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tv   The Redemption Project  CNN  May 12, 2019 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT

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>> that's the first time i've ever heard a black lives mater chant that i didn't feel like i had to get in on. they got it. black lives mater. >> black lives mater. black lives mater. black lives mater. black lives mater. black lives mater. >> that's what you got to do, white people. this is oakland. you have to always be aware of your surroundings. >> as a child coming up, it was definitely violent. >> the war was going on. >> do you know how upset i would be if something ever happened to you? and she said, yeah, daddy, i do. >> i never knew the violence that i was capable of. i pulled the trigger from a 12-gauge shotgun. >> i have all these questions
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that i want to know. i want to know it all. >> i spent half my life working with the criminal justice system. and i have seen lives devastated by violence. we would like to imagine that after the verdict the story is over, the victim and the offender are never meant to meet again. but for some, the only way to move forward is to come face-to-face with the person who shattered their lives. >> back in oakland. i have a lot of history here. i was here for 15 years. i'm here in the bay area to meet an old friend and find out why he wants to meet the man who took his daughter's life.
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>> y'all ready to have some fun tonight? >> donald lacy is known here in oakland for two things. he's an entertainer. >> there you go. >> and he's also an activist. >> no more lives can be spilled in these streets. highest price is life and more than anything we must value. >> when his daughter was killed in 1987, the impact went well beyond his home family. >> students tried to come to terms with the death of 16-year-old loeshe lacy, gunned down last night in this van. >> she was perfect kid that was never in trouble. super popular. sits in the wrong car and gets killed. that scares every parent in the bay area. >> her murder got wall to wall coverage for weeks and it was a real wake-up call for this community. >> my brother. >> brother van jones, what's
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happening, man? >> it's been too long, baby. >> thank you, man. i appreciate you, brother. >> oh, man, this is bringing back a lot of memories, man. >> it's a different west oakland. these kids are so used to seeing their contemporaries murdered. >> i've still gone to more funerals than graduations in oakland. >> tell me about your daughter. >> she was just -- >> a special kid? >> yeah. >> and even how she was born was special? >> yeah, i delivered her on 580 freeway. her mom's water broke around 2:00 in the morning. >> always. >> i was driving and she said, i'm having this baby. i said i know honey that's why we are on the way to the hospital. she said no i'm having the baby right here. >> in the car?
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>> in the car. she was panicking and i was trying to keep her calm. relax, honey, i can drive and deliver. i got this. and i was driving and pulling. and i pulled her out real gently to her shoulders. and then if propelled she dove on the floor of the car and made a splat. and her mom picked her up, i remember i looked at her it was like i saw the face of god. the name of a person describes the attributes of that person. so i picked two words lolo, which is the ebo name meaning love and eshe, which means love. so i put the two together, loeshe, love life. i loved her. me and her mom separated at when she was about three years old. we were so proud of her. >> so ironic that somebody's a peaceful kid ends up having their life taken by a bullet.
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walk us through what happened. >> on october 20th, 1997, i was in los angeles at the improv in hollywood. i was about to walk into the club, and i got a page from my wife, and it was like 911, 911. and i called her. and she was crying uncontrollably. and i kept saying what is it? and she couldn't speak. and then she said loeshe is dead. i don't -- it was -- i didn't -- i didn't understand what she was saying. and then i just kind of lost it, man. i remember i just ran down melrose until -- just sprinting down the middle of the street in traffic. and i was just thinking at that point i just wanted revenge. i don't know if it's every parent, but for me i want to know everything.
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and some things i know from the police report, some things i don't. >> my girl was like boss. >> maya and porsche, those were probably her two best friends. maya was in the car with her when the gunfire happened. and i've been trying to talk to her about that night for 20 years. but it's always a difficult conversation to initiate and broach. >> i remember the first day i met her. we were in third grade. ms. price's class. >> you met her around the same time. >> yeah, third grade at hoover. she was the life of the double dutch party. >> and we worked at mcdonald's. >> right. in alameda. >> she got off work around 6:00, a young man who they knew in the neighborhood saw them and offered them a ride. and maya sat in front next to the driver in this van. then loeshe sat behind the driver.
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and then they stopped right across the street from her high school. and four assailants ran up in front of the van shooting at the driver. they let off, i don't know, about 40, 50 rounds, and he ducked, and she caught seven bullets. she was the only one who didn't survive. >> and the crazy thing is she was in the front seat and she told me to get in the front seat. that would have been me. because she was -- >> i never knew that. >> she said, maya, let's switch seats. i said for what? and the guy she was dating at the time, she was like, well, i don't want him to see me and get jealous. i said, well, okay, you know. oh, boy. >> but i don't want you to carry that around no more.
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you can't do that to yourself, baby girl. >> i know. >> i've been wanting to talk to you about it for the longest, you know? >> yeah. >> i'm so proud of ya'll, because i've seen you all as snotty nosed kids and now you are grown women and have kids of your own being responsible. >> that's what she would have wanted. >> yep. >> you've already been through a lot. for you to go and sit across from somebody who took your daughter's life, you don't have to do it, man. >> that's what a lot of people have been telling me. some have even been telling me don't do it. >> why are you doing it? >> i've been just imagining when we make eye contact for the first time, what's that going to be like for him and what's it going to be like for me, you
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know? i'm not going to bring her back, but i want to know it all. i have all these questions that i want to know. why did they shoot off 40 rounds or whatever it was? why were they so angry at this guy? why? why? why? and there are some things i want to say to him that i've been carrying around.
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for me, this is a familiar journey. i spent a bunch of time in san quentin. my organization the dream core still runs programs in san quentin so i've been to this particular prison a lot. and the thing about san quentin is, if you want to transform yourself, there are programs there. i mean, people go, they volunteer, they try to help. some people take advantage, some people don't. >> so this is the famous san
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quentin yard? >> yeah. >> what am i looking at? >> you have the fellows playing softball today. >> how much time do the folks get? >> every day. >> so we'll go over to these tables over here. >> i was raised in oakland, california, all my life since i can remember. the truth of the matter was my experience through my lens, there wasn't no good part of oakland for me. it was just rough. >> what's up? you got a ball? >> the closest that i had to consistency for my life was playing little league baseball for the city of oakland. this was the closest that i got to meaning. and that's something that i grabbed on to. >> you know, obviously, to take a human life, that is something that's hard for anybody to
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forgive or maybe even forgive one's self. how do you wind up pulling the trigger and a young woman dies? >> october 20th, 1997, i was 16 years old. the war was going on between rival gangs, milton street and ghost town. i got the call that my best friend christopher fletcher had been shot. my gang was everything in the world to me. everybody had participated in this war up until this point except me. and everybody looking at me like you ain't did nothing. now these same people that i perceive as family, they are turning their back on me. and i got myself in the mix. what's going on, who is doing what, when is it my turn?
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that's when it started. around 7:00 or 8:00, we just rolled around the area real slow, and if we see any one of them, we're going to kill them. i was given a 12-gauge shotgun, and all of the shots started ringing out simultaneously. that's it. i did it. >> did you think the car was empty? you thought somebody else was in there? >> i identified the vehicle as being the enemy's -- our rival gang vehicle. >> but if you are shooting into that object, you know inside that object is people. i want to know how you make sense of that in that moment. >> i identified the vehicle, not so much the people that was inside. >> yes. >> although, yes, i could see there were people in the inside.
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>> and then you find out what? >> the next day i found out that loeshe lacy, a childhood friend and classmate of mine was shot in her face and her neck and died instantly. i also found my friend and classmate maya nelson was in the passenger seat. she suffered gunshot wound. and also jonathan mcdowell, the intended target, so to speak, suffered a fresh wound to his arm. and i found all that out the very next day. when the homicide detectives picked me up and started questioning me about the murder, i just gave up. i didn't want to fight no more. the reality of what was going on came crashing down on me. when i was incarcerated, i was
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still this scared, insecure kid, little chris. i didn't want no one to see i was scared because scared means that you weak, and weak means that you can get tooken advantage of. so what i did is i reinforced the same gang beliefs, the same attitude, the same image as i did as a kid in ghost town that got me to prison in the first place. >> donald lacy is going to walk into the room and see the man who took his daughter's life. i can tell you as a father, i don't know how i would react. i mean, why would you want to do this? >> i'm not the scared 16-year-old kid i was 20 years ago. (paul) great.
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i wanted to introduce donald lacy. he's our emcee for the night. thank you. >> in terms of being an artist, i've always dealt with socially relevant themes, conscious related themes. >> i'm from oakland. i'm talking about old school oakland when oakland was the best city in the planet.
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when you went to the coliseum drive-in to get your swerve on. it was like the molt 3 1/2 when you couldn't afford the motel 6. >> i had a great mom and dad. >> how many children have children, round of applause? beautiful parents. [ applause ] >> see, i grew up back in the day where we all took care of each other. >> in those days, it really was a village involvement and everybody helping raise the young people, unlike it is today. >> i always say that to the youngsters i mentor, i wish i could show you the oakland that i grew up in. >> what's up soldier? always has his briefcase. this man is about his business. >> loeshe was a conflict mediation councilul mediation councilular
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mediation counsellor on her high school campus. i remember the teacher who was the adviser to the program told me, she said, mr. lacy, your daughter could negotiate any squabbles. sometimes i wonder what impact she would have made on the world. no more lives can be spilled on these streets. the highest price of life is the highest price and what we much value above everything. my daughter's murder touched a nerve in the community. it was like a flash point. >> i wanted to use the momentum to do something. >> reporter: in the aftermath the teenager's father turned it into a crusade. lacy has started an organization, the love life foundation. >> if you can rear them in the heart their mind will follow. >> i've seen other parents like me who have lost their kids and i've seen what that vitreal and that animosity and those negative feelings do to people like me, and i didn't want to be that person. the way i wanted to get back at those people was to make sure that something good happened. i realized that the meaning of her life was the meaning of her
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name, loeshe. love life. >> one, two, three, love life. one, two, three, love life. you don't want none of me. you don't want none of me. >> age 7 years old, my mother, she let me and my two younger brothers on some apartment building stairs and said, you know, y'all wait right here, i'll be right back. she left me and my younger brothers on the apartment stairs until the next day. by age 8, my mother developed a real bad habit of leaving me and my two younger brothers in random places with complete strangers. my mom said her classic "i'll be right back," and my mom didn't return for weeks.
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i remember a time where i was so hungry, like starving, me and my two younger brothers was walking down the street, and i seen a jack-in-the-box bag with ants crawling over it. and i remember it like it was yesterday. and i was so hungry that i went into the bag and i ate the condiments out of the bag, the ketch ketchup packets. and i remember eating it first before i gave to my two younger brothers. i felt as though i wasn't worthy of love from anyone. >> i'm just so proud to know each and every one of you guys, man. man, you guys are out of sight. you are smart. brilliant cats. >> a lot of the young men who i
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mentor and who i've met over these 20 years, most of them don't have fathers. >> all the authority figures that was in my life or all the adults in my life was somehow, some way letting me down. at 10, 11 years old, i just said forget it. at this point in my life, my gang was everything in the world to me. >> you got to always be aware of your friends, you know? sometimes your so-called friends can lead you down the wrong path, right? >> right. >> donald lacy and christopher -- >> mmm-hmm. >> you know, we're getting closer to the time where these two guys are going to be face to face. >> mmm-hmm. >> what do you expect? >> i expect there to be a lot of
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emotion. this is the crux of restorative justice. >> what is restorative justice? >> so restorative justice is an alternative to punitive justice. the idea is victim or survivor-centered. say that we get into an altercation, say that i harm you, instead of saying the state against karena montag, the idea is what does van need for repair? what do you need in order to be restored? >> what's good about that? >> so what's good about that is instead of the state determining what you need, you're telling us what you need. donald lacy came to the office of victim services, which is a department of the california department of corrections. they then come to us, to me at insight prison project and say we would like to initiate this process. then we start by meeting with the victim, and then we contact
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the responsible party or the offender. >> i mean, somebody might say, look, this is just being soft on crime, and now we're supposed to hold hands, sing kumbaya. what do you say to people who feel that way? >> i would say this is really hard work. these are people who are telling the truth about the hardest, worst day of their lives. again, the peace around restorative justice is centering the voice of the victim or the survivor, and so often that voice is lost in the process. >> i was in oakland -- >> mmm-hmm. >> -- you know, when this happened. i mean, this was front page news. >> yeah. >> for weeks and weeks. >> mmm-hmm. >> donald lacy is a household name in oakland. >> mmm-hmm. >> because of this murder. is christopher aware -- >> in member. >> -- that this is one of the biggest cases in oakland ever? >> mmm-hmm. yeah. >> how does that hit him? >> it weighs on him. it weighs on him. >> i'm a very good judge of
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character. i can sit in a room with someone in five minutes and know what they're about. i expect to know him from this meeting. that is one of my expectations. >> i would say that -- that i'm not my crime. everyone is entitled to their own perspective, but i'm not my crime. [music playing] (vo) this is jerry. jerry has a membership to this gym, but he's not using it. and he has subscriptions to a music service he doesn't listen to and five streaming video services he doesn't watch. this is jerry learning that he's still paying for this stuff he's not using. he's seeing his recurring payments in control tower in the wells fargo mobile app. this is jerry canceling a few things. booyah. this is jerry appreciating the people who made this possible. oh look, there they are. (team member) this is wells fargo.
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>> it's crazy seeing myself as a kid. i don't have a lot of memories smiling as a kid or smiling period, so seeing these pictures and seeing me smile is crazy. my beautiful fiance. my fiance, janea, this woman sat down and had a conversation with me. it was the questions that she asked me that separated her from everybody else in this world. she asked me about my childhood. she asked me how did i feel. she made it safe for me. we made it safe for one another, and it's been three years and she hasn't missed a beat.
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>> first of all, consideri congratulations. >> thank you. >> it's hard to find love anywhere. people go on apps and can't find love. you found love in a prison. tell me about that. >> chris and i met through a mutual acquaintance just as a friend, actually. it's hard for them to keep acquaintances outside of prison, so that was the main goal, it wasn't to find love. >> so you're talking to this man who you've never seen. >> mmm-hmm. >> did you know what he looks like? >> i saw a picture. >> saw a picture. so you aren't crazy. >> i saw a good picture. >> a good picture. >> i saw a good picture. >> now i understand. he's a good looking brother. >> he is. >> this whole situation i think you're going to have some viewers who are going to look at you and say, you know, how are you going to fall in love with a murderer and these type of things? i mean, what would you say to somebody who is looking at you giving you the side-eye about your choices? >> my family has given me the
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side-eye. he caught me off guard. >> how? >> like he would ask me, how do you feel? he won't settle for i feel good today. what does that mean? i need a feeling word. i need a word i can connect with. he made me think on a different level because most people don't talk that way. >> true. us dudes. >> no. >> what do you think christopher's going to be feeling? >> i think chris will be feeling a lot of emotions all at one time. the last time he saw mr. lacy was in a courtroom when he was 16 years old, and one of my fears would be that the conversation goes in a way where chris has to feel defensive or shut down in any way. i hope that doesn't happen. >> whenever people make any kind of mistake they tend to get swl somewhat defensive. what are some of the things that could happen in a meeting like that where he would shut down? >> that's a hard question. he knows he's part of the worst
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day of this man's life. >> this is our last meeting before our dialogue on tuesday. so i just want to check in christopher, see how you're doing, how you're feeling. >> i'm feeling focused and i look forward to the process. >> mmm-hmm. is there any last-minute kind of agreements you want to make with me as your support person? >> no, i just -- i appreciate the opportunity. >> i never thought that it would be a day where me and donald lacy or any family members of loeshe lacy would be sitting down to talk. i really don't know what to expect. >> how are you feeling?
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>> anxious. >> yeah. i heard you had a show last night. it went well? >> yeah. >> so tell me about the anxiety. >> well, i mean, it's really all-encompassing. >> mmm-hmm. >> the whole time we were in court, you know, i kept trying to make eye contact with him. >> mmm-hmm. >> and he wouldn't look at me. >> mmm-hmm. >> i'm sure for a lot of reasons. >> mmm-hmm. >> but it never -- never happened, so i'm really anxious to see what that moment is going to be like when we look at each other for the first time. >> i feel like there's, like, this block and i'm hopeful that it will be reshaped or transformed for both of you. >> this is -- this is so big for me. >> i know, donald. >> so big. >> i know. >> it's almost like now tuesday
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can't get here fast enough. >> mmm-hmm. >> i just want to go through it. >> i honestly do not know what's going to happen. two people who have suffered every day for 20 years. everybody's well-intentioned, everybody thinks they've done the work. you don't know if the work has meant anything until you sit there and you look in the person's eyes. >> people say this, and it drives me crazy, they say "i hope you get closure." there is no closure. never. there's always going to be that hole in my life. this is for the rest of my days. >> all my life i was afraid. all my life i found a way to hide behind something, gangs, relationships, whatever the case may be.
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>> with every fiber of my being, this is something that i have to do, for better or worse. no matter what pain it may cause me, i have to do it. >> the worst thing about fear is what it does to you when you try to hide it. [music]
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♪ ♪
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good morning, everyone. >> morning. >> donald, if you feel ready, we'd like to start with you. your intention for today. >> um, my intention was to be here to sit across from this man. other than that, there is a lot more i want to know about that night, you know? so that's -- that's my intention.
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>> christopher, why don't you go next. >> my intentions for today is to hopefully establish a sincere connection throughout the course of this process. and to be fully transparent and full disclosure. that's it. >> thank you. so where would you like to begin? >> i can't help but to keep thinking about, even throughout the course of the years always heard her stories, always heard about her stories, about the work you are doing in the community, oakland, just everything, but i never hear
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anything about ms. wesley. that's the first thing that's come up for me is wonder how is she and her state, if that's okay. >> she doesn't agree with me being here. and when i first mentioned to her that this was in the works about a year ago, she got mad at me because she didn't understand why. so, yeah, she's been having a hard time. so i know that there was four people involved, right? >> yes, sir. >> including yourself? >> yes, sir. >> since the night this happened, i just have one question. what were they so mad about? because they shot off about, well, you included, 45, rounds
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or whatever it was. >> mmm-hmm. >> what was that about? >> to be totally honest with you, like from the bottom of my heart, i can't even tell you why. i was a follower at that time. i can't even tell you what -- i can't even tell you what it was over. that's the truth, mr. lacy. i couldn't even tell you. i was a follower so i couldn't ask no questions as to why. what i do know is when i was in a group hope prior to that, my best friend's name was christopher. he had gotten shot by one of those guys. i don't know. and from that it ended up spiraling into the night of october 20th, but as far as like how it started, over what, why they was so mad, i just don't know and i never even asked, to be honest with you. >> wow.
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>> like, i just do not have an answer for that, and i wish that i did. >> donald, what do you need right now?
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yeah. >> so you asked christopher about what the beef was. >> yeah. >> and christopher was a follower and said that he doesn't know. >> yeah. >> so i'm wondering, how is that to have had this question and how would it have been to receive an answer? would that have shifted something for you? would it have made something make more sense?
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>> i just always wondered why? why did all this have to happen. okay. so what happened afterwards? that night? >> so afterwards, i went to my then girlfriend's house out of my own curiosity, i got on my bike and went to the high school and everybody was crying and everything and the first-person i seen in the hallway, i asked her what happened and she said he was killed last night and i didn't say anything else. i jumped on my bike and i ran. >> so how did you come to the awareness to confess and how bad was your conscious bothering
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you? >> my conscious was bothering me the moment i was in the hallway and that girl told me what happened. when i did get locked up and go to juvenile hall i had to disclose what i did. >> i remember that day. >> you were just a young man. >> yes, sir. >> i never took responsibility for my behavior, my thoughts, my feelings, or anything. i never did.
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but today i take full responsibility for my behaviors. that's who i am today. i want to talk to the 7 or 8-year-old, 9-year-old, 10-year-old chris's of the world so no matter what is going on in the household, no matter their needs that's not being met, that they never lose a moment like i did on that day. >> it ain't where you start, it's where you finish. so i forgive you. i do. it has taken me 20 years to come here to look you in your face and say those three words. because i'm not no judge and
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jury over nobody. >> thank you. >> i can tell where your spirit is. i know you're sorry. do you remember any instances when you were little? like on the playground or anything? >> she always had a lot of people with her, like her friends and other girls and people that they just -- you know, she was always smiling and always the front of the pack, always. always. always dancing at lunchtime, you know. the memories but for me this is
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the safest i felt reflecting on those memories prior to that day. i didn't feel i had the right to reflect back. >> well, i would encourage you to reflect back. i can tell you a zillion stories about her. 16 years is short but it was life. it was quality, though. i say that to you, man. that's what keeps me going. she taught me how to enjoy life. she taught me.
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>> i was blown away. i look at don lacey as a parent. there's so many parents like him in oakland and chicago and philadelphia and other places and he is showing such an amazing pathway forward for people. that's what is at stake here. when you have this many people in one country with so many religions and faith and ways of being together bumped up against each other, how do we forgive? acknowledge, understand and grow together? i think christopher has as much to teach about that as anybody in the country.
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historians like to divide america into eras. revolutionary war era, roaring 20s era, the 90s championship chicago bulls era. and i grew up during an era. the vietnam war movie. every third movie was about the vietnam war because america wanted to figure out how to best frame a war we had lost. but as usually happens with history, the dominant culture goes with the perspective that serves it best. for example, to earth superman is a hero but to

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