PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton: 4/23/2017

Guests:
Jacqui Lewis, Obery Hendricks, Jamil Smith, Yamiche Alcindor, Joe Madison, Heidi Harris, Amanda Terkel, MC Lyte
Transcript:

Show: POLITICS NATION

Date: April 23, 2017

Guest: Jacqui Lewis, Obery Hendricks, Jamil Smith, Yamiche Alcindor, Joe Madison, Heidi Harris, Amanda Terkel, MC Lyte

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  We know they`re proactive policing,

broken windows, community-based policing has transformed our law

enforcement capabilities.  Why in the world would we want to impose a

consent decree that undermines that?

 

We are going to end the catch and release policy.  I have served

immigration judges to the board.  Each of the 94 United States attorneys`

offices to make criminal immigration enforcement a priority.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST:  Good morning and welcome to POLITICS NATION. 

Coming to you today from Las Vegas.

 

The Trump presidency will reach its 100-day mark later this week.  And for

every big promise this White House has been unable to accomplish in its

first three months, its efforts to roll back years of advances in civil

rights and criminal justice have been gangbusters.

 

For that, you can thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose taken cues

from President Trump`s doom-laden assessment of the country has been either

dismantling mostly Obama era initiatives, or ratcheting up the Trump era

attacks on everything from police reform to the rights of illegal

immigrants.

 

He`s come down on consent decrees despite proof that they help police

departments engage with distrustful communities.  He`s pledged to ramp up

arrests on illegal immigrants.  Despite immigration arrests already being

at a high.  And he`s pledged to return to the harsh sentencing laws that

have defined the war on drugs despite violent crime being at a historical

low.

 

As I`ve said in recent weeks, and will continue to say, the Sessions

justice department is using the ideological cover that propelled Donald

Trump to the White House to turn back the clock on social justice.

 

Joining me now is Obery Hendricks, visiting scholar at Columbia University;

the Dr. Jacqui Lewis of Middle Collegiate Church; and from Los Angeles,

Jamil Smith, senior national correspondent for MTV news.  He wrote a story

this week titled “Systematic Racism, Still a Thing.”

 

Let me start with you, Jamil.  In this, the 21st century, such advances

that we had hoped for.  Some we saw under President Obama.  Some we didn`t. 

You`re saying systematic racism is still a thing in your piece.  Expound on

that.  If I`m watching in Middle America, I`m saying what is he talking

about?  Why do they keep complaining?

 

JAMIL SMITH, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, MTV NEWS:  Well, I think, first

of all, we need to explain that where racism is.  Racism is everywhere. 

Racism could be found in your paycheck.  Racism can be found in the water

in Flint, Michigan.  Racism can be used to elect presidents.  The point is

that we need to understand where racism lives.  It lives in our voting

systems.  It lives in our everyday lives, reverend.

 

So what we need to do is help people understand exactly how it affects them

and that people are not crying wolf every day when they complain about the

system working against them either through racial disparities or some other

kind of identity-based disparity.

 

SHARPTON:  So when you do the actual measures, Professor, Hendricks,

paycheck to paycheck, and where people get tainted water, or water with

high led poisoning, or health disparities.  If you deal with the disparity

by numbers, we`re not talking now about ideology or philosophy or tactics,

by the data, there is where race is a real factor in American life.  But

you and many theologians and scholars, some of who are joining me this week

at a National Action Network`s convention.  You`re saying that what makes

people comfortable about this is almost a spiritual and cultural

acceptance, Professor Hendricks?

 

OBERY HENDRICKS, VISITING SCHOLAR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY:  Yeah.  I think

that is important to keep in mind that we`re talking about white

supremacist ideology.  We`re not just talking about instances of racial

discrimination.  And white supremacists ideology as Jamil said, it

permeates everything.  And what that – and what it calls for is the

subordination of people of color to the power of – well the – power of

the white majority or the power of the white powers that be.

 

And it`s very, very insidious.  We must remember that the last vestiges of

de facto – I mean, the jury white supremacy really not dismantled in this

country until 1968.  It continues on in quite a strong way.

 

By the way, Donald Trump, though he has no core principles of the

selfishness, he is calling up every white supremacist chip that he can. 

Every dog whistle chip that he can.

 

SHARPTON:  But, Reverend Dr. Smith, when you hear this kind of white

supremacy that is being addressed by Professor Hendricks and Jamil, why are

so many whites who really are not bigots or really not racists, not biased,

why are they comfortable with not really confronting it or dealing with it,

and how do you wake them up?

 

I think a lot of people we talk about now we awoke, but how do we get the

public woke that is comfortable with this disparity and this kind of

feeling that it`s all right that you have a privileged group in the

country, and, therefore, others are disenfranchised or treated less than

equal which is against what they claim the country was about from the

beginning.

 

JAQUI LEWIS, SENIOR MINISTER, MIDDLE COLLEGIATE CHURCH:  That`s a really

great question, Reverend Al.  Dr.  Lewis here, yeah, I serve a multiracial

church here in Manhattan.  And one of the things that we`re really clear

about is that America, especially Christian America has forgotten what it

means to be Christian.

 

We say we follow Jesus into the world to heal it.  But I`d like to think we

follow Rabbi Yeshua in the world to heal it.  Because Jesus can be too

white and frankly too empired for us to understand.  The Jesus that is

created by the white church blesses man test destiny, believes that might

should win.  Believes that because, quote, folks are chosen, that they get

to have more money, more assets, more wealth, better education.  But Rabbi

Yeshua came to life in the Roman empire, came to life as a religious

minority, came to life as a brown-skinned Palestinian man who understood

that he needed to resist.

 

So I think the wakeup call for all of us is remerging who we follow in the

ministry.  To remember the one who said the first is should be last and the

last should be first.  The one who enfranchised those who were

disenfranchised.  I think it`s Rabbi Yeshua was working here today.  He`d

be saying, let`s put the immigrants.  Let`s put black and brown young

people.  Let`s put women.  Let`s put the disenfranchised in the center of

American life.  That`s what faith calls us to do.

 

SHARPTON:  So that`s fascinating.  Professor Hendricks, let me go back to

you, and then Jamil.  Because what she`s really saying is that we`re really

not honoring or worshipping, those of us that profess to be Christian, the

Jesus in terms of what Jesus preached and represented even though we call

ourselves Christian, when we allow inequality, unfairness.

 

How does this relate to Jeff Sessions?  How does this relate because we

need to have ideology.  We are ministers, other than Jamil.  But how do you

relate this to Jeff Sessions and what`s going on at the White House, and as

I open up the dismantling of civil rights laws and immigration laws.  What

does this have to do with each other?

 

HENDRICKS:  I think what Dr. Lewis` point to his – what I call ideological

Christianity, faith in this country is refracted through the interests,

through white supremacist interests, and that is why people can do –

people can call themselves Christians on one hand and care nothing about

poor folks.

 

Jesus talked about poor people them more than anything else.  They can call

themselves Christian that talk about poor folks.  They can support

authoritarian discriminatory laws because they sacralize – the ideological

Christianity sacralizes their every action.  They can justify every action

through this lens of this ideological Christianity, which, Reverend, as we

know, is not Christianity at all.  It is really just politics.  It is just,

just us, not justice, it`s just us.

 

SHARPTON:  But what makes it, Jamil, supremacy?  If I am saying that Jeff

Sessions is rolling back civil rights and I am saying that and social

justice and I am saying that and I`m showed the clip of what he said this

week about immigration, what he said this week about consent decree.

 

I`m trying to connect the dots for people that are viewers that don`t

understand, that are not activists, that are not scholars.  How is that

leading to a racist or supremist outcome, if it does?  Connect the dots for

me.

 

SMITH:  First of all, you have to understand that Jeff Sessions is working,

I think faster than anybody else in the Trump administration to roll back

civil rights and to actually exacerbate systemic racism throughout America. 

You look at the withdrawal of federal opposition to voter I.D. laws. 

Discriminatory voter I.D. laws.  You look at his call for new war on drugs.

 

SHARPTON:  So these laws have been found to be discriminatory?

 

LEWIS:  Yes.

 

SHARPTON:  And he said that he`s going to not fight them in court.  This is

proven discrimination.  What I`m trying to do is have our viewers

understand this is not just rhetoric from civil rights activists.  We`re

going with things he`s announcing as we go down this week.

 

LEWIS:  He`s like a cancer.  I`m sorry, Jamil.  I want to jump in there. 

But just to try and connect the dots.  I think what we`re seeing is the

continuation of what is an American problem which is that racism, white

supremacy, Jamil`s beautiful, it is a cancer that continues to ravage the

national body politics, reverend, right?

 

And so what it is, is it`s not just religious, it is an ethical, a moral,

ethical – a secular ethical call to revolutionary love right now for us to

also have the ability to analyze, to see, to not forget.  It`s like this

cancer.  It won`t die.  Civil rights act, it won`t die.  Voters right act,

it won`t die.  The election of President Obama, it won`t die.  And these

white people, Jeff Sessions, Trump, this administration, will use

everything in their power to keep black, brown immigrant marginal people

out of the margins, because it is in their self-interest to do so.

 

We who believe in freedom –

 

SHARPTON:  I have to leave it there.  I think that there`s a lot of white

people that will fight to keep it going if we can explain in clear language

and mobilize in a real strategic way why and what this really means.  And

that`s why we want to have this discussion.  Because I don`t think that

every American really understands that we`re not just talking party

politics here.  We`re talking about people`s rights.  We`re talking about

immigrants.  We`re talking about women that are treated differently, and we

can`t have a nation like that.

 

Thank you Dr. Obery Hendricks, Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis, and Jamil Smith.

 

Coming up, we`re just six days away from President Trump`s 100th day in

office, but now he says it`s not an important milestone.  How does Trump

compare to other presidents?  Stay with us.  This is POLITICS NATION on

MSNBC.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We`ll see what happens.  No

particular rush, but we`ll see what happens.  But health care is coming

along well.  Government is coming along really well.  A lot of good thing

are happening.  Thank you, folks.

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (INAUDIBLE) 100 days?

 

TRUMP:  No, no.  It doesn`t matter if it`s next week.  Next week, it

doesn`t matter.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

SHARPTON:  Welcome back to POLITICS NATION.

 

Before he took office, Donald Trump set out a, quote, contract with the

American voter.  That included another quote.  100-day action plan.  Those

were his words.  Well, here we are at day 94 to help us sort through the

failures and the accomplishments of the first 100 days is Yamiche Alcindor,

national reporter for “The New York Times”.

 

Yamiche, in the early segment this morning, I talked a lot about the social

justice civil rights angle which clearly I and a lot of the show gears

toward.  But in the broad American agenda which that is part of, give me

your assessment of the first 100 days.  Because he`s failed to bring about

the repeal and replace of ObamaCare.  Couldn`t even get it to the floor. 

We`ve not seen any real movement in tax reform.  We`ve seen him drop the

mother of all bombs.  We`ve seen the air strike in Syria.  It seems like

there is a lot of failure domestically, movement otherwise.  How do you

assess this first 100 days then all of a sudden he says does it matter,

even though he had a 100-day plan of action?

 

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, NATIONAL REPORTER, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  Well, I think

the way that asses it is by looking at two things.  Both how the beltway

and how what democrats and republicans view the administration.  And also

how regular people who have been out when I`ve been out reporting look at

him.  When I talk to Trump supporters and when I talk to people who are

even not Trump supporters, in some ways he`s followed through on big

promises.  He tried to implement the Muslim ban.  He has tried to really

crack down on the way that the department of justice is run in terms of

policing.  His stance on immigration and this idea that he always has a

plan or is following through with this idea of building a wall.  So that

curtailing of civil rights that some people think he`s doing, and I would

say that even his supporters supporting that, they`re saying that they want

to see more crackdowns on immigration.

 

They feel as though he`s moving toward those promises.  And then when you

go inside the beltway, you talk about what he`s done legislatively, of

course that`s where the problems come in.  The idea that he`s now saying

that he might be able to get health care through and then also work on tax

reform.  The republican I`m talking to sound very frustrated and that they

understand that we are marching toward a really big goal with the first 100

days and that they really have nothing to show for it in terms of bills and

what they`ve actually done to change the country.

 

However because you have a president who has been signing executive orders

left and right and has been getting coverage of those executive orders, it

seems as though outside of the beltway, that`s seen as though his pastor

made some big changes, when in reality both his party and democrats

understand the executive orders really haven`t had much of an impact.

 

SHARPTON:  There`s a lot of cosmetics.  But at the end of the day, what

happens when he`s moving on the immigration question, when he`s moving on

the police question in terms of stopping police reform, and then people in

mining communities still have their jobs and others that he`s promised that

it is they that are taking out jobs.  That`s why we got to go out to the

immigrants, and they`re not there, and they find out in some cases

automation has taken their job.

 

In other cases, it has nothing to do with the pariah he`s made out of some

of those that are here illegally.  What happens then because we`re already

hearing some of the people that were in some of the areas that were

strongly in support of Donald Trump saying I don`t know now, I`m not

feeling any change.  And the promise that we saw in the first 100 days of

other presidents is just not there if you look at the poll numbers.  You

don`t really see the kind of public enthusiasm for Donald Trump that you

saw in the first 100 days of a lot of the recent presidents.

 

ALCINDOR:  Well, as you know, President Trump has historically low approval

ratings if you ask America as a whole.  But with his base, the poll numbers

show that his base is really sticking with him.  And I would say that in my

reporting going to places like Ohio and going to these real strongholds

that voted for him because they wanted to see economic change and make

America great to them means that they want to see less immigrants coming

into their countries and they want to somehow see some of their steel jobs

come back.

 

Those people think are still very much excited about Donald Trump.  I

interviewed someone who had federal money used to repair their home.  And

that money, according to Trump`s budget, would be taken away.  When I asked

them, what do you think about that this president is now taking away things

that helped you?  They said, well, if it means not having my bathroom

repaired but having less Mexicans in the country, then I pick that.  So

this is idea that people are really still excited about the fact that he`s

doing these things that some people see it as compelling the civil rights

of other.

 

And people in the borderline states are really interested in immigration in

a way that it really doesn`t affect their daily lives. 

 

SHARPTON:  I`m going to have to leave it there.  Thank you very much,

Yamiche Alcindor.  I guess, I thank you.  Not a balanced picture.  We`ll

see in terms of where it goes.  It seems like America is still very much

divided with one side really supporting him and the other side frightened

and angry.  But thank you for your reporting which has been excellent.

 

Up next, I was one of many of his targets, but now Fox News Bill O`Reilly

will have to take his racial hatred to a different platform.  My very

personal take on this story when we come back.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

SHARPTON:  Now for this week`s gotcha.  A very special edition.  Right now

we all know that right wing media fixture Bill O`Reilly was ousted this

week from his position as the Fox News Channel`s top draw.  The decision

came down as advertisers continued to pull out of Mr. O`Reilly`s show,

fleeing the fallout from a “New York Times” expose about the various sexual

harassment allegations levelled against him over a 15-year span.

 

O`Reilly, of course, denied any wrongdoing.  I won`t expound on the details

of the allegations against Mr. O`Reilly, nor the millions of dollars that

Fox News paid out over the years to silence his accusers.  We`ll get to

that in a bit.

 

I`m here with a different and admittedly personal take on the O`Reilly

ouster.  Because for 21 very long years at Fox News, Mr. O`Reilly demonized

almost every group that wasn`t made up of straight white Christian

conservative men.  It was his bread and butter.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

BILL O`REILLY, FORMER FOX NEWS HOST:  Many of them are ill-educated and

have tattoos on their foreheads, and how are you – and I hate to be

generalized about it, but it`s true.

 

The white establishment is now the minority.  And the voters, many of them,

feel that the economic system is stacked against them, and they want stuff.

 

I didn`t hear a word she said.  I was looking at the James Brown wig.

 

Coming up, left ones power taken away from the white establishment.  They

want a profound change in the way America is run.

 

Slaves that work there were well fed and had decent lodgings provided by

the government.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

SHARPTON:  That`s right.  He said all of that, and with fighting words like

that, is it any surprise that Mr.   O`Reilly made a special target of yours

truly?

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`REILLY:  Sharpton is a dishonest purveyor of information, a man who could

not care less about reporting what`s true.  Al Sharpton has the nerve to

insult the American police community.  Al Sharpton is in business with

people who cut put entertainment harmful to children.  Sharpton only cares

about his self-aggrandizement.  And if he has to stoke racial hatred to get

that, that`s what Sharpton will do.  I know this man.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

SHARPTON:  Some years ago, I was on Mr. O`Reilly`s show expressing my

displeasure with the rights misappropriation of Dr. King`s legacy.  I hope

he`s watching now.  Because one of Dr. King`s most famous quotes is as

follows.  “The arc of the universe, the moral universe is long.  But it

bends toward justice.”

 

In this case, that`s a polite way to frame it.  For a less cordial

expression,  I`m going to turn to someone the right won`t touch, brother

Malcolm X who talked controversially about “chickens coming home to roost.” 

Both men were essentially saying the same thing.  Or as we would say in

Brooklyn, payback`s a mother.

 

Mr. O`Reilly, you had the highest rated primetime cable program in the

country for several years.  You did this by flirting with white nationalism

and as long as your bosses were happy, you appeared to be untouchable, but

as you of all people should know, money talks.  And this week it told even

you to shut up.

 

So while you made a great on airfoil for all these years, I`ve got to step

aside and give the props to three forces that did something I and others

couldn`t.  One, to karma.  Two, to capitalism, and three, the brave women

who came forward and may continue to do so, because this week all three got

you.  And when we come back, we`ll learn more about how they did it.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SHARPTON:  He became the spokesman for the right wing in this whole kind of

going back to the pre-civil rights days in my judgment. 

 

I think he certainly promoted a very clear and in no way nuanced white

nationalism.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

SHARPTON:  That was me Wednesday with my colleague Chris Hayes discussing

the fallout of Bill O`Reilly`s ouster from Fox News earlier this week.  In

the space of a year, the Fox News Channel has lost both its former CEO,

Roger Ailes and now the it`s biggest star in Bill O`Reilly.  Both over

mounting allegations of sexual harassment.  The very cultured Fox News

which helped to vault Donald Trump into the White House, is now under

scrutiny.

 

Joining me now is Sirius XM radio host Joe Madison; Heidi Harris, a radio

talk show host based here in Las Vegas; and Amanda Terkel, senior political

reporter for “The Huffington Post”.

 

Let me go to you, Amanda.  The politics of this on Fox News absolutely

impacted the body politic of this country, absolutely affected the

elections of the senate, the congress, and the president.  Now they`ve lost

as I just said, their CEO, and their main star within a year.  What`s the

political ramifications of this?

 

AMANDA TERKEL, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE HUFFINGTON POST”:  Right. 

Bill O`Reilly was a guy who Donald Trump just recently said was a good guy. 

He didn`t do anything wrong.  He was friends with Roger Ailes and Bill

O`Reilly.  I feel like politically, this really gives sort of more momentum

to this movement, especially of women we saw after the election with the

women`s march.  Women who I think were really upset that Donald Trump did

get elected and some of their anger and sort of dialogue around sexual

harassment and sexual assault, I think helped get Roger Ailes and help get

Bill O`Reilly out of Fox News.

 

But Fox right now is a mess.  It`s trying to figure out how to navigate

this new conservative movement, some of them like Donald Trump, some of

whom don`t.  And Fox News is not totally sure where it`s going.

 

SHARPTON:  Well, what will that do, Heidi, to the conservatives and the

right wing movement on the ground that now has both the White House and the

senate and congress and heading in a few months into the midterm elections? 

How does this do this?  Because you deal with the sexual allegations as

Amanda said with Roger Ailes and with Bill O`Reilly, but they`re saying

many of them on the right, well, this is a left wing conspiracy, but I

don`t see these allegations being launched against Sean Hannity.  I don`t

see them being launched against Tucker Carlson.  There are many on the

right that have not been targeted with these kind of allegations.  Are they

using this as an excuse, and it can hurt the right and that whole

conservative movement because of personal indiscretions, possibly?

 

HEIDI HARRIS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  You`re enjoying this, aren`t you, Al? 

Do you have your tap shoes on today dancing on the grave?

 

SHARPTON:  Oh, no.  I wouldn`t dance on people`s graves.

 

HARRIS:  OK.  I know.  I`m teasing you.  You know what?  I think it`ll be

interesting to see what happens with the so-called conservative movement. 

A lot of people have felt that Fox has been going more to the middle for a

lot of years.  Because O`Reilly was not straight down the line

conservative.

 

Many people on the right did not view him that way.  And I think it`ll be

fascinating to see.  Because Tucker Carlson has done really, really well. 

When he took over for Megyn Kelly and now he`s going to take over for

O`Reilly.

 

And I don`t – ultimately, graveyards are full of people who can`t be

replaced.  Right?  All of us can be replaced in a second and the world will

somehow muddle through without us and I think Fox.

 

SHARPTON:  Which is why we shouldn`t dance on anyone`s grave.  You`re

right.

 

HARRIS:  Exactly.

 

SHARPTON:  But, Joe, you can`t say though that this is not a black eye to

that movement of conservatives/libertarian in some cases with Bill

O`Reilly, but I think of conservative and an arch conservative on many

issues.  This gives them a black eye because he was their leading star on

television.  There`s no way of denying that. 

 

JOE MADISON, RADIO HOST, SIRIUS XM:  And this is probably what we would

refer to as neoconservatives.  Because you do have a split in the

conservative movement.  These aren`t your Buckley conservatives, your

George Will conservatives.  These conservatives have a Neanderthal kind of

mentally.

 

And you have to keep in mind that what the problem that Fox is now having

is not only the protest of women in this country and the fact that they are

major consumers, but you said it in your last blog.  Capitalism is what

drove Bill O`Reilly out.

 

Let`s keep in mind that for years, maybe decades, what Fox did was to put

profit ahead of decency.  And now you have a generation in the 21st century

of women and men for that matter, conservative liberal, progressive,

whatever you want to call them, who no longer have this Neanderthal

attitude about women.  And corporations are being headed by women and then

they`re not putting up with these indecent activities.

 

And the reality is that here you look at two men who in essence have been

paid over $65 million.  Ailes got 40 and O`Reilly got 25 million when they

really should have got jail time.

 

SHARPTON:  Now, Amanda, the fact is, the disturbing fact, because they will

litigate, I guess in some cases they have the charges and allegations in

terms of Ailes and O`Reilly.  So we`re not assessing that.  But I think

that the disturbing part for me that I`ve been trying to say all show is

that bias, whether it`s race bias, gender bias, immigration bias, it`s

profitable.  These people have made an industry out of discriminating

against the other.  That`s what disturbs me, and it`s not gone anywhere,

Amanda.

 

TERKEL:  Right.  And O`Reilly is gone, but his prot‚g‚ Jesse Waters who did

perhaps the most racist segment on cable news that I`ve seen in a long

time, if not ever, where he went into Chinatown and basically used every

Asian stereotype to make fun of the residents there.  He has been promoted

to a primetime spot on their 9:00 P.M. Show.  Tucker Carlson has said many

controversial things about women.  So on air, like you said, I don`t

actually know if things are going to change just because Bill O`Reilly is

gone.  His legacy is still living on there.

 

SHARPTON:  I`ve to go.  Thank you so much, Heidi Harris and thank you

Amanda Terkel and Joe Madison.  We should not be dancing on anyone`s grave,

because what made them popular is not in the grave.  It is still up and

functioning.

 

Up next, she`s a rapper and a musical pioneer who is now concerned with the

damage done by the Trump administration to civil rights.  MC Lyte is here

next.  Don`t go away.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

SHARPTON:  Rapper MC Lyte has been blazing a trail for women in hip-hop

music for 30 years.  Her career is a laundry list of accomplishments.  She

was Grammy nominated by the tender age of 23 making her the first female

solo rapper to receive the honor.  Then she headed to the Los Angeles

chapter of the Grammy organization.  Making her the first African-American

to head that up.  She both performed for and worked with the Obama White

House on issues like education.

 

And in October of last year, she received the W.E.B. Du Bois medal from

Harvard University for her three decade contribution to African-American

culture.  I caught up with her late this week right before her heading next

week to speak and be part of National Action Network`s annual convention in

New York.

 

Welcome, MC to POLITICS NATION.

 

MC LYTE, RAPPER:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  It`s an honor.

 

SHARPTON:  Well, the honor is ours, and in fact, you`re not only speaking

at the convention, you`re being honored at the convention by women because

of your trailblazing activities in our culture and in the country.

 

Let me ask you, where do you see?  There`s a lot of talk about millennials,

a lot of talk about hip-hop having gone mainstream the last decade or so. 

But I remember when you helped to trail that – be a trailblazer for that

and really set a course when people were saying, well, we don`t even know

if rappers going to last and we don`t know what hip hop is.

 

Looking back now, and you`re still young, vibrant and out there, how do you

look at where the culture has been impacted by hip-hop, and where hip-hop

is today?

 

LYTE:  Well, I certainly believe the culture has been impacted by hip-hop

and vice versa.  I think for the most part what we relied onto come from

hip-hop in my day was very different from today.  As a matter of fact, I

think the young folks that listen to hip-hop today really don`t have a

concept of how we used hip-hop as a tool to educate and how we used it as a

tool to somewhat be like the news.  We told the truth, and we gave the

perspective of what was happening out on the streets.

 

So I can`t say that they`re even aware of what to expect from the genre of

hip-hop, but I still think that hip-hop has enough power that it could

still be the very tool to get the message across, and, in fact, it is. 

When it`s time to vote, its hip-hop artists that are put to the test, and

they are the ones that deliver the votes.  People come out and support, and

they trust hip-hop emcees and the storytellers to give them the truth.

 

SHARPTON:  It started that way, you`re right.  And they still depend on

that vehicle.  I remember in the 80s when we were marching around Howard

Beach and on different racial incidents in New York, it was hip-hop artists

like Public Enemy and others that was really given the news with the beat,

and it was all one movement.

 

I mean, we were in the streets, and you were and others were in the studio

and dealing with tracking the records and Spike was doing movies.  And no

one thought it would ever go to where it is now where you have the actual

mainstream of music really imitating what many of you started.

 

LYTE:  Absolutely.  We just left Dillard University where I got the

opportunity to talk to some students there.  And really, it is a completely

different picture of what was happening when we came out, and I do think

there are artists today that speak to the issues that are happening. 

However, they aren`t necessarily mainstream.  We got into this whole talk

about what is hip-hop versus what is rap, and they seem to think it had

switched around, like they thought that rap was what was important and

vital to the culture, and in reality, it`s the exact opposite.  Hip-hop,

what they often remember to say is these are the four elements.  It`s

graffiti, it`s breakdancing, it`s rhyming, it`s deejaying.  Well, they

forget the fifth and the fifth is knowledge.

 

And so it`s up to hip hop artists that are in it today that have mainstream

records out, to also do the records that will teach and inform the youth

about what`s really happening and what they can do.  We had songs that

taught us how to be an adult or how to become an adult, and how to raise

families.  I attribute that to Public Enemy and KRS-One and some of the

greats.

 

And today, we still have folks that fight the good fight.  David Banner,

Scarface, still Public Enemy with Chuck D, J. Cole.  These are folks that

are not afraid to speak the truth.

 

SHARPTON:  Now, in this era now of Trump, you worked with the Obama White

House, you did a lot there.  I was close with that administration, because

I agree with their policies, but we have a new president now, their new

policies.

 

How important will it be for artists today to really deal with their fan

base in terms of knowledge of what`s going on pro and con, because now

we`re facing a different kind of policy in policing and in mass

incarceration and even employment.  How important is it for artists to be

able to deal with this, and do you think this will force some of them that

have not gone the route of a Chuck D. or even a Kendrick Lamar to say I`ve

got to recalibrate where I`m going to make my contribution to my fans?

 

LYTE:  Absolutely.  I think someone that`s a living testament to that is

T.I.  He has definitely taken a different approach from what we`ve seen him

do in the past, and that is he`s becoming responsible in what it is that he

gives forth to his fan base.  I actually follow him on social media, and

he`s always addressing an issue that otherwise a lot of his counterpart`s

kind of stay away from.

 

I do think it is extremely important that for as much as we know, that we

are able to give that knowledge to the fans that follow us, and frankly

would rather have that information from us than to have it come from anyone

else.

 

So I would imagine that a lot of hip-hop artists are feeling the pressure,

whether or not they choose to do anything with it is another circumstance.

 

SHARPTON:  Yeah.  And I agree with you.  T.I. is absolutely one of them. 

Chance the Rapper, I`m very proud of him.

 

LYTE:  Absolutely.

 

SHARPTON:  And talked with him.

 

MC Lyte, you`ve been honored this week by National Action Network, you`re

honored at Harvard.  What is the most important thing that you want people

to know about MC Lyte when all is over and you`re sitting on the rocking

chair telling your grandchildren about what you and your contribution has

made.  What do you want to highlight?

 

LYTE:  Well, first, I got to have some children.  Have the grandchildren,

but I do know some folks that know some folks, and I have godchildren and

so on and so forth.  I think the most important thing for me is to not be

afraid to ask questions, you know, I got much older in life and realized

that I didn`t know everything, and that someone else may have the piece of

knowledge that jewel that they`d like to drop upon me that I could take and

hopefully I can benefit from that knowledge.

 

So to – I would like – sitting on that rocking chair, as you spoke of, to

just be recognized for the philanthropic work, for sending many, many kids

to school or young men and women to further their education and being an

inspiration to others.  And then also, you know, not afraid to speak the

word of God.

 

SHARPTON:  all right.  MC Lyte, we`re looking forward to seeing you this

week and bring your books with you.  Everybody wants to read your books and

get you to sign it for them.

 

LYTE:  OK.  Absolutely.  Thank you so much, reverend.

 

SHARPTON:  MC Lyte, many thanks.

 

And a reminder, MC Lyte will join us in New York for our first National

Action Network convention in the era of President Donald Trump.  It`s just

three days away.  April 26th through the 29th.  We`re featuring the best

civil rights leaders, elected officials, business executives, activists,

grassroots activists, clergy.  We kick off Wednesday morning with former

Attorney General Eric Holder and Tom Perez.  Friday is Senator Bernie

Sanders.  It`s all free at www.nationalactionnetwork.net.  Sign up.  We`ll

be right back.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

SHARPTON:  That does it for me.  Thanks for watching.  I`ll see you back

here next Sunday.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

 

 

 

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