'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, July 7th, 2013
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
July 7, 2013
Guests: Eleanor Holmes Norton, Marc Morial, Sherilynn Ifill, Thena
Robinson, Buddy Roemer, Steve Perry, Sarah Carr, Thena Robinson Mock, Ronal
Serpas, Latoya Cantrell, Dana Kaplan, Mitch Landrieu, Chandra Burks, Iyanla
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my question, where is the
Republican party booth here at the essence festival?
Plus, Buddy Romer is here to debate school vouchers.
And the one and only Ileana Van Zandt joins me live.
But first, it is more Nerdland from New Orleans, where it`s time to fight
back and be heard.
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And this is our second day at the
essence festival in New Orleans, which is a celebration of black music and
culture. It is also a special opportunity for me to bring Nerdland to my
hometown. We have a lot to get to this morning.
But first we want to give you the latest on that plane crash in San
Francisco. Investigators are trying to determine what caused Asiana
airlines flight 214 to crash at the airport yesterday killing at least two
people and injuring more than 180 others.
Just moments ago an NTSB official spoke with my colleague Steve Kornacki.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEBORAH HERSMAN, NTSB DIRECTOR: I can tell you we had a couple of
investigators here from California yesterday afternoon. They were able to
secure the black boxes and get them out on a red eye under federal
supervision yesterday evening. We arrived around midnight, had an
opportunity to go to the accident site. And I can tell you that we`re very
thankful we don`t have more fatalities and injuries given the devastation I
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, for more, let`s go to NBC`s John Yang at San Francisco
JOHN YANG, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Melissa, good evening -- good morning,
The federal investigators are continuing to poor over the burned out
wreckage of Asiana flight 214. You can see behind me. They are all trying
to figure out exactly why this plane came in essentially short of the
runway, the tail striking a seawall at the end of the runway and then
hitting the runway so hard, they lost the tail assembly, they lost landing
gear, and then skidded on down the runway, skidding off the runway.
Two people, as you say, were killed. Officials identified them as two 16-
years-old girls from China. They were part of one of two middle school
groups on board the plane coming here for a summer camp that would include
visits to college campuses around the area.
Meanwhile, about four dozen people remain hospitalized in hospitals from
San Francisco down to Stanford University in Palo Alto. There are at least
five people in critical condition, one of them an infant -- Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to NBC`s John Yang. Obviously, that news is very
sad and we will continue to follow it.
Now, for regular viewers of this program, you know that sometimes it
becomes a platform at times to take a critical look at, well, Louisiana
politics. And in particular, the man we refer to as FBJ, forget Bobby
Jindal. But, this morning, we need to expand the scope because of radical
Republican assault on our rights, particularly voting rights, in state
In North Carolina, they are fighting every week to make sure that
unfettered access to the polls and other hard fought victories aren`t
stripped away by Republican led state assembly. Tomorrow marks the tenth
week of moral Monday protest in North Carolina, protests over the radical
Republican legislative agenda. And they have grown from dozens of
supporters when they began April 29th, 2000.
Demonstrators are protesting new limits on abortion rights which were
approved by the state Senate on Wednesday, sharp cuts to unemployment
benefits, which decreased the benefit amount time, which people can receive
aid and the repeal of racial justice act, which helps convicted murders to
get death sentences improved in sentence if racial bias can be proved in
So, when we look at attempts to suppress the vote that are occurring in
this state and states other than North Carolina, let`s look at the fact
that after the Supreme Court ruling on June 25th, to strike down a key part
of the voting rights act, a number of states moved immediately, and I mean
immediately, to launch their latest assaults on voting rights -- states
including Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Virginia.
Governor Rick Perry was down right beside himself over the court`s ruling
saying in a statement, Texas may now implement the will of the people
without being subject to outdated and unnecessary oversight and the
overreach of federal power. So it came as no surprise when mere hours
after the Supreme Court ruling, Texas officials said they would enforce a
strict voter ID rule, a measure that had been blocked previously by a
federal court because it would overwhelmingly affect black and Latino
This fight, the one we saw so much of, in the last election 2012 is far
from over. In fact, because of the Supreme Court ruling it is back and
more dangerous than ever. But the solution might be simple. Fight back.
Be heard. Vote. Speak and do it now.
Joining me now are Sherilynn Ifill, president and director counsel of the
NAACP legal defense fund. Also Marc Morial, a New Orleans home boy who is
president and CEO of the national urban league and former mayor of the city
of New Orleans. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, an icon of mine and
Democratic delegate for Washington, D.C. And a Nerdland favorite, Shirley
Sherrod, co-author of "the courage to hope, how I stood up to the politics
Thank you all for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Melissa.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: We were saying earlier, here we are in the atmosphere of
essence. On the one hand, it`s a party. It is a great time. We`re
listening to music. But you and I are both shaking with rage about what is
going on with voting rights in this country.
SHERILYNN IFILL, PRESIDENT, DIRECTOR, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: It`s
really astonishing, Melissa. I haven`t been able to move past rage because
I keep re-reading the Supreme Court`s decision. And what is amazing about
it is that it is not surprising. This is exactly what congress thought
would happen when they passed the voting rights act. When they passed it
they said they wanted section five of the act to be able to protect against
any ingenuous plans that southern jurisdictions might come up with in the
future to suppress minority voting rights.
And as you said, hours after the Supreme Court`s decision, the attorney
general of Texas couldn`t even wait to issue a full statement. He tweeted
the fact that he was going to implement Texas voter ID law. That`s the
voter ID law that doesn`t allow students to use their student ID, but does
allow individuals who have a concealed gun permit to use that ID to vote.
At the NAACP legal defense, we represent students who had been using their
ID until that law was implemented. And we have been hearing from all over
the country, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina. It`s astonishing,
exactly what Congress thought would happen has happened. And you`re right.
We have to fight back.
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels like the only solution is to arm all the students
in Texas, right, I mean, since the Texas, you know, campuses now allow you
to carry concealed weapon. And obviously that`s nuts, right?
Marc, it feels like, what Sherilynn was just saying about this notion of
ingenuous attempts. I`m actually stunned in North Carolina about how
exciting and innovative these Republicans are with their ability to come up
with whole new ways to strip the right to vote.
MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, CEO, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: You can call them
ingenuous, I call them shenanigans. It`s just old-fashioned politics
wrapped in new clothing. It`s a 21st century effort. And you know, it
requires us to resist. This is a struggle and a battle that has taken on a
moral dimension. It protection the democracy and voting rights is beyond
politics. It`s who we are as a nation. It`s about our values as a country
and it is about a re-affirmation of the work that was done 50 years ago to
create these protections.
Look, I`m a son of the south. I love this city. The south has changed
because of the civil rights act, voting rights act, because of the work
done 50 years ago. This decision by the Supreme Court, make no mistake
about it, will cause the south to retrogress.
HARRIS-PERRY: And one of the things I wanted to have you here, Eleanor
was, because no one knows more about being disenfranchise than the people
of Washington, D.C., right? I mean, as we talk about losing a set of
protections, the fact is that the residents of Washington D.C., although
they can vote within their own city, have long been subjects of the federal
government. What should we learn from the residents of D.C. about how to
have a voice even when those would take the vote from us?
REP. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, WASHINGTON D.C. DELEGATE: I think what you
learned from my district is that struggle is always necessary. Now, I`m
not among those who are wringing her hands about this bill. I mean, I was
there in 2006 when we authorized the act. And you all think that wasn`t a
nice little party. I can tell you that by the time we went to the front
steps, no less, of the capital, led by the Republican and Democratic
leadership, the very -- McConnell himself, Boehner himself and the
Democratic leadership proud of the fact that we have fought our way through
to reauthorize the act.
The act was due to expire and we argued that if it expired, how would we
revive it? Now, what has happened is terrible. I still believe the Texas
ID law, it violates the voting rights act and that we can go back and get
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, under section two.
NORTON: Under section two, especially since the federal court has already
found that it was in violation of the act. But let me tell you what else I
think we have to do. Instead of wringing our hands, we have to do what
many of us are doing.
Many of us in the Congress are already discussing how to revise this act.
And we have got more than what we had before. The Republicans were afraid
they would look racist. Now look what they have got. We`re in the middle
of the immigration bill. Now, you have not only got us, who are black, you
have got Hispanics who you are trying to move. Now, just mess with us on
the voting rights act. Mess with us because you have got two allies who
are determined to get this act reviewed and revised.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I love the energy that you bring this. And when we come
back from the break, I`m going ask you also about like how likely you think
this 113th is. But before we do that, you know, I`ve been feeling very
much like that post civil rights generation in the wringing of my hands
saying it`s so bad. And my dad says you think the 113th Congress is bad,
you should have seen what we faced. And, I guess, part of what I`m asking
of you, Ms. Sherrod, so how do we at this moment now say, this is bad but
not the worst we`ve ever faced?
SHIRLEY SHERROD, AUTHOR, THE COURAGE TO HOPE: Well, I can tell you back
when I went to register to vote in 1965 just before the voting rights act
passed, I went to the courthouse and the sheriff literally pushed me and
others back out of the courthouse. I couldn`t register the first time I
tried. I could only register after the voting rights act passed.
Now, I feel like we have gone back -- in my home county, baker, where I
first went to register to vote, they are closing, since the Supreme Court
ruled, they have decided to close all but one polling place.
SHERROD: That means that -- and the attorney for the county told them, you
can do anything you want to now. There`s no oversight by the federal
government. So, can you imagine people in the rural area having to drive
15 and 20 miles to vote? They won`t do it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, of course. That point is such an important one. It`s
about this third reconstruction which we find ourselves.
Hang tight, everybody. We are coming right back right after the break. I
do want to get a little bit more into that ruling and whether or not the
113th is going to be able to do anything to help us.
Much more from the essence festival in New Orleans, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And we are live at
the essence festival in New Orleans.
Now, we have been talking about the assault on voting rights and how that
will disproportionately impact African-American voters and other
communities and other communities of color. But what`s important to
remember about the Supreme Court`s decision regarding to voting rights act,
is it, it did not strike down preclearance requirement of section five,
instead, the court`s ruling struck down the formula used to determine the
states and areas subject to preclearance. Because, according to chief
justice John Roberts` opinion, Congress`s formula quote "re-enacted a
formula based on 40 year facts having no logical relation to the present
day." Yes, whatever.
So now, the ball is in Congress`s court to come up with a new formula for
states that need to be under preclearance so that all voters will be
protected. This is the same Congress that`s on track to do even less than
the last Congress which set the record for the fewest bills signed into
So Councilman Norton, you are the first person to make me feel like maybe
the 113th can in fact come up with a new section four formula, because
maybe we can hold McConnell and Boehner`s feet to the fire of their 2006
NORTON: And of course, that was a different Congress. We recognize that.
There was 98-0 in the house, only 33 members in the Senate, only 33 members
of the house voted against the bill. What do you do about this new house?
Well, first of all, it`s important we have the same leadership. But much
more important is that the mission has been given to the Republican who got
the bill through in the first place. Now, we were in, we passed the video
authorization with a Republican president, a Republican house and
Republican Senate. They ought to get off and glow in that.
Tim Sensenbrenner, who is no longer the chair, very senior, but they rotate
chairs, has been given by the chair the mission of proceeding on this
matter. What has Sensenbrenner said, unequivocally we must re-authorize
the voting rights act.
Now, let`s look at the majority rights leader, Eric Cantor, Mr. Bad man.
He went to Selma this year with John Lewis.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve got to pull all the tape.
MORIAL: I`m optimistic that we can do something. But I think one thing
for the listeners and viewers, we have to build public will. That`s why we
need a large presence in Washington around the commemoration of the 50th
anniversary, which is a continuation, a march. We need people to go
online. They can go to national urban league, occupy the web page, weigh
in, sign petitions, be a part of this effort. We got the bill.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me push you on that, Marc, because I think for some
of us, we have felt like the apparatus of organizations that emerge in the
civil rights movement became over the course of the 1980s and `90s more
bound and a little bureaucratic and maybe a little bit removed from what
felt like struggle. It felt more like kind of managing what the winds had
been 50 years ago.
So, now, I`m looking at North Carolina where the local NAACP is out there
for 10 weeks, hundreds of people getting arrested, trying to draw
attention. But National NAACP is not doing as much kind of around that to
make sure. So, I just want to know, are those civil rights organizations
going to -- you can only speak for Urban League.
MORIAL: The National Urban League, the Nation Action Network, the NAACP
and a whole coalition have come together around trying to build a mass
mobilization in Washington on August 24th, 25th, and several days around
that. There`s a new generation of leadership, Sherilynn, myself, and many
others of us. And I think it`s important now with the tools of social
media, with the challenge that we face, that we step up to the
responsibility of now, and protect the voting rights and not be mired in
what happened 10, 15, 20 years ago. We must meet the challenge.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that`s right. So, we must meet this challenge.
IFILL: Let me say, NAACP legal defense fund, we represented black voters
in Alabama in the case that went --
HARRIS-PERRY: In Shelby, right?
IFILL: Right, in Shelby County, Alabama. And we basically have a three-
point plan because something has to change and can change. Number one,
there`s still as you say section five but other parts of the voting rights
act that we are using. And so, we are still litigating.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton talked about Texas. All of these are places
where we can still challenge discriminatory voting practices under voting
rights act. We are asking people to write to us, vote at NAACPLTF.org when
you hear about the polling place changes that Mrs. Sherrod was talking
about. We need the information. All these attorney generals who are
talking and saying what they are going to do, let them talk, but tell us
about it because we use that information in our litigation. Number two --
HARRIS-PERRY: Are you going to still take these suckers to court?
IFILL: We can still take this -- give us the stuff. So, vote at
Secondly, have you called your congressman yet? Have you started to let
them feel the fire? Because they need to feel that we are demanding. They
may be do nothing Congress but they are going to do something this year.
We have got to demand that. And then thirdly, that mass mobilization
August 24th, the 50th anniversary commemoration of the march on Washington,
it`s critical. You`ve got to show Congress we`re going to demand this.
And if we are working those two strategies, mobilization, litigation at the
same time, we can change this thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to underline just one thing especially for those of
us who live in the south. As often our congressman is a Democrat, and
often a member of the congressional black caucus. So, it`s not only
calling your congressperson, it is calling that senator, right? So, I may
have said Richard (ph) is my congressman but David Bitter (ph) is my
senator and I plan to call him as well.
MORIAL: And you know what else we need, we need all the local elected
officials, who are the fruit of success in the voting rights act to step up
and be involved in the man`s mobilization. I challenge every single leader
out there who has passion for this to say something, to do something, to be
part of this effort to protect democracy. This is our generation`s cause
and challenge to step up in a battle that`s important for now.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I got to go, but I am keeping some of these folks. So
I`m going to get my last question in to Mrs. Sherrod when we come back.
But I want to say thank you to Sherilynn Ifill and to Marc Morial who have
made this call for us to step up as the next generation to protect the
voting rights act.
Now, don`t go anywhere because when we come back, I`m going to show off one
of the coolest toys that MSNBC brought to the essence festival. They call
him steady fly.
HARRIS-PERRY: On this show, we spent a lot of time scrubbing with big
corporation over their treatment of their workers and their consumers.
Coca-cola has tried to escape blame in its roll for the obesity epidemic.
Workers for McDonald`s and in other fast-food chains have gone on strike in
multiple cities this year to demand better pay. And then there is Walmart
with its everyday low wages.
But credit where credit is due. All three of those companies, no matter
how evil their policies maybe are here at the essence festival, putting in
their time and making the effort to connect with the African-American
But you know who is not here, who could use a little more connection to
African-Americans, the Republican Party. So I thought we would go for a
little look and see whether or not the GOP is here to search it out. So,
I`m going to try to find some -- the GOP here. But no, I don`t see GOP at
the essence. That`s our guy. That`s steady cam guy. You don`t have to
take my word for the fact there`s no GOP. We are looking around. Look at
this guy. He`s our steady cam operator. That`s the convention center in
New Orleans. There`s Verizon and other folks. Hey, Steady fly, do we see
a Republican party booth anywhere? Any GOP, any local booth, I don`t know,
maybe just an elephant. No, that might be the deltas. Nothing? Sorry.
Well, you know what, maybe that`s actually by design, because some vocal
Republican thought leaders lately have been advising the GOP to just focus
on getting more white voters out to the poll.
As FOX News (INAUDIBLE) said this week quote "this Hispanic vote which I
think is now 8.5 percent of the electorate or something like that, it is
not nearly as important as the white vote, which is still above 70 percent.
So that`s the plan, the Hispanic vote is not such a big deal. We are going
to put all the GOP eggs in a white basket. Really? When the census bureau
says whites American are going to be the minority within next 30 years.
Let`s see how that works out for you. And yes, GOP, by not being here at
essence, you`re also missing Beyonce.
HARRIS-PERRY: We just sent our steady cam segue to try to find the
Republican booth here at the essence festival. And of course, we came up
with nothing. It`s just one more piece of evidence that chairman Reince
Priebus and his GOP colleagues aren`t particularly interested in a bigger
Joining our panel is former governor of Louisiana, Buddy Roemer. He is
also a former presidential candidate and now chairman of the Reform
Project. And my friend and fellow MSNBC host of "All In" Chris Hayes.
Nice to have you both here.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES: Good to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask you this, is the Republican party even making a
superficial effort to do the work of outreach to minorities communities.
HAYES: So, there was a superficial effort for a period. After 2008,
particularly I think when Michael Steele was running the RNC, there was.
And then the day after the election, there was this consensus, everyone in
the Republican party is like, men, we are getting our butts kicked, we have
to reached out, bigger tent, bigger tent. And what you see is the further
the calendar moves from that election towards the midterm election, the
more the devil on GOP shoulder starts to whisper in their ear, maybe we
could just get by on white folks. Like maybe if we really, really put our
back into getting white people to vote for us which think about what that
would mean for the party, think about what it would have to you to
cultivate more sense of white cultural grievance and anxiety to juice the
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s also an assumption of what white voters care about.
I mean, Buddy, part of what I know you have, you know, you have been a
Republican, you have been a Democrat, you have been an Independent, but you
are sort of always been a populist, right? You have always been someone
who is like you can`t figure out what a person`s political interests are
based on what their race is.
BUDDY ROEMER, PRESIDENT, REFORM PROJECT: It`s deeper than that. But let`s
talk about the Republicans. They have yet to cross the divide in terms of
outreach. They are doing better with the Hispanics now and their approach.
Look at the young Republican leaders in the country. They are more and mo
from the Hispanic party. The same thing needs to happen with other
minorities, including the representative here at Essence.
The reason they are not here, they don`t have a structural commitment to
growth. It`s just that simple. I don`t think it`s about racism,
personality. I think it`s a structural commitment to growth. The
Republicans don`t have it.
What they want is purity. And they -- what they try to do is get
performance with purity. Look at their performance. They have lost four
of the last six national presidential elections. It`s not working, guys.
NORTON: Melissa, there is a structural problem. And we see it planted in
the house. It really starts in the house. In the Senate where people have
to represent whole states, it`s an understanding we are going under. In
the house where they gerrymandered themselves in to mostly white, old white
male district, there was some women in there, too.
NORTON: When you gerrymandered yourself so that your own vote now in your
own district depends upon being against immigration reform, being against
the voting rights act, you have a big structural problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And why Boehner can`t hurt his guy, right?
NORTON: Exactly. And that structural problem, I agree with Mr. Roemer,
may be with us for 10 years unless we throw enough struggles at them so
that we get some of their whites to see their party is going to go down
HARRIS-PERRY: And actually, that is exactly where I wanted to go if early
when I wanted to ask you this question, Ms. Sherrod, is this question about
how you build interracial coalition. Because on the one hand, here is the
Republican Party utterly failing to even attempt interracial coalition on
the right, but I worry a lot also about the ability of an interracial
coalition to hold on the left, for the Democratic Party to be able to hold
immigration interest and civil rights interest and LGBT interest and
environmental interest and rural interest all in one party. How do we
start thinking about how to show our commonality in these struggles?
SHERROD: Well, that`s a good question because, you know, that`s a good
question. I`m just not sure, you know. We know these issues are here. We
know we need to work on them together. But when you are in the rural are
area, you know, one thing can play out on the national scene, but when you
get in the rural area, things, so much has changed but so much hasn`t
changed. People kind of know their places and they have stayed in them.
And now they get confirmed in them by the Supreme Court ruling.
HAYES: And then you also get -- you got an opposite problem, which is not
a difficult electoral program for Democrats but it is kind of mirror image
of the fact GOP isn`t here which is that that same gerrymandering process,
those same politics means that Republicans routinely win rural areas by 80-
20, 90-10. And it`s very hard for Democrats to have that as part of the
coalition of interests represented when those aren`t the folks that are
So, they have a kind mirror image problem. The advantage for Democrats is
that that portion of the population is small and shrinking and the portion
of population the GOP is alienating is large and growing.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, I mean, part of this is gerrymandering, I`m so glad
you brought it up because it really is the key structural question, is that
then the voters in these districts represented by the folks in this room
are also stacked and packed into often congressional black districts where
sometimes you have great representatives and you have active primaries.
But more often than not, you often don`t have that and where folks to where
they are such safe district, that in fact, the questions of what you bring
back to the districts are never asked.
ROEMER: Well, let me make two points, if I could. One is the necessity is
the mother of invention. This will happen when it`s required. When
leaders say we can`t win any other way. And I believe that Republicans are
going to come to that conclusion. They haven`t yet totally --
HAYES: They sort of did and then they walked back on it.
ROEMER: I know. It is tough. Change is tough. So, that`s number one.
And now, back to my point on structure. At the essence of structure in the
Congress is money, its special interest money. Now, you have heard this
speech before. And I won`t beat your head in.
HARRIS-PERRY: No, no. Give it to us.
ROEMER: But you want to make these two parties better, you take away the
power of special interest money and put people in its place, this world
will have a revolution.
HARRIS-PERRY: Look. I have got to tell you. Watching what was happened
in North Carolina and you know, I`m talking about as the radical Republican
agenda, but it`s really the art Pope agenda. It is the fact the one person
was able to buy a state. I mean, it sounds like I`m overstating that but
NORTON: But please let`s go back to why we`re having this discussion about
immigration in the first place. What can Trump money are people getting
out there. How did we get to the point where everybody now is trying to --
including even some in the house, we had our own version of the gang of
eight who fell apart to try to please Hispanics because they came out in
record numbers. They are in some of these very districts that we are
discussing now. They can do it again if we do it again ourselves. Nothing
happens without people coming out. They can`t buy us.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know who the single highest turnout in the last election
2012, 70 percent of African-American women turned out to vote. We have a
right to have our issues and voices heard. This is an issue we`ve made a
focal point. We are going to come back and talk more about this question
of poor children. And literally the willingness of Congress to let poor
children go hungry again. I`m not exaggerating when we are back.
HARRIS-PERRY: When the House comes back in session this week, leadership
will again try to rally support for the farm bill. The bill failed last
month thanks to conservatives who thought the bill`s $21 billion in cuts to
the so-called food stamp program were not severe enough. This time there
are reports that house majority leader Eric Cantor may try to split the
food stamp program known as SNAP from the farm provisions of the bill in
order to pick up more conservative votes. That may actually be good news
for families who rely on food stamps because money has already been
apportioned to the SNAP program and will continue at current levels if
Congress fails to act.
All right, Miss Sherrod, the farm bill is the thing that put rural interest
and African-American interest together into one bill and the interest of
the poor together into one bill, so you couldn`t split them up. Now,
Cantor is prepared to split them up. How bad could this be?
SHERROD: That would be really, really bad. And you know, we look at what
happens in terms of food or through the SNAP program but the farm bill
covers so much more, especially when you get in the rural area. That`s
housing, you know, there are jobs. All of that is included in the farm
bill, and when you take that away, and then the help for small farmers, you
know. When you talk about subsidy, the big farmers have gotten big money
but the little money that the small farmer gets can mean a difference in
whether they can pay their taxes and stay on the farm or whether they lose
the farm or not.
HARRIS-PERRY: And a delay makes a difference, right? This gives going out
like this could make a difference.
SHERROD: Yes, it does. It really hurts small farmers. These are the
people -- these are the backbone -- this the backbone of our country.
These are the people who care for the land. These are the people who take
it seriously -- your food seriously and grow it in a way that`s better for
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Without all the genetically modified foods.
NORTON: They left a trillion dollars on the table with this bill. They
want to get this bill out. I went on the snow called SNAP challenge, where
some of us went on the food stamp challenge for a week, $31.50. Don`t try
it. You will starve. But we tried our best to show that $20 billion
reduction would be a catastrophe for 45 million Americans. Splitting it
would have some short-term benefits. We have extended the farm bill
before. The problem is you break up the coalition, which has kept this
farm bill going. Sure, that`s $5 billion in there for people who farm,
whether or not they farm or not. That`s the waste. But, that`s how you
put together sausage.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. That`s how you roll that love.
Chris, there was an amazing -- we were just talking about on break, long
form article in the "Post" today about an attempt to try to address
childhood hunger. This is not some foreign problem. This is a problem in
HAYES: One in four kids in this country is somehow dependent on the
government to eat, whether through free reduced breakfast and lunch at
schools or SNAP program.
HARRIS-PERRY: Or wick.
HAYES: Or wick. And when school is out in the summer, there becomes a
problem of getting nutrition to kids. This is an amazing piece in the
"Washington Post" about a bus going through rural Appalachia and trying to
bring the food to kids who weren`t able to get to school their meals.
I mean, the thing that is really perverse about the food stamp fight to me
is, we have seen -- we saw welfare reform and ton of restructured, we have
a Congress that doesn`t seem particularly interested in the fact we have
7.7 percent unemployment, we have stayed like North Carolina cutting
unemployment benefits, yet also rejecting every little part of the social
safety net is being hacked away.
HARRIS-PERRY: And by the way, all you women who maybe pregnant with
unplanned pregnancies, you`re not going to have to have those children.
HAYES: That`s right. So, every -- this is one very basic thing that
shouldn`t be that controversial, which is basically in America, in the year
2013, we`re a wealthy society. People should not starve.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s feed people.
HAYES: It is just a basic principle. This isn`t some sort of complicated
policy. I mean, that`s all the program does. It gives money to people to
buy food so they don`t starve. And yet, after we`ve watched conservative
and sometime conservative Democrats cut away in all the various aspects in
social safety aspects, this last thing that is catching people. I think
this is really the last thing catching people they are going after now.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, they are going after that.
But, stay with us. Thank you to Chris Hayes, to Representative Holmes
Norton and to Shirley Sherrod. Buddy is sticking around because after the
break, the high cost of higher education, which schools the heightened loan
rates could hurt the most. That`s up next.
HARRIS-PERRY: As a college professor, I know how important deadlines can
be and so do my students in New Orleans at Tulane University. But you
know, who doesn`t share an urgency for deadlines? Congress. They missed a
deadline to keep new student loan rates from doubling from 3.4 percent to
6.8 percent. According to this MSNBC report that means an extra $761 for
every loan they take out through the program. The effect on students at
historically black colleges and universities could be especially harsh.
In addition to student loan interest rate loan hike since 2011 stricter
reviews from the parent loan program direct plus hit HBCU`s especially
hard. And because both, the colleges and black families tend to rely
significantly on plus loans, financial concerns recently prompted this
warning for a board member at Howard University.
Quote, "Howard will not be here in three years if we don`t make some
crucial decisions now."
With me is the man I love to debate on issues of school vouchers and other
things education, former Louisiana governor, Buddy Roemer. Also, Thena
Robinson, executive director of kids rethink New Orleans schools. Steve
Perry, Dr. Steve Perry, educator and TV one host and Sarah Carr, education
reporter and author of "hope against hope."
Thank you all for being here.
So, let me start with you, Dr. Perry, because I know your effort is that K-
12 effort. And you are getting kids college ready and out the door to
college. How much does it impact them if they don`t have the ability to
borrow to pay for college.
STEVE PERRY, EDUCATOR: We are being crushed. I mean, we really be in
crushed. We get 100 percent of our graduates into four-year colleges and
then only to find out they are not going in the fall because their parents`
credit is bad, because they don`t have enough. HBCUs, where the endowments
are much smaller, our kids may make it through the first semester, and then
they are coming home. Whereas in the past that was an excuse well, you
know, what had happened was. But now it`s for real.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Because, you know, you might start with a
scholarship that covers, say, 80 percent of tuition, right? Then the next
year when tuition rises, right in the next, then. Now, all of a sudden
that gap rises and that gap rises each time.
PERRY: One of the most well-known black colleges, actually we have a
number of students there. And what happened was they said that they give
out a freshman package. The freshman package is more robust than the
sophomore package. And what happens is they get the grades, they do what
they need to do and end up back home.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And that feels to me, Athena, like -- so, you
graduated from an HBCU. And I know that at this moment there`s even an
argument or do we need historically black college, right? If they go away,
what difference does it make, after all we`re integrated, we are post
racial, everybody just go on off to LSU and Tulane, it doesn`t matter if we
have the other schools. Make the claim for me about why we still need
THENA ROBINSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, KIDS RETHINK NEW ORLEANS SCHOOLS: We
absolutely need HBCUs. I`m a graduate from Hampton University. I come
from five generations of Hamptonians who have been educated in these
institutions. And you know, you are learning an education that focuses on
dedication to service, taking that degree, giving back to your community,
being in an environment that`s not only quality but nurturing. We need
these schools. And we know that the student loan interest rates and debt
they are having will have an adverse effect on students.
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels to me, Buddy, like the other place is undoubtedly
going to impact students, so HBCUs, we know are one. But the other state
universities, right? So, what happens is we end up instead going to for
profit colleges like the University of Phoenix, instead of going to LSU
because, in fact, they can`t figure out a way to figure the way tp [t
together the long package.
Should we, as you have been thinking about money and politics, should we
also be thinking about a way to take financial sort of incentive, profit
margin out of higher education?
ROEMER: I don`t know that that`s the answer. And sometimes a striving
toward an incentive to profit can be a good thing. Here is what the
government can do though. It can set the ground rules for access for an
affordable college education. And it`s important to take score for black
colleges and universities and state colleges and universities, you are
right, across the board.
We ought to do something different. We ought to try what Congress tried in
the early 1930s with rural electrification. They provided two percent
money to bring electricity to the country part of America and it changed
America. It paid enormous dividends.
These weren`t gifts. These were loans. And they set the rate for 20 years
at two percent. We could do the same thing for colleges and universities.
We know what the cost of borrowing on a 10-year note for the federal
government, they have each 2.15 percent. We could set that rate for 10
years and provide it for qualified students going to any college in
America. We could have some performance and some cost scores and make a
HARRIS-PERRY: So we loan to our kids at the same rate the federal
HARRIS-PERRY: Rather than at 6.8 percent we`re talking about the interest
rate that is now higher than the prevailing mortgage, 30-year mortgage
rate. And that just strikes me as who is going to take that loan.
PERRY: The impact of that, it determines what some kids can and can`t do
leaving school. They can`t come into education. They come into social
HARRIS-PERRY: So, they can`t go into the professions that would allow them
to give back. They have to always and every point be thinking in college.
How do I earn the most amount of money.
ROEMER: It`s not just the students. It`s every person in America would
benefit from these youngsters being the best they can be. That`s the
trouble in the country. We go at half rates. We ought for stand for these
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And so, that is exactly where I want to come back to
because what everyone at this table cares about is making sure kids have an
opportunity and a chance. What we disagree without is the ways to get
there. And that`s what makes it exciting and fun.
So coming up next, the debate that I`ve been waiting to have with Buddy
Roemer since he and I did it on Tulane`s campus a few months back. We`re
going to talk about the issue of school vouchers.
Plus, later in the show, the bestselling author and inspirational speaker,
Ylana (ph) Van Zandt is going to join us live.
There is more Nerdland from New Orleans at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And we are here at
the essence festival in New Orleans. And I got to tell you, I know you
can`t see but there is like a whole exercise, Zumba, twerking class
situation going on. Never like this in the studio in New York.
But, listen, I`m here at this point to talk about education. Louisiana has
played a key part in the national debate over school vouchers. The
governor of Louisiana, you know, FBJ, forget Bobby Jindal, he wanted to put
students from low income families into private schools, using millions of
dollars from public schools to cover tuition. But his school voucher
program was ruled unconstitutional by the Louisiana Supreme Court in May
backing up a state judge`s earlier ruling.
This week, two other Republican-led states got bolder with their school
voucher plans. The budget, the current Ohio Governor John Kasich signed on
Sunday night expanded eligibility for school vouchers. Also on Sunday,
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a favorite around here, signed a budget
that grows an existing system of taxpayer-funded school vouchers and makes
performance data about those schools more secret.
Joining me now is the man I love to debate on the issue of school vouchers,
Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer, also, Thena Robinson Mock, the executive
director of Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools, Dr. Steve Perry, educator and
TV 1 host, and Sarah Carr, education reporter and author of "Hope Against
All right, Buddy. Make the vouchers case.
BUDDY ROEMER, FORMER LOUISIANA GOVERNOR: Well, they`re not the answer but
they are a tool that will approach an answer.
ROEMER: That`s all. I don`t want to exaggerate their effect good or bad.
What I like about them, they take families who don`t have a choice like
rich Americans do, to send their kids to a rich school or good private
school. It allows these relatively poor families so choose. That`s very
powerful and will change the system.
That`s the only case I make for vouchers, a tool in a country that needs a
better education system. That`s it.
HARRIS-PERRY: That language of choice is the language I`ve heard you use.
It`s the thing that creates a funny coalition between Republican --
conservative Republicans and often the African-American communities that
are at odds on everything else, but on this, they tend to be together.
STEVE PERRY, EDUCATOR: You can have the most right wing Republican and
Black Nationalist on the same place on this one because they understand
that choice is vital. When a child doesn`t have access to a school for
them, they may end up failing because they`re in the school it doesn`t meet
their academic and sometimes emotional needs. I believe choice is the
And as the governor said, this is not the only answer, but it`s part of an
answer. To throw it away because one reason that most people tend to throw
it away, is because it will cost some people their jobs because their
schools are underperforming and the students will not go back to them.
At the end of the day, we have to understand that the money was never
intended to keep a school building at the bottom of your street open, it
was intended to educate a child, period.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Sarah, part of what your book does, part of the
book does, "Hope Against Hope", is to bring empirical evidence to how
vouchers work. So, I actually get the choice argument, like it makes sense
to me theoretically, giving families money portable with kids allows them
choices middle class and rich families have.
But empirically, it ends up working out not exactly that way. Is that
SARAH CARR, AUTHOR, "HOPE AGAINST HOPE": Yes, it`s interesting, because I
feel like the rhetoric shifted over the last decade from voucher opponents
saying it`s going to improve academic outcomes for low income students to
this choice, choice, choice mantra. I think a large part of that
academically it`s been a fair bit of a wash. The places that had vouchers
for a long time, Milwaukee, Cleveland, they are really not doing much
better or worse than other families --
HARRIS-PERRY: So, not an abject failure but --
CARR: The critics said it would destroy public education as we know it.
That hasn`t happened. But at the same time, it hasn`t produced real or
tangible gains for the families it`s supposed to most benefit.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Sarah does an interest thing where part of what happens
in the choice conversation we end up talking a lot about parents and the
ability of parents to make choices for their kids. What I love about
Rethink, the extent to which I guess partners matter but you really focus
primarily on young people in the schools themselves.
Tell me what you hear from them on this question of choice.
THENA ROBINSON MOCK, EDUCATION ADVOCATE: Absolutely. So, what we`re
hearing from young people in New Orleans is that they want to go to a
quality school that provides educational opportunities for every kid. For
them, it`s about making sure every student has a chance to go to that great
school, not just a small few.
MOCK: So, the Rethinkers, the young people I work with, are saying we want
to make sure our schools treat us fairly. We have discipline policies fair
and restorative. That we have good healthy school food, that we address
That we`re not just thinking education itself is a quick fix. What about
violence, what about trauma, what about all of those factors that impact a
child`s ability to learn? And our young people get it. They are saying we
want you to do those things.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that`s one of the challenges I face here, Dr. Perry. I
like these visions of schools that do these things. One of my worries
about vouchers is less whether the school on my block closes, but the very
idea that I have to leave my neighborhood to have certain things.
One thing that`s true about New Orleans, I`ll talk to the mayor about this
earlier, man, we live in two cities. In my neighborhood in the Seventh
Ward, you know, we don`t have all kinds of infrastructure, including high
quality public schools.
I feel like there`s something destructive that happens when we say, in
order to have something good, you have to leave your hood.
PERRY: I don`t think that`s what`s being said at all. I think what we
have to recognize is this is a global society. You know, the Essence
Festival is one example of how we can come together, African-Americans,
from all over the world and share an experience.
We don`t talk about this myopic approach to community anymore. Our
children communicate with friends all over the world on a daily basis at
the speed of light. We have to understand that our community has expanded.
And as such the pedestrian ways in which we used to look at our community
has to expand as well.
So many children like myself when I was growing up and the students that I
work with are bound by poverty. And that means they don`t go anywhere,
from town to town. It`s almost like they could fall off the edge of the
earth, like the community is flat.
What we do when we have schools like ours, a magnet school from 30
different communities, they get to go to a birthday party in the suburbs at
other kids` house. They get to come --
HARRIS-PERRY: I feel you. I do. There`s a story about that that I love.
But I guess my other thing is, having lived -- I`ve lived in a couple
different places recently. I lived in extremely privileged community of
Princeton, New Jersey, where it was vastly predominantly white,
overwhelmingly middle class. The kids just walked to school and knew their
friends, they feel safe and they rode their bikes, they went to the healthy
organic grocery store and I lived in the Seventh Ward of New Orleans where
none of that is happening.
And the fact that it really does make a difference in the kids sense of
security and independence in the world and the sense their school is part
of them and not just this thing that`s out there.
PERRY: We say that about us but we don`t say that when a student goes off
to a boarding school. We say that about us but we don`t say that when they
go off to a private school. It only seems impactful when we talk about us.
And I`m saying that we need to expand, especially African-Americans and
poor people, need to expand what our community is because the limits of
that definition have limited our growth.
MOCK: I think the concern I have about the choice argument, it`s somewhat
of an illusion of choice. What we hear from parents on the ground, they
made a choice to go to a certain school because of innovative schools, but
they were counseled out of that school or they were steered away because
their kids had special needs.
I think if we`re going to talk about choice, lets make sure that we fund
public education for all students. Let`s not take a cut our losses
approach to education.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, where do we go in Louisiana now that the governor`s plan
for vouchers --
ROEMER: I think the government needs to take a stronger role in being
safeguard, accountable, bumper system, defining choice.
You`re right, choice can be abused easily. It can be a wink and a nod.
You get the choice. You do not get it.
So, what the government needs to do, strongly and positively, it has
transparency, have access, and have performance scores so that parents can
make wise choices.
And then finally, we as citizens need to work so that educators run the
schools, not politicians and that we give as many choices as we can.
Here is what I`ve learned, I`m almost 70. I`ve learned that every kid is
precious and every kid is different. We need -- we need as many different
kind of excellent schools as we can put on the ground. That`s what we
need, whether they are in our neighborhood or not.
We are, as Dr. Perry said, we are one world, a globe, and America is
failing the test.
ROEMER: I`m optimistic, Melissa, because of things like vouchers. Not
just vouchers but that and more.
ROEMER: I`m optimistic about them. Obama, and I don`t praise him too
much, but I give him full credit for education. He`s done some powerful
HARRIS-PERRY: I will tell you what, Buddy Roemer. I happen to know around
here if you start talking about collective responsibility for one another`s
kids, you get in big trouble. So, be careful.
Thank you to Thena Robinson Mock, to Steve Perry and Sara Carr.
Buddy is going to hang out a little bit longer.
Up next, after a deadly holiday weekend, how do we -- seriously, how do we
stop the gun violence ravaging Chicago, New Orleans, and so many of our
We`re going to be right back with more from the Essence Festival.
HARRIS-PERRY: In Chicago, the sound of Fourth of July fireworks had to
compete with the sound of gunfire in the city before the holiday weekend
had barely begun. As of yesterday, gun violence in Chicago had taken the
lives of 11 people in four days and wounded 56 others, including two five
and seven-year-old boys who were shot while visiting parks with their
The latest ended with one person killed and seven wounded yesterday evening
bringing total number of people shot since Wednesday -- I cannot believe
this -- to 67.
Chicago is one of the cities across the country where the toll of death at
the end of a gun continues to rise. Seven months since we declared the
Newtown shootings with enough is enough, and that rising death tolls still
show no signs of stopping, three months since the Manchin-Toomey background
legislation failed to pass in the Senate, there still maintains no viable
policy solution to stem the tide of violence.
With seemingly no end in sight, what are the possibilities for getting gun
violence under control in cities.
With me at the table is Buddy Roemer, chairman of the reformproject.org and
former governor of Louisiana; Dana Kaplan, executive director of the
Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana; Ronal Serpas, superintendent of the
New Orleans Police Department; and Latoya Cantrell, counsel member of
District B here in the city of New Orleans.
All right. This is a highly New Orleans-centric panel, and yet, I want to
be clear the things we face in terms of violence here in this city are --
you know, they resonate in Chicago and all these other places.
So, let me start with you, chief. We`re actually in a place where things
are better at the July 1 mark in New Orleans than they have been for years.
We`re at 76 gun deaths as of July 1, 2013, which is down from 97 the year
before and 105 in the two years previous to that.
Is this just a blip or have you done something that is actually making a
SUPERINTENDENT RONAL SERPAS, NEW ORLEANS POLICE DEPT.: I think we`re
seeing a huge difference. The momentum is building inside the city of New
Orleans, inside the police department. NOLA for Life encapsulates so many
other people that`s got to be part of the gun violence debate.
We`re down 20 to 30 percent every single year for the last five years for
the first six months. The people of New Orleans are standing up with its
police department saying we`d have enough, we`re going to talk, we`re going
to identify, we`re going to come to court. The district attorney is
aggressively pursuing these cases.
A new day is upon us by going after small numbers of young men who made
terrible choices to hurt others, we`re being incredibly focused and
Violent crime in the city overall down 10 percent to 12 percent year to
date, and down 10 percent to 12 percent over the last 52 weeks. We`re
making headway. There`s a lot of momentum in the city.
HARRIS-PERRY: There is no one wants to believe that more than me. I live
six blocks from where the Mother`s Day shooting happened. No one wants to
believe we`re getting this under control more than I do.
And yet, Councilwoman, I do wonder about this idea that people are rallying
around with our police department and moving forward. In part because I
feel like there`s massive distrust for the NOPD in communities of color
that tends to be impacted by this violence. And not just New Orleans but
Chicago, Detroit, a lot of cities that have this gun violence problem.
LATOYA CANTRELL, NOLA COUNCIL MEMBER: Well, the bottom line is we do have
to ensure we`re working with our police department.
But we also have to understand that this is truly a public health issue.
We have to get to the issues of trauma that`s in our community, our health
disparities that are real, poverty, lack of economic opportunities, low
performing schools. All these things have an impact.
What`s going on in our households, making sure social services hitting the
home. Mental health services as well. There are disparities there, they
are real. They have impact. We`re seeing them on the ground.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, this is a little bit of a long and short-term. You
change policing strategies that caused the short term bump down, but it
does feel like in order to change patterns of violence, you need longer
term human capital investment.
CANTRELL: It`s longer term. We have to dispel this notion of instant
gratification. It`s not going to happen.
CDC released a report in `79 saying, America, hey, we`re in a crisis here
of gun violence. It is public health. This is the issue.
So, New Orleans, in teaming up with the police department, all our agencies
in the city, we`re going to address this holistically because that`s the
only way that our families will be safe in the neighborhoods in which they
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Buddy, before the break, we`ve heard a sort of policing
strategy, long-term human capital strategy, but on the break you whispered
to me, hey, don`t take my guns.
But, honestly, I feel like that might be part of what we need to do. And
it`s because I keep going to say, hey, but your guns are taking my sons.
In the end, we may have to make some choices in the state of Louisiana
about reducing our willingness to allow everyone to be armed because the
realities in some communities are that our children die as a result.
ROEMER: A couple of big thoughts. One is our Constitution for a variety
of reasons. The militia at an early stage in our revolution has given
every citizen the chance to own and bear a firearm, responsibly, that`s
what laws are about.
Number two, I love the conversation between the superintendent and the
councilwoman about the change in attitude. And here`s what it looks, let
me repeat it. People are getting involved and reporting on those who have
firearms and don`t deserve them, who abuse them.
That is a change in character. It`s not enough to say don`t take my gun.
I don`t think that`s what this issue is about. It`s about what can we do
onto keep people to stop abusing their guns.
We get publicity, Melissa, from big events like the one in Connecticut,
where school children were massacred by this person with a lack of mental
health. But the real problem is day to day.
ROEMER: The balance in Chicago, New Orleans.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sixty-seven people shot in Chicago.
ROEMER: And it`s going to take not new regulation so much as new attitude.
Now, they will require some new regulations. Give me a chance to say the
ROEMER: I think that mental health ought to be a universal screen in this
country with meaning to it. I think the check on criminality record of
people. I think we can pare down easy violence that we have.
And then we have to work for more jobs, stronger economy, mental health,
government -- it`s a complex situation. One new law is not going to change
HARRIS-PERRY: No, no, no. It won`t change everything. But, Dana, I am
worried whenever -- I mean, there is a part long-term investment in human
capital, of course, right, for reasons related to gun violence and not.
But when we don`t talk about the fact there`s an access issue as well, it
does feel like we start pathologizing the very communities that are most
victimized by the violence.
DANA KAPLAN, JUVENILE JUSTICE PROJECT: Absolutely. And I think that we
have to look at the fact, in New Orleans and numbers are comparable across
the country, people proportionately impacted by gun violence are coming
from neighborhoods with the highest rate of unemployment, double the
average of the rest of the city that are not connected to employment
opportunities, to educational opportunities. We have to ensure better
regulation of access to guns. I support that.
But we also need to pursue a more comprehensive strategy. If we`re not
talking about those close to 16,000 kids in New Orleans ages 16 to 24, who
are not connected to either employment or education and figuring out how
are we prioritizing our resources to them, we`re not going to actually,
meaningfully address violence.
HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, I want to talk a little bit more about
exactly what those policies look like and how they fit with the policing
strategies not only in New Orleans but in other cities across the country.
We`ll be right back with more from the Essence Festival here in New
HARRIS-PERRY: Just last month, a report released by the FBI indicated that
New Orleans no longer has the highest murder rate in the United States.
Now, the dubious distinction belongs to the city of Flint, Michigan.
But the announcement has led to little more than cautious optimism among
residents here who worry that the summer months could still bring more
So, let me ask you about this. When cities are trying to in the context of
whatever, the federal or state gun laws are, when cities are trying to stem
the tide of gun violence, sometimes they have gone to a kind of stop and
frisk we`ve seen in New York that actually alienates communities from their
police department. I know again there`s been a lot of critique from the
New Orleans police department. We`re under a consent decree. What are
step by step things a police department can do to effectively police but
also to gain the trust of those communicates back.
SERPAS: First thing you ought to do is respect the Constitution,
professionalism, an idea, tell to stop. Tell people why you`re doing what
Think about this, though, just two weeks ago, the federal government
announced that the 190,000 guns -- 190,000 guns -- in 2012 were stolen or
lost. We have to have responsible behavior associated with the guns by
Then, when police engage the public, more often than not somebody in the
neighborhood called us. Why not say that? You know, we`re telling the
officers, explain why you`re doing what you`re doing. Take a few minutes.
It only helps.
Another thing we know. Since 1940`s, neighborhoods disorganized, higher
concentrations of delinquency and crime. So, when you look at employment,
when you look at the economy, when you look at education, when you look at
previous criminal behavior, those are the things we have to address as a
whole, if you will, NOLA for Life concept. You`ve got to do each and
everyone of those things.
We`re going to be the best police department in the country. And we`re
making great headway.
That`s still not enough. We have to get men educated. We`ve got to get
them to drop this violent behavior and lack of conflict resolution. We`ve
got to have responsible gun ownership and New Orleans is like a lot of
You`d be surprised percentage of guns stolen out of people`s cars and they
didn`t even lock the door. I mean, these are things that have to happen
all the time.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m thinking as a member of the city council, as you talk
about the need for jobs, for connecting people economically, whenever we
talk about the murder rate in New Orleans, I assume that there`s some
businessman somewhere sitting there thinking am I going to relocate my
business to the city where there were just 19 people shot on Mother`s Day,
where two 16 years old shot each other the other day in Metairie?
As a member of the city council you have a responsibility not only for
what`s happening here by the idea of building that economy. How do we
create a safe city in New York, Chicago, Detroit, so that it will, in fact,
bring economic development?
CANTRELL: It goes into having direct can`t on the ground, working with
people in neighborhoods. That is people. Respecting them not only to
bring them closer to education, of course creating those opportunities but
understanding that the companies we want to lure into our city have a
vested interest in our people as well.
So, making sure when you come, you`re going to hire our residents who live
here. You`re going to bring others. But you need to respect people who
currently live here because we value them. There is a value there.
HARRIS-PERRY: What does that respect look like, like from a policy
perspective? What does it mean to respect the people of a city?
CANTRELL: Well, it means a percentage of the people that will make up your
pool of applicants, and folks you will hire, what does that look like? Let
I want to know a number, 35 percent. OK. What are you looking for? I
will match them. The city -- we can match these job opportunities with
people on the ground. It has to hit the ground.
You have to get bought weeds with it, literally connecting people one at a
time to that job opportunity. If not, the people who are in New Orleans,
our residents don`t feel valued. They matter and they deserve employment.
They are worthy.
I believe that`s the impact we can have on their lives.
HARRIS-PERRY: As you talk about this issue of respecting communities, I
love the work of JJP, Juvenile Justice Project, in part because we`re
seeing this in the case of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin we`ve been
following on MSNBC. A lot of the discourse has to do with the assumed
criminality of young male black bodies, right?
So, on the one hand, we want effective policing, we want respect in
communities. Sometimes the very people we need to show the most respect
for are those that have the greatest stereotypes associated with them
because they share the characteristics of those victimized and victimizing
others. What JJP learned about the ways that we can create a better
environment for young people of color in this city?
KAPLAN: Well, the Juvenile Justice Project in Louisiana has been focused
on several things. One is empowering the people most impacted by the
violence in our city to become voices and leaders and articulating
solutions, which is so important, to get positive images out about how many
young black men in New Orleans are successful.
KAPLAN: Absolutely. I have a kid in my program who rides his bike two
hours to work and home every night at 2:00 in the morning because that`s
the job he could get and how he can get there.
HARRIS-PERRY: But then he`s out at 2:00 in the morning on a bike therefore
means potentially open to profiling and all those other things.
KAPLAN: And that is one of his biggest fears, what if he gets stopped by a
police officer who doesn`t actually believe that he`s out there riding home
on a bike from his job.
And that`s the other thing we talk about is how important it is to
understand, improving our criminal justice system, reforming criminal
justice is part of improving safety. And Chief Serpas said it before, that
a professional police force is what we`re striving for, what he`s working
towards and it`s a gargantuan task. It`s so important that communities in
New Orleans and on a national level actually feel that they can trust their
police, they can call their police. Programs like Office of Independent
Police Monitors, which we have in New Orleans --
HARRIS-PERRY: They can also hold the police accountable.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Buddy Roemer, to Dana Kaplan, to Superintendent
Serpas and to Latoya Cantrell.
Up next, I am bringing the mayor of New Orleans into this conversation,
because I have some questions about what`s happening in my city.
HARRIS-PERRY: Last year, on September 15th, at about 2:30 in the morning,
gunshots rang out in the community of Algiers on the west bank of New
Orleans. In the silence that followed, a mother emerged from her home to
find her son laying on the lawn struggling to breathe. The young man,
Jared Michael Francis (ph), died in the presence of his mother Chanda Burks
in her home shortly thereafter. Jerrod, only a month after his 18th
birthday was reportedly shot five times.
The two men his mother believed were responsible for the death were never
charged with the shooting. Just this morning, Chanda attended the Love,
Loss and Life prayer vigil for mothers who lost children to gun violence,
along with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
Both are joining me today. Thank you both for being here.
You came both from the prayer vigil.
CHANDA BURKS, SON JARED KILLED AT AGE 18: Correct.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the sorry of your son`s loss, every child`s loss is
appalling. I think part of what captured my heart is your neighborhood was
supposedly one of these good neighborhoods, the place where this shouldn`t
happen. You`re the mom of three kids. This is an active, engaged child.
It feels very much like the Hadiya Pendleton loss in Chicago.
What does the loss of your son tell us about the possibility of violence
anywhere and to anybody?
BURKS: It says everyone should wake up and realize it`s not an isolated
event. It can happen to anyone. It should be a wakeup call that people of
New Orleans should feel responsible for every murder that occurs and want
to take part in making a change.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week, we had the opportunity to see Trayvon Martin`s
mother testify at the trial of George Zimmerman. It was so difficult to
watch. At least the man who shot her child is on trial. You haven`t had
HARRIS-PERRY: Do you think you will?
BURKS: Probably not.
HARRIS-PERRY: How do you go on without that sense of justice?
BURKS: Because at the end of the day, he`s gone. There`s nothing that can
change that situation. So I just say steadfast in the fact that God has
control of it. He makes no mistakes.
So I know that I have a story now to tell and that I need to continue to do
what I was doing before I lost my son, and that`s be active within my
community to impact the lives of young children.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mayor, when the mayor says we have to all be responsible for
all of our children, I think, you know, I got in trouble for saying that.
I find that to be true. For no person is that more true than for our city
leaders, elected in part to keep us safe.
What is primary response for city leaders in Chicago, New Orleans, other
places? What is it you must do to make it safe for our children?
MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU (D), NEW ORLEANS: Let me speak to that phrase because
I think it`s a powerful phrase and I think it`s exactly right.
You`ve been having these discussions, you just have a police chief, a
councilmember, an ex-governor, community activist on, and the first thing
elected leaders do is they`re come up with prescriptions right away, and
then everybody is blaming everybody else.
The first thing that people need to realize in this country is this is a
national epidemic. This is -- although it seems like the isolated
incidents it happens, sometimes in a neighborhood you expect, sometimes you
don`t, 611,000 people have been killed on the streets in America since
1980, 40 every day.
Newtown was a catastrophe that should never repeat itself. The death of
Trayvon Martin was a tragic event. The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords in
Arizona, and, of course, Columbine was. Since the Newtown incident, 5,000
people have lost l lives on the streets.
And so, the first thing that mayors or really anybody else, mothers,
pastors, fathers should do is stand up and say, listen, we have a huge
problem here. This is not something that is isolated. It could happen to
The incident happened to her son. We also have two pastors from Chicago,
his son Joseph was here. He was standing on the street. He was mistaken
for somebody else and his life was lost.
The worst part of my day and it happens too much is the e-mail I get early
in the morning, or late at night that says, Mayor, sorry to inform you that
last night, about 2:45, shots rang, we arrived at the scene, we showed up,
we found a young man, too often an African-American man lying face down,
with bullets in his head, and there are no witnesses. And that is the
hardest part of this entire thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, what you said there, I want -- I want to point out.
On the one hand it can happen to anyone. No one is completely invulnerable
to this. And yet it doesn`t happen to just anyone.
It overwhelmingly happens -- New Orleans is the city we come to eat and
party and have a good time. For those that live here, it`s two cities, it
is uptown and garden districts and the big beautiful mansions on St.
I`ve got to tell you, Mayor, I love this city more than anything. That
Mother`s Day children, I`m like, where are my bags. I`m ready to go.
LANDRIEU: Let me speak to that. This is what I have to do. As a leader
of the city, I have to go out and talk about how wonderful New Orleans is.
It is. It`s spectacular city, so is Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago.
But I`m here to tell you, not to hide from this but run to it. Here are
the statistics, as Cory Booker likes to say. Of the people who are killed
in New Orleans, most of them, 85 percent, 95 percent are young African-
American men, right? They are killed by young African-American men between
16 and 25.
Here is the one, 80 percent of them know each other in certain
neighborhoods we know. let me tell you, that`s happening all over America.
Even though I`m very happy our murder rate is as low as it`s been in 20
years, it`s still higher than it should be.
In this country we have a tale of two cities. I think everybody has to
take responsibility for figuring out how to fix this problem without
spending time on blaming. We can find an answer to this and I think we
One of my missions as mayor is to call attention to the fact it`s a
national epidemic, shouldn`t happen, there is a way out. And if we put our
hands together on this and claim it, we can make it done.
HARRIS-PERRY: We have to go to break, but I`m going to make you one
promise. We won`t forget your son on this show. We won`t forget we have a
responsibility to the children in this city and the children in all the
cities. No matter what people say, we know that all of our children are
our responsibility. That`s our commitment to you.
BURKS: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you for being here today.
LANDRIEU: Great to see you.
HARRIS-PERRY: To Chanda Burks and to Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
Coming up next because I`m feeling a need for spiritual life coach,
bestselling author and spiritual life coach, Iyanla Vanzant joins us live.
HARRIS-PERRY: I first met Iyanla Vanzant when I was struggling through my
PhD program. I met her through one of her earliest books, "Value in the
Valley." And it helped me through some seriously tough times.
As a bestselling author and spiritual life coach, she`s been inspiring the
masses for decades. She`s become one of the most anticipated speakers at
the Essence Festival year after year. I`m telling you, she can barely walk
through this hall.
Vanzant has her own show, "Fix My Life", on the Oprah Winfrey Network. And
one of her latest specials, Oprah`s life class series, it`s called
"Fatherless Sons" and it airs tonight on OWN.
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IYANLA VANZANT, AUTHOR/TV HOST: You know, I have done this. If you have a
man who is not taking care of his children, that is, A, not the man you
have a baby with. And B, you really need to think about if he`s not taking
care of children he has with someone else, do not delude yourself into
thinking he`s going to take care of children he has with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m pleased to welcome Iyanla Vanzant to Nerdland.
Thank you so much for being here. I greatly appreciate it.
So, let`s start with the "Fatherless Sons".
HARRIS-PERRY: Twenty-one million boys in this country growing up without
their dads. What difference does that make to our communities?
VANZANT: Oh, my God. I think Dr. Steve Perry said it, when a father
leaves, he takes your self-esteem with him. And so, the young men have no
model, no demonstration, no example of how to be a man, how to be a father,
who to be.
And just imagine -- I have a grandson who doesn`t have a father in his
life. It`s just an overwhelming rage, number one, and sadness, number two,
and a sense of just not being important. Because if you`re not important
to the man that is responsible for you being here, how do you find you
sense of importance in the world?
And we say that some people, some young men make it well, they have strong
moms, strong grand moms, uncles, grandfather`s, but others, overwhelmingly
have that hole in their soul and that lost a value and worth.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m married to a man who has an extraordinary father. The
kind of comfort he feels in himself and the world and his capacity to be a
partner to me is extraordinary. I tend to think it has to do with his
tight relationship with his dad.
On the other hand, I see President Barack Obama who seems to be an
incredible father to his children, a wonderful husband to his wife, as far
as we can tell, and, of course, managed to be the first African-American
president of the United States. He expresses pretty regularly his own
sense of anxiety about fatherlessness. But, clearly, it didn`t keep him
from being extraordinary.
How do you be a fatherless child and yet be a President Obama?
VANZANT: You have to look at the environment he grew up in also. He
didn`t grow up in an environment where there were no male examples at all.
He didn`t grow up where he was worried about the rent, food, if he was
sleeping in a room with six other people.
He didn`t grow up in an environment where he was called names, where there
was not enough books in his school, where he had to walk through all sorts
of wonderfulness to get to school.
So, let`s -- it`s not just the absence of the father but the environment
that breeds the limited amounts of value and worth when the father is
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that is so valuable to me, that connection between sort
of a personal hurt but also the realities of the structures that we exist
VANZANT: That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m a politics person, social movements, that kind of thing.
What is the place of personal healing, of finding our own psychological and
emotional wellness in the context of building a social and political
VANZANT: You know what, it`s funny. Let me just apologize to everybody
right now, because I`m getting ready to insult somebody. So I just want to
get that out the way.
Politics doesn`t take people into consideration. They take policies --
VANZANT: -- positions, jobs, alliances.
VANZANT: People are the last consideration of politics because you can`t
tell me we have this many congressmen, senators, and nobody understands in
a poor neighborhood, there are no books. Nobody understands that this
curriculum we`re teaching in public school, A, is miseducation. It`s not
up to par what you need to be in the world today and it doesn`t honor the
truth and the value, particularly of black and brown people.
VANZANT: Politics or not.
VANZANT: We`ve got board of educations funded by state, federal,
government moneys and we`re still teaching the same dishonorable
Politics is not about people. It`s about policies and positions.
HARRIS-PERRY: And if there were a way to put people at the center, we
might end up for the very different policy.
VANZANT: We might be a different one. I was watching about gun violence
and what we`re going to do. It`s so very sad.
And while we can say it`s random, it`s happening everywhere, it doesn`t
happen in Idaho, or Montana, where they own guns to shoot their dinner.
They`re not killing each other.
VANZANT: So, we need to stop accommodating the condition and address the
cause. Here is the cause. People are hurting.
If you`re not a star, if you`re not a celebrity, if you`re not known in the
world, you don`t matter in this society.
VANZANT: If you are just living your life every single day, trying to get
ahead, you don`t matter. You matter when somebody`s running for office and
need help and they need a vote, but you don`t matter at night when you`ve
got to go into the supermarket and choose between canned food that`s going
to raise your cholesterol and fresh organic vegetable. You didn`t matter
You don`t matter when you`re working because daddy isn`t in the house.
You`ve got three kids. You were married. You weren`t a just a gutter
snipe sleeping around. You had three kids.
Daddy couldn`t get a job. He left the house. So, now, you have to make a
choice between rent and health care. You don`t matter then.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. These are the people -- the story you told, right,
is the story of real people. We turn them into caricatures when we are --
VANZANT: That`s right. Running for office.
HARRIS-PERRY: -- cutting food stamp.
VANZANT: Cutting food stamp with 6 million people will be hungry. You
understand? That`s because of one tank.
It`s because of one -- we keep accommodating the condition. We keep
accommodating the condition.
Forgive me, I`m getting ready to insult somebody. We live in a society
where black and brown people only matter at election time. We`ve got to
And even when they do matter, black men who aren`t in the home, who filling
the prisons are statistics. They`re not people. We don`t think they hurt.
We don`t think they cry.
We don`t think -- why does a man leave his family? Not because he`s just a
worthless human being, his heart is broken.
HARRIS-PERRY: Because he`s broken. And that is the connection between
healing our brokenness and healing our politics.
Stay with us just a few more. We`ll be back.
HARRIS-PERRY: It has been a real joy to bring Nerdland here to my home
city of New Orleans and the Essence Music Festival. Thanks to my guests
and to the incredible crowd who turned out to watch my show and others this
And thanks to you at home for watching. We`re gong to be back in New York
as always, 10:00 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
Tonight is the Beyonce concert and next is "THE ED SHOW."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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