Return to Transcripts main page

First of All with Victor Blackwell

Iraq Says U.S. Strikes Killed At Least 16, Including Civilians; Syria: Strikes Caused "Significant Damage," Killed Civilians, Soldiers; Changing Evangelical Demographics Could Impact 2024 Race; California Agrees to $2 billion Settlement Over COVID Pandemic Learning Loss For Struggling Students. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired February 03, 2024 - 08:00   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Victor Blackwell. This is First of All, and today we're starting in the Middle East. Iran is condemning airstrikes by the US military in Syria and Iraq. The Pentagon says that bombers hit 85 individual targets used by Iran backed militias in Iran zone Revolutionary Guard. The strikes are in retaliation for the deaths of three American soldiers killed in a drone attack in Jordan almost a week ago. President Biden says this is only the start. CNN's Katie Bo Lillis is in Washington, D.C. Ben Wedeman joins us from Jordan.

Katie Bo, let's start with you. And tell us more about these targets.

KATIE BO LILLIS, CNN REPORTER: Victor, the U.S. military striking 85 targets associated with both Iranian backed militias, as well as use -- that were also used by Iran's own forces. Now these targets included everything from intelligence centers, to rockets and missiles and other munitions facilities to command and control hubs to logistics facilities.

Now, at this point, in the coming hours and days, the U.S. military will be doing what's known as a battle damage assessment to lean on U.S. intelligence to try to independently verify the toll that these strikes took both the damage that they caused to these militias capabilities, as well as the potential casualties both amongst militia members as well as potential civilian casualties. The Iraqi government, of course, saying that 16 people have been killed in Iraq as a result of these airstrikes. The U.S. will be doing its own assessment and we will look in the coming hours and days to see sort of what the that assessment ultimately finds. But at this point, U.S. officials saying that the U.S. military hit everything it intended to hit.

BLACKWELL: Ben, what's the reaction in the region?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far, Victor, we've heard from the Iraqi government, which has condemned these U.S. strike saying it's unacceptable and a violation of its own security. Basically, the Syrian government saying the same thing. The Iranian government has come out and said that yet again, it's a violation of territorial integrity, sovereignty, and they describe the strikes as a strategic mistake.

Other governments have been less vocal in their comment on the issue, because, of course, keep in mind that they have to be very aware of the sentiment in the street, where as many people feel that the United States is complicit in Israel's war in Gaza, and therefore, there isn't a lot of pumpy public support for these U.S. airstrikes across the Middle East. Victor.

BLACKWELL: Katie, well, let me come back to you. And you kind of left off here about what is next do we know what may come next or even when that could come next.

BO LILLIS: So the Biden administration, has been very clear that these airstrikes last night, were only the beginning and we are expecting additional military action, as officials say, at the time in place of the U.S. choosing. So now at this point, what we do not know is, you know, when where what the targets are expected to be. We do know, that the Biden administration has been very clear that in signaling that they are likely not going to strike Iran itself. These attacks -- or these airstrikes are intended to focus on degrading and deterring these Iranian backed militias, as well, as indicated as sending a very clear determined signal to Iran itself about the support that it provides these groups without further escalating the conflict by striking Iran directly. Victor.

BLACKWELL: Ben, I remember at the beginning of this conflict, the question was, how does the U.S., how do the players in the region avoid this becoming a regional conflict? We're well beyond that now. Let me ask the inverse of that. What calms this? Is there a clear answer to that yet?

WEDEMAN: Well, I think the clear answer is that basically, what you hear across the Middle East is if the real reason why all of this is happening is because of the war in Gaza. For instance, the Houthis in Yemen Every time they will target a ship in the Red Sea or fire a missile in the direction of Israel they say it's in support of Gaza and its war against Israel. Hezbollah every time they put out a statement of their strikes on Israeli targets in northern Israel, they say it's for the very same reason, the same with the militias in Iraq and Syria. And the fact is that to a certain extent, they do represent sentiment across the Middle East, which after almost an entire four months of war and a mounting death toll in Gaza, there is a feeling that this has simply got to come to an end and the only country that can really make Israel Stop it is United States.


BLACKWELL: Ben Wedeman for us in Amman, Jordan and Katie Bo Lillis in Washington. Thank you.

All right. It is Election Day for Democrats in South Carolina. And two things are almost certain about President Biden and South Carolina this election season, almost certainly that close. He will win the primary today. And he's going to lose South Carolina in the general election.

South Carolina has not gone for Democrats since people were dancing to disco. Jimmy Carter in 1976. But what happens today in South Carolina is important. First, because South Carolina is now at the front of the line. It's the first opportunity for Democrats to award delegates toward the nomination, but also because of what South Carolina did for Joe Biden.

Before South Carolina's primary and 2020 the political obituaries for then Vice President Biden were drafted. Do you remember just how bleak it was for the Biden campaign in those early contests? It was a crowded field and Joe Biden was lost in the crowd. After he finished fourth in the Iowa caucuses, the Atlantic ran this headline, How Biden Blew It. Eight days later, Biden finished fifth in the New Hampshire primary and the headline from Politico was blood in the water. Biden campaign reels after New Hampshire trouncing.

It was awful for the Biden folks. He finished second in Nevada, but more than 20 points behind Bernie Sanders. Yet the Biden campaign kept saying wait until South Carolina, that's where the campaign will really take off. But it wasn't certain. Biden's bet was that black voters, when they got an opportunity to weigh in, that they would choose him, the man they'd known for decades, and the vice president of the first black president of the United States. He was right. Congressman Jim Clyburn endorsed him and said this.


REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): I know Joe. We know Joe. But most importantly, Joe knows us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. That's right.

CLYBURN: That's important.


BLACKWELL: Black folks showed up and showed out Biden won the South Carolina primary with nearly 49% of the vote ultimately won 46 primaries and caucuses the nomination than the presidency. But it all started in South Carolina. Well, now fast forward four years and the narrative is that black voters are less enthusiastic about Joe Biden. Well, let's hear now from two voters in South Carolina. Tuesday Duckett joins us from Hopkins, South Carolina. And Tiara Albert is a student at Claflin University. It's an HBCU. in Orangeburg. I am glad to have you two ladies with me because we talk so much about voters. I want to hear from voters and Tuesday, let me start with you.

The President never really could have made good on all of his promises alone, because a lot of what he promised you the Congress for and a split, Congress, Republicans, we're not going to cooperate. So are you satisfied with the job the President has done thus far?

TUESDAY DUCKETT, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I'm somewhat satisfied. Dealing with the student loan debt, I've known a couple of people that had that delivered to them. So with that issue I'm partially satisfied with but there is a little more and a lot more that can be done.

BLACKWELL: Yeah. Tierra, give me the answer. Same question.

TIERRA ALBERT, VOTER, SOPHOMORE AT CLAFLIN UNIVERSITY: Good morning. I'm in agreeance with Tuesday. I feel like there's been a lot done in the sense of appeasement rather than addressing the actual issues facing black and brown communities in South Carolina. And it seems to be more so political pedagogy cutes that they're focusing on and why we should not vote for other candidates and rather than why we should actually vote Joe Biden again.

BLACKWELL: Let me stay with you Tierra because you are in kind of two groups here. Both black voters that the polls show, the numbers for the president have deflated and also young voters as a college student there are plenty of voters who are just disappointed with the polls show. The president's handling of Israel's war with Hamas in Gaza. Does that influence your vote? Does that influence your assessment of the President?


ALBERT: Do you think influenced my vote as well as a lot of my peers? I know, a huge factor in our discontent with President Joe Biden is his is the way we're dealing with our international affairs. and as far as our policies. I feel like there's a lot of room for improvement as far as how we choose to deal with things and our involvement overseas.

BLACKWELL: Tuesday, you want the President to focus on rural America, explain why.

DUCKETT: Here in rural America, you come through, you receive our votes, but when it comes to fulfilling lousy obligations, and one of my biggest obligations, was the running of internet and making sure that everyone in our rural areas, and also where Tierra is Warrensburg is still a city. But it's rule, but with us being the age of technology, if we're not getting the internet, and people are not being sufficiently to get all of their needs handled, we can attend to not be kicked in, forget about the rural areas when -- when you take off is I mean, I know you're working towards the goal, but we're still here and we still need those services and access to those services as well.

BLACKWELL: Where is Hopkins?

DUCKETT: Hopkins is actually right outside of Columbia, maybe, maybe 10 miles outside of Columbia depends on what area of Hopkins that you're in. Okay, I'm located about 10 miles outside of Columbia,

and Tuesday. Let me go to tear now. In 2020, crowded primary, and I want to go over these numbers Biden one, black voters, over 30, all three groups over 30. But when it came to those voters under 30, he lost to Bernie Sanders. He also learned lost to the white voters under 45 to Bernie Sanders as well. Are most of these young voters, do you expect that they still will show up for the president if Donald Trump is the other major candidates on the ballot? ALBERT: As far as I've discussed with my fellow students and kind of letters from conversations I've had, we see it as election with two Lesser Evils. I do not believe Donald Trump should be in office again. And for now, Joe Biden is the only person we see as an alternative to getting in office.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you to go through some like a fire round here. First to you Tuesday. Is there any scenario in which you would not vote you will not vote in the general election?

DUCKETT: No, I would definitely vote. There is no scenario that I would not vote.

BLACKWELL: If the choices are Biden, Trump, Kennedy, Cornell West, at this moment who gets your vote?

DUCKETTE: At this moment, Joe Biden will get my vote.

BLACKWELL: Same question for you. Is there any scenario in which Tierra that you will not vote?

ALBERT: No, there is no scenario. I will not vote.

BLACKWELL: Same for who gets your vote here. Biden, Trump, West and Kennedy.

ALBERT: Joe Biden.

BLACKWELL: Now if Trump does not win the the primary and Nikki Haley is on that ballot Tuesday, would you consider voting for Nikki Haley?

ALBERT: Not at all.

DUCKET: I can start.

BLACKWELL: Okay, go ahead, Tierra.

ALBERT: I've looked into Nikki Haley. However, I've not been pleased with what I've been hearing on her end. I feel more so she's speaking to what she feels may appease younger black voters. She altered her opinions. I don't feel like she's speaking her own truth.

BLACKWELL: Tierra Albert, Tuesday Duckett, thank you very much for a few minutes before you head out and vote today in the primary. Up next, a member of the Biden Harris campaigns National Advisory Board was listening to that conversation. He's here to react and respond. And later on in the show why this iconic part of the intro to the classic show Soul Train is now part of a legal fight.




South Carolina, you are the first primary in the nation. And President Biden and I are counting on you. We are counting on you. We are counting on you to vote and to get everyone you know to vote to send out text messages to knock on doors and to make your voices heard.


BLACKWELL: Final push for votes in South Carolina from Vice President Kamala Harris polls are open in the Democratic primary. This is a test of the mood of black voters. We just heard from two of them just a few minutes ago. And now let's hear from the Biden Harris campaign.

Malcolm Kenyatta joins us. He is a Pennsylvania state representative, and a member of the Biden Harris campaigns National Advisory Board. Representative. Good to see you again. Let's start here with two of the issues into the comments. We heard from the lady as we saw in the last segment. Tierra says that for her and a lot of her classmates she's a student at Claflin.

This is a choice between the lesser of two evils and frankly, every cycle someone says that a lot of people feel that. But how do you change that narrative because if you're choosing between the lesser of two evils maybe you choose the third option and you don't show up at all.

MALCOLM KENYATTA, MEMBER, BIDEN-HARRIS CAMPAIGN'S NATIONAL ADVISORY BOARD. Well, first of all, Victor, thank you. And thank you for having that -- for having that conversation. I think what you see consistently, really consistently from this President and this vice president, is that they actually do care what black voters have to say. And I think this administration, you know, doesn't treat black voters as disposable, but as indispensable.

You know, what always makes me feel proud to speak about the President's accomplishments is that I know that he legitimately listens to people, it's never be quiet and vote. The President wanted to start this primary contest in South Carolina, because he wanted to make sure that the backbone of the Democratic Party black voters aren't heard late in the process, but actually get to be front and center as we nominate presidents not just in this year, but moving forward. And I think what we continue to know is that we have to do two things. We have to first of all lay out the stakes of the election, because at the end of the day, this is going to be a critical choice between a president who cares about the voices of black people who hears them, and hears all voters, when they say, Hey, thank you for doing this. But we need more in this area, and then works to try to do it.

But you know, as was brought up in the conversation, we know that this President has been up against big obstacles and big forces in government that don't want us to make the type of progress that we need a Supreme Court that blocked him from doing the type of expansive student debt relief. But this is the president who said, Okay, you're blocking me this way. But I'm not going to stop. And so what I'm proud about is, when I hear conversations like this, it makes me you know, better. I know that it makes this administration, I'm doubled down on trying to achieve the types of transformational systematic changes that will make sure that all Americans but particularly black Americans, have full access to the American promise and everything that comes with it.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about one of those Tuesday asked about broadband access internet access in rural areas. What's the plan for those communities?

KENYATTA: Yes. Thank you for bringing that up. You know, listen, I'm in -- I was just in South Carolina not too long ago, and I'm in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, right now. And I will tell you, that is a top priority. And it's one of the reasons the President worked so hard, and was able to even with this Congress, Victor, to get bipartisan agreement around the infrastructure bill. And what came with that was $551 million, specifically, going to South Carolina, to help build out the broadband infrastructure that's necessary. And for a long time, we have people talking about it, paying lip service to it.

This is a president that got it done. But what this President has also been able to do is to make the types of critical investments that take time, frankly, you know, the infrastructure bill was passed. And when I think about, you know, lowering the cost of insulin to 30 bucks. That didn't happen a month after the bill was passed, but it started this year. People are feeling it this year. And we see that with this president. He has the eye on the on the long game, but he also has his eyes on how do we fix the structures?

Let me ask you one other thing here. So what's the expectation of what you'll learn from the primary today? The President doesn't have a serious, strong competitor here. So maybe turnout is suppressed or low? What can you learn from the numbers today?

KENYATTA: You know, first and foremost, what we're going to learn is that black folks get it right, that they know how to pick presidents. And today, I believe folks are going to show up to do just what you did in your segment, those two incredible women to have their voices heard. And that's what was so transformative about what this President did. And I know this the first time we're ever doing it. But we need to bear in mind that we used to always start these contests somewhere else, where you didn't have an opportunity for black voters to weigh in in significant numbers in the beginning of this process, and to set the tone.

Today, they're going to set the tone. They're going to make their voices heard. And you know what I feel as a young black voter, and what I know this president feels is that there is work to do, nobody's resting on their laurels. There's work to do. But this is a president that actually cares about black voters. Donald Trump only cares about himself and that's been crystal clear.

BLACKWELL: Well, I know that the margin is certainly important that we'll be watching that Malcolm Kenyatta thank you so much for spending a few minutes with us. And one of the groups that we follow closely, is evangelicals. And usually it's white evangelicals we're talking about and their influence on the Republican Party and their politics but that is a shrinking portion of the larger evangelical movement I'll talk with two people who who argue that there are millions of people and a bigger story that we're just missing that's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


South Carolina's Republican primary is three weeks away Democrats today, Republicans on the 24th. There's a new poll out this week that found that 54% of them will be evangelical Christians, white evangelical Christians. Now, they were polled specifically. And to be honest, when evangelical Christians are depicted in the media, it's almost assumed that we're talking about white people, but there are black evangelicals and Asian evangelicals, Latinos.

In fact, for a new piece out this weekend just posted on CNN, John Blake found that one in three evangelicals in the US is a person of color. More black Christians identify as evangelical than white Christians. The biggest growth in evangelicals is among Latino Americans and a college campuses like Princeton and Harvard and Stanford the majority of evangelical student groups are Asian American.


John lays it all out to make this point. The constant linking of whiteness with evangelical Christianity obscures another major story that there are millions of black, Latino, African Asian evangelical Christians who are already profoundly changing America.

John Blake is with me now he's the author of "More Than I Imagine: What a Black Man Discovered About the White Mother He Never Knew." Also, here with us is Reverend John Onwuchekwe, he is no longer identifying with the term Evangelical, good to have both of you with us.

John, when I heard about this piece that was coming, I knew we had to talk about it, especially when we're in South Carolina, right? Plenty of church goes there. The white evangelical scope far too narrow. Explain why?

JOHN BLAKE, CNN DIGITAL SENIOR WRITER: Well, because if I say the word evangelical Christian, the first image a lot of people get as a white person. But the face of evangelical Christianity in this country is more likely to be brown or black. And a lot of people don't know that.

And part of the fault is people like myself because when the media, when we talk about evangelical Christianity, when we talk about white Christian nationalism, we talked about evangelical Christianity, we keep focusing in on white evangelicals. But there's this whole world of black and brown evangelicals in this country that we miss out, and they're changing the country. And in fact, these people may save the church in the future.

BLACKWELL: You no longer identify as an evangelical why?

REVEREND JOHN ONWUCHEKWE, FORMER PASTOR, COORNERSTONE CHURCH: Yes. So, the purpose of a label is to reduce the time it takes to get to an understanding. When you have a label like this, that has been co- opted, whenever you use it, especially as a black person, you are insured misunderstanding, or if I'm going to try to thwart that, then I've got to spend time saying, oh, well, I'm not this kind. This is what I mean. And so the use of the label is just more. It's more costly than it's worth.

BLACKWELL: Yes. John explained. Our fault in the media of this image of the white evangelical.


BLACKWELL: Within evangelicalism is their separation, do white evangelicals see you as something else?

ONWUCHEKWE: Sometimes, and I think since 2020, it's become increasingly more clear. But I do think that as you sit back and talk about the complicated history of both race and Christianity in this country, it's always been the case.

In April of 1845, Frederick Douglass, in the appendix to his narrative says, listen, the Christianity of this land, the one that will sell babies to pay for Bibles, he's like, it is far different than the one that I embrace. May of 1845, a month after he puts that out, the Southern Baptist Convention is birth over the issue of slavery. So, as far back as then there's always been a distinction that has to be made. I think, right now, it's no different.

BLACKWELL: John, what ideologically are the differences between the white evangelicals who we know are a power base for Republicans and evangelicals of color?

BLAKE: Theology, they tend to align in some certain areas, like an issues of like abortion, or issues of sexuality. But just when you get to politics, that you see the differences, non-white evangelicals tend to be a lot more progressive. Like, for example, if you're a black evangelical, you see that fighting race is essential to your faith identity. You can't say that a white evangelical.

The implications of that is this, that as more non-white evangelicals decrease in the future. And white evangelicals decreased, the politics will change. So when we think about evangelical Christianity in the future, we won't automatically think conservative will think progressive, black and brown.

BLACKWELL: And is that how you say that they've actually save the church?

BLAKE: Yes, because the growth is coming among non-white evangelicals. White evangelicals are declining. They peaked. So the growth in the church, it's coming from Korean Americans, Latino Americans, it's coming from all these different people. So if the church is going to survive, it's going to have to find a way to accept these non-white evangelicals.

BLACKWELL: And so what do you do now? I know you've separated yourself from the term, but how do you, I don't want to use the reformed because in this context, it has a specific meaning. Change the concept, changed the belief about what an evangelical who an evangelical is.

ONWUCHEKWE: Instead of spending our time giving an apologetic for what it is that we are which is exhausting in and of itself.


We've spent our time mobilizing the resources that we have to do the work that we've called on, on the church to do. So that includes starting businesses in socio economically deprived communities. Right. It includes talking about mental health across the country in the world. It includes spreading this evangel or this gospel, not just in word, but in words indeed.

BLACKWELL: Reverend, John, I learned something today. I appreciate that. Thank you, gentlemen. Thank you.

ONWUCHEKWE: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Coming up, why groups against affirmative action just got bad news from the Supreme Court on their efforts to stop U.S. military academies from considering race in their admissions process.



BLACKWELL: Our top story today is the U.S. hitting targets in Iraq and Syria in retaliation for a drone strike on an American military base in Jordan. That attack from Iran-backed militants nearly a week ago injured more than 40 people that killed three American servicemembers.

Their Sergeant Kennedy Sanders, Brianna Moffat, and William Rivers. All are from right here in Georgia and I want to make sure that we see them and hear their names as part of our coverage.

Oneida Oliver-Sanders, the mother of 24-year-old Sergeant Sanders spoke to CNN about Friday's dignified transfer ceremony. It happened just before the retaliation strike started.


ONEIDA OLIVER-SANDERS, MOTHER OF KENNEDY SANDERS: We have so much support around us out the dignitaries that came out today and offered their condolences. I felt that they were all sincere. Even some of them were very touched and you could tell that they were touched. Some of them were teary eyed as well. I just felt the support and concern from everyone.


BLACKWELL: President Biden said in his statement that the military response will continue at times and places of our choosing.

Some parents in California are celebrating a win for their children's education. They, along with students and community groups sued the state over the learning losses kids suffered during the pandemic. The state settled and agreed to pay $2 billion. That's in addition to the money granted by the federal government.

The suit argued that the federal money was not being spent to help low income black and Latino students who are not rebounding as quickly as kids in more affluent districts. They were all sent home under the same COVID protocols, but the access to educational resources. Those were not the same.


MARK ROSENBAUM, ATTORNEY: In California, that there were between 800,000 and a million kids one-fifth, one-sixth of all kids in California, who had no digital access whatsoever for 18 and 19 months. What does that mean? It doesn't mean they got bad education, it means they got no education.


BLACKWELL: Well, the settlement is not a done deal yet. California's legislature must approve it. The Supreme Court says the United States military academies can keep considering race in their admissions processes. The decision is temporary just while the legal challenges play out.

But this is a blow to the Anti-Affirmative Action Groups Students for Fair Admission. It was their lawsuit against Harvard and the University of North Carolina that led to the Supreme Court ruling last year that race based admissions policies are unlawful. U.S. military service academies were not included in that ruling and separate lawsuits were filed against them.

The Biden administration does not want the court to step in here. They warned quote a lack of diversity in leadership can jeopardize the Army's ability to win wars.

All right, coming up. Why the voice you hear in the iconic Soul Train intro is now filing a lawsuit over it. The man behind that scream is here, next.



BLACKWELL: if you know Soul Train, you know that voice well. The man behind that iconic intro says he's owed some money. And now Joe Cobb is suing for royalties. He says he's not been paid in at least 15 years while his voice keeps being used.

Joe Cobb is with us now along with his attorney Manotti L. Jenkins. Gentlemen, welcome to you. Let me start with you, Mr. Cobb. And thank you for being with us. It's such an iconic part of American television history, popular culture, does this I guess period without being paid? Does it taint your memory your feeling about being part of this?

JOE COBB, VOICE BEHIND "SOUL TRAIN SCREAM" SUING FOR ROYALTIES: Well, yes and no, I enjoy what I did and the usage that they've done over the years when Don was alive. But once Don passed, and it changed hands as far as the Soul Train franchise.

And big eyed little you as far as corporate as opposed to individuals have done it -- who had a personal relationship and work together for years. So, corporations is what really plugged it up and stopped. So well this is it. In essence.

BLACKWELL: Yes. The Soul Train property is now owned by BET which is under Paramount Global. Let me come to you attorney Jenkins. You're suing for back royalties, but not from 1970 at the start of the show when we first heard that scream.

And you acknowledge in your letter to Paramount, let's put it up. We admittedly do not have a lot of information at the present time regarding what level of compensation is owed to Mr. Cobb. We're also uncertain as to the extent of the use of his voice over the year. So how'd you get to this number of $75,000 you're asking for?

MANOTTI L. JENKINS, JOE COBB ATTORNEY: Well, thank you very much, Victor, for having us. First of all, let me address the $75,000. I've noticed that that number has been thrown around a lot on the internet and some other Public Media.


That $75,000 is what you call a statutory minimum to be in federal court. We certainly believe this is a federal case as opposed to a state case. Under the law, to get in federal court unless you have a federal statute, and these are all state based claims, you have to have diversity of citizenship among the parties, meaning the plaintiff, Mr. Cobb, is based in Arkansas. And the three defendants are all based in New York. So you have diversity, but you also have to allege beyond $75,000. So that's why that number came up.

We personally believe that Mr. Cobb is do at least six digits. So we came across that number, because we have done some research. And we know that his voice has been used several times, multiple times, many times since 2016, which was the was the year that BET t acquired the Soul Train franchise, and based upon that we believe that he's at least owed in the six digits. But the $75,000 was just a statutory minimum.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And Mr. Cobb, you were a member of SAF-AFTRA, you were paid from 1970 all the way through this period, in which you now say that once it got into the hands of Paramount Global, you didn't get any more compensation.

I want to go back to the beginning. You and Don Cornelius, you were DJs at WVON in Chicago, how did you come to be the person who gave us that that iconic screen?

COBB: That actually happened by I'll say accident if you want to say that. Don had already gone into the production studio at the station, and had another gentleman actually Roy Wood, who's the father at that time, he's passed away of the comedian, Roy Wood Jr.

And he had goes to commercial for Don, for the beginning of the show. And I happened to walk into the studio because I was next in line for production, commercials and pay and Don's coffee will see a light on the table. I picked it up and again, just joke around with read it.

And as I read it, and when I would get to Soul Train, then I said Soul Train, you know, and so on. And finally Don stopped look saying do that again. And I said what are you talking about? What you just did? So I did it several more times. And he say, hey, let's do that. He actually engineer let's retake this let Joe do, you know?


COBB: So that's how that came about.

BLACKWELL: Well, listen, since I invited you all and you all agreed to come on to the show. I've been annoying people by trying to do the screen myself every time I've been going through writing questions for this. Attorney Jenkins, have you had any response from Paramount Global have they engaged at all thus far?

JENKINS: Not yet, not since the lawsuit has been filed. They have all been served with the complaint as well as the summons. And under the federal jet -- under the federal statutes, they get 21 days to respond. I'm hoping that I'll get a call.

We originally did not want to file a lawsuit. I've been representing Mr. Taco (ph) for over two years. We consistently communicated with Paramount with BET, and we just wanted to find out how often his voice was used with the hopes that we could come to some type of resolution without filing the lawsuit.

So we have not heard from them yet expect to hear from them at least within 21 days.


JENKINS: They were served this week.

BLACKWELL: Attorney Manotti Jenkins and Mr. Joe Cobb, an icon of American television with that fantastic scream. Thank you both for being with us. And CNN did reach out to Paramount Global for a comment, we've not heard back.

Coming up we introduce an artist who works with paint and collages these historic photos to explore black history and make something new and beautiful.



BLACKWELL: Did you know that Black History Month has an official theme every year. It's picked by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. It founded what is now Black History Month. And this year, it's African Americans and the Arts. Perfect for our Art is Life series.

And this week, I'm introducing Stan Squirewell. He uses historic photos to connect our past with our present.


STAN SQUIREWELL, MIXED MEDIA VISUAL ARTS: Hi, my name is Stan Squirewell. I live in Louisville, Kentucky and I'm (INAUDIBLE).

Around about the age of 28, I went to my grandmother's house, there was a reporter from South Carolina who was interviewing her, that was the beginning of me finding out about my language and then my work connects the dots from these ancestors that we see now to where we are today.

I initially made the photograph and it speaks to me in a way in which I wasn't going to want to do something with it. I literally had like thousands of pieces of scrap paper all around. I have been collecting things for years.

And as I'm looking at the images, they inform me what they want. Painted and created and certain (ph) process, some of my pieces takes -- could take a week, some particular unit. So I like to make a parallel between the past and the present. From the very beginning where I began my artistic journey to now have all been started exercises and understanding who I as a person.

I want you to do the same, discovering yourself like as wonderful.


BLACKWELL: Stan is currently working on a book and an upcoming museum tour. For more on his work, you can check out the Claire Oliver Gallery at And we'll have more artists to introduce all throughout Black History Month.

Thank you for joining me today. I'll see you back here next Saturday at 08:00 a.m. Eastern. For now, Smerconish is up next.