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tv   Matter of Fact With Soledad O Brien  NBC  August 29, 2021 5:00am-5:30am PDT

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announcer: right now, on "matter of fact." >> my child, my choice. my child, my choice. announcer: inside the battle over mask mandates. the governor of texas says no. why this determined school superintendent says yes! soledad: it's not very easy to tell the governor, "nope, not doing what you want me to do." >> it's absolutely not easy to do that. announcer: plus -- how the brutal murder of 14-year-old emmett till transformed a nation and set in motion a generation of change. patrick weems: when i learned about the injustices, but also that young people made change, it compelled me to want to be a part of that change, too.
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announcer: but first -- why isn't there more help for haiti? >> 50,000 homes have been destroyed. so that's 50,000 families who are homeless. announcer: an urgent humanitarian crisis in the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. >> the needs are enormous. announcer: will the richest nation on earth decide to do more? the politics behind aid to haiti. soledad: i'm soledad o'brien. welcome to "matter of fact." at this moment, two tragedies share the world stage. desperate and dangerous evacuations continue in afghanistan as deadly terrorist attacks create chaos. and in haiti, a massive humanitarian relief effort ramps up to save lives. just two weeks ago, the small island nation was hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake and then battered by tropical depression grace. more than 2,000 people are dead.
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hundreds are still missing. natural disasters have plagued the country. it sits on top of two fault zones and in the middle of one of the caribbean's major hurricane belts. the island still has not recovered from the 2010 earthquake or the three hurricanes of the last decade. add to that, the assassination of the haitian president, the country is again mired in a political crisis -- making it hard for haiti to get on steady ground. lavarice gaudin is working around-the-clock to provide food and supplies to his fellow disaster victims. he is the 'na rive' program manager, working in partnership with the california-based 'what if foundation.' >> a lot of things so damaged -- the house, the school, everything. therefore, i received more calls than ever. water, food, medicine. and these are the needs for now.
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because still, people don't find water. some of the area, there is no infrastructure and a car cannot get into it. so, you are still struggling to get to those places. and also, the tents, because they don't have no house in order to sleep. now people are asking you to bring plywood, to buy food, you know, anything, so they can build a house or anything so they can live so far with their children. this is not a country with the infrastructure. something happen, people can find some good place to go and be taken care of right away by their government. but here, people are not really waiting for the government. you know, people are waiting for other organizations coming from somewhere to help. soledad: ramesh rajasingham is the deputy emergency relief
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coordinator for the united nations. he is in haiti to meet with displaced people and emergency response teams. he joins us from port-au-prince. thank you for talking with me. i know you've just toured the island. can you tell me a little bit about where you went and what you saw? >> the main purpose of my visit here was really to look at the impact of the earthquake that took place on the 14th of august, which was a strong earthquake. and this particular one hit the southernmost provinces of haiti, the three southernmost provinces of haiti on the peninsula. what i saw was obviously a very distressing picture. but there's also some encouragement because we have a strong humanity capacity in haiti. in that sense, we're quite fortunate to have the capacity. but the needs are enormous. soledad: tick off for me some of those needs off the top of your head >> sure. so, i visited a small community called maneesh, which is in the
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south. we have to go there by helicopter, then take a go-by road. it's fairly difficult to reach. but that particular community was very badly hit. and i visited schools that were destroyed. one particular school, by the way, has two sessions or two shifts. in the first shift, they educate 400 children and the second shift to educate 600 children. it's a fairly small school, so obviously the classrooms are quite crowded. but all those classrooms have been destroyed now. so, schooling, they can't be at school in that location. the health facilities have been very badly hit. and, you know, we are in the middle of this pandemic crisis in covid, in haiti. health facilities were already very weak. so, they've just been further disrupted and that in many cases inoperable. but what people need is shelter. 50,000 homes have been destroyed , so that is 50,000 families homeless. they need water, water and
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sanitation, because that's always a life-saving assistance requirement in these situations. and then, finally, obviously, they need food. and so, this is what we've been trying to provide as soon as possible. soledad: everyone's well aware that there was the assassination of the haitian president. and i would have to imagine, to some degree, a bit of a power vacuum. how is that impacting how you're able to move around the country and actually bring help to the people who need it? >> the good thing is, and i met with the prime minister today, for example, and he has given us all assurances of support. he was instrumental -- he is also instrumental in obtaining access, as i mentioned, through these major routes that go from the capital to the affected area , because of the gangs that control that. soledad: there was a u.n. official i saw quoted the other day who said there were lessons learned from 2010 and that some things are being done differently. can you tell me what some of those things are that are being done differently and what lessons were learned?
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>> in haiti, or any human situation, no population wants to live year in, year out, on relief assistance. just this morning, with the prime minister of haiti and the minister of planning, we launched an appeal for the earthquake victims targeting 500,000 civilians affected by the earthquake. these are the most vulnerable people affected by the earthquake. we are asking for $187 million to support them throughout this, just to save lives and then to help them rebuild their lives after that. these are extraordinary situations. there is no cookie-cutter approach. there is a distinct way of approaching things. we learn more each year engaging with the people. this time around, we have to do it. the haitian people deserve it. i think the international
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community is falling behind supporting this. soledad: thank you for your time. announcer: next on "matter of fact." a texas superintendent is standing her ground in the battle over mask mandates. dr. stephanie elizalde: it's really not about being right. it's about doing right. announcer: why she says defying the governor was a personal decision -- not a political one. and later, we take you to the roof of the world because everyone needs a little star gazing. ♪ when you have nausea, ♪ ♪ heartburn, ingestion, upset stomach... ♪ ♪ diarrheaaaa. ♪ pepto bismol coats your stomach with fast and soothing relief. and try new drug free pepto herbal blends. made from 100% natural ginger and peppermint. i'm greg, i'm 68 years old. i do motivational speaking in addition to the substitute teaching. i honestly feel that that's my calling-- to give back to younger people. i think most adults will start realizing that they don't recall things as quickly as they used to
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soledad: america's children are back to school after a very tough year. they have paid a high price for months of disrupted schedules, limited contact with peers, and remote learning challenges. soledad: we see it in rising rates of depression and anxiety -- and a loss of learning that will require remedial work. now, the surge of the highly-contagious delta variant threatens them and the plans of
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schools districts across the country. many school district leaders are mandating masks. in arizona, florida, and texas, they are doing so while going against their governor's orders. dr. stephanie elizalde is one of those district leaders. she's the superintendent for the austin independent school district in austin, texas, a district with 75,000 students. it's so nice to have you with us today. thank you very much. i know your school just opened last week in person. how's it been going so far? dr. elizalde: overall, it has been really great to see our students in our classrooms. teachers are happy. principals are leading schools. and our community is coming together to do the very best to keep our students and staff safe and healthy throughout the remainder of this pandemic. soledad: are you finding that it's a fight to get people to wear their masks or that a great
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percentage of people are not vaccinated and they're pushing back? dr. elizalde: i think i've been extremely fortunate in our community. even individuals with dissenting opinions have all rallied around us working together to understand where we're all coming from. most of the emails that i have received start with, "i know you're in an impossible situation but" and then they explain their position. and so, at this point, have we had some individuals who maybe have opted not to bring their children to our schools? there have been some, but they have not been of such discord that they have created animosity. i don't think everyone is happy with our decision. i think the majority of our folks do understand it and overwhelmingly are supportive regardless of their own personal perspectives. soledad: i know you were able to incentivize your staff. i think you're paying like $250
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to any staffers who get vaccinated. has that been successful? dr. elizalde: absolutely, that has been successful. we had, within an hour and 15 minutes of our release of that information yesterday, we had over 800 staff members responding that had not previously been vaccinated. 'where do i go? what is the information?' so, i think that's also telling us two things. there's more -- i think there's more confidence now that the emergency use has been removed from the pfizer vaccine. and that, at the same time, because we had already begun conversations about incentivizing vaccines, that we continue to keep to our word and that we did that even though the emergency use has been removed. soledad: the governor of texas has been very clear about what he thinks of mask mandates. and you've said that this decision for you was deeply personal and talked about being a mom. can you walk me through a little
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bit of that decision-making process that i know had to be a bit of a struggle? it's not very easy to tell the governor, "nope, not doing what you want me to do." dr. elizalde: it's absolutely not easy to do that. but knowing that at the end of the day i'm responsible for serving and keeping everybody as safe as i possibly know how to do, if something should happen terribly because a child with covid, i would not be able to say, "sorry, i did everything i could except this," because there is this order i had to do what was best for students. soledad: dr. stephanie elizalde is the superintendent of austin public schools. thank you for your time. appreciate it. dr. elizalde: thank you. announcer: coming up on "matter of fact." two white men brutally murdered 14-year-old emmett till -- and got away with it. patrick weems: it was here in this courtroom that two men got
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off for murder. and so, we decided we needed to begin by apologizing to the till family. announcer: how this mississippi town is making amends for justice denied. and still ahead, could this astronomical real estate come
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this unplugged device is protecting our beautiful coastlines and more. put off chores and use less energy from 4 to 9 pm to help keep our state golden. (upbeat music) - [announcer] introducing the grubhub guarantee, our promise to deliver your order on time within the delivery window and for the lowest price compared to other apps, or you'll get back at least $5 in perks. soledad: 66 years ago, on august 28, 1955, the battered body of a 14-year-old boy was fished out of the tallahatchie river in mississippi.
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that young boy was emmett till. till had traveled from chicago to sumner, mississippi, to spend time with his extended family. while there, he was accused of flirting with a white woman. later, the woman's husband and brother-in-law kidnapped till, brutally beat him, and then threw him in the river after tying a 75-pound cotton gin around his neck, a large machine that separates cotton seeds from raw fiber, and they hung it around his neck with barbed wire. the two men were tried for till's murder. they were acquitted by an all-white jury. decades later, carolyn bryant, the woman who accused till, said she had lied. a young mississippi native, patrick weems, knows the importance of telling till's story. our correspondent diane roberts shows us his efforts to preserve till's legacy. patrick weems: the only version of civil rights i was taught was that rosa parks sat down, and martin luther king stood up -- and everybody was free. diane: 30-year-old patrick weems
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grew up in mississippi. patrick weems: and it wasn't until i was 18 and i took a specific course on african-american studies that i learned about emmett till. when i learned about what happened, the injustices, but also that young people made change, it compelled me to want to be a part of that change, too. diane: determined, patrick set about the work of preserving the mississippi courtroom at the center of the story and the task of making amends. patrick weems: it was here in this courtroom that two men got off for murder. and so, we decided that we needed to begin by apologizing to the till family before we could begin with our museum. out of that apology, we decided to restore the courthouse back to the way it looked in 1955 and open up the emmett till interpretive center. diane: that was 10 years ago when, as a 20-year-old college student at ole miss, patrick took the lead in seeking racial reconciliation. patrick weems: so, in 1955, carolyn bryant told the
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sensationalized story, and she did it to kind of persuade people to think that what her husband did was ok. it kind of played into the myth that black men are rapists and will come after white women and white women need to be protected. diane: and because emmett till can't tell his story, patrick does, every day, in his role as the center director. patrick weems: after the trial, people were embarrassed, ashamed, that this had happened in their community, especially after the two men confessed to the murder. so, for us to finally break that silence was, for us, a big step towards healing. diane: patrick says there was no justice for emmett in this courtroom, but he wants to educate future generations in hopes of racial equality and equal justice. patrick weems: for us to be a part of actually coming to the table and doing the hard work of
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telling the truth and speaking openly about race, my hope is that we empower communities across this nation to look in their own backyards and understand how our history is impacting our current conversations around race. soledad: next month, production starts on a feature film called "till." one of the film's producers is academy-award-winner whoopi goldberg. announcer: next on "matter of fact." decision made. the court ruling that gives ex-offenders a chance to recover their right to vote. to stay up-to-date with
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california! during a flex alert, let's keep our power up and running. set ac cooler and use big appliances before 4pm. then from 4-9pm reduce use and take it easy on our energy. sign up today. soledad: now to a weekly feature we like to call "we're paying attention even if you're too busy." 56,000 ex-offenders in north carolina are one step closer to getting the right to vote. a civil rights group sued the state for denying felons the right to vote until they finished up every part of their
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sentence -- including probation, parole, and any fines and fees that they owed. now, the courts have said the state cannot keep these ex-felons from voting. in other voting news, the house of representatives passed the "john lewis voting rights advancements act," named after the long-time georgia congressman and civil rights activist who died last year. the bill restores a part of the 1965 voting rights act that allowed the department of justice to prevent changes in voting rules in states with a pattern of discrimination. the bill is expected to face steep gop opposition in the senate. announcer: ahead -- could this be the most heavenly spot on earth? when our daughter and her kids moved in with us... our bargain detergent couldn't keep up. turns out it's mostly water. so, we switched back to tide. one wash, stains are gone. [daughter] slurping don't pay for water. pay for clean. it's got to be tide.
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soledad: and finally, a dream destination for stargazers. chinese astronomers are eying the tibetan plateau to be the newest home of an observatory. that area is called "the roof of
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the world" and has an average elevation of about 15,000 feet above sea level -- that's about three miles for anyone trying to do the math -- which makes it the highest region on earth. researchers have studied the area for three years and like it because the black sky and clear air make the location a premium spot to view the cosmos. the new telescope will image the entire sky above the northern hemisphere once every three nights. it will sync with telescopes at the observatory in chile to give a worldwide view of the sky. the telescope is under construction. it will be more than eight feet long and cost $28 million. expensive but pretty cool. that's it for this edition of "matter of fact." i'm soledad o'brien. i will see you back here next week. announcer: if you missed our top stories about the massive humanitarian relief effort in
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haiti, the texas superintendent who defied the governor and issued her own mask mandate for students, one man's quest to preserve the legacy of emmitt till, and a court order that makes it possible for ex-offenders to vote -- just go to and listen to "matter of fact with soledad o'brien" on apple podcasts, spotify, or your favorite podcast provider. watch us during the week on fyi and pluto. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
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majestic mountains... scenic coastal highways... fertile farmlands... there's lots to love about california.
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so put off those chores and use less energy from 4 to 9 pm when less clean energy is available. because that's power down time. today on "today in the bay," music legend jon nakamatsu, a gold medalist from the bay area, now known all around the world. he will be playing free outdoor labor day concerts at san jose state university, but he joins us here first. then we step up our efforts to clear the shelters with dr. wailani sung of the san francisco spca. next, we bring you the inspiring story of infinite flow, a dance company of disabled and able bodied dancer started by marissa hamamoto. hello. i'm robert handa on nbc bay area
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