In This Episode
DeRay, Myles, and Kaya cover the underreported news of the week— including non-profit hospitals exploit poor patients, the working class Black men who pioneered emergency medicine and the life and legacy of Pharoah Sanders. DeRay interviews Jelani Anglin and Kim Belizaire about their 24/7 emergency arrest hotline, Good Call NYC.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay and welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode, it’s me, Kaya, and Myles talking about all the news that you don’t know from the past week. The news about race, justice and equity that was underreported. And this week we talk a lot about the health care system, just sort of, you know, we don’t coordinate the news picking, but it turned out that way. And I learned so much this week. I learn every week but I learned a lot this week. Then I sit down with Jelani Anglin and Kim Belizaire to talk about the 24/7 emergency arrest hotline called Good Call in New York City. You heard thats right. With just one call, you can alert your loved ones and get connected to a free lawyer with GoodCall.NYC. I learned a lot in that conversation too. Here we go. And the advice this week is from our guest, Kim. So you’ll hear it. You’ll hear it at the end of the episode.
Kaya Henderson: Hey there, Pod Save The People family. We’re so happy to be back with you this week. My name is Kaya Henderson, and you can find me on Twitter at @HendersonKaya.
Myles Johnson: My name is Myles E. Johnson. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter at @pharaohrapture.
DeRay Mckesson: And this is DeRay at @deray on Twitter.
Kaya Henderson: Y’all. What a week. I was actually out of the country last week, but my phone was just abuzz with all of this Ime Udoka stuff. Celtics coach who in his first, Celtics head coach who in his first year took the team to the NBA finals, um which is astounding, an astounding achievement for a head coach. Um. And he’d been an assistant coach for a really long time and hadn’t gotten the chance to be a head coach. And he finally gets to the big chair and whew child blows the whole thing by having an affair or in some cases, multiple affairs, all of the receipts are not yet in, um, with a an employee or some employees in the Celtics organization, which is strictly against organizational policy. As many of you know, Ime Udoka is the fiancee, long time life partner of actress Nia Long, um who was all over the socials supporting her man as he led his team to the NBA finals and who incidentally just moved her whole family and set up to Boston two weeks ago, even though Mr. Udoka knew that this investigation was going on.
Myles Johnson: Mmm.
Kaya Henderson: Um. Since July. And the fallout from this thing of, journalism has so much to say about trying to give you the unvarnished, just the facts. Before we get into the conversation. That’s most of the facts that’s just, well no. Let me give you a couple more facts. Allegedly, at least one of the people who he has reported to have cheated with is the wife of the CFO or something like that of the Celtics, who is the one who really pressed for this thing to uh become public and see some level of accountability. Because as many people have commented, this kind of thing happens all the time in sports leagues. But yeah, I thought I wondered I when I first heard the news, I was like, oh, I can’t wait to talk about this with my friends on the Pod.
Myles Johnson: Child. It is [laughing]. It is such, it is just such a hazard to love cis heterosexual men in public. I would really, really just just advise against it. Just advise against it. [laughter] Keep–
Kaya Henderson: Wait is that is that don’t love them or keep it private?
Myles Johnson: Keep it secret, keep it private. Pretend you are a 90s song. Keep it on wherever set that is the lowest, [laughter] whatever volume is the quiet is because men, I think it’s just biologically in their, now I’m getting into eugenics child, but maybe it’s just [laughing] biologically in their, I just think it’s biologically in their DNA to do things that are embarrassing and I think. If and it is it. It just seems to me. It’s not a matter of if, but when. And we hear Nia Long, Nia Long doesn’t do nothing but look pretty and be one of our, she just to me, she is just one of those um pillars of like my, like Black beauty in my youth. You know, if uh when I when I think about it and just like acting and she gives me such a [?]. She’s obviously beautiful, but then also she just gives us this, like, warm feeling and I’m like, why would somebody do something to Nia Long? And why–
Kaya Henderson: But it doesn’t have anything to do with Nia Long. Right?
Myles Johnson: It doesn’t have–
Kaya Henderson: It doesn’t have anything to do with Nia Long, [?] there there’s a thing going around on social media. I don’t know who posted it, but it’s like, here’s a list of the women who who were cheated on. Beyoncé, Halle Berry, Gabrielle Union, your mother, you, [laughter] your cousin, your cousin around the corner’s sister in law. Every Black woman you know. Every woman you know. Like it’s this whole thing about how it doesn’t matter who the woman is or what she has or whatever, whatever, that you know, that this is about the man, not about the woman. But for me it’s–
Myles Johnson: Absolutely.
Kaya Henderson: It’s the thing that you raise, Miles, is it’s the embarrassing for me, right? Like I tell anybody who I’m involved with, listen, like stuff is going to happen. People are imperfect and fallible and all of those things. Just don’t embarrass me. Don’t embarrass me. Cause this is your mess. This is not my mess. And now every time poor Nia goes to the grocery store or to wherever people are, girl are you alright? Girl, I know, I’ve been through that. Her kids, her her everything. This is horrific.
Myles Johnson: But, yes, everything you said. And I guess my main thing was it seems that men are the basis of the all these humiliations.
Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm.
Myles Johnson: And I think that it’s is just yes, it’s not her fault. But it is such a shame that now for a lot of people because Nia Long for a lot of if I’m being real, is one of those coveted Black famous people that now her moment in like in a more mainstream way for a lot of people this is how they will come to know and remember her and it’s because of the immaturity and insecurity of a cis heterosexual man with too much power who didn’t know how to wield it. And I’m and I’m just, like, curious, like, what is the question? And I think that although I understand when people try to even it out and be like it had nothing to do with looks or how successful everybody who’s cheated on. [?] Why are people why why why is it uh routine to practice betrayal in your relationship. When we got all these threads and books on polyamory. People put, people slappin poly behind every word they can find to make it so you don’t cheat. And you still you can’t come up with something, you know, like what is going on and do we need like Charlemagne [?] to investigate on that? He seems to be like the cis hetero man whisperer. Do we need, like him? In the jungle. What’s going on?
DeRay Mckesson: I will say, um as somebody who has had to live in public in some way, I do not envy that they are having to deal with this in public, that that is just like a– Kaya you’ve had to live in public–
Kaya Henderson: Yeah.
DeRay Mckesson: And you know–
Kaya Henderson: It’s horrible.
DeRay Mckesson: It’s hard. And it has made me so much kinder about what I say about people online.
Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm.
DeRay Mckesson: Just because I have been the brunt of it. And it just like, you know, you there’s never enough responses. You can never like it’s just and and, you know, people around you are talking about– it is just like there’s not. So I think more of that with Nia then Ime cause he he made his own mess but just the weight of having to deal with it in public completely changes how you think about a response, how you think about yourself, how you process all that stuff and like I don’t envy, I’m it makes me sad for Nia and her family to have to just like deal with this in public. The other thing, too, is, you know, the thing that really turned me was Matt Barnes. Matt Barnes who you know–
Kaya Henderson: Oh please.
DeRay Mckesson: Him him and Derek Fisher da da.
Kaya Henderson: Child.
DeRay Mckesson: So so Matt comes out with this whole defense of Ime being like, you know, the league overreacted, da da da and Kaya I don’t know if you saw he he took it back.
Kaya Henderson: Yes, I did see that.
DeRay Mckesson: So he puts out another video that’s like, okay, I heard the truth and this is bad. And you’re like, well, if Matt Barnes, [laugh] if he is up here being like, you know what? I can’t defend that man.
Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm.
DeRay Mckesson: Then you know something something happened and it just it also is like, you know, Black coach. And it’s not like you got to, you know, we don’t need to play into respectability politics to also acknowledge what this means for the larger context. And not that he had the weight of that responsibility as his only priority, but it also is like Ime, come on. You know, this is this it just is a it’s a bad story. It’s a bad luck. It is. Especially in this moment where we are people finally understand like consent like we’ve sort of like broken through the veil. So it’s not like that consent is not this like, you know, back table thing. I remember having a conversation with my dad about consent and it was clear that we had a lot of work to do. Like he just didn’t understand it well, and then we got to a point. I’m like, this isn’t generational, he gets it, you know? And then it’s like, Ime, Ime, what are you doing? And Nia Long, you know, her one statement, you know the story is that it was the person who did their travel.
Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm.
DeRay Mckesson: And like how grimey is it to have the person you’re cheating on do your wife’s travel. [indistinct] it’s just like this is not only a cheating story, it’s like a disrespect story. And it makes me sad for Nia.
Kaya Henderson: I think so two things on disrespect. So, you know, Myles, you said it, right, Nia’s moment is stolen. Shameless plug for The Best Man: The Final Chapters, which is about to come out uh in December, the end of a classic Black, you know, series about, you know, a Black, young Black professionals. And of course, Nia is one of the ensemble members who created the iconic character of Jordan, whatever her last name is, who, you know, we all wanted to be. Um. And that’s coming out in December. And I’m positive that every single press thing that they do for the series is going to be asking about that, not about how she feels about bringing this to an end or whatever the case may be. That whole cast, that whole ensemble now is going to be tarnished by this whole thing. And so it steals her moment, but it also steals like it and every single woman who works for the Celtics right now is under fire. And the Celtics are trashy because they should have come out and said something. I think since they said it was consensual, then identified a woman as well. Because what has happened is everybody has Googled all of these women who work at the Celtics and they’re like, it’s her. And they’ve had to say, Oh, no, no, she’s happily married and it wasn’t her. Well, it must be her. No, no, it’s not her. Every woman who works at the Celtics organization who goes in there, does their job every day, minds their own business and wasn’t sleeping with the coach is now suspect and, you know, and subject to public scrutiny and all of this stuff. And the Celtics, you know, just were unresponsive for two days or so before they were like, oh, this is a travesty for the whole organization. [?] That. Stand up for the women who work for you and protect them the way you’re protecting these one or two women who actually violated your policy. Name them, you named him.
Myles Johnson: A failure.
Kaya Henderson: All around.
Myles Johnson: Sorry to people everywhere who are attracted to men. [laughter] Rooting for us all.
DeRay Mckesson: Myles get out of here. [laughter]
DeRay Mckesson: [indistinct]
Myles Johnson: Oh, I will um. So. Okay, so I will begin my news. It’s a, a totally different note. Saxophonist Pharoah Sanders passed away the day um the day before yesterday. Pharoah Sanders is a so in the jazz world. Pharoah Sanders put to put it plainly, Pharoah Sanders is a is an icon, is a legend. Pharoah Sanders was talked about um John Coltrane was like the father. Pharoah Sanders was the son. And um Albert Winnstein (correction: should be Ayler) was called, it was called the um Holy Ghost, I believe I’m saying um that name right or if I’m remembering correctly. But that’s the big figure of uh how big of a figure Pharoah Sanders was. He uh performed and did collaborations with John Coltrane, with John Coltrane himself. But then also um after John Coltrane’s death, did uh collaborations with Alice Coltrane. Was in the Sun Ra Arkestra. I feel like I’ve talked about Sun Ra a few times on the podcast and how the the remnants of Afrofuturism is still we’re we’re still seeing Sun Ra’s effects. Um. Widely. Um. And Pharoah Sanders was of that cloth uh really bridging spirituality and spiritual pursuits with Black music and and being highly experimentive. He just came out maybe two years ago with this amazing project, with the Floating Points that is synths and and electronic music, but then also him doing saxophone and it’s meditative. And it reminds me of another artist named Laraaji. And it’s just like, kind of at the it’s at the cutting edge of like where music is gonna be. It’s the kind of music that influences the music that you’ll hear in five or ten years, that when the people figure out how to, like, pop it mainstream. And he was still at 81, 80 in his late seventies at the cutting edge of sounds and of exploration when it comes to um when it comes to music. And he transitioned. And honestly, I feel like I’ve said this a few times on the podcast that uh I love Pharoah Sanders. The reason why I changed my name to @PharaohRapture was because of my love of Pharoah Sanders and because his music at a very dark time in my life was some of the only things that were keeping me sane, made me um it was the sound it was the soundtrack to my own enlightenment and my own studies. And I really wanted to kind of, in my own way, honor the fact that, wow, this person really helped to reveal the true nature of the self, to sound very Eckhart Tolle. So that was the soundtrack that was that was he was the soundtrack to that. And I wanted to honor that. And I think that I’m not unique in those stories. If you see uh Twitter or Instagram, people talking about Pharoah Sanders, he was he was just a distant minister and teacher to so many people through his music. And um like I said, again, I don’t feel sad about his passing. I can only feel gratitude about like about his passing. But also, you know, and it might be easier for me to say this than other you know people who are like personally, personally close to him, it’s just something that he passes the day after John Coltrane’s birthday. You know, and and they were so close and they had in their in their lives, and their music and their histories are so intertwined. And it does kind of make it does suggest that there is a greater rhythm and design about births and deaths in completions and physical death not being the end of it. And I love that his even his death is that it has to be a reminder that perhaps death is just an illusion and if and then things are happening way more by design. One of his more famous songs that people might know is um The creator has a master plan, and in that song it literally says The Creator has a master plan, peace and love for every man. And I just love that his life, his living and his death have all come to symbolize this greater plan that he so believed in. Um. So I wanted to bring this to the podcast, because I love, I loved him and his music. And you know, where we are, we are losing some some some giants, you know, where in and I don’t say that to be, you know, dark, but I do say as that I think if you’re losing giants, that means that we have some some empty spaces on this Earth plane to fill up. And I think that Pharoah Sanders is one of those giants. Um. Yesterday, the day after he died, will be the birthday of Bell Hooks, so I also connect those things together where we are kind of we’re in my opinion, we’re being called to feel deeper like Pharoah Sanders did in his music and think deeper like Bell Hooks did. And it’s important for us to honor these people.
DeRay Mckesson: Myles, I’ll say I don’t have much to say here. Um. I didn’t know much about him at all uh and have spent time learning uh your uh. It’s so cool to know that you changed your name to @PharaohRapture in his Honor. I didn’t know that till right now, um but yeah, I’m I’m learning. This is like a complete. I did not know. I don’t know much about the history of jazz besides the names like John Coltrane. Uh. And I’m learning.
Kaya Henderson: Thanks for bringing this to the pod, Myles. Um. I think for me, I knew who Pharoah Sanders was, but don’t have a deep knowledge of his music. I think the thing that was interesting about the article that you put forward is this idea about music and divinity and spirituality and transcendence. And I think, you know, I’m also just coming back from Ghana where, [sound of dog barking in background] you know, drumming and dancing was is part of how you access ancestral worship and culture and whatever. Like as a people, music and spirituality, like go hand in hand for me, go hand in hand for us as a people. And so I think um the portrayal of his life and his music as a quest for transcendence, a quest for sort of eternal life through music, um really is resonating with me and um makes me think I need to spend a little time um listening to this and and just honoring, like, you know, the world tries to divorce us from from these things. Music is separate for, like religious music is one thing. But our music, I mean, the sacred and the profane, the innovative, like all of it is God inspired. And so it reminds me to resist what the world tells us and to go back to what our history and our culture tell us about God and music or spirit and music.
Myles Johnson: Yes. In our group chat before we um go to the next topic. In our group chat, I definitely put in one of my favorite projects by him called Love Will Find A Way which most of it features Phyllis Hyman.
Kaya Henderson: Oh yes, say less.
Myles Johnson: Um and if you know Phyllis, you know how she gets down. So if you–
Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm.
Myles Johnson: –Ever want to hear Phyllis on that eastern new age spirituality mixed with gospel, jazz, blues, singing. She’s doing some of the best things that she did in her career, and she’s doing it with the backdrop of Pharoah Sanders, um with Pharaoh Sanders music and um uh um his last name is O’Connor. He made um You Are My Starship. Oh, I forgot his name. But, but.
Kaya Henderson: Myles, where do you? I mean, where how do you, who exposed you to this? Like you’re too young to know this stuff. [laughter] How?
Myles Johnson: Child. Old Soul.
Kaya Henderson: I know you a old soul, but somebody I mean, you didn’t just roll out the womb thinking, let’s listen to Pharaoh Sanders. Where did this come from?
Myles Johnson: Well, the thing is, ah luckily so my dad loves loved jazz music. Was not into Pharoah Sanders, I got into that on my own and my mom always had a love of music. But the thing is, if because I was born with the Internet, you can literally have one album that you like and if you take time to listen to one Robert Glasper and then you see one interview by him and then he mentions two people and then you study those two people and then you would look at interviews about for them. And they mentioned three other people because they’re older. And then before you know it, you’re 31 and you’re geekin. [laughing]
Kaya Henderson: So you’re you’re you’re a rabbit hole, kind of dude.
Myles Johnson: Yes, yes. Exactly so–
Kaya Henderson: Right.
Myles Johnson: I was like, um those people. But um but um you know the song um You are my starship. Come Take Me, Take–
Kaya Henderson: Yes.
Myles Johnson: That song. So so he also co-produced this on the Love Will Find A Way album, so it was him, Pharaoh Sanders, Phyllis Hyman. That is would be the entry point. A lot of the other stuff that Pharoah Sanders does is very experimental, experimental and avant garde, which I think is still enjoyable but the most accessible and just if there was a project that I would give y’all to sink your teeth into and to add to your collections, it would be that one.
Kaya Henderson: Super. Thank you.
Myles Johnson: Mm hmm. You’re welcome.
Kaya Henderson: That’s very exciting. Norman Connors, that’s who it is.
Myles Johnson: Norman Connors. Yes, yes.
Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save The People is coming.
Kaya Henderson: My news today. Oh, gosh. Is about a New York Times investigation around predatory collection practices from one of the largest hospital systems in the country. It’s a system called Providence, and it is a one of the largest nonprofit health systems in the country, has 51 hospitals, nine over 900 clinics. And their mission from the 1850s, when they were founded by nuns, was to be steadfast in serving all, especially those who are poor and vulnerable. Um. In fact, more than half of our nation’s 5000 hospitals are nonprofits. But basically um what this article, what this investigation is exposing is that these nonprofit hospitals are no longer acting like nonprofits. In fact, they have an unrelenting focus on the bottom line. They are straying from their charitable missions. They’re cutting costs and boosting profits, which has led to their total inability to handle the COVID-19 crisis. And so we we act like COVID was hitting Black and Brown people and poor people worse. But a lot of times it’s the health care systems in their communities that were unable to deal with COVID, which is why they got hit worst and worst of all a lot of these places have developed elaborate systems to wring poor people dry. So this um in this particular case, the Providence uh Company hired McKinsey Consulting Firm to maximize the money that Providence was collecting from their patients. And so McKinsey created this program uh called Rev-Up, which was a detailed playbook for wringing money out of patients, pressuring them to pay even the poor people who are supposed to be treated for free. What do I mean when I say supposed to be treated for free? Providence and other nonprofit hospitals avoid taxes in exchange for providing free care to the poor as required by the IRS. And Providence itself uh saved $1 billion dollars in taxes passed this past year. Their revenue exceeds $27 billion dollars, and they are acting more like a for profit company because they’ve got $10 billion dollars, billion with a B that they invest Wall Street style. Just like any other private equity firm, they run their own venture capital fund. In fact, last year they earned $1.2 billion dollars from investments alone. This program that McKinsey helped them come up with, the Rev-Up program uh was a detailed playbook for getting money from poor people. They asked people every time, every patient, every time how they were going to pay, when they were going to pay. Um. They told their employees that soliciting money was part of their role, that it was not an option. They set monthly collection goals for employees. They had people asking at people’s bedsides right when they came out of surgery. How do you want to pay for this? They told them to collect any amount, no matter how small it was. Some people paid $2 and they took the $2, literally emptying people’s pockets um while they were getting health care. And if they didn’t pay, they turned on the debt collectors. And anybody who has lived through debt collection knows how unrelenting that can be. And so what happened, interestingly enough, were some of the hospital executives started sounding the alarm, saying this is not okay. Um. In fact, the head of the IRS warned the Senate that these nonprofits were not nonprofits, um but still this was allowed to go on. So even though they were continuing to squeeze poor people and take their money, their free care was spiking. And so they started going after Medicaid patients whose bills should have been waived completely. If you’re on Medicaid and you go to the hospital and there’s any outstanding bill, that outstanding bill is supposed to be waived completely. They decided at Providence that they would send a debt collectors after Medicaid folks. And you know what happens, right? Like the debt collectors are calling you, many of these people couldn’t afford, you know, even a fraction of the bills that uh Providence was charging them. They ended up, you know, losing homes. They ended up not being able to pay rent or heat or rationing their their medications and whatnot. And so this is a story about. You know, exploitation of poor people. This is a story about um corporate greed. This is a story about consulting firms that help drive and support corporate greed all on the backs of our nations, not just poorest, but our most vulnerable people, because they have health care issues. And so when we talk about systemic inequity, when we talk about systemic racism, when we talk about like this is what it is, it is a concentrated effort to put profits over people at a time where people need are, you know, need help the most when they’re sick. And so I wanted to bring this to the pod and sort of highlight this New York Times investigation, because as a result, um the state of Washington, which is where Providence is headquartered, is suing the company. I think more states will follow suit. I think California is also looking at a lawsuit um. But how do you have a for profit? How do you have a not for profit hospital that is exploiting poor people and making billions of dollars in profits without any accountability? I think the time for accountability is now. So I wanted to bring this to the pod.
Myles Johnson: Yeah the. Thank you for bringing this obviously horrific and sad story. And the one thing that kept on going through my mind and I’m glad that you ended on the systemic note is how cyclical this is, because those practices of of debt collecting, bring on stress, bring on uh situations like uh evictions and and I can’t pay my bills and all these different things that then ensure sick people get sicker or ensure people experience health problems. So it was just uh the the, the, the, the, the idea that kept on like ringing and like ringing in my head was that um evil and, and greed and domination is also just like cyclical in how it makes sure that people will need the services that is now preying on them. Because, because of these practices, it’s sad. And, and of course, we just need to obviously, the way that we do health care in this country is it’s not, it’s just not sustainable.
DeRay Mckesson: There are a couple of things that this made me think of. One is that even the most informed people often don’t know the rules. And part of the way that you sort of get the things you need is just by knowing the rules. So there are a lot of just basic things I learned. I didn’t know that about half of the 5000 hospitals in the country were nonprofits, had no clue. As I read it, I was like, maybe I would have guessed there were more. I also thought that there were more hospitals in the country, but, you know, there’s that. And it was so interesting reading this article in The New York Times, because it would talk about Providence, sort of like losing revenue. And da da da so and so I’m thinking like, wow, they’re running a deficit. I’m like, you know, because they don’t because they don’t announce the the revenue margin until pretty late in the article. So I’m like, wow, they’re losing money, da da da. And then it’s like they’re sitting on billions of dollars. Their revenue last year exceeded $27 billion dollars.
Kaya Henderson: With a B. With a B.
DeRay Mckesson: So when I think about even the storytelling here, it is disingenuous to suggest like to frame it as they made these changes because they were cutting costs or they were cash strapped is a really disingenuous way to to frame this story. And The New York Times participates in some of that framing at the beginning, and I just want to call that out. It’s like, I don’t love that.
Kaya Henderson: Can I just say one thing to that which also pulls in Myles’s cyc– cyclical thing. So New York Times, I think, did a good job when they did explain this in sort of saying that increased profits lead to expansion. Right. You can buy more hospitals, have more hospitals and increase cash reserves, increases your credit rating and increased credit rating means you can add more, you can expand even more. And so over the past 10 years, Providence opened or acquired 18 hospitals and their CEO earned $10 million dollars in 2020. So it is actually a revenue cycle, right? Like cut costs, more profit, more profit, more expansion, more expansion, higher credit rating, higher credit rating. More like it just is a beast that keeps getting fed in this way, not because we’re losing money, but just in in pursuit of more and more and more.
DeRay Mckesson: And one of the things, again, this goes back to like what it means to know the rules is that I didn’t know that in Washington state where Providence is based, uh the law requires that all hospitals in the state must provide free care for anyone who makes under 300% of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that threshold has $83,250. I can bet you all my limbs that families do not know they are entitled to free care. If they make below 300% of the federal poverty level. And even if they do know what the process is to push back on the hospital, if they’re not given it, I mean, just that the process of navigating and pushing and what the article does really was that this new program they introduced Rev-Up that essentially forces families to agree to pay even if they don’t have to. It’s like you just don’t know the game. And and at a point you don’t know how to push back, how to navigate it. So I thought that that was like both fascinating and wild. And it just made me think, too, of all the other hospitals in the country where an exposé like this wasn’t done, where people aren’t getting care, where people are dying of things that were totally treatable, totally curable, because there’s this profit incentive. And again, at the for the first couple paragraphs, I was like, you know, they are doing this and they are they’re like losing money. And then I’m like, they got billion dollars of revenue, that is. It is a choice actually to let people die. It’s a choice to saddle people with debt. And I never want to lo– in all the conversation that we have about social justice, I’m reminded that almost all of the things that we are up against are choices people made. They are not naturally occurring phenomenon, it’s a choice to send debt collectors to people who you know the law says that you have to provide care to, uh but instead you’re going to saddle them in this process that is hard to navigate out of. So we had a health themed, this is a health themed pod today uh like totally random but I didn’t know that the first paramedics in the country were Black men. So this is uh based on a book called American Sirens. There’s an article in Time magazine called The Little Known History of the Black Men Who Became America’s First Paramedics. Now, this was in 1975. There had already been ambulances. So there had been a transport from a scene where you had a, a medical issue to the hospital. That had existed long before 1975. But there was a a like a neighborhood local health expert, Dr. Peter Safar, who was trying to figure out how to do street medicine better, because what didn’t exist that I didn’t know is that there wasn’t an infrastructure that we take for granted right now to give people care on the scene. That the ambulances were essentially just transport. And he really cared about it. He was an Austrian born anesthesiologist at the University of Pittsburgh, and he was one of the pioneers of CPR. And he also helped develop the modern ICU. But he lost his daughter in 1966 to an asthma attack because she didn’t get the right help between her house and the hospital. So an ambulance like there was transport, but she could have actually been saved if the people who helped her immediately had actually known what they were doing. So what he did is that he essentially used that pain to design what we consider the modern ambulance, the idea of putting the equipment inside of the transport vehicle, and then a a course to train paramedics as we know them to deliver care in the immediate uh aftermath of trauma. And who were the first people to take his course to be a paramedic? It was Black people. It was Black men who were in Freedom House, an organization that provided jobs delivering vegetables to needy Black people. So they already had an infrastructure of transport. And the idea was to switch the infrastructure from transport of vegetables to taking people to medical appointments, to Black people. But within eight months, the drivers were trained to handle heart attacks, seizures, childbirth, and choking. And their first calls. It gave me chills to read. Their first calls took place after the killing of Martin Luther King Jr. And the data showed that it worked. In 1972, a 1972 study of 1400 patients transported to the hospitals by Freedom House staff over two months found that those paramedics delivered the correct care to critical patients 89% of the time. By contrast, that same study found that police and volunteer ambulances delivered the right care only 38 and 13% of the time respectively. Somebody who is affiliated with Freedom House, Nancy Caroline, she wrote the textbook on EMS training that became the standard. And as you can imagine, because all things go back to race, uh though it was successful, the city of Pittsburgh nixed the program in 1975. The mayor thought that he could create a better system with an all white paramedic corps, and that was the end of Freedom House being involved. But it is fair to say that without Freedom House there would not be what we know to be the modern paramedic process. And I read this and I was like. You know what? White people really are on the vanguard, like when we talk about what it means to do community work, to like design solutions and systems like the Freedom House without having a business degree from Harvard, figured out the infrastructure that became the infrastructure for the modern EMS system. I mean, they some bad some bad Boys of Freedom House. Uh. So shout out to Freedom House. And of course, racism undoes things that even benefits white people. Uh. Just because the idea that black people could be successful in their own is a threat.
Kaya Henderson: Um. It’s so interesting that this happened in the Hill District in Pittsburgh. You guys know that um I run a company that teaches African American history and culture to young people online, and we’ve had a very strong partnership with um a couple of community groups in Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Brown Mamas and Catalyst Pittsburgh and the Grable Foundation in Pittsburgh, who came together to say, How can we support families? And so they’ve taken a number of our classes. They’ve become amazing collaborators. I believe in co-creation. I believe the best solutions have been when, you know, people sit at the table and create them together. And one of the things that um these folks in Pittsburgh said to us is we have a rich history here. And can you create a class on the history of the Hill District in Pittsburgh? And so we spent last year working with them, designing a class on the history of the Hill District in Pittsburgh. Freedom House is the cornerstone of this class, um and we interview people in the Hill district and talk about all of the things that have happened there. And I don’t think that this part is in the class that we taught and the reason why. And so we will go back and we’ll redo the class and we will put this important piece of history um back into our reconstruction class on the history of Black Pittsburgh. But what is and it’s important because one of the things that we saw were whole families taking our courses and whole families go and learning the history of their own communities. And so community transformation is always possible, but it’s easier when people see themselves as the innovators, see themselves as the solutions to their own problems. And this reminds Black Pitts–, Pittburgh. Pittsburghens, I don’t know what you call Pittsburgh folks, Black natives of Pittsburgh. [laughing] That they have been solving their own problems, that they have been the innovators, and it just warms my heart. Um. It also was a really classic just example that we’ve seen over and over and over again of when Black people are crushing it, white people get mad and then crush us. You know, the piece that you read about the statistics that happened after the Black paramedics were absorbed into the the larger EMS service created by the mayor is just is terrible. Terrible for the workers like this was also a job engine for people. Right. This allowed people to access jobs and professional training that they would not have otherwise had. And politics and white supremacy and racism just crushed that. Um. But we got to keep telling these stories because they try to act like we’re lazy and we’re stupid and we don’t do nothing and whatnot. And we are the vanguard.
Myles Johnson: Okay. Okay. This story totally, you know, warms my heart. Also made me think that, you know, good care comes from people who care. I wonder how much of the the brilliance of the system actually came from the fact that, oh, we’re not just helping people in order to, you know, get in the hospital more patients or because because of something like more abstract, just because they were already helping the community. I just think that’s a piece that just can’t be ignored, that like, that good, them already providing good care, birthed even more ideas of good, good care. I don’t think that’s coincidental and then also you know [?]. Ava make a movie, make a movie because movies are the new history books, whether you like it or not. And I like the idea of these stories and these I um these ideas and these just these historical truths being cemented in cinema. And I think that forever people I think I think because of films, we look at like NASA differently and we look at we look at so many different things differently because somebody took the time to, like, make a head and figures and recreate the history of it. And I think that this is one of those stories that is really interesting. And and to me, it could be a platform to have even further discussions around health care, have further discussions around what Black people deserve in health care. You know, to me, not just everybody deserves to live and be healthy. However, it’s even more ironic to think that Black people, Black pregnant women like are so vulnerable in the health care system that we innovated, you know, that we uh transformed. So yes. That that those are my wise ideas. Ava make a movie.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save The People is coming.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: This week, we welcome CEO Jelani Anglin and director of advocacy Kim Belizaire on the Pod to talk about the groundbreaking nonprofit Good Call. Now, I’ve known them for a while, but we’ve never really had a long conversation about how it’s been since they launched. And it’s a cool company, it’s a great idea and great execution to have a phone number when people get arrested that they can call because most people don’t plan to get arrested and most people don’t have a lawyer just like on the line. But that’s why Good Call comes in handy, so you’ll learn about it. Let’s learn together. Here we go.
DeRay Mckesson: Jelani and Kim, thanks so much for joining us today on Pod Save the People.
Jelani Anglin: Thank you so much for having us. Really appreciate the opportunity.
DeRay Mckesson: So let’s start with how did you both get to this work? Like how did you. Did you grow up knowing that you wanted to end mass incarceration and you always cared about prison and jails? Was it a movie? Was it a life experience? Was it at a conference? Was it a protest? How did you get to this work?
Jelani Anglin: Yeah um, and I’ll share uh my story and Kim can share hers we actually have a unique intersection. I got started in this work with uh community organizing. So I grew up in New York City, Far Rockaway, New York, to be exact. A neighborhood that’s still in the poverty line today. And I was, you know, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was working with youth within, doing uh stuff in my community. But one of the things that I really saw was I had the ability to engage different people and learn a lot of things and then also utilize my energy to really change my environment and that kind of pushed me into organizing. So I worked with the AFL uh CIO for a bit as a union organizer and that was an interesting experience because that really brought me to thinking about, you know, how we really can bring people that haven’t really been politically active to make change within their communities as civic engagement. And then I took a real uh turn and ended up going into the corporate world to work for Airbnb for a bit. And that was an interesting experience because I got to do some community organizing, but I realized I wasn’t helping our community in the way I wanted to. And during that time I had the opportunity to speak to people that have been affected by many different systems in my home neighborhood of Queens. And I said, You know what? I want to dive in deeper. And I ended up joining an incubator called Blue Ridge Labs, uh which brought together people from different walks of life. And Blue Ridge labs is a incubator, it’s the tech arm of Robin Hood Foundation. So they brought together folks from the tech world, folks from community organizing, through the track that I came in on. And we sat together and thought about, you know, what are some products that we can create that can actually help folks that are dealing with low income community, that are in low income communities, that are dealing with real uh economic issues. And one of the areas that we thought about was legal access. I myself uh as system impacted, I got arrested at 16 years old for a minor infraction. And I know people in my family and in my community, as I said, uh that have been impacted by the system. So I thought about, you know, how can I bring these folks in to tell their experiences? We also had conversations with lawyers, and there was one point that we saw that really existed was that, you know, there needs to be there needs to be support when folks are getting arrested. And that really was uh uh the inclination point of, you know, if we are able to bring lawyers and bring the community together, we could really just make a powerful change. So uh by community organizing and my life experience kind of really just brought me to uh to creating Good Call and really getting into the work.
DeRay Mckesson: Boom, and what about you, Kim, what was your story?
Kim Belizaire: I actually started with community organizing also, but mine is a little bit different. So um I’m an immigrant. I was born in Haiti and I came here when I was about 16 and when I graduated high school, I went to college. I took my first U.S. national politics class. And I remember my professor, Professor O’Donnell, was just sort of like laying down the whole system for us, just like how it was built, how it functions. And we’re talking about the, the Electoral College and all of those things. And, you know, I’ve paid attention to to politics before when I was in Haiti and to specifically America’s politics. But I really got to see how things were being done. And one of my classmates actually ended up quitting um college to go run a congressman’s campaign at a time. And I’m, I’m Haitian, that that’s not an option for me. And I just remember my mind being blown about the idea of somebody just quitting college to go study, to go um run a campaign or something. So I remember talking to him and then he mentioned if I wanted to volunteer or if I was just curious that I could just come down to the office and do that. Uh. I ended up being an intern there and then learned like the very basic skills of organizing. And I got promoted to being um deputy field director and I was like 19 at the time. And I don’t really think, I don’t really think I understood what even that meant. I was just doing the, the tasks that were assigned to me. But I don’t think I really understood what the role was. I ended up being uh an intern for that congressman after he won in his office doing constituent affairs. And this is when I really sorta got a real view of how organizers can really play a role in their community and advocate not just for themselves for for the people in the community. Because I was taking a lot of these meetings and hearing about the issues and learning about issues that frankly, I didn’t even know were actually issues um in America, as an immigrant. When I graduated, um I met Jelani working at at Airbnb for a bit, um doing that kind of community organizing. And I remember around 2015, 2016, during the first racial uprising, my family was still living in upstate New York. My mother lives in Georgia, and I just remember just feeling completely powerless with the work that I was doing and how it just felt completely meaningless. Um. So I wanted to do something different. And surprisingly, Jelani was working on Good Call at the time and kind of reached out and said, if you if you have some time or even if you have some ideas of how we can get the message out there and talk about this, and I just volunteered for a bit. Two years later, I ended up working at Good Call because volunteering and giving a little bit of my time just felt like it wasn’t enough. And I wanted to dive deeper into that space. And I also wanted to utilize all of those skills that I have learned for the past couple of years at Airbnb, but doing the constituent affairs work I really wanted to put those skills to use and doing something good. So that’s how I ended up here.
DeRay Mckesson: Boom okay, local organizers to starting your own nonprofit. Now, tell us about Good Call. What is Good Call? Why does it matter, what’s the problem it is trying to solve? Does it work? All the things.
Jelani Anglin: Cool. So Good Call is a nonprofit working to dismantle the system of mass incarceration by utilizing community organizing and technology to provide better access to legal support. Uh and what that really means is that, you know, folks every day are arrested. There are 12 million people that are arrested every year uh in this country. Over 500,000 are sitting in jail right now without having access to legal representation. And what that results in are people being coerced into signing statements under duress and ultimately losing their freedom. Uh. And we created Good Call to change that. So the way Good Call works is uh you can call our hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and be connected with an attorney. That attorney will invoke your right to tell the police not to question you and then get started on the case right away, ultimately leading to you having a better case trajectory and folks being released on their own recognizance rather than being sent to pretrial detention and spending unnecessary time in jail uh without having legal support. We also do a lot of work to make sure that we are sharing the information about the access to legal representation. Uh. How do you make sure that people are aware of their Sixth Amendment right? So we do this in two ways. We have an internship program where uh we call ourselves a grassroots organization. We actually get to the seed. Uh and think about the youth that are, you know, 17 through 24 that are in this age bracket that are susceptible to arrest. We are teaching them about community organizing skills, tech skills, but also making them credible messengers, going back out into the community to share their information. We are making sure that we’re changing the narrative about access to legal representation, when they see on law and order, law and order, you have access to an attorney at the point of arrest. It’s true, but nobody really utilizes that. Uh. So that’s a major part of our work, is making sure that we can get the awareness piece out there, but then also changing the experience that our youth have in terms of their interactions with the community and police and law enforcement. Them having the tools to know how to actually survive within this system, which is predatory, is huge. And last part of our work is advocacy, which Kim covers, where we’re just making sure that we are changing laws and policies. We can do all this work of creating the hotline. We can do the work in terms of the internship. But if we’re not doing any work on trying to change laws and policies in our country, then we’re not going to see lasting systemic change. So really, in a nutshell, what we’re doing here at Good Call, is really implementing early legal intervention uh through a technological component, but then also making sure that we’re raising the awareness around folks knowing that they have access to legal support.
DeRay Mckesson: Are people calling? Uh what do you know now about when people call? Is this like a, you know, my gut tells me, like, Friday night’s a big call night, but maybe it’s Wednesday at two. Like, what do we, what have you learned so far in putting together a phone number that anybody can call to get legal representation? And are there always lawyers or do people? I don’t know. How does that it sounds like a good idea, does it? Can you execute it every time? How does that work?
Kim Belizaire: So people do call. I think one of the biggest sort of like uh call surge that we’ve ever had in was during the protests in 2020 um where I think we had about like 4000 calls a week. And that was because, you know, it wasn’t just people who are getting arrested themselves always calling. It was, you know, the mother who knowed that their 17 year old daughter went out to protest for the first time and they didn’t come home. So there was a lot of that that was happening with us. And to be honest, one of the things that we learned um, I would say running the hotline or at least working here, is that the stories um of people, you know, in custody are definitely hard. But hearing about a mother who’s just wondering where my kid is and whether or not they’re going to be making home tonight is really just heartbreaking. And the attorneys who are on the hotline that are answering the calls are also talking about that. And recently we had a story that was completely heartbreaking of somebody who actually lost their baby while giving birth. And they ended up passing out in in the bathtub because they gave birth at home. But they woke up and took the baby to the hospital because the baby was black and blue when um they when they woke up. Um. They took the baby to the hospital to try to get care for them. And the hospital called the cops and they ended up handcuffing her to the bed without actually giving her any type of care. And you always hear the stories about how hard it is for women of color to give birth in in general, whether or not you go to the hospital beforehand or afterwards, how doctors are thinking that, you know, we don’t experience pain the same way that everybody else experience it. And to have somebody just handcuff you to the bed after you just lost a child, luckily, this person’s family member called the hotline and the lawyer was able to ask the arresting officer to basically just leave their clients alone and to let them go through that process of losing their baby and to un-handcuff them from the bed and to just let them be. And those are the stories that we get on the hotline of people who are just looking for help and are going against the system by themselves and are not prepared for it because nothing can really prepare you really to be arrested or to go against the system. We can put these services in place, like the hotline, um to help people if they end up going in contact with the police officer or with the system. But nothing can prepare you for this. And the attorneys are there. They’re there 24/7 um because we’re able to wrap the calls directly to their cell phones. And we don’t have to have um like a call center or anything. But, yes, people do call.
Jelani Anglin: I was going to say another big learning I just think, that we had was the fact that arrests can happen to anyone. Many times people think that, you know, you have to be someone that’s doing wrong, a career criminal. And that’s how, you know, you have this this this interaction with police. But, you know, driving with an invalid license and you didn’t know that you had a ticket uh can lead to you being introduced to the system. Um. Being at the wrong place at the wrong time can lead to you being introduced to the system. I think that’s one thing that we’ve just learned is, you know, arrests can happen to anyone. And just as you’ve learned in life, you know, about, you know, you know, call 911 if you need support. What do you do if you are the person that is in police custody? What what what do you do then? And folks really don’t know that. So that was really a big uh learning there is that people are scared and just really want support.
DeRay Mckesson: How do people find the number? Like most people don’t anticipate getting arrested. Right. So like how do they, how do they find the number?
Kim Belizaire: So we do a lot of outreach in the community. Jelani, being a community organizer and myself, both of us just kind of recognize, you know, the best way to do this is to bring it directly to the people. Um. So we do a lot of outreach, a lot of tabling events in the communities. I actually just came back um from an event that we were tabling at and just letting people who are formerly incarcerated and reentering the system know about our hotline. Because if they come in contact with the police for something as simple as a traffic violation, that could mean them going back into the system. So a lot of the outreach that we do is trying to narrow down the communities that are vulnerable, whether or not it’s Black and Brown communities, because there are people who, although they belong within those communities, if they’re part of the LGBTQ community, for example, what they identify as first is, is their identity as a part of the LGBTQ community first and everything else after. Um. But they’re still vulnerable to arrest because of the community that they’re from. So we do a lot of outreach to just try to get the message out there. We also have um materials that we’ve tried to leave people with so that you know they don’t have to remember us right now. But hopefully, if, God forbid, they come in contact with the police, they can always remember. You know, I have this little business card that was given to me at an outreach event. We give out um fridge magnets, buttons, anything, just to make sure that people can remember that we exist. If if they ever need us.
Myles Johnson: Our outreach team is also made up of all system impacted individuals that have been through the system before or have been impacted. So they have proximity. That’s a huge part of outreach, is making sure that we know folks um and we’re working with folks that actually know the communities to serve. Um. We need to make sure that you have proximity whenever you’re dealing with you know folks that have been impacted by the system. So that’s a big thing about our outreach team that really helps us punch above our weight.
DeRay Mckesson: Now what um what’s next for you all? What’s next for Good Call?
Myles Johnson: So we are working on building new technology um and we’re going to have some announcements about that in the fall. But one of the things that we’re excited about is also expanding our scope. We’ve been in New York City for the past six years doing um great work here uh within the communities in all five boroughs of New York City. But one thing that has happened recently is we’ve been contacted by other cities. We also just pitched at the National Mayors Conference, and other cities are reaching out for Good Call to expand there. So right now we’re in uh we’re in talks with a couple of cities uh and we’re going to announce where we’ll be expanding in the fall. But really trying to make sure that we can push early legal intervention on the national scale is definitely one of the big things that’s up there and also making sure that we can get some more support on the policy and an awareness piece.
Kim Belizaire: Yeah. So one of the things that we’ll be working on specifically for New York State within the next couple of years is looking to how we can introduce legislation so that, you know, yes, we can do the outreach beforehand as a preventative measure. But what does it look like for us to be, you know, in the precinct or um to have somebody um in the precinct that can just give people the phone number as they’re entering? Um. So those are the things that we’re exploring right now. And um some of our partners and us will be working in coalition to bring forward some of the policy initiatives.
DeRay Mckesson: Boom. How do people stay in touch with what you’re doing? And then I’ll ask you the two questions that we ask everybody.
Kim Belizaire: So if you are arrested in New York City, you can reach us at 1-833-346-6322. That’s 1-8-3-3-3 GOOD CALL. And you can use the dial pad to um help you remember the numbers. And if you’re just want to reach out to us because you want to partner or you have a questions about um how you can learn more about the hotline you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re also on social media. All of our handles are @goodcallNYC. You can also check out our website at www.goodcall.nyc. We also have an additional feature where we allow you to pre save an emergency contact with us where in case you get arrested, we will alert your emergency contact to let them know that you’ve been arrested, improve community ties and you can do that at www.goodcall.nyc/save-contacts.
DeRay Mckesson: Yeah. Um. So two questions that I ask everybody, the first is uh what is a piece of advice that you’ve gotten over the years that stuck with you?
Kim Belizaire: This is this is I think it’s definitely for like uh in terms of sustainability, this is a marathon and not a sprint. The work that organizers on the ground are doing, the work that you’re doing um DeRay the work that we’re doing is meant to be long term. So making sure that we’re taking care of ourselves, making sure that we’re taking care of each other is going to be huge. So um take breaks when you actually do need it, whether that’s physical break and taking a nap or a mental health break and really just disconnecting from all of this madness and all of the craziness that’s happening is going to be so, so, so, so, so important for us to really see the change that we want to see in the end, because I think it’s going to be a long fight and we’re going to have to have to be sustainable and be healthy to get there.
DeRay Mckesson: Boom and we consider you friends of the pod and can’t wait to have you back. What’s the Good Call website again?
Jelani Anglin: GoodCall.nyc. G-O-O-D-C-A-L-L dot NYC.
DeRay Mckesson: Boom. Awesome. Thank you both. [music break]
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning into Pod Save The People this week. Tell your friends to check it out. Make sure to rate it wherever you get your podcasts, whether it’s Apple Podcasts or somewhere else. And we will see you next week. Pod Save The People was a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by AJ Moultrié and mixed by Veronica Simonetti and executive produced by me. Special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger, and Myles Johnson.