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First of All with Victor Blackwell

SD Tribe Bans Gov From Reservation Over Migrant Comments; Biden: Israel's Response In Gaza Has Been "Over The Top"; "SNL" Brings In Shane Gillis To Host Nearly 5 Years After Firing Him. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired February 10, 2024 - 08:00   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, first of all, it looks like the President's team got the message from some in the Arab American community. That resentment toward the U.S. refusal to back a ceasefire in Gaza is deeper than any commitment to the President's reelection. So don't send campaign officials to try to win votes. today. What happened when the Biden administration not the campaign this time sat face to face with leaders of the Arab and Muslim American community in the crucial state of Michigan.

Plus, dropping in the Asian restaurants celebrating Lunar New Year, how a race in New York is a test case for reaching Asian-Americans the fastest growing group of voters in this country. And perspective on the migrant crisis from a Native American leader who just banned the governor of South Dakota from a reservation over her rhetoric. I'm Victor Blackwell. Let's start the show.

Thanks for being with me. This morning somewhat lost in the coverage of President Biden's age and memory are these new Stark comments he made about how Israel is executing its war with Hamas.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The conduct of the response in Gaza -- in the Gaza Strip has been over the top.


BLACKWELL: It's critical, but this is not a call for a ceasefire. And that's what many Arab and Muslim Americans demand. Their frustration clearly has the White House's attention now. After a clumsy attempt at a meeting between community leaders and the Biden campaign, the Biden White House followed up this week by sending several senior administration officials. Michigan State Representative Abraham Alyash is one of those leaders who agreed to meet and he joins us. Also here is Abed Alyoub. He was in Dearborn this week and is the National Executive Director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Gentlemen, thank you for being with me. Representative Alyash, so let me start with you. You attended the meeting. I want to know what was your message and were they receptive.

STATE REP. ABRAHAM ALYASH (D-MI): We were very clear that we are committed to the same message we have been talking about for the last 124 days. We are demanding an end to the violence ceasefire, humanitarian aid to be sent into Gaza, and that unrestricted military aid to Israel must end. We cannot have a nation that has killed 30,000 people, mostly children and innocent men and women to then go in and continue to use our taxpayer money to do that crime.

So we are here and we were consistent with our message. It was a very frank discussion. We did not mince words. And we made it clear to the Biden administration that unless we saw policy change, there would not be any follow-up discussions as a result of the meeting that we had this week.

BLACKWELL: And how was that received?

ALYASH: You know, they listen. There are some acknowledgment of mistakes. Now we await their commitment to move the message along to the President. The concern right now is we are seeing every two hours of Palestinian mothers murdered by an Israeli bomb. And that has to end now.

So we are going to continue to push but we have been clear with them that 124 days into this crisis is the first time we have this conversation. That was a problem. But at very least we can at least move forward and continue to share the message and the pain that our experience -- our community has experienced.

BLACKWELL: Abed, you -- so that you were fine with elected officials like Representative Alyash meeting with elected officials on the federal level are these appointed officials I should say from the White House and the administration but not community leaders. Why that distinction that you think that maybe they should have stayed

out of the room?


ABED ALYOUB, NATIONAL EXEC. DIR., AMERICAN-ARAB ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE: Thank you. Thank you for, you know, having us on to discuss this. Look, elected officials, you know, they have their business, they have the relationship with the federal government. And we understand that and we do understand that there were some elected officials who decided not to go and we respect the decisions made, we may have different strategies. But at the end of the day, we all have the same objective.

Now, even some of the elected officials in the room, and some of the folks that were invited don't necessarily speak on behalf of the Arab American community, or the Muslim American community in Michigan, and the President has heard our message, the community has been speaking. You know, for our community shortly after October 7th, we were asked to condemn almost immediately, before we even buried the first dead bodies, and the people in Gaza, very first dead bodies for the genocide. They were asked to condemn. After that, you know, they began protesting, taking to the streets raising their voice, then they were told, well, you're Hamas supporters. Then he took to social media and we began seeing suppression and removal of content and censorship on social media.

So what's left for our community? What's not for our communities, our vote and our voice. This is the one tool that you can't take away from us or people can't take away from us. So for the community, collectively, no one individual represents us and should not have -- they should not have had the meeting in the president should acknowledge or I should acknowledge it. There were attempts to outreach from the community shortly after October 7, and those were failed, you know, failed attempts on their part. So they did have a small window. And you know, they ignored it. But now that the polls are working against them, we're seeing these trips.

BLACKWELL: Representative Alyash, you are one of the leaders who said that coming up on the primary elections in Michigan on February 27, that you are going to check the box uncommitted on the primary ballot there. And there are several others. What is the message here, not only to the administration, but to the people of Dearborn to the people of this community in Michigan, or really across the country?

ALYASH: Well, this is a message to all Americans, the best way to exercise democracy is through your vote. And we are clear that any elected official, any person running for office has to earn the votes of the people. I don't run for office telling people, vote for me, because I'm not the other guy. I run for office with the message and I run for office with a platform and a set of priorities that I share with the public. And then they make that determination.

What we have seen over the last 124 days is there has not been a commitment or priority to protect the Palestinian people to stop the ongoing genocide. So for now, we are telling the Democratic Party and we are telling President Biden that we remain uncommitted for now, until we see some significant change. You know, it is a long time from November. But we have a presidential primary and February 27. And we are going to vote on committed because we cannot in good conscience vote for anyone that has allowed what has happened over the last 125 days to happen. And not seeing any significant change.

BLACKWELL: Abed, my follow up always when I'm having this conversation with Arab Americans, Muslim Americans who say that they will not vote for President Biden. My question is then so are you going to then vote for the likely nominee for the Republicans, the man who came up with the Muslim ban? And I understand you don't especially like that framing. Why?

ALYOUB: Well, we don't like that framing because that those aren't, first of all, those aren't the only two choices, right? There are other candidates out there. And if the Democratic Party really wants to hold on to the arable and the Muslim vote, maybe stop using the threat of Donald Trump, as a reason to vote for Biden, you know. As Representative Alyash has mentioned, you don't run on, you know, the other guy is scarier than me. You have to show something. You have to do something. And the way the Democratic Party is hitting back against, you know, Arab Muslim voters simply for them exercising their opinion, for demanding humanity, for demanding basic humanity for Palestinians, they're getting backlash.

This is not a viable campaign strategy. It's not something that will work. And they definitely need to rethink it. And look, if there's any community out there in America, one of the communities that really has felt the brunt of a Trump administration, it is the Arab and Muslim community. And we came out of it fine after four years. You know, we had our fights, we had our struggles, we could take them to court, we could do what we want.

What we didn't have as a side that's killed over 30,000 people.

BLACKWELL: All right.

ALYOUB: So really, that framing the using the threat of Donald Trump is it's not going to work this time that needs to stop and we need to see some action, not just from the administration, but from Democratic Party officials, as well in their approach our community.


BLACKWELL: Abed Alyoub, Michigan State Representative, Abraham Alyash,thank you both. My next guest blames the President's refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza in part for an attack that almost killed him. Zacharia Doar with leaving a pro-Palestinian protest in Austin. He says he and three others were attacked in their car. Zacharia was stabbed.

Police say that Bert Baker tried to rip a flagpole off their car that had a Coffea scarf and assign that red Free Palestine. Well now this man you see on your screen. He faces charges. And Zacharia is here with his father, Nizar Doar.

Gentlemen, thank you for being with me. And Zacharia, let me start with you with how are you feeling now physically and emotionally?


BLACKWELL: Tell me more.

DOAR: Oh, I never thought I'd see the day that my dad has to help me get out of bed. Get dressed. I never thought I'd be in this predicament.

BLACKWELL: You were sitting at the stop sign. You just left a pro- Palestinian event and this man walks up to the vehicle and then what happens? What was he saying?

DOAR: He swung my door open, grabbed my leg, and pulled me out of the truck. From there, he just started attacking. I did my best to try and get him off. My friends were helping me get them off.

One of my friends turned his back on him. We were trying to just leave, get away. And that's when he pulled out a knife and ran towards my friend. So I made the attempt to try and grab him and throw him away from my friend. And that's when he stepped. BLACKWELL: Austin police charged Burke Baker with a count of second- degree aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. And they believe that his attack was as they write biased motivated here. The case is now with the Hate Crimes Review Committee. The Travis County DA's office, they'll have to decide whether to elevate the charges to a hate crime.

More than a harsher potential sentencing, Nizar, what would it mean for your family to have this declared a hate crime, this attack on your son?

NIZAR DOAR, SON ZACHARIA STABBED AFTER ATTENDING PRO-PALESTINIAN PROTEST: This means a lot to us. In Travis County, DA will grant announced it as a hate crime. It means a lot not just for us, it means a lot for America is going to show everybody you can not do this anymore. This is not acceptable. And if you commit a crime, there will be a punishment for it. And that's what we're looking for.

We are setting an example for everybody in the U.S. that this is not acceptable. All of these people that have any hate in their hearts. If you attempt to commit a crime like this, you will be punished with the maximum.

BLACKWELL: Zachariah, I read that you impart blame the President's refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza for this attack. Tell me why.

DOAR: You know, if we could have got a ceasefire three months ago, these protests would have never happened. I would have never been in Austin. There would have been -- none of us riding around. But due to the lack of calling for a ceasefire, it's given the ability to others to think that they can get away with crimes like this. And just get away with them.

BLACKWELL: Nizar, I want to ask you a version of the same question. We don't yet know because there's the arrest. But there has not been a trial of what his thought process was. But why do you believe if you agree with your son that a call for a ceasefire would have made this less likely this attack on your son?

DOAR: Our administration so far have never called for a ceasefire that shows everybody in the world that country can attack another country and kill innocent people with absolutely no accountability. Our president state we're going to give Netanyahu everything he needs to eliminate the danger. Unfortunately, it was unconditioned. He went around and killed almost 30,000 people innocent. Most of them are children and kids. And there has been absolutely no accountability for what he has done.


If they issue a statement saying, Stop, this is not acceptable, at least, that will move into -- in the United States to understand that we are standing with the humanity and what just is. Unfortunately, they are not doing this, they are not taking a stand to show everybody in the world that the U.S. is taking a stand against this genocide. They have given them a green card, just to go ahead and do whatever they want. And that moves over here. Make the people think they can commit this crime, and there will be no accountability to it. And this is not acceptable.

BLACKWELL: Nizar Doar and Zacharia Doar. Zacharia, our wishes to you for recovery. And I thank you both for your time in the conversation.

Coming up. It is one of the fastest-growing groups of voters in America and we don't talk about their influence often enough, most campaigns do a really poor job of reaching them. Asian American voters could have huge impact in the especial election next week and in November. Plus, a comic fired from Saturday Night Live for racist jokes is now scheduled to host an episode of SNL. A comedian is here to weigh in on how this is being handled.



BLACKWELL: The fastest-growing group of voters in the United States are Asian Americans. Election day in New York's Third Congressional District to replace toward Santos is Tuesday. And according to the nonpartisan group, Asian and Pacific Islander American vote, they make up 18% of registered voters there. That race is about more than replacing Santos. Of course, it could slim the already narrow Republican majority in the House by another seat. And that could jeopardize chances that a win on what Republicans have failed that so far like impeaching the homeland security secretary. In Nevada, where there was just a primary and a caucus, it was really a mess in Nevada, but this week, AAPI voters make up more than 10% of the electorate there that's according to API a vote.

Now, the point is that every vote counts when the margins in states like Nevada are so tight. And yet, the group also has data showing that neither Republican nor Democratic candidates are doing a very good job of reaching out to these voters.

Let's talk about this with Christine Chen. She's the co-founder and executive director of API a vote which works to engage Asian and Pacific Islander voters. Christine, good morning to you. Every cycle, I feel like we talked about how poorly campaigns are doing reaching out to this demographic of voters? Are they getting any better? I mean, 18% in New York's third, what's the outreach look like?

CHRISTINE CHEN, CO-FOUNDER AND EXE. DIR., ASIAN AND PACIFIC ISLANDER AMERICAN VOTE: Well, you know, we are hopeful because of -- for this new special election, we've seen both the Democrat and the Republican candidates, organizing Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders to actually organize their communities. They're actually attending Lunar New Year events are happening this weekend. They're also investing in digital ads, as well as manpower to actually go door to door and phone bank and actually engage with his electorate.

So this was very telling. We are hoping that other campaigns will look at what is being done in the New York three special election and actually replicate that across the country in their elections.

BLACKWELL: I spoke with some black voter advocates. Essentially your equivalent for the black community and black voters. And what they pointed out was that the drop-in at the fish fry or the one turn, one time visit to a church, those really don't work and we've got some pictures here. The Democratic candidate in the race in New York's third Tom Swasey, he tweeted out stopping at a restaurant for dim sum. How effective is this part of the approach to Asian American community? You talked about broader elements, but what we're seeing here?

CHEN: Yes, you know, it's still important to show up and be seen and to engage with the community. But it is also about the longer-term engagement and relationship. Asian American Pacific Islander voters are looking for solutions.

With our growth in our population, what we've also seen is that we have tremendous growth of registered voters. Aactually, registered voters is actually outpacing our population growth. So when you're looking for first-time voters, as well as new voters, you know, 21% of our community actually make up the of this electorate. But that means they actually need to do more work in terms of activating and reaching out in language, showing up at culturally relevant events, but then also really coming up with solutions and talking to our community about what the solutions are because we're tired of the terminology of Democrats, Republicans, Progressive Conservatives, we are looking really for solutions.

BLACKWELL: Let me look at Nevada here with you. The primaries as I said, and caucuses were a mess there but Nevada was traditionally a reliable GOP pickup up until 2008 when President Obama won and I think we can put up on the screen here by more than 12 points. But the democratic margin has slimmed dramatically from '08 to when Obama won it in 2012 and then 2016. Biden now down to two points, massive growth there among Asian American Pacific Islander voters. Is there any correlation between this and the growth? Is there some ideological alignment with the GOP that's making this a tougher win for Democrats now?


CHEN: You know, the Asian community has similar values, but they're also not a monolith. The reality is that, you know, Indian Americans and Japanese Americans are traditionally very supportive of the Democratic Party and actually identifies Democrats. Vietnamese highly identify as Republicans.

But even then, right now, what we've seen in the last recent polling is that even Vietnamese Americans are now highly identify as independents, and the largest independent communities actually Chinese Americans. So I think what we've also seen is that when we ask, is there a difference between Democrats and Republicans? A third of our electorate says that there's no difference.

So there's not enough engagement from the political parties to really educate them about where what they stand for, and what solutions are bringing to the table.

BLACKWELL: All right, Christy. We talked during the break about me really getting out and talking with you and finding what works and what doesn't, so we'll make that happen. Christine Chen with APIA Vote, thank you so much.

Coming up, the president of a Native American tribe that just banned the governor of South Dakota from the reservation over her immigration rhetoric is here.



BLACKWELL: A tribe in South Dakota says that governor of South Dakota Kristi Noem is not welcome on their reservation over what she said about immigrants and the border. The president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Frank Star Comes Out joins me now. Mr. President, thank you so much for your time. First, just tell me why you released a four-page statement here, why you decided to ban the governor from your community.

FRANK STAR COMES OUT, PRESIDENT, OGLALA SIOUX TRIBE: First of all, I'd like to state for the record, you know, that I'm an honorably discharged veteran of the Marine Corps. I served in the Gulf War and Somalia. That's important that I did serve this country. And to this day, I'm the current president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Great Plains region chairman. So this all stemmed from, you know, we were never really aware of the governor's address, and how she utilized the -- our tribe, in we believe, for a political game. And some of the things that she mentioned on there were disrespectful for -- to the tribe without our knowledge.

BLACKWELL: Well, let me play some of that. And, one, let me thank you for your service to our country. And also the address that he was speaking about it she was talking about border security, and I'm going to play a bit. This is where she talks about a gang known as Ghost Dancers at Pine Ridge Reservation there. Let's play what she said and then get your reaction in response.


GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): The drugs and human trafficking pouring over the border, they devastate our people. Make no mistake, the cartels have a presence on several of South Dakota's tribal reservations. Murders are being committed by cartel members on the Pine Ridge Reservation and in Rapid City, and a gang called the Ghost Dancers are affiliated with these cartels.


BLACKWELL: Tell me about ghost dancing and the Ghost Dancers.

STAR COMES OUT: You know, to our people, the Ghost Dance ceremony is very, very sacred and sacred to us. And we feel that her using that particular word, the ghost dance was offending. We were very much offended. And we also did our background and we look into the issues. There is no Ghost Dance gang.

BLACKWELL: There's no gang called the Ghost Dancers?

STAR COMES OUT: Yes, not in our tribe. No.

BLACKWELL: The governor said this in the statement after your ban. She said quote, I'm not the one with the stiff arm here. You can't build relationships if you don't spend time together. I stand ready to work with any of our state's Native American tribes to build such a relationship. Is this ban permanent? Is there a way that you can work with the governor? And what do you need from her for that to happen?

STAR COMES OUT: You know, we call a state of emergency last year with the snowstorm. We were overwhelmed with it. And we believe that, you know, due to the treaty obligations that the tribe has with the United States, the lack of funding. It just -- it's something we have to deal with every -- on a daily basis. We feel that we don't live on our reservation. We survived because of the lack of funding according to our treaty obligations. And we reached out to the tribal or the state last year and we really didn't see a response from the state in as far as assisting. So we really suffered a lot through there. As far as other issues, she hasn't really reached out to the Oglala Sioux Tribe since I've been in office.


BLACKWELL: What -- President Frank Stark Comes Out, I thank you for the conversation and we'll be in touch to see if this relationship between you and the governor, your community and the state at large improves at all. The president there of the Oglala Sioux Tribe there in South Dakota, thank you so much.

Coming up, the latest on a crisis that's getting worse and should be on your radar. What's behind the new political violence in Haiti?



BLACKWELL: Haiti is in crisis. And the situation there seems to be getting worse. The United Nations says January was the most violent month in Haiti in more than two years. Anti-government protesters fed up with the gang violence and extreme poverty have been calling for elections. Well, the Haitian Prime Minister says that he will not step down and that there will be no elections until the security situation there improves.

Black women in the U.S. are six times more likely to die from homicide than white women. That's according to a study published in the Journal Lancet. Researchers looked at CDC data in 30 states from 1999 to 2020. The greatest disparity, listen to this number, they found this in Wisconsin between 2019 and 2020 in that state. Black women were 20 times more likely to die from homicide.

And an update to a story that we've been following on the show, a judge in Mississippi has now dismissed the case against a child who was arrested in August for public urination. His name is Quantavious Eason. He's now 11 years old. He was arrested in a parking lot in Senatobia, Mississippi in August of last year. His mother said that he had to relieve himself because he saw sign that said no public restrooms. Well, in December, a youth court sentenced Eason to three months probation and assigned him a book report.

Still ahead, a cast member fired from SNL for anti-Asian and other racist homophobic jokes. He's coming back to the show as a host. I'll speak to an Asian American comedian about the controversy and his unique take on how to fight anti-Asian hate.

And later this is Super Bowl weekend. We're going to talk a little bit about the artists we should be focused on this weekend and big hint here, it's not Taylor Swift.






BLACKWELL: So the producers of Saturday Live -- Saturday Night Live, they're not known for shying away from controversy. Some fans though are upset after show runners announced comedian Shane Gillis would be hosting an upcoming episode. Gillis was originally hired as an SNL cast member back in 2019. But he was fired before he ever appeared on the show. Video surfaced of Gillis using racial slurs, making derogatory comments about Chinese Americans, LGBTQ community members and women. At the time, he said, I'm a comedian who pushes boundaries. I sometimes miss.

Joining me now is Joe Wong, a Chinese American comedian, and author of "Not This Shit Again: A Comedians Guide to Tackling Anti-Asian Racism." Joe, good to have you. I'm going to start with just the broad question here. Great opportunity for Shane Gillis to come back and host, do you think he should be allowed to return?

JOE WONG, COMEDIAN AND AUTHOR: Hi, Victor, thank you so much for having me during the Black History Month, first of all.


WONG: Yes. And yes, and here's the thing. My take on this is, you know, if he has said, the equivalence to any other race, he will not have this opportunity, you know, if he has said the N word or anything anti-Semitic, he will not have a career. He's done. But fortunately for him, he was saying anti-Asian slurs. And now, that seems to be a brilliant career move now, you know.

He got his Netflix special. He's hosting SNL, you know. I'm a comedian myself, and I believe in free speech. But on the other hand, hate speech has consequences, you know. When he says that, you know, he has thousands of fans and Asians and especially Asian kids might get bullied verbally or even physically. And I'm a father, so I'm kind of concerned about that.

BLACKWELL: I want you to listen here to what he said. This is a conversation with Andrew Yang in 2023. Yang at the time said that Shane Gillis should not lose his job at SNL. Shane never apologized. Here's what he said.


SHANE GILLIS, COMEDIAN: I wanted to be clear, I'm not a victim. Like I'm not like sitting here like, oh, I can't believe what they did to me. It's like --


GILLIS: There's a video of me using a slur. It's like there's going to be some backlash. You know, I know I didn't mean it. So it's hard for me to be like, now I need to re-educate myself.


BLACKWELL: What's your reaction to that, essentially says, I kind of do this to every one. I'm a comedian. This is part of what I do.

WONG: Well, yes, that's -- but I don't see him doing it to other ethnic groups. No, just the Asians, you know, because, you know, Asians kind of the smallest minority in this country, most underrepresented. I just don't see why you need to do this. But, you know, it's again, you know, it's a free country. We have free speech. But on the other hand, like he said, himself, you know, every speech has its consequences and he's willing to take it. I'm OK with that.


WONG: But on the other hand, I'm slightly bothered by the fact that he never has to apologize, that just sets not a very good example for other comedians or, you know, any other people I guess.


BLACKWELL: Joe Wong, I thank you for being with me. I want to read one line from your book here and I want people to download it, where you write this, I want to stress again that we have to be nastier and more negative when we speak up. I know Asian Americans want to and are used to projecting a positive image to others, that from your book. Joe Wang, we got to wrap it there. Thank you so much for your time this morning.

WONG: Yes. Well, thank you so much and --

BLACKWELL: Coming up, art as a way to preserve history. I speak to an Afro Latino artist who is working with an ancient medium to make the current feel historic.

But first, if you don't know Michael Oher's from his eight year career in the NFL, you probably know it from the movie "The Blind Side." It told the Hollywood story of how Oher, who was Black, was rescued from poverty and homelessness by a wealthy white family who positioned him for success in college football and beyond. Well last year, Oher alleged that Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy never adopted him, but instead filed a conservatorship and profited from a false narrative about him which they deny.

While the conservatorship has since been terminated by a judge in Tennessee but Oher's case against the Tuohy's asking them to provide information about his finances over the years is ongoing. The new CNN flash doc "Blind Side" examines the story behind Hollywood's take on Oher and the Tuohy's.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Controversy surrounding the hit movie "The Blind Side."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael Oher, blindsided he says, by his family at the center of the Hollywood blockbuster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alleging they are in millions from pushing a false narrative that they adopted him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The movie depicted a totally different person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael really didn't like the movie from the very beginning. They followed him everywhere while he was in the NFL. There's no escaping it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He felt like someone was making money from this movie and it wasn't him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said that they never intended to adopt Michael.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that, you know, as they kind of say in the south, they got explaining to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seemed to be all love. And a lot was offered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was portrayed as unable without the help of the Tuohy family to have made his way in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The movie is great. It allows us to go around and talk about the Michael Ohers of the world that need a forever family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know what a conservatorship is now, thanks to Britney Spears to hear that, you know, something like that gone on. It struck nerve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They blindsided him from the start.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blind Sided tonight at 8:00 on CNN.




BLACKWELL: It's time for week's edition of Art is Life. And recording history is a big part of why Roberto Lugo works with pottery. And when we think of ceramics, artifacts from past cultures come to mind. But as Roberto told me, our current culture also needs preserving.


ROBERTO LUGO, POTTER, EDUCATOR: My name is Roberto Lugo. I live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. And I'm a potter and educator. Pottery last for thousands of years to the study of anthropology. We can see Greek pottery, Italian ceramics, and so I really want to die from my own culture and community. I feel like our stories should not be ephemeral. They should be things that lasts forever and should be told.

The subject matter that I choose in my work is very much informed by trying to represent people of color, specifically impoverished communities in the United States. For example, one of the pieces that I have has been acquired by the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh is a piece called the prison -- School to Prison Pipeline. And it is a Greek amphora. And I use a Greek amphora because Greek pots are orange and black, much like prison uniforms, and trying to show a visual description of children waiting in line for food at the cafeteria, and then adults waiting in line for food in a prison.

You know, what is not a lot of people to the crime and life that they eventually winded up having to live, has a lot to do with circumstance rather than inherently being bad people. One of the things I tell my students is, it's not about being great at anything. It's about the unique combination of things that you're mediocre at that make you the state. And I think that's very important to communicate to people that they too, are completely capable of doing what I'm doing if they've just put themselves into it.


BLACKWELL: Ain't that fantastic? You can find Roberto Lugo's art at R & Company in New York. And for more information on his work and shows, check out

All right, it's Super Bowl weekend, and I want to remind you in a last of all as it is, that Usher is performing the Super Bowl Halftime Show, not Taylor Swift. And let me say I'm not anti-Taylor, right. I like her music. Anti-heroes slap. She is breaking records, and making history. But this weekend, just this moment, this is Usher's moment, not hers.

But you would not know that that Usher is performing for all the coverage of Taylor in the Super Bowl, Taylor in the Super Bowl, even on this network, tracking her plane from Tokyo to Vegas, like it's Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve. Is she going to make it? Will she make it? You know what's going to happen if she doesn't make it. They're going to flip the coin and play the game and hand out the trophy. And then we'll all turn off the T.V. and get up and go to work on Monday morning. Again I'm not anti-Taylor Swift, right. This really isn't about Taylor it's kind of about us. I will say, though, that I am pro Usher is 7 o'clock on the diet. I'm in my drive top, cruising the streets Raymond IV.


But somehow, we have overshadowed this landmark achievement of a 30- year career with incessant coverage for just this weekend. A fan who's going to watch the game like the rest of us. Thanks for joining me today. Smerconish is up next.