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First of All with Victor Blackwell

Federal Inquiry Focused on Sean "Diddy" Combs; Mogul's House Searches Criticized by Diddy's Attorney; Anti-Crime Coalition Founded by Black Mayors; Beyhive Propels New Beyonce Album To Spotify Streaming Record; Catholic Church Seeks First Black American Saints. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired March 30, 2024 - 08:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Sean Diddy Combs, Puff Daddy, Brother Love, we watched him for three decades now, producing and performing and running several businesses. Well now he's the target of a federal investigation into human trafficking. Homeland Security investigators searched two of his homes this week. That investigation reportedly came out of several allegations of sexual assault against him. No charges have been filed.

Well, he settled one lawsuit filed last year by a former girlfriend, performer Cassie. And since then, accusers have filed four more suits against him. He's denied all the allegations. And after the searches, Diddy's attorney said, Mr. Combs is innocent and will continue to fight every single day to clear his name.

With me now in the studio to get to the center of these cases. You've probably heard about this week, Christopher A. Daniel. He covers black culture for "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution". Also, attorney and law professor Mo Ivory. Welcome to you both.

Well, let me start with you. All right. So, three lawsuits filed against -- four lawsuits filed against Diddy. One was from a woman who alleged sex trafficking and gang rape when she was 17 in high school. Would there have to have been more than what's in that lawsuit to justify to a judge to get the warrants to search his two homes?

MO IVORY, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR ENTERTAINMENT AND SPORT LAW AT GSU: Well, that would -- obviously, in order to do this raid, there had to be probable cause to get those search warrants and a judge saw what he saw and said that there was, right? So, the fact that we're dealing -- there are many allegations, some are from adults, some are from underage.

Obviously to whatever they're looking for, they are looking after speaking to these victims. Looking to corroborate what the victim said in order to move forward. And we know moving forward means whether there will either be an indictment or some charges coming along. The fact that there are underage victims absolutely rises to another level. Obviously because underage person cannot consent to this type of activity and they would not have to be much proof if they were involved in it.

So, it's very, very serious and that's just one of the underage charges. There are another one in one of the lawsuits. And we will see after, you know, we get an opportunity to -- they find what they find and they let us know what they find. Then we'll have a better view as to what -- how it looks to move forward.

BLACKWELL: Speaking of finding, we don't know where he is, right? There was -- the last video that was seen of him, he was at an airport. He was reportedly taking his twin daughters on vacation. But it's remarkable that after this search, we don't know where Diddy is.

IVORY: Well, he is in Miami. They -- the -- a couple of days later --

BLACKWELL: He was in Miami.

IVORY: Yes, and he still is. In the last couple of days, he was out at Topgolf with his daughters playing golf. And he was seen -- he was again seen after that in Miami with a couple of friends. So, I think we can be sure that there have been enough sightings that he is actually in Miami. And the idea that they don't know where he is anymore has kind of been squashed.

BLACKWELL: Christopher, we've not heard much support for Diddy. I mean, he is responsible in part for a lot of careers.


BLACKWELL: Where are his friends? Where are his supporters, if there are any?

DANIEL: I think when people look at, you know, just -- you know, the success profiles that they have built, nobody really wants to, you know, attach themselves to something that's so high profile. When you look at social media, it's really one of the biggest trends right now. When you see, like you said, some of the careers that he's built, you know, throughout the course of his own career, I think people are trying to play it safe and really not necessarily align themselves with some of the hoopla and all the controversy right now.

So, I think a lot of it is just kind of distancing themselves because you know how things can be, you know, the whole this you thing when someone retweets something or go back and dig, you know, multiple, multiple years down the line. So, I think it's just a situation where people are not trying to put themselves in a compromising position so that they won't ultimately be like the trending topic themselves -- excuse me.

BLACKWELL: Well, do you expect that there will be an arrest? I mean, if they go through up to this point, they have probable cause for the searches. And he is, sources tell us, the target of this investigation that there will be an arrest?

IVORY: I think it's hard to determine that there's going to be an arrest right now. Obviously, you're proven innocent on -- you know, you're innocent --

BLACKWELL: Absolutely, yes.

IVORY: -- until proven guilty. And he has been charged with nothing right now. And there's only been one person that has been picked up, which was this -- when this -- earlier this week when the young man was picked up --


IVORY: -- for the drug charge, whatever.

So, you know, it's hard to -- I wouldn't guess at whether I know what's going to happen. His lawyers are saying that, you know, obviously he's going to fight and he's cooperating, right? That's a very big sign that he wants whatever is going to come out to come out. He's cooperating. He's turned everything over.

So, really, it's great for us to want to say what we think about it. And there's so much going on on social media or whatever. But really, right now, there's no charges. Nobody has been charged. And we have to wait and see if he will be.

BLACKWELL: So, that's the legal element of it. There's also the business element, how it's impacting his relationships and his properties as it relates to tequila and vodka and revolt.


How has this impacted his profile professionally considering all of the can't stop, won't stop image around Diddy?

DANIEL: Well, I grew up in the '90s. So, if you grew up as a child of hip hop in the '90s, he was literally like one of the quintessential figures in the culture. You know, he was super fly in his videos. He was producing some of the biggest artists on the charts, and of course, you had never seen that type of dollar being generated from artistry and just from producing. So, that was that part.

But I'm thinking at this stage in his career, he's kind of like public enemy number one because we are, kind of, having this reckoning in the culture right now where you are seeing a lot more executives, a lot more artists being called out for some of their proclivities and a lot of just some of the things that's been kind of done in the dark and kind of swept under the rug.

So, it's one of those things now where it's not necessarily the same profile that I grew up around. It's more or less now him just pretty much being like this figure where we've seen Russell Simmons and we've seen R. Kelly kind of go through what they have gone through. So, I'm thinking at this stage, he's kind of falling into that sort of category.

BLACKWELL: His own infamy now.

DANIEL: Yes. BLACKWELL: All right. Christopher, Mo, thank you so much.

Black mayors from across the country are teaming up to take on crime. This week, Memphis Mayor Paul Young and the African American Mayors Association announced the Black Mayors Coalition on Crime and held their first meeting. But just days before the meeting, Mayor Young himself was the victim of a crime. According to the CNN affiliate there in Memphis, a man grabbed him, tried forcing his way into his car outside a restaurant. That man was charged with causing a disturbance.

Joining me now is the mayor of Memphis, Paul Young. And Jackson, Mississippi's Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba. Gentlemen, welcome to both of you. I want to get into the conversation about this coalition. But Mayor Young first, did I get that right? Can you tell me any more about what happened outside this restaurant?

MAYOR PAUL YOUNG, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE: Yes, I mean, you pretty much got it right. I mean, he was someone who was nice at first. And then, you know, he just wanted to talk a little bit more than I was ready to. And, you know, it taught me that, you know, I'm early in my tenure that, you know, security protocols are important and I have to make sure that I do notify my security. It was kind of my fault that I didn't have my person. And so, we live and learn and all is well.

BLACKWELL: All right. Good to know that all is well. Now, let me ask about this coalition. You were on the show a couple of weeks ago because you had gone and met with gang leaders to try to bring down gun violence in Memphis. Explain the catalyst for this coalition with mayors across the country.

YOUNG: Well, you know, we're in a point -- important history where we have African American mayors are leaving large and small cities all across the country. You know, you look at New York, L.A., Atlanta, Chicago, Philly, Memphis, Jackson, Mississippi, St. Louis. And so, I thought it was important for us to have a dialogue around crime. We know that African American communities are often most impacted by crime. And so, I thought it was important for us to have the direct dialogue of how we're going to address it in our respective cities.

BLACKWELL: Mayor Lumumba, what did you learn more than -- and this was the inaugural meeting, more than the introductions. I'm sure you have known some of these mayors for some time. What practically did you learn that you can bring back to your city to continue to bring down violent crime?

MAYOR CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA, JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI: Well, Victor, first, let me begin by commending my friend and -- Memphis Mayor, Mayor Young for having the foresight to bring us all together. I think now more than ever our communities need to be represented by those who love us most. And so, we had a robust conversation where we shared best practices. We talked specifically over specific police initiatives that are taking place in some of our neighboring and, you know, our brother and sister mayors' communities.

We also talked about data driven, evidence-based solutions that are community oriented and community centric. We talked about, for instance, Operation Good in Jackson, Mississippi, and where we've seen tremendous success and ask the question whether or not we have the political will within our communities to carry these programs forward.

We also talked about not only challenging those in opposition to our efforts, but challenging our friends to get us the resources nationally that are needed. And so, we had more than just an academic discussion. We talked about proactive and practical solutions that we intend to carry forward, not only in the short term, but the long term as well.

BLACKWELL: Mayor Young, this was a coalition of black mayors, but you talked about, the issues in black communities. There are obviously plenty of black people who live in big cities that have white mayors.


You think of Mayor Duggan in Detroit, you've got Donna Deegan in Jacksonville. Is this open to non-black mayors to impact black communities they serve?

YOUNG: Yes, absolutely. I mean, the black mayors were the catalyst. We certainly invite any and all that want to help resolve issues in our community. We know that there are many people that are feeling the impact of crime across this country. And our overall goal is to ensure that our communities are safe. And we welcome any and everybody to participate.

BLACKWELL: Mayor Young, the governor of Tennessee has now signed the interlaw, what essentially overrides the local ordinance there in Memphis which was named for Tyree Nichols who died at the beginning of last year. He was beaten by police officers. The local law would have reduced the reasons that police could stop drivers for some of the minor infractions. What's your reaction to that?

YOUNG: Well, I certainly wasn't in support of that. The people of Memphis spoke loud and clear. Our city council overwhelmingly passed 13-0, those ordinances. And so, I think it's important that local elected officials are able to dictate their path and future. It's been passed into law now, certainly we're going to follow the law. And there were still things that were a part of that set of ordinances that were passed that we can do. There were things around tracking data and, you know, making some of that information available to the public on traffic stops. So, we'll continue to do those things.

And our legal team is working to ensure that we have our policies, you know, in an appropriate manner so we are following the law. So -- but you know, we think preemption is something that is not good for our community and we're going to continue to speak out about it whenever it happens.

BLACKWELL: Mayor Lumumba, let me ask you about a piece of legislation that involves the water treatment facility there. Now with the House Committee, they've got, I believe, until April 2nd to get that through for the legislation to have a chance to be passed and signed into law, which would essentially force the city to sell or give up its control and ownership of the water treatment facility.

We know that Jackson's had issues with water service. There is money on the way to repair it. The president's promise $600 million, $115 million on the way, $60 -- some of the money already being used. What's your reaction to this legislation? And do you think it's going to cross that threshold coming up next week?

LUMUMBA: Well, I'll be cautiously optimistic and certainly encourage our legislative delegation to oppose that legislation. But as Mayor Young has spoken about the challenges Memphis has seen with its state leadership, Jackson has seen its fair share of state preemption after decades of willful neglect by the state to support the city of Jackson.

Now that the city of Jackson went through the extraordinary means of our administration going to Washington in securing direct funding to the city of Jackson, notably after President Biden himself shared that he had concerns about the state of Mississippi, not providing money to the city of Jackson. And so, Representative or Senator Parker, who has authored that legislation said from the dais, now that we have gotten this money, we need to consider taking over Jackson.

Well, they weren't with me in Washington when I was advocating in front of Senate appropriation staffers to get that money. And so, it is a self-serving mission, I believe, by those who are sponsoring this legislation, not to support the people of Jackson, but to take advantage of the resources that are now at hand. Any new instances to pass contracts to their friends.

And so, our central and soul concern will always be the health and safety of our water system and ensuring that we not only a dependable but equitable water system. And we have to make sure that we carry that mantra through to the end.

BLACKWELL: Mayor's Chokwe Lumumba and Paul Young, thank you so much for your time today.

Coming up, the reparations fight for Latino families whose homes were buried by a stadium's construction and whose stories have been buried by time.

Plus, we're digging into the music, the history, the features, all packed into Beyonce's country album. One of the artists who sings on two of the songs is here.


BEYONCE, SINGER: Used to say I spoke too country. And then the rejection came, said I wasn't country enough. Said I wouldn't saddle up. But if that ain't country.



[08:15:00] BLACKWELL: Let me tell you a story that there's a good chance that you've never heard about a place called the Chavez Ravine. There's a backstory that was left out of your history books. This is in California, Los Angeles. There were three predominantly Mexican American neighborhoods there, Palo Verde, La Loma and Bishop.

About 1,800 families live there, but now it's home to Dodger Stadium. How did that happen? Well, it began when the city started acquiring land, it said was to build affordable housing there. Families who held out on selling their homes were forced out, and I mean physically forced out.


Look at these pictures from 1959. These families were physically carried out by police. Locally it's known as the Battle of Chavez Ravine. Well, now there's a new bill in California to get reparations for these families. They want compensation, yes, but also broader acknowledgement of what happened.

Joining me now is Wendy Carrillo. She is the state assemblywoman who introduced the Chavez Ravine Accountability Act. Thank you so much for being with me. And we're not talking the 18th century here. We're talking the 1950s. So, there are people who are alive today who were physically, as children, as young people brought out of these homes. is there a clear count of how many there are still alive?

WENDY CARRILLO (D-CA), ASSEMBLYMEMBER: Well, thank you for having me on. There's about -- well, we don't know how many are alive, to be quite honest. But we do know that there were about 1,800 families that were unjustly evicted and removed from their homes during the period of 1951 and 1959. One of whom is a good friend of mine and mentor, Carol Jacques, who was just a little girl. She was only eight years old when she was removed -- when her family was removed from her home.

And so right now, we're in the process of moving the policy forward to establish the commission that will ultimately determine what happens next. And in that process, find the families or the descendants of those families.

BLACKWELL: So, this is to create the commission leading toward reparations. What is it that you want? It -- and I understand it's more than just a financial settlement for these families.

CARRILLO: Well, we want everyone to know what happened in the communities of La Loma, Palo Verde and Bishop, which are more commonly referred to now as Chavez Ravine. And we want the healing to start. This was just a terrible time in history -- in history in general, if you think about the 1950s. During law -- in Los Angeles, there was the McCarthy era. There was a desire for public social housing that never happened. A promise for housing to these families that was never fulfilled by the city of Los Angeles.

And then a few years later, the city moving forward and voting after an election and new people in office to bring in the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles. And in that effort, you know, the homes that were promised to these families was never fulfilled.

So, there's a lot of hurt. There's a lot of pain. There's a lot of history that was never told. And for the first time, we're bringing the story to the local government from the state level, which was also involved at the time, to the city of Los Angeles, which ultimately made the decision to really ensure that we have justice for those families that were robbed of their homes and quite honestly, robbed of generational wealth.

BLACKWELL: Melissa Arechiga is one of the descendants of two women. She is -- her mother and her aunt were children at the time and were pulled out of their homes. Listen to what she said this week.


MELISSA ARECHIGA, FAMILY WAS DISPLACED IN 1950S: But we are not the only families to face the violent evictions on May 8th, 1959, known as Black Friday. We must hold all city, state, county, and federal agencies accountable for their part in the destruction of the three communities. Plus, stealing all future generational wealth from the residents, both owners and renters. And more importantly, your Los Angeles Dodgers that still benefit and occupy our homes today.


BLACKWELL: I understand that you're seeking reparations from the public sector, from government and not the Dodgers. Why?

CARRILLO: Well, the Dodgers weren't involved in the initial conversations and negotiations with the federal administration under Truman which actually had secured the funding for public housing during that time with the Los Angeles Housing Authority at the time.

And so, the Dodgers come into play later. And you know, I completely hear and understand the frustration, the generational trauma that has occurred in this community. And there are many families, some of whom with time have become huge Dodger fans. So, the Dodgers are definitely in the conversation. They know the intention of the policy, but more importantly, our goal is to establish the commission that will start the conversations as to what happens next.

This has never been done before. It's a step forward in ensuring that the voices and the stories of these families are told.


That those three communities are recognized and represented. And that we are moving forward with starting the conversations as to what it looks like when the city itself did not fulfill the promise of housing.

BLACKWELL: Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, I thank you for your time and sharing a story that, unfortunately, many of us are hearing for the very first time. Thank you so much.

Beyonce's new album is a lesson on the black roots of country music. And it's introducing some of country's newest stars. One of the singers featured on "Cowboy Carter:" is here. Next.






BLACKWELL: Beyonce's new album is breaking records. Spotify says that "Cowboy Carter" is the most streamed album in a single day so far this year. And more than two dozen tracks on the album, "Sweet Honey Bucket", which you heard a little bit of their is one of my favorites.

When you hear the whole song, it just lays out the mixes of influences on "Cowboy Carter".

Beyonce said, this isn't a country album. It is Beyonce album. This embraces the Black roots of country music and the Black women leading country's new generation.

So I have here two great guests to talk with us from Nashville. Holly G is the founder of the Black Opry. And country singer songwriter Tiera Kennedy is here. She is on two songs on "Cowboy Carter".

Ladies, welcome to you both here.

Tiera, let me start with you with the congratulations. I know it's been the butterflies of keeping the secret after you saw the track list, how do you feel this morning

TIERA KENNEDY, COUNTY ARTIST FEATURED ON BEYONCE'S ALBUM: Oh, my gosh honestly, I'm still trying to process everything. I've been crying since yesterday. It's just been a whirlwind and I'm really honored to be a part of this album. I mean, I love Beyonce, and I'm always dreamed of getting to work with her but never imagine that it would happen in this way. So, it's really special.

BLACKWELL: You're on "Blackbird" and "Tyrant". Let's play a little of "Blackbird" now.


BLACKWELL: You're on with Beyonce, and three other Black women in country. What is the feeling of the message of that song between the five of you?

KENNEDY: It's really special. You know, I honestly didn't know the importance of that song until after we recorded it, and so, it just made it that more special. And all of us girls, we were texting this morning, just about how -- how fun it's been, and how cool it is that we get to experience this together.

This is such an important time and I'm so thankful to Beyonce for including us. And I think that it's spreading such as a special message to the world and hopefully the young girls want to get into country music one day.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, Paul McCartney wrote that song back in the '60s for the Beatles. And he wrote it not about a blackbird, but a Black woman in the context of the civil rights movement and then Beyonce now has a cover of it.

Holly, let me come to you. I learned from you when we spoke a year ago about Tracy Chapman and "Fast Car" that country music is one of the remaining genres in which radio play rules. And we learned from a study from song data, tracked airplay between 2002 and 2020, 11,484 songs played in those 19 years songs by Black women, three Black women artists had songs in that 11,484.

How much does this album change country music and country radio?

HOLLY G. FOUNDER, BLACK OPRY: I think that's still left to be decided as far as what the radio programmers decided to do. I spoke to Dr. Dana Watson yesterday, who pulls this data and she's the one who hold the industry accountable in that way.

And since those two songs have dropped, there had been no other black women that have been added to the country radio programming and so were still get to see what impact that will make but I do want to thank (INAUDIBLE) Tiera. I'm a big fan of yours and it's great to see you on his album.

KENNEDY: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: So, if they're not adding any other Black women to country radio include the we know now the names of at least four others who could be on country radio as Mickey Guyton as well. I mean, there are others who perform is this potentially there opportunity to say, here's Beyonce, see, we do include Black women and then that is where it ends.

HOLLY G.: Unfortunately, I think that's what's happening. I was at country radio seminar a couple weeks ago and that was the vibe. Everybody was patting themselves on the back for embracing Beyonce.


And so, I think in their minds, work is done, which just leads us to pivot in a different direction.

I think that the blessing of Beyonce in this moment is that the Beyhive is very strong and they have already begun to show interest in his artists and tried to figure out ways to support them. And so I think we have a huge opportunity here to build an alternative to the mainstream video.

BLACKWELL: Yeah. Since "Texas Hold 'Em" was released, the streams immediately after that was released for Reyna Roberts, for Tanner Adell, went up dramatically in the days after that one track hit. So yes, the love is being spread around. K Michelle as well, waiting for her country the album to be released.

Holly G., Tiera Kennedy, thank you to you both.

And Tiera has some new music of her own coming out soon. "I Ain't a Cow Girl" on April 26. So watch out for that.

Coming up, a mom in Texas who was staring down years in prison for a voting error, reacts to the major decision in her case.


CRYSTAL MASON, ACQUITTED IN 2016 VOTER FRAUD CASE: I'm really shocked, right now. Like is this real.




BLACKWELL: For years, Crystal Mason facedown the eventuality of spending five years in prison. She was convicted of voting illegally in 2016. Mason says that she filled out a provisional ballot and she did not know that she was not allowed to vote as a felon on release, while an appeals court in Texas this week overturn that conviction.

In its opinion, the court said the evidence was insufficient to support the conclusion that Mason actually realized that she voted knowing that she was ineligible to do so. And therefore, insufficient to support her conviction for illegal voting.

She spoke with Laura Coates last night.


MASON: It's been seven years, seven years, six years I've been out on appeal bond, one foot in, one foot out, not knowing if I'm going to prison or not. So this has been very, very hard.

Well, you can see is two systems. That's -- that's exactly what I saw when I realized that I filled out a provisional ballot. I didn't vote and I was sentenced to five years in were these people have actually voted in dead moms names and their wife things going up there to vote and they own son name, this was showing me that there's two systems.


BLACKWELL: And historically, Black university in Tennessee is getting new leadership after controversial move made by state Republicans to get rid of its entire board of trustees. Tennessee State University's finances have been under scrutiny after recent audits. But Democratic lawmakers argued the move to get rid of the original board was a bad look by their white GOP colleagues, and that the bigger problem is not the management, but the chronic underfunding.

Some students and alumni also said that they felt left out of the decision the governors office says the new board is made up of TSU graduates.

Now in all the coverage of the tons of metal and the laws of infrastructure and clean up, I want to make sure that we remember the people lost in that bridge collapse in Baltimore and say their names, starting from scratch and a new country often means you'll take the job you can get. And sometimes that's the one that nobody else wants.

We were reminded of that this week when we learned the victims of the Baltimore bridge collapse were immigrant construction workers.

Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes was from Mexico. His body was one of two recovered from the wreckage. His uncle tells us the family is pleading for humanitarian visa for his sister to be able to come to the U.S. to say goodbye.

Dorlian Castillo Cabrera worked on the bridge too. He was from Guatemala. His cousin told CNN and he was here pursuing his dream and helping his mother.

Maynor Sandoval moved from Honduras, 18 years ago for a better life, his brother says, he also started a maintenance company, was an entrepreneur. Maynor had a wife and 18 year-old son and a five-year- old daughter.

Miguel Luna was from El Salvador. A husband and father of three, both Miguel and Maynor war involved with a group called CASA. That group helps working class immigrant families, and the organization got together to make this point.


JOSELINE PENA-MELNY, CHAIRWOMAN, CASA: What you hear is negative things about the immigrant community. While you, while you don't here are the positive thins of workers, like the ones that I hear and the one they die, those six men that were working, 1:00 in the morning when most of us were asleep to take care of the road for us, so we can drive those roads with peace and without obstacles.

I will like to go one day without one immigrant working in this country, one day, so that you all can feel what it will be like.


O'DONNELL: And I'll add this to that, remember that all the work to clear the wreckage and to build the new bridge, immigrants will likely be doing much of that work.


Coming up on this Easter weekend, a surprising statistic on Black saints from the U.S. There are none and of the thousands of saints worldwide, not one is African American. Meet a member of the Baltimore church, who traveled all the way to the Vatican to try to change that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLACKWELL: So, it's Easter weekend, and this got my attention, this mission that is happening. There are 11 U.S. Catholic saints, not one is Black. Black Catholics across the country say it's long past time to change that.


St. Ann's Catholic Church in Baltimore is part of the effort to expedite canonization of six candidates known as the Saintly Six. St. Ann's has sent thousands of letters to the Pope Francis about this, members of the church have traveled to the Vatican for meetings.

Ralph Moore was there. He's a member of St. Ann's social justice committee.

Mr. Moore, thank you so much for being with us.

Thousands of saints from around the world, 11 Americans. Is there a clear answer to the question of why there are no Black American saints?

RALPH MOORE, ST. ANN'S CATHOLIC CHURCH SOCIAL JUSTICE COMMITTEE: I think it's because the Catholic Church hierarchy has not been able to see us. I mean, there have been instances when they have.

But in this particular matter, they just haven't been able to see us and understand that we've endured enslavement, segregation within Catholic Churches, where we were second-class members, mass incarceration, mass poverty, as well as over 4,000 lynchings where they were silent and they just haven't been able to see that we have been the remnant, we'd been faithful to the Catholic Church, despite all that.

BLACKWELL: Explain that. How can they not see you? I mean, Catholics -- the Catholic Church knows the -- knows American history, knows that there, what, hundreds of thousands of Black Catholics across this country. How is it possible they don't see you?

Is it -- is it possible that they are ignoring you instead?

MOORE: It's entirely possible and actually there are 3 million Black Catholic --

BLACKWELL: Three million, okay.

MOORE: -- out of the 75 million Catholics in the country. And I think they just choose not to acknowledge what we've been through and give any value to it in terms of what we've endured -- on honor and suffering as Martin Luther King would call it, which became our unrequited love from the church. So --

BLACKWELL: So you said that they don't see you, possible they're ignoring you, but with thousands of letters and a visit to the Vatican, they certainly know about the Saintly Six. They certainly, these are venerable -- venerated members now as well as it go through the process of canonization. What's been the reception -- what was the reception at these meetings at the Vatican?

MOORE: Well, they listen to us. They appreciate our presentation as we talked about the six candidates for sainthood, who include Mother Mary Lange, the founder of the oscillates, Father Augustus Tolton, the first Black Catholic priests -- known Black Catholic priest, Mother Henriette Delille, who also started an order for women, Black women, Pierre Toussaint, the great philanthropist, Julia Greeley, who was also very generous, and Sister Thea Bowman.

As we talked about them, they said it seemed as if we knew them personally and in fact they said at the end of the session, bravo. But we haven't heard too, too much from them since then. You know, we didn't get a chance to meet with the pope, but we were actually following the process, which is that there's a casting for the cause of saints, the group that we met with are the ones who vet the lives of the candidates and also vet the miracle that they are expected to perform to be declared saints.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, conversation about a representation mattering and we think a lot about entertainment and politics. It's certainly matters in the church as well.

Ralph Moore of St. Ann's Catholic Church, social justice committee, thank you so much and happy Easter to you.

Coming up, an artist who tells in an A.I. server, listen to this, she tells an A.I. server about her dreams and then turns that into art.



BLACKWELL: It feels like artificial intelligence is everywhere and it scares some people, but some people are excited by it. Akea Brionne found a way to use artificial intelligence to make art. It's art that still requires a human touch. She's using the tech to turn her dreams and thoughts and to tapestries.


AKEA BRIONNE, LENS AND TEXTILE-BASED ARTIST: My name is Akea Brionne. I am based in Detroit, Michigan, and I'm a lens and textile-based artist. So the process for me, it begins with either self-portraits, appropriated images that I'm collecting from the Internet, and also family photos often, I'm recounting my dreams or sort of landscapes that I've created in my mind.

And then that A.I. basically creates the image from what I've put into it. I then put it through a digital loam. I adorn it with Jewels and glitter, and doll stuffing I think that there's healthy levels of fear and cynicism. I think historically has been on that side when it came to technology.

But I also realized that as a woman of color, it was very, very limited in terms of what it was pulling from. So a lot of it was rooted in a lot of racist archetypes and stereotypes. And so it can only learn from what it's being fed. So my way of sort of combating that is educating myself and educating the software.


BLACKWELL: Isn't that cool?

Akea will be showing some of her work at Expo Chicago next month that at a group show at the Mass Art Museum in Boston, opening a June, and could check out a work at

Well, thank you for joining me today. I will see you back here next Saturday at 8:00 a.m. Eastern. If I don't see you, or you don't see me before then -- happy Easter.

"SMERCONISH" is up next.