'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, June 7th, 2014
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
June 7, 2014
Guest: Angel Taveras, Richard Kim, Perry Bacon, Amy Goodman, Margie Omero,
Kshama Sawant, Sarah Dallof, Amber Khan, Jessica Vale, Nika Offenbac
DORIAN WARREN, MSNBC GUEST HOST: This morning my question, are Democrats
trying to prevent the Democratic process? Plus, big minimum wage headlines
with a catch in the fine print.
And, the memorial for Dr. Maya Angelou. But first, the lawsuit claiming
that the thin red line of discriminatory lending practices is back.
Good morning. I`m Dorian Warren in for Melissa Harris-Perry who right now
is attending the memorial service for Dr. Maya Angelou in Winston-Salem,
North Carolina, at Wake Forest University, where Dr. Angelou served as the
Reynolds professor of American studies. We`ll have more on that service
later in the program. But we begin this morning with former Federal
Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke in 2012 signaling that the housing market was
showing promising signs of recovery, but warning of remaining challenges.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN BERNANKE, FMR. CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: While the economic recovery
and the regulatory policy affect access to credit for all households, some
potential borrowers may face the additional burden of discrimination. Two
types of discrimination continue to have particular significance to
mortgage markets. One is red lining, in which mortgage lenders
discriminate against minority neighborhoods.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: Now, this is important. What then Chairman Bernanke was saying.
And it is important that he was even talking about the term red lining in a
modern context. Red lining is a term you are more than familiar with if
you read Ta-Nahisi Coates "Atlantic "magazine article "The Case for
Reparations." But if you haven`t, let me offer this brief explanation.
The homeowners loan corporation was a federal agency created during the
depression to prevent foreclosures and that federal agency developed a
series of maps rating neighborhoods, assessing their desirability by
assigning a letter grade from A to D. Like this 1935 map of New Orleans,
with colors ranging from green areas rated with an A, to D-rated
neighborhoods colored in red. The key in the bottom there starts with
green as best, then blue, still desirable, to yellow, definitely declining,
and red, hazardous. That practice of using maps with neighborhood ratings
was followed by the Federal Housing Administration or FHA, the government
agency created in 1934 that, provides federal insurance for mortgages. The
FHA had a published underwriting manual that provided a formula to
determine the risk of insuring mortgages in different areas. One of the
things they used to do that were maps of mortgage risk districts. Those
maps showed various things, but one of them was where people of color
lived. The maps have blocks penciled in color to designate that they were
ten percent or more race other than white. And the instructions noted that
neighborhoods receiving "A" ratings had no residents of a race other than
white nor of a nationality on a lower economic scale than the old American
stock. Having an area rated "D" meant automatic rejection for mortgage
insurance through the FHA.
Now, this point is crucial because a federally insured mortgage offered
those who borrowed a safety net in case of default and caused lower
interest rates and lower down payments. So who could and could not obtain
these loans had enormous impact. That practice, denying financial support
or services to eligible applicants based on the neighborhood where they
live, is called red lining. Those areas, the areas where residents could
not get the federally insured loans were areas identified on maps by a
federal agency with the color red, and that policy became illegal with the
passing of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Red lining was outlawed. Fast
forward to the 1990s when there was rapid growth of a relatively new type
of lending that offered the promise of opening up homeownership to people
with low credit scores, people who did not qualify for prime mortgages.
That new type of lending was called subprime lending. A 2000 report by the
Department of Housing and Urban Development noted "prime lenders have made
significant efforts and indeed significant progress in reaching
historically underserved markets and communities, but they also warned of
the other side of the story called subprime lending. A fertile ground for
predatory lending activities. And that warning may have proven prophetic.
We now know that there are compelling claims that communities of color were
targeted with predatory subprime loans. Black and Latino loan customers
who could have qualified for otherwise more affordable prime loans were
steered toward toxic, subprime loans. In 2011, countrywide financial
corporation entered a $335 million consent order with the Department of
Justice, resolving allegations that the bank charged higher fees or steered
into subprime loans more than 200,000 African-American and Hispanic
borrowers who qualified for prime loans between 2004 and 2008. Despite the
settlement, Countrywide denied the Justice Department`s allegations. And
in 2012, though the bank claimed no wrongdoing, Wells Fargo entered a
$184.3 million settlement with the Department of Justice in response to
allegations that the bank steered approximately 4,000 African-American and
Hispanic borrowers who qualified for prime loans into subprime loans and
charged approximately 30,000 African-American and Hispanic borrowers higher
fees and rates. And when the housing bubble popped, it was black and
Latino homeowners who bore the brunt of the collapse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERNANKE: And as a result of the crisis, most or all of the hard won gains
in homeownership made by low income and minority communities in the past 15
years or so have been reversed. Over the period from 2004 to 2012, the
homeownership rate fell about five percentage points for African-Americans
compared with about two percentage points to other groups.
WARREN: Home values plunged, resulting in declining household wealth,
especially for black and Hispanic households. Between 2005 and 2009, white
households suffered a 16 percent loss in median net household worth. For
black households, that loss was 53 percent. And for Hispanic households,
66 percent. And in addition, the number of mortgages extended to black and
Hispanic families began declining.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERNANKE: The contraction in mortgage originations has been particularly
severe for minority groups and those with lower incomes. Since the peak in
mortgage lending in 2006, the number of home purchase loans extended to
African-Americans and Hispanics has fallen more than 65 percent, whereas
lending to non-Hispanic whites has fallen less than 50 percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: Bernanke then clarifies that those numbers, falling home purchase
loans extended to African-American and Hispanic buyers, cannot be
attributed entirely to the unavailability of mortgage credit. But one U.S.
city is now claiming it has seen falling home purchase loans to black and
Hispanic residents and are alleging it results from a, quote, pattern or
practice of illegal and discriminatory mortgage lending by a bank. The
city of Providence, Rhode Island, has filed a lawsuit against Santander
Bank claiming their majority minority neighborhoods are starved for quality
prime loans and red lining by Santander is one of the leading causes of the
lack of adequate mortgage credit in the city`s majority minority
neighborhood. The lawsuit also alleges the Santander`s lending in minority
neighborhoods has declined precipitously while its lending in predominantly
white neighborhoods has grown substantially. The lawsuit cites statistics
that the bank`s loan originations and majority-minority tracks have
declined by 63 percent while they have increased in predominantly white
tracts by 25 percent. The city claims that the alleged inadequate supply
of mortgage credit in minority communities is suppressing home prices and
decreasing revenue from property taxes. Mary Ellen Higgins, vice president
and director of public relations at Santander U.S. said the bank cannot
comment on the specifics of pending legal action but provided us with a
statement that reads in part, "Santander categorically rejects this
accusation and will vigorously defend itself against the legal action. In
the meantime, we are willing to work with the city of Providence to allay
Joining me now is the mayor of the city that is the plaintiff in the
lawsuit. Providence, Rhode Island Mayor Angel Taveras. He is also running
for the Democratic nomination for governor of Rhode Island. Mayor Taveras,
MAYOR ANGEL TAVERAS, (D) PROVIDENCE, RI: Thank you for having me.
WARREN: Mayor, I want to ask you why you filed this lawsuit, and in
particular we know that you`ve amassed data in the lawsuit in terms of the
percentage of black and Hispanic neighborhoods that have seen a decline in
loan applications, especially since 2009. So you included this graph,
which is shown on the screen, in your lawsuit which compares the number of
loan applications immediately before and after Santander acquired sovereign
bank in Providence and this map is of communities that are 30 percent or
more minority and it appears the number of loans decreases. As a
comparison, you also include the same maps but looking at loans to
predominantly white communities and you say in these areas the number of
loans has actually increased between 2009 and 2012. How did you arrive at
these conclusions and are you sure they are a result of discrimination?
TAVERAS: Well, let me just say. I think that you talked about this
earlier in the introduction, how important this is, and that is to make
sure that people who have good credit are able to get loans. And
particularly in the minority community, we need to make sure that that
We believe that the data that we have shown that there`s an issue. And it
doesn`t make sense that the loans in predominantly white neighborhoods are
going up and yet in the predominantly minority neighborhoods are going down
significantly. And I think what also worries us significantly is that we
have looked at other banks and we have seen that they have been able to
continue to make loans in minority neighborhoods. And similar banks in
terms of size to Santander. So the question is why is it that all of a
sudden we have seen this rapid decline in minority neighborhoods with
Santander. And we believe that it is a result of discrimination and we
believe that the data shows that. We believe that it is illegal and that`s
why we filed the lawsuit.
WARREN: Now, Santander Bank says they categorically reject the accusations
made in your lawsuit and there have been even some critics of the lawsuit.
One writer called it a crass and opportunistic shakedown. One criticism is
that this could be evidence that banks are just being more conservative
about issuing loans after the housing crisis. How do you respond to that?
TAVERAS: I`m not worried about critics, there will always be critics.
That`s why we have courts, the courts decide. And with respect to this, I
believe that the evidence is clear and that we will be successful as this
litigation progresses. So from my perspective, I think the data is clear
and I believe that the comparison that we`ve used with other banks as well
is important to note and that is why when you have an issue like this, you
go ahead and pursue it and you let the courts decide. But I`m confident
that we`re going to be successful, so I don`t worry about the critics.
WARREN: What impact will this have? Why should we care about accessing
home loans and particularly in your community of Providence?
TAVERAS: We should care about accessing home loans because Americans need
an opportunity to buy a home. And what we`ve seen with the foreclosure
crisis, particularly in minority neighborhoods, is that we have a lot of
boarded-up houses, a lot of vacant homes as a result of the subprime
mortgage lending. And now for those who want to buy a home or to take over
a foreclosed home, it`s very difficult. You can`t do it unless you have
credit. And we also know that for many people, their home is one of the
biggest assets that they have. And yet we have minorities who are being
shut out from getting an opportunity to own a home. So in the city of
Providence, what I want to see is I want to make sure that all of our
boarded-up homes are converted into actual homes with people in there, and
that people who qualify for a mortgage are able to get one and that there`s
no discrimination going on. This is very important to me and it should be
important to everyone.
WARREN: Great, Mayor Taveras in Providence, Rhode Island, thank you for
joining us this morning.
Still to come, why are Democrats trying to prevent the democratic process?
Is this just good politics or something more sinister afoot?
WARREN: There is big news out of Ukraine today. For once, it is not about
the continuing violence in the eastern portion of the country that has
claimed the lives of 300 pro-Russian fighters and wounded 500, according to
the Ukrainian government, or the news that three government bases in
eastern Ukraine were captured by pro-Russian fighters on Wednesday. And it
is definitely not about the separatist militia establishing a training camp
in, of all places, a botanical garden of the city of Donetsk. No, despite
all of the violence and interference, the beleaguered country continues to
endure, today is about moving forward. Today is about democracy. Just a
few short hours ago, newly elected Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko,
who secured 54.7 percent of the vote in the May 25 presidential election
was sworn into office. This is such a big moment for democracy in Ukraine,
that President Obama met with Poroshenko in Poland on Wednesday to
underscore its importance. And Vice President Joe Biden was in attendance
today to witness Poroshenko`s inauguration. Today with the inauguration of
President Petro Poroshenko, we saw the results of democracy in action. So
with Ukraine, even under the threat of continuing violence, celebrating the
result of the democratic process, why does it seem that certain Democrats
in the U.S. are trying to thwart that very process here at home? More on
WARREN: Are you ready for Hillary, Chicago? That was a question that
Mayor Rahm Emanuel was saying a big old yes to when he joined the Ready for
Hillary super-PAC and on Thursday night was among those attending, by the
way on his wedding anniversary, a private, $1,000-per-person fund-raiser in
the windy city. The former fourth-ranking Democrat in the House, President
Obama`s former chief of staff, and the president`s adopted hometown saying
he`s ready for Hillary Clinton to run. Never mind if she is ready herself
or any other candidate is ready for that matter. The list of prominent
Democrats endorsing the former secretary of state before she or any other
person has declared her or his intent to seek the Oval Office is long and
continues to grow. There is something quite interesting about the timing
of Mayor Emanuel`s endorsement. After all, in 2008 he waited until June,
five months before the general election, to endorse in the primary. So in
the 2016 cycle, he`s a full two years ahead of schedule. Now in, 2008, at
least when Emanuel did decide to endorse, there were candidates to choose
between. He had worked on the first Clinton presidential campaign in 1992,
first worked in the White House until early in the second term and was
named to Fannie Mae`s board of directors by President Clinton before
running for Congress.
And yet when it came to choosing between Senator Hillary Clinton and
Senator Barack Obama, Emanuel went with Obama. And now the Chicago mayor
has added his name to a list of prominent Democrats who choose not to
endorse candidate Hillary Clinton -- or rather chose not to endorse
candidate Hillary Clinton in 2008 but are now endorsing non-candidate
Hillary Clinton in 2014, well before they know who the other choices are or
if she is even a choice herself. This is a list that includes current
senator and former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine. Tim Kaine, who endorsed
Obama over Clinton in 2007 and went on to become President Obama`s pick to
run the DNC. Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, an early Obama endorser in
the 2008 primary, another name on board with Hillary. Jim Messina,
president Obama`s 2012 campaign manager who joined a pro Hillary super PAC
in January as its co-chairman. Add the letter - all of the Senate`s
Democratic women reportedly signed last year, saying run, Hillary, run.
Throw in the 41 members of the House who according to "The Hill" newspaper
are also already declared Clinton supporters and the message of support to
Secretary Clinton is loud and clear. But perhaps just as loud is the
unspoken message to vice president Joe Biden, Maryland Governor Martin
O`Malley, former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and potentially so many
others. We know the nomination is open, but you need not apply. At the
table this morning, Perry Bacon Jr., senior political reporter for NBC
News, Democratic pollster Margie Omero, Richard Kim, executive editor of
thenation.com and Amy Goodman, host and executive producer of Democracy
So, Perry, I know you just wrote a piece for this for NBC News yesterday.
What is the rush? What if the rush? Look, If you`re a party, what you
want to do is get behind somebody people in your party like. Hillary
Clinton is very popular right now among Democrats and Democratic Party
people really want to see -- what they`d love to have is, next year Hillary
runs by herself and the Republicans - big foot fly all over the place. You
know, you know .
PERRY BACON JR., MSNBC SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Next year it starts, and
they want to have this against -- and also the other thing you`re seeing
too is people who endorsed Obama early last time, particularly people like
Claire McCaskill, who are very critical of the Clintons are making sure to
get on the good side early on. I think that`s tactical as well because
that`s a good way -- if she`s going to be president, you want to get on her
good side as early as possible. I think those are the two dynamics shaping
this. And the unmistakable message is, when you have people like Dick
Durban and Jan Schakowsky, who are sort of really prominent liberals, it
kind of signals even if you want a liberal alternative, who is going to
run, how can that person raise any money if everybody is endorsing Hillary
WARREN: Now, it`s interesting you say Dick Durbin because he recently gave
a hint to Secretary of State - former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by
saying I want her to know that a lot of us are ready to commit. I haven`t
spoken to her, I`m just hoping all of these events will convince her when
the time is right to go ahead and announce to run, but it`s ultimately
going to be her personal decision. Amy, have we ever seen anything like
this in a Democratic primary?
AMY GOODMAN, DEMOCRACYNOW.ORG: Well, you know, maybe not in a Democratic
primary, but I did think we saw this with the Republicans behind George W.
Bush and I think that was very dangerous at the time. Because when he
became president he moved in fast, right? He declared war in Afghanistan
and Iraq. He felt like he had - I mean, of course, there was September
11th, but the kind of consensus that he felt he had. I think that`s
dangerous. We shouldn`t be talking about individuals right now. We should
be talking about issues. These primaries should be about the minimum wage,
about war, about the growing inequality between rich and poor, about
climate change and who best will address these issues. If you gather
around one person, then whatever they say will go. Where is the debate
over the direction this country will go?
WARREN: Sir Richard, I want to get you in on this because Amy`s point is
right on in terms of a process to talk and debate the issues. Is this
undemocratic, this coming out for Hillary really early on and shutting down
a potential future choice?
RICHARD KIM, EXEC. EDITOR, THENATION.COM: Yeah, I think it is
undemocratic. What we are seeing now is sort of the invisible primary
where you have people scurrying for talents endorsements and, most of all,
money, which is the huge factor here. The Ready for Hillary PAC, which
started a year ago, they are going to actually throw money into the 2014
midterm elections to sort of get Democrats on their side. But the thing
that this is sort of masking over, I think, is that there isn`t a consensus
in the Democratic Party. You are seeing actually a real split in the
Democratic Party. You saw it in the New York City mayoral race when Bill
de Blasio came from behind and crusaded on the puppet`s message. You saw
this in the fight over Andrew Cuomo`s endorsement in the Working Families
Party. There`s a popular swing in the Democratic Party, and it`s ready to
coalesce around the candidate like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren . Or
someone who picks up that mental. Hillary, I think, is a very imperfect
spokesperson for that mantle. And I think challenging her is good not only
for the issues Amy talks about, but even if she wins she`s forced to
address, right, so these underlying economic concerns that Americans have.
WARREN: I love that phrase invisible primary. So, on the invisible
primary, Margie, is there some polling data that tells us that Hillary is
the consensus candidate right now?
MARGIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Well, in the real primary .
OMERO: Well, in the real primary polling, she is currently the consensus
candidate, so all of these endorsements, all of this early movement around
her actually reflects where Democratic primary voters are. Where two-
thirds to three-fourths of them say they`re supporting Clinton. And for
other folks like Bernie Sanders, there`s nothing stopping them from
reaching out to those voters who are maybe not with Hillary or could move.
And I don`t think those candidates are going to be discouraged by an
endorsement from Claire McCaskill or Rahm Emanuel.
WARREN: Well, haven`t we seen this story before? Wasn`t there an
invisible primary in 2007 when the polls showed then Senator Clinton way
OMERO: Well, it just shows how unpredictable all of these things can be.
And so before we, you know, lament the fact that people are coalescing
around someone, Clinton, who - in the case of Rahm Emanuel had known for
decades, right, it`s been - it`s had ties for decades, we should take
comfort in the fact that these elections are very mercurial and volatile.
And she may not run or there maybe another candidate, or we may have a more
projected debate or maybe we`ll spend time focusing more on the Republican
primary which would, you know, would also lead to a better outcome.
BACON: But voters take cues from these big endorsements. I mean it`s not
like - it`s hard - it would be helpful to somebody like Elizabeth Warren or
Joe Biden to get an endorsement from some very famous person or like an
unknown, like Martin O`Malley needs to get endorsements. There`s a book
called "the party decides." It lays out the fact that if you look closely
endorsements, if you counted up the number of endorsements from governors,
congressmen, and people like - it ends up predicting pretty accurately who
wins the nomination. Mitt Romney really struggled to get actual voters to
vote for him in 2008 - 2012 as a process. Having all these endorsements
throughout was a cue to voters that this guy --
Something you must - you write about him, that my governor keeps ..
OMERO: Just because it`s related, it doesn`t mean that it`s could reflect
WARREN: All right, everyone hang on for just a moment. Thank you for the
citation. This is Nerdland, after all, so I appreciate the political
science book. When we come back, the story of the man who wanted to be
president, who has the perfect platform from which to run from president,
who challenged the Clintons before and now apparently wants no part of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: And I am thinking about
it, but I`m going to continue to think about it for a while.
WARREN: Jerry Brown served as Governor of California from 1975 to 1983,
and now he`s governor again in his second stint in the job. He took a step
towards keeping that job on Tuesday when he prevailed in California`s open
primary election with more than 55 percent of the vote. He`ll face a
Republican former treasury official in November, whom Brown has a
substantial lead on in the polls. Jerry Brown is not only popular in his
home state, he`s once again a hot name in Democratic politics and with the
left. The front page of the current issue of "The Nation" magazine
features like caped Jerry Brown pulling the Golden State out of a hat.
It`s a magical time for the three time former Democratic presidential
contender. Could he be won again? Back in 1992 he offered an intense
underdog challenge to eventual nominee Bill Clinton. Here`s a taste of
their relationship from a debate in March of that year when Brown accused
Clinton of funneling state business to his wife`s law firm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JERRY BROWN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He is funneling money to his wife`s
law firm for state business. That`s number one. Number two, his wife`s
law firm is representing clients before the state of Arkansas agencies, his
appointees. And one of the key is the poultry industry, which his wife`s
law firm represents.
BILL CLINTON: Let me tell you something, Jerry. I don`t care what you say
about me. I knew when Pat (INAUDIBLE) told me what you were going to say,
that you were going to reinvent yourself and you are going to be somebody
else`s mouthpiece you would say anything. But you ought to be ashamed of
yourself for jumping on my wife. You`re not worth being on the same
platform as my wife.
BROWN: I`ll tell you something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: Brown later withdrew during the Democratic National Convention
where he refused to endorse Clinton. So why is Governor Brown seemingly
withdrawing from the 2016 talk now years ahead of the fight? In an
interview with the "Washington Post" late last month, Brown said, quote, "I
really believe that Hillary Clinton has the presence, the experience and
the support of the vast majority of Democrats in a way that I have not seen
in my lifetime. She has this if she wants. Jerry Brown is saying this.
Given his (INAUDIBLE) with Secretary Clinton`s husband in 1992 something
else he told "The Post" was even more surprising coming from him. Quote,
"Primaries are never good for general elections. Never." Really, Jerry
Brown? What about 1992 or even 2008, Richard? This is your magazine with
the cover article of Jerry Brown. Why should he -- or shouldn`t he run for
president? What difference would it make? And who would he be?
KIM: I don`t know if Jerry Brown wants to run or will run. I think the
Jerry Brown of now should talk to the Jerry Brown of 1992 ..
KIM: Because it was good that he brought that all the way to the
convention and it raised issues inside the Democratic Party. But also if
we think back to 2008, you know, I covered that primary, everyone thought
it was the most acid, acrimonious primary. It was going to - we talked
about pumas who are Hillary holdouts and actually that whole process, that
contest, that multi-multi state contest between Obama and Hillary was good
for the party. It generated names, donations, lists, you got to the
convention in Denver and there was a feeling of unity. Very quickly people
rallied around the Obama candidacy. Hillary Clinton, I thought, gave it a
very magnanimous and wonderful speech at that convention. So the idea that
you can`t contest these issues inside the party and then coalesce around a
nominee in the general, I don`t see what the historical basis for that
actually is inside the Democratic Party?
WARREN: So, if not Jerry Brown, who, Amy, from the left?
GOODMAN: Well, I just want to say one thing Jerry Brown has done is sign
off on the national popular vote, which is very important. That should be
discussed everywhere, which is really about challenging the power of the
electoral college and saying it doesn`t matter where you live in the
country, one person, one vote, your vote counts equally and it gives much
more power to the cities and population centers. That`s very important.
But, yes, we should be talking about the people who represent very
different ideas that will really challenge -- you know, what`s good for the
party is not necessarily good for democracy. You`ve got Bernie Sanders,
who looks like he wants to run for president. Not necessarily as an
independent, but in the Democratic Party. Raising these issues of doubling
the minimum wage, supporting a constitutional amendment that would overturn
Citizens United, challenging the whole issue of money in politics, which is
so critical. And, of course, Elizabeth Warren, who has taken on the banks.
What`s good for Wall Street is not necessarily good for the United States
WARREN: And you know I`m glad you brought up Senator Warren, no relation
of course, because she said something very interesting recently to "Huff
Post Live." Let`s play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH WARREN: This is a moment in time for our country, and I believe
for our world. A moment in time when we decide who we are as a people and
what kind of a future we are going to build. Here in America we, the
people, get to decide what the rules are. So I get how hard this is. This
is about concentrated money and power on one side. But it`s about our
values, our voices and our votes on our side. I believe we can fight back.
I believe we can win.
WARREN: I believe it. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: OK, Margie. So she believes we can win. I`m not sure who the
"we" is there, but do Democrats need another Obama in 2016? Is Senator
Warren that Obama?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OMERO: Well, I think it would be great both for the party and for Hillary
Clinton and for the country if we have another candidate from the left,
whether it`s Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. I think - I disagree with
Jerry Brown. I think primaries are good. I can be untroubled by the
invisible primary that`s going on and also think at the same time that
primaries are good. And I feel like President Obama became a better
candidate as a result of the primary. Clinton`s campaign I think learned
from the primary, hopefully in a way that she can build on. And I think
Romney became a better candidate. I don`t know if it was so good for their
brand that particular primary, but he became a better candidate, a better
debater and had a stronger infrastructure as a result of that primary.
WARREN: Perry, is this out of fear and the scars from the Clinton campaign
of `07-08? Is this out of fear that the Democrats have in terms of the
potential GOP nominee?
BACON: I don`t think so. I actually think for each -- it would be great
for the party probably and for the movement of ideas to have more
candidates. If you`re Jerry Brown, even if you`re the vice president of
the United States, the incentives are against you to run because Hillary is
so strong and I think that`s what`s really driving it. I want to add too
that Elizabeth Warren is right. You can change the process even if you`re
not a candidate. I think that`s what she`s trying to do. You can shape
what. Even if you just say Hillary is a candidate and that`s probably
likely. I think Warren, other people, Bill de Blasio can push her and push
the dialogue to the left in a way that`s meaningful.
WARREN: All right. To be continued.
Up next, if not Ted Kennedy, who?
WARREN: We`ve been talking about the many endorsements coming in for
Hillary Clinton, who isn`t even running for president yet. The question of
how much those endorsements matter is up for debate and likely will be for
a while. One that did matter was this from the late Ted Kennedy from
January of 2008.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED KENNEDY (D) MASSACHUSETTS: I love this country. I believe in the
bright light of hope and possibility. I always have, even in the darkest
hours. I know what America can achieve. I`ve seen it. I`ve lived it.
And with Barack Obama, we can do it again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: So really important endorsement, I`m sure we all remember that
moment when a very sick Senator Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama. In a post
Citizen United world, do political endorsements even matter?
BACON: I think that kind of endorsement does matter absolutely.
BACON: Because he changed how we saw Obama. Obama was considered the sort
of the younger candidate, the underdog. You know he won Iowa, but time as
well. But it really gave Obama the sense that if Ted Kennedy, this very
experienced legislator, says you`re qualified -- at that point Hillary was
talking about his experience a lot. Ted Kennedy, who`s been in the Senate
a long time, says Obama is ready after two years to be president, and a lot
of people can think their way, too. That helped in fund-raising, that
helped in bringing other endorsements. That is an endorsement that
matters. Most don`t, but that one did.
OMERO: That endorsement wasn`t just about his credentials, I mean if you
watch the clip, it`s about he`s the candidate of the future. If you want
to move the country into a new place, you want a leader to take you in a
new direction or prepare us for the future, that`s who you need. And that
kind of endorsement with someone who is so credible on that specific point
is rare. Most of the time you`re really reinforcing a narrative that
already exists. And one endorsement here or there usually doesn`t matter
unless there`s an informed group that maybe really has no idea how to pick.
WARREN: Why is this that Ted Kennedy for right now? We have Bill Clinton
on one side, we have a sense of who he`ll probably endorse. We have the
current president. Is there a similar power broker like a Ted Kennedy?
GOODMAN: Well, I just want to say on that point, also the primary was so
important when it came to Obama over Clinton around the issue of war. That
Hillary Clinton held to the very last minute to her vote for the war in
Iraq. She thought she could counter all of the criticism. But there was a
candidate who represented something different. And as he rose to the fore,
I mean she held on till the last minute until she finally said maybe what
she did in 2002 in that vote for the war was wrong. And that`s what
primaries do. They challenge ideas. They challenge positions. And we
have to bust it open. And also, the responsibility of the media in all of
this, opening up the debates, allowing more candidates to be included in
these debates, and that helps to counter the power of money.
WARREN: I want to argue just on this point about the process of primaries.
So one function of primaries is a debate about ideas, platform. Another is
getting more people involved in the process. So we have some data that
suggests that there were many more Democratic registrants as a result of
the primary process in 2008 as opposed to the Republican side. I`m going
to ask everyone at the table to hang on for a moment. As we mentioned
earlier, this morning is the memorial service at Wake Forest University in
North Carolina for Dr. Maya Angelou. Attending the service is former
President Bill Clinton who is delivering remarks. We are going to go to
that service now live.
BILL CLINTON: Pastor, Guy, Stephanie, all the family and friends, Mrs.
Obama, Oprah, Cicely, you were wonderful. I want to thank Guy for sending
me a wonderful letter and inviting me to speak today. I loved Maya. The
last time we were together was just a couple of weeks ago at the LBJ
library in Austin. They were having, and Andy was there, they were having
a 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act. And they had an
all-day conference. And I gave my little talk and we went into this lunch.
It was like a political version of the antiques road show.
BILL CLINTON: The Pope- Bill Russell came up and hugged me and reminded me
of how short I was.
BILL CLINTON: And I looked over and there was Maya. And I went over to
her and I hugged her and I said I cannot believe that you have gotten
yourself here. And she said just because I am wheelchair bound doesn`t
mean I don`t get around.
BILL CLINTON: So that`s the first thing I want to say, that girl got
BILL CLINTON: Let me tell you how this all started. I first encountered
Maya Angelou as a young man when I read "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."
It was written in 1970, about the time I started law school, and shortly
after it came out I read it. And I was the one who was struck dumb. I
thought, first of all, stamps, Arkansas, where it`s set is about 25 miles
from where I was born. I`ve got a lot of relatives who live there. I knew
the people she was talking about, the problem she was documenting. But the
thing that struck me about the book, even more than the horrible abuse she
endured and the five years of silence that followed was that this little
kid, the whole time all this was all going on, was paying attention. She
may have stopped talking, but she never stopped looking. She was paying
attention. And absorbing the people she saw, the patterns of life she
experienced, and trying to make sense of it. She had enough experiences
for five lifetimes. We could all just show up here and talk about a piece
of her life. Think about that. She moved from being a mute child to being
reunited with her mother to being in a school of dance and drama to being
the first African-American woman to be a streetcar director in San
Francisco to having a baby, to having to be a short order cook and other
stuff to feed the baby and keep body and soul together, and that was all
when she was a teenager. She wasn`t even 20 years old and all that had
happened to her. Then in her 20s she was singing and dancing and acting in
the U.S. and Europe. In her 30s, she became a member of the Harlem Writers
Guild. By 32 she had moved to Egypt to run a newspaper and by 33 she was
living in Ghana. By then she mastered five languages, went through your
horrible accident with you and how you both would control the rest of your
life. And I admire you and I`m grateful to you for the life you have
BILL CLINTON: So thank you for that. And she meets Malcolm X and comes
back here to work for him and he gets killed. She goes to work for Martin
Luther King and on her 40th birthday, he gets killed. We could all just be
up here talking about how Maya Angelou represented a big piece of America`s
history. And triumphed over adversity. And proved how dumb racism is.
But her great gift in her action-packed life was she was always paying
attention. And by the time she started writing her books and her poetry,
what she was basically doing was calling our attention to the things she
had been paying attention to. And she did it with a clarity and power that
will wash over people as long as there is a written and spoken word. "A
Caged Bird" was the first manifestation of her great gift. (INAUDIBLE)
somebody else written that book about that little girl and what happened to
her and - and why she didn`t talk. And she just kept calling our attention
to things. I often thought of her gigantic figure as like the little
fireflies we used to catch in the summertime and put in jars. They just
come on at unpredictable times and they`d make you see something that you
otherwise would have missed. Something right before your nose you had been
overlooking, something in your mind you had been burying, something in your
heart you were afraid to face. She called our attention in thousands of
ways to her belief that life is a gift, manifest in each new day. She
called our attention to the fact that the things that really matter,
dignity, work, love and kindness are things we can all share and don`t cost
anything. And they matter more than the differences of wealth and power,
the strength and beauty of intellect. All that`s nice if you put it to the
right use, but nothing is more powerful than giving honor to the things we
share. She also taught us through all those decades of challenges that
life is a constant choice. Everyday .
WARREN: That was President Bill Clinton paying tribute to the late great
Dr. Maya Angelou. Still to come at the service this morning are Oprah
Winfrey and first lady Michelle Obama. We`ll continue to check in on the
service. I just want to ask Amy briefly to share some thoughts about Dr.
Angelou this morning.
GOODMAN: Well, first, her own words, her famous poem "Still I Rise" you
may write me down in history with your bitter twisted lies, you may tread
me in the very dirt, but still like dust I`ll rise. Maya Angelou gave such
a gift to this country and the world that she turned horror of a childhood
where she was raped by her mother`s boyfriend and he ultimately was
murdered and she went silent, as President Clinton said, for five years,
speaking only to her brother. This woman of words and letters who would
then bring us one autobiography after another, give the inaugural poem,
deliver it for the first inauguration of President Clinton, and she was not
only a writer and an author, she was an activist. And that hasn`t been
talked about as much. President Clinton referred to her alliance with
Malcolm X. She met him in Africa. She helped him with the organization of
Afro-American unity and helped Dr. King. These are the stories of
movements. Maya Angelou was the woman of a movement.
WARREN: We`re going to come back to Dr. Angelou later.
Coming up next, the city set to have the highest minimum wage in the
country, but is there a catch?
And we`ll have more from North Carolina where first lady Michelle Obama and
others are paying tribute to Dr. Maya Angelou this morning. More Nerdland
at the top of the hour.
WARREN: Welcome back. I`m Dorian Warren in for Melissa Harris-Perry.
On Monday, the city of Seattle, Washington, made history when this
happened. Before a packed house, the Seattle City Council voted
unanimously 9-0 to raise the municipal minimum wage to $15 an hour, making
it the highest in the nation.
But why did Seattle feel the need to raise its local minimum wage and not
rely on the federal government? Especially when it`s something president
Obama has talked about a lot in the past few months. And I mean a lot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the coming weeks, I will
issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their
federally funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour because
if you cook our troops meals or wash their dishes, you should not have to
live in poverty.
So ask your senator, ask your representative in the House, do you support
raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour? If they say yes, tell
them good job. It`s a very simple issue. Either you`re in favor of
raising wages for hard-working Americans or you`re not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: It seems the president`s words have fallen on the deaf ears of a
Congress that`s not trying to hear him on minimum wage and many other
The impact of Seattle`s new minimum wage is expected to be substantial, as
city officials estimate about a quarter of workers earn less than $15 an
But as exciting as the headlines are, read on to the fine print. The law
does not take effect until April 1st of next year, 2015. The original date
of implementation was meant to be January 1st but after a contentious
meeting last week, the council agreed to delay implementation until April.
And at that point, every worker will get at least a dollar an hour raise.
That`s right. The full minimum wage hike is not immediate. Instead,
depending on the size of the business and benefits provided to employees,
the phase-in time could take anywhere from three to seven years. And how
the wage hike will be implemented or phased in is a big source of
contention for several different groups. Franchisee business owners are
already vowing to file a lawsuit against the, quote, "unfair and
discriminatory Seattle minimum wage plan, since they would need to
implement the new minimum wage within three years."
A business group called Forward Seattle said it will file a charter
amendment that would overturn the new minimum wage and replace it with a
five-year phase-in of $12.50 an hour. And a group called 15 Now is working
to gather enough signatures for a charter amendment that would raise the
minimum wage on big businesses by January 1st and would give small
businesses a three-year phase-in.
So, the new Seattle minimum wage law is law, but it`s clearly far from
settled. At the table, Perry Bacon Jr., NBC News senior political
reporter, Margie Omero, a Democratic pollster, Richard Kim, executive
editor at thenation.com, Amy Goodman, host and executive producer at
And joining me from Seattle, Washington, Kshama Sawant, a Seattle City
Council member who voted for the $15 minimum wage hike and is a member of
Socialist Alternative, a community activist group campaigning for $15 an
hour minimum wage nationwide.
Thank you so much for joining me, Councilwoman.
KSHAMA SAWANT, SEATTLE CIY COUNCIL MEMBER: Thank you.
WARREN: First off, this is an issue you campaigned and worked on for quite
a while. I want to ask you how significant is this development in the
fight for better pay for those who earn a minimum wage and for those who
are trying to raise themselves above the poverty line?
SAWANT: Thank you for covering this issue.
This is a huge and historic victory for working people not only in Seattle
but everywhere in the nation. Look at what the Occupy movement talked
about, you know, the status quo of income equality, skyrocketing poverty,
all the burden of the recession falling on the shoulders of working people
while the financial industry that precipitated the collapse went scot-free
and is making historically high profits. And there`s been a gushing up of
wealth from the bottom to the top.
What Seattle has done represents a transfer of income of $3 billion from
the richest to the bottom most workers. Really the backbone of the city
that makes the city run, and it`s a reversal of the income inequality --
the beginning of a reversal.
It`s also historic for other reasons. It`s historic because after decades
of being beaten down in this race to the bottom, working people have taken
on the mantle of fight back and we have won this victory on our own merit.
You know, it`s working people, low wage workers, fast food workers, child
care workers, the 15 Now Campaign, the labor movement and Socialist
Alternatives insurgent campaign last year to install a socialist working
class fighting voice in city hall that made this happen. I think this
message should be so inspiring and empowering for people everywhere --
social justice activists and low wage workers everywhere in the nation --
because they can see that when you fight back, you organize, you can win.
WARREN: So, I want to go to the specifics of the Seattle $15 minimum wage
law. Can you talk about the difference between how big business versus
small business will have to implement this minimum wage?
SAWANT: 15 Now and I as a socialist councilmember have been fighting for a
three-year phase-in for small business and no phase-in for big business,
because I haven`t met a single person and I`ve talked to thousands of
people who think that corporations like McDonald`s and Starbucks should get
any phase-in. They make billions in profits and are completely capable of
lifting their workers out of poverty today, let alone at the beginning of
And so, we have been arguing for the strongest possible minimum wage, $15
law, and there were corporate loopholes as you mentioned. There were many
corporate loopholes that were inserted, but what it shows to me, the take-
home lesson is that you cannot rely on the corporate political
The city council of Seattle is primarily represented by the Democratic
Party establishment, and not only did they not take the lead on fighting
income inequality, this $15 issue became an agenda point for Seattle`s
politics only because the grassroots pushed for it. Not only did they not
lead on it, the Democratic Party politicians were the very ones who helped
businesses introduce these loopholes.
So, the take-home lesson is we cannot rely on the establishment, we cannot
rely on the two-party system, and the working class has to launch its own
mass movement to fight income inequality and fight for radical reforms like
$15 an hour. You know, $15 an hour is one issue but we have to talk about
housing injustice, taxing corporations and the super rich to fund education
and mass transit and other services.
And you talked about President Obama, and I commend the Democratic Party
for taking on this issue but the reality is that they haven`t led on it.
WARREN: Councilwoman, let me ask you because you mention the loopholes and
you introduced a few amendments that as a result of things that were added
to the original proposal were not included.
But I just want to show viewer these amendments: removing all language that
allowed employers to pay subminimum wages, moving the start implementation
date, removing the phase-in for big business, removing all language related
to the tip credit -- a very important issue.
Can you talk about your amendments?
SAWANT: Yes. So, one of the amendments as you mentioned was to eliminate
the phase-in for big business because I don`t think there`s any
justification and nobody has explained to me so far what is the rationale
behind giving big corporations, multi national, any more time to make sure
that their workers come out of poverty.
The other important amendment that you mention, a critical one is the one
on tip credit. If your viewers don`t know what that means, tip credit
basically means that for workers who work in tip jobs, like restaurant jobs
or nail salons, then they get a subminimum wage, which is lower than
minimum wage because they supposedly make up the rest in tips.
Well, the history of tip credit in 43 states of the country shows that
tipped workers end up being victims of massive, rampant, systematic wage
theft and not only that, women workers in the tip industry end up having to
put up with higher rates of sexual harassment.
Let me just give you a quick example --
WARREN: Councilwoman, let me get some of the panel members in here just
for a minute, to broaden the conversation.
I know Richard wants to say something.
KIM: First of all, congratulations, Kshama, for putting this on the table.
You mentioned wage theft -- are you worried about the problem of
enforcement of these laws? We know many workers in Seattle say wages were
stolen under the existing law. I think the city has been criticized for
not enforcing the laws that exist.
Here in New York City, there`s a report that says 84 percent of fast food
workers have had their wages stolen.
So, what are the enforcing mechanisms here and how can they be improved?
SAWANT: That`s a very important question about enforcement. As you said
wage theft is systematic not only in Seattle but nationwide.
And the enforcement piece was left to another interdepartmental team that
is going to start working on it very soon, but there was also some of the
amendments I introduced to strengthen the language on enforcement because
we know that making laws is not enough. We have to really make sure that
the onus of following the laws falls on the businesses, not on the
And we are going to continue to work on it, but I think that at this
moment, that is an important question that needs to be resolved. How are
we going to make sure that these laws are followed?
Furthermore, the kind of phase-in program that has been introduced is going
to make it complicated for workers to know actually in what year, what wage
they are eligible for so it`s a major challenge that the city needs to
And that`s why I would say the role for the mass movement hasn`t ended.
WARREN: City Councilwoman, we unfortunately have to go to commercial.
Thank you, City Councilmember Kshama Sawant of Seattle, from joining us
My thanks also to Perry Bacon and Margie Omero here in New York.
When we come back, remembering a truly phenomenal woman. First Lady
Michelle Obama and others paying a final tribute to Dr. Maya Angelou today.
First, I want to update you on the news that comedian and actor Tracy
Morgan was critically injured early this morning in a six-car accident
along the New Jersey turnpike. Morgan remains in intensive care after the
limo bus in which he was traveling overturned around 1:00 a.m. along the
turnpike in an area just north of Trenton, New Jersey.
State police are saying one of two tractor-trailers involved in the
accident came upon slow-moving traffic and caused the crash. One of the
six passengers on Morgan`s bus has died, according to police.
The 45-year-old comedian, who had been scheduled to perform last night at a
casino in Delaware, spent seven seasons as a cast member on "Saturday Night
Live." He went on to earn an Emmy nomination for his best-known roll Tracy
Jordan on the sitcom "30 Rock." Morgan is currently listed in critical
condition at the Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
We`ll bring you more details later in the show as they develop.
We`ll head to North Carolina and the tribute to Dr. Maya Angelou, next.
WARREN: The reason I`m here in place of Melissa Harris-Perry this morning
is because Melissa is in North Carolina attending the memorial service at
Wake Forest University for the late Dr. Maya Angelou, the poet, author,
professor, civil rights activist and more personally former mentor to this
program`s regular host.
Dr. Angelou passed away on May 28th at the age of 86.
Here are some of the remarks by her friend of 50 years, actress Cicely
Tyson this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CICELY TYSON, ACTRESS: At the head of the stairs was Maya in her
wheelchair. It`s the best gift that she`s left me with. She took the
time, despite the pain that she was suffering, to ride on that bus, to come
all the way up to the theater to see me. And from what I understand she
loved every minute.
This bond is a tie that never will be broken. I will love you always.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: Joining me now from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is NBC News
correspondent Sarah Dallof.
Sarah, what is the scene there this morning?
SARAH DALLOF, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning.
It has been a beautiful scene and service, so far, a celebration really of
the life and achievements of Dr. Angelou. It`s drawn an impressive crowd.
You`ve seen some of those dignitaries. We`re talking about First Lady
Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Eric
Oprah, of course, is there. She helped plan this service.
Former President Clinton, he spoke early on in the service about his
relationship with Dr. Angelou and the last time that they saw one another,
she telling him that even though she was confined to a wheelchair, she was
still getting around and that former President Clinton shouldn`t count her
out just quite yet.
And it really speaks to the powerhouse that Dr. Angelou was, that she`s
able to live on in the memories of everyone from former presidents to her
own students. We talked to one student who recalls a class he took that
was actually held in the basement of Dr. Angelou`s house. And when the
semester ended, she gave him and the other students her personal phone
number and told them to reach out to her, that she was now their professor
So, a very profound impact she`s had not only on the lives here at the
university but lives as her family said today around the globe.
Back to you.
WARREN: Sarah, thank you very much.
Right now, we are going back to Wake Forest University, North Carolina.
Oprah Winfrey is now giving remarks and a tribute to the late Dr. Angelou.
OPRAH WINFREY, TV ICON: The first time I heard that phrase, "God put a
rainbow in the clouds," I was in utter despair and distraught and had
called Maya. I remember being locked in the bathroom with the door closed
sitting on the toilet seat. And I was crying so hard she could barely
understand what I was saying.
And I had -- I was upset about something that I can`t even remember now
what it was. Isn`t that how life works?
And I called for a long distance cry on her shoulder, but she wasn`t having
it. She said, as you all know she could, stop it. Stop it now.
And I said what? What? What did you say? And she said, stop your crying
And I continued to sniffle and she said, did you hear me? And I said, yes,
Only she could level me to my 7-year-old self in an instant. And she said
-- I said, why do you want me to stop crying, I`m trying to complain to you
And she said, I want you to stop and say thank you, because whatever it is,
you have the faith to know that God has put a rainbow in the clouds and --
You`re going to come out on the other side of whatever it is the better for
She was in all ways, no matter the time of day or night or the situation,
she was always there for me, to be the rainbow.
And I`m here today to say thank you, to acknowledge to you all and to the
world how powerful one life can be -- the life of Maya Angelou.
The loss I feel I cannot describe. It`s like something I have never felt
before. She was my spiritual queen mother, and everything that that word
implies. She was the ultimate teacher. She taught me the poetry of
courage and respect.
Many a day I`d ask her for advice while trying to navigate the pitfalls of
fame, of a public life. When somebody had written or said something
hurtful or untrue and she`d say, baby, you`re not in it. You`re not in it
when they wrote it, when he sat down at the typewriter, that`s how long
we`ve been talking.
She`d say, those people can`t hold a candle to the light God already has
shining on your face. Can`t you see it?
She`d say look up, look up and see the light.
When I was on trial in 1998 in Texas for saying something bad about a
burger -- yes. For six weeks I was on trial sued by the Texas cattlemen.
Mama Angelou came to Texas with a prayer posse.
And we all know that Maya was a force all by herself, but the force came
with backup. They prayed all day and all night long and Maya would sit in
the courtroom while I testified. The prosecuting attorneys didn`t know
what hit them. Warrior mom had arrived in Amarillo.
And it was at the same time that I met Dr. Phil, who was coaching me on how
to behave in the courtroom. And he`d say look in the jurors` eyes. And
Maya said, no, look above their heads. Look above their heads.
She`d say look above their heads and stand still inside yourself and know
who you are. You are God`s child, she told me. And in God you move and
breathe and have your being.
Of course, we won that trial.
And every other one I faced, she was always there holding me up, holding me
up to know myself. To see the light that God already had shining on my
Yes, I will -- I will miss her.
Stedman, Gayle and I recently came to visit and just sit and be with her.
And when I walked into the room, her eyes lit up and she greeted me as she
always did in person or on the phone, and she said, hello, you darling
She`d taken a liking to the iPad I gave her, and I loved that all of her
notes began with "oh deario," and ended with, "Love, ma, Maya Angelou."
When her mother, Vivian Baxter, told her at age 17, you know, baby, you may
be one of the greatest women I`ve ever known, she didn`t know that she was
prophesying what we all know to be true. Maya Angelou is the greatest
woman I have ever known.
In all the ways that only she could define what it means to be in her words
a real woman and not just an aging female, but a proud to spell my name w-
o-m-a-n kind of woman, she had many daughters throughout the world.
Stephanie and Rosa, Matima.
Her great gift to us is that she made every one of us feel like we were the
one. She made us feel heard and seen and loved and special and worthy.
You alone are enough, she taught me.
And I am the woman I am today because she was. She not only existed as she
proclaimed in her poem "tall trees," she thrived to help other people do
the same and indeed, as she said, we can be better and do better because
You know, I still -- I marvel at God. I am just in awe that I, a little
colored, then Negro girl --
WARREN: An emotional, personal and moving tribute from Oprah Winfrey.
Still to speak this morning at the tribute to Dr. Maya Angelou, First Lady
We`ll be right back.
WARREN: Still to come this hour, we are awaiting remarks from First Lady
Michelle Obama who is scheduled to speak at the memorial service for Dr.
Maya Angelou currently under way at Wake Forest University in Winston-
Salem, North Carolina.
WARREN: On June 10th, ExCeL London will host the global summit to end
sexual violence and conflict. At the gathering which is expected to be the
largest group ever to convene on the topic of sexual violence, members of
the international community will spend four days attending formal meetings
and public talks to explore issues related to sexual violence and conflict
resolution and prevention.
Co-chaired by Foreign Secretary William Hague and Angelina Jolie, who is a
special envoy for the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, the event
illustrates the level international attention such acts of violence against
women are receiving.
As demonstrated by #bringbackourgirls, the massive online campaign that
took off in response to the abduction of more than 276 Nigerian girls in
April, celebrities, politicians and ordinary citizens are speaking out
about violence against women.
And these assaults are by no means limited to times of war or acts of
terror against a state. In fact, headline after headline has featured
individual acts of terror, horrifying accounts of sexual violence against
women across the globe as they go about their day-to-day lives.
In Morocco in 2012, 16-year-old girl Amina Filali was kidnapped, raped and
forced to marry her assailant at the request of her friends and family who
considered marriage an amicable solution. Amina later committed suicide.
More recently in Pakistan on May 27th, the family of pregnant 25-year-old
Farzana Parveen beat her to death for choosing to marry a man against their
In 2013, more than 800 Pakistani women were victims of honor killings.
The very next day, two young girls were raped and hanged in northern India.
The teenage cousins Murti and Pushpa had been abducted during a routine
trip to local fields which are used as toilets. Despite the fact that many
victims in India and elsewhere do not report rape for fear of social should
shunning, police harassment and shame, Murti and Pushpa`s family did report
the girls missing.
And Sohan Lal, the father of the younger cousin, says police responded with
this question. What is your caste? After hearing the answer, Mr. Lal said
the police mocked him and refused to help.
But on Monday, women in the region took action. Protesters marched to the
capital where Murti and Pushpa were killed. They called on the government
to stop this pervasive violence against women and to spur law enforcement
into action. And the police did act.
Hundreds of police officers turned water cannons on the protesters to drive
them back and disband the march.
Joining me now is Rula Jebreal, foreign policy analyst at "Newsweek" and
MSNBC contributor, Amber Kahn, senior communications director at Women for
Women, an international organization supporting survivors of war and other
Also joining me is Jessica Vale, the director, and Nika Offenbac, the
producer of "Small, Small Thing," a documentary about Olivia Zinnah, a
Liberian teen who died from injuries she sustained when she was raped at
the age of 7.
Rula, I want to turn to you first because about a year ago you wrote an
article for "The Daily Beast" about your mother`s experience with an
incredibly horrific assault.
And you wrote, "Rape is a hate crime. It is a purely criminal act designed
to induce terror. By brutalizing a woman, the intent is to humiliate,
degrade and ultimately break her. And as such, it is not only a violent
act against an individual, it is violence committed against their family
and their children with devastating effects."
These assaults horribly damage the lives of the victims, but how do they
also impact the broader community?
JULA JEBREAL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: They do, and they do in a big way. They
impact family, society. If you think of the connection between economic
empowerment of women, if you think how this affect these kind of women, in
my case, for example, I became a reporter because I wanted to somehow talk
about these issues -- a privilege that my mother was denied, because as
soon as you come out, as you mentioned in the piece before, you come out
speaking about these issues, you`ve been silenced by your community, by
Look, a year ago, more or less a year ago, chief -- the head chief of
police in Canada said on television, if women want to stop being
victimized, they should stop dressing like sluts. I mean, this guy -- this
is the root and this is the origin of everything. Sexism, misogyny, just
as racism produced violence, sexism and misogyny produce sexual assault.
And this is the origin of everything and this is what we need to address.
It has nothing to do with culture, and with religions, but it happens here
in this country on a daily basis. If you think of Sandra fluke a year ago
or two years ago testifying in front of Congress, head of state Silvio
Berlusconi called Angela Merkel said he`s unattractive sexually. He called
her other names. Or the prime minister of Australia, Abbott, he called
another prime minister, Julia Gillard, all kind of names. He said bitch
the witch (ph), and other names.
We should start fighting misogyny and sexism on a daily basis, because this
is the roots of everything. When it comes to rape, it`s already too late.
And like women in India said, after what happened in India, don`t tell your
daughter not to go out but tell your son to behave properly.
We need legislation, but we need above all education when it comes to this.
WARREN: You made so many great points there. One I just want to pull up
and get you respond to, Amber, is about things happening also here in the
U.S., that we tend to focus on the rest of the world, but we have the same
issues here. In fact just yesterday a Wisconsin billionaire, Samuel Curtis
Johnson III, heir to the SC Johnson and Son family pleaded guilty to a
misdemeanor sexual assault of his stepdaughter. He faced up to 40 years in
prison on initial charges, but based on this plea deal, he`ll serve 60 days
in jail and just pay a fine.
Talk to us -- by the way, put this in context with the shooter in
California who went on the killing spree.
AMBER KHAN, WOMEN FOR WOMEN: I think that`s a great piece to bring up, and
I think underscoring the importance. I think the global news around India
and Pakistan sometimes does send this message that this is just over there,
it`s a problem limited.
But the reality is that sexual violence and gender-based violence not only
is a weapon of war that the London Council, the event we`re going to have
next week, is going to bring global leaders together to talk about. But it
is also an opportunity to have a global conversation at home in places
where we don`t think it`s a problem.
But the reality is, it is, because the lack of enforcement, the lack of
equity and the way in which a crime is held to account sends a signal,
Dorian, and you know that.
I mean, it sends a signal to everyone. It sends a signal to potential
perpetrators. It sends a signal to women and to girls, and it sends a
signal to institutions and leaders. OK?
So, when we talk about what we do and what do you make of the voices, I
mean Women for Women came into being because when the revelations of the
Bosnian rape camps 20 years ago stunned our senses as we saw rape being
used as a weapon of war, we decided not to wait for institutions. We
decided to connect women here to immediately begin supporting women who
were surviving horrific sexual violence, to sponsor them, to begin to find
confidence, find their voice, rebuild their lives and create a network so
that they could begin to heal and do more.
And the challenge that we have, the challenge we have is that the lack of
political attention to holding accountable things we can do to prevent
violence, integrate the evidence-based things we know from the field, we
know what to do.
WARREN: We have a lot more coming up.
Up next, a gripping documentary about a very difficult story, but one you
simply cannot turn away from, and we`re still awaiting the first lady at
the memorial service for Dr. Maya Angelou.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have gotten kids that are two years old, five
years old, that have gotten raped, and why? It`s such a touchy issue. I
believe that if it had come sooner, maybe it would have made a difference.
But because of the secret they were trying to keep that caused the
extensive damage. Right now, it`s still beyond me why they would do such
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: We`re going right to North Carolina to hear from the First Lady
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: -- is so full. Bebe -- Oprah, why did you do
that? Why did you put me after this?
To the family, Guy, to all of you; to the friends; President Clinton;
Oprah; my mother, Cicely Tyson; Ambassador Young -- let me just share
something with you. My mother, Marian Robinson, never cares about anything
But when Dr. Maya Angelou passed, she said, you`re going, aren`t you? I
said, well, Mom, I`m not really sure, I have to check with my schedule.
She said, you are going, right?
I said, well, I`m going to get back to you but I have to check with the
people, figure it out. I came back up to her room when I found out that I
was scheduled to go, and she said, that`s good, now, I`m happy.
It is such a profound honor, truly, a profound honor, to be here today on
behalf of myself and my husband as we celebrate one of the greatest spirits
our world has ever known, our dear friend, Dr. Maya Angelou.
In the Book of Psalms it reads: "I praise you, for I am fearfully and
wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the Earth."
What a perfect description of Maya Angelou, and the gift she gave to her
family and to all who loved her.
She taught us that we are each wonderfully made, intricately woven, and put
on this Earth for a purpose far greater than we could ever imagine. And
when I think about Maya Angelou, I think about the affirming power of her
The first time I read "Phenomenal Woman", I was struck by how she
celebrated black women`s beauty like no one had ever dared to before.
Our curves, our stride, our strength, our grace. Her words were clever and
sassy; they were powerful and sexual and boastful. And in that one
singular poem, Maya Angelou spoke to the essence of black women, but she
also graced us with an anthem for all women -- a call for all of us to
embrace our God-given beauty.
And, oh, how desperately black girls needed that message. As a young
woman, I needed that message. As a child, my first doll was Malibu Barbie.
That was the standard for perfection. That was what the world told me to
aspire to. But then I discovered Maya Angelou, and her words lifted me
right out of my own little head.
Her message was very simple. She told us that our worth has nothing to do
with what the world might say. Instead, she said, "Each of us comes from
the creator trailing wisps of glory." She reminded us that we must each
find our own voice, decide our own value, and then announce it to the world
with all the pride and joy that is our birthright as members of the human
Dr. Angelou`s words sustained me on every step of my journey -- through
lonely moments in ivy-covered classrooms and colorless skyscrapers; through
blissful moments mothering two splendid baby girls; through long years on
the campaign trail where, at times, my very womanhood was dissected and
For me, that was the power of Maya Angelou`s words -- words so powerful
that they carried a little black girl from the South Side of Chicago all
the way to the White House.
And today, as First Lady, whenever the term "authentic" is used to describe
me, I take it as a tremendous compliment, because I know that I am
following in the footsteps of great women like Maya Angelou. But really,
I`m just a beginner -- I am baby-authentic.
Maya Angelou, now she was the original, she was the master. For at a time
when there were such stifling constraints on how black women could exist in
the world, she serenely disregarded all the rules with fiercely passionate,
unapologetic self. She was comfortable in every last inch of her glorious
But for Dr. Angelou, her own transition was never enough. You see, she
didn`t just want to be phenomenal herself, she wanted all of us to be
phenomenal right alongside her.
So that`s what she did throughout her lifetime -- she gathered so many of
us under her wing. I wish I was a daughter, but I was right under that
wing sharing her wisdom, her genius, and her boundless love.
I first came into her presence in 2008, when she spoke at a campaign rally
here in North Carolina. At that point, she was in a wheelchair, hooked up
to an oxygen tank to help her breathe. But let me tell you, she rolled up
like she owned the place.
She took the stage, as she always did, like she`d been born there. And I
was so completely awed and overwhelmed by her presence I could barely
concentrate on what she was saying to me.
But while I don`t remember her exact words, I do remember exactly how she
made me feel.
She made me feel like I owned the place, too. She made me feel like I had
been born on that stage right next to her. And I remember thinking to
myself, "Maya Angelou knows who I am, and she`s rooting for me. So, now
I`m good. I can do this. I can do this."
And that`s really true for us all, because in so many ways, Maya Angelou
knew us. She knew our hope, our pain, our ambition, our fear, our anger,
our shame. And she assured us that despite it all -- in fact, because of
it all -- we were good. And in doing so, she paved the way for me and
Oprah and so many others just to be our good, old, black-woman selves.
She showed us --
She showed us that eventually, if we stayed true to who we are, then the
world would embrace us.
And she did this not just for black women, but for all women, for all human
beings. She taught us all that it is okay to be your regular old self,
whatever that is -- your poor self, your broken self, your brilliant, bold,
That was Maya Angelou`s reach. She touched me. She touched all of you.
She touched people all across the globe, including a young white woman from
Kansas who named her daughter after Maya, and raised her son to be the
first black President of the United States.
So when I heard that Dr. Angelou had passed, while I felt a deep sense of
loss, I also felt a profound sense of peace. Because there is no question
that Maya Angelou will always be with us, because there was something truly
divine about Maya. I know that now, as always, she is right where she
May her memory be a blessing to us all. Thank you. God bless.
WARREN: That was First Lady Michelle Obama paying tribute to the late
great Dr. Maya Angelou.
And as we have been talking about sexual assaults against women around the
world, Dr. Angelou`s own experience with sexual assault as a young girl was
a key part her life story. So, I want to turn back to my panel and ask
about how Dr. Angelou`s story and the fear she said she had of speaking
out, resonates with the stories we hear of girls around the world today.
KHAN: You know, Listening to Dr. Angelou, when I look at the stories and
hear from a young woman whose name is Arguna (ph). She is from
Afghanistan. She was married as a child bride at the age of 9.
There was a tribal conflict between families. And then her husband was
killed. And she was inspired when she found a way to find a network of
support with other women. She shared how being able to speak of and think
about what she had to offer, how that not only inspired her but inspired
her to dream.
Today, she`s a small business owner in Afghanistan, had $30,000 in the
bank. Reminds me of that.
JEBREAL: It inspired -- actually, it lifted that sense of shame from the
victims and put it on the perpetrator. For the first time, people were
coming out, around the world, looking at this strong woman speaking about
empowerment, about, you know, following your own instincts, about dreaming.
Dreaming big, not being ashamed of your ambition.
But also break the silence. It`s time to break the chain silence and put
institution in place. Whether it`s the army, whether it`s colleges,
whether it`s happened in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and I would like to
wonder what the State Department and the United States is doing in this
summit on Tuesday, what is their agenda, what they are going to do about
it, what is the policy that will be put in place to fight misogyny --
WARREN: Those are the questions to ask. I love that breaking the silence.
I want to thank Rula Jebreal and Amber Khan.
Jessica Vale and Nika Offenbac, we weren`t able to speak to your powerful
documentary this morning, but we hope we can have you back next week.
That is our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching.
Melissa Harris-Perry will be back tomorrow when she will be joined by
California Senator Barbara Boxer, as well as the driving force behind the
return of "Reading Rainbow", actor LeVar Burton.
It all begins at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time Sunday morning.
Now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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