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One World with Zain Asher
Blinken Meets With Xi Jinping; U.N. Holds Conference In Geneva To Raise Funds; Refugees Leaving Sudan Face Difficult Conditions In South Sudan Camps; Intense Firefight Between Israeli Forces And Palestinian Militants Drags Lasts More Than 11 Hours; Moscow And Kyiv Report Intense Fighting Along Frontlines; British Lawmakers Evaluate Explosive Report On Boris Johnson; Hundreds Of Bodies Found In Forest Linked To Cult Activities. Aired 12-1p ET
Aired June 19, 2023 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ZAIN ASHER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone, I'm Zain Asher from New York and this is ONE WORLD. Over the past year, nearly every new development in
U.S.-China relations has been a step backwards. There have been angry words, cancelled visits, and certainly a lack of communication. And that is
why this moment, a handshake between the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen as such an important step
It came at the end of Blinken's two-day visit to Beijing. The meeting was not originally on Blinken's schedule, added at the last minute perhaps, as
a sign that Beijing is ready to work with Washington more closely. Coming out of the meeting, we heard mostly encouraging words from the two sides to
back that up.
Mr. Xi spoke of a common understanding, adding that the U.S. and China had reached agreements. He talked of the importance of showing mutual respect
and sincerity. And Blinken noted that his visit had been filled with candid and constructive conversations. Listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I came to Beijing to strengthen high-level channels of communication, to make clear our positions and
intentions in areas of disagreement, and to explore areas where we might work together when our interests align on shared transnational challenges a
nd we did all of that.
ASHER: Anna Coren has been tracking the U.S. Secretary of State's visit to Beijing. So, Anna, one of the most important things is really setting up an
open line of communication between both sides, especially during a military crisis. What sort of progress was made on that front, Anna?
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zain, as we know, relations between the U.S. and China have been at an all-time low. So, this two-day visit was
really about re-establishing communications. And as we heard from the U.S. Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, they have achieved that.
But as far as military to military communication, something that the United States certainly wanted to take away from this trip, that was not achieved.
China would not give in to that. Part of the reason is they don't want to, I guess, legitimize the U.S. military, you know, in its backyard, if you
like, and the activities that the United States carries out within Asia and around China.
But also, we heard from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after Blinken departed China for London, that the reason that they are refusing to
reestablish those lines of communications as far as the military goes is because of the unilateral sanctions that the United States has placed on
the U.S., on the Chinese Defense Minister back in 2018 regarding the procurement of military equipment from the Russians.
So, you know, there is still a lot to unpack. There were robust discussions. That's how Anthony Blinken described his conversation with the
Chinese leader Xi Jinping. But it wasn't just Xi that Blinken spoke to. He spent time with China's foreign minister yesterday, with the top diplomat
in China, Wang Yi, today, about 10 hours of cumulative meetings, followed by that 35-meeting with Xi Jinping.
The other issues that were discussed was Taiwan, that of course is the core issue dividing the two countries. U.S. says it will not recognize Taiwan in
its aim for independence and yet it still sells weapons to the Taiwanese. So, this is a big problem for China. They spoke about trade. These are the
two top trading partners in the world, the two largest economies, you know, almost $700 billion worth of trade occurs between the two.
And you know, we know that China needs the U.S. This is something essential, as does the U.S., you know, needing China. These are economies
that are intertwined. So, you know, important to get that back on track. The war in Ukraine was raised, as was the unlawful detention of U.S.
citizens in China and the fentanyl crisis, the opioid crisis in the United States.
Many of the precursors of the chemicals originate from China. So, this was, you know, all put on the table if you like. Was anything solved? No, you
know, and I think it's fair to say both sides will say that. But those discussions hopefully will come, you know, in the future. We know that the
Treasury Secretary, the Commerce Secretary of the United States, they plan to come to Beijing hopefully in the coming weeks. So that is where those
high-level, you know, working discussions will happen, Zain.
ASHER: Anna Coren, live for us there. Thank you so much. The United Nations is sending a dire warning to Africa and the rest of the world as
the conflict in Sudan enters its tenth week. The U.N. just wrapped up a pledging conference in Geneva aimed at raising desperately needed money to
help with Sudan's humanitarian response.
Secretary-General Antonio Gutierres says that current funding does not meet the scale of the emergency, and he warns that without strong international
support, the violence in Sudan could threaten stability across the region.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONIO GUTIERRES, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: The people of Sudan and those of neighboring countries are shouldering the burden of this terrible
crisis. We must do everything we can to support them. It's not only our duty as members of international community, it is crucial to preventing the
situation from deteriorating even further.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASHER: Tens of thousands of Sudanese are also fleeing to South Sudan, a country that is already stretched for resources. And as CNN's Nima Elbagir
finds out, conditions in the refugee camps are dire, lacking even basic facilities.
NIMA ELBAGIR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESONDENT: This is Africa's largest refugee crisis and you can see the conditions here for
yourself. The people here are being largely ignored by the world. Aid agencies are doing what they can but it is simply not enough.
ELBAGIR: South Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world. They barely have enough to feed and shelter their own returnees. And they're
also being asked now to absorb fleeing Sudanese and other foreign nationals with limited support from the outside world. And it is almost impossible.
With rainy season starting, what you see here, it's only going to get worse. So many of those speaking to us say that they feel a sense of
humiliation, that the message that they're receiving from the world, from the international community, is that they are not worthy of support. And
until aid arrives here in meaningful quantities, it's hard to argue with that. Nima Elbagir, CNN, Rank, South Sudan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASHER: This is what it looked and sounded like in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin today. An intense firefight between Israeli forces and
Palestinian militants dragged out over 11 hours. Palestinian health officials report at least five Palestinians killed, including a 15-year-old
boy and more than 90 injured.
Israel's military says that eight of its troops were injured. Hadas Gold has been following all these from Jerusalem. So, Hadas, just walk us
through what the IDF has been saying about who they were targeting during these raids, who the suspects apparently were.
HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so the Israeli military was undertaking what they said was an arrest operation, and they described this
as essentially a routine operation, not expecting it to turn into what we saw today, which was incredibly intense firefights escalating in ways that
we haven't seen in probably a few decades here. And it lasted, as you noted, almost 11 hours until the final Israeli forces left Jenin in the
And what's really interesting about what happened today and alarming is the increased use of advanced, you could call it, weaponry firepower from both
the militants and the Israeli forces. The Israeli military says that as their vehicles were passing into Jenin, one of them in particular was hit
by a roadside IED.
We have seen footage of this IED going off, and you can just really see the impact of the explosion. The Israeli military is saying it essentially took
out the underside of this Panther command vehicle. At least five other vehicles were also rendered inoperable during this operation.
The Israeli military said they had to eventually be towed out. And at one point, Israeli soldiers were still waiting to be extracted for hours while
in Jenin. Then, we also saw the Israelis use an Apache helicopter to fire on Jenin while they were trying to extract soldiers there.
The Israeli military is saying that the Apache helicopter was firing on open areas to provide cover for the Israeli soldiers as they were
extracting them. We have not heard of any injuries to Palestinians as a result of the helicopter, but the IDF did say that actually militants did
manage to pierce the helicopter with gunfire and that the helicopter had quite a few bullet holes once it landed.
We do know that five Palestinians were killed. Two of them were claimed to be militants by Islamic Jihad. Seven Israeli forces were injured and at
least 90 other Palestinians were marked as injured, as well. Zain.
ASHER: All right, Hadas Gold for us there, thank you. Turning now to Ukraine, where Moscow and Kyiv are reporting intense fighting along the
frontlines and both sides are giving starkly different accounts of the ongoing battles in Zaporizhzhia with each army claiming success. Ukraine's
military in the meantime says its forces have recaptured eight settlements in two weeks and in what could be a new tactic by the Kremlin. Russia
claims the Ukrainian stronghold was destroyed by a tank packed with explosives, but it's unclear whether the explosion was the result of a
Ukrainian attempt to destroy the tank.
All right, at this hour, British lawmakers are considering whether to back findings of an explosive report on Boris Johnson. Last week, a powerful
Privileges Committee concluded that Johnson had misled Parliament about those parties held during Covid-19 lockdowns. One MP says that Boris
Johnson's actions dishonored the sacrifices made during lockdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THANGAM DEBBONAIRE, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Birthdays, Mr. Speaker happen every year, it's Johnson's today. Weddings can be postponed plenty
where and I know it was hard, but it was possible, but funerals can't. So, I ask each and every MP to look into their hearts and ask themselves before
they risk dishonoring their constituents' sacrifice, they should ask if a relative of a victim of Covid from their constituency were in the room
right now, what would they say?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASHER: The vote couldn't come at a worse time for Johnson. Over the weekend, the Mirror released this video of Johnson's aides dancing and
drinking and partying at a 2020 Christmas party at the Conservative Party's headquarters.
Nada Bashir is following the story for us from London, joins us now. So, obviously Boris Johnson has already sort of stepped down as an MP, so the
committee is limited in terms of how they can sanction him. But if a majority of lawmakers actually back the committee's findings, Nada, how
damaging would that be for Boris Johnson's legacy do you think?
NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, we've seen Boris Johnson facing a number of crises during his time as prime minister. This clearly
is not ending anytime soon, despite the fact that he has now stepped down from his position as a member of parliament. Now, of course, you're right
that they are limited in how they can impact Boris Johnson in terms of the sanctions being placed on the former prime minister.
Typically, the findings of this report would be considered so serious, so damaging, that you could face a 90-day suspension, that could in turn lead
to triggering a by-election, but of course Boris Johnson isn't in that position. MPs at this stage are not debating anymore his parliamentary
future. Rather, they are debating whether or not they endorse the findings of the report and separately, of course, whether the former MP passed to
the palace of Westminster for Boris Johnson would be revoked.
So, certainly limited there. He's already facing, of course, or has faced very low opinion polls. And as you mentioned there, that video that
released by the British tabloid paper, the "Mirror" over the weekend has really only heightened that anger and frustration that has been directed
not only to Boris Johnson but also of course to the government and the Conservative Party, in general, with regards to their handling of the
Covid-19 pandemic and in turn handling of the Partygate scandal and there is a real sense of anger.
Many, of course, during that period in December 2020 would have been separated from loved ones by adhering to those lockdown restrictions that
were put in place by Boris Johnson and his government. So, you can imagine for those who have lost loved ones, for those who adhered to those rules,
who spent difficult weeks separated from their family members. It is deeply upsetting to see that members of parliament, that Boris Johnson's own aides
within the Conservative Party were taking part in these celebrations.
Now, of course, we have heard from Boris Johnson responding to the findings of the report earlier in the week. He did describe this as a charade. He
has accused the Committee of trying to twist truth in order to serve its own purposes, but there has also been vehement criticism from other members
of parliament. And that debate is still very much ongoing.
And of course, the timing of the release of that video of a party taking place in December 2020 has only heightened that anger. And of course, the
Metropolitan Police has confirmed that it is now considering this as evidence. And this will be considering what further steps to take when it
comes to the possibility of an investigation. Zain.
ASHER: Nada Bashir, live for us. Thank you. Nine Egyptian nationals arrested on suspicion of people smuggling are pleading not guilty in a
Greek court. They were arrested late last week in connection with that boat disaster in the Mediterranean Sea. They faced charges including forming a
criminal organization and causing a shipwreck. The U.N. says about 750 people were on the packed boat when it capsized.
More than 300 Pakistanis were among the victims. Pakistan's Prime Minister declared Monday a day of mourning and is setting up a higher level
committee to investigate. And in the midst of tragedies and tears of joy, a Syrian teenager who survived the shipwreck was reunited with his older
brother. There they are in a loving embrace there at a migrant camp near Athens on Friday. All right, just ahead on ONE WORLD.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What happened in the forest with your followers?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASHER: CNN talks to a cult leader who's being held in a case that could become one of the worst mass suicides in recent memory. A live report in
just a couple of minutes. Also, sheriff's deputy got sucked underwater while trying to rescue a stranded motorist. We'll show you that terrifying
moment caught on his body camera.
And later, on a day where America stops to celebrate the end of slavery, a CNN anchor learns how his ancestors won their freedom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: What do you think?
VIKTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: This is -- oh.
ASHER: In Uganda, funerals have begun for at least 37 students killed in a vicious attack. In all, 41 people died when the terror group ADF attacked a
secondary school on Friday. Police say the ISIS-linked group also kidnapped six students as well. The school is near the border of the Democratic
Republic of Congo, where police believe the attackers fled.
An update now on a disturbing story out of Kenya that we've been following very closely. More than 300 bodies have been found in shallow graves in a
forest, and authorities say scores of mass graves are yet to be uncovered.
Most of the victims were followers of a controversial pastor who is now in police custody. His followers were allegedly brainwashed into believing
that starvation was their ticket to salvation. CNN's David McKenzie travelled to the area. He joins us live now from Johannesburg.
So, David, even though the pastor, Pastor MacKenzie, is being held at this point in time, the psychological wounds for, yes, the family members of the
victims, but also the community at large will take a very long time to heal. Just walk us through what was said by the people you spoke to.
MCKENZIE: Well, certainly the wounds will be there for a long time, and the true scale of this horror hasn't even yet been fully uncovered, Zain.
And to sort of describe how long it will take, sixty-five of the followers of this cult are still refusing to eat. They believe that the pastor held
their ticket to salvation and that salvation was the way to get there. I must warn some viewers that the themes and images in the story could be
MCKENZIE (voice-over): He called it the wilderness, luring his flock to a remote corner of Kenya. We've come to try and understand how over many
months so many could die. In the Shakahola forest, the dead are still being found. Forensic teams carefully remove the remains of members of a
Christian death cult from shallow graves. They have already unearthed more than 300 people, many of them children, many showing signs of starvation.
FRANCIS WANJE, FATHER OF CULT MEMBER: It's painful. It's so painful. It was so painful. This is my daughter.
MCKENZIE: Francis Wanje says his daughter and son-in-law, both abandoned good jobs and took their children to the forest cult. What happened next is
hard to comprehend. Everybody should die and meet Jesus and they have to start with the children. The members of the cult, including your own
family, they were starving the children.
MCKENZIE: And then when the children didn't die quickly enough?
WANJE: They suffocated them.
MCKENZIE: They suffocated them?
WANJE: They suffocated them, yes.
MCKENZIE: And this is your own blood?
WANJE: And I wonder where my children or my child, my daughter could change to be such an animal, a world animal, to kill her own children.
MCKENZIE: Pastor Paul McKenzie began his cult in Malindi. This is the church where Pastor McKenzie had a huge following in his sermons. He
amplified his message online. He preached a doomsday prophecy for at least a decade. Calling on the faithful to reject modern society, pull children
from school, avoid hospitals, he demanded total devotion.
You must deny yourself, you must reject yourself, you must reach a point of ending your life, he says, for the sake of Jesus. His anti-government
stance got him arrested and detained, but never prosecuted. In 2019, the church was closed down. Later, the pastor started his forest community.
We found a former cult member in Malindi. We agreed to hide her identity for her own safety. She escaped the forest last year. Why did you move your
whole home and all your children and move into the forest?
UNKNOWN: The pastor used to call me, she says. He was calling me, telling me, my daughter, you are being left behind. And when the ark is closed, it
will be too late. So, I decided to go. T
MCKENZIE: When the covid pandemic hit, she says many saw it as evidence that the prophecies were real. McKenzie charged her family $80 for a piece
of land in Galilee. There were seven other biblically named settlements in Shakahola, with more than a thousand followers, she says.
Still, cult members made regular trips to a nearby village for food and water. In December, those trips suddenly stopped, says this village elder.
The starvation had begun. He says they alerted authorities, but they did nothing. Even after hungry children started escaping to the village.
What's been called the Shaka Hola Massacre has shocked this nation. Pastor Mackenzie and his closest followers are being held under terror laws. What
happened in the forest with your followers?
UNKNOWN: I can tell nothing about that because I've been in custody for two months. So, I don't know what is going on outside there. Have you been
MCKENZIE: Frances Wanje says there needs to be justice. He mounted a rescue mission to get his grandchildren out. When they found his grandson
Efrem, he was close to starvation. His two brothers were already dead.
WANJE: He went through hell. He went through hell, I'm telling you. In fact, when he was rescued, he told them that if you could come here late,
maybe a bit late, you would have already found me and would have already gone to see Jesus because the grave is there.
The very highest levels of the Kenyan government have apologized for their inaction and the pain it has caused. The scale of what happened in the
forest is still being understood. Hundreds are still missing, and many more mass graves need to be exhumed.
ASHER: David McKenzie is with me again. Now, I mean, the fact that this could happen, I mean that video is so distressing. The fact that this could
happen really does beg a belief, David. How much has this prompted soul- searching among Kenya's leaders, especially because of their inaction, as you point out in your piece? It has prompted a great deal of soul-
And certainly, the president, the interior ministers, and others, as I said, have apologized for that inaction. Now, on the ground, many people
were frustrated that they had warned the authorities, they'd warned the police. There were strange things happening in that forest, and it needed
to be investigated. It ended up being Francis and private rescue mission that seemed to have unearthed this properly for the first time. And there
is this awkward juxtaposition here.
William Ruto, the country's President, is the first evangelical president in the country. Faith is very central to his rule. And of course, no one is
suggesting that pastors will go to these lengths, but many people I spoke to said that they feel there needs to be more regulation of the religious
sector in Kenya. They say that there are pastors who are taking advantage of people everyday, separating them from their well-earned money, promising
things that they can't actually deliver.
This, of course, allegedly what happened is a far more extreme case, and I think it should be placed into the context of the worst mass suicides that
we have seen globally for many years now. And the cult following that this man allegedly developed is in line with previous instances of this kind of
cults in the global context. But really there is going to be a lot of soul- searching and people are calling for regulations and to protect Kenyans from this kind of leaders -- this kind of religious leaders. Zain.
ASHER: All right, Dave McKenzie, life for us, thank you. All right, still to come here on ONE WORLD, as Americans recognize the Juneteenth holiday.
Critics say that black history is being rewritten. How classrooms are on the frontlines of America's culture wars. That's next.
ASHER: Hello and welcome back to ONE WORLD. This, just in to CNN. The U.S. Coast Guard has launched a search and rescue operation to find a missing
sub that was being used to view the Titanic relic. According to CTV News, the company that operates these tours uses submersibles similar to this
one. Ocean Gate Expeditions says its first priority is regaining contact with the missing sub. No word yet on just how many people were inside that
But across the United States today, Americans are celebrating Juneteenth. The day commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. following the Civil
War. The holiday was first observed in Texas in 1865, where slavery was abolished more than two years after President Lincoln's issued the
Emancipation Proclamation. It eventually expanded throughout the country and became a federal holiday just two years ago.
For many black Americans, this is a day reflect on family history. CNN Anchor Victor Blackwell went to trace his roots at a brand new museum that
celebrates African-American history and ancestry and what he found was truly remarkable. I want you to take a look.
VIKTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Very few moments in my career have ever brought me to this. This is, oh. It happened at the international
African-American museum in Charleston, South Carolina, which opens this month. Six centuries of history packed into 150,000 square feet at the
historic Gadsden's Wharf.
TONYA MATTHEWS, Ph.D., MICHIGAN SCIENCE CENTER PRESIDENT AND CEO: Above 40 percent of all enslaved Africans would have come in through Gadsden's
Wharf. We've been referred to as the ground zero of importation of enslaved people into the United States.
BLACKWELL: Dr. Tanya Matthews is the museum's president and CEO. Space of solemnity or celebration?
MATTHEWS: Yes. I refuse to choose.
BLACKWELL: Tribal art and contemporary fashion, relics of protest and reports of resistance.
MATTHEWS: It's this infusion of trauma and joy constantly that we like to talk about here. You get the full story, you get all the context in it.
BLACKWELL: What arguably is the best illustration of full context is the museum center for family history. It's a team of researchers with access to
millions of records that can trace African-American lineage, sometimes, back to a slave ship that came into this very port. The expert genealogist
here spent months tracing my lineage. And this was the day of the long- awaited reveal.
SHELLEY MURPHY, INTERNATIONAL AFRICAN-AMERICAN MUSEUM: Make sure you got a box of Kleenex by you and sit there and enjoy. That's the museum's top
genealogist, Dr. Shelly Murphy on the laptop. She's joining us from the University of Virginia.
MURPHY: This is a tree, just a snapshot of your tree and I'm following your maternal line.
BLACKWELL: Wow. That's a lot that's in the tree. You see that box? Well, that represents David Veney, my great grandfather's great grandfather. He
lived in coastal Richmond County, Virginia on a farm with his wife, Judy, and their 18 children. And in 1871, he filed this claim to be reimbursed
for livestock and supplies requisitioned by Union troops during the Civil War.
MURPY: Another thing that is significant is that he owned the land that he's on. And it was 23 acres.
BLACKWELL: Where did a man in the 1870s --
BLACKWELL: --so soon after the end of slavery, get the money to buy 23 acres?
MURPHY: Absolutely, and the thing of it is, I would even question, he said he was freeborn. Well, for some answers, we have to go back more than 300
years to my great, great, great, great, grandmother, Mary. She arrived on a ship in Northumberland County, Virginia in 1712, before America was
America. Her granddaughter, my eight times great grandmother, Bess, was with her. That's according to this centuries old deposition that Dr.
Murphy's team uncovered. Why a deposition? We'll learn that a little later.
MURPHY: And Bess at the time was about 13 years old. Witnesses apparently said they looked like they were Indians.
BLACKWELL: Researchers believe that Mary and Bess were actually Mattaponi like these people of that region of Virginia called the Northern Neck.
MURPHY: We're not sure where they came from, but Thomas Smith of Richmond County did enslave one of Bess's children, and that was Sarah.
BLACKWELL: And it's Sarah, my seven times great grandmother, who changes the trajectory of her children and all her descendants who followed.
MURPHY: There was a law back in 1705 that declared that all children that are enslaved or free, their condition would be based on whatever their
BLACKWELL: Remember, Sarah and Bess arrived free people.
MURPHY: So, Sarah has a lawsuit that's filed saying, we're free.
BLACKWELL: This is the actual lawsuit filed by Sarah, suing for her freedom and for the freedom of her descendants. And that deposition? It was
from a witness who saw Mary and Bess arrive decades earlier.
MURPHY: So, in 17914, the court agreed with Sarah and her children and grandchildren and all of those relatives who were descendants of Mary and
Bess are gonna be free.
BLACKWELL: That my ancestors filed and sued for their freedom. It is remarkable.
MURPHY: We're not done.
BLACKWELL: We're not done. We're not done, okay, we're not done. Let me get - let me get a Kleenex, Dr. Murphy.
MURPHY: I told you to have a box there.
BLACKWELL: All right. Not all of Sarah's family was free. Before the court's decision, Sarah's enslavers illegally sold her daughter, Rachel,
and then Rachel was sold again. And for the next 20 years, unaware of the court's ruling, Rachel and her children remained in bondage. When she
learned of the decision in 1807, more than a quarter century after her mother's ground-breaking lawsuit for freedom, Rachel filed this lawsuit
against her enslaver, claiming that she was the daughter of a free woman, and therefore she and her children should also be free.
MURPHY: And guess what? The witnesses and things all came through, and they were awarded their freedom. So, what do you think?
BLACKWELL: This is, oh man. To be an enslaved woman, suing a slave master, to do it twice in one bloodline --
MURPHY: And in Virginia.
BLACKWELL: -- is just remarkable.
MURPHY: Your line started out enslaved and became free to up until where you're at right now. It became free because those women fought for it. I'm
going to tell you what, Victor. The women in your family is unbelievable.
BLACKWELL: It fills in a lot of gray. A lot of blank space. There was nothing there. There was an assumption. Now, there are names, relatives,
and places and stories. It certainly fills in more of the story of my family's place in this country.
ASHER: What a remarkable story about Victor Blackwell's ancestors and their strength and their resilience and just incredible that he was able to
learn about his own family's lineage. But even as Americans recognize the Juneteenth holiday today, learning black history is under threat across the
country. "Axios" reports at least 18 Republican-led states have passed laws banning or limiting how slavery and racial discrimination can be taught in
what is commonly referred to by some people as critical race theory.
CRT is the premise that racism is systemic in American society and critics say eliminating it is an attempt to erase the nation's dark and painful
past and prevent future progress as well. There's also a growing movement to censor literature. The group PEN America says that 21 percent of books
banned from 2021 to 2022 had to do with race and racism.
Republican lawmakers nationwide are also targeting colleges and universities with new rules limiting diversity education in schools. But
it's only been signed into law in two states. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis who led the charge claims it's a war on the politically loaded yet
ambiguous term he refers to as woke ideology.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON DESANTIS FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I believe that the woke ideology represents a war on truth itself. And so, as president, we will wage a war on the
woke. We will fight the woke in the schools. We will fight the woke in the corporations. We will fight the woke in the halls of Congress. We will
never, ever surrender to the woke mob. We are going to leave woke ideology in the dustbin of history where it belongs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASHER: Time now for The Exchange, and my conversation with Elizabeth West. She's a professor of African literature and culture at Georgia State
University and an advisory board member at the Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies. Welcome, Elizabeth. Dr. West, happy
ELIZABETH WEST, DIRECTOR OF ACADEMICS, CENTER FOR STUDIES ON AFRICA AND ITS DIASPORA: Thank you, and to you.
ASHER: You know, thank you. I find, you know, the history of Juneteenth so fascinating. I mean, this idea that many Americans had no idea that even
after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, it would take an extra two years for many slaves in Texas, for example, to learn of their freedom.
I mean, obviously Juneteenth celebrates the telling of American history, of black American history, which by the way is American history.
What do you think that history is so important, not just for African Americans, but for all Americans? I think it's because without that
history, we have an incomplete story. And we have to decide as a nation, and especially as a nation that puts on the forward face of being the
symbol of democracy.
We have to decide whether we're going to have the courage to live and acknowledge our full history and the history of what happened to Africa-
Americans in this country, but not only what happened to them as enslaved people, but at same time, the contributions that they've made to this
country, that's part of our full history. And until we're willing to talk about that, we continue to propagate a myth of America and not the entire
ASHER: So, what's at stake when you have, I mean, we've talked about it on this show so many times, what's happened and, what's happening rather in
Florida, for example, with Governor Ron DeSantis wanting to ban or limit African-American studies and defund DEI programs That's Diversity, Equity,
and Inclusion, of course, for international viewers.
Various states that are looking to limit or ban what they refer to as critical race theory. Texas, we're seeing the same kind of movement in
Texas. South Carolina, for example, various other states, as well. Georgia, where you are. When you have people, for political reasons, who want to
limit and retell and repackage parts of American history that don't necessarily make them feel good, that they don't like to look at. What's at
stake for America as a whole when we start going down that slippery slope?
WEST: Well, several things. You know, I think what's telling from the clip you just played from DeSantis is the way he's framing this. He considers it
a war. And for those who rallied behind his call, they have envisioned this as a war, and they have strategized, you know, through a very warlike
So, you have this, you know, you essentially have this three-pronged front that has been initiated from, you know, from that sector. And effectively,
the end result that they hope for is to silence any information that is contrary again to the myth that they want to propagate.
So, if you don't want to talk about the country's history, it's, you know, horrific history of the treatment of African people that were brought here,
forced here, and then later forced to work for centuries, you silence that. And so, the three-pronged front is, you know, first ban the books, you
know, ban any books that tell a different story. You ban those, especially in public outlets like libraries.
The second front -- on the second front, then you go into the classrooms and you restrict the teaching of that subject matter. And then you put the
nail on the coffin, if you will, by installing policy to enforce it. And when you're done, you've effectively killed that history if you're
ASHER: I mean it's interesting because obviously, I mean when we talk about book bands as you just brought up, I mean obviously you know learning
the works of Toni Morrison, I mean "The Bluest Eye", for example, what a monumental piece of work. You know Maya Angelou's, "I know Why the Caged
Bird Sings" and the list goes on, Amanda Gorman obviously.
Those works obviously have a huge impact on black Americans because as you point out, they tell a different story. You now have mainstream books where
the main characters have the same perspective and cultural viewpoint as yourself, which is so powerful. Representation is so important for any
African- American child.
But also, I think that these books play a huge role in terms of cross- cultural communication, in terms of bridging the divide, the racial divide in this country. So, what's at stake from that perspective when those sorts
of books are now under threat?
WEST: When you ban those books, these are books that humanize. African Americans in ways, again, that they historically have not been in
literatures written primarily by white Americans. And, you know, it's ironic to me as, you know, as a person whose profession is literature and,
quite frankly, one of the more struggling disciplines of academia but "I'm just struck lately by how our little quiet sector of the academy is front
and center in this war that people like DeSantis are waging.
And it shows you the power of literature. You know, so often people tell you, oh, I don't read, I don't like to read. And then you wonder if with
this, you know, especially as we get pinned, this is kind of like, you know, non-literate society. Americans don't like to read anymore. Well, if
that's the case, why are we so upset about these books?
And then secondly, why are we so upset about these books that in particular around the world are celebrated books? You know, Toni Morrison's books have
been translated across the world. You know, she's a Nobel laureate.
ASHER: And loved by so many, regardless of race. Elizabeth West, Professor West, we have to leave it there, but thank you so much for joining us on
the show today. We'll have, I'm sure we'll have other discussions about this. This story, obviously, is not going away in the run up to the next
year's elections. All right, Dr. West, thank you so much. We'll have much more news after this short break.
ASHER: We now have video from Florida showing the moment a sheriff's deputy was sucked underwater during an attempted water rescue. He and the
man he was trying to save are lucky to be alive. CNN's Athena Jones has that traumatic video.
WILLIAM HOLLINGSWORTH, ESCAMBIA COUNTY DEPUTY: I'll be out with several disabled vehicles here.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sheriff's Deputy William Hollingsworth arriving on scene in Escambia County, Florida Friday to help a stranded
driver stuck in rising floodwaters. After exiting his patrol car, he says he saw a driver vanish underwater and immediately went in after him, only
to be sucked under himself.
The sheriff's office says for 30 terrifying seconds, Deputy Hollingsworth was pulled underwater, sucked through a drainage pipe for nearly 100 feet.
His body camera capturing the rushing muffled sounds of being submerged until finally he's able to resurface. Deputy Hollingsworth immediately
rushing to the driver to see if he's okay. The two audibly emotional about their near-death experience.
HOLLINGSWORTH: Just breathe. Just breathe, bro. Oh my God. Oh, thank you, Jesus. Oh, Jesus.
UNKNOWN: I almost died.
HOLLINGSWORTH: Me, too, buddy. It sucked me in. I never held my breath like that in my life.
UNKNOWN: Me neither.
JONES: Afterwards, the driver thanking the deputy for his actions.
UNKNOWN: I'm glad -- just thank you, man for like being there when I came up.
ASHER: It's hard to believe that there was a time when no one in the entertainment world knew who Prince was. Long before 1999, Prince actually
made a demo tape with hopes of landing a record deal. That three-song demo tape, there it is, is now up for auction and is expected to fetch, get
this, more than $35,000. It was actually originally owned by the Warner Brothers record executive who signed him. Two of the three songs wound up
on his first album, "For You", that's the name of the album, which was written, produced, and performed by Prince all by himself.
All right, thank you so much for watching ONE WORLD. I'm Zain Asher. Amanpour is up next. You're watching CNN.