Happy Birthday Ms. Chis | Crooked Media
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November 29, 2022
What A Day
Happy Birthday Ms. Chis

In This Episode

  • New York City Mayor Eric Adams issued a directive to city agencies on Tuesday to begin involuntarily hospitalizing unhoused people who are, presumably, suffering from mental illness – a move sharply criticized by mental health experts and homeless advocates.
  • Today would have been Shirley Chisholm’s 98th birthday. She was the first Black woman elected to Congress and the first woman to seek a major party nomination for president. Rep. Barbara Lee of California, Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Chisholm biographer Dr. Anastasia Curwood join us to discuss her life and legacy.
  • And in headlines: President Biden called on Congress to block the looming rail worker strike, the Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act, and the U.S. men’s soccer team beat Iran to advance to the knockout round in the World Cup.


Show Notes:



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Josie Duffy Rice: It’s Wednesday, November 30th. I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What A Day where we’re actually excited to see everyone’s Spotify wrapped playlists. Can I confess something? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Please. 


Juanita Tolliver: Spotify is not on my phone. 


Josie Duffy Rice: [gasp] 


Juanita Tolliver: [laughing] Is that blasphemy? Am I overexposing myself? 


Josie Duffy Rice: We’re launching a new podcast called what’s on Juanita’s phone. [music break]


Juanita Tolliver: On today’s show, the founder of the Oath Keepers was found guilty of seditious conspiracy in connection with the January 6th insurrection. Plus, the U.S. men’s national team is heading to the knockout stage of the World Cup. 


Josie Duffy Rice: But first, on Tuesday. New York City Mayor Eric Adams issued a directive stating that the city would begin involuntarily hospitalizing people allegedly suffering from mental illness. He said this would happen if they were, quote, “a danger to themselves,” even when they posed no risk of harm to others. The new policy was criticized by mental health experts, as well as advocates for unhoused people for being an infringement on the rights of city residents. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. And on the surface, this is giving inhumane policy, it’s giving cruelty. But first, can you give us some background on the policy Josie. Who can involuntarily hospitalize people and by what standard? 


Josie Duffy Rice: That is a great question. And the answer is we only sort of know the answer. So according to this new policy, doctors, physicians and police– 


Juanita Tolliver: Yikes. 


Josie Duffy Rice: –As well as certain social workers and nurses and psychologists, but not all can, quote, “authorize the removal of a person who appears to be mentally ill and displays an inability to meet basic living needs, even when no recent dangerous act has been observed.” So, I mean, I barely can say that without dropping my jaw. The policy states that the circumstances have to support a, quote, “objectively reasonable basis to conclude that the person appears to have a mental illness.” 


Juanita Tolliver: Wait, objectively reasonable? That seems fully subjective, based on the people who you just described who will be able to authorize these types of hospitalizations. But this is not clear at all. Like, what do any of these terms even mean? Do we know exactly how cops, who I don’t think should be getting any more power already, how cops and others will determine who qualifies as mentally ill? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, that’s a great point. And at least at this point, we don’t know the answer to that question. Right. All of this legal jargon is extremely broad, and therefore it could mean almost anything. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Like appears to be mentally ill or inability to meet basic living needs? Like, what do those mean? What does appear mean? What does mentally ill mean? How mentally ill do you have to be? Do you have to be delusional? What if you’re depressed or angry or you know who determines what mental illness actually means? And then there’s this other phrase, displays an inability to meet basic living needs, which, again, totally vague. What is an ability mean in this context? What are basic living needs? And to be clear, the mayor hasn’t answered most of these questions or any of these questions really. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. The intention is to be vague so it can be abusive. Right. Like that’s the–


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: –vibes I’m getting off of this. And we know that Eric Adams has targeted unhoused people from the start of his term. Right. Like that’s a big part of his agenda. And so it seems like under this standard, they could just involuntarily hospitalize any unhoused person. After all, being unhoused means you don’t have the basic living needs. And so he’s not offering any type of support or shelter but harm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. And I think that’s a key part here. Right. This is not social services. This is punishment. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Josie Duffy Rice: This is not giving people the tools they need to ensure that they can address their basic living needs. It’s just locking them up and hospitalizing them for not being able to address them. And like you said, these terms are fully, fully subjective and they really demand like nothing from those with the actual power to do this right? The policy states that there has to be an objectively reasonable basis, as we said, but like especially for police, what does that mean? 


Juanita Tolliver: Girl. 


Josie Duffy Rice: There’s no clear definition of what objectively reasonable means here. Police are not mental health professionals. They’re not qualified to diagnose a person as mentally ill, especially just on site. Right. And so that’s why this directive is absolutely terrifying. It gives especially police the power to lock up anyone. And in theory, they can say anyone is mentally ill. Right. If they’re doing something they don’t like. Like what if they see a couple arguing? What if we’re out on the street? Like, what if someone’s a little drunk? I mean, there’s just a million scenarios in which, what if someone yells at a police officer? 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. Or what if I’m having a bad day? 


Josie Duffy Rice: What if you’re having a bad day like or what if you’re having a perfectly normal day and they decide they want to lock you up like there’s– 


Juanita Tolliver: –Period. 


Josie Duffy Rice: –there’s like– 


Juanita Tolliver: –Because that’s the point. 


Josie Duffy Rice: –No standard that’s been outlined here to make it clear that other than it being objectively reasonable, which again is don’t pay money for law school kids, that’s all they teach you [laughter] about objectively reasonable people. Not a thing. There is no objectively reasonable person. And this is just asking for abuse. 


Juanita Tolliver: All right. So where exactly will all these people who are involuntarily hospitalized actually going to go? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, that’s another good question, because the answer is largely that there is nowhere to take them. According to Politico, the city has just 50 empty beds available in psychiatric facilities. And as we’ve said before on the show, there are basically no more psychiatric facilities and that’s across the nation, right? Like we’ve replaced facilities to address mental illness. We’ve replaced them with jails and prisons. That’s what we do with mentally ill people in this country. And so the fact that the idea is that you can basically involuntarily hospitalize whoever you want, especially if you’re a police officer, but there are only 50 empty beds. To me, I’m not that good at math. But that says a lot of people are going to end up in jail. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. The math ain’t mathin. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s not mathin. 


Juanita Tolliver: Though what is clear, though, is Eric Adams, the cop, is being Eric Adams the cop. Right. He’s empowering cops to commit more abuse and he’s targeting the most vulnerable communities. Like that’s what it is, plain and simple. So that’s my take, though, Josie. Why do you think the mayor is doing this? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Well, if I could read the mayor’s mind. [laughter] 


Juanita Tolliver: No, don’t do it. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I can’t think of anybody else I understand less than Eric Adams. But I mean, I think, like you said, like we’ve discussed this, like Eric Adams is a very pro-police, very tough on crime mayor. Right? His policies have been especially harsh against unhoused people. And so this is just in line with that. And it’s in line with some of his predecessors, especially one of his predecessors, right? Rudy Giuliani, mayor of New York in the nineties, who also imparted barbaric practices against the unhoused. So this, it isn’t particularly surprising, like it aligns with how we know this man works, but it’s still extremely, extremely terrifying. And I want to point out that there’s a reason we don’t get to just, like, involuntarily lock people up for extended periods of time, especially when they haven’t done anything wrong. There’s a whole principle behind this mentally ill or not, right. Like that is called due process. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It was a whole big thing. We put it in the Constitution and then we put it in the Constitution again. We were like really big on it. It’s a major part of our legal system. And Eric Adams is trying to, like, put lipstick on this pig and make it seem like this is care for mentally ill folks. But it’s not. 


Juanita Tolliver: This ain’t it. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s locking people up without their consent, without accountability, and seemingly without standards. And honestly, it’s quite scary. 


Juanita Tolliver: I think it also needs to be said that the most vulnerable communities, like unhoused people, are the ones disproportionately facing crime, facing–


Josie Duffy Rice: Yes. 


Juanita Tolliver: –violence. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yes. 


Juanita Tolliver: They are the victims here. They’re not– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yes. 


Juanita Tolliver: –the perpetrators, but they are the victims–


Josie Duffy Rice: Yes. 


Juanita Tolliver: –and crimes against unhoused people almost never get reported. And so I think–


Josie Duffy Rice: Yep. 


Juanita Tolliver: –the fact that Eric Adams is going back to do this inhumane policy, this cruelty targeting unhoused people, this cruelty targeting vulnerable people, shows exactly who he is. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Really is worth saying that this is goes for both unhoused people and people suffering from mental illness. Right. Like they– 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Josie Duffy Rice: –are not likely to be the perpetrators, they’re likely to be the victims. And what Eric Adams is doing and what he’s done, and many mayors and many elected officials across the country have done throughout their tenures is scapegoat– 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Josie Duffy Rice: –the people suffering the most as the people that we should fear when that’s actually not the case. That’s not what the numbers bear out. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Josie Duffy Rice: So let’s shift gears a little. You have a slightly better story. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right, where Eric Adams is not fighting for people, he’s failing people. I want to spotlight someone who did fight for people through her political career and through her just everyday efforts. Y’all today is fighting Shirley Chisholm’s birthday, and I’m so excited to take a moment to celebrate and commemorate her 98th birthday and her legacy as the petite phenom. Yes, that’s what I like to affectionately call her. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I love it. This is truly one of the better joyful stories [laughter] I’ve heard in the past few weeks, so I can’t wait. 


Juanita Tolliver: I’m happy to sprinkle joy into your life, girl. So Shirley Chisholm represents so many things to me, but most of the world knows her as the first Black woman elected to Congress and the first woman to seek a major party nomination for president. To mark the occasion, I was able to have a conversation about her humanity and her legacy with three incredible Black women who were guided by her, touched by her, and who explored her powerful mystique. Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Dr. Anastasia Curwood. She’s a professor of history and director of African-American and Africana studies at the University of Kentucky. And she’s also the author of the forthcoming Shirley Chisholm biography, Shirley Chisholm Champion of Black Feminist Power Politics. Of course, these are some very busy women, so I caught them where I could, including in between floor votes. Here’s a bit of our conversation about the great Shirley Chisholm. How did Shirley Chisholm come into your life? Dr. Curwood, why don’t you kick us off? 


Dr. Anastasia Curwood: I saw a picture of her with my parents. My parents worked on the campaign in Massachusetts, and I saw this well-dressed Black woman sitting with them. And I thought she was my Auntie Sally, because my Auntie Sally kind of had the same [laughter] same aesthetic. And my parents corrected me. They said, nope, that’s Shirley Chisholm. She ran for president. And one day you could too. 


Barbara Lee: I was president of the Black Student Union at Mills College in Oakland, California. But I was also a community worker with the Black Panther Party. So I was very conscious of politics. So as president of the Black student union, though. I invited Shirley Chisholm to come to the campus to speak to the Black Student Union and to the student body in general. And in her speech, she said she was running for president. And, you know, I did not know that because the press hadn’t really covered her campaign. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Barbara Lee: So I told her afterwards I had this class, that I loved her. What she had to say, she spoke fluent Spanish. She stood up for immigrant rights. She was against the Vietnam War. She was an early childhood educator. I mean, she was really a very progressive Black woman, reproductive rights, the whole nine yards. And she took me to task uh and she said and asked me if I was registered to vote. I said, No, [laughter] why? She said she [?] she’s a little girl and I was in my twenties. I was a returning student. She still called me a little girl. Up until the–


Juanita Tolliver: –Wait, she literally said little girl. 


Barbara Lee: Up until the day she passed away. Or the [?] passed away. Yeah. And there’s a video of her when I was um elected to the state senate where she called me little girl in– 


Juanita Tolliver: Okay. 


Barbara Lee: –Her introduc– 


Juanita Tolliver: We’re going to need to pull that up. 


Barbara Lee: So then I asked her about her campaign, told her I had this class I was about to flunk. But now that I met her and knew she was running for president, I tried to pass the class. So of course again told me to register to vote. And she said she didn’t have a lot of money for a national campaign, so she was leaving it up to her local organizers. She says, but look, if you believe in making systemic change and if you believe in changing the rules of the game she said because you can’t stay on the outside, you’ve got to get on the inside. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Barbara Lee: Remember, those rules weren’t made for you alright. So you got to help change the rules of the game. 


Juanita Tolliver: I love that. What about you Representative Pressley? 


Ayanna Pressley: A parent is a child’s first teacher, and I had an extraordinary one in my uh mother. May she rest in power. You know, she never read me childhood bedtime stories of princes saving me. Instead, she read me uh the speeches and the words of Barbara Jordan and Shirley Chisholm. 


Juanita Tolliver: Come on, Mama Pressley. 


Dr. Anastasia Curwood: Wow. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yes. 


Dr. Anastasia Curwood: I wish I’d put that in the book. 


Ayanna Pressley: And um when my mother was in the final throes of her leukemia battle, unbeknownst to me until she had transitioned, I did not know she’d been putting together a book for me. And the final tab is for inspiration. And it’s printed uh speeches of Shirley Chisholm’s. 


Juanita Tolliver: Oh my god. 


Ayanna Pressley: And the first one is her campaign announcement. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yes. 


Ayanna Pressley: So she has figured uh very prominently and consistently in my consciousness, and that was uh because of my mother. 


Juanita Tolliver: I love that so much. And speaking of the power of Shirley Chisholm’s words, we got a couple of clips that I want you all to react to. The first one is for you, Representative Pressley. 


[clip of Shirley Chisholm] I realize that this is a rough road, but a catalyst for change of a society is usually persona non- grata with those who have been the beneficiaries of the system. A catalyst for change has to be able to withstand the insults, the humiliations, the abuses, and the slurs. 


Juanita Tolliver: So, Representative Pressley, it’s no secret that you were targeted and harassed on multiple occasions by the former occupant of the White House, as you so aptly dubbed him. And I want to know what your reaction is to what Shirley Chisholm communicated here and which of the qualities that she possessed that you really leaned on as you suffered through these moments. 


Ayanna Pressley: You know, it’s just so true that oftentimes what you are enduring becomes a new blueprint and survival guide for those who come after you. And uh it wasn’t that long ago I was organizing an Indigenous uh community around an environmental justice issue, and one of the elders there had challenged us to be better ancestors than we are descendants. 


Juanita Tolliver: Mmmm. 


Ayanna Pressley: And I think uh this [?] of Shirley really does embody that. So the indignities and the attacks that she endured and overcame that has become the blueprint for my own survival guide. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Ayanna Pressley: I love how you referenced her as a petite phenom because many people did not even realize just how diminutive and petite she was. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Ayanna Pressley: Because she was so commanding and took up so much space, unapologetically. But even her speech pattern and how she speaks, there’s so many reasons why people would have been naysayers about uh the trajectory and the impact that ultimately she has gone on to have. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. And I appreciate you talking about your work with Indigenous communities because. Dr. Curwood, in your forthcoming biography, you describe how Shirley Chisholm’s Black feminist power politics extended well beyond her congressional district to include all Black people in America, other excluded communities like Indigenous people, Latino people, poor people, LGBTQ people, and more. What do you surmise led her to that inclusive approach to recognize and respond to their needs? 


Dr. Anastasia Curwood: I think it was living intersectionality. You know, in some ways because of being a target because she was getting it from at least two sides. And so she lived it. And she’s like, if I am dealing with all of these things coming at me, then my freedom means the freedom of everybody else. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. Representative Lee, as an extension of Shirley Chisholm’s legacy, I would love your reaction to the news that Speaker Pelosi is not seeking a leadership position in the next Congress and Representative Hakeem Jeffries will most likely become the next leader for House Democrats and thus the first Black leader of a party in Congress. What’s your reaction to this historic moment? 


Barbara Lee: Well, first it’s uh in a lot of ways bittersweet. I’ve known Speaker Pelosi since 1984. She’s a transformational speaker. And so it’s uh she’s been remarkable. And yet here we have now the next soon to be leader, um an African-American man from New York who’s– 


Juanita Tolliver: From New York. 


Barbara Lee: Who has part of Brooklyn, I mean, we visited Shirley Chisholm’s home as guests of Hakeem Jeffries and Yvette Clark a few months ago– 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah. 


Barbara Lee: –in Brooklyn. So I’m excited about this new leadership and working with them very closely on this transition. 


Juanita Tolliver: Now I want to wrap up things on a fun note, so I want to know trademark quintessential Shirley Chisholm qualities that still stick with you today. 


Dr. Anastasia Curwood: She was a catalog shopper. And so anyone, especially her staffers who I interviewed, they’d go to her house and there would be like catalog boxes everywhere, constantly packages coming. Um. The dancing. So she would dance anywhere with anyone. And I’ve got one picture in the book of her dancing with the New York State Assembly, the leader. Um. She was always made up, always the right shoes and handbag. She just her style was distinctive. And it is it’s who we remember today. If you look at any image of her that’s in her iconography and her as a symbol like that kind of globe of a wig is what you think of. 


Juanita Tolliver: Now, that was just a snippet of my interview with Representative Lee, Representative Pressley, and Dr. Curwood. And I’m excited to announce that you’ll be able to listen to the full interview in a special bonus episode of What A Day that’ll be dropping this weekend. You can also catch a few of the fun lighter moments from this interview on social media. So check us out on Instagram at @WhatADay. We’ll be right back after some ads. [music break]




Josie Duffy Rice: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Josie Duffy Rice: A federal jury yesterday, convicted Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and one of his deputies of seditious conspiracy for their role in the January 6th insurrection. This marks one of the few times the Justice Department has tried, let alone convicted, someone of that crime, which requires at least two or more people to conspire to violently overthrow the government. Rhodes and four other members of the far right militia group were also found guilty of obstructing Congress from certifying the 2020 election results. Both crimes are punishable by up to 20 years behind bars. 


Juanita Tolliver: President Biden called on Congress to block the looming rail worker strike, citing the impact it could have on the economy. The move is a huge blow to thousands of rail workers organizing for better working conditions. And let’s be real. It’s a really anti-union look for the guy who promised to be, quote, “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen.” Those are his words, not mine. This comes after one of the country’s largest rail unions became the fourth to reject a tentative labor contract brokered by the White House. The stalled negotiations revived the possibility that a strike could happen as soon as next week. But Congress has the power to force these unions to accept Biden’s deal regardless of workers demands. House lawmakers will vote today on legislation to do just that, and Senate leaders from both parties have already signaled their support for the measure. 


Josie Duffy Rice: If you listened to the show yesterday, you already know all about the drama in Arizona surrounding the certification of the results from the midterm elections. Secretary of State and Governor elect Katie Hobbs’s office has officially filed suit against the Cochise County Board of Supervisors for failing to meet their deadline and certifying the election results. Meanwhile, Hobbs’s gubernatorial opponent and notorious election denier Kari Lake, still refuses to concede. She’s still maintaining her unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. But if you ask us, this lake does not hold water. Get it? [laughter] Good joke. Good joke.


Juanita Tolliver: Huge news for teacher’s pets everywhere. The massive academic workers strike across the University of California system has entered its third week. But yesterday, the union representing postdocs and academic researchers struck a tentative deal with administrators. The agreement, if approved by union members, would give postdoctoral scholars substantial pay increases, childcare subsidies and more job security. However, those workers won’t go back on the job just yet. They’ll remain on the picket lines in solidarity with two other bargaining unions that represent teaching assistants and student researchers. Those unions are still at the bargaining table. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Uncle Sam can finally give his regards to Adam and Steve on their upcoming nuptials. The Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act yesterday, moving Congress one step closer to codifying protections for same sex couples. But as a reminder, the legislation would not require all states to legalize gay marriage. If the Supreme Court ever overturned Obergefell versus Hodges. But it would require states to recognize same sex marriages performed in states where it is legal. The bill now goes to the House for a floor vote where it’s likely to pass while Democrats still hold the majority. Here at WAD, we recognize the validity of any wedding, gay or straight. As long as there are little finger foods that we can eat from a tray. 


Juanita Tolliver: Today, our World Cups runneth over. Facing elimination, the U.S. men’s team beat Iran one – zero in the FIFA World Cup yesterday, nixing Iran from the tournament and advancing to the round of 16, also known as the knockout round. While the U.S. women’s team has won the last two World Cups, the men’s team hasn’t advanced past the round of 16 since 2002. President Biden, who heard about the team’s victory after giving a speech in Bay City, Michigan, returned to the podium to announce the victory to the gathered crowd. 


[clip of President Joe Biden] USA, USA. That’s a big game, man. Well, I spoke to the coach and the players. I said, you can do this. They went ahh they’re gonna– they did it. God love them. Anyway, just thought you might want to hear. 


Juanita Tolliver: Joe’s high spirits may have been for more than the victory buzz. During halftime, the U.S. announced a $1 billion dollar arms deal with the World Cup host nation of Qatar. Not sure we have the authority, but I’m calling that one offsides. You’re going to have to break that rule down for me again, Josie, but I feel like this was a 1- 2 punch to Iran. Right. Like the U.S. is making this deal with Qatar after they’re kicked out of the World Cup. But also while they’re, you know, enforcing human rights abuses and killing their own citizens. 


Josie Duffy Rice: That sounds right to me. I don’t know everything, but I do know what off sides is [laughing] and those are the headlines. 




Josie Duffy Rice: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Give your local striking teacher the shiniest apple. And tell your friends to listen. 


Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just how many days there are until the Women’s World Cup like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Juanita Tolliver.


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


[spoken together] And we understand the rules of soccer completely. 


Juanita Tolliver: Not. Right? Like I did watch– 


Josie Duffy Rice: No. 


Juanita Tolliver: –Ted Lasso. 


Juanita Tolliver: I still don’t know. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Do not give in. Do not give in. We get it. 


Juanita Tolliver: [laughing] Do you love soccer? 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s like better than football. 


Juanita Tolliver: Is it? 


Josie Duffy Rice: With all these rules and– 


Juanita Tolliver: [laughing] 


Josie Duffy Rice: –plays and [indistinct]? [music break] What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.