Learn to Apologize (with Ali Winston & Darwin BondGraham) | Crooked Media
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January 24, 2023
Pod Save The People
Learn to Apologize (with Ali Winston & Darwin BondGraham)

In This Episode

DeRay, De’Ara, Kaya, and Myles cover the underreported news of the week— including the GOP restricting certain foods from SNAP recipients, huge success from the first HBCU gymnastics team, a controversial Beyoncé concert and the shocking truth about early abortion. DeRay interviews investigative reporters Ali Winston & Darwin BondGraham about their new bookThe Riders Come Out At Night: Brutality, Corruption, and Cover-up in Oakland.

News

DeRay https://t.co/KXVvqk4u18

De’Ara https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/19/sports/gymnastics-fisk-hbcu.html

Kaya https://www.salon.com/2023/01/20/its-a-huge-list-iowa-bill-would-ban-people-on-stamps-from-buying-fresh-meat–and-more/

Myles https://www.theguardian.com/music/2023/jan/22/beyonce-makes-controversial-live-return-at-exclusive-dubai-concert

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay. And welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode, it’s me, Miles, Kaya, and De’Ara talking about all the news that you don’t know from the past week. The news that went underreported with regard to justice, race, equity, culture, but we have it here. And then I sit down and talk to investigative journalist Ali Winston and Darwin BondGraham to talk about their new book, The Riders Come Out at Night: Brutality, Corruption and Cover up in Oakland. I learned a lot of things and, you know, sadly, some of the stuff around the police is just the same all over the country. You’ll learn a lot, I did too. My advice for this week is, again, like learn to apologize. I’ve gotten so much better as an adult about being like, you know what? My bad. Didn’t mean to do that. I’m sorry that I did it. I’m sorry that you experienced it that way. Like, you don’t lose anything by apologizing, if anything every time I’ve had to apologize and not that I’m like, out here just screwing up everything. But it’s made our relationship better. And I think that in the past, I would just dig in my heels and for it’s like, sometimes, you know, had great intentions and it didn’t come across. So go ahead and apologize. I’ve seen so many great relationships, friendships, things ruined because people couldn’t do that. Here we go. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Family. Welcome to another episode of Pod Save the People. I am De’Ara Balenger. You can find me on Instagram at @dearabalenger. 

 

Myles Johnson: I’m Myles E. Johnson, you can find me on Instagram and Twitter at @pharaohrapture

 

Kaya Henderson: I’m Kaya Henderson and you can find me on Twitter because Myles hasn’t said we should leave yet at @HendersonKaya [laughing]

 

DeRay Mckesson: I thought Myles did leave Twitter. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Me too. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: That’s why this is a new [?].

 

Myles Johnson: I sure did. There was a hot, the thing about the devil. God god might got that throne, but the devil got the gossip column and I had some people text me about some hot gossip and I had to get back on that Twitter to see what was going on. [laughter]

 

DeRay Mckesson: [?]. The devil got the gossip column. 

 

Myles Johnson: God still got the throne. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: [laughing] Oh my god. This is DeRay @deray on Twitter.  

 

De’Ara Balenger: I don’t know how many times, countless times we’ve had to process, discuss mass shootings on this podcast. It’s been a many a many a time. This time it happened on um Chinese Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, California. Ten people were taken from their community, from their loved ones yesterday. Um the suspect um who is a resident of a community neighborhood very much nearby, a 72 year old man um was found um dead in in a van by a self-inflicted gunshot. Um. They’re still investigating motive. The shooter was of Asian descent, um which doesn’t make it not a hate crime. But, you know, just want to send thoughts. You know, the usual thoughts and prayers that we send um that we have to send every single time. Because clearly there’s been not enough reform that’s needed to stop these senseless killings. 

 

Kaya Henderson: It really is um so worrisome um to feel the desensitization that happens when there’s yet another mass shooting. And um I feel like we’ve got to do our best to not not be shocked right for this like, we we have to do our best to not let this become normal. It is heinous and egregious and crazy that um someone would shoot up a dance center where older and middle middle aged Asians are celebrating their culture. Um. And we don’t know why, but it doesn’t matter why. The fact that it happened is terrible, and the fact that we continue to not find the loss of human life so crazy and so out of bounds that we continue to prioritize gun manufacturers and the gun lobby and profits over people. Um. We have to stay outraged at this like we can’t let and my my big worry right now is that we’re like, oh, yeah, another mass shooting, like par for the course. 

 

Myles Johnson: Yes, absolutely. Echoing what you all said. But then and also and I think I’ve like said this many times on the podcast that and I don’t know this to be fact, this is just me taking the evidence that I see and just giving a super, you know, just a hypothesis but man the incel community on and on the Internet right now and in these little dark pockets of the Internet that are creating um men who are interested in and in horrendous violence. A.) it’s raceless. We discuss that a lot when it comes to um Black men. Of course, we know it’s white men. But then, yeah, it could it’s it’s a it’s a it’s a raceless thing. And there’s a there’s a thing in my in my gut telling me, no, this is somebody who’s been socialized on these dark web incel communities and is going to and going out and and exercising this same type of um this same type of violence. And also, to your point, De’Ara, I would be so interested in some type of protest or some type of whatever, but stringing along in a like in a continuous thing all the times on this podcast alone we’ve had to talk about mass shootings and I’ll be interested in all um publications or all um television or podcast publications doing something where they string it along and like showing people this is how long we’ve been talking about mass shootings and it takes up a hour. [laugh] It takes up 2 hours just for the pockets of time we have to talk about it, just to get more attention around how frequent and heinous it is. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: It it is so wild that we’ve had a, a handful of mass shootings already in 2023, and we can’t keep count like we know this one because it just happened. But I there have been, oh, ten or so so far. You know, like when people look at the lists, like what is a mass shooting? And I agree with you Kaya, it is so scary that we are like just it’s like another mass shooting. Another mass shooting happened. Like that feels really wild. So um I don’t even know what to do about this and you know, I don’t even the shooter thing is sort of interesting because the police are like the suspected shooter. But I feel like we need more information about that whole thing. And when they’re like, oh, he didn’t survive the police encounter. I’m like always, you know, the police just killed that protester in Atlanta, too. And there’s no video, no nothing. So I’m always concerned about those reports. But what a what a sad you know, it is it gets scary because you’re like, I get why people parents are like, just stay inside. Just stay inside, [?] kids, have your friends come over to the house. Just stay inside because at least you know the chances then are better. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Well, the other thing we wanted to talk a little bit about is DeSantis and [laugh]– 

 

Myles Johnson: Sister [?]. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Why oh why oh why oh why why [laughing] and him getting rid of AP African-American studies. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Not getting, not getting– 

 

De’Ara Balenger: What is happening? 

 

Kaya Henderson: –rid of it. Not getting rid of it. Let me clarify. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: What is he doing? 

 

Kaya Henderson: So the College Board finally, after lots of pressure, shout out to all the communities that have lobbied for this, including the Color of Change, who sort of led um some of the coordinating efforts. The College Board finally created an AP African-American studies class. Woo hoo. The sister who created it is a scholar. She is and she’s amassed a group of academics and scholars from all around the country to create this bomb AP African-American history course. And uh Mr. Desantis’s Education Department has said, no, you cannot teach the AP African-American history course in Florida because it violates the law the whatever his stop woke thing or whatever his law is that says you can’t talk about– 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Stop woke act. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yes, uh that it violates that. And so you can’t teach the new African-American history class, which of course, is for college credit, which this is an access issue. This is an opportunity issue. But basically something that I read said that he says it’s like of no historical value or no educational value. And they teach all kinds of other there are all kinds of other AP history classes that are sanctioned in Florida, but not this this Black stuff don’t have no value, is basically what he’s saying. 

 

Myles Johnson: It’s just all vanity, right? Just it’s it’s really just to just show your support, it’s how racist you can be. [laugh] Well that’s just like there’s no there’s just no other reason why why why he’s doing that. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: It is it it you know, it also is like just so brazen. It’s like this is not like beating around the bush. You don’t have to, like, infer a lot. It just is like straight up racist in a way that, you’re right is definitely virtue signaling all the worst virtues. And also, like in some ways I feel like a taunting, like, what will it take to fight him back? Like, what is the you know, I’ve seen people calling for the AP to pull out of the state of Florida. Right. Which like will definitely just hurt a lot of other kids. So I’m not sure. Um. And I get I get the request right because it’s like, what do you do to make everybody else feel the pain that he’s inflicting on just a small set of the world? And I don’t know. I get it. I get the pushes. 

 

Kaya Henderson: What is even more disheartening to me. So one, like the Florida State Department of Education, is saying, oh, we teach African-American history. We just don’t want to teach this woke version. Right. Um. But I, I, I guess I’m I want to know, like, where’s the NAACP? Like, where do we collectively get together and either bombard Florida with something or where do we boycott or where like, where is the collective organizing against this? Because I think one of the things about the brazenness of this DeRay is like, we’re stunned. We’re just like, you can’t you literally cannot do this. And we are and some of us are frozen, right? And and I am sure that there are people on the ground in Florida that we just don’t know about who are working every day to fight this. Um. I am sure the College Board has a plan, but like there is not a collective pushback on this. There’s outrage, um but I I I know that people want to support the clapback on this. And so if any folks know where the clapback is coming from or who’s leading the the effort to refute this or whatever, let us know so that we can share with our listeners, because I think that this is so brazen that if people like us don’t stand up and do something, then we are just going to continue to get rolled. 

 

Myles Johnson: And I like the name the Clapback. I think that we need to start something called the Clapback. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Come on. 

 

Myles Johnson: And just, and just you know, NAACP has to do it real. They have to be real respectable. We need to [?] clap back. [laughter] No legal jargon. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I love it. 

 

Myles Johnson: Just clap back. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I’m going to I’m going to be buying that domain right now everybody so. [laughter] [banter] 

 

Kaya Henderson: Clapback. [banter]

 

Myles Johnson: DeRay loves a sneaker and a domain child. [laughter] [banter]

 

DeRay Mckesson: Get it while it’s good. Get it while it’s good.

 

Myles Johnson: Um so I’m going to go in for my news. You know, I, I really love y’all. Y’all being the people I’m having this, this um this conversation with. But then also the people who are listening. I love y’all like family. And I think that sometimes family has hard conversations, hard conversations that I would not have on Twitter. Because [laughter] I like [laughing] I like my mentions. I like my peace, you know, my, my, my, my Heavenly Auntie Beyonce had a performance that just, you know, took over took over the Internet, really captivated people um just with clips and pictures and symbolisms, then all this other stuff that she’s just the queen at when it comes to performing. And I I loved and enjoyed everything that I saw. I thought it was great. But one thing that I thought about it and I would say, wow, if I didn’t convert to being an IG baddie and I still had thoughts I would make a thought about this. Is that Beyonce just released a pro queer album, has an album with Ts Madison, who is a former Black sex worker, trans icon in our community, sampled Moi Renee, who is um who is uh a often forgotten uh icon um of of of the Black um queer community and just as so many others just this just did so many other things on the album that really signaled a type of support and a type of alliance with the queer community, specifically the Black queer community. And you know, I’ve never been to Dubai. [pause] But I got google [laugh] and Dubai, it’s a crime to be gay. The United Arab Emirates, it’s illegal to be gay. And I that is a deep contradiction. Again, I don’t know what she’s doing with this money. So allegedly, she got paid to $23 – $24 million dollars. She could be secretly giving this to uh excuse me, 23, $23 to $24 million dollars. I don’t know if that’s the million part. Um. But um she could be secretly giving this money to trans and gay organizations and just keeping it out of the out of the press. I don’t know so I’m giving space to my ignorance and if she’s doing something really queer and Robin Hood with the money, then I would definitely I’m just going to go by what I see. But again, I think this is maybe the second time I talked about the Carters, first time being Jay Z and the Black Panthers, but this time it has to be about Beyoncé, where I’m really interested in this tension between capitalistic gain and political political stance and how what it is okay to be used for, what it seems to be recreating one stardom. But that’s where it seems to end, because that seems like a big deal to me. It’s it’s punishable by um by by death, friends. Like I’m laughing because it’s a nervous laugh because that means I would have pulled a Jesus by now over there because I would have died many a times.And came back. But it’s punishable by death. It is um a a big deal. And I just I wish you know, I totally understand not commenting on gossip and not commenting on um the ridiculous things that are said on the on the Internet about you and who and who has the time. But I think that this is substantive enough to have a comment on. Why would you stand with us and support us and galvanize us to purchase your newest products and feel seen by us and then profit from a place that thinks that it’s okay to kill us. You know, that I think. I think I think, you know, R.I.P. Barbara Walters. I think that’s a question. I think that is a I think that is a question that that Barbara Walters would respect. It is not a Wendy Williams question. It’s not a Sydney Adams question. It is, that’s a Barbara Walters 2020 question. And I think that we need to know the answer to that question. And, you know, and I know how it is to love an artist and be impassioned by an artist’s work and and have to sit with the contradictions of what they do and what they say and be loving them. But I think that that’s where growth happens, that’s where maturity happens for both the person listening and also the person creating. I think that excellent art is created from um through critique, critique. So yeah, I just want to bring this here to see who was brave enough to um to discuss with me, [laughter] don’t leave me out here alone friends, specifically my fellow homosexuals. [laughing] 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Myles. Do you I could see people saying, well, that’s not her responsibility. Right? She’s an artist and she doesn’t take political stances. I can’t remember one time she’s endorsed a candidate. She supported–

 

Kaya Henderson: Wait wait wait wait she walked out of a– 

 

De’Ara Balenger: She endorsed Hillary. 

 

Kaya Henderson: She walked out of somebody some sports thing because they didn’t have any Black people in the executive suite, right?

 

DeRay Mckesson: And I’m just. I’m not saying that’s what I’m saying. 

 

Myles Johnson: She, she she–

 

DeRay Mckesson: I’m just saying I think, I could see people–

 

Myles Johnson: [?] that dress. She [?] that polka dots. [?] for Hilary Clinton. With Hilary Clinton.

 

DeRay Mckesson: And Obama, she was–

 

Myles Johnson: And she [?] with Obama. She– 

 

Kaya Henderson: But what issues does she– 

 

Myles Johnson: –the songs. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: This is not my comment. I’m just saying what do you say to the people who will say like, but she when have you seen Beyonce take a stance on an issue? You know, she she wore the Stacey Abrams hat or like they posted the Stacey Abrams hat too. So like different people. But I could see people saying, well, you know, she’s an artist, she doesn’t take stances on positions that her her political stance is is the music. And she had a whole album that was queer like, [banter] you know, she stood on a she stood on top of a police car. That was her statement about like, what do you say to those people? 

 

Myles Johnson: Yeah. So I think that I think that my I think that my crit– I don’t even know if it’s a critique yet, cause didn’t get into a critique I just said, here are three facts. Do with it what you will. But if I’m going to say that, you know what, Beyonce is a performance artist. Beyonce is a musician. And that is where her political, social, political statements are happening at um and I which I totally respect and think is smart for her. Then where you decide to perform then is folded into a political statement because you’re not going to do you’re not going to have a sit down interview and talk about why you decided to do this. So that means just like and because we we we know when Beyonce goes and does um what was that performance where she goes and she dresses as a as a um as a uh Egyptian goddess at um an a at the global citizens. And in Africa, we know that those are all political choices from the fashion to the location to the songs she’s deciding to sing, so we have to underst– so to me, I think that just like when I look at her and I’m like, oh, she recreated these Greek or Roman [?], you you know, I fell asleep, I cheated. But like [laugh] Greek or Roman paintings for this Dubai um thing, for this Dubai concert. And she made it with all Black people and stuff and stuff. She, we we we know the the political statement she’s making. Why is it when it’s a failure to a thing, it’s all all of a sudden like apolitical and she isn’t  making commentary. No, she made a commentary that I eh ah uh no I don’t want to I don’t want to put words in her mouth, but it was I eh it sounds like she said, I am with you, until it gets to a certain price tag. Or maybe like I think with Jay-Z, a lot of times maybe the the the learning is not deep enough. Maybe, maybe, maybe the the the engagement with work and the engagement with um certain types of cultures and certain types of um uh literature is just not deep enough that it just comes off shallow where these kind of mistakes can be done so, like glaringly, you know? 

 

De’Ara Balenger: I think. Myles, that that’s just it. Beyoncé is rich, like real rich. Her friends are real rich. This hotel. You got to be real rich to go. I just looked up in uh a room there’s $5,000 a night. So I don’t think there’s a lot of conversation and connection happening. I think it’s, this seems amazing. It seems very rich. We’re going to do some rich stuff. Get on a rich private jet, land, stay in our rich room. And do this performance. And the performance, of course, came with all the bells and whistles because the UAE has so much money. It’s just it’s just insane. So I think I’m interested to know what the discourse is now and what the response will be. And obviously, we know it won’t be like everything with Beyonce. It won’t be you know, she’s not going to write an op ed. But I think that there will be something to your point around whether it’s donation this, or this partnering with this organization, I think that could potentially follow? Should we expect something different? I’m not so sure. I would want to, in my Beyoncé heart. 

 

Myles Johnson: Yeah, I just never– 

 

De’Ara Balenger: You know? 

 

Myles Johnson: I’ve never seen an artist who I see as a genius. I see as a genius. I’ve never seen somebody who is just brilliant when it’s convenient be, um what’s the term infantilized? Like. Like, like, like, oh, oh, she just rich, she just disconnected. I’m like, well, she knew. She knew how to strum my heartstrings with that Black boy dancing in from the police officers. That to me, she I’m like, that’s a that’s genius. [laugh] I’m like that’s genius. That is genius singing. She knew she knew to put Ts Madison. And and and in a song called Cozy and talk about her pregnancy scars as Ts Madison’s talking about her transness on the same song with the 808. I’m like, this is not a, this is not a this is a– 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yes, yes. [laughing]

 

Myles Johnson: This is a brilliant woman. So no matter what, even if I don’t agree with her choice and she’s like, let me tell you something about money. Then you will find, you will be hard to find the kind of money I’m trying to make and find no blood on it. And let me tell you something. I’ve got plenty of machine washers, and I could wash off that blood, I can respect it, but what I’m not going to do is pretend that Beyonce is just in a in a weird, um blond headed bubble, and she just don’t understand some [?]. That’s a that’s a brilliant woman. [laughter] That is a brilliant and it’s insulting to say that she’s anything but a brilliant woman. I just think that she’s like, no, you get offered $24 million dollars and see what you won’t do, see if you won’t. [laughter]

 

De’Ara Balenger: I think it’s that. [banter] I think it is that I think would would would any of us turn down $24 million dollars to do the very thing that we love? 

 

Myles Johnson: But I, but you know what, no and I would and I would tell you, I think that’s the thing. I think I wouldn’t gaslight anybody and have them hold it and be like, let me tell you something. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: But she’s not gaslighting any she don’t ever say anything. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Nothing that’s true. That’s true. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Unless the unless there’s a documentary coming out on Netflix and we might get a few statements. 

 

Myles Johnson: No I I you know I think–. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: We never know what she’s thinking ever. 

 

Myles Johnson: I think that’s a gaslighting technique. I think that like and I’m not I’m not trying to put that word right on Beyonce. But just just to be clear, the the this contradiction is glaring, the not saying anything of it and just making and what it does is make somebody think like, am I tripping? Once that happens that the gaslight happened for us. 

 

Kaya Henderson: That’s the def– that’s the definition of gaslighting. When you think you crazy because of what somebody else is doing. 

 

Myles Johnson: [?] I’m over here tiptoing I’m like, I’m like, okay fellow homosexuals and and Auntie Kaya. [laughing]

 

Kaya Henderson: I think this is fascinating. I think [laugh] really really. Here’s why I think this is fascinating. So first of all, I think that what Myles is saying makes a ton of sense to me, right? Um. But I also was sitting here wondering like, would we be so kind and careful if it wasn’t the queen bee? Right? Like, if this was some other artist who we’d be giving them the business, right? But we love Beyoncé and she’s a genius and all of these things. And so I’m interested in the grace that we are extending. I’m interested in the the posture of question, which I think is right. Like, I don’t think it’s wrong. I just wonder, would we be having this kind of conversation if and I was trying to think of an artist who would like be illustrative, um but I haven’t thought of one yet. Um. But I just wonder if we’d be having this careful of a conversation or we’d just be giving it to her. 

 

Myles Johnson: No, we [?] Michael and now this and this is not a comparison at all. But we’ve had black geniuses misbehave and and and I think Michael Jackson is like an extreme example of this. And we said, what did you do with them kids? What are some of us that is, you know, we’re not a monolith, but some of us was like he ain’t do nothing to them whatever. But the conversation was was being had. And I do think because and this very and I’ll and I’ll wrap I’ll you know I could talk about this all day child, so I’ll wrap it up. But you know that I think that Beyoncé right now is a singular excellent thing in a sea of mediocrity. And Oprah, she is going on her hikes and she’s leaving us alone. Prince is dead. Michael is dead. You have not seen Diana Ross outside of Christmas. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Whitney. 

 

Myles Johnson: Whitney’s dead so, Beyonce is caring the Black Excellence trophy. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Load– 

 

Myles Johnson: That used to be– 

 

Kaya Henderson: The lo– the whole load.

 

Myles Johnson: That used to be dispersed throughout many in the eighties and the early nineties. Right? And now Mariah is over here fighting several [?] you got Nick Cannon doing stuff and saying I’m not a part of that. Everybody’s busy. Everybody’s either dead or busy and Beyonce is carrying on her back. And– 

 

Kaya Henderson: Wait. 

 

Myles Johnson: And I think– 

 

Kaya Henderson: The cultural the cultural ecosystem analysis was worth the price of admission today friends. [laughter]. 

 

Myles Johnson: So it’s on her back so I get why Black people, I do the same thing where I’m like, Listen, I’m not talking about that. [?] If I wasn’t looking at three other Black faces, I’m not having this conversation. Go to [?], go over there and talk about what did Taylor Swift do? What did what was the last time what was the last time that she put Ts Madison or whoever y’all. What does she do for you? So get out get up and get out of here. So I’m just having a nice kitchen table talk, with y’all about Beyonce. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yes. Uh huh. 

 

Myles Johnson: But I get it because she’s holding so much at one time. Let’s go into the realness child. [shrieks] [laughter]

 

DeRay Mckesson: The only thing I’ll add is that I think that we get better when we are able to have these conversations. 

 

Myles Johnson: Absolutely. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And I think that she is singularly talented and has been able to hold the talent over time. Because what you won’t say about Dubai was that the girl can’t sing. 

 

Myles Johnson: No absolutely. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: What you won’t say is that it wasn’t a stellar [?] performance like the political commentary about it is separate from what we saw. And what we saw was excellence that has lasted for a lifetime. And that is just true. 

 

Myles Johnson: Absolutely. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And even the the run for the opening of uh drunken love like, you know, that’s already a TikTok meme. I woke up this morning humming it like the talent is there. And I think, you know, you know, Bell Hooks took us to one extreme with Beyonce is a terrorist. So that was you know, that was one way to go. I think that there is another I think there is a way to say we love our you know, I think about our friends is that we we all love people in our lives who we disagree with or we all love people who we’re like, mmm, I don’t really understand that. Right. And I think that uh I’m hopeful that the conversations about the choices that we that our favorite artists make politically help us all interrogate the world better because she is what is true is that what she does, people follow. That is true. And if she said, I’m not going to da da da or if she you know, I think about even like the parties, like they throw that random Oscar party now and it like changed Hollywood because Vanity Fair no longer is the like what they choose to do specifically her, especially globally can have real consequences. Uh. And I think that that is real. And she you know, they’re both billionaires. So it’s like there is a question of I mean, this is one of the hard things about capitalism, right? Is that in capitalism there is just never enough. There is always more wealth, there is always more, there’s a bigger house, there is a bigger hotel room, there is a bigger stage, there is a big you know, did you see the thing where she thanks the dancers? Do you remember how many dancers she has? Did y’all see this? 

 

Myles Johnson: Mm mm. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Mm mm.

 

DeRay Mckesson: Guess how many dancers she had in Dubai? 

 

Kaya Henderson: A lot. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: 100. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: 1500 dancers. 

 

Myles Johnson: Whoa. 

 

Kaya Henderson: You lie. So she– 

 

Myles Johnson: Whoa. 

 

Kaya Henderson: –put 1500 people on basically is when you’re saying.

 

DeRay Mckesson: So she thanks– 

 

Kaya Henderson: –Plus. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: –the dancers and she’s like, hey, you know, thank you for the dancers, the 1500 dancers. 

 

Myles Johnson: That’s amazing. And that’s the thing about it, too, where I think that if she just talked about the contradiction that [?] was like, do I not pay 1500 Black people who are some and I’m sure some of these people are queer, I know some of these people are queer, I know some of these people are, you know, etc. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Mmm hmm. 

 

Myles Johnson: Do I not do that? Like I think that if she was just open, right about certain things, I just think I think that it it it would hit different, you know, instead of it just feeling like the exploitation like, Oh, hey. Rainbow flag. Vogue, vogue, vogue. Hey, I’m about to perform somewhere where, you know, it’s uh punishable by death for you to be yourself. Don’t look too close, don’t look too close. Listen to [?].

 

DeRay Mckesson: Right. Yeah. 1500 dancers. It’s like a little, I’ll I’ll put the video in the chat where she um where she thanks them, but I but I say all that to say that, like, um there’s a lot going on. And one of the things about capitalism is that there will always be more like, you know, she can do three dancers. We have seen her do no dancers and now there are 1500. Right like [laughing] so I–. 

 

Myles Johnson: Right. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: –this question of what–  

 

De’Ara Balenger: And I think part of it, I think DeRay it’s also just part of again, it’s like she wouldn’t be able to do that performance. Like who in America, what corporation [?] anybody, Live Nation affiliate would pay for something like that? 

 

DeRay Mckesson: No, totally. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: That’s why she has to go to somewhere that is just like where wealth is just next level. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Yeah. And that’s what I think Myles is saying about the contradiction. I also think that there’s this question, not necessarily I’m not really applying this to her as much as this conversation about her has made me think of. It is like in capitalism, the question becomes what is enough? In a world where, like there is just always more. Do you know what I mean? Like what is enough? I think is a question we have to wrestle with, Kaya? 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yeah it’s also not just the what is enough, there is if you been Black and poor at any moment of your life. When somebody says $23 million dollars or whatever the number is, you’re like, I can’t leave that on the table. And–

 

Myles Johnson: Or miss sister Kaya! [banter] to see that childhood house. [banter] [laughter]

 

De’Ara Balenger: That girl ain’t grow up poor. 

 

Kaya Henderson: I said, if I didn’t see her, I said if. I said if. Paving the way for those of us who started out in public housing and who remember those days I guess– [laughing]

 

Myles Johnson: That was never and I think I say this all the time is that I think I’m just so fascinated since like I started this podcast, I started being so fascinated with Black, upper middle class, middle class consciousness versus Black people who grew up poor’s consciousness. And how I always see these things because of just my own class privilege and mobility. I’ve I’ve seen these things be a conflict with each other in ways that it feels like an invisible conflict that nobody talks about. But I do think that part of my push with Beyonce is that, oh, we grew up similarly at certain points, you know, and I sometimes think because I grew up in a in a middle class, upper middle class environment, it’s almost my responsibility to raise my consciousness and to be responsible because I didn’t have to think hand-to-mouth or violence or these other things that like other Black, that Black folks had to think about or other poor folks had to think about in general. And it’s sometimes I feel like this responsibility to think. To push it in the way that I can. So in my head and again, she could be pushing it. And I’m just not included in that conversation. And she could be saying, you know what, I’m paying all these dancers. And also I’m putting all this money is going to be redistributed in these like queer organizations. And I can’t say it publicly because then I it won’t ever happen again. And that could totally be a thing that’s happening. And, you know, if Beyonce hears this by any chance, I’m sorry, girl [laugh] if that’s the case. [laughter] I’m sorry.

 

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

 

[AD BREAK]

 

De’Ara Balenger: Well, speaking of places where some coins could go. Beyonce, fam, um the first intercollegiate gymnastics team at a HBCU, they could use some ducats, y’all. Beyonce, please help. 

 

Myles Johnson: That was a transition for that. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: But so– [banter] [laughter]

 

Kaya Henderson: Yes, yes smashing De’Ara, smashing. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: She really can pull these transitions out of her behind. 

 

Myles Johnson: Mm mm.

 

De’Ara Balenger: So but, you know, listen, this is about black excellence and how we’re supporting black excellence and the gaps between black excellence and access. But I saw this so this this article actually was in The New York Times. It came out um a couple of months ago um and someone on on the Twitter I, I don’t really use Twitter, but I look at my messages in case somebody reaches out via audience um and put me on to this article. And now I have been watching and following Fisk um for the last few months. So essentially, you know, we know gymnastics, We all know gymnastics, it white, white, white, white, white um. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Except the goat– 

 

De’Ara Balenger: And–

 

Kaya Henderson: –is Simone Biles. So like everything else. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Well, that’s what I’m– 

 

Kaya Henderson: –We set the standard. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Like everything else right? 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And Dominque Dawes! 

 

De’Ara Balenger: And I– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Remember Dominique Dawes? We grew up [?]–

 

Kaya Henderson: Dominique Dawes. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Dominque Dawes, I grew up– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Dominque Dawes was our girl.

 

De’Ara Balenger: I grew up with Dominique Dawes. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: –brought up with Dominque Dawes. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Our girl. Right. And then evidently, before even that, Dianne Durham, the first Black woman to win um U.S. USA Gymnastics senior national championship in 1983, she beat Mary Lou Retton. That’s how bad she was. She later was injured. And then some weird thing happened. She was injured. She still wanted to still wanted to compete. But the Olympic Committee um didn’t let her She wasn’t able to be on the team for reasons that still go unexplained to this day. But all that to say, it’s interesting because had she not gotten injured and had she continued um with her career, she could have been the face of USA Gymnastics back in the eighties. Right. Um. Which I think would mean a heck of a lot for all of the Black girls then and now um that want to compete. Um. And so I just I just love this. And so I if y’all just put just like Google Fisk University gymnastics team, you will see how incredible they are. They just went um to the Super 16 Gymnastics Invitational in Las Vegas and they placed fourth. Um. And the team was led by Morgan Pierce (correction: Price), who earned the meet’s highest score of 9.9 on the vault. If y’all watch this on this vault, you will get the chills. It is amazing. So I don’t and somehow in my mind, too, is connecting back to like DeSantis and like banning African-American AP courses. It’s just like all of these challenges and like just all of it to stop us from being our greatest selves. Because when Black people get the opportunity. All y’all better get out the way. Y’all better start practicing because Fisk is coming for y’all. And you know what happens, it’s gonna burn [?] light a match and there’s going to be gymnastics teams across these HBCUs, and then y’all going to be in some real, real, real trouble. So um. So the way this got into this HBCU is Derrin Moore, who’s the founder of Brown Girls do gymnastics. She chose to make her nonprofit’s sole focus um, getting getting teams into HBCU’s. Um. She remembers being a young gymnast in the 1980s um and seeing, listen to this and seeing the disgust on her white teammates faces when oils from her hair would leave the vinyl mat slick. [deep breath exhaled] She remembers coaches who criticized her body and the way she danced during her floor routine, enlisting another girl to show her how to do it the right way. Mmm I’d like to see that for real. Um. So this organization was founded in 2015. The organization’s work also includes camps and conferences for gymnasts and their families to help them navigate the sport, as well as a lobbying effort to increase the number of Black judges in competitions. Um. But of course, one of the primary concerns of the nonprofit is the lack of gymnastics programs at HBCUs. And so I just thought this was just spectacular and also hit me close to home. Growing up in D.C., I played volleyball, and not many Black girls played volleyball in the nineties. But um under the leadership of one of the moms that my parents were close to, she started an all girls of color volleyball league. We were called D.C. Juniors and we would go from state to state and whoop the heck out of all them white girls. And every time we’d have a crowd around the court because they’ve never seen anything like that. And these girls were incredible. My dear friends, Cheryl went to Long Beach to play. Candace went to Berkeley, Jinae went to Duke. Um. They’re all actually teaching between Sidwell and Bullis right now in D.C.. To this day, they all went on to play professionally. So it just it just hits because it’s like having the opportunity to do something you love is just, it should be every that it’s every child should have that opportunity. Right. So I just saw this and wanted to bring it to the pod because I am obsessed with it. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: [?] quick is that this is such a reminder that uh you cannot talk about excellence without talking about access. And Black people have just not had access to this as they get older. I know every single Black person I know with kids, the daughter is in gymnastics, the boys in da da, like people start the gymnastics journey. Where do you go with it as you get older? They just have not been as many opportunities that are culturally culturally relevant. Our people know it’s da da, but it just is a reminder that, you know, you can have all the skill in the world and without access, you really are just at a disadvantage. And De’Ara, I think your quote about watch out, we coming, is right. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Um. This is this is like such a personal point of pride for me because the coach of the team, Corrinne Wright Tarver um and I went to elementary school together. We went to the same dance school. She was the gymnastics bomb when we were little girls–

 

De’Ara Balenger: Kaya. Who didn’t you go to elementary school with? 

 

Kaya Henderson: Listen honey.

 

Myles Johnson: I was like, what is going on? [laughter]

 

Kaya Henderson: Mt. Vernon is a very small place that packs a– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Right you know all the all the girls.

 

Kaya Henderson: –large punch. It packs a large punch. But this young lady, I mean, she did she was the gymnastics like super hero growing up. And, you know, you lose touch with people over time. And to watch now that like all the Black girl gymnastics that we talking about, this woman has, you know, you you asked what happens, we start out in gymnastics and we don’t see it through. Clearly, she has seen it through. And so one, I’m just personally proud of her, but I’m also proud because it continues the thread of this conversation about coaches leaving white spaces and going to HBCUs and finding success in a different way. Corrinne was that um at the University of Pennsylvania as an assistant gymnastics coach? So assistant because that’s what they do to us, right? Oh, you could be number two, but went to Fisk, became number one and now is crushing the whole game and the NCAA is right, took her team that previously had not been to the NCAAs and is and is De’Ara’s new obsession right and so what happens there is a lot to be said about spaces that were created for us and by us that give us opportunities that we don’t have in these other spaces. She her excellence has been under a a basket, right? And and when let loose, she’s able to shine in a completely different way because we give our folks opportunities. I mean, this is why there’s a resurgence in the number of young people who are applying to and going to HBCU’s like we cannot take for granted spaces that were created for us, leadership that supports us, you know, and even if we don’t have the money, if y’all don’t have nothing else to do which your ducats make a donation to Fisk, they need a facility. They need they are doing this like we do everything right on a shoestring and bubblegums and and what we could do if we actually had the resources that other people had. But we also have to reinvest in our own institutions because we’re able to shine in these places in ways that we cannot shine and spaces that were not made for us. 

 

Myles Johnson: Absolutely love this news. Again, one of my favorite genres of news to be brought to the podcast are things that I will never do, and [laugh] it makes me feel so safe and cozy and warm when there are Black people doing things like climbing to Mount Everest and flipping in the sky and just I’m like okay we are just earth, wind, and fire, and I’m gonna stay here on earth and I love that Team Air is out there doing their thing. And um I wanted to like, say, the name Gabby Douglas because I feel like she is a and what, what, what also I was thinking about is how, yes, we are usually superior when we get into any sport, but I guess because of cultural capital and and just Black, the nature of Black culture and Blackness in general, we also become like celebrity superstars of it, you know, and and just big it becomes bigger than the um it becomes usually it becomes bigger than the sport, bigger than the reason why. Like Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, these are names that become bigger than um, you know, the sport that they got that they got known for. And I think about how important that kind of access is for um for Black people in order to start um their own empires and their own businesses. How the these these arenas and sports have such good platforms, the foundations to flourish and create businesses and create different types of stardoms that aren’t just what we’re stereotyped into participating in. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Dominique Dawes was a household name. I remember the Dominique Dawes Tommy Hilfiger campaign. Like Dominique was that girl before any like– 

 

Myles Johnson: I’m not, I feel so bad to have not heard of um Dominque Dawes. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Ooo! 

 

Myles Johnson: I guess I’m just– 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Mm hmm. 

 

Myles Johnson: I’m guess I’m–

 

De’Ara Balenger: We’re also like–

 

Myles Johnson: I guess I’m just too young. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: –she’s also from Maryland. [laughter]

 

DeRay Mckesson: Yeah. And she’s 46 now, but– 

 

De’Ara Balenger: She’s also a Maryland–

 

Kaya Henderson: She is from Maryland. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: –person too. So. Yeah.

 

DeRay Mckesson: But I but she was like–. 

 

Kaya Henderson: But the whole world knew her.

 

DeRay Mckesson: Yes. And she that was like before Serena, before Tiger. Like she was just like the Black girl doing it big. And we had never, ever seen it before. Um. And I just like um who is the a– the uh who is one of the skaters? It was a H–

 

Kaya Henderson: Oh. Surya Bonaly? The oh, you mean uh recently–

 

DeRay Mckesson: Ice skat–

 

Kaya Henderson: The [?]–

 

DeRay Mckesson: No no. Back then, it was like one of the, there was like a there was like a– 

 

Kaya Henderson: Michelle Kwan. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Yes! Michelle c’mon. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Kristi– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Yamagutchi! 

 

Kaya Henderson: Kristi Yamagutchi. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Yes! Oh, baby. C’mon we knew we was we was fighting for all the girls that didn’t. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Oh hey look anybody colorful honey. [?]

 

DeRay Mckesson: C’mon. Michelle Kwan! C’mon you’d a take me to the parade. Kristi Yamaguchi. [laughter] Oh. That one. Myles you missed. That was peak because it was like no internet. No. Like, you had to watch it live. There were no replays, there was no youtube. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Listen. Do you remember the um French woman, Surya Bonaly? African, had a whole ponytail on top of her head–

 

DeRay Mckesson: They banned her doing the thing. 

 

Kaya Henderson: They banned her because her jump was so blackitty Black, and she was crushing it. She was doing things that other people could not do. And they were like, technically, this is impossible. She’s out. Come on Black excellance.

 

Myles Johnson: Uh uh. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Oh, we got–

 

Kaya Henderson: We been doing it. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Myles you got to see that video. She does this thing that they deemed so dangerous that like, you’ll get automatically disqualified if you do it now. But she did it and nobody– 

 

Myles Johnson: Whoa. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: –can reproduce it. Da da da da da da. 

 

Myles Johnson: Yeah sure yeah please send me all I want to know all this stuff. Yeah you know I love a corner of cult pop culture Black pop culture that I have not dug into. So send me all the stuff and I will [?] and hold myself into– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Yeah yeah and Dominique was big so Dominique was obviously big in gymnast– gymnast’s world but she also had a Tommy Hilfiger deal, which is a big deal because back then, do you remember the rumor that Tommy Hilfiger didn’t like Black people? 

 

Myles Johnson: Yes. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: So all of a sudden, Dominique Dawes comes out as like the Tommy Hilfiger girl and you’re like, I guess he does like Black people. It was a moment. That was a come on. 

 

Myles Johnson: Yeah. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Okay. The the news is going to get more um more depressing. So let us just shout out to these two moments. 

 

Myles Johnson: Okay. Deep breath. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yeah. Because while Black girls are out here being excellent, Republicans are out here telling people that they can’t eat decent food if they have snap benefits. Y’all, I just can’t. I mean, we talked about Desantis’s brazenness. These republicans are on one. Um. My news this week is uh about a bill that was introduced by Iowa house republicans that places restrictions on the snap benefits. Snap is supplemental nutrition assistance program. It used to be called food stamps, but it basically supplements um poor people’s ability to purchase groceries. And this bill, which has been uh co-sponsored by 40 House Republicans, um now it restricts SNAP benefits. It limits who qualifies for food assistance. So it basically makes the threshold even lower. So you have to be poor, poor in order to get um snap. And it it changes or limits what foods you can purchase. It also targets Medicaid. It reduces the um income levels that you need to apply. It says you can’t have two cars. And in rural America, if you have a big family, people have two cars. It says you can’t have more it you can’t have $2500 to $5000 in savings. So it discourages people from savings. Um. There’s just a whole lot of stuff. But the most galling thing is these people have said that according to their new proposed benefits, certain foods are um are not no longer eligible for SNAP. Among those foods. Listen to me, friends. Um. No white bread, no white rice, no white, no regular pasta, only whole. No white grains at all. Only whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, no sliced cheese, no American cheese, um no baked, refried, or chili beans. Who eats those? Um. No fresh meat, no ground beef, no pork, no chicken, only canned meat products like tuna fish. No cooking oil, no spices, no salt and pepper, no soup, no canned fruits or vegetables. What is this? What is this? That lawmakers think that it is okay to police the food choices of people? Now, you know, if you ask the Republicans why, they will tell you that this money is better spent on other priorities. They don’t spend the money on SNAP food. The federal government pays for the food. What states spend money on is the administration of the SNAP program. And they split that 50/50 with the with the government, with the federal government. And in Iowa, the number of people has been going down. So you can’t argue that administrative costs are ballooning. Right. Um. And so they the Republicans say these are entitlement programs and we need to get rid of that at a time where in Iowa the food banks and food pantries are exploding with demand. And so I can’t I I there’s no other way to rationalize this, as we said earlier, except pure racism, pure classism, pure war on poor people. Um. And it is brazen. It is bold. And, you know, at least according to the article, they say it probably won’t make it out the House. But the simple fact that people feel empowered enough to put this out here is incredibly um worrisome to me. So I brought it to the pod. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Somebody yesterday was like, um what do we need to tell people? What do people need to do? And I was like, you know, some of the theory is interesting, but if we don’t equip people with like what the thing is, they need to fight back against, it won’t matter, right? You can read a million essays and da da da, but they are literally trying to make it so you get get no food. You know it’s like this is this is no longer like a we need you to believe a set of things. It’s like we actually need to figure out how to make sure that our critical mass can fight really well, because these are the structure, you know, and people are like, I don’t do politics. I know a lot of people, especially um my hometown, who sort of like the system has been the way it is for so long that they’re sort of like, well, this is just what it is. And you’re like, no, no, people made this up. These are rules. And [?] it’s like you get the food stamps and da da da but you don’t realize that like somebody in a room voted on that and somebody in a room made a list and da da da and it’s like so when I saw this, the challenge to myself was like, how do we help people both see that this is like a choice that people have made and that they can do something about it. And like, you know, they’re way more people on food stamps then these lil ten Republicans. Um. And I’m not always sure that people understand their power. And that’s what I when I see this, I’m like, this is just to cause pain. There’s no other reason to do this. Uh and people some people don’t even know this is coming down the pike. This is, I saw this on Twitter. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Well and this is it’s happening in Iowa right now. But the GOP is targeting SNAP on a national level. So this is the this is the beginning. You’re going to see this happen in states across the country because we know that the Republicans follow a playbook. And so what they’re doing here, they’re going to seek to replicate in other places. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: I guess I’m just struggling to figure out. To y’alls point, like where are Democrats supposed to look to to know what’s going on? The DNC has a party platform from 2020. And, you know, partly I get it. The DNC is about keeping Democrats in office. Like, who are we supposed to be looking to for, like, advocacy around these type of, like, really critical but niche issues? Is it the Center for American Progress. They still around? Like who? Like what? What are we doing? Because the difference is is like I found, like this blueprint to save America that the RSC like, put like they are organizing, putting up documents. The documents have, even though the research is probably, like, completely skewed, like they’re doing the things like organizing around these issues. And I just don’t know on our side who who is doing that. [car horn sound in the background] Do you all know? I don’t know. 

 

Myles Johnson: I absolutely do not know. I do think um when I when I think about this story is, you know, again, I’m very transparent when I’m just when I’m just using my my big Myles mind. And just hypothesis vibes no facts. But I always see moments like this as racist as like, as as as as deeply symbolic too, to like signal to conservative people, to people who um uh align themselves with white supremacy that um in the end, this particular case, like that’s like the welfare queen is being taken care of. Right? That the person who is um this like lazy Black woman in white people’s uh imagination is being is being taken care of. And I think that is why it’s happening. But and well one of the reasons why it’s happening and I would also bet that white people, poor white people are going to be the [?] people to by number, be most um be most inflicted by this. You know, like I remember watch– oh, I can’t remember that book’s name. I wish I could, but I remember being kind of well like reading this book um about the the myth of the welfare queen and being like, kind of astounded by the statistics versus, like, the imagery. And, you know, this is another moment where I’m where it kind of like recalls, like um uh women’s rights and abortion rights in my head that wait we’re we’re kind of giving this a person of color, a Black person image in the media. But these legislations are actually going to he- to  harm by number, probably more white women or more white people when it when it comes to the food stamps. And I don’t know it just reminds me of how I guess how cannibalistic white supremacy is when it comes to politics and how everything will be done for this symbol, um even if it’s like eating, quote unquote, “your own”. I hate to sound so tribal about how I’m how I’m talking about it, but, you know, it’s race. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: My news is about uh abortion and the power of communication. So there is uh not always do I tell do I ask people to, like, go google but I do want you actually to look up this article because um you need to see the images yourself. The article is an op ed. It’s called Early Abortion looks nothing like what you’ve been told. Now, the reason that this matters is that about 80% of the abortions in the US occur at nine weeks or earlier. And what they do that is so wild is that they show you essentially the uterine lining and the pregnancy tissue um from five weeks through nine weeks of pregnancy. And what you see so clearly is that this does not look like the images that you’ve probably seen before. You’ve seen an embryo. You’ve seen, you know, something that looks like it has a heartbeat like that is the way the uh the anti-abortion people have characterized abortion for so long. And when the doctors put out these images that are literally nothing like um nothing like an embryo, an egg or it’s it’s like tissue. Uh. The op ed talks about the doctors being like, we knew we were going to get pushback. People were like, we were lying. We were misleading them. And he’s like, you know, it was a set of doctors but who are like, you know, it’s one thing to have a disagreement, but it’s another thing to just like, lie about what is happening and and what things look like that are causing people to have really strong feelings um in a way that’s not true. And this just reminded me of the power of storytelling. How how much people sort of get set in their ways about what they believe is true. Like all of it, I was like, wow. Because I, you know, I’ve seen those images, too, that like nine weeks looks like a little embryo and da da da da da. And, you know, and then I saw this and I’m like, this is this is night and day from what I have ever seen when people talk about abortion. So one to bring it to the pod, please go google The New York Times op ed, it really helped change or like help me understand better something I didn’t realize, I didn’t know. 

 

Myles Johnson: Well they would definitely have you thinking when you hear abortion that you about to get rid of like that little dancing Allie McBeal baby or something. And that’s not the case of what’s actually happening at all. Um. But I but I always wonder well when I was reading. I wonder, like, if this is getting into the right faces, you know, like if this, if, if these images are getting to the right people to to maybe change their mind. And I also wonder how much of the outrage that the people who like the the anti-abortion people. Like how much of that outrage is performative and how it doesn’t really matter. And how so and here’s what it really looks and they’re like, we don’t care. We still gonna post this little baby like Lion King Simba and say that it’s a baby and tell you that you killing something. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: I think the other thing that came up with this is, is the the alleviation of pain and shame and guilt for women who are getting abortions, which I found interesting because it’s obviously there’s like the national narrative culture around it. But then there’s the individual experience that women, um you know, could potentially be impacted for the rest of their lives in terms of having guilt and shame around um getting an abortion. So I think just this doctor’s technique of of of showing the tissue to, you know, to really help women process and and manage that, that shame I thought was really a really cool part of this. 

 

Kaya Henderson: To DeRay’s point about like narrative. Why is it that only now like why I mean, there are lots of people who are who are pro abortion or pro-choice and why haven’t they fought back in this way? I mean, the I will never forget, I’ve only been to Omaha, Nebraska one time and no shade to the people who live in Omaha, whatever. But it was a pretty traumatic experience, including seeing big billboards of horrific, horrific pictures of, you know, mutilated fetuses and whatnot. I mean, it was really jarring. And and I just wonder why now on January 22nd, you know, we get to see uh 2023 like is the first time in my 52 years that I am ever seeing what this stuff really looks like. Why haven’t the why hasn’t the pro-choice movement leveraged, I think they’ve leveraged storytelling in a very powerful way. But like it is, it it also goes to to your question, De’Ara about like where do we learn about the the information that is important for us to fight the political battles that we need to fight. I mean, if people at abortion clinics, if the counter-protesters had these signs up, we’d be having a very different conversation. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Right. 

 

Kaya Henderson: And so A.) Number one, Doctor Fleischman, thank you for um one being the kind of doctor who has taken it upon yourself to inform your patients in a really um thorough way. There are lots of women who have been through reproductive health scares, crises, terminations, whatever, who have never had access to this kind of information. So um kudos to Dr. Fleischman and doctors like her. Um. And can more doctors be super thorough and show people what is actually going on with themselves? And like, we have a real problem in the narrow in the communications world and there are lots of communications firms getting paid a lot of money. How come we can’t figure out things like this? This is a wildly effective, thank you DeRay for bringing this to the pod. This is a wildly effective and it’s one of the shortest articles like we have on the pod. And boom, it has had more of an impact than a whole lot of stuff that we see and and read about. Yeah. 

 

Myles Johnson: Yeah, I guess. I mean, I don’t know this to be an answer um Kaya, but also I think that maybe there wasn’t a a need for it for several years? Because there was like, you know, a law that was like, cause I feel like me growing up, the people who would be my [?] I was born in ’91. So I was born into certain legislation and stuff like that. But like when growing up the people who would protest outside of the abortion clinics and stuff like that were just like wackos and weird people and, you know, like, and, and whatever. But now I think that because of what happened last year, um because of Roe versus Wade. I think that now–

 

Kaya Henderson: But it wasn’t it wasn’t the the overturning of Roe v Wade didn’t happen– 

 

Myles Johnson: Oh. 

 

Kaya Henderson: –last year. It has happened over the last 40 years. Right. 

 

Myles Johnson: Mm hmm. 

 

Kaya Henderson: With this consistent chipping, what these these fetal images have been part of the strategy to get people to be so outraged about abortion and whatnot. And so there is no we didn’t need it. We’ve always needed good information and frank conversation about women’s reproductive health. And so I understand I understand what you’re saying. I’m just saying we sleep on the fact that it’s a long game. And and some folks are playing the long game and winning and we’re like, oh, this is imperiled right now? What should we say about it right now? Mm mm. 

 

Myles Johnson: Yeah, [?]– 

 

Kaya Henderson: That that’s– 

 

Myles Johnson: I love that, that it didn’t just happen last year it happened over the last 40 years and that’s a– and that’s like absolutely absolutely right. But um I mean I know but I just think that it wasn’t taken seriously. So it happened. And I think that people felt safe until it happened and didn’t feel the need to do it until it happened. But you’re absolutely right. It’s it’s it was chipping away until and last year the flood came through via [?]–

 

De’Ara Balenger: Mm hm. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Boom. [music break]

 

DeRay Mckesson, narrating: This week, we welcome investigative journalists Ali Winston and Darwin BondGraham to chat about their new book, The Riders Come Out at Night: Brutality, Corruption and Cover Up in Oakland. This is a story of one city police department filled with scandals, brutality, but it’s also the story of systemic corruption in American policing and where it’s going to go post 2022. So here we go. Join us. Let’s learn. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Boom. Thanks so much for joining us today on Pod Save the People. 

 

Darwin BondGraham: Yeah, thanks for having us. 

 

Ali Winston: Thanks for having us. We appreciate it. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Uh. Let’s start with how did you you know, you wrote a whole book about the Oakland Police Department. I learned a ton, a lot of questions. How did you get on that? Did you always care about the police? Were you did you have an encounter that made you start to think about policing differently? Like, how did you get to the topic of of knowing so much about the Oakland Police Department? 

 

Ali Winston: Um. Well, we came at it from two different ways. So I’m from New York City. I grew up here and um I grew up during Giuliani time. I grew up during um zero tolerance, during the kind of mano duro era of NYPD, which, you know, a lot of people say, oh, that cleaned up the city and that made things better. But realistically, a decrease in crime started under David Dinkins before Giuliani let the NYPD run wild. And my youth was marked. I had my own fair share of run ins with the cops. Um. I’m white, uh grew up in an area that was pretty mixed up. So I had a lot of friends who weren’t white, and it was really eye popping to see the way that they were treated. Um. That we were all treated, frankly. Um. The Amadou Diallo incident, Abner Louima. Um. I kind of grew up with this stuff as a drum beat to my um my youth and my my kind of like my formative years. So I when I became a reporter, I was a [?] student. And I wanted to be you know, I realized that history had a lot of strictures on what you could and couldn’t do with the skill that they taught in terms of like research and so forth, and how recent you could get, how up to the present you could go with your um your writing. And I decided I’d rather write primary sources rather than read them. So I started I became a reporter right after getting out of undergrad and kind of drifted towards criminal justice very quickly. Cause I figured I realized I was good at it and my editors realized I was good at it. So. 

 

Darwin BondGraham: Yeah, Ali and I definitely came at this from pretty different places um. You know, I grew up in Northern California, in the suburbs. I’m a white guy, definitely had white privilege throughout, you know, have white privilege now and grew up with that privilege in my life. Never had you know an encounter with a police officer that was remotely anything like what Black people in America have experienced. Um. So, you know, growing up totally unaware of like um as a child, totally unaware of the inequities in the s– serious systemic racism that’s going on in this country. Um. You know, and then uh in my early adult life had an awakening about those things. Um. I was on track to be an academic, uh went to grad school, um went to UC Santa Barbara for graduate school. And I had the um wonderful privilege of being around a lot of really fantastic professors in their um sociology department, uh which was where I was getting a degree and um the Black Studies department there where I was a teaching assistant, and I had really fantastic professors who, like opened my eyes and educated and educated me to what’s going on in this country around racial inequity. Um. But even then, I wasn’t you know focused on policing. Uh. You know, fast forward, um I transitioned to become a journalist around, you know, the late the late aughts. Uh. Met Ali in Oakland, both of us um I mean, it immediately became clear that if you were going to do meaningful journalism, investigative reporting in a city like Oakland, you had to focus on on the police. So, yeah, he and I just started writing a ton then about the cops, and every story we wrote was like, you know, something crazy about policing going on in the city. And it was like in the back of our heads, it was like, you know, we couldn’t write 90% of what we knew and wanted to write because of the strictures of journalism and writing a you know thousand word article. So it always was like we got to do a book someday. So that’s how this came about. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Boom. Now I have a ton of questions. I actually was just in Oakland. I’ll be back in Oakland in a week. I met with the inspector general of the police department who just got appointed, uh and I just met with um the outgoing mayor, Mayor Schaaf. But before we talk about your sort of I I mean I have questions, let’s talk about the riders. What are the riders? This this you know, I read it and it felt all too familiar. It felt like the Baltimore City Police Department. I’m like, goodness gracious. These are like the same stories that happened in major cities. But can you introduce us to the riders uh and what was happening in Oakland? 

 

Darwin BondGraham: Yeah, the writers were a squad of police officers who were patrolling West Oakland in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Um. They were it was actually a more it was it was multiple officers in the department, uh but it was four officers in the end who were identified as the quote unquote, “riders”. Um. Yeah, they were they were the ones who were eventually put on trial for some of these transgressions. What they were doing uh also the context a little bit early 2000s, uh Jerry Brown, who was the governor of California um then, you know, goes into semi political retirement, then becomes the mayor of Oakland and sort of reinvents himself. So he’s the mayor of Oakland this year and in 2000 and he sort of set the tone that he wanted a more aggressive style of policing in Oakland. So the riders are the guys in the department who are like, we’re going to do that. And so this this group of officers, yeah, they’re driving around in unmarked minivan, undercover minivans, and they’re jumping out on random people on the street corners who they believe might be drug dealers that they believe might be engaged in crime, chasing them down. They’re beating people. They’re planting drugs on people. Um. They’re falsifying police reports. They’re committing overtime fraud. Um. It is a lot like some of what you’ve seen in cities like Baltimore. Um. The brutality that they engaged in, uh they were accused of like almost sadistic act, sadistic acts. Like one of them had a nickname, the foot doctor, because he was known for beating people on the soles of their feet with a baton, with a small baton. Um. One of them was called the Choker because he liked to just grab people’s necks and just choke them and try to like choke drugs out of them. So these were the riders and ended up being four guys. Clarence Mabanag, Jude Siapno, Matthew Hornung, and Frank Vasquez, who were indicted in 2000 for a series of crimes and were put on trial. Um. One of them fled the country. The other three, yeah, the other three were partially, partially exonerated. But also juries ended in uh, had hung verdicts. Um. They couldn’t reach a verdict. So the the department, though, fired all of them because the department found that they had engaged in this activity. The last thing I’ll say, the important thing is that the four riders were um they weren’t rogue officers. Not at all. This was a culture within the department. There were a lot of officers engaged in this kind of activity. 

 

Ali Winston: There were also decorated officers, too, You know, several. I believe Clarence Mabanag had won several distinctions um from the department, and he was known as Chuck as well, too. That’s how we refer to him the book quite often. And um he had been previously removed as a field trainer. They have these officers who are called FTO field training officers who bring in younger officers, and they kind of see them through their first few weeks, few months on the job, their probationary period. And Mabanag had been bounced out of the FTO program for having for committing all sorts of other violations and misconduct. But the police chief, Richard, at the time, Richard Word um he actually intervened and put Mabanag back in the program. And this is important because the reason why the riders were discovered is that a young cop named Keith Batt, who was maybe it was his first two weeks on the job, he was actually assigned to Chuck Mabanag as his trainee, and he witnessed just an absolute cavalcade of brutality and depravity while he was on these two weeks um on patrol in West Oalandk with the riders. It was too much for him. So, you know, on July 5th, 2000, he walked into the police um police headquarters and, you know, basically told internal affairs, look, I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. This is going on. And that, you know, his interviews with IAD, really uh with IAD really kind of that’s why this all came out cause he blew the whistle. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Now, in the book, you walk us through the riders. It ends with the sex scandal. We see police chiefs come and go. We see mayors sort of come and go. We see the federal government, you know, not do anything, then do something. It still seems like the problem persisted, right? Like you tell a story, you do you do not tell a story about like, oh, my God, everything got cleaned up. You tell a story about like, it still is not great. And I say that because I’m interested in, like, all the research that you did in Oakland. Do you think it is do you think that these problems are fixable? Like, do you think that you just need a good mayor to come in? And, you know, you talk about how Jerry Brown was like, we’re going to just have more cops. And how Libby like, tried to toe the line between, you know, I’m going to spend my first day in the police department, as you as you all know. And I like sort of believe in police reform and the courts come in. But it it still feels like there wasn’t much accountability for those officers. You know, like the problems persist. What’s your read on like the possibility or the hope or the I don’t know, like, what do you because you know this place and this department so well? 

 

Darwin BondGraham: Yeah. Um. We’re not really we’re not really sure if policing is performable. 

 

Ali Winston: Yeah, that’s the take away. Ultimately, I mean, it really is like a story of whether or not because our history starts in 1852, we don’t just start with like the riders. Um. We look at the institution as it as it has been shaped through the entire course of this city, which is a West Coast city. It’s it’s different than like the northeast or southeast or the areas of the country that were founded you know before the republic was created in 1776. It’s a it’s a more modern thing. Um. But yeah, I mean, it’s it really is about like whether or not it’s about how a police department was created and what it was created to do. Two of the things that we trace out through history is that police departments like rrime is crime control is a twenty– mid 20th century creation. And it actually doesn’t really help us examine what the two major functions of law enforcement was in the 19th and early 20th century. It was protection of property for the elites and it was suppression of rest of social classes. At in Oakland, for instance, it was either the Chinese, Chinese migrants because that was until, I believe, when did the African-American migration start, like World War Two was the big influx, right? 

 

Darwin BondGraham: Yeah. I mean, if you look at how police were used to like police, the line, the like racial social order on the West Coast, it’s very different than the East Coast. Like the East Coast. I think people know that. Like, yeah, policing has its roots in slave patrols and like policing Black populations. Um. On the West Coast. Some of the origins of policing is about actually maintaining the boundary lines between um white people and the Chinese immigrants who were brought in um to build railroads and other infrastructure. And that’s a big thing in Oakland back then for sure. Um. I mean, yeah, yeah and like but to get to your question, like, um, the one, the one take away that we could, that we felt confident stating is that it is possible to address some of the worse problems of policing, even though you’re even though they haven’t solved them in Oakland there has been some progress made. Fewer people are shot and killed by police officers and far fewer people are killed by the police in Oakland today than they were ten or 20 years ago. That’s and fewer people are beaten up and brutalized. Those those really severe kind of like civil rights violations are much less frequent now in Oakland. That has changed. But the reason it changed isn’t because the police woke up one day and said we got to change ourselves. The reason it changed is because there was this immense amount of pressure put on the police by activists, by civil society, by the Black community, by civil rights attorneys, um essentially like society like rose up and said we have to change policing and put this huge amount of pressure on it externally. And that’s and that’s what succeeded. And any time that pressure is taken away, then these problems reemerge. And so is it a long term solution for like activists to, like burn out, trying to change the police and maybe making some progress? And then, you know, and then we slip back again. That’s probably not sustainable. So like in terms of sustainable reforms, I think we we don’t really know. 

 

Ali Winston: Yeah, there have been some attempts to like create a– Oakland has a police commission law to run the agency that it didn’t five years ago, ten years ago. Um. There’s an external committee that basically regulates what surveillance equipment the department can and can’t use. And we alwa– we saw these uh developments happen during the course of our reporting on the department. Um. Some of them actually were created in direct response to our reporting um in the case of the surveillance committee. But uh insofar like there’s also another thing, too, like Oakland in the period that we’re talking in the period that I was there um that I started in 2000, Darwin got to Oakland in like 2011, I got there in 2008 and I was there for the entire Oscar Grant movement. And I have to tell you, before that movement kicked off in 2000, the mid-to-late aughts, there was not as much pressure on the police department to get with the NSA and to reform or the city’s um political class to really make a priority out of that program. After that protest movement broke out. And it was you know, this prefigured the Black the, you know, formal Black Lives Matter movement, the first cycle of it in 2000, what 13, 14, I think, was the the formal start of it. Um. It was by three or four years. And it was intense. It was every every month there were riot cops on the street. There was tear gas. There was chaos for years. Like I want to say, before Occupy. Occupy Oakland was just to me and I was there for that, that we cover that in the book as well. That was an extension of just the years of social unrest that we had in Oakland around policing. Because even though Oscar Grant was murdered by a transit officer, by a BART officer, um the issues about policing and, you know, shootings of unarmed civilians and beatings, cavity searches, public strip searches, all these horrific, you know, other brutalization at protests, the 2003 anti-war demonstrations a great example of that. These were all present and known in Oakland. But now there was kind of this flashpoint. It really put people on the streets and put a lot of wind in their sails to keep pressure on the city. And that’s one of the reasons why the reform um program actually got more stringent and really put the department like in unknown territory that, like no other police agency in the country has ever been in. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: You also talk about and uh you do this so well in the book is the retaliation that happened to the officer Batt who um who came forward. You know, so we have the police commissioner in Baltimore was Batts. [laughter] [banter] I was like I’m like, I don’t think this guy, his name is not that [?] I’m like this can’t be the same guy. Um. 

 

Darwin BondGraham: No. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Can you talk about the retaliation that happened to him? Because he you know, he earnestly came forth being like, I know that’s not right. Um. And then was he was he suffered for it. 

 

Darwin BondGraham: Yeah. Keith Batt, um when when he informed on uh the riders, he immediately started experiencing really serious retaliation. Um. Obviously, he like he he quit the department um and he was still living in North Oakland at the time. He really liked the neighborhood he was living in, um but he soon heard from another officer, he was still in the department, another rookie that uh people in the locker room had been talking and were overheard saying, Hey, we know where Keith Batt lives. Let’s go to his house and conduct a, quote, “special project”. Um. You know, he was afraid for his life because one of the officers, one of the riders who uh was indicted for these abuses, Frank Vasquez, was last seen uh near his home in Suisan City, which is a suburb of um uh about uh 40, 50 miles out of Oakland. Um. 

 

Ali Winston: It’s a cop town. 

 

Darwin BondGraham: Yeah, it’s a lot of police officers live there. So this this guy was seen out there. He was actually pulled over by a police officer out there. He had a rifle in his car, a department issued rifle and other firearms. And soon after that, he goes underground. And he hasn’t been seen ever since. No one knew where Frank Vasquez was. Keith was afraid that this guy was going to like come for him and try to kill him. Um. Other officers in the department who cooperated with the internal affairs investigation of the riders had their tires slashed. There was graffiti in the locker rooms about, you know, um you know, Keith Batt being a rat or other officers being a rat and a snitch because they were uh testifying during the trial. Keith was so afraid that he ended up carrying a concealed firearm for his own safety. There was one moment– 

 

Ali Winston: –of his on the advice of the internal affairs officer who interviewed him. 

 

Darwin BondGraham: Yeah, and people in the department were telling him, you should carry a gun. In fact, that IA officer said you should carry a gun for your protection. Keith told him I don’t have a concealed carry permit, so it would be illegal because this is California, right? And you need that permit back then. Um. And this officer said to him, doesn’t matter. You should carry it anyways. If you get if you get busted for it, it’s better. You know, it’s better to have that little legal hassle than to end up dead. Um. Yeah. For Keith, it was you know years of looking over his shoulder and worrying about were these guys going to come out of the woodwork and get him even to this day um officers in the Oakland Police Department and throughout the Bay Area, they know who Keith Batt is and they talk about him as though he like betrayed the department, even though he was literally he was reporting on serious crimes that other officers were conducting. But he’s become he became like a scapegoat for um a lot of police in the Bay Area. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Did he move? 

 

Ali Winston: And he’s still a cop too. No, he’s still a cop. He went to Pleasanton, which is a suburb to the southeast. It’s also in Alameda County. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: He’s still cop?

 

Ali Winston: Get this, get this, get this. He’s still a cop. He’s actually a pretty good cop. He solved a couple of cold case homicides in 2000-like 2008 or ’09. Um. Got recognition. He served he’s done a bunch of really interesting assignments um but because he’s a cop in Pleasanton, Pleasanton is still in Alameda County. So Alameda County like at the jails and at the courthouses. Pleasanton cops will bump up against Oakland cops when they’re transporting a prisoner or when they’re in court to testify. And not only is he, you know, every now and then he will get you know, they’ll brush up against other cops. They’ll know who he is, will hear stuff about him. Um. Other people will say stuff about him. But his agency, Pleasanton. When Pleasanton cops, even people who may have been like four years old when the riders happened or may have not even been born. Those younger officers will hear when somebody from Oakland will find out, oh, you work in Pleasanton. Oh, yeah, Keith Batt’s there. Oh yeah. That rat’s there, like they’ll hear that from Oakland cops who also were nowhere close to the department when all this was going on. It’s just part of the culture now because the riders walked because they got a hung jury. Even though Frank Vasquez is a fugitive. Still, um there’s this perception within OPD that oh, well, they were never convicted and they were just doing good police work, and you know cleaning up the streets. And well, you know, and Keith is perceived as a rat to a certain extent, and that’s unfortunately, um despite what you’ll hear in again, this is all the stuff that we couldn’t really put into our reporting on the day to day um just because of the strictures of what we were doing, the stories were reporting out. But it’s the sort of thing that gets into a book. Um this deeper context and kind of the culture of law enforcement. This is why the department hasn’t been able to, quote unquote, “perform” over 20 years. Because there still this intransigence in the sen– in the sense and, you know, you’ll see this in other police departments too. Baltimore, L.A., NYPD, the cops are victims when they’re held accountable for grossly illegal shit. Excuse my French, but. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I didn’t know, him being a cop today is wild and Frank still being on the run is also wild. Um. Now, there are a couple of questions that we ask everybody, and people should read the book. You know, we obviously talk about the police a lot on here and you all do such a I was able to follow it from beginning to end, I’m like, I got it. This is wild, I wanted there to be a happier ending. And then it was like the sex scandal. And then I’m like, well, this is just bad. Um. But there are two questions. One is, what do you say to people who who feel like they’ve done everything right? They voted, they’ve emailed, they’ve testified, they read your book, they read my book. They went to the protests. They like they did the things and it still didn’t get better. What do you say to those people? 

 

Ali Winston: Well, it has gotten better. You know, it has it actually has gotten better. It’s important to keep that in mind that things are not perfect. But, you know, one, humans are we have short memories. And one of the reasons why we wrote this book is to kind of pull together this longer history of Oakland, and explain like just what was going on. You know, that there was if you look at the mid-century Oakland Police Department, the ways in which people were basically summarily executed for disrespect of cop in like the 1940s and fifties, the way that the police like pulled in, the cops were openly participating in John Birch Society seminars. They were pulling in the Hells Angels as their auxiliaries to beat the tar out of anti-war protesters. Meanwhile, letting the Hells Angels off off the hook for a massive methamphetamine smuggling ring because they would give them information on the Black Panthers and so on. Like that’s the sort of police department Oakland was, you know, in when I first started reporting on it, one of the bigger projects that I did was about police shootings and like the laws governing secrecy around police records at the time in California, in the from the mid 2000s until 2019, you couldn’t get a police officer’s disciplinary record in California. You couldn’t get any civilian complaints, internal affair files, so on, because the police unions and the judiciary in what’s considered now a very progressive state. But it’s important to remember that they had a Republican governor not that long ago, um that the state also produced Ronald Reagan and some really [?] conservatives. Um. They basically walled off police records through a series of laws and legal decisions. And now like they’ve been rolled back. But when I was doing my reporting, in the late aughts, early twenty tens, you couldn’t get these files. You had to basically think of all these creative ways to go to do an end run and pull them from archives, hope that somebody had them. Use lawsuits, um get sources. Things have gotten better. Their shoot, they shoot far fewer people. They had, Oakland actually has some of the most remarkable um stop data on who they stop and who they question in the country because of the consent decree. Right. I mean they’ve done a lot of things that you don’t see on the day to day but have improved um circumstances. That being said, is it ideal. No, it’s not. Has it helped improve public safety. I mean, Oakland is more violent now than almost at any point since the early 1990s– 

 

Darwin BondGraham: –on the end of it having got gotten better. Um. The district attorney of Alameda County is now Pamela Price. Um. She’s a civil rights attorney who has sued who her she built her career in part suing police departments for um for uh racism that officers experienced internally, for people who were beaten by the police. She’s been an intense critic of the police. Um. She is, uh you know, right up there with the other big you know reform uh district attorneys in the nation now, um the police chief of Oakland is an African-American man who grew up in the city, has really deep ties to the community and appears to be someone who is genuinely bought in to reforming the police department. The sheriff of Alameda County is is the uh, who was just elected, is the first uh woman and Latina sheriff of Alameda County. She defeated a Republican, Greg Ahearn, who had a lock on that office and was heavily criticized for numerous problems um like people dying in the jails and um uh deputies secretly recording interrogations with juvenile um juveniles detained by the police. So the people actually running Alameda County’s criminal justice system today are very different than the ones who ran it just five or ten years ago, even one year ago. And it would have been impossible for them to get in these positions of authority and to be uh positioned to make some really big changes, had there not been this huge social movement locally, Oscar Grant. Black Lives Matter. Nationally with Black Lives Matter, the George Floyd uprisings, um everything. Uh. So it has changed a lot um is what I you know, what we would say to like people who are, you know, feeling a little defeated. Also things can get a lot worse, right? Um. There is a national backlash right now against these kinds of reforms, against transforming policing. Um. You know, we’re seeing it uh locally in Alameda County, in Oakland to some degree. Um. We’re seeing it nationally. There’s you know intense criticisms of these policies that were put in place during the pandemic in particular. Um. Things could get a lot worse. We could see more incarceration and more kind of law and order policies that um don’t necessarily address the root causes of crime and social unrest and just cause a lot more pain and suffering for people’s lives. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And the last question is um, what’s a piece of advice that you’ve gotten over the years that stuck with you? 

 

Ali Winston: Show up. Show up. I mean, honestly, the best piece of advice that I got um as a reporter was just to show up. Like don’t do things over the computer. Don’t try and fi– if you can be somewhere, be somewhere. Um. I think that one of the reasons why we were able to write this book is that both of us spent so much time um not just in the archive and you know archival research, our Freedom of Information our California Public Record Act Litigation. Um. That was a tremendous part of this book, but a huge part of it is also being there. Is knowing what the street looks like, is knowing is showing up at these council meetings, showing up at these protests, um meeting people, talking to them for hours and hours and hours and getting into their lives and having them open up and give us the privilege of sharing their stories. Um. I think that that’s a really important part of not just of any sort of attempt at history or journalism or nonfiction um or even fiction to a certain extent. That’s not what we’re talking about here. But I think showing up and being there and being present and kind of effacing yourself is really important. Also, another great piece of advice I had, and this is when I worked at a radio station in um in San Francisco, was to stop talking, was just shut up and let the other person talk. And in radio, that’s a technical thing and that’s to not step on somebody else’s tape. And I know that I kind of I’d mess up when Darwin and I were talking. I’d jump in and so forth, but um it’s really to like, it’s a technical thing, but it lets the other person talk and it lets them go with their own flow of thought. And you will they will take you in places that you know you didn’t think you were in. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Boom. 

 

Darwin BondGraham: Yeah, I’ll I’ll say we’ve had a number of editors over the over the last decade or so um who we’ve been really lucky to work with and um yeah, I think that they’ve given us tons of you know tons of advice about how to write. Um. One of them in particular, Bob Gannon, uh he, he edited a bunch of stories we did about the Oakland police and um yeah, he he was just really influential. And [clears throat] um some of the advice that you know he would give us was just, you know, to keep following a story, pursue it, just like doggedly until the end. Um. And just a lot of writing advice that he would give us. Um. We’ve had a bunch of other editors um before and after him also who have just fantastically um just been fantastic in terms of like improving our writing, but also just improving our reporting um because in the end, like you know, all we’re doing is storytelling. We’re just trying to, like, chronicle the history of the city, the inner workings of the police department, and how these social movements change it over time. Um. And yeah, I mean, we’re just really indebted to those editors and our colleagues, um including other reporters in the Bay Area, who just provided, like countless forms of advice and help over the years. I can’t even begin to you know list it all. 

 

Ali Winston: And coverage. I mean, journalism is a collective enterprise. You know, I mean, we a lot of it, we realized as we were writing this book how much work our colleagues did to help to like build out the actual narrative, the public record of the city and this department over the years. And we’re really indebted to them. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Boom. Can you tell everybody uh where they can stay in touch with your work? Is it Twitter, is it Facebook, is their a website? 

 

Ali Winston: Sure. 

 

Darwin BondGraham: Yeah. Um. So I’m I’m currently the news editor of a local site called the Oakland Side. Uh. People can keep up with some news about Oakland and some of my writing there. It’s Oakland side.org.  And yeah, I’m on Twitter. Uh. @DarwinBondGraham except delete the M because Twitter didn’t allow my full name, uh but people can follow me there. 

 

Ali Winston: Yeah, um I’m an independent reporter. I am on Twitter, @AWinston, A-W-I-N-S-T-O-N, I also have the same handle on Mastodon. Using that all a bit more. Um. My other work really centers around um my non law enforcement work centers around the far right and extremism. Um. I’ve done some stuff with the British Broadcasting Corporation and Rolling Stone recently. Um. But yeah, I mean, I’m out there, so– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Boom. Well, we consider you friends of the pod and can’t wait to have you back and uh Darwin I might be in Oakland soon, so maybe I’ll see you. [music break] Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning into Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out. Make sure to rate it wherever you get your podcasts. Whether it’s Apple Podcasts or somewhere else. And we will see you next week. Pod Save the People is a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by AJ Moultrié and mixed by Charlotte Landes. Executive produced by me and special thanks to our weekly contributors, Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger, and Myles Johnson. [music break]