Plan for Good (with Ricki Lake and Kalen Allen) | Crooked Media
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December 13, 2022
Pod Save The People
Plan for Good (with Ricki Lake and Kalen Allen)

In This Episode

DeRay, Myles, De’ara and Kaya  cover the underreported news of the week— including the first Black women on Minnesota’s senate, schools mandatory JROTC enrollment, thieves targeting EBT snap funds, Will + Jada broadway buyout. DeRay interviews Ricki Lake and Kalen Allen about their joint podcast Raised by Ricki.

News

DeRay https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/thieves-are-stealing-snap-funds-electronically-states-victims-never-ge-rcna60172

De’Ara https://www.mprnews.org/episode/2022/11/29/finally-at-the-table-meet-the-first-black-women-elected-to-minnesotas-senate

Myles https://playbill.com/article/will-and-jada-pinkett-smith-buyout-performance-of-broadways-aint-no-mo

Kaya https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/11/us/jrotc-schools-mandatory-automatic-enrollment.html

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay and welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode it’s me, De’Ara, Myles, and Kaya talking about the news that you don’t know from the past week, the news that you should have heard about with regard to race, justice and equity. But you probably didn’t. And we talk about it, and my advice is to plan for the good things. I feel like I spend so much time doomsday planning and it’s like, what if it all works out? Let’s plan for the good things too. 

 

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

 

Myles Johnson: My name is Myles E. Johnson, and you can find me on only Instagram @pharaohrapture

 

Kaya Henderson: Ooh, the departure, huh? We have to talk about that. I’m Kaya Henderson @HendersonKaya on Twitter. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: This is DeRay at @deray on Twitter for now. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Myles, um say a word about the departure. 

 

Myles Johnson: You know, it was half, you know, political statement, half personal revelation, which is my my favorite combo. And, you know, I just it was Twitter was getting. It was getting so wild and dirty. And then also on a personal space, I was like, I think that I’m done. I think it did the thing that it was supposed to do, and I think that I have not enjoyed being on Twitter any since 2018. And my whole excuse was all the things and and what it does and the excuses just ran dry. And I just said, you know what, I’m going to be an Instagram baddie and get these fits off and cinch this waist. And– 

 

Kaya Henderson: Ohhh yeah. 

 

Myles Johnson: –put concealer under these eyes and [laughter] [indistinct] and if you want to know my thoughts you’re gonna have to tune into Pod Save the People. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yes sir. [banter] Yes sir.

 

Myles Johnson: Everywhere else I am just vibes. [laughter]

 

Kaya Henderson: Yes sir. [laughter]

 

De’Ara Balenger: Oh, my. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Mm. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Well, as the head lesbian on this show, I am proud to report that Brittney Griner is home. 

 

Myles Johnson: Yes. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: With her wife y’all. 

 

Myles Johnson: Applause. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Thank everybody. [applause and clapping] Okay. She was there for ten months. She’s home. And I have been watching every move she makes. Okay. It may be a little too much. 

 

Kaya Henderson: What she been up to, what she been up to? 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Oh, my goodness. Well, first of all, she cut her locks off, which was big time news because obviously she fine and her locks are part of the fineness, but newsflash she still fine without them locks. So– 

 

Kaya Henderson: But didn’t I didn’t she have to cut them off because– 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Like literally. 

 

Kaya Henderson: –the temperatures were so cold– 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Yeah they were like icicles. 

 

Kaya Henderson: –in the Russia jail. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Yeah yeah. It was– 

 

Kaya Henderson: –that they were breaking off? 

 

De’Ara Balenger: It was so after she would take– 

 

Kaya Henderson: Could you imagine? 

 

De’Ara Balenger: I mean. No. But what’s been interesting is like the reports, white people are so funny. The reports from when she got on the plane, they were like, she’s so nice. She’s speaking to everybody on the plane. She’s greeting the people. What is that, is that unexpected? I just I don’t know. Some of these some of these reports, I’m just like, are we just trying to make news or are y’all, you know, are y’all just living in spaces and places where you actually just don’t greet people when you interact with them? That’s things Black people do. Newsflash. So um. So that’s, you speak. You say hello. [laughing] Um. So. And then the latest thing that um, you know, she hasn’t worked out in a while, obviously. A basketball workout. So she did and she dunked. That was the first thing she did. So basically, everybody buckle your seatbelts because she’s back. I’m so excited. And I think when what has been interesting is that this has lifted up so many people that are being detained um in places. And so Paul Whelan, who’s also being detained in Russia, the release did not include him. Um BG was exchanged for basically a mastermind criminal. I mean, I think just the we can get deep into what sense it makes or doesn’t make that her exchange was with a man that is like an arms dealer, like decades long arms dealer who was also accused of some really violent trying to trying to um carry off some very violent acts against Americans. Um. But I don’t know. I think in my processing, like, I just want to I don’t want to deal with that just yet. I just want to celebrate in the fact that she’s home and reconnected with her family. Um. And it’s just, wow. What what a huge relief it is. 

 

Myles Johnson: Such a cause for celebration. Um. And, you know, I think like most things that happen to Black people, I think that the concern could be like the Black body and security and and getting the person physically free and out of that situation. But I hope there’s so much intention being paid to the mental health and spiritual health of Brittney. And going to prison anywhere is traumatic. And I could only imagine that they’re getting away with what they’re getting away with in the United States, that when it comes to horrendous prison conditions, I can only imagine what’s happening probably in Russia. And I think that ten months there must do something to the mind and spirit. And I hope there are people there to help um set now that we got the body free I hope there’s people there, to set the spirit and mind free from those conditions too, because we can you can get echoes of that and PTSD of that way after you’ve technically been put into safe and I can only imagine the waking up and maybe still thinking you’re in the prison and what that does to your day. And I just hope that that’s been paid attention to as well. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Or it was beautiful to see it finally happen and people doubted uh that Biden would do it, that Biden cared, and it was like, okay, he made it happen y’all. It was frustrating to see the commentary online when all of a sudden people were international you know, hostage negotiation experts being like, why did you do it for a arms dealer, it’s like that man was getting out anyway. Like he didn’t have a he wasn’t going to be sent, he wasn’t going to be in there for the next 90 years. He was going to get out at some point. But people sort of saying that essentially her life wasn’t worth the trade. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Mm hmm. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Trump said it. Candace Owens said it. And to see Black people repeat those talking points was really disheartening and disgusting. I’m excited to see Britney like, you know, reemerge in the world whenever she chooses to. Like, I’m pumped to see that um and shout out to Brittany for the grace she exhibited under the worst, literally the worst of circumstances. Uh. And shout out to her wife and the press conference that they did afterwards and the– 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Yeah. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: –press. And– 

 

De’Ara Balenger: She’s amazing. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: –just the love and her support of the teammates. Like it was cool to see people rally around her and keep the rally going. 

 

Kaya Henderson: I couldn’t I mean, I couldn’t even imagine. That is like my worst nightmare. Uh. My worst nightmare is being falsely imprisoned, like, times ten in a Russian prison? Like, could not imagine. So just my heart, my thoughts, my prayers go out to Brittney, her family, to the community that supports her. Um. I continue to be in prayer for Paul Whelan and the other folks who are detained unjustly. Um. This thing has been really interesting to watch. DeRay like you, I was shocked that all of a sudden everybody knows so much about diplomacy um and it was just a reminder that like, people need to not just say whatever comes to mind. You don’t know nothing about this. Like let the people do their thing and they brought her home safely. And that’s the point, right? Um. So yeah, not much more to add on that. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Evidently. Elon Musk came out at Dave Chappelle’s show last night in San Francisco. No surprise to me that Elon and Dave are friends. However, what was surprising to me is that they booed him. They booed Elon Musk for 10 minutes. And this is why it was a surprising one for me, because this was well, I mean, let’s talk it out. It was a show in San Francisco, right? Not Oakland, necessarily. And I don’t know how many folks of color were in this this audience, ie. I don’t know. I mean, I wouldn’t buy a ticket to see Dave Chappelle now. Um. So it’s like the San Francisco community, which I would imagine would be mostly white. I mean, I’m just making this up, booed Elon. So it’s interesting. I just no I just feel like it’s interesting, like a ten minute booing session in San Francisco. That basically means Elon Musk has zero friends left at this point. Um. But I didn’t watch it. I didn’t like watch it on Twitter. Um. And Myles obviously didn’t either. So– [laughter]

 

Myles Johnson: C’mon now don’t get it twisted. My ears are still to the streets. [laughter] Aka I still have DeRay’s number. [laughter] That is the street. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Um. 

 

Myles Johnson: If DeRay didn’t ask me my opinion about it then it didn’t happen. Um. Shout out to everybody in breath control as somebody who’s been, you know, singing and doing all types of the music. things. Booing for 10 minutes is great breath control [laughter] and you know, started off positive. Um, I you know what I really do love about this moment in pop culture history and cultural history is that so often things get divided by identity. So Black people are seen to be all one thing. White men are seen to be all one thing. And and and the collusion was really harder to define. And now we see, shout out and RIP to the late, great Bell Hooks. We see the the the connection and the loyalty to dominating forces and how certain things surpass other things and and so a a a patriarchal capitalist, transphobic Black man is going to be friends with Elon Musk and they’re going to get along. They’re going to get along because they actually have more in common. And the the the twist of Black identity does not overthrow somebody being aligned with patriarchal forces. And I think so often or just in the past, we’ve been able to kind of just assume people’s loyalties because of race or because of what we would hope or what we would expect for them to be. And now we’re seeing a stage where you’re like, no, Kanye’s an anti- Black anti-Semite, you can’t be anti-Black and be Black, yeah you can. Why would you be anti-Semitic and be um, and when you when you’re going through all these struggles. Because he can be like all all these things actually kind of collude together and I’m glad that people are starting to see that, you know, and and witness it. They’re friends. They make jokes together. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: So. This is okay. So and I’m going to take us back so I’m like looking at I’m like, where else, where else is Dave Chappelle performing? Like, what is he doing? What’s happening? So he’s performing with Chris Rock a couple of days. And when I saw Dave Chappelle and Chris and this is where I start to like, I was like, I’m done, I love you know, I’m from DC. You know, Dave is like everything for folks that have grown up in DC. [laughing] Kaya’s got on her DC we need statehood sweater. 

 

Myles Johnson: Okay. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: So I saw Dave and Chris Rock in New York. This was probably like 2017. They had a they had a um a bit about about a superhero, right? Like, wouldn’t it be so funny if a superhero got his power from raping women? Because–

 

Myles Johnson: Oh Dave Chapelle. Yeah. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: People want him to have a superpower. But what if, it was the wildest out-of-body thing that I have experienced at a place where I’m supposed to be entertained. 

 

Myles Johnson: But you have to connect the whole joke. The whole joke was made to recontextualize Cosby. So it was like this, the undergirding of it was it being uh a Cosby apologist joke, like, look at all the great things he does. But he rape like, what do you do in trying to explain the struggle that he has mentally [?] it was all it was all of that nastiness to protect uh, to to to rehabilitate or to be um apologize for Cosby. Yuck.

 

De’Ara Balenger: I’m just over it y’all. This is this too much. It’s like how much of is supposed to take. And it’s interesting, be– I was in L.A. last week and the conversations around Kanye, Del– Dave Chappelle, they’re just so much different in Hollywood. It’s really, really bizarre. Um. And but I think what it is leading, where it’s taking me and I think it’s more to what Kaya said, is that I think for a long time with Black folks like the you know, the folks that are acting out are the folks that are you know, whether it’s Dave Chappelle, Clarence Thomas, Herschel Walker, O.J. Simpson, we just kind of like, oh, bless they heart. Oh, oh, my goodness. And we kind of ca– like there was this, like, kind of division and cast aside. But I, I don’t think we can do that any more because these folks are so harmful. So harmful. Um. And just the fact that you can like you can buy a ticket to see Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle at this point after they told that joke so many times, it just blows my mind. 

 

Myles Johnson: Yeah yeah we need to call up um Will Smith. And get that right– 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Maybe he can maybe he can–

 

Myles Johnson: –get that right hand warmed up.

 

De’Ara Balenger: –take a break from promoting from promoting that that movie, that new movie coming out. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: No. Emancipation was– 

 

Myles Johnson: Word. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Emancipation. Emancipation was actually good. I liked Emancipation. I will say um that wild thing about Elon and like he tweeted this morning and he tweeted something like, you know, the woke mob is da da da da da and you’re like, you just it’s so like you really thought you were going to walk out on the stage in a city where you literally have just decimated a company and they were going to cheer you like you can’t imagine that you just, like, don’t. You’re so aloof. But people still keep coming to the show. Like they still keep seeing Dave Chappelle. But I’m like, I’m happy that people booed him and booed him for a long time. Like, I’m happy that happened in public. I’m happy there’s video of it. But I do think that he is delusional enough that he’s like those people are the woke mafia and you’re like, no, you are just nuts. 

 

Myles Johnson: Wow. How do you like emancipation? [laughter] I feel like we don’t need we don’t need we don’t need not and mind you, I am relatively young and I’m 31 and I already feel like I don’t need not one more my name is Kunta Kinte, all my life I had to fight movie ever. Ever. I feel like we’ve made so much in the short span of my life that if we never had another one, we would have so much material. So much material. Once those bad movies came about, people being the [?] and being enslaved like those, a couple of movies that were like a little bit they were bad and I ain’t going to name them. Because I like the people who were in them, but they were bad. I’m like, I think we’ve ran out of the stuff. I think we–

 

De’Ara Balenger: I think I think–

 

DeRay Mckesson: I thought it was good. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: –this window worth it because the the screenwriter is white. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I thought this was I mean, I don’t know if Black people need to watch this one, but it was it wasn’t just a story. It was like a more complicated story. I went to the screening thinking it was going to be the pits and I walked out and was like, bah this is it’s I didn’t think it was bad. I thought it was interesting. I mean, it made me as mad as Rosewood made me. So I remember seeing Rosewood as a kid and coming out being like, burn everything and revenge, revenge, revenbe. That’s how I walked out of Emancipation was no, no justice, be damned. Revenge, be holy is how I left emancipation. But I thought it was well done. And I did not, I didn’t go into it thinking it was going to be well done. 

 

Myles Johnson: I just feel like white people know so much about slavery, too, and that’s how come they’re running this prison system so so greatly, so smoothly, they remember. [laughter] Anywho. [laughter]

 

Kaya Henderson: Clearly I didn’t have a good breakfast this morning. [laughter]

 

Myles Johnson: I don’t I don’t I don’t have any political aspirations, so I just feel like sometimes I can [?] I can let it fire off. I’m like, what’s up?

 

Kaya Henderson: Do it. Do it.

 

Myles Johnson: I’m an Instagram baddie. What you going to do? [indistinct] [laughter] Um, so my, my news is so, you know, as a, as a I loved that on this podcast part of this will always be special about me joining this podcast is that I’ve been kind of journaling my theater experiences, something that I only did maybe like once a year if um I was asked to go and like review something when I was um when I was writing more. But now I’ve done it as entertainment and if I’m bored on a Saturday, I go see what might be playing and and go see things. And I love that a lot of times that has interwoven with my, my, my podcast experience. It feels like a new theatrical me. So Saturday I saw the play Ain’t No Mo’. Some of you all wrote me about my opinions on another play last week, and I’m proud to say that y’all most of y’all gave me suggestions to go see this one. And I really liked it. I really liked Ain’t no Mo’. It was uh really interesting. The news that I have around it, of course, is just in in sheer ir– like uh luck. I had no idea I bought the ticket and then I had no idea this will be like the news this week. But the news was that they announced that it’s closing early on December 16th because, of course, ticket sales um Will and Jada I don’t know. I love Will, I love Will I’m I’m a Will Smith apologist. I feel like he had a bad day. But I really my love I love Will right now. Love Will and Jada and I love that they went and bought these tickets. They bought a whole– everybody’s looking at me like I’m like I lost my mind. They bought a theater of tickets. Once they found out that Ain’t no Mo’ was experiencing um poor ticket sales and was getting starting to get shut down. And they bought ticket sales. Power to the people. There’s [?] people. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Every broken, every broken clock is right twice a day, baby. 

 

Myles Johnson: Oh, [stuttering] now how is fresh prince a broken clock. I feel like he got got, he’s usually on it. He had one night of a slap to somebody who makes rape jokes. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Oh, my gosh. [laughter]

 

Myles Johnson: Okay, we all have our– 

 

Kaya Henderson: I’m just I’m just tired of I mean, I didn’t have anything to say about Emancipation because I’m not going to see Emancipation. I’m just tired. I want Will and Jada to go home for a little while, and I want us to heal and recover and blah, blah. Like, ah it’s too much. Too much. 

 

Myles Johnson: I I I understand that. But it was it was just a awesome part of the part of the news, I did see Ain’t No Mo’. They did end up buying um the once they found out about the news, about Ain’t No Mo’ closing because of poor ticket sales. They bought the whole the whole um the whole theater. And I see why I, I totally understand why there is so much love and warmth around this, because it was a truly interesting of course, there were parts that I, I have mixed feelings about most of the things that I see on stage unless it’s the other play I was talking about last week, which was it was not mixed. It was one it was one feeling. But most things I have mixed, [cough] I have mixed feelings about. But I really got it. It was really interesting and it was really absurdist in a way that I thought was smart. They had vignettes around different positions. When this this and I don’t want to ruin it. But when this news comes to Black people, they have vignettes ex- uh exploring everybody’s reactions from of reality television show uh reunion to prisoners being freed. And I thought it was just really, really, truly interesting and it would be a shame for it to not be on Broadway anymore. But also I think that one thing that when I was experiencing it too was I actually can see that this is a great piece of work that may be on the wrong stage for the wrong audience. I can see it as it being stretched out to a limited series or something where it can like it needs that Twitter conversation, it needs that Instagram conversation, that whole experience. And I think that a lot of times Broadway is so pinky in the air and nose up that the people who I think would resonate with the work most would have the most thoughtful conversation around it, are not interested in going to see Broadway. I think that’s a big thing, too. I think sometimes we demean um Black people’s ability to afford things and we kind of stereotype Black people as to why they’re not going to the theater. So we say it’s cause of, you know, well, we made it $50 and we made it cheaper, cheaper, cheaper. Sometimes it’s because Black people don’t want to do that. Sometimes because it’s not interesting to them. And they’re like, well, how come this was a $250 ticket and these chairs are so small and this balcony shaking. Sometimes that’s the reason why Black people don’t want to go to do stuff. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Girl. 

 

Myles Johnson: To that was my first reactions to stuff too. So I think often you have to think that maybe this is would be better off in a different context. And sometimes moments like a cancellation is redirection and not necessarily a curse and something to um to fight. But that’s just my opinion. I loved it. If you can go see it, go see it. I totally if Jordan Cooper wants it to go on for 50 years, I’m in total supportive of it because I do think it was a really, really cool piece of work that upset me, annoyed me, made me laugh, made me feel warm and did all the things. And what else can you ask for when it comes to art? And since I’m with a whole bunch of, you know privileged Black people on this podcast, the ask is also for somebody to sponsor a ticket. So if y’all can just dig in your pockets, and sponsor a ticket, for the for a person. 

 

Kaya Henderson: I would be happy. I would be happy to sponsor a ticket. Tell me where to send my money. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Same here. 

 

Kaya Henderson: In all seriousness, I saw Ain’t No Mo’ a few years ago. 

 

Myles Johnson: Doing the work. 

 

Kaya Henderson: When it was at the at Joe’s Public um Theater. And I was riveted by it. I thought it was smart and funny. It poses a question that um the Black that that America has been asking for now I mean, I don’t know, 100 years, which is what would happen if Black people got the chance to go back to Africa. And there are lots of different uh responses to that. And I just thought it was awesome and amazing. Um. I do think I will say this, Myles, to your recent um plunge into the theater world, like I grew up going to see plays on Broadway from the time I was a little girl. And so I have always supported Black theater, like my family. Like we went to see everything Black, right? Everything Black. I have to, like, fix my my mind about this stuff. Because one of the great things about Broadway is there’s now a proliferation of Black plays that previously we didn’t have. Right? You’d have sometimes you’d have a little something here or there. Now there is there seems to be much more access. Um. But part of the thing with access is access and quality don’t travel along the same plane all the time. And what I have to remind myself is that so so I’m frustrated because like you, I have seen a few Black plays and I’m like, what a waste of time and money and whatever, whatever. And I’m frustrated, but I have to remember that like, there are white Broadway shows that are trash too. And part of the whole thing about art is or trash, at least in my opinion and your opinion, Myles, because we seem to agree on these things. But I think, [laughing] I think you know, some of this is just remembering that um all art ain’t for everybody. And I’m sure that there were people who loved A Strange Loop. I’m not going to see it because enough people that I know and jive with have said no. But, you know, it all sorts itself out. Um. And my hope is that Ain’t No Mo’, people will actually rally around it and support it because it is a good piece of theater again, in my opinion. And um and I really hope that those folks get a chance um to keep their thing going. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: I think what this takes me to as well as like to around just access and around things being built not for us. Black folks have shaped theater and opera and anything that has musicality in this country. So I think, you know, I don’t I don’t see it necessarily as like theater. You know, theaters for white folks or theater. You know, I just I don’t I don’t like a narrative in which there’s an absence of Black culture or absence of Black influence. Um. But I do but I also, you know, uh Sade Lythcott runs National Black Theater in Harlem. Seeing something at National Black Theater versus seeing something on Broadway is two wholly different experiences. And DeRay can attest to this as well, because it’s the difference in a space being made and blessed for you to experience and celebrate your Blackness in it, as opposed to Blackness being used as a tool for exploitation, and to sell tickets and to get white people to feel comfortable or to get white people to feel entertained. So I think what this brings me to with Ain’t No More. I just, you know. I think I think it sounds like this this was made with us very in mind. Black folks made and Black folks centered in it. And because of that, it’s not as as successful or as popular perhaps. Um. So I don’t know. It just takes me to like how how can we invest in these shows and wrap our arms around these shows um so that we can so that we can experience the art? Um. I mean, do we I mean, is part of it we just need separate altogether? I don’t I don’t necessarily think that’s true, but um. I hear you. Myles, just about like even just the walk in the theater, sometimes it’s like. Like you’re just like a walk in, you know, a museum. It’s like, is this place for us? Do we feel comfortable here? Do we feel like we’re being too loud. Like, half the time when I go to the theater, I’m like, why isn’t anybody getting involved here. 

 

Myles Johnson: Mm hmm. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Um. So, I don’t know, lots of lots of thoughts that we’ll continue to have as you become New York’s premiere theater critic. 

 

Myles Johnson: Theater, theater critic. [said in a funny voice] [laughter]

 

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

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Kaya Henderson: My news this week is about an additional assault on our young people um in these schools that are supposed to do right by them but don’t always do right by them. And this news is about uh the Junior ROTC program. Many of you might remember JROTC from high school or college. It is the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps. It’s a program that’s funded by the U.S. military, and it’s designed to teach leadership skills and discipline and civic values and expose students to a military career. JROTC happens at about 3500 high schools across the country, and the military spends about $400 million dollars a year on the program. In fact, the program has tripled in size since the 1970s. And right now, the Army reports that 44% of all of the Army soldiers um that are currently enlisted came from a school that offered JROTC. But the Pentagon says it’s not a recruitment tool. Well, that’s a little hard to believe when you find out, as these New York Times reporters did, that these courses, which are supposed to be elective, um are actually not. There are thousands of public school students who are being funneled into JROTC classes without ever actually choosing them. And guess what those kids look like? Oh, yes, they are kids of color and low income kids. In some cases, schools are making them an explicit requirement, um like all freshmen have to enroll in JROTC, or they are just automatically enrolling students in the classes and they are making it really, really difficult, sometimes impossible, to dis-enroll or unenroll or get out of the classes. Um. In some cases, more than 75% of students in a single grade are enrolled in JROTC, in schools in Detroit, L.A., Philadelphia, Oklahoma City and Mobile, Alabama. Um. The highest enrollment numbers are in schools with large proportions of nonwhite and low income students. Parents um are uh very worried because they are worried about indoctrination. This um mandatory enrollment doesn’t jibe with a lot of families. And, you know, supporters of the program say that it motivates students who are struggling. It teaches self-discipline to disruptive students, and it provides a sense of camaraderie to students who might be isolated. Research actually also shows that JROTC students have better attendance rates and graduation rates and fewer disciplinary discipline problems at school. But critics say that the program’s militaristic discipline emphasizes obedience over independence and critical thinking. It also turns out that JROTC textbooks tell their side of [laughing] history the way they want to tell it. Um. Falsifying or downplaying the failures of the U.S. government. In Chicago public schools, 100% of the freshmen at four high schools that serve primarily low income students on the city’s south and west side, read Black and Brown, um 100% of freshmen were enrolled in ROTC, and the way people found out about it was because an education website uh raised the issue and literally like they had to get the people involved and and try to fight this. And Chicago Public Schools ultimately backed off of of this requirement. But, you know, it it it goes to show you that even things that are um that have, you know, good results and I’m not knocking JROTC. Um. I have two stepsons who both um and who both elected to enroll in JROTC classes. One is in the Air Force today. As a result, he loved it. It provided structure and discipline, all kinds of stuff. And and he’s off to a great career. Um. The problem isn’t, isn’t necessarily the program. The problem is this predeterminism and setting Black and Brown kids up for military service instead of giving them the wide range of options that we give white wealthy kids. And so, you know, for all of the like, you know, solid educators who are like, listen, these kids need a chance. They need a way out. They need a pathway they need a, whatever. Absolutely. I’m supportive of that. But what I’m not supportive of doing is forcing kids into classes that um predetermine what they’re going to be and what they’re going to learn. And I’m also deeply concerned and there’s a whole nother article about how awful these textbooks are in telling, you know, the wrong version of history or a whitewashed version of history or a patriotic version of history at a time where we know as a society, we need to grapple with the truth of history if we’re ever going to be the country that um that expects to live up to its values. And so I found this interesting. The Times did a very thorough report. There’s a whole lot more in the article um that you could read, but I wanted to bring it to our attention because our young people are under assault 50 different ways all day, every day. And this is just one that um I don’t think folks had even thought about or recognized. So shout out to the Times for bringing this to our attention. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Kaya did you have um JROTC in DCPS and like, did you manage it? Did you oversee how did that? How does that work even at the district level, I, I realize in– 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yeah. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: –reading this that I had no understanding. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yeah, we have JROTC, uh we had J– we DC Public Schools has JROTC. Um. It was there before I got there. And, and to my understanding, schools elected whether or not they would provide JROTC, not every high school did, um but many did. And part of the draw for schools is that the federal government actually pays for the teachers and so it ends up creating space on your schedule. You’ve got I mean, it’s you get a free teacher or a few depending on what your enrollment looks like. And that has a huge impact on a school’s budget, on their ability to provide programming, etc., etc.. Um. But my understanding is that schools could elect to to provide JROTC or not. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Got it. The only thing I’d add um so you you highlight how all this is one of the things that so I learned a lot. I didn’t I couldn’t even imagine that this would be mandatory. There are two things, actually. One is that my father knew nothing about my schedule. He didn’t know how to advocate for it. He didn’t. You know, the white parents in my school were forcing their kids into AP da da da da da honors math da da my father just didn’t know. Thankfully, I had like some guidance counselors that that understood the schedule better. But, like, he wouldn’t. I can imagine so many parents don’t even know how to advocate to get their kids out of these mandatory classes. Because when you say it’s mandatory, it’s just mandatory. But the second thing that I thought was so insidious is to to require JROTC as like the health credit is sneaky work. That was sneaky. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Health and– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: When I read that in [?]– 

 

Kaya Henderson: Health and Phys Ed. Yeah. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And Phys Ed I’m like that is it’s such a, I can see how even at the district level you like don’t even you don’t see it in the same way because you’re like, oh, they’re getting their health credit, they’re getting their, um their phys ed credit and and like the idea that this is how you teach Black and Brown kids to be disciplined and da like the Army prep course is just, you know, offensive and wild so shout out to whoever uncovered this uh so that so that kids aren’t being forced into this program anymore. 

 

Myles Johnson: You know, it’s a little apocalyptic. I’m not I’m not gonna I’m not going to I’m not going to hold you forcing kids to to assimilate into the military is something when you when you look at it plain, it’s what some dark futurism sci fi movies are made out of. Um. But what I was thinking about when I was reading the article as well was all the research that was going into uh what JROTC can do for a student’s character and behavior and stuff like that. Pretty much maybe [someone clearing throat] maybe even better pretty much the same research has been done for the arts, in theater, in schools, in art classes and stuff like that. I wish the same type of advocacy and choice was made um around those uh um benefits and that being an option instead of being kind of like nationally defunded and always like striving for it. I think that my art classes and theater classes saved my life in school, in middle school and high school. And, you know, again, if JROTC is the route in what a kid wants to do, I think we should have the option for that to happen. But it makes me sad that there’s not even even more options that have shown to help a kid in ways  that are not just about math and science and and reading, but around character development and learning good uh skills that help you throughout adulthood. So again, support the arts. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: I think the only thing I’ll add here is that, yes, shout out to these reporters for uncovering this, but. They want to get news. Like, I feel like walking into Pershing high school on the east side of Detroit, which is just. I have friends that went to Pershing. I have friends that have, one of my friends, their sister was murdered right outside of Pershing. Like, these are places where like, yes, this is a story. But what about all the other stories. Like this is this is making news because it’s an indictment on the United States government and Department of Defense. But these kids are struggling in these places every day. McKinley Tech in D.C., like all the schools that they named. Like are familiar, familiar for me in terms of places and spaces where these young people aren’t safe and they don’t have options. So while, yes, I think it’s important to highlight these types of, you know, kind of systemic functions that are happening. Like where is just the–

 

Kaya Henderson: I gotta– 

 

De’Ara Balenger: –where where is the story just about how these kids are going to survive? You know what I’m saying? I just I just feel like, yes, this needs to be uncovered. But it’s still like the east side of Detroit’s been the east side of Detroit for decades, absolute decades. And–

 

Kaya Henderson: I’ll say I’ll say two things. One, I got a– 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Yeah. 

 

Kaya Henderson: –stand up from McKinley Tech, which has now twice been named a national blue ribbon school. It is the best damn high school in Washington, D.C. and I think it’s actually a very interesting choice, it’s where my stepson took ROTC. Um. But I think it’s an interesting choice for a high a very high performing school um to to include um a very high performing STEM school, to include JROTC. And one of the rationales was because, in fact, um it’s a STEM school, and many of the most lucrative STEM careers actually end up happening in the military. And so I think that is one thing. Um. The other thing that I will say is and I think De’Ara, like your points, are absolutely right. And and in addition to all of the horrific, truly horrific things happening, there are like hundreds of thousands of like regular old kids who are just going through these doors. Right. And so for all of the kids who are not getting covered because of the murders or whatever, whatever, they are still in the slog of American high schools, which are horrific, like we should dismantle the American high school because it doesn’t work. And these people, these young people are being slotted into places like JROTC. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: That’s right. 

 

Kaya Henderson: And so these are the for me, this is the untold story of the regular American high schooler who’s not making any waves, but whose destiny is being determined for them– 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Determined. 

 

Kaya Henderson: –because somebody is making whatever. And we have a responsibility to to cover both. Right. The–

 

De’Ara Balenger: Yup. 

 

Kaya Henderson: The the most terrible, but also the mundane, because there are far more kids in the mundane category who are being– 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Yeah. 

 

Kaya Henderson: –affected by this. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: And and Kaya. Yes. To all of that and thank you. And I just you know, and I’m not even saying coverage for like the traumatic and devastating things that are happening. It’s just like. Just coverage highlighting that these young people are human beings that should have an opportunity. You know what I mean? So I think that’s–

 

Kaya Henderson: Hooo child. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Well, speaking of woo child, Minnesota. I’m on my way to Minnesota tomorrow to spend time with my family. Excited, but also always feel trauma every time I go home to Minnesota. Um. So I was like, let me try to find some news to get me warmed up. Okay. So I found some. Fascinating. Three women, young women, Black women elected to the Minnesota state Senate. There hasn’t been a Black woman in the Minnesota state Senate in 164 years. Y’all be talking about that Minnesota nice. Does that sound nice to you? [laughter] So who are these young women? Well, I looked. None of them are my cousins, as far as I know, yet again. I’m going home on Tuesday. I’ll find out who their daddies are. Um. So, Zaynab Mohamed, 25 years old, youngest person ever elected to Minnesota state Senate. So she’s representing south Minne– parts of south Minneapolis. Erin Quade, uh 36. She is representing um Apple Valley, Eagan, Rosemont. So that’s like suburban suburban Minnesota, like outside of Minneapolis. Um. And then Clare Verbeten, who is 27 and is representing Rose Roseville, Lauderdale Val–, Falcon Heights and other parts of Saint Paul. Um. [throat clear] So what’s interesting is, like all of these districts like are have a, you know, you know, “high population of folks of color” in quotes because it’s Minnesota, right? Um. But what I just found interesting is like the stories of these young women like Clare, for example, she’s a Senegalese immigrant and she used to empty trash bins and polish polish um, I’m sorry. And polish well tagging along with her mother who her mother emptied trash bins and polish [?] at um the DFL, the Democratic, I think it’s the democratic farmers, Labor, farming and Labor Party that’s the Democratic Party in Minnesota. Um. And so years later, here she is um running, [phone buzz] uh running with that party and and winning. So, you know, I just think all of these women have these very interesting stories where seemingly they would be outside of this institution, not necessarily be connected in any way to be able to run or to think about running. Um. And here we are. And so they all three of them, you know, are hoping that what they’ve achieved will encourage other Black women to run for office in Minnesota. Yeah, I just found this wonderful. I’m so excited for these young women. I’m going to continue to follow along. You know, they’re they’re young. And so I think they’re going to be up against a lot of people underestimating them and discounting them. So just want you all to know that, you know, we want to support you. We want to support you um in your efforts. Stepping in to the Minnesota State Senate as the first Black women ever elected to be there. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Thanks for bringing this news to the pod, De’Ara. Um. I thought it was inspiring, you know um I’m rooting for everybody Black. And uh I’m most inspired by the ages of these people because, um you know, the it’s the young people who are going to I you know, I talk about the youngs all the time now because I feel a generation gap, but I am most motivated by, most hopeful about, when people ask me, like, what is the thing you’re hopeful, I’m hopeful about the youngs. I’m hopeful about these young people who, you know, are not listening to people, telling them they’re not ready or they don’t have enough experience and going for it and winning. Right. Um. The the one of the questions that they asked in your article was when you think of the absence of Black female, of the Black female perspective in the Senate, what was missing? And as Mohamad said, we’ve been missing not making policies on the perspectives and experiences of Black women. There have been 165 years where we’ve created policies and budgets, and our life experience have never been at the table. We know good policies come from people who understand the experiences and the impacts of the policies we create. Like these ladies are going to create policies like we’ve never seen before in Minnesota. They’re going to improve lives in Minnesota. They just have a different perspective. And, you know, I’m excited to watch what might happen in Minnesota. So you should be excited about going home this go around De’Ara. [snaps and claps] 

 

De’Ara Balenger:  I’m excited. I’m going to get some T-shirts made. [laugh]

 

DeRay Mckesson: And De’Ara I this gave me chills too uh the last question they were asked was, did people tell you that you were too young to run or they heard discouraging voices. And May Quade said I’ve had people feel lots of different ways about me running for office. And I had a really tough primary. When people say, wait your turn, I think what they really mean is, well, we’ll tell you when it’s your turn, but it’ll never be your turn. You have to own it. And that’s how I got past the age thing and mom thing. And it’s like, come on, come on. Because I’ll tell you, I work with legislators every day, and these people are mmmm. They represent one perspective and one part had never seen our communities right, our legislating, all these things about our lives and have never been near it. So shout out to these three women and how wild is it that in 160, I mean, that is criminal. I’m always interested in food stamps because a lot of people are on food stamps and there’s not great policy around what’s going on with food stamps, which continues to blow my mind. The article that NBC highlighted or the issue that NBC News has highlighted is that people are stealing from people who have snap cards. Uh. They’re skimming. So what skimming is, is that they’ll be scanners and they will put like a little plastic overlay over the scan part. So it essentially copies the credit card information and then they siphon off money. So there are this happens like ATM machines, you know, there’s like worries about ATM machines, but there are ways that you can actually safeguard it. So like chips in cards is a way to deal with it for instance. Um. Embedded microchips and contactless payment. So when you just like hold the card up instead of swiping it. So like a lot of people’s uh credit cards now are contactless. That’s not just because it’s technologically cool. It helps to make sure people can’t steal your card information. I didn’t know that there is no snap state agency that uses chips. Who knew? Didn’t know that there doesn’t seem to be any that uses contactless payment either. That these are like literally the oldest type of sort of debit cards. And the wildest thing that I learned is that there is no federal protection for people who get stolen from. Actually federal dollars are not an option for reimbursement because regulations prohibit federal funds from being used to replace stolen SNAP funds. What!? So there’s a bill to try and change that. But even when they can prove that people have had their money stolen, federal moneys cannot be used to to account for it. So there are some states that have done uh some stuff to help make it better. California is one of those states that uh restores stolen benefits. They have a law that went back from 2013 that allowed it. Uh and then California Department of Social Services says that reimbursements from July 2021 to July 2022 for skimming alone were about $2.5 million dollars. And the reason that this matters is that the average amount on a snap card is something like $235. Right. It’s not this is not you know, people don’t have thousands on their card every time, but they’re getting stolen from and they you know, they have stories in here of people even either getting like completely wiped out or mostly wiped out. And I just thought it was like one of those things that structurally is hurting people. But but like why would, we didn’t even know that 41 million people across the United States participated in SNAP just in August of this year and 65% of those households have kids. Um. And like I said, the average monthly benefit for SNAP participants is $232.72. So skimming, knew it was an issue with credit cards. Didn’t realize that consumer protection laws do not apply to SNAP cards. And the idea that there’s a federal law prohibiting the reimbursement, even when you can prove that it’s stolen, legitimately blew my mind. 

 

Myles Johnson: Yeah. This is like, I was, like, really devastating. So it brought me to 2018, and this is something that I had like written about. And of course, I spoke to DeRay who is like my like IRL big brother. I feel the need to like reinstate me and DeRay’s relationship now that he’s been on the [?] way, just to make sure [laughter] that everybody everybody knows that I’m the Pisces he is the closest to, DeRay in his heart for real. Um. But yeah, so I, you know, had some I had mental health problems and I went to a psych ward and I came out without a job and I needed benefits so badly. And I got those benefits. And when I hear though, and it and it truly helped me a.) stay in New York and just also help me take care of my mind so I can talk to you beautiful people and to, you know, follow my dreams and to live happily ever after. And it breaks my heart to think that something that somebody who can be preyed on, who’s in a precarious situation and who needs help and who’s trying to, you know, make ends meet and that there’s just no support for when disasters hit. So if often I’m not going to often when you’re on benefits, a disaster or some type of mundane disaster has already hit. And I think that poverty in America is that type of mundane disaster. And for there to be no help that when something else happens on top of that, that that was my praise on you, that you can’t get your benefits back like no. And then also the technology should be advanced. It should it should, there’s no reason why we there shouldn’t be protections um around how people are using these cards and making sure that they’re that they’re protected. Again, I think this is all about caring about the most vulnerable people in in America. And and and I think that more people like us should be advocating for people who need those protections because often times they’re overlooked. And, you know, you don’t hear the voices and the screams loud enough because there’s systems to make sure that they’re as muffled and as quiet as possible. So thank you for bringing this DeRay. 

 

Kaya Henderson: This was pretty appalling. Like, you know, it’s not like you could go to Macy’s with the money that you steal from a SNAP card like this is you can buy food. And these are people who, like, need this money to buy food. And so literally, like, you are taking food out of people’s mouths. The federal government doesn’t allow you to reimburse. There are a handful of states, thankfully, that actually do reimburse. Um. And like clearly, this is happening in such magnitude that Congress has taken it up to push for reimbursement. That’s not going to happen for another couple of months. They’re going to meet on it after the new year. Meanwhile, there are people who’ve lost their benefits and they got nothing. There is no after the new year, when there’s, you know $540 might come back on my card, what am I supposed to do right now? Um. And so, like, I don’t know who is doing this or how they like, are they just buying food for I and not like it the whole thing– 

 

Myles Johnson: Oh. My sister, my my privileged sister, they do put some cash on your card sometimes. 

 

Kaya Henderson: I yes. Yes, yes. The lady had 900. The lady had but but I mean, you can’t withdraw the cash is what I’m saying. You got to use you can put it on–

 

Myles Johnson: No there are. 

 

Kaya Henderson: –somebody else’s card and go grocery shop, right? I mean, you can’t do it like– 

 

Myles Johnson: No there’s so there’s– 

 

Kaya Henderson: –you used to do food stamps, right? 

 

Myles Johnson: No there’s EBT. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Right. 

 

Myles Johnson: Which is strictly for food. And then some people, depend– if you’re low enough income, they give you cash that you could use at any retail. You couldn’t use that. So SNAP– 

 

Kaya Henderson: Oh right, but there– 

 

Myles Johnson: –just let. Mm hmm. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Go. So but that cash you can take off your EBT card?

 

Myles Johnson: Yeah it works it’s cash yeah so you can go to yeah it’s money. So it’s not– 

 

Kaya Henderson: Okay. 

 

Myles Johnson: –just E– it’s not just like yeah but it’s all happening on the same card. 

 

Kaya Henderson: I see. I see.

 

Myles Johnson: So sometimes they’ll give you $200 in real cash and then like $150 in food stamps. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Thank you for letting me know [laughing] and and my point still stands. This is horrific. This is horrific. You are taking food and emergency whatever– 

 

Myles Johnson: Exactly. 

 

Kaya Henderson: –out of people’s out of the people who need it the most. And so thanks for bringing this to the pod DeRay. Like, you know, most folks I think, have no no line of sight into this. But this could this is devastating. So many of these families talking about there not being a Christmas because they got skimmed and that is terrible. 

 

DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People. Don’t go anywhere. There’s more to come. 

 

[AD BREAK]

 

DeRay Mckesson, narrating: This week, we welcome host and actress, the one and only Ricki Lake. Yes, that Ricki Lake, along with media personality Kalen Allen to talk about their joint podcast Raised by Ricki. Now y’all remember Ricki Lake. I’ve known Ricki for a while. Super pumped that they have a podcast. Happy that we could talk together. We talk about what Ricki’s been up to since the TV show, and you probably remember Ricki Lake from your childhood, most of you? And then Kalen talks about what it’s like to work with the TV icon, what it’s like to do his own work in his own space. And I learned a lot from this conversation. Asked her why she left the show. Like all those things, do you remember Ricki Lake. And y’all meet Kalen. Here we go. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Ricki Lake and Kalen Allen, thanks so much for joining us today on Pod Save the People. 

 

Ricki Lake: Oh, my goodness. I’ve been waiting for this day, DeRay. Thank you for having us. 

 

Kalen Allen: Yes, the pleasure is all ours. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: It’s so wild. I know both of you well. Ricki, we met at a, you know, forgettable conference in the middle of nowhere. And–

 

Ricki Lake: It was like an economic forum. Didn’t make any sense that I was there. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Oh my god. Sitting in the middle, literally in the middle of nowhere and couldn’t go and it was like, well, we’ll just be friends. And then Kalen, I’ve known you since the reaction videos. So it’s cool to have you on. But let’s talk about I have so many questions. I just finished listening to the psychic episode. I can’t remember the psychic’s name. Connie–

 

Ricki Lake: Her name is Char. Char Margolis. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Char. How’d I make, how’d I make Connie up. Okay. 

 

Kalen Allen: Oh not Connie! 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I don’t know why I was like Connie. Kalen, you’re so funny in the episode. You’re like, slow down. You’re like, how did how did we get to be psychic? 

 

Kalen Allen: Oh, honey that’s because listen here. If you listen to the podcast, the behind the scenes, Ricki be going 50 miles an hour, [laughter] honey, and so that I always have to jump in and be like, okay, okay, let’s go back because we need to fill in these gaps. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: It was great. Ricki– 

 

Ricki Lake: Eh yes. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: –let’s start with– 

 

Ricki Lake: Okay. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: You um. I grew up on the Ricki Lake Show. I was like, oh, my God, you sound still literally I’m listening to it. Uh. And I’m like, wild that she sounds exactly like she did when I was a kid, which is so cool. What is it like to be back in the interview space? You had an incredible show. You left at a high point. You did not leave because the show was not doing well and you have not done a show since in a lot of ways. So what’s it like to be back? 

 

Ricki Lake: Well, I did do a second talk show and that failed. That only ran for a year. But I won the Emmy for my work on that that one year. [laughter] I just want to throw that in. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Let them know. Let them know Ricky. 

 

Ricki Lake: [laughing] I mean, with this project, I was super and I have to thank you. I mean, you are the one that connected the dots and got me in touch with Jess and Steph at Lemonada Media. And I’d been approached for years ever since podcasts came out. That they would I would meet with this company that company and they didn’t really have a clear vision. And Jess and Steph came to me and just had this idea of doing a re– it’s different than a rewatch because it’s not, you know, most rewatches are people that aren’t actually from the project. For me to do this rewatch and to get Kalen Allen to go on board with me. It just it just it was perfect. I mean, I just feel like it’s the perfect kind of timing of it. It’s the 30 year anniversary of me doing the pilot of the show. So– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Whoa. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: –the whole thing happened exactly 30 years ago, and I haven’t really taken the time to kind of reflect on what the show was to so many people. Was it well you know, I know what it did for me personally, but, you know, the grind of doing it every day. And then after I ended the show or we parted ways, I moved to California and started a whole new life and started doing documentary film work. So I never really kind of stood back and, you know, kind of reflected and had this reverence for what the phenomenon that the show was and how it really impacted so many in different ways, but in really, really positive ways. So it’s just been so much fun to go back and to go back with Kalen, who’s 26, and didn’t grow up with the show, [laughter] and has his own clear perspective and his own point of view and to watch it with him and his reaction, it’s really a lot of fun and I think it’s a lot of fun for people that grew up with the show. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I love it. And Kalen, you I knew you originally from Twitter, from Instagram and then it was Ellen. Podcast wasn’t the first medium, wasn’t the second medium, why did you say yes to a podcast? This is a different world in in your story. 

 

Kalen Allen: Well, you know, I think DeRay you know, I love to talk, you know, and I think uh the persona that people often get to see on social media is the comedy of it all, you know? And there’s a lot of comedy on Raised by Ricki, but I also enjoy diving deep into topics and issues and unpacking things and really getting into the nitty gritty of everything. Um. And so when actually because that’s how I ended up on the podcast was because you DeRay of you bringing it up to me, and then sending my name over. Then I went to L.A. and I got to meet Ricki then we did like a little test thing. But for me, I do anything that feels good for me, that feels good in my body and from day day one of doing this podcast with Ricki. It felt like I was where I was supposed to be. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I love it. Now, let me ask you some questions about these episodes. So do you really think that the psychic was psychic? Like, is this Ricki, did you really like tell me? Because, you know– 

 

Ricki Lake: Yes. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: –she was on the show a lot. 

 

Ricki Lake: I believe [?] she was on the show a lot. And she did do I remember a groundbreaking interview with me uh a reading of for me that at the show, the first show, you know, I would drag the person into my into my dressing room and say, okay. And they you know, she pulled up my grandma, Sylvia, and she got certain stuff. You know, there was no Internet back then, really. Right. We’re talking I mean, there was no– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Fair fair. 

 

Ricki Lake: –real easy access to Googling someone back then. She is talented. I do stand by that. But I have since, you know, years later, and you know, the lo– I lost my beloved husband to suicide and and mental illness five years ago. And I think I might have shared with you when we bonded over that weekend was I had a profound experience with a psychic medium who channeled Christian for an hour to me, and I have that on tape. And that was I mean, it was it was the most the most magical healing thing that I did for me to to to get not get over it because you never get over someone, a loss like that. But to heal through that that loss. And um I do believe I believe these these people do have these gifts. I don’t believe we all have those. They like to say, oh, you can tap into your own psychic ability. I don’t believe that. But no, I do be– remember Char being talented. I think they can have off days, you know? What do you think? You think it’s bullshit? 

 

DeRay Mckesson: No. I’m curious. Kalen like you didn’t you know, you didn’t watch the show when it aired the first time when you walked into the episode with Char, were you skeptical, were you like okay? Were  you what was your like or do you just you already believe in in psychics already? 

 

Kalen Allen: Well, one, I do believe in psychics. Now, I will say I have been scammed by a psychic. [laughter] So I think I get very I just am very particular, you know, I think it’s just like like like think of all the pastors that exist in the world, right? But then we know some pastors that are scam artists, you know what I mean? So like it exists in many different career forms, whether you believe in it or not, you know. But I do believe in psychics, I do believe that I have my own like psychic abilities. And we talked about that on the podcast. So, yeah, I’m all in. I believed I believed every bit of it. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I love it. Now, the other one, when I saw this episode, I was like, I haven’t thought about her in 12,000 years. Sally Jessy Raphael. She was it was like there was like a whole team of y’all that were like the, you were the you were the interviewers of our childhood. What was it like to did you call like, have you just stayed in touch? Did you call did you email– 

 

Ricki Lake: I mean– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: –did you have to beg her to be on the show? 

 

Ricki Lake: No, I don’t think there was begging involved. I think she wanted to like be not necessarily relevant again, but like wanted I mean wanted to be heard, I think. And so we approached her and she’s someone I follow on Twitter. I’m not active on social media like Kalen and you are I don’t I haven’t figured it out. But she and I follow each other and I’d see her remark or send me a happy birthday. So I think it was easy getting her on the show. It was just really a little sad that that she didn’t get her really like like her her just desserts. You know, she was kind of cancelled and and she said she was never hired again. I did not know that fact until we were interviewing her. But what did what did you think, Kalen? 

 

Kalen Allen: Well, no– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And did you remember Kalen? Did you how did how do you know Sally Jessy Raphael? 

 

Kalen Allen: Well, I think because I, you know, I dreamed of wanting a talk show and also just being in the talk show space. I’m aware of everybody that had a talk show in the past. The Montels, you know, the [?]– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Montel! 

 

Kalen Allen: You know, like all– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Okay. 

 

Kalen Allen: –those people. And I think specifically today, I do want to give Ricki a little bit more credit today. I think Sally did it because it was Ricki. You know, I think Sally knew that she could trust Ricki and that Ricki would take care of her and Ricki would hear her and allow her to speak her truth. And I agree that it was sad. And I remember while we were doing the episode, there was a worry that maybe it would feel too sad or that people wouldn’t be too receptive of it. But for me, listening on, I just it kind of just broke my heart and I wanted her to get that moment to be able to tell her truth, because maybe that was the closure that she needed. Maybe that’s what she had been longing for, for all this time was to be able to tell her story instead of blogs and other people deciding how she ended and how she went out and why she hadn’t been working. So I was grateful that we were able to give her that platform. 

 

Ricki Lake: Me, too. And she was a real pioneer. I mean, she was– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Yeah. 

 

Ricki Lake: –Someone, you know, she paved the way, just like Oprah. 

 

Kalen Allen: Mm hmm. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Maybe. Maybe you all will EP uh the Sally Comes Back podcast. 

 

Ricki Lake: Well Kalen has an idea that we’re working– 

 

Kalen Allen: I have a lot of ideas. 

 

Ricki Lake: –on. Yeah. 

 

Kalen Allen: Yeah. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I love it. I love it. Um I also. Kalen, I’ll start with you, is most of our entrance, some of us knew Ricki Lake from the show. 

 

Kalen Allen: Mm hmm. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: But a lot of us knew Ricki Lake because of the work with John Waters. 

 

Kalen Allen: Correct. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And that entire world. What was it had you followed and you know John Waters is on the podcast. Had you followed his career? You know, he’s a Baltimore guy. I’ve been to the holiday parties, which are totally nuts. 

 

Ricki Lake: Off the wall. 

 

Kalen Allen: Yup. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Um. Kalen what was it like for you to come into the conversation with John Waters? 

 

Kalen Allen: Well, you know, when we talked about it, I was very specific about that episode, was that I wanted Ricki to do it by herself. So like I’m only there for the first part of it. And I wanted Ricki to really have that moment because she attributes Hairspray to the start of her career that gave her, you know, notoriety and prominence within the industry. And I thought that that was a very special conversation that only them two needed to have. Now, as far as my knowledge of John Waters work beforehand, I didn’t know. All I knew of Hairspray. I knew of Ricki in Hairspray because I did– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Did you know Crybaby? 

 

Kalen Allen: No, I didn’t. I didn’t. Well but I–

 

DeRay Mckesson: Ugh [gasp] Kalen. 

 

Kalen Allen: What! Ricki don’t be looking surprised [laughter] we have talked about this. Okay. But– 

 

Ricki Lake: We both have homework to do. 

 

Kalen Allen: Exactly but like– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Kalen. 

 

Kalen Allen: –but because I had done Hairspray the Musical twice. That is– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Oh okay. 

 

Kalen Allen: –why I was aware of, you know, Ricki Lake and then also being familiar with the talk show because it was on when I was growing up at the same time. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And Kalen, before Ricki, I have a lot of question about John Waters. But Kalen, I meant to ask you this at the very beginning. What was it? You know, your mother definitely knows who Ricki Lake is. 

 

Kalen Allen: Mm hmm. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: [?] what was it like when you told them that you were going to do this thing? Like, did they remember Ricki Lake? Did they have like, what was it? 

 

Kalen Allen: Oh, everybody loved it. I mean, even still to this day, like when I’m traveling or something, people are like, you know, they’ll be like, what are you working on right now? Then I’ll tell them that I’m doing a podcast with Ricki Lake. People get, they just lighten up. They get ecstatic, you know? And the good thing about Ricki Lake is she is a very humble being. Ricki is just wants to live in Malibu in her house minding her business. And I always have to be like, I don’t think you understand how much people actually adore you. 

 

Ricki Lake: It’s it’s really it is humbling. And um it’s this weird it’s like it’s both and like, I have this very normal, very kind of not boring life. I don’t see it as boring, but I have a very normal life. And then I, you know, there are places I go where people are, you know, they they respond to me, whether it’s John Waters, you know, these these, you know, gay people that are, you know, deep in that and felt so like served by me with the show where they you know, that’s really been been really shocking to have people come up to me that say that they they saw for the first time themselves being represented and heard on television with my show. And that’s something I didn’t really consider at the time. I was just treating everybody equally, you know? But then, you know, people I do the documentary work and women are transformed by the things they learn from my birth, you know, documentary, and they break into tears. So it’s definitely it’s awesome. Like, I I love the different, different things in my career that I’ve done that it resonates with so many. And I also love that I live a very, very easy, normal life with my, you know, my beloved in Malibu. 

 

Kalen Allen: Mm hmm. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And Ricki. So, John Waters, you know, Hairspray, the whole that was a, a like genre defining moment, a cultural moment for people. Uh. What was it like to talk to John all these years later? You were so young. You were like, you know, a kid in so many ways, way back then and then it was like– 

 

Ricki Lake: I was eighteen. I was eighteen.

 

DeRay Mckesson: You know it was that it was the TV show. So he you’ve known him for more of your life than not. What was it like to have this conversation now? 

 

Ricki Lake: I mean, it was great. We’re still very good friends. You know, I see him probably two, three times a year. We talk often. Um. It was fun because his perspective of the show, you know, he was on my show. He was on like my fake baby shower that we did at my a few times. He was on for Se– we did Serial Mom, the cast of Serial Mom, I remember on my show and it’s this this surreal thing. It’s like bringing together two totally different worlds. He’s not someone who watches TV ever, ever, ever. So he’s not up on anything, you know, reality TV, nothing. He’s like he says that he he doesn’t know how to plug it in, you know, or use the remote. Um. But he’s aware of, like, the the legacy of, you know, the show and what I’ve gone to do. And I think he has, you know, great pride in in, you know, discovering me. You know, he really I give him all the credit. And he said something on the podcast, which I, I disagreed with. He said that I would have been famous regardless whether he discovered me or not. And I really don’t believe that to be true. I think I was right. I was I was that perfect person to play Tracy Turnblad and it just aligned and it did so much for each of our careers. Hairspray is the most successful of any a thing he’s done, and we have this mutual respect and this deep, deep love for each other. And I am so grateful because he is the reason also, not only that I have had the career I’ve had, but also that I have managed to stay really pretty grounded and and uh normal. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I love it. Yeah, he is you know, he he sends the Christmas invites. They’re still like– 

 

Ricki Lake: Oh yeah. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: –in the mail. You got to call a number to RSVP. There’s no email. You’re like, what is going on? 

 

Ricki Lake: It hasn’t happened for a couple of years because of COVID. But if he does it this year, I’m going to try to make it. I might just see you there. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I’ll see you. 

 

Ricki Lake: Mm hmm. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: He uh yeah, he he’s a Baltimore guy. Kalen, do you have a um do you have a dream episode that we that is not yet public. Do you have a– 

 

Kalen Allen: Oh. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: –dream guest that you’re like we got to get. 

 

Kalen Allen: Oh, it’s the same we, me and Ricki have the same one. The [?] sandwich.

 

Ricki Lake: One, two, three. 

 

Kalen Allen: Wig snatch. 

 

Ricki Lake: Oprah. 

 

Kalen Allen: Oh. 

 

Ricki Lake: Oh. [laughter]. 

 

Kalen Allen: Okay, okay. Valid. Both answers are valid yes to both. But the the episode that we talk the most about wanting to find the women from the Wig Snatch episode. You know everybody has seen that clip [?] on social media. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Explain the Wig Snatch episode to people– 

 

Kalen Allen: Yes. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: –who don’t remember. 

 

Kalen Allen: So basically there was this man who had this had a wife, right? She was his wife I think. Or they were dating or something like that.

 

Ricki Lake: No. Girl I think they were dating for a long, long time. 

 

Kalen Allen: Okay. A long long time.

 

Ricki Lake: You remember their names. I know you have a photographic memory. What was his name? 

 

Kalen Allen: Uh. Oh, see, I just remember what he looked like because I remember–

 

Ricki Lake: Yeah. 

 

Kalen Allen: –He was fine. I think or maybe he wasn’t fine. 

 

Ricki Lake: Maurice– 

 

Kalen Allen: Child. 

 

Ricki Lake: –or something. I think it was Maurice. 

 

Kalen Allen: Something like that. 

 

Ricki Lake: Yeah. 

 

Kalen Allen: Clearly we get our episodes a little uh confused. But I remember there was this man, he had this girlfriend for a long time. She had a whole bunch of attitude and she was revealing that he had been having this sort of affair. And the woman came out there and this woman has all this confidence. She talking about yeah I’m the mistress. Yeah. I’ve been sleeping with your man. Bah bah bah bah bah bah. But they sat her right next to the– 

 

Ricki Lake: Yeah. 

 

Kalen Allen: –girlfriend and then–

 

DeRay Mckesson: Ricki, what were you thinking, Ricki? What were you–

 

Ricki Lake: Well, here. So, so, so basically our protocols changed from that experience. So we, we brought the conflict out the other side. Oh, everyone in the audience oohing and ahhing maybe we had a doorbell then. I don’t remember if there was a doorbell then. And we sat her between the man and, and his woman and I mean, it happened almost in slow motion to me. And my memory of it was that I had laughed because I’ve seen it so many times since. But in watching it, rewatching it, I was serious and I kept it together. But it was such a taboo thing that she did. And from that point on, we always put the conflict on the other side. So we had like the the man in the middle. In the middle, so that they couldn’t reach over and grab anyone’s wig. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: So, Kalen– 

 

Ricki Lake: Again. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: –you’re trying to find, you can’t find any of those three people? 

 

Kalen Allen: No, because well–

 

Ricki Lake: Not yet. 

 

Kalen Allen: And the crazy thing about the wig snatch is she snatched the wig. Then she snatched the wig cap. Like it was it happened twice. And I was really shocked that like hands were not being thrown. But we are trying so hard to find these people. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I love that. 

 

Ricki Lake: And we want Oprah and we’d like Oprah. 

 

Kalen Allen: And Oprah. And Oprah.

 

DeRay Mckesson: Okay. And why Oprah Ricki?

 

Ricki Lake: I mean, it it seems like a pie in the sky ask and I don’t foresee it ever happening. But– 

 

Kalen Allen: That’s not true. 

 

Ricki Lake: You know, she I mean, you know, she’s the queen. She’s she’s the one. I mean, I pretended to be her. 

 

Kalen Allen: Well wait, Ricki Ricki. 

 

Ricki Lake: Yeah. 

 

Kalen Allen: Tell them how Oprah let you come to the show before the show aired. 

 

Ricki Lake: She did. She did so before we started, I think Gail Steinberg, who was my co-executive producer of the show, she had worked in Chicago and she had a contact there. And so before we started production, they allowed us to come and visit and sit in their production meeting. She gave us a tour of the studio. We sat in the audience during the taping and it was just a very generous thing to do to allow me to see her process. And uh I’m forever grateful for that. I mean, I don’t think she anticipated our show being the bigger the big hit that it became and that we were actually, you know, beating her in some you know, um in some of the what do they call it–

 

Kalen Allen: Markets. 

 

Ricki Lake: Yeah, the markets. But also the age, the demos and stuff. You know, we were we were the most competitive show for her for a long, long time. But uh she was very kind and generous. And I, you know, I’ve seen her over the years. I haven’t seen her in many, many years. But yeah, what it it would be a great thing to kind of talk about that time in the nineties and and our experiences. I. You know, again, I don’t I think it’s never going to happen. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Now we got to make it happen. We got to make happen. 

 

Ricki Lake: Oprah. If you’re listening. [laughter]

 

DeRay Mckesson: Ricki, was doing a daily show as crazy as it feels like, like was it a grind? Do you think it’s easier for people today who have to like have we has the daily talk show thing sort of figured it out to be less of a grueling process for a host? And is that why you left you know, because there are a lot of people who don’t I remember you didn’t you not leaving in scandal like I just remember one day there was no Ricki Lake show. Right. 

 

Ricki Lake: Mm hmm mmhmm. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Can you help people understand, like, why you made that choice? Because there are a lot of us. When I told people I was talking to you, they’re like, what happened to Ricki Lake? And it’s like, it wasn’t a scandal. Wasn’t that you know, you just it just was gone one day. 

 

Ricki Lake: Yeah. No. So I okay to answer your first question about, is it easy? You know, it is a grind. It was you know, I had to do 195 a year so we would you know, but it was also like a formula, like we had it down like a well-oiled machine. So looking back on it, you know, I was I was in my twenties and 30, early thirties and I was going to work at 11:30 and I would be done by 6:30, basically. You know, and I’d bring my kid to work and I had my assistant and my this, and my that. I mean, it was a totally cush situation. Plus I was making a lot of money. Um. I chose to not renew my contract. Um aft–. You know, 9/11 was a huge kind of catalyst and turning point for me. I lived through that experience downtown Manhattan, watched the plane actually fly down the Hudson and hit the building. And I you know, it was the combination of, you know, thinking I was going to die. But I was also a new mother at that time, I had a newborn. And I just had this homebirth experience in that apartment that I watched all hell break loose. And it just, you know, and then I had to go back to work two days after 9/11. And the topic was some ridiculous, insipid, you know, my baby daddy thinks I’m blah. And I was like, I don’t even know why I’m doing this. Like this, this. I need to make, you know, make my, my, my persona and my fame this fame that I have this this gift that I have. I need to make it count. I need to make an impact. And not that my show wasn’t impactful because clearly it was and I’m learning more and more as I’m doing this podcast, but I wanted to kind of do something that was more personal to me, and that’s where I started soul searching. And and and I really cared about, you know, birth and the and the med–, the system, the business of birth. And that’s when I, you know, switched gears and focused on that. And that was, you know, the most the most impactful thing I think I could do in my lifetime, that movie and the ripple effect it’s had. So, yeah, I just I was happy to walk away and start a new life. I left Ca– I left New York. After that, I moved to California. I ended up getting divorced and started anew. And I don’t regret it. Um. I could have gone on like Maury Povich. I could still be doing that show. I wanted to I wanted to reinvent myself and do something else. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I love it. And Kalen, you have talked about wanting a show, but like I said, you have you there all these mediums that didn’t exist when Ricki was on there, right? Like you, Instagram, Facebook, live, all these things. Do you think you want a interview show one day? Do you think is it TV? Is it and so that’s like first. And the second is like, what are the lessons that you’ve learned from from like the reflections of the Ricki Lake Show, like seeing having to watch those episodes, talking to old guests, like how has that informed the way you think about your work? 

 

Kalen Allen: Mmm. Well, first and foremost, I think I still believe in traditional linear TV. I do not believe that it will ever cease to exist only because I think sometimes those of us that live in New York and L.A., in these big cities, we forget that there’s a whole like rest of the world that still exists. And so I always I want to find a hybrid of being able to merge streaming and linear TV into one. I do want to do an interview show. I do want to meet people, but I want to find a way to do it for me that fits for my voice. Um. And to your second question, I think, you know, even in the conversations and in the episodes that we’ve done, Ricki knows that I when we ever get into the reflection, I always get into the bigger things. I remember the first episode that I watched there was, Ricki what was his name? Was it miracle? What was it? 

 

Ricki Lake: Ugh. 

 

Kalen Allen: Remember there was a young. There was a queer–

 

Ricki Lake: You no, I don’t remember anything.

 

Kalen Allen: –gentleman. Yeah I know. 

 

Ricki Lake: Yeah. 

 

Kalen Allen: There was a queer gentleman. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Y’all are hilarious. 

 

Kalen Allen: [laughing] There was a queer gentleman on the episode and I talked to Ricki about how it was shocking for me. This is like season one that this this flamboyant being was just being who they were and nobody was calling him out of his name. There was nobody like being mean like it it normalized something that I felt didn’t become normalized until today. And so I think that’s what I have unpacked, is the fact that this show allowed for the people that were outliers to have space and to hold space in a mainstream type of way. And I and I think the way that that has informed my work is wanting to do that same thing, to take people that fit outside of the social norm and giving them an ability to tell their story so that we can learn who they are. Because I think a lot of things such as bigotry or ignorance is rooted because people just don’t take the time to understand one another. 

 

Ricki Lake: Mm. Well said. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Boom. 

 

Ricki Lake: Well said. Yeah. Celebrate the underdogs. 

 

Kalen Allen: Yeah. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: There are um there are two questions that we ask everybody. The first is, what’s a piece of advice that you’ve gotten over the years that’s stuck with you? 

 

Ricki Lake: You go first Kalen. 

 

Kalen Allen: Oh, I’m still thinking child you go first. [laugh] 

 

Ricki Lake: Oh, you’re still thinking, well I, well I’ve said this before and I think I said it in the John Waters interview. I’m not sure if it, it made it into the cut, but he gave me advice when I was 18 after I’d finished making Hairspray, you know the movie ended over the summer and we went back to our lives and then he edited it. And so in between he sat me down and he said, I want to let you know that your life is about to change and I want you to remember these three things. And this is in 1987. He said, always stay humble, always stay true to yourself. And if you’re going to read and believe the good things people write about you, you also have to read and believe the bad. And so, you know, at that point it was like print reviews and everything was on paper and it just, you know, take it all with a grain of salt, you know, be who you are, you know, hold your head up high. It just it that that those three things really, really, I think have stayed with me. And it’s been the best advice to get through this crazy business. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: It’s very John Waters and I and I love it. And Ricki while um, Kalen we’ll come to you in two seconds, do you remember Ricki the moment your life changed? Like, do was it a was it a call from a friend? Was it like an ad on the radio that was like, Oh, my God, you got to watch Hairspray. Was it like you went to go get coffee and people were freaked out? 

 

Ricki Lake: I mean, there’s there’s lots of different times like like being in Interview magazine. I remember, you know, they put me in a feature and, you know, that was like the coolest New York magazine and going to like these parties and, you know, but but for me, the moment that I actually watched Hairspray because when I was making it, I was so I was so green. I was so young. I did I’d never made a movie really before. And I’m the star of this movie. But it didn’t really process like I didn’t because I’m I’m every day I’m on set, either filming or I’m in the back learning the mashed potato and all the dances I needed to know. Because not only did I need to know them, I needed to be better than all the skinny kids. So I’m in this this crazy tornado of making this movie that it was when I was sitting. It was probably December of ’87. So the movie came out in February of ’88, and I’m sitting at the Waverly Theater in the in Greenwich Village, and they screened the movie for us. And I sat next to Link Clark and Michael Saint Gerard. And I remember holding his hand and just wide eyed watching the movie and just it’s sinking in like, wow, this is this is actually going to come out like, you know, this this is good. And I think that was a big moment for me. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I love it. Kalen?

 

Kalen Allen: Um. I think the biggest advice that I have given in my career is, you know, as a Black queer man in this industry, is it it every day feels sometimes like it’s a fight. And, you know, I have a lot of jobs and there are times that I do get discouraged in that I feel like, is it worth it? Can I just go and work a different job and do something like that and getting tired of the hustle and the grind. And one time I was on my way to a premiere with someone and I talked about how I really didn’t want to walk the carpet. This often times my least favorite thing to do, I like working them. I don’t necessarily like walking them. And somebody was somebody said to me, they were like, you have to walk that carpet, even if they don’t care that you are walking it because there is some other Black, queer, effeminate boy that needs to see you to believe that they too can hold the same space that you do. And so any time that I start to think about quitting or I start to doubt myself, I have to always remember why my visibility is necessary. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Boom. And I ask you to, Kalen, your life um your life changed pretty dramatically on the Internet, very different mediums, but still crazy change. You went from a kid in college who was graduating to the Ellen Show. Uh. Was there a moment that you like what was your moment at being like, Oh my goodness, this is different. Like something this is like not just I didn’t just go viral on Twitter. There’s like a thing that is lasting. 

 

Kalen Allen: I think there were two instances um because I have imposter syndrome. So it kind of like comes and goes. But I think the first time was when I met Oprah, and that was because when Oprah, met when I met Oprah, no one had like briefed her. She didn’t know I was going to be there. They just placed me in front of her and she was like, oh, my gosh, Kalen, so nice to meet you, blah, blah, blah, blah. And so that was one. And I think also the first time I went to Disneyland and I went to Disneyland and kept being stopped and asked for pictures and stuff like that. And that was that was such a different world for me. You know, but I don’t I don’t ever I never think that I thought of it as like, Oh, I’m famous or Ooh, look at me, I’m a celebrity now. I think I just saw that I was bringing some type of joy and laughter to a lot of people, and that was enough for me. That’s all that I wanted to do was to mean something and be able to inspire people. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Boom okay and the last question that the when your life changed was just an interlude the real last question is there a lot of people who in this moment feel like they’ve done all the things. They’ve listened to your podcast, they listened to mine, they emailed, they called, they voted, they testified, they protested. And the world is not changing the way they want it to. What do you say to those people? 

 

Ricki Lake: I mean, I don’t have a lot of answers. I watch the news. You know, it’s it’s such a I’m in such a weird place right now, such a great place in that my little bubble. I have never been DeRay I have never been happier or more content with my life at this time. I mean, it’s it’s crazy that to think five years ago what I went through of losing my partner and I just never thought I’d be in a place of joy and a place of contentment and ease and and have love in my I mean, it just it’s just crazy. But then I look at the bigger picture and what is going on in the world and it’s so scary. And I’m I’m I’m a reactionist. I’m not someone that’s like calm, cool and collected. I lose my shit. I lost my shit on 9/11. I mean, I was like a horror show. And so I don’t know if I’m the one to give advice. I mean, I, you know, I take care of myself. Self-care is a big thing for me, you know, and I try not to read at all. I try to like I mean, I just was out of the country and I was able to step outside of my bubble after being locked down in Covid for three years like everyone. And it was so nice to just, you know, we’ve got to live our lives each day as if it’s our last really. I mean it’s that cliche. But, um you know, um I think that’s helping me. 

 

Kalen Allen: I would– 

 

Ricki Lake: Kalen has probably much better words on this. 

 

Kalen Allen: Oh my gosh. I would say first and foremost, I think we need to remove the idea that things were ever really good. I think especially if you are a minority, things have always been bad. I think it’s just the fact that that sometimes it may have felt easier and I think sometimes things start to add on then it feels tougher. And I think my advice is, is understanding that every bit of light and every bit of joy gets us closer to the promised land. It gets us closer and closer to better days. And as long as you stay persistent in bringing joy and love and happiness into the world in light, then the closer you will get to those better days and the more that you can push out the darkness. 

 

Ricki Lake: Mmm. That’s my answer too. Okay? That’s my answer too. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Y’all two are adorable. Well, Ricki Lake, Kalen Allen, we consider you lifelong friends of the pod, and we can’t wait to have you back. Thanks for coming. [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. [music break] Pod Save the People was a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by AJ Moultrié and mixed by Charlotte Landes. Executive produced by me and special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger and Myles Johnson.