The Daily - ‘Stay Black and Die’

Demonstrations against police brutality are entering their third month, but meaningful policy action has not happened. We speak with one demonstrator about her journey to the front lines of recent protests — and the lessons she’s learned about the pace of change.Caitlin Dickerson, an immigration reporter at The New York Times, spoke with Sharhonda Bossier, deputy director at Education Leaders of Color, an advocacy group.For more information on today’s episode, visit nytimes.com/thedaily Bac

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Content Keywords: grandmother Sharonda grandparents grandparents
00:00:00
Okay. So I'm going to record going on my morning run is 6:45. So.

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He's mask phone route.

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I run I run alot I run by myself.

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Good morning. How are you?

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I find running to be actually quite meditative.

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And what I am thinking about I'm usually I'm thinking about my day.

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And recently I'm thinking a lot about the people who have come before me.

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I'm thinking a lot about the lessons. My grandparents taught me without actually saying anything.

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Namely that if the people you love and I love black people.

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need something

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and you got it.

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You have to share it.

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From New York Times Michael Barbaro. This is a daily today as protests against police brutality and their third month meaningful reform remains elusive. My colleague Caitlin Dickerson spoke with one demonstrator about her journey to the front line and the lessons she's learned about the pace of change its Wednesday, August 5th.

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So let's jump in and I think starting at the beginning would be great. Yeah, so, my name is Sharonda bus you say I grew up in the Watts section of Los Angeles and I was raised by my grandparents because my mother struggled with addiction and could not raise us and my father was incarcerated. So surrounded by CA is born in 1984 and she grows up in the care of her grandparents who moved to Los Angeles both from Louisiana during the Great Migration.

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It's a household that is really kind of steeped in the past steeped in music. My grandfather was a pretty big James Brown fish and my grandfather loved Sam Cooke and soul themes around race. We're pretty present in the music they played

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There's a Sam Cooke song called Last Mile of the way at the gospel song, but one of the things I remember talking to my grandfather about was work and how the song talked about work and physical labor.

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And as a sort of metaphor for kind of getting to heaven and how angry he was about that being the only promised for safety and reward we had.

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What were you like as a kid? I think it really depends on who you ask. I was always a really good student. I always really good grades. I was always at the top of my class. My grandparents said there were two things. We always had to do in our house and that was go to school and go to church but I have always had sort of a knack. I guess you could say for challenging Authority always asking why about the things I see around me. And so I really credit my grandmother and you know her standing behind me and saying to me like if you have questions, you should ask them and if a person in Authority tries to sort of, you know, push back or squash that in you I I got your back in that matter to me tremendously as a young person. I think that she wished that she had asked why more I think she realized that she likely would have made a different set of decisions.

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Had she questioned what was expected of a poor black girl born in 1932 in New Orleans?

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Sean is very close to her grandmother and her grandmother works hard basically to shape charanda into this young woman who knows her history understands what her family's been through what her ancestors have been through and also to feel free to build a life that she wants. My grandmother told me that I only have to do two things in this life and that stay black and die and that it was my life and it was mine to live as I chose.

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Write her saying stay black and die saying those two things are going to happen. And anything else is really up to you. Right correct?

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So how do these teachings inform charandas view of this neighborhood around her Watts knew she remembers a community with a lot of police but not a whole lot of protection. This is sort of the height of the war on drugs and the war against gangs. So I see police everywhere and yet there are regular and consistent drive-by shootings. I see Police pulling people over I see men throwing up against walls. Mostly. Those are the images that stick with me and still I know people whose homes have been robbed and so I'm like the police are everywhere and yet the crime that harms us still happens. How is that her grandparents taught her very early on basically that the police were not her friends and the message that she got was actually that her grandparents.

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Are there to protect her from the police? So as a kid, she internalizes this message of caution, and it comes out in interactions with the police, but that's not the only way it comes out. For example one Sunday after church. She's walking with her grandmother to this meat market that they used to go to all the time because it was kind of on the other side of town, but it was near their church. So they would always stop there on the way home and her grandmother would be humming the music that they'd heard in church that day, but she was at the meat counter and I sort of wandered off as kids do and I remember a man had like come from behind the meat counter to say to me like you better go back with your mom and there was something about his tone that immediately sort of shifted when I said that's not my mom. He was not expecting like a kid to talk back to him. Number one and I think

00:07:44
Ashley not a black kid to talk back to him and is very clear that he is upset about this whole situation. There was tension that makes her a little nervous and I could tell as we walked away that my grandmother actually was a little shaken by it. I didn't know why I didn't have the language to say why but I never wandered off again.

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But they eventually makes a lot more sense to sharhonda a few years later because of something that happens in her community. The girl was killed over a bottle of orange juice bottle of orange juice store owner soon ja du Sol. 15 year old Latasha harlins was going to steal some orange juice is a 15 year old teenager in 1991 when she walks into a grocery store in South Los Angeles and she picks up a bottle of orange juice worth a dollar in 79 and people who were in the store say that Latasha puts the orange juice in her backpack, and she has $2 in her hand.

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And she's walking toward the counter when the store owner grabs Latasha sweater and Latasha punches her in the face, and she puts the orange juice on the counter and she heads for the door.

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And the store owner picks up a handgun and shoots her in the back of the head killing her instantly.

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Syracuse Highlands of stealing the Jews there was a confrontation PCS why her grandmother was so nervous for her that day in the store lady has killed my 15 year old granddaughter and to get away with five years probation. This is an in-depth it.

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It's right around this time that a video Services Rodney King being brutally beaten by police in Toronto live.

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For some reason her grandparents had TVs in almost every room in the house and they were blaring day and night.

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I remember, you know, my grandparents posted a regular spades game right where my aunts and uncles and cousins would come by and I remember just hearing at the card table conversations about in debates about you know, what they thought would happen who they thought would actually be convicted of anything one of my uncles I remember just

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He was fiery but in this moment, he just sort of was like man. We like we might as well just play cards.

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And that just did not make sense to me and I did not understand why my uncle thought that because my seven-year-old brain was like they did something wrong.

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They will be punished right and my seven-year-old brain didn't understand.

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But that's not how things work here.

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I can use something that she didn't couldn't possibly given her age. We understood a kind of different form of gravity in the universe.

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That's a good way of putting it. There was a different Force like gravity something else that she hasn't learned about in school that she wasn't familiar with yet. But that was going to impact this trajectory or natural order of things that she had been taught so far in her life.

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Samuel outside Parker Center where protesters have descended on the place. It was one question on everyone's mind is how did this jewelry see the same video tape that the world saw and reach the conclusion that no crime was being committed.

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We are Rodney King. We are doing a lot of prayers. We are Latasha harlins. I'm not that jewelry and car.

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And then I remember going back to church and going back to school.

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And just not talking about it, but all around me. I could see the burned buildings right like the Pep Boys wasn't there anymore the supermarket wasn't there anymore?

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And we just didn't talk about it.

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So Sharonda and her family go back to normal kind of as if nothing ever happened until a few years later when their whole lives are offended. So I'm 13 and I come home after my babysitting job. It's about 9 right not too late. And I have a late dinner by myself. My grandmother is in her room, you know, probably watching either In the Heat of the Night or Matlock and we chat for a little bit. I say goodnight. I love you. I give her a kiss right? I had to bed and in the middle of the night I wake up because my grandfather is screaming my name and saying call 911 call 911 and my grandmother is having a heart attack.

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Her grandmother is taken to Martin Luther King hospital to public hospital and is known in the community as killer king known for not providing good care and when the doctor or white man.

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Walked in my sister and I just started wailing.

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We knew that doctors didn't make time for you. Unless things were really bad.

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And we just sort of knew.

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And for Sharonda, she's really taking note of the conversations around her. We have a funeral in and people are at the house and you know, Austin uncles and church members come by, you know, you hear over and over again will why they take her to King or oh Lord. She went to King and there was just a sense that you know, maybe things could have been different if she had gone somewhere else.

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And you just you'll never know.

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And so she becomes a really angry kid. I was pretty angry at God when my grandmother died. I felt like I have been dealt a pretty short hand already on the parent front parents who struggled with addiction of father who was incarcerated a mother who was absent for most of my life and then to take the only mother I had ever known at 13. I just I didn't know what kind of God would do that.

00:15:37
So I enter High School just mad at the world and mad at Authority in particular. She gets in a lot of fights a lot of fights, but there are a couple of teachers who she gets along with really well who seem to understand what she's going through see it for what it is and the pretty determined to help her through it. So there's one teacher in particular her English teacher mrs. Campbell and she says to Sharonda, you know, you could really do something with all this anger that you're feeling.

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Entradas like what do you mean? I thought initially that my teachers were going to have me do something wack like a petition dry or join student government and I had no interest in doing that and mrs. Campbell says you can protest you can try to change these things that you don't think are fair. You can become an activist in what is Sharonda makeup mat?

00:16:44
It really resonates with her and she decides to participate in a school walkout for the first time and it's one that's being organized because some of her peers were upset that they were attending a school called George Washington High that was named after a slave owner.

00:17:06
And on the day of the walk out if she remembers pausing before she reached the doors of the school looking around and I remember security guards standing at the gates and saying if you walk out we're going to report your name to the front office and she just takes this deep breath. Like am I doing this if I had to call my grandfather and say grandpa? I'm at the police station because I walked out of school. I I I couldn't imagine having to do that and then exhales and

00:17:53
Decides she's doing this I got to walk out.

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So she blows past the security guard out the doors. She remembers feeling, you know, the fresh air on her skin and just feeling a release a release that feels productive. I think I was setting out to prove to myself and to others but as the kids say now I was about this life right that I could work up the courage to stand up to Authority in a way that could result in real consequences for me. It's my life and I get to do with it what I want.

00:18:42
You know Sharon has been taught from childhood that there are two inevitable realities in life. And the rest is really up to her.

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And this is the first moment of her.

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starting to figure out what does she want to do in between

00:19:02
as you can imagine that that that meant sometimes that I was going to decide against my grandfather's wishes to walk out of school. He wasn't always thrilled about that.

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But yeah, I was very clear that I got to do what I wanted.

00:19:28
Once she figures that out the next few years really kind of fall into place for Sharonda. So

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she continues to participate in protests over not just the name of her school, but the amount of funding that it gets from the city of the very low graduation rates that it has and that evolve naturally into her after graduating college deciding to become a teacher herself to try to address some of these inequities that she saw when she was growing up, and around the same time Barack Obama campaign for president, which is this really kind of electric moment for young black professionals.

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Good soap for the first time in a long time you had an entire generation of young people and young professionals who are just out of college in their first jobs and got picked up by the Obama machine and she volunteers for the campaign and she needs a lot of other like-minded organizers. You're young. You're black. You're a professional. You just kind of know each other and then

00:20:56
Something happens that really changes the trajectory of charandas life actually two things happen that changed the trajectory of where she's headed. She's living in New York City working in education when Trayvon Martin was killed in, Florida.

00:21:20
And so we began to show up to marches and we began to show up to protest and I think one of the things that is beautiful about this particular moment is that there is the sense that any one of us can put out a call to action and someone will show up.

00:21:35
And that idea begins to gain traction over the next year until August 9th 2014.

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When Michael Brown jr. Who's 18 years old is fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri Street 4 hours.

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Our I'm so sorry.

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And then it erupt.

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Street violence raised 4 hours last night at least two people in a crowd of protesters were shot when you justice for a son. We need Justice for our son.

00:22:44
It becomes charandas focus in life what she wants to try to change and so she just gets on that train and starts to become a part of the movement of an activist railroad. There are busloads of people who go from New York race. So we start raising money for that. There's the need for supplies to 4% So we start raising money for that. There's a you know, she's got a job at 9 to 5 job in New York, but she starts to dedicate all of her extra time to these issues. Her weekends are spent on the phone with people who are on the ground and Ferguson and in other cities were protests are breaking out and she actually reconnect with people she met during President Obama's 2008 campaign. Okay. What are you guys working on? What should we be working on? You know, what are your police allowed to do what's in their contract? That shouldn't be in hours.

00:23:44
The difference between a choke hold and a Stranglehold. How do we talk about that? So we start building these networks and these friendships that help us share information that helped us strategy. They don't really want to push for change within government within a system that they fundamentally think is broken don't believe in

00:24:11
Are you are you here to support us you are cuz we haven't seen you much at all Jessie. We don't want you here st. Louis. We have to miss out here brother. This is real. We don't want you here. At least we were Grassroots pretty leaderless dispersed network of people all Guided by a sort of North Star, right which was hashtag black lives matter.

00:24:57
We'll be right back.

00:25:03
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00:25:39
What's wrong? It says is that you know at this point in her life, she is feeling really suspicious of hierarchy of any kind of concentration of power that disenfranchises people below. But because they choose to avoid establishing leaders. It's really confusing and a turn off to a lot of the country who don't feel like they hear a clear message coming from one person and who are also noticing that some protests have turned violent and are really uncomfortable with that.

00:26:31
There's a way in which this movement becomes really big but the support for it across the country also kind of Hit the ceiling as fast and some of the public is suspicious of a movement without a leader and then I knew that the killing of Alton Sterling was going to be another flash point in the movement. Alton Sterling is killed by police in Baton Rouge. He's a man who is sitting outside a grocery store and selling CDs when someone called the police about a person who had a gun and the officers who respond to the call end up killing him. So when that happens again activist from all over the country get in their cars and start heading to Baton Rouge in a lot of them are charandas friends a couple of my friends from Ferguson.

00:27:29
You know we get on a call because we always get on a call and we like well, what are we going to do? And they're like we're going to drive down to Baton Rouge and I remember being terrified at sending them off to drive through Mississippi and into Louisiana write a state whose history a new well because my grandparents

00:27:54
So that fear Sharonda says is in the groundwater in Louisiana, which makes going there to protest an entirely different experience and a very scary one for her. But at the same time, it feels really important.

00:28:16
And she just kind of feels like if I'm going to commit myself to this movement then you know, this is in a way exactly where I need to be in uncomfortable places exactly.

00:28:33
And so the next day she packed up her car. She heads to meet her friends in Baton Rouge.

00:28:42
and what happens when she gets the Baton Rouge as soon as the sun sets the police show up in riot gear and just sort of they block the streets and you end up in these confrontations with the Baton Rouge Police Department that almost immediately feel like

00:29:04
You have no plans to let me peacefully protest, you know, the local law enforcement makes clear that they're not happy about people being in the streets in there are a series of very tense standoff and a lot of arrests including one of Toronto's close friends DeRay McKesson who basically gets tackled and carted Away In Handcuffs just as they're walking to their car, but that for us was a reminder of just how dangerous this work is right that even if you are not physically positioning yourself as the leader any one of us can can be arrested right at any time and sometimes that's the best-case scenario.

00:30:01
And I remember you no checking in with myself and ask him like are you courageous enough to do this? And I think that doing that in high school I go back to that that moment a lot and often when I am protesting and when I am showing up I am showing up for that girl.

00:30:28
So at this point it's two years into the movement and the country is really paying attention to president is paying attention and Grandma.

00:30:42
The 2016 election is right around the corner.

00:30:49
So we were all gearing up to fight Hillary Clinton. We were all gearing up to say we want to build on the momentum that we have built.

00:31:02
And then we got from thank you very much.

00:31:11
And as soon as he takes office, it's as if the entire Progressive policy platform is under siege over virtual executive order.

00:31:27
A new initiative that would separate children from their parents if they try to enter the United States illegally outraged after the Trump Administration announced its rescinding DACA giving Congress six months. They're calling us the largest youth-led protest against the Vietnam War era, but these young activists are taking a stand in a country that is deeply divided over gun seemed so much bigger.

00:32:01
And if so much greater immediate importance and I don't even know how I can bring myself to say that knowing that the issues we were organizing around word literally issues of life and death.

00:32:12
But we start to see the dehumanizing of entire communities.

00:32:23
And policing just sort has got bumped down the list of priorities.

00:32:32
And some folks show up with their black lives matter gear or their signs, but there is a sense that it had become one of many sets of Demands this idea of black lives matter really Fades into the background.

00:32:51
and we just

00:32:54
We didn't talk about it, huh? You know, the interesting thing is you would ask me earlier what it felt like post 92 and that's what it felt like.

00:33:05
One day was my entire world and the next day no one talked about it.

00:33:11
Did that feel like a failure when all the momentum disappeared until flat?

00:33:17
in our Quiet Moments

00:33:21
Some of us reflect on the trauma. We experienced some of us reflect on the sacrifices. We met right two jobs two credit scores two savings accounts.

00:33:40
We do ask ourselves if it was worth it.

00:33:45
Do you have any regrets from that time?

00:33:49
I wish you did anything differently.

00:33:52
That's a really hard question to answer.

00:33:59
I wish we have done a better job of talking about the importance of both inside the system activism and outside the system activism.

00:34:09
And by that, I mean it took us a couple of years to get to the point where many of us felt we could do things like run for office and not feel like sellouts not feel like our only credibility came from being in the streets and I wish we had gotten there sooner. I think we could have helped usher in a new wave of leadership much earlier. We could have pushed to have our people and places of real decision-making power.

00:34:47
and

00:34:50
I

00:34:54
I wish I hadn't been naive and

00:34:59
I wish that.

00:35:02
I had been just a little more realistic about how long change actually takes.

00:35:11
I will say I didn't think we'd be back here this soon.

00:35:39
You've been here before. So is there anything right now that you're afraid of?

00:35:48
I'm afraid of my country of my countrymen breaking my heart again. I am afraid that we are going to take very shallow and superficial signals of Ally shift as a sign of real change.

00:36:07
I don't know if we have done the work of helping people. Imagine what the future can look like and I think that's the next phase of the work. We have gotten people to a point where they know that something has to fundamentally change that we can no longer Tinker around the edges.

00:36:27
But I don't know if we've helped them. Imagine what we have to build in its place.

00:36:38
Are you hopeful now?

00:36:40
But change is coming.

00:36:44
Am I hopeful now that change is coming I have to be

00:36:49
If I was not hopeful that change was coming I would not be in the streets. If I was not hopeful that change was coming there would be no point in having this conversation.

00:37:02
You know hope is really important in this work and you have to hope that tomorrow can be better than today. Otherwise, it makes showing up impossible.

00:37:13
This was so good.

00:37:26
I wonder what Sharonda thinks her. Grandmother would make of the decisions that she has made and of the life that she is now leaving and overall. She's playing in this movement.

00:37:43
She does think back about her grandmother a lot and she wonders if this is the life her grandmother and vision for her.

00:37:53
Is there something you would you would ask her if you could?

00:38:01
If I could ask my grandmother something, what would I ask her?

00:38:08
Given my grandmother's personality.

00:38:13
I think I would say.

00:38:15
or ask her

00:38:20
if she knew it would turn out like this for me.

00:38:28
My hunch is she probably hoped it did.

00:38:36
I could have chosen to do anything other than this.

00:38:43
But my sense is my grandmother. Probably knew that I was always going to be this person.

00:38:49
I would want to ask her that.

00:39:01
The protests aren't getting as much coverage.

00:39:05
Crowds are still big.

00:39:09
How is the weather today?

00:39:12
Not as big as a couple weeks ago not as big as some of the

00:39:21
But definitely bigger than they have been in a long while.

00:39:30
In order to believe that you will complete a marathon you have to talk to yourself the whole way you have to encourage yourself. You have to tell yourself. The finish line is closed because that is the only way that you make it through.

00:39:53
And that's where am I?

00:40:38
We'll be right back.

00:40:41
From the beginning of the pandemic Walmart's Focus had been and continues to be the health and safety of our Associates in the communities. We serve that's why we're now requiring Shoppers to wear face coverings in our stores. It's a simple stuff that everyone can take for their safety and the safety of others Walmart is also working to support the associates who work so hard for our customers rewarding our store Club distribution center and fulfillment center Associates with their 3rd Special cash bonus this year learn more about our efforts at walmart.com here for you.

00:41:11
What else you need to know today?

00:41:20
Oh my God.

00:41:22
A series of explosions in Beirut the capital city of Lebanon have killed at least 78 people and injured thousands more the back-to-back explosion occurred at a waterfront site that stored thousands of pounds of explosive material including ammonium nitrate of chemical commonly used in both fertilizer and bonds.

00:41:55
The second more powerful blast overturned cars shook buildings shattered windows and sent debris flying across the city. The cause of the explosion is unclear what President Trump said that US military leaders suspected. It was an attack rather than an industrial accident.

00:42:22
That's it for the daily unlikable. Borrow. See you tomorrow.

00:42:33
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