PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton: 5/14/2017

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

(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)

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.                                                                                                     END