'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, May 3rd, 2015
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: May 3, 2015
Guest: Charlene Carruthers, Farai Chideya, Yolanda Pierce, Michael Denzel
Smith, Nina Turner, Samuel Sinyangwe, Diamond Sampson, Desmond Campbell,
Farai Chideya, Laura Flanders, Mychal Denzel Smith, Yolanda Pierce, Kweisi
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, HOST: This morning my question, just what is Hillary
Clinton`s position on criminal justice.
Plus an MHP show perspective on the newest royal baby.
And the new project literally putting police violence on the map,
but first, this week belonged to the sister citizens.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Maryland Governor Larry
Hogan has called for a statewide day of prayer and peace after a tumultuous
week in Baltimore.
Friday`s announcement that the six Baltimore police officers
involved in the death of Freddie Gray would all face criminal prosecution
defy the expectations of many who have watched the outcome of similar cases
in recent months.
NPR`s Gene Demby reported this week that Baltimore officials spent
the week visiting neighborhoods in the city trying to manage those
expectations and dampen the potential disappointment of people, who assumed
charges against the officers would be a long time coming if they were ever
brought at all.
It was a sentiment echoed Thursday when during an interview with the
"Nightly Show`s" Larry Wilmore and united members of Baltimore`s Bloods and
Crips Gang, one young man expressed optimism in the face of what he assumed
would be defeat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When they hear the police verdict Friday, don`t give up
because that`s not the last investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a lot more investigations after that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Those assumptions, expected outcomes informed at least in
part by the lessons of very recent history, in Chicago where a judge
acquitted the officer who shot and killed Raquia Boyd. In New York, where
a grand jury decided not to file charges against the officer who placed
Eric Garner in a banned chokehold.
In Ferguson where a grand jury decided not to file charges against
an officer who shot Michael Brown, where that decision was prolonged by St.
Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullough`s unusual choice to present a
mountain of evidence for the grand jury to sift through while leaving the
charging open ended.
But that`s history and those expectations took an unanticipated turn
Friday when this moment upended the narrative.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARILYN MOSBY, BALTIMORE STATE ATTORNEY: The findings of our
comprehensive, thorough and independent investigation coupled with the
medical examiner`s determination that Mr. Gray`s death was a homicide,
which we received today has led us to believe that we have probable cause
to file criminal charges.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The announcement of charges and the decisiveness and urgency
with which the decision came were, in and of themselves, enough to signal a
dramatic departure from what has come before.
Mosby`s inquiry was completed in 18 days, less than a fourth of the
time the Missouri prosecutors spent investigating the death of Michael
And "The Washington Post" reports that Mosby`s speedy announcement
of the charges less than a day after police handed over the report to
prosecutors caught many by surprise.
Gene Demby reported that Baltimore officials told him that after the
press conference even city hall was shocked. But this moment was stunning
not only because of the message, but because of the messenger who delivered
Because just in case you`re not sure what you just witnessed that
was a political star being born. Within the hour after Mosby`s
announcement, she had emerged into the national spotlight and as a trending
topic on Twitter with a follower count that had peak around 1,500 last
September, and exploding to now more than 30,000 and counting.
Mosby is careful, methodical listing of the charges against the
officers, her personal appeals to all of the deeply invested sides of this
highly charged case.
Both the show of empathy with the officers whose challenges she
recognized through her own experience as part of a police family and her
recognition and acknowledgment of the righteous rage of Baltimore`s young
people of color showed all the hallmarks of an experienced political
It was particularly impressive coming from someone who`s only been
on the job since January and who just months ago was considered by her
opponents to be a long shot for election because of her age and
When Mosby took the oath of office in January, she became the
youngest chief prosecutor of any major American city. She ran unopposed in
the general election following an upset victory against an incumbent, who
had four times as much money fueling his campaign.
Mosby ran as a tough on crime candidate who would work closely with
police to target repeat violent offenders. But she also positioned herself
as a bridge builder who would to work to improve the relationship between
Baltimore police and the community.
During her speech in which she invoked the police violence cases in
New York, Cleveland she spoke to the black Baltimore citizens who helped
cement her victory and felt her predecessor failed to respond to
allegations of police brutality.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOSBY: The public cannot and should not be led to believe that through
statement or action that justice is accessible to some and not to all as a
black woman who understands just how much the criminal justice system
disproportionately affects communities of color. I will seek justice on
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Mosby`s Friday announcement of charges came at the end of
the week in which we also heard from the head of the federal investigation
into the case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LORETTA LYNCH, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I want to take this opportunity to
express my deepest condolences to Mr. Gray`s family and friends. As you
know the civil rights division and the FBI are already conducting a full
and independent investigation into the tragic death of Mr. Gray.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The emergence of Loretta Lynch and Marilyn Mosby as
crusaders for justice has given African-American women the visibility that
they`ve lacked in our national conversation about police violence against
It was a sentiment echoed just last week when the online feminist
community for Harriet expressed disappointment in the relatively small
crowd that turned out for a New York rally for Rekia Boyd and other black
girls and women who`ve ended up dead at the hands of police.
And so as we await the administration of justice and yet another
case the calls into the question the extent to which black lives matter,
Mosby and Lynch introduced a new consideration about whether black women`s
leadership in law enforcement can make a difference.
Joining me now, professor of journalism and distinguished writing
and residence at NYU, Laura Flanders, host and founder of grittv.org,
Yolanda Pierce, associate professor of religion and literature at Princeton
Theological Seminary, and Mychal Denzel Smith, contributing writer for the
nation.com and a fellow at the Nation Institute.
Thank you all for being here. So Yolanda, does having black women
in charge in these unusual spaces of law enforcement makes a difference to
FARAI CHIDEYA, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: It`s got to make a difference. So
sisters have been representing on the ground. They have been representing
from the beginning to the end.
They are out there marching, rallying, organizing black lives
matters itself as an organization owes its existence to black women. These
women in public spaces becoming the public`s face of leadership make a
humongous difference because people then have to contend with race, class,
gender, sexual orientation.
They have to see it. They are talking about the law and justice.
It matters that they are there. I`m cautiously optimistic.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I think that caution in the optimism matters. Even as
on the one hand I`m like, Loretta Lynch, Marilyn Mosby, I`m having a black
woman sister girl moment for the past two days. I also recognized that
putting different bodies into the same structural locations doesn`t always
create the kinds of changes we hope and wish to see.
LAURA FLANDERS, GRITTV.ORG: Absolutely. I was this Baltimore yesterday
there was a lot of relief and also a sense that there is no resolution.
FLANDERS: There is a lot of resolve that this become a black spring, a
moment for real revolt across the country and real change and a very clear
message I got from everybody that indictments are nice and institutional
change would be better.
Investment in black communities would be better. Not just
investment and training but jobs, in power, in consulting capacity, in real
engagement. This is a city that`s seen the worst kind of urban renewal.
The problems go deep.
We need to talk about a lot of things on the show. I`m glad you`re
here. This conversation need it is be happening everywhere the big fear I
heard was a period we put at the end of the policing sentence, which is
exactly the wrong thing to happen right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I love this point that this is not even -- not only does
the struggle continue, right. I mean, the struggle may not even be
particularly different today than it was three days ago. There is a thing
We literally heard it happen when she said we have found enough to
charge the police and you hear in the crowd kind of this expression of
shock, like there is something about the notion that you`re not just
bumping your head up against the state. Maybe there is some space that
does feel meaningful to me.
CHIDEYA: It is meaningful. Baltimore is my hometown, as you know, I
definitely think over the course of the conversation today we`ll get into a
lot of structural issues, the economy, flight, shrinkage of the city. All
of it is -- I`m surprised this hasn`t happened sooner, to be honest.
I think this is a seminal moment. I`m glad that Baltimore, if this
tragedy had to happen in Baltimore, I`m also glad that Baltimore is part of
the solution, part of saying that it`s OK to love law enforcement for the
service that they do, but also to hold law enforcement accountable.
I love the fact that she framed that, you know, in her conversation
about these charges because I believe police officers should actually be
paid more. I think a lot of police officers do the work of social workers.
But when they act in ways that undermine human rights, they have to
be held accountable. I think she laid it on the line. When some people
look at the black mayor, you know, this black prosecutor and the -- Justice
Department head and say, there is a conspiracy now to make black people
like the victim ifs in chief.
You know what? Everybody has to realize it`s in the best interest
of America to have justice for all because I`m afraid that the conversation
could now turn to this big victim --
HARRIS-PERRY: Only one thing you said I would revive but not just black
people. They are black women in this case meaning it`s not so much a
seminal moment, but potentially an ovarian moment.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s the clarity about intersections. One that seemed
important to me, Michael, is that in certain ways Mosby herself is evidence
of why voter suppression is a problem so when you look at how Mosby wins
And in this moment intervening if not perfecting the circumstance,
it is early voters, voters in spaces where it would be the people if they
were serious would be less capable of turning out. I wonder if you want to
weigh in on that a bit.
MYCHAL DENZEL SMITH, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THENATIONAL.COM: It speaks to
the democracy that`s being denied to the people in Baltimore and people
across the country. We talked about the riots, why people are burning
They have been denied access to voices being heard in the system of
democracy that`s been setup, but curbing voting rights across the country.
You tell people the way to effect the change is vote, but you make it hard
for them to get to the ballot box in the first place.
And I think, you know, this is something transformational, I think,
in certain ways where, you know, you have the city of Baltimore that has
been willing to pay millions of dollars essentially for the right to
continue to beat people up and kill them through civil suits, but it can
get cautious optimism.
Like I think that we have to make the distinction between
accountability and justice like what`s been happening now is within the
system that is very flawed, these police officers are facing some level of
HARRIS-PERRY: I like the distinction. When we come back, we`re going to
hear from a Baltimore native and the former head of the Congressional Black
Caucus and the NAACP. Kweise Mfume joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cities like this with pockets in them like this tend to
just go on and on. People drive-thru them and assume they won`t explode.
This is an explosion of the worst kind. My fear is that you will have
other similar explosions throughout the country if we don`t get to the root
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was NBC News` Lester Holtz speaking this week with
former U.S. representative and former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume. He
joins me now from Baltimore.
Mr. Mfume, we started this hour by talking about Marilyn Mosby for
whom you were an early and strong supporter. Some even say that your
endorsement was really critical to her ability to win. I`m wondering how
would you assess her performance this week?
FORMER REPRESENTATIVE KWEISI MFUME (D), MARYLAND: Melissa, first of all,
thank you. You can hear the church bells ringing all over the city this
morning. I will try to talk over that. This is a day of peace, prayer and
And for many, many people who have been watching this, I think they
have also been watching the performance of our states attorney. In my
estimation as I have gotten to know her over the last couple of years she`s
very fair, deliberate and a balanced person who always seeks justice, wants
to do the right thing, who made a decision many years ago to buy a house in
west Baltimore in the hood and build it and raise her kid there is with her
She`s been committed. What`s interesting about all of this is she
apparently didn`t wait for the police department. She started conducting
her own parallel investigation almost two weeks before her announcement.
So she`s thinking ahead on a lot of things.
The jury is out on what will happen with the officers. They deserve
their day in court and they will get it, but people here feel a sense of
relief because they think that the justice system, which is often times
meant just ice for those of us who live in communities like this around the
Many people feel like the justice system is starting to work and we
realized it`s a process and we will all watch it play out.
HARRIS-PERRY: So you made a point there, Mr. Mfume, when you talked about
the decision of the Mosby`s to live in a community that is economically and
racially segregated, but the very fact that those communities exist in
Baltimore, in Chicago, in New Orleans, in Washington, D.C. and, in
Everywhere around the country, has everything to do with federal
housing policy and so part of what I`m wondering from your perspective, we
have seen a ton of mayors, police chiefs, state attorneys, governors,
addressing the questions in recent months.
But it does feels like in large part the federal government outside
of the D.O.J., so basically the Congress, the CDC, even often times the
White House themselves hasn`t had a lot to say about intervening in terms
of policy. What would you like to see there?
MFUME: Well, a couple of things on the justice side I should tell you that
this White House and in particular this attorney general have been very
much involved here since last year. They have been on the ground and
they`ve been working to try to put in play structural reform.
And the Justice Department has actually been out of the community
over the last several months listening to people, and trying to come up
with a process and a procedure for the future.
With respect to your comments about housing, I think I would tend to
agree that housing often times is the root of this. But you got to
remember, Baltimore had the most segregated housing patterns in this nation
beginning in 1900 and still in some instances today.
So there is a lot of question about whether or not we`re going to
look at things that work previously and try to reinstitute those and I hope
that the Congress will kind of beat up the party the other night, but the
party has done a lot.
And the party I think can find a way to help in this situation by
looking at what happened following the riots in 1968 and civil
disturbances. I`m talking particularly about urban development action
I`m talking about an urban policy and I`m talking about a sort of a
marshal plan that deals with the economic, educational and other structural
matters that affect people.
Businesses need I think incentives, small businesses to relocate in
many of these areas and I think the school system just can`t be left alone
on an island like it`s going to take care of itself.
And so if you`re living in a good neighbourhood or for those who
were unfortunate enough to live in a bad neighbourhood, there are a number
of things crying out for desperate attention.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mr. Mfume, I`m sorry, I can`t let you go until I ask a
question. I know you have been tough on them. The party including you
were among many of the Democrats who in 1994 voted for the crime bill, a
bill which many now are looking back and seeing as the root cause of some
of these problems.
I`m just wondering if you had that vote to do again, if other
members of the party had that vote to do again, do you think you would make
a different decision?
MFUME: Well, it was 21 years ago and I think hindsight is always 20/20.
Monday morning quarterbacks usually have a perfect record, but I think when
you look back at the crime bill, there were a couple of things that
There was a great deal of debate in the floor in the house. For
those of oh us opposed to not because of the provisions, but because we
wanted to send it to committee. The bill passed the house on a voice vote.
When it got to conference and came back up a year later, the
Violence Against Women`s Act was added to it, 16 billion or 14 billion for
community oriented policing was added to it. A ban on assault weapons was
added to it.
And so people had to make a decision one way or another, do I vote
against it and kill those initiatives or do I vote for it and then over
time try to improve on the worst aspects of it.
I think if the party had it to do all over again, you would have to
ask individual members. I voted for the bill at that time, after it came
out of conference and after it had those things added to it and I think
others who voted against it did so on very principled terms.
HARRIS-PERRY: Kweisi Mfume in Baltimore, Maryland. Thank you so much for
joining us this morning.
MFUME: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you. We`ll continue on this topic when we come back.
But first we were reminded of the dangers police officers face in the line
New York officials say a plain-clothe police officer in Queens was
shot in the face by a man he was trying to question. According to the
NYPD, the suspect fired into the car of Officer Brian Moore, who is in
critical, but stable condition this morning. The suspect is in custody.
We`ll be right back.
HARRIS-PERRY: This morning, we have new data from an NBC News/"Wall Street
Journal" poll. I want to share some of it with you. The first is a
question asking, which of the following do you think is the best way to
explain events in Baltimore and other cities between police and the
African-American community asking people to choose between long-standing
frustration about police mistreatment or people using it as an excuse to
engage in looting and violence.
The big things are the big differences between African-Americans and
white respondents on this, 60 percent of African-Americans saying it is
about long--term frustrations and nearly 60 percent of white Americans
saying that it`s really about just an excuse to engage in looting and
The second question on which there is actually great deal of racial
agreement, the question being how likely do you think it is that there will
be other racial disturbances around the country this summer like the one
that occurred in Baltimore, 96 percent of white Americans and 91 percent of
African-Americans saying it is likely we`ll see more disturbances over the
course of the summer.
So I want to kind of lay that out there, this idea that everyone
seems to think that we are about to go into a long hot summer and that
African-Americans and white Americans seemed to think there are different
very reasons for why that`s about to happen.
YOLANDA PIERCE, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF RELIGION AND LITERATURE, PRINCETON
THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: There was a great piece that was in "The Nation" in
the 1960s by James Baldwin talking about a case in which there was police
brutality in Harlem including a man, who lost an eye after questioning
police, why are you beating up these kids.
He himself was attacked, left without medical treatment, lost an
eye. Baldwin talks about all the stuff and he says, every spring, I get
calls, are the Negroes going to riot this summer? He says there is lack of
jobs, structural in equality.
People call him and say, why are the Negroes acting up? This is not
new. There were riots in Baltimore. My grandmother came back with a group
of girl scouts after a Martin Luther King was assassinated.
And I remember her telling me the story of how she had to comfort
these girls watching the city burn. We just don`t have a lot of appetite
to deal with issues of justice.
HARRIS-PERRY: But I want to intervene a little bit. I get it. It`s
critically important for us to understand and as a matter of justice to
intervene in long-standing inequalities. I don`t think people riot because
When I say riot, I mean in the uprising derogatory term. I actually
think that over and over again the spark is about three specific instances
of injustice. People actually take a lot.
They live under circumstances of inequality, just taking it a lot.
They expect some level of basic human respect and safety vis-a-vis police.
PIERCE: There is a straw that breaks the camel`s back. Poor people in
this country are used to living under systems of oppression.
HARRIS-PERRY: They mostly live under --
PIERCE: Live under them, drive, raise our kids and do what we have to do.
There is a moment, a spark at which you say, my humanity. My very dignity
is at stake here. There is a spark.
We have just seen far too many of them because consequences aren`t
being paid when an African-American woman or African-American man is killed
in police custody at a certain point what do you do? That spark ignites.
HARRIS-PERRY: But also when we talk about racial disturbances, I mean,
this country -- it is an odd way to ask the question. Do you think there
will be racial disturbances?
FLANDERS: There is a media component where we`ll cover the, quote/unquote,
"riot." But there were people realizing one of the things that happened
this week was a lot of community leaders who are engaged in their
community, not this week but for years, decades.
Came out into the streets, held meetings in the streets and showed
that there is a bedrock of organizing. I met with folks from the right to
housing alliance, who are holding meetings all week about how to connect
They didn`t need to figure out how to connect. They asked members
what do you think of the roots of what happened to Freddie Gray and the
members said there are structural problems. I was sitting in the shadow of
the new bio tech development in Baltimore.
We are talking about the history of investment, $250 million of
public funding going to a development that`s just going to erase
communities in the name of improving communities showed by things like
She said the 7-11 that they opened didn`t take food stamps. This
great charter school that`s a pioneer of gentrification there is a lottery
program. The local kids can`t get in there. These are the sorts of things
that are happening. We don`t call it riots. It`s organizing and we also
don`t cover it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with me. We`ll have -- when we come back, I want to
push you on the idea that people are disenfranchised. Part of what`s
happening in Baltimore is we are watching the ways in which it looks
different when communities are enfranchised if not completely egalitarian
when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE, BALTIMORE: As a leader I`m focused on
bringing us through this crisis. You have to remember, Chuck, when I came
into office, it was a national -- we were already the face of a national
scandal. That`s how I got into office.
I know how to lead our city through tough times. That`s what I`m
going to do again. I will focus on healing the city and making decisions I
need to make to get us forward and get us through this unfortunate crisis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Blake speaking this
morning with Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press." The mayor has taken a lot of
criticism and critique from a variety of sectors. She`s one of the black
women faces that we see.
You were making an important point earlier on about
disenfranchisement. But as I keep watching Baltimore, I keep thinking,
yes, all kinds of disenfranchisement but also not Ferguson.
All the Ferguson comparisons that were being made and I was like,
yes, but also these are folks, who have been putting black folks on the
city council, in the mayoral office, as the state attorney for decades and
for years. There is a sense of empowerment there.
SMITH: It was talking about this.
HARRIS-PERRY: Pause. Here`s a different take than I gave.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our mayor is capitulated to the corporate structure of
the Democratic Party. What happens in our society is individual black
people are put in positions of leadership and white controlled dominating
institutions, which brings more black people into those institutional
arrangements, which undermines our ability to develop a kind of communal
independent black institution as the basis of our work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: He was writing a dissertation on the TV show yesterday.
SMITH: What does it mean to be enfranchised into a structure that will
continue to divest from your community? What does it mean to feel
empowered to vote for the best available option?
HARRIS-PERRY: It means indictment instead of non-indictment. So does that
SMITH: But it doesn`t mean that the police killings stop. It doesn`t mean
that the schools get any better. It means that we have representation. We
have people that know how to talk the talk. Know how to win the votes.
But in terms of uprooting the entire structure of the way in which -
- pillaging and looting from black communities for the investment and for
the betterment of others is the fundamental structure of what America is
HARRIS-PERRY: So I feel like when I talk to you sometimes I`m talking to
my 25-year-old self, right, and now I`m 40-year-old self. I don`t mean it
like aren`t the children, but like I am increasingly wondering then where
we put the efforts because to bump up against the American state is
And so on the one hand, I want to say I`ve got to have some sense of
optimism that`s shifting within these structures does matter.
SMITH: It`s so slow.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, but when you`re 40 it matters less.
SMITH: The American system of government is fundamentally conservative.
It doesn`t want to change itself.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s correct.
SMITH: I mean, that`s exactly the problem. That`s what you bump up
against in the American Revolution. It`s like we need to change the system
that we are living under. We have to revolt against it. That`s what you
are witnessing with young black people saying we need to revolt against the
slow pace of change in this country.
HARRIS-PERRY: I appreciate you bringing up the American Revolution because
it is true that today`s thugs are tomorrow`s founding fathers, right, like
this idea of --
HARRIS-PERRY: I can`t believe they are dumping their own tea into the
harbor. What kind of madness is that? We`ll pause. I want to tell you
about something that happened on this day and I want to talk more about
this Democratic Party institution that our guest had anxiety about
Still to come, Hillary Clinton weighs in on the death of Freddie
Gray and the effects of President Clinton`s legacy, but first the landmark
Supreme Court ruling on this day 67 years ago.
HARRIS-PERRY: On this day in 1948, the Supreme Court issued a landmark
decision on housing segregation in America. At the center of Shelly versus
Kramer was a modest two story residence in St. Louis, Missouri.
J.D. Shelly, a black man with a wife and six children was looking
for a new home after years of living in rentals and with relatives. He
kept coming up against racially restrictive covenants, which require that
homeowners only sell to white buyers.
Finally the owner of the house at 4600 Levite Avenue agreed to the
Shelly`s despite the covenant. One of the neighbors, Louis Kramer filed
suit to prevent the Shellys from moving in.
The St. Louis Circuit Court ruled in favor of the Shellys, but the
Missouri Supreme Court ordered that the racial covenant be enforced. It
was then up to the Supreme Court to make a final decision.
NAACP attorneys, led by Thurgood Marshall argued by enforcing the
restrictions the lower courts were violating due process under the Fifth
and 14th Amendments.
Racially restricted covenants were so common at that time that three
of the justices had to recuse themselves after learning their own homes
were covered by such agreements. All six of the remaining justices sided
with the Shellys.
Afterwards, Thurgood Marshall said the ruling gives thousands of
prospective home buyers throughout the United States new courage and hope
in the American form of government.
One leading black newspaper heralded the news with the headline live
anywhere. That was nowhere near the reality for many African-American
families. Even after Shelly versus Kramer, many were with met with
hostility and violence when trying to integrate all white neighborhoods.
Whether through explicit government action or unwritten but
understood restrictions the legacy of housing segregation is still evident
today. A 2010 study of census data found that a typical African-American
resident lives in a neighborhood that`s only 35 percent white.
A rate not much different than in 1940 and that imbalance is
reflected in many American cities including Baltimore where the average
black resident lives in an area that`s 62 percent African-American.
Those segregated neighborhoods often become isolated pockets of
crime and poverty like the Baltimore neighborhood that both Freddie Gray
and Thurgood Marshall called home, the same neighborhood where more than
half of the households are less than $25,000 a year. A sign that we are a
long way from the promise that Marshall saw in the landmark Supreme Court
ruling delivered on this day, May 3, 1948.
HARRIS-PERRY: Breaking news out of Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-
Blake has lifted the city-wide curfew. She made the announcement on
Twitter just moments ago.
She wrote, quote, "My goal has always been to not have the curfew in
place a single day longer than was necessary, I believe we have reached
that point today."
Now, turning to earlier this week as Hillary Clinton got her first
official challenger when Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced he`s
going to run for president as a Democrat.
For the first time since announcing her own presidential run, we saw
Clinton talking about a policy that could very well become a center piece
in her own campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of the more than 2 million
Americans incarcerated today a significant percentage are low level
offenders. People held for violating parole or minor drug crimes or who
are simply awaiting trial and backlogged courts.
It`s time to change our approach. It`s time to end the era of mass
incarceration. We need a true national debate about how to reduce our
prison population while keeping our communities safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was at the David Dinkins forum at Columbia University
on Wednesday. The keynote speech which focused entirely on criminal
justice in sentencing reform acknowledged the death of Freddie Gray.
Clinton said, "What we`ve seen in Baltimore should indeed and does
tear at our soul. The Democratic Party`s presumptive presidential nominee
noted that the United States has less than 5 percent of the world`s
Yet we have almost 25 percent of the world`s total prison
population. She also highlighted that these numbers today are much higher
than they were a few decades ago despite the fact that crime is at historic
She called for the need to reform aspects of the justice system, but
we were reminded that she is saying quite a different tune during President
Bill Clinton`s two terms.
She championed President Clinton`s violent crime control and law
enforcement act of 1994 and the anti-terrorism and effective death penalty
act of 1996.
In fact, at the annual women in policing awards in 1994 while
lobbying the crime bill she said, quote, "We need more police, we need more
and tougher prison sentences for repeat offenders, the three strikes and
you`re out for violent offenders has to be part of the plan.
We need more prisons to keep violent offenders for as long as it
takes to keep them off the streets." Her change in tune didn`t go
unnoticed as "The Washington Post" reported, quote, "Hillary Rodman Clinton
isn`t just running against Republicans. She is also running of her
That legacy includes helping to creating the world`s largest prison
system, eliminating Pell grants for higher education for prisoners. The
total prison population grew by 673,000 during President Clinton`s eight
years in office compared to 448,000 during President Ronald Reagan`s two
On Wednesday Hillary Clinton`s spokesperson, Jesse Ferguson, was
quick to combat allegations of flip flopping by tweeting HRC policy on
internet may also be different than WJC policy in 1994. Not because he was
wrong but because times change. This will be interesting.
CHIDEYA: Yes. The reality is that she`s going to be perceived of whether
or not she is. I think to a certain degree she is being expedient. I have
to call it out.
HARRIS-PERRY: She`s trying to win office.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s not the worst thing.
SMITH: What you need is opportunistic politician to pounce on these
movements and institute some of these reforms.
HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama is being opportunistic when he evolves on
marriage equality, right, but we are happy he does it.
SMITH: Sure. I want to credit people doing the work before. This is the
book that galvanized people. Credit the movement in the streets for making
this politically viable for the presumptive Democratic nominee. There are
things to criticize about the reforms she`s suggesting. But she`s talking
about it in the first mayor juror policy speech she`s given, this is
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, the idea that times change, times don`t just change.
They are changed. They are changed by activism.
SMITH: She`s running against Rand Paul in this instance. She`s talking
about these issues for a long time and this is a cynical politician,
political move thing that she`s doing to say to particularly young people
that they think are going to be attracted to a Rand Paul campaign around
criminal justice reform to say I am the alternative.
FLANDERS: Help me think this out a little bit. As I listen to this, I
have a bell in my head that the race is going. We`ll see the take off any
HARRIS-PERRY: The 56 percent of you all will vote for the Republican Party
FLANDERS: White women will vote Republican, but still the thing that I
worry about as we go into the election campaign is yet another kind of job
around identity. The Clinton campaign continues to starkly remind us that
in this country we see the women as white and the blacks as men.
And those are critical women of color you talked about at the
beginning of the show appear nowhere in her campaign, in her understanding
of criminal justice, 900 percent increase in women`s incarceration.
I was at a women`s prison two weeks ago, 900 percent, no group has
increased its incarceration rates faster. All the stuff you talked about.
The critique of my brother`s keeper comes back to this.
We need investment in women of color. We are not going to get it in
attention or money from the Clinton administration nor will we see the
Hillary Clinton campaign, nor will we going to see the kind of
institutional change that we need.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I think the point you are making there is, I mean, I
feel like I want to underline it because as you point out the effects of
incarceration of women also are -- they are geometric as compared to them.
Because we know that women tend to be primary care providers for
children and for elders. When they are in prison then those children,
those elders end up in systems that also have these multiplicative effects.
FLANDERS: You are talking about getting rid of prisons for women all
HARRIS-PERRY: It is so critical that this discourse occurs and yet it does
seem difficult to get anyone to push to do that.
PIERCE: So over the break, we were just talking about African-American
women as a voting block vote in large numbers. We deliver elections. So
in part, I want to hear the conversation address that. I want to hear the
Democratic conversation address that. I also do want to make a separate
point, which is Hillary Clinton is not her husband.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
PIERCE: These are two separate people. Part of my frustration is the ways
in which we are ready to conflate the two.
HARRIS-PERRY: But, but -- I feel you. I feel you. I feel you, but those
are her words and she was a senator. She has a record there, too.
PIERCE: And that`s what we need to focus on her words and her record. I`m
still interested in the ways in which people are talking about her as the
former president`s wife. As if for the past few years, she hasn`t actually
been doing something.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, because -- because her access point into public space
is ultimately through the presidency of Bill Clinton.
CHIDEYA: But if senator or former senator and Secretary Clinton don`t pair
talk about jobs and restoring meaning to the lives of formerly incarcerated
people with talk about de-escalating incarceration it`s only half the
Right now incarceration is used to sort of stop up the energy of
human beings that we don`t the place in jobs. I also want to see how she
follows it up with a conversation about rebuilding American jobs and also
dealing with women of color.
FLANDERS: I have a perfect proposal for the Clinton administration.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, we`re going to let Laura Flanders give her perfect
proposal for the Hillary Clinton campaign. But I can`t do it now because I
won`t pay my bills on TV with the commercials.
Faria, Yolanda and Mychal are all going to be back in our next hour.
Coming up, a tale of two families, both the royal baby and the Baltimore
mom who went viral tell us about parenting and possibilities. I`ll make
Laura tweet her perfect proposal.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Saturday morning
Catherine Middleton gave birth to a baby girl. Reports indicates that Kate
was in labor less than three hours before the little princess arrived and
just nine hours later mom and baby emerged from London`s St. Mary`s
hospital. "USA Today" reported quote, "Kate looked fresh and relaxed as
she held her baby in her arms." She was dressed in a yellow and white
buttercup print shift dress by Jenny Packham. Her hair was loose and
As with the birth of her older brother two years earlier, months of global
anticipation accompanied the birth of royal baby number two. And in
keeping with tradition, her arrival was announced by a town crier outside
the hospital. While a royal easel proclaimed the news outside Buckingham
Palace. On observance of a more contemporary baby announcement norm,
Kensington Palace announced via Twitter. Her well highness, the Duchess of
Cambridge safely delivered her daughter at 8:34 a.m. Town criers,
international press well-wishers from millions. Mom in a white dress hours
after childbirth. Such is the pomp and circumstance of birth when you are
fourth in line for the throne of England.
In a bit of a royal girl power moment, the new princess is the first girl
child to be officially in line for the throne regardless of whether or not
she ends up with younger brothers. And of course Kate Middleton is the
Cinderella commoner whose own ascension to the arm of Prince William as a
living symbol of just how thoroughly modern and downright egalitarian the
British monarchy has become. As a newborn the new princess can barely stay
awake for more than a few hours but already simply by virtue of her birth,
she stands to inherit the remnants of an empire that was once so vast the
sun never set on it. Check out this description of this British Empire
from the early 20th century English children`s encyclopedia.
Quote, "We live on a little island which seems hardly more than a speck on
the map of the world, yet from our little kingdom has grown an empire
greater than any other empire that has been. One fifth of the whole earth
and one-fifth of its people live under the British flag. If we could walk
all over the earth one out of every five persons we met would belong to our
empire." What must it be like to learn with such utter clarity from your
earliest moments just how adored and powerful you are? Not only for the
new princess but for all those British children to know that they can walk
the earth secure in the knowledge that so much of it and its people belong
to them. Contrast our responses to this maternal moment with another
mother and child whose moment when viral this week in Baltimore.
That was Toya Graham whose spectacularly aggressive discipline of her 16-
year-old son amidst the chaos and anxiety of Baltimore`s riots seems to has
been reposted on every Facebook page and every Twitter feed in America this
week. Initially praised my son outlets as mother of the year for violently
pummeling her teen son, Graham`s own explanation speaks more of fear than
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOYA GRAHAM, HAILED "MOM OF THE YEAR": He gave me eye contact. And at
that point, you know, not even thinking about cameras or anything like
that, that`s my only son. At the end of the day I don`t want him to be a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Graham unleashed her furious slaps, less because she judged
her son`s decision to hurl stones at the police as inherently wrong and
more because she feared that his actions, maybe even his mere presence was
a clear and present danger to his well-being. We just heard Graham say she
doesn`t want her son to be Freddie Gray. She says it out even as she
reports that she beat him without care for the cameras after he gave eye
contact. Echoing precisely the events which ultimately ended up in the
death of Freddie Gray. This is the dilemma for black mothers. Can we
acknowledge that the vulnerability of our children has very little to do
with their own actions?
Our teenaged sons can be stalked and shot to death by an adult stranger
while walking home carrying only skittles and iced tea. Our not even yet a
teen son can be shot to death playing with a toy gun on a playground. Our
sons can be handcuffed, thrown into a police van, driven from town and
denied medical attention until their backs are broken and their voice boxes
crushed just for making eye contact. Can we stand to acknowledge that our
sons and daughters rarely will be seen as boys and girls, imperfect but
ours, that instead they will be read as demons, as threats, as likely
suspects? It is hard, brutally so for a mother to fully absorb that. We
prefer to believe that if we can just set strict enough limits, even
enforcing those limits by our own violence we might protect our beloved
children from the deadly violence that`s taken other mothers` children.
This week we saw two mothers and their children. Kate and William`s little
princess, innocent and safe in her mother`s arms, her inheritance is title,
wealth and empire. Through no accomplishment of her own, through no
striving or skill or talent but simply by accident of her birth, the royal
baby is secure. In 1776 our country declared independence from the British
throne because we no longer wanted to live in a system with birth rather
than merit determined life outcomes. We sought to establish a government
that derived just powers from consent of the governed. For nearly 250
years later we can predict life, health and outcomes of one`s life simply
by knowing the zip code you happen to be worn born into. Compare the
lessons taught to those British children told to walk the earth confidently
knowing it is theirs to the lessons black American mothers feel forced to
Resorting to desperate, even impotent rage to restrict their children to
try to save their lives in the face of a state that too often acts as
though those lives do not matter. This is injustice. In the words of the
foundational civil rights organizer and strategist Ella Baker captured[W71]
in Ella song by the Grammy award winning black women`s "A Capella Group:
Sweet Honey in the Rock." We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it
comes, until killing of black men, black mother`s sons is as important as
the killing of white men, white mothers` songs. And that which touches me
most is that I had a chance to work with people passing onto others that
which was passed on to me. To me young people come first. They have the
courage where we fail. And if I can shed some light as they carry us
through the gale, the older I get the better I know that the secret of my
going on is when the reins are in the hands of the young who dare to run
against the storm.
Joining me now is Charlene Carruthers, national director of the BYP 100,
the Black Youth Project.
CHARLENE CARRUTHERS, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, BYP 100: Hi.
HARRIS-PERRY: You have a tough week.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I`m wondering in this moment how you see the role of
young people in this moment.
CARRUTHERS: The role of young people in this moment is critical. We
wouldn`t be in this moment were it not for the young black folk in
Baltimore, the young black folk in Chicago and Ferguson, Oakland and
Cleveland. I think there is this bubbling rage that particularly young
black people experience every single day and as you`ve talked about
earlier, there are these moments that spark that rage. And so what I saw
in the short time I was in Baltimore earlier this week was young people
saying no more. And again, were it not for these young people, not the
posturing creatures, not the posturing activists or leaders or elected
officials, it was the young people who have always led the way and who are
absolutely leading the way now.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, as mom, I also get the fear, I get the fear that
leads in that moment to wanting to grab that child, take that child home,
keep that child safe. Even if we know it is a kind of a fiction, that
notion of safety. So, I guess part of what I keep feeling as I watch this
is violence of this kind, whether it`s gun violence that happens outside of
policing or whether it is violence around -- is a reproductive justice
HARRIS-PERRY: We don`t talk about it that way. But then, it`s not just
about birth control. It`s about -- if I have a child, I should have a
right to believe that child can grow up in some level of relative safety
CARRUTHERS: Absolutely. The core of this, I see it as a reproductive
justice issue. Because reproductive justices is about the ability to
parent or not to parent. And when you do choose to parent, the ability to
parent in a safe and healthy environment. And so when we talk about the
Toya Grahams of the world, we talk about my mother.
CARRUTHERS: We talk about black mothers across this country. All too
often they are met with unsafe and unhealthy environments for their
children. So, where`s the implications for that? We have this mantra that
if we do this, if we have this conversation with our sons, that
conversation. If we have that conversation with our daughters we can keep
them safe. Unfortunately we live in a country and in a world where black
people are very un-often, we are un-often very safe. When we are safe it
is because of collective protection and collective organizing.
HARRIS-PERRY: You talked about black mothers. We also mean mothers of
black children who sometimes are themselves not African-American. My own
mother is a mother of black child, of black children is not a south
African-American. And a really extraordinary piece I just want to show as
a tiny bit of it from "The Washington Post," it was an op-ed written by a
woman who is the white mom of two black children. And she says, this is a
hat maker who you may know from HGTV. She said, I, as a white mom of two
black children, do not share Baltimore`s pain. Instead I grieve with you.
Perhaps rather than more white scolding, we could acknowledge the depth of
pain exploding within Baltimore. Ferguson and the collective cry rising
all over the country. Do we have the courage to look beyond the symptoms
to the devastating source? This will take monumental humility,
acknowledgment and repentance from the white community. Because we cannot
pretend almost 400 years of terror in state sanctions disadvantage were
erased and mended 50 years ago. And I thought that statement by a white
mother of black children to say you can`t -- it can`t be done just -- you
can`t make your child safe in a system that is unsafe and that fixing of
that system is as much the responsibility of white Americans as of black.
CARRUTHERS: Absolutely. One of my favorite protest signs is white silence
is violence. And I know folks such as Dr. King spoke about the white
CARRUTHERS: And so, I think about some folks who I have worked with over
the years in the progressive movement who identify as progressive, identify
as social justice warriors who said nothing about this particular moment.
And so for me, and I know for many more of us, we see their silence and the
complicity is, again, you are an individual. And we are dealing with
structural issues but it matters on a day to day basis especially if you
deem yourself to be an organizer, a champion for progressive issues. But
if you say nothing and you do nothing and you move no resources like money,
time and space to this work, then what kind of so-called ally are you and
what kind of solidarity are you actually standing in us with?
HARRIS-PERRY: As part of why I want to make that clean that it is a
reproductive justice issue. If you are one of the activists who thinks of
yourself as doing the work of reproductive justice, you have to be engaged
in this work as well. Stay right there. Nerdland favorite, Nina Turner is
going to join us. Also, let me just remind everyone the city-wide curfew
has been lifted in Baltimore. We`ll going to have a live report after the
HARRIS-PERRY: We can see the fall of breaking news out of Baltimore.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has lifted the city-wide curfew effective
Joining me now from Baltimore is MSNBC co-host of "THE CYCLE" Toure.
Toure, what`s the response there?
TOURE, MSNBC CO-HOST, "THE CYCLE": Oh, the response is a lot of excitement
and jubilation. A lot of people in this town don`t actually know that it`s
happened yet. We told the cab driver who drove us over here from the hotel
that the curfew has been lifted. He was so excited he was offering to give
us our money back for the ride. Of course, we did not take him up on that
offer. But I mean, just to show you how the news is spreading unevenly
that we are at City Hall. A group of police officers at one end of the
lawn here did not know but the police officers and the national guardsmen
at the other end of the lawn right here at City Hall said they did know.
Let me just read the folks tweet that went there out from the mayor. "I
have rescinded my order instituting a city-wide curfew. I want to thank
the people of Baltimore for their patience." My goal has always been to
not have the curfew in place a single day longer than was necessary. I
believe we have reached that point today." We are waiting to see how the
police presence in this town is reflected by that -- is affected by that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to MSNBC`s Toure in Baltimore, Maryland.
And now as we turn back to our conversation about policing and black
families, I want you to hear Latish Walker (ph) and her son speaking to
Lester Holt in Baltimore this week for "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESTER HOLT, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS": Have you ever been afraid of the police?
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Yes.
HOLT: What are you afraid of?
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: I don`t know. I`m pretty scared.
HOLT: That`s sad. That`s sad.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It really makes me want to cry. Because you want your
child able to walk outside and feel safe and feel like they are important
and that they are worthy. And when they are afraid of the people that are
supposed to protect them, what do you do? You know? Like, how do you --
like how do you tell your child how to behave when they are not doing
anything wrong in the first place?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to bring into our conversation, Farai Chideya,
professor of Journalism at NYU. Yolanda Pierce, associate professor of
Religion and Literature of Princeton Theological Seminary. Michael Denzel
Smith, contributing writer for the Nation.com and a fellow at The Nation
Institute. And joining me from Cleveland, Ohio, is former State Senator
And Miss Turner, I had to have you on. Because let`s just be honest about
my source material. This week, you texted me and you said MHP, we need a
mama`s movement, from all walks of life calling for reconciliation and
action. That is what got me thinking about all of this. So, I need you to
tell me what does your mama`s movement look like?
NINA TURNER, (D-OH), FORMER STATE SENATOR: Well, the movement of mamas all
across the nation, professor to galvanize. Mothers have a special place.
And I`m not just talking about birth mothers but anybody with a mama`s
spirit to lift and to build reconciliation. And too often in this debate
women have been pushed on the sidelines like many other movements but just
like Mama Graham went out there and got her son, it is not just about her
old school tactics in getting him but she noticed her son and she was out
to save her son`s life. And I`m really glad to hear you put that finer
point out there. Because had Mama Graham been doing it any other time,
main stream society would have called that abuse. So, I find it the height
of hypocrisy that people want to focus in on the way she got her son.
The fact of the matter is that she was trying to save her son`s life. And
mamas do that every single day from all walks of life. But the burden is
particularly heavy on poor mamas and on black mamas. And so, I want to
give a shout out to the women and to the mamas of the world who bring it
every single day. Ms. Graham has been doing that even before the cameras
caught her, in trying to save her son`s life. But women have a moral, this
special kind of moral level. You know, I always say since this Sunday if
God made anything better than a woman Professor, he must have kept it to
himself. And women need the use that power to lift, and to change and to
bring reconciliation. Mama movement all the way.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, all right. So, I appreciate what you just said there.
Stick with us. Don`t go away. But -- I want to come to you on some of
this. Because I think that kind of the complexity between the differences
in how Nina Turner just talked about this versus some of the other ways
that we have heard this moment talked about. I want to play a little bit
from the Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts and what he said about
this moment with Mama Graham. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMMISSIONER ANTHONY BATTS, BALTIMORE POLICE DEPARTMENT: These are
Baltimore youthful residents. Number of them came right out of the local
high schools there on the other side of Mondawmin. Started engaging in
this. And if you saw on one scene, you had one mother who grabbed their
child who had a hood on his head and she started smacking him on the head
because she was so embarrassed. I wish I had more parents that took charge
of their kids out there tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: He indicates that she was so embarrassed. It`s so
important, but that`s not what was happening.
YOLANDA PIERCE, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: Not
only is it not what is happening but part of what we are not talking about,
we also talk about physical violence, right? But we are not talking about
the ways in which children in these communities are experiencing psychic
violence, spiritual violence, psychological violence that they are not even
allowed to be kids. And that these mothers and these mothers of all
stripes, you know, other mamas, big mama, you know, whoever. Are helping
to protect them, helping to love them. Helping teach them to love
themselves in spaces that are doing violence onto them. So, he`s
misreading it, he`s thinking about embarrassment. She`s thinking about,
this is my child that I have to love and protect. And however we want to
look at her parenting choices, the choices that she made were born from
love, born from her desire to protect her child in a world that has been
hostile to her child since her child was born.
HARRIS-PERRY: And not shame at her child pushing back.
PIERCE: Right. Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, Michael, there is still another thing that I wonder
if we have missed. So, Mama Graham wants to protect. And I hear all of us
talking about wanting to protect. But you know, having lived in New
Orleans for many years and thinking about Ruby Bridges, thinking about what
it means to be a parent who allows your kindergartner to face what the
segregated nasty evil spirited world is in that moment and to nonetheless
say that to be a good parent, a loving parent is to actually put your child
on the front line of that social movement.
MICHAEL DENZEL SMITH, FELLOW, THE NATION INSTITUTE: Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: Like I also don`t -- let me be clear. I don`t know that I
would have the courage. Right? I look at my baby girls and I don`t like -
- I sure hope someone else would like -- I would even know that I would
have the courage to do that. But I also want to suggest there is a love in
parenting that is not protective in that sense but actually pushing.
SMITH: It`s a few things. It`s like using this woman`s public
manifestation of her fear to try to beat people back into the status quo.
And then also the assumption that she loves her son more than other parents
of the children who are out there in the uprising to say that they were not
supportive of them expressing their rage. So, it`s vital for us to show
that love and support for the people that are saying we are pushing back,
we`re standing up for our humanity. And I think that we discount and when
we praise this woman in certain ways, just to say that, you know, other
people don`t love their children as much.
PIERCE: But my frustration, too, is also that people aren`t listening to
what her son himself is saying. So, everyone is talking about her and what
she`s doing. But he`s saying he said explicitly he was out there because
he has had friends, he has encounters with the police.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
PIERCE: So, if we actually respected him enough, we would listen to what
he was saying that he was doing. And that to me that`s evidence of her
parenting as well.
PIERCE: That the fact that he thought enough about what was going on to
say, I want to be out there. We have to talk about that as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. We will talk more about that when we come back. Stay
with us. Don`t leave. Nina Turner in Ohio, don`t leave. We`ll have more
on the mama`s movement and the movement of the actual young people with my
table when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Fear of violence at the hands of gangs or police may be one
fear facing the parents of African-American children in Baltimore and other
cities. But it is hardly the only one. We learned this week that Freddie
Gray had fallen victim to a pervasive problem of urban childhood long
before his injury in police custody ended his life at the age of 25. As
youngsters Freddie and his twin sisters were discovered to have dangerous
levels of lead in their bloodstreams, lead from the chipping, peeling paint
in the home Freddie`s family rented in his childhood. Lead poisoning can
cause dysfunction in the kidneys, liver and eyes as well as developmental,
cognitive and behavioral problems in children.
Lead poisoning is also one of those zip code problems I alluded to earlier.
In Baltimore as in other cities across the country it is the children in
poor and black communities that bear the greatest burden of this
environmental hazard. And Saul Kerpelman, a Baltimore lawyer litigate lead
poisoning lawsuits told the Washington Post this week, that`s a sad fact to
life in the ghetto. That only living conditions people can afford will
likely poison their kids.
As I want to come out to you on this Nina Turner that like it`s one thing
to get the public rallies, maybe even the riots around police violence or
around gun violence in general, but they are unlikely to emerge around this
long-term systemic inequities like environmental injustices of lead that
are also affecting the lives of our kids. And I`m wondering how we get
accountability on that kind of issue.
TURNER: Absolutely. You`re hitting the nail on the head. I mean, this is
only one phase. The police force itself is only one phase of this. But
what policy makers do and what I heard my young sister talk about posturing
politicians. Yes, some politicians do posture, but there are some of us in
the elected ministry who understand it is very important to push policies
that lift people. And so it is time that Baltimore was the canary in the
coal mine and it was calling on this nation that our state of emergency has
been generations born. And so we need folks from the White House to
governors, to legislatures to do something policy wise, to grow jobs, to
make sure that folks have opportunities. There is no more excuse.
And it is time out for folks who just want to be comfortable in office. We
need people to do something in those policy positions that they have. This
has been generational. This is generational poverty. There are places in
Baltimore that have not been rebuilt since the first riot after Dr. King`s
death. The same thing in places like Cleveland and Detroit. We have to
use the people who are in the elected ministry to do the right doggone
thing and to care more about the next generation than they care about their
TURNER: It is time out for excuses from the White House to school boards.
It`s time out. So, let`s get it done right now. There is no reason why we
cannot direct federal and state funds to these communities to get people
jobs, to get them training, to clean up the lead and to lift folks and
knowing that the overwhelming majority of homes in the African-American
community is led by mamas, we`ve got to lift mas. Forty percent of women,
over 40 percent of women are in the work force but 62 percent of them work
minimum wage jobs.
TURNER: How is a mother supposed to take care of her family? You know,
what? MHP professor, I was told a long time ago that if your hair is on
fire, you ought to act like your hair is on fire. And so, it`s time out
for the excuses.
TURNER: The way they were able to dispatch the National Guard which they
should have brought peace back to that city, we need to dispatch some
funding and some action. Right now.
FARAI CHIDEYA, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: A couple of quick things. First of
all, House Republicans are talking about cutting urban programs deeply
while adding tens of billions of dollars to the military budget. So, there
is huge ongoing structural debates about what we fund and do we care about
children. You know, it`s like many people say we care about children but
children don`t vote.
CHIDEYA: So, you know, do we really care about them? You know, they`re
slackers. They don`t do it. They don`t put any, you know, ballot in the
box. Also though, I do think that we need to expand this beyond African-
Americans, urban areas. There are a lot of poor white families with lead
paint on their walls.
CHIDEYA: There are a lot of incarceration of people who are not black who
don`t have opportunity. It`s not that there aren`t racial discrepancies
but I think that we also have to be careful of the framing. Because I
think about, you know, my friends from places like Youngstown, Ohio, where
those high populations of, you know, unemployed white Americans. The meth
epidemics which I have covered myself that are tearing through America`s
heartland. It`s all part of the same cloth, the same despair that you see
in some parts of Baltimore, in Sandtown-Winchester, you see in parts of
CHIDEYA: We have to tie it up. If you`re going to talk about a mama`s
movement, their mamas, you know, all across America of all races who need
to get involved in it.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love this point about having to draw that big event and
being careful about that framing, so that we are not narrowing it. And yet
at the same time, I guess part of a growing of that is also what Nina
Turner talking about earlier, Charlene which is the idea of a larger notion
of mama. So, as the head, although you don`t really have a head. You are
not a pyramid structure, but as one of the adult members of the black youth
project it does feel to me like you are in a mama role, in an Ella Baker
sense which is only just to say that you do have young people, 16, 17, 18,
20-years-old on the frontlines, of many of these activism movements and I`m
wondering about the courage that you have to find as an organizer to both
support and protect but also and encourage their activism.
CARRUTHERS: Well, that`s my favorite thing to do as an organizer. Is to
help young leaders and activists develop into the people that they want to
be. So that means giving them space to go to Baltimore like some of my
leaders went last night. And break curfew and risk arrest. Giving them
space to do that. But at the same time having real conversations with
then. And if we talk about canaries in coal mines I think it`s young black
people. Black mothers, black mamas, black parents who are the canaries in
the coal mine. Because when we look at the state of wherever our children
are, where black women are, that is absolutely reflective of what the state
of our country is. And the world I think.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with us. Nina Turner, I want to say thank you to you
in Cleveland, Ohio. You are clearly called to the ministry that is of
elected office but also the clarity of your voice. And I appreciate if
nothing else the text this week that got me thinking through the questions
initially. Also here in New York I want to say thank you to Farai Chideya,
our Baltimore resident who understands intergenerational Baltimore in a key
way. The rest of my panel is sticking around. Still to come, the young
people in Baltimore trying to bridge the divide between community and
police. But first what happened last night in the big fight?
HARRIS-PERRY: This morning the curfew that had been in effect in Baltimore
after unrest over the death of Freddie Gray has been lifted. And Maryland
Governor Larry Hogan is calling for a statewide day of prayer and peace.
Right now the Governor is attending a church service in Baltimore and is
expected to offer some remarks on the Freddie Gray investigation following
the service. We`ll bring you those comments live here on MSNBC. In other
news making headlines this morning, what a day Saturday was for sports
In the fight of the very short century Floyd Mayweather, Jr., defeated
Manny Pacquiao after 12 rounds. Mayweather showed off his $100 million
check he was handed after the fight. The bout was considered the highest
grossing in boxing history. And it only took two minutes and three seconds
for a horse named American Pharoah to win the Kentucky Derby. It`s the
third Derby win for the jockey, Victor Espinoza, American Pharoah heads to
the Preakness in Baltimore May 16. Game seven had NBA fans on their feet
last night when Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers hit a game-winning
shot with one second left on the clock to beat the San Antonio Spurs. Paul
suffered an injury in the first quarter, returned for the buzzer-beating
shot. The Clippers advance in the western conference semifinal and face
the Houston Rockets next week.
Up next, how prevalent is police violence really? I have been asking for
weeks, we are going to finally meet the young researcher trying to find out
a definitive answer.
HARRIS-PERRY: The FBI keeps a comprehensive database of law enforcement
officers who are injured or killed on the job. According to that list in
2013, 27 officers died from injuries sustained during what they turned
felonious incidents. Forty nine officers died that same year due to
accidents. These are the numbers we know. But what about how many people
are killed or injured by law enforcement officers? We cannot say for
certain because the government does not track those incidents. Instead,
the more than 17,000 law enforcement agencies across the U.S. are left to
self-report officer involved shootings to the FBI for its list of
justifiable homicides. After Michael Brown`s death in August then Attorney
General Eric Holder called the lack of data unacceptable. In recent
months, three young activists who agreed with that are doing the work
themselves. The mapping police violence team compiles data on police
incidents using non-governmental databases.
Leading the project is Samuel Sinyangwe, a data scientist and policy
analyst and he joins me now. So, Sam, tell me what this data is that you
SAMUEL SINYANGWE, POLICY ANALYST: Sure. So, we have been able to compile
data from the two most comprehensive crowd source databases, the killed by
police database and the fatal encounters database. Merge those two
together to create the most comprehensive set and then finish the work of
coding by race to identify over 91 percent of the folks in that database
and to identify whether folks where armed or unarmed at the time that they
were killed by police. So, the data relies on local media reports and has
been checked out by a Nate Silver shop, FiveThirtyEight.com which found
that the data is 100 percent accurate.
HARRIS-PERRY: Okay. So, give me the big story out of the data. The
question I have asked over and over where we don`t have the answer to is,
are things getting worse?
SINYANGWE: So, what we know is that police killings have risen slightly.
Particularly among black folks by about five percent since 2012. We also
know that if you look, for example, at just in this past march compared to
this past February, there was an increase in 35 percent increase in the
total number of people killed by police and a 71 percent increase in the
number of black people killed by police between those two months.
HARRIS-PERRY: Okay. Compare the percentage or the number of white
Americans killed versus black Americans.
SINYANGWE: So we know that black folks are three times more likely to be
killed by police than white folks. Three hundred four black people were
killed by police in 2014.
HARRIS-PERRY: What am I to make of the consistent counter claim whenever
we talk about the issue that the real question, the real violence issue
isn`t about violence from police toward civilians but rather the murder
rate in general or as it is often the discourse is kind of black on black
SINYANGWE: So, I have two rebuttals to that. I think the first point is
that it`s important for folks to know that in 17 of the hundred largest
cities in the country, black men are killed by police at a rate higher than
the U.S. murder rate.
HARRIS-PERRY: And please say that sentence again.
SINYANGWE: So, police kill black men in 17 of the 100 largest U.S. cities
at a higher rate than the U.S. murder rate.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the federal government did not compile this data.
SINYANGWE: No, they didn`t. And they should have. But they didn`t. And
so, we acted when government wouldn`t because we need to have this
information to actually know how bad the situation is so we could begin to
make progress and hold policy makers accountable to reducing those numbers.
HARRIS-PERRY: Charlene, you`re sitting there beginning to take some notes.
And I`m wondering as an activist how this data make a difference to you in
the work that you do.
CARRUTHERS: Well, the thing that stood out to me most was the point about
we took action when the government didn`t. And I think that that`s the job
of the activists and the organizer. And the numbers of the murders of
black men and police, it hurts.
CARRUTHERS: And I wonder the numbers of black women and black girls who
are murdered by the police as well. Like that`s actually data I`m
SINYANGWE: Sure. So we know of the 304 black people killed by police in
2014, 12 were black women. So, it`s about 96 percent of the folks killed
by police are men. But of course women overall have a much smaller
proportion of being killed by police. So, it is a higher rate of black
women killed by police than white women killed by police.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask this question, for people who want to see
this data, who wants to make use of them in their research, in their
writing and their activism, how do they find it?
SINYANGWE: So, they can go to MappingPoliceViolence.org and look at the
data. I think one of the things that I have learned in my day job at
policy link really is how important the data is and having those hard
numbers to making the case for change and for holding folks accountable to
actually getting a result. And that result is to reduce and ultimately
eliminate the number of folks who are being killed by police.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sam, earlier I said to Charlene that she reminds me of Ella
Baker and her activism work. And I will say right now that you remind me
in this work of Ida B. Wells, the anti-lynching activist of the tune of the
century who the first part of what she did was to compile the data, the
social science research about how, when and where lynchings were happening
to begin to make it stop. I greatly appreciate your efforts and for being
here today. To Sam Sinyangwe and also my other guests were going to stick
around. But up next, the Baltimore teens trying to bridge the divide
between their communities and police.
HARRIS-PERRY: For more than a week, Baltimore citizens have been
protesting in response to Freddie Gray`s death on April 19th after a
sustaining injury while in a police custody a week before. While many
protesters has celebrated the charges filed against the six officers
involved in Gray`s arrests, many have also made clear how deeply entrenched
the feelings of distrust are between the police and Baltimore citizens.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We are sick and tired of the brutality from the police.
We are sick and tired of the -- of the incompetence of higher ups.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: People are tired of what`s going through the same thing.
Those people down there, they`re terrified over the facts of what could
possibly happened to them, okay, and that`s how the black man feels in his
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Us as black Americans here in this day and age are still
being oppressed here in Baltimore City. That`s what`s going on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In this fraught context, a group of Baltimore teenagers
endeavors to build a sense of understanding and common ground between the
community and the officers sworn to protect that community. The Inner
Harbor Project of Baltimore founded by Baltimore native Celia Neustadt in
2012 gathers together local teens who want to improve the quality and
results of interactions between police and teenagers. The group has
conducted some training sessions for the Baltimore Police Department`s
Inner Harbor unit, declaring themselves peace ambassadors. They have even
served as mediators during real-life arguments between officers and young
civilians. In the wake of Freddie Gray`s death, the group has kicked their
efforts up to re-establish trust.
Joining me now from Baltimore are Diamond Sampson and Desmond Campbell,
youth leaders of the Inner Harbor Project of Baltimore. So, nice to see
DIAMOND SAMPSON, INNER HARBOR PROJECT: Nice to see you.
DESMOND CAMPBELL, INNER HARBOR PROJECT: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Diamond, Inner Harbor has been around since 2012, you were
one of the first young people to be part of it. But tell me a little bit
about what you`ve been doing this week that is perhaps different than what
you`ve been doing for the previous years.
SAMPSON: This week as a unit, as a whole, we`ve been trying to just work
to spreading the message out to the rest of the community in how we can
just promote positivity. Because I feel like this is what Baltimore City
really needs at this given point in time.
HARRIS-PERRY: Desmond, I want to ask, in the work that you`ve been doing,
what`s the most surprising thing that you have actually learned about
CAMPBELL: The most surprising thing that I`ve learned from police officers
is that when we talk to them, we realize that they are people, too. And
besides them being in badges and having uniforms, if we look at them like
family, we`ll realize we have more in common with them than we thought we
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Diamond, I`m also interested on the other side. When
you`ve talked to police officers, what do you think they`ve been most
surprised to learn about you and about other young people that are part of
SAMPSON: They are pretty much surprised of like our opinions and how open
we are once talking to them. I think the biggest step is just getting past
the initial confrontation. And from there, it`s a really peaceful
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I know you all have done some cultural competency
training and other kinds of training with the officers. I`m wondering,
what does that actually look like? Are you all sitting together in a room?
And what kind of officers are coming?
SAMPSON: So far we just finished our classes and now we are working on
getting the actual training up and running. So, we`re going to start with
the police academy, we`ve been going over our list for that to schedule.
So, we`ll be out students, we`ll go in and we`ll just hold a workshop, it`s
a three-step workshop. So, they`ll come in three times and do different
divisions and departments of the Police Department.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Desmond, in this past week when so many young people
have been very angry, have been right on the front lines of trying to
engage and push back, do you find people pushing back against you and other
youth within Inner Harbor, saying that what you`re doing isn`t enough? And
how would you respond to that?
CAMPBELL: Most of my friends and people that I know that are my peers in
Baltimore City aren`t pushing back against spreading the positivity that we
try do. Most of my friends are not even like really with the rioting
stuff. We for the most part, the peers and the youth that I`ve talked to
feel like in order to get this movement to where it should be, peace is the
only way to go.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. I have final two questions for you. The first
one is, if you could change one thing -- and I know it`s never that easy,
but if there was one thing you could change tomorrow, one policy you could
institute tomorrow, what would it be?
CAMPBELL: If I could change a policy, it would just be that the police
actually had the cameras on them so that we could know and they could know
like what`s -- so everyone could see what`s really happening when these
kinds of things happen. Because a lot of times it seems like it`s hearsay.
Like who really knows what`s going on because it`s not really been
HARRIS-PERRY: Diamond, do you have a respond to that one as well?
SAMPSON: Yes. If one thing that I could see change is I feel like as a
city we have lost our sense of community and leadership together as a
whole. So, if we could just reunite and reconnect as a city, that`s what I
would like to change.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. And very last question -- when you hear the
phrase "black lives matter," what does that mean to you?
SAMPSON: Would you like to go first?
CAMPBELL: To me it means that -- for me like "black lives matter" means
that not only African-Americans realizing that we matter, but that everyone
is realizing that together we are a culture and all matter. So when I hear
"black lives matter," I just hear we all matter. And we`re just making
everyone feel like they matter.
HARRIS-PERRY: Diamond Sampson and Desmond Campbell in Baltimore, Maryland,
thank you for the work that you are doing on the ground there. Stay safe,
stay positive, and keep doing the hard work.
Thank you also here in New York to Charlene Carruthers, to Samuel
Sinyangwe, to Yolanda Pierce and to Michael Denzel Smith.
That is our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going
to see you next Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Right now it`s time for a
preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT." Hi, Alex.
ALEX WITT, MSNBC HOST, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT": Hello, Melissa. Thank
you so much.
Well, the curfew lifted in Baltimore a short time ago, a live report as
life gets back to normal after a week of violence and unrest. Also, the
deep divide. A brand new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll is out and shows
how differently people view the events of the past week.
Plus, getting children the tools to become leaders in the technology world.
You`ll going to hear from a woman who`s inspiring change. So, don`t go
anywhere, I`ll be right back.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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