In This Episode
DeRay, De’Ara, Myles and Kaya cover the underreported news of the week— including private schools flushed with private money, pandemic impact on math and reading progress, the conservative evolution of rapper Jay Z, and Samuel Jackson’s broadway debut.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay. And welcome to Pod Save the People, on this episode. It’s me, Kaya, De’Ara, and Myles talking about the underreported news from the past week regarding race, justice, and equity. No interview this week because we had a lot to catch up on after Labor Day weekend. We talk about the Queens passing, Jay-Z’s comments on, well, everything happening with Blackness on Broadway and a couple other things, too. We are excited to have this conversation this week [music break] And my advice for this week is to do the cool thing while you can. One of my best friends in the world is likely going to move to another country for a couple of months because he has the time and flexibility and job to do it right now. And it’s like, you know what, as much as I’m going to miss him, I’m so pumped that he is like taking this big risk and going to another country and living in that moment, didn’t get to study abroad when he was in college. And it’s like, I love when people walk into the fear, the big decisions, the things that our parents uh didn’t have the option to do. So think about the big thing in front of you, the scary thing, the thing that you have a million reasons why you can’t or it doesn’t make sense and see if you can lean into that. Here we go.
De’Ara Balenger: Family. Family. Family. Welcome to another episode of Pod Save The People. I am De’Ara Balenger you can find me on Instagram and saying very little on Twitter at @dearabalenger
Myles Johnson: I am Myles E. Johnson. You can find me on Instagram @pharaohrapture and saying too much on Twitter at @pharaohrapture as well. [laugh]
Kaya Henderson: My name is Kaya Henderson. You can find me on Twitter saying a few things at @HendersonKaya.
DeRay Mckesson: This is DeRay at @deray on Twitter. And I say all the things on Twitter. [laughter]
De’Ara Balenger: So this week we lost Queen Elizabeth. There’s been lots and lots of mixed feelings around this woman’s life and now her death. Of course, huge RIP to Queen Elizabeth. But in my mind, what all comes together is the song from Wizard of Oz when the Wicked Witch is dead.
DeRay Mckesson: Ahh.
De’Ara Balenger: I’m not saying she’s a wicked witch. I’m not saying that. I’m just saying because of my trauma around white women, that’s what pops into my mind. [laughter] [humming the tune of Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead]
Kaya Henderson: Wow, the portrayal and all. [laughter]
De’Ara Balenger: But again. RIP. No disrespect, [laughter] especially to her Black grandchild. I’m just saying that’s what comes in my mind. I don’t know what feels the rest of this family has around it. You know, there are some things I can say about colonialism, you know, and be real smart about it. But I think just inherently like deep, deep down like that is what that is what came to me when I heard about her, her passing.
Myles Johnson: 96. Okay, I get that we all have different relationships with death and everything, but my grandmother died at 91. And when I tell you, I, like–
Kaya Henderson: That’s it.
Myles Johnson: [?] her up and said that was a good one homie and like.
Kaya Henderson: She had a good run.
Myles Johnson: And I was like. Everything feels a little for me. This is a apolitical. What’s apolitical? But this is just me just saying how I feel. I feel like everything feels a little melodramatic. Um that is a 96 year old woman who, you know, lived a long life, you know, that’s a long time. Like, met Marilyn Monroe. Like, that’s in–
De’Ara Balenger: But Myles, don’t you think there’s like it also gave me, like, some Black family drama, because when somebody dies and then you got to worry about that uncle, that’s gon that’s going to take stuff that’s not his. I feel like with the Prince Charles of it all, it gets complicated because it’s like we wanted her to live because we really don’t know what we’re going to get with him. Like, we’re still trying to process his participation in the Diana of it all so.
Myles Johnson: I love like any time like Twitter or social media is irreverent, irreverent about anything that people take seriously, cause I love that brand of comedy period. But that was the only thing where people like, kind of like being funny about the queen’s death. I’m like, what the what’s happening next is not like this is not the end of a monarchy. We’re actually taking power from this white woman in to this white man. So this is like old school, like we got a white old man president who who whose allegedly [laugh] whose allegedly coherent because Biden is well. And we have and now we have King Charles. And that and that is what our power looks like right now. This is old school white supremacist imperialism. Buckle up.
Kaya Henderson: Ooh.
Myles Johnson: This O.G.
Kaya Henderson: Listen. [laughing]
Myles Johnson: Kaya is looking [?]
Kaya Henderson: This is not. This is not the conversation that I thought we were going to be having about this. But this is hilarious to me [laugh] um here’s the thing, right? I think it is like it’s a moment, right? It’s a moment to reflect. She was 96. She was gonna die, she lost her husband. She had the COVID. These things happen. That’s life. Um. But I think the big question I think the like big question for people, one, there’s been a like revolving question around like what is the relevancy of the monarchy, right? And if we want to keep it a hundred, the relevancy of the monarchy is they are the largest industry in the UK. They bring in more money then they bring in more tourist dollars than anything else in the UK. And so they are an institution at this point like because all the people love them and pay for them and blah blah blah and all that jazz. Economics, right? Um. And like I think there’s, you know, clearly with all of the conversation about whether or not you should respect the Queen and her death, blah, blah, you know, I think this is a moment to talk about colonization, to talk about reparations, to talk about giving back people stolen stuff. It’s a moment to talk about the reinvention of the monarchy. Right. Um. Charles, Charles King Charles has been a sort of activist around climate change and environmentalism. And so, like, are we like, what is what like? We’ve had this institution, the institution ain’t the institution, no more. And so what is going to happen in this very symbolic and sort of unnecessary institution, I think is the interesting thing. But I do think that um this conversation around, you know, remembering the colonialism and imperialism of the British crown is really important. You know, I’m all things education. And we keep talking about teaching kids an accurate history. One of the most important things that I’ve seen is there was a map on the on some of the socials which showed every country in the world that declared independence from the Brits and the years that it happened. And it is astounding, right like you’ve heard the phrase the the British Empire, the sun rises and sets on the British Empire because it was so vast. And when you really look at all of the countries, this little teeny island up in the northern Atlantic controlled the whole entire world. And this has given us an opportunity to reexamine that. To like, stop with the pomp and circumstance, it’s cute and all. But where were you all when the queen was having her 50th Jubilee? Y’all was sitting right on a TV looking at Elton John and Diana Ross like the rest of the world. And nobody was outraged and whatnot. But now she’s dead. And we’re having this whole conversation. I think it’s interesting. I think it’s healthy. I think we got to be real about what teaching accurate history really means.
DeRay Mckesson: I didn’t realize how little I knew about the colonial footprint. Obviously, I knew the history, colonization, and what happened to Africa. I didn’t know that out of the 193 member states and two observer states in the UN, only 22 countries were not invaded by Britain at some point. That is wild. So when we think about the sheer number of people that the country has killed. The societies that they have undone, the languages that have been destroyed by the institution. And you know, the queen was there for a lot. She was queen for a long time. You know, I think she sat through 12 American presidents, countless prime ministers. Right? Like it wasn’t like she was like queen for a day. It’s also interesting. My introduction, like probably some of you alls to the monarchy was Princess Diana. I remember when Princess Diana died. I remember watching the funeral. I remember the whole pomp and circumstance around the people’s princess and all that. And then the queen was like the antithesis to that. Like, that was my introduction to the queen. She was the woman who didn’t like Princess Diana, who was, you know, hanging out with people in hospitals who are untouchables, people with HIV. She was that rolling down the hill, one of my favorite videos of Princess Di. She goes to one of the kids things and like literally rolls down the hill to play with the kids. And people are like a princess can’t do that. So it will be interesting because, you know, everything we heard about Charles after Diana died was neg– it was like he cheated on Charles with Camilla da da. And I know this just like, you know, I’ve done no real research. I just know it from from public talk. But I think this might be you know, it’ll be interesting to see if the monarchy survives, Charles, um and if it survives sort of this moment where people are like like she was such an institution that I think she became the symbol of it to what a lot of people thought. And I’ll tell you and you know, this is also the Internet, is that the very first video that came out, did y’all see it of Charles? He’s like shooing the person away. It’s like you don’t even have the great like you can’t even, like, pretend, you know, you just got here and I’ve never seen a clip of of the queen, like, being unkind. You know, she just always sort of carried herself, at least in the public. In the first video we have him is like literally shooing this guy away. You’re like, okay, this ain’t gonna last long. And uh it’s been interesting to see the conversation.
De’Ara Balenger: All right. So moving from Prince Charles to–
DeRay Mckesson: Come on with that transition.
De’Ara Balenger: Princess Arial. [laughter]
DeRay Mckesson: Yeah she’s.
De’Ara Balenger: She’s a princess.
DeRay Mckesson: She’s King Triton’s uh youngest daughter.
De’Ara Balenger: Well she is to us. [laughter]
De’Ara Balenger: Right. She is she’s a she is a princess and now a Nubian one. And we are so proud, so, so proud, so excited to see that the trailer of the it’s going to be a live action Little Mermaid is coming out soon. Um. And she’s just a doll. She just is gorge. And I’m excited to see this. In my mind, though, Ursula was always a Black woman, so I’ll be interested to see who’s playing Ursula. Now, I don’t want to go on a tangent because I’m also it’s about The Descendants, which is a whole Disney show that I’ve had to watch because, well, I feel like kind of DeRay would know because of teaching. But it’s so funny how in Descendants how they make some of the Descendants of the characters Black, but it’s always like the menacing ones.
Myles Johnson: Mm.
De’Ara Balenger: Anyway, that’s the story for another day, but let’s bring it back positive [laughter] and have some positive conversation for today. Um. [laughter]
Myles Johnson: Because once this is over, we going to some heat.
Kaya Henderson: Cause what [laughing]
Myles Johnson: We got some heat for that [?].
De’Ara Balenger: So curious to see if you all saw the trailer and what are you thinking about it? I think, you know I’m I’m excited.
Myles Johnson: Cultural reset totally like I got chills hashtag my mermaid has [?] Hashtag a salt fish [?] mermaids matter too, like I totally am sold I was never like even a Little Mermaid person. And I’m so excited. And I think that Disney, from what I can see with this loud live action animation, has failed to necessarily, like capture the imaginations of um like the public, like transcending like the the diehard Disney fans. Cause I think that even like The Lion King with Donald Glover and Beyoncé. It just felt like an underwhelming reaction to me. I think this might be the one, because it’s aquatic it’s under the sea, it’s already fanciful. And I think also because they’re already deviating from, you know, mermaid canon by making her Black with locs, that also means that there might be story variations. So you’re not just seeing this copy, like, look, this is real life, you know, mermaid and like kind of copying and pasting it how the Lion King was almost like a screen by screen copy and paste of the original. And it just became boring and like, what is this like? Like National National Geographic movie with, like, Beyoncé’s Texas accent. It just all a mythic mismatch. This feels like something that can really penetrate culture. Ala um Black Panther did too.
Kaya Henderson: I like. I’m with you, Miles. I feel I have been not super taken with the whole live action thing, but because I, um I, I feel like this is different, right? Seeing this image, maybe it was different because it well, I don’t know. I didn’t I didn’t see the the Lion King live action. But I just think that this I think, one, she is bringing a new set of folks to the conversation. And, you know, I’m always rooting for everybody Black so I’m a watch this one. I’m also excited about her expanding beyond just singing. You know, we are triple and quadruple threats. And I love to I love it when our people get chances to go beyond exactly what you think about them. And so I’m excited about this. I’m looking forward to watching it next year.
DeRay Mckesson: Now it is. It’s like May 2023, wooo y’all. This is quite the teaser. I will say I’m really excited to see Hocus Pocus because that comes out sooner and Hocus Pocus will be a jam. But the cool thing about Chloe and Halle is that we’ve seen them grow up. You know, we remember them as the girls on YouTube sitting in the living room or their rooms making music. And now we see them become women, and now we see them become artists in their own right. And sort of growing up post YouTube and the only people signed to Beyonce’s label. And when I saw this, it was like, you know, they are they’re not a whole lot of positive stories that we have as as a group, but people just want them to win you like you saw Halle, you’re like, girl, I just want you to win. I like they didn’t. They didn’t release enough of a clip. We need more of the songs. And, you know, what was the what’s the other big song um on Little Mermaid?
Kaya Henderson: Part of your world?
DeRay Mckesson: Go ahead. Come on now people are like now they had released that. We would have been crying on the thing. You’re like, Oh, she’s like, so I can’t wait to see it Halle. And it’ll– the other cool thing is that she’s in the small group of women, singers, [?] or anybody who can actually just sing. She will be able to go to that premiere or whatever and bust that song out, just like she did on that thing with no backing, no group, no music. And very few people can do that. So I’m pumped.
Myles Johnson: Yeah, I want a I want Beenie Man to, you know. [indistinct]
Kaya Henderson: Yes yes!
DeRay Mckesson: Not underneath the sea.
Myles Johnson: Under the sea. [laughing] Or under the sea. Yeah, I like. Yeah, we need we need a whole, a whole negro take on that.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save The People is coming.
Myles Johnson: So my news is around Jay-Z. So Jay-Z, I’ll just I’ll just say how it is. Jay-Z um went on a Twitter circle’s chat and talked to other rappers in the public about stuff that I’m a be really honest with you was like, really boring. I kind of forgot what was being said. But the one clip that got sliced that I found fascinating was Jay-Z talking about money. Now, how I personally feel and I and I think this is because when people are doing like music and they’re artists, you don’t kind of like you don’t hide yourself away once you get money like like other extremely wealthy people tend to do. So you still continue to say your opinions. But I think that we’re able to project so much of familial parasocialness onto Jay-Z because of A.) How he established his wealth. And then also just because of our imaginations and his comments on money reminded you that that Parasocial relationship you have in your imagination is just that, a figment of your imagination. Um. So he says, before was the American dream. Pull yourself by the bootstraps and you can make yourself you can make it in America. All these lies that America told us our whole life, he continued. And then when we start getting in, they tried to lock us out of it. They start inventing words. I don’t think y’all heard me. They start inventing words like, you know, capitalist, you know, things like that. I mean, you know, you’ve been called the N-word and monkeys and stuff. I don’t care. I don’t. I don’t. I don’t care. Those words y’all come up with. Y’all got to come up with stronger words.
Myles Johnson: Sean Jay-Z Carter said capitalist is a newly invented word to weaponize against the uh the victimized class of wealthy, successful Black people. The most vulnerable group in America, apparently. [laughing] Yikes. Yikes. I could not believe what I was listening to. And it’s so interesting because I do, like it’s. I have so many mixed feelings cause I love Jay-Z. I love American Gangster. I love Reasonable Doubt. I love Watch the Throne. I am such a big Jay-Z fan. And I was even you know, I have mixed feelings about Black people who move in class because I have a mother who grew up in on Bainbridge in Brooklyn in the 1960s and seventies who got who who who who, did really well for herself and went from working poor, middle, middle class to middle upper middle class by the time um by the time I got here. And I know that any type of success and privilege that I experience is because I’m on the shoulders of what she did. And I can only imagine. And who’s to say when that stops? You know, so am I saying like, oh, my mother wasn’t evil because she didn’t make it to a million dollars or a billion dollars or is I just have a lot of sympathy for that for that that class mobility. However, when Jay-Z decided to– I like looked up like Jay-Z’s history, and I’m like. When you decide to quote Fred Hampton, when you decide to do the Black Panther stuff, when you decide to do all this stuff. I’m like, what? Some of those people you [?] wrote books. Some of the people who you [?] wrote books and talked about capitalism in the sixties, and in the seventies. And it kind of it made me really sad because I always thought Jay-Z was even if I didn’t agree with the ethos of what he was saying, I always thought he was just this intellectual entity, and I always thought he was really smart. But this made me think. About. It made me question his intelligence and it made me question the motivation behind certain things that he’s putting out in the world because you’re you’re you just could not be actually participating and and reading these books if. And like you could you could you could it be consulting with these, like, personalities and these icons if you’re still saying that capitalist is an invented word ala the N-word and monkeys. Like that was just extremely disappointed. And then the last thing I’ll say about it is it also speaks to how separate he must be from the aver– the average the average Black person in discourse. And I think because he has such cool social capital and has just cool he’s just wealthy and cool that you think that he’s more connected. But I’m like, this is King Charles level disconnection, if you like. If you if you asked me this is very, extremely, extremely disconnected. And it made me sad. It made me a little bit curious. And I think that it’s extreme, but it also reminds me of what I kind of continuously bring on to the podcast. And what I’m continuously really fascinated by is this growing separation inside of the Black community because of class and because of money and because of the ways we’re all able to [?] ourselves that we have to kind of really face how white supremacist capitalism manifests in our own personal lives, because it can’t always be a white versus Black thing. We have to look at it. And I think this is such an interesting way how somebody who sold crack in Brooklyn. Who was presented with a morally bankrupt option in order to get money, has now arrived at this kind of like, conservative, like rhetoric and. Yeah. Yeah. What do y’all think?
De’Ara Balenger: Did Jay-Z sell crack in Brooklyn or–
Myles Johnson: What?
De’Ara Balenger: Was he a backup dancer? I don’t know. [indistinct]
DeRay Mckesson: De’Ara came out of left field. Everybody welcome to today.
De’Ara Balenger: I um [laughing] But here’s my thing with Jay-Z. I’ve actually never been a Jay-Z fan. Um. I when I was coming up in real time when this music was coming out, there was also Nas and Tupac who rapped about bullshit, but also rapped about our people, right? And rapped about the pride and the historical context around Black people, Black culture, etc.. Jay-Z was always talking about cars, clothes and hos, and so that was never he didn’t really do it for me. Now I see his. Kind of, you know, his body of work. It definitely informs how I see him as an entrepreneur, being an entrepreneur myself, and I would say a successful entrepreneur. For Black people. My philosophy is we can’t we shouldn’t be making money off of the same institutions that oppressed our people. Meaning, if I know the music industry oppresses Black people, I’m not going to build a music company that does the exact same thing the white folks is doing. Jay-Z. So the same thing with the sports agency. I’m not going to build a sports agency that is doing the same same stuff that a white sport agen– like. Why the whole point of to me, my philosophy, the whole point of us getting involved in these spaces is so that we can obviously create wealth for ourselves and our family, but also create wealth for the rest of the Black community. Right? And so I see like these comments of Jay-Z’s like his wealth and how he builds wealth is so individualized. It’s not about the whole it’s not about the community. It’s not it’s about him and his, right. And so I’m never surprised about these things that he does. You know what I mean? Whether it’s a partnership in the NFL, whether it’s how he runs Roc Nation, whether it’s how he shows up or doesn’t show up in spaces. To me at this point. He’s Beyoncé’s husband and. Like a lot of Black women who are amazing that I know they got bullshit as husbands.
Kaya Henderson: Ow.
De’Ara Balenger: You know what I’m saying? So I think for me, that’s that’s the context for of Jay-Z. For me. Myles. So.
Myles Johnson: That’s what I’m talking about. [laugh] And just even your piece on individual, I was even thinking because he was like, had this other part. And um in that same talk where he was talking about like what I’ve done with my day and how many people he’s gotten like out incarcerate or out of incarceration and all this other stuff, which I do think is beautiful. But what also makes it it reminds me that no matter how much money you have, you can only think as big as your consciousness is. Because I’m like, if you have billions of dollars, that’s not helping a person money, that’s creating systems money that’s disrupting. That’s disrupting how things go money. Like, I’m not really impressed by oh billionaires doing things that private citizens with no capital have been doing for a long time. Once you have that type of capital, your imagination, your consciousness should be bigger to think like, what can I actually create in order to disrupt this whole system and not just help one individual? Not saying don’t do that, but even him kind of counting as this and this as something that he’s done this really well, just felt like out of step, you know.
De’Ara Balenger: And something about him, because I also I’ve been watching these Kevin Hart. Uh. Sit down.
Myles Johnson: I’m sorry.
De’Ara Balenger: Conversations.
Myles Johnson: My–
De’Ara Balenger: I’m. Yes. I did I have.
Myles Johnson: I’ll send my condolences.
De’Ara Balenger: I have been watching em. I have been watching them. I watched the one with him and Pete Davidson. Fascinating. And I watched the one with him and Jay-Z. And Jay-Z seems to have so much trauma around Black people wanting things from him, whether it’s family members or homeboys or whatever. So I think, Myles, part of this is also just like his own trauma in trying to navigate the come up and probably have being blindsided so many times by people who didn’t have the best intentions. Because I just feel like most of the things he does, he does with like billionaire white people. And I feel like in his mind, he’s like, I have more in common with this billionaire white person than I do with somebody that grew up the same as me. Which I like hanging out with white billionaires too. It’s great. We have a good time, but I’m not going to confuse that with somebody that has the same. Just that same. That that that grit and that that consciousness around growing up in a certain way looking a certain way past you know what I mean? I just can’t that like that that is ultimately like what I’m going to be. At least mo– not even most drawn to necessarily. But there’s just a kinship there. And I don’t and I feel like that is broken for him. And that is also to why there’s all this individualism happening.
Kaya Henderson: I feel like maybe I read the wrong article or maybe I like I had just had a I like this conversation is so fascinating to me. So like I thought that he was basically making the point that when Black people become rich, like when we actually win at the game that you have tried to keep us out of right then like we’re bad for that, right? And when I was starting my business, like I was going to raise money and I had every time like I would talk to these white capitalists, they were like, this is such a great idea. Why aren’t you a nonprofit? And I was like, because when you have a great idea, you sell it to people, but you want me to give it away and you want me to beg you to have the money to give it away, right? Literally. And so I did this as like–
De’Ara Balenger: White people are so funny. They so funny.
Kaya Henderson: Right. You like I took I took his I took his comments to mean like, you know, when we when we achieve what you have prevented us from achieving, then you got nothing but bad things to say about us. And I concur with that 250%. Now, I don’t know about Jay-Z’s individual personal trauma, or whatever. I don’t know about whether he’s reading Soul on Ice or he ain’t reading Soul on Ice. [laughter] But I do I do know this. I haven’t hung out around some wealthy Black people. I mean, I think that, one, they are problems of magnitude because we started our conversation talking about headphones and um foundation wear by our favorite celebrities and all of the things that we like to buy. And so we who might have started out very poor are living a very different life. We ain’t livin a Jay-Z life, but we live a life that allows us to do things that are different than when we first started out or where our parents came from. And all of these class shifts are like psychologically they are psychological shifts as well. And so I’m able to spend money on things that like you, my cousins, my cousins and them can’t spend money [?].
Myles Johnson: Oh I love that.
Kaya Henderson: And you not going to shame me for it because I go out and I work every day and at the same time, there are certain things that I know about being poor that are never going to change. Right? And so and so I think that it’s hard to like I’ve watched people go from like poor to super rich and the mental shift that you have to make around that is huge. And I don’t know who helps you do that. So my guess is that like Jay-Z is probably struggling with the amount of money that he has, how to be benevolent when he when he also has trauma around people always being in his pockets, um like figuring out for himself what collectivism or what Black uplift looks like in this particular thing. I don’t know. It just seems really complicated to me. Mhm. Yeah. I basically took this as don’t be mad at us cause we went in the game that you created and I think there are ways to both win at the current game while you’re trying to you know, Myles, to your point about systemic change, while you’re also trying to break down the system, and that’s one of the things that I love about us, right? Like I feel like that’s what we’re all trying to do. You not going to shame me because I am, you know, making money or investing my money or like doing things that are trying to secure generational wealth for me and my people. Right. Call me a capitalist because I started a company, but I started a company and, you know, when we sell our company or whatever we do, right, there will be lots of people who make money from that who never had the opportunity to make money for that. That to me is systemic change. And you not going to be mad at me because I sell my company for $100 million dollars. I’m just putting that out in the universe in case the universe would like to respond, $200 thank you. That’s what I’m talking about. [laughter]
Myles Johnson: Two hundred. [?] That’s talking too low.
Kaya Henderson: Yes, sir. Yes sir.
Myles Johnson: Cause taxes going to eat that up.
Kaya Henderson: The taxes, the investors. [laughter]
De’Ara Balenger: But Kaya and I think and I and I think that’s a separate thing, too, because even like um Beatrice Dixon is a dear friend of mine and she owns she’s one of the owners of Honey Pot. Um. And it’s one of the things when all of the things were happening around Honey Pot, one of the things I thought about was, wow, like also the pressure that’s put on you when you are a Black business owner from the community. And so when I saw this article, I thought Jay-Z, I thought who he was talking about were Black people. I guess I didn’t even think about it as like white people calling him things or making up words that already exist.
Myles Johnson: Yeah.
De’Ara Balenger: Because I just feel like you know. Those are your friends, like, you know, those people. So why would they be locking you out? So I guess I was thinking about Black people, and I think there’s a discussion within our community around wealth and what it means to build wealth. And if you do sell your company, that doesn’t mean you’re, you know, you’re turning your back on the community or you’re a sellout or da da da da, to Kaya’s point like you are trying to build wealth. So I think we’re. Lots of things happening in this conversation. But um.
Myles Johnson: And I think so in that same conversation and I believe in the same article, he used, one of the big examples was of course capitalism um and capitalist where it’s like one of those pejorative words that were and are now being invented for successful Black people and also saying things like Eat The Rich. Um. And he named Eat The Rich as a phrase. So these are both political. These are deeply politically rooted ideas that are about anti-capitalism and not anti-capitalist, not. People who are engaging in capitalism. That’s kind of like a small way to think about it. These are ideas, eat the rich in capitalist imperialist, white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Thank you. Bell Hooks. Are all phrases in order to describe these interlocking, interlocking systems of oppression that affect all of us. And it seems from my perspective, that Jay-Z was seeing the public discourse because there are more young people who are talking about um who are talking about people who are anti-capitalist. It’s not something that’s just happening in academic discourses or Black [?] courses or whatever. But this is something that a person who’s watching your Euphoria and listening to Alien Superstar and will say, my Zodiac sign, I love Alien Superstar and I’m anti-capitalist in they Twitter bio and that will be your average 18 to 31 year old like right now. So this is some stuff that’s penetrated the um the zeitgeist in a different way. And I see it as Jay-Z making critique on this, what he feels like is new, which it’s something that’s just bubbling over. So there’s been so many academics in Black feminist and in Black revolutionaries like Angela Davis and Assata Shakur. And, and and people are part of the Black Panther Party who’ve been talking about anti-capitalism and now it’s kind of hit this like fever pitch where we’re all engaging it. And then, you know, the fight for 15 stuff, um the child, I’m too young to remember this, but the um the–
DeRay Mckesson: The Wall Street.
Myles Johnson: Was it the Wolf of Wall Street?
De’Ara Balenger: Occupy. I was like what. [laughter]
Myles Johnson: Occupy Wall Street, [?] I was. I was very young. The fact that I can remember it is a miracle. But like all but [laugh] but the Occupy Wall Street all all all that stuff has been kind of feeding this like moment where it is very normal to say you’re anti-capitalist or to say that you’re like, you’re a marxist, or you study these different things and still be a part of discourse. And I feel like it’s a shame because that means to me that you haven’t engaged in the literature of the people who you appropriate in order to seem relevant, because you would know that this is actually this is a long coming kind of conversation. So that’s how come I didn’t take it as like this personal thing or this thing that’s happening between like white people who see us being successful. And now they’re saying, well, you need to be you man– you need to be a [?] with your money, and your business, where I get to be evil white capitalist like I didn’t see it as that discourse. I saw it as him seeing what young people are talking about, him seeing what um people in general are talking about and now saying, y’all just start talking about this cause I got a billion dollars now. No, this has been going on, sir. We’ve been talking about this. And now. [laughter] And you’re and you’re in the eye of the money storm because you’re not a private billionaire. You’re a public one, and you’re one who sells these you’re billionaire status to publications. So we can continue to know the narrative of your wealth.
DeRay Mckesson: When I say, you know, in the organizing world, we often say that uh people have the experiences before they have the language. And part of our work is to not always penalize people for not having the languages, but trying to get as close to the experience as possible. And Kaya that’s what I think you sort of pushed us to do really well, is to think about like, what is this experience and how distant is that? How do people process and think about it, even if they don’t always have the language. And Jay-Z a couple of times has struck me as someone and I think this is what is hard for people is that his art is language, right? He has the lan– He has the language about so much so well. And like the double entendre, you’re like, you nailed it. Right. And then in this moment, talking about politics or in these moments talking about politics. It’s like the language just escapes him. Like he when they launched to Reform, which is a social justice org that he’s on the board of and helped start, uh I was in the audience and he says like and I quote, “you know, but don’t get me wrong, but if you commit a crime, you should go to jail”. And I’m sitting there like, not the drug dealer, like you actually do not you don’t believe, like you wouldn’t be here.
De’Ara Balenger: DeRay. DeRay. Backup dancer.
DeRay Mckesson: Stop it. You wouldn’t believe it. Like you wouldn’t be here if that was actually the, like, straight up. Like, you know, they’re the civil right. There are a million laws that people openly violated because they were like, you do not believe that everybody who breaks a law should like I don’t think you believe that. I do think that like you have not been exposed to people or places that like push you on language and Myles you bring this up like highlights that to me that like even forget how he said it, just the idea that capitalism as a word or concept is new is just so wild that you’re like, I don’t even know if I’m mad at you. I’m just like confused. I’m like, who who did not tell you that that wasn’t true? Like, that is sort of wild to me. So but this also reminds me of what happens when, you know in the world of social media, we have more access to to celebrities than ever before. But but they also don’t have a place to go to learn. And that is you know, I spend a lot of time with people, celebrities who like don’t know up from down, haven’t read a thing, don’t know like don’t have anybody to ask the question about. But they feel compelled to talk about things. And it’s like mm you actually could have just like sat that one out. I think Cardi is probably the most informed of the hyper visible celebrities who, like she’ll talk about labor and stuff and you’re like that was alright, You ain’t got to like her. But she is right. You know.
Kaya Henderson: She is super informed. It is like it is shocking because, you know, given her image, we don’t expect the level of nuance, complexity, just plain ol informativeness that she brings to the table. It’s. I mean, I do think that part of this is also like we expect celebrities to be everything.
Myles Johnson: But I think if you do the music, too. What was that movie called, The Black Judas and the Black Messiah that was about Fred Hampton. It was about Black Panther Party. If you’re if you’re if you’re profiting in that way off of [laughter] The Black Panther Party. You got to crack open a book.
Kaya Henderson: Do you all think? That okay. For real. For real. Like, if people didn’t grow up reading, maybe they don’t read regularly as grown ups, right?
Myles Johnson: So that it’s that that’s that’s that’s those are words, so yes. [laughter]
DeRay Mckesson: Those are words. Boom.
Myles Johnson: Yeah I think that is totally true.
Kaya Henderson: That is the most polite diss I have ever got.
De’Ara Balenger: They’re, but they’re doc but they’re documentaries you can watch it.
Myles Johnson: And if I’m if I’m honest with you, I think some of my most illuminating intellectual moments have been through discourse, has been through hearing somebody who disagrees with me. I have not been as illuminated by any book, and I’ve read some astounding academics and writers. Um. If I had a mark my intellectual growth in milestones, it would be it’s through conversations. It’s through having these talks and being challenged on my thoughts. And I think when you have the money to say, hey, ya’ll seem pretty smart and y’all all don’t agree with me, I’m gonna get a yacht and some food and let’s argue. That could that that could do just that could do ten years of consciousness raising and that moment for individual I’m I’m being pretty serious like that’s how that’s how I feel. Mmm.
Kaya Henderson: I, I, I totally agree. But there is a, like, there is a thirst for knowledge, Myles, that you have that lots of people that we know have, that not everybody has. Some people don’t want to learn something different or be challenged or whatever. And so I think um I think that the like could. Sure. But if that’s not what’s on your agenda and I don’t I don’t know Jay-Z. I don’t know where he maybe he has salons every month and maybe he don’t I don’t know. But um but I do think that your point about and I’m a I’m a pull this out from Jay-Z and say all of us right, all of us need to be challenging our perceptions. All of us need to be surrounding ourselves with people who don’t agree with us. All of us need to be listening to the channels that are not the regular channels so that we understand what else is going on out there. And I think that is something that school doesn’t exactly teach us how to do. Like that practice is cultivated, right? And we got to figure out ways, especially for Black people, to cultivate that practice of constant learning.
Myles Johnson: And how you comport that. That’s that’s that’s that’s that’s honest. That’s honest child. But that’s so that’s so much money to come with that and the last thing I’ll say about it that’s the last thing I’ll say about it because it’s really just boggles me was also I do think this is a good uh show of how wealth does like conserv– make conservative an individual. Because yes I think we can have this whole conversation about like you [?] read the right books. You [?] really do have the right conversations. But I also think that we we’re seeing like this like funny that his wife came out with Renaissance, which means rebirth. But we’re seeing like this other kind of like rebirthing Jay-Z, into a conservative figure, because a lot of the stuff that he did say felt really conservative. And I think that wealth, that kind of wealth, um hoarding like creates those type of ideologies. And and I think we’re seeing it in real time somebody be um reborn into a more conservative figure that that’s my cherry on top.
DeRay Mckesson: I will say the only thing I’ll add is that given the work I do is structural. And that is like how how we think about the world is I do think there are a lot of people with money who really don’t, you know, and a lot of organizers, frankly, who when you’re like, we want structural change and da da. People like don’t really know how to like they don’t like there isn’t like a quicker, easy way to think about it. Most people’s experiences like we’ll give do this thing for the ten people that like the people in the structures don’t even know how to manage the structures. And so I’m so so I am sensitive I think about the police a lot in criminal justice. Is that like when you ask a lot of the leading orgs, like what? What would you do structurally, the answer is actually not structural. They’re like, well, hire 10 more people like it actually. Like it’s even a hard link for me sometimes when I talk to people, I’m like, that’s not a structural fix. That’s sort of like a program that you want to stand up, but that’s not a scalable thing. And I would say that with the elites, one of the things that I get frustrated by with the richest of the Black people is that they don’t really realize that, like, we’ve not had a generation of Black wealth transfer to the next generation. So like if you if you are trying to plan for your daughter or son or cousin or like the next generation of people, if you don’t do something systemically, then like it won’t matter either. You know, somebody will die in childbirth because those statistics are bad. The police, like the system, will actually crush Black people generation to generation, and your wealth will not last. Like there is no you know, when one of your kids is driving down the street in the back roads, Alabama, it won’t matter that their dad is a Black billionaire in the moment. You know what I mean? And that’s what I, that’s why if Serena is having a fight with the doctor about her health care in at the hospital giving birth then like that is a sign that that that the system is actually struggling and celebrity and wealth, Black or not, actually cannot. Steve Jobs had cancer and he had every tool, you could like you know, the structural things actually matter.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save The People is coming.
Kaya Henderson: My news this week is about uh some recent uh educational test results that came out uh a couple of weeks ago. There is an exam called the NAPE, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. That has been happening since sometime in the seventies. Early seventies, I think is when they started testing. Um. It’s the gold standard of tests because it’s not a test you can prepare for. Basically what happens is some people that you’ve never seen before show up in your schools and school districts. They walk into classrooms, they take some kids, a random sampling of kids, and they give them a test. And then the then it’s over and those people go and score the test. So there’s no way to game this test. There’s no. It’s called the gold standard of testing. And they use it as a dipstick, basically to see where kids in America are over the years. And what has happened over the last 20 or so years um is that in education, we’ve made a lot of progress. Clearly not as much as we need to make. But over the last 20 years in education, we’ve made a lot of educational progress, especially with kids of color and low income kids. Um. But the most recent examination of the NAPE showed basically that the pandemic has set us back um literally to where we were back 20 years ago. Nine year old, they look specifically at the test results for nine year olds in reading and math, and the scores fell by the largest margin in more than 30 years. Now, these declines happened across all races and all income levels. But as you can imagine, you’ve heard the saying when, you know, when America gets a cold, Black people get pneumonia. Um. The worst results came for our lowest performing students. Um. Our our students of color um and our poorest students, in fact, in math, white students lost five points. Black students lost 13 points. And um, you know, people are arguing about whether or not this is really right. Did we go back 20 years um in the last two years? And I think the semantics are not what matters. I think what matters most is there is a pretty dire educational crisis happening right now in this country that I don’t think people are taking as seriously as they need to take. Um. We have flooded schools with money um and money is really important, but we haven’t actually changed how we’re teaching or what we’re teaching. We haven’t attended to the mental health issues that our young people are facing when they come back to school. When you look at levels of violence in schools right now, it’s up significantly. Um. And basically after two years, we’re like, okay, let’s just go back to business as usual. They make the point that um a lot of the reasons why this achievement gap, which is what you’ve heard it called, the gap between white students and students of color and why it’s been exacerbated so dramatically is because schools in low income African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods were likely to be remote for much longer than in white neighborhoods. And there’s been a huge conversation around school closures even still today. Like there’s the should we have closed? Should we have closed for so long? Should we have gotten back to business? Because in a number of places where schools did go back and went back early, you saw a lot of gains being recovered. Um. But there’s conversations even now about whether or not to close schools for snow days in New York City. They just eliminated snow days and they’re going to go hybrid here in Washington, D.C.. There’s a huge debate because um the city is so interested in kids coming back to school that they are not offering any hybrid or virtual models um for kids who might need to stay home because of health issues or what have you. And so I think there’s this huge conversation like our educational system is is not on fire like it is crumbling before our very eyes. And there’s an African proverb that I love that says, when elephants fight, it’s the grass that gets trampled. And our children are the grass. Our children are the one ones who are paying for all of these political, you know, um debates and conversations that we’re having. And while a lot of people think that it’s hyperbolic to say we’ve lost 20 years of progress, like the hyperbole is necessary because people don’t really understand what is and isn’t happening in classrooms. Shout out to teachers and principals who are in there, doing it every single day who are confronting the realities. It’s back to school time. And and I don’t think that we are appropriately recognizing the job that these folks have to do. Um. They’ve got a huge academic job to do. They’ve got huge social and emotional and relational jobs to do. And I just wanted to bring this to the pod, because I don’t think that we are talking about how, you know, badly the children are faring in this post-pandemic moment.
Myles Johnson: So one of the things that I took from this, actually I just have a series. I have like a series of like questions um because I know that you all are the education insiders. What’s the actual plan? Like, is there any plan to, like, look forward to or that people can advocate towards? You know, because I think I’ve heard so much about, you know, things that some people are saying hyperbolic and then some other people are saying like, no, it’s what’s going on. But I haven’t really heard too much of like, what is the what can people organize around who read this and who are not a part of it like me, who are not part of the education system but want but are terrified by this news?
Kaya Henderson: I don’t think that there is a like collective plan, but if you ask me one, our kids need more instructional time, so they need more time. And that and by instructional time, that doesn’t just mean like more of the same academic garbage that they’ve been getting. It is more time doing interesting, rigorous tasks that are worthy of their time and attention. It is individualized help. You’ll hear a lot of people talking about tutoring. Tutoring is not the end all be all, but it is a really important, um it’s a really important way to gain ground. Um. I think we have to advocate for more um mental health supports in schools, counselors, social workers, psychologists. I think we have to advocate for more play, more music, more art, more P.E., more things that engage young people. Because when young people are engaged, when school is fun, academics soar, confidence um increases, leadership increases like for me it’s really simple. What do you want for your kid? You don’t want your kid to just do reading and math, be able to read and do math. You want your kid to play an instrument. You want your kid to be a digital native. You want your kid to master a sport, master a foreign language, study abroad. How do we build out systems of education that speak to the whole child where if art is their thing, they get to pursue that? Whatever it is like we have to, we we are building back the same crapola that we had before and we can actually demand something very, very different for our young people.
Myles Johnson: Yeah. I think, you know, and this is not to, like, undermine just how devastating this must be for the children at all. I don’t want that to be taken that’s how I’m saying it. But I do think hearing this because I know that my public education in Georgia child, was horrible. Was horrendous. Um. I think that this is an opportunity to create to to to. Reimagine something that seemed to, even before the pandemic, already be on its way out. And I felt like just like even when I was in high school, middle school, elementary school in Georgia, because it was such a not a well-performing, you know, state to be to be in, that was always a constant as always had that like in the back of my like in the back of my head. So I was never, uh I never had a myth of like of going to like a really good school or that the school system wasn’t broken. And I think this is a time to, like, recreate something in like, take that information you just said and really apply it to something that seemed to already be suffering. And then the pandemic just kind of hyper sped it out, from what I can tell, from the periphery.
De’Ara Balenger: And I think the other thing just about. The impact, just this overwhelming impact of COVID. One million people died in the United States. And we haven’t said rat cat dog about it. I mean, we haven’t had a national memorial. We haven’t had a cultural healing around just the loss of human life, the loss of ways of life, the loss of business. Like we it’s just like we’ve just forgot about it. It’s just been like, move on, move on, it’s over, move on. And I think part of that is. I mean, in in our generation, we never really haven’t gone through something like that. And so I think partly it’s the pushing past it is a way that people are actually coping with it. But I think what we’re starting to see Kaya, and we talked about this ad nauseum during COVID is the anticipated societal, systemic, institutional impacts of COVID. And we’re seeing that across education. We’re seeing that across health. And so. I don’t know at what point there is like a national reckoning around. Like it happened. And this is what that meant. But I think this is just a big part of that. Like we have not dealt with the loss that COVID brought us.
Myles Johnson: That really resonated with me De’Ara and that you like was you just saying that just instantly make me go back to me losing a friend and how I needed to go through my grieving period. But I kind of denied it and suppressed it. And that manifested as um alcohol and substance abuses, that it manifested as um like rage, it manifested in so many toxic ways and I it just really resonated with you, kind of like connecting that with me and saying, Oh, this is this is how it looks like when a community does what I did as an individual. You know, this is what happens when when a state does what I did as an individual. And um yeah, that that just. Go on, Pastor. That was good for me.
DeRay Mckesson: I do think this is one of the things, too, where it’s like two things can be true. I’ve seen some people get really frustrated with these articles like of course there was learning lost, so much happened. It was craz– like this idea that, that, that like obviously there were consequences. But we need to focus on, you know, making sure that people are safe and healthy. This idea that like people are complaining about this and like I’ve seen that actually a lot on in some activist circles and I get really frustrated because and I agree that like, you know, we needed to make sure people survived and that was hard and we didn’t get everybody and you know, we lost a lot of lives. The other thing is like, what does it mean when there will be a generation of kids who just, like, don’t know how to read, right? Like, there’s a like a whole set of kids who just didn’t learn phonics. They weren’t lucky enough to have a teacher or a cousin who was a parent. They couldn’t afford a pod to put their kids in. There wasn’t like the set of two, three, four, five who like they just for all the reasons that we talk about systemic injustice, poverty, they just didn’t get an access to a strong core foundation. And I will tell you, and Kaya, I believe you probably agree, that the the early years super matter and it’s once you get off track, it’s just hard. You know, once you’re a fifth grader that can’t read. And yes, we need to re-imagine grades and who says like, all that stuff is true and the system we got is what we got. And when you are a fifth grader who just doesn’t know the letter sounds, that is just a hard. Like we have not seen very many schools, districts or classrooms, frankly, close that gap in ways that put kids back on track. And I think that like the as you can imagine, poor people and people of color suffer more in those situations. Because I know a lot of wealthy people who like I know a lot of teachers and I know people who just like hired somebody to teach a pod like they were fine. School didn’t work and they might have missed some things, but like, can they read and write and do addition? Those kids, they were fine. You know, the high schoolers were like, you know, we it might be more chance to help those kids. But I think about the early kids who just lost like years of solid basic instruction and like that is that is huge. And that is not the people I see complaining about this being overblown. You know, it’s not their kids. It’s somebody else’s kids. So they’ll be complaining about it in ten years, like why’d they do that thing. It’s like they can’t read, you know what I mean? Like we punted on that as an issue a decade ago, and here are the consequences. So, mind you, my news is also about education. And I feel like I’ve said this the last three weeks where I’m like, I read something that really shocked me, but this one, I’m like, who knew. This is about the Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn, and let me just read the first two paragraphs because The New York Times reporter has wrote it better than I could paraphrase it. The Hasidic Jewish community has long operated one of New York’s largest private schools on its own terms, resisting any outside scrutiny of how its students are faring. But in 2019, the school, the Central United Tal–, the Central United Talmudical Academy agreed to give standardized to give state standardized tests in reading and math to more than a thousand students. Every one of them failed.
Kaya Henderson: Woo child.
DeRay Mckesson: Y’all.
DeRay Mckesson: So the state gives about a billion dollars to the Hasidic community to run schools, and they have had pretty much no oversight. But because of complaints, de Blasio opened up an investigation and it was halted during COVID. But that was sort of like the genesis of pushing for some sort of oversight. And there are a set of people saying that this is a violation of the law, the state law, guaranteeing children adequate education. And so the question is what is happening in the schools that they are not learning how to read and write? And what’s happening is, is that they are teaching Jewish law, prayer, and tradition and virtually offering no English and Math or only offering English or Math after all the religious studies are done. So they learn like a ton of stuff that is religiously really important. But and they quote one of, they quote a former student in this piece saying, you know, he had to lead a community because he realized he was an adult, couldn’t do basic math, like wasn’t strong in all the other things. Uh. And they go through a schedule and it notes that most most of the schools offer reading or math just four days a week often for 90 minutes a day, and only for children between the ages of eight and twelve. Some schools discourage further secular study at home. One school had a rule that, quote says “No English books whatsoever”. And English teachers cannot speak the language fluently themselves in some of the schools they said and I say all this to say that like, you know, if you’ve been in Brooklyn and you’ve seen some of the some of the Hasidic Jewish communities, very tight knit communities, like a lot of institutions that they own and manage there. About 200,000 Hasidic Jews in New York and New York making up roughly 10% of the state’s Jewish population. And the question becomes, how have they gotten away with delivering virtually no no education outside of religious education in the biggest city in the country for so long. And the answer is voting. They vote as a bloc and they guarantee their votes to politicians. And that has staved off oversight. So, you know, people have brought this up to Eric Adams and he has just reminded people that he’s close to the Hassidic community, the current governor is also staying out of it, saying, you know, she’s just sort of like. No. And, you know, all I could think about was now y’all know, if this was a group of Black schools, the Department of Education at the national level, VA here, this would be [?] This would be undone. They would have–
Kaya Henderson: State takeover. Federal takeover. People would have been fired.
Myles Johnson: Maybe.
Kaya Henderson: Heads rolled. All kinds of jazz. Shame on every single newspaper. It would have been terrible.
DeRay Mckesson: National news.
Myles Johnson: Or they would have been like that’s that’s just where we want y’all.
DeRay Mckesson: No, the state with the billion dollars. If if if the– [banter]
Kaya Henderson: It’s the money, baby, it’s the money it’s the money.
DeRay Mckesson: Taxpayer money.
Myles Johnson: Yes.
DeRay Mckesson: To private schools to educate Black kids.
Myles Johnson: Oh yes.
DeRay Mckesson: And not one child.
Myles Johnson: Oh yes.
DeRay Mckesson: It would be. These they’d be shamed out of New York.
De’Ara Balenger: People would be in jail. No, no, people would be in jail if they were Black people.
Myles Johnson: Forgot about that billion dollar detail. [laughter].
Kaya Henderson: Honey.
DeRay Mckesson: Um so so I’ll stop and just say one of the things that again, shocked me and they interviewed over 200 people for this story. They said a former teacher provided hundreds of pages of worksheets from the past five years that showed that 12 year olds, mind you, 12 is like seventh grade cannot spell words like cold and America.
Kaya Henderson: Let me tell you something. Those them the pages from the notebook were astounding. Astounding.
De’Ara Balenger: So I’ll stop. I’ll pass it over to y’all. I can’t wait to see what you had to say, but this is like it legitimately shocked me.
De’Ara Balenger: So this is going to sound like a little bit of a tangent, but it’s not. A couple of days ago, my Auntie Terry, who lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, texted me and sent texted me a text that said there’s an outbreak of polio happening in New York State. Your governor just called for a state of emergency. So I’m like, there go my Auntie Terry again on Facebook. Who know like, what is this fake story? Come to find out, there is a state of emergency going on with the lack of vaccinations with polio. And it’s happening in predominantly Hasidic communities. Right. And so I live in Williamsburg and my neighbors are the Hasidic community. And we had another. There. Every two years there’s some vaccination crisis. Right. And so it could be tetanus, it could be polio, it could be COVID, whatever it is they ain’t getting them. Okay. So first of all, that’s a whole issue. The other issue why this is not surprising to me at all is because we still allow for these folks to engage in child marriages. These these young people, they’re getting married at 15, 16, 17 years old. And like, it’s happening. It’s, like, rampant. So I feel like. I don’t know. This is, I don’t, the politician, the vote bloc thing. I did not know that. And that really blows my mind because these are like I said, they’re New Yorkers and they’re my neighbors. And the fact that. They’re just at because of policy, the lack of policy, because of lack of concern, because people want their votes. They’re actually putting their own lives at risk. And they’re also violating basic constitutional human rights of of young people. So. Clearly I get a little hyped up with this one because I see them every day. It’s wild.
Myles Johnson: Okay, so. You blew my mind, DeRay. And I’m like. I’m like, Miss pessimist. So, like, it’s really hard for me to, like, [laugh] get overwhelmed by something overwhelming. And then the first thing that was triggered in my head is A.) How? So I just think that discourse around uh Jewish folks, specifically around Black people, is hard because I think that anti-Semitism is real. So sometimes it’s hard to um or at least for me, I’ll just say for myself, it’s hard to publicly critique something that I see because I do never want it to be warped as like anti-Semitic. And um but when I heard this story, my first, my, my, my um brain went totally into feminist mode. And I think about how conservative traditional religions are not always the safest place for women and not always the safest place for queer people. And how what does help look like? I actually remember seeing a couple of um I’ve seen documentaries on just different religious groups and also things that are considered cults um and then also about like parents who have like and I’m not trying to conflate these two, but I promise y’all I’m going to bring them together, but also parents who have like who have abused their children and kept them out of school. And I remember that one of the things that helped the child be able to get help is the fact that she knew how to read. I remember the thing that helped the child uh get help is that she was like she found out what the letter 911 looks like and how it was on the phone that she had to steal and how that saved her. And I can’t help but go into the darkest place when it comes to this story about how many people are being victimized and are in harms way and don’t have the access to actually leave this community or to uh like find help. And I and again, not wanting to sound anti-Semitic, not wanting to say that every that it’s something to leave if you choose to be there. But I think I, we would be fooling ourselves that we think that the Hassidic community out of this imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy, that this is a group where there’s no violence happening, there’s no um abuse happening, there’s no homophobia, transphobia, um uh domestic abuse happening, and how literacy and how education helps people escape that. That’s the that’s just the first place that my mind went and of course, the money and the politics wild. But it also just frightened me. Terrified me.
Kaya Henderson: The violence is is, in fact, one of the pieces of the story. Right. That’s in fact, in a lot of these schools, corporal punishment is how they do business, literally beating kids. Um. And many of the folks talk about how um traumatized they were from the beatings that they got in these schools. I mean, this the I’m I’m a go down the money road, right? Because tax dollars technically are not supposed to go towards religious education. But if you look at what has been happening um over the last 20 or 30 years, there have been increasing opportunities in a lot of different ways. And this is what the Republicans are super excited about. Voucher programs that allow you to take government money and send your kids to religious schools. And that’s how some of this money is funneling to the um Hasidic schools. They have um a bunch of different, I mean, The Times did this did this analysis, which while it shows that um the yeshivas receive less per pupil than public schools, they actually get more government funding on average than private schools in the state. And in fact, the city voucher program that sends that helps low income families pay for child care now sends nearly a third of its total assistance to Hasidic neighborhoods. Like, what, a third of the money in the city go into voucher programs for this is going to the Hasidic community. There’s another program that provides more than $50 million dollars a year to Hasidic boys schools that say that the end of their day is child care. So they get money for child care. Um. They got $30 million dollars from government financial aid programs because they say their older students are pursuing higher education degrees in religious studies. They’re not higher education degrees. They are their own regular religious training. They got a hundred million through anti-poverty programs to provide free breakfast, lunch and dinner and snacks every day to virtually all Hassidic boys, including during the summer. No girls, just boys. Right? And they buy the food from the retailers that they own. So they are using this money to profit in their own community. Um. They got $100 million dollars from Title One, which is for the poorest folks. And then yeah they got $30 million dollars to transport students um created for a program created specifically for yeshivas. And you see the yellow school busses all over Williamsburg. But get this, they also got $200,000 in federal money for Internet related services and they forbid their students from going online. Y’all, if this ain’t a hustle, I don’t know what a hustle is. And the, DeRay, as you pointed out, the inaction, the lack of accountability because of the politics and the voting is insane.
De’Ara Balenger: Y’all my news quick and easy. I am so excited about the theater season. So excited to be back in the theater and there’s so much amazing, amazing blackety black, black black musicals in theaters happening this fall. So. Excited. First about August Wilson’s ‘The Piano Lesson’ that Samuel L. Jackson, John David Washington. That’s Denzel’s baby for ya’ll that don’t know. And Danielle Brooks are starring in, it’s being directed by Samuel L. Jackson’s wife. It’s a family affair, LaTanya Richardson Jackson. It’s also being co-produced by a bunch of people. And Kandi Burruss and Todd Tucker. If y’all don’t know them, you need to go watch Atlanta House– housewives of Atlanta any season and you’ll find them. The other thing that I’m excited about is Lee Daniels ‘Ain’t No Mo’, and it’s basically based off of what would happen if the United States government gave Black people a ticket to go back to the motherland. Sign me up. The other thing I’m excited about is and yes, I’m flipping through the New York Times and if y’all have this last Sunday’s, it is just glorious. It goes through everything that’s happening in the fall, um through the winter, across everything, dance, theater, arts, yada, yada, yada. The other one I’m excited about, which I saw years ago, um is Top Dog Underdog. And so it’s starring this time um, Yahya Abdul-Mateen and Corey Hawkins. I saw it years ago with, I don’t know, the man formerly known as Mos Def and um and Jeffrey Wright. And they were incredible. Um. But it’s coming back and it’s also amazing. It’s a two man show. It’s Suzan-Lori Parks, Top Dog Underdog. We love Suzan-Lori Parks. So excited to see that as well. And something I’m curious about is the musical 1776, which is a revival that’s coming back, and it’s about the signing um. What was it? The signing? I think it’s Independence Day, the signing. What happened at Continental Congress?
Kaya Henderson: Declaration of Independance.
De’Ara Balenger: It’s like a Hamilton thing, [laughter] Declaration of Independence. But I guess they’re doing it and they’re gonna it’s like a very diverse cast. Right. So that’s supposed to be um what’s happening there. So all that to say, I am just excited to be in New York, excited for theater season. And I hope we talk about all the things that are happening that are not in The New York Times, obviously, as we keep moving through the fall and winter season. So that’s all I had for y’all.
DeRay Mckesson: I will say um I’m sorry. My father. My father’s birthday’s coming up. Happy birthday, Daddy. And uh I got him tickets to MJ on Broadway. And my father is like somebody tweeted when um when Dreamgirls came out, they tweeted, Do you remember being in the in the movie theater when Dreamgirls came out and everybody clapped when Jennifer Hudson sing, sing. And I’m telling you, like people stood up, clapped like it was church. My father is that type of person. So he was like, DeRay. I had to. He was like, because I was with my friend I wasn’t too loud last night, but I just he was like, it was so good. It’s like, it’s like, you know, we need to take more people to see theater and like, you know, because my father was like, this is great. And there’s a lot, lot of good content. I will say some of the coolest nights I’ve been on Broadway have been the Black nights where they like people intentionally get Black people to go. It is a whole different experience to be to see Black content around Black people. And if I ever ask get my dad to come again, it’ll be on a night where, like, it can be Black people. So, so, so like the expressiveness and the interaction with the material is like a normalized thing, and not some like, wild thing where they’re like, why is this man talking to? He’s like, feeling weird about it, but he loved it. And uh I always love his love of the theater when he gets to go, which is not as often as he would like or I would.
Kaya Henderson: I will say last year was one of the Blackest seasons on Broadway. Hashtag Broadway. So Black Um 2021 saw ten Black plays on Broadway, which was unprecedented. And I think that they have figured out that we like theater, too. And that Black–
De’Ara Balenger: Oh they, they like they’ll buy tickets.
Kaya Henderson: They they they well.
De’Ara Balenger: I mean what is wrong with y’all?
Kaya Henderson: They also you know, we’re also culture creators. And so we have some of the most creative and provocative and untold stories that it just feels like it makes me breathe differently to know that, like, we don’t have to fight for a place on Broadway, right? That. And so I think if we had ten in 2021, let’s hope that we’ll have more than ten plus in 2022.
De’Ara Balenger: Mm hmm and Strange Loop is still playing. I’m finally seeing Strange Loop next week or the week after next. So excited about that.
Kaya Henderson: And, and here’s the thing. Some is going to be good and some is going to be bad. And guess what? Some white Broadway is good and some white Broadway is bad. So don’t come to me when something is not super exciting and it’s Black. Like.
Myles Johnson: I’m still going to come.
Kaya Henderson: Look. [laughter] I’m a [?] my best. [laughter] [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. 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 was a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by AJ Moultrié and mixed by Veronica Simonetti and executive produced by me. Special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger and Myles Johnson.