where my heart lies. And at the end of the day, the fact is, I would not run against Rashida Tlaib.

BLACKWELL: All right. Hill Harper, thank you so much for making time and speaking with us.

Ahead, a story that we've been following very closely, black men killed and buried, and their families find out months later. The investigative reporter who revealed this joins us to help us put it into perspective just how far this injustice goes.

And later, my conversation with writer Charles Blow about his new documentary and why he's calling on black Americans to consider moving to the south.



BLACKWELL: An investigation by a CNN affiliate has revealed Jackson Mississippi's police department did not publicly disclose the names of dozens of homicide victims this year. We recently told you about Dexter Wade, a man in Mississippi who was hit and killed by Jackson Police Department vehicle and buried without his family's knowledge. Wade's mother told me about when police finally contacted her about her son months later.


BETTERSTEN WADE, MOTHER OF DEXTER WADE: When he first called me and said we found Dexter (inaudible) and let him be OK. So I say, where he had out or what's, you know, going on with him. She said, well, I let Officer Gerard (ph) come back then and talk to you. Righty and who should say it that is just my heart drop, because I knew. You know, I just knew that he was deceased.


BLACKWELL: New reporting by CNN affiliate WLBT has now revealed a similar case. Forty year old Marrio Moore was killed in February, buried in the same pauper's field where Dexter Wade was buried. Moore's family did not find out about his death until October after seeing his name and WLBT's reporting on more than 20 homicide victims the Jackson Police did not disclose to the public.

Joining me now is the investigative reporter who brought this to light C.J. LeMaster with CNN's affiliate there in Jackson.

C.J., good to see you. This is, I want to say, unbelievable but not, it is heartbreaking. Tell us this story, because unlike Dexter Wade who was killed by an off duty officer, this man, Mr. Moore, was found dead and then reported to police. What's his story?

C.J. LEMASTER, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, WLBT: So what happened here is a situation where he was killed by blunt force trauma, that's what we know. He was found wrapped in a tarp on a street in the western part of the city. And at that point, police claimed they did not -- there were conflicting reports as to whether there was even an I.D. found on him. But suffice it to say it took some time for them to identify him. But at that point, all we know from the captain who was in charge of detectives for the department, he told us in an interview that essentially they sent a detective to a home that was -- that they found in connection with Moore, they left a card, and that was it.

There was no follow up. We pressed the captain for this in one of our interviews, and he didn't really have any explanation. He said, well, that is sufficient. Now we know now that since all this had happened since NBC and other national news agencies have picked up the story as well, that now the city of Jackson, the police department, for the first time has a death notifications policy, a six page policy. So that came out of this.

But it took the family not finding out about this until October for any of this to happen and for the ball to be rolling. And I got to tell you, Victor, this is something -- it was one thing for us to find out that there were 24 individual victims, 22 cases that the public that we had not been told about. But to find out that one of those was a situation where the family wasn't told either. Like you said it's heartbreaking, you can't fathom that.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Let's listen to Marrio Moore's sister, Marquita here, on what she expected from police.


MARQUITA MOORE, MARRIO MOORE'S SISTER: How many times do you come back to notify the family if you did come here? Did you come back the next day? Did you try to follow up on your report?


BLACKWELL: And so, what is the department doing now? These 24 individual victims, we now know that Moore's family has been notified, are they trying again to reach out to the next of kin of these people?

LEMASTER: So at this point, we don't know. In fact, the department has, as you might imagine, been fairly tight lips since these investigations have come forward since these two cases in particular has -- have garnered such national attention. The department only speaking through a city spokesperson at this point. But it seems at least going forward that this will be happening. But even when I tried to get information about these 24 victims, so we could even put that out there to try and help detectives because you would think that detectives would need that information to the public so they can garner leads --

BLACKWELL: Yes. LEMASTER: -- they could look forward to developments in the case, we got very little. I'm saying maybe a paragraphs worth of information. And so that's part of the problem here. You know, we talked to the captain about this, Captain Abraham Thompson, who, by the way, after our story came out I think a day later, he was shifted. He's no longer open detectives in the department.


He's not over a single certified officer. But he told us, he said, well, you know, I'm not even really that frustrated that information didn't get out, because we don't want to put a timeframe on solving these cases. And that sort of flies in the face of what you're familiar with. I'm sure people, the first 48 hours, are the most crucial when it comes to investigating homicides.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And what more is Jackson saying about this, this specific case? And what they are planning to do as they move forward? You say this new six page protocol.

LEMASTER: So this new six page protocol, we actually just got a copy of it. Not long ago, I want to say it was a day or so ago that we finally got a copy of it through a records request. And essentially, it puts Jackson in line with other agencies, with other cities, frankly, smaller than Jackson, that requires every effort to be made to be able to contact these individuals when something happens. Keep in mind that the city actually has blamed this on a miscommunication, on a failure of communication, if you will, but recently has shifted that to blaming the coroner's office, because according to statute, the coroner's office does have responsibilities in notifying the family. And so, what we saw with the Dexter Wade case, what we saw -- what we're seeing now with the Marrio Moore case, is that there's this shifting of blame to the coroner's office.

The coroner's office, as you might imagine, not returning our calls, not saying anything publicly about this.


LEMASTER: We may see more details when it -- I would assume becomes litigated at some point. Obviously, Ben Crump has been retained by both families here. And so hopefully, we'll learn some answers through that. But it's certainly been incredibly frustrating --


LEMASTER: -- to not really know and have any accountability in something like this.

BLACKWELL: All right, C.J. LeMaster with WLBT, thank you so much for your time this morning and for your work on this story.

The police department and coroner's office sent CNN copies of their reports, the Jackson Mayor self has declined comment.

Ahead, why a first of its kind program meant to help pregnant mothers of color in San Francisco is now a target of conservative groups. And a lot went down in the Young Thug case this week or should we say the Young truly humbled under God case, that's what the attorneys say Thug stands for. The latest in the massive racketeering trial that's happening which featured a moment that became a meme.



BLACKWELL: Rapper Young Thug is on trial for alleged involvement in gang and racketeering activities in Atlanta. And this week, his attorney revealed what he claims Thug actually stands for. Brain Steel says the Young Thug's name is an acronym for Truly Humble Under God. Steel also claimed that the Grammy nominated track "Pushin P" that features Young Thug stands for pushing positivity.

But right before the trial began, the judge determined the prosecutors could use lyrics by the rapper in this trial. Now, here's something you may not be aware of. I want to put this on your radar because we'll come back to it. Conservative groups are targeting programs to help people who need that help the most, including pregnant mothers.

All right, this group that's doing this, they say it's because they're against affirmative action. So here's the explanation. In San Francisco, there's a program called the Abundant Birth Project. According to a KFF Health News, it's helped about 150 pregnant black and Pacific Islanders with $1,000 monthly stipend. It's gone on since 2021. And back in 2020, community researchers for the Abundant Birth Project, they produce this video to explain how the money helps these women. Watch.


SABRA BELL, COMMUNITY RESEARCHER, ABUNDANT BIRTH PROJECT: It sometimes it can be a little emotional, because you hear some people moving hours away from their families just because they need to afford rent. And you hear some moms that make enough money that would not be considered as low income, but they're still low income because after pay daycare, and rent, pay rent, and so they're not eligible for some of the resources that will be resourceful for every woman that has low income. It's extra and it's helpful. It wouldn't have to stress about bills or a car or whatever they can do anything they would like with the money.


BLACKWELL: Well, not two groups Californians for Equal Rights Foundation and the American Civil Rights Project. They're suing San Francisco and the state of California. The groups call the stipends discriminatory giveaways, and they believe that they're unconstitutional. The Kaiser Family Foundation Health News and we should point out that we got to thank them because they are really on top of this bringing this to light.

They highlight that black women are three times or three to four times in some cases more likely than white women to die in labor, or from related complications in the U.S. And black infants are twice as likely as white infants to be born prematurely and to die before their first birthdays. But the groups filed a lawsuit say that they want officials to open the program to all women or close it down.

In 2022, the Abundant Birth Project was promised millions in funding and it's already expanding beyond San Francisco. Again, I'm putting this on your radar. We will come back to this program and the challenge to it.

Next up, Queen Bee's "Renaissance" film is now in theaters. Why some say they were triggered by this image, her appearance on the Chrome carpet.

And a first for another queen, Queen Latifah's big honor this weekend.









BLACKWELL: It's a big weekend for music lovers maybe especially for the BeyHive. Beyonce's new movie "Renaissance: A Film by Beyonce," hit theaters around the world this week, fans started falling into theaters here Thursday night to see the film's documenting Beyonce's, "Renaissance World Tour." Joining us now to discuss CNN senior entertainment reporter Lisa France. And if we are doing a "Renaissance" story, "Renaissance" have to be on.



BLACKWELL: Listen, every time I pay for these shoes, I wonder one concert. We talk "Renaissance." I'm getting my money's worth.

FRANCE: Absolutely.

BLACKWELL: This is a big moment for the BeyHive.


BLACKWELL: Yes. Are we seeing the numbers that they expected around the country?

FRANCE: Yes. We actually are. BLACKWELL: Around the world.

FRANCE: Yes. Reportedly we're looking at about 5 million so far. They're projecting about 20 million for the weekend, possibly more. And if so that would be the biggest opening for the first weekend in December in like 20 years since Tom Cruise's "Last Samurai."

BLACKWELL: OK. So let me ask you about the controversy, the questions about her complexion. Some people said they were triggered her mother defended her and said she didn't do anything to lighten her skin.

FRANCE: Not at all.


FRANCE: Tell me you don't understand fashion, makeup and wigs.

BLACKWELL: Enlighting.

FRANCE: And I'm going to say wigs. Not just wigs because, yes.


FRANCE: Enlighting because she -- her whole book was about being platinum as she had asked people to show up to the concert but your shoes?


FRANCE: The red carpet was a platinum carpet.


FRANCE: So she had a platinum look and people said oh, she must have lightened her skin. I'm like, the woman who gave us black skin.

BLACKWELL: Right, right.

FRANCE: White skin, like you all are coming for the wrong one.


FRANCE: The wrong one.

BLACKWELL: And, you know, I thought when I saw it, I was like, oh, this may be if there is any difference, that's because she wanted the picture to be perfect.

FRANCE: Right.

BLACKWELL: And maybe the lighting and editing or something, but I don't think Beyonce would come out and intentionally lightened her skin.

FRANCE: No, never would she have, I think.

BLACKWELL: For an image and equate that with beauty.

FRANCE: She doesn't need to.

BLACKWELL: She doesn't need to.

FRANCE: She is a force of nature. And they made Ms. Tina call people stupid.


FRANCE: Her mom, Tina Knowles call people stupid.

BLACKWELL: And we all just saw her on stage around the country.

FRANCE: Right, right. We know what she looks like.

BLACKWELL: Around the world, yes. All right, "Renaissance" moment over. Let's move on now. Big moment for Queen Latifah.


BLACKWELL: First female hip hop artist with the Kennedy Center Honors being shot tomorrow going to air later this month.

FRANCE: Yes. It's a huge deal. I mean, she is such a multi hyphenate, you know, are we or am I setting you up?

BLACKWELL: You know I got the list.

FRANCE: Let's go, bring the receipt.

BLACKWELL: So Queen Latifah is a rapper, a singer has starred in T.V. series in the comedy, drama, action, suspense, several series -- seasons for all of those. In movies and all of those genres also animated and a musical, a talk show host, several award shows, producer, cover girl and her own management company.

FRANCE: I'm tired.

BLACKWELL: I mean on and on and on.

FRANCE: Exactly.


FRANCE: And I mean in the Kennedy Center, it honors people for who have been trailblazers for their lifetime achievements.


FRANCE: And so she's also going to be joined by Dionne Warwick, I have had the pleasure of interviewing both of them. They're phenomenal women. They really lean into their talent but they also lean into what their representation is.

BLACKWELL: Yes. FRANCE: And so I'm very, very excited that this is happening.

BLACKWELL: Overdue especially for Dionne Warwick.

FRANCE: Ms. Dionne.

BLACKWELL: Lisa France, always good to have you.

FRANCE: Always great to be here.

BLACKWELL: Thank you.

FRANCE: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Does the key to growing black power in the U.S. lie in the south. My conversation with Charles Blow about his new thought provoking film. Let's look at a new great migration.



BLACKWELL: So this week here in Georgia, state lawmakers are redrawing the political map after an order from a judge, the power of black voters had been diluted in their last attempt. We've seen this before, next door in Alabama, just south in Florida. Well, a new film argues a solution to challenges like this is re-concentrating black power, a century after the start of the Great Migration when millions of blacks left the Jim Crow South and move north and west.

Author and columnist Charles Blow says it's time for black people to move back to those southern states. He makes the case in a new documentary, "South to Black Power." Here he is with his son. This is part of the documentary talking about what is at stake and changes specifically to policing.


CHARLES M. BLOW, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "SOUTH TO BLACK POWER": When you live in a whole system, where a boy who has never seen a gun knows to drop to his knees when he sees it. When you live in a whole system where a boy who has just had a gun pulled on him, his first instinct is to prevent that power from dehumanizing him rather than responding to him. That system is a problem. And that system is not set up to protect black boys but to prey on black boys.


BLACKWELL: I spoke with Charles about the documentary just released this week.


BLACKWELL: Charles, thank you for joining us. First, just start with what is the argument here? Make the case. BLOW: The argument is that, you know, after the Civil War III, southern states were majority black. And there were three others that were which -- within eight percentage points would be majority black. And out of that collection of power, produce a lot of advances for black people, the great migration, diluted that. So, 6 million people left the American south for citizen in the north and west.

Those black percentages in southern states decrease substantially. You get Jim Crow, which kind of crushes black political possibilities in the south until the Civil Rights Movement. And I am saying to a lot of black people that state power is super important to the issues that you care about. You know, George Floyd protests were largely about criminal justice reform.

Well, most of the criminal code that you will ever encounter comes in is developed at the state level. Most people who integrate the criminal system in the mass incarceration system is state and local, that -- all of those issues including in addition to things like health care, educational policy, or so on and so forth, are dictated to a large degree by state policy and so you can have that same state power that black people experienced your reconstruction again.


BLACKWELL: You cite a I believe was a 1970 "Playboy" article and in the state of Vermont and hippies, explain that.

BLOW: Well, what Vermont, the Vermont example did was to show me the possibilities here. You know, 19, early 1970s article appears in "Playboy" that basically says take over Vermont. And it is based on an article you before published by two year law students that was they kind of come up with this idea of radical federalism that if you really want to do something, young hippies, people protesting against the Vietnam War, he really wanted to do something of a policy, you can simply just move to a state in large numbers and basically change the political dynamics of that state.

Some people are already moving to Vermont as part of the Back to the Land Movement, but other people moved after the publication of this article. Tens of thousands of young white hippies in the Northwest move into Vermont, and they change Vermont, they literally changed Vermont, into one of the most progressive states in America. It's the place where Barack Obama won his large percentage of the white vote in 2008.

And that example was so profound to me, because it was a ride, number one, it was a writer who had suggested this and I was like, OK, that's in my wheelhouse, I can do that.

BLACKWELL: Yes, yes.

BLOW: But also, it had changed the state. It basically changed Vermont, from New Hampshire into Vermont. And I thought this is completely possible for black people to do as well, particularly since black, we're already moving back to the sun. BLACKWELL: But to get to black power, you've got to move to Mississippi, move to Louisiana, and they're thinking about their family. And were Mississippi rates in education or industry. I mean, that's -- how do these states make themselves more attracted to that, when they really don't want potentially, the shift to black power? Do you see what I'm saying?

BLOW: Every great migration in America has been at the -- at its core about people deciding whether or not they believe that their wellbeing, their family's wellbeing will be better in the state that they land. There are a lot of places in the American South where that actually is the draw that, you know, when you look at the list about places with black middle classes doing best at, that -- top of that list is littered with southern cities for black people.

And so a lot of people are drawn to in Atlanta, drawn to a Charlotte or Raleigh. They are drawn to Maryland suburbs in D.C. These are already magnets for black people. And so the question becomes whether or not you see possibility for yourself. I always say this about movement and migration.

If you feel nurtured, successful, satisfied, safe, your culture is valued where you are, you probably found your place. Stay there.


BLOW: If you don't, if you are being squeezed out by gentrification, if you feel like there's advice on you and your family with police conduct, if you feel like you are constantly under threat, if you feel like there must be another place where I can feel safer my kids can run around in my yard and I not have to worry about them coming in contact with someone who might shoot them. Maybe there is a possibility for you and maybe it's not where you think, maybe it is in a southern city.


BLACKWELL: Out thanks to Charles Blow. The HBO original documentary film "South to Black Power" is out now on HBO and Max. Warner Brothers Discovery is the parent company of HBO, Max and CNN.


People are traveling again in numbers that we have not seen since before the pandemic. And next I want to introduce an artist whose work celebrates that we can get together again.


BLACKWELL: So I'm an art lover. And when an artist's vision or work is applicable to the news of the week or is influenced by the news, I want you to meet them. And it is now the holiday season, the first since the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency. And we're all getting together. Sunday, the TSA saw the busiest day of travel in its history. So this week I'm introducing Ariel Dannielle. Her work is fun. Ariel's new collection, I love the name, "Feels Like Glitter." It celebrates being together again.


ARIEL DANNIELLE, PAINTER: Hi, my name is Ariel Dannielle. I'm from Atlanta, Georgia, and I'm a painter. I paint with acrylic paint on canvas. I also have started using glitter and gemstones and just little mixed media materials. This collection is showing a live post pandemic. This show in particular feels like glitter is representing a life post pandemic where we are really battling coming together, hanging out over food, over drinks and just really cherishing time with your loved ones.

There's so many things that we do now that we really value that I don't think I valued before the pandemic. There's a song by Tyler, the Creator, where he has a line where he says, it feels like glitter and he's talking about life feeling like glitter, like life feeling good like sparkling fine, like it -- I felt like that song was really like what my show was about, nothing depressing, nothing sad. I want people to just feel like really light and like happy, like to still seeing represented.



BLACKWELL: Isn't that fun? Ariel solo show, Feels Like Glitter, is here in Atlanta through January 13th. It opened last night. It goes through the New Year. It's at the UTA Artists Space.

Thank you so much for joining me today. I'll see you back here next Saturday at 8:00 a.m. Eastern. Smerconish starts now.