Coming up Wednesday

Wildfires burn through Colorado causing thousands to evacuate, and protests in Turkey are in 13th day. Tune in at 7am ET.
January 17th, 2013
12:50 PM ET

Empowering students through the arts – hip-hop artist Swizz Beatz and Music Unites's Michelle Edgar on 'Music-versity' workshop

Schools across the country are cutting funding for the arts, and many private groups are stepping in to help save them. Music Unites is one of them, a non-profit group that helps empower students through arts and music education.

It works with musicians like Grammy-award winning producer and hip-hop artist Swizz Beatz, who offer in-studio sessions and workshops. Today, Swizz and "Music Unites" will hold a workshop with the Bronx Charter School in New York to stress the importants of arts education.

Swizz Beatz and Music Unites founder Michelle Edgar talk with Soledad O'Brien about their mission.

Filed under: Arts • Education • Music
November 30th, 2012
11:02 AM ET

Russell and Danny Simmons: ‘Kids need to exercise their creative muscles’ through art

Twenty artists will gather in Miami next week to compete for the chance to showcase their art in New York. The contest is part of an initiative run by Danny and Russell Simmons, co-founders of the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, an organization that serves over 700,000 urban youth through art. The Simmons brothers join “Starting Point” on Friday to discuss their upcoming competition and the need for art in urban communities.

“We saw that the schools weren't doing a good job,” Russell Simmons said on why he and his brothers started the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation. “We think the imagination is everything. I mean, the numbers don't mean much if you don't have the creative way to put them to work. And so, kids need to exercise their creative muscles.”

Simmons, the author of “Super Rich” and publisher of “,” also explains that the foundation helps serve “under served communities” by giving creative artists an opportunity to showcase their work in New York. He adds that many of the artists mentor and teach fine arts, poetry, and other subjects to youth in their program.

Filed under: Arts • Giving back
September 5th, 2012
11:26 AM ET

Actor John Leguizamo on importance of arts funding, Latino issues and why it 'doesn't make sense' for Latinos to be Republican

Emmy Award-winning actor John Leguizamo is in Charlotte this week for the Democratic National Convention to promote the Creative Coalition, a non-profit organization advocating for public funding for the arts as an economic development resource.

“It’s always the first to go and the arts are actually what keeps us cutting edge against China and India,” Leguizamo tells Soledad O’Brien. “It’s been proven that for every dollar spent, you get seven dollars back that’s taxable from the arts. The iPod was created for what? For music.”

The Colombian American actor also weighs in on the DNC’s first Latino keynote speaker, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, and on the Republican attempt to court Hispanic Americans.    

“[Julian Castro’s] going to be our president,” Leguizamo says. “That’s how you felt last night being a Latin man, just, wow, we’ve come a long way and we’re going to have our Obama, a Latin Obama.”  

“Latin people for Republicans are like roaches for raid,” he adds. “It doesn’t make sense. [Republicans are] not for us. You’re not for my values. We’re working class people mostly and blue collar. We’re your cops, we’re your firemen, we’re your carpenters and the things we need – we need to protect our unions, we need to protect our Medicare, we need to protect the working class person.”