A fun and fiery barbershop conversation with 'Killer Mike' and 6 friends

barbershop killer mike brooke baldwin hillary clinton health origwx allee_00004319
barbershop killer mike brooke baldwin hillary clinton health origwx allee_00004319

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Story highlights

  • "I'm sick of pundits because they don't always have their ears to the ground," CNN's Brooke Baldwin writes
  • She sat down with a group of black voters in Atlanta to get their take on the 2016 race

(CNN)I'm sick of pundits.

Don't get me wrong. I love the guests I have on every day. I love their energy and smarts and sass. But I'm sick of pundits because they don't always have their ears to the ground. They don't always have their finger on the pulse of America. Many of them are getting their talking points directly from the campaigns. (That's great -- we need to know what each candidate is thinking/doing/arguing each day.)
    But oftentimes, these pundits are not sitting around the dinner tables, the laundromats, the pharmacy checkout lines and listening. I wanted to listen to real Americans with real issues.
    I wanted to specifically focus on the impact of the black vote. In 2012, African-Americans voted at a higher rate than non-Hispanic whites for the first time since the Census Bureau started reported voting rates for the eligible citizen population in 1996. I wanted to find folks with different political perspectives but who would feel comfortable to speak freely. I didn't want talking points. No sugarcoating. I wanted a smart, substantive conversation.
    So a few weeks ago, I made a single phone call -- to rapper/activist Michael "Killer Mike" Render.
    Killer Mike (because he likes to "kill microphones") and I met a few years back in our hometown of Atlanta. We were introduced by a mutual friend, and after Ferguson happened, I invited him on my show. He talked about being a black father in this country (and his police officer dad), why his rhymes intersect with politics and the reason he and his wife Shay bought a barbershop. (He wants to give back to his roots in Atlanta, employ young black men and empower them to achieve more.)
    Back to Mike and that phone call a few weeks ago. I knew Mike had access to a fun, fiery and somewhat sacred space in his community: a barbershop. And I had a feeling he had friends -- from diverse political backgrounds -- who wouldn't be camera shy.
    Our group included: Taj Anwar Baoll, a firefighter and urban farmer; Shelly Winters, a Harlem native who is wholeheartedly supporting Donald Trump; Jamida Orange, whose father marched with Dr. Martin Luther King; Kalonji Changa, a grassroots activist and local leader who won't be voting on the national level this year; and Christine White, an attorney who is all in for Hillary Clinton. And, of course, Mike, a former Bernie Sanders supporter who (and I don't think he'll mind my saying this) shed tears when Bernie bowed out.
    My takeaways -- this group is wary of both Trump and Clinton. They believe the Democrats do sometimes take their votes for granted. And despite the fact that photos of the first family proudly hang in their homes, as one woman put it -- "we've absolutely given President Obama a pass!"
    Our conversation ended with all six explaining to me why they feel empowered -- or as Taj put it, "woke" -- in 2016.
    Our conversation on (and off) camera was informative -- not to mention refreshing. No pundits or politicos here. Just Americans with a real responsibility: pulling the levers in less than eight weeks.