Name It (with Rev. Al Sharpton) | Crooked Media
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August 24, 2021
Pod Save The People
Name It (with Rev. Al Sharpton)

In This Episode

DeRay, Kaya, Sam, and De’Ara cover the underreported news of the week, including Josephine Baker, Anthony Wright, Georgia’s voter registration rate, and racist school textbooks. DeRay interviews activist Rev. Al Sharpton about March On for Voting Rights.

DeRay: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/former-cops-charged-wrongful-conviction_n_6116a25fe4b0f7bc26a545d0

Kaya: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2021/aug/12/right-wing-textbooks-teach-slavery-black-immigration

De’Ara: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/22/world/europe/josephine-baker-pantheon-burial.html

Sam: https://www.ajc.com/politics/almost-all-eligible-georgians-are-registered-to-vote-data-show/WVN373LTIZAN7IJECDODHRJWLM/

 

TRANSCRIPT:

DERAY MCKESSON: Hey, this is DeRay, and welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode it’s me, Sam, Kaya, and De’Ara as usual, talking about the news that you don’t know from the past week with regard to race injustice. And then I sit down with Reverend Al Sharpton to discuss what’s going on with voting rights. 

My advice to this week is to trust your gut. You might not always have the language, you might not know exactly how to describe the thing, but you have to know what you feel like and for me, I always know what I feel. I’m like, uh, this is a little weird. And speak up when things are like feeling weird, like you don’t have to always be intense about it. But you can just say, hey, this thing happened. 

And there have been a couple moments in the past week where like, something fell off and I named it and I’m happy that I named it. Like it didn’t make it necessarily weird, but it was like, you know what, I could fester in this, or I could like overthink it, but I also could just name it. And naming it, it really just either we going to be friends or going to be something or not. And that is actually like a really powerful thing, name it. Name it. Name it. Name it. 

My news this week comes out of Philadelphia and it is about Philadelphia DA, Larry Krasner, who announced a week ago that he is charging three former homicide detectives, Manuel Santiago, Martin Devlin, and Frank Jastrzembski, with perjury and false swearing in official matters because they lied about a set of facts that played a role in the 1993 conviction of Anthony Wright. 

Now, Mr Wright has since been exonerated by DNA evidence, but there’s a Conviction integrity Unit that DA Krasner started in 2018 that is looking at some of these cases, and it’s so powerful because the police lie all the time on the stand and they never ever– there’s no consequence, right? Maybe the person doesn’t get charged, but there’s normally no consequence. 

And Krasner had a quote that said, “After hearing testimony from key witnesses and reviewing evidence, the grand jury recommended that Santiago, Devlin, and Jastrzembski, be held accountable for lying under oath to condemn an innocent man and cover up their wrongdoing and for perverting the integrity of the law.” 

And it’s like you know what, y’all should be held accountable for these things because you ruin this man’s life. I mean, he has been in jail for 25 years for a rape and a murder that he did not commit. He was wrongfully convicted in 1993 of a 1991 rape and murder of 77 year old, Louise Talley. 

At the time, Santiago and Devlin, they were Philadelphia homicide detectives. They coerced him into signing a false confession less than 24 hours after her body was found. And the confession was “Fabricated by the detectives based on their incomplete knowledge of the crime scene and the crime itself.” 

The confession included a set of claims that were later disproved by DNA evidence, including the idea that Mr. Wright raped and stabbed Talley repeatedly. The detectives used a host of illegal coercive tactics, they threatened to pull his eyes out to skull “F” him. They promised him that he could go home if he signed the confession and they instructed him to sign it without even reading it, which is wild. He was 20. 

This man was 20 years old when they coerced this confession out of him. He said he was innocent. He spent time crying for his mother who was there but they wouldn’t let her in. He wanted to go home. He signed it. And that was the beginning of 25 years in jail. He was held without bail during the whole process and the jury convicted him in 1993 based on the false confession and the clothing that one of the three officers said that they had found. 

The scary thing is if two more juries had agreed, they would have sentenced this man to death instead of life in prison. And then in 2014, the Innocence Project actually got involved in his case, and Wright’s conviction was overturned based on DNA evidence that proved that the confession was false and the clothing wasn’t his. And the DNA that was extracted from samples in Talley’s rape kit matched a man, another man named Ronnie Byrd who was no longer living by the time the DNA sample was tested again. 

And what’s really wild is that once it was overturned, despite the clear evidence, the Philadelphia DA’s office, they decided to try him for the crime, again. Now this was before Krasner. And during his second trial, Santiago, Devlin, and Jastrzembski, they “Testified falsely under oath about both the evidence used to convict Wright and the knowledge of the DNA evidence that ultimately exonerated him.” 

And you know, it’s just one of those things that like, again, not only was he exonerated by DNA, but the police came back and lied again. I mean, what? So I bring this here because these cases happen more often than anybody would ever believe. I’m dealing with one in Baltimore now but the police lied, there’s no accountability for them. Very few officers have an Integrity Unit, and there’s a real pressure that prosecutors have to close the case, to find the bad person who did the bad thing. And the police, they cannot do it without the police. 

So you know, the good thing is that the second trial the jury acquitted Mr. Wright of all the charges after less an hour of deliberations. Wright was freed after spending 25 years in prison for a crime that he did not commit. He can’t get those 25 years back. And the system just goes on to the next person. 

I mean, it’s sort of wild, but I brought it here because I want to share with you and there’s so much more, the forensic space is really untapped in organizing. There’s so much more that needs to be done there. Because y’all, this DNA evidence and what the police are saying they found, all this stuff has ruined countless lives. 

SAM: Hey, it’s Sam. And my news today is about Georgia, where according to data from the US Election Assistance Commission, there are currently 7.2 million registered voters in the state of Georgia. And what that means in terms of the overall population, when we look at the citizen voting age population estimates, that suggests as many as 95% of the citizen voting age population, so folks who are US citizens over the age of 18, are currently registered to vote. 

Which is a huge accomplishment despite historic challenges from Republicans, from voter suppression schemes, from Governor Kemp, the current governor of Georgia who literally administered the election which he won and purged hundreds of thousands of voters from those registration rolls. And still, you had organizers, you had researchers, you had policymakers, state politicians, you had political leaders, you had Stacey Abrams, of course, who made a huge difference in increasing voter registration rates. 

And also you see the impact of policies like automatic voter registration, which was responsible for the majority of the increase in new registrations. Now, also making voter registration available online contributed as well to increasing those rates. 

So you can see policy is making it easier to vote combined with organizing efforts on the ground, making sure that every door is knocked, every individual is contacted to get folks registered, and more importantly coming up in the next election, making sure that those registrations are translated into turnout. That folks are motivated, that they’re inspired, that they get to the polls, that they aren’t being blocked by voter suppression schemes, and intimidation, and misinformation. And that’s the battle ahead. 

Moreover, what the report showed was that there were still 387,000 folks who are unregistered, who are in the citizen voting age population. And according to previous data from 2019, as most recent data available, as many as 265,000 of those folks are not registered to vote because they are being disenfranchised. Because they are either currently incarcerated or currently serving a parole or felony probation. And in Georgia, that means you’re not able to register or vote. 

So again, there’s work to be done at the policy level, at the state level, and also the federal level. Passing legislation to make sure that everybody has the ability to register and vote in the next election. So if you’re in Georgia, there’s a lot of work to do to translate that new registration into turnout, to organize, get connected to folks near you, get informed, get active, take action. 

[INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC PLAYING] 

DERAY MCKESSON: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People is coming. 

 

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[MUSIC PLAYING] 

KAYA HENDERSON: My news this week comes from the Guardian which did an analysis of textbooks used in private schools, especially Christian schools, and found that their telling of history is inaccurate and racially biased. Thousands of private schools across the country and also lots of homeschooling families teach history through a racially biased lens. 

This is a time right now in our country where we are experiencing culture wars, where state legislatures are banning what is called critical race theory and what they say are divisive concepts like racism and sexism being taught in public schools. 

But private schools teach curricula with virtually no oversight and no restrictions. And they seem to be teaching their own version of critical race theory. In fact, according to Dr. Dorinda Carter, who is the chair of the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University, she says these textbooks spread racist ideas, they purport that one group is superior over others, and they assert that one group is more human than others, which is quite troubling. 

The study looked at textbooks from the three largest Christian textbook companies, Abeka, Bob Jones University Press, and Accelerated Christian Education, and found that they contained some pretty disturbing interpretations of our history. And when I say disturbing, I’m being quite kind. 

In these textbooks they refer to immigrants as aliens, they describe slavery as black immigration– immigration! They call Malcolm X the most prominent Black supremacist. They say that Nelson Mandela moved South Africa to a system of radical affirmative action, what? They frame Native Americans as lesser than white people. They identify more with the citizens fighting to preserve slavery than the victims of what we all know to be an incredibly inhumane system. 

In talking about the economics of slavery, they say that slaves are a better investment than indentured servants. They say that Black Lives Matter is responsible for strife between law enforcement and communities, not police mistreating and killing people. They paint Islam as a violent religion. They describe societal acceptance of homosexuality as cultural decay. And they say that Barack Obama harmed race relations in our country. 

This is in textbooks, friends. This is what people are teaching their children. And so when we try to figure out how we’ve gotten to such a polarized place in America, it’s not just that we don’t live near each other, or we don’t interact with people who are different than we are, there is actually a systematized and institutional intentionallity around teaching people a different version of history. 

And that is why this debate is raging over critical race theory, because at the end of the day, there’s a set of people who– that’s why it’s called history, right? His story. And whoever is writing gets to tell it. And so, these three textbook publishers have been telling “his story” the way they want to tell it. Preserving white supremacy, preserving some of these cultural myths, frankly, and inaccuracies. And when a world is looking up and saying, hey, we have to correct this, there’s a group of folks who are preserving the status quo. 

In fact, these textbooks reach millions of kids. And a 2017 investigation by the Huffington Post found that a third of all private voucher schools throughout the country, and private voucher schools are actually private schools that get public money to teach kids, they use these textbooks. So our government dollars are also being spent on these schools that teach this curriculum. 

I want to just read one passage from the Accelerated Christian Education book which instead of focusing on the horrors of slavery, sympathizes with the white Southern landowners who had to learn a new way of life after the war. This is their interpretation of the reconstruction era. It reads, under radical reconstruction, the South suffered. Great southern leaders and much of the old aristocracy were unable to vote or hold office. The result was that state legislatures were filled with illiterate or incompetent men. Do you hear that? 

Northerners who are eager to make money or gain power during the crisis, rushed to the South. For all these reasons reconstruction led to graft and corruption and reckless spending. In retaliation, many Southerners formed secret organizations to protect themselves and their society from anarchy. Among these groups was the Ku Klux Klan. A clandestine group of white men who went forth at night dressed in white sheets and pointed white hoods. 

Can you give me a break. I mean, literally, this is what students are learning in their classes. And so you wonder why we are at this incredibly fraught time in race relations? I would argue in fact, it is because there are right wing US textbooks that teach slavery as black immigration, which is the title of this article. Check it out for yourself in The Guardian. We got a long way to go, friends. 

DE’ARA BALENGER: Y’all my news this week is from the New York Times. The headline is, Josephine Baker to Be Honored With a Panthéon Burial. I don’t know about you all, but I have been obsessed with Josephine Baker since I learned of her and I mean, I had to learn of her when I was very little. Because I think I dressed up as Josephine Baker for several Halloweens. 

But have always– she’s such an interesting personality, and character, and hero. Because I think across all my different iterations of who I have been, she means something different and more to me. And so I think now at this point in my life like understanding the success and stardom that she had, and understanding that she couldn’t have that in the United States and had that in Paris, is just really an interesting thing to think about as someone who’s striving to do something that not necessarily has been done in terms of impact work. 

And so it’s just really using her as a guide continually to do what has not been done before. Obviously that and where she got, and you know, how she was treated, how she was characterized, had a lot to do with racism, had a lot to do with the commodification of a Black woman’s body. But nonetheless, I think Josephine Baker is pretty near and dear to everyone’s heart. 

So it’s just interesting now, politically and socially, France do this now. It’s obviously– even the New York Times article characterizes it as a symbolic move amid racial tensions. But she will be the first Black woman to be entombed in the Panthéon in Paris. And evidently there aren’t many women at all that are entombed there and so there’s been a movement over decades and decades to get more women in there. 

But this movement to get Josephine Baker entombed there actually started with a petition that was pushed forward by a writer named, Laurent Kupferman. It has caught the attention of the president of France, Mr. Macron. And the petition evidently had garnered 40,000 signatures over the past two years. 

But it’ll be interesting to see. There’s conversation around, will this be worse for race relations in France, will it be better for it, obviously. But this really reminds me of is everything that we’ve been seeing in the United States when it comes to bringing down all of these memorials that somehow memorialize Confederate generals, or White supremacists, former KKK leaders, Yoda, Yoda, Yoda. 

So it’s interesting to see these more symbolic moves to do things like this as opposed to the work that is needed to do the more systemic and institutional changes. And that’s actually some of the feedback that people of color on the ground in Paris in particular are saying. But I just thought this one was interesting. So for y’all to take a look. 

Black folks have a really deep compelling and interesting relationship when it comes to Paris particularly our creatives. So thinking of folks like, you know, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and a number of others who escaped to Paris and spent a lot of time there and were able to be creative and expressive in ways they weren’t able to be in the United States. 

You know, something interesting to think about and brood over. And just thinking about, what’s different about now? But what’s similar about now for folks of color both American and also people of color who are French born or who have immigrated to France. So I thought this was interesting, I love any headline that brings Josephine Baker back to our present. So I just thought I’d share it with y’all. 

[MUSIC PLAYING] 

DERAY MCKESSON: Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the people, don’t go anywhere, there’s more to come. 

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[BOTH LAUGHING] 

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DERAY MCKESSON: Pod Save the People is brought to you by The World as You’ll Know It. The World as You’ll Know It is a podcast about the forces shaping our future. Each week host Kaya Henderson is in conversation with a different expert discussing the shape of things to come, specifically as a result of technology. 

KAYA HENDERSON: We’re at an inflection point. Can we harness technology to make life better or will we let it harness us. You’ll hear from MIT’S, Sinan Aral on the impacts of social media, from neuroscientist Alison Gopnik on technology and our brains, and economist, Mariana Mazzucato on how governments can boost technological progress. 

DERAY MCKESSON: The world as You’ll know it is out now. 

[MUSIC PLAYING] 

DERAY MCKESSON: This week Reverend Al Sharpton sits down with me to discuss the upcoming march on our voting rights on August 28. This day will mark the 50th anniversary of the historic march on Washington where Martin Luther King jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, and events are going to be held in DC, Atlanta, Miami, Phoenix and Houston. Here’s our conversation about the future of voting rights. Here we go. 

Now we’re going to talk about voting and I’m excited because I feel like this is a conversation that we’ve seen on the news but you know, I’m telling you, when I talk to my aunts, when I talk to my father, the Voting Rights conversation is something that they see on TV, but they don’t really see an entry point for what they can do about it. 

So I’d love to know like, how do you talk to people about this, given that voting rights feels like a big deal to people but it feels abstract in terms of what they actually can do, you know? 

AL SHARPTON: I think that I get that a lot of places. That people understand the gravity of it but where do they plug in? At first and foremost, I tell people that this is more immediate than they think. The actual food that we eat is approved by the FDA, but FDA is appointed by who’s in office. The clothes we wear. Everything is regulated by somebody either at a county level, state level, or national level. 

So we cannot act as if voting is not important. What we have to do is figure out how we do it. And what I do is I say, first of all, we all have different roles we play. Everybody doesn’t have to play the same role, shouldn’t play the same role. Some should be dealing with social media today appointing to the elected officials that we need to kill this filibuster. 

The only way that I see the John Lewis bill pass is that it has to pass the House, which it probably will next week. And then pass the Senate, which I don’t see 10 Republican votes, which means they at best are going to have to kill the filibuster, which I think is a relic of the segregationist era and all the way back to the Confederates. 

Or they going to have to do a carve out which is what Clyburn recommended, which they agreed to vote around as one of majority vote. But the question is, will marching and them go with that even if you got a majority vote? 

So what we’re doing a National Action Network in the drum business to Martin the third, is we do an annual rally around Dr. King , I Have a Dream Day. We march right at the Senate, we’re not going to make a memorial this year. We’re going to start at McPherson park– McPherson is on 15th and H, and march right down that Black Lives Matter Plaza, past the White House, into the National Mall, and have it right there with the Capitol as the backdrop. 

We’re trying to focus people’s attention as we’re doing other gatherings in about five other cities. That’s mass mobilization. And we’re going to ask people to do everything from use social media on their elected official, signage so we can know when a mass social– media gather. So we can tell you who is your local official, your congressperson, your Senator, and have them target emails them. They need to be gathering, they need the pressure. Manchin in West Virginia, Sinema. We need the pressure this votes because movement from the bottom up, not the top down. 

And all of us asking rightfully so, what is Biden going to do? What is Harris going to do? But Lyndon Johnson didn’t lead the Voting Rights movement, he signed the bill. It was the Jimmy Lee Jackson who got killed in Marion, Alabama and it was Smick in Mississippi, and Ella Baker, and then John Lewis and Dr. King came in after John Lewis and Hosea got beat that’s where the movement came. We’ve got to have that kind of ground game multifaceted that puts the pressure on the Senate. 

Otherwise, we’re going to see what we saw in history. States’ rights where every state is going to come with their own restrictive state voting laws. And when we look up we will see people eliminated from the polls, drop-boxes gone, and as George just started yesterday where they will actually purge County election officials, so they can nullify the vote. They’ll vote no, no, no, That precinct was corrupt. Take these votes out. We’re literally seeing the dismantling of a democracy even though it never fully became a democracy. 

DERAY MCKESSON: You talked about the filibuster and I’ve seen people talk about it a lot. But again, if I call my dad and I’m like, hey, daddy. What is the filibuster? What should we do? How would you explain the filibuster to people? 

AL SHARPTON: Filibuster means that in a Senate, the US Senate has 100 seats. In order to pass a law you need 60 votes otherwise you can’t pass it. And it used to be that if somebody came to the floor, had to hold the floor to stop it from proceeding, if they had to talk two days. Now it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to stand and talk. If you don’t have 60 votes, it doesn’t go anywhere. So it’s not a majority vote. It’s not 51 votes other than if it’s physical like the budget, you can get by with 51 votes and anything related to budgetary items. 

This is not a law. This is a Senate tradition which is why the Senate can go around it. Because it’s just Senate. This is what we agreed to deal with. And a filibuster was used in history to always stop civil rights legislation, voting rights legislation, women, gender issues, LGBTQ issues. They always would use it but back in those days they had to talk all night, they had to stall it. Now all they have to do is say, If you don’t have 60 votes is a non-starter. That’s today 21st century version of a filibuster. 

DERAY MCKESSON: Now, do you think it’s possible we can get rid of filibusters? Should people be calling their legislators or is there a city or a state where the legislators are really against getting rid of the filibuster? 

AL SHARPTON: Yes they should be putting the pressure on those senators. To say that we did not elect you to have to get 60 votes. We elected you and we get the majority. Why did people go out in unprecedented numbers De’Ray, in 2020? In a pandemic. And vote more than they ever voted in American history. The highest presidential numbers in American history and then Georgia came back the second time, with the highest numbers. And in the deep South, elected a Jew and a Black to the US Senate. 

They did not do that for you to tell us about some procedural agreement you guys got. We did that because we wanted to see things done on policing, on health care, on protecting women’s rights, on protecting LGBTQ rights and queer rights. All of that. So you’re going to come back and tell me after we broke the meter and got you in, that you got to deal with some tradition in the Senate? That’s why we put you there to break tradition. And that’s the message they’ve got to do. They ought to be hitting their senators and others senators. 

When we met Martin Luther King III and his wife Arndrea when Manchin– Manchin couldn’t explain it and justify it. Manchin was saying that I disrespect bipartisanship. But it wasn’t bipartisanship that gave you all the entire majority in the Senate. It was our turnout. Otherwise, you all would have been a minority party and Mitch McConnell would have remained majority leader. And that message got to come in mass from people all over the country. 

DERAY MCKESSON: Got it. Got it. Got it. And what do you say to people– some people have said, if we get rid of the filibuster this time, then when the Republicans get in power they’re going to take away all of our rights that the filibuster has actually protected us. That’s what I feel like the people who are against getting rid of filibuster they keep saying. What do you say to that? 

AL SHARPTON: I say, how is the filibuster protecting us if our votes are being stripped and we won’t be able to vote in many of these states because the Voting Rights Act has been muted when they took out section 4, which took away the map, which was preclearance, and a lot of people don’t understand that. I was in the oral argument at the Supreme Court that day. 

What they did was– they did not stop the Voting Rights Act, what they did was say, you can keep the Voting Rights Act, but the map is outdated. Because this is a 1965 map and now we’re in 2013. This is Shelby versus Holder case. And we want a new map. Just tell Congress to give us a new map. Well, Congress never gave the map until now in the John Lewis bill. 

And the maps said that if you were in the States they named in the Voting Rights Act, Georgia was one, Mississippi, Florida it was about seven states. And some counties even in New York that had a pattern of voter abuse, you could not change the rules unless it was pre-cleared by the Justice Department, which means that what Georgia did day before yesterday about changing who would be the County boss, they could not have done that without clearing it with Garland and the Justice Department. 

When they decide to close early voting sites, or when they decided to stop drop-boxes, couldn’t do it without the Justice Department clearing it. That is within the John Lewis Voting bill. Is to put the map back in. The other thing they’ve done now with the last Supreme Court decision about four weeks ago, is Section 2, where they’re saying, well, not only do you to prove that there is unequal or disproportional impact to people based on race or gender or sexual orientation, you have to prove that was the intent. 

So I don’t have to prove I’m discriminating against women, you got to prove I intended to discriminate against women, even if the data shows that. 

DERAY MCKESSON: Wow. 

AL SHARPTON: And that’s why we need this bill. 

DERAY MCKESSON: That is a call to action for people. What do you think about the George Floyd Act? Do you think that is going to pass? Do you think that we’ll just see the administration do executive orders? 

AL SHARPTON: I think the executive order is something that is a band-aid, but is not the surgeon we need. Because soon as the next president comes in, executive order goes out. We need law. And qualified immunity must be part of the law. 

DERAY MCKESSON: Do you think it’s going to– it looks like Tim Scott though is holding it up, and I only ask because there are a lot of people who we’ve struggled to get to do something because they’re like, well, you know, the administration doesn’t care about the police, it doesn’t look like Congress has done anything about the police, and that has hurt us and some of the other issues. So do you think Congress will do it and if not, what can we do to get people to still be motivated to take action? 

AL SHARPTON: I think we’ve got to pressure them the leverage we have. 22 is the midterm election and when I met with Biden and some of the Civil Rights groups, I said that you will not win the midterms because we will not be out there. We’ll be out there saying, you promised George Floyd, you supported it, you didn’t deliver George Floyd, and you didn’t deliver against the filibuster on voting rights. 

And you’ll lose the Congress. And all y’all chairmanships will be gone. You’ll be a lame duck president because you won’t be able to pass anything. So if you can’t do it because it’s right, you should do it for your own experience. And that’s what people have to stand up and tell them, you obviously don’t have the moral drive. so you got to have at least your own self-preservation because you won’t be here. 

DERAY MCKESSON: Right. There we go. Is there a website that people– How do people stay in touch? If people want to be involved with the marches, if people want to do something on voting rights, where should they go for more information? 

AL SHARPTON: They should go to www.nationalactionnetwork.net and we post every day. And we want people to be involved. And the follow up to the marches we’re going to stay on this until we can get this bill done one way or another and George Floyd. 

And let me say this as you write it down on your pocket. I think that one of the things that is important is that– when the verdict came down in the Trayvon Martin case of George Zimmerman, and those four sisters became a hashtag of Black Lives Matter. And then just a couple of years later Eric Garner happened, and right behind Ferguson. A lot of people were galvanized. And a lot of people did different things in different ways. And as we know a lot of us didn’t agree with tactics, a lot of us didn’t know each other, and that was reminiscent of even before my time when Dr. King would still be in there. 

But I have always had respect for people that have what I call, sustained indignation. And I would clearly like to say that one of the people that stayed true to the call was DeRay McKesson. I respect your tenacity, your consistency. And you do what you do. But you clearly wasn’t in it for the moment. You build the thing. That’s why I was honored to do your pod today. And one day I will seduce you into doing my television show. 

DERAY MCKESSON: I would love to. I appreciate that. Before we go, one of the questions we asked everybody Reverend is, what’s a piece of advice that you’ve gotten in your life that has stuck with you? 

AL SHARPTON: When I was growing up, at 13 years old I became youth director of SCLC Operation Breadbasket, the year Dr. King was killed. And I remember when I did some marching on somebody, I was 15, and they excoriated me in the press. And said I know what I was doing, I was a kid, I’m a teenager. And I remember I went back to Breadbasket headquarters and one of the guys there said, “Remember how you grew up a preacher, boy preacher, right? I see you have been working with Pentecostal church.” I was a boy preacher. He says, “You didn’t play sport, you little fat kid.” I said, “Yeah, OK.” He said, “I played football.” 

He said, “Activism– if you going to stay in this, if you really got a passion for this, activism is like playing football.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “If you watch a football game, half of the crowd is cheering, the other half of the stadium is jeering. The quarterback throws you the ball and you run for the goal line. You don’t get intoxicated with the cheer, you don’t get depressed with the jeers, your focus is to get the ball across the line. 

There’s going to be tacklers out there to try to stop you from getting to the line, you may have to run with some of them on your back, but the comfort you have Al is to know they wouldn’t be trying to tackle you unless they thought you had the ball. And they wouldn’t be cheering the jeering unless you had the ball. 

So when you hear the cheering or the jeering, and when you feel people trying to trip you up, say to yourself, I must have the ball. I’ve got to get across the goal line because otherwise, if you don’t get across the goal line it won’t matter, you gonna lose the score.” I never forgot that. And I’ve tried to live by that. So I’ve learned to deal with all of the congratulatory people and all of the people that called me bunch of names. I try to stay focused on we’ve got to get this ball across the line. Like voting rights, like George Floyd, because other than that, 20, 30, 40 years from now we all dead. It won’t matter if we didn’t score. 

DERAY MCKESSON: Well, here we go. Reverend, thank you so much for being on the podcast. Thanks for helping people understand these topics. 

AL SHARPTON: Right. Thank you, and I’m going to be in touch with you and take you up on that TV thing because you run without a doubt better than anybody I know. And you stay out there, I appreciate you. 

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DERAY MCKESSON: Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning in to 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’ll see you next week. 

Pod Save the People is a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by Brock Wilbur and mixed by Bill Lancz. Executive producer is Jessica Cordova Kramer and myself. Special Thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger, and Sam Sinyangwe.