Comin' in HOT | Crooked Media
Pod Save America Live NYC & Boston guest hosts just announced! Get Tickets Pod Save America Live NYC & Boston guest hosts just announced! Get Tickets
January 09, 2024
Pod Save The People
Comin' in HOT

In This Episode

In the first episode of 2024: DeRay, Kaya, De’Ara and Myles cover the underreported news of the week —  sickle cell treatments advance with limited accessibility, Taraji. P. Henson criticizes ‘The Color Purple’ production, GOP active in Iowa but absent for the state’s only minority-focused forum, and Democrats begin election-time appeal to Black voters.


The Right Is Dancing on Claudine Gay’s Grave. But It Was the Center-Left That Did Her In.

Thousands of Black children with sickle cell disease struggle to access disability payments

FDA approves two gene therapies for sickle cell, bringing hope to thousands with the disease

GOP candidates skip Iowa’s only minority-focused forum

In South Carolina, Democrats See a Test of Biden’s Appeal to Black Voters

Taraji P. Henson Criticizes ‘The Color Purple’ Production for Making Cast Drive Themselves to Set in Rental Cars






DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay and welcome to Pod Save the People. This is our first episode in 2024. Pumped to have you back. It’s me, De’Ara, Myles and Kaya, talking about the news that you don’t know with regard to race, justice, and equity of the past week, and we cover some of the final stories of 2023 that we didn’t talk about because we were off air. We’re back. Never been better. And let’s go. [music break]


De’Ara Balenger: Family. Happy new year. Happy new year. Am I going to get some background like yay! Or. 


DeRay Mckesson: Woop woop woop woop. 2024!


Kaya Henderson: Happy New Year! 


De’Ara Balenger: Ooh, I hope we’re starting it a little better than that. [laugh] Happy New Year, y’all and welcome to another episode, the first episode of 2024 of Pod Save the People. I am De’Ara Balenger. You can find me on Instagram at @dearabalenger. 


Myles E. Johnson: I’m Myles E. Johnson, you can find me at @pharaohrapture on TikTok and Instagram and Twitter and Threads. 


Kaya Henderson: I’m Kaya Henderson, you can find me on X Twitter at @HendersonKaya. 


DeRay Mckesson: This is DeRay at @deray on Twitter. 


De’Ara Balenger: So we’re going to kick off the new year with some very [laughing] some breakthrough news in Black culture. We’re talking about Katt Williams, y’all. We’re not gonna spend a lot of time on this. I don’t want us to spend a lot of time on this, because it’s been so much of the hot takes during my family “vacation” that I’ve been on. I say vacation in quotes because I have family in front of vacation. So not only have I heard clips, but my brothers have been also giving showing my mom and I clips of different people’s perspectives and versions. Like Ice Cube. I think I actually listened to like Ice Cube speak for ten minutes on Katt Williams. So I’m not going to go so deep, deep into this. I, I think that the newest thing I saw this morning is that Katt Williams also made Trick Daddy mad with his club shay shay remarks. And so now Trick Daddy is going to do a dis a dis song around Katt Williams. Ludacris, I think, already put out his diss track. So you know, the Blacks of the of the 2000s and the nine nines. 


Kaya Henderson: Damn. 


De’Ara Balenger: Are really. [laugh] 


Kaya Henderson: Mmm mm mm. [laugh]


De’Ara Balenger: Maybe that’s what’s going on–


Kaya Henderson: De’Ara De’Ara–


De’Ara Balenger: We just about to show up in 2024. Okay. But essentially y’all. So Katt Williams was on this interview and he went in on basically all the Black male comedians, um, and talked about folks like Ricky Smiley, uh, Cedric the Entertainer, um, a bunch of other people. I ain’t gonna remember their names. I some of these people only know my face, in the movies. 


Kaya Henderson: Steve Harvey. 


De’Ara Balenger: Oh, Steve. Again, like I’m not. I’m not even gonna say that man’s name. But all that to say, he said that they’re sellouts, that they, um. They’ll do anything for a check, basically. Um, and he is above all of all that. I think what’s interesting and what I the way I’ve been thinking about this, I also watched an episode of Married to Medicine with my mom and aunt last night, and they love this show. I am just thinking in my mind as like from political strategy perspective with Black folks, like the things that are breaking through for us culture wise, generationally. I’m a little bit concerned about values here. Just going to be have that unpopular opinion. Um but yeah so interested on y’alls on y’alls hot take because this thing has gotten so much traction. It is wild. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah, I’m not quite sure if I will pathologize Black people like that because, you know, white people are able to get in a Republican and watch Honey Boo Boo at the same time. So I think we can do the same thing. And this is, uh, A, I love mess, I love mess. And [laughter] this is the messiest of mess, I, I was I was there, plugged in. I enjoyed this more than the remake of The Color Purple. I was like, this is what I think should be nominated at the Emmys and Golden Globes. Um, and I think that what made it really compelling as a piece of Black, uh, comedy or a piece of Black content was the fact that it was cross-generational. Katt Williams was talking about Kevin Hart, Steve Harvey. There’s actually not a whole lot of stuff that’s that’s, that me and my mom could be like, did you see that? And she cares as much as I care. So I think that that was also what made it really compelling, um, as well. But no, I love it. I hope it keeps coming. I love that the Epstein list and the Katt Williams thing came out on the same day. I hope– 


De’Ara Balenger: Oh yeah. 


Myles E. Johnson: 2024 is real messy. It makes my job real easy. Yeah. 


De’Ara Balenger: And my brothers were very, very pro Katt Williams. The only thing that got lost on is when he said he reads about 3000 books a year, and then they did the math and they were like imposible. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. 


De’Ara Balenger: But he had he really had– 


DeRay Mckesson: We got [?] liars like that. I love that.


De’Ara Balenger: He really had them until that. And then they’re like, wait. Well. And I was like, if that’s that’s what’s giving y’all pause. Okay. All right. [laughter] If y’all could see Kaya’s face right now it’s like– [laugh] 


Kaya Henderson: I’m trying to figure out I’m trying out where where I’m trying to figure out where I want to enter here. So I’ll start by saying, I think that this is the biggest marketing move that we’ve seen in a very long time. I think Katt Williams is brilliant, right? 


Myles E. Johnson: Period. 


Kaya Henderson: He’s got a tour coming out and people are now it doesn’t matter what he said, but because what he said was so it was so controversial and so culture stirring that like all his, uh, concert dates will be sold out, which is brilliant. Club Shay Shay had like 1 million listeners or viewers or whatever before this. And now there’s like a booga gazillion people, right? So for both Shannon Sharpe and Katt Williams, we’ve never had a like three hour pure mess interview before. Right? So that breaks formats and stuff like that. So I think it’s I think it has been a interesting cultural phenomenon to watch. And just how many people, Myles, as you said it like it is a range of people who are looking at this, old people, young people, skinny people, fat people, smart people, dumb people, the whole nine. Right? Everybody has seen something about this. Um, and I just like I think part of me just sees it as comedy. Like, I think the whole thing is comedy. I think we’re now there are people who we’re talking about, who we haven’t talked about in a long time because they showed up in the thing. Um, I was listening to the Steve Harvey Morning Show this morning to hear if he said anything. Steve ain’t saying a word. Um, I had, like, Ludacris a diss track. Trick Daddy, when was the last time we had a conversation about Trick Daddy? Who knows? But guess what, we going to be talking about Trick Daddy now. So I think I think the whole thing is, um, a piece of performance art, and I’m a little bit. I mean, Myles, I’m with you on we can do walk and chew gum at the same time, but I am I am a little bit worried about how many people have taken this, like, really, really seriously and are, like, debating hard. And what’s the truth and what like, I don’t know, for me it’s not worth that much time and attention. But Katt on, why don’t you.


DeRay Mckesson: Katt on. I will say, uh, two things that really stuck with me. One is that Katt was offering an actually really beautiful critique of just the whole celebrity interview culture in that interview. And it’s hidden because it’s three hours long. But at one point when he embellishes over embellishes and Shannon Sharpe doesn’t challenge him, Katt says something like, you know, people can just say anything they want on here, right? Like you’re like, yes, you know, like you just he just he offers the critique within the medium that I thought was actually really beautiful. And the second thing, um, is that there is a generation of people who did things and might have been shady before the internet, but there is an internet. So when Katt Williams is like, this person stole my joke, this person took this joke, this person took, it took ten minutes. And people had the side by side videos. People had the like cuts and the da da, but it didn’t matter when it was 1970 and there were no there was no internet. You could sort of steal people’s material and there was no consequence for it. And all of a sudden that’s why Steve ain’t got nothing to say, because they pulled Steve’s. Steve took from Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper. Steve took from Katt Williams. Um, and then Kaya, to your point, it was really beautiful to see a reminder of Black comedy because what it also turned into, I forgot about those iconic moments when Mo’Nique hosted the BET Awards. She is a funny women. I mean, they pulled and when her her exchange with the Ying Yang Twins, [laugh] spell it. 


Myles E. Johnson: Spell it. 


DeRay Mckesson: You’re like spell it. Like it just reminded me of the beauty of Black comedy. And I was like, you know what, Katt? Thank you for this. This was and three, uh, a three hour podcast and something almost 30 million views. He did that. 


Myles E. Johnson: And the little geeky thing that I want to say about it, too, is that sometimes we’re like, so forced to do things so short. And the fact that like, oh, like we don’t have a, you know, wide attention spans or whatever. And we do [laugh] cause a lot of people last time I checked, it could be way over that. But 25 million people looked at a three hour piece of internet content with no set changes, no anything. So apparently people do have attention spans when, uh, when mess is involved. So.


De’Ara Balenger: Well, speaking of another mess. Um, over the break. Claudine Gay, who we had a conversation around her and, um, president of UPenn testifying about, uh, what was happening on campus given the, the Israel’s war on Palestine. Um, and we got breaking news that I think it was right before, was it right before New Year’s maybe? New or that, um, [indistinct DeRay in background] Claudine Gay was actually going to–


Kaya Henderson: Right after. 


De’Ara Balenger: –resign. Was it right after? Right after. And so, you know, I, I actually was a bit surprised by it. I thought that things would settle and she’d be able to continue her tenure there, but evidently she lost the support of some board members. But it seemed and there’s so many articles on this, and she wrote an op ed herself. It seems that there were board members that actually never probably supported her tenure in the first place. And so I think saw this as an opportunity to get her to step down. And there are a lot of conversations around, you know, them not seeing her as being qualified, um, and this sort of campaign against her, um, you know, to show or to prove that she somehow plagiarized her work. Um, even though Harvard did their own investigation and said that that wasn’t true, and she has said countless times that that wasn’t true, and also has offered to kind of recite some of her research. Um, nevertheless, like that, just that just the accusation of it has gotten so much wind and so much power that, you know, that was always also leveraged against her. At the end of the day, she wanted the focus to be less on her as an individual and more on how the school can move forward collectively. Um. So that’s what’s happening. And it’s, you know, it’s a, it’s a it’s an interesting. An interesting an interesting time, but I think it just, it, it really beckons for so much conversation. One around race but also around race and leadership, also race and leadership in white institutions. Um, so interested to hear what you all have to say because this also like Katt Williams has been everywhere. Who’d have thunk that these would be [laughing] our two top Black stories going into 2024. 


Myles E. Johnson: We have range as a people. 


Kaya Henderson: There is a lot about the Claudine Gay situation, but I think the thing that one of the things that’s most interesting to me is how this thing happened, right? And I’m going to put Claudine Gay aside. I don’t have an opinion on whether she plagiarized or she didn’t or whatever, whatever. But this is not just about Claudine Gay. This is in the context of a much larger conversation, including the right wing who has been targeting wokeism DEI initiatives and all of that. And they, um, targeted her as a DEI hire, said she was unqualified and went on a full out campaign to take her down like period the end. And they’re unapologetic about that. Right. Like there are articles about it. I posted an article on my Facebook page about it. I’ll I’ll send it in so that we can post it here. But literally, Christopher Rufo, who is the dude who sparked all of the anti CRT frenzy, was like, here’s what we did. We targeted her. We knew that all we needed to do was raise the doubts about her in the conservative media, and we knew that the left wing liberal people would then pick it up, have a feeding frenzy on each other and kick her out. So we knew exactly what we all we had to do was put it out and then squeeze is what he says. And um, add to that Bill Ackman, who is a huge hedge fund guy in New York who’s a Harvard alum who is has given, you know, tens of millions of dollars to Harvard, not Harvard’s largest giver, but an influential giver who was mad because he gave tens of millions of dollars. And Harvard wasn’t listening to his investment advice, and she didn’t pick up the phone when he wanted to tell her what he had to say about what she should be doing about the the, you know, war in Gaza. Like she was not responsive to him. She passed him on to the chair of the board, and he was mad. And he was like, I’m gonna take her out. And so they put tons of resources on taking her down. And because mess begets mess. Um, Bill Ackman’s wife, who is who was a professor at MIT, um, in fact, let me just back up and say they went after the MIT president. They are they went after the Penn president. They went after Claudia Gay, and next they’re coming for the MIT president. Um, in fact, Bill Ackman’s wife is a former professor at MIT. And so Business Insider has done a big plagiarism study and figured out that Bill Ackman’s wife actually plagiarized as well and there’s more and more stuff coming out. And Bill is like, okay, we going to play the plagiarism thing, I’m going to sick AI on I don’t we don’t even have to wait for newspapers to do this. I am going to build a machine and we are going to investigate every, the president of MIT, all of the faculty members, all of the board members, all of the reporters at Business Insider. I am going after everybody and we are going to figure out how everybody plagiarized. And so this thing is humongous for, you know, Claudine Gay as the first Black president of Harvard and the shortest tenure and all of that stuff. And it is the beginning of what is going to be an avalanche of an attack on higher education in the United States by rich funders. Which people? Rich white people. How about that? 


DeRay Mckesson: One of the things that I’ll say is, um, so, so much going on here, and I was questioning myself about why did. Uh, where were the rest of the presidents at that hearing? And I read that one of them just didn’t come. Said he was out of town. And I love that because I think there’s a part of participating in the circus with people who have no morals, no values, who are literally just trying to get you caught up. And when you come in in good faith, they just use it against you. And that’s what we saw, like all three of those presidents, what they were saying, everybody understood. They couldn’t come out and just be like, yes anything you think is anti-Semitism automatically gets you kicked out of the University. They were like, we need to understand what happened and the and the circumstance. That’s what they were trying to say. And those people knew that. But I love that one of the people just are like some of them just didn’t show. I think that is great. And they had a reason for it, they didn’t just say, like, I’m not coming. But like I do think that sometimes we, in our good faith, try and show up in places that are just surrounded by bad faith. And I don’t think it’s possible to win in those circumstances. The second thing I’ll say about Claudine, um, is, you know, she she survived it. And then all of a sudden, she was gone. We were like, goodness gracious. I thought she I thought she didn’t get fired. And then she’s gone on a, um. I’m hopeful that there will be a Black president again. And, you know, the interim person that they have is clearly not Black. Um, and it was also interesting to see Claudine, and it made me sort of sad in some way, like defend the institution in her final statement, you know, like she’s still riding hard for this place that didn’t, I don’t know, ride hard for her. Um, and they and they knew her intent like they knew she was not anti-Semitic. If anything, she’s out here, you know, toeing the line around some of the Israel stuff. So, um, and they still threw her away. So I just want to say that out loud about, like, you know, you come in trying to do all the things and do it right in a, in a context that is not good faith. And it’s hard to win there.


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. I really feel like you win, white liberal like you play white liberal games you, uh, you know, get white liberal prizes and I think what just like, kind of zooming out. What oh, what disturbs me most about this is just the pure fact that she’s a conservative woman, like the even the her us like painting her as this, like beacon of diversity and of like radicalism inside of this white liberal institution is a stretch, right? Like it’s a it’s a stretch. And they still wanted to make an example out of her. And I guess my bigger question, right. Not just a zoom out from just Claudine Gay, like, how long are Black people going to tango with these things that will eat you up at the best at this, the first opportunity. And the other thing that, um, just disturbs me about this story is how utterly toothless the white liberal, uh, people in that institution were. It’s like the [?] is so cowardly. It’s so, um, just that the cowardice that they that that they are, that they have shown they are showing just shows that those conservatives, if that’s what we want to call them, [laugh] you know, conservatives, I call them white supremacists. Those white supremacists. See how, how, how toothless and feeble that, um, people’s politics are and with, with with one threat, with one with one little, uh, concerted, focused threat, everything could go falling down and they won and they’re going to continue winning because white liberalism is, is, is is is fluid and it has no backbone and it has no teeth. And they–


Kaya Henderson: Yes. 


Myles E. Johnson: –see that and they–


Kaya Henderson: Yes 


Myles E. Johnson: –know that they that they that weak that that those people, those institutions care more about, you know, not to minimize it just to this, but being canceled or being seen in a certain type of way more than they care about actually abiding by a political standard or a political center. And if you don’t have a political center, then it’s going to be easy to knock you down. And I, I guess my bigger thing is when will Black people stop participating in that and stop putting up their dignity and and and and risking their humiliation in order to help erect something that just will, that will, that will, [?] quickly and easily see you fall if it gets a chance. This story just drives me drives me nuts. [laugh]


DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People. Stay tuned. There’s more to come. 




De’Ara Balenger: Well, speaking of white liberals. I’m going to move into the [laughter] 2024 presidential election on the Democratic side. So I have been I y’all it’s honestly, I don’t know if it’s because my PTSD from 2016 has worn off, but it’s like I have been reading everything when it comes to this election and this administration and what is happening and what’s going on on the ground. And so the biggest thing well, Biden gave a speech the other day, we’re not talking about the speech, but it was a pretty decent speech. But, uh, he’s he’s been making the rounds and like, in really campaign style because this election will be here any day, like as we get through the spring and the summer boom we’re there. Um, and so, you know, we’ve been talking about on this podcast sort of the decline of support and interest around President Biden with the Black community. We’ve been talking about it, probably ad nauseum for, I don’t know, since he got into office. And now, now in December of 2023. The Biden campaign has decided to turn, turn some, turn some, some, some attention and strategy towards South Carolina. So we know that South Carolina is an early primary state. It’s super important in terms of being an indicator of how the presidential candidate is going to do, and particularly with Black voters. So it’s a place where there is a lot of play around how the Black voters will come out. What’s the engagement strategy look like? Um, and. And what we haven’t been able to get to in terms of numbers in South Carolina with the Black community is numbers, Barack Obama numbers. Those numbers were off the charts. And so, you know, I think in the Biden campaign’s mind, it’s like, well, how can we get our numbers to be that? Well you can’t. Number one. Number two. How can we start putting time and attention into this state? And really, with this strategy around, we’re just going to tell Black voters all the things that we’ve been doing for Black voters. And so it it comes down to a messaging, you know, sort of complications around messaging because people just aren’t seeing or feeling it, right? So people are still feeling like the pain and the consequence of inflation. Um, and, and so I think it really is hard for this message with the, with the Biden campaign around. We’ve done all these things. And like economically, everyone is doing better now when people just aren’t really feeling it and psychologically not feeling it and not feeling connected. So what’s interesting here is that, you know, we continue to see the polls and the focus groups expressing frustration with Democrats from the Black community. Um, and also just, you know, sort of a perspective that they’ve seen few improvements to their well-being under the Biden presidency. And some Black folks are unsure whether they will vote at all. So party leaders, particularly in South Carolina, among other places, um, are hoping for large showings at the polls when it comes to the primary. Um, so that they can broadcast to the rest of the country and the rest of Black voters that there is support for President Biden’s reelection, and they want to use this to re-energize and essentially, like, ignite momentum as as as we’ve seen previously, but as we go into 2024. But, you know, and the other thing that I thought was really key to this article, um, is that in South Carolina, you know, this is kind of the first time that black voters are going to first choose the president, right? So it’s like the first time there’s like a big population of Black folks voting. And so we’re going to see what what that outcome is. Right. And so if it isn’t low turnout, is it increased support to Donald Trump. Like we’re really going to be able to see this and see it soon. Marlon Kimpson, who’s a longtime Biden ally and a former state senator, and he is he’s actually now in the on the White House Advisory Committee for Trade Policy Negotiations. He attributes to Black folks not being so excited about Biden to poor communication, quite frankly, out of Washington, DC, and that this communication is not improving. Um, so I think we all believe that to be true. I think we’re all sort of positioning to figure out you know how how that can be supported, how that can be how there can be a shift, um, in how that communication is landing. Um, but over the next several weeks, Democrats will be focused on South Carolina. Um, we’ll see what happens with, with President Biden’s appeal there to to Black folks in particular. But I just found this story to be interesting because I think now, of course, Democratic Party, which we do every time, it’s like when your feet are to the fire, then it’s like, oh, we should focus on this thing. When we could have been focusing on this thing for, I don’t know. 50 years. So just wanted to bring this to the pod because, you know, we’re going to continue to do more and more political um thought and reporting as we get closer to the election. So I thought this one was interesting. 


Myles E. Johnson: You know what this reminds me of and I wish it didn’t. It reminds me of just kind of that like long time boyfriend you have and on and off and then–


Kaya Henderson: Mmm. Yes.


Myles E. Johnson: He don’t he don’t he don’t got the rent no more. He needs to stay with you. And then all of a sudden, you, the love of my life and I’m back. And baby, baby, baby, baby, baby. That’s what the Democratic Party reminds me of right now. But I just saw it a couple of days ago. It was the um, it was her uh Karine. The, um. The White House Secretary. I just witnessed her. When asked and pushed about the Covid numbers, I just witnessed her say that’s not something that we handle and that we do, we’re letting each state handle that. We’re letting each state figure those things out. And as hospitals are going. And then I look at the numbers, and then I’m looking at the articles in L.A. times. That this is really good op-Ed came out with the L.A. times really talking about the surge and how come nobody’s talking about it and how comes everybody’s getting sick. And I’m saying, well, the whole thing with Trump was he doesn’t care about humanity. He’s putting kids in cages. And then here we are dying, getting sick as well. And you’re saying, well, the hospitals have to figure it out. So the one thing Black people are. Two things. [laugh] Two things are the one, well, one thing about Black people, we’re not where we get to it. You know, we can pretty much here BS we know we we, we have a really good gauge of when we’re getting when we’re getting jive. I sound like my mother when we’re getting jived around something. So I think that’s a big thing. And the other thing, um, the other thing that we are as well, are people who are deeply, um, interested in, in, in in in both political change but we also are very moved by representation. So because Biden does not have that because he’s a white old man, so he doesn’t have that move of, uh, even when Obama was doing things and saying things and even with the, with the, um, with all the pushback from like, maybe like a Cornel West or a Tavis Smiley or all that other stuff, there was still this kind of like, look at this man and this woman inside the white House that really could move Black people. Biden’s not ever going to have that. Right. So the other thing that you have to do is really show us that you care. And you having this Black woman totally, uh, be so dismissive. That just boggles my mind. That really boggles my mind. And we’re not even getting into the, Palestine-Israel stuff, which totally shifted me. Like, I’m still like, I won’t know what I’m doing until the day before the election or until October of this year as far as voting, as far as participating in the election, because, uh, the, the the guilt of and the, and the, and the, and the, and the messiness that I feel inside supporting him is just it’s just profound. And, um, it’s hard to, uh, pragmatic my way out of this, just that kind of, like, deep moral, um, conflict that’s happening inside of my spirit. And, yeah, for all those things to be happening and then all and and and and for and for things to just be so dismissed. Yeah it just doesn’t feel right for me. It doesn’t. Yeah. I can see why they’re having trouble. 


De’Ara Balenger: And, and Myles, I will say just as a clarifying point because this is something that I learned over the break too, is that this campaign is really going to lean in to the state parties, which isn’t typically how it’s done. Right. And so I think it’s going to be interesting to see even how the DNC really sort of builds an infrastructure or rebuilds an infrastructure, because basically what happened y’all is Barack Obama did not use the DNC when he had his election. So we still been trying to rebuild the DNC for quite some time. I don’t know if anybody’s told y’all that, but so now we’re really going to rely on these state parties and use the DNC as a vehicle for a lot of the campaign’s infrastructure. And so these. It’s a lot of work. It’s like a lot to do across these states and to not have like the whole c– 


Kaya Henderson: It is and it’s too little, too late. It’s I mean. 


De’Ara Balenger: Yeah. 


Kaya Henderson: Let’s hope it’s not too late. But this like this this article is astounding to me. It really if I wasn’t worried before, I sure am worried now. Like South Carolina is incredibly important because in fact, in ’20 I think it was in 2023, the Democratic Party voted to shift its first presidential primary away from Iowa to South Carolina. So this makes South Carolina–


De’Ara Balenger: First. 


Kaya Henderson: The first for the Democratic primary season. And South Carolina literally shifted the tide. South Carolina, Georgia, Arizona. But South Carolina literally shifted the presidential campaign, the presidential race the last time for Biden, in part because Black surrogates went out, galvanized the South Carolinian community, and people showed up for Biden in ways that like the presidential race was not going his way until South Carolina turned. Right. And so you would think it’s the first. It is the place that delivered me. I’m going to invest a whole lot. We going to shore up our thing in South Carolina. This thing says there is a six figure cash infusion from the DNC, six figures. That means that at best, they have given them $999,000 to do are you kidding me? Wait to look wait till I do my news and talk about how much people are spending in Iowa. And you think about a less than a million contribution in South Carolina to make that joker pop? The first time that the the I mean, running on the polls like this should be a what do you call it, like a, uh, a home run. This should be a like, uh, easy lob for these people. But and you telling me we’re workshopping messages with Black voters. Are you kidding me? Who are the people who have been on the ground? Who are the people like you should have been working with before? Where are the ladies like the Georgia ladies who literally turned that whole state purple. Like, are you kidding me? We don’t have an infrastructure in South Carolina. And then the thing goes on to say we have little to no presence in Georgia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. That’s what happened to Hillary Clinton. Did we not learn from that? Like, what in tarnation is going on here? This is bananas. Like it literally is bananas. 


De’Ara Balenger: What in tarnation. 


Kaya Henderson: I don’t I don’t I don’t know jack about running a presidential campaign, but I do know that places like Georgia and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania matter. I know that when we did not show up there before, when Hillary did not show up there before, nobody voted for her. So what the what do people think is going to happen? Good googly moogly. I uh listen.


Myles E. Johnson: Neither do they apparently. 


Kaya Henderson: Honey. [?]


De’Ara Balenger: You got to yeah. And they’re just starting to open offices now. From what I from what I’ve been told. So– 


Kaya Henderson: Jesus. 


De’Ara Balenger: Yeah a lot. We’re just getting in to these states. 


Kaya Henderson: But Myles said it right. Myles said it. This yo boyfriend who shows up when the rent is when he don’t have the rent money. And we got to stop treating Black people like this. We have to stop. Like, anyway, we’re DeRay, I’m sure you’re going to have something really profound to say because, mmm. 


DeRay Mckesson: Yeah, I just want to say that, um, I do think so much of this is like the infrastructure stuff, and it’s like the storytelling piece, the Karine, um, the press secretary to me, her dismissiveness was actually shocking. Like, I was shocked because Biden’s whole thing was, I’m a do Covid right. I’m a I’m a really do it. And then to just like it wasn’t even like a hey, I hear you, but we tried it was like there was a tonal dismissiveness that was sort of weird. You’re like, well, that is that’s not what you want. The second thing I’d say is that I see the Democrats not being able to, uh, I think Hillary did this really well and she got punished for it. So maybe people are scared, but Hillary was like, the people are crazy. Don’t vote for crazy like it was. She didn’t sort of like she didn’t go in the middle. What did she call them deplorable? Like she, they are deplorable. Like she sort of said the thing out loud. And I do think there’s something happening with the left. Like, I do think we need to, like, paint the picture black and white or like, give people like, you know, do you think that kids deserve school lunch or not? Like, and I feel like the messaging that I hear is like so middle of the road and nuanced and da da. And like, I don’t know, I really worry about that. Kaya what you about to say?


De’Ara Balenger: And DeRay they also don’t put him in Black spaces, right? They send Kamala. So whether it’s– 


DeRay Mckesson: Well I don’t know if he’s really the storyteller we need in this moment. 


De’Ara Balenger: But–


DeRay Mckesson: Because I was at the White House and he is whispering. 


De’Ara Balenger: But it it but it is important, right? So I think it was also important like like I would I would write memos for Hillary to like talk to Q-Tip. You know what I’m saying? Like it was like you going to talk to everybody. And I think that’s the difference here is that, like, where is he? You know what I’m saying? Like you got to be. You got to be where the people are. And even if you’re not the right messenger, there are like some old black church ladies that will be excited to see him come show up on a Sunday morning. So I think it is it’s just it also there’s a messaging issue, but there’s also just an access issue, right? Like who is who is working with him to make sure he’s in the places and spaces that he needs to be so that we are feeling like even if I’m not feeling like my day to day is better, I feel like at least I can have some type of, you know, I can have some type of interaction with you, whether how big or small that that shows me that you’re rooting for me. And I think– 


Kaya Henderson: I don’t know. 


De’Ara Balenger: That’s the piece that’s missing too. 


Kaya Henderson: I don’t think that’s enough anymore. And DeRay, to your point, right. Like the alternative is worse. Like that’s that that’s a message that I could carry for one cycle or so. But that’s what we did the last time, right? Like. 


Myles E. Johnson: Right. 


Kaya Henderson: Don’t vote for him. He was horrible. We’re going to do better. And now the message again is don’t vote for them. They’re horrible. But we we should have a mountain of things to of evidence to say why we’re better. We should be running our own race, not running against the other. And so I just think that people are like, okay, we did the the alternative is worse once, but show me something because my paycheck ain’t right, my groceries are higher. And and , you know, we’ve talked a lot on this podcast about all of the positive things that the Biden administration has done, but that the message is not getting through. And so this is a cri– I think this is a really a crisis moment, um, around not just messaging, but Black people need to know, what what you going to do for us? What are you going to do for us? 


DeRay Mckesson: Yeah, yeah I actually don’t disagree. So I so maybe let me clarify. I’m not saying a choice between like or vote for us just because the other side is worse. I’m saying that I don’t think people understand where the lines have already been drawn. So things like the insulin like, no, I feel like the left doesn’t come out and say, we put a $35 cap in and all of those people voted against it. Or like. So I think that people I think that when I’ve heard the left talk about it, they will say we did it and don’t sort of like make it clear that literally everybody else in there, everybody else was like, die, you know what I mean? And B, in the absence of telling the story like that, I do think that people don’t rack the wins up. I don’t think that people understand even this like, whether you like it or not, what has been done the the loans or like hasn’t said, you know, I could do this but the Supreme Court. Like I think there’s like a simple storytelling about even the good stuff that’s happened and that I think is sort of lost in these weird briefs and stuff in a way that is not getting through. And I find that when people, you know, call me some, my aunt and stuff will call. My aunt and [laugh] will call about some policy stuff, and I’m like, girl, I that is you’re right, that I don’t know how you would know the answer to that. I don’t, I don’t know, you know, you’re not watching CNN all day like that makes sense to me. Um, so so I am worried on the storytelling piece. 


De’Ara Balenger: Yeah. And I think–


Myles E. Johnson: And the–


De’Ara Balenger: I think the storytelling piece [clears throat] just real quick. I think the storytelling piece, yes, is important, but it’s also, y’all, this man doesn’t have a familiarity with Black folks, because even with Hillary, it was like but Bill. Even with Barack Obama. Didn’t nobody know him, but he was Black. So I think there is a cultural piece that’s here that’s missing. And that’s when I talk about accessibility. When I talk about him presencing himself, I think that’s important, cause it’s almost like you’re introducing yourself to Black people and all these and part of it is the messaging of these accomplishments. But also it’s like and Myles, I think this goes to your point around Palestine. It’s also what you’ve done before. This is a man that’s been in public service for like 60 years. So it’s like what what is the full picture. Like who are you to us. Not what what you’re going to do for us moving forward, or work with us to do for ourselves. But like what is what is the complete story? Given that you’ve been in office this whole long time, and also you know, use Barack Obama, you were his vice president. I would be saying [laugh] that would be my campaign speech. I was his vice president. So not completely. But you know what I’m saying? Like, I think there is some there’s just something there’s something cultural around something that’s missing here, something that the myths around the touch and the access from, from my perspective. 


Myles E. Johnson: And I know we have to, um, move on shortly. But also, I think it’s weird to see and, you know, I’m 32, which is which is not quite a spring chicken, but I don’t want to pretend like I was just, like, totally present for ’90s politics. Um, but it’s weird to see the right get progressively more right. [laugh] And for the left to stay in this very center, center left place that’s actually just seeming like conservatism to other people. And now that we have these things like, um, like Covid reminds people of HIV Aids when it comes to the dismissiveness. So it’s not and of course, they’re not the same, but there are parallels to be drawn. Um, I think Israel and Palestine, the, the, those things really remind people of these kind of, um, uh, line in the sand situations that really separate people from, um, conservatism to leftism. And it just feels like Joe Biden is really pretending like it’s 1998 and it’s not, [laugh] you know, it’s really not and it’s and it’s and it’s interesting that I totally get the whole AOC and all those, like, newcomers and all that rift. But it’s interesting to see an administration who seems to not have absorbed any of that outside of the representation. Didn’t even didn’t didn’t absorb any of the Bernie Sanders stuff. Didn’t is just its just saying, nope, it’s 1996 and we riding out and, you know, we we we need more. I don’t want to, I don’t. I hate how extreme sound, but we need more extreme left ideas and language. 


De’Ara Balenger: It’s not even extreme. It’s just. It’s just right, not right, but it’s just like the present. Like we need– 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. 


De’Ara Balenger: –present time communication around what we’re doing. 


DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People’s coming. [music break]


Kaya Henderson: Well continuing the thread of political parties ignoring Black people. Let me take you to a week from today, ironically, which will be Doctor King’s birthday, when Iowans will go to the polls to vote in the first Republican presidential caucus. Um, the Iowa caucus happens January 15th. And since 1972, it has been the first, and some people would argue, the most important primary on the road to each party’s presidential nomination until 2023. As I said earlier, when the Dems voted to replace Iowa with South Carolina, and that’s at least according to, it is important. It is very important. All you hear about coming out of the Republican presidential campaigns are the Iowa caucus. In fact, in mid-November, Trump, Haley and DeSantis’s campaigns were spending about a million a week on ads in Iowa. And they’re all spending even more leading up to the 15th, with Nikki Haley’s campaign now spending $3 million dollars per week on ads. Contrast that against the Dems six figure spend in South Carolina. But I’m gonna leave that right there. Um, I also want to underscore the importance not just by how much they’re spending, but by how much time the Republican presidential candidates have spent in Iowa. So Mr. Trump has been at over 30 events in 18 visits to Iowa since March. Um, Nikki Haley has held about 62 events. Ron DeSantis has appeared at 138 events since May, and he’s visited all 99 counties in Iowa. And, uh, Ramaswamy, Vivek Ramaswamy also visited all 99 counties, and he has held more than 250 events in Iowa. So this makes it especially insulting that not one of the Republican presidential candidates can make time to attend the nation’s oldest, minority focused presidential forum. The Iowa Black and Brown Presidential Forum. Say what now? Between 30 and 250 events in Iowa, visiting all 99 counties. And you can’t go to the one Black and Brown forum? The Black and Brown Presidential Forum focuses on issues of national significance like crime and education and the economy, and it gives the presidential candidates an opportunity to tailor their messages specifically for communities of color. It was founded in 1984 by Wayne Ford, who was a Black former state rep in Iowa, and Mary Campos, an Iowa based Latina activist. You know, it’s the Black and Brown get down, to quote my friend Mary Moran. Um, and since the forum started 40 years ago, they’ve extended invitations to Democrats and Republicans, but only Democrats have participated so far. Huh? Like a presidential forum aimed at the Black and Brown communities. And only Democrats have participated in Iowa. That tells us a lot. But this year, it was supposed to be different. Uh, Mr. Ford expected that things were going to be different because the Republicans have been talking about how much they’re courting minority voters. In fact, the Iowa GOP chair initially said that Republicans were, quote unquote, “especially keen to engage in conversations with groups like the Brown and Black forums of America.” Note the wrong wrong name of the thing, but that’s okay. About how bold leadership and ideas can benefit all Americans, regardless of race. And then nobody showed up. Nobody accepted the invitation. Um, since Republicans lost 46 of the top 50 cities in the last election, you would think that they would take advantage of this opportunity. And maybe they’re not, because the exit polls are showing that Black and Latino men are shifting towards Trump. So maybe they don’t think this is this this is important. They’ve also failed to hold many, if any, um, events in predominantly Spanish speaking communities in Iowa. So I brought this to podcast because I thought it was, um, you know, my grandmother always says you know, um, uh, I can show you better than I can tell you. And the Republicans are showing us better than they are telling us how they feel about minority voters in what is the most important presidential primary for them so far, where they’re spending millions upon millions of dollars and lots of time, and they can’t out allocate any of that to Black or Brown communities. Thankfully, the Iowa caucus is not the best predictor for the presidency. For Republicans since 1980 only once did the winner of the Iowa caucus win the presidency, and that was George W. Bush. So maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe we should just not pay attention to Iowa. But I think that at a time where Black voters are really trying to figure out who represents our interests and where we should be voting, um, this to me was a clear signal that the GOP is not it. Although De’Ara’s article told us maybe, uh, I don’t even want to say it out loud. Um, y’all the people got to do better by us the people, I mean, we saved this country over and over and over again. Don’t get me started. Okay? Anyway, um, yes. No Republican presidential candidates go into the Black and Brown get down in Iowa. And I thought you should know that. 


Myles E. Johnson: We well, you know. Okay, so how I see it is right now we’re witnessing almost like a political cult. That’s how I feel. That’s how I feel. And I think because I’m now an expert on cults, because I was sick with Covid. So I was watching cult documentaries for two weeks straight. So now I’m an expert, PhD in cults, y’all. Um, but now that I know that a cult is at its actual highest power when it does not need, uh, the marketing plan, when people are just gravitating towards it because they’re either sick of their life or because things are so bad, or they’re, like, searching for it. And that’s how I kind of feel about Republicans. They don’t they the GOP don’t need to do that because they don’t need to do that. People are [?] people who they’re not even censoring are being converted. Um, the the, uh, the, uh, the opponent is, is, is, is uh, cannibalizing themselves every where they go. So I don’t, I I’m not fooled by thinking that most people on that side want to win. They don’t really care. So they would do it if it worked, but it doesn’t. So they don’t care. It’s not. It’s not just this moral political like it’s the right thing to do. No matter what happens, they don’t care and they don’t need to do it. And they’re still getting people who are Brown and Black who are being converted, which is which is a surprise for them, because they’re really honed in on a certain demographic being empowered and, um, and, and, and energized to go vote. So if we get anybody else outside of that, it’s all good. So. [pause] And when I think of evil genius mode, I’m like, yeah, I would I would be like, yeah, let’s save the money. Like, let’s, let’s let’s not waste our time because because we really don’t care. 


DeRay Mckesson: This is a random thing that makes me think about it. But we have a lot of work to do with political education. And this article made me think of this issue with regard to race, is that I don’t know if you saw, but Nikki Haley, um, filled out that she was white on her forms when she ran to be president. She filled out the box that said white. Nikki Haley is not white everybody. Just so you know. So I posted a picture of Nikki Haley’s family, completely Indian family on Instagram. And people wrote me back being like, really? They were like, Nikki Haley is not. I’m like, you thought she was white? And I’m like, what? They were like, we had no clue. And I’m like, oh my, I just I did it actually, because I was annoyed at the news article about where she says she was white. Like I thought it was so obvious she wasn’t white. And then it wasn’t until I posted the picture and then I was like, oh, the people really don’t know. And then Kaya, to your point around the dollar spend, I actually had to go get something notarized. So Facebook, one of the fallouts from Cambridge Analytica is now to run ads you have to like, verify that you’re who you say you are and it expires. So when mine expired, I had to go get a form notarized. So I’m sitting with the notary and she’s like, why do you have to do this for Facebook? And I’m explaining Cambridge Analytica, the whole scandal there. And she’s like, never heard of it. Didn’t know it was a thing. What did Trump do with Facebook? And I was like, oh, we got more work to do. She literally was just like, I didn’t. I was like, you know, they sold they like, hacked the psychological profiles of everybody. They did this intense targeting. They poured a ton of money into it, like and she was like, yeah, never heard of it. And I was like, okay. Um, and to the dollar spend Kaya, the Republicans have done, have just done a lot of work to get the message to the people easy to convert. They did, Trump was the beginning of it. And I think our side has assumed the conversion and sort of spent money in the wild. I mean, this is De’Ara point. We could like make a T-shirt of it is like, who are the consultants? Who are the like, have spent probably as much money, but you’re like, who are y’all talking to? Or like, what are y’all doing? And da da da da da. And, um, and here we are. So. Yeah. 


De’Ara Balenger: And I’m not surprised by this at all. One, Republicans [?] unfortunately, Black and Brown voters are coming to them. They don’t got to go to where they are. Now the difference, and now this is why I keep talking about showing up and access. The Dems need to be in those spaces, right? So we need to make sure that we are continuing to show up. So this this one doesn’t it doesn’t surprise me at all. And also you have to think about the context of Iowa. And this is why, you know, arguably there are many people on the on the progressive side that are like, why do we count Iowa so much anyway when one there aren’t a whole lot of Black people there and the Black people that they have there, they over incarcerate. So I think Iowa’s like sixth in the nation on overincarceration of Black folks. Um, I think there’s DeRay I think they also like the whole thing where they make folks that are incarcerated pay to be the it’s Iowa’s like a wild, wild, wild place when it comes to racial disparities. So all that to say, I feel like this is a place where it would not make sense. But I think given the the history, the present and the political context of Iowa, where, you know, a Republican wouldn’t necessarily go to the Black and Brown forum, the Black and Brown forum also has been around y’all for a very long time. This is like a historic thing, um, that has been around and VICE, because Paola was in hosted one year, VICE used to do a presidential forum too, and they they would work in coordination, as far as I remember with the Black and Brown forum. So it definitely has a presence and is an important thing, but I can totally understand why for so many reasons, um, Republicans would not go there. 


Myles E. Johnson: To your point DeRay, um, I don’t know the what you just commented on and like how information spreading it really reminded me of conversations me and you’ve had. We I think we’ve all had, uh, throughout our friendship about how somebody will be totally famous and they’ll have 50 million, like, people following them and somebody else won’t know them. It’s interesting to think that’s also happening with information. That’s something could be totally compelling. And, you know, without naming names, we we know somebody who did not know about the Claudine Gay thing. And we know people who do know about that. And we and we know people who like, ah, how did you not know about that? And it’s interesting to think that now information is being siloed in the same way celebrity is too. So that was just a little tidbit that you made me think of with that. 


DeRay Mckesson: I always think of that when I think about the Shade Room. What I know because of the Shade Room and they were [?] da da da. And I talked to people who just either aren’t on Instagram or are not Black, and they literally are like, I have no clue what you’re talking about. Like, I think about how much I know about. 


Myles E. Johnson: [?]


DeRay Mckesson: Right? Blue ray I’m like, why do I even know anything? I’m like, against my will. I know a lot about them. Um, okay. So my news is actually about sickle cell. We’ve talked about sickle cell before, it is not a new topic on the pod. But what I wanted to bring here was about a rule that was proposed to be changed, um, in Health and Human Services in 2012. It was went into effect in 2015. It had really intense outcomes for the approval of sickle cell treatment for kids. So we’ve already talked about before, and listeners maybe already know that Black people are overrepresented with sickle cell disease. The latest numbers say that about 1 in 365 kids are born with sickle cell, Black kids are born with sickle cell in a given year. Um, but what Health and Human Services said they were doing with streamlining the approval process, streamlining and updating, um, the, the rules around reimbursement with regard to sickle cell and other blood diseases. And what it turned into, uh, is that there is this belief amongst lawyers that the denials are going up. And this group filed a public records request with, um, the Social Security administration to get the nonpublic data about denials between 2011 and 2020. And they were right, from 2011 to 2015, the denial rate for child sickle cell cases averaged 62.3%. In the years following the change, the rate soared to an average of 76% over five years. And then, um, and what they say is that about an estimated 1400 kids who would have qualified under the old standards have been rejected under the new requirements. And the same thing, um with whether somebody qualifies medically for SSI benefits. Um, with regard to sickle cell. Before the 2015 rule change, 41.4% of children with sickle cell disease who have made it to step three, had their applications approved. In the years following, the rate dropped to an average of 27.2%. I bring this here, uh, for a couple reasons. One is that, you know, remember, there hasn’t been a permanent leader over in Health, over at Social Security administration for a long time. Uh, Martin O’Malley, the former governor of the great state of Maryland, is now the head of Social Security. So hopefully he comes in and and this is one of the things. But how small, seemingly small rule changes have huge impacts on people’s lives. And this is one that, you know, I don’t think the Social Security administration was intending to dismiss this many people from, um, from receiving reimbursements or care around social security, um, around sickle cell. But that is what happened. And the only silver lining about the issue, not necessarily the dismissals. I just bring this here as an issue of disparity that has not been corrected, is that there does look to be something like a cure for sickle cell for the first time ever. So Crispr, the gene editing software, has successfully, uh, treated people uh kids, adults with sickle cell. And it looks like this actually might be a viable long term solution, which is really cool. Uh, as you might know, people with sickle cell have just had to there have been medicines to alleviate the pain, but have not been able to actually cure sickle cell. Uh, and it looks like there’s a path for a cure that’s coming, which is really cool. And hopefully it is not, you know, a gazillion dollars in the end, which might make it prohibitive. Um, but they have successfully been able to, um, to do it, which is actually really, really dope. And I say hopefully it’s not too um expensive because it has been expensive so far. So one of them cost $2.2 million dollars for a one time treatment, and the other one cost $3.1 million dollars for a one time treatment. 


Kaya Henderson: [sigh] Lord child, you live long enough and you keep seeing the same things happen. Um, and it is, uh, I don’t know, the thing that that this reminded me of is we are in love with policy solutions. We like to. I don’t know who the we is, but people are in love with policy solutions. We feel like if we just write the rules differently, then everything follows. And that is so not often the case. And so these people who thought they were doing something, I don’t know, literally undid the thing that they were supposed to be doing, and they never check back to see how things were working out. And so I think it highlights the disconnect between policymakers and the people who are affected by their policies. I think it requires, um, that when we write policy, we have some kind of checks, right? Like, why aren’t we why did we wait until now to check on the implications of a rule from 2015 where that’s literally nine years ago? And so we’ve let this thing happen for nine years and thousands upon thousands of kids who have this incredibly debilitating disease. I don’t know if you know anybody who has sickle cell, but it’s horrible. It’s a horrific disease. And we we have the opportunity to deal with it. And nobody went back and checked until these lawyers who had done the thing, you know, way before said, let’s check and see how it’s going. And also shout out to the nonprofit organizations and advocacy organizations who keep their eye on these issues. But I would say that this is something that really is a huge policy failure. Um, there’s an accountability failure, and I wonder what it would take to build some kind of a systemic apparatus that makes people check on the impact of the policies. I think about I think about education because that’s the field that I know most. And, you know, the education policies around teacher evaluation that happened in the mid 2000s were catastrophic because we needed teacher evaluation overhauls. Everybody thought if they just changed the state regulations that everything would happen differently. And the implementation was so bad, I could think about the Common Core standards. I can think about a lot of policies in education that were implemented that were written differently at the state level or at the local level, and then the implementation was so terrible, it actually did more harm than good. We’ll never go back to reexamining teacher evaluation to make sure that it’s that it is, um, impactful and important because we screwed the pooch on the policy work that happened. And so I just think that there are so many policies that get enacted that have significant impact on people’s lives, as you pointed out, DeRay, that somehow or another, we are not checking back to see if the rule changes have had the appropriately intended consequences, and we got to do better. Policymakers should not be able to sleep without checking back to make sure that what they did did what it was intended to do. 


Myles E. Johnson: I think like the quiet part, the silent part is, is probably not being checked on. Because who’s it who it’s mostly affecting. 


Kaya Henderson: Yup. Say it. Say it.


Myles E. Johnson: And who is um mostly suffering from this disease. Uh. You know. The only thing that I can say when we bring things like this to the podcast is just the zoom out that these type of things, shouldn’t be politicized, these type of things should not have financial incentive. Of course, I know that is so that’s such an easy sentence to say and such a complex thing to initiate. But I always just want a truth tell with these articles come up that this should not be a policy and this should not be a profit. This is somebody’s life and we have enough. Um. But, uh, we have enough resources in this, in this nation in order for this not to be, um, something that, uh, that we’re not that we’re not playing political games or profit games with somebody’s life and suffering and health. Okay, y’all walk with me. [laughing] Um, you know, I’ve been on this podcast for a very long time now, and it feels like maybe every at least annually, I’ve been talking about Mo’Nique, and I’ve been just really giving her as much support as I could, because I really felt like the things she was bringing up were important. Well, today, via complex news, I’m not talking about Mo’Nique, but I am talking about Taraji P. Henson because Taraji P. Henson is bringing up things that very closely parallel the troubles that Mo’Nique was named that Mo’Nique was naming. Um, and I’m going to tie this all back to each other. Um, Taraji P. Henson so this news article, if you if I’m sure everybody’s got different sources because she’s really taken every press opportunity to, um, totally, uh, debunk the fantasy you might have in your head about making this film. Um, but this latest one, she was talking about her not getting a um, her not getting a driver to and, um, back and forth from, um, set. So in an interview with The New York Times, Henson revealed that she and the cast of The Color Purple had to drive themselves to work in rental cars. I was like, I can’t drive myself to set in Atlanta. This is insurance liability, it’s dangerous she said. What do I look like taking myself to work by myself in a rental car? So I was like, can I get a driver or security to take me? I’m not asking for the moon. She continued, they’re like, well, if we do it for you, we got to do it for everybody. Well, do it for everybody. It’s stuff like that. Stuff I couldn’t have to fight for. I shouldn’t have to fight for. I was on the set of Empire, fighting for trailers that weren’t infested with bugs. Um. Okay. So it’s it’s it’s it’s usually protocol. And like she said an insurance liability for talent. Um, actors, uh, specifically principal actors to be driven back and forth. It’s not just because, oh, this is luxurious and it’s Hollywood. It’s because, um, we want to make sure that your exhausted, overworked tail ain’t hurting yourself because we about to get a return on our money, and we can’t. And so it’s protocol. So I think sometimes when we talk about this, it’s painted with, uh, with a um, uh uh, well, uh, some people were painting it with a, um, a prima donna, uh, paint brush. And I was like, mm it’s not that. It’s really just kind of protocol and this story, this story in this series of stories that I’ve been hearing from Taraji P. Henson, really, really just boggle my mind. First thing that comes to my mind is I wonder how much fictive kinship was weaponized in order for these things to have a to for these things to happen. Meaning, I wonder if it was Black people telling Taraji P. Henson that she doesn’t deserve this, or she can’t get this, or we can’t do this. And that actually swelled how she would react to that, because it’s one of your people saying it, and I don’t know not, I do know why. Because I want to kind of name how sometimes we talk about, um, disparities inside of, um, Hollywood and how it’s always, um, a white body or a white face doing it. And sometimes it’s a Black person who has swallowed white supremacy, so called [?], um, who has swallowed white supremacy and who’s spitting it back out. It’s not always somebody with a white body and a in a in a white face doing these things. I think it’s I think it’s important for us to, um, complicate that. Um, the other thing that I wanted to bring out about this is I wish Taraji P. Henson showed more solidarity with Mo’Nique a couple of years ago when Monique was going on her tour. I think that how Taraji P. Henson is doing it is smarter, because I think that she, Taraji P. Henson right now can’t be painted as bitter or as somebody who, um, is just upset about anything because she is riding this big success and this huge movie that, called The Color Purple. So we kind of receive what she’s saying differently because why why would you just say something like that? And I think that the black ball and the bitter thing was able to be painted on Mo’Nique. But I think that when we’re not in, um, specifically when I think of Black people. Specifically when I think about Black women and Black queer folks. I think that when we’re not in numbers and we’re not doing it, and in mass, often one person can get pat patted on the back. And then whereas if there’s multiple people saying it from multiple different things and maybe even naming the same people, often things a little bit more systemic can be shifted. But yeah, I brought this to the podcast because A, it’s just everywhere. I thought it was really interesting. Um, I hated The Color Purple. I really hated that remake. I really, uh, thought everybody’s performances were really great. Um, but I thought the writing and the director directorial choices were really disturbing, and it makes it even more disturbing to think that y’all didn’t even have fun. They had more fun on Mamma Mia than y’all did. So not only was this not a good, you know, for me, not a not a good remake, not a good remake, and I think that there was so many just, um, just just just poor choices made. But at least I could in the back of my head, like I say, well, at least they were having fun, child. And everything was going good and they got made some money. But from what I’m hearing, the money wasn’t that long and the fun wasn’t that high, so I would push more Black people to say no when the check, when when you, when you, when you’re when you’re seeing that you’re being undervalued the first time. Don’t even get into the ring when you’re being undervalued because it doesn’t get better. You don’t you don’t magically get, um, valued in the middle of a thing when you enter in it being undervalued. And even if they do say, okay, we’re going to get you that, we’re going to get you this much more money. There’s still going to be other things like Taraji P. Henson. That is a that is a walking gold statue. She should not be driving herself anywhere at any time, let alone to, uh, to her own films like no the it’s just mind boggling. So, yeah, I want to hear y’alls thoughts. 


De’Ara Balenger: Well, first, any time she’s quoted in an article, I can actually hear her voice in my head as I’m reading it, so I just lo– listen. I love Taraji, she’s a DC girl like me. I’ve been following her forever and I’m such a huge fan and so, so, so much of this because I unlike Katt Williams, I didn’t sit there and watch the whole thing, but I watched this interview and she’s it’s heartbreaking because there’s so much pain, because she’s worked so hard against so many odds. And she’s like, you know, Taraji’s a trained actress. Like it’s not, you know, she’s so I think I think it’s always begs the question of like when you do all the things you’re supposed to do and then you’re still left devalued and still left making less and still left like. You know, I just feel like she’s so bruised now by Hollywood. Like it’s just. It’s just so sad. And then the other stories I heard too, of like how much of a mentor she was on this set when it came to Fantasia and helping Fantasia, you know, not take Celie home with her. And it so it’s just it just seemed like Taraji was the person who was producing and so much in such a way with this film, and making sure that everyone felt held and protected in the fun that they did have was fun that she was facilitating. So I think you’re right, Myles, I think I think that’s probably what is so profound about this is that I think it’s like, oh, this is going to be amazing, and it’s going to be a Black cast and it’s a Black story and such an important one. Um, and we’re just going to be in community and really be held and uplifted. And then you get there and you having to be HR, you got to be a driver. You got to make sure the trailers are alright. You the operations person, and you just supposed to be there. And on top of that, she trained to sing for a whole year. You know, it’s just the the labor is just I think what came to me as I had been watching, as I watched the interview and have been seeing what’s come out since. 


Kaya Henderson: Two things that this made me think about. One I identify completely with Taraji’s, um, comparisons to, you know, her value versus other people’s values. Um, walk a mile in a Black woman leader shoes and you have been undervalued. I remember, you know, them telling me that I should make literally, you know, I don’t know, something like $85,000 less than my predecessor when I was at DC public schools, even though I had more experience and yada, yada yada. And I was like, okay, let’s go to court with that. Um, and then it got fixed real fast. And so I think this is par for the course as Black women leaders, we’re always undervalued. We always have to fight. Um, the thing that this left me wondering was, what is the audience like? What is the right lever to get Black women paid differently in, in, um, in Hollywood? Because I don’t, I don’t think that it is like I think that the appeal to the broader culture. Right. Black women should get paid more like we can sympathize with Taraji, but we’re not the people who actually can force change. I don’t think maybe we can. Y’all tell me that we can. But, like I uh, the thing is, I wonder what it’s going to take to make people. I mean, Myles didn’t say it, but he said it like, this is Oprah, the Black lady who produced this film. And so you would expect that at least in our own communities, we would be recognized. And I didn’t watch the Danielle Brooks clip. So, you know, I think Oprah swooped in and fixed it or whatever, whatever. But the fact that we’re even in this situation on a Black production feels not okay. And so who what is the right lever? What pushes Hollywood studios to do right by people? What pushes casting agencies to do right by people when they are negotiating people’s contracts? I’m not sure that it’s the like broad PR campaign. Oh my gosh, we feel so badly for Taraji because let me tell you, my cousins and them were like, mmm, okay, Taraji, you still make way more than most of us. And so we don’t feel sorry for you. Right. And so I think that there is, um, a question around what is the appropriate audience or what are the ways that we can actually push change. I think you’re right, Myles, that it is different when groups of people come together. Like, I think about what the Hollywood writers strike was able to accomplish when writers came together and did this, but I, I worry right now that Taraji is out here on her own, sort of saying the thing and making the complaint. And just like many of these other Black women that we’ve talked about is unprotected in a space that wasn’t created for us and isn’t going to get what she wants out of this. There are going to be a bunch of studios that are like, oh, she’s so difficult. She is the one who wants clean trailers and blah blah, blah and whatever, whatever and they’re not talking about the fact that that’s par for the course for other people. I just worry about how we push change without making leaving Black women on the sacrificial altar, because I feel like Taraji has sort of thrown herself there. And there’s no guarantee that with this level of candor and transparency, that it’s going to pay off for her in her next movie. I hope it does, but I want to figure out what are the other ways that we can support pushing studios and agencies to do something different by Black women without, you know, Taraji, bearing the brunt of this. 


DeRay Mckesson: Yeah, I was struck by Danielle Brooks, um, she also addressed this in in another interview where she was like, you know, one of the reasons why she didn’t say anything in those in the in that time before Taraji sort of stood up for all of them was because she it was the I’m happy to be here. She was like, I didn’t know. She was like, this was one of my you know, she was a TV star. This was one of her first feature films. And she was like I don’t, you know, I don’t know what the how it work here, how the rules work and and we really do get played sometimes by that process. And I don’t know if you saw but yesterday on the red carpet at the Golden Globes, Oprah actually addressed this head on and said, you know, I know people have, um, seen Taraji’s interviews. She was like, I know my I was told my name was trending last night. And let me just clear up some things. And Oprah said, you know, I was a EP, so I’m not there. I’m not making nobody’s decisions about whatever. But the moment I heard things were going on, I addressed them and she was like, you know, this Warner Brothers is the decision maker. They set the salaries and they they sort of and the moment that I realized something was off, I stepped in and she was like, you know, Taraji would say that to you. I’ll say it with you. She was like, why would I want a movie like this? You know, go out of like, why would I not protect people? I didn’t know. And I bring that up because it goes back to what we always say in organizing. It goes back to Kaya, your push. Is that like, good people do not really matter in a structure that’s broken? Like if the structure doesn’t change, good people are gonna exhaust themselves trying to keep everybody up to flow. So Oprah was a good person in a structure that’s broken. And she up here having to get people food, having to get them cars, having to and you’re like that just is not a sustainable thing. So I’m interested in and somebody who knows more about film and and TV, but thinking through what the structural fix is here, uh, so that we don’t need to rely on good people being in the room to alleviate or mitigate the damages of a broken system. [music break] 


DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Well that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning in to Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out and make sure you rate it wherever you get your podcast, whether it’s Apple podcasts or somewhere else. And we’ll see you next week. Pod Save the People is a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by AJ Moultrié and mixed by Evan Sutton. Executive produced by me and special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger and Myles E. Johnson. [music break]