In This Episode
DeRay, Myles, Kaya and De’Ara cover the underreported news of the week — community policing in Brooklyn, the evolution of artificial intelligence, ongoing tragedy at Rikers and the life and legacy of Tina Turner.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay and welcome to Pod Save the People. Welcome to June and Happy Pride Month, everybody. This episode, the gang’s all here. It’s me, De’Ara, Myles and Kaya talking about all the news that you don’t know from the past week. All the underreported news with regard to race, justice and equity. We talk about presidential candidacies, community policing, the evolution of A.I. and what’s happening at Rikers. We also honor the life and legacy of the late Tina Turner. Great conversation and more interviews coming this month. Here we go.
De’Ara Balenger: Family. Welcome to another episode 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 on Instagram and Twitter at @pharaohrapture.
Kaya Henderson: I’m Kaya Henderson. You can find me on Twitter at @HendersonKaya
DeRay Mckesson: And this is DeRay at @deray on Twitter.
De’Ara Balenger: I was very excited to get into the summer, but week after week, these dum dums are announcing their candidacy for president. [laughter] This week’s contestant was Tim Scott, who I haven’t been able to stomach, I don’t know, probably since I was in, in law school? I don’t know. It’s been like years and years with this man, this this Black Republican from South Carolina torturing us with his really absurd politics. Um. I don’t know who is supporting his campaign. I just, I just I want to know what’s happening with the GOP right now. And it’s going to be fascinating to see what happens at their convention because it seems like they’d want to throw all their eggs into the DeSantis bucket. Since he has just gotten so popular um and had so many successes in Florida. But I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t have anything positive to say about Tim Scott. Not one thing.
Kaya Henderson: Well, this week you had Tim Scott. You have um–
De’Ara Balenger: Christie.
Kaya Henderson: –Mike Pence. Chris Christie there right? [laugh] There’s a whole lot of action going on with people stepping up to um to run. And I think one of the things that was interesting that happened this week was the GOP is requiring these people to sign a loyalty pledge, which basically says that um that all of these candidates will ultimately endorse and support whoever the nominee is. And I think that is fascinating because–
De’Ara Balenger: What?
Kaya Henderson: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And they are like, if you want our money, which is fair, right? If you want our money, then you got to support the eventual candidate, the person who you know, who is successful in the process. And the real question is whether or not Mr. Trump is going to is going to sign the loyalty pledge. Right. Because, you know, he don’t give a hoot.
Myles E. Johnson: But oh, my goodness, that’s still no pos– you know, I’m a praying grandma, so not a possibility of jail time for Trump? What’s going on? What’s going on in the [?]?
Kaya Henderson: I think I think there is I think the Mar-a-Lago thing, case is proceeding and the Georgia election fraud case is proceeding. I think that we just don’t know what the timing is on these things. But it’s not I mean, there’s there are still possibilities for sure.
Myles E. Johnson: Okay. Well, let God be true quickly.
DeRay Mckesson: And on the um on the Democrat side, I don’t know if you saw that um RFK Jr. has said that he’s running on the Dems. RFK Junior, the son of Robert F. Kennedy.
De’Ara Balenger: Who?
DeRay Mckesson: RF Kennedy. [laugh]
De’Ara Balenger: No. He can’t be a Junior. He’s a Junior?
Kaya Henderson: Excuse me what?
DeRay Mckesson: Yeah, RFK Jr.
De’Ara Balenger: He’s got to be like a third or something. [indistinct]
DeRay Mckesson: No, Robert Kennedy Jr. He’s. I mean, he’s 70 something, but he is [laughter] he’s that’s him. He’s [laughing] It’s him. RFK Jr. So, as you as you might know, he is a big conspiracy theorist.
De’Ara Balenger: Oh gosh.
DeRay Mckesson: And he is a vaccine denier. He went on record saying that he talks to dead people regularly, but then clarified that he gets no strategic advice from them. He is as [?]–
De’Ara Balenger: Listen, I–
Kaya Henderson: Why are we talking about this? [laugh]
De’Ara Balenger: But I’m also–
DeRay Mckesson: Because he is–
De’Ara Balenger: Listen, they have so many dead people in they family. If he need to talk to some of them, that is all right. [laughter]
DeRay Mckesson: And um he’s a big vaccine truther like anti-vaccine guy all the way. But it was a big deal because Elon and crew, like propped him up–
De’Ara Balenger: Oh God.
DeRay Mckesson: –on Twitter over over the weekend.
Kaya Henderson: Sweet baby Jesus.
DeRay Mckesson: And they like retweeted him and was like, you know, somebody needs to challenge Biden. It was that they sort of flamed that rhetoric up. And I just like everything what people said about the DeSantis and I mean Lord this is just gonna be a rough go round and you know, the we can’t not talk about the Biden trip. Biden tripped on a stage.
Kaya Henderson: Oh my gosh.
De’Ara Balenger: Oh DeRay. Please. DeRay. No, no, no. [banter]
DeRay Mckesson: And I’m just saying it happened.
De’Ara Balenger: No no no.
DeRay Mckesson: And it, it was just like the only thing people would talk about. I’m like the man tripped y’all. I don’t know what else to I don’t know if this should spawn 50,000 think pieces.
Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. He’s not he’s not beating those old man allegations. And [laughter] like I just think that that is so much of anybody who’s dissenting against Biden. And I think that so much of the narrative and what people think about um when it comes to him. So, yeah, even something as, you know, normal and human as a trip. Just just looks at extra Crypt Keeper coming from um Biden.
Kaya Henderson: You know, falls–
Myles E. Johnson: It’s scary.
Kaya Henderson: –falls falls hit very different for older people.
De’Ara Balenger: Of that age.
Kaya Henderson: Than they do for younger people.
De’Ara Balenger: I know.
Kaya Henderson: And so it is a real concern for sure. But, I mean, you know, we’ve talked about this before, right? The fact that we got all of these old folks who are running our country like that is a it’s not the sign of a healthy country. We just went through the Dianne Feinstein thing.
De’Ara Balenger: Ugh.
Kaya Henderson: And I like this this is problematic. And having you know, when you think about the stress of the presidency, that thing is real. So I think people are not being unreasonable to question his physicality. Um. And, you know, some people are spry and whatever. Anyway, let’s talk about something else y’all. Geez, Louise. [laughing]
Myles E. Johnson: Goodness gracious.
Kaya Henderson: I can’t even. [laughing]
De’Ara Balenger: Oh, Little Mermaid. We were going to talk about Little Mermaid. Myles and I haven’t seen it yet. I hope. I mean that means–
Kaya Henderson: I haven’t seen it either.
De’Ara Balenger: That means that means more for Myles on on Twitter than it does for I, obviously. So I don’t–
Myles E. Johnson: First of all De’ara, what I tell you all what I haven’t seen is private. [laughter] Is not the same thing that I say that I haven’t seen in public now, you done blew up my whole spot. How am I supposed to be Black culture critic–
De’Ara Balenger: We–
Myles E. Johnson: [indistinct]. [laughter] Goodness De’Ara. You are a op. Like the young kids say. [laughter]
DeRay Mckesson: [indistinct]
De’Ara Balenger: We’re going to see it very soon. We’re going to see it very soon. And we’ll have things to say.
Myles E. Johnson: Allegedly, since I’m still going to hold on that I seen it. [laughter]
DeRay Mckesson: Mmm. Let me tell you the movie did with Black people is an experience, as you already know. And I go, we go on, me and my friends go on the the night opens on Thursday and the part of your world, part of this world, part of that world, your world, their world, part of that world. That song comes on very quickly in the movie. It’s probably like maybe 10 minutes in, she’s singing it. And this little kid next to me goes, dad they sang that already? I’m like ah. [indistinct] [laughing] They sang the song already? [laughter] And then as you know, because you’ve seen The Little Mermaid before, like, you know, the prince drowns or is drowning and then she rescues him. All of that happens early because that’s the set up for the movie. And, you know, she’s singing over him to bring him back. And this is all early. And one of the other kids goes that’s weird, she don’t know him. And I’m like [laughter] I love it. It was like the best commentary because you’re like it is sort of dramatic that she’s like singing over this boy in love with him has not even met him conscious because he was drowning. And the little kid was like, that’s weird. She don’t know him I’m like, I love us.
Myles E. Johnson: I do love to see the um kind of the social media protection of the film. Um. Every now and then there’s something that like, I guess enough people decide needs to be successful or needs to be coveted, that they’re like no so uh like and just like block stuff. So I remember seeing this article that was bad um about how The Little Mermaid like glossed over timing and chattel slavery. And in that article I saw get just annihilated by everybody, which was fun. I saw somebody suggest that, like, Halle should have, like redder hair. That guy [laughing] got annihilated. I just like that to see, like, all these Black people say, no it’s perfect. No it’s perfect. We probably won’t actually get true constructive critiques or whatever about this film until ten years, until we’re like in in the black or with it.
De’Ara Balenger: Do you do you think that has a little bit to do with like she’s like a tentacle of Beyoncé and the Beehive is also like, don’t do anything that we don’t like?
DeRay Mckesson: No because people are very mean to Chloe, so.
De’Ara Balenger: Oh.
DeRay Mckesson: No.
Kaya Henderson: Why?
Myles E. Johnson: Ok.
Kaya Henderson: Why is that?
De’Ara Balenger: I don’t know. Don’t I. I’m the wrong person to answer.
Kaya Henderson: I just saw them, that I just saw them on that’s my jam. And Chloe was doing all the things. She was fantastic. I don’t know those girls like that. But–
Myles E. Johnson: I think Chloe has just had a very public, artistic, [laugh] up and down rollercoaster, you know?
Kaya Henderson: I see I see.
Myles E. Johnson: So I think identity cri– like a public identity crisis. So I think that some people are were critiquing her public identity crisis really harshly. So I didn’t get to speak about this. We didn’t get to speak about this. But my news is about the passing of the legendary iconic Tina Turner. Tina Turner is obviously probably nothing I could say that has not already been written in like 10,000 articles by now about Tina Turner. She is one of the architects of rock and roll. She uh has been influential to rock stars like Mick Jagger. Um. I think the other thing that I became more, I always knew, but became more illuminated about um with Tina Turner’s passing is how much of her DNA is just in everybody’s performances and in every and everybody’s um stage presence. And how when I do think about because obviously the connections between like a Beyoncé or Beyoncé and a um and a Janet Jackson or Beyoncé and um a Diana Ross are easy but like it’s really Tina Turner who somebody like Beyonce has taken so much um so much lead from. And I was just really inspired by her life. And often, you know, when people pass, I think there’s this like public sadness and melancholy, which there was. But I don’t know, y’all. It just it was just really hard for me get to get to a sad place about Tina Turner passing when you know what she went through, when you know that, you know, she was just living in terror for so many years. And then she grabbed them beads chile, and ran across that highway and had a whole second life, according to the film. [laugh] I don’t know, I don’t know how much of that is um of uh cinematic poetry, but it’s just it’s just hard to see somebody who has been such a survivor and be a champion and be so talented and so influential and find love again. And her her her man gave her a kidney. I asked Sunny, my partner, would he do that for me? He said, No. I think that if you’re kidney goes [laughter] that might be your time. [laughter] And who am I to intercept God. And I said, okay, I need to grab me my beads, because obviously, I’m not [?]–
De’Ara Balenger: That’s good to know. That’s good to know.
Myles E. Johnson: Right? I’m not chanting hard enough. But um [laughter] but but yeah, just an inspiring life. Really hard for me to get to a sad place around Tina Turner. It’s just su– all admiration, all love and just yeah, just internally. Eternally, excuse me. Inspired by her influence. And if you have a favorite Tina Turner moment.
De’Ara Balenger: Oh.
Myles E. Johnson: I would like to hear a favorite Tina Turner moment.
DeRay Mckesson: I will say before the favorite Tina Turner moment, um the documentary was just so sad because people didn’t do right by her, you know, for so long and you know what was in that question when they were like, were you happy? And she was just like no, you know, it’s like people did wrong by her for so long. People joked about her. Still, the Beyonce and Jay-Z, that that that b-line is like, you know, eat the cake Anna Mae, it’s just like people you were your trauma was a joke for so long. So that is what stuck out to me. And then the other thing was um I was watching a clip of a portrayal of the trial where she was like, I don’t want nothing but my name. And like, that scene was just like an iconic, you know, as Ike terrorized her and and abused her in every way that you can imagine. She’s like, all I want is my name. And it’s like, she got it, you know, and and became the Tina Turner that we all know. And and then I was looking back at the performance where she goes out on that um on the the walkway [?] that steal beam, no harness no ropes up like Tina, ha! Who insured this tour? Who who had insurance on this tour cause she was out there [laughter] in heels running with not a harness in sight. Tina did it.
Myles E. Johnson: Goodness.
Kaya Henderson: Yeah. I mean, I feel like she gave so much. And you’re right DeRay, like, people didn’t treat her well at all. Um. Even after she got even after she you know left Ike, it took a little while before she hit big and she was, you know, playing in cheesy lounges and stuff like that. But what was interesting to me is how she chose to live the final half, the final act of her life, which was incredibly private, um just her and her man in Switzerland doing their thing. And, you know, um I was especially taken by the piece in the article which talks about the fact that while like we celebrate the fact that she used her trauma to empower people and to, you know, help survivors cope and whatever, that like she was reliving that trauma with every movie, with every Broadway thing, with every interview. Right. Like over and over and over again, your trauma, you know, that was that maybe that was 30 years of her life of a, you know, 80 year life. And we don’t talk a lot about how she lived the last 30 years. And, you know, people sort of totally downplayed her final relationship the the marriage that she had um with Erwin Bach and and I like it I’m it makes me it resonates with me because, like, my greatest wish is that people can be free and happy. And it seems like she found her freedom and her happiness and like, that’s like that’s the real freedom. The freedom is not just freedom from Ike or, you know, making a hit record like she found her happy and like, we don’t have access to that, but we don’t talk about that at all. And that is the thing that sort of struck me about her death.
De’Ara Balenger: So I’ve been playing around just with this, this concept or theory of mine that this whole narrative around Black women being so resilient and you can just beat us with a stick and we’ll still survive and da da. I think it’s false. I think that the survival and the thriving of Black women actually comes from our ability to create boundaries. Our ability to take care of ourselves. And I think Tina Turner is a perfect example of that. This woman was a Buddhist. This woman um moved to Switzerland, became a citizen of Switzerland, lived in Zurich. On my Instagram, like my little tribute to her was her being like, when I look out across Lake Zurich, we don’t know where her accent came from [laughter] but she got one, and I think she is and to your point right, she lived her life in private and she lived her life for her, I think, in those later years. And I think that’s what I appreciate most about her is her ability to also just rest. She was like, I’m done with y’all, and I’m about to rest my body. Um. So I don’t know. I think that’s what I’ve been really, really, since she passed really been playing around with this idea of Black women, you know, knowing we’ve we’ve been eating organic vegetables because we’ve been growing them. We have been moving our bod– like, there’s so many so many examples to point to in terms of how we are able to take care of ourselves. And so I think Miss Tina was number one at that. And I hope to follow in her legacy in doing that as well. So thank you, Myles, for bringing Miss Tina to to the pod.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People is coming.
[AD BREAK] [music break]
De’Ara Balenger: Actually, Pao sent me this article over the weekend, and I found it really, really fascinating. And it’s happening in a neighborhood in Brooklyn called Brownsville. And what’s happening is that instead of the police responding to 911 calls, they’re relying on a nonprofit organization who really has been fighting uh violence, been fighting uh gun violence um in the neighborhood. And it consists of let me find so the the organization is called Brownsville In, Violence Out. And what’s happening is that for it’s particularly happening on two blocks. It’s five days a week. The police Channel 911 calls to civilians um unless there’s a major incident or victim demands an arrest um the these incidents get channeled uh to individuals in this organization. Now, they don’t have arrest power, um but they have persuaded people to turn in illegal guns. They prevented shoplifting, kept a man from robbing a bodega, stopped a pregnant woman from hitting a boyfriend who had not bought a car seat and they got in a beef. I’m not going to read the particulars of it, y’all go to the article instead, but they’ve been protecting um people in kind of these more minor incidents. And ultimately they’re part of the Brownsville Safety Alliance. So it’s a group of neighborhood and Citigroup’s police officers and then members of Kings County, which is Brooklyn, the county Brooklyn consists of. Um. Kings County district attorney’s office, and they’re trying to ensure that fewer people are arrested and entangled in the criminal justice system, which I think given what we know is happening at Rikers, is actually critical. Um. So men and women from Brownsville In, Violence Out watch for trouble. They work with agencies offering services like free childcare, addiction recovery. Uh. They distribute pamphlets um about different opportunities for services in the city. And the city has seen this program to have some success. And so they’re looking to provide 2.1 million to help link local organizations like these to participate more frequently in the Safety Alliance’s work. I’m hoping that they can work cohesively as as the years go on, um and this effort actually mirrors um something that’s that has sprung up I think is probably hap– happening nationally, but it’s happening in New York and it’s happening post George Floyd uh killing in Minneapolis and it’s yeah. And it’s meant to really work with neighborhoods um as a tool to one again keep people out of the system, but also really to use community to try to squash some of these incidents that are arising. And there’s in Brownsville in particular, there’s, you know, some some folks are for it, some folks are against it. But it seems generally that most folks are are are for it and have been supportive of this and and are using it. Um. And and how this came about is that Terrell Anderson, who in 2020 took over the Brownsville precinct, um he just he knew that he needed to have a different relationship with the community. And and folks had been complaining that officers had become more aggressive. They grabbing folks off the streets, arrest them for minor offenses. And in 2019 there was shooting of Kwesi Ashun, a T-shirt vendor with paranoid schizophrenia, and he was killed as he swung at an officer. So this this particular inspector asked residents to to join this process um and it seems to be having some some success. Um. Another another story in this article that was that was [pause] was you know, it just one it shows the gaps in our system, but also shows what happens when community members show up because they show up so much differently than police officers. There was a young woman who was found on the street and clearly had severe mental illness. Um. And the folk, the people in the organization called to try to see if they could get her a bed, um but they wouldn’t have one available for 24 hours. And so what they did is and they found a shelter for her to go to, unfortunately, she was gone the next day. But it just goes to show um that, one, there’s just a deeper, greater care that comes with trying to, you know, get people the support that they need um instead of, you know, having this woman be arrested and and and sent to jail. So I don’t know. I just wanted to share this with the pod um. You know, just curious around y’all’s thoughts. Um. It’s so interesting to me because even when I’m I live in Williamsburg. And I never see police officers, to be quite honest. I never see them there in Williamsburg. I live in a predominantly white, extremely gentrified neighborhood. But if I’m in Bed-Stuy or if I’m, you know, across Prospect Park, I see police everywhere. And they never speak. Which I find so interesting. And so, of course, I’m always speaking to them to see if they’ll engage or whatever. But I just feel like there is even such a dissonance around police officers, just just interacting with like, basic manners [laugh] and basic like um and, you know, you are in a community, you need to act like you need to know what’s going on, you need to talk to folks. You need to and I just I don’t I don’t feel that um in New York anyway. So I thought this was a interesting thing that the folks who are in that community are kind of taking matters into their own hands. Now, I will say I looked up the umbrella organization for this one. You know, it’s all white leadership. It’s clearly like a nonprofit that’s going to get a ton of city funding. So, I mean, I have lots of thought, obviously, on like what’s what’s happening there, because most of these people no, all of the folks that are that are um answering these calls that are funneled through 911 are all volunteers. So I don’t understand why they’re working for free when this umbrella nonprofit, I’m sure, is the one that’s going to get some portion of that to $2.1 million dollars that the city has committed. Um. But that’s you know, y’all know I love to look at leadership and a board, um but I think that that’s for later. But just wanted to bring it to y’all I thought it was fascinating. It seems like they’re like really seeing success with this model.
Kaya Henderson: I thought, De’Ara, thanks for bringing this. I thought it was a great example of two things that are really important um to me. One is [clears throat] sort of co-creation with the community, right? Like over the course of my like, whatever, 30 years in the professional world, like the best solutions are the ones that come from the community because the people closest to the problem usually have the best solutions. And um when and they come when you actually co-create together. Right. And so the community may not have the resources or the power or the access, but once you combine those folks with resources, access and power with the community’s ideas and solutions, I think you get results that are positive, that are sustainable, that are and this was a great example of that. The other thing that I thought is this really to me highlighted the reason why people from communities have to be in leadership. This didn’t happen when there were random outsiders running the police department. This happened when a Brownsville resident became the precinct captain, and even when he was transferred, it continued because another Brownsville resident, like homegrown people who are in leadership in the police department, believed enough in this community. Right. They they come from the community so that they know that these communities actually have assets and assets to be mined and to be utilized in problem solving. And so I think it’s really important for us to understand that homegrown leadership makes a huge difference. Um. And so thanks for bringing this. I thought it was a great example of what happens when we actually believe in and invest in and support our own communities. We can solve our own problems.
Myles E. Johnson: Yeah, thank you for bringing this to the pod. Um. Really, really fascinating. I think I have a little bit of um probably healthy, like intellectual tension around collaborating with the police um and always will be wary about about those things. Um. And but I think any effort to stop people from interacting with um incarceration is just well worth it. And I’m really hoping that more communities and more places maybe take this model if it works and spread it and use it and maybe, you know, I’m you know, I’m a pragmatic optimist politically, usually most of the times in my opinion. So [laugh] I would love to see a world in years to come where this is just normal because, like um DeRay said, uh it feels like yesterday but this might be like over three weeks now. But when we were talking about Kitty um Kitty Genevieve [correction: Genovese], um how like 911 was invented. [laugh] So it came from somewhere. It didn’t just pop up. And I think we forget about that. Um. We might be looking at something that is being invented and, you know, maybe in 50 years that will just be the normal. And we’ll look back on certain times where we were all interacting with the police all the time and we’ll be like that was a really weird era. Um. Yeah. Just, you know, rose colored glasses.
DeRay Mckesson: I will say, you know, this is important that it was in Brownsville, in a Black neighborhood in the biggest city in the country, because the other stories that get this much attention around alternatives to the police are always in predominantly white communities. So when you hear people talk, you’re like, well, they only have 2% Black people. So of course they diverted the calls from the police. You know, like that and we we don’t hear the stories and are like we can replicate that. We hear the stories and we’re like, okay, that was an outlier because there are no people of color, which is what we’re trying to get to. So that was a big deal that this is Brownsville. And I, the only thing I’ll highlight is sort of what you said at the what you started to talk about at the end is that even with the best interventions and the best responses that were not people with guns, the structural supports that they even needed to connect people with, they failed.
De’Ara Balenger: They’re not there. Yup.
DeRay Mckesson: So it’s like, what do you do when you call the crisis center and they tell you, just kidding. It’ll take–
De’Ara Balenger: No excuse.
DeRay Mckesson: –another day. What do you–
De’Ara Balenger: Yup.
DeRay Mckesson: –do when you get somebody to go to a shelter and they don’t have a bed until, you know, a couple mornings or the next morning? Like, what do you do when you actually do stop the crisis and try to get somebody to the service and like they just, the service is broken. And I’ll talk about Eric Adams later. But but I’m always mindful that in these cities, even with the worst mayors, they cannot do it alone. There’s a council that enables it or like there there is a structural check. Even if leveraging that check is really hard, it exists. And that’s what I’m reminded of when I think about this story and and my news a little later. The other thing I’ll say is I was in New York uh last week and I was coming back from the gym and got off the subway and there were two police officers standing like, looking, they were in they were inside the they were past the turnstiles. They were inside and they were just watching people waiting for people to jump the turnstiles. And it infuriated me and I and I get out, there’s this little Black girl. She must have been like maybe, maybe a high schooler um and she is needing somebody to swipe her in like she doesn’t have any money. But the cops are just like waiting for her. And I swipe that girl in and and it was a moment where it’s like, we don’t have to live in a world like this and that and then NY um and then the state of New York just released data that said they lost $690 million dollars to fare er fare evasion last year um despite increased police presence. Like the police don’t work anyway y’all. The police don’t work in all of the things. But when you read the headline, when people hear MTA, they think that is the subway system and when you dig into it. More than 300 million of that was the busses. And then when you start to read even more, you’re like, well, how y’all how do you know who evaded like, what was what’s the metric? Like, how did you measure this? And it’s like they got sensors on the busses that I’m like, I don’t even know if I believe this now, you know, like, y’all are making up stuff at this point. But that–
Kaya Henderson: –[?] the people who use public transportation. Most of the people who use public transportation and are evading theirs are people who are economic in economic distress. And so like, let’s deal with that. I was sort of heartened by some news coming out of D.C. this week that um Metro here, which, you know, also allegedly loses a zillion dollars or whatever, but they’ve figured out that they need to create a half price system for people who are on public assistance. And that feels smart to me. I mean, we we found out when I was running schools that most of our kids were truant because their bus passes ran out–
De’Ara Balenger: Right.
Kaya Henderson: –halfway through the month. Right. And so they weren’t coming to school because they didn’t have transportation. And so let’s stop criminalizing this. Let’s treat these people need to go to work. They need to get around the city. They need to whatever, whatever. So let’s make it reasonable for them. And then you don’t have all of this fare evasion and whatnot.
DeRay Mckesson: And the response can’t be jail. You’re like–
Myles E. Johnson: Right.
De’Ara Balenger: Yeah.
DeRay Mckesson: –that is a–
Kaya Henderson: Right.
DeRay Mckesson: Or a citation it’s like you’re going to cite them for more than the cost of the fare in the first place. That doesn’t make sense. Jail doesn’t correct anything. You’re right, Kaya. It’s like we should just do right by people on the front end, like, let’s help people because people are evading the fare because they literally can’t afford it. And there was this great tweet that I saw somebody was like, you know, poverty is not poverty is when you don’t have enough money to live. It is not when you don’t have a money, not enough money to afford a lifestyle. So it’s like because you can’t–
De’Ara Balenger: Right.
DeRay Mckesson: –live in a bigger house or buy, you know, more clothes. That’s not poverty. Poverty is when you don’t have money to live.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People. Stay tuned. There’s more to come.
Kaya Henderson: My news this week uh examines the impact of ChatGPT on jobs in the United States. And I’m bringing this to the pod because I feel like there are a lot of people who have no idea about what this technology can do or how fast it is expanding. Um. And if you have not played with a little ChatGPT, it’s free. Um. Just download the app and get in there and see what the thing could do. The first thing um when I was when I started playing with ChatGPT I had just had a speech written. Um. I was doing a speech somewhere. And so I called my old chief of staff and I said, look, I need you to write me a speech. He said, okay, great. I said, I’ll pay you. Cool. He writes the speech. I delivered the speech. It was all good. The next week, literally, I start playing with ChatGPT and I’m like, write me a 100 word speech about education in the style of Kaya Henderson. And they’re like, Hmm. Kaya Henderson, the former chancellor of D.C. public schools, who focuses on high out– on on, you know, outcomes for all kids and equity and blah, blah, blah. Yes, we can do that. And it generated a 100 word speech that um number one sounded, it didn’t sound like me, like it was me. It was better than me. [laughter] It was. [laughter] And I called Pete and I was like, Pete you are out of a job [?]. [laughter] And and that is what my article is about this week. Um. Some economists actually predict that artificial intelligence technology, like ChatGPT, could replace hundreds of millions of jobs in a cataclysmic reorganization of the workforce mirroring the industrial revolution. That is a direct quote from the article. Um. People are feeling the impact right now, um and um they highlight a couple of folks, Olivia, who’s a 25 year old copywriter in San Francisco, who lost her job because it was cheaper for her company to generate documents and writings with ChatGPT than her. Um. And they also highlight a guy named Eric, who’s a 34 year old content writer in Indiana, who lost his entire business. He had a content writing business and he wrote for lots of companies, and he lost his business overnight because all of his clients went to using ChatGPT. Um. People like copywriters, document translation and transcribers and paralegal work. Um. Those those fields are um are seeing the immediate impact of this. Um. People in the first this first wave is really writers of marketing and social media content, and they are being replaced by chat bots. Um. What’s interesting is that um the jobs everybody sort of understood that technology could could eliminate the really menial jobs and and and low, low level jobs. But this AI currently performs more like a high end intern. So um those kinds of um jobs that are sort of entry level in offices are really what this technology is targeting. Um. They are coming for jobs that were supposed to be automation proof. These are high earning jobs, creative jobs, that require the most educational background. And Goldman Sachs predicts that 18% of jobs worldwide could be automated by this technology. Um. They feel like lawyers are sort of the next target. And while the technology is not so great right now, there’s a there was an article about a lawyer who you used ChatGPT to prepare briefs for a case, and the technology came up with all of these fictitious cases and whatnot. And and, you know, it was it was a bad legal strategy. The thing is, this technology is getting smart really, really fast. And so what ChatGPT four, which was just released mid-April can do, is way different and way better than what ChatGPT three could do you know, in November. This thing is happening like hotcakes and the more you feed it and the more information that it has, the better it gets. And so I feel like um I feel like this is something that especially members of our community are not really aware of. Um. I was talking to um a 17 year old little Black boy here in Washington, D.C., and I was like, have you played with ChatGPT? And he was like, what? Meanwhile, you know, my frie–, my white friends, my wealthy friends, their kids are using ChatGPT to refine their essays or to generate their essays or to do homework or whatever. And so I think that um there’s really a need for our community to understand what this technology is, what it does, um and to understand the future of the job market. What’s interesting, one of the most interesting things is that the jobs that are safest right now are jobs that require physical labor um or jobs that are that happen outside. And so um Olivia, the copywriter who lost her job, is is becoming a dog walker. And let me tell you about as somebody who pays a dog walker, they make a lot of money. Um. Eric, who lost his business, is actually pursuing HVAC training and plumbing training. And I think what we will see is a return of the importance of the trades, um the construction trades, vocational trades, because while some of that is automatable, some of that you can automate [laugh] a lot of it you cannot um because you can’t put a computer outside when it’s raining. How about that? So I [laughing] brought this to the pod.
Myles E. Johnson: I love that summary. [laugh]
Kaya Henderson: Because [laughter] I brought this to the pod because I feel like y’all the computers are not coming, the computers are here. Um. It is only going to happen more and more quickly. And we need to understand what is going on.
De’Ara Balenger: Okay. So DeRay and I were at TED this year where there was a whole day of AI conversations. So the ChatGPT guy, um Greg Brockman, he’s one of the co-founders. He did a talk. It was the most terrifying talk. It was like Darth Vader dressed in white tech man’s uniform, was up there talking about how amazing this product was and how it was going to improve humankind. Now, he couldn’t give not ne’er one way it was going to improve the humankind. And the more he went on in the examples he gave, I was like, this is wild. What is happening to? What is what is going to happen in this world? And what we have to understand is the folks who are putting money and resource and power into this movement are folks who really only have to gain. Right. So they are true capitalists in the truest sense. Elon Musk put $50 million dollars into this thing. It [laugh] right now chat uh ChatGPT is estimated at $29 billion dollars. So this thing started off as like an open source. It was cute. It was nonprofit, It was trying to figure all this out. And now this is like a money making thing. And it is to to keep capitalism going, to keep companies to allow companies to be able to improve their margins. I am terrified of this thing. And what’s what’s really awful about it is that AI and I’ve seen it and I’ve seen examples of it, particularly Kaya in education and in health, where if we used it properly and we used it actually for the purpose of improving humankind, it would be extraordinary. Like there was something. There was one talk where at TED, where this, this, this one individual was using A.I. to actually figure out how to create more opportunities for people who were immobile. Like, it was absolutely incredible. Right. Um. And when I think about, you know, all all the brainpower that is needed to distill different types of testing to be able to get you a proper diagnosis, like AI could be extraordinary in in in addressing that, but it’s not used for that. It’s used to figure out how to cut costs and cut jobs to keep the rich people that invented it rich, the same rich people that invented the Internet. So that’s all what that’s what I would say about that. Thank you Kaya.
Myles E. Johnson: I’m really on both sides and it’s and and I and I feel so bad about it. I think the first thing that’s really [?] that comes to my mind when I was on ChatGPT though, and then as you were telling the story De’Ara again about it being like $29 billion dollars. I was really, like, surprised at how ugly everything looks like I think that [laugh] I can’t wait until they get to like the the I feel like it’s trying to be futuristic looking and it like it just looks ugly and not cute. I can’t wait until they um get that together um.
Kaya Henderson: Till the designers come in?
Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. Like I’m like can’t the AI generate something more cute like cuter? Yeah. Um. Yeah.
Kaya Henderson: More aesthetically pleasing.
Myles E. Johnson: You know, me chile. But um I, I mean, I agree with what everybody is what everybody is saying in the concerns in the in the jist of it. I guess I’m just wondering, do you think that there’s going to be like, so um some some I forget their name but they were talking about how a lot of Black or excuse me, how a lot of queer LGBT people in general get a lot of their money in June. So a lot of graphic artists, um a lot of people writing essays. I’m one of those people, talks or whatever. So a lot of the graphic artists um they were saying have totally lost their income for June because a lot of these companies have pivoted to AI and that was that was really scared for me. And of course, if you’re a LGBT artist, like June is the biggest deal ever. Like people live their year the rest of their year off of what they make in June. Um. So. I’m wonde– so when I when I was kind of hearing the tone of that post and the kind of rallying around that post, I’m like, is it going to be like a movement to, like, ethically source work? You know, like, is that going to be a thing just how like, now we care about like organic food and we care about um ethically, like made clothes and stuff like that. Like, is that going to be like a new thing where it or is that what needs to happen in order to make sure things don’t go too far? Uh. That. Again, not not really a whole lot of uh big critiques or thoughts, but just a lot of wondering like, where’s this going to go culturally for us?
DeRay Mckesson: Sorry, I’m so old school about ChatGPT. I’m not I don’t believe it yet. I’m not there. [laughter] I don’t trust it. And because– [banter] [laughter]
Myles E. Johnson: I love I love Uncle DeRay.
Kaya Henderson: Yes [?]. [laughter]
DeRay Mckesson: I’m not. I think it’s cute to play with. It’s like that cute toy that you put down and then go ride your real bike because this thing is dangerous. That’s how I feel about. That’s how I feel about ChatGPT. And it doesn’t yet fact check right it gets you know even that talk at Ted he was like you know when you multiply when it multiplies some big numbers together, the output is just wrong and we know it and we have to teach it better. And it’s like, I’m not sold on that. There was a um you know, there’s a there was a whole thread on Twitter about how people are trying to use ChatGPT to replace therapists. Right. Because it can it can crowdsource advice. So you ask a question and you know that scares me. The idea that suddenly people will be going to quote “therapy” through ChatGBT, that does not make me feel good. I feel like my grandma, ChatGBT, I done called it something else. [laughter] Um. That’s what it feel like some something that don’t make sense. So yeah, I’m not I’m not I like get the, the ability to process huge data sets and those sort of things. I’m really interested in it. I’m interested in it and as as an add on everybody who talks about it as a replacement, that scares me. As an add on, cool. I’m interested in that, as a replacement I’m not.
Kaya Henderson: But not even I mean, it’s not just an add on, right? Like so I mean, part of the reason why the Hollywood writers are striking is because a lot of writing is now happening. Like if you wrote for a Daily Show, maybe you had to like every day you had to write for 8 hours you had to find the jokes. You had to think about the monologue, you had to reflect on what happened today. You can say to ChatGPT give me six jokes about something that happened in politics today and it can give you six jokes. And so the writers are not fired, but maybe you only need them now for 2 hours instead of 8 hours. Right. And so that’s the kind of even even if it can’t totally replace the efficiencies that it creates for a business are like crazy for the bottom line. Like, you know, we think about it as a curriculum company, about how it can help us write curriculum faster and and that’s a good thing. But I think that, um you know, I think there are lots of different use cases. And I just want us I’m I’m happy to be skeptical. And, you know, I’m the oldest one on this podcast. And so, you know, I’m happy to be the the the auntie who don’t believe in it. But what I don’t want us to do is ignore it and watch it overtake us, because this thing is here. And just like any other big revolutionary shift it’s going to hit us the hardest, right? Whatever it is, if it’s good, the good stuff is going to be good, but the bad stuff is going to be worse for us. And so I want us to stay on top of this. Um. I brought the the article a couple weeks ago about the dude who quit Google and was like, watch out, y’all these this thing is going to make weapons of mass destruction. Like now jobs are out. And I like I said, I’m I’m with you, Myles. I’m on the both and, right? There are tremendous, I’ve seen I’ve seen um programs that allow people to self-diagnose. You put in a bunch of different things and it tells you and it tells you very responsibly, like this is what it seems like, you should check with your doctor. These are some questions to ask, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. That ability to empower people in managing their health care is amazing, right? Like, I’ve seen lots of good uses for it and there are likely to be lots of bad uses. So I just want our community to be aware and stay on top of this.
Myles E. Johnson: What I will say before we like um move on too, that you made me think about one of the reasons why I did start using ChatGPT is because and I don’t talk about this like super often, but you know, mental health stuff for me is very real. Um. ADHD for me is very real. Depression for me is very real. And the things that ChatGPT and for in my world has helped and and and improved on and things that kind of can feel almost impossible to do. Like it is like moving in milk, like in in molasses somedays um ChatGPT has like really helped like, move those things along. Um. Thinking about, like, if I’m doing like budget sheets or something like that or any, you know, just any kind of like. Anything like that. So yeah, that was another um component that popped in my, um that popped in my mind that um yeah, kind of like like what DeRay said said like I think that it can be a really cool like add on to your yeah your life and um yeah.
De’Ara Balenger: And Myles like I think that’s absolutely correct and what I would implore upon these AI folks is actually to coordinate with government bodies, particularly ours, on how we improv– we know we just talked ad nauseum about the gaps in our social, in our social systems. We have technology that can improve it. But these companies, because of, you know, “sensitivities” in quotes, refuse to coordinate with governments. There was a young man also at TED who was, the same call to action like we are behind in a AR arms race race. Like the reason Ukraine. One of the reasons Ukraine is doing so well is because of AI. So I think part of it it’s like there’s you know everyone’s been calling for all the AI folks to, like, come together and have some type of regulatory regulatory commission. No one’s running to it. No one’s running to it.
Myles E. Johnson: Now we got to ask AI how to [indistinct] [laughing] Dear ChatGPT, how do we end this?
De’Ara Balenger: How do we, yeah, how do we yeah, how do we get your inventors to work collaboratively? And for the good of humankind? As they as they–
Myles E. Johnson: Goodness.
De’Ara Balenger: –keep telling us.
DeRay Mckesson: My news is about Rikers. Rikers, as you know, is uh the jail in New York City. Remember that jails are where people go before they are convicted. Prison is where people go after they’re convicted. New York City had the biggest jail in the country at one point, and it’s still one of the biggest properties in the country and thankfully uh does not have as many people as it did before. But the reason I bring it up is that Eric Adams is the mayor of New York. He’s been a general nightmare and Rikers is no different. So there’s been a monitor at Rikers for almost a decade because of the human rights violations and the general mistreatment of people. And uh the monitor’s report, the last monitor’s report highlighted that they have been covering up the deaths at Rikers. That is like the big takeaway. So there was a guy who um who recently died at Rikers, and the report that came out of the Department of Corrections was that he died of a heart attack. And one of the things that the Department of Corrections does is that they will allow people to who who are going to die, who are likely going to die. They will release them from the custody of care of the Department of Corrections so that the moment that they die, they’re not actually in the jail so it won’t be counted as a jail death. [gasp] Just so you know, that’s how they play the game. So this guy is you know, they say he the Department of Corrections says that he has a heart attack. Um. But what is true is that when the autopsy comes back, he has a fractured skull and he was hit and beat on the island. And the monitor calls out in the report like, I do not believe what the Department of Corrections is saying about this death. Now, we don’t know exactly what happened, but we do know that it was not a heart attack that killed him. And because he did not technically die on the property of Rikers or under the custody of the Department of Corrections. Uh. Molina, the corrections commissioner and Eric Adams are essentially not calling this a death at Rikers. And that is what the Monitor is rightly pushing back on and saying, hey, that’s shady. And it took, you know, his lawyers fought really hard to get him compassionately released because um because the department was like not doing right by people. And, you know, Molina’s like there was no cover up. We need to investigate. But it’s like, no, you said he died of a heart attack and he has a fractured skull and that is not the case. Um. So. So that is what. That is what I’m bringing to the table. Molina’s clean up after he got called out on it was like, Oh, he was on the way to the hospital in the ambulance and and, you know, something happened on the way to the hospital that got him brain injuried and you’re like, no, it was not that. It was not the ride to the hospital that killed him. And remember that 19 people uh were died in the custody of the Department of Corrections last year. And this year only three people are listed as dying. And we are heartened by a low number of three, but we don’t believe it. Like we are confident that they are lying about the deaths at Rikers, that they’re not reporting the deaths. And if you remember, uh the Board of Corrections, which has oversight, they have now their Adams replaced the chair. So there is this guy who, like, doesn’t care about any oversight. He’s like, very corrections can do whatever. And the Department of Corrections used to have to release tapes or they used to have to let the Board of Corrections staff come in whenever they wanted. And they said they are not going to do that anymore. And the biggest thing is that after this last brouhaha about this latest death, uh the Adams administration announces that they will no longer announce the deaths from Rikers to the press. They have a hard policy that they will no longer publicly talk about any of the deaths at Rikers. And it just is blasphemous. And again, a reminder that this New York City Council has allowed Adams to do this. And I am he is a zero out of ten in my book, but I’m equally as annoyed at the Council at this point for the cuts to libraries and all this stuff. But they allow him to do this. They could rein him in and they have not yet. So I’m hoping that the judge who oversees Rikers does something about this. But the cover ups of these deaths, and mind you, this guy wasn’t convicted of anything. He was being held on a burglary charge, $10,000 bond, which he cannot make, and now he is dead.
Myles E. Johnson: I feel like I always feel Auntie Kaya’s willies, any time you bring up [laugh] um these topics I feel, I feel. I guess I just have like questions like a, like a question um when it comes to the like the press not getting like these released names of the deaths anymore, does that does that mean that the press won’t have access to it? Like couldn’t dig, or does that mean Rikers is not releasing them? Did that make sense? Like could could you if you actively pursued getting those names, could you do that still?
DeRay Mckesson: Yes. So if you actively pursued then you could probably find out. But you just right now, if somebody dies, they–
Myles E. Johnson: Right.
DeRay Mckesson: –they say it publicly because that is a big deal, because it’s government. You know, it’s like a–
Kaya Henderson: Right.
DeRay Mckesson: Now they won’t do that anymore. So so interestingly, we normally find out because it’s like a family member, it’s like a small world, we sometimes will get tipped off and we’ll call a reporter and be like, hey, we just heard from somebody inside that somebody died. Can you go figure it out? And the reporters will go dig. But the department says it–
Myles E. Johnson: Right, right.
DeRay Mckesson: –eventually, you know?
Kaya Henderson: I mean, this is this is my nightmare, right? This is why I am, like, deeply deathly psychosomaticly afraid of jail because, like, things can happen to you and there’s absolutely no accountability. Like this dude died from a skull fracture, and these people said he died of a heart attack. And, you know, if some courageous medical examiner hadn’t raised his hand and said, say what now? Then you would have just thought, Kaya died from a heart attack when she was in jail. Maybe the stress was too much when that is not exactly what happened. And so I just I mean, for our listeners who are new on the podcast, I am deathly afraid of all things incarceration. And this is just one reason why. Um. This poor man’s family just wants answers. And, you know, like there’s no I don’t understand why there’s any logical reason why you could say we’re no longer going to announce deaths anymore, except they are just trying to cover it up and decrease transparency. And that doesn’t feel good at all. Um. And so it is disappointing. And I, tell us what to do? Like, who do we call? How do we how do we demand that this thing changes? Give us some action or something to do because this feels, I don’t this does not feel good at all.
DeRay Mckesson: At this point, Judge Swain’s, so the judge who is the federal monitor. She has all of the power with regards to the immediate corrective action. But the city council, the New York City Council is about to be up for reelection again. And and the council really does have to rein Eric Adams in. I have no hope for Eric Adams so like I don’t you know, people should press him. If you know his donors. I would say he probably pays attention to that community more than he pays attention to the public. But it just is a it’s the floor, not the ceiling, that, you know, we shouldn’t lie about how people die and we shouldn’t kill people like that is the floor.
De’Ara Balenger: I also feel like because what I what I picked up mostly on is that obviously some of these homicides are because of criminal negligence and misconduct. So part of it is a law is being broken. And to the extent that this Molina dude could be held accountable, but also the mayor, who I’m sure is getting a call that another person has died at Rikers like what is the. I’m curious around like what New York City, New York state law is around, one, the murder of somebody that’s in custody. We know that there’s laws that exist around that. But then also, like, what are the laws around covering that up? And who can be held liable or who can be held criminally criminally liable there?
DeRay Mckesson: Yeah. This is the other thing. So that’s a good question, De’Ara, that we should look into. And the other thing that I’m reminded of is that there’s and you all would know whatever the phrase is, but like political decency or political decorum or political tradition.
De’Ara Balenger: Mm hmm mm hmm.
DeRay Mckesson: Has prevented Schumer and um Gillibrand and Bowman and the rest of the Congress people from just saying, this ain’t right. You know what I mean?
De’Ara Balenger: Yeah.
DeRay Mckesson: Like they are, you know, like they can’t criticize him because he’s the mayor. And, you know, AOC did press him like a minute ago about something at Rikers like, publicly was like, this is not right, but the decorum is going to kill us. You know what I mean? Like, we need people with all types of power to come out and say this is not right. About [?]. Even the [?], the congressional delegation should get up and be like, no, this this makes no sense. But there’s a there’s a way that political decency and decorum has operated for so long, and it really does actually hurt us in the end.
De’Ara Balenger: Yeah, I feel like Hakeem Jeffries would be the only one to stand up and say something. I think, you know, so many folks are so worried about their their public profiles. And like, at this point, like, I wouldn’t count on Schumer to do a damn thing, to be honest. Like, so disconnected from this, this very issue and only worried about being in the White House more often than being um a legislator for New York. But that that yeah, you’re on to something DeRay, this is is wild. [music break]
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 and make sure you rate it wherever you get your podcasts. Whether its 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]