In This Episode
DeRay, Kaya and De’Ara cover the underreported news of the week— including a documentary honoring Black women’s World War II contributions, racial disparity in access to COVID treatment, and women more likely to die after operation by male surgeons. DeRay interviews Samantha Tweedy about her life experience and current work as president of the Black Economic Alliance Foundation.
DeRay Mckesson: Hey, this is DeRay and welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode, it’s me, Kaya, De’Ara as usual talking about the news that you don’t know from the last week, news that you should know, news about race, justice, and equity that just didn’t make the headlines but impacted people’s lives. And then I sat down with the one and only Samantha Tweedy, who leads the Black Economic Alliance Foundation, to talk about her work closing the racial wealth gap across the country and a new organization that is built to do just that. Here we go. My advice for this week is to make sure there’s space for new people to enter your life. Honor the relationships you have, but also be open to meeting dope, incredible people and building with them. You know, I’ve been, I’ve traveled, you know, a little bit more than I travelled for the past two years, more recently, and I’ve met some amazing people like in passing, and I’m so thankful that there’s still room in my life to meet new people, because goodness, there’s so many great people out there. So make room for new people, to honor the relationships you have, keep them intact ,and make room for new people. Here we go. Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People is coming.
De’Ara Balenger: Family! Welcome to another episode of Pod Save the People. Welcome back. I’m De’Ara Balenger. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter @dearabalenger.
Kaya Henderson: I’m Kaya Henderson, on Twitter @hendersonkaya.
DeRay Mckesson: And I’m DeRay. @deray on Twitter.
De’Ara Balenger: So my favorite month is coming up: Black History Month, and I couldn’t be more excited. I love it! I love Black History Month. You know, we can go on and on about the history of Black History Month and why we only have 28 days, but you know, I just love to remind white people that it is Black History Month during Black History Month.
Kaya Henderson: [claps. Black History Month!
De’Ara Balenger: When a client sends me an invoice or when they are going back and forth about our scope, I’m Like remember now, it’s Black History Month. Just remember, just remember that. So it’s just my way, you know, to get, to get into a conversation about reparations. So I just love, love, love, to use these 28 days to guilt and shame, while celebrating all of the contributions past and present of brilliant, beautiful Black people. What do you all think?
Kaya Henderson: That’s what we’re focusing on. De’Ara, you’re killing me.
De’Ara Balenger: Listen! You step in front of me at the coffee shop . . . it’s Black History Month now.
DeRay Mckesson: [laughs] De’Ara, get out!
Kaya Henderson: I love it. I love it. I might have to use that. We, [laughs] we are focusing at my little company, which is all about Black history, Black culture, we’ve crossed out the month and we’re just calling it Black History because it is perpetual, but it’s all the time. It’s all the time. But we are focusing on things you wish you had learned in school, and we’re trying to share facts and historical pieces that most people haven’t heard about or haven’t read about. It’s because at a time when schools and school boards across this nation are trying to deny us of true history, we feel like it’s important to make sure that we are teaching our young people and our grown folks about what really happened. So we will be focusing on little-known stories and facts about Black history that celebrate Black joy, Black resilience, Black love, Black ingenuity, Black excellence, Black entrepreneurship—all of the amazing things that we are. Come through, February.
DeRay Mckesson: And we are, Kaya, I’m excited about that. I can’t wait, where can we go—not to do a little ad in the middle—but where can people go to check that?
Kaya Henderson: www.reconstruction.us Get our Black History Month package. You can get 28 affirmations that are positive about Black people. You can take free classes, you can do other things.
DeRay Mckesson: But when does it launch?
Kaya Henderson: February 1st?
DeRay Mckesson: Um, I’m excited for that, and I’m hopeful that I can, I’ll learn new things, because I feel like every day online I’m like, Oh, I didn’t know that, there’s like a new thing. I’m, we’re interested in, like, Black possibility during this month, is like, how do we help people just like dream about what you deserve and think about tools, so we’ll be doing a big volunteer push in February to, like because I think that there are a lot of people who know the world screwed up, they’re like da, da, da, but they don’t think they can do anything about it. They feel overwhelmed by it. And like hopefully going to use the energy of Black History Month and get people revved up and like, OK, you can do that. You can, like, undo this jail thing, you can free people from this, you can da da da. Because I will say I’m a little exhausted by the same sort of programing. It’s like, I can’t go to another talk, I can’t go to another thing where, like I heard it, they said it again, like, it’s not even interesting and new. I’m like, This isn’t even, I’m not even walking away with like more tools than I came in here with. I’m just here because I got to be here, you know? And I’m hopeful that this Black History Month is a little different.
De’Ara Balenger: Well, speaking of Black history, my news today is about Black women who stepped in during World War II. So you know how we typically see that image of like Rosie the Riveter, like the white woman that’s like holding up, you know, doing a little, holding her arm up to show her little muscle. What we don’t, what we don’t know about that story and about that narrative about all the white women going in to help working in jobs, working in government during World War II, that there were 600,000 black women. There were also—I don’t want to say Rosie the Riveter, I really want to say like Rashonda the Riveter. Rhonda. Rhonda!
DeRay Mckesson: Rhonda the Riveter.
De’Ara Balenger: Rhonda the Riveter, OK?
Kaya Henderson: Yes.
De’Ara Balenger: 600,000 of them. And what was so fascinating about this story on this in The Washington Post is that some of these women came from the deep south and literally went to D.C. to, like, process payroll for soldiers. And so they went into all these jobs, they went into factories and had to deal with discrimination because of race, discrimination because of gender, and their stories have not been told. And so there’s a documentary out now called Invisible Warriors that was put together by historian and writer, Gregory Cook. And so they premiered this documentary at, I think, at the Martin Luther King Library in D.C., and a lot of the women came and were honored there and got to tell their stories and be in community just about what they went through at that time. And the story, you know, their children were there and these stories were were not really known until, I mean, not known to me until until today, and how Black women really have been left out of the accounting of what happened in World War II. And what was also interesting is not just what Black women did here in World War II, but also what they did to help liberate folks in the Netherlands in 1945. So even the Dutch ambassador actually came to this screening to participate in this honoring and celebrating of these incredible women. One of the women who this documentary is about is Susan King, who now is 97-years old, and she came from her family’s home in Lancaster County, Virginia, and she went to Baltimore, DeRay. Miss King discusses learning about this Baltimore plant that was training women to be riveters, and she enrolled in a class with a friend. Her pay was about $58 a week, and she worked throughout the war. She then went to college and later got her master’s degree at Morgan State. And she has spent the last, you know, she spent 32 years as a teacher and a counselor in Baltimore. Another woman, Miss Ruth Wilson, who is 99, lives in Philadelphia but remembers leaving her home in New Jersey to work in a shipyard. Then she later went on to work for 30 years at a coat factory. And she said that she thought the film was fantastic and that nobody had ever done that before that she had known of in terms of really bringing these stories to light. So check out the documentary, check out the stories of these women. I just was, you know, in bringing Black History Month to life, I just thought that this, you know, again speaks volumes about all of the contributions of Black people, of Black women who were just starting to surface those stories really coming to light.
Kaya Henderson: One of the things that was interesting to me about this—first of all, thanks for bringing it to the pod, De’Ara. You know, just had no idea that 600,000 Black women were out here supporting the wartime effort. But I went on Wikipedia just to see what they had to say about Rosie the Riveter. Of course, there’s not mention of Black women, but, interestingly enough, the first picture that they show is of a Black woman putting rivets on a Vultee A-31 Vengeance in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1943. And so somebody out here is trying to correct the record to help people understand that Black women were part of this movement. It’s not surprising when you sit back and think about work getting done in large scale, there’s always Black women who are engaged in those kinds of efforts. But I thought it was so interesting to imagine these young women leaving home and going clear across the country in many cases, to work in factories, and what they probably left behind. And, you know, even looking at Susan King and you know how she made a life in Baltimore and went on to do other things, I mean, it is, I’m excited to see the documentary because I think it’s going to be another one of those, you know, little-known Black history facts. So this is totally appropriate. Thanks.
DeRay Mckesson: I also had no clue that 600,000 Black women, and honestly, this is probably an undercount, right? This is probably just somebody’s approximation that underplays it. But, so one of the things I thought was interesting is, you know, one of the, one of the children of one of the women says, You know, my mom just came here to work, didn’t ever think about being a Rosie, but also continues to to say like that they didn’t know at the time that what they were doing was critical to the wartime effort, that like that they thought they were just come to like help out. They didn’t know that we would not have been successful without them. And that’s one of the ways that racism works, right? It’s like you become a cog in the wheel, but nobody ever tells you that like you are the cog that makes the entire thing work. You are the, you are the mechanism by which the wheel actually turns. And I think that is true of Black women over, over time, I think that is true about Black people over time and space. And this was just another way that, and you know, Kaya talking about one of the hopes for Black History Month is that the more and more that people realize that without you, without the poorest people, without the darkest people, like the whole thing, literally, it just does not work. It does not move. It is not successful, it does not travel. The more and more that we tell those stories, I hope—and this is the organizer me, we always say in organizing that we can’t give people power, that the best we can do is help you realize that you have power. We can like, help you unlock that power. We can help you believe in that power. And some of that is stories like this, helping people realize that like, the only way that any of this works is because people who look like you and who thought like you and who make decisions like you, were a part of it to power in the first place. So shout out to, shout out to the film. I cannot wait to see it. Hopefully, our producers can get it and get a copy of it, and we can get them on the podcast. Mine was, you know, I feel like I could say this every week, but I’m like, I’m never shocked anymore, and then I read something, I’m like, I’m actually shocked. So this is in the Guardian and it’s about a study that says women are 30% more likely to die after operation by a male surgeon. And I’m like, Well, golly gee, that is sort of wild. It was, the findings are published in JAMA, the medical journal JAMA Surgery. And what they found is that women are 15% more liable to suffer a bad outcome and 32% more likely to die when a man rather than a woman carries out the surgery, according to a study of 1.3 million patients. And what it, sort of what it said to me was both this is wild and I can only think about like the way we need to train people better. You know, we talked about the racial implications of the way doctors determine who experiences paying at high levels and who don’t. But this also made me think about, I was talking to another friend about clinical trials, like one of our friends, one of our mutual friends had like an adverse reaction to a medicine. And it was this conversation about like, who is going through trials. Are women even in the trials, like are Black people, are Black women even in the trials for this? Who are we centering in this, in the enterprise of medicine? And this really sort of was a helpful push around, you know, we spend a lot of time on racial disparities, we talk about gender disparities, but I hadn’t thought about something as simple as gender as having such a profound impact on outcomes in surgery. Like I would have been like, Oh, training too and da da da, but it’s like, Lord, this is actually just, this is actually just bad. And you know, I’m interested to see what comes after this in terms of solutions, you know? The article talks about unconscious bias and in the way that essentially patriarchy impacts the medical care that women get, but to see these numbers was actually more shocking than I had anticipated.
Kaya Henderson: This made me think of so many different things. One, it took me back to one of my first articles for the podcast, which was an article about the fact that Black women, Black women have a higher chance of dying in childbirth when they don’t have a Black OB-GYN. And these, you know, these, this, we think about it as representation in fields, right, we should have diverse doctors, nurses, whatever. But I think this and information like the previous article show that this is about more than representation. This, the representation actually has significant consequences on people’s ability to live and thrive if the kind of doctor that you have actually impacts your outcomes, your possibility of living. And so I think this was really sort of shocking. You know, as a Black woman, I try to select doctors who look like me and who come from a similar background because I just feel like bedside manner is going to be different and whatnot, but this actually underscores the case that I need to be looking for a lady doctor, lady surgeons. I think it causes us to—I have a friend who is the Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at one of our nation’s top medical schools, and you know, she’s been pushing for us to train our doctors differently because you’ve seen all of the stuff about, you know, doctors not believing that Black people feel pain at the same rate as other folks. And I mean, I think this sort of brings up the whole human capital chain, right? Who are we recruiting and what are the incentives to ensure that enough women and people of color are going into the medical field? How do we decrease barriers to entry like, you know, these student loans that these poor doctors come out with? How do we think about training and inducting them into the profession? How do we make sure that people are professionally developed as these things come to light, right? There’s the whole continuum, right? How are we retaining our highest-performing medical folks—all at a time when you know the medical profession is under siege, given that we’re dealing with a global pandemic? And so this to me raises, this is scary, scary stuff, and it makes me not feel crazy for trying to find Black women doctors to support my health care journey.
De’Ara Balenger: Kaya, I think that’s absolutely right, and the only thing I have to add is if y’all—the best way to see where your doctor is that politically is to go to FEC dot gov and to look up your doctor’s political contributions, because I was recommended a doctor at a very well-to-do gynecology practice in New York and this man was head of the practice. I looked him up and he had given all kinds of money to Donald Trump. So first of all, you don’t need to be around any woman, let alone any woman’s private parts, OK? So all that to say, a lesson to y’all out there, again, look up these people’s contributions and then decide from there whether you want to put your life in their hands.
Kaya Henderson: What did you feed this girl this morning!
DeRay Mckesson: De’Ara is ready for Black History Month, everybody. [laughs]
Kaya Henderson: Continuing on the medical disparities theme, my news this week is about monoclonal antibodies and the disparities in treatment for COVID. So as many of you already know, communities of color see disproportionate—as many of you already know COVID hits communities of color disproportionately. In some cases, more than double the rate of other groups in terms of hospitalizations and mortality rates. And we’ve been watching this play out across the country, but there was a recent report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, that says that there are also inequities in how we treat people with COVID. The analysis found that—I’m just going to read this straight out the thing because there’s no other way to say it: The people who are Hispanic face the most barriers in accessing treatment, early treatment to monoclonal antibodies, which has shown, which has been shown to prevent hospitalizations and death. Hispanics receive monoclonal antibodies 58% less often than their non-Hispanic peers, 58&. Patients who are Asian, as well as those who identify with the other category, including Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and multiracial patients, receive monoclonal antibodies about 48 and 47% less often than white patients, and Black patients were treated with these protective proteins 22% less often. And you know, this is just the same old stuff, different day, different manifestation. Many of the reasons why people of color are not getting access to monoclonal antibodies are because they have insufficient health insurance, of course, because as we just remembered, there is potential bias among medical professionals. There’s a lack of primary care doctors in communities of color to recommend the treatments. There are language barriers. And then sometimes we just don’t know about them. So for example, in order for monoclonal antibodies to work best, you need to get them within the first 10 days of diagnosis. Our folks don’t even know that. I didn’t know that. And so I brought this to the pod because, you know, we are out here dying from COVID when we don’t have to be dying from COVID because there are treatments available, we just don’t know about them. Our doctors are not telling us about them. But the white folks are getting what they need, and that needs to be different. There are some strategies that the article recommends, like mobile clinics that can bring monoclonal antibodies to patients. And telemedicine actually is incredibly effective because it makes it easier for folks to see doctors. And so awareness is higher, and access to treatments for high-risk patients becomes higher when telemedicine is in play. In fact, one study found that telemedicine visits helped increase attendance at follow-up doctor’s appointments after hospitalization from 52 to 70% among Black patients. That means we have to make sure that our mommies and daddies, our grandmas, our aunties, our sisters and brothers, and our cousins, are going to the doctor, are following up on things. I have, one of my girlfriend’s parents both got COVID. They’re both in their 70s, and her daddy told me that he was, you know, working now and taking his eucalyptus oil. Sir, I want you to do those things, and I want you to go to the doctor and get you some monoclonal antibodies or whatever else you need. We got to take care of our people, folks. What was also interesting to note is there’s a great resource that the National Infusion Center Association has, they have these clinics and infusion sites where you can get these things. You can go to these, go to the website and you can enter your city, state and zip code, and they will tell you where clinics and infusion sites are available so that you can go get yourself some monoclonal antibodies and some of the other treatments that have been known to reduce the impact of COVID. So I brought that to the pod because I want our people to be informed about the fact that we need to be accessing these treatments at a higher rate.
De’Ara Balenger: I think what’s interesting about this whole thing, or just something that we really have to figure out is just kind of like the dissonance between vaccine hesitancy, people not wanting to go to the doctor, people just trusting the doctors, but then us being impacted the most by these things. Right? Like, I just don’t know . . . like, how to get to solution, you know what I mean, when those are the two ends of the spectrum. And the distrust thing is real. Like we cover, you know, inequity in health all the time on the pod and it’s a real thing. But it’s also a real thing that you know, we have to get care, like we have to access being healthy and treatment, etc., but I just, I guess what I’m searching for is like, how are we going to start to get to a solution in terms of, in terms of messaging, in terms of shift in narrative, shift in culture, to help get communities of color there? And I have some cousins, like first cousins, close cousins, who still don’t want to get vaccinated and it’s not really, you know, I don’t, it’s not an argument for me, it’s not, I don’t get upset with them because it’s a real thing. And some of these people have been, some of my cousins who don’t want to get the vaccine have been incarcerated. So I think there’s also a play in terms of they just don’t trust any white institutions, and that’s real. So I don’t, you know, I don’t I don’t have the answer, but I guess I’m just looking for like a framework to start thinking about this differently so that we can get to some solutions, because our people don’t trust the system, but then our people are, you know, less likely to access the system, and then once they’re in the system, they get treated with not the best care. So I guess I don’t know. I’m talking in circles at this point, but I think all this to say is we have to figure out how to move the needle on each of these points so that we can start getting some better results and so that we can start seeing healthier, happier folks in our communities. I mean, these are, these are our family members, and so, yeah, just something I want to continue thinking about. Obviously, we’ll continue to talk about, but just like, how can we think about this thing differently? How can we approach it differently? And is it a matter of us taking care into our own hands, you know, mobilizing doctors of color, investing in more doctors of color? I don’t know. So thanks, Kaya, for bringing this one, because I think it’s another example of, you know, kind of this very tough spot we’re in that literally is meaning life and death for a lot of folks, and a lot of folks of color at that.
DeRay Mckesson: You know, this makes me think about how we need, people need health care, universal health care, given we believe in that, and that the the presence of health care is not the same thing as access to health care. That those are two fundamentally different things. And I think about when my father got COVID, he calls me, he’s like, You know, I’m not freaked out about it because I had already had COVID, but he’s like telling me, like his arm is falling off and I’m like, Do you feel bad? He’s like, No da da. But I called some of my doctor friends and they’re like, You know what, you know he’s in Rhode Island right now, you should look into if he can get the mono— you know, do we have a Black nickname for this yet?
Kaya Henderson: Not, yeah. But we could make one/ [laughs]
DeRay Mckesson: You know, I’m like, whooh, this is a long name, can we get a, is there a—? So my father is, somebody was like, you know, DeRay, you should think about if your father can get the mono-mono treatment. And it was one of those things where it was like, I’m super in the know, I don’t know who to call. I don’t even know how to tell my father, should he just ask for it when he walks in? Does he have to say that he feels—? Like, literally, how do you do this? Like, I don’t even know how to navigate. Even when I got COVID the first time, I didn’t know who to call or who to ask, how to get it. Do all the hospitals have it? Do only—? You know, it’s like, that knowing how to navigate the system is, that’s 70, 80% of the battle. Like health, having access to health care is, you know, the entry criteria. But knowing how to move once you get in is something that, like you know, I tell people all the time, my father, we didn’t go to the hospital unless something was bleeding or our limb might fall off. Everything else was: drink some water, take a nap, sweat it out—
Kaya Henderson: Ginger ale. Vicks.
DeRay Mckesson: Take some Tylenol. Like he didn’t know. Yeah, he didn’t know? They didn’t have access or they didn’t know. So I think about that a lot with this, is that the vaccine feels like a big lift. The mono-mono feels like a, people are like, I don’t even know what that is.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People don’t go anywhere. There’s more to come.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: And now my conversation with the one and only Samantha Tweedy. I first met Samantha when she was the Chief Advancement Officer at Uncommon Schools, but she has been a senior officer at Robin Hood Foundation. She started out as a lawyer, has been in a host of roles helping to move conversations about equity and justice and the work around equity and justice forward. And now she is leading the Black Economic Alliance Foundation. And she’s here today to talk to us about that work. Here we go.
DeRay Mckesson: It is an honor to be with you, Samantha Tweedy, the one and only Samantha Tweedy. It feels like we met, I don’t know, 10,000 years ago because of COVID. But it wasn’t all that long ago. It’s not too long ago. But let’s start with the first question, which is how did you get into this work? What was your entrance to this work? How did you find this work? Help us understand the how.
Samantha Tweedy: First that is so real on the [unclear] years. Second, DeRay, it is good to be with you today. So if you ask my mom that question, she would tell you [unclear], which is what she has told people for years and years and years when they ask, how did she find herself in this racial justice and economic justice work? And really know what she meant by that was that the work was in the water. You know that it had been passed down to me, passed through into me. My granddad started fighting Jim Crow back in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois, which—I should say because he always said—is the city where Abraham Lincoln practiced law but couldn’t find it in their minds or hearts to ever give Black folks a fair shake. You know, he was, he was there as a 20-year old leading citizens to fight the discrimination at the local Walgreens drugstore back in the 1940s, 20 years before the sit-ins of the civil rights movement that were still monumental. And decades later, he was a key organizer of Dr. King’s historic visit to Philadelphia. So, you know, from him to my grandma, to my aunties, I just, I come from this line of educators, lawyers, social workers, artists, who have just been unrelenting in the dedication of their talent, their voice, their work, to further the liberation of Black folks.
DeRay Mckesson: Let’s start with your work in education. You know, I met you because you were working in education, and I loved to hear you talk about the transition from education to the work you do now, to the work around wealth and the work with the organization you lead. What was that transition? Let’s start there, from education to now. How was that?
Samantha Tweedy: So I spent the last few decades working for racial justice, economic justice in education: schools, education nonprofits, philanthropic foundations, legal settings, advocacy orgs. You know, and my big takeaway and really what led me through this transition, is that even in the places where people with the best intentions, the most brilliant ideas, and the real commitment, right, the real commitment to justice—even in those places when it comes to efforts to create true economic prosperity for Black folks, my take away is that we’re still largely working under a false setup. So let me tell you what I mean. You know, where you and I first met is when I was in the education equity and access space. I worked on the team leading landmark school equity litigation to close public spending gaps. I founded and led a school that went on to win a Blue Ribbon National Award for closing social and economic racial achievement gaps. I was the executive of Uncommon Schools, leading thousands of Black and brown kids from most disadvantaged communities across the northeast to go on to college and wonderfully, to graduate at rates that outperform students from the wealthiest households across the country. But even the data that I just couldn’t shake that despite all of that, what the data kept showing us, was that still in this country, Black college graduates earn less and have less wealth than your average white American who dropped out of high school. So I went from that education space into the poverty space, thinking about poverty fighting work is addressing the economic circumstances that has so often challenged our kids before they even made it into our classrooms in our schools. You know, working most recently at Robin Hood Foundation in New York City and really tackling the issues that are both the causes and consequences of poverty across education, housing, etc.. Same thing, though, data slap me in the face. It’s this setup that in so many of these racial injustice spaces, we’re still largely working under the, you know, false paradigm that this rising tide is going to lift all boats. That if we improve the circumstances so they’re equal for everyone, that that’s going to lead to real economic prosperity for the Black community. And it’s just not true the data shows us. And so that’s really what has driven my transition to this focus on generational wealth building for Black folk, which is the laser focus of the Black Economic Alliance Foundation.
DeRay Mckesson: So I’m going to ask, you know, the two questions, a couple questions sort of like running around in my mind at the same time. So you sort of engage them the way, I don’t know, the way they make sense to you. But the first is, do you think this is a solvable problem? Like, do you think that we can solve it? And then the second is like, what does a win look like or what does winning look like? You know, because I think that a lot of people who hear racial wealth gap today and they’re like, Oh, hey, got it. They’re like, Yes, there’s a gap, we got the charts, we understand it better than we have ever understand it. But like don’t either don’t think that it’s winnable or don’t know that it’s winnable. Don’t think it’s solvable, don’t know how to solve it. Like, what’s your, you know, what is that, how did, what’s your response to those two questions? And I should add this idea of like, you know, can we do it in this lifetime, right? That make people feel like the problem was baked over a couple of hundred years and can’t be unbaked so quickly. Or is that, do we believe that? Do we not believe that? Like, what’s the, what’s the what.
Samantha Tweedy: Thinking about how we are going to close the racial wealth gap, you know, full stop, after saying that is going to take sweeping, sweeping federal policy change. Also, and alongside that, in the same way that all of our sectors—corporate, philanthropic, social—that have contributed to the current economic infrastructure that we all find ourselves in, has been decisions that have been to hold back Black people, we have to be pushing for ways for those decisions to be equally intentional, equally cross-cutting, and equally impactful, in both ensuring that this gap does not increase, and in focusing on how we build that generational wealth. You know, when we’re talking about generational wealth for Black folks, we’re talking about owning a home, being able to pass it on to our kids, right? We’re talking about building a business that sustains our family and allows us to improve our community, right? I think what’s so important in these conversations about wealth is the reminder that, you know, wealth is—yes, simplest but also most fundamental definition, you know, owning more than you owe. And we have to be able to get to a place in this country where that is no longer the exception for Black folks but is the rule.
DeRay Mckesson: And what are some of the policies that y’all pushing for in the Black Economic Alliance? Or is it not policies that you’re pushing for? Like, what does that, what does that work look like?
Samantha Tweedy: So at the Black Economic Alliance Foundation, we are focused on actionable solutions that we are pushing forward through creating program, programs that can serve as proof points for what works, through education advocacy around those solutions, and through really working across the corporate and private and public and social sector to drive those forward. So just four months in here, one of our big policy pushes, you know, over the last couple of months has been around the child tax credit. And I share that, acknowledging that we have at this point, a long road ahead of us. We’re thinking about new ways to make that a plausible reality for our community.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: How do people stay involved? Is there a place they can go to get more information? Is there a person they can follow? Like, how do people stay up to date with what you’re doing and what the Black Economic Alliance Foundation’s doing?
Samantha Tweedy: Absolutely. So we would love for folks to follow us on social media. You can come to our website Foundation.blackeconomicalliance dot org. And we are partnering with folks across the spectrum in these areas and so would love for folks to come in to get engaged.
DeRay Mckesson: And now there are two questions that we ask everybody. The first is what do you say to people whose hope has been challenged in moments like this? What do you say to people who are like, I did all the things, I tweeted, listened to the conversations, I read the book, I volunteered, and the world still hasn’t changed in the way that I wanted to. What do you say to those people?
Samantha Tweedy: I love that you ask this question because we have all been there. I have been there. And what I look to is absolutely hearing from others in those moments, you know, what it is that keeps us going. So my grandfather would always say in this incredibly simple, but for me, incredibly powerful definition of freedom, is that freedom means being able to do what I’m capable of doing without the restrictions of racism. That is freedom and the fact that we don’t yet have that, that my 6-year old daughter Sophie does not have that, that my 3-year old son Evers does not have that—there is no question of us being able to rest until we do. And so I think when we’re in those moments of we called, we marched, we worked, we tried, you know, the question is less, What is it, can we do something more? And it really is the sharing of what it is that keeps us going. So for me, it is, you know, my grandfather fought in World War II because he was passionate about this country, right> understanding is flawed and yet wanting to fix it. He would carry with him into combat the Double V, right, standing for the victory abroad and then the victories against racial injustice at home. You know, he got wounded in Italy and went to the hospital and they were doing a blood drive and he volunteered and they would not take his blood, not because he’d been wounded or because they were concerned about disease—because he was Black. But here’s what it was to me, when he would tell this story, among others, he would tell it in the context of these are the things that deepened my commitment. And so for all of us, looking at these moments as the things that deepen our commitment, that that’s what keeps me going.
DeRay Mckesson: And the second question is, what’s the piece of advice that you gotten over the years that stuck with you?
Samantha Tweedy: So I have a new colleague who, Gabrielle Wyatt, who’s leading the Highland Project, which is this incredible project cultivating this pipeline of Black women, is leading the way in addressing the racial wealth gap, creating multigenerational wealth and change. And I am on the advisory of the [unclear] Project, and I was giving Gabrielle, sending a text back with which started with, you know, I’m so sorry that I am late on this because, you know, because we have kids at home with a COVID shut down, because, you know, new areas of work, because, because, because—and her response was, This is a no apology thread. And it hit me so hard, and it’s the new words of wisdom that I have been carrying with me, right, for how much we need this. And my “we” there in women, my “we” there as Black women, my “we” there is Black mamas in this work. And you know, I chuckle a little bit saying this, because I am, as I’m saying this to you, I’m also in that work of teaching my two little ones the importance of apologies and sincere apologies and what they mean, so this in no way means that, you know, all relationships should be a apology-free zone. But the idea that those who are alongside us in this work, that you have the ability to create this understanding, this acknowledgment that you always are showing up in that work and bringing everything you bring to the table, creating these no-apologies threads—they just, it gave me wings. And so I have been actively working to pass those wings on to as many others as I can.
DeRay Mckesson: Well, Samantha, we consider you a friend of the pod. Can’t wait to have you back, and I wish you all the best in the work that you do.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning into Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out. Make sure to rate it wherever you get your podcasts, whether it’s Apple Podcasts or somewhere else. And we will see you next week.
Pod Save the People is a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by A.J. Moultrie and mixed by Charlotte Landes. Executive produced by me, and special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Hansen, De’Ara Balenger, and Myles Johnson.