Return to Transcripts main page

First of All with Victor Blackwell

Royal Family Appears On Balcony Of Buckingham Palace Amid Trooping The Colour Ceremony; Princess Of Wales Appears At Trooping The Colour Ceremony Amid Cancer Treatment; Four Tops Singer Alleges Discrimination After ER Staff Didn't Believe His Identity, Wanted Psychiatric Evaluation; Racial Bias Affects Media Coverage Of Missing People; Gabby Petito's Dad Helping Families Of Color Find Loved Ones. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired June 15, 2024 - 08:00   ET



ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You see the Princess of Wales all lining up looking at the crowds of people there to celebrate. Crowds of fans also some protesters holding flags saying, "Down with the crown and not my king," and rather large letters. Of course, everyone is welcome to this kind of event. But there they are. This is the face of the monarchy and the future with Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. They're in shots.

You can hear the planes. We're ready for that flight path I think from the RAF. There should be over 30 aircraft taking to the skies, subject to weather as you can imagine, and we're looking at what it's like to be flying over Buckingham Palace. Prince Louis not looking that impressed yet. I'm sure we're going to get some faces soon, right?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: And, of course, we mentioned that there are so many who are looking to see how well the king and Prince Catherine are, of course, they're both living with cancer undergoing treatment for cancer. The specifics, undisclosed. But on our conversation about a slimmed down monarchy, this is especially slim considering the you know dozens of people we have seen on that balcony in years past.

STEWART: Yes. I mean, if you could take us back to 2016 with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth seconds, there were I think more than 40 people on that balcony, a much bigger royal family with you know, Prince Andrew, his daughters were often on the balcony as well. And now this is a much slimmed down monarchy and they've really felt it as the royal family with unfortunately poor health with both the king and the Princess of Wales undergoing cancer treatment, both of them looking really well today and how fortunate that they're both feeling well enough to take part in this special occasion. You've seen probably and heard some of those aircraft flying overhead.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. That's obviously the noise of the -- there you go. You can see it there. The Royal Air Force doing its fly over for the royal family out there on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. We just saw Princess Charlotte wave there to the crowds as well. You know, I'm just struck by this image, you know, the family of five,

to the standing to the right of King Charles, Catherine, the Princess of Wales, you know, with Prince William and their three children. And I'm just struck by the thought that this must have been and still is a very taxing time for this young family, you know, and so much uncertainty as their mother goes through this cancer diagnosis.

And Kate to bring you in, I was struck by this Britain message released on Friday by Catherine the Princess of Wales where she said that she does hope to join a few public engagements over the summer, but equally knowing that I am not out of the woods yet.

KATE WILLIAMS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Amara. That statement was so moving wasn't it's so honest when she said I'm doing well but I'm not out of the woods and I have good and bad days and I suffer from tiredness and sometimes I have to rest and she just looks wonderful today. She looks so radiant, just so full of health.

But as we know she's going through a tough time so it's fantastic to see her but I don't think we should expect to see her again rather than perhaps the odd maybe small engagement it has to do with one of her charities one of her Foundations for Early Childhood Education during the summer. And this I think is a moment to treasure seeing them all on the balcony together.

The king standing by Kate this this balcony, this is such a significant moment such a historic moment with some of these great moments as seen on the balcony from the end of World War II's to royal weddings to jubilees. This is a really important one because it shows us that the royal family even though two of the key members are going through cancer treatment are still there and they're still serving and for them for Kate for the king this was so important for them to do this to do this to be there because they see their duty and particularly their duty as honoree colonels is so significant.

And I am -- you know it's thrilling to see Kate there and we really do wish her further you know on the on the on the rest of her recovery that she will continue to go from strength to strength.

BLACKWELL: And I could not hear it and I can't hear it now but you're there, can you gauge for us crowd reaction?

STEWART: Yes, I can. I mean it's hard to hear anything over there some of the flypasts. But there are no small chance of not my King at this stage with some protesters sort of quite near the gates of Buckingham Palace mixed in with the crowds plenty of royal fans as well.

This is something we see now at a lot of these royal events, lots of royal fans but always a few anti monarchist rebels trying to get their message across. And of course they are allowed to do so. There are chances not making there are yellow flags with that emblazoned on them so I'm sure the royal family will be able to see that quite clearly. But curry they are all looking to the skies for this aria flypasts 30 aircraft, extremely noisy. Here comes another one.

[08:05:38] And this of course, will mark the end of the official ceremonies of Trooping the color, the king's second official birthday of the year and the sun is finally shining after well an hour a deluge of quite biblical rain.

WALKER: So if this was the official public celebration for the sovereigns birthday. Kate, do they do anything afterwards? I mean, is there a family meal a birthday cake.

BLACKWELL: You're asking, is there cake?

WALKER: Is there cake?

BLACKWELL: Is there cake?

WALKER: Is there cake with frosting on top.

WILLIAMS: That the cake and the frosting come in November so that King's real birthday, the party is in November. This is much more of a formal occasion. Now there usually is a formal family lunch as a family get together. But it may be decided that that's just too much too tiring for the king and for Princess Catherine considering what they're both going through.

But certainly, the royal family see this as both an occasion of formal occasion that it is a big moment. But there's also a family get together. They are both a firm and a family. It's a family get together. So I do think there'll be even if they don't have a family lunch, some sort of chatting and conversation within Buckingham Palace before they all get in their cars to go home.

And certainly I think it's just fantastic. Because the king hasn't really seen I don't think Princess Catherine released since they were in hospital together in early January because the both of them have been going through cancer treatment. So just wonderful to see them there chatting away talking about the flypast talking about the crowds. And just so great to see the children who seem so happy to be out there with their mother who were in the carriage with her and busily watching the wonderful planes going overhead. It is such a historic moment.

And I think it's also talking just as Anna was saying about the evolution of the royal family. This is the future of the royal family here. This is the future of the royal family in the future. The royal family is of course, Prince George one day this will be his birthday parade too.

BLACKWELL: Let me read for you a portion of the message from Princess Catherine. She says that, "I'm making good progress. But as anyone going through chemotherapy will know there are good days and bad days. On those bad days you feel weak, tired, and you have to give into your body resting.

But on the good days when you feel stronger, you want to make the most of feeling well. My treatment is ongoing and will be for a few more months. On the days when I feel well enough, it is a joy to engage with school life, spending personal time on the things that give me energy and positivity as well as starting to do a little work from home."

She goes on to talk about how she's looking forward to today. And she says she's taking each day as it comes listening to my body and allowing myself to take this much needed time to heal. And for the people who have reached out to her. She says thank you so much for your continued understanding. And to all of you who have so bravely shared your stories with me. That's just a portion of the statement released that was on Friday, by Catherine Princess of Wales.

WALKER: So we have reached the end of this flypast and the Trooping the colour ceremony. You can see the royal family is turning in and going back inside Buckingham Palace, just to you know, wrap things up. I mean, it really was a significant moment to see the royal family out there on the balcony together, especially in light of these two cancer diagnoses one of King Charles and then Princess Catherine also having that diagnosis.

But, you know, perhaps it was an emotional moment for many of the Royal watchers who were excited and anticipating to see how Kate Middleton Princess Catherine keeps and Kate Middleton because I've been following her from the very beginning. Just to see how she would be doing and how she would appear. And she looked beautiful. She looked to be in great spirits with her children. And I think that was super heartening for people to see that family together again out in public.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And it's important because we'll remember the timing of the announcement of her diagnosis in March was time so that it would happen once the children were on holiday so that they would not have to answer questions about it. At school, the children being at the center of the decisions made by the Prince and Princess as it relates to her health.


STEWART: I'm sure that played into the decision today for the Princess of Wales to be here, given that she, you know, has some good days and wanted to be there with her children because this is such a focal point that it's family at large, and how wonderful that she could be with their with them for these young children who must have had an incredibly difficult few months.

As a family, one can only imagine how this has been first, the king, their grandfather being diagnosed with cancer and then their mother. And of course, I think let's not forget a huge amount of pressure on the Prince of Wales, given he's had to pick up so many public duties owing to the fact that his father has had to take some time out while he recovers, as well as dealing with all of this at home and having to primarily of course, be a husband and father at the same time.

So this is a family that have been under severe pressure for many weeks at this stage. It's not been an easy ride and it's a sign of their stoicism in many ways that you see them coming together putting a really good face on it. And I think I hope actually enjoying the moment as well and we just

before they went back into the Buckingham Palace, they were on the balcony and God Save the Queen rang out and we just had sharing across the crowds and I didn't that was a really beautiful final moment for them for they had insight and who knows, maybe they'll go and have some tea and cakes. I can tell you one thing that Brits up and down the country will be enjoying cream cheese today. In their pot on the king's second birthday, cucumber sandwiches and scones clotted cream and jam.

WALKER: I'm all about the scones and the jam. Yes and coffee more than more than two but hey, I'll take the tea if I'm there. Kate to lastly as we wrap this up Trooping the color. This was the official birthday celebration of King Charles and as you mentioned, he was also diagnosed with cancer several months ago, his official birthday is in November. He'll be 76. What do we know about his condition? And you know, how did this day, in your opinion go for him?

WILLIAMS: This day, I think has gone so well for the king. It couldn't have gone better. The only difference was he wasn't on horseback. He was in the carriage. You're showing these wonderful pictures of the carriages here. It just looked fantastic when they came out of the palace. And he was on the balcony looking great. And he was out there doing the D-Day engagements just recently.

So I think we really are seeing a gradual Return of the King to full time duties. Today was a great success. There he is in the carriage with the queen by his side. And you know it has been his birthday parade is his big day. So it was wonderful. He could come out to do it. And with two royal family members going through cancer with a slim down royal family, certainly a lot of onus is on the king. So I know that he's very keen to get back to full time duties. And we'll be doing so as soon as he can.

And I think in terms of Trooping the colour, we've had many great historic trooping of the colors, but this one I think will go down in many memories because this one is when we saw the king and Kate too suffers from cancer. Two people who are going through cancer treatment out there on the balcony in the carriages celebrating this great ceremonial event.

WALKER: Kate Williams and Anna Stewart thank you both so much for watching this us. This with us live after -- Oh first of all, what's coming up next. First of all is up next.

BLACKWELL: The whole (inaudible) show is coming up.

WALKER: Yes. Victor is coming up. What's going on?

BLACKWELL: All right. So on the show today, the lead singer of a world famous R and B group says that he rents recently went to a hospital with chest pains. And when he told the staff who he is they refuse to believe him. And he says they put him in a restraining jacket.

WALKER: Wow. BLACKWELL: And they wouldn't let him lead. He says race played a part

in that. That singer is now suing and he's here with us to share his story. Plus, when Gabby Petito disappeared and was found murdered a lot of people saw this intense media coverage as a case of what's known as missing white woman syndrome. What Gabby Petito's father heard that and he wants to help change it. So he is with us.

Also ahead of Juneteenth. We traveled with a man who says he is just one generation removed from slavery what he found out on his journey to learn more about his family history. First of all, when we come back in just a moment.



BLACKWELL: Well first of all, you know the show started off differently today because of events in London but we have some stories today that you likely have not seen and I think you should know them like this one.

So second lead there is Alexander Morris. He's a lead singer the four types you know Can't Help Myself, Baby I need Your Loving, the hits, right. Morris says he was having chest pains and difficulty breathing recently but what was initially denied treatment at a hospital in Michigan. When a nurse, a security guard and an emergency room doctor refused to believe that his Alexander Morris lead singer, the Four Tops.

He says they assume that he was delusional. Morris says he was even placed in a restraining jacket. Remember, he showed up in an ambulance? Well, now he's suing for racial discrimination. Alexander Morris is here with us to share his story along with one of his attorneys, Maurice Davis.

Gentlemen, good morning to you. And Alexander, let me start with you. You say that you were having difficulty breathing chest pains you show up at Ascension Macomb-Oakland Hospital. And you say that you have some issues with security because of fans, maybe some stalkers. And then what happened?

ALEXANDER MORRIS, FOUR TOPS LEAD SINGER: Well, we have a protocol that when we go into a hospital that we may not be familiar with, to alert the charge nurse and the security, head of security to let them know that we're there and who we are. So that if the hospital has any security concerns for themselves, their patients, the patient's privacy, as well as myself or ourselves, they are able to put those things into action.

I have a history of cardiomyopathy, I have three stents in my heart and a defibrillator. Taken in the ambulance, once I got to emergency, they took me into triage. While they had me on oxygen, while they were doing my intake, I requested for the security guard to give them that information. Upon telling them that they and given them a license, they didn't believe that I was who I said I was. I was then taken off of oxygen. I was placed out into the hallway for

roughly three hours or so with no oxygen, asking for oxygen and a blanket because it was rather cold. It was Easter weekend, and I'm having trouble breathing chest is hurting tremendously. Next thing I know the emergency room doctor Collins never asked me Victor, anything concerning any mental health issues history of mental health or anything of that nature. Question was, Mr. Morris, what brings you in today? I gave him the medical overview of my health circumstances.

At that point, he said, All right, well, we're going to get you down for some testing and some evaluating and trying to see what we can do to alleviate your situation.

BLACKWELL: And there was a psychiatric evaluation, right?

MORRIS: Right. Well, he didn't say anything about the psychological. I didn't find that out until about 20 minutes later. They took me back into triage room, where I was told they asked me to put on a hospital gown. And so I reached for the normal hospital gown and went to put it on, I was told that that was the wrong gown. And they grabbed me and took that one off of me. And they put me in what's called a restraint gown, which comes from about here, all the way down to your (inaudible) and --

BLACKWELL: And as this is happening, what is going through your mind.

MORRIS: I didn't really know what was going on because they hadn't said anything. And what alerted me to it was when they took my personal effects. And then when they asked for my phone, and I said it security guards and I'm going to hold onto my phone. And he said, No, you're going to put it in the bag. I said, No, I'm going to hold on to my phone. He said, No, you'll get all your stuff back. When you come back from psych eval.


MORRIS: And I said psych eval, and he said, yes. I said, and Victor, I was really kind of taken aback because I honestly thought they had me mixed up with another patient. So I told him, I said, I didn't come in for anything mental. I was in an ambulance for cardiacs circumstances. And he said, well, they'll deal with that once you come back from psychological evaluation.

BLACKWELL: Let me turn now to your attorney. Mr. Davis, when did the racial element come into this?

MAURICE DAVIS, ATTORNEY: The racial element came in when the white male security guard told my client to sit as black behind. So overall, we have a pattern within this hospital that we that we've come to know where they discriminate, or they discriminate against minorities. In this situation, you know, you above subtle racism. You have a word racism.

You have a subtle racism where you may have an individual who may be clutching purse or roll up or car window, lock your car door when they see a black man walking past. You have overt racism, as in this case, where my client is physically restrained, not allowed to leave, not providing any medical care that he came into the hospital for, and then told to sit his Blackline. No.


BLACKWELL: I also read that once they realized, I mean, I understand that your wife had to come and prove that you are who you are. And they try to make amends here. What did they offer you? There was a gift card or something that you were given?

MORRIS: A $25 gift card to Meyers.

BLACKWELL: They gave you a $25 Grocery gift card at the end of this after having you restrained simply for saying this is my name and this is who I am.

MORRIS: Yes, sir.

BLACKWELL: And what was your reaction to that?

MORRIS: I really didn't have a reaction because I was stunned. So I just asked him to set it on the collar on the table next to me, because I couldn't believe that this is what they were doing. You know, they told me that I you know, that I could not receive a copy of the grievance that I was trying to file. And then they proceeded to tell me that this is just something from them to me for the inconvenience and possible mishap or miscommunication of information. And as I guess, out of branch, we want to do this for you and they gave me a $25 gift card and Meyer's.

BLACKWELL: Attorney Davis, as part of this lawsuit is the claim that in this 90 minutes that this happened that they refused the treatment. That his condition was it worsened was it exacerbated as he was now off oxygen with these challenges.

DAVIS: Absolutely. That is part of our claim. There is a (inaudible) complaint. And part of it is that his condition was worsened as a result of the delay in care. He was physically restrained as part of our complaint. So we're alleging race discrimination, violation of his civil rights, negligence, gross negligence, battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and (inaudible) violation.

BLACKWELL: Well, Alexander Morris and Attorney Maurice Davis, we got to wrap it there. But I am I'm sorry that this this happened to you. Thank you for sharing your story with us. But really all that happened here, you didn't do anything wrong. He went in and said, here's who I am. And they say to you can't be that person. Let's have a psych evaluation. Thank you for being with me.

Let me read here what the statement from the hospital. This is to stat news, the hospital said, it would not come in on pending litigation but noted. "We remain committed to honoring human dignity and acting with integrity and compassion for all persons and the community. We do not condone racial discrimination of any kind." Gabby Petito father says that he was initially upset when some of the news coverage of his daughter's disappearance and death was described as missing white woman syndrome. But now he's working to help missing women of color. Joseph Petito is with us next.



BLACKWELL: If on your way home from work, you just disappeared. How many people would come looking for you, would your story make local news, national news? If you're a person of color statistics say probably not the late journalist when I first called that dynamic missing white woman syndrome. And the Columbia Journalism Review has this fascinating project. It's called Are You Press Worthy?

You can go to their website, and you put in your age, gender state you live in and the ethnicity and you'll see how much press coverage you're likely to get based on how many stories of people just like you are being covered in the media. So according to the site, a missing white woman in her 20s is usually covered in about 120 stories. A 42 year old black man living in Georgia seven.

The reality of that disparity drew a lot of attention in 2021 after the disappearance and murder of Gabby Petito. Now we all know her name because we covered her story extensively. What happened to her is tragic and disturbing. But sadly, the reality is that there are hundreds of cases of missing and murdered women. A lot of them do not get any attention. So when these women are black or Latino or indigenous, why do they get overlooked? And how can we change that?

Gabby Petito's father took note of how people reacted to coverage of his daughter's case. And now he and the Gabby Petito Foundation are trying to change the narrative of missing white woman syndrome and use their platform to raise awareness of missing people of color. Joe Petito is here with us along with Darlene Gomez, an attorney and advocate for missing and murdered indigenous women and relatives.

Thank you both for being with us. Joe, let me start with you. And you initially you were offended by this term. What changed it for you what did you learn that sent you on the new path?

JOE PETITO, FAHTER OF GABBY PETITO: Well, when I first heard it, it was I mean, it was like taken aback I guess because I didn't hear before and I was like why is this happening Gabby's story but it was only the initial and then I sat and thought about it. I was like, Wait a second, let me see what's going on here. And we looked into it. And it's it is a real thing.

I mean, don't kill the messenger, you know what I mean? But it is it is a real thing. And there are ways to, we can look for people to blame. That's not what we do. We look for solutions. And we're going to lead by example, and try to, you know, make sure that we share people that not only that look like me, but ones that don't look like me, you know.


So that's all we can do. I can't force you to do stories that you don't want to do. But we can share the ones and hopefully people will leave by that example, as well. And push those stories out there.

BLACKWELL: Darlene, no two scenarios are identical. But when the major difference is the race of the missing person, how much more difficult is it to get our attention and not just our attention, but the attention of and investment of law enforcement in searching for the sad missing person.

DARLENE GOMEZ, ATTORNEY AND ADVOCATE FOR MISSING AND MURDERED INDIGENOUS WOMEN AND RELATIVES: It's extremely difficult. If you look at the rates of victim blaming, that go along with law enforcement choosing to take a police report all the way to the U.S. Attorney's Office and prosecuting cases of murdered and missing Indigenous women and relatives. It's incredibly hard. The families and myself, we have to take it into our own hands by sending press releases out and go into our social media like Facebook and TikTok to get awareness and to get our loved ones into the media.

BLACKWELL: Joe, how do you think you can best with your work in the Gabby Petito Foundation best help to shrink those disparities?

PETITO: Well, by partnering with groups that do specialize with finding people of color, or indigenous and stuff, and standing alongside. I mean, again, I can't force you or force any other network to do some more social media to do some, but making sure that we can, again, do alongside people like Darlene or the black condition Foundation, and, and let them know that, you know, we're here to you know, to partner up and do whatever we can. And we encourage others to do the same.

BLACKWELL: Has this been part of I don't like the term closure, but part of the healing process for you this work and other work since Gabby's murder?

PETITO: So, yes, the closure is not something you get with the death of a child. I particularly don't like the word, but it's, I guess it's silver linings, right. You try to find those silver linings? And maybe one day, it'll be enough. Not right now. And my dogs walking by, you see that. I'm sorry.

BLACKWELL: That's all right. Darlene, the uncomfortable and unfortunate truth is that sometimes people like that look like you and look like me can say this over and over and over. But not until someone who looks like Joe Petito says it and invest his time and energy. Is there a different perspective on the missing white woman syndrome or these disparities? How important is his acknowledgement and investment of time and resources here?

GOMEZ: It's extremely important. And I can tell you just by having the Gabby Petito Foundation, partnering with us. We had a sentencing hearing in federal court in Phoenix where Nikki, Gabby's mom and her husband, Joe, are going to come out to stand next to us. And Jamie Ozzie (ph) was a Native American woman who was in a domestic violence relationship, and she was murdered by her boyfriend. And I had sent out press releases, and I had asked the Navajo Nation and other individuals to host our press conference, because the federal government had us across from the courthouse in a grassy area in like 120 degree weather at 5:00 p.m.

So once I sent this press release out, all of a sudden, the U.S. government was offering us a space inside where it was nice and cool. And then the tribes came forward saying, we'll host this event. And so it was really interesting to see that dynamic when the Gabby Petito Foundation was partnering with us.

BLACKWELL: Wow. Yes. I mean, a measurably a difference once having that, that investment from the foundation. I understand you had an event last night, Joe, tell us about that.

PETITO: We did. We had a what's called touch the world golf outing at a dinner yesterday evening, actually, pretty much all day, and it's going to go for a domestic violence education program for middle school, in high school more like a peer to peer this when you try to teach a 14, 15, 16 year old they fail everything. So they don't want to learn from people like me. So doing a peer to peer building that program that way we think would be much more impactful. So we're working on that and that's it on the in the infancy stage.


But going back to if I can just go back there is a hierarchy that goes to missing people you know, it's why it's children first children, pretty much children of any color you know, especially if they're like 10 or under will get shared a lot then it's then it's why women you know, then be women of color and then it'd be man like if you're a man, you rarely ever get shared. So when you see stories like Daniel Robinson or Jelani Day or someone long along the Sebastian Rogers, it's really hard to you don't you don't realize how much work those families put in to get those stories out there.

You know, it hats off to them for really pushing and getting those stories out there. But we got to do more. Like your own network. CNN is a great network, anything bad but what you don't have like on your main page, you don't have a missing personally, you know, that would be great. So if you want to talk to your tech people there, put that LinkedIn. I mean, either local or national, whatever. But that would be a great source of people know where to look and where to go with him when someone does go missing.

BLACKWELL: Well Joe, you just did, and I will too. I appreciate I pray. No, I genuinely appreciate that suggestion. I will pass it on but they're watching. Joe Petito, Darlene Gomez, I thank you both for your time and for the work you're doing.

All right. Next is a story that not many people alive today can share. CNN follows the emotional and revealing journey of a man whose late father was a slave and traveled with relatives to see if they could uncover more about their roots.


passed. That was one less person that say what my uncle instead it was kind of hitting me right now. I'm trying to pull myself right.




BLACKWELL: It was in 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation declaring that all people held as slaves and rebelling states were to be free. Well, Juneteenth is next week. It commemorates June 19, 1865, more than two years later, when enslaved people in Texas were notified.

But that did not end slavery in the United States. It wasn't until December of 1865 that Georgia became the 27th state to ratify the 13th amendment, and that met the necessary number of states for the U.S. to officially abolish slavery.

Well, CNN's Omar Jimenez spoke with one man who says his father was born in Georgia before slavery and officially been abolished, and they recently journey back to where his dad was born.


WILBUR B. BELL, 83-YEAR-OLD SEARCHING FOR FAMILY HISTORY: As my father he represents memory.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (VOICEOVER): In this northern Florida graveyard, Wilbur Bell is visiting his dad, Cornelius Bell, etched in the gravestone it says born in May 1865, which would mean his father was born before slavery was outlawed in the United States. His father was 75 when Wilbur was born, now only he and his sister are still alive.

BELL: As we speak today, we might be the only people in the United States who really can say that their parents apparently was born.

JIMENEZ (voiceover): So he's retracing that history, going back to where his father was born. Homerville GA, the town of a little over 2000 at 83 years old, Wilbur Bell had never been until now. Walking alongside his nephew and daughter, reflecting.

BELL: I remember talking to my father, and he was -- he's a hard worker. He was a farmer. I guess he was a businessman also.

BELL: And while slavery may be a tie to their history, their mission in this journey is family. They went to the town's genealogy library. Hoping to find more.

BELL: My dad passed last year when he passed. That was one less person that could say what my uncle said. It was kind of hit me trying to pull myself right. JIMENEZ (voiceover): They looked through a lot of the library's records. History, names of previous Bell's in the area from around the time his father would have lived there.

BELL: There's some name correlation. Like there's a Wilburn Bell that Yama Wilbur Bell so they forgot to put the head on my name.

JIMENEZ (voiceover): Bell shared with us a copy of the 1940 census showing his father then this picture of his dad believed to be from 1939. And while they didn't find everything they were looking for at the library, just to see the town where his father was born was discovery enough, especially head of Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. He's happy the country now recognizes the day officially.

BELL: With the push back on history and what the current has been going through for the past I guess eight years. Juneteeth was the new day, go by people that go there brought people closer together.


JIMENEZ (voiceover): His nephew doesn't just want to commemorate the past. He at times wants freedom from it.

BELL: Wish we just stopped talking about slavery. We can't do anything about it. It was a horrible thing. To some extent, perhaps we still, we still felt the effects of that. We can't grow. We can't move forward. If we don't let it go.

JIMENEZ (voiceover): Wilbur Bell tends to agree.

BELL: It's about moving forward.

JIMENEZ (voiceover): But he also needed to honor his past not just visiting where his dad was born. But in that a direct link to a time many thought was generations and America's past for everyone.

BELL: On one generation obviously.

BELL: I'm, too.

JIMENEZ (voiceover): And getting closer to his dad in the process.

BELL: My father was Cornelius Bell. He was survival.

JIMENEZ (voiceover): Omar Jimenez, CNN Homerville, Georgia.


BLACKWELL: Wow. All thanks to Omar for brain us that story. Now a CNN review of census records from 1940 and 1950, along with the gravestone and obituary support that Bell's father was born in 1865. But census records from 1930 Show him as being born after 1865. Now, according to the National Archives as part of a challenging record keeping dynamic when it comes to census records between 1790 and 1940, especially for black people. Out of Juneteenth, I had a chance to go one on one with the legendary

Smokey Robinson. He's going to tell you why you should not call him an African American. That's after the break.



BLACKWELL: On Wednesday, I'm hosting the CNN special event, Juneteenth, Celebrating Freedom and Legacy. You'll hear music and conversations with John Legend, the godmother of soul Patti LaBelle, and Motown legend, Smokey Robinson. And he had an interesting answer for me what I asked this.


BLACKWELL: I read somewhere that you don't prefer to be referred to as African American that you are a black American or American. Why?

SMOKEY ROBINSON, AMERICAN SINGER-SONGWRITER: Okay, man. I wrote a poem. And it's called being a black American. Okay. Now, in my life in my career, I've been all over the world, I have never even been to Africa. Okay. When they will offer me dates and stuff in Africa during apartheid. And I wasn't going to go during apartheid and do that, you know.

There's a passage in the poem that I wrote. And it says, all the wonderful black Americans who served in all the wars, served in the armed forces and gave their lives and all the wars. They didn't do that for Timbuktu or Cape Town to Kenya, the death of Mississippi and Alabama, and Georgia and Louisiana and Texas, and Virginia, did not continue.

And if you're a novice there if you don't claim that you play a right to the hand of the white supremacist, the Ku Klux Klan, who claimed they own this land, now, that's why because we have cultivated it. We've built. We've raised the kids. We've done everything that you could possibly do to contribute to a country. Okay. So now for me to come along and say, okay, I'm an African American, this kind of denouncing my American citizens seems kind of nice and the fact that I'm an American. I'm proud to be an American man, American.


BLACKWELL: Juneteenth, celebrating freedom and legacy premieres at 10:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific on CNN also streams on Macs, you can also watch it on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Thanks for joining me today. I'll see you back here next Saturday at 8:00 a.m. Eastern. Smerconish is up next.