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tv   Matter of Fact With Soledad O Brien  NBC  November 28, 2021 5:00am-5:30am PST

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>> right now on “matter of fact.” students written off as failures -- >> i don't like asking people to give me stuff. i want to get it for myself. >> are the ones this school wants. >> i want to make sure you understand there is always hope in your life. >> how a radical idea to reform education is transforming futures. plus -- >> i didn't have role models for what i was doing to be a one-legged black girl from san diego with no money trying to make it in ski racing. >> how this olympic champion overcame some of life's biggest obstacles on her way to making history.
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and, native american dancers breaking barriers. >> we are the first same sex couple to go out there and compete with other couples. >> meet the couple dancing to express identity and gain acceptance. ♪ soledad: i'm soledad o'brien. welcome to “matter of fact.” it's a holiday weekend, and americans who can are gathering for food, family time, and a fair amount of football. most of us will pause for at least a moment and give thanks. here at “matter of fact,” we're thinking about the people who are generous innovators. like the people we met at a first-of-its-kind private school in alabama. the high school, build up birmingham, is founded on a radical idea. it pays students to go to school, offers after school job training, and puts them to work fixing up rundown homes in their own neighborhood.
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then, perhaps the biggest incentive, a chance at home ownership if they succeed in school. our correspondent, jessica gomez, takes us to ensley, a neighborhood in birmingham, to see the idea at work. >> more than likely, if you are passing through for the first time, you will see messed up roads, rundown buildings, a lot of blight in the neighborhood. jessica: 19-year-old torrey washington, hitching a ride to work from his mom, passing through the streets of ensley, alabama. >> i feel like this city could be better. jessica: once a booming steel mill town, ensley was home to more than 40,000 people. then, the plants moved away, and there was white flight. about 10% of the population remains today. it's a place that feels forgotten. >> i go home by 2:30 for my college classes.
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jessica: torrey, a community college student working as an apprentice at a nearby manufacturing plant, is too young to remember those days, but thanks to the high school from which he just graduated, he may get to see them again. >> it feels like the challenges we have to overcome are substantial. and they are. jessica: it's called build up birmingham, a small private non-profit high school renting space in a century-old church, in the heart of ensley. the school, taking in kids from mostly failing birmingham public schools and helping them catch up academically, but also teaching them the trades, focusing on home construction and renovation. the school, just three years old, is the brainchild of 40-year-old dr. mark martin, a former inner city school teacher. dr. martin: i couldn't see was what i was putting into that day going to result in something that was going to change a young person's life.
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jessica: martin's idea, to make education pay off for students, like those in ensley. build up kids, most at or below poverty level, get paid, to come to school, starting at $250 a month. but that also means, after school, they have to go to work, rehabbing ensley's dilapidated homes, purchased by the school. >> there you go. jessica: many of the finished homes, rented by the families of build up students, like aydan jones, in need of some stability. aydan: it's a relief without having to worry about where we were going to sleep next. jessica: the school, following students for up to two years after graduation, finding them paid apprenticeships and helping them get into and stay in college. >> if you -- jessica: when they get their associates degree or complete two years of a four-year university, students like aydan can purchase the renovated homes with no money down and a 0% interest loan.
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ayesha: they're showing them how for their hard work, they can earn money. they're showing them a skill and home ownership. 'cause i can't show them home ownership. i have never owned a home. dr. martin: we want the students to start their early careers with equity in something. jessica: equity, mark martin says, that will give graduates a voice in their community. dr. martin: it's up to us to empower and equip our young people who are the future leaders of this community to determine what their community needs. >> i want to make sure you understand there's always hope in your life. we're not going to wait for someone to come in and help us. we are going to do it for ourselves. we are showing our children you have the skills and power to this -- to do this yourself. jessica: torrey washington is harnessing that power. torrey: i am really excited to see how far they have gotten. jessica: in just a few weeks, he and his family will get to move into the latest build up home. for the first time in 19 years,
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he'll have his own bedroom. angela: how many parents can say they can move into a brand-new house 'cause of torrey: so it's a fantastic feeling, knowing i worked for it. i am really happy. love you, mom. >> love you, too. jessica: in ensley, alabama, for “matter of fact,” i'm jessica gomez. >> next on “matter of fact.” she made history when she medaled at the paralympic games, and now she's making her point. bonnie: normal is overrated. aim higher. >> meet the phenomenal bonnie st. john. and later, this chef's restaurant was shut down by the pandemic. now, she's making a comeback. amanda: the starting pay is now at $25 per hour per person. >> what she's doing to change the way restaurants work. to stay up to date, sign up for
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soledad: welcome back to “matter of fact.” the winter olympics will be held in beijing in february of 2022. just a month later, in march, athletes from 160 countries are expected to participate in the paralympics. 37 years ago, bonnie st. john became the first african american to medal at the paralympic games. the then-19-year-old alpine skier brought home a silver and two bronze medals. but her story doesn't end on the slopes. since then, she's graduated harvard, earned a rhodes scholarship, became a fortune 500 executive, and an advisor to the white house. our correspondent, julia sun, got the chance to meet bonnie at her home in upstate new york for a conversation about sports, determination, and resilience. >> [announcer introduction in foreign language]
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julia: when the u.s. delegation marched into the arena at the 1984 paralympic games in innsbruck, austria, nobody, including bonnie st. john, guessed that she was about to make sports history. bonnie: i'm hitting the red and the blue poles. i get to where i can see the finish line and i think i've made it. i've won the gold. and that's when i hit the ice. and i tried to hold on to my edge with one leg and i fell in the snow. but my training was always to finish. i grabbed my equipment. i got over the finish line, and when the dust cleared, i was still in third place. i got to stand on the winner's podium, my mother sobbing in the snow. julia: and in that moment, bonnie realized how far she'd come from her childhood in san diego. bonnie: i was born with one leg shorter than the other. and i had a brace on my leg and the other kids would tease me. when i went to the hospital to get my leg amputated at five, i thought, is my life going to be julia: how did you become a skier?
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bonnie: skiing was not the go-to sport for kids in san diego. but i got invited to go skiing with a high school friend, and i think it was really cool. you know, she's white. i'm black. she has two legs. and yet she looked at her one-legged black friend from the wrong side of the tracks and said, hey, let's go skiing. julia: what was the moment you said to yourself, oh, that changed my life and now i want to do it professionally? bonnie: because i had to find the special equipment and find some instruction about how does a one-legged person ski, i connected with other amputees that skied and they all raced. at that time, anyone could go to the races. julia: i saw a picture on your wall. it says, "normal is overrated.” bonnie: the whole quote is "normal is overrated, aim higher." i never got to be normal. i wasn't like other kids, but i got to do exciting things, to go to college, to travel the world, to ski in the paralympics.
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julia: these days,on to motivmentor at her executive coaching company, blue circle leadership. bonnie: paralympics really teaches us to be resilient. these are athletes with all kinds of disabilities. half the time, the equipment wasn't designed for your body. we learn to be resilient, to be innovative, to be able to make it work against the odds. julia: one method bonnie uses is what she calls a "first aid kit for your attitude." bonnie: little things that help remind you of your strengths and pivot your attitude around. so, it could be thank-you notes from clients. it could be pictures of your children. julia: in her own kit, there's a note from her mother that says, "cherish yourself." let's say 100 years from now, some researcher is looking you up. what is the one thing you wish he or she sees first? bonnie: i hope that they see that i broke through barriers and changed expectations, but
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then also pulled people behind me who wanted to do that for themselves. if the one-legged black girl from san diego with no money and no snow can make it to become an international skier, you know, what can you do that maybe you thought you couldn't do? julia: for "matter of fact," i'm julia sun in upstate new york. >> ahead on "matter of fact," a two spirit couple honoring tradition. >> they may not talk about it as they see us dancing, but there's a conversation to be had on the ride home. >> and later, soledad has some food for thought about -- soledad: one of the guests at your holiday table. you know, the flashy one. >> we've got a saucy little story about how the colorful cranberry became a holiday
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soledad: welcome back. now it's our chance to share a story about a young two-spirit couple in nevada, redefining cultural norms in their native american community. two-spirit is how native americans refer to lgbtq identifying people. adrian stevens and sean snyder are breaking barriers as competitive sweetheart dancers, taking part in a celebration previously reserved for heterosexual couples at native pow-wows. >> we are not the typical sweetheart pair that you would see out in the arena or dancing aywhere. we are the first same sex couple to go out there and compete with other couples. >> i am adrian, i am two-spirit.
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i'm also shoshone-bannock, northern ute, and san carlos apache. >> i am sean, and i am navajo. i am an artist, and this is my partner adrian. >> when i was younger, i can't think of a queer person publically that represented me or my lineage or my culture, and i never saw that in a space that which we're doing today. we see our dancing as a way to honor our heritage and who we are. so, sweethearts is really being out there in that arena and showing your love and compassion for one another. >> we, as a two-spirit couple, have faced a lot of challenges, being out there and just being open with ourselves and our identity. we pushed for the acceptance and really fought for that space to be out there and amongst people, and it made our voices stronger and our presence stronger.
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>> we're always there to encourage and support everyone else that is trying to be vocal. i know that us being two-spirit and being very public has created the conversation for a lot of native homes, so they may not talk about it as they see us dancing, but there's a conversation to be had when they get in the car or on the ride home, and often it's very positive. >> in the last few decades, we've seen a much bigger acceptance within our native american communities of our two-spirit people. and seeing that people standing up for them, making spaces, and protecting them, which is nice to see and very hopeful for us that a lot of tribes and individual nations start recognizing their lgbt+ queer members and their rights and their identities. >> we've learned that we can change the opinion almost of
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what people may think two-spirit is, and then when they see us and how we carry ourselves and represent the community. >> be proud. be true. keep dancing. soledad: the painting of adrian and sean was done by native american artist derek no-sun brown. you can see more of “the matter of fact listening tour: to be an american” at >> next on “matter of fact,” restaurants are open again, but in need of help. so this chef and owner is paying $25 an hour minimum. amanda: it's the only way we're going to get through this, or we will end up having a shattered industry. >> and, still ahead -- >> i can step into this? >> yep, you can step in right there. >> correspondent joie chen wades into the history of cranberries. mrs. claus the shopping boss here to help you merry savers decorate with the best bargains ever! ross has savings on everything you need to get the party started. because who waits for shipping anymore?
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or guests?! i love saying yes to more merry for less at ross!
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mrs. claus the shopping boss here to help you merry savers find the best bargains ever! when you have the world's longest list you go to ross so you can work that budget and get those savings. i love saying yes to more merry for less at ross. soledad: thanks for joining us for “matter of fact.”
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good news this holiday season. pandemic restrictions are easing for travelers, diners, and visitors. still, u.s. businesses, especially service industries, are struggling to get back to normal. three of out four restaurant operators say recruitment and retention are their toughest challenges. the owner of dirt candy in new york city knows the struggle. she was forced to shut down her restaurant and let go of all her staff at the start of the pandemic. now, she shares the innovative way she's making a comeback. amanda: my name is amanda cohen, and i am the chef owner of dirt candy, an all-vegetable restaurant in manhattan. in march 2020, i ran a really busy, successful restaurant, and overnight it all disappeared. we closed our restaurant down and i had no idea what was going to happen. in a perfect world i would press the reset button and start all over again. when i closed the restaurant, i had this idea that i wasn't going to reopen the same restaurant i closed, actually.
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because i had sort of left us all without a safety net. we've been open since the end of may and it's been working great. the starting pay at dirt candy is now at $25 per hour per person, which is a huge jump for, certainly, my back of house. we increased our prices about 30%. and we're able to have a few less staff members. we can now offer them health insurance if they want it. we're offering extra sick days, paid holidays. i want to be successful. i don't want to have a revolving door of staff. and the only way i could figure out how to do that was to treat my staff like professionals. i don't think the labor shortage is just about wages. i think it's a lot about working conditions. i do have a non-tipping, fine dining restaurant so we can raise our prices enough that our customers won't blink. but i do think that there are some aspects of what we're doing
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that can be replicated. certainly, changing your work culture. maybe not paying your staff as much as i'm paying them, but paying them more. most of my colleagues are struggling to find staff. it's been really hard, and a lot of them are doing what i'm doing, which is not just increasing wages, but making their restaurants better for their employees. it's the only way we're going to get through this, or we will end up having a shattered industry. >> next on “matter of fact,” we go deep into the history of the cranberry and the bog. - hi, i'm steve. - i'm lea. and we live in north pole, alaska. - i'm a retired school counselor. [lea] i'm a retired art teacher. [steve] we met online about 10 years ago. as i got older, my hearing was not so good so i got hearing aids. my vision was not as good as it used to be, got a change in prescription. but the thing missing was my memory. i saw a prevagen commercial and i thought, "that makes sense." i just didn't have to work so hard to remember things.
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soledad: finally, from us, a word about one of the guests at your holiday table. you know, the flashy one. the one who shows up with a little too much jiggle in the can. the one no one wants to admit they even chen tells us the humble cranberry at the heart of the holiday table is just misunderstood.
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joie: there's something irresistible about that gooey, gelatinous mass we call cranberry sauce, though it's not very saucy. the dark matter is full of surprises. for one, the label's not upside down. the jelly's supposed to plop out of the bottom. and beneath the bog -- i can step into this? amber: yep, you can step right in there. joie: more secrets from grower amber bristow. wow, we're deep. amber: right, this is where it gets a little hairy, especially for short people. joie: things aren't quite as they seem. cranberries don't grow under water. growers flood the fields to harvest them. where? turns out most of the world's cranberries are grown in central wisconsin, not the northeast. the berries like cold. stick white ones in the fridge; they'll turn red. and the name? cran, 'cause they look a little like red-headed cranes, and berry? science says they're not berries at all.
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what does ring true is their place at the table. this is really the all-american fruit. amber: it really is. cranberries are native to north america, it's one of the few native fruits. and there's no better time to highlight that than during the holiday. joie: food for thought, as we give thanks. for “matter of fact,” i'm joie chen in warrens, wisconsin. soledad: i'm soledad o'brien. have a wonderful holiday weekend. we'll see you next week for “matter of fact.” >> listen to “matter of fact with soledad o'brien” on your favorite podcast provider. watch us during the week on fyi, pluto, and youtube. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
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today on "asian pacific america," asian-americans in the arts, a favorite topic of ours. and today we catch up with a filipino-american, playing a major role or roles on broadway in "aladdin." yes, in-person theater is back. then a different kind of showcase. find out about a multimedia showcase, a philippine-ex-immigrant's stories opening up next week in san francisco. next, make-a-wish greater bay area granted a wish to a young girl battling life challenges who wanted to meet a pacific-islander princess at disney world. then we wrap up with a unique


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