Here and Now: What's at stake with marijuana legalization in NY

On this episode of Here and Now, the potential green market boom the legalization of marijuana could have in the Black community.

Video Transcript

- "Here and Now," the program featuring the news and interests of the African-American community. Here's your host, Sandra Bookman.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: Coming up, the potential green market boom in the Black community. What's at stake with the legalization of marijuana in New York state? Also ahead, accessing much needed funds to stay afloat-- how the Long Island African-American Chamber of Commerce is helping minority and women-owned businesses successfully navigate the Paycheck Protection Program.

Plus preserving hip hop history-- pioneering TV host Ralph McDaniels and the Video Music Box Collection. And later, how one teacher is trying to bridge the racial divide with a song. That's all ahead on "Here and Now."

The criminalization of marijuana has adversely affected the Black community for decades. Black and brown New Yorkers account for more than 90% of those arrested for low-level marijuana offenses even though they do not use the drug more than their white counterparts. And now, with the legalization of cannabis looming in New York state, what are the chances that the so-called green market boom will benefit those who have paid the biggest price?

Joining us today is Dr. Carl Hart, the Ziff Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at Columbia University and the author of "Drug Use for Grown-Up-- Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear." Thank you so much for being with us, Dr. Hart.

CARL HART: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: You know, recently, New Jersey has legalized marijuana, so I think most of us expect that the same thing is going to be happening shortly here in New York state. And you say, when that happens, Black and brown communities need to be involved in the process. Talk to me about why that is so important.

CARL HART: Well, one of the reasons that we're having this big push to legalize marijuana in the country or change our policies is because of the past ills or the past mistreatment of Black and brown communities. That is, Black people and Hispanic people have been arrested disproportionately for marijuana possession. Whereas they don't make up the majority of the users, they certainly are making up the majority of the folks who are being arrested.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: Mm-hmm. But you say the law needs to-- you know, not-- we've had some guests on before that talk about the fact that there's likely to be a big financial boom here. And so these communities that have been adversely affected by these unfair laws need to be brought in, you know, on the front end, so they can take advantage of this so-called boom. But one of the issues that you have highlighted so eloquently is the fact that, even if and when marijuana becomes legalized, we still need to deal with the racist impact of the law. Because the concern by a lot of people is that Black and brown people will still be subject to this discrimination.

CARL HART: Yeah, so we have evidence. When we think about Washington-- the states of Washington and Colorado, for example, who passed legislation in 2012 to legalize marijuana for recreational use for adults-- they were the first-- when you look at the numbers of people who are being arrested for marijuana, even with legalization, Black people are disproportionately arrested. So it tells us that just simply changing the law does not change our racist behavior.

Although the numbers of people who are arrested decreased. But we still have the disparity in who's arrested-- what race of individuals are arrested. So we can expect a similar sort of thing here in New York, New Jersey, and around the country.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: But you've also said that some places have managed to-- that are doing a good job of making sure that that doesn't happen. Talk to me a little bit about that, that they, early on, dealt with that question of discrimination.

CARL HART: Yeah, so when we think about how many states that have legalized-- it's been 15 states. And one of the nice things about us having these different states do different things is that they can function as experiments. Illinois, for example, have tried to address past racist ills by making sure that the people who had been disproportionately negative-- affected Black people, for example-- are included in those who get licenses to sell marijuana.

And they have also forgiven or cleared the records of those people who've been arrested for marijuana in the past. And they've also invested in the communities that have been hard-hit. So some of the tax revenue will be pumped back into those communities to help them with businesses, housing, and so forth.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: Talk a little bit, if you will, about, you know, some of the myths that have-- the myths about drug use that really have impacted Black and brown communities and why people have such a hard time-- particularly law enforcement and governments-- of letting go of those myths, even though they are not true. And there is, in fact, and has been, research that shows it's not true.

CARL HART: Well, the thing that we have to understand first is that the war on drugs in general-- this sort of arresting folks for drugs-- it functions as a jobs program. In fact, it's one of the most effective job programs that we have in the United States. You can think about politicians who say things like, we're going to get the drugs off the street.

That means we're going to hire more cops. That means more money for police departments. That means more monies for prisons. That means more money for people who run businesses, like hotels, restaurants, that are around the prisons, where the families of the inmates have to come and frequent those services. And so that means more money for a lot of people, but not for the communities that have been deleteriously or negatively impacted by the war on drugs.

And another thing that people need to understand is that drugs were not banned or made illegal because of pharmacology or because of science, but because of racism. When we think about marijuana, marijuana was banned because of its association in the press with Black people and Mexican-Americans. There were all kinds of exaggerated wild claims that-- for example, there were claims like, when people take marijuana, they are more likely to kill their mother.

They take marijuana on one day then they're using heroin on the next day. All of those claims were wildly exaggerated. At the time when marijuana was banned, Harry Anslinger was our director of the Bureau of Narcotics.

And he would say things like, marijuana made Black people think they were as good as white people. All of this is documented in our history. And many people don't understand these were the driving forces to ban marijuana.

But in New York, Mayor Laguardia, in 1944, released a report saying that the information that led to the banning of marijuana-- like all of these claims-- they were exaggerated. But Mayor Laguardia's report was ignored.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: Yeah, it was kind of buried.


SANDRA BOOKMAN: You have an interesting philosophy on drug use-- some would say controversial. Talk to me a little bit about that.

CARL HART: I don't really understand what people would say was controversial. But I've been studying drugs for 30 years. So as a result, you sometimes get so close to your subject you think everybody else understands, when, in fact, they don't. And so maybe that leads to people thinking that the positions are controversial.

But the major thing is that drug effects are predictable. And we know a lot about the conditions under which you're more likely to see positive effects and the conditions under which you're more likely to see negative effects. And we can teach people about all of these things. And that's-- I guess that's my main philosophy. Let's teach people, as opposed to, let's frighten people.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: And in fact, you-- one of your books, "Drug Use for Grown-Ups--" you know, what was your motivation for writing that, that book?

CARL HART: Yeah. That book came out of 30 years of research experience. And that's also a man who is over 50 and who's seen the way we use drug policy to continue to subjugate certain communities. And so I wanted the reader to understand, number one, what it meant-- what we mean when we say that you are an American.

And so I went back to the Declaration of Independence, where we're all guaranteed at least three birthrights-- life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That means you can live your life how you see fit, so long as you don't prevent others from doing the same. And it also says in the Declaration that government should be created to secure these rights, not restrict them.

That's what it means to be an American. And so it essentially means that we have these rights, and your obligation is to fight for other people's rights. And so I think about drug use within that context. And certainly in the book-- in "Drug Use for Grown-ups--" I thought about it within that context. Given that that's the case, citizens have the right to alter their consciousness as they see fit, so long as they don't bother other people. When they're bothering other people, we have laws to deal with that sort of thing.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: So do you-- do you advocate for or promote drug use-- certain kinds of drugs-- in the proper context?

CARL HART: No. I don't advocate for drug use. Because drug use is not for everyone.

That's one of the things I say in the beginning of my book. This book is for grown-ups. And growing up is difficult. That means that this book-- and drug use-- is not for everyone. So--

SANDRA BOOKMAN: So you're trying to educate more, and fill in the gaps, and, you know, clear up some of the myths more than advocate.

CARL HART: Yes. That's exactly right. You know, I think people should live their life like they choose. And it's not up to me to tell them how to live their life.

But I am a scientist in this area. And so it is my obligation and my responsibility to provide the best available information to the public. Because I was supported on grants that you, the taxpayers, paid for.

And so I have an obligation to the public. And my obligation is to educate. And that's what I'm trying to do.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: So let me ask you, before I let you go, do you believe that this green boom can benefit communities of color if the laws are applied, written in the right way?

CARL HART: Yes. I think Illinois is on the right track. I said we have 15 states that have legalized. And in Illinois, in my view, has the best sort of structure at this point.

Because everyone understands that Black and brown people have been disproportionately impacted, from a negative perspective, by the war on drugs. Illinois is actually trying to remedy that. They're actually trying to make amends for their past ills-- for our past ills. And other states that don't do the same, shame on you.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: Yeah. Dr. Carl Hart, thank you so much for talking with us this afternoon. I can send folks to your website,

CARL HART: Yes, perfect. Thank you.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: They can find out more about your research, your books, some of the other articles you've written on this subject.

CARL HART: Yes, they can. Thank you so much for having me.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: Thank you. Nice to meet you.

NARRATOR: Sandra Bookman and "Here and Now" will be right back.


SANDRA BOOKMAN: Long before hip hop became the most popular music genre in the world, there was "Video Music Box," a New York City local TV show that showcased, nurtured, and connected hip hop artists, their music, and culture. Take a look.


Joining us this afternoon is the CEO of the Video Music Box Collection, hip hop pioneer Ralph McDaniels. Nice to see you.

RALPH MCDANIELS: Yes, good afternoon. Thank you for having me. This is awesome. It's good to see you.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: It's certainly our pleasure. Anybody that grew up around here, when you say "Video Music Box" to them, they get sort of this faraway look in their eyes, because they remember back in the day. Talk to us a little bit about, you know, what was the impetus for you to get all this started?

RALPH MCDANIELS: Well, you know, I graduated from college with a journalism and communications degree. I got a job, which is not often happen-- it doesn't often happen. You know, I got a job working at a TV-- a local TV station. And I was watching kind of, like, PBS programming.

And I was like, well, you know, if it says PBS, we have to have some Black people on here, because it's public broadcasting. And they were looking at me like, oh, he's trying to start trouble. [LAUGHS] But I was-- I was a DJ.

I was into the music. I knew some of the artists. And I wanted to create something that had music in it. And that's what I came up with the idea to do "Video Music Box." And that was in 1983, a long time ago. [LAUGHS]

SANDRA BOOKMAN: And what was the reaction, at first?

RALPH MCDANIELS: People were shocked. Because you know, anytime they saw a camera, you know, it was usually because something bad happened. So I was showing up to parties that I was going to with a camera and a light, and they were like, what happened? You know, is this the news? You know.

And it was a celebration of what was going on. Usually there was an artist there. And we started the whole term "shout-out" that now everybody says on a regular basis. But we started doing it there. And so that term comes from hip hop. You know, it just comes out of the culture.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: Yeah, these days, everything seems to come from hip hop, right? Look, "Video Music Box" became just hugely popular. Did you have any idea back then that you were at the forefront of showcasing what really became a cultural phenomenon?

RALPH MCDANIELS: No, to be honest with you. Because there-- in the beginning of hip hop, there weren't a lot of videos. Because the record labels didn't even believe in it at first.

So we had to mix it up with pop stuff and reggae. You know, if you look at the opening of it, you see, like, Bob Marley, you see Hall and Oates, you see other R&B acts, as well as Run-DMC and The Fat Boys, you know, because there weren't enough hip hop visuals. So we would have to go out and actually create these things.

Because some of these songs were hot, but we had to find the artists. Where are they at? Oh, they're performing that, you know, some center in Harlem. OK, so we're going to go up there with our cameras. And finally people got to see these guys talk and, you know, and see what they're-- see them perform live.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: And so talk to me about who some of those-- you know, those early artists were that you think really owe some of their popularity and at least that first vision of them to "Video Music Box."

RALPH MCDANIELS: Definitely Run-DMC. I'm originally from Brooklyn, but I had moved to Queens and met a guy named Russell Simmons. And he said, I have a group, and it's my younger brother Run and Run-DMC So I followed wherever they went, you know. And then they became a sensation, you know, and pop superstars-- the first big hip hop superstars.

And then I worked with a girl named Roxanne Shanté, who was from Queensbridge. And she was just this awesome girl with all of this energy. And I was like, yo, there's something about her. And you know, she became a regular on the show.

And then, you know, we move into the '90s, and you know Nas and the Wu-Tang Clan. The first time anybody ever heard of the Wu-Tang Clan was on "Video Music Box." People were like, Ralph, what is Wu-Tang Clan? What does that even mean? And so all of these artists, up to Jay-Z and others-- you know, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown-- the first interview he ever did was on "Video Music Box." All of these people have been part of the show.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: And early on, even MTV wasn't interested in a lot of these artists, right?

RALPH MCDANIELS: Not at all. They weren't interested. They weren't interested in any Black music. You know, they were-- they were rock and roll.

And I went to them in 1986 and said, you guys need to do a hip hop show. And they were like, Ralph, you don't understand. You know, New York is into this, and LA maybe, but the rest of the country is not-- is scared of this. You know, they're scared.

And I'm like, no, that can't be. Because you know, Black kids, white kids, Asian kids, Latino kids are going out and buying this music, and they're coming to the shows. It's happening. And it took them, like, maybe two years later to figure that out. And then they started a show of their own.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: Talk to me a little bit about the Video Music Box Collection, why this is so important to you.

RALPH MCDANIELS: Super important. Super important work. I've been, you know, collecting from-- you know, from 1983, the visuals of it. So this is the hip hop visuals that tell the story and tell the real narrative. Sometimes the narrative is changed, you know, because it's not told by us and the people that were actually there.

So the Video Music Box Collection is my collection of 20,000 hours of tapes in all of these different formats. You know, the tapes are, you know, getting old, and we have to make-- we have to digitize them so they can be digital files. And so that's what we're doing.

We're preserving, and archiving, and digitizing all of these hours and hours of content that will help tell the story of artists from the past, as well as new artists. They can see and look at it and say, oh, one day, I hope to be, you know, in this archive, or in this collection, or eventually in some museum. You know, the Smithsonian African-American Museum in Washington, DC has my microphone. And they thought it was very important.

Because "Video Music Box" helped to show the visuals of what these hip hop artists were all about. And we haven't even begun to get into what all of those visuals are. You know, sometimes, you watch documentaries that are out on these different formats on streaming networks, and we contribute a lot. But we haven't even really knocked down a lot of this stuff that we have, because it's so much work and so much time. So it's important.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: How far are you along in the process of digitizing this material?

RALPH MCDANIELS: We're about 5,000 hours in. And the reason why that happened is, in 2020, we started the Video Music-- the nonprofit. And we're a 501(3)(c). And we started the nonprofit. And I was home. I was working from home. So I had the opportunity--


RALPH MCDANIELS: --to, like-- OK, in between that and doing whatever else I was doing, I was popping in tapes. And then we said, look, we can't do this on our own. So we started shipping them out to a place that could do multiple hours and hours of the work. And it's been amazing.

You know, like, I've come across interviews that I've done that I forgot about, you know, with amazing artists, and not just hip hop, and not just music. You know, like, I found this interview with David Dinkins that I did, and Percy Sutton--


RALPH MCDANIELS: --and all of these people that-- because "Video Music Box" is known for music, but we were also very community-minded and made sure that we touched on issues that were, you know, affecting the New York City tri-state area.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: Yeah. I know that folks can have a chance to see a little bit of some of the material you have, because you're working with the Universal Hip Hop Museum. There's sort of a-- it's currently being built in the Bronx, in the South Bronx. But there's a pop-up.


SANDRA BOOKMAN: Tell me a little bit about that.

RALPH MCDANIELS: So Universal Hip Hop Museum is a real thing. The city has dedicated money and the state has dedicated money to making a museum for hip hop in the Bronx. They currently have a pop-up until that is finished. It won't be ready until 2023, the physical building, so they have a pop-up right near Yankee Stadium.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: Yeah, Bronx Terminal Mall?

RALPH MCDANIELS: Yeah, Bronx Terminal Mall, yes.


RALPH MCDANIELS: And so we said, look, you know, how can we contribute? Because that's part of my mission, is to make this collection available to museums. And so we said, you know, we have a whole show of 1985, the Fresh Fest, that took place at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island which featured Run-DMC, The Fat Boys, LL Cool J, Grandmaster Flash, Whodini, and all of these people.

And that took place in this time period that they're showcasing now, from 1980 to 1985. So currently, we have that there. And it showcases backstage with the young artists, and Jermaine Dupri, who was a dancer for them, and all these cool behind-the-scenes rare footage that people haven't seen before.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: So let me ask you, how can we help you preserve this history?

RALPH MCDANIELS: This is, yeah, all about awareness, letting people know that exists, and donating to it. Because you know, this is our history. This is our narrative. This is our story.

You know, when-- you know, when I first started, I realized that there were so many things that were thrown away in the past, shows that I watched as a kid. You know, watching, you know, "Here and Now," like, this is history, you know, happening right now. But you know, back in the '70s, you know, maybe some channels didn't think that it was that important, and they threw it away. You know, and it was just lost forever.

So, you know, I said, that's not going to happen with "Video Music Box," and that's not going to happen with hip hop. And you know, this is, you know, a million dollar project right now, you know, that we're doing. So we need people to donate.

We need people to be part of it and make it accessible. And we're going to make it accessible to the public for, you know-- just for memory. And like you said in the beginning, like, people just get happy when they see this stuff and, like, wow, this is super important. It helps connect the dots of what the story was and how did this all happen. And we make it available.

I just had a great meeting with Howard University, and they want to have it included in their hip hop programs-- University of Houston. You know, because we hear about it, but we don't see it. And so my thing is the hip hop visuals.

And people need to donate so that this-- this is not just hip hop history. This is American history. And it's super important that people support it and make it-- and I will make it available to everyone.



SANDRA BOOKMAN: Right? And you can go to that website and find out how to donate and information about, you know, where they might be able to see some of the collection, that kind of thing.

RALPH MCDANIELS: Yes, yes. There are some clips on the site that you can see actually me doing the work-- you know, taking it from-- you know, boxing it up, and sending it out, and then getting it back on hard drives. And then you see some of these rare-- probably maybe played once on my show back in the '80s or '90s-- this rare footage of some of the hip hop artists that are, you know, superstars today.

You know, but we look forward to, you know, really getting it the schools. Because I want young people to look at it and get what they get out of it. They may not be into the music, but they like the style, they like the hairdos. They like all that kind of stuff. And whatever they get out of--

SANDRA BOOKMAN: In the olden days, right?


And look, "Video Music Box" lives. Channel 25, or 22 in the tri-state area, at midnight on Saturday night, right?

RALPH MCDANIELS: Yes. We still do "Video Music Box." Of course in the middle of Women's History Month, so we're showcasing a lot of, like, the early hip hop artists, like Queen Latifah, who worked with us hand in hand. You know, we were going to East Orange, New Jersey, and hanging out with her.

And now she's done so many amazing things. But we have the early footage of her as a kid-- you know, 21st birthday with-- for Latifah. You know, we know that.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: You name-dropper you.

RALPH MCDANIELS: Yeah! I can do it. I can do it. [LAUGHS]

SANDRA BOOKMAN: Hey, you deserve it. Ralph McDaniels, thank you so much for being with us this afternoon. Again that website,

RALPH MCDANIELS: Yes. Thank you so much, Sandra. And thank you for all the work you do for our community. We appreciate it.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: You are welcome. And it is my honor and pleasure.

NARRATOR: Sandra Bookman and "Here and Now" will be right back.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: When the pandemic first hit, many small business owners that could have benefited from the SBA Paycheck Protection Program were left out of the process. But now, thanks to a partnership between the Long Island African-American Chamber of Commerce and Customers Bank, some minority and women-owned entrepreneurs will be able to access the funds to pay their employees and keep their doors open. Joining us today is the president of the Long Island African-American Chamber of Commerce, Phil Andrews, and Sam Sidhu, vice chairman and chief operating officer of Customers Bank. Thank you, gentlemen, for being with us this afternoon.

PHIL ANDREWS: Thank you.

SAM SIDHU: Thanks so much, Sandra. It's a pleasure to be here.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: I wanted to ask you-- Phil, I'll start with you-- why were there so many small businesses told during this first round of PPP that they weren't eligible?

PHIL ANDREWS: Well, what happened was, when it first came out, they talked about a Payroll Protection Program. The key element of that is, do you have people on the payroll? Automatically, the small businesses-- you know, half of businesses African-American in the country have one or less employees, or maybe none. Some are just sole proprietorship. So later on, we found out that sole proprietors could apply, and apply to Schedule C laws to get the Payroll Protection Program.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: So you were able to get that-- that information out in the second round. What are you guys doing together to try to make sure this second round of PPP goes to those businesses who really need it most?

PHIL ANDREWS: Well, we've been doing this-- we've been working with the Small Business Administration. And we've been having weekly virtual events. And then an opportunity came by to us to partner with Customers Bank.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: Sam, I want to bring you into the conversation. Because Customers Bank, you guys have done phenomenally well in getting these loans to those businesses who deserve and need to have them. Talk to me about how you are able to do-- and have been able to do-- that in a way that other banks have not necessarily been as successful at?

SAM SIDHU: Sure, absolutely. You know, to put a finer point on it, we've actually done over 160,000 PPP loans of nearly 7 billion, including last year and into this year, which is, you know, number five in the country, in terms of number of loans. And really, what we've done is, we've established a tech platform, and amplified by what we call sort of a democratized application process, which is, you are not required to be a customer of Customers Bank to provide a PPP loan.

You're not required to open up a checking account. We will send the money to your-- your bank. But the main objective-- the mission of our program-- is to deliver as many loans as possible to those in need.

You know, I think that the mission of the PPP program actually, from March 27 of last year, has been to serve those underserved communities. That's defined by low and moderate income communities. That's defined by business owners who are people of color as well as women.

And I think that, you know, right now, we are delivering 70% of our loans to first-draw customers, meaning borrowers who have never received a PPP loan. That is the inverse of the current community right now, which is about 90% second-draw. So banks are just providing a second loan to those who qualify. So we're very proud of our efforts and working with groups like the Long Island African-American Chamber of Commerce and Phil, who has been a great champion of our partnership.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: And Phil, have you-- the Chamber-- have you been successful in getting the word out to some of these small businesses that really need this assistance and sort of linking them with customers? How easy or difficult has that been?

PHIL ANDREWS: Well, one of our strengths is that we were able to reach out to Black media. We've been in "Black Enterprise." Just last week, we was interviewed in "American Banker" magazine. And I'm so happy that the bank decided to partner with a grassroots organization as us. And we have already seen approximately almost $3 million in applications applied through the Chamber.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: How easy or difficult is it, the application process? And do you-- are you sort of holding their hands through this?

SAM SIDHU: The biggest problem, I think, is what Phil touched on earlier. It's just education that business owners can qualify and that this-- while it's called a loan, there's an opportunity for this to be really a tax-free grant, at the end of the day. And I think that's the most important aspect of the challenge that borrowers and eligible businesses face.

Having said that, in our platform, we have customized journeys, based on whether you're a sole proprietor or an independent contractor, et cetera. It's a very seamless application process. There's built-in chatbots. There's human-based customer service. There's emails that go out.

So, you know, we try to make it as seamless as possible. So there's end-to-end automation, if you're a simple application. But we bring in the human, you know, white glove-type service to really help folks, you know, that need that extra support, but especially the businesses that don't have a CFO, that don't have an accountant, that don't have a lawyer who can really help educate them and hand-hold them through the process.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: And I don't think that you can understate how important small businesses are to the economy as a whole. Could either of you-- I'll start with you. Talk to me just about that, Phil.

PHIL ANDREWS: Well, what happened is, we-- we have actually a workshop tomorrow with the Small Business Administration. And we have been updating them on the basis of one of the programs, that 60% could be used for payroll and that 40% could be used for expenses-- necessary expenses. You can't pay off your mortgage with it. But you could use-- if you have to buy supplies, utility, vacation, health care benefits-- things that you would normally consider necessary in a business.

And the other thing we have told them is that 2.5 times the amount for the 24 months that they-- how to calculate the PPP. And what we also recently did this week is, we let them know, wait, there's a two-week window that the president set up just for small business owners. So we are constantly getting the word out and having partnership weekly events, virtual workshops to hold hand-- hold their hands during the process of PPP application.

SAM SIDHU: And I would just add to that, Sandra, if I could, you know, 44% of US GDP comes from small businesses. You know, of that, 2/3 of all jobs that are being created in this country are coming from small businesses. And half of all American employed workers are employed by small businesses.

They're really the backbone of this country, of the American dream. And they also happened to be the most impacted. And unfortunately, you know, minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, veteran-owned businesses happen to be the most impacted. You know, and we're proud to say, at Customers Bank, 62% of all of our loans are to minority, women, and veteran-owned businesses. And of that, 20%-- 19.5%-- are to African-American-owned businesses.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: And are you-- the focus here-- you're working with mostly small businesses on Long Island?

PHIL ANDREWS: The region. We're working regionally. And also, the application-- because we have so much context nationally, we have ran through our national organization, Black Enterprise. So we are-- the application, no matter where the minority business is in the country, we're advocating across the country for them apply for PPP.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: And if you're interested, I've got two websites here. What's the best one?

PHIL ANDREWS: That's correct.


PHIL ANDREWS: And there is information on the home page.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: OK, on your home page. And OK. And I'm assuming you will link-- from your page, you link them with Customers Bank? Is that how it works?

PHIL ANDREWS: We have a specific application link to Customers Bank with the partnership.


SAM SIDHU: And you know, from Customers Bank perspective, we have dozens of relationships with minority-run as well as African-American and Black Chambers of Commerce, really, across the country. So we've done it from a ground-up basis with many groups just like Phil's, and trying to find entrepreneurial non-profits who are getting access and getting education to those businesses that we really want to help.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: All right. Gentlemen, thank you for being with us this afternoon. We can't get the economy back up and running if we don't assist our small businesses. So we appreciate you.

SAM SIDHU: Completely agree.

PHIL ANDREWS: Thank you.

SAM SIDHU: Thanks so much for having us.

NARRATOR: Sandra Bookman and "Here and Now" will be right back.


SANDRA BOOKMAN: In celebration of Women's History Month, we turn our attention to a groundbreaking program that pairs 50 Black women in ministry with mentors. It's called the Lilly Thrive Grant. And it's meant to support and assist pastors with leadership challenges. Here to tell us more about this initiative, including her role in making it possible, is Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, former US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom under President Obama. It is so nice to see you again.

SUZAN JOHNSON COOK: It is my pleasure. And thank you so much for having me.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: What a wonderful idea. Talk to me a little bit about how this partnership came about with Union Baptist Church.

SUZAN JOHNSON COOK: Well, you know, 40 years ago-- this is my 40th year of ministry, this month-- I was licensed and the preaching ministry of the gospel. It was so new and historic. The late pastor Dr. Ali B. Wells took a major risk.

I didn't realize how sexist the world was in terms of ministers. So I was a trailblazing woman. There were about five of us in the New York area-- Carolyn Knight and a couple of others-- whose names were called all the time. And we were like the Lone Rangers in this thing.

And so we saw a whole generation of women, many who didn't survive because they didn't know how to do self-care. They didn't have support systems. And so I said, for my next generation-- this is the first generation of Black women who are whole and healthy, who can train another generation of Black women. And so we can now be intentional about advancement and placement of women in ministry.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: So what-- how does this-- how does this endowment work exactly? 50 people were chosen?

SUZAN JOHNSON COOK: 50 people were chosen-- 25 who are senior pastors, and they select 25 mentees who they will pour into and help place, help introduce them to the connectional bishops, or, whatever institution they're in, make the introductions, and help groom them and shape them, so they don't have to try to knock the door down. The door is open. And they just introduce them and help invite them in.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: And what are some of the challenges that these young women in this position often face?

SUZAN JOHNSON COOK: Well, you know, more than 50% of the seminaries are filled with women. But when they come out, there's no one there to receive them, no one there to say, here, you can be my assistant or whatever. So it's giving resources, it's giving opportunities, and it's, most of all, giving networking, both for the mentors and the mentees. You will hear them say time and time again, it's such a lonely road. Well, now they have 50 sisters who walk with them and beside them.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: And these women, it's interesting. They're from all over the place. I mean, there are folks here in the tri-state area. But we're talking Maryland, Virginia, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Kentucky.

SUZAN JOHNSON COOK: Yes. Predominantly in the tri-state New York and the DMV, which is, like, the tri-state DC, Maryland, Virginia. But then we have women who are like, we want to be in also.

Because it's formed for women who are in isolated situations, women who are pastors of small congregations, and women who are leading congregations of color. And so the waiting list was so long. But we were able to follow these ministers over the course of the last few years and invite them in. So we welcome them.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: You know, the pandemic has shaped all of our lives over this last year. But there's also been a lot of political and social upheaval, which, of course, adds its own stress as well. Are those some of the issues that, you know, these women will be dealing with?

SUZAN JOHNSON COOK: So certainly. Consistently, those are going to be issues that face the Black community and Black church. And so definitely.

The one equalizer, though, in COVID is that technology. If you know technology, you don't have a mega-church or a little church anymore. If you know how to access and navigate technology, you can be the church that people come to and vie for.

So it's giving-- it's leveling the playing field with this grant. But it's also leveling the playing field with technology. And so we're hoping to give women the tools they need to succeed, including media training. How do you have interviews like this? So they'll be ready-- when the time comes, they'll be ready for prime time.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: You are-- look, I would love to have you in my corner. It sounds like the hope you have here is that many of these women that are going to be able to take advantage of this initiative are themselves going to be game-changers down the road.

SUZAN JOHNSON COOK: And that's exactly how I describe them-- game-changers. I didn't have anyone female to mentor me. I had wonderful men.

But we don't have to re-blaze the trail. Now they can pave it and walk on it. And I am so excited for them.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: So we're going to switch gears a little bit here and talk about more of the great work that you are doing on behalf of women. There's a virtual summit that's going to be coming up in about a week-- five days or so. Talk to me a little bit about what this is.

SUZAN JOHNSON COOK: Yes, it's called the State of Black Women Virtual Summit, given and hosted by the Global Black Women's Chamber of Commerce, on Friday, March 19, from 3:00 to 5:00 PM, Eastern Standard Time. They can register just at

But the Global Black Women's Chamber was birthed during COVID. 100 Black women business owners. It's the first chamber of commerce that focuses solely on Black women business owners, who have been the largest sector of business in America, but rarely get a piece of the pie. So so many candidates-- everyone's been talking about closing the wealth gap.

Well, we're intentionally doing that. We're not only closing the wealth gap, but creating generational wealth. So State of Black Women-- engaging women leaders, looking at the business of running a city, looking at the business of running media corporations. How do you do it and navigate it? And who opens the door to help you once you get in?

SANDRA BOOKMAN: And who are you hoping-- you know, who can this most benefit?

SUZAN JOHNSON COOK: It can most benefit the woman who's thinking about creating a business. It can benefit those who want to sponsor. You know, all these corporations took a pledge about helping Black businesses.

It can help you, because you'll know who to sponsor and how to access us. It helps the woman who wants to mentor a new business. So we have a woman who's joining our board who has contracts for the Department of Defense.

She wants to pour into Black women who haven't been-- who haven't been seen in this sector. So it helps those who want to give. It also helps those who want to grow, scale, connect, and have a network.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: You are so enthusiastic when you talk about these issues. Why is it so important for you to have your fingers in these various pies?

SUZAN JOHNSON COOK: Well, you know, it's about legacy now. 40 years of ministry. I'm a third-generation Black women business owner. So my parents-- my late parents' business is the longest-running Black family business in the Bronx-- 59 years.

So we have given. And it's now time to make sure that there is legacy and that it continues, not just with my children, but their children's children, and your children's children. So generational wealth, legacy-- it's important to give back when you have a successful run. And I've had that.

And you also make it possible for giving me air time. Thank you for inviting me so often. I appreciate it.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: No, we appreciate you. The summit-- circle back to that. Is there a cost?

SUZAN JOHNSON COOK: No, it's complimentary registration. But you do need to register. It's open now.

And we will look forward to seeing you. We've had more than 1,000 register. And you can be included in that number. We'd love to see you there.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: Well, we appreciate you for everything that you do. And I want to send people to your personal website,, and they can keep up with all the wonderful things that you are doing.

SUZAN JOHNSON COOK: My pleasure. Thank you.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: Thank you, Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook. Thank you so much for being with us this afternoon.

SUZAN JOHNSON COOK: It's been my honor and pleasure. And continue doing what you're doing. Thank you so much.

NARRATOR: Sandra Bookman and "Here and Now" will be right back.



SANDRA BOOKMAN: The music video "Enough is Enough" by Carl Brister is a clear call for racial justice and an attempt to bridge the racial divide.

CARL BRISTER: (SINGING) How can we talk about liberty? How can we call this the land of the free if you're talking about everybody else but me? And how can my kids begin to un-see or un-hear the words from a man on TV who died under the officer's knee? Enough is enough.

- (SINGING) Enough is enough.

CARL BRISTER: Enough is enough.

- (SINGING) Enough is enough.

CARL BRISTER: (SINGING) Enough is enough.

- (SINGING) Enough is enough.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: With us today is singer, teacher, and activist, Carl Brister. It's so nice to meet you.

CARL BRISTER: Thank you. Likewise.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: "Enough is Enough" is an absolutely beautiful song. Talk to us about your inspiration.

CARL BRISTER: Oh, wow. Well, thank you again for that. I wrote this song after attending a rally for George Floyd and Black Lives Matter this summer.

And I took my sons and my wife. And it was a way that I was teaching them how to stand up for themselves. And in the midst of the rally, my sons were chanting, "Enough is enough," with the crowd.

And initially, I was really proud as a dad to see that. But then later, it just-- it really broke my heart. Those words just stuck with me, to watch my son chant, "Enough is enough," and fight for something that really should already be his. It was something that stayed with me. I woke up the next day, I went to the piano, and those words became a song.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: Yeah. And what is the message that you are trying to convey?

CARL BRISTER: So the message I want to convey is that we must stand. We must stand together, all of us, and collectively say, enough is enough.


And it is time for change. It is time to hold our elected officials accountable, and to continue to stand until we see change happening.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: Mm-hmm. I know that the theme throughout your life is the fact that you believe in the-- the power of music. I mentioned that you were a teacher as I introduced you, in addition to a wonderful musician. You, in fact, have used music to teach math.

CARL BRISTER: (LAUGHING) Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So yeah. So I've been an educator in the city of Newark for several years.

And first, there are some amazing students in Newark-- amazing students, and teachers that are really passionate. And what I found to be effective is to marry music and math together in a way that the kids would get involved and become engaged. And there's such a great relationship between music and math, whether it's time signatures, rhythms, you know.

And we've been doing this since we were kids, putting music to concepts and learning them. And I just decided to continue that. And it was very effective. The kids learned the concepts, and they did well on their tests.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: And in a way, I think you've sort of done the same thing here with this song and this social justice message, a way to engage people, to tap into their emotions and, you know, have them sort of lead with their heads and their hearts.

CARL BRISTER: Absolutely. You know, every-- every movement has a soundtrack. You know, if you go back in history, there's been some awesome songwriters. James Brown, "Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud." The Public Enemy, "Fight the Power," to Kendrick Lamar, we gonna be all right.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit," at that time.

CARL BRISTER: Yes, there you go. Exactly that. It just sort of captures the moment that we're in.

I was writing just as a father. That was my way to process everything that was going on. And then I shared it, hoping that maybe someone else who couldn't find the words might be able to express themselves by hearing mine.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: Yeah. And before we let you go, we want to talk to you a little bit about your non-profit. Music Village.

CARL BRISTER: Yes. So Music Village is a nonprofit that I started to leverage the power of music to-- by bringing people together, of all races, all cultures, through an event that I do called the Love and Unity Fest. And it's been going on for six years.

And we bring together R&B, hip hop, salsa, rock, pop-- all these artists that come together collectively so that people can unify around the simple aspect of love, love for one another. And we have community information. And we have activities for the kids and ways that people can get involved and stay engaged to see change in their communities.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: And you're-- as I say, you're doing so much. Tell me where folks can find your music, where they can find out more about Music Village, your nonprofit, you know, and be a part of this community that you have been building.

CARL BRISTER: Thank you again. So to catch me online, you can check out my website, which is And Music Village is

And I'm on every social-- Instagram, Facebook, YouTube. Follow me on YouTube. And all of my information and songs are there.

SANDRA BOOKMAN: All right. Carl Brister, what a pleasure to meet you. And we just want to say thank you for everything that you're doing. And I suspect this is not the last time we will be speaking with you.

CARL BRISTER: Thank you. I'm honored to be here. And I definitely hope to see you again.


NARRATOR: Sandra Bookman and "Here and Now" will be right back.


SANDRA BOOKMAN: Thank you for joining us on "Here and Now." If you missed any portion of today's show, you can watch at If you'd like to comment or share your story, email us at ABC7NY or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. I'm Sandra Bookman. Enjoy the rest of your day.