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Teen Violence In Cities On The Rise; A Sit-Down With Russell Simmons

Aired August 24, 2013 - 18:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. It is the top of the hour.

I want everyone to sit down and listen to this. Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, everyone, listen. You are going get something out of this. Because watching the news this week, you might think that there was no more dangerous creature on earth than a teenage boy.

In Oklahoma, teens accused of killing a college baseball player from Australia, and the suspects supposedly killed for almost incomprehensible reason -- because they were bored.

In Georgia, another teen on trial. The prime suspect in the murder after 13-month-old baby, Antonio Santiago, shot between the eyes allegedly because his mother wouldn't hand over her purse.

In Washington State, a World War II veteran. 88-years-old, a member of the greatest generation, wounded at Okinawa, while serving his country. He survived a war, only to be allegedly beaten to death. The suspects in this case, two teens caught on tape. One now under arrest. Police still hunting for the other.

And finally, a case that seems symbolic of the troubling time. A school becomes a crime scene when a young man decides he doesn't care if he lives or dies. Picks up an assault rifle and heads to the nearest school with nearly 500 rounds of ammunition. A school bookkeeper talks him into surrendering.

So what is the matter with kids today? Some kids today. What's the matter? It is time for no talking points.

Well tonight, every generation asks this question. What's the matter with kids these days? In the 1950s and 60s, the worry was about mortality, appear that the nation's biggest resource is children was being corrupted.

Now every bit as worried about these things but the crisis has life and death consequences. Every day brings another grim headline. Teens on the edge of adulthood, a time when they should be deciding what they want to be, what kind of adult they want to become. Instead making choices that guarantee they will grow up old, in a prison cell.

Their decisions don't lead to an early grave. What is the problem? Could it be music? Songs and rap that glorify getting rich but not getting down to work. Does that persuade teens not to look for a job but rather to reach for a gun? A hip hop pioneer says you can't stop artists who want to speak the truth.


RUSSELL SIMMONS, HIP-HOP PIONEER: The way young people want to express themselves, bucking the system, that's something that I support. And some of the things they say that may make the adults uncomfortable, most cases, I support it. They are at caught and they caused their lives.


LEMON: You are going to hear more from Russell Simmons a little bit later on here on CNN. If music doesn't explain the violence, do failing schools? No jobs? No hope? If that's the problem, how do you fix it? Throw money at the problem? Slap a coat of paint on the schools? Open up a fast food restaurant so a teen can earn minimum wage flipping burgers? How do you inspire teens who see such a bleak future ahead of them?


REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: It is my desire to see another generation of young people with passion. I believe in passion. I believe in passion.


LEMON: I agree with civil rights icon John Lewis. I want them to be passionate, not violent. But how? Is the problem broken homes with parents that not only understand -- don't understand but sometimes don't even seem to care? That's if they are even around to begin with. How do you even begin to fix that? Can you make it illegal for a father to leave his family? Can you force mom to stay clean and sober when she doesn't want to? How do you fix that?

Today on the national mall, civil rights activists spoke about the dire problems our society faces. Senate candidate Cory Booker described the plague of violence.


MAYOR CORY BOOKER, NEWARK: We need to understand will is still work to do. When the leading cause of death for black men may age and younger is gun violence, we still have work to do.


LEMON: He's right. We still have work to do. But you don't want to hear muff on the mall today. I didn't hear enough on the mall today. Excuse me, that's what I meant. What you didn't hear enough about was solutions. How do you fix a problem? Not just a problem. A crisis, epidemic, ugly truth, the elephant in the room. And too many of those cases I talked about, perpetrators are black.

If we are going to be honest, this is an epidemic of kids, most of them black kids, committing crimes. The ones you see in the headlines, the daily drumbeat of violence, the relentless killing in the hood that usually doesn't make the headlines except after a particularly gory weekend in Chicago maybe or maybe in Philadelphia or in New Orleans. And we will ask mayors from two of those cities what they think about that tonight and we will look for an answer.

Because when we ask what's wrong with kids these days, don't get this twisted. Although we do want them to take responsibility for their own actions, we are not blaming them. What we are asking is, how might we, the people who know better, be failing them and how can we help them? Young people, can you help us help you? And that's tonight, "no talking points.

All right, I want to bring in two panelists here who I think know a lot about the situation. Psychology Wendy Walsh is in Los Angeles and columnist LZ Granderson is here with me in New York and he is serious about this.

Am I being too hard on them?

LZ GRANDERSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: What do you mean by them? Are you speaking about us? Are you speaking about the perpetrators? I mean, you have to define the "them" first.

LEMON: Yes. Am I being too hard on the parents, first of all?

GRANDERSON: As a parent, no. And the reason why I say this is because you oftentimes see parents, very common taking credit when the kids do good, you know, smiling, being there, for the graduation. Being there in case the kid wins a sporting award or scholarship. Parents are quick to kind of be present for that. What we aren't seeing are parents being quick for the kids who aren't necessarily doing things that society approves of. When are you going to show up for those moments as well?

LEMON: OK. Quickly, am I being too hard on the youth?

GRANDERSON: No. I don't think so.

LEMON: All right. Wendy Walsh, what do you think?

WENDY WALSH, HUMAN BEHAVIOR SPECIALIST: I think in some ways you are because these kids don't -- they have a fighting chance from the beginning.

You know, Don, that my brand is all about relationships. And while you may think I want people to have lovely romances I only care about nests for children and healthy nests for children. And when, you know, 14 million single moms are raising one in four American children and have to work full time, we are talking about a lack of a caring adult from the beginning, you know, from their most waking hours. If you work a ten-hour day and have a commute time, you are gone during a child's most vulnerable time and can you not schedule teaching moments.

LEMON: I am just -- Wendy -- Wendy, that's why I don't have a kid.

WALSH: Right. I understand because you know too much.

LEMON: Right. I'm so -- so then if you are not going to take the responsibility for a kid you know that you have to do that, here's what -- am I wrong? Isn't that what it is -- goes along with having kids?

WALSH: There are other countries like Iceland and Sweden who have lower marriage rates than we do. But they have much better cultural supports. They have child care, really good education, good child care.

I did research on teen violence today on the internet and I will tell you, some of the -- it is very complicated question. But some of the factors are, besides caring adult in the home, is how safe does a child feel at school? How attach are they to their teachers? Is there gang activity? How much can they access a gun? There are lots of factors. It is a very complicated question.

LEMON: We are just beginning. Quickly --

GRANDERSON: I agree. There are lots of factors. But I keep hearing her eliminate kids being part of the factor. They have to at some point also be --

WALSH: They are children!

GRANDERSON: Once you are 15, 16 years old, you can still make rational decisions. You may not necessarily have the best back ground but as --

LEMON: OK. Wendy and LZ, stick around. We are just beginning. Stick around because we are going broaden this conversation and we are going to need your unique perspectives here. We have to lot to get. A really great stuff coming up.

Also ahead, a conversation a lot of you have been waiting for. Earlier this month, I shared some thoughts on how to fix problems among Black youth. Many of the people found that advice controversial, including hip hop mowing up Russell Simmons who responded with an open letter to Justin (ph) of this own. After much begging and pleading from the folks in social media, the two of us sat down to discuss race, music, hip-hop's influence on the Black community and many more things. Here is a preview.


SIMMONS: We also want them to be truthful to their art and say what is on their hearts. And what's on their hearts sometimes is difficult to digest and we have to look at that and see if that's a road map and something we can fix.

LEMON: Is there a way of doing that without calling someone a bit bitch or a whore?

SIMMONS: SIMMONS: I think that some of those lyrics are very harsh. Some of the things they say are very sexes, some of the things they say are very difficult to digest --

LEMON: And ignorant.

SIMMONS: And ignorant. I still can't tell a poet, you know. I cannot tell a poet, no, they are not my lyrics. They are my songs but I can't tell a poet what to say and I will not.


LEMON: More of my conversation with Russell just minutes away.

Next I will be joined mayors of two big U.S. cities, the mayor of New Orleans and the mayor of Philadelphia, the biggest killer of young men in this country, guess what it is, other young men murder. So, we will ask our mayors what they are doing to try and stop that.


LEMON: All right, welcome back everyone.

The violence we have been talking about two have been committed by teens isn't confined to cities, but they feel like the epicenter of this plague and city lead verse to tackle the problem with shrinking budgets. How do they do that?

Our next guests are trying to find new solutions. We are talking about solutions now. And their cities need them as arguably they are two of the most dangerous cities in the country. But it is getting better in both cities. Let's hope.

Mitch Landrieu is the mayor of New Orleans and Michael Nutter is the mayor of Philadelphia. Two cities that I have been connected to and I love very much.

Thank you so much for joining me this evening. You guys doing OK?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doing great. Thanks for having us thanks for the opportunity.

LEMON: According to the national league, gentlemen, the city's homicide is the leading cause of death for males between the ages of 15 and 24. And then we know the statistics we heard so much about young black males.

So, Mayor Nutter, recently had you to close 23 public schools and lay off 3800 workers. Your city had to borrow $50 million to open the schools. But the state is pouring $400 million into a new prison. Why can't that funding go into the school systems and other programs to get youth off the streets?

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, PHILADELPHIA: Well first, there is no question that we need more funding for education and to use dollars that we have in the best interest of children. What Pennsylvania needs is a new funding formula that takes into account student population, whether English is your first language or not, issues of poverty and the like, much like 47 other states in the United States of America. So, I'm going to be focused on that particular issue.

But right now, what I needed to do is to make sure schools open on time and safely. Not withstand something of the personnel reductions. But the focus has to be on education, young people, what goes on in school, after school, on the weekends, during the summer. And so we beefed up many of our after-school programs as well as summer programming to make sure our kids are safe and they are learning and they are working with caring, nurturing adults.

LEMON: OK. So, Mayor Landrieu, I want to get this school question out of the way as well. I want to talk about -- specifically about other things. I want to ask the same question. As New Orleans is building a new prison too, is this our new reality? Giving up on schools to make room for teens who will inevitably end up behind bars?

MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU, NEW ORLEANS: Well you know, it is one of the things that we face in this nation, you know. We are going to have Cadillac prisons and we are not going to have schools and work. We have to get priorities straight, you know. And if we have to spend all of our time, spending of all our investments in prison, you are now spending it where that is supposed to be. And you will never ever getting to the issue that Mayor Nutter and I want to talk about tonight which is there is a culture of violence that's develop order the streets of America.

That is a catastrophic event. It is almost epidemic. And what you see is the lives of young African-Americans taken and epidemic levels and they are being killed in many instances by people that know them. And that's not a problem that this nation has really wanted to talk about.

And Mayor Nutter has had the courage to do had a as just the immediate past president of the conference of mayors. So, we need to focus on. We can't get distracted. There is a lot of other tough issue. But this is one, I think, the country has to look at and deal with and try to solve.

LEMON: I spoke with you --

NUTTER: Hey Don, I just want to make sure we are clear on -- I want to make sure we are very clear on one particular fact. As you laid into -- at the beginning. The prison that's being built is not in Philadelphia and it is not being paid for by Philadelphia. This is a state facility and another county outside of the city of Philadelphia. But, I understand your main point.

LEMON: We were making the point of should we be looking at putting money in other places than prisons? I hope that didn't come off the wrong way. So, I'm glad you clarified.

NUTTER: We should be looking in putting money in schools.

LEMON: Right. That's exactly what I meant.

So, I speak with Mayor Landrieu. And Mayor Nutter, you and I speak occasionally and you know, I used to live in Philadelphia.

NUTTER: I know.

LEMON: First of all, as you listen to my no talking points, and I said to you in the commercial break. I'm sorry, I'm passionate about this, I know people say, we immediate to talk about racism and all of those things. Yes, that's important.

But, am I being too hard? Don't you think we need to stop the bleeding first before we move on and talk about other things?

LANDRIEU: Well, let me just --

NUTTER: Absolutely.

LANDRIEU: This is -- this is really --

NUTTER: Go ahead.

LANDRIEU: This is really clear if in fact any American was walking down the street and they saw two young men fall in a hole, and those men were in danger. There is not one person that would walk by them without saying we have to rescue them. There's something going on here. We have to stop. So there are lots of other issues we can deal with, but the most important thing we have to do right now is to stop the shooting.

Everybody wants to talk about who did what and why and we can talk about whose fault it was. But at the end of day not everybody is to blame, but everybody is responsible for fixing the problem. So, it is my opinion, I think Mayor Nutter shares this, that this is such a catastrophic event that we now have to just stop for a second and stop the shooting and stop the violence and then we will work on the other things later.

LEMON: Do we --

NUTTER: Don, I want to encourage you not to apologize. Be straightforward. The passion is important. You know, we need to make sure we are dealing with the issues straight on. Folks beating up other people, stabbing other people, shooting other people, you know, whatever that issue was, we can't excuse it.

I know that everyone doesn't have the greatest upbringing. But -- some level of personal responsibility comes in here and as Mayor Landrieu said we all have an obligations and responsibility. So, all this finger pointing often doesn't and making excuses doesn't lead to good outcome and good result.

Unfortunately, we find the young people dead is dead. And that's all this debate and discussion afterwards. What we need to be is on the front end making sure that kids are getting service and the support they need. Some have mental health challenges and some are struggling in schools. There are warning signs that we need to identify and be prepared for. You know, if you are in seventh grade reading a seventh grade reading level that's a serious problem. That's a student who probably is going to drop out of high school and often then it is too late.

LEMON: I think that's the quote of the evening. I'm sitting here with LZ Granderson, mayors. When you said dead is dead, he is right on, isn't he? That's --

GRANDERSON: At the end of the day, does it matter, you know if it was by a white hand or black hand? If you were gay or straight, if you are male or female, if you are a victim of violence and you are dead --

LEMON: That's it. Thank you, mayor. Don't go anywhere. I want to -- you to stay around. Thank you so much guys.

Next, we are going to bring in columnist LZ Granderson and psychologist Wendy Walsh again. And I want to get their reactions to what you both are saying.


LEMON: Problem can feel too big for any of us to solve, teen violence. But how can we turn away knowing that this crisis isn't just their fault, but it is all of our fault as well. They have to take responsibility, but it is still all of our fault.

So, to talk about this I want to bring back Mayors, Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, Michael Nutter of Philadelphia. And I want to bring back psychologist Wendy Walsh in Los Angeles and columnist l.Z. Granderson here with me in New York.

OK. Wendy, you didn't get a chance to weigh in on this, LZ did. What did you think the mayors saying about this? They said to basically don't apologize. We should be stronger in our message to young people.

WALSH: Well, we should be stronger and we should also ask those wonderful voters who put hose gentlemen in office to approve legislation that puts more funds to help young families and help with education instead of just incarcerating people and spending money, way too much money too late. If you invest a little bit in the early years, it is really important.

And I want to add to those big city mayors, did you know that rural teen violent crime has now reached the same rate as urban cities. It is happening everywhere.

LEMON: Mayors, go ahead and respond. First, go ahead, Mayor Nutter.

NUTTER: Sure. I mean, we are certainly aware that violence is rising in rural areas. And what doesn't get discussed is also the issue of suicide in both urban and rural areas. So I mean, the focus here is on where we are utilizing resources that we have. I cannot sit around hoping for that wonderful day when money is going to fall out of the sky or come rolling down the hills from upper Pennsylvania. I have what I have. I continue to fight and advocate Governor Corbett about school funding and it is an underfunding problem across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

But in the meantime, what Mayor Landrieu and I do is we deal day to day with what's going on our streets while we are fighting other battles somewhere else. And often, it is really about having a conversation with some mom that, hey, I'm sorry that your son has died but I'm in the going to say, well, but Joe Joe had a bad life and therefore that's explanation why your son is dead.

This is serious business. It requires serious action and responsibility and raising our children while making sure parents are parenting and not trying to be friends with their kids, going out with their kids, they have a curfew, that you go to school, that you don't mess with other people. These are serious messages that are proven to be helpful as well as funding.

LEMON: OK. So listen. Wendy. I understand what you are talking about. When you say the percentage is going to -- . But just by sheer numbers, will are more people in cities than there are in rural areas. And so when you look at the sheer number of people being killed, and this is just -- racking -- I read this.

Tracking homicides in Chicago, all right, and this is from a report from 2012 and I'm just going the read it off here. 26-year-old unknown male shot dead, caused bay gunshot, 36-year-old black male, dead, caused by gunshot. This is August 20th. That's August 18th. August 18th, 28-year-old black male shot dead by gunshot. August 18th, 24-year-old black male shot dead. These are just random. August 17th, 19-year-old black male. August 17th, 18-year-old black male. On and on August 17th, 49-year-old black male. August 16th, 34-year-old black male. 23-year-old black male on the 16th. A 75- year-old black male.

It is heartbreaking. So, why do we sit here and say OK, it is the white man's fault. Yes. There's institutional and there is structural racism. But someone does not put a gun to your head, so to speak, and make you go out and kill someone, Mayor Nutter.

LANDRIEU: That's -- well --

NUTTER: It is right. Real deal is -- go ahead, Mayor Landrieu. Jump in.

LANDRIEU: No. I was just going to say, mike and I agree on this completely. You know, there are a lot of reasons for this and not any one of them is necessarily paramount, but there are a lot of people unemployed not picking up a gun and shooting somebody. There are millions of Americans that own guns that are not picking up a gun and shooting somebody. There are millions of people that came from single parent families that are not doing it. So, it can't just be that.

I think what Mayor Nutter and I are trying to call the nation into commune on is we had a catastrophic public health problem where a culture of violence is developed and we ought to attack this problem just like we were fighting a war in Afghanistan and on Iraq and Colombia. We have not done had a.

It is not just about money, but money is involved in it. It is not just about organization. We all have to, number one, say it is an unacceptable level of behavior in America. And too many people are getting killed and it has to catastrophic level that we all have to think about and we all have to deal with.

LEMON: LZ Granderson --

NUTTER: Serious health issue in the United States of America.

GRANDERSON: I was going to say, I --

LANDRIEU: Saying violence is a serious health issue in the country.

LEMON: Right. There is a bit of a delay, but continue LZ

NUTTER: Go ahead.

GRANDERSON: So, you know, I wrote a piece as I was moving to Chicago about why aren't we addressing gang violence the same way we do with terrorism. There is a certain level of passion that we as Americans have about the word terrorism. We don't allow terrorism to be taken very lightly. We don't allow to be celebrated in popular culture. When someone is murdered because of terrorism the entire nation feels it. It is not just relegated to the parents.

So, what I want to see or what I hope to see is, of course, a dialog in which we start looking at gang violence nationwide the way we look at terrorism. So when someone in Oklahoma reads a story about a series of people being shot and killed because of gang violence in Chicago, their heart goes out to those people. And it is not just dismissed as blacks are killing blacks or related to gangs.

Look at it the way you look at a terrorist attack in which oh, my God, this is a threat to national security because in end of the day, it is a threat to national security. This is our work force. This is our brain power. These are our inventors and entrepreneurs who are dying. These aren't just random lifeless individuals. These are people that could be part of a major part of our future. And so we lose this intellectual capacity, intellectual accounts of people that are going out by death, threat to our national security in my opinion.

LEMON: So Mayors, I want to ask you this. Do you think that too many people make too many excuses for young people and for their parents and their family that many ways and maybe the media is as well, do we coddle people way too much?

First, Mayor Landrieu and then Mayor Nutter.

LANDRIEU: Well, listen. First of all, I completely agree with what your panelist just recently said. We spent $14 billion during the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the war on drugs. Standing up police departments in those countries with what weigh call nation building and those resources where not brought to bear. The other thing, too, is I don't think the nation has really adopted the opinion that was just stated. This is a catastrophic problem that affects the whole country. This is not just a black issue. Because we are talking about African-American kids killing African-American kids, it is not a racial issue and it is not just an African-American issue and absolutely, it deals with personal responsibility and it is an issue that we are afraid to talk about. So yes, I think we let everybody off the hook.

And I think that what Mayor Nutter and I basically calling people to, we have to stop and look at this because it is really having an impact on the future of America.

LEMON: Mayor Nutter?

NUTTER: Don, so what many of us are working on and Mayor Landrieu and I are leading this effort called Cities United. This is now 20, 30- plus mayors across the United States of America focused on the issue of violence with young men and boys and certain given the numbers, particularly focus, on African-Americans but certainly all violence is bad and in our cities.

And so, it is about best practices, it's about resources, it's about working with (INAUDIBLE) family programs and the Knight Foundation and so man, many others. I will try to understand better some of the reasons that people do the things they do. But I won't accept them. I'm not going to baby folks. And if you can pick up a gun and shoot somebody in the head and then order a pizza, then clearly there is something wrong with you. But babying time is over. That's serious business. Mommy's not coming to get you or to read you a story right now. You are going to jail.

Unfortunately, your life is going to be altered. But you also changed someone else's life forever. So -- I want us to work together, use our resources. The panelist earlier, Mayor Landrieu and I and many others have been talking about the fact that folks in our communities are acting like domestic terrorists. And I believe in the war on terror overseas, but I would like to be able to walk down the street and be safe as well. The security that we put together, TSA, Homeland Security, to fly on an airplane, I would like to be able to walk around with that level of safety as well.

This is about priorities. It's about resources. It is about folks being focused on what is really going on in the streets in America. If these numbers were reversed, that 40 percent to 80 percent of homicide victims in the top 25 cities in the United States of America are black men, if those numbers were reversed, let me assure you that the entire United States of America would be trying to figure out how to change that dynamic and those facts.

LEMON: Wendy, it is going to have to come from within. Help us out here.


WALSH: Don, I want to actually disagree with something you said earlier. You said these crimes may not be racially motivated in the sense that white people didn't cause their problems. But this is a problem of families and work-life balance and lack of males in the household. And I will say that the breakdown of the African-American family was caused by white people. It was from pulling babies out of women's arms to sell them hundreds of years ago to only giving social welfare programs to black women in the '50s if they didn't have a man in the home. In other words, institutionalizing the idea of single mothers.

So I will say that this is a breakdown of the family. We need to find a way on get more men of all races back into their families, helping with these teenagers.

LEMON: Before I respond to that, go ahead.

NUTTER: Ms. Walsh, I just want to make sure that you don't insult the overwhelming number of single mothers, some of whom are single mothers, some of whom are single black mothers, who are doing the right thing --

WALSH: Who are doing great.

NUTTER: -- who are raising their children.

WALSH: Exactly.

NUTTER: Who are not getting in trouble. And let's make sure we don't insult the great work that they are doing and -- unfortunately, more than likely, somewhere tonight in Philly, and New Orleans and Chicago or somewhere else, some young man is going to take another young man's life. And I don't think they are going to be thinking about racism from 100 years ago or babies snatched out of somebody's home.

WALSH: No. And I'm not blaming the mothers. They can use our support.

NUTTER: They are making bad judgments. They're making bad mistakes. That's all I'm saying.

WALSH: Right. But even though it is --

NUTTER: We pay for it every day.

LEMON: Yes. Mayor Landrieu -


WALSH: Even though those great mothers can use support. I'm one of them. I'm a single mother myself.

LANDRIEU: Listen, before the stroke of midnight tonight, 40 more people will have been killed on the streets of America. Every day. It is a relentless drumbeat of death. We need to look at it, we need to deal with it. This is the United States of America. We sent somebody to the moon. We can solve this problem if we acknowledge that it is in fact a problem -

LEMON: Thank you.

LANDRIEU: If we say that we are not going to accept it anymore and we deal with it, we can fix it. But it has to be something that's important to the rest the nation, and I believes that it is.

LEMON: Wendy - and I want respond saying, Wendy, I preface it by saying, we all understand there's structural and institutional racism. We get that. But in the moment you are committing a crime, no one is standing over your shoulder saying you have to do this. That's all I'm saying. I get it. I'm a black man --

WALSH: But in the 15 years --

LEMON: I was raised by a single mother. I get.

WALSH: I know. I agree. But in the 15 years before that child picks up that gun, where is the after-school care paid for for these single moms? Where is the good early childhood education? Where's the help and support in our culture? I'm a single mom; I could use it.

GRANDERSON: I would definitely agree with you with a lot with that. I mean, when -- when the country is going through the greatest (INAUDIBLE) recession - we have 33 states spending more building prisons than those 33 states building up the education system. Especially early childhood education, which is proven to be a detractor from leading kids into prison. I agree with you that.

I was a single dad. I have a partner now, but I raised my son as a single dad. So I want to speak for all single parents. We are not demonizing you. We are saying those parents who are negligent need to be held responsible. And the kids that commit the acts cannot be removed from having any personal responsibility.

LEMON: They need to be held responsible.

Thank you. Thank you. We are running out of time. My producers are saying we've got to move on. There is not enough time in the hour for this. We really appreciate it. We are going talk much more about this on CNN and continue the conversation.

Mayors, thank you. Wendy, thank you. L.Z., thank you.

Coming up, for weeks there has been a battle on Twitter and blogs between myself and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. The battle has been over race and my controversial advice to some of the black community. I've invited Russell on the show, and he said yes. Our conversation, an emotional one coming up next.


LEMON: OK, everyone. Here it is. Now finally a conversation that many of you have been asking for. A few weeks ago on a segment on this show, I suggested five things that some of the black community could use to fix some of our own problems. Dress appropriately, stop using the n word so much, respect where you live, finish school, and plan for a child or stop having them out of wedlock. They were intended to promote self-empowerment, not a cure for racism.

Yet many people found them controversial. Among those people, Russell Simmons. A hip-hop mogul penned an open letter with his criticism of my points and suggestions of his own. The next week, I wrote him back and sent an invitation to join me on this show. Well, he accepted. And this week, we sat down to talk about race, hip-hop, and empowering our youth to be better. Here is our conversation.


LEMON: So we are here. Thank you for coming.


LEMON: If I have my opinion about something, you have your opinion about something, we don't have to fight over it, right?

SIMMONS: That's for sure.

LEMON: And we can have a conversation; we can also disagree without being disagreeable. And we can just disagree, and it is fine. It doesn't mean I don't like you or you don't like me. We just disagree.

SIMMONS: I am a person who loves diversity. I love all kinds of thought process, I love all kinds of people. But when I -- sometimes if a black person who is revered in the community says something that's conservative and I think is part of a mindset that is hurtful to the community - (INAUDIBLE) heping them is not helpful. But people will say the problem with the black community is the kids got their ass crack showing.

No, the problem with the black community is they need education opportunities, they need job opportunities. These realities are the ones we need to bring up when we are talking about uplifting our children.

LEMON: Yes. That's true.

SIMMONS: That's first.

LEMON: But there is -

SIMMONS: (INAUDIBLE) that's first!

LEMON: When you want to improve something, where is the first place you look?

SIMMONS: Here. I look inside. And when I want to improve -- here is what I learned. I say this, this --

LEMON: Okay.

SIMMONS: Let me --

LEMON: No, no, no, no, no. This is too good. This is too good. So, why didn't you -- why didn't you write a letter that said -- I understand what Don Lemon was saying. We need to take personal responsibility.

SIMMONS: I should have said that first. Then say --

LEMON: And then say here are the points where I disagree with you?

SIMMONS: You have to say things in a way they go in instead of bounce off. Of course, personal responsibility. I wouldn't include the cultural expression so much.

Here is what I learned. I'm a vegan. I meditate twice day. I have these kind of - but I was, years ago, I took every single drug. I learned that morning meditation is greater than late-night drinking. I learned this -

LEMON: You had to learn that yourself.

SIMMONS: That's right. And the only way to move people towards -- give them another chance, give them the education, give them the opportunity, give them things that -- are cleaner, that more inspired. And that's -- that's every day my job. Even if a rapper comes to me and he says things that you object to or that we both - I don't know if I get uncomfortable, but something you don't like, my job is to give them a little more clean, a little bit more of an inspired idea.

LEMON: Do you think that we are in a crisis?

SIMMONS: We are in a crisis. First thing --

LEMON: So then what do we do then?

SIMMONS: Well, a few things.


LEMON: So, what do we do? The answer to that question and a whole lot more just ahead.

Plus, you know my panelist is dying to weigh in. Stick around.


LEMON: Russell Simmons admits there is a crisis among young people, especially African-American youth. How do we fix it? What do we do? Here is our conversation.


LEMON: Do you think that we are in a crisis?

SIMMONS: We are in a crisis. First thing --

LEMON: So then what do we do then?

SIMMONS: Well, a few things. The greatest cause of the destruction of the fabric of the black community have been the prison-industrial complex. The greatest cause. When I was a kid, my friends all went to jail for using drugs. This 40 years now. They have been locking diseased people up, educating them in criminal behavior, and dumping them back in the community without hope or chance for employment.

So people become part of this cycle of the prison system. And those people have brought (INAUDIBLE) if you say to the prison culture, because all of these innocent but diseased people have been educated in violent criminal behavior and sent back into the community.

There are many other things. You know, the lack of education opportunity, the lack of - we need equal high-quality education. This is a -- for me, this is the kind of subject that we have to bring up and talk about. If we go school, there's no books and the teachers aren't teaching, and the students are in the kind of situation -- they don't ever have a gym class. They don't have an art class. Without art, there is no way -- you have to -- exercise the creative muscles.

That's why I run an art foundation. That's why we raise millions of dollar for the arts. I think those are the kinds of things that we can do to change the condition that creates a poetry that makes you uncomfortable.

LEMON: And there's -- I didn't say it makes me uncomfortable.

SIMMONS: Well, it does.

LEMON: No, it does not -

SIMMONS: Not you, but some people in America are very uncomfortable about the reality expressed in the mouths of the rappers.

LEMON: Don't mistake my passion for not -- that I don't like hip-hop. That's not true. I think it is an art. And I think people like Jay-Z and Kanye West are great artists.

My thing is lids are dying every single minute, and it is because, as you said, we had the responsibility or there are people being educated in prison culture. I think that helps perpetuate that education in prison culture. And -- I don't understand why you can't see that.

SIMMONS: I do see that the expression of our reality, you know, maybe reaffirms it to some degree. But it is certainly important that artists tell our truth.

LEMON: Do you think that hip-hop can be better? Rap and hip-hop can be better?

SIMMONS: I think each individual artist has a responsibility to say what's on their hearts. And some of it is not pretty. So I think that there are reflections of our reality and some cases sad reality --

LEMON: That's great but do those artists understand the influence they are having on the young people or the people who are listening to their songs?

SIMMONS: I think many -- most artists understand. And I don't believe that there is anything we can do to stop a poet from expressing the truth. Only thing we can do is change that truth that -- if it is uncomfortable to us.

LEMON: Do you think just -- the question, do you think rap and hip-hop can be better?

SIMMONS: Absolutely.

LEMON: Okay. How so?

SIMMONS: Each individual can be better, but as an overall culture, it has to express our sad reality. It's the way young people want to express themselves by bucking the system, something that I support. And some of the things they say that may make the adults uncomfortable, in most cases, I support it.

And, of course, there are lines. I'm not suggesting there's no line.

We hope their expression can be one that uplifts people. But we also want them to be truthful to their art and say what is on their hearts. And if what's on their hearts sometimes it is difficult to digest and we have to look and see if it that's a road map to something we can fix --

LEMON: Is there a way of doing that without calling someone a bitch or a whore?

SIMMONS: I think that some of those lyrics are very harsh, and some of the things they say are very sexist. Some of the things they say are very difficult to digest.

LEMON: And ignorant.

SIMMONS: And ignorant. I still can't tell a poet, you know, I cannot tell a poet, no they're not my lyrics and my song. But I can't tell a poet what to say, and I will not. \

LEMON: Listen. As I said, I listen to hip-hop. There are certain things I like. Don't think that I think all hip-hop is bad or that I'm against hip-hop. I just want people especially --

SIMMONS: You want people to be better.

LEMON: I want young black men, especially the people who are being killed, I want them to be better. I want the industry to be better. That's it. As people want me to be better as a journalist. Same thing for those guys.

What do we do from here?

SIMMONS: We should have this discussion. We should start a process. But it's yes (ph) discussion. Each individual has to go out and give what they can.

LEMON: Right. SIMMONS: What you've been doing - and I have to - what you've been doing is giving what you can and your intentions are good, and I respect you for it.

LEMON: Thank you.

SIMMONS: Thank you.


LEMON: I'm holding you to that, Russell. We'll talk more about this tomorrow on the show. You'll hear more of our conversation, including what Russell Simmons has to say about that controversial video, the quote, "Harriet Tubman sex tape." Sunday, 6:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

You can also see it, this interview, soon at Our friends there are working hard to get that on our Web site for you.

And next, I want to bring back my panel, columnist LZ Granderson. Oh, he has a lot to say. He's been shaking his head. And psychologist Wendy Walsh, their reaction to the conversation you just saw, next.


LEMON: All right, we're back. LZ Granderson here in New York, Wendy Walsh in L.A.

You heard my conversation, guys, with Russell Simmons. Wendy, to you first. Do you agree with him?

WALSH: Okay. Ideologically, he is making a lot of sense. Artists do speak their truth and have a voice. But plenty of hip-hop artists aren't speaking the real truth of what's going on in their most intimate relationships. It's all provocative sex designed - and full of misogyny designed to objectify women and not really create the human urge to bond that we all have. Let me tell you, these tough young men in these hip-hop videos want love like anybody else, and they deserve love. And we're not really hearing their truth; we're just hearing provocative stuff designed to sell music, really. That bothers me.

LEMON: LZ, same thing - LZ, what they should remember is that these guys who make these millions of dollars a year, their kids are all going to private school. They not letting them sag their pants. You know what I'm saying? They're not telling them to go ahead and have kids out of wedlock.

GRANDERSON: Listen, the thing that really kind of cracked me up watching the interview -- and I love Russell Simmons. I grew up with hip-hop and the whole nine. In fact, I credit hip-hop with getting me out of the hood and into college. But I grew up on Public Enemy Tribe and people like that. The notion that they're telling the truth at 35, 40 years old with tens of millions of dollars in the bank, and you're talking about the hustle and the struggle, it's like I want you to tell the truth of where you are right now. Now, everyone who is a really popular artist right now is speaking wherever they are right now. They're speaking for where they think it's going to sell records. And I think that is the disingenuous part of that interview. I know Russell Simmons knows this. All his boys are not still serving in the hood. Some of them live nice and comfortable. They need to talk about that part of it as well so that our airways aren't flooded with this one picture of despair.

LEMON: When people say -- not that I'm living in the struggle. I take the A train everyday or the D train to Harlem. I walk the streets of Harlem and the Bronx and whatever everyday. I live in the neighborhood. I see what's going on. I'm not taking limos around.

So, you know, I don't have millions of dollars. I'm just speaking for what I see as a young person who would like -- I think my parents and especially women would like to see especially our young men do better.

GRANDERSON: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I have a 16-year-old son, you know. And my goal is for him to be way better than me.

LEMON: I have to go, guys. Thank you. Great conversation.