In This Episode
DeRay, De’Ara, Kaya, and Myles cover the underreported news of the week— including Florida’s overzealous book censorship, thousands of kids missing from the post-pandemic school system, a Black city in America under all white jurisdiction, and the legacy of Paco Rabanne. Pod Save the People continue their Blackest Book Club programming with All About Love by bell hooks.
DeRay, De’Ara, Kaya, and Myles cover the underreported news of the week— including Florida’s overzealous book censorship, thousands of kids missing from the post-pandemic school system, a Black city in America under all white jurisdiction, and the legacy of Paco Rabanne. Pod Save the People continue their Blackest Book Club programming with All About Love by bell hooks.
Myles Paco Rabanne: Designer who embodied the spirit of the Sixties
Kaya Thousands of kids are missing from school. Where did they go?
De’Ara Roberto Clemente book removed from Florida public schools pending review over discrimination references
DeRay White reps vote to create white-appointed court for Blackest city in America – Mississippi Today
DeRay Mckesson: Hey, this is DeRay and welcome to Pod Save the People. Sending you love today and all days, but happy Valentine’s Day. In this episode it’s me, De’Ara, Maya and Kyles [correction Myles and Kaya] talking about the news that you don’t know from the past week, the underreported news, but the news about race, justice, and equity that you should know. And then we talk about book censorship in Florida, thousands of kids missing from the post-pandemic school system, [?] of stuff. And we continue our Blackest Book Club discussions with the spotlight on All About Love by Bell Hooks. Go download the full reading list now at BlackestBookClub.com and purchase the book with our Crooked partner Bookshop.org. Here we go. My advice for this week is let love in. You know some people are just really you know we all I think at some point struggle with receiving love. People say good things about us or they love us and we just don’t know what to do. Be okay with saying I love you too. Be okay with saying Thank you. I appreciate that, like receive love. Let’s go.
De’Ara Balenger: Family. Welcome to this love episode of Pod Save the People. It’s airing on Valentine’s Day. We’re excited. I’m De’Ara Balenger. You can find me at @dearabalenger on Instagram.
Myles Johnson: Let me do my love um voice. This is Myles E. Johnson. You can find me at @pharaohrapture on Instagram and Twitter. [laughter]
Kaya Henderson: Oh, I don’t have a love voice. This is Kaya Henderson at @HendersonKaya on Twitter.
DeRay Mckesson: This is DeRay at @deray on Twitter.
De’Ara Balenger: Well, we’re going to start off this episode with the Queen in red–
Kaya Henderson: Yes.
De’Ara Balenger: The amazing Rihanna. It’s Rihanna. It’s not Rihanna. Right. I think her name is Rihanna. Isn’t that true, everyone?
Myles Johnson: This is not the time to debate that child. We [indistinct]–
De’Ara Balenger: Well, because this morning I was you know I start my day–
Myles Johnson: [indistinct] [laughter].
De’Ara Balenger: I start my my day with CBS This Morning, with my best friend, Gayle. And Gayle let America know this morning that her name is Rihanna, not Rihanna.
Myles Johnson: Rihanna. Yeah that–
De’Ara Balenger: Because she had corrected Ellen–
Myles Johnson: That makes sense.
De’Ara Balenger: –many years ago. Any who. She I just it this performance for me was transcendent because Rihanna is rich. She was like, I’m not gyrating and dancing all around the place.
Kaya Henderson: Girl, you better say it.
De’Ara Balenger: I’m not gonna starve myself for eight weeks before this thing. I am going to give you all a shimmy and y’all are going to like it. So today, in honor of Rihanna, I ain’t really doing nothing at work, [indistinct]–
Kaya Henderson: I thought you said her name was Rihanna. [laughter] [banter]
De’Ara Balenger: Rihanna, Rihanna. [said with an A as in Banana]
DeRay Mckesson: Thank you Kaya.
De’Ara Balenger: Rihanna.
DeRay Mckesson: Keep it consistent.
De’Ara Balenger: I–
Myles Johnson: Not do nothing at work.
De’Ara Balenger: I’m not doing nothing at work today. Just how Rihanna took a seat during her performance. She sat herself down. Okay. That’s what I’m doing today because Black women and Brown women shouldn’t be out here laboring and doing all the dancing on the polls and stuff for Super Bowl.
DeRay Mckesson: De’ara is taking this to a whole–
Kaya Henderson: This is not–
DeRay Mckesson: –new place.
Kaya Henderson: –what I–
De’Ara Balenger: Listen!
Kaya Henderson: –thought we were going to talk about this morning.
De’Ara Balenger: This this is how I felt about it.
DeRay Mckesson: Rihanna said don’t worry.
De’Ara Balenger: This is how I felt about it. It was just like, I ain’t doing all that.
Kaya Henderson: Come on Nap Ministry. Come on, pause, rest, be.
De’Ara Balenger: And she’s pregnant. But you know what? I’m not talking about that woman’s body today. That’s her business. Her and the baby is her business. That’s not my business.
Kaya Henderson: I want to talk about it.
De’Ara Balenger: [?] my business.
Kaya Henderson: I want to talk about it. I want to talk about it.
De’Ara Balenger: Do it. Go ahead Kaya.
Kaya Henderson: Because it’s all of our business as of last night, as she rubbed and scrubbed a [?] on the stage first of all I thought I was up dancing, singing and having a good time. Honey, I thought it was awesome. I thought it was amazing. I thought the song list was perfectly curated when she descended from the heavens in that hot red, I was like, Yes, girl, give it all to the people. And then once you realized that she was pregnant, you’re like, okay, you don’t have to do too much. Just give us a little bit. And I felt like it was absolutely perfect. I thought her dancers were amazing. I thought, I have, also love that she did not have any guest performers. She was like, you gonna get this, me, no enhancements, no embellishments–
De’Ara Balenger: Was any–
Kaya Henderson: Just me.
De’Ara Balenger: But Kaya were you nervous?
Kaya Henderson: Yes the–
De’Ara Balenger: That Kanye was gonna come out?
Kaya Henderson: Oh. No, no, no, no, no.
De’Ara Balenger: Like, I really I got I got I was like ooh ooh.
Kaya Henderson: I was not nervous about Kanye.
De’Ara Balenger: Switch the song.
Kaya Henderson: I was hoping that Jay-Z came out when she sang Run This Town tonight because it would have been perfect. But whatever. I was nervous that she was on that flipping podium thing floating in the air. And once I realized she was pregnant, I was like, first of all, I was just personally scared. And I was like, No, you could not have me floating up like that. But when I realized that she was pregnant, I was like, oh my soul be careful, girl. But it was perfect. It was absolutely perfect.
Myles Johnson: Um I just want to give a shout out to Paris Goebel. I believe that’s how you prounce her name. P-a-r-r-i-s G-o-e-b-e-l, that is the choreographer of–
Kaya Henderson: Yes. Come on Parris.
Myles Johnson: –of of of um of the Superbowl and she’s also done most of the things with um with like Fenty and then she has like a couple of viral dance videos of Justin Bieber’s Yummy. And I think that Parris I’ve always been in love with how she does things that, does movement she really hyper focuses on a body movement and just does things on beats and sounds that you don’t necessarily your ear doesn’t necessarily go to. And she through movement brings those things out. I was in love with that. And I think that nu– now knowing that Rihanna was pregnant, it was such a task to how do we make this thing feel like it’s moving? How do we not put the um mother at risk? And how do we also do things where Rihanna can jump in and do and and and and and express herself through her body without, you know, doing something that was too crazy and it was so good. I love I love, love, love, love how how she decided to choreograph that, that might have been one of my favorite choreographed moments in a very, very, extremely long time. I always loved the thing about Rihanna is she’s such a millennial superstar. She’s one of like our our last, like, millennial um relics. Like, I definitely put give um I give um Beyonce to gen um, Gen X, even though we all love her. I definitely think she’s like a a a superstar that Gen X produced specifically with how she works [indistinct] [banter] [laughing]
Kaya Henderson: I’ll take it. I’ll take it.
Myles Johnson: –and what and and and what she does. I think that she’s like a like at best, a late millennial Gen X person. I feel like Rihanna. She comes on and she performs like, you know what her performance style reminds me of? That cool woman in the Caribbean restaurant who’s gonna give you your food, and she don’t give it to you, and you gonna like it. And I’m not doing all of that and we don’t got that. And you and you want, I tell we don’t got curry chicken. That’s her swag on stage. And I think that that is so I don’t know there’s there is something really rebellious and cool and effortless around Rihanna that makes it so hot. It’s you forget that she’s in front of a thousand people. Millions of people are watching her because she makes you feel like this is normal, this is relaxed. And I think that is the energy that we most covet around Rihanna, um is that like anti-showgirl aesthetic.
De’Ara Balenger: Mm hmm.
Myles Johnson: Um. That that um that we just really covet so yay go Rihanna, congratulations. ASAP, one one one lucky man.
Kaya Henderson: Look ASAP. Uh. Clearly [laughing]–
De’Ara Balenger: He really he better hang on to that girl.
Myles Johnson: –got got got angels in the sky, in the ovaries, in the uterus. Got angels everywhere. Just just what.
DeRay Mckesson: You all have said most of what I would say about Rihanna’s performance and it was the set up, the stage, all that stuff was amazing. The thing that I’d add is um I didn’t know that in Living Color was the birth of the halftime performance at the Super Bowl, that the Super Bowl halftime performance used to be like marching bands and sort of stuff that nobody cared about. One year In Living Color had halftime programing on a different station. They got all these famous people to host and da da da and so everybody stopped at halftime, switched stations and watched In Living Color’s Super Bowl halftime show, and then did not come back and watch the Super Bowl. Like Super Bowl viewership fell for the second half because people were so enthralled with the other station da da da. And then next year they brought Michael Jackson to do [indistinct sound from other host] the half time performance.
Myles Johnson: Okay.
DeRay Mckesson: And that is the history of the superbowl performance. And of course, it was a Black superstar that created this entire moment that saved the NFL from–
De’Ara Balenger: Ain’t that nothing.
DeRay Mckesson: –a ratings drop that like made [?] and so remember, the artists don’t get paid for this experience. They even often have to pay themselves to, like, get all the bells and whistles, even though the NFL does front money, like to do all the things they often have to pay. But it was Michael Jackson that created the genre of Super Bowl halftime performance that we know, but it was In Living Color–
Kaya Henderson: How about that?
DeRay Mckesson: –that inspired it.
Myles Johnson: You know. All I heard, all I heard was Black people started a thing and years later–
De’Ara Balenger: Listen.
Myles Johnson: –when we want to take a knee, it’s too much and it’s too controversial. But I love that story, we should have like a segment called um the Blacker you know, like the more you know [laughter] the Blacker you know. With like a fist that comes up. That was good, good content. Are you um Sheryl Lee Ralph also um performed I didn’t see–
Kaya Henderson: I didn’t see it either.
Myles Johnson: Did anybody see Sheryl Lee Ralph perform live? [pause] Okay. I–
DeRay Mckesson: I saw it.
Myles Johnson: I saw it but I didn’t understand the context with it like it was that a replacement for the the like what like what was the context of her performing?
DeRay Mckesson: So that was actually the it was the anniversary of the first. It was like the anniversary of the first time that the Black national anthem was ever sung in public.
Myles Johnson: Got it.
DeRay Mckesson: Like and on like TV.
Myles Johnson: Got it.
DeRay Mckesson: So this was like the 23rd anniversary, it was like to the day. Something like that.
Myles Johnson: Got it got it.
De’Ara Balenger: Oh that’s what she’s sang.
DeRay Mckesson: That was like–
De’Ara Balenger: That’s what she did.
Myles Johnson: Mm hmm.
DeRay Mckesson: She sang the Black national anthem, but it was like the 23rd anniversary, like to the day that it was ever sung like on a major stage.
De’Ara Balenger: Amazing.
Myles Johnson: Got it. Got it. Yeah. Just wanted to honor that because she, I did see the clip on um you oh um not YouTube but on um Twitter. And she did a phenomenal she looked phenomenal. But I was um didn’t know the like the context with it and it’s a little you know to I got I always got two brains, I’m also like, do not give us Sheryl Lee Ralph who you know we love her. She’s having her moment and she’s been you know she’s having her moment in the brightest part of the sun right now. She’s been in the sun. But the bright brightest part of the sun right now, and it was like, oh, you know what we gonna give? We gonna get Sheryl Lee Ralph in a good old red dress, make up great. National Black Anthem and I’m like, that’s that like, we still understand the where the NFL is when it comes to um–
De’Ara Balenger: Yeah they been trying to trick us.
Myles Johnson: When it comes to racism and anti-blackness I’m like don’t think that you [someone clearing throat] gonna blind us with with with with one of our favorite stars right now–
Kaya Henderson: They they also had Babyface singing America the beautiful which um it was I didn’t um I mean I think I guess I think they sing America the beautiful at multiple Super Bowls in addition to the to the national anthem but I was a little underwhelmed it was because he sang America the Beautiful what seemed like a little bit of it. And then they cut over to the country dude singing the national anthem um and that the country dude’s rendition of the national anthem was really beautiful, but I just didn’t understand. I felt like they were trying to pack too much, be too many things to too many people. Maybe?
De’Ara Balenger: Mm hmm.
Myles Johnson: It was. It was giving [indistinct].
Kaya Henderson: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Myles Johnson: [laughing] [?] Don’t, are y’all good? Are y’all fine? Yeah, it’s a little I, you know as I love. I love a song. I love a dance. I love a spectacle. I love all those things. But I think I also have to love those things critically. Because often um those things are used for Black people as maybe a replacement for um like a like a replacement for the change, the more systemic deeper changes we want?
Kaya Henderson: Yeah.
Myles Johnson: So it was like–
Kaya Henderson: It’s let em eat cake.
Myles Johnson: Babyface go sing something.
Kaya Henderson: Right?
De’Ara Balenger: Yeah. That’s right.
Myles Johnson: Yeah. Yes.
De’Ara Balenger: The other historical thing with this Super Bowl is that there were two Black quarterbacks. Now, I don’t know these young men’s name so I don’t [indistinct]–
Kaya Henderson: Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes. Come on, girl. Come on. [laughing]
De’Ara Balenger: Thank you Kaya. Thank you, Kaya. Because–
Myles Johnson: [?] is fine.
De’Ara Balenger: They’re both adorable. [laughter] Adorable. But that’s really what kept me watching after Rihanna’s performance, because I watched the Super Bowl with the room full of gays and so didn’t any nobody knew what the hell was going on. Okay. And that performance–
DeRay Mckesson: I was one of them.
De’Ara Balenger: That performance ended and we were all–
DeRay Mckesson: I don’t know a single thing.
De’Ara Balenger: –like, now what?
Kaya Henderson: Wait, wait hold on.
De’Ara Balenger: Now now what are we supposed to [?]– [banter]
Myles Johnson: I resent this stereotype–
De’Ara Balenger: Wait.
Myles Johnson: –that keep on coming up.
De’Ara Balenger: It’s not–
Myles Johnson: Because I was a–
De’Ara Balenger: First of all–
Myles Johnson: My first job was a scorekeeper. People don’t know this about me. I was a scorekeeper all throughout–
DeRay Mckesson: Not people don’t know this about me.
Myles Johnson: –all throughout high school. I was a scorekeeper. I am. I know sports, I know football. And I know softball.
Kaya Henderson: I, I was going to say I was just with probably eight gay men a couple weeks ago. And all we were talking about was football. So er uh–
Myles Johnson: Auntie Kaya was in [?]
De’Ara Balenger: Well none of them were in the room I was in. And listen, I’m a collegian athlete, but still I have not–
DeRay Mckesson: Collegian.
De’Ara Balenger: I don’t I don’t know.
DeRay Mckesson: You so polite.
Myles Johnson: We’re gonna have another Pod Save the–
De’Ara Balenger: I did know a little. I did. I did know a little bit like I think I was the one explaining the most because people were like, what’s a sack? What’s this what’s that?
Kaya Henderson: Oh lord today.
De’Ara Balenger: I was like, why don’t we just watch a movie or something.
Myles Johnson: Well we’re going to have–
DeRay Mckesson: I will say, this is not Black. But the other part of the story that I thought was cute was the mother who had the two sons–
Kaya Henderson: Yes. The Kelce’s. The Kelce’s. Okay.
DeRay Mckesson: I thought that was sweet.
Kaya Henderson: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
DeRay Mckesson: The Kelce’s.
Kaya Henderson: Jason and Travis, killer Trav, let me tell y’all something. Travis is invited to the cookout. I’m just saying, uh [laughing] killer–
Myles Johnson: No.
Kaya Henderson: Killer Trav.
De’Ara Balenger: No.
Myles Johnson: No. [laughter]
Kaya Henderson: Killer Trav. [banter] Killer Trav. I’m telling you. Killer Trav got–
DeRay Mckesson: Oh god.
Kaya Henderson: –the sway.
Myles Johnson: Uh uh.
Kaya Henderson: Y’all. Mmm.
Myles Johnson: Uh uh. [laughing]
DeRay Mckesson: The mother was adorable, like she was. I saw an interview and she had, like, the split jersey–
Kaya Henderson: One shoe.
DeRay Mckesson: And the one shoe. I was like, come on, Mom. Would it what how wild it must be to have two–
De’Ara Balenger: Wait what are y’all even. What are y’all talking about?
Kaya Henderson: Two brothers in the Super Bowl.
De’Ara Balenger: What is this?
Kaya Henderson: Each on opposing teams, right? So when you’re the mama, who do you cheer for?
De’Ara Balenger: I see.
Kaya Henderson: So the mother had a jersey that was–
De’Ara Balenger: Right.
Kaya Henderson: –half Kansas City, half Philly.
Myles Johnson: Aw.
Kaya Henderson: She had a jean jacket–
De’Ara Balenger: That’s adorable.
Kaya Henderson: –half and half.
DeRay Mckesson: She wore one shoe.
Kaya Henderson: One shoe was for a different team. She was you know.
DeRay Mckesson: It was very cute.
Myles Johnson: Aw.
DeRay Mckesson: And she was like a vibe. So she was like doing interviews and stuff. And, you know, when when when the Super Bowl was over, she, like, hugged the one son and was like, you did a great job. The other son, she’s like congratulating you know it’s just like–
De’Ara Balenger: Wow. That’s cute.
DeRay Mckesson: She just was she was like very much still a mom, like no glamour, no glint. She’s like, my boys are playing.
De’Ara Balenger: Right.
DeRay Mckesson: I’m proud of them. It was like, very honest. And I was like, c’mon, well, whoever decided to make this a whole content stream–
Kaya Henderson: Was smart.
DeRay Mckesson: Did a good job.
Myles Johnson: Um. And then I guess like before we, like, close out um, I do want to honor that in Rihanna’s performance she was honoring André Leon Talley–
Kaya Henderson: Oooh with that coat.
Myles Johnson: –at the very end and the red leather and the red leather c’mon. And I was thinking about it because I I certainly was on Christie’s website. I was on I was on Christie’s website–
De’Ara Balenger: I mean.
Myles Johnson: –the auction house and I was I was like, you know what, I might I I need to go get something. And I was looking for that because they had the animal print that um Norma Kamali that he um that he owned. And I was like, well, where’s the red one from the picture? That was his homage to his mentor um uh, Diana Vreeland. Like, where’s that one and how much is that one going for and could I get my hands on it? Did they give it to a museum? All behold, Rihanna. Work, work, work, work worked her way into that. [laugh] In to snagging that and it was so beautiful. And I just think that like when it comes to Rihanna and André Leon Talley of course I think that André Leon Talley’s contextualization in the moment and poeticization of what Rihanna how she looked in that beautiful yellow gown. I think that that–
De’Ara Balenger: Oh I remember that Myles. Yeah.
Myles Johnson: That just as much helped it be iconic. I think that if he wasn’t there articulating in the moment how important that was, I don’t think that we would have um seen. I think we needed help contextualizing what we were seeing. And André helped that. And then, of course, all the things that Rihanna’s been able to do in fashion and beauty. That moment helped her because it just solidified her. And I just love that she honored his life and his um and what and what and what he did in in her life. It brought me joy. Okay. We are so excited to continue our Blackest Book Club programming. We partnered up with Reconstruction and Campaign Zero to launch an amazing book list for our listeners curated by me, DeRay, De’Ara, and Kaya. Download The Pod Save the People Blackest Book Club Reading list at BlackestBookClub.com right now. So this week’s book is All About Love by Bell Hooks. I thought because A.) It’s you know Black History month and we’re doing this program but then also because it’s Valentine’s Day this was such a good intersection of both of those things. Bell Hooks is just a premiere writer everybody knows that I I covet Bell Hooks, I really feel like she expanded my consciousness in so many different ways. Every single book to me, she touched. She touched points, different sections. It just like, illuminates things um in my critical consciousness about the media, film, sex, etc.. Love all about love is [laughing] I think probably one of her most uh popular pieces of writing, but also one of her most powerful and I would dare to say my most provocative take about this is that it’s one of the few books, um, outside of like a, like a, like a Cornel Cornel West text that has really to me prolonged and continued the legacy of Martin Luther King of really intersecting a love politic, uh feminist politic, uh racial justice politic. It really takes all of those things seriously. I remember I was reading this book crying, thinking about, you know, you you go through it all like my daddy ain’t love me enough and that’s why the boyfriend, he love me enough and I thought that was love. But it wasn’t love. You go through all of it with Bell Hooks. But what really stopped me and really transformed my life, I talk about this with DeRay a lot was chapter 13 on Divine Love. I thought it was so brave for somebody who has such um such esteem and intellectual feminist theory to dive into talking about the ethereal, dive and talking about the divine. And that’s just something that does not happen specifically as we get later and later and later in feminist um theoretical text. And I thought that that was so brave of her doing. One of my favorite I um I I screenshotted one of my favorite uh moments of it, moments of that chapter rather. Woundedness is not a cause for shame. It is necessary for spiritual growth and awakening. [laugh] That was a sentence. I can remember how strange it seemed to me as a child when I read this story over and over in my big book of Bible stories for children that to be wounded could be a blessing. To my child’s mind, woundedness was always negative. Being able to protect oneself from hurt, hurts inflicted by others was a source of shame in coming out of shame, um [indistinct] contended. Shame is not is the most disturbing emotion we ever experience directly about ourselves, for in the moment of shame, we feel deeply divided from ourselves. Shame is like a wound made by an unseen hand in response to defeat, failure, rejection. At the same moment that we feel disconnected, we long and embrace ourselves to once more feel reunited. Shame divides us from ourselves just as it divides us from others. And because we still yearn for a reunion, shame is deeply disturbing. Shame about woundedness keeps many people from seeking healing. That just shook me because I never thought about what is happening internally inside of me and the how and how most of the echoes of what’s happening internally inside of me are shame. Are are based in those things and how she intellectualizes things cause I love a Brene Brown and a Oprah Winfrey and I love a woo woo woo. But something about a grounded intellectual Bell Hooks saying, no, there is intellectual genius, theoretical backing towards this, and she and she and she examines love and shame and these um topics scholarly. She she she she cites her sources, she contextualizes with her own experiences. She she she’s done the research sometimes through her own relationships and it really contextualizes great. And in the same chapter she’s talking about angels and God and spiritual practice and how Black women and Black communities need spiritual practice in anything that we’re doing that that that does not invite spiritual practice is a dead works. It doesn’t. It doesn’t. It won’t make sense for Black people. That is a part and a dimension of what helps us stay radical. We need that not we want that not it’s cool, we need that. And it’s our job as a generation to maybe recontextualize it and continuously recontextualize um spirituality and faith in ancestors for each generation. But we need to always do that work. And I think Bell Hooks was doing a really brave thing with this. And years later, I remember during the um pandemic when I would go for my little walks alone and people, everybody had to be, you know, everybody was in the park and everybody had to be six feet away from each other. When I tell you, I saw this little red book everywhere in Prospect Park, and I was seeing it everywhere. And I said, wow, I can get choked up thinking about it, because, of course um Bell Hooks passed away. But I remember thinking about it and saying. Wow. Bell Hooks is being read throughout this Brooklyn Park. I can see it in people’s tote bags. I can see it on the train station. But the her message is really being spread. And, you know, I always wanted to start an Instagram where I take pictures of every single time I see All About Love, All About Love in the wilderness or something like that. And just to honor the fact that her message is being spread. And I think in her lifetime, I don’t know if she really understood how many people were reading Bell Hooks, how Bell Hooks was still doing the work and reaching more people because of social media, reaching more people because of um conversation. I don’t know if she experienced it, how it really was. And yeah, I I I can go on all day about how much I love Bell Hooks and about All about love. And how it’s a necessary necessary read. But I won’t because you know, All About Love taught me to share. [laughter] So I’m gonna share this this conversation.
DeRay Mckesson: Come on segue, come on segue. Um. So I’ll just say, as an organizer, uh Bell Hooks really changed my life. It was the first time I’d heard anybody uh write about white supremacists, capitalist patriarchy, [indistinct] college–
Myles Johnson: Imperialist.
DeRay Mckesson: Imperialist right. I missed it. I was like, okay, Bell well I remember when I first read it I’m like, okay, Bell what’s going on? Then I’m like, hoo Deray, you didn’t know? So um there are two two things I want to say about this book. One is that she reminds us that that the greatest act we do in the world is with each other, right? Like community is the best that we will ever do. Being in relationship and partnership with each other is the best that we will ever see. It is what feminism is blah blah blah. So like that was a big part of it. But as an organizer, um so much of the work that I do day to day is rooted in loss. It is death. It is. It is, I was called to the street because somebody was killed. And I continue to be called because of that. And she helped me understand um the the reconciliation with death as an act of love and in um in All about love, she writes, Love knows no shame. To be loving is to be open to grief, to be touched by sorrow, even sorrow that is unending. The way we grieve is informed by whether we know love. Since loving lets us let go of so much fear, it also guides our grief. When we lose someone we love, we can grieve without shame. Given that commitment is an important aspect of love, we who love know we must maintain ties in life and death. Our mourning, our letting ourselves grieve over the loss of loved ones is an expression of our commitment, a form of communication and communion. When I think about the work that I do that wakes me up every day. My father called me when Tyre Nichols was killed and he was like DeRay, how do you do this work? And I think about the work of organizing as an act of love and a reminder of my commitment to community and my commitment to say and do the work that is called um called love in practice. And I and the beauty of the book was that I knew the feelings well, I didn’t have the language. And what Bell did was Bell gave me the language for the thing that I was experiencing. And what we say in organizing, right, is that people often have the experience before they have the language. What Bell did was give me the language.
De’Ara Balenger: I’ll riff off of that DeRay because I you know, my context with Bell Hooks was my African-American studies program at Macalester College. Macalester College is a small liberal arts school in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Now, when I got to Macalester, they did not have an African-American studies department. And so um a group of us majored in it. We had to design the major, which ended up being actually having two majors at once. Um. And we also um you know, led some organizing work to get more Black professors tenured at Macalester. But we started when the program was was kind of getting on its feet. It was fascinating because, you know, the canon was very much W.E.B. Dubois up from slavery, Manning Marable, Juan Williams, like it was it was very much a Black man’s perspective on the political history, social history of Black peoples. And oftentime I felt like to DeRay point I was having all these feels right, I was learning these things. I was in classrooms that were predominantly white, and I was having the feels. And I think it was being exposed to writers, thinkers, academics like Bell Hooks because it was so instructive and it was so heartfelt and soul felt, and it gave you a construct to be able to understand what was happening to you in that moment and also how you can how you can protect yourself um and essentially have tools to to exist through what you were learning, but also what you were trying to be in the world. Um. And so it was, you know, reading Bell Hooks, reading Assata Shakur, reading Angela Davis, that I really started to find like my gr– my my grounding um in in Black studies. And so this book in particular, I found it to be, you know, courageous one, but also, again, so smart, because I think it’s also understanding that, like love is an ethic. And how are we practicing it right? As a people, but also, again, a people that has to deal with this exterior world. So, Myles, thank you for this. You know, we love Bell Hooks um and she’s so special to so many of us and has come into our lives at very different moments. It’s been like decades now. She’s um been influencing so many of us. So thank you for bringing this love, love, love.
Kaya Henderson: Um. I feel like I want to echo DeRay’s um comment about having the feelings and not having the language. What I think she does in this book, um which is super powerful, is help us understand that the construct of love is not just romantic love, right? It is it is organizing, it is friendships. It is how we think about and react to power and domination and just love in all of its different dimensions. And I think, you know, it is um somebody I read something on social media that said something like, the books that are being banned are the books that you should be reading. And I think it’s no small coincidence that in the whole um debate about the College Board’s first African-American AP history exam, the question of whether Bell Hooks is part of the canon is one of them. And I think it’s because she’s so relevant it’s because she’s so prescient. It’s because um she is so intellectual, Myles, that whether she’s included in the college board course or you’re a Macalester, you know, major or whatever, um Bell Hooks is somebody that we all have to encounter as Black people if we want to call ourselves conscious. So thank you for bringing this to the Blackest Book Club ever. This show is the Blackest Book Club. I’m a tell you. [laughter] Honey.
Myles Johnson: Okay. Listen. Listen we need to be on tour next year. Libraries and bookstores around around the world. I’ll be a [?] I’ll be a five a five location tour. Yep so go check out our Blackest Book Club reading list at the blackestbookclub.com. At the link you can download the list and make a purchase in support of the cause. We designed a limited edition Blackest Book Club apparel collection featuring a range of designs and colors just for you. Stay tuned this month as we grab a book from the list each week and spend time digesting together.
DeRay Mckesson: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People’s coming.
Myles Johnson: If you’re thinking, if you’re listening to this episode of the podcast and saying, whoa, geez, I’m hearing a lot of Myle’s voice. I thought the same thing, too. You know, you never know when you’re producing something how it’s gonna sound. And I’m and I’m getting tired of the sound of my own voice. However, I have things to talk about. So we talked about Bell Hooks. And now we got to go on to my other love. It’s, you know, it goes from Black, radical, queer feminism to fashion. [laughter] Those are my those are my two heartstrings. Um. I didn’t get to talk about it a couple of weeks ago, but we did experience a death in the fashion community, by Paco um Rabanne. So when it comes to surrealism and when it comes to fashion, the surrealist fashion designers are so integral to expanding what other people who maybe even consider themselves not into fashion, are wearing and also recontextualizing beauty. So what do I mean by that? I mean, when somebody puts on a really um avant garde strange garment or somebody chooses a very oh um different model [?] with Black models. Paco Rabanne with um with Black models as well. So that was seen as like left of center in in in in a in a specific era. When somebody decides to do that. Then that trickles down to what people in their everyday lives see as beautiful. That trickles down to what other people take risk so even if you are traditionally beautiful, am I going to succumb to what society says I need to do? Or am I going to take my own risk? And I truly believe that there’s these avant garde surrealist fashion designers that give us more room to breathe in beauty and in fashion and in glamour. So it could be something that we could all participate in healthily and not um yeah no. [pause] I was gonna say Kardashian league. [laugh] But we’ll keep it, keep it, keeping it there, keeping it very um healthy and keeping as expanse, um expanded. Paco Rabanne is one of the um pioneering um fashion designers when it when it comes to that, he was actually best friends and really good friends and competitors, was Salvador Dali. Salvador Dali was noted as saying that there’s only two great surrealists in Spain. Me and Paco Rabanne, which is like a huge, huge, huge honor. When you look up Paco Rabanne’s fashion designs and choices of runway shows, you’ll see that he has dressed some beautiful, beautiful Black models and has really put Black women in the context of space age. It’s literally if we when you see the images and this is not to disrespect, the literary icon I’m about to about to say but when you see the images it’s really like the fact like when you see a Black woman dressed in space age [?] couture. It really makes you think, oh, this is what Octavia Butler, this is what the characters in some of the Octavia Butler’s or Samuel Delany’s texts wear. I really like, I really remember that our first interaction with those texts and with that literature, I was picturing literally picturing Paco Rabanne outfit’s in some of the things um that they were writing about, because that was my only context for Black people in fashionable things that were also futuristic um was because of him. Um. I’m trying to think of a current pop culture moment. Oh, Cardi B at the Grammys. That good metallic um uh chrome outfit that she wore with the headpiece, that was Paco Rabanne. Um. Naomi Campbell, you could put Naomi Campbell in Paco Rabanne. Iman in Paco Rabanne, you could put all these google images um and you’ll kind of see the aesthetic that he’s um that he has garnered. If you go to your local church, the good one, the mega church, and you take a whiff in the air where the men are. What does that say? That is one million. [laughter] [indistinct] And if you and if you sniff a little harder underneath that, note of one million. There’s another um scent. And that’s usually [?] uh or uh or or Victory. So again. So if you have not seen it, you definitely done smelt it. And if you haven’t done either, then I implore you to go explore it. Um. Yeah. I wanted to bring this to the podcast. I was really sad that I didn’t get to do it the other week and I love just getting people to think differently about things that are sometimes um coded as frivolous or feminine or queer. And in pop culture, because usually those things are seen as um unserious and not influential. But we often know that sometimes those things could be the most influential things. And I think it’s good to honor people who really did it right, he died at 88. Um a life well lived.
De’Ara Balenger: I am married to somebody who is Mexican and Cuban, but grew up in Spain. And so Paola and I spent a lot of time in Spain, in Madrid in particular. So, you know, I’m like, I was spending so much time in this place. Let me learn something other than the, you know, the past colonialism. We all know that about Spain, um but also understanding that, you know, Spain had a dictator for a long time. Um. But what came out of the end of Franco was all of this creative revolutionary beautiful content are um all of it. So, you know, Pedro Almódovar is like this brilliant filmmaker um who is, you know, centering the lives of trans women and, you know, LGBTQ people. Um. But in the, in the in the early seventies. And so I think when I think about Paco Rabanne, when I think about, you know, kind of the the, the, the artists of that time, it just it’s just exciting. It’s exciting what they create, I think is so, um yeah. Myles to your point, futuristic and it’s just I’ve just been such um I’m such a fan of it and what I didn’t know about Paco Rabanne is that okay so h– his father was a Republican colonel who was executed by Franco troops during the Spanish Civil War. His mother was the chief seamstress for Balenciaga. Um. For Balenciaga’s first couture house. And so they ended up she ended up moving. She ended up moving her family to Paris, which, you know, the rest is sort of history for Paco Rabanne. So it’s just, you know, again, all of that his– that Franco history, I think is tied into so many um of the great artists and and creators um out of Spain.
Kaya Henderson: Um. I, like many people in uh who grew up in the eighties, smelled Paco Rabanne before I [laughing] saw him. You know if your dude didn’t have some Paco Rabanne cologne, uh then you might want to rethink that thing. Um. And so it was it was refreshing to learn um that he was the first designer to stage Black runway models um and and to look at his futuristic designs. Um. It’s really just inspiring. And then you look at what everybody else is doing these days and you realize it ain’t nothing new under the sun. So thanks for bringing this to the pod, Myles. Um. This was really, really this was a learning experience.
DeRay Mckesson: I’ll just say two things. I love that uh Paco Rabanne started off as an architect. I just love people who like sort of art in many places, and I’m always fascinated by people who have pseudonyms. I love that his birth name was not Paco Rabanne. That he like chose Paco Rabanne as a name. And I just like the the it just so fits the idea that you like make your thing. Like he just made up. You know, he said he he lived many lives. He knew Jesus, too. I love it. I’m all about it. I’m like, that is reflected in the clothes and like, I love, love, love the pseudonyms, just like Toni Morrison. I love it. I like that level of creativity and like to go out in the world in that way. It’s cool.
Kaya Henderson: Well, uh my news this week is about a significant problem in education that not a lot of people are talking about. When we think about what happened to kids during the pandemic, we are seeing a lot of conversation about test scores going down and how learning didn’t happen and learning loss. But what we aren’t talking about is how thousands of kids are missing from school. There was a recent analysis done by the Associated Press, Stanford University’s big local news project, and Stanford professor Thomas D. And they found that an estimated 230,000 students in 21 states are missing from public school rolls. Now, these are not kids, they didn’t move out of state. They didn’t enroll in a private school. They didn’t switch to home schooling. These are kids who are literally just disappeared. Um. And sometimes it’s because, you know, families are still afraid of COVID or um some families are experiencing homelessness or they’ve left the country. In many cases, though, um online learning just wasn’t good for kids or um some people have, some young people have found jobs. Some young people are just depressed. Many young people were having terrible experiences in the school house even before the pandemic. The pandemic just exacerbated that. And they were like, you know what? I’m out. I’m not going back. And this article actually um shares a few stories of young people who basically are have just opted out of school. Um. 230,000 kids is a big number, but it is probably nowhere near the number of kids that are actually missing. Um. Overall, public school enrollment fell by 710,000 students between 2019 and 2022, the main years of the pandemic. Private school enrollment grew, but only by 100,000. Homeschooling grew by 180,000. That is a huge statement um where parents are like, I can do this myself. I don’t have to send kids to school. Um. But 230,000 is nowhere near the delta between that 710 and those 280,000 kids who went to private school or homeschool. And um the analysis doesn’t include data from 29 states, including big states like Texas and Illinois. It doesn’t include ghost students, which are students who are still on the rolls, but they’re absent from class. Um. This is a huge problem. In California alone, 152,000 students missing. In New York, 60,000 students missing. In Louisiana, 19,000, North Carolina, 12,000. And so the total is likely, way more than 230,000. And these are kids who are out in the world, families that are in the world who are going to show up in other systems because they are not getting the support and the services that they need. As you can imagine, this problem is even more acute for students with disabilities. And we have not been talking about this, but we’re going to start talking about this next year when all of this Esser money, the the funds that the federal government has put into poured into school districts to support um the transition back from the pandemic, those funds are going to run out next year and school districts are going to have to contend with the fact that their budgets reflect far fewer kids. And for people who don’t know we are funded on our schools are funded on a per pupil student formula where you basically get money for the students that you have enrolled. And so when you lose 150,000 students, that means that there’s going to be huge budgetary cuts in California, huge budgetary cuts in New York and Louisiana and North Carolina. Um. And that’s when we’re going to start talking about these missing kids. Many school districts right after the pandemic went out looking for kids, knocking on doors. Many created support systems, providing laundry services and stuff for for families who were experiencing challenges. But all of that has sort of dried up and withered away. And um shout out to Stanford and the Associated Press and Professor D um for bringing this data to light, because these are kids who these are kids and families who we are responsible for um and who, you know, we’re going to have to reckon with one way or the other.
DeRay Mckesson: You know, as as somebody who worked in a school system and had to help, you know, get kids to come back to school. And that whole process, this blew my mind. Like, I just didn’t realize there was this many kids unaccounted for. I knew that they’re was going to be a dip. I didn’t know that there were that there were this many kids that we literally just didn’t know. Didn’t we didn’t know where they were where like, I just and as somebody who worked in school systems, two big school systems, this actually really surprised me. So I’m interested to see what will pop up, because I remember in Baltimore, you know, and I don’t know if it was like this with you Kaya, but we were like making it up. Like the strategy to get the kids come back was not, you know, uh it wasn’t brilliant. It was literally like going to people’s door’s knocking or like it. It wasn’t like some it was very old school organizing. You know, the teachers union even did it with us because we all had a vested interest in kids coming back. So um this was fascinating. I didn’t know the numbers were this high. Really blew my mind.
Myles Johnson: Yeah, um I think the undercurrent at this, teaching for me. I was really excited to hear what um you and DeRay had to say about this because of y’all’s background. But also my bit that first thing that came to my mind was what happens when look when, when uh these kids are missing and and it makes it my mind couldn’t help but go to literacy and crime and jail and all these other things that happen when when kids don’t go to school. And when kids aren’t learning and and um I think that I forgot the exact words that she used at the end of what you said um Kaya, but that we they will have to be accounted for and that we’ll they’ll have to be reckoned with. That’s what keeps on echoing in my head is that this is going to have to be reckoned with and when we see um escalations and and and illiteracy or crime or whatever. We have to go back to this. We have to go back to um uh what’s happening right now. And that’s what’s most scary to me.
Kaya Henderson: Yeah, I thought, you know, we are we’re outside and we’re acting like, you know, the pandemic is over. The federal government has now declared that the pandemic is over and everybody is, quote unquote, “back to normal”. And there are so many repercussions from this pandemic that we have yet to confront. And this is just one of them.
De’Ara Balenger: I guess the other thing I’m trying to figure out is how do we how do we support this? Right. Like. I got a little time on my hands sometimes. I live in New York City. Like, are there opportunities for people to volunteer? And I don’t even know what that looks like in schools. But I feel like, I don’t know, for many of us, you know, we’re living. We’re living in communities that we did not grow up in. It is you know, it I guess that maybe is like maybe one of the things I want to accomplish in 2023 is figuring out how to get more connected with this community, not the community that is now predominant here. I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. You know, even our people in office aren’t people that grew up here. Right. So it’s like how to get plugged in to the community. That is that is actually this community. Right. Because we all have public schools in our in our neighborhoods. Right. Like, how do we how do we get plugged in? How can we be supportive? And if it’s not appropriate to be engaging, you know, with folks directly, how can we support financially? So I don’t know. I guess I’m. My head goes to how do we start to problem solve for folks who are outside of the system and what does that look like?
Kaya Henderson: Yeah, De’Ara I think I mean, because of lots of student privacy laws, the release of information to volunteers is restricted. But I do think that what this ca– the question that this causes us to ask is what what happens when our one size fits all school model doesn’t fit all. Um. What happens when young people who are struggling with deep mental illness, we don’t have I mean, we don’t have supports for them in the right way. And I feel like the pandemic just began to open up that conversation, even though we should have been having that conversation for a long time. I think the other question that it forces us to ask is what school kids don’t just learn in school. And so how do we create opportunities for kids to learn in places and spaces where they feel the most comfortable? Um. And how do we get that to count in school? Because if a kid doesn’t feel and families I mean, these families in this article are like, I don’t trust the school system. This one parent is willing to give up her kids special education status services that are required to support this young man just so that he can be transferred to another school because she doesn’t trust the school system that she’s in. We have to confront the fact that these spaces are not made for many of our young people and start to design and build something different.
DeRay Mckesson: So my news is about good ol Mississippi, about Jackson, Mississippi, or about the state house. And, you know, I feel like I say all the time, I’m rarely shocked da da da. And then something new happens so I’m like, well, white supremacists got me again. And in what there, so Jackson is the capital city of uh Mississippi. So the state house is is in Jackson. And you already heard the previous stories where they didn’t invest in the water. There were problems with having clean water in Jackson, but now House Bill 1020 would essentially create a separate court system and an expanded police force in Jackson, which is the Blackest city in America that would be controlled by all white people. Jackson is 80% black. Uh. And as I said, it’s the capital city in Mississippi, and it’s home to a higher percentage of Black residents than any major American city. So this bill would allow the white chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court to appoint two judges to oversee a completely new district that covers the city, one that includes all of the cities majority white neighborhoods and some other areas. The white state attorney general would appoint four prosecutors, a court clerk and four public defenders for this new district. And the white public safety commissioner would oversee an expansion of the capital Police force, which is currently run by a white chief. There have already been criticisms of the Capitol police force because they have killed people in Jackson with very little repercussions. And here’s the thing. There’s already a functioning court system. There’s already Lord knows there’s enough police for a lifetime there because there’s a local police and there are police who are the Capitol police that ostensibly report to the legislature. And it’s just wild to see this in 2023, when people say everything goes back to race, it does. Uh. And remember, you know, in this moment, the Mississippi Constitution gives the legislature the authority to make, quote, “inferior courts”, uh courts that are lower than the Supreme Court of Mississippi. And this is how they would be doing it. Mind you, the representative who is proposing this lives 120 miles away from Jackson, is not a Jackson resident, nothing to do with Jackson. But they do want to control where the Black people live. And I brought this because it literally blew my mind when I read it.
Kaya Henderson: I read this too DeRay and uh it was so outrageous that I just had to put it down. But here we are talking about it on the pod. [laughing] Um. I you know, um I have been to Jackson, Mississippi, on numerous occasions. I feel honored to do work with the Jackson public school system. And um the crime rate in Jackson is incredibly high. And like a lot of urban places, um especially post-pandemic. But like I don’t I like you can only I don’t know I like, there’s no other way to think about this. Like, there’s no generous explanation. There is no positive spin. There is no nothing like there is no way to see this as helpful. The only way to see this is as colonial and whatnot. And I thought, um you know, the you’ve heard the adage, be careful of if you don’t know your history, you’re doomed to repeat it. Um. But I thought there was an interesting piece in here about how in 1890 there was a Jim Crow era constitution that was written in Mississippi to strip voting rights from Black Mississippians. And one of the representatives said this is just like the 1890 Constitution all over again. We’re doing exactly what they said we were doing back then, helping those people because they can’t govern themselves. This patriarchal, um you know, colonizing approach to um to managing people in Jackson, Mississippi, the Blackest um place in the the Blackest city in the country is reprehensible. And um and it ain’t the first time and it won’t be the last time. But this is what these super majority of Republicans can do in states where they don’t need not a one Democratic vote to pass legislation. And so I don’t think we’ve paid appropriate attention to how in these state houses there are far too many cases where, you know, a counter vote doesn’t even matter because the Republicans have a super majority. And this is what it looks like in Mississippi.
Myles Johnson: I was going to say, old school racism. I really had not nothing really profound to um add to what was going on, but that it’s old school racism. Old old school, um just like kind of like white supremacist tyranny. And it’s wild that. [pause ] It’s just so– like I like I think that the bigger thing that it’s in my head is just around Mississippi. Since I’ve been on this podcast excuse me, since I’ve been on this podcast, um we’ve mentioned Mississippi so many times and I’m like, we need all eyes on Mississippi and we’re like white supremacy as far as um as far as it’s um erasure, as far as us really improving, it’s measured by how well Mississippi’s doing. That’s that, that’s where it’s measured at. It’s not measured by what’s happening in um in coastal neoliberal bubbles. It’s not what’s being it’s not being measured in any in any other places, if the Blackest place, is not is not free, then ain’t nothing free. And the Blackest places being controlled then it’s then we’re then we’re still controlled. So if Mississippi if if if if ain’t god damn Mississippi like [?] said then, you know, no where is blessed for Black people in America. And I really believe that. And I and I believe that since I’ve started this podcast and see and seeing and reading how much of these, how much white supremecist domination, is just um is is just uh running wild in the laws and legislation happening in Mississippi.
De’Ara Balenger: And when you look at how Mississippi ranks nationally.
Kaya Henderson: Girl say it.
De’Ara Balenger: On anything on anything health care at the bottom, gambling addictions at the top, can’t people can’t find a job. The economic environment is terrible. The lowest average starting salary, terrible quality of public schools, terrible quality of early education–
Kaya Henderson: Former football players stealing welfare money.
De’Ara Balenger: Listen, listen. You know, nobody wants to retire there. There, 70% of young, young adults in Mississippi, 70% of young adults are ineligible to join the U.S. military because they fail academic, moral, or health qualifications. They have the highest number of at risk youth like it is when you go bar to bar in terms of what makes a state functioning, innovative, democratic, equitable, Mississippi is at the bottom. So what what is the plan here? White legislature, are you, are you just going to squeeze all the resources to the top? Because in all actuality, there are a lot of you know, there are a lot of poor white folks who are suffering from all of these things, too. So I just. Is it just a the just the deep commitment to white supremacy at all costs? Is that is that what’s happening here? Because you’re you’re you know, the people at the top, white folks at the top, your pockets aren’t going to get any fatter because nobody wants to come there and do anything. So I just I guess it is it’s just that’s how absurd racism and white supremacy is, is that [cough] you go to these links. It just don’t make any sense. It just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make any sense.
Myles Johnson: Yeah, white supremacy isn’t necessarily genius or intelligent or even made to designed to keep a human being functioning. You know, um white supremacy canibalizes white folks all the time. White supremacy is is is the institution that is is to survive on itself. It’s to make sure white supremacy survives. So doesn’t matter who needs to die, what needs to happen along as long as um uh as long as the idea that whiteness is the best happens. And I feel like Mississippi is just ground zero for um those things happening. There’s nothing that we. And also there’s just nothing that we can advocate about Mississippi that won’t be better for everybody else in America. There’s nothing that we can get Mississippi to do or or to push Mississippi to do that won’t that won’t help every single um person. So the idea that like when say like if you if you’re helping a poor Black trans disabled person, if you’re if you’re if you’re helping that person then everybody else benefits. Same thing when you’re talking about the um the poor white folks in Mississippi and all that other stuff, I’m like, yeah, everything will be better when you when you when you when you talk about um deplatforming destabilizing white supremacy, everything gets better. Like everything is better. Water gets cleaner, air you like like, you know, everything. Place get safer. Everything gets better.
De’Ara Balenger: Well, speaking of racist, nonsensical people in power, we’re going to move this conversation to DeSantis. And now what is happening with the amp– the the application of you know these laws and policies he has on the books now about challenging critical race theory. So I saw this and I just. Wow. Because now we’re going to see, I think to Kaya’s earlier point around COVID and seeing the implications and the impact. Like, now we’re going to start to see how, like, all of this really comes to play um with all of this um anti critical race theory um stuff. So Roberto Clemente. Now, for those of you Afro-Latinos, listen, you know. Roberto Clemente is like [?].
Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm.
De’Ara Balenger: Okay. This is serious. He is afro Puerto Rican. He Black. Okay. He’s a Black man. He so basically he has this this book, The Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates. And it’s by Jonah Winter and Raul Colon. And it’s just about Roberto Clemente and his rise in in baseball. Right. Um. He was super, super accomplished in baseball but he also was just like this magnificent person um who led all these humanitarian efforts. He was very vocal in the civil rights movement. So in Jacksonville, Florida, this is Duval County, which I did look up. It is 31% black. Evidently Roberto Clemente’s book is too controversial or it raises issues of race and discrimination that is too early for those students. I think it’s like K through the third grade, if I remember it from the article correctly. Um. Yeah. Books must align with state standards such as not teach K through three students about gender identity, sexual orientation, not teach critical race theory, which examines system systemic racism in American society in public grade schools, and not include references to pornography and discrimination, according to the school districts. Because evidently, talking about race is like talking about pornography. I don’t know what’s wrong with these people. So um that means that like in this process there are these certified media specialists who are reviewing about a million and a half book titles, um and they they’ve approved about 2800 books. But they also are not approving books. And one of those books is Roberto Clemente’s book. Another one of those books is about um Sotomayor, who was the [laughing] first first Puerto Rican woman appointed to the Supreme Court and the Latino justice, this organization that it’s the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, they’ve been blasting the school district in Duval um talking about, you know how this book is so important to folks’ identity, right? And not just to young Afro-Latino students and Black students, but like to to all students and how important this history is, um learning about his achievements, his pride and his Afro-Rican identity and his struggles with racism and discrimination will provide needed insight on historical conditions in the U.S. and inspiration for the majority of Black Latino student population in Duval County schools. So the the other interesting thing is here is when, his son was interviewed, Robert Clemente Jr. He said, about his dad’s story. His story is his story. He went through racism. It’s something that can be changed. But obviously, for the younger students, if it’s something that they feel is too much for them, they might be able to utilize a different book with the same story, but it’s framed differently for them for that age group that is. I thought that was fascinating and I’m not going to like hark on like, whether he’s right or wrong. Um. But it is just an interesting discussion for me and the the the light bulbs kind of went off in my head because who’s been leading the movement? Obviously, I’m pushing back around um these policies are Black people. But I think what we’re going to start to see is some of the intersectional issues that come because this is going to impact not just Black people, Black American identifying people, but also Afro-Latino people, Afro American Latino, like it is. It is going to be so expansive that people that we didn’t necessarily would think of being impacted like Justice Sotomayor will be. Right. So it’s just I don’t know. I just wanted to bring this to the pod because I found it to be so, one, terrifying. Honestly, Just terrifying. Like I just it it’s terrifying. But then also how how students will actually be impacted and their identity shaped and then people that we hadn’t expected would be looped into this. Um. Whose books won’t be able to be be used in these schools.
Kaya Henderson: We all are about to get a dose of revolutionary Kaya because this is some B.S. This is complete and total trash. And like again, this is not the first time that people have denied us our history, us telling our stories. These are stories of empowerment. They don’t want you to read about Afro-Latinos, who broke through the color barrier and, you know, changed baseball while at the same time being social and politically active. Right. They don’t want you to read about the first Latin American, you know, Supreme Court justice or a Celia Cruz, the queen of salsa. And like for as long as they have been trying to deny us the opportunity to read and know who we are, we have been resisting. We have had freedom schools and citizenship schools. Our people during enslavement times actually taught each other how to read under the penalty of death because it was so important. And these are the same people that tell us that we don’t value education, that we don’t, you know, like this is bananas, right? And Ron DeSantis is doing a masterful job. And I don’t know, I feel like I want to go to Florida and tell me where to sign up for the revolution, because this is trash. This is why we started reconstruction, because we cannot rely on schools to teach our children our history and our culture. We cannot rely on them to show Black excellence, to show Black intellectualism. We cannot we have to and other other ethnicities don’t either. Right? The Jews are not waiting for school to tell their kids, you know, their history or their culture or how amazing they are. Korean people send their kids to Korean school, Greek people send their kids to Greek school, and we have to send our kids to schools that are populated by people who love them, who believe in them, and who are going to make sure that they know what they need to be whole, complete people to be out here in these streets fighting every day. You listen, child, don’t get me started.
Myles Johnson: Okay, I just got okay. Let me throw this coffee out because Kaya is here. She is here saying some stuff and [?] her screen is brightening it up. She’s just here. The one thing I do want to say, because I like was listening to so many um people discuss there it just has been obviously just been a topic um on like political pundit shows and stuff like that is and one and I’m not saying that this has not happened. I’m just saying that I did not hear this perspective happen. Is sometimes when we talk about the books that are going to be in the school or be taken out of the school, it’s always how good it is for um, you know, the the Afro-Latina uh or afro-Latinx um uh child to read about, Afro-Latinx uh heros and the Black child to read about um Black American child to read about Black American heroes and and obviously yes, that is very true. But also the whi– and this is what I was talking about a little bit earlier about how white supremacy cannibalizes itself, it is fantastic for white kids to read about other heroes that do not look like them–
Kaya Henderson: You better preach Myles.
Myles Johnson: It is not it is it is not good to be in a narcissistic intellectual bubble where you are centered and where everything that’s that that is that that is what um creates a culture of acceptable sociopathic nature.
Kaya Henderson: You better say it.
Myles Johnson: In my opinion.
De’Ara Balenger: Yup.
Kaya Henderson: You better say it. Acceptable–
Myles Johnson: You know–
Kaya Henderson: –sociopathic nature. He’s talking about what I’m [stuttering] I’m a let you say which you’re saying. [laughing]
Myles Johnson: Yeah and I feel like that is not that’s just not necessarily a perspective that I always see people talk about and how it’s healthy for all kids to learn about all diverse, different people who are doing different things. There are so many. That’s why even on this podcast, at the big age of 32, I still push myself to bring Paco Rabanne and other people who are outside of um my race and my experience to the podcast and to contextualize it through a Black Queer lens, but also know that there’s other people doing things with other perspectives that that that helps me feel bigger. And then it’s it’s in their uniqueness, a perspective in the journey that I actually find it’s in that subjective hero’s journey that I find the universal truth. It’s in that subjective experience of how how they got over that I find a universal truth about the human spirit, tenacity, vision, and and in the the human condition. And that is healthy. And that is what makes kids not go–
Kaya Henderson: Yes.
Myles Johnson: –pick up guns. That’s what makes kids not go to school and um and and and say horrible things because they are conditioning themselves to see other people as human and as actual people. And when you stop doing that, you are asking for violent um of violent events. You’re asking be it literal violence or be it just the casual, intimate parasocial violence that that um that happens when kids are uh drenched in white supremacy. That that that’s what I gotta to say about this is just a little ridiculous. It’s good for all. It’s good it’s good for all it’s not just good for the Black kids or the Afro-Latinx kids or the um the Jewish children or the [?] it’s good for everybody to know about everybody’s history so we can st– so so we can actually um use race and culture for what it’s meant for which is the beauty of diversity in the human race. Just to recognize the beauty and diversity in the human race, rather. [music break]
DeRay Mckesson: Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning into Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out. Make sure to rate it wherever you get your podcasts, whether it’s Apple Podcasts or somewhere else, and we will see you next week. Pod Save the People is a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by AJ Moultrié and mixed by Charlotte Landes. Executive produced by me and special thanks to our weekly contributors, Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger, and Myles Johnson.