In This Episode
DeRay, Sam, Kaya, and De’Ara dive into recent overlooked news including the reality show “Live PD,” confiscation of IDs by jails, excessive voting lines, and Texas student failure rates. DeRay sits down with Quentin & Stefanie Brown-James, founders of The Collective PAC, to discuss building Black political power. Then, a quick check-in with Antwan Phillips, Little Rock City Board candidate, who wants us to #BelieveInBetter.
DeRay [00:00:01] Hey, this is DeRay, and welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode, it’s me, Sam, Kaya and De’Ara, as usual, talking about the underreported stories in the news. And then I sit down with Quentin and Stefanie Brown-James of the Collective PAC, talking about their incredible work, which she’s even more dope than you know. And then I’m a quick check in with Antwon Phillips running to be a city director for Little Rock, Arkansas. It’s sort of like the city council, and I’ve known him ever since [00:00:28]Bowdoin. [0.0s] So it is amazing to hear his journey, to see what’s going on and to support his race for city director in Little Rock. And, you know, I yeah, I’m fired up and ready to go. Fired up and ready to go. Election Day is coming. Get your plans together. Get your friends together.
DeRay [00:00:44] We got a lot of stuff to do. Ya’ll stay fired up and ready to go. Fired up and ready to go.
Kaya [00:00:50] Welcome to another riveting episode of Pod Save the People. I’m Kaya Henderson and you can reach me @HendersonKaya on Twitter.
Sam [00:00:58] And I’m Sam Sinyangwe @Samswey on Twitter.
DeRay [00:01:00] I’m DeRay @deray on Twitter.
Kaya [00:01:02] So we are actually just a week out from the election. And let me just tell you that this thing is making my hair stand on end as probably everybody else in the country. What are you all thinking at this point? Where are we a week out?
Sam [00:01:19] Nervous? I don’t I don’t know what else to say. This is you know, you look at the polling, you look at the numbers. It like gives you this false sense of comfort. You look at the early voting returns. And like every day I’m going to the election project, I’m looking up their numbers and like the early vote, like today in Texas. Eighty percent of 2016 total vote has voted now early already. It’s interesting in some places you can see like the breakdown by party. And it’s like Democrats who have voted more than Republicans in general in key states. So all that looks good. But like at the end of the day, a whole lot of votes still haven’t been cast. A whole lot of stuff that we still don’t know is going to happen, might happen, and we still have to deal with this situation in the Supreme Court. So, like, the win is like we we need to get Trump out office and also like we need to win the Senate, which is like a higher bar. And then like we need to make sure that there are enough Democratic senators. So, like, even if we have a majority, like if, you know, one or two Democratic senators isn’t down with removing the filibuster or packing the courts, we still have votes.
Sam [00:02:18] It’s like the bar is just so high that like we have no margin for error. Like, we have to win, certainly have to defeat Trump. And we have to do like a bunch of other things to make, even make like what people deserve possible in the next four years. So I am nervous about that, but also cautiously optimistic about just the sheer number of people who’ve turned out and like the number of young people who’ve turned out, the number of black people who’ve turned out despite all of these restrictions and voter suppression measures. So shout out to everybody voting in a pandemic despite all of the risks and the barriers making your voice heard. Voting by mail in unprecedented numbers, voting in person in unprecedented numbers. Just Generally turning out in the way that we need to. So cautiously optimistic.
DeRay [00:03:01] And this is the first election where I feel like a way more people understand early voting. They understand mailing in the ballot. Like, I think that there was an uphill battle. I remember voting early in Baltimore the last election, and it was sort of like, you know, people came and it was a thing, but it wasn’t like a you, this is a cool thing to do or you must like. But this election, I see people being like, OK, we’ll stand on the line. We know the lines shouldn’t last four hours, but we’ll be here and we’ll fight that fight later like that culturally, I actually see that. And I think that that will stick with people. I think that that will become a habit. I also think that this election, in hindsight, will build momentum for Election Day being a holiday. I think that more and more people who might not have sort of cared before will be like, OK, this just is like simple. It should be a holiday. I am more and more nervous about, you know, the last episode we had Terrance on a talk about a disinformation to black men. And I’m telling you, these last two weeks I’ve been in conversations people like I was in an Uber last night where one of my friends was like, isn’t it true that Trump changed it so that felons can vote?
DeRay [00:04:03] And I was like, what?
DeRay [00:04:05] And he was like, yeah didn’t Trump change a law so like people who are incarcerated now and people who are formerly incarcerated so they can vote. Trump did that. Right. And I was like, absolutely not. Like, no, Trump did not do that. Like if anything, he’s like doing the opposite. He doesn’t want people to vote. It’s been interesting that in my friend group, I’ve actually been coming up against these like, didn’t the First Step back, like sort of end incarceration? You’re like, absolutely not. That makes me nervous. Like, I am nervous about that. And like Sam said, we need to win the presidency, but we also need to win the Senate and we can’t win the Senate without black men. So I hope that in this final stretch that the left is putting together Memes and videos and all this stuff to like target black men so that they get the message because Trump is playing a much longer game with the misinfo and the disinfo. And that has me a little nervous. On the bright side, you know, I am cautiously optimistic, but I was cautiously optimistic with Hillary.
DeRay [00:04:57] So please vote ya’ll. Take your cousins. Make it a holiday. If you’ve got a fight with somebody and like, you know, they get their little sticker for the day and ya’ll just disagree, but you get the vote in, like, let that be it, because we need these wins.
Kaya [00:05:10] I am inspired by how people are showing up to vote. I mean, early voting opened yesterday in New York. And everybody that I talked to from my family and friends were getting on line yesterday. Some people waited seven and a half hours to vote. I think the level of commitment is unprecedented. I think people do really understand what’s at stake here. And like you, I’m cautiously optimistic, but that cautious is heavier than optimistic because I remember this feeling four years ago and we can’t have that again. I mean, at the end of the day right here, you call it misinformation or disinformation. I’m just gonna call it what it is, which are lies. And the lies are abundant right now. Right.
Kaya [00:05:56] From what your friends have heard and believe to what people are saying. I have people who are saying, oh, yeah, no, no, no, we can’t vote for Trump. We can’t have another four years of this. But the ballot box is confidential and we have no idea what people are going to do when they walk inside and have a lever to pull. And so a showing up, a showing out. I mean, these early numbers are so flipping inspiring. And if we can keep this momentum going, then we have a chance at winning. This week, I chose to focus on an article from the Texas Tribune. The title of the article is called Alarming Failure Rates among Texas Students Fueled Calls to Get Them Back Into Classrooms.
Kaya [00:06:38] And it’s really a great article by a woman named Aleah Swaby who really dies sex. I think what is actually happening with virtual learning on the ground in Texas and what she reports is that Texas superintendents are now realizing that virtual instruction is not working for thousands of students across the state. There are 5.5 million public school students in Texas. Three million of them are learning from home. And initial report cards from the first quarter show that more students this year than last year are failing at least one class. More students are skipping days and weeks of virtual school, and many, many students are falling behind on reading. And what happened was, as many people know, this spring was incredibly difficult for not just Texas schools, but schools across the board as they tried to implement distance learning, in fact, between teachers’ union contracts that only mandated a couple of hours of instruction and trying to get devices and things to kids and connectivity. The spring was pretty much a dumpster fire for education, and so many districts mandated that school would be back to normal this fall, even though it would be virtual. They would run the full day of programing seven or eight classes that schools would dial up the intensity of academic rigor and things would just get back to normal. And what has happened is there are alarming number of kids who are failing, not just failing one class, but failing multiple classes. In fact, an Austin Independent School District, eleven thousand seven hundred kids are failing at least one class, which is up 70 percent from where they were last year. What’s holding kids back? Connectivity issues, lack of devices, other tech issues for sure. But for many of these kids, they just are not connecting to this virtual learning space. They aren’t finding the supportive classroom environment that they need. They aren’t finding the academic support that they need. And for a lot of kids, it literally is just not working. What’s most interesting, I think, is about how adults are responding to this. So if kids are not learning, what do we do? Well, on the one hand, this is strengthening the urgency of calls to get students back in classrooms as soon as possible. And so there is a huge appetite for reopening school in-person to bring kids in, because in some places, in fact, you find much lower failure rates for kids who are attending in-person versus virtually in one district where 78 percent of the kids are attending school in person. Only eight percent of the kids attending in person are failing, but 25 percent of the kids who are attending virtually are failing. But what we see happening with the adults is all kinds of shenanigans. So we see administrators asking teachers to grant exceptions to kids who are failing or to. Quote unquote, extend grace to kids who are failing. We see a number of school districts that are backpedaling on the academic rigor that they called for. They’re telling their teachers to do whatever it takes to make sure kids pass. In one particular district, a principal asked teachers to gift the students with a 70. If they were failing. And that has a direct correlation to a Texas policy called No Pass, No Play, which effectively says if you don’t earn a 70 in your classes, then you can’t play sports. And so teachers are being asked to gift children a 70 passing score so that they can continue to play sports. In some cases, they’re actually requiring failing students to come in to school in person so they can begin to deal with the learning gaps. I chose this article because I think it is illustrative of what’s happening all across the country. This is not just in Texas. This is happening everywhere. There are many, many, many children who are not finding success in virtual learning. There are many, many administrators and districts who haven’t figured out how to deal with that. And so you’re going to see lots of shortcuts being taken. And at the end of the day, the people who are short changed by the shortcuts are young people who need it most are poorest and our most colorful young people. These districts are getting hit with decreasing enrollment. As I pointed out in my piece last week, which has tremendous budgetary implications. And the Texas Education Agency is reinstating sanctions for low test scores this year. Will they do that? Why would you take money away from schools that are struggling to engage kids, to teach kids? And we are going to institute sanctions if their test scores don’t go up this year. At the end of the day, for me, this is a little bit about common sense and how we don’t always apply it in situations like this. When you have 70 percent more kids failing, a state education agency should not move forward with sanctions for low test scores. We need to figure out how to get these kids learning, whether it’s in-person or virtual. We need to shift resources. We need to grab some political spine around here and do what we need to do for our young people.
Sam [00:12:34] So this article was fascinating, Kaya. And, you know, looking at this in the context of sort of the news about rising Covid rates like all across the country, except in a few places, it just just illustrates the difficulty of the situation where there is more and more and more pressure now for kids to come back to in-person learning, because the inequities in terms of access to remote learning, in terms of the ability to have the educational supports to engage in that learning remotely, that those inequities continue to exacerbate as more time goes on. And, you know, rich kids privilege kids have access to all of these academic supports. And Low-Income Kids, marginalized kids have none of that. So there’s more and more pressure for kids to come in to school and learn in person. But I have to imagine, you know, as a superintendent, as a principal, looking at these numbers all across the country, continuing to go up not only in the U.S., but like abroad, too. It looks like there’s another wave coming. And like, how do you plan around that? How do you plan for moving to in-person learning in the context where that in-person learning is predictably going to be more risky moving forward, if the current trends hold? So I think all of that is huge challenge for educators. What are the steps that some districts might be taking to close those gaps in access and to get every kid access to a remote learning device, to get every kid access to the Internet, to get every kid access to the emotional supports and the educational supports that they need at this time? Now, I’m just curious now, you know, hearing about this, you know, what are some strategies that have been effective in that space? Have they actually worked or is this just, you know, ultimately this is not a technological solution for, you know, the inequities and the stress that the folks are going through right now. And I’m just wondering, you know, who might be really solving this and how they’re doing it so that we can scale that to other places?
DeRay [00:14:27] One of the things that’s really interesting to me was this question of how do you quantify the learning loss? So the nonprofit testing organization NWEA, they predicted that students started this school year, having lost roughly a third a year in reading and half a year math. Then Credo, an education research organization, they projected the average student lost 136 to 232 days of learning and math depending on their state. And McKinsey, the consulting firm, predicts that by the fall of 2021, students will have lost three months to a year of learning depending on the quality of their remote education.
Kaya [00:15:02] And just a reminder, for these places where kids are losing 200 days, an average school year is only 180 days.
DeRay [00:15:12] It’s sort of wild. And, you know, in reading about this, it was interesting cause some people, you know, are like standardized testing doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s like I get it. We should we should have more rigorous ways to talk about how kids learn. And either you can add or you can’t write like either either kids, like, understand that multiplication is repeated addition or they don’t. Right. And some of this stuff I think about there are some kids that I know, some family members who they got out third grade like one one kid got out of the third grade right when they were supposed to, like, start to really learn that multiplication is repeated addition, which it is FYI, and, and they just didn’t, like the lesson stopped like school stopped. So now their parent is trying to teach, like the relationship between skip counting, like three, six, nine and like multiplication.
DeRay [00:16:02] And like, luckily, the parent is a teacher and sort of can like muscle through this. But I’m like, how many people will be able to do this? And I do think the learning loss will be significant. I think that, like anybody who’s ever taught can tell you that remediation is hard in general in this much content, people missing like history, like you missed like hold things, you know, Like.
Kaya [00:16:23] Centuries, eras.
DeRay [00:16:25] That’s like a you know, I think about math. It’s like whole skills. And because the pandemic came on so quick, nobody was tracking, like, which skills we stopped, you know, like that whole conversation was like what skill stopped and where we picked up.
DeRay [00:16:36] And I’m close to another principal who they started off virtually and now they are transitioning to in person. The classes will shift. Kids will be regrouped. This is serious. So I do you want us to start, I’m hopeful that we’ll start getting creative about what remediation looks like and seriously commit to.
DeRay [00:16:53] And if any listener has like a good example of this happening across the country, like we will have to figure out how to equip parents better. I don’t know how we’ll get out of this without parents being legitimately equipped to help. And I see this rise in home schooling and I’m like, I don’t even know if that’s a good thing. Like I don’t, you know, just a ton of people being schooled at home with parents who don’t know the content is not necessarily a win. So I want us to add some texture to these conversations, because this could be like a lost set of kids skill wise for a while. And like, that’s not fair.
Kaya [00:17:26] I think your point about parents having to be equipped is really an interesting one, because we’re at a point where most parents are just even the best intentioned parents are fed up and tired of trying to pull off this distance learning support thing for their young people. Most schools and school districts have not given parents the tools and resources that could help them be successful yet. And still, parents have a front row seat about what is and what is not going on in schools. And parents are pissed off about what they’re seeing. And parents are at a different level of demand, which I think in the long term is going to be good for us, is going to force schools and school districts to deliver something very different. But in the short term, I, like you, DeRay, I’m worried that we are losing an entire generation of kids as a result of just what has gone on over the last year.
Sam [00:18:22] So my nose is about Live PD, which is a show like Cops that for quite some time has taken a camera crew, along with police officers and departments across the country to film arrests, use of force, other policing tactics that are often violent, often disproportionately against black people. And a new report just came out in The Statesman, which actually looked at the impact that Live PD may have had in Williamson County in Texas, which is near Austin. So specifically, this report found that use of force in Williamson County Sheriff’s Department increased from 43 use of force incidents in 2017 the year before, at Live PD began working with Williamson County to 82 incidents, the year after that in 2019. Almost doubled during that time period. A deeper analysis of the data also found that during the weeks that Live PD was filming, police were more likely to use force than the weeks that Live PD was not filming. And that there were many cases in which Live PD, while the cameras were on, police continued to engage in excessive force, police brutality against a whole host of folks, including Javier Ambler, who was killed by police while Live PD was filming in 2019. I’ve had to, like, read up on what’s going on with Live PD. They recently announced after the murder of George Floyd that they would be suspending Live PD programing. But the sort of legacy of Live PD continues on in many cases in Williamson County, where the sheriff now has been indicted last month with felony evidence tampering for seeking to prevent the disclosure of Live PD footage of their officers using excessive force. So, again, this is a situation where a sheriff has been charged with a felony for trying to prevent Live PD footage from coming out. And it’s more evidence that programs like Live PD contribute to a culture of police violence, particularly against black people. Black people are overrepresented in terms of who was impacted by police use of force during that period. And it’s another reminder that filming the police is not an antidote to police violence. That the fact that there are cameras on the fact that a camera crew is live broadcasting the footage to the world did not prevent the officers from killing Javier Ambler by tasing him repeatedly until he died, did not prevent the police from using force at even higher levels and that they had been using it before Live PD came into Williamson County.
Sam [00:21:00] And so I wanted to leave you all with that, because I think, you know, as we talk about video evidence and body cameras, this is an important part of the conversation because it’s clear that the presence of video footage here didn’t prevent anything from happening. If anything, it actually encouraged officers to be even more violent for the cameras.
DeRay [00:21:16] So what’s interesting, I encourage everybody to listen to the podcast Running From Cops. It is an excellent podcast. It details all of the things with cops. I learned so much, Sam can tell you. I listened to it, called him, harassed him like you must listen to. I got a meeting with the people who produced it because I was like, we got to do something about cops. Like, it was incredible to just learn. So like, I won’t steal the thunder of their pod, but running from cops. It’s about cops and it’s about Live PD. But as Sam noted, cops do get canceled. And it is actually back in production. They put out a press release on September 30th with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. They announced that two cops film crews have been riding around since September and that filming will continue through the first week of November. So they clearly just canceled it as like appeasement during the protests. And they are back in action. It’s aired since 1989 and it’s been going strong for 25 seasons. And Live PD is not actually back in production yet. But Dan Abrams, who is the host of Live PD, he tweeted out in June, “Just so you know, it’s coming back.” And then he’s actually tweeting even more recently, like, we’ll cover this when it comes back, like he is clear that he thinks Live PD is actually coming back in action. And it is interesting because Live PD really went out of its way to make the police officers like heroes. They go on tour, they have fans. There’s a whole culture of celebrating policing. And Sam just told you there’s actually an underbelly of that. And if you listen to their podcast, Running From Cops, which I’m a big fan of, you actually hear more. But it’s interesting. You think about the symbolic wins that people got during the protests in June that like seem like big things. And, you know, the police are like, we’ll wait you out. And, you know, nobody’s writing about this. And, Sam, If you hadn’t brought this news. I would have never realized Cops is back in production. That Live PD is probably getting back soon. And this is how the game is played. So we have to stay vigilant.
Kaya [00:23:13] I thought this was a fascinating article because the back to the sense idea, one would think that if you know you’re being filmed, you would actually follow the rules and do what was right. But in fact, the article pointed out that there was a culture of violence, there was insufficient training, and, in fact, that the police wanted to make good TV. And so that accounts for the increases in police brutality while they were filming. I think the wildest thing about this article is, is that deputies were almost never disciplined for using force. In fact, they were rewarded for using good force with gift cards. And after one particularly egregious event where a deputy was asked to resign, he was surprised that he was asked to resign. He thought he was being called in to get a gift card for having roughed people up. And so I think the media has a clear responsibility when we see data like this to ask itself how it’s contributing and to be differently responsible than just going after the ratings, because this is totally out of control.
DeRay [00:24:26] So my news is something that I truly didn’t know about before this week. I didn’t know about this issue of not having an I.D. upon release from jail or prison. I think I’d heard about it before, but I I just hadn’t read anything about it. I didn’t know what solutions look like. So my article is about New York City and about the New York City Department Corrections does not keep data on how many people leave city jails without an I.D. each year. But more importantly, the Department of Corrections has a history of actually not returning people’s I.D. to them, that they have seized upon arrest.
DeRay [00:24:57] So you get arrested, they take all your stuff. Supposed to get it back when you get released. And they have a pattern of actually just not giving it back. And the challenge with that is that when you get out of incarceration and you need an ID. to do pretty much anything, you’ll need an idea to get back on Medicaid, to get government benefits, to apply for an apartment, to apply for a job, like you actually need some form of ID.. And this actually is just another burden that happens where the city could help people. But the city chooses to have a process that doesn’t. I think the wildest this thing that I learned from this in New York City, there’s an ID. called IDNYC, which is like a it’s not a driver’s license. It’s a it’s an ID.. What’s sort of wild is that state prisons, print ID. cards that can be used as proof of identity so that people can apply for the IDNYC like the New York City version. City jails print the ID cards as well, but forwhatever reason, the city of New York does not take the paperwork from city jails as proof of identity. That makes no sense. It seems like people are just going out of their way to screw over people who’ve been incarcerated. Now, if you don’t know who the people are, who you’ve locked up, then I mean, that’s not the case for letting them out. Then I don’t know what is. If you don’t have faith in your own paperwork about who is incarcerated. Faith enough to give them an ID when they get out. That seems wild. So I hope that there’s a legislator or somebody who champions this. Alaska, Florida, Illinois and Mississippi all require that every state resident leaving state prisons be discharged with an official state ID. Minnesota. Tennessee, Virginia and Idaho have DMV machines with imprisons to help people acquire official state IDs. And there was a pilot program on Rikers established in 2016 about IDNYC, but it was shut down just after a month. And, you know, they said it was some logistical issues about a confidential Wi-Fi and all this other stuff, but they haven’t figured it out. And again, these are like the subtle ways that people are just screwed over that go invisible to a lot of people who are looking at systemic work.
Sam [00:27:03] So I didn’t really know about this either. You know, I had I knew that folks weren’t being provided affirmatively with IDs that they didn’t have before. But I hadn’t quite considered that, like, people had entered the criminal justice system with an ID and the police just wouldn’t give it back or lost it, quote unquote or otherwise, just like they refuse to actually provide the ID that the person had had previously. And that is I mean, essentially they’re stealing people’s IDs, is what that means and taking away their ability to reintegrate into society after being released from jail. My head immediately went to you know, obviously we’re in an election season. And in many states, if you don’t have an ID, you can’t vote. And we know on any given day there are between 600 and 700,000 people in jails across the country, many of whom are in states that require voter ID. And you can imagine has been hard enough to sort of push sheriff’s offices and County Department of Corrections to actually begin making sure that folks who are incarcerated in jail have access to the franchise, are able to vote, are able to request a ballot. And then you can imagine, you know, that rarely happens at all. And then when folks are released, you know, the least that they could do is make sure that folks have the ID that they started with when they got into the system and they’re literally disenfranchizing people not only from the vote in those states, but from a whole host of things that you mentioned, DeRay, that are necessary to get back on your feet. So it’s wild. I hadn’t really fully considered what’s going on. It’s good to hear that places, even places like Florida and Mississippi apparently are doing things a little bit better than the norm, which is surprising. And I hope that more places will consider this a requirement that folks be provided with IDs at the time that they’re released.
Kaya [00:28:49] This rings of an absolute failure in leadership.
Kaya [00:28:53] To me, the fact that it is being done well in other places, says New York City, can do this well, but chooses not to do it. And I think that that’s reprehensible. On the one hand, I feel like somebody should sue the city of New York for losing people’s things. Right. If you can keep a clear chain of evidence against me and safeguard all of the things that lead to me getting convicted. You can keep my ID somewhere safe and give it to me when I leave. And so I think there should be a class action suit where until the city gets sued and does something differently that, you know, I mean, I think that’s a potential way to get things moving. And then on the other hand, I just think that, you know, if people are serious, there were. A number of advocacy organizations mentioned in the article that I have reached out to the mayor to ask for a meeting to move this. And this is, you know, having worked in a large bureaucracy, as I read the article, this agency says, no, it’s the other agency. The other agency says no, it’s that agency. It’s Wi-Fi. It’s this, it’s that it’s the other. At the end of the day, some regular old human just has to stand up and say, you know what? This is jacked up and we should do better. Here’s what we’re going to do. That’s leadership. That’s what leadership takes, folks. And and far too many times, the bureaucrats just keep bureaucraticing instead of standing up and doing what the mess is. Right. And so this is a time for somebody to do something that’s right. This is simple. This is simple.
De’Ara [00:30:30] My news this week is from The New York Times. And it’s actually being pretty widely reported. But I thought it’s still important to bring it to the Pod. So we’ve seen early vote lines, long lines across the country, folks standing for hours and hours. So I think what surprised me about this particular article is that this is happening in New York City. So tens of thousands of New Yorkers flooded polling places and waited in lines for hours to cast their vote on Saturday, which was New York’s first day of early vote. The New York Times reported that many of these folks turned out because of the concerns that their ballots might not be counted. Late last month, the city board of Elections came under fire. As many as 100,000 voters in Brooklyn received absentee ballots with the wrong names and addresses. So kind of the thinking is, is a lot of the flooding of the polling places and people actually getting out to vote in person is because their absentee ballots being wrong. So this is the first presidential election during which New Yorkers are allowed to cast ballots early. The state legislature approved early voting just in 2019 after Democrats took control of the New York legislature, making New York one of the last states to adopt it, which is wild. If you think about New York, as liberal as it is, respectively, being one of the last states in the country to adopt early voting. So Sarah Steiner, a New York election attorney who has represented candidates seeking public office, said on Saturday that “it was not unusual to hear reports of long lines and other problems during the first day of early voting.” She said “there’s always a couple of glitches. This is an event for a lot of people and it’s wonderful to see the sign of civic engagement. It’s also Ms, Steiners belief that early voting lines tend to decrease after the first day. So voter should expect shorter waits as early voting continues. So, folks, by the time you’ll be hearing this, this election will be six days away. We are in the last full week of campaigning. And as we know, early voting has been in full swing across the country. And as of last Sunday, almost 60 million Americans have casted a vote in this presidential elections. This is obviously record breaking turnout. Democrats hold an advantage in the early voting returns thus far. This is all according to the U.S. election project. So in terms of early votes or 60 million two hundred sixty eight thousand three hundred ninety five. So of that 40 million ish are mail ballots, 20 million ish are in-person votes. And so how that showing up in terms of breakdown in party is Democrats are at about 13 million ish and Republicans aren’t seven million ish. So, yes, that is good. And as we know, more than one third of votes already returned come from the three most popular and important states, California, Texas and Florida. Now, I don’t want us to get too excited. It as we know from 2016, we have to press until the very end to get out the vote. And especially when we think about the premise that the hike in the Dem turnout is potentially due to a collective belief in the facts and fears around coronavirus. And we know that this philosophy doesn’t necessarily hold the same weight. On the other side. So Republicans will come out on Election Day in huge numbers and some say we’ll face less lines since so many Dems have voted early or by mail. What’s going to happen is that there’s going to be a ton of turnout on the Republican side. And those are going to be in-person votes. Right. So just remember that right now Dems are leading and mail in ballots. But those are 40 million. Some are ballots that need to be counted. The results of those are going to come much later. So all that to say that Trump may lead us on election night in terms of electoral college and popular vote because of all the in-person voting on the Republican side. But I think with all of that, that’s why it’s really, really been really important for us to get the vote out until Election Day. So keep pushing. Keep pushing in your communities for folks to vote early and on Election Day.
Kaya [00:34:19] Ya’ll be having me outraged at these things that I don’t know about that maybe is good that I didn’t know about them before because I was living a decent life and now I’m just angry all the time.
DeRay [00:34:29] Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People’s coming.
DeRay [00:34:33] Pod Save the People is brought to you by Stronger.org. Our right to vote is under attack. The removal of polling places. Racist voter I.D. laws and misinformation about ballots are all in attempt to make voting harder and to silence us.
Kaya [00:34:44] In this election.
Kaya [00:34:45] Our democracy is at stake. There’s a misinformation crisis right now from lies about voter fraud and the Covid 19 vaccine to conspiracy theories about climate change and the fight for social justice. This crisis impacts every part of our lives. Stronger is leading the fight for truth and to ensure our voices are heard.
DeRay [00:35:05] At Stronger.org/PEOPLE, you can sign up to fight this crisis.
DeRay [00:35:08] We know there’s so much to care right now, but we need to rise to this moment. It’s now or never. Misinformation was on the rise before the pandemic. And it’s only gotten worse since. Now we’re facing a health crisis and a flood of lies just days before the most important election of our lifetime.
DeRay [00:35:21] Stronger believes we deserve to live in a society where truth prevails and our voices are heard. If you agree, visit stronger dot org, slash people and sign him to defend the truth and preserve our democracy. Again, that’s Stronger.org/PEOPLE to join the fight. Pod Save the People is brought to you.
Kaya [00:35:40] by Brooklinen. Brooklinen. Oh my gosh. One of my new faves. There are lots of great ways to start off your day. Eating breakfast, meditating, walking the dog, making your bed. But you start off the day great when you’ve had a good night’s sleep beforehand.
Kaya [00:35:58] And what I’m here to tell you is that my Brooklinen sheets give me an amazing night sleep.
Kaya [00:36:06] I don’t know what it is. I really don’t.
Kaya [00:36:08] But, I mean, I’ve had, you know, high thread count sheets and fancy hotel sheets and whatnot, but these Brooklinen sheets are a little different. Yeah, it is it’s different. And I get good sleep and I wake up and I want to make my bed every morning because I want to come back to a bed that looks as amazing as it feels.
DeRay [00:36:30] There is nothing that feels better in the morning than getting out of good sheets, like Kaya said. And the cool thing is that you get a chance too to go with Brooklinen, home of the Internet’s favorite sheets and Brooklinen, and works directly with manufacturers and directly with customers.
DeRay [00:36:45] No middleman. Just a great product and a great service. All luxury products without the luxury markup. Brooklinen sheets are perfect Place to start making your mornings. Great.
Kaya [00:36:54] Brooklinen is so confident in their product and so am I that all of their bidding comes with a lifetime warranty. Get 10 percent off your first order and free shipping when you use the promo code.
Kaya [00:37:06] P S T P only at Brooklinen.com. Brooklinen, everything you need to live your most comfortable life.
DeRay [00:37:13] Pod Save the People is brought to you by Ziprecruiter.
Kaya [00:37:15] It’s election time and whether you’ve already voted or you still need to vote. It’s our country’s chance to choose the best candidate for president, vice president and hundreds in Congress.
DeRay [00:37:25] That’s a lot of jobs, I feel, especially after months of watching debates and researching their experience.
Kaya [00:37:29] What if you had to do all that work every time you needed to hire for your business? Thankfully, there’s Ziprecruiter, Ziprecruiter does the work for you. And right now you can try it for free at Ziprecruiter.com/SAVETHEPEOPLE.
DeRay [00:37:44] First.
DeRay [00:37:44] When you post a job as a recruiter, it gets it to over one hundred job sites at just one click, then Ziprecruiters powerful matching technology finds people with the right skills and expertize and experience for your job and actively invites him to apply. So you get qualified candidates fast.
Kaya [00:37:58] It’s no wonder four out of five employers who post on Ziprecruiter get a quality candidate within the first day. Right now you can try Ziprecruiter for free at Ziprecruiter.com/SAVETHEPEOPLE. that’s Ziprecruiter.com/ S A V E T H E P E O P L E.
DeRay [00:38:18] You may be stressed out about the election, but you won’t be stressed out about hiring when you try as a recruiter for free and zip recruiter dot com. So I save the people. Zip recruiter. The smartest way to hire.
DeRay [00:38:31] For four years, Quentin and Stefanie Brown-James started the collected PAC. Since then, they’ve raised money for campaigns across the country and trained more than a thousand black progressive candidates to run for office. Here’s the discussion where I learned all about everything they’ve accomplished where the PAC goes from here. Let’s go.
DeRay [00:38:46] Stefanie and Quentin, thanks so much for joining us today on Pod Save the People.
Stenfanie Brown-James [00:38:49] Thanks for having us, DeRay.
Quentin Brown-James [00:38:49] Thanks for having us, yeah.
DeRay [00:38:51] Cool, so I remember when you started to collect it back and read the announcement. And, you know, we’re coming to the final days of this fateful election. Can you talk to us about what is a Collective PAC, why you started it? And like, what’s the work?
Quentin Brown-James [00:39:03] Yeah. So we lost the Collective PAC, Stefanie and I, back in 2016 because we were frustrated with what we were seeing happening around the country. You know, go back to what was happening in Ferguson with the Michael Brown situation where we saw this majority black city and not a single African-American on City Council, not a history of having black mayors that the D.A. had been in office for decades and years.
Quentin Brown-James [00:39:25] And so for us, it was like, how do we use our skills, our networks to raise money, recruit, train, support black candidates to get in positions of power to address the changes that our communities so in need for. So that was kind of the impetus of it, the understanding that there was a group supporting black candidates specifically on the local, state and federal level. And so that was kind of my story. What about you Stefanie?
Stenfanie Brown-James [00:39:57] Yeah, no same thing. And, you know, one of the challenges we have in this country is we don’t have equity in the representation of who’s in office. And in order to change the laws, we must change the law makers. We must have folks in office that both reflect and respect our communities. And so, you know, we work really hard to make sure that we’re supporting progressive black candidates that are running, that we are helping them to be trained. Soon after launching the Collective PAC, we realized, oh, we need to have a training mechanism. So we started the Black Campaign School. We’re partnering with Jessica Byrd at Three Point Strategies. We’ve thus far trained over a thousand black folks who are either running for office are interested. And so, you know, now would say the 2020 version of the collective has expanded to now. We have four separate organizations in addition to the PAC we have a super PAC. We have a foundation and we have a nonprofit organization. So we’re just trying to cover all basis as we work to build black political power.
DeRay [00:40:53] What have you learned since you began? I can only imagine like what you thought coming into it and then on the lessons you learned, maybe before you answer that. There are going to be a lot of people who are listening who have no clue what a PAC is. So how would you like what is a PAC? My aunt wants to know what a PAC is. How do you talk about.
Quentin Brown-James [00:41:09] Yeah, it’s a great question. So a PAC stands for Political Action Committee. There are local PACs, state PACs and federal PACs. We run a federal PAC, meaning it is kind of regulated by the Federal Elections Commission. But PACs basically allow you to raise money to support candidates who you believe in. Right. So we support black progressive candidates. But, you know, the NRA, for instance, support candidates who believe in, you know, giving everyone a gun and not having any restrictions on gun usage in this country. A PACs can be organized around interests or around identity. You have Emily’s List, for instance, that supports pro-choice women. And so that’s kind of what what PACs do. They bundle money from lots of different people to support candidates or ballot initiatives or issues in the political arena to use that money to have somewhat of outweighed influence either in helping the candidate or opposing a candidate. They’re also super PACs, which started back in 2010 after the Supreme Court said that money is now equal to free speech. And so super PACs, they actually don’t have any limits in what they can raise or spend on behalf of candidates or opposing those candidates. But the one difference is federal PACs can actually work directly with those candidates in their campaigns. Super PACs can’t communicate or recorded at all with those candidates.
Stenfanie Brown-James [00:42:41] And just on a point of what we’ve learned. I mean, I think we’ve definitely learned how crucial this work is. In 2018 we saw record number of black candidates run for Congress.
Stenfanie Brown-James [00:42:53] You know, there used to be this is still kind of is this perception that if you are a black candidate, you can only win in black neighborhoods and black counties. And what we’ve seen with Lauren Underwood, for example, from Illinois, who ran in a majority rural white area of Illinois, you look at Lucy McBath in Georgia, who actually represents the seat that Newt Gingrich used to hold. We’ve been able to see that black candidates can win everywhere. And so we’ve been really working hard to make sure that everyday folks understand how important it is to be a voter, to be able to then, to then select the representatives that we need to put in office the best represent our communities.
Quentin Brown-James [00:43:35] I want to add one more thing to that. We kind of knew this, but I think it’s important to show people we don’t have a like challenge of talent in our community, like black candidates [00:43:45]are sort [0.0s] of run are some of the most wildly popular candidates, period. Right. We look at twenty eighteen was Stacey Abrams. You know, Stacey was the most Googled politician in the world in twenty eighteen. Jamie Harrisson is running for the U.S. Senate in South Carolina. Raised more money in the third quarter than any other Senate candidate in history. Right. And so we see these examples of black candidates breaking so many of these glass ceilings in terms of dollars raise or what kind of folks engaging with their campaigns in our job really is to show other candidates. We need you to step up. We need black folks to step up and run for school board. Run for city council. Run for state rep. And we’re going to be there for you. We’re going to help you get a train. You. We’re going to fund your campaigns. We want to make it easy for folks to step up because the challenge with representation. Right. Right now, 90 percent of people in public office are white. And the challenge there is. Eighty five percent of all the Democratic candidates for public office have also been white. And so we have a huge challenge of getting more people of color for opposite of more black people to step up and run. And when that happens, we can begin to kind of shift some of these dynamics of power that are so outweighed.
DeRay [00:45:03] Now, I’m interested, too, in some of the learnings. Do you find any changes regionally? Is it easier to recruit candidates in the South or on the coasts? Is it the same everywhere? Is it just like a different speech you have to give to help people believe that they can run? Like, what is it? What are the. What does that look like? And I’m interested, too, in an age or gender. Like, do you find that women just need to be asked and they’re ready to do a younger man? Is it easier to get, I don’t know, what’s the what there?
Stenfanie Brown-James [00:45:28] Well, it’s funny because, you know, there is this saying a man will wake up, look at himself in the mirror and say, you know what, I’m running for something today. And that man has no kind of experience. And a woman who has been active and involved in her community who has been a leader of this?
Stenfanie Brown-James [00:45:43] And that will have to be X 10 times by people that she trusts to convince herself that she’s ready to run.
Stenfanie Brown-James [00:45:50] And so I’m hopeful and I’m grateful that we’re starting to see more women, more black women run for office and realize that they are ready. This year, we’re breaking records by having the most number of black women ever run for Congress. The Collective PAC alone has endorsed one hundred and four black women that are running on a local, state and federal level.
Stenfanie Brown-James [00:46:11] That is that’s a huge number. And so that’s definitely something that has only increased since the historic election of twenty eighteen, but also say this year, especially in effect, the Collective has a new speaker, the virtual speaker series that we do and we’ve been focusing on the South has something to say because we are seeing a number of black candidates running for office in the South. What positions where you’ve been, you haven’t had black folks represent statewide. I mean, there’s three hundred and sixty five state positions in the country. So that’s your governor, attorney generals, secretary of states. We currently have 18 black people in those positions. And so to have, you know, folks like Mike Espy in Mississippi who’s running for Senate and Adrian Perkins who is running for Senate in Louisiana, you have, as Quentin said, Jamie Harrison South Carolina. Marquita Bradshaw, who’s running in Tennessee for Senate, you know, to have these folks that are running statewide. It is incredible. I mean, I think it’s just showing that especially in the south, there is this hunger for us to represent our communities in a way that is reflective of the changes that we need to quickly progressist forward. And the pace at which change has happened has not nearly been fast enough across the country, but definitely not within our southern states and the Midwest, really.
Stenfanie Brown-James [00:47:33] You know let’s just say America.
Quentin Brown-James [00:47:36] Right?
DeRay [00:47:38] What are some races people should be paying attention to that you think are not getting enough attention? You all support so many candidates, not just the ones that are on MSNBC. What are some that we should be paying attention to that we don’t know?
Quentin Brown-James [00:47:50] Oo. I mean, I think we have some really important D.A. races around the country this year.
Quentin Brown-James [00:47:54] So I think about Cincinnati, Hamilton County, you have a candidate, Van Rucker, you know, running to be the first black D.A. for Cincinnati. I think on the congressional level, even you have some amazing black women who are running. I think about someone like Candace Valenzuela running in Texas Twenty four to be the first ever Afro Latina, a member of Congress doing great work. Desiree Tims, running for Congress in the Daton, Ohio are. many people might know the song My Vote Will Count by the artist Yellowpain. Well, that’s her cousin. And Desiree, you know, she actually asked him to write a song about voting and now it became like the most viral voting song of the cycle. They’re amazing candidates running statewide as well. I mean, North Carolina, you have so many black women running. We want to lift them up. Yvonne Lewis Holley running for lieutenant governor in North Carolina. And then Sherry Beasley running for the Supreme Court in North Carolina as well.
Stenfanie Brown-James [00:48:54] The chief justice says at that.
Quentin Brown-James [00:48:55] Chief justice of the Supreme Court. Yeah, Thank you, Stefanie. So, you know, there are a ton of candidates everywhere. You can go to our Web site, CollectivePAC.org to check them out. But I think those are a few that we want to highlight because they’re, you know, part of what we also have learned and what we do is we have to celebrate these narratives of candidates not just running to be the first black person to do whatever just because like running to actually continue making substantive change in these positions. And that’s really important to point out. You know, people like Kim Foxx and Kim Gardner had some tough primaries earlier this year, but they’re also running on the ballot and can definitely continue to use our support.
Quentin Brown-James [00:49:35] So, yeah, I mean, there are stories in in every state, almost in every city of these amazing candidates who are talented, who are smart and just need a little bit more love and attention from our community. Get them over that hump. Right. Again, it’s amazing that we can tell the stories of Jamie Harrison to the Stacey Abrams. But to your point, it’s really important that we also think about the down ballot candidates, who is most of the time have a bigger impact over our lives than just the folks at the national level.
Stenfanie Brown-James [00:50:04] We just launched our Justice for All initiative, which is really working to put a spotlight on the black candidates that are running for judicial positions. So much is talked about now in our country around criminal justice reform, police reform, the justice system, reform as a whole. And, you know, when we look and see that 95 percent of our prosecutors in this country are white, predominately white men.
Stenfanie Brown-James [00:50:30] You know, we see we have a problem. We have a problem here. And so Justice for All Initiative is really working to both recruit and identify those black candidates that are running for judicial positions, for d.a.’s prosecutors, for judges, for sheriffs, even. We have a candidate, Greg Tony, who is running for Broward County sheriff in Florida, where our county, as you know, is a heavily black county. And so it’s important that we are putting the spotlight on these folks who are working to not just get in these positions, but to create reform within these positions because so many of them come from the communities. And that’s really an important aspect of who it is that we’re choosing to represent us and create new laws and policies and processes.
DeRay [00:51:15] What’s your take on Biden/Harris, Trump/Pence? Are you worried that black men will vote for Trump? As I’ve been hearing, people are nervous that black men really might not come through or the way people want. Are, you know. What’s your what’s your read? As people who do this work everyday around who is voting, how we change not only the narrative, but reality.
Quentin Brown-James [00:51:38] My magic number, I think Trump will get fifteen percent of black men and that and my opinion is too high. But that onus is on the Democratic Party. It’s on the presidential campaign that the Biden campaign is running. I think it’s tough to expect black men to do something when, one like have we ask them to support Biden/Harris, number one and two, if we did, like could that happen in September, October or would happen, you know, in January or February? Right. I think part of the question is the engagement here. I think what we have been seeing is black men feel like they’re left out. They haven’t been able to communicate with their issues that have been brought to the forefront. And so I think it is kind of late to think that we can change those, that those dynamics in that community. But what we can do right is continue to turn out black women. I think this is very much a space and a time where we are talking about loving and protecting our black women. We know that black women are the highest voting demographic in the country. They over performed for Hillary Clinton 2016. So I think the way to counter that isn’t to, like, blame black man or attack black men. I think part of that is already baked to the numbers. But we have to maximize black women’s turnout. And I think having a black woman on the presidential ticket is one way to do that. So I’m I’m excited about the chances to elect the first black vice president in U.S. history. But I also think that there’s a lot of work that has to be done talking to engaging, listening to respecting, putting forth an agenda for black men. If Democrats hope to continue to see that support. Eighty five percent or less looking forward.
Stenfanie Brown-James [00:53:21] And what we’re really focused on, the message of voting up the ballot, the majority of our legislative candidates that are running for.
Stenfanie Brown-James [00:53:28] State Representative seats, state Senate seats are in battleground states. They’re in North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Georgia. We have over 25 folks in North Carolina alone that we’ve endorsed.
Stenfanie Brown-James [00:53:40] And so they’re speaking directly to the issues that are impacting the black community. When you have candidates like that on the ticket, they are going to drive voter turnout.
Stenfanie Brown-James [00:53:50] You know, definitely we are hoping that the Biden/Harris ticket will will win and we’ll be able to turn out voters.
Stenfanie Brown-James [00:53:56] But, you know, we’re definitely working to make sure that these black candidates who are just on their own need the support because they are really trying to create progressive change to help the black community. You know, we’re hoping that they can be successful as well to help drive the voter turnout that we know we need to see the help the top of the ticket.
DeRay [00:54:14] I want to ask you to explain. You keep saying that you endorse candidates, you support candidates. What does that actually mean? Does that mean? Is that always like a financial contribution? Plus, social media shout out. Is that strategy? Is that like what comes with an endorsement from the Collective PAC?
Stenfanie Brown-James [00:54:29] It’s a work in progress. It has been. I will say from you know, when we first started to where we are now, which it doesn’t even seem like it’s only been four years since we’ve been doing the collective. But so one is we have a process in which people have to essentially apply for endorsment. They contact us. You can go to CollectivePAC.org They have to complete a 40 question questionnaire, which gives us a sense of their policy agenda. You know, we don’t support Democratic candidates or Republican candidates just because they are one or the other just black people, because we we are looking for black candidates to have a progressive agenda to help move the black community forward. And so our 40 questions helps to give us a semblance of where they stand on policies. So as you can imagine, DeRay, we’ve we’ve had a few folks who know didn’t do quite well in that questionnaire, and we ain’t holla at them ‘no more. That’s where we start. From there, our political team, which is led by Chris Scott, is able to talk what these candidates, talk with their campaigns look at their books. We find out how their fundraising has gone. You know, if you’re running for Congress and the election is in November and by February of that year, you’ve only raised five dollars. This may not be the time for you to run because you need to be able to have some momentum, some campaign structure that is rolling that we can come in and support and hopefully help to skyrocket. And so our support definitely we look to every candidate we support, we endorse, gets a check from us. What makes the PAC structure so great is you can go a Collective.PAC.org. You look at our candidates and you say, you know what? I got Twenty five dollars to give. I’m goign to give five dollar towards jamie Harrison, five Dollars towards Candace Valenzuela and I want the rest to go to the Collective to distribute out to other candidates how they see fit. And so, you know, you can both give directly to the Collective, you can give to individual candidates to support their campaigns. With that money what we do is besides the direct contributions, you know, we host, as I mentioned, our speaker series where we are featuring especially our black women that are running for Congress. We do the social media posts. We help them to connect with campaign staff if they’re looking for some folks to fill positions. You know, we help provide advisement on their campaigns, how things are going. If we’re in a position to do help them with polling, we’ll do some of that stuff and we help with training.
Stenfanie Brown-James [00:56:43] We also really work to make sure that especially the, i’d say that the Democratic establishment, because that’s mainly who we deal with understands the importance of supporting these candidates. I remember in 2018, Quentin and I had to go to D.C. to meet with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee because they had this exclusive list called Red to Blue On. You know, these are the seats that they think Democrats can flip from red to blue. And this is who needs your attention and I support. They didn’t have any black folks on it? It was like, hold up actually some of the people that are outraising their opponents that are outpolling their opponents are black candidates, why aren’t you supporting them. And through some, you know, very impassioned discussions and back and forth and maybe a couple of op-eds, you know, drops, I don’t know, you know, maybe a story or two on BuzzFeed. You know, we were able to help push for these black candidates to get their due respect.
Stenfanie Brown-James [00:57:34] You know, we want to shine a spotlight. We want to also just make sure that folks like, you know, Yvonne Holley, who’s who’s running in North Carolina, isn’t forgotten by the state party. If you’re going to send out mailers that featured the governor that’s running and the secretary of state, you’d better put on a black woman running for lieutenant governor.
Stenfanie Brown-James [00:57:52] This has been a story that has been all across the media that she’s not getting due support as the other candidates that are running statewide that are white. So, you know, we try to do the advocacy stuff that’s not, as I think, put out there publicly. But that’s a big part of the work we do also behind the scenes.
DeRay [00:58:07] So elections coming, elections are going to pass. I want to believe. I believe that there’s probably more work to be done even after Election Day. So what can people do and can people help you?
Quentin Brown-James [00:58:19] Elections are year round. Right. And so our job is talking to, you know, candidates who run in off years or even run the special. So, for instance, the Senate seat in Georgia and Louisiana, those are actually primary elections in November. And so you will have a chance if you live in Georgia, Louisiana, actually go back to the polls in December or January to vote for your U.S. senator or hoping that Raphael Warnock in Georgia or Adrian Perkins in Louisiana, you know, make those runoffs that we had the chance to elect black senators in those states. But that will be in December and in January And then next year all the historic black mayors we have to elect in 2017 are running for reelection. People like Keisha Lance Bottoms in Atlanta. Or Randall Woodfin in Birmingham. So many folks making amazing change in their cities have to run again next year. And so this is a year round process. I would say a couple things. Number one. Please follow us on line. Go to our Facebook page or Twitter. We’re @TheCollectivePac on Facebook, @CollectivePAC on Twitter and IG. Become a donor. You know, consider giving five or ten bucks a month to help sustain this work because there was a changes on the politics right now. But in December and January when we still have to do this work, we want to make sure that we have donors who are committed to it year round. And then, I will say third is considered running for office. Maybe you haven’t thought about that as a possible way you can serve and lead, but I think we can all look at who’s in the White House currently and understand that most of us could probably step up and be on a school board or be on city council or know be making our voices heard in public office. And so consider running for office. That’s again a huge opportunity for us to create the change that we want to see. Right. If we want to change the laws, we have to change the lawmakers. And who better to do that then folks listening to this right now.
DeRay [01:00:16] OK, well, great to have you here. Hopefully we knock this out in November so that we can all just at least we just got to survive this man, lord, and then go on to do the next work. I appreciate the work that you all do across the country, not just located in the big cities, because we know that the big cities get a lot of love. And then, as you noted, there are all these incredible races that people should be paying attention to better for whatever reason, not. So it is CollectivePACorg. We consider you both a friend of the Pod and can’t to have you back.
Stenfanie Brown-James [01:00:47] Awesome, thank you, same here.
Quentin Brown-James [01:00:49] Thank you so much.
Stenfanie Brown-James [01:00:50] Appreciate you.
DeRay [01:00:50] Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People. Don’t go anywhere. There’s more to come.
DeRay [01:00:54] Pod Save the People is brought to you by Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America.
Kaya [01:00:58] Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America, is a new podcast by Ben and Jerry’s and produced by Vox Creative that unpacks the parts of our history that you may not have learned about in school. Hosted by Peabody nominee Carvell Wallace and based on ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jeffrey Robinson’s acclaimed work, Who We Are, breaks down the origins and impact of white supremacy on our elections, health care, economy and so much more.
DeRay [01:01:26] It’s a podcast that’ll give you a better understanding of our present moment and perhaps help all of us shape a more equitable future who we are. A chronicle of racism in America is out now. Listeners subscribe on Apple podcast or your favorite podcast app, Pod Save the People is brought to you by ACLU.org. Abortion is a constitutional right and the American Civil Liberties Union is fighting to make sure it stays that way. As President Trump has vowed to only appoint justices to the Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the future of a legal abortion is at stake.
Kaya [01:01:54] Already, anti-abortion politicians have succeeded in pushing abortion out of reach for too many people across the country. We have work to do to make sure everyone can get an abortion who needs one regardless of race, class or zip code. The ACLU will continue to fight so that all people are able to access reproductive health care, including abortion, without obstacles, shame or stigma.
DeRay [01:02:17] You can help by joining the fight. Add your name today to help protect the right to abortion. Visit ACLU.org/PODSAVE to get started. That’s ACLU.org/PODSAVE. Pod Save the People is brought to you by Amazon. What the Constitution means to me. Our United States Constitution just had a birthday last month and Amazon Prime video announced that they filmed Heidi Shrek’s hit Broadway play, What the Constitution Means to Me. You can stream it now on the Amazon Prime Video app, which is free with your Prime subscription.
Kaya [01:02:42] We’re telling you this because I love this play when I saw it. When Heidi Shrek was 15, she used to give speeches about the U.S. Constitution to win scholarship money for college in the play. She reenacts her bad teenage romance with the Constitution and then examines it from her fortysomething perspective, using personal stories from three generations of women in her own families. Her writing is so funny and inspiring, and I found myself laughing with tears in my eyes. I wanted to come back and see it with everybody I know. Now even though theaters are closed, I can and you can too. Watch What the Constitution Means to Me. Now streaming only on Amazon Prime video.
DeRay [01:03:22] Antwan Phillips, I know first from Bowdoin College, he’s running to be a city director in Little Rock, Arkansas.
DeRay [01:03:30] You know, Antwan is a practicing attorney who has significant experience in community working to make sure that people have all the resources and supports a need to be successful and to live strong lives. He was a president of the Public Education Foundation in Little Rock. He was a president of Big, Brothers, Big Sisters, a central Arkansas board of directors. He’s been a part of the Little Rock Area Public Education Stakeholders Group and so much more. I learned a lot from talking to him. Let’s support Antwan. Little Rock, let’s go. Antwan, thanks so much for joining us today on Pod Save the People.
Antwan Phillips [01:04:01] Uh, DeRay
Antwan Phillips [01:04:02] Thank you for having me. Happy to be a part of the show. As they say longtime listener First-Time Caller. Isn’t that how they do it?
DeRay [01:04:10] That is how they do it. Now, I’ve known you for a long time at this point, from Bowdoin to now. I was excited to see that you were running for office. Can you talk about what are you running for? Why, little Rock. Why this position and why now?
Antwan Phillips [01:04:25] So Antwan Phillips I’m a candidate for Little Rock City Board of Directors and city board of directors is our version of city council, exact same thing. It’s a at-large position, DeRay. So that means it’s a city wide election, so everyone in the city of Little Rock will get to cast a ballot for Antwan Phillips. I’m running because I grew up here going out to Bowdoin, having the experiences we had a Bowdoin. DeRay really opened your eyes to how things could be better. Where you from, and I’m an optimistic person. I’m a person who believes in better. That’s the campaign theme and that’s my life theme. If you believe in something DeRay, you work hard to make it happen. A hurdle may come in a way that may be a speed bump. But when you truly believe in anything in life you keep working unitl you accomplish it. And I think Little Rock can be better than what it is today. So I’m going to keep working until that is accomplished to take on that work. I decided to run for this at-large position.
DeRay [01:05:19] What would you do on the council or the board of directors? What can you do on that on that body that you can’t see right now as a citizen in Little Rock?
Antwan Phillips [01:05:27] We can do so much as citizens and I don’t want to discount anyone’s work, that’s not in public office, because we can effectuate change just by casting the ballot. Making the phone call is showing up at the meeting, showing up at the protest. All those things affect change in our community. But from a city board standpoint, there’s a different type of change that I can effectuate, which is how we spend our dollars at the city board or, you know, making sure that certain parts of our community receive the same attention. And the infrastructure development to other parts of our community has been you can’t really push that envelope unless you have the votes, and as a city board member, I would cast a vote to make those type of decisions, to make sure that the inequity that happened in Little Rock in different parts of town no longer happen.
DeRay [01:06:13] Got it. What have you learned while you have been a candidate? I think about the process of running for office is one of those transformative things that somebody can do. Just the process alone. How has that been?
Antwan Phillips [01:06:23] I’ve worked on a lot of campaigns, DeRay. This my first time running this is my first time with my name on the ballot. I learned, there’s a lot of decisions to be made in a campaign, but I wasn’t making when I worked on campaigns, no matter how involved I was. I was only involved in a certain part. When you’re the candidate, you have to make every decision, you know, simple stuff to the front of the campaign logo. To very serious stuff as opposed to like what position is important to our people and what position are we going to promote in our campaign platform. But what I learned mostly is that, you know, talking to people throughout the city and Little Rock, we all kind of want the same thing. But we just hadn’t had the voice to articulate how, even though you may grow up differently, your economic standard may be different. There’s a commonality in our city and the parking grow up here on the lower economic side of the ladder, so to speak. I went to six different elementary schools. That wasn’t because the schools were bad because we moved, lease to lease. When the lease was up, we went to a different apartment complex. Now I’m a partner at a law firm in the state of Arkansas. I’ve seen a lot of rock through, a lot of different lenses. And I’ve learned through talking to people that we kind of want the same thing, but it hadn’t been a person to articulate that to one another. And I think because of my experiences, I am that person.
DeRay [01:07:41] And give us a sense of what are the issues in Little Rock. Obviously, you know, we all know the Little Rock Nine, which I’m sure people in Little Rock are tired of hearing people talk about. Maybe I don’t know. It’s like that is like why a lot of people know Little Rock. Yeah. But there must be other issues besides education. I’m sure education is probably still an issue. What are the issues that Little Rock voters care about?
Antwan Phillips [01:08:03] We just celebrated the sixty third anniversary of the Little Rock Nine. Well, that’s a big part of our history. And it doesn’t get old because it’s part of who we are as a city. There are educational issues. Five years ago, our state board of Education decided to take over the Little Rock School District from the locally elected school board.
Antwan Phillips [01:08:22] So for five years, we hadn’t had a school board and there hasn’t been a relationship between the city of Little Rock and local education for a very long time. So that’s a very important issue. And I plan to bring more of a partnership between city government and school government to improve the school for everyone in our city. Like all over the country, we are navigating what new policing looks like. We have adopted many of the Eight Can’t Wait policies. There’s still a couple that we need to work on that I’m going to work on. But ultimately, in Little Rock, there is a card divide in our city to Interstate 630. If you live Northpoint 630, you probably upper middle class and white. And if you live south of 630, you’re probably lower middle class and black or brown. That divide has permeated a lot of parts of our life. North of 630 looks a lot better, a lot different than south of 630. So that’s the issue that needs to be addressed in the city board has a role to play in that.
Antwan Phillips [01:09:20] And that’s part a reason why I’m running.
DeRay [01:09:22] And My I it’s said that you were formerly the president of the Public Education Foundation of Little Rock and the president of Big Brothers, Big Sisters in Central Arkansas. What did you learn in those roles and how did that help inform your understanding of the systemic issues in the city?
Antwan Phillips [01:09:37] I’m married, but I don’t have children. And both of those roles were about the kids in the city are a little rough. One reason why I came back home as a graduate from Bowdoin is because I realize how fortunate was to have certain opportunities where someone believed in me and opened the door, why I ended up at a school like Bowden and how that changes, how you look at the world when you’re there for four years and realize that those same opportunities one afforded to everyone in my city. So you come back and I get involved Big Brothers, Big Sisters, because I understand that a lot of that is just opportunity in relationships and mentors. So Big Brother, Big Sister is a way to do that. And there are so many kids in our city who just make the change. I mean, I’m no different. I’m not smarter than anyone else. I just had a chance. And we need to give our kids a chance. And the Public Education Foundation, serves on their board, has got me acutely aware of the educational issues in our city as I talked about what the takeover of the Little Rock school districts and some of the inequities on how we treat certain schools over other schools. I mean, see, you talk about property tax funding, but also the perception that our city has over certain foods. I went to one of the quote unquote, bad schools, MacLellan, which is a predominantly black high school. And I’ve learned that people look at you differently when you say you want to MacLellan. You couldn’t with Maclellin because you, a lawyer at a law firm. So those kind of perception things.
Antwan Phillips [01:11:01] I really learned working on the Little Rock Public Education Foundation board, and that helped you inform your opinion on how to improve and make our city better.
DeRay [01:11:10] Now, what about businesses in Little Rock? How is, What’s the business community? What’s your message to them or is their message to them right now as you’re running?
Antwan Phillips [01:11:19] It is a message for them, and that’s I said I’m uniquely qualified because I’m an attorney and part of my practice, DeRay, is representing businesses small or large before the Little Rock City board. Now, I’m not going to do that once that we am because of that as a conflict of interest. But I represented a number of the businesses around town, you know, a lot of things that I’m talking about, you can’t do without raising the revenue. And I’ve learned to represent those businesses that it’s hard to do business in Little Rock. It’s hard for you to get started or build your business because of archaic zoning laws that take you six months to change a zoning from a residential to commercial or from commercial warehouse district to a commercial industrial district. Things like that shouldn’t slow down the economic progress of our city in the hand. I understand that because I’m a lawyer and I’ve represented businesses and doing that. These things are circular and intertwined, as you know. And I tell the business community, we’re going to make it easier for you to do business in Little Rock. What ultimately helps raise the revenue of our cities to address some of the issues that I talked about earlier that needs to be addressed. And that’s a win for everyone now.
DeRay [01:12:25] Has it looking for you on Election Day, as it, is at any polling is a. How is it campaigning, given that this Covid? I don’t know. Tell us the status of the race.
Antwan Phillips [01:12:32] There are seven people in my race. I have six opponents. The Little Rock City Board DirectorsrRace is a plurality race. So that means whoever gets the most votes on November 3rd wins the thing that will not be a runoff. I feel like I’ve done well in the city. I have ties in the city I was born and built here. We’ve been able to accomplish everything we wanted to do from a financial standpoint. And campaigning through the city whether it is digital, radio, print, billboards, yard signs, endorsement. I mean, we’ve crossed all those boxes. We raised more money in this race than any of our opponents. I feel good about that. But I do know that money doesn’t vote. People vote. So you still got to get out here to the extent you can in light of Covid and reach people where they are and make sure they know the press the Antwan Phiullips button. Make sure they know that I believe in the bell of Little Rock. And I know that they do, too, and that they join us in making that happen.
DeRay [01:13:27] If you win the election, how will that matter in terms of the composition of the board of directors?
Antwan Phillips [01:13:33] I will be the youngest person on city board. I’m 36 years old. And coincidentally, the average age of a Little Rock citizen is thirty six years old. Right now, our city board is a much older city board that will change the dynamic [01:13:46]and the on [0.0s] how we inact policies.
Antwan Phillips [01:13:50] When you have someone who’s quote unquote in the millennial generation being the only person on the city board. Now, granted, our mayor is also 36 years old, but of the city board members, the people who actually cast the vote. I think the youngest person may be in the mid 50’s. And also, from a racial standpoint, I believe that the 2020 census will show that Little Rock is a majority minority city. There is more black and brown people that arrived than I believe are white. And despite that, the current composition of the city board, our team members on city board seven of those members are white, three are black. We have three large members on the city board. All three of those members are white. And since we went to this form of government back in 1992, no black person has been elected at large. So with my election I would be.
DeRay [01:14:39] None?
Antwan Phillips [01:14:39] I really. Little Rock Political history is way more complicated than it should be. But did go back to the Central High Deal. Central High happened at 57 and in 1956, Little Rock had a strong mayor form of government. But because of the uprising of unions, because of the uprising of desegregation, the city of Little Rock decided to change our form of government to a city manager form of government, making the mayor pretty much a ribbon cutter in part time and ceremonial. And given all administrative power to the city manager who was an unelected person, they wanted to take the politics out of city government because what was about to happen with desegregation. They did that the year before integration. So you take that history and it’s been complicated since then. But in 92, we changed our current form of government with seven ward board members and three at large board members. There’s 92, none of the large board members have been black. So with my victory on November 3rd, I will be the first black person since the change in government as a large member.
DeRay [01:15:47] That’s wild.
Antwan Phillips [01:15:49] It is wild. And a little bit complicated. It’s not like I’m the first large black person because before 92, all the board members were at large.
Antwan Phillips [01:15:57] And then in 92, there was another uprising about how we are run in our city. So they decided to change it. So in 28 years, no black person has been able to win a citywide race as an at large director. And I will be the first since that time.
DeRay [01:16:12] Cool. Well, thanks for joining us today on Pod Save the People. We consider you a friend of the pod and can’t wait to have you back.
Antwan Phillips [01:16:17] I appreciate it. Been a longtime listener and maybe I’ll be a second time called.
DeRay [01:16:22] And we’ll call you after after you win and we’ll have you back.
Antwan Phillips [01:16:24] That sounds like a plan. I can’t wait.
DeRay [01:16:28] 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 that you rate it wherever you get your podcasts. Whether it’s Apple podcasts, somewhere else. I’ll see you next week.
DeRay [01:16:40] Pod Save the People is a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by Brock Wilbur and mixed by Bill Lancz, our executive producers Jessica Cordova Kramer and myself. Special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger and Sam Sinyangwe and our special contributer, Johnetta Elzie.