PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton: 5/14/2017

Guests:
Hakeem Jeffries, Yamiche Alcindor, Judith Browne Dianis; Dominik Whitehead, Sapheria Samuels, Mary Hooks
Transcript:

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Because almost all of them

are very well known.  They`ve been vetted over their lifetime essentially. 

But very well known.  Highly respected.  Really talented people.  And

that`s what we want for the FBI.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST:  Good morning.  And welcome to “PoliticsNation.”

 

That was President Trump saying he can make a quick decision on the next

FBI director.  It was a week full of turmoil after the president fired

Director James Comey on Tuesday.  And now we learn details on the real

reaction by Comey to his dismissal.  And his reaction to Donald Trump`s

suggestion that there could be tapes of his chats with the president. 

We`ll start with that in a moment.

 

Also, late this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions now has a new

directive for federal prosecutors across the country.  Charge suspects with

the most serious offense you can prove, translation, treat nonviolent, less

serious drug offenders with long mandatory sentences.  Once again,

dismantling President Obama`s criminal justice legacy.  More on that in a

moment.

 

But we start from the fallout of the firing of FBI director James Comey.

 

Joining me now, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, democrat of New York.  And the

New York times reporter Yamiche Alcindor.  She`s an MSNBC contributor.

 

Congressman, the president fires the FBI director.  And he fires him

without a phone call, without a meeting.  In fact, he was speaking on the

west coast, arguably 3,000 miles away, two FBI personnel, when one of them

sees a news flash he`s fired.  How do you fathom the way he was fired and

the reasoning that he gave, the president gave, he fired him because of how

he handled the Hillary Clinton situation.  Someone that this president

called crooked Hillary all last year.

 

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES, D-NEW YORK:  Well, from a process standpoint, Rev, it

was completely disgraceful, certainly many of us on the democratic side of

the aisle believe that James Comey made some mistakes in the context of the

Hillary Clinton investigation.  But he is a talented, distinguished, long-

standing law enforcement professional who had sacrificed a great deal to

serve this country well.  He deserved to be treated better.

 

As for the substance of the firing, the initial smoke screen that came out

of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, that it was all about Donald Trump suddenly

being upset with the poor manner that James Comey treated Hillary Clinton

was nonsense and was proven to be nonsense.  Donald Trump fired James Comey

because he was the lead investigator in terms of investigating the possible

collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians as it relates to the

interference in our election, and he was disturbed at that investigation,

he`s concerned about that investigation, apparently he has something to

hide in the context of that investigation and that`s why Donald Trump made

the unprecedented decision to fire the FBI director.

 

SHARPTON:  Well, let`s go from – let`s take it right from that point,

Yamiche, even though I`m not saying it`s your point, but that is the

feeling that many have expressed and then as the time sequence goes on, in

terms of the week anyway, we now told – we were later told the president

and FBI Director Comey had a dinner, not long after the inauguration, and

the president himself said to Lester Holt that he asked him about whether

he was under investigation.  Doesn`t that also lend some credence to those

that would say that this president doesn`t respect the line between the

White House and the justice department?

 

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  I mean, I think that`s an incredible

moment that – an incredible moment that Donald Trump volunteered saying

yes, I wanted to know if I was under investigation and it`s also incredible

that he says director Comey said that he wasn`t under investigation when of

course his campaign is and their ties to Russia, possible ties to Russia

are also in this.

 

The other thing that I think as a reporter I point out to this is the

timing of all of this.  Donald Trump when it first came out, the White

House had obviously had talking points, it was that the DOJ, deputy

attorney general, he was the reason – he was the impetus for firing Comey,

that his conclusions had somehow motivated the president to do this.  But

then the president himself contradicts his own staff and to me, that is

where we`re getting this kind of rolling story, that is why Donald Trump

himself no matter how much coaching he`s had or how many staff members he

had, he is someone who`s impulsive, he`s the one who wants to say what he

wants to say and when he sits down with Lester Holt, he can`t stick to the

talking script.  He can`t stick to what he was supposed to say, and said –

he said, you know what, actually, I would have fired him no matter what the

DOJ says.  And I think that that is an incredible – I would almost call it

evidence at this point where the democrats and other people looking into

this will be able to use.

 

SHARPTON:  Now, let me switch topics for a minute.  Because I interviewed

President Obama on this show just days before the election.  And asked him

about his criminal justice legacy.  Watch this.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  We also have to make sure that all

the work we`ve been doing around criminal justice reform moves forward. 

Ultimately, what I`d like to see is congress pass criminal justice reform

legislation that would systematically lower the prison time for nonviolent

drug offenses.  Mr. Trump has an entirely different approach.  His attitude

is to drum up fear and suggest somehow that we`re in the midst of this

crime wave, when in fact crime today is as low as it has been since the

1960s.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

SHARPTON:  Now, congressman, this week the head of the department of

justice, the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, says that he wants to say to

federal prosecutors go after low level drug, nonviolent drug offenders,

give them the max, we want mandatory sentencing because murder is up. 

Something that directly President Barack Obama said on this show, in

November of last year, crime was down, as low as has been since the 1960s. 

So the justification is not there.

 

Secondly, I don`t understand how if you`re talking about nonviolent drug

offenders, what the murder rate has to do, we`re not talking about

commuting sentences or murder or getting long sentences or short for

murder.  I think that this whole – this whole revoking of what Attorney

General Eric Holder and followed up by Attorney General Loretta Lynch is

frightening to many of us.

 

JEFFRIES:  It`s absolutely frightening.  Let me first point out that Jeff

Sessions has no credibility on the issue of law and order.  This is

somebody who either lied to congress, and committed perjury, with respect

to him claiming that he never had any meetings with the Russians, or gave

misleading information.  And for him now to move forward with such an

aggressive law and order push and to revive the failed war on drugs is

disgraceful.  When the war on drugs began in 1971, there were less than

350,000 people incarcerated in America.  Now we have over 2.1 million.  It

hasn`t made us safer, because so many of those individuals, as you pointed

out, Rev, are nonviolent drug offenders who need treatment, not a jail

cell.  That was a direction that President Obama, Eric Holder, Loretta

Lynch were moving us in.  And by the way, that has bipartisan support. 

Democrats and republicans, conservatives and progressives.  That`s the way

we should be going in America.

 

SHARPTON:  Yamiche, many of us in the civil rights community that were part

of working with the Obama administration and pushing, some of us had

actually, at least I did protested when the Clinton presidency had the –

had led to a lot of this.  This can really become a real impetus for

pushing this criminal justice reform act that Congressman Jeffries talked

about because the only way to stop Sessions now is with legislation.

 

ALCINDOR:  One of the first – or actually, the first story I wrote after

President Trump was elected was the idea of a law and order presidency for

someone who`s covered race and criminal justice.  This was the number one

issue on a lot of people`s minds, people that I could call at 2:00 in the

morning, who are still up, who still had something to say about this,

because this is exactly why so many African-American women in particular

voted for Hillary Clinton, because the idea was that they saw what the

criminalization of black men, especially, did, and – they knew the

difference, they knew what the difference was between those two candidates.

 

I think that the fact that we see private prison prices soaring, the stocks

are soaring for them, the fact that he – that Jeff Sessions has also

pulled back the idea that the federal government was going to stop using

private prisons and now under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, they`re going

to go back to doing that.

 

I think it`s – I think for a lot of people it`s very troubling.  Because I

think a lot of people have a sense that this law is not going to just –

it`s not going to be enforced equally across the nation.  You`re going to

have something going on differently, maybe in Chicago and Baltimore, and

then in New Hampshire, where there`s an opioid crisis, people might be

getting treated differently just by the color of their skin.  I`m not

saying that because – I`m saying that as a reporter, because we know that

African-Americans are treated differently in the criminal justice system.

 

SHARPTON:  The facts bear it out, congressman, which is one of the reasons

that we fought for this and was very happy when President Obama did it. 

But now the reverse is there and there must be a real push now, which I

underscore what you said, underline what you said, and that there`s

bipartisan support, some republicans have said it just cost too much money

to lock these people up 30 or 40 years.  It`s mother`s day.  I`m thinking

about mothers that I saw come to National Action Network and other groups

that were weeping about their kid might have sold – and they`re doing

these enormous amounts of time in jail, when the guys who use cocaine had

no mandatory time.

 

JEFFRIES:  That`s correct.  Mass incarceration has been a failed government

policy, that hasn`t made us safer and it`s had a devastating impact on

communities of color.  And to your point, it has been wasteful in terms of

government spending.  We spend $80 billion a year on incarcerating people

more than any other country in the nation.  We`ve got five percent of the

world`s population, 25 percent of the world`s incarcerated population.  We

need to change direction.  The only way this is going to happen is if

republicans are willing to stand up on this issue and continue to work with

us, democrats in the house, to roll back the mass incarceration regime and

enact comprehensive criminal justice reform.

 

SHARPTON:  Yamiche, so tying it together, we have this president now

looking to appoint a new FBI director, an FBI director that now is going to

be working with the Department of Justice, has now been told, let`s go back

to the old days of getting maximum time for nonviolent drug offenses,

sending all kind of signals.  Also saying we`re going to use privatized

prisons, also saying that we`re backing up on police reforms.  It is a law

and order presidency, no doubt about it.

 

ALCINDOR:  And in a lot of ways this is what Americans wanted, this was not

something – this is not now coming out of nowhere, Donald Trump said over

and over again during his campaign that if you elect me, you`re going to

get a law and order presidency, we`re going to lock people up, we`re going

to make you safer.  When I was out there on the campaign trail, that`s what

people were saying, they were saying, we want to see people locked up, we

want to be safer.  He created this narrative that we were in this crime

crisis as President Obama told you.  And that narrative stuck.  Even though

the numbers don`t bear it out, people really believe that, and that`s –

 

SHARPTON:  Well, some people because – let`s not forget, he lost by 2.8

million popular votes.  And law and order also would include investigating

Russian ties.  But we`re talking about some law and some order.

 

Thank you, congressman Hakeem Jeffries and Yamiche Alcindor.

 

Up next, the most pressing priority of President Trump is to deal with this

epidemic, enough to issue an executive order and create a task force.  What

is it?  I`ll tell you after the break.

 

And later, education secretary Betsy DeVos is booed while giving a

commencement speech at a black university.  Did she deserve it?  That`s

coming up right here on “PoliticsNation” on MSNBC.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I`d

like to announce that the president also just signed another executive

order establishing the bipartisan presidential advisory commission on

election integrity.  The commission will review policies and practices that

enhance or undermine the American people`s confidence in the integrity of

federal elections and provide the president with the report that identifies

system vulnerabilities that lead to improper registrations and voting.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

SHARPTON:  On Thursday, President Trump neck deep in the blowback from his

firing of FBI Director Comey decided that he would correct costs by

focusing on the most pressing priority a four-month-old presidency could

face, voter fraud.  And in true Trump fashion, he codified his concern in

an executive order, one that calls for a new bipartisan task force to study

the alleged epidemic of voter fraud that he says has cost him the popular

vote in November.

 

If you notice, there`s more than a bit of sarcasm in my voice.  It`s

because I cannot call this anything other than what it is.   The

diversionary tactic of a troubled presidency that has been battle

inconvenient facts like popular vote totals from day one.  And more

dangerously, a precedent for conservative legislators that have been using

the argument that the ballot is in jeopardy as an excuse to make voting

even harder for mostly poor and minority voters.  It all leads down the

same dangerous path.  To voter suppression.

 

Joining me now is Judith Browne, executive director of the Advancement

Project.

 

Judith, maybe I`m missing something.  But where is all this widespread

voter fraud?  There`s been any number of studies, even by the justice

department, and we don`t see it.

 

JUDITH BROWNE DIANIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT:  Well, Rev,

you`re not missing anything.  There is no voter fraud.  We should know that

anytime that republican`s talk about voter integrity, what they`re really

talking about is the setup for voter suppression.  Study after study has

shown that there is no voter fraud, but they don`t want to get rid of that

dog, because what they need is, like I said, a cover-up for making it

harder to vote.

 

And so this commission is nothing but a farce.  This commission is not

going to be looking at the integrity of the system.  This commission is

going to be making – looking at how to make it harder to register, harder

to vote, easier to get people kicked off of the roles.  And so what we

really need is not a commission, but what we need is an investment in our

election system to actually make it easier for people to vote.  And we know

at the heart of this is that people of color, older people and younger

people, college voters, who republicans don`t want to vote are going to be

the ones hardest hit by any findings of this commission.

 

SHARPTON:  Let`s listen to Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, who will

be the vice chair of this task force that president Trump just announced.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

KRIS KOBACH, KANSAS SECRETARY OF STATE:  You do have a great deal of

evidence about people voting in more than one state in the same election. 

You have a lot of evidence about noncitizens.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  some say people who bring that up just don`t want

minorities voting.

 

KOBACH:  You know, I think that`s a ridiculous argument.  Look, voter fraud

can affect any jurisdiction, any part of the country and, no, we don`t go

in with an assumption about what we`re going to find.  This commission is

going in with an open mind.  Let`s just find what the facts are.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

SHARPTON:  Now, he`s going to co-chair this commission.  He`s been

successfully sued four times for voter suppression.  Four times.  And this

is who you put on your commission.

 

DIANIS:  That`s right.  Again, the setup, right?  He – Kris Kobach is one

of the authors of the playbook of voter suppression.  He`s not only that,

but he is also an architect of anti-immigrant laws, like the Arizona show

me your papers, he`s also an architect of the Muslim ban.  So here we have

a person that we are supposed to trust on looking at the integrity of our

voting system, who has time and time again been hit by bringing – filing

laws and being the architect of laws that have been found unconstitutional

with regard to voting.

 

And so, again, the setup is in, what they are trying to do is to continue

this story that Trump is like a dog with a bone around this voter fraud

issue.  And, again, Rev, like you said, it`s because he can`t make sense of

the fact that he lost the popular vote.

 

SHARPTON:  And then they will come back, my fear is they will come back the

commission and really just use that as a rational to say, and therefore we

don`t need to have early voting, we don`t need Sunday souls to the polls. 

We need strict voter I.D. laws to really reinforce a lot of the voting

suppression methods that you and I and others question and fought against

over the last several years.  This commission in the name of our

recommendation is coming from studying voter fraud recommend these things,

which would then in fact suppress a lot of voters of blacks, of people of

color, of seniors and young people, for the midterm elections.

 

DIANIS:  That`s right, Rev.  Everybody wants integrity in the system.  But

what we don`t want is a witch-hunt for the phantom UFO called voter fraud

that only is about making it harder to vote.  I think you`re right, Rev. 

We have to look out for whether or not congress will turn to make a law

that will make it harder to vote through voter I.D., or proof of

citizenship, or rollbacks in early voting, things that we know, tools that

are used by communities to make it easier to vote.  People, you know, want

convenience in voting.  Our system is archaic.  What we need are

investments to make it easier for people to vote, not harder for them to

vote.

 

SHARPTON:  Thank you, Judith Browne Dianis.  Thank you and happy mother`s

day to you.

 

DIANIS:  Thank you.

 

SHARPTON:  When we come back, a white Michigan cop claims co-workers

harassed him after a DNA test revealed he`s 18 percent black.  You got to

hear that story.  We`ll be right back.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

SHARPTON:  And now, for this week`s “Gotcha,” this one`s been making the

rounds on social media for a good reason.  While researching his ancestry,

Cleon Brown, a Caucasian man, found that 18 percent of his DNA was sub-

Saharan African.  While the discovery didn`t change his racial category on

the census form, it did make him 18 percent blacker than the entirely white

police force of Hastings, Michigan, where he served for 19 years, and

decided to share the news with them.

 

He maintains he never seen prejudice in the department before.  But he says

his enthusiasm around the announcement was soured as his fellow officers

and even the mayor started taunting him with racially insensitive jokes. 

According to a federal civil rights lawsuit his lawyer filed last month,

his superior started calling him Kunta as in Kunta Kinta from the roots

cycle.  Fellow officers whispered Black Lives Matter to him as he walks

past.

 

For Christmas, a sergeant gave him a black Santa Claus doll with 18 percent

written on its beard.  Brown is now suing Hastings for a million and a half

dollars, but the city attorney argues that sergeant Brown himself has a

history of racist comments about black people, and began the joking with

wise cracks about his love of chicken among other things I won`t repeat

here.

 

Brown denies the claims and regardless of how the lawsuit plays out, it

says the experience has opened his eyes to how pervasive racism in law

enforcement really is.  We wish him well on his journey. 

 

And to you folks out there that swear prejudice and police culture is

always a figment of the black community`s imagination, who insists that

race plays no role in how Americans, even cops are viewed by their peers,

and who think that every action taken by police in the execution of their

jobs is justified, think about if this was your story, and while you do

that, I gotcha.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

BETSY DEVOS, U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION:  Dr. Jackson, board of trustees,

thank you so very, very much for this great honor and privilege.  I am

honored to become a Wildcat.

 

EDISON JACKSON, PRESIDENT, BETHUNE-COOKMAN UNIVERSITY:  If this behavior

continues, your degrees will be mailed to you.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

SHARPTON:  That was the scene at historically black Bethune-Cookman

University Wednesday as the graduating class literally voiced their

displeasure with education Secretary Betsy DeVos as their commencement

speaker.  DeVos already had a contentious history with HBCUS stemming from

a recent statement referring to them as pioneers of school choice.  Instead

of necessities from a segregated past.  She was the – was the chilly

reception entirely her fault?  No.  The White House issued a budgetary

signing statement that week before this that many interpreted as

endangering a federal program for HBCU improvements on the grounds that it

is racially biased and therefore unconstitutional.  This just three months

after president Trump hosted several HBCU presidents at the White House.  A

meeting that critics cast as a photo-op then and especially now.  And it`s

against this backdrop that Secretary DeVos walked into a minefield, but

she`s not the only conservative rejected by HBCU students this week.  More

on that in a bit.

 

But joining me now are two who are at Bethune-Cookman who were there

Wednesday, university alum Dominik Whitehead who organizes the petition

against Secretary DeVos` speech, a petition that he says saw about 60,000

signatures by the time of her address.  And Sapheria Samuels, a fresh

graduate of the school.

 

Before we get started, I just want to disclose that I was privileged to

receive an honorary degree from Bethune-Cookman in 2011.  Here`s a picture

of me sharing that – that day with my father who was not there for any

other graduation or degree I was given, but we bonded that day.

 

Let me go to you first, Dominik.  Why did you start the petition and did

you have any idea that it would get this kind of support?

 

DOMINIK WHITEHEAD, UNIVERSITY ALUM, BETHUNE-COOKMAN UNIVERSITY:  Good

morning, Reverend.  I started this petition because of the love of my

school.  I love Bethune-Cookman and the legacy and then also those students

and those graduating seniors, I felt that they deserved so much better than

Secretary DeVos speaking at their commencement speaker for graduation.  And

I had no idea that this would get the level of support that it has received

across the nation and mood from the Bethune-Cookman family, all the way

through other HBCUS, support from across the entire nation.  I had no idea.

 

SHARPTON:  Sapheria, you and other graduating students, this is a big day

in your life.  It`s a huge achievement, your families are there, yet you

guys chose to make a strong statement.  What about Secretary DeVos really

in many ways incited you to say on this day, a very important day of my

life, I want to make this statement?

 

SAPHERIA SAMUELS, GRADUATE STUDENT, BETHUNE-COOKMAN UNIVERSITY:  Well, good

morning, how are you?

 

SHARPTON:  I`m fine.

 

SAMUELS:  Good.  I felt as though a graduation, especially a college

graduation, is a time for celebration, a time for everyone to get together

to celebrate your accomplishments.  Betsy DeVos, she did not agree with

HBCUS accomplishments when she first made her first statement.  I actually

had the opportunity to speak with her before graduation.  I was one of the

students who spoke with her.  I went in there with an open mind to hear and

see what she had to say.  She talked a lot – she talked a lot about things

that takes time, we asked the students about questions to her, and

questions that she never thought about.

 

But from that meeting – from that meeting I knew that I had a purpose to

stand with my class.  I knew that her first initial statement was she did

not support HBCU, she did not support my accomplishments, she did not

support our accomplishments.  And for her to be at an HBCU where the –

where the founder and the history is so rich and so divine, you know, and

it was pretty much like a slap in our face for all of the graduates.  So I

decided to stand with my class and stand for what is right.

 

SHARPTON:  Let me show you, Dominik, Senator Kamala Harris speaking at

Howard University yesterday.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. SENATOR:  At this moment, when voices at the highest

level of our government seem confused about the significance and even the

constitutionality of supporting an HBCU, I say look over here at Howard

University.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

SHARPTON:  She`s referring to the questioning last weekend of the

president, when it came out seeming to question the constitutionality of

historic black colleges, which they later said that`s not what they were

saying, when you saw Secretary DeVos herself saying that they were

pioneers, HBCUs were pioneers in school choice, when they really were

formed because blacks couldn`t by law go to other schools, I mean, there

was any number of issues that this administration, less than 130 days old,

had directly dealt with in this kind of area of discussion around historic

black colleges and universities.

 

So when you came with your petition, I imagine that the climate was already

set by their own statements and by their own actions, Dominik.

 

WHITEHEAD:  Yes, sir.  I mean, their actions, you said it best to yourself,

their actions of the Trump administration, Secretary DeVos since the

beginning of this administrations with Historical Black Colleges have been

nothing but tone deaf.  For Secretary DeVos to make a statement, and

compare HBCUs to being the pioneers of school choice, it shows how

disconnected she is from the African-American community.  It shows how

disconnected she is from historical black colleges and as an insult and

distasteful in a way where HBCUs, students and graduates from HBCUs, we

give contributions at all times at all levels of society, graduates with

HBCUs, we have a rich legacy.  And insult and distasteful in a way where

HBCUs, students and graduates from HBCUS, we give contributions at all

times of all levels of society, graduates with HBCUS, you just stated, we

have a rich legacy.  And I think before coming to a commencement, kind of

have a dialogue.  Again, there`s a cultural disconnect with this

administration, Secretary DeVos and Historical Black Colleges.

 

SHARPTON:  Sapheria, I`m out of time.  But, was your family upset with you

and the graduates that protested or did they support it and understand the

stand you took?

 

SAMUELS:  Family, friends, the school, alumni, everyone was in support for

what we stood for.  And I thank them for that.  I thank them for sticking

by our side, I thank them for allowing us to have a voice and supporting us

every step of the way.

 

SHARPTON:  All right.  Thank you, Dominik Whitehead and Sapheria Samuels. 

Thank you very much.

 

A quick update, last month we told you about confederate statues being

removed from the streets of New Orleans.  Well, on Thursday, workers in the

city removed a statue of confederate president Jefferson Davis, erected

more than a century ago.  This was the second of four monuments that are

being removed and we`ll keep you posted on that story.

 

Meanwhile, in Charlottesville, Virginia, protesters gathered in Jackson

Park Saturday to demonstrate against the removal of a statue of confederate

General Robert E. Lee.  Some argued they were just protecting what they

called their, quote, “white heritage.”  The Charlottesville city council

voted last month to sell the city statue of the confederate general.

 

Up next, it`s mother`s day across the country.  And a group of incarcerated

moms will get the best gift of their lives.  Freedom.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

SHARPTON:  Today is mother`s day.  Before I say anything else, I want to

give thanks to the women that shape us, make us, and guide us through the

lives that they give us.  And on this mother`s day, a cross section of

social justice organizations is paying the bails of at least 30 black women

in local jails across the country.  These women`s crimes mostly low level

drug offenses.

 

But while that might explain why these women have been charged with its not

why they remained in jail.  They simply cannot afford to post bail as they

await their trial.  It`s a common problem and it`s getting worse.  In

response, activist groups say they raised more than a quarter of a million

dollars for what they call National Black Mama`s Bailout Day.

 

Leading the charge is the organization SONG, that stands for “Southerners

On New Ground,” whose co-director proposed this day of action.  She`s here

with me this morning.  Mary Hooks joins us from Atlanta.  Another

organization involved is Healing Hearts, and with us its executive director

Bonita Lacy.  Thank you, both and Happy Mother`s Day.

 

MARY HOOKS, FIELD ORGANIZER, SOUTHERNERS ON NEW GROUND:  Thank you.

 

BONITA LACY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, HEALING HEARTS:  Thank you.

 

SHARPTON:  Mary, how successful has it been?  How many mothers have you

actually been able to get out in Georgia and other places today?

 

HOOKS:  Yeah.  It`s been extremely successful.  In Atlanta, right now,

we`re clocking about 17.  And that number is going to continue to grow. 

But we`re also seeing reports from North Carolina, Durham, about eight. 

Charlotte, about six.  I believe Philly reported eight.  There are some

that have been released in St. Pete, Florida.  Some reports are coming in

daily.  We`re excited.  We said if it was just one, and there`s been more

than one.  So we can`t complain.

 

SHARPTON:  Now, what is the significance to you of having these women,

again, low-level drug offenders, these are not violent women, there`s not

people that are danger to society.  What is the significance to you that

gave you this vision to want to say, well, let`s raise the money and bring

them home at least on mother`s day?

 

HOOKS:  Yeah.  I think because we`re seeing a lot of black mothers and

black women who are being pushed into cages unjustly.  None of these women

have told their stories, been tried or convicted, but are having to sit in

cage and the collateral damage is killing our people.  You have women who

are sitting in the cage.  One in three experience in sexual violence.  You

have one out of nine black children without a parent at home, because they

cannot afford bail is unacceptable.  And as black people, we have a mandate

to avenge the suffering of our ancestors and to earn the respect of future

generations and be willing to be transformed in the service of the work.

 

And so to be able to embody the vision of abolition that our ancestors has

called us to in this time to free our people is critical and necessary in

order to make sure our people no longer have to suffer at the hands of

cash, money, bail systems, other systems of repression that keep our people

in cages.

 

SHARPTON:  Bonita, what made you and your organization become part of this

and what inspired you about this day of dealing with black mamas being

bailed out.

 

LACY:  OK.  About four years ago when all the police killings, I looked at

the suffering of the black mothers and then on mother`s day my heart was,

like, broken, thinking that they won`t have their children to bring them

presents to spend dinners with, and to just, you know, love on them on

mother`s day.  So every year since then we`ve done small actions and then

Mary asked about us joining her in this great effort which was just a

perfect match for what our heart and our organization does, which is bond

families, black families back together and get women out of jail.

 

So it was just like a natural that we look at the whole family unit and

impact of mothers being in jail on mother`s day, specifically, to impact on

children, who don`t have a parent in the home on mother`s day.

 

SHARPTON:  You know, Mary, one of the things that caught my eye, which is

why I wanted to do this story, is I think a lot of us from different

groups, different even tactics may have different strategies.  But a lot of

us deal with the criminalization of our community and the criminalization

of black men and what that does to black women and the criminalization of

black mothers and women.  But sometimes forget the human side.  And what

you`re doing is putting the human face there.  These are mothers.  These

are real people who have families that have been accused, not convicted, as

you said, of doing something that is not even something that we would say

is a real mass threat to society, and people don`t look at the human side

of this that you have projected so dramatically with this effort.

 

HOOKS:  Blessings.  I think it`s important because else we think that our

people are disposable and not valuable, and that the lives and the people

that we`re connected to and are impacted by this situation, you know, don`t

mean nothing.  But when you have people who sit in a cage on charges for

the use of fighting words.  Here in Atlanta, folks are sitting in jail for

charges for the use of fighting words, for urban camping, meaning

homelessness, in the black mecca right now, is unacceptable.  Again, these

are real people.  And had it not been for the lord and ancestors and folks

who have been looking out for myself and different ones who have been

through things, you know what I mean, we`ve been there.

 

We`ve seen this before.  This is not an uncommon circumstance that has

happened.  But, you know, this is an opportunity for us to use our

collective resources like our ancestors have done to buy each other`s

freedom and to be able to give people the support they need, because again,

these are lives that are being destroyed, houses, jobs, peace of mind, the

will to live are being destroyed.  This is an opportunity for us to help

get up under each other and do what we`ve been calling for, our local

government, you know what I mean, and legislation to do which is divest in

police, jails, prions and courts in detriment of the lives of our people.

 

SHARPTON:  Mary Hooks and Bonita Lacy thank you both and happy mother`s day

to both of you and god bless you.  You mentioned the lord, Mary, so I`ll

say, god bless you.

 

HOOKS:  Thank you.

 

SHARPTON:  Up next, I traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma on Wednesday to lead a

prayer for Terence Crutcher who was shot by a police officer and killed

last year.  That officer`s trial started this week.  I do not go there to

start trouble.  I went there to address trouble.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SHARPTON:  Seems arrogant to me to act like you have the right to take

people`s lives.  You should have enough dignity to at least respect the

fact that this mother is going to go through mother`s day with a son gone

for doing nothing wrong than his car breaking down on a highway.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

SHARPTON:  When I was in Tulsa on Wednesday leading the prayer service for

the Terence Crutcher who was killed by police and that policewoman is on

trial there, I looked down at his mother and I thought about the mothers

that I have fought with and for, for just a day in court for decades.  I

thought about Trayvon`s mother.  I thought all the way back to Howard Beach

30 years ago, to the mother of Michael Griffith.  I thought about my mother

who raised me most of her life by having no means, on welfare with food

stamps, but raised me and my sister to be something of worth and of value. 

Maybe that`s why mother`s day, I call the mothers people like the mother of

Terence Crutcher who will miss their children and not be able to see them

grow to be something of worth.

 

On mother`s day, hug your mother, love your mother, thank your mother.  And

then think about the mothers whose children won`t be there, whose child

won`t be there and make sure they`re not forgotten and the justice at least

comes from it.  All of them may not be right, but all of them are not

wrong.  Let`s remember on mother`s day mothers that are going to be missing

sons and daughters who won`t hug them like you and others can hug yours. 

Let`s stand on mother`s day for justice.

 

That does it for me.  Thanks for watching.  I`ll see you back here next

Sunday.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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