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First of All with Victor Blackwell

Tension Over Israel And Gaza; High-Stakes Vote; Orange Crush; Problematic Proclamation; Rap Battle. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired April 20, 2024 - 08:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The Georgia beach party started as an HBCU gathering has gotten really rowdy, and I'll talk to the person who organized the event. It says Tybee Island's history has him concerned about the effort to restrict this majority Black crowd now. Plus, how does one celebrate Confederate Heritage? Turns out April is Confederate Heritage Month in Mississippi, and people are actually being invited to come celebrate at a museum.

Alaska former governor of the state, what is going on in Mississippi?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow. Well, we'll be watching for sure. Have a great show.

BLACKWELL: Thank you very much. Let's start it right now.

Well, first of all, there are really not too many days that we can say Congress is getting ready to cast to a consequential vote especially not on a Saturday morning. Yet today, it will happen. Next hour, the House gavels in to start debate on foreign aid funding, aid to Israel in particular is the focus of some passionate debate across the country. Even how people debate it is up for debate.

This week, we saw calls for crackdown on protesters who blocked traffic. Look at this, this is what we saw at the Golden Gate Bridge. After her social media posts were targeted by pro-Israel activist, USC canceled a speech by its Muslim valedictorian. The school said it was concerned for safety. And now USC says it's also canceling attendance of its outside speakers and honorees.

There have been pro-Palestinian protests on campus also at Yale and Columbia, where students have been camping out and getting arrested. Another form of protest though is the vote. Aid to Israel is ultimately expected to pass when the House votes on it today, but some members want to send a message by voting no. And that includes my first guest this morning.

We, first, spoke with her when she became the first Jewish member of the House to call for a ceasefire in November. Today, she plans to vote no on sending weapons to Israel. Democratic Representative Becca Balint is joining us. She represents a district in Vermont. Thank you so much for joining me.

Let's start with why, why are you a no on this Israel aid funding?

REP. BECCA BALINT (D-VT): As you said yourself, it's clear that this is going to pass. So this vote is really about sending a message that we understand that if we continue to send offensive weapons to this extremist government, to Netanyahu, it's essentially sending a green light for an invasion of Rafah and to continue this devastating, devastating war in Gaza. And I believe a no vote is indicative of where most Americans are right now.

They want a safe and secure Israel. They want us to make sure that we are also putting a check on Netanyahu's ability to wage this horrible war and to escalate tensions with Iran. So I know it will pass, but I do believe this is a moment for those of us who do support Israel, who do believe we need to have a sovereign Jewish state, to also stand up and say we have a role to play as the United States of America, in how those weapons, whether they're offensive or defensive weapons are used.

BLACKWELL: You said the US has a role to play. Let me read a line or two from your statement on social media, announcing your no vote. Americans will remember this moment. The United States must be firm and demanding a course correction from the Netanyahu government. Do you believe that President, President Biden, has been firm enough?

BALINT: I believe the President and Secretary Blinken have been firm. I believe that statements from Leader Schumer have also helped this conversation. What we're trying to do is carve out another lane, a lane that says you can be both supportive of Israel and also understand that we have to use our power to set limits on how these offensive weapons are used. And the American people cannot stomach what is happening in Gaza and do not want to green light an invasion of Rafah.

And we need to use our voices. And Americans need to understand that members of Congress are listening to them.

BLACKWELL: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that in addition to what's being considered in Congress today, that the administration is mulling a billion-dollar weapons deal, again, in addition to what will be voted on today. Is this the time, and we had this conversation several months ago, but for many the mood has changed around us support. Is this the time to add conditions to US aid, to these US deals of additional weapons?

BALINT: I believe that we have to have some means of holding this government, the Netanyahu government, responsible and accountable to what they're doing. If that means conditions, if it means making sure that we have an ability to, you know, set the terms for how they're used. And so, this is what the American people want.


I am not saying anything that is out of step with my constituents right now. They need us to use our voices to say this extremist government in Israel does not represent the Israeli people well, and certainly does not represent the beliefs of Americans. It is important for us to keep in mind that Netanyahu is extremely unpopular right now in Israel. And I believe in no vote sends a message to Israelis who we do support, who we do want to lend our support in their horrible fight against terrorism, to say to them, you need to do what needs to happen to get rid of this extremist government in Israel.

BLACKWELL: What do you say to -- you mentioned, you believe you're in step with your constituents. What do you say to those constituents who agree with everything you just said? That the US should send a message, there should be some controls or some checks on the use of the weapons, that there's not enough aid. And they say, for that reason I'm not voting for Joe Biden in November. What do you tell them?

BALINT: A win for Donald Trump is a win for Netanyahu, period. No question. If you want to see a safe and secure Israel and a safe and secure Palestine, Joe Biden is the president that will be working tirelessly to bring about a two state solution, as well as peace and security in the entire region.

I will say it again, a vote for Donald Trump, or a vote that is sitting out, you know, this election and not voting for President Biden is a win for Benjamin Netanyahu.

BLACKWELL: One more. Earlier this week, there was a resolution, a bipartisan resolution that declared the phrase "from the river to the sea" anti-Semitic, condemned that phrase. You were one of a few dozen who voted no on that. What informed that vote?

BALINT: I will tell you what informed that vote, is that we see extremists on both sides. We see Hamas using that phrase, and it is calling for the annihilation of Jews. And we see extremists in the Netanyahu government using that same phrase, to say that this homeland, for both the Jewish and Palestinian people, this region is only for Jews.

So both sides, extremist voices have called for the destruction of the other. And so, I want to be just really clear, sometimes it is used in an anti-Semitic way and sometimes it is used in an Islamophobic way. And so, I condemn the use by extremists on both sides. We must do better in our rhetoric, we must do better in our fight to bring about finally, peace and security for both these people because both Jews and Muslims have a claim to this holiest of lands in the Middle East.

BLACKWELL: What do you say to Jews who are threatened by that phrase, who believe that is -- it is clear that that is a call for the elimination of the State of Israel.

BALINT: I understand that. I do, and I am sympathetic to that. The point that the Republicans were trying to make was not actually in support of Jews across this country.

BLACKWELL: But this also was not brought just by Republicans. This was sponsored also by Democrats, and there were many Democrats who voted for it. BALINT: I understand. Words matter, and so when you have a phrase, like from the river to the sea, being used by extremists on both sides, there is nuance there is complexity. And we do not. Those of us who voted against the resolution do not stand with Hamas. We are simply saying we have constituents who are not using it in an anti- Semitic way.

BLACKWELL: Representative Becca Balint, Democrat of Vermont, thank you so much for being with me.

Let's continue this conversation now with Nicholas Wu. He covers Congress for Politico. Ballots opposition to this Israel aid bill is not really a surprise considering where she's been up to this point. How many Democratic votes are expected here against this bill? Is there a ballpark?

NICHOLAS WU, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: I think it's hard to tell exactly how many Democrats are going to vote against the Israel bill. But one marker that we have is the discharge petition, the fast track process that Democrats were trying to use to get the foreign aid bill to the floor in the first place.

There were about maybe 15 to 20 Democrats who did not sign on to that, in the first place, because of their objections to Israel aid and the lack of conditions on it.


So we could certainly expect to see that same group of members today voting against Israel bill, if not more, now that it's clear that it has the votes to pass from both Republicans and Democrats.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask about the Ukraine bill. That's expected to get a vote today also expected to pass. If that passes, is it a guarantee that Marjorie Taylor Greene will then force a vote on the motion to vacate to get that gavel from Speaker Johnson?

WU: All eyes are going to be on her today on how exactly she could trigger this process. She's been kind of circumspect this whole time on what sort of timeline and what exactly will prompt her to really trigger this threat. With another Republican just signed on to it. This means there's now three Republicans publicly backing it.

It's not the same number, though, that had openly threatened to remove McCarthy back when that came up last fall. And with a small group of Republicans backing it now, and an increasing number of Democrats signaling that they could step in to save Mike Johnson if this were triggered, it's not clear if she could bring this if it's not going to succeed.

BLACKWELL: Yes. I wonder though, is there some kind of cyclical deterioration, that if he needs five Democrats to keep the gavel this time, does that make it more likely that he'll lose additional votes on the right, if this comes up again. How long are Democrats willing to be in this cycle to save a Republican Speaker? WU: It's very possible. That's a cycle that we can see play out in the House. But Democrats I've talked to are certainly prepared to see this happen. It all comes down to how large the Republican coalition that's trying to remove Johnson is. If it's only Marjorie Taylor Greene and others from the right flank of the Republican Party, Democrats I've talked to seemed willing to help out there and other Republicans seemed willing to potentially give that a pass if it were just a small minority of their party.

The question is, whether really this starts to wear down on the operations of the House. If they -- if Marjorie Taylor Greene or other Republicans continue to trigger this motion, will this be something that prompts a rules change by both parties?

There's certainly an appetite for it. Mike Johnson publicly said that he did not want to instigate a rule change but that doesn't stop other members from doing so.

BLACKWELL: Nicholas Wu always good to see. Thank you, sir.

Also heads up, opening statements are scheduled to start Monday in the first criminal trial of former President Donald Trump. Watch CNN for special live coverage starts at 9:00 Eastern on CNN and streaming on Max.

So Freaknik ended in Atlanta, Myrtle Beach crackdown on Black Bike Week, Miami Beach, popular with young Black folks, say that it's breaking up with spring break. Now it's the Georgia coasts turn. Orange Crush is coming to Georgia's largest public beach, but the small city of Tybee Island wants big unruly crowds to stay away. I'm going to speak with someone who helped organize the original celebration meant for HBCU students about why he's worried about this year's crackdown.

Plus, Drake-Uma Thurman growing hip-hop beef, a connection we're going to try to explain this to you. That's ahead.



BLACKWELL: Tybee Island, it's a small city here in Georgia. And this weekend, they're bracing for a big beach party known as Orange Crush. And this started in the late 80s, mainly for HBCU students, Savannah State University at the top of the list. But now the crowds have ballooned, and so is the number of incidents came to a head last year when the beach was a mess with everything from traffic gridlock to fights.

The island's mayor argues the crowds are not made up of mainly spring break students anymore and groups coming in from out of town or causing the chaos.


BRIAN WEST, TYBEE ISLAND, GEORGIA MAYOR: They ended up in Buckhead when it was going on there. They ended it in Myrtle Beach, they're ending it in Miami. We're going to end it to. This is a reputation of our community. We are a place for families to come and have a good time, and get away from, you know, their work environments and relax, is going to be a miserable experience.

And the people that are coming should know that they're going to have a hard time getting down here. When they get here, the things that they paid to do aren't going to happen.


BLACKWELL: Kenneth Flowe helped organize the original Orange Crush back when he was at Savannah State University is with me now. Kenneth, good morning to you.

You say you are worried about what is happening this weekend and the city's response to the potential police response. Why?

KENNETH FLOWE, HELPED ORGANIZE THE ORIGINAL ORANGE CRUSH: Well, I'm worried because people should have access to waterways, right? People should be able to go to the beach. And who I'm worried for mostly, is that kid from let's say Knoxville, Tennessee who does not know the history of Tybee Island. He jumps in the car and drives down to Tybee Island. And then he finds out that he's a criminal because he's made a right turn on Butler, on the island.

So, you know, that's an issue, right? They're criminalizing our children, our college students, for simply using the beach.


BLACKWELL: Now, the mayor says that it's just too much. Eleven hundred ten thousand people, the estimate from last year, come into this town, typically of 3,100. They're overwhelmed. So that's why they are closing the parking lots and limiting access to the meters there. Why they're shutting to make the setting up checkpoints. Why is it more than we just can't accommodate this number of people? Why is it more than that?

FLOWE: Well, we're in the situation. I mean, they've had 34 years to prepare for today. And we're in this situation because they've simply tried to wish the event away. And so rather than creating a shuttle system where people park off the island and shuttle onto the island, or any event on -- in Savannah, so that at 5:00, folks are eagerly trying to get off the island.

They just created the scenario where they think, right is -- Mike is right, and that the more police they have, the less Orange Crush students will be appearing. And that's just not the case.

BLACKWELL: You know, what the -- go ahead.

FLOWE: I was going to say, there are solutions but that's only if you embrace the event, right? So if you don't embrace the event, you get what we have now. If you do embrace it, you get something similar to St. Patrick's Day in Savannah, right? They have a very nice event. BLACKWELL: Yes.

FLOWE: And it's because it was a nuisance before, and they figured out a way to embrace it. And now they have a nice annual event.

BLACKWELL: You know, with the mayor highlighted, and those were the events he chose. He chose Atlanta, Myrtle Beach, Miami, these are places that young Black college students, young Black people traditionally have gone. And all of those cities, for different reasons, have said we don't want this here.

What is the relevance of that? And this, I guess, continued tradition of limiting these spaces where these young black students and for large part non-students can go during this time of year?

FLOWE: Well, you know, it's either a melanin or a coincidence, right? All of those places, all of those events that you're talking about are frequented by African Americans. So either it's the melanin or it's a coincidence, or it's bad management when these folks come to the -- come to -- come on the scene.

And so, I mean, there has to be a place where young folks can go, right? There's plenty of -- a bit that's pretty much --

BLACKWELL: It's also, this beach has some history a group of students in 1960 states the first weight in in Georgia when this was a white only beach, and they were just outside the beach arrested. So there's even a marker there for the civil rights history, this beach.

This started is something for HBCU students, and there's a picture that you have and others have seen with Shannon Sharpe in that photograph, comedian Red Grant. Here it is from 1989, the first Orange Crush. You see in the upper left --

FLOWE: Absolutely.

BLACKWELL: -- that Shannon Sharpe. The bottom, you see Red Grant running for mayor. You've got coaches from Auburn here. What it is today is not when you started it.

FLOWE: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I'll tell you, they wouldn't let me in that picture because I was just too puny at the time. They didn't want me messing up the -- messing up the shot. But my greater point is that those folks all grew up and moved into greatness. One of them owns a major barber shop in Savannah, and he's much beloved.

And so, the kids that they are preparing for are not the kids that are showing up, right? So like, they call out. I call them the National Guard. They call up the National Guard every time these kids go to the beach because they think the Crips and the Bloods are coming in.

But when you see who's actually there, we have a world class football player, current university coach, a world class comedian.

BLACKWELL: Yes. FLOWE: And those people, those kids deserve an opportunity to bask in the sun. But what you have now coming to the beach, have folks that are going to come to the beach come hell or high tide, because they're not the ones who are going to be intimidated by police officers.

BLACKWELL: We should also say that there was an event last year where there was a mother and daughter, who according to the Tybee Island Police Department, were robbed and assaulted there on the beach. So there are some serious incidents that happen there.

But when we talked about this, as we talked about Miami Beach and other cities that are saying we don't want this here, there has to be places where HBCU students can go during this season when there are places, Panama Beach and others, for predominantly white institutions where those students are welcomed --


FLOWE: Absolutely.

BLACKWELL: -- and accepted. Kenneth Flowe, thank you so much for joining us for the conversation.

You know, what we honor tells us a lot about what and who we think is important. So, what does Mississippi's governor's proclaiming April Confederate Heritage Month? Tell us. One of the state's former governors is here to react and explain, next.



BLACKWELL: April is American Heritage Month. April is also National Poetry Month, Jazz Appreciation Month. In some states, it's Child Abuse Prevention Month. In Mississippi, Lord Mississippi, the governor has proclaimed April Confederate Heritage Month and next Saturday, if you're not, busy April 27th, specifically was proclaimed Confederate Memorial Day. The proclamation was shared by the Facebook page of the state landmark, the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library. Check out the caption here.

They invite you to come celebrate with us. Celebrate with you? Celebrate the heritage of traders who fought to preserve slavery under the fallacy of white supremacy, hard pass. And this is not the first year this is happening in Mississippi, but you have to ask why does it keep happening?

Well, let's get perspective now from a former governor of Mississippi, Ray Mabus. He was also Secretary of the Navy under President Obama and as a former ambassador. Governor, good to see you.

Let me read first, just a bit of a statement that came from Governor Tate Reeves' spokesperson. For the last 30 years, five Mississippi governor's, Republicans and Democrats alike, have signed a proclamation recognizing the statutory state holiday and identifying April as Confederate Heritage Month. But this is a choice every time it happens. What's your reaction to this proclamation?

RAY MABUS, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MISSISSIPPI: Well, first, I didn't do it when I was governor. And second, confederate heritage really? The heritage that I think of better see is slavery, is treason, and is losing. So which one of those heritages are we really honoring here?

But it's all part of that lost calls narrative, the moonlight and magnolias that came about a few years after the Civil War in an attempt to reassert white supremacy. It came hand in hand with Jim Crow and it worked for a long, long time. Statues were put up, this heritage notion.

But what it does is incredibly hurtful, if is incredibly harmful, and it hit honors something that we should learn about, know about, but definitely, definitely not honor.

BLACKWELL: You know, confederate monuments are one thing. They exist and then often, they you have to spend some money, pass some laws, some ordinances to remove them. This is something that he's proactive about. Is the confederate constituency in Mississippi strong enough that to simply just let this be on the books without signing a proclamation to acknowledge it, that there would be some political pushback for the governor?

MABUS: Well, there certainly should be some political pushback. And I think that anyone that thinks that this is something that should be done, that this is something that will help in some way, is just dead solid wrong. There ought to be lots of pushback toward doing things like this.

And, you know, when I was governor, when I was running for governor, my slogan was "Mississippi will never be last again." Mississippi has been so far down on so many measures. And this is one of the reasons we're trying to look back on something that was truly awful, people trying to own other people. And that's the reason the confederate states seceded. All you have to do is read their articles of secession.

BLACKWELL: And let me -- I hate to interrupt but let me read the first couple of lines from Mississippi's justification for secession. This is January 9, 1861. Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery, the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce on of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature. None but the Black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun.

I mean, this is what the governor of Mississippi says that there should be some time to honor those who fought for it and reflect on the lessons. What lessons should we take from this moment, governor?

MABUS: We should take the lesson that treason will not be honored. We should take the lesson that people who advocated slavery will not be honored. And, you know, it's all an attempt to rewrite history, to make something good or acceptable that clearly definitely is not. [08:35:15]

And you're seeing it right up to the present time. I mean, the insurrectionists, the rioters who crashed into the Capitol and took it over, were carrying confederate flags. They weren't carrying those flags for heritage. They were carrying those flags to send a message. And the message was white supremacy. The message was treason. The message was, we will use violence to overturn something we do not agree with.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And it's impossible to reconcile a governor who signs a law that limits how race and racism can be discussed in the classroom, but also finds time to sign a proclamation that honors people who fought for this, and creates a day to memorialize those who fought for what I just read. Mississippi, the first to follow South Carolina, out of the Union.

Former Mississippi governor, Ray Mabus, I thank you very much for your time.

MABUS: Thank you. I enjoyed being with you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Hard turn here. All this week, there have been these headlines that have caught my eye but because I was reading about Mississippi and Congress, and everything else, I really didn't have time to get into the good. But why is Drake in a fight with everybody? I mean claims about AI songs. Uma Thurman is in this somehow offered to help out, plastic surgery allegations. Lisa France is here to try to explain.



BLACKWELL: Is everybody beefing with Drake right now? I mean, this has been building for a while. But this week, it just got bizarre and over what? CNN's Lisa France is here to explain.

I've seen the headlines. And now the names that are coming into this are a surprise. So first, how did this start?

LISA FRANCE, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Yes, that's a good question. There's something that apparently people know about Drizzy Drake that we don't.

So let me take you back to last year where Drake dropped an album and he own -- he had a song with J. Cole, in which J. Cole references that him and Kendrick Lamar, and Drake are the big three, right? So -- which is a nice thing, right?

BLACKWELL: Yes, yes.

FRANCE: Well, apparently, Kendrick Lamar did not think so. So let's come into this year --

BLACKWELL: Big three, just me is what he's saying. FRANCE: Just me, right, right. Right, right. So yes, because what happens is, we then have Metro Boomin, the producer and Future who's a frequent collaborator with Drake. And let's be clear, a lot of these people, all of them are our collaborators with Drake.


FRANCE: And they all have become part of this infinity war of rappers. So Kendrick Lamar is on this future Metro Booming album and he does the song like that. And he says there is no big three, there's big me.


FRANCE: And so, he takes exception to J. Cole saying that. Well J. Cole comes back with a song on like April 5th, in which he takes jabs at Kendrick Lamar. Feels bad about it, five days later takes the song down, then later on during a concert kind of apologizes, says he didn't feel good about it.

BLACKWELL: Bows out.

FRANCE: Bows out. J. Cole is like I'm out the beef.


FRANCE: Well, Metro Boomin and Future, they double down because their album is called "We Don't Trust You." They come out with a second album, "We Still Don't Trust You" --

BLACKWELL: "Still Don't Trust You."

FRANCE: "We Still Don't Trust You," which I think is a genius title. And it has what a lot of people think are the sneak disses against Drake.


FRANCE: And so, of course Drake has to respond because everybody is now sneak Drizzy Drake. It feels like including the weekend of all people --

BLACKWELL: He never get in anything like that.

FRANCE: Never in anything. So he has this line where he says he's glad he didn't sign his life away. And people are like, oh, he's talking about Drake because Drake tried to sign him. Rick Ross is in it.

And Rick Ross isn't even in it, like he's on the album initially. And you don't think it's problematic, but Drake thought it was problematic because --

BLACKWELL: How do Tupac pot get into this --

FRANCE: This is not Tupac.

BLACKWELL: -- ultimately. FRANCE: This is not Tupac -- because, of course, Drake has to come back. And Drake comes back and he does a diss track where he takes everybody on like Kendrick Lamar, he takes on Rick Ross. Then Rick Ross has to come back and he starts this whole like social media campaign against Drake.

And so, Drake now we know, overnight now we found out that there's a reportedly a song in which Tupac Shakur is resurrected in AI and Snoop Dogg in AI on this Drake track that is coming back to hit it everybody else.

BLACKWELL: So, how is Uma Thurman, who is not a rapper at all, involved in this?

FRANCE: This is like -- this thing is so layered and this is why the internet is going crazy. Alborz Internet can't get enough of this. Uma Thurman, what happens is Drake puts up an image of Uma Thurman from Kill Bill surrounded by her enemies --


FRANCE: -- because apparently this is how he feels rightfully so. Uma Thurman catches it and so she puts up on social media a picture of her Kill Bill outfit in storage and says need this and tags Drake.

BLACKWELL: Oh my gosh.

FRANCE: So Uma Thurman's like I want a piece of that too. People are taking sides, their friend, frenemies, their foes. It's just a whole thing. And I didn't mention that ASAP Rocky was a part "We Still Don't Trust You" because that's on his baby daddy, Rihanna famously dated Drake. So he's the only part of this that makes sense.

BLACKWELL: The best part of this to me is the first album, "We Don't Trust You." The follow up. "We Still Don't Trust You."

FRANCE: That's right.

BLACKWELL: Lisa France, thank you so much.


FRANCE: Thank you and I'm glad we're not beefing.

BLACKWELL: We'd never beefing, all right. Coming up, it's a time of the year when folks are figuring out how to pay for college. Well, we have some new insight into how the loans you or your kids take out now, push back home purchases, business launches, having kids That's all coming up next.


BLACKWELL: The Biden administration is working on new ways to reduce or wipe out student loan debt. Last week, the administration announced it's using existing programs to cancel $7.4 billion in debt for 277,000 borrowers The administration says new proposals that could benefit certain groups could go into effect this fall if they're approved, and they cannot come soon enough for borrowers who say that they're putting off major decisions.


They say paying student loans does not leave enough money to think about buying a house or retiring. Let's talk about that with Sonia Lewis, aka the" Student Loan Doctor. She's an expert. And she had that and repaid it, so that was really makes her an expert. Sonia, thank you so much for being with me.

This Gallup poll shows that and, you know, we talk about disparities on this show a lot. Here, there really isn't one. Blacks, whites, Hispanics, all in about 70% say that these debts push back those major life decisions. How should that inform the conversation we have about loan forgiveness and student loan programs in this country?

SONIA LEWIS, AKA THE" STUDENT LOAN DOCTOR": Well, thank you so much for having me this morning. I think it's a very, very important conversation as we look to see what the Biden administration will be doing very soon, in the next coming months with their proposed second chance at forgiveness. Student loan debt affects everyone whether we're thinking about home buying when we're thinking about marriage.

The challenge here is that, payments are very high, interest is high. And there doesn't seem to be a lot of relief in sight for Americans,, particularly those that are in. I would say the age range of 30 years old to 50 years old, whether you are any race and nationality.

BLACKWELL: And it really doesn't -- we're not talking about the $100,000 balances here. Almost two thirds of people in this survey say that even if they have less than $10,000, they're pushing back some big life decisions. So the smaller dollars our amounts are impacting to too.

LEWIS: It is. And so when we look at student loan debt, it really shows up particularly when we think about home buying, so something that a lot of people should know about. What they probably don't know is that as of July 2021, the HUD administration actually reformed their policies around student loan debt.

So this is really, really exciting because if you're thinking about buying a home, it used to be before that they would calculate whatever the payment would be. And they will use that as part of your debt to income ratio. Or now what's really exciting is that if your payments shows that it's $100, because maybe you're on the new safe plan, which is a new plan given by the Biden the administration that's really affordable. It's that the interest accruing each month, you can use that number now to buy a home.

So we're actually really excited to see what happens in the next year with home buying as those new rules have been updated.

BLACKWELL: The Center for Economic Policy and Research, they released a more detailed study about four year institution attendees. They studied Black men and women, white men and women, Hispanic men and women, biracial adults, other racial demographics. And of those demographics, Black women, the most likely to have student loan debt at 43%, and the highest average loan balance at $11,000. Why?

LEWIS: Well, I'll tell you, this is very interesting statistic. And we see it in our community a lot. So a Black woman's going to attend for her bachelor's degree, her master's degree, and even her doctoral degree, but through. They knew entire process, she's going to use a student (inaudible).

Now the challenge here is, she's also going to probably make less than her counterpart. So she's borrowing more, he's probably making less. And so, what we see when someone is in their 40s, let's say, that they're ready to buy a home, it becomes a really big challenge. When they're looking to get a nice car, it's a bigger challenge, because it looks like they already own and have a mortgage, according to their student loan debt.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And we know from the Urban Institute that more than half of Black households, even where there are two incomes, the Black woman is the head of household financially so what impacts her pocket impacts the entire family and community.

Sonia Lewis, thank you so much for digging a little deeper with us, and we'll be right back.



BLACKWELL: Identity is often tied to where we are or where we're from. Well, Will Maxen has many identities, and he works with concealed images in his art to reveal a bigger theme of identity and belonging.


WILL MAXEN, PAINTER: I'm Will Max. I live in Houston, Texas and I'm a painter. So the show is called "In The Last Standstill," I kind of came up with the title before any of the pieces kind of came together. I think the show was really just about kind of history and in people's existing space, or the lack of existence.

Growing up in a biracial family, you know, my partner's African American, my mother is white, my family is Jewish. I'm Jewish, so all of these kind of identities. Again, this idea of rootedness and unrootedness going in moving across country a couple of times, living in these different environments.

Again, really starts -- got me thinking about my belongings, got me thinking about like lineage in history. You know, never feeling white enough, never feeling Black enough. So kind of, in a lot of these works, you'll see things kind of concealed or hidden, rather than, like some of the other work that is really about like intimacy and familiar relationships.

This interesting line between the two people exist, land exists and we all kind of live in it together. And our interactions with them and it's just (inaudible) with other people.



BLACKWELL: Will Maxen and the "Land Stands Still" show is at the UTA artists face pop up in New York on West 27th Street. It's up through Thursday.

Thank you for joining me today. I'll see you back here next Saturday at 8:00 AM Eastern. "Smerconish" is up next.