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First of All with Victor Blackwell

NC High School Removes Black History Month Door Decoration; St. Louis Area School Criticized Over Lesson On Slavery; FL Parents Outraged After Daycare Re-enacts Rosa Park's Arrest; Texas Judicial Education Law Causing Controversy; Wendy Williams Diagnosed With Aphasia And Dementia. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired February 24, 2024 - 08:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: First of all, can we agree that we should teach black history without ever asking students to play runaway slaves? I'll tell you about that story in a minute.

This week, there were more classroom reenactments that asked students to experience slavery and Jim Crow in a way that we do not see with other atrocities of history. Today from the organization that creative Black History Month, teaching between the extremes and reenactments notwithstanding. You might be surprised to learn which students say they are most uncomfortable with conversations about racism in the classroom.

Plus, Election Day in South Carolina Donald Trump tells black conservatives his mugshot and his indictments are why black voters like him, and we'll get into Nikki Haley's struggle to reach black voters in our home state. Also, a judge rules that a school in Texas can keep a teen out of

class because his locks are too long. The co-sponsor the law that the teenager thought protected him is here to tell us what's next. I'm Victor Blackwell. Let's start the show.

So this morning, we are starting in North Carolina, where a school district has to retrain teachers after a history lesson gone wrong. At West Charlotte Middle School, two doors were labeled white entrance and colored entrance. You see the photo here the doors it shows a sign above them that reads Sears Department store 1930. The doors were part of a display meant to show accomplishments in moments in black history. One door celebrated black women in history and there's this one that had a message from chains to change with shackled fist made of construction paper. And then there's St. Anne's school near St. Louis. Listen to this.

An art teacher, an art teacher here decided to have a first grade class reenact the Underground Railroad. So some students were slaves on one side of the room. Other students were slave owners on the opposite side of the room. And a little girl played Harriet Tubman and crawled under the desks and tables from one side of the room to the other while the classmates shouted, Go north. First grade. The Archdiocese says that teacher resigned and they apologized. And then last year daycare decided to teach black history lesson by having a class full of two-year-olds reenact Rosa Parks arrest, possibly in the worst way.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our daughter who had her hands restrained behind her back by another child wearing a police vest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nothing to the teacher, she was a sweetheart. It goes back to what you allow within your facility, what you approve as your curriculum. There is you know, a million ways to teach about Rosa Parks.


BLACKWELL: So this makes us wonder why do these incidents that we hear about so often seem to happen during lessons about black history? And how should we teach kids about racism and history?

___ Johnson is with me. She's an associate dean at Georgia Tech and also works with the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. That's the organization that founded what we now know as Black History Month. __ thank you so much for being with me.


BLACKWELL: So here's the question. I learned about the Trail of Tears without having to play a Native American victim of genocide.

JOHNSON: Correct.

BLACKWELL: I learned about the Holocaust without ever having to create a little Auschwitz in school. Why does this happen when it comes to black history, Jim Crow, and slavery year after year?

JOHNSON: I find it interesting that this is cyclical in American history. It is you know, Black history is of course, American history. And it's the only history that's really questioned to the level of unnecessary discussion every year. I think a lot of the lack of emotional intelligence and understanding how things can trigger current and you know, older generations, but it's almost like a reminder, you're different. It's like a reminder or need to show a difference in privilege.


BLACKWELL: So here's, you know, last week we started with schools needing to send out permission slips that black people come in. So these are extremes. How do we get between these extremes for those places where it is still free to teach in the way that we teach the fuller scope of black history?


BLACKWELL: How do you get to that?

JOHNSON: I think we have to remember that education is about intellectual freedom. And that's bringing all of the history or all of the concepts and ideas to the storehouse and allowing students to understand and empathize. I think when we look at inclusive pedagogy, and wanting to be, you know, present students with the opportunity to become more empathetic, compassionate, emotional intelligence. I think our teachers need some more training, if you will. It's wild to me that of all of black history, you choose to focus on slavery reenactments versus the triumphs and contributions of African Americans to American society and to the world.

BLACKWELL: You say these teachers need more training. The daughter of the teacher who created the white entrance and the colored entrance at that school in North Carolina, she had something to say about that in defense of her mother. Here's what she said.


LAQUINTA CALDWELL, DAUGHTER OF TEACHER BEHID DOOR DOCORATION: She don't feel like she did the door wrong. She doesn't feel like she's targeted or anything, because CMS did make that statement about retraining the teachers, but how can you retrain them? And this is our history. This is not possible. Is Black history. It's the istory?


BLACKWELL: What do you say to that?

JOHNSON: I'm going to have to agree. But I think we also need more black teachers. I think we have to be very intentional about recruitment and training of black teachers. Because again, yes, we can teach our history. But if we have teachers who are open and understanding and focus on the positive of what we have contributed, I think we can stop having these conversations of reenactments.

BLACKWELL: I will assume, though, that that woman's and this assumption, that woman's mother is a black teacher and still made this decision. Let me ask you about this. Pew study released this week, that found that a third of black teens say they feel uncomfortable when the topic of racism or racial inequality comes up. We've assessed these new laws of what can and cannot be taught about history and discomfort from the perspective of what white students will feel about it. But what do you make of these numbers that show that black students are most often uncomfortable when these topics arise?

JOHNSON: I don't think people are making considerations of how others feel about the discussion. I think we have geared a lot of the lessons towards the white students being comfortable with the uncomfortable discussions of wrongdoing.

BLACKWELL: So it's how we teach it that makes students --

JOHNSON: It is always how we teach it. And I think again, inclusive pedagogy, emotional Intelligence will help us go much further and stop having conversations about, whoa, they decided to do slavery, reenactments in school that's traumatizing. There's no getting around that. But there's ways to teach the lesson and not traumatize the current generation or anger, existing generations who are still here and have, you know, very much so closeness to these things.

BLACKWELL: Aisha Johnson, thank you so much.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Right now in South Carolina, polls are open for the GOP primary. The initial plan was to talk about this later in the show because we expect that Trump is going to win. It's not much suspense there. And then he went and said this at a gala for black conservatives in Colombia.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I got indicted a second time and a third time and a fourth time. And a lot of people said that that's why the black people like because they have been hurt so badly and discriminated against, and they actually viewed me as I'm being discriminated against.


BLACKWELL: So Trump is expected to beat Nikki Haley tonight, maybe even by a pretty wide margin in her home state. But Trump was not done. He also said this.


TRUMP: We've all seen the mug shot. And you know, who embraced it more than anybody else? The black population. It's incredible. You see, black people walking around with my mug shot, you know, they do shirts and they sell them for $19 apiece. It's pretty amazing.


BLACKWELL: Applause and laughter in the room. Maya King joins us now from Charleston. She covers politics for the New York Times. And she recently wrote about why black voters particularly Democrats are unlikely to cross over to Nikki Haley in South Carolina. I will talk about that in a moment but first, Maya, thank you for being with me. But it -- I'm not going to feign shock because I'm not shocked or surprised here. But I wonder in what context you hear these comments and the reception in the room?


MAYA KING, POLITICS REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, well, we've heard and in our polling and in conversations with black voters, you know, some dipping enthusiasm from this voting bloc for Democrats, the party that they have long supported. And so with the former president speaking at this gala for black conservatives, I think that his campaign's idea would be if they could start to really chip away at his black support, at Biden's black support at the margins. But Republican's argument for black voters in in voting for the concern -- voting for them, voting for the GOP has long been economic saying that they'll offer equal economic opportunity and access to capital for black Americans in the same way that white Americans have been able to access it.

But in practice and in talking points, like what we're hearing out of Colombia, from the former president last night, there was no mention of the economy. It was really largely based in stereotype and caricature around criminal justice. And also just this idea that black Americans will identify with Trump because he has been convicted of a crime, which really plays largely against the stereotype over policy. So I saw that speech. And I think it underlines a lot of the work that Republicans really have to do if they want to have a meaningful message for black Americans.

I think the President was speaking or the former President was speaking to a room of black conservatives, a room that was already going to be very supportive of his message. But for those who are on the fence, and those black voters who really are considering a voting Republican, I'm not sure if that's quite the note that he would want to hit.

BLACKWELL: And I think there is important carryover some residue that spills over into policy. So when you have a candidate or campaign or an administration, and you wonder why they, I guess, zero out DEI programs in some parts of the government, or they limit consent decrees with police departments after they are found to have some discrimination. When a candidate says that discrimination against black people is akin to what I faced with my indictments and my mug shot, it gives you some context to why some of these decisions are made within an administration.

Let me ask you about Nikki Haley and your reporting there. Nikki Haley was obviously Governor there. It's been 10 years since she was elected. What's been the reason that maybe some of those black independents or Democrats are deciding she's not the one to support, especially against Donald Trump?

KING: Well, there are a few reasons. The fact that they have the opportunity to possibly support her is a product of South Carolina's open primaries. So any registered voter here in South Carolina can vote in one of the state's two primaries, and for those who did not cast the ballot earlier this month in the Democratic contest, they have the chance to vote for Nikki Haley or former President Trump today.

And Haley has really marketed herself as a new generational leader who could bring in more different voters who Republicans normally haven't seen a lot of support for. And that includes Democratic voters. But the Democratic base here in South Carolina is largely black, that is the most loyal portion of the base here in the state. And those voters who I and my colleague, Jasmine, who you spoke with, largely said that they would not be interested in supporting her for President because they remember the policies that she passed this governor refusing to expand Medicaid, you know, not a lot of funding for rural hospitals and rural health care. And, of course, looking back on her abortion rulings with how she embraced a more stringent abortion ban in the state. A number of these policies, they say we're actually disproportionately detrimental to black folks here in South Carolina. And they remember, of course, her taking the Confederate flag off of the state emblem and say that that was an important step forward, but feel that it was more politically motivated rather than something that she really as a leader wanted to do. So there's a level of distrust there, but also along with every at work too.

BLACKWELL: Maya King in South Carolina. Thank so much for being with us. And CNN we'll have live results analysis of the South Carolina Republican Presidential primary. Special coverage begins tonight at 6:00.


Coming up, a judge says a school in Texas did not violate a law meant to protect hairstyles. When it's suspended Darryl George over his lockswere now the lawmaker who helped create that law plans to make some changes. He is here with us next.

Plus concern for Wendy Williams. What we know about her health battle and the fight over documentaries is still scheduled to premiere tonight.


BLACKWELL: There is some renewed energy behind the push for a national crowd act because a student in Texas lost a month's long legal battle with his high school over the length of his locks. Darrell George has been in school suspension or at some alternative schools since August.


Now the Crown Act prohibits punishment and discrimination based on natural hair texture or protective hairstyles. That includes afros braids, locks, that's Texas State law. But on Thursday, a judge ruled that the Crown Act did not protect Darryl George in this case, because it does not mention explicitly hair length.


DARRYL GEORGE, DISCIPLINED FOR WEARING LONG DREADLOCKS: It feels -- it feels lonely, like very lonely, like, you know, when you don't want stuck -- when you're the only one stuck in a room, but a whole semester a whole year at that, it just like, it makes you feel some type of way because you can't be a child like everybody else. You know, you see everybody else walking around talking laughing. You can't do that. It puts pressure on your shoulders.


BLACKWELL: With me now is Texas State Representative Ron Reynolds. He's a joint author of the Crown Act and testified at the trial or the hearing, I should say. Thank you for being with me. Let me start here with the judge found that because length explicitly is not mentioned that this does not protect Darryl George. Is the law too vague?

RON REYNOLDS, "CROWN ACT" JOINT-AUTHOR, TESTIFIED AT TRIAL: Absolutely not. The law is crystal clear. Victor is great to be on with you. We passed this law with bipartisan support. This was very rare victory for a Democrat or a bill that had Apple-centric benefits to pass in a very conservative Texas State Legislature signed by Governor Greg Abbott. So this law was very explicit that it covered brace locks and twists. So this was a school district that was recalcitrant, and hell- bent on continuing to discriminate against African American students because they wanted them to conform to European standards of not wearing Afro-centric hairstyles, clearly in violation of the Crown Act.

BLACKWELL: So just so people understand, the barbers Hill School District, their student dress code says that males cannot have hairstyles in which their hair comes below their eyebrows, ear lobes, or the top of their shirt color or even wear their hair up in styles, when let down would extend beyond those points.

Darrell was with us a couple of weeks ago. I want to play for everyone what he said about how he believes this is focused on him.


GEORGE: They don't pick on No, no, none of that none of the white people don't pick up none on a Mexican people, don't pick on nobody else but me. I feel like that rule is just there to attack people with dreads people. People wear braids because you know, you know if you grow in trays, if you grow braids,if you grow in locks, they -- they grow --


BLACKWELL: And you said that this is based on African American hairstyles appealing to a Eurocentric standard of beauty. Here's what the superintendent Greg Poole said. Falsely claiming racism is worse than racism and undermines efforts to address actions that violate constitutionally protected rights. What worse than racism? You say to that what?

REYNOLDS: Well, the superintendent, I want to remind him what Michael Angelo said. When people show you who they are, believe them the first time. This isn't their first rodeo would discriminate against people for wearing this protective hairstyle. They started with DeAndre Arnold. That is the original reason why we filed the Brown Act in the first place.

They have discriminated against African American students. Before the Crown Act, they discriminated against African American students after the Crown Act. This is absurd. This (inaudible) policy. Anyone that knows anything about braids, locks, and twists knows that you cannot wear them without a certain amount of length. So they come up with this loophole so that they can circumvent the law. And then, unfortunately, the judge rules in their favor.

This is an affront, to be able to wear natural hair. They're not comfortable with Afro-centric hairstyles. And clearly, they're out of touch with the diversity of their student population. And we're going to continue to fight. We're going to continue to speak truth to power. The fight is not over. They may have won the battle but they will damn sure not win the war. This will continue to go on until we get justice. But not just they're

all but other African American students that are being subjected to these discriminatory loopholes that they're making to circumvent the Crown Act.

BLACKWELL: So what do you do? I mean, if I have this correct, the last time you got this passed, it was not during an election year we're coming up on an election. And you've got just a couple of months until then can you get the support and what will change we make changes to the Crown Act there.

REYNOLDS: Well, first of all, there's a legal appeal we met with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee yesterday. She is pushing federal intervention from the Department of Education in the U.S. Justice Department and a Federal Crown Act legislation. So we are working at the federal level. We have also are going to continue to support the Darrow family with a federal lawsuit that is pending. So we have multiple avenues that we will be able to pursue justice but the longer short of it is barbers hills on the wrong side of history. They are a relic of the Jim Crow past and they want to students to have to conform to fit in at their school, but we won't allow that to be acceptable. And we will continue to pursue every legal and legislative means to get justice for students like Darryl.


BLACKWELL: Texas State Representative Ron Reynolds, thank you so much for your time. Still ahead. Black female judicial candidates in Houston say their opponents are using a new Texas law to try to disqualify them and they say that their race has a lot to do with it. Two of the candidates are here next.



BLACKWELL: There's a new law in Texas that on its face is meant to increase education requirements and give voters more information about candidates running for judgeships. But more than a dozen black women running say that the law is one of the tools being used to target them and only them.

Joining me now from Houston is TaKasha Francis, a judicial candidate in Harris County and Judge Erica Hughes, who is also facing a primary in March in Harris County. Ladies, thank you so much for being with me. Let me start here with you TaKasha. And you call these lawsuits in authentic that they challenge your qualifications when the qualifications are clear. Explain why.

TAKASHA FRANCIS, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS JUDICIAL CANDIDATE: Well, so the challenges that are coming out of this law, and I think it's important to talk about what the legislative intent of this bill was. The legislative intent of this bill was to give transparency for informed decision making for voters so that voters know that if TaKasha Francis is running, this is her practice and this has been her history as an attorney. What the incumbent judges in my case and Judge Hughes's case and other black women who are writing their opponents are doing is using information that has been provided as a subjective tool to weaponize that against our qualifications to disqualify us from primary and general ballots. And so looking at what the legislative intention was, which was for voters to make an informed decision, these incumbent judges are using the information on our applications to use that for their subjective opinion of what they believe we should have to be qualified. And that's not right.

BLACKWELL: TaKasha, you were most recently the director of Department of Neighborhoods for the city of Houston, you're former Assistant Attorney General for the state. Your opponent alleges that you don't qualify as a, quote, practicing lawyer under the Constitution, to that you say what?

FRANCIS: And to that I say, one, it's unfortunate that a sitting judge for 16 years would miss interpret the statute and not understand that the practice of law is very vast. What we understand here, according to the Texas Government Code is that the practice of law is any action taken outside of court that requires legal knowledge or skill. And that could be as simple as giving legal guidance and as vast as complex litigation.

And so not only in my role as director of neighborhoods that I continue to practice law, I simply came out of my private practice. When I accepted that appointment, I had my own law firm. So that is what I stated on my application. But not only did I continue to practice law as the director of neighborhoods, but outside of that your family and friends. And our sitting judge understands that, but it is a very -- it is a point that he's trying to make to simply secure an uncontested win, as he's had for the last two election cycles.

BLACKWELL: Just Hughes let me ask you, you were elected in 2018. And there was this, I'll call it iconic photo of the 17 black women who won judgeships in that election. You were in that photo? If we have it, let's put it up. This is right there in Harris County. How much do you think that this, if at all, this image is influencing these attempts to disqualify black women running for judgeship?

JUDGE ERICA HUGHES, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS JUDICIAL CANDIDATE: Victor, in 2018, when I filled out my application, it's completely different from the application I filled out in 2023. The form has changed completely. There's additional sections that you have to fill out. I believe this photo incited individuals in Texas and at the legislature to change the application. Harris County is the third largest county in the country, the largest county in the state of Texas.

And Harris County has turned blue. In fact, in that election in 2018, in the gubernatorial cycle, we won it's what Harris County for the first time ever and changed it Democrat. And so I believe the state of Texas, which is a Republican state or red state is afraid that if Harris County turns blue, so goes the state. And so the application has changed. House Bill 2384 has been enacted, and it is being weaponized against candidates running for election in Harris County. BLACKWELL: Judge Hughes we hear so much from the Democratic Party as of late about black women being the foundation, being the center of the party. What have you heard from the Democratic Party about these lawsuits if anything?

HUGHES: The Democratic Party has been silent in these lawsuits. They indicate that they allowed us to stay on the ballot, as if they did us a favor. The Democratic Party has also not responded to lawsuits against us. Unfortunately, TaKasha Francis and Erica Hughes were not named as parties in this lawsuit. The Democratic Party was sued. The Democratic Party did not respond. They did not object. They have done nothing. And that's my position on it. African American women are the highest voter base in the United States. Unfortunately, they want our votes but they do not want us to be candidates on the ballot.


BLACKWELL: Judge Erica Hughes and TaKasha Francis, thank you so much. In a statement, Judge Michael Engelhart, told CNN in part, we followed and continue to follow both the letter and spirit of the law. That's what judges do. No response yet from Judge Schaffer, those two respectively filing lawsuits in these races.

Coming up, there's a hearing next week and a case that could have an impact on more than 100 people in North Carolina's death row. That's next.



BLACKWELL: Well, there's an update in the case that we've been following up Quantavious Eason, he's the now 11-year-old in Mississippi who was arrested last year for urinating in public. Now, we're recently reported his case and probation were dropped. But now his mother says that she is filing a civil lawsuit, several targets, the city of Senatobia, the arresting officer for unnamed officers who also responded to the scene and the police chief for $2 million.


LATONYA EASON, MOTHER OF QUANTAVIOUS EASON: He's traumatized. Now he gets to the point where he see a police officer, he just starts shaking. He's frightened. He's really traumatized behind this.


BLACKWELL: CNN has reached out to the defendants for comment on that lawsuit.

Here's a story that we're going to be keeping an eye on next week. It's in North Carolina. There will be a hearing in a case that could impact more than 100 people on death row in that state. In a Johnson County Courthouse on Monday, attorneys for Hasson Bacote will challenge his death sentence by arguing that race impacted jury selection. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON HILL, ACLU SENIOR COUNSEL: Black citizens that show up and responsive juror sentence are excluded from service at a rate twice that of their white neighbors. In civil courts case, that rate was actually three times the rate.

ASHLEY BURRELL, SENIOR COUNSEL, LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: All of our witnesses, all of our experts will tell this full story about how race continues to play a role and who -- in clients who are being prosecuted and capital cases. And our hope is that this evidence will be clear, and that it will be a chance to correct the rod.


BLACKWELL: So this case is being challenged under the Racial Justice Act, a state law that requires courts to vacate a death sentence if there was evidence that race was a factor in the decision.

The FCC is now looking into how to address the crisis of missing indigenous women and some bring some attention to finding them. The agency is considering creating a new emergency alert for missing people similar to Amber Alerts. The goal is to be more efficient and be more coordinated. The FCC plans a vote on that proposal during its meeting on March 14th.

Still ahead, the devastating diagnosis for Wendy Williams. Did you hear about this? The health struggles she's facing that also impacts so many families of color.



BLACKWELL: The two night documentary about talk show host Wendy Williams will debut tonight on Lifetime as scheduled despite an attempt by a court assigned guardian to stop it. Williams is an executive producer of the docu series, "Where is Wendy Williams." Now the suit was filed Thursday, same day, a care team for the talk show host announced that Williams was diagnosed last year with aphasia and dementia. And the documentary family members and others around her, they expressed some concerns about her health.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was crying out for help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you drink this whole thing today?




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This doesn't look like anything familiar. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think she's losing memory. Have you guys noticed that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How dare him. I control me. I weigh 138.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anybody could look at her and tell this is not just alcohol, there's something more going on.


BLACKWELL: Dr. Monica Parker is here. She's an associate professor of medicine at Emory University. Dr. Parker, thanks for coming in.


BLACKWELL: So dementia and aphasia, first explain aphasia, what is that?

PARKER: Aphasia is where people can't say words, can't get words out. That makes sense. So they are having difficulty verbalizing and expressing themselves.

BLACKWELL: What I did not appreciate until this announcement from her care team is that more than one in five African Americans over the age of 70, so I think it's like 21 percent or so are living with Alzheimer's in this country, twice the number of white Americans. Why is that? Do we know?

PARKER: We don't. That's a really good question. And I think that one of the things that we're trying to do through research is understand the differences. And I think it's really important for people to appreciate that all dementia is not Alzheimer's.

BLACKWELL: Oh, that's a good point. Oh, explain that.

PARKER: OK. So their -- dementia is a broad term. And underneath that title of dementia, there are several different types of dementia. Wendy Williams has been diagnosed with something called Frontotemporal dementia. Alzheimer's is the most commonly diagnosed dementia. And people of color, particularly African Americans and Latin Americans, there is something called vascular dementia. It's a vascular component.

If somebody has heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, or has had a stroke, all of those are risk factors for strokes. You can have problems with the way your brain works and functions. OK. Is it Alzheimer's? No. I think that the end result of dementia is that the individual is no longer able to take care of him or herself.

BLACKWELL: Let me toss this right over your shoulder so I don't want to distract people from what you're saying there with that hanging there. Are aphasia and dementia often diagnosed together are they usually coupled?

[08:50:01] PARKER: No, no.


PARKER: No. Aphasia is a symptom.


PARKER: And it usually -- it's usually something that affects the temporal lobe of the brain. And you can get that with other disorders, other neurologic disorders. So aphasia is a symptom of neurodegenerative process. What is that process? You don't really know what that is until the doctors have done enough evaluation to be able to say what has caused it.


PARKER: But people who have had strokes will sometimes not be able to speak and communicate and use their words correctly, make sentences that makes sense.

BLACKWELL: One of probably the most potent fears I have is that one day my mother will look at me and not know who I am, and not recognize me. You in your own family have had to deal with and treat and support a family member with dementia.


BLACKWELL: What did that look like as it relates to getting the care that your, your mother --

PARKER: My mother.

BLACKWELL: -- needed?

PARKER: I think that as she aged, and she really wasn't really symptomatic until she was about in her mid 80s. We just started to notice that she was doing things differently. She couldn't pay your bills. My older brother, younger brother managed her property and her financial affairs. And it was when I came to visit that I noticed things like she wasn't dressing carefully. She was a meticulous dresser. She was a meticulous housekeeper. And all those things that we were used to work in place.

And when I talked to her doctors, they would say things like, well, you know, your mother missed her appointments. Well, my mother was a school teacher, she had health insurance. She regularly visited her doctors until she didn't. And those are things that when you're dealing with somebody who has dementia, or is developing dementia, changes in their overall lifestyle patterns that you need to pay attention to.

People say, well, they keep repeating stories. Well, in my mother's case, she stopped dressing. She stopped taking care of her business affairs. She stopped socializing, OK, those are some soft science and indicates something may be wrong doesn't tell you what it is. And she went to her primary care doctor, I'm here at Emory, I brought her down here, she started participating in some research studies.

And when things got a little confused, you know, she did see a neurologist up there. Who said, well, I think your mother has dementia, and I'm going to put her on these medicines. And I said, OK. We just thought that her dementia was a result of strokes, just like her mother and her family members who had all had diabetes and hypertension, that this was just an offset of that. And that's what we thought until she participated in a study and she had a lumbar puncture, where they told us or showed us that she -- confirmed that she actually had Alzheimer's as well.

BLACKWELL: Yes, I found that half of 55 percent of black Americans think that significant loss of cognitive abilities or memory is a natural part of aging. That needs to be checked out. It's not just people getting old. This could be something more serious. Dr. Parker, thank you so much for being with me.

PARKER: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Coming up, an artist who says her work is about letting her subjects take back their image. See what she means.


Plus, honoring a mighty voice that raised awareness about AIDS and the people living with it at a young age.



HYDEIA BROADBENT, AMERICAN ACTIVIST: I am the future and I have AIDS. I am not afraid of anything or anyone. I am not afraid of the white men. I'm not afraid of black men. I'm only afraid of my mom when I get a bad report card. You can't crush my dreams. I am the future and I have AIDS.



BLACKWELL: That was Hydeia Broadbent, 12 years old, speaking at the Republican Convention in 1996. This week her father announced that Hydeia has passed away. She became the face of children with AIDS in America. This moment with Earvin Magic Johnson on Nickelodeon in 1992 was one that a lot of people remember her for.


BROADBENT: I want people know that we're just going to keep up.

MAGIC JOHNSON, AMERICAN BUSINESSPERSON AND FORMER BASKETBALL PLAYER: You don't have to cry. You don't have to cry. Because we are normal people, OK? We are.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: Well, Magic wrote on X that Hydeia helps so many people young and old because she wasn't afraid to share her story and allowed everyone to see that those living with HIV and AIDS were everyday people and should be treated with respect. Hydeia Broadbent was 39 years old.

All through Black History Month in our Artists Life series, a theme that came up a lot in the work we featured was the societal images of people of color. And that also drives the next artist I want to introduce Monica Ikegwu. She says their art fight stereotypes by broadening the spectrum of what black people can look like.


MONICA IKEGWU, FIGURATIVE PAINTER: My name is Monica Ikegwu. I'm Baltimore based and I'm European. I started painting when I was about 15 years old in high school. My work is mainly surrounded around like black portraiture, black figurative painting. When I get models to work for me people to work for me, I allowed them to do whatever they want and so they can take back their image and I stick to one color throughout the whole thing. Just keep it monochromatic and unified. And also with the high saturation of the colors is the point for me to attract attention to them because, you know, in society, people can be -- they feel like they're overlooked. But my work is to draw attention and with the bright colors and it's to the point where like you see it and like you can't ignore it. It has to stand out.



BLACKWELL: Monica Ikegwu has a show coming up in Baltimore in the fall at gallery Marty's. Well, thank you so much for joining me today. I will see you back here next Saturday at 8:00 a.m. Eastern right here. Smerconish is up next.