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Global Impact Grows As Massive Ship Still Blocking Suez Canal; Local Communities Take Action To Close Racial Wealth Gap; Clean Up Begins After Tornadoes Kill Six Across The Southeast; Biden: Georgia Voting Law "An Atrocity" Says DOJ Looking Into It; Dominion Files $1.6 Billion Defamation Lawsuit Against Fox News; Georgia Lawmaker Facing Two Felonies After Objecting To Voting Law; Gun Shop: Boulder Shooting Suspect Passed Background Check. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired March 27, 2021 - 12:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. All right, the fight for democracy is playing out in Georgia today. Protesters are planning to rally at the State Capitol in Atlanta this afternoon.

This comes after a controversial and sweeping GOP voting bill, which was signed into law limiting absentee voting and voter drop boxes among other restrictions. Republicans passed the bill without any Democratic support, arguing it was needed to protect voter integrity.

But Democrats are not buying that and they're fighting back President Biden saying the Justice Department is now looking into the law and calling it Jim Crow for the 21st century.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Atrocity, the idea if you want any indication that it has nothing to do with fairness, nothing to do with decency. They passed a law saying you can provide water for people standing in line while they're waiting to vote. You don't need anything else to know that this is nothing but punitive designed to keep people from voting. You can't provide water for people about to vote. Give me a break.


WHITFIELD: George's bill is just one of many Republican efforts in states across the country aimed at restricting voting access in the wake of the November Presidential Election. All of it brought on by the big lie still perpetuated by the Former President Trump to this day that the elections were somehow rigged against him. Here now with CNN Sara Murray.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signing a dramatic overhaul of the state's election laws, the first GOP victory in restricting voter access in a major battleground state.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): After the November election last year I knew like so many of you that significant reforms to our state elections were needed. MURRAY (voice-over): The law puts new voter identification requirements on absentee ballots limits drop boxes to indoor locations during business hours, allows state officials to take over local elections boards and makes it a crime to approach voters in line to provide food and water.

KEMP: Well, wasn't a voting rights bill. It was a licensed security bill that actually increases early voting opportunities on the weekend here in Georgia. MURRAY (voice-over): The legislation doesn't include earlier efforts to get rid of no excuse absentee voting, and it allows expanded weekend early voting, but advocates say it is still riddled with restrictions that make it harder particularly for minorities to vote.

DONNA MCLEOD, (D) GEORGIA STATE HOUSE: This is the despicable and disgusting and it creates more barriers to our voters so that they're not having access to the ballot box like they should and to actually say to people, you can't give somebody food or water that's just cruel and inhumane. MURRAY (voice-over): It was a striking scene Thursday is Kemp huddled behind closed doors with a handful of white men designed the bill.

MCLEOD: This Jim Crow 2.0 is represented in that picture. You see those men there's no color in them. There are just pure white males trying to basically hold on to power with their life.

MURRAY (voice-over): Just outside Kemp's office Park Cannon, a black state representative was arrested and marched out of the Capitol by several police officers after she knocked on Kemp's store trying to gain access to the signing ceremony. Cannon now out of jail and facing two felony charges which her allies say she intends to fight.

ERICA THOMAS, (D) GEORGIA STATE HOUSE: We are now is praying for her strength to get through this. And we are definitely lawyer up to defend her in every way we know how.

MURRAY (voice-over): Georgia's law just one of hundreds of bills Republicans are pushing nationwide as they hold tight to baseless claims of fraud amid their 2020 electoral defeat. Even Kemp who defended Georgia's election integrity last year now appears to be buying into the big lie as he braces for a reelection fight in 2022.

KEMP: There's no doubt there were many alarming issues with how the election was handled. And those problems understandably led to the crisis of confidence in the ballot box here in Georgia. MURRAY (voice- over): Former President Trump meantime still parroting his back free claim.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you look at the last election, it was disgraceful. It was a third world election. It was a disgrace. MURRAY (voice-over): As the fallout of the big lie spreads. Fox News

facing a $1.6 billion defamation suit from Dominion Voting Systems for spreading lies that the machines were linked to election fraud.

STEPHEN SHACKELFORD, DOMINION'S ATTORNEY: Fox gave life to these lies. Fox took this small flame and they turned it into a raging fire.


MURRAY (voice-over): This as former Trump legal team members, Sidney Powell defends herself in her own defamation suit from Dominion, claiming in a court filing that even though she spread voter fraud claims, no reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact.


MURRAY (on camera): And in a statement Friday night, Donald Trump congratulated the Georgia State Legislature saying in a statement they learned from the travesty of the 2020 presidential election, which can never be allowed to happen again. Too bad these changes could not have been done sooner. Meanwhile, there are three civil rights groups who are already challenging that new Georgia law in court. Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.

WHITFIELD: George's new law is now facing a lawsuit from several voting rights groups in the state. They argue it violates the Voting Rights Act and the first and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution by placing unnecessary burdens on voters.

Joining me right now is LaTosha Brown, the Co-Founder of Black Voters Matter one of the groups behind that lawsuit. LaTosha, so good to see you. So what do you envision this law will do to the Georgia voters who turned out in record numbers last November, and January?

LATOSHA BROWN, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK VOTERS MATTER: you know this law is a punitive measure to punish people who showed up and participate in this last election cycle. It makes it more difficult. It compresses the amount of time that people have to vote on the weekends.

It actually gives an undue authority to the GOP that essentially the State Board of Education -- State Board of Elections they can take over the board of elections on the county level, which means if they don't like the results of that election, they can do exactly what Trump suggests that they do. Just take over and take over that particular vote and nullify the results.

This is deeply, deeply troubling. And it criminalizes organizations that are helping people literally stand in line because, you know, there are people who stood in line for three hours, four hours, five hours, as long as 11 hours and the primary last year. And so the criminalized organization, in one is an attack on voters, but it's also an attack on organizations that have literally been trying to lift up and support democracy, making sure that people who are facing these barriers have access and support on the - at the polling sites.

WHITFIELD: And so now how far is your organization willing to go to try to fight this new law?

BROWN: Was that we are taking this to the streets, we're going into communities, we're going in the coffers, which is why we're putting pressure on our corporate campaign, and we're turning it up. But we're also taking this to the courts.

And so, we believe that we will have the federal courts will actually see that this is just an obvious violation of the Voting Rights Act, and that we will get some relief from the federal courts. But we're also making sure that we're organizing people there's a broad-based coalition, multi-generational, multiracial coalition of Georgians.

There was a study that just came out by Target Smart they did a poll that 77 percent of Georgians were not in grievance, with what was in the bill. And so this is something that a small group of people, led by the voter's depressor in chief, Governor Kemp literally decided they would do behind locked doors, which is not reflective of what the people of Georgia want.

WHITFIELD: How much confidence do you have in the federal courts, especially given the legacy of the Trump Administration in stalking federal courts?

BROWN: I mean it is extremely problematic. What I am hoping that I'm hoping that this is so obvious on his face, that I think the law is clear. And so if the courts, you know, I am hoping that there will be some remedy to come from the courts. But you know, being a black woman coming from Selma, Alabama, in the deep south, I've all -- I always know that you can't just rely on the courts that you have to educate and engage and mobilize people that we have to really be able to tell the public to get behind this.

This is we the people and so I'm hoping that there will be some relief from the courts. But we're also putting our corporate pressure on those corporations that are based right here in Georgia, and they set silently while this has passed.

Corporations like Delta, and Coca Cola and UPS and Aflac (ph) that are right here in the state of Georgia and they've been solid. You know, to the extent that they've said something, it's actually been in many ways has been like gas lighting, it's not been coming with a vigorous kind of political position that we think that they should have around this is an apparent attack of voting rights of the people of Georgia.

WHITFIELD: I wonder if I can get your candid impression of you know these two images that we saw this week in one we see a Georgia Governor Brian Kemp surrounded by other white male lawmakers signing this bill. And on the other side, you see knocking on that door black Georgia State Representative Park Cannon, who is arrested handcuffed after knocking on the door to witness this live stream event. What are your impressions when you look at this contrast?

BROWN: You know, I think it's very reflective of what's happening in this country right now that there's a small group of people who are anti-democratic. Who are rooted in structural racism that they've decided they're going to abuse their power so that they can shut out and marginalize voters for participating in the process?


BROWN: Georgia is one state that sets the precedent but what we're seeing is this is happening in 43 states all around the country. And so here you have a one white man that is sitting on a picture, quite frankly, of a plantation that was known it was a notorious plantation in the State of Georgia known for its treatment of enslaved Africans, its mistreatment of enslaved Africans, who's flanked by white men. And what you see is you see a black woman, on the other side of the door, who was duly elected, had every right to be there.

Duly elected, knocking on the door had every right to be there with a bill being passed, but they wanted to lock the doors and away from the public. I think what you're seeing is you're seeing around the stance of black women have been and will continue to be on the front lines of fighting for democracy, just like other comrades, and that we're not going to stop. We're not going anywhere. And we're going to demand justice.

WHITFIELD: And the Governor had an opportunity to respond to a that jaw dropping contrast, especially after President Biden issued a statement, you know, calling the law, Georgia law Jim Crow for the 21st century. And then Governor Kemp instead double down you knows.

He put out a statement saying there is nothing Jim Crow about requiring a photo or state issued ID to vote by absentee ballot, every Georgia voter must already do so when voting in person. President Biden, the left and the national media, this, according to the Governor and his statement are determined to destroy the sanctity and security of the ballot box. What's your response to his choice of words, his posturing?

BROWN: I mean, one is all predicated on a big lie. Is predicated on a lie that there was some voter fraud in the State of Georgia, it was - there was a recount in the state of Georgia in the presidential outcome, election three times and nothing he came up with the same results.

We know that Kemp is not someone who has any sense of integrity, matter of fact, his rise to in the Governor's office as a result of his abuse of being the Secretary of State of cheating in the last election cycle, which partly actually was a part of the driver that drove out record numbers, historic numbers of black voters who had decided after we had witnessed and we felt that the election had been stolen from us in 2018, with his abuse of power as Secretary of State that we were going to come out and record numbers.

And I think, once again, you're going to see the same kind of response. You know, what he is saying is really based on he is literally trying to propagate this big lie, a fan that there is voter fraud, when in fact there are issues that as a Governor has failed miserably at, right?

That when we're looking at the election and the runoff election, I myself last year, I stayed in line. I had to stand in line for three hours. There are people that I know that stood in line for nine hours. Some people didn't vote until 12:37 am in the morning and Union City, and there were people look --

WHITFIELD: Every challenge in court and otherwise determined there was no fraud. There was no wrongdoing that this was free and fair, and it was virtually error free across the board in Georgia.

BROWN: Absolutely. You know, the other irony around this is that even when we're talking about absentee ballot voting, all of a sudden there's no problem. Why would you actually create legislation to actually fix where there's a no - where there's no history of a problem being there. However, those areas --

WHITFIELD: Yes, not a response to a problem?

BROWN: That's right.

WHITFIELD: LaTosha Brown, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

BROWN: Thank you for having me.

WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up, we are learning more about the suspect in the Boulder, Colorado mass shooting and just how he was able to get the gun he used to kill 10 people? And later a massive container ship that is blocking the Suez Canal halfway around the world could cause temporary price spikes here in the U.S. How could the blockage impact your wallet?



WHITFIELD: A gun shop owner in Colorado says the suspect in the mass shooting in Boulder passed a background check and legally purchase the weapons used in the deadly attack. The suspect is accused of killing 10 people in that Colorado grocery store shooting and prosecutors now say he could face more attempted murder charges.

For more on these developments let's bring in Shimon Prokupecz in Boulder. Shimon, the suspects' brother told CNN that he believes his brother suffered from mental illness. So do we know how he was able to still pass this background check and purchase weapons?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that would indicate then that there's no documented necessarily there isn't any kind of court adjudication, which would label him mentally unfit to possess a weapon. The background checks that he did pass, according to the gun store did not indicate anything that would prevent him from purchasing that weapon.

I actually went to the gun shop yesterday. They obviously didn't want to talk to us. But they did release that statement saying that they are cooperating with law enforcement. So officials here say that from everything they can tell he went into that gun shop. It's in Arvada about 30 minutes from here and was able to legally purchase that weapon. Police said yesterday he also had a second weapon on him a nine-

millimeter that they don't believe he used during the shooting. Now, of course, a big question is motive. That is something investigators are still working on. You know, it's five days after the shooting, and they are really not any closer to determining a motive here Fred.

So, they are still working through that they said yesterday. There is that possibility that they may never know what the motive here was. And you raise the issue of mental illness. Of course, his brother has raised his issue and it is also something we know that investigators have been looking into and his attorneys in court raised that issue as well.

WHITFIELD: All right. Shimon Prokupecz, keep us posted. Thanks so much from Boulder.


WHITFIELD: All right. Up next, there are the COVID doctors, the nation's top scientists who were on the front lines of the U.S. response to the COVID-19 outbreak that became a pandemic and now they are speaking out.


WHITFIELD: Here why one of those doctors says many COVID-19 deaths could have been prevented.


WHITFIELD: Dr. Anthony Fauci said this week that the country is right at the corner when it comes to fighting COVID-19. The U.S. set another record for daily vaccinations yesterday, and now nearly 15 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. But with all that good news comes some warning signs. On Friday, Vermont recorded its highest single day caseload since the pandemic started, a handful of other states, as you can see on this map are seeing a spike in cases as well.


WHITFIELD: It's been a tumultuous year that has caused way too many lives. The nation's leading doctors on the front lines are now talking with our Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Here's a preview of his special report, Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Fred, we ended up talking to six doctors that were really at the center of the COVID response, you know, from the beginning, nearly up until just this past couple of months. So their perspective has been so fascinating. And the way that we approach this was almost like an autopsy.

Really trying to figure out exactly what happened here. Because there's so many lessons to be learned, not just for the future, but for right now, because we're still very much in the middle of this pandemic. Again, talk to six doctors, but I wanted to show you a little bit of my conversation with Dr. Fauci. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: Was there a moment Dr. Fauci when you said, OK, this is the big one.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 40 percent increase in New York hospitals in just 24 hours.

FAUCI: That's a big number. When I saw what happened in New York City.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Refrigerated trucks are now being mobilized as makeshift works.

FAUCI: Almost over running of our health care system. It was like, oh, my goodness. And that's when it became very clear that the decision, we made on January the 10th, to go all out and develop a vaccine. We have a number of vaccine candidates may have been the best decision that I've ever made with regard to an intervention as the Director of the Institute.

GUPTA (voice-over): The life saving and record-breaking vaccines that Dr. Fauci oversaw, were a giant success for the doctors, for science and for the world. But remember, a vaccine does nothing for the patient on the table. In this case, the hundreds of thousands who perished before science could save them.

GUPTA (on camera): When you look at your data now, and you think, OK, had we mitigated earlier, had we actually paused earlier and actually done it? How much of an impact do you think that would have made?

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Why look at it this way, the first time, we have an excuse, there were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge, all of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.


GUPTA: And Fred, I think it's that last part that you just heard from Dr. Birx that really strikes at the heart of this. I mean, she believes, as do most of the doctors that the majority of people who died, died preventable deaths, which is the great tragedy here. But also, exactly why it happened there are different things that people will say.

I spent time with Dr. Hahn, for example, from the FDA, Dr. Redfield from the CDC understood the pressures that were going on behind the scenes and sort of tried to piece together a very complicated picture over the last year, again, illuminating but horrifying as well at times. But we do it because we think that the lessons are there and may benefit us at some point in the future. So, I hope you'll get a chance to watch and let me know what you think. WHITFIELD: All so important. Thank you so much. Sanjay Gupta, I

appreciate that. So, don't miss this "Unprecedented Event with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. When the medical leaders of the war on COVID break their silence, CNN Special Report "COVID War the Pandemic: Doctor Speak Out" airs tomorrow at 9 p.m.

Up next, this massive container ship is currently blocking the Suez Canal seriously impacting the global supply chain and you could soon be feeling the impact of this blockage in Egypt right here in the U.S. We'll explain what this means for your wallet next.



WHITFIELD: Egyptian authorities are making new attempts today to dislodge the ship stuck in the Suez Canal. According to reports in Egyptian media, the massive vessel, the size of the Empire State Building, ran aground Tuesday in the canal and has been blocking traffic ever since. CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Egypt by the canal.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, it's not clear at this point when the ever given will be seaworthy.

Again, some sources close to the effort to float the ship have told CNN that it may be as early as today, Saturday. What we did hear from the chairman of the Suez Canal authority is that they have made progress. They've been able to free the propellers and the rudder of the ship. And that really their focus at the moment is on trying to dredge enough around the ever given to free it.

If that doesn't work, the situation becomes much more complicated. They're going to have to bring in floating cranes, which don't exist here in Egypt at the moment and remove the cargo. There are 18,300 containers, according to the chairman of the Suez Canal authority, and to take enough of those off to lighten the load so it can finally move could take quite some time. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Oh, thank you so much, Ben Wedeman. All right, so with more than 300 ships now backed up at that canal, billions of dollars-worth of goods are not getting through, and that could end up costing all of us. CNN's Matt Egan joins me now to explain. So this ship is a half a world away how could it end up having an impact on everyday lives right here in the U.S., Matt?


MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS LEAD WRITER: Well, Fred, that ship is causing an epic traffic jam at sea. And because we live in a global economy now there really are implications here for everyone's wallets here in the United States. I think there's two big things to watch depending upon how long this last.

One is we could see shipping delays. It could take longer to get everything from you know crude oil to furniture as ships getting rerouted or they wait for the Suez Canal to open back up. And the other thing is we could see sticker shock here. We can see price spikes because of all of these delays.

I think what's really important to remember is we're not just talking about some waterway. I mean this is the Suez Canal. This would be like I-95 getting shut down on the East Coast on Thanksgiving Day. I mean there's going to be some problems.

Let me run you through some of the numbers that show just how important the Suez Canal is, 12 percent of world trade goes through this waterway, $10 billion day in cargo, 5.2 million barrels of oil each day, and right now there's more than 300 vessels that are carrying billions in goods they're all waiting to get through the Suez Canal and that includes more than a dozen vessels carrying livestock. So Fred, this is clearly a serious situation and let's hope it gets resolved soon.

WHITFIELD: So you also spoke with someone from the Federal Reserve, right, who expressed some concerns, what are they?

EGAN: That's right, Fred. So I talked yesterday to Atlanta Fed president Raphael Bostic. And first he sort of just expressed amazement about this whole situation. I mean the Suez Canal is something that we sort of take for granted. We don't think about how stuff gets to us. We just order it online and arrives.

But when it breaks, and in this case we have the Suez Canal, you know, shutdown effectively, there are real implications. So I asked the Atlanta Fed chief, you know, if he's worried about this and here's what he said.


RAPHAEL BOSTIC, PRESIDENT, ATLANTA FEDERAL RESERVE: If this were going to go on for weeks and weeks, I think you could actually see some fairly significant disruptions in goods revision. But I -- from what I've read that's not where we're going to be. So we may see some temporary spikes but they will be only temporary and I'm confident that we will return to more equilibrium pricing as quickly as possible.


EGAN: So timing is everything here if this blockage of the Suez Canal happened last March, I don't really think there'd be nearly as much concern because the economy was effectively in free fall due to the pandemic. People weren't buying as much, they certainly weren't traveling, gas prices were low, oil prices had gone negative, people weren't traveling. So it wouldn't really had as big of an impact.

But the situation is totally different right now because the economy is opening back up due to the rollout of vaccines. In fact the recovery is really gaining serious steam and that has caused a lot of demand for goods. Companies have actually been caught off guard by how much demand there is.

And so even before the Suez Canal was blocked, a lot of companies including everyone from Peloton to Under Armour to Hasbro, they were all talking about how shipping costs had gone up and how there were delays in trying to get goods.

So Fred, I think the trillion dollar question here is, when will the Suez Canal open back up because the longer it is shut down the larger the economic impact.

WHITFIELD: And the longer we'll all have to dig a little deeper unfortunately. Matt Egan, thank you so much.

EGAN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Evanston, Illinois just approved the nation's first reparations program for its black residents. How will this potentially impact efforts across the country, that's next.

But first with more people shopping online, truck drivers are working at a relentless pace. In Tennessee a female owned company SHE Trucking is looking to bring more women into the industry. Here's today's Start Small Think Big.


SHARAE MOORE, FOUNDER, SHE TRUCKING: SHE Trucking is the biggest organization for women in the trucking industry. We offer education, mentorship, community, and apparel. While traveling on the road, I was in search of a t-shirt that stated I was a woman who drove the truck. I couldn't find any. So I started my own clothing line. I met so many women on the road. We grew organically into this massive community of about 15,000 women.


MOORE: It was important to educate women entering into the industry so they didn't feel alone. I also wanted to teach women on how to be safe on the road. As part of our education program we offer a commercial driver's license permit class which is the first step to enter into the trucking industry.


I offer my students a hands on experience. One of the most important concerns for the women in our community is maternity pay, safe places to park, and benefit. A lot of women are forced to make the choice have a baby or be out of work that needs to change. My goal is to store a minority woman owned trucking school to give people the encouragement to answer until the industry.




WHITFIELD: As the U.S. continues grappling with racial and social justice tackling the issue of reparations is now gaining some momentum. CNN national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux reports on how one Illinois City is making reparations available to its black residents for past discrimination and lingering effects of slavery.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A historic breakthrough for the Black residents of Evanston, Illinois.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Evanston City Council approved adoption.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): A vote to provide up to $25,000 in reparations for housing costs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think this step is going to pull all of America forward.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Cities like Evanston are not waiting for the federal government to lead on reparations despite the fierce debate.

DANNY GLOVER, ACTOR: I sit here as a great grandson of a former slave.

HERSCHEL WALKER, FORMER NFL PLAYER: How can we pay for your great, great, great grandfather being burned to death?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: No one currently alive was responsible for that.

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES, CREATOR, "THE 1619 PROJECT": There is no other way to close the racial wealth gap except by transferring wealth.

SHELBY STEELE, SENIOR FELLOW, HOOVER INSTITUTION: Keep your reparations. I do not want the dependency.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Across the country in the throes of Black Lives Matter protests. Last summer, Asheville, North Carolina City Council took the lead by voting for $1 million in community reparations.

Earlier this month, Georgetown University pledged an initial $100 million to educate the descendants of those sold by the college in 1838. That same week, a major U.S. bank announced its support for congressional action. But even the suggestion of reparations is frowned upon by many Republicans.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): As reparations, what does that got to do with COVID?

MALVEAUX (voice-over): As Senator Lindsey Graham recently criticized aid for Black farmers in the COVID relief package. Nikole Hannah- Jones, author of "The 1619 Project," argues why reparations are necessary.

HANNAH-JONES: For 250 years, Black Americans were legally unable to gain any wealth. That was followed by a 100-year period where Black Americans were legally discriminated against in every aspect of American life.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Black people freed after the Civil War were initially offered 40 acres and a mule for compensation under President Abraham Lincoln. But it was soon scrapped. Today's scholars estimate that would be equal to between $12 and $35 trillion in value, but disagree over the individual amount.

HANNAH-JONES: About $70,000 which is the average gap in wealth between white Americans and Black Americans.

STEELE: I'm supposed to put my hand out and say, what's my price?

MALVEAUX (voice-over): For Professor Shelby Steele, whose grandfather was enslaved --

STEELE: My biggest problem with reparations is that it undermines the dignity of those people like my grandfather and father.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Complicating the matter is who would qualify.

WALKER: Do you go to 23 and me or DNA tests to determine the percentage of blackness?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was our life, the back of a beaten slave.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee reintroduced H.R.40 in January, a bill rejected for more than 30 years, which calls for a commission to study reparations on the federal level.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): It is a reckoning that it is time and that it is not legislation filed in anger.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): But for Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, the debt to Blacks has long been paid.

MCCONNELL: We've tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We've elected an African-American president.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): For many years, reparation was a political non- starter.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The best reparations we can provide are good schools in the inner city and jobs for people who are unemployed.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Former President Obama on reparations today.

OBAMA: Even though I was convinced that reparations was a non-starter during my presidency, I understand the argument that we should talk about it anyway, if for no other reason than to educate the country.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Now, some Democratic lawmakers see new hope for reparations under the Biden-Harris administration.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He supports the study of reparations and what the impact would be.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Reparations, historically a fringe issue, now part of our national conversation as we struggle to address equity and race.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN.


WHITFIELD: Thanks so much, Suzanne.


Amid allegations of gender inequality in the NCAA, CNN has now learned of a multimillion-dollar budget gap between the 2018 men's and women's basketball tournaments, that's next.


WHITFIELD: Recovery efforts are now underway after 23 tornadoes formed across the southeast between Thursday night and Friday morning. The storms leaving six people dead and some communities in ruins, at least one sign of hope has a merge though, CNN's Derek Van Dam reports.



DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): Violent tornadoes leaving a trail of devastation across the southern U.S. and leaving communities in shambles. In Birmingham, Alabama roofs torn off of homes, some others ripped from their foundation. And residents like Dena Cook left racing to protect the precious memories.

DENA COOK, EAGLE POINT RESIDENT: I didn't even think. I couldn't think that, I mean, it's just -- I really couldn't think past that moment. I didn't even think about what was gone. I just wanted to get all my pictures out of the house.

VAN DAM (voice-over): Others just remembering the precious lives lost.

KELVIN BOWERS, LOST HOUSE AND FAMILY: It's terrible man, to know family was in, this stuff like they're gone.

VAN DAM (voice-over): Shelby County search and rescue teams describe the damage as catastrophic with twisters indiscriminately destroying homes, while leaving others untouched. After the storms cleared, providing a short break for residents, the cleanup process has begun.

But unfortunately, this will be short lived for another round of severe weather as possible this weekend across parts of the same region. Locals became volunteers helping those hardest hit by providing basic necessities to get through this natural disaster. With all the heartache that has been witnessed here, a glimmer of hope as we approach the week of Easter. This cross and this purple scarf remaining virtually untouched as homes were destroyed around it.

After riding out the storm in our closet, Cook noticed and rearranged the scarf out of respect, a truly symbolic image for believers who observe Lent. Cook says she may have lost the roof over her head but she has not lost her faith.

COOK: And my cross is still there because God was with all of these people and us.

VAN DAM (voice-over): I'm CNN meteorologist, Derek Van Dam reporting in Birmingham.


WHITFIELD: The NCAA is acknowledging a contrast between the men's and women's tournaments. A budget report released Friday showed a $13.5 million budget gap between the men's and women's tournaments for the 2018, 2019 season. CNN's sports Coy Wire explains.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Fred, the NCAA says that it wants to address the issues so that it doesn't fall short again. Documents obtained by CNN show that in 2019 the last year the tournaments were played, the NCAA spent $28 million on men's March Madness almost double the 14.5 million spent on the women's tournament.

But the men's tournament generated a net income of more than $860 million in 2019, while the women's tournament lost 2.8 million, that's the biggest deficit of any NCAA championship. In a statement the NCAA CFO said in part quote, the difference in the budgets is because scale of the two tournaments and the nuances in the delivery which tend to be committee decisions, unquote.

On Thursday, the NCAA hired a private law firm to review gender equity across all sports and initial findings could come as soon as next month. Now to action on the court where Sister Jean Loyola Chicago is making another magical run in the men's tournament facing Oregon State in the sweet 16 today, the 101-year-old team chaplain is in Indy to cheer her squad on, one of the most inspiring people I've ever met born in 1919. She's been through two pandemics.

I caught up with her and asked her to give us a sneak peek of one of her legendary pregame prayers that have motivated players for decades. And she got very specific.


SISTER JEAN, CHAPLAIN FOR THE LOYOLA RAMBLERS MEN'S BASKETBALL: I say, Hi, Ramblers. Are we ready? And they say, ready Sister Jean. And I say to the well, let us pray now and ask God. So we begin the prayer by saying good and gracious God, we're about to play. And we'll say the Oregon State Beavers. We have to watch every player. But here are the ones you need to look at specially, none are going to save the numbers now because Oregon State Beavers might be listening.


WIRE: Sister Jean told me she has never said the same prayer twice has the entire collection in a room. And her secret to a long happy life, Fred, eat well, sleep well, and pray well.

WHITFIELD: I love her advice. Coy Wire, thank you so much. Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. All right, we began this hour with the fight over voting rights in Georgia. A short time from now protesters are planning to rally in Atlanta just steps away from where Governor Brian Kemp signed a controversial voting bill into law this week.

That law is getting national attention because of its restrictions on absentee voting and limits to early voting opportunities, a Republican effort driven by the big lie on the 2020 election.


Several voting rights groups are filing lawsuits arguing the law is unconstitutional.