Continue the Fight (with Prof. Gregory Cooke) | Crooked Media
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February 22, 2022
Pod Save The People
Continue the Fight (with Prof. Gregory Cooke)

In This Episode

DeRay, Myles, and Kaya cover the underreported news of the week— including billions of dollars in hoarded welfare funds, a senate vote to evict Black people to Africa, and a Miss Cleo psychic documentary. DeRay interviews filmmaker and historian Professor Gregory S. Cooke about his documentary Invisible Warriors: African American Women in World War II.












DeRay Mckesson: Hey, this is DeRay, and welcome Pod Save the People. In this episode, it’s me, Kaya, Myles, talking about all the underreported news of the week. And then I sat down with educator and filmmaker Gregory Cooke to chat about his newest documentary, “Invisible Warriors: African-American Women in World War II”. Have you ever heard of Rosie the Riveter? You know, the white woman with the red bandana and her muscles, saying, We can do it? Well, this documentary zooms in on nine Black women out of thousands who are hired to join the World War II effort. Professor Cooke puts the historical World War II timeline in context for us as Black people, a truly insightful conversation. Now, my advice for this week is to fight y’all. That, like, you know, we’re doing a lot of advocacy in my organizing life and there are a million campaigns, and we’re going a mile a minute and it’s worth it every single time. The way the status quo continues is that it tires you out. And the cool thing is that I’m in a community of people who believe in who want to fight. And I’m always reminded that organizing needs organization, which doesn’t necessarily mean a 501-C3, it doesn’t mean like a committee, but you do just need to be in community with other people on some organized way. And it’s one of those things where like, I’ve just seen incredible students, I see [runners] clubs, I’ve seen a whole host of people come together and build community to do good work. I hope that you have one to do it where you are. Here we go.


Kaya Henderson: Hey, Pod Save the People family. Welcome, welcome, welcome to another episode. We’re so excited to be with you. I am Kaya Henderson and you can find me on Twitter @hendersonkaya.


Myles Johnson: I am Myles E. Johnson. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @pharoahrapture.


DeRay Mckesson: And I’m DeRay, @deray on Twitter.


Kaya Henderson: So we were not together last week when it was time for us to debrief the Super Bowl halftime show. So I’m bringing us right back because there was so much to talk about. So many things happening with what some people are saying was the best Super Bowl halftime performance in history. If you are following social media, you know that every Prince fan in America decided that that was absolutely not true. But it was, it was a show for the culture. It was a show for the culture. And so wondering what—and shout out to my little cousin, Kira Harper, who was one of Mary J. Blige as backup dancers. Ooooh! Mt. Vernon’s greatest. So what do you all think, fellas? What was it?


Myles Johnson: So I definitely think that it’s not, wasn’t one of the best because I not only remember Prince, but I also remember Beyoncé.


Kaya Henderson: Aww. What?! I’m so surprised to hear you say that Myles.


Myles Johnson: Beyoncé, that was a big, that was a landmark performance for her, and she ate that. But I do think it was really, I think it was a really great performance. I think that everybody did a really good job. And I think that it just shows that hip hop really is like essential rock and roll where really brings a lot of excitement. I was watching Michael Jackson’s Super Bowl performance and I was watching a lot of Super Bowl performances in general, and just seeing how when pop and hip hop really collide, that really takes the stage because there’s such a opportunity for spectacle. When spectacle can meet nostalgia, that’s just like a really sweet spot for that pocket. I’m also really, really interested in Dr. Dre, and I don’t know if nobody—I am so willing to be corrected on this—but I was watching maybe a couple of months ago, because I actually didn’t see when it came out, I was watching the movie about Michel’le, his ex-girlfriend and the horrendous things he did to Michel’le. And I just don’t understand how come there’s this moment of #MeToo, of Bill Cosby, the reckoning with Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, and there just seems to be some big players who just, we’re just unwilling to look at and we’re kind of repeating, we’re just repeating certain like like certain habits that we’ve had in the culture. And if you don’t know Dr. Dre had allegedly severely abused Michel’le and beating her up daily, pistol whipping her. And it just seems like that’s just something that nobody’s willing to talk about. And I just think that there’s been so many collaborations that Dr. Dre has done with people who have publicly claimed feminist Black, feminist pro-women, anti-sexual assault stances who have been able to kind of collude and collide with him without there being any moment where Dr. Dre sits down and talks about what happens to Michel’le and we really escalate like that moment. And, I always feel a little icky about that. I will always feel icky about where Eminem kind of stands in the culture as somebody who was able to kind of really explore or kind of exploit a lot of homophobia in order to kind of get to where he was getting, and the same, the same kind of person who Joe Rogan is talking about. This kind of like, I’m a man’s man or I’m this suburban white man—that’s the same audience that Eminem was using homophobia to galvanize back when I was younger. And I just, I will always kind of feel unsettled about people getting these really big moments in culture that I think are impressive, but then we don’t talk about it. And then when we see them, you know, what happens 20 years from now, we’re like, Oh, wow, this was happening, this was happening, and can you believe where culture was and that we let this happen and this person never had to be accountable for this or never had to speak about this? I’m like, No, if you get to have these big awards and you get to have these big moments in culture and you want to take that, then you also said, be talking about that because you, you you ruined a woman’s life, you’ve ruined a woman’s career. I think that’s what kind of always gets me is that Dr. Dre did abuse Michel’le. But also—I’m not trying which is worse—but he also then, like, effectively ruined her career and systemically made sure she couldn’t make money and couldn’t advance. And it just makes me a little sad that if not more rallying around that and not more standards about like, you know what, we’re not going to participate in that.


Kaya Henderson: It’s not just Michel’le. I mean, the big thing that was un-talked about in hip hop for a long time—and Myles, this just goes to the conversation we were having about old people in hip hop—


Myles Johnson: I’m not saying something about old people. I never said that. You trying to, you trying [laughs]—


Kaya Henderson: But Dee Barnes, who was, I think she was the host of Yo! MTV Raps or some show on MTV, but Dee Barnes was doing an interview with Dr. Dre or whatever—she was, actually, I think they were at a party and she was brutally beaten and maybe sexually assaulted by Dr. Dre. And maybe I want to say—it was, it was a horrific attack in a very public place. Nobody did anything to stop it. And for years, she was telling people, Yo, this dude is not right. This happened to me. For a year, she was trying to get other people to tell her side of the story and support her. And very similarly, I mean, I just read something recently that says that, you know, she literally had not been able to work again in hip hop or in the industry. And she’s destitute now and whatnot. And every time Dr. Dre is recognized by people buying his company or, you know, buying his company or gets these moments like the Super Bowl, nobody is talking about the horrific patterns, documented patterns, of abuse and violence against women as part of his legacy. And I think it is a serious question to interrogate why, why can’t we tell the full story of people, right? Because that’s a part of his story.


DeRay Mckesson: Yeah. You know, I think, Myles, after you brought this up in this way, it is so interesting, especially when the public conversation talks about cancel culture and this idea that there’s such intense accountability and then you look up and you like For who, for where, for—. There are people who choose who gets amplified and who doesn’t, and those people seem to not care at all about these things. And the NFL’s halftime show was also such a phenomenal example of using Black people to sort of make up for systemic injustice in a specific context. So not only are there no Black coaches. Brian Flores gets, he gets fired. Now he is an assistant coach for one of the only other Black coaches that’s there while he’s still suing the NFL. That, you know, people, NFL fans were promised it would change. You know, we’re going to bring all these people to help make it better. We’re going to do some things for Black people. And then you realize that like that hasn’t materialized and that they’re going to, they literally drug every famous Black person they can think of that we love out to do that halftime show. All of those people could, Mary could—I went to a Mary concert recently—Mary could have done a whole set herself, right? Whether you, like, 50 Cent has had his own problems and Lord knows he is tough sometimes on the internet—he had enough hits that he could have—you know, like all of them, had enough hits. Snoop! Snoop, could have done his own. But they they needed to pack in as much to meet the criticism of the, like the NFL itself. And I think you’re right, you know, Myles and Kaya, both of you—it is really hard to think about sort of what people call genius—and I know this will go into the conversation about Kanye—but what people call genius, and not only deal with the cost, because cost I think doesn’t account for it, but like the harm done that allowed that, what people call genius, to flourish. Like, the people whose lives were intentionally ruined, the people who were intentionally hurt, the people who are trampled on, stomped on, to get people there, just seems to be forgotten. And I think Kanye, all of his antics around the internet and Kim and Pete, it’s like, this is a classic sign of abuse. And if he was not famous, nobody would tolerate. I mean, it would be a very clear “this is wrong. he should not be able to do this” but because it’s Kanye, people are just entertaining it like it’s fodder, and that just feels so wrong too.


Myles Johnson: Yeah, I think it’s twofold, so that everything that everybody said. But I also think that is a self-esteem issue in our culture. And I think that Black genius is here. And I think the way that Black genius manifests in a person is unique, but I don’t think having Black genius is unique. So I think that sometimes we get so wrapped up in the idolatry and the fascination with the one person who gets in and the tokenism that we let certain behaviors go. But if once we start looking at Kaya and DeRay and saying these are Black geniuses is too in their field, and Myles is a Black genius, and Kanye’s a Black genius and Beyoncé is a Black genius, then you stop like creating these bubbles because, Oh well, we’re going to let this person behave this way or get away with these things—because no, that is something that is seeded in us that is blossoming and what we get to, the Black genius part is really none of our business. How we let it blossom and us doing it in a safe way, in a way that still respects other people’s free will, that’s what makes us people to revere. Not the fact that we have Black genius because that’s something that we all got. And I think that’s a self-esteem thing that has to do with our democratization of celebrity and all the other kind of more heady stuff that we talk about, [laughs] privately. My news that I’m bringing is one of my, so I have these pop culture heroes that any single time that I’ll bring the person up, they always look at me like, like What!? And they’ll kind of do the screeching noises. But I really love, I really love cartoon characters as far as, like—not literally, I do love little cartoon characters—but people kind of exist one dimensionally and people who are just, who are just a part of my childhood that maybe you don’t, we don’t get to, like, dissect. And I do love these icons, and I do love people who just, who are just iconic to me, but also casual because they were in our infomercials. So that leads me to the fact that Miss Cleo is getting her own documentary. It seems like it’s going to be a documentary. I got this news from Vibe. This is like just an old school hip hop day. Shout out to Vibe, still giving us the news. And it was, it seems to be, going to be handled with a lot of care and an integrity. And I remember a few years ago, maybe three years ago now, I actually did a article on Miss Cleo because I was so fascinated with her story. I was fascinated that she was a lesbian woman, that she actually was from Jamaica, even though it was kind of like widespread that she was like faking certain things. But I’m interested in like, is she from a Jamaican household? How long she was Jamaica? All the other stuff. But what I was really interested in and will forever be interested in is, this was a disempowered Black queer person who was able to take their culture, take the horror and the spookiness around their culture and rebrand it into something that made her millions of dollars. And that also was a blueprint for other artists and other people who were—we’ll say in-between blessings—to create a way for them to get their blessings too, namely, I think one of the more popular ones is Dionne Warwick. Most people know that she’s had, like she had a psychic hotline too. And I’m really fascinated with how Miss Cleo took something that was pretty demonized in culture and totally, and totally reversed it. And I don’t think that we will be having a moment on YouTube or moment on social media where astrology and tarot readings are so widespread and common. And even, I think she helped in the popularization of the New Age movement. And I think because she was so familiar, because it was happening on infomercials, because she took the scariness out of it and made it so, around the way and made it less scary, I think she has a lot to do with it. And I think that sometimes people can just, you know, just see her the joke, or see her as this like one dimensional thing, but that’s a really interesting thing for a Black queer woman to do, and to be presented with a set of, an identity and really figure out how to make millions about it. And I also connected this with the story of Julia Brown. If you like Google Julia Brown, she was this mystic who was in the early 1900s in New Orleans, who was a healer, and the curse of Julia Brown is that she was healing people, the white people who she was healing ended up being nasty towards her, and when she died, a storm happened the same day of her funeral. And I think about how many of those stories are just like in the air around African and Black American spiritual practices, and how Miss Cleo said No, this is the side of it too. And made a regular. And this has been such a journey. Like, I think about how my mother was doing readings and how, you know, gave me food because the readings and how she made it more comfortable. And I’m just, I don’t know. I’m just excited. I’m excited to see what was going through our head. And I think that she’s a marketing genius and it worked. And like, you know, and I think if I’m going to praise and be fascinated with like Anna Delvey right now and watch that and then like, I have to give it to Miss Cleo. So even if she was scamming and it was a whole hoax, I think that’s worthy of storytelling. Because, you know, the only thing I love more than a hero and a saint, is a scammer. [laughter]


Kaya Henderson: So during Black History Month, so during Black History Month, you want to make sure that the Black scammers get recognized just like the white ones do.


Myles Johnson: I love it. I love it. I love it. I love it. You could be on my mug or you’d have a mug shot. I don’t care. [laughter].


DeRay Mckesson: Oh my goodness.


Kaya Henderson: I will say Myles, that until you brought this to the conversation, I had not given the Miss Cleo a thought since the, I don’t know when. And I think it’s wonderful how you have helped us to recast our thinking a little bit about Miss Cleo, because let me tell you what I thought about Miss Cleo until this conversation that we were just having. She had a horrific Jamaican accent. It was so funny that it was ridiculous. And Caribbean people all over the place were like, What the, um!? And you know, it was so obviously a scam and so obviously not real, that it just became a joke in the community. And at the same time, the Psychic Friends Network made over a billion dollars off Miss Cleo! A billion dollars. So it was a very expensive joke. It was a very lucrative joke. I was doing some reading about the Psychic Friends Network and on average, so they would, you know, lure you in a, you get a five minute—you get a free reading from Miss Cleo, and the first five minutes were free, but on average, people spent 60 minutes on the telephone with these people at a rate of 4.99 an hour. What in tarnation? Nine times out of ten, you weren’t talking to Miss Cleo, you were talking to some other little random people. And they had this thing going for a while before the FCC jumped in and there were lawsuits and whatnot, and it all came crashing down. And so I’m excited to understand what happened to her after the Psychic friends Network. Apparently, Miss Cleo was a scammer beforehand. She was an actor in theater, and she was given some money to produce a play and apparently she ran out on the production and took the money. And so it seems like she had a colorful life beforehand. She definitely had a colorful life during her time on the Psychic Friends Network. And I will be interested to see what happened to her afterwards and before her death.


Myles Johnson: And I hope Shonda Rhimes hits this up too.


DeRay Mckesson: You know, your re-contextualizing, I think is brilliant. You know, I think, you know, also, I was reading something else actually about Anna Delvey and the whole Inventing Anna moment.


Kaya Henderson: For people who don’t know and aren’t watching, can you just tell people who Anna Delvey is?


DeRay Mckesson: Yes. Anna Delvey was, Anna Delvey is a modern-day scammer, and she legit had no money and no noticeable skills besides being just, being able to play the con well, and almost con these banks out of $40 million. I mean, she just, she really did just do it in a way that was incredible. But there’s a show about her called, there’s a show about her called Inventing Anna on Netflix that I did watch. I don’t know if I’d recommend it. Spare yourself. Just to read about it. But I was fascinated. But anyway, one of her friends it is a woman named Rachel who like, participates in the scam and then loses and comes out like she’s really pissed. But she wrote an article in Vanity Fair after it came out because she was not a part of the documentary, and she is really upset with Anna, she lost—whatever, she’s upset. But she wrote this, she said “‘I think promoting this whole narrative and celebrating a sociopathic, narcissistic, proven criminal is wrong’, Williams told Vanity Fair in her first interview about the series, ‘having had a front-row seat to the Anna circus for too long, I have studied the way a con works more than anybody needs to. You watch the spectacle, but you’re not paying attention to what’s being marketed.'” And she goes on to essentially say that, like, in a world that we live in today where there’s just so much going on, she goes and says, “attention is a form of currency, and if history is any indication, it’s what Anna will continue to seek it. It’s what she needs to convince people to keep buying in her stories.” And this idea of attention is a form of currency, I think makes a lot of sense, and it goes to what Myles said is that, you know, the thing that I remember about Miss Cleo is that she was just so familiar. Like, it wasn’t even like a random person. It was like, Oh, Miss Cleo! Like, it was just like she was a part of what TV was. And I do think that she normalized psychic readings. As a kid, I thought it was weird that people would have like those little stores that were like, Get a tarot card. I’m like, Is Miss Cleo here? Like, how dare you do a tarot card reading without Miss Cleo? Because Miss Cleo is really the only person that I know who can do them, and I don’t even know Miss Cleo like that. So I’m interested to see her story. But like you, Kaya, I look at the numbers and I’m like, people really were calling Miss Cleo, and if you thought you were getting Miss Cleo on the phone!? Whoo! She got you. But also the sad part of how this always works, even with the scammers, is that, you know, according to her, she got 24 cents for every dollar made, right? She was no, she was not coming out of this some, you know, big baller. She definitely got paid, but not nearly for what you know, the whole legitimacy of the Psychic Friends Network was Miss Cleo. I mean, she was the face, she was the voice, she was the persona, and she was not, she was not paid in that way. So I can’t wait to see. Shout out to XTR, the company that’s doing this. Bryn Mooser over there. We love, we love Bryn. Shout out to that whole team.


Myles Johnson: And I just want to add one little thing before we move on to the next news, is there’s this Instagram story that I saw on death solidarity. About something totally different, but I think it needs repeating for this conversation, is that this nation really invents, because of our different systems of oppression and our fascination with celebrity, it really invents scammers. It really invents the need of this. And I think that’s always good to say. And then I remember, what was written on the person’s Instagram story was, the Instagram’s death solidarity, “Don’t ever f’ing forget that crime is not real. Theft is survival, drugs are coping. There are no perpetrators and victims among the exploited of the system. Only people who needs are systemically eradicated. If everyone had their needs met, none of this would be happening.” And I do think that it’s hard, when you have people on the very extreme sides of it, it’s hard to get that kind of empathy toward them. And I don’t even know if that’s even what I’m trying to suggest. But I think that just when you hear somebody doing something instead of saying, You’re the sociopath, you are doing this thing, I think it just serves us better to say, Oh, we’re living in a sociopathic, the air sociopathic, the water we’re drinking is sociopathic, the ways we’re being asked to advance and to handle ourselves and to engage with each other digitally and in person—and all of it sociopathic, so of course, it’s going to produce somebody who is really, really good at drinking the air or—excuse me—drinking the water and breathing the air. But I think we should transcend just blaming individuals, because it’s that’s the more interesting conversations from happening. That’s my little, my little two cents. That’s was ten cents. That was a dime.


DeRay Mckesson, narrating: I don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People is coming.


[ad break]


Kaya Henderson: My news today is in honor of Black history, which is every day, every day, and February is just the kickoff month for the year-long celebration. And so in the spirit of remembering, 100 years ago today, something very interesting happened. Today technically—when you all hear this, it’ll be Tuesday—but today, technically is Sunday, February 20th. And on February 20th, 1922, Mississippi State Senate voted to send all of the state’s Black people to Africa. What!? Yes, there were a number of European countries who owed the United States war debts from World War I, and a very crafty state senator in Mississippi named Senator Torrey George McCallum came up with a very interesting idea. His idea was instead of asking these European countries for cash in payment of their war debts, each of these European countries had colonies all over the world, including Africa. And so he decided what we should do as a country is ask some of these European countries to pay their debts by giving us some of their land in Africa and repatriating Negroes to Africa. In fact, he asked for President Warren G. Harding to “acquire by treaty negotiation or otherwise from our late war allies sufficient territory on the continent of Africa to make a suitable, proper, and final home for the American Negro, where under the tutelage of the American government, he can develop for himself a great republic to become in time, a free and sovereign state and take its place at the Council Board of the Nations of the World.” And in fact, the state Senate voted on this proposal 25-9, passing it, to ask these folks to give us some some land in Africa to put the Black people are. Now, were black Mississippians, who were 52% of the population consulted? No, not at all. And thankfully this, while it passed the Senate, it did not pass the House. It did not move forward. But I think that it is an important part of history. It’s not the first time that folks were looking for a Black people to be repatriated to Africa as part of the answer to what was called the “Negro Question.” And there were very strange bedfellows in this conversation. So there were a number of Black people, most notably Marcus Garvey, who was a renowned Black separatist who were like, Yeah, give us the land, let us get out of here, y’all don’t want us, no way and so peace, let us go, do our thing. You’ve heard the expression, “politics make strange bedfellows.” Marcus Garvey, in fact, sent a letter to Senator McCallum praising him for this proposal. There were Black newspapers who, you know, wrote about how crazy of an idea this was. But there were also Black newspapers who wrote that this was a great idea. In fact, there’s, the story is in The Washington Post, and they do a really good job of pulling together all of the interesting nuances of this story, which are far too long to recount all of here on the pod, but a little-known fact is that there were lots of people interested in the colonization of Black people back to Africa. One of whom was your good friend Abraham Lincoln. You know, the Emancipator, he actually was drawn repeatedly to the idea, says the article. And in fact, in 1862, Congress passed a bill allocating $600,000 for the colonization of formerly-enslaved people living in the District of Columbia. They always messing with us. Why are they always messing with Black people in DC? Anyway, Lincoln sent a free young Black man named John Willis Menard to British Honduras, now Belize, to scout it as a potential location. He went to the Danish Virgin Islands. British Guyana, Dutch Suriname were also considered. He actually struck up a deal to send people to Panama, and they had an experiment where they sent 453 Blacks from Virginia to an island in Haiti. There was disease, there was mutiny, and 350 survivors came back to Virginia less than a year later. Y’all, I raised this because a lot of what is happening right now is reminiscent of the very conversations that people were having in 1922 or during reconstruction, right behind emancipation, that, about Black people in America. And in fact, there is a particular quote that I want to read, which sounds like it could be heard on a right-wing radio show today. “Senator McCallum made clear that the spirit of race consciousness he cared about belonged to white people. The goal, he wrote, was that our country may become one in blood as it is in spirit, and that the dream of our forefathers may be realized in the final colonization of the American Negro on his native soil. The resolution does not specifically state whether the proposed mass migration would be voluntary.” So the thing, the thing about this is that a lot of the language that they use to justify sending Black people out of the country is really a lot of the same rhetoric that we hear in, you know, in references to making America great again or the patriotism rhetoric that is coming from the far right that we all know to be dog-whistle politics. And so what this also made me think about was, was a story by Derrick Bell, who is in the news as he’s the father of critical race theory, but more than that, he was the first Black tenured professor at Harvard Law School. He wrote a book called “Faces at the Bottom of the Well” which literally changed my life. You should go get that book. But there’s a story in there Space Traders and in the story, a group of aliens come from outer space and promise to solve all of the United States’ problems—environmental problems, financial problems, et cetera, et cetera—in exchange for all of the Black people. And there’s a big conversation, a national conversation that ensues around whether or not we should send Black people out to the aliens in order to fix our country. And so you should read Space Traders. I won’t give away the ending. There’s also an HBO, I think, movie called Space Traders. But I bring this up because we’re having conversations about teaching accurate history and all of these things, and part of an accurate recounting of history is multiple times over the course of the last few hundred years when our white leaders have actually wanted to remove Black people from the face of America. That’s what we’re dealing with. Happy Black History Month.


DeRay Mckesson: The thing that I’ll add here is, you know, people often talk about racism as if it just shows up in people’s living rooms and kitchens and on their porches. They forget that this was not just the U.S. Congress, but this was municipal governments up and down every ladder, school boards, legislatures—it was all those. And when you look at the historical record, the inequalities that exist in communities today are not simply the byproduct of the federal government, not simply the byproduct of individual decisions made by people sitting in their homes, but also the intentional a byproduct of decisions made in legislatures for specific purposes at every level. And this is just such an incredible reminder because people, you know, I think, sometimes forget that these legislatures have a huge impact on like how big amounts of money flow, right? So like how, where things get built, you know, who is prioritized to save or help in disasters or who get schools—like the macro decisions that people, I think, take for granted in a way that you probably should if everything worked. Like you, the individual citizens, should not be stressed out about the placement of stop signs because you just assume that they are going to be done right or, like, you know, whether the school is going to have running water, but over and over, it’s just a reminder that legislators actively work to disrupt the lives of Black people in intentional ways.


Myles Johnson: Yeah, I think the more interesting part—I mean, I agree with everybody, what everybody says so far—but I think the interesting part is that like, this debate and this tension between like segregation and integration and like leaving—and even now that there’s still, you know, I know people who are like, who signing up for or attempting to sign up for citizenship and Ghana and like all who still want to leave—so these ideas aren’t, it’s interesting that a politic is a politic and depending on who’s mind and who and who’s kind of grabbing it, it depends how like we receive it. Because of course, making somebody do something against their free will is like horrendous and, duh. But then also, I think that it’s really hard to be an adult in America and to never think to yourself privately or publicly—and I’m about to do it publicly—but like things that you privately, publicly be like, well, maybe, maybe that redneck was right, maybe I do need to go back home. Like, maybe that’s not such a bad idea or what does that look like or what would that really feel like and how can I actually get there, and stuff like that? But then I also get reminded that being Black American is such a mix of things now. You know that even when people think like, I think in good faith with other Black people really think about that, I think Being black American is a combination of different things that is not simply—what I don’t want to say simply—it’s not African anymore or just African in any more. And I think that people don’t really gauge the new set of problems that we would face if we were to even like, seriously think that, or there to be like a serious avenue in doing that. But yeah, that’s really all I had to add was that I thought the most interesting part was that like Marcus Garvey was like, Yes, let’s have that happen. Because I think that it’s hard to be Black and not to think that maybe I inherited a set of problems that I can move away from, and maybe, maybe that’s actually the answer. And I know I’ve definitely thought about it, felt that way before, too. But again, when whiteness comes to work, they eliminate choice, they eliminate humanity, and all these other things, and that’s when it becomes, you know, an assault on your own human rights, is when you don’t give people the choice to be able to do what they want to do and you force it because you think you know better for their lives than they do. And that’s the unique, despicable thing about, you know, whiteness as politic.


Kaya Henderson: It’s that for me, Myles, right? Because as somebody who recently bought a house overseas, just in case, I fundamentally believe that, you know, maybe, maybe we do want to be in a different place. I think about it often, as equally as I think about the fact that my ancestors built this country and I have a right to be here. If I choose to go abroad, then that’s my business, but what’s not going to happen is the American government is not going to force me out of here and put me on a ship and send me somewhere where I don’t have a connection and where, you know, I might have ancestral connections. But it’s, you know, we’re seeing the same thing happen, the same thing was trying to happen in a Dominican Republic where they were repatriating Black Dominicans to Haiti. Many of those people had never lived in Haiti their entire lives and hadn’t been in Haiti for generations. And so for governments to decide that they are going to solve a cultural problem by shipping people off, that is unacceptable. And it is complex because another set of folks who were against the proposal in 1922 were plantation owners who were still, who were, you know, using tenant farmers and sharecroppers, and they were like, No, these Black people can’t go nowhere because we need them to work on our land, right? So it is a complex conversation, and I encourage people to read the article or to read Space Traders, because in all of these, you get to see a lot of different perspectives, all of which hold water. The only thing that doesn’t hold water, in my estimation, is the government making a unilateral decision about a people’s destiny.


DeRay Mckesson: So my news is about welfare. One of the big things that happened with welfare reform, if you remember back in the Clinton era, welfare reform was a big part of the plan there. In 1996, one of the ways that, one of the biggest parts of welfare reform is that it changed how states could essentially make eligibility for access to welfare. So they could, they could force people to find jobs before they get cash assistance, they could do a whole lot of things that they couldn’t do before. And they also could like, you know, fund employment and subsidize childcare and stuff like that, but the introduction of work requirements and other sort of loopholes or things to go through to make people prove that they are worthy was one of the big pieces of welfare reform. If you remember, back in that time, the image was like the lazy Black woman who is like abusing the system and wasting resources. So how that brings us to today, so this is a really great article in ProPublica titled “States are Hoarding $5.2 Billion in Welfare Funds, Even as the Need for Aid Grows.” And what sort of blew my mind is that there are 25 states that essentially are like just hanging out with their money. Half of the states in the United States are just like, they have a ton of money left in TANF for temporary assistance to needy families, which is what people call welfare. And they are essentially just sitting on the fund/ so, you know, like I said, $5.2 billion. The article highlights Hawaii, Tennessee and Maine, are the biggest holders of cash. And the story that is recounted in this article is as a mother who has has a kid and she is trying to get on welfare. They tell her she needs a job to be eligible. She’s like, This is the whole point. I can’t get a job, but I need a feed my kids. Then she gets just more hoops and she gets kicked, it’s like a whole process, but they go on to talk about how in Tennessee, $790 million in federal welfare money is just sitting around. It’s the largest pool of unspent welfare dollars anywhere, though they have said they’re going to spend it. Hawaii, $364 million just sitting in an account. Oklahoma, $264 million, which is nearly double its annual allotment of $138 million a year. But it’s one of those things that the government actually, you know, when we talk about the big federal bills, it’s like we actually do fund some of this stuff well. We don’t fund it enough, I mean, there’s always more, but we fund it well. But it only works if the money actually gets down to the individual person. And when we talk about people in power being predators to people who live in poverty or like allowing poverty to flourish or encouraging poverty so people cannot gain political power, this is actually one of the best examples that I’ve seen recently, because it’s not that there’s not money, it’s not that there’s not resources, this is literally an unwillingness to allow poor people to access things that we’ve already said that we’re going to give them so they suffer. I don’t know another way to think about this. And again, as we see, you know, rising child poverty. So 16% of children under age 18 in the U.S. live in poverty, which is up from 14.4% in the year before the data. So I say that to say that like child poverty is rising, the money is specifically supposed to decrease child poverty. The money is there to the billions, and we have not spent it.


Myles Johnson: Also, I was reading this article about Hawaii and how a lot of Native Hawaiians are actually being priced out of their, of their homes. And so a lot of Native Hawaiians are actually experiencing homelessness because of the large amount of people moving to places like Hawaii, like a lot of wealthy Americans moving to places like Hawaii and Puerto Rico, that are territories and basically pricing people who are native to those lands out of their homes. And this makes me think of that because I’m like, Oh, there’s actually a, there’s help right there that’s just not reaching those people. And you know, I’ve taken the stand a lot during this podcast, but I’m always going to use my imagination to think of a, to the think of a nation where no matter what, no matter where you decide to live, that there is some type of infrastructure to make sure you’re always housed and that you have a regular income and that anything else that you get on top of that when we talk about careers and stuff like that is literally extra. Like, I think that no matter where you live, you should always be able to get that. And I know that sounds extremely maybe like fantastical for some people, but it’s articles like that where I’m like, Oh, we got the bread, we we got the money, we have, we have the minds, we just need to have like the willingness to do it and also have the moral integrity to press the button sometimes. Because that’s what that feels like, that feels like a moral integrity problem. I can’t see how you can ever be involved in and have power in politics in any of those states and know that you have homeless people in that state and knowing you have maybe hungry people in that state and know you have this money and not figure out a way—that would gnaw at my soul at night, to know that there are people who are the children and people who are hungry or homeless or who do not have enough, and I literally have the account and all I have to do is figure out a way to tunnel the money through there. That’s, that’s ridiculous. That, that’s, we border on something, that’s evil villain land to me, once you see it and you don’t, you don’t create that tunnel for people.


Kaya Henderson: Myles, I was thinking the same thing. Who are the people making these policies and how do they live with themselves? I mean, in the state of Maine, they’ve limited the lifetime welfare eligibility to five years. So if you’re poor for longer than five years or if you used to be poor, but then you get OK and then something happens again, you don’t have any options. What kind of rule is that, and who made that up? Who thought that was so great? Or in Oklahoma, I mean, one of the things that was so galling to me is that all of these officials are like, Well, so many fewer people in our state need TANF. What?! Like poverty has risen nationally, COVID has taken people out, and what has happened, the reason why there are fewer people on TANF rolls is because they’ve made it harder to access TANF, they have all of these crazy requirements and because lots of people—I mean, when you, getting TANF actually makes you ineligible for other benefits like child support, and so people are making a conscious economic choice. I mean, literally, like in Texas, they deny 90% of the applicants for TANF in the year 2020. 2020, we were in a global pandemic, right? People need money. And so these people who make these rules—in some cases, in Oklahoma, the cash assistance that you can get from TANF is capped at $292 for a family of three people for a month. How are three people living off a $300 for a whole month? Nowhere, anywhere. That can’t happen. But there are, you know, all of these spokespeople in this article who are telling you about how fewer people need TANF and that’s why we have all of this money and we’re going to—and when pressed, they’re like, Well, we’re going to spend the money. And they’re not talking about spending the money on cash transfers, which have been shown to significantly improve the lives of impoverished people, with all of the accompanying research that shows that they don’t buy sneakers or bags or whatever you thought they were going to buy, drugs or liquor—they pay rent, they give their kids school supplies and whatnot. We did a whole piece on that with the child subsidy that expired in December. But these people, as they talk about how they’re going to spend this money that they’ve been sitting on, all they’re talking about is expanding the hoops that people have to jump through: Well, we’re going to give money to the nonprofit sector, to all of these job coaches, career coaches, and these nonprofits that help poor people. Get the money to the poor people and stop acting crazy with it, right? Like why is it that even when we have the money, even when we have demonstrated the need—in fact, one of the officials says that if COVID wasn’t the rainy day that like you needed to spend all of this money, then we’ll never have another rainy day. Give the money to the people. We have the money, you’re going to get more money next year. That’s what block grants do. Get the money to the people. This was this was galling, frankly, to read about these state officials who are holding these billions of dollars and people in their state are literally not eating.


DeRay Mckesson: Before we hop off, I just want to say thank you all for listening. We have been getting, we get love all the time, but we don’t always shout out here on the podcast. But I just wanted to say thank you. You know, I will give one shout out. There is, there’s some of the ads that I read, and there’s one listener in particular who sends me the funniest messages about them. So shout out to her. We’ve DM’d before and I’m like, You are hilarious. So thank you for keeping me on my toes.


Myles Johnson: Yeah. I just want to give a shout out to the Twitter user [unclear]. They said Good morning, just reached out to let you know I loved your segment on the late great Betty Davis this week. I learned so much and your love and passion were both moving and inspiring to me. Love and gratitude.” You know, being new to the podcast and being new to the family, those type of messages makes me feel like, you know, I’m doing something right. So thank you so much.


Kaya Henderson: Another review we got from a listener named Kaya Breezy says, “Absolutely love this podcast. This podcast has been my lifeline through the pandemic. I look forward to every episode. It feels like hanging out with friends during a time when we can’t hang with friends. Thank you.” And that’s the thing that I love about this podcast, that every week I get to hang out with my friends, especially my young friends who keep me hip. And my cool friends. Can I tell you what happened? I was watching TV this week and Blackish, the TV show Blackish had a little Black history sort of commercial, and they’re talking about past people in Black history and they’re talking about present people in Black history. And Junior, who is one of the characters on the show was like, Yeah, people like DeRay McKesson. And I was like, I know, I know him! He’s my friend! He’s creating Black history! And so I’m excited, just like our listeners are, to be on the podcast, to be hanging with friends, and to be hanging with friends like DeRay McKesson, who is creating Black history, and Myles Johnson, who is a Black genius, and De’Ara Ballenger, who is a Black justice warrior. And yeah, all of that.


Myles Johnson: And Kaya, who got a house overseas. [laughter]


DeRay Mckesson: And Kaya, who is an education legend, everybody.


Kaya Henderson: Thanks, y’all.


DeRay Mckesson: Last month, De’Ara shared a Washington Post article about a film, “Invisible Warriors: African-American Women in World War II”, showcasing Black women who were involved in the wartime effort. Director and producer of the film, Professor Gregory Cooke, is here with us today to talk about his research into Black folks’ involvement in the World War II effort. Many historians say that roughly 600,000 African-American women who worked at offices, shipyards, and factories building parts for planes, weapons, and ships, never received much recognition. Professor Cooke gave them their flowers with this film. We take a deep dive into the lives of nine brave Black Rosie the Riveters during that time on the job and how their experiences then have impacted them in the now. The documentary may be screening in a city near you. Here’s my conversation with Professor Gregory Cooke. Here we go.


DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People. Don’t go anywhere, there’s more to come.


[ad break]


DeRay Mckesson: Professor Cooke, thanks so much for joining us today on Pod Save the People.


Professor Gregory Cooke: Thank you very much for having me. It’s a great honor to be on your show and it’s a great honor to have the opportunity to spread the word about African-American women and their contributions to American history.


DeRay Mckesson: So this is so interesting because it’s one of those things where De’Ara mentioned this documentary on the podcast when we were talking about it. And then I was like, Well, let’s just see if we can get him on to talk about it. And then we got you. And then I got to see it and everything. So this is about Invisible Warriors: African-American Women in World War II, the documentary that you did that was covered in the news and that’s how we found about it. But can you start us with how did you even come to study these issues? How did you come to learn about it? Like, how did you get here?


Professor Gregory Cooke: Going on 35 years ago, almost 35 years ago, I was spiritually compelled—and that’s the only word I can use to begin to frame what happened—I was spiritually compelled to go to Bastogne, Belgium. Bastogne is in southern Belgium, it’s in the Ardennes forest, and it was the focal point of the World War II Battle of the Bulge, which was the largest battle the US Army has ever fought and there were thousands of Black men in that battle. And so when I went to Bastogne, I went into the museum and for the first time in my life, I saw African-Americans in a museum related to World War II and I saw African-American men in the diorama. And when I had that experience, it was like an a-ha! moment in life. After that, I started reading about, you know, everything I could about African-Americans in World War II, especially those in Europe. And so what I found that, just for example, there were at the end of the war, they were about 455,000 African-Americans in Europe fighting the war. So I started doing research. I came upon the African-American experience in Great Britain. Prior to D-Day, 140,000 African-Americans in Great Britain, and the dynamics of that were really compelling. But while I was there doing research, that’s when I stumbled upon African-American, that’s when I stumbled upon Rosie Riveter. I mean, Great Britain had never had their female war workers, too. I don’t think they called them, gave them a nickname. But as a result of that, I started looking back in the states, and when I started looking back in the states, that’s when I stumbled upon African-American Rosie the Riveters, so to speak. And there was a professor, Dr. Maureen Honey, she’s actually in the documentary. She had published a book called “Bitter Fruit” and it was about letters and editorials and poetry, largely written by Black women during the war about their experiences. And it was her book, Bitter Fruit, where I’ve stumbled upon the 600,000 figure. And then I did additional research and it held up. There were 600,000 Black women who we now call Rosie the Riveters. And from that, I was able to connect it to a story my mother used to tell me when I was about four years old. My mother has since transitioned, and I didn’t really make this connection until after she left, but when I was about four-years old, my mother used to tell me a story about how she rode in 1943, how she rode on her suitcase—on her suitcase!—from Norfolk, Virginia, to Washington, DC in 1943 to get her, to get her first job. Actually, she told me she was 18, which meant it was 1943. She had just graduated high school, and so she got, went to Washington and got her very first job as a clerk typist in the, in the U.S. patent office. And while my mother’s job was not, was mostly a traditional female job, what—two points about that I’d like to make, one is that prior to the war, a lot of those kinds of jobs, administrative assistants, file clerks, typists, were actually held by white men. And so when the war came, they went into the military. Because of the war and only because of the war, my mother was able to get that job, because prior to the war, it would have been impossible for her to get a job as a clerk typist in the federal government in Washington. And so that’s the abbreviated version about how I got here. And one of the things I’m really proud of as a result of my learning about my mother’s story, I’ve expanded the understanding of who Rosie’s were. My mother was involved in the war. She was involved in the war effort. And during the war, technology exploded, which meant patent, right? I have no idea what she typed, but one thing is true, was true then, is true today, nothing happens anywhere unless someone types up a piece of paper for it to happen. Our paper today is electronic digital paper, but that’s still the process. And so my mother, she contributed to the war. And to that extent, you know, she’s included, as were thousands of other Black women who came to Washington during the war.


DeRay Mckesson: Now, can you zoom all the way out, and tell people, what’s the war you’re talking about? What’s this moment—you know, because for a lot of people, they will need the context. And then, you know, let’s start there and then we’ll keep going.


Professor Gregory Cooke: OK, well, we’re really, we’re talking about World War II. The Eurocentric perspective of World War II is September 9, 1940—I’m sorry, September 9, 1939, which is when Germany invaded Poland. America got involved in World War II, December 7th, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The war ended in September, officially ended in September 1945. So it lasted, the Eurocentric perspective of World War II lasted approximately, about, almost exactly six years.


DeRay Mckesson: Is there another perspective on World War II?


Professor Gregory Cooke: Well, the reality is that if you look at it in a global context, which World War II was a global context, World War II really started in 1931, when the Japanese invaded Manchuria in China, and that invasion was part of the Japanese doctrine, if you will, to expand their empire, seeking natural resources and to acquire land. And so when Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931, it was just beginning, the beginning of a sequence of steps that led to eventually Japan attacking the American Pearl Harbor in 1941. But they were systemically conquering territories in Asia, in the East Asia leading up to that, but it was all part of the same, the same activity. So that’s why I say, you know, we generally accept the Eurocentric perspective, but remember, these people were Japanese and from a Eurocentric perspective, that’s on the other side of the world, that didn’t matter. Although it did, and eventually, the Japanese formed an alliance with the Germans and Adolf Hitler and the Italians and Benito Mussolini. But that really was the beginning of the hostilities that culminated in that Eurocentric perspective of World War II. And it wasn’t until the British and the French declared war on Germany in 1940—I’m sorry in 1939—that is what people generally look at World War, as a starting point of World War II.


DeRay Mckesson: So can you help us understand—so we think about the context of World War II, you know, six years to some, more to others—what were the things that people needed to do? Like, why was it important that Black women were a part of it? What did, like, how did the whole society need to mobilize? Because for most of us, including myself, like I wasn’t alive, right? And you know, and even in watching this, I saw the incredible mobilization of a whole host of people. And I’m like, whoo, that is, that’s wow. And I had the luxury of watching it. Can you help contextualize like, was there really that much work for everybody? Did you, why is it important to highlight the work that Black women did? Yeah, like all of it.


Professor Gregory Cooke: Well, first thing I want to say is Black women have always worked. From the time we got here, you know, Black women have always worked. But World War II represented a total war on the planet for the first time. And so for the first time, civilian populations were mobilized to support the military. And World War II was very unique. So World War II was a global war. You needed people to supply the arms and the ammunition and the other support services of war. So if you send 16 million people, if you put 16 million people in the military—which is what the U.S. military was at the end of the war, there were 16 million people in it, overwhelmingly, males—then someone has to do those jobs that men traditionally did. And I would also say white men traditionally did, because most of these jobs were closed to Black men prior to the war also. So you mobilize the whole society and you needed women to build planes and tanks and go into offices, government offices, etc.. It was just a man and woman power thing that you needed everyone involved. And I’d also say it’s, in my opinion, the only time in American history where everybody, pretty much everybody was pulling in the same direction. Now, because of America and its racism, Blacks and whites pulled separately, but we were still pulling in the same direction. It would have been very difficult to find anybody in America, any family in America who didn’t have skin in the war, whether they were in the military, whether they were a war worker, somebody involved in bond drives, going out and collecting aluminum, you know, it just consumed and required the entire population, you know, the large part of the population in order for this to work. And so that’s why there were so many people involved. And that’s why women became part of the workforce in ways that they had never been part of the workforce before. They were needed.


DeRay Mckesson: And how did you find such incredible footage? You know, I’m looking at some of these interviews and, you know, to hear people, to hear Black women who are alive, like, talk about being sharecroppers and all these things, which is, which feels to so many people like it’s so far away and like, that was hundreds of years ago—like, how did you find all this footage of that era? Was it just hidden somewhere, was it olst, was it like a family footage that you found?


Professor Gregory Cooke: Well, I actually interviewed the women. The interviews you see in color, I actually interviewed those women, so I know them, knew them. Some of them have since transitioned since the interviews, but I knew all those women and I interviewed them. As far as the B-roll, the footage you see, a lot of it is military footage, you know, taken by, mostly by the Army, some by the Navy. And then what’s interesting about Invisible Warriors, and it kind of speaks to the status of Black women and how Black people in general and Black women in particular were seen in the war—Invisible War has a running time of 65 minutes, but they’re more than, there are about 450 images in the documentary, still images. That’s a lot for one hour. But I had to use what was there. So there wasn’t a lot of B-roll. There wasn’t a lot of film of Black women working in factories and doing these other jobs, right, but there were more still images that I was able to find there in the Library of Congress and in places like that. As far as I know, for example, I have never seen any type of recruitment poster geared towards recruiting Black women during World War II, whether for civilian jobs or for enlistment in the military.


DeRay Mckesson: What surprised you in putting this together? Was there anything that you learned that was like, Wow, this isn’t what I thought or like, it was surprising to you?


Professor Gregory Cooke: I think there were two points. The first was I have eight Roses in my documentary, and only one of those women understood her historic significance. The other women in my documentary—except for Dr. Dorothy Height, she understood immediately, she lived through the time and she was a mover and shaker in Washington—but the other women had no idea of the historic significance. So I had to give them a brief history lesson and convince them to be in the documentary. And I understood where they were coming from. For them was this job. It was the best-paying job they they could have ever imagined, but it was just a job. And so after the war, they went on and got on with their lives, and for the most part, no one ever asked them about what they did during the war. And sometimes it might come up in family discussions, but that’s really where it stops, but for the most part, these women didn’t really talk about what they did during the war. And so that was very surprising to me, that they just had no context or understanding of how historically significant they were. And the other thing that was surprising to me was that—you know, I’ve moved in the realm of academics for years—and the other thing that was surprising to me was that many, many, overwhelmingly most African-American scholars, historians, knew nothing—at least that I talked to—knew nothing about these women. And that was kind of surprising to me. But then as I look at that, for some reason—and I don’t know why this is in my opinion—World War II been largely, has not been covered and analyzed nearly as much as I believe it should have been. There are a lot of Black scholars who deal with the Civil War reconstruction, right? And so they should, but World II, in my opinion, was the greatest event, singular event in human history, and in my opinion, World War II was the most significant event of the 20th century for African-Americans. Because without World War II, we might have had, I assume we would have had a civil rights movement, but in all likelihood, it would have come much later in the century. And what’s important about, so that’s why I say that those were the two surprises, really, that, you know, the women themselves didn’t really understand their significance, and the Black scholars have largely ignored World War II, or not, definitely not giving it the kind of attention it deserves from an African-American perspective.


DeRay Mckesson: One of the surprising people was A. Philip Randolph. You know, they talk about him as an organizer and then they contextualize the support that Black women have for his organizing and the organizing in Black communities, and how it was the presence of a mobilized core of Black people that sort of forced the president’s hand. Can you talk about why that moment was significant?


Professor Gregory Cooke: Yeah. A. Philip Randolph was a giant in the American labor movement. He formed the first largest union, Black union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and they were the Back men who worked on America’s passenger railroads, you know, in dining cars and bedroom cars, etc. You know, catering overwhelmingly to, exclusively pretty much the white clientele. And so A. Philip Randolph had formed this union and so as a result of that, he had a great deal of muscle and clout. And so the, if you were a Pullman Porter, it was one of those jobs in the Black community where you got big-time respect, and you got to ride all over the country. And so because he had this kind of, you know, social capital and muscle in the Black community and in the labor movement, he put that to work. So in June 1940—now this is like a year and a half before America even got into the war—but in June 1940, he was organizing the first Great March on Washington. He was going to have 100,000 Black folks come to Washington to demonstrate and protest against hiring practices and discriminatory practices and employment, both in the federal government and in the private sector, right? So as a result of that pressure that he was going to bring, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt pretty much blinked and said, OK, call off the march, and he signed the Executive Order 8802, which then forbid the discrimination hiring against Blacks, women, etc. in companies that received government contracts, which is pretty much everybody. Now, just because he passed 8802, there was still a lot of companies and businesses that either ignored it altogether or only partially enforced it. I’d also like to say A. Philip Randolph is the same guy along with Bayard Rustin, who organized the 1963 March on Washington, where King did his “I have a dream” speech. And so, you know, A. Philip Randolph is a giant in terms of African-American history. He was a socialist, which, you know, may or may not play well with some people, but he was central to helping to establish the Black middle class and support the Black middle class in America.


DeRay Mckesson: Boom. Can you tell, can people watch the film right now? How can people get access to the film? Is there a way?


Professor Gregory Cooke: Not really. It’s not, it’s not ready for public distribution yet. What I do is select screenings. So, for example, Morgan State University on March 10th is doing a screening, and they’re also honoring one of the Roses in the film, Mrs. Susan King, who’s 97, going on 98. She’s a Morgan alum, so there is a screening on March 10th. People must register. And there are some other screenings coming up as well that I’m doing, but that’s the closest one. But it’s not available to the public yet as something just being out there.


DeRay Mckesson: Got it. Well, we consider your friend of the pod and can’t wait to have you back.


Professor Gregory Cooke: Thank you.


DeRay Mckesson, narrating: 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 A.J. Moultrie and mixed by Veronica Simonetti, and executive produced by me. Special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger and Myles Johnson.