In This Episode
Court scandals, unlikely political allies – here’s your weekly download leading up to the November Primary. Pod Save The People is back with the Blackest Book Club reading list in collaboration with Reconstruction and Campaign Zero.
[AD BREAK] [music break]
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay, and welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode, it is me, Kaya, De’Ara, and Myles talking about all the things Black in the news and with regard to race, justice and equity that you might not have heard of in the past week. And this is our first episode of Black History Month. We are talking about primaries, the election coming up, culture, and importantly the return of The Blackest Book Club. We have collaborated with Reconstruction and Campaign Zero to curate a brand new reading list for you, and we talk about the books. We also talk about news, but with you, we’re going to explore so many books and authors on the pod, because we want to make sure that people know the things that we love to read. So today we talk about the prompt, looking at the state of our world what book do you recommend to educate and inform Black people? Check out our Blackest Book Club reading list at recon.today/ blackest-book-club. Let’s go. [music break]
De’Ara Balenger: Family. Welcome to another episode of Pod Save the People. I’m De’Ara Balenger. You can find me on Instagram at @dearabalenger.
Myles E. Johnson: I’m Myles E. Johnson. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter at @pharaohrapture
Kaya Henderson: I’m Kaya Henderson. You can find me on Twitter at @HendersonKaya.
DeRay Mckesson: And this is DeRay at @deray on Twitter.
De’Ara Balenger: All right y’all, you know we’re doing election coverage even if it’s just [laugh] just top lines. Um. So one of the things that I did want to spend some time on is that Joe Biden won his first official primary election in South Carolina. Um. Turnout, though, wasn’t great. It was I think it was 20% lower than it was in 2020. Um. Obviously the primary looked a little bit different in 2020. [laugh] It was a primary contest. I think most folks knew know that Joe Biden is going to be um our nominee. Uh. So but just interesting and I think what also was interesting was all of the coverage of Biden and and the vice president in South Carolina. I feel like we had perhaps years of of this administration feeling a little bit absent when it comes to actual, like engaging Black folks in a meaningful way in where they are. Um. And in the lead up to this primary contest, it seemed like Biden and and the VP were in South Carolina quite a bit. So interesting though. It’s going to be interesting to see like what the polling looks like now, post this contest and post, you know, Biden and and the VP spending so much time in South Carolina. Something else that we were talking about before we got on was um, Trymaine Lee, who is a correspondent and an author and a writer, I have a great deal of respect for Trymaine, but he is doing a series on MSNBC about Black men and voting, um and where Black men, straight Black men, it seems, um are are leading. So I think that that was inter– DeRay, you saw that, right?
DeRay Mckesson: You know, what was interesting about it is that, um you know, it reminds me of what happens when we haven’t nailed the storytelling because, you know, some of the Black men, the quote is literally, you know, under Biden, we’re broke. Under Trump, we had money. And da da da, and it’s like the pandemic funds that people got really have warped people’s sense of what Trump did. Like Trump did so much stuff that was ridiculous and wild. He didn’t want to give people the funds that they did get, you know, like the Dems. Anything that good happened in that moment politically, the Dems actually pushed through. And if you remember, I’ll never forget there being the post office having a plan to mail every single person in the country masks and Trump saying no because he didn’t want to make people nervous. I mean, there was so much that happened, but because people did get some money, again that the Dems helped make happen, uh people are crediting Trump with that. And I am I think I’ve been surprised at how effective that messaging has been. You know, the real sign of the MSNBC interview being, you know, not as helpful as it could have been, is that Fox is actually running it. So Fox is running those clips. They are promoting that those conversations with Black men. Uh. And the only solace is that there are other reports saying that people are wildly uh blowing out of proportion how many Black men will actually vote for Trump. Not only because they’re a lot of Black men that don’t vote at all. And that the media hype around it and the Republican hype around it is is just overblown.
Myles E. Johnson: I think it’s som– I think it’s something to think about. I do think it’s something to think about as far as Black men and [?] and conservatism. And I think that um, you know, there are certain people who are taking it seriously, you know, the Republicans, [laugh] and I think that, um no matter if the numbers are gouged or overexaggerated, I think to me the numbers actually matter less than the branding does. If that makes sense. I think the Republicans seeming like a safe space for Black men conversations for conversations around Black fatherhood, conversations around um things that matter to Black people the for for something, for a, for a group of people who uh neo-Nazis also identify with to also be be able to be rebranded as a place where Black men are, are centered or um or or or cared about. That to me, is is like a dan–, like a weird and dangerous blurring of, of cultural lines, even if the numbers don’t necessarily represent that come election day.
Kaya Henderson: First of all, I think it’s early. Right. Um. It’s too early to tell anything. But I do think that this storytelling and narrative piece is really important, because if this continues to gain traction, like people will continue to believe it and it will become self-fulfilling. And so where is the counter narrative? Like, where are the Black pastors who will come out and say, no no, this is what our community is telling us. So where are Black activists and Black leaders? Where’s the NAACP and the Urban League? Okay, maybe I’m asking rhetorical questions, I don’t know, but where is the counter narrative? Um. There are lots of Black men who are supporting Biden and the Democrats. There are lots of Black people who understand that Trump is not for us. And one like, we need to figure out who are the most effective messengers and get that out. And y’all need to get your cousins. I mean, I like we all know people who are Black men who are talking this talk about Trump. One of my younger cousins, her husband is a Black man who is all Trumped out. And, you know, nobody in the family wants to talk to him because he’s so crazy. The truth of the matter is, we need to sit him in a chair and bombard him with the right message, right, and help him understand, boo this is not what you want to do for real. And so I think there is a mega narrative, but I also feel like we have to win the hearts and minds of the people that we love. The people that we love are more inclined to listen to us than they are to listen to other folks. And so we got to get in here and get our brothers and our uncles and our nephews and help them understand what it is and what it ain’t.
Myles E. Johnson: Uh this this makes me have a bigger question for you all that that’s been in the back of my mind is, is there a in 2024, I dare not say this in Black History Month, and just like a couple of weeks out from Martin Luther King so I know in the past there has been. But in 2024 is there like a Bl– are there Black men leaders or Black men that resonate with Black men in the in the in a way that like cause I like anybody I can think of kind of feels stereotypical and feels like I’m, I’m about to name foot– like a basketball player or a comedian or a rapper, but I’m thinking like, is there that kind of political person or even like a media person? Who, who, who can who can rally Black men together?
Kaya Henderson: Who who are the Bl– who are the Black male political influencers? That’s the question, right?
Myles E. Johnson: Oprah. I’m even thinking like, yeah, I’m thinking like Oprah is. I’m thinking like even Beyoncé is. I know these are entertainers, but I’m thinking like, it seems like Black men don’t have that.
Kaya Henderson: Who do Black men listen to?
Myles E. Johnson: Yeah, for real.
Kaya Henderson: Who do Black men listen to?
DeRay Mckesson: I will say too, you know, this is a I swear I’m going to talk about Trump. But we’re doing some advocacy around the D.C. crime bill, which is bad. It’s called secure D.C., and we’ve done a lot of um stuff on social media over the weekend. And it reminded me that people actually are ready to engage in content. You just have to package it for them. So the number of Black men in the comments who are like this don’t make sense. They just trying to arrest everybody. They just trying to lock everybody up. Like they actually people do get it. They just need content and some framing around it. And I do think that for so many people, consultants have leaned in on the moral and emotional arguments to Black people writ large. And I think that the moral and emotional arguments actually just are not as compelling as people think that they are. Like, you know, calling something racist today doesn’t actually move people the way that it did 20 years ago. Helping people see that it’s racist does. And I and I would say that that is actually like a storytelling technique that the left has not gotten, because I’ll tell you like we, we’re the D.C. crime bill is going to criminalize groups of two or more, hoodies will be criminalized, all of this stuff. And like, I’m not having to, it’s white people in the comments who are like, oh, but we need it. The Black people, men and women and the men are like, you know, because the men aren’t writing long paragraphs. They like this whack, this crazy, they going to lock us all up. They trying to get our kids. Like people actually do get it when they get the content, when the cont– when when people treat them as if they can understand the content because they can.
De’Ara Balenger: And I think, too, I think what I implore this camp– Biden’s campaign and administration to do is just listen because DeRay I think you’re on to something in terms of I think when the outreach occurs with Black folks, it’s it’s usually in a Black church and it’s usually around some social justice or moral issue. Right. And I think instead of that or in addition to that, it also needs to be around wealth building. And in I think it was 2020 when we had the 100 year anniversary of the massacre in Tulsa. There was so much conversation around Black wealth building and building back Greenwood, etc. and this administration has done some some of that work or at least intimated that they were going to do some of that work. So whether it was, I guess they launched an interagency, they launched an initiative to address inequity in home appraisals, which was a big thing, which we’ve talked about it on the podcast, actually quite a few times. The other thing they did um was start an initiative to advance equity in federal procurement. So that means that Black businesses are getting more federal contracts. And what I also, a stat that I did see was that there’s been an increase in Black owned businesses that have applied to the Small Business Administration. So I think, I think there is some storytelling that needs to be done around the efforts around some of the economic, you know, economic equity that that I think the community wants to see. And I think from what I’m hearing and seeing around what these Black men said on this MSNBC piece, it’s they are more concerned about their businesses, they are more concerned about money. And so if that if that is it let’s listen to that and then create and not create the narrative. We actually have some the administration actually has some, you know, some receipts to pull in terms of what they’ve done. But I think that’s the disconnect is that this administration has been doing things, doing things, doing things. Nobody knows about it. Nobody knows about it.
DeRay Mckesson: The last thing I’ll say is that we just had a, this we haven’t made this public yet, but at Campaign Zero we just did a poll of um of the US around attitudes and moods ten years since the protests in Ferguson. And um, one of the things we ask is about what issues people care about and Black people, it is race, like racism, um like racial justice, sort of like the broad bucket of racial justice. And the third issue, the third top issue in the United States is housing. And that is not what I would have thought. But it is so–
De’Ara Balenger: Yeah.
DeRay Mckesson: –for there’s only one subset of people. Older white people, 65 and up, for whom crime is in the top three.
De’Ara Balenger: Right. [?]
DeRay Mckesson: Everybody else it’s like–
De’Ara Balenger: Exactly.
DeRay Mckesson: –housing, inflation. You know, like that’s actually what people are they are worried about,
people worried about racism and, you know, housing.
De’Ara Balenger: And just think how many Black people have been displaced in all of these cities, like whether it’s DC or New Y–, all of these cities, Chicago. So many Black people have been displaced out of these cities. It’s wild.
DeRay Mckesson: I was in a meeting last week where somebody they used the phrase forced homelessness, and I was like, I love that because people aren’t choosing homelessness, right? Like people, people talk about homelessness as if you, like, woke up one day and you like chose to buy Nike’s instead of paying your rent. And that actually is not what’s happening. Do you know what I mean? And when I heard her say forced homelessness, it I thought it was a better way to talk about the housing crisis than than people experiencing as if like, you just made some really bad choice on Tuesday and therefore you are homeless. You’re like, that’s not what’s happening to people.
Kaya Henderson: The one other political thing can we talk about because it’s just so messy. Fani Willis, girl, why are you sleeping with your friend? Your colleague, your whatever. What, I mean, here’s the thing. So one, the moment that this that this thing came out that that that she was potentially involved with her I don’t know if he’s the prosecutor or whatever. He’s on her team on this case. Um. You know, my first thought was these conservative muckrakers are just trying any old thing. And then his wife was like, oh, yeah, and he bought her plane tickets. And I was like, ruh roh. And [laughing] and then and now it has come out that they are an item. And, you know, she says it should have no bearing on the case, and when I, bearing on the case, schmearing on the case. None of that matters. You are prosecuting one of the most important cases in the history of the United States and you you want to be messy? You know what this is, you know what it is, you know what the people are going to do. You know how they’re going to come after you. Why give them any grist for the mill? You couldn’t find no other man in the universe except this man sitting next to you, that you done hired to come and work on your thing. Oh, Lord, today I love love. I want people to love whoever they want to love. And we got to be a little bit more strategic about these things, huh?
DeRay Mckesson: And if you were doing it because it was going to be a secret, well, you botched that too. Like, that was, you know, the Trump people can both tell a lie and they can find the dirt. If they can’t do anything else, they can lie and find like take a a little morsel of something and turn it into the mountain, you know?
Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. And but at the same time, it’s kind of rid– this this is my this is this is uh my liberal point of view. You know, when we talk about people who are accused of rape, um when we talk about a president, a former president who just had to, who has to pay $83 million dollars because he couldn’t keep his hands to himself in Bergdorf Goodman, like, I’m over here, like, well, if I was like, did they agree and consent?
Kaya Henderson: They were consenting. They are consenting.[laughing]
Myles E. Johnson: Alright I was like, oh, so I’m over here. So I’m over here like, well, let’s move on.
De’Ara Balenger: What’s the problem?
Myles E. Johnson: Because if we doing tac for, tic for tac, one of us is going to jail and one of us is not. So let’s move on. We don’t want to play that game.
Kaya Henderson: That’s the point, Myles. We can’t do what they do.
Myles E. Johnson: But I want us to try. [laughter] I want us [laughter]
De’Ara Balenger: [?] Myles.
Myles E. Johnson: Because because Trump’s because Trump and them will be like, okay, yeah, I did it. What’s new or no or lie in our face. We don’t even we just cower and fold into ourselves. Just go and rub that man’s belly and say, [laughter] and we can we can rub bellies and sign contracts at the same time and move on and be as bold and see how that works, because this is not working.
Kaya Henderson: I’m okay with that. As long as we got a back up Black girl prosecutor for the occasion. Mm.
De’Ara Balenger: Y’all, they’re very hot. I will say. This couple. I mean, just think they’re working long long hours.
DeRay Mckesson: Okay De’Ara. [laughter] Okay, cut the mic everybody. [?]
Myles E. Johnson: Shonda Rhimes has entered the chat.
De’Ara Balenger: Long long hours.
Myles E. Johnson: Shonda Rhimes. [banter]
I didn’t know what she was about to say but that wasn’t it.
De’Ara Balenger: Long hours. I mean, they look like–
Myles E. Johnson: Shonda Rhimes has entered the chat.
De’Ara Balenger: They honestly look like they could be, like, on a Tyler Perry–
DeRay Mckesson: [?] De’Ara.
De’Ara Balenger: –episode of–
Kaya Henderson: Oh sweet baby Jesus.
De’Ara Balenger: Yada, yada yada. They do.
Kaya Henderson: Mm.
De’Ara Balenger: They do. I can see it.
DeRay Mckesson: De’Ara.
Myles E. Johnson: I.
DeRay Mckesson: You [?]
Myles E. Johnson: I just think all [?]–
De’Ara Balenger: I’m not mad. Myles, I’m with you. I’m not mad. I’m not mad [?].
Myles E. Johnson: I’m just all not in for the–
De’Ara Balenger: –bad timing.
Myles E. Johnson: –catastrophizing of like, people’s behaviors when we’re vi– when we’re competing with who we’re competing with, even inside the own in our own Democratic Party, I’m like, yeah. Like there’s been, there’s there’s been I’m saying we our look at me turning into a Democrat. But [laugh] but hey, but um but like even um but yeah, there’s, I don’t know, I just think that because she’s a Black woman. Of course, we’re I I I think that she’s being held to, like, a higher standard and a lot of these things are being exaggerated and catastrophized. And I also–
De’Ara Balenger: That’s right.
Myles E. Johnson: –think that if–
Kaya Henderson: Of course.
Myles E. Johnson: –we’re going to actually change it, I my dream is to see a Black woman who has been forced into exceptionalism and tokenism and and has been so jailed about what she can do. My dream, my dream is to see a Black woman stick up her middle finger and be like, and we’re going to move on. That is like my like that to me–
De’Ara Balenger: Yeah.
Myles E. Johnson: –is what freedom looks like. It’s like, no, behave like them.
Kaya Henderson: Well then welcome. Because that’s what Fani is doing right now.
De’Ara Balenger: That what she is doing.
Myles E. Johnson: Come on.
Kaya Henderson: She’s saying later for y’all keep it moving. So here we are.
De’Ara Balenger: That’s right.
Kaya Henderson: We’s free boss.
De’Ara Balenger: It is giving me T.J. Holmes and Amy, whatever her name is. And they they they’re pictures of them everywhere being fabulous and–
Myles E. Johnson: Amy’s about to do a U-turn. I feel it in my spirit, but sure. [laughter]
Kaya Henderson: The cost is too high. [laughter]
Myles E. Johnson: I I I think. I think that I feel I can hear when the bank account is not looking as well as we want to. When you start doing the podcast. No shade to the podcast. Obviously. When we start doing the group podcast and, you know, ain’t no driver to take you to the uh, take you to the studio. I can, I can see I think that she’s about to do a U-turn in the, in in, you know, TJ just prepare your heart sir.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People. Stay tuned. There’s more to come.
DeRay Mckesson: So as the first episode of Black History Month, we are starting the 2024 version of the Blackest Book Club. And what that means is that we’ve all chosen some books around some certain topics. We’re going to talk about them today. We will continue to talk about these books, because we understand that the news that happens every week is important. But the other thing that’s really important is actually uh there’s some incredible books that help us make sense of the world, help us make sense of our Blackness and what it means to be in community.
Kaya Henderson: This is my favorite. This is one of my favorite things that we do on the pod, because first of all, it dispels the myth that Black people don’t read. Black people read a ton. And in order to be an informed and engaged Black citizen of this world, you better read. Um. And I’m always so excited to learn what you all are reading. Like we talk about news and we talk about all kinds of other stuff. Um. But I this is I always learn so much, not just about my books, but about the books that each of you are choosing. And so I’m super excited. Thanks for doing this again. This is amazing. And um, we partner with Reconstruction, which is my little organization, to also put out a–
Myles E. Johnson: Big organization.
Kaya Henderson: –young adult. To put out a young adult reading list, um where we have recommendations for little readers, middle readers, older readers. So check us out. Um. Check our socials, check it all. We’ll be running it all through the month of February.
DeRay Mckesson: So to start with uh the very first uh question, I want to know, looking at the state of our world, what book do you recommend to educate and inform Black people?
Myles E. Johnson: I think we are educated and informed out. I think one of the more, um [laughing] I think one of the more useful texts that I’ve read and engaged with in this past year has been Rest is Resistance a manifesto by um Tricia Hersey. I hope I’m pronouncing her name right. Um. It’s weird when you’re reading something, and you never hear it. But Tricia. But Tricia um Hersey, she’s the founder of the Nap Ministry. She’s a theorist, and she has a huge social media presence around rest and resistance and really integrating um the ideas around rest and spirituality with um with like, with resistance politics. And um really, I don’t know, is one of to me is one of the, one of the people who are kind of in this like vanguard of like, not separating the immaterial and the spiritual with the political and the material. And I think that that has been something that has been so wedged in um, in, in, in a lot of our public talk as um Black people, but just as um a politically engaged people in general. And this has been this would be the thing that I would share with people specifically. Well specifically when I’m thinking about Black people because I think, unfortunately, if you were born, post if you’re born in America and you’re Black, I think, you know the things. You kind of get hyper educated real quick. And if you and if for whatever reason you didn’t know, then there’s a, there’s an injustice that will happen, that will that will happen in your generation to radicalize you. So I think that the most useful text that I found is the one that teaches you, what do you do now that your nervous system is out of whack? What do you do now that your peace is being um, is is is being threatened by the powers that be? What do you how do you connect with hope? How do you connect with your creativity? How do you stay inside of your own purpose and not repurpose your purpose for a greater political project that still will wants to cannibalize you? These are the things that I think are very useful to think about as Black people, and specifically Black people who um who are political. But it I didn’t I couldn’t come up with this, you know, big political, intellectual, academic text that all Black people need to be informed because most Black people know it’s racist, it’s unfair, you know, and we can we can complicate that [laugh] and make chapters about it and books about it. But it all comes down to it’s racist and unfair and and and and and–
De’Ara Balenger: Uh huh.
Myles E. Johnson: Go hide somewhere. So I feel like this was a text that really taught us how, now that we’re dealing with the darkness. Well, it gave me batteries for my flashlight, this text.
De’Ara Balenger: Uh huh. This is and this my this is from from her. We believe our bodies are portals. They are sites of liberation, knowledge, and invention that are waiting to be reclaimed and awakened by the beautiful interruptions are brutal systems that sleep and dreaming provide.
Myles E. Johnson: Come on. That’s one thing about Miss um.
De’Ara Balenger: Incredible.
Myles E. Johnson: Miss Hersey as well. When I tell you mama has, mama has the Giovanni, Angelou, Morrison hands. Because that’s what I listened for too, because I’m, like, sometimes, you know, I’m I’m still a person of a certain age, so I get bored. I need a two minute song. I need a rich text. It needs to be entertaining for me. I was like, oh, she has the kind of language where even if I did, I totally agree with what she’s saying. But even if I disagreed with what she’s saying, it’s um, she has such a way with how she with how she writes. That is very much so in that jazz lyrical tradition of–
De’Ara Balenger: That’s right.
Myles E. Johnson: –Black writers.
De’Ara Balenger: I actually was with, DeRay, I was with [?] when I was in Houston a couple weeks ago, and one of the things [?] said she’s working on this year is rest. And she was like, name one rested Black woman. And I was like, ooh. [laughter] Hmm. So it really, [laugh] when you sit with it and you pause and you get into the reflection, it is so interesting where our nervous systems are in such fight or flight that we can’t even have the presence of mind to know that we are in boiling water. So I think this text is in particular something um that, that is, that is critical. So thank you, Myles, for bringing this one to the to to our attention.
Kaya Henderson: Um. I want to shout out the Omidyar Network, um which sent a, recognized a bunch of Black tech entrepreneurs and sent us a gift, said we see you. You’re out here in these tech streets doing a thing. And we just wanted to give you a little something to say we recognize you. And they sent us the Nap Ministry’s rest deck. So this goes along with the book. It’s 50 Practices to Resist Grind Culture, and it is a bunch of cards that sort of help you rest, help you reconnect your body and your mind, help you um help you be healthier and to continue to do the work. And um it is spectacular. I’ve been using it. Um. The next time you ask that question, De’ara. Who’s the who’s a rested Black woman? At some point, y’all going to say Kaya Henderson. Because that’s what I’m working on, too. Uh. Uh. Um. And and there is a way I mean, there has to we cannot continue to do what we do the way we do it. And so I think, um Tricia is a is she is a rest is revolutionary. But she is a revolutionary, especially in this particular moment where we have the opportunity, like we’ve reinvented how we work, we rein– we technology helps us reinvent how we shop, how we do all kinds of things. And she’s like, let’s reinvent how we approach the the pace at which we approach life. And I’m here for it. [music break]
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere, more Pod Save the People is coming.
DeRay Mckesson: [music break] Um. So the book that I thought was the best way to educate and inform um people and a book that I loved this year was When Crack Was King: A People’s History of a Misunderstood Era. We interviewed him on the pod. People really should read this book because if you grew up in any city that is urban, majority Black, a little bit of Black people, especially during the ’80s, ’90s, crack just really swept through communities. I think about my my own family is still dealing with the fallout from the addiction from that era. And what Donovan does so well is he just maps the history of what happened, who is involved, how it spread. It is a little uh storytelling and history lesson all in one. And it actually is a complete story of what happened. So it doesn’t just sort of go into one moment. It it tells the arc of it. And when I think about how we got here, it is really important to just remember the impact that addiction had on our communities. I mean, just uh there’s no way that I can overstate just how how monumental the impact of addiction has been in Black communities. And as you know, Black people are not growing cocaine in in their backyards. Um. And I didn’t know this was a book I needed to read until I read it.
Kaya Henderson: My book that I um, that I chose for this question is Charles Blow’s The devil You Know. And um I particularly chose it in this moment, as we are in an election season because um the the the subtitle is A Black Power Manifesto, and, you know, I’m all about it. Um. But literally it is a playbook for how we take back Black political power and effectively how we set ourselves up as a Black community to really control electoral politics in this country. And basically what he says is the Great Migration has not worked for us. In fact, if you look at the cities where Black people do worse, it’s in the cities that all of our family members um, came to, to escape the South. These are actually the worst places for us. And in fact, the South is a tremendous economic power in our country. And if we reverse migrated and went back to southern states, he names about 12 or 15 southern states. And he’s like, listen, if Black people moved here en masse, we literally would control the electoral politics in these states. And if these states voted as a Black bloc, we could literally control all of the elections in this country. You know, that’s my kind of stuff. I like that kind of stuff. And so um, you know, he talks a lot about, you know, Black cities. He talks about what we gave up in the Great Migration. We had economic power. We had land, we had social capital. We had all kinds of things that we gave up to live in projects and tenements in Chicago and New York and whatever. And he lays out a really clear, like and reasonable proposition um for getting Black political power back. And I think um, I like I want, I want my family to read this and talk about it at Thanksgiving because I’m like, yo, we need to move back to South Carolina where our people came from and get us some land and start doing the thing. Um. And I do I mean, we are seeing some migration southward. Um. But he really calls the question and I just, I think it is worth considering, um when we think about, you know we’re arguing about voting and what Black men think about Trump and da da da. The real game is how do we re-amass black political power? And Charles Blow’s is an easy read. And it’s a very interesting read. And so that’s my recommendation.
Myles E. Johnson: Can I say something about both of y’alls books. When it comes to Crack is King and Charles Blow’s um text is that I think what also I love about you all bringing those texts, specifically those, is that it demystifies and like some things that kind of exist in the Black and in my imagination as like, almost like folklore, like there’s a lot of like conspir– if you if you go on the internet, if you hear certain people talk about it, everybody has a different way of how the how that time went, you know, and, and and what and what happens. And I love that these are texts that really can be like a like truth telling mechanisms. To to to, to to save you too. Um. Specifically when I think about crack in, in that era, I think that I love that there’s a text where if you read it, you’re informed, you know, and you know what happened during that time. Um. When there’s so many narratives running around about what happened during that time. Both political narratives that are lies on purpose and then also just people’s own, like spreading misinformation. So I love those suggestions for those reasons too.
De’Ara Balenger: My, my, my book for this question was Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde. And this book I always go back to is so compelling to me in the current political and social moment we’re in. I think we’re in a culture of just throwing tomatoes at everything with little introspection. Where just what does that person say I should say? And that’s what everyone follows and says, and so I think we’re just not in a space of asking a lot of questions or just provocative thought. And I think that Audre Lorde is such a challenger of every type of, of, of thought, of idea. And I and I think that’s really what I’m looking for in this moment is how can we ask deeper questions, better questions. How can we question things that are happening to us? Because I feel like we do have a shared language, generally shared language understanding around, you know, particular constructs when it comes to racism and homophobia and transphobia, etc.. But I we’re just we’re so far from being where we need to be. And I think part of how we can get there is asking the right questions. We don’t always have to have the answer that we can tweet in a moment’s notice, but how can we think more deeply and thoughtfully about what’s happening to us? So that’s the book I like to go to as a guide, because she’s just a brilliant, brilliant thinker that picks and picks and picks and picks and picks. Um. And still may not arrive at an answer, but the journey helps you get so much understanding and clarity.
Myles E. Johnson: I know that I’m not the only person who feels this way, but I know Audre Lorde the essay, The Uses of the Erotic inside of the Sister Outsider, outsider um uh book. It is it blew my mind because for so long and to your point, there’s so many writers and thinkers who either tell a problem, pick a fight like that was it. I had not necessarily seen a Black lesbian woman cause a problem and arrive at solution. And it’s there’s the audacity too, I think it’s there’s there’s there’s a certain confidence you have to have in your own intelligence to be able to name a solution, even if the solution uh gets critiqued or if it gets picked apart or whatever. She really says, there’s a, there’s a I’m not just going to name that there’s there’s this patriarchal force in our um in our society that’s causing people to have pornographic relationships with both their bodies and with and with each other and stuff like that. And, and I’m going to theorize around the erotic and the uses of that in, in, in and she she she’s she obv– she she arrives at an answer and I don’t know, there was something just like illuminating and inspiring about reading that text that made me want to think differently, that made me want to be different. Um. It made me want to, even if it’s dangerous, even if I’m proven wrong, even if it’s critiqued. I said [?] oh I really do not want to arrive at a whole bunch of problems and not have too many solutions to them, or answers, or the beg– or or started, you know, the same thing with science. Somebody has to theorize though I think this might be it child. And then 300 scientists say, no, that wasn’t it. You lied. But you have to be that first brave scientist to to to put the the chemicals in. Don’t get me started. Like I know what science scientists do, but [laugh] you have to be the first brave scientist to start, you know, using different compounds and having a theory and, and, and maybe this is it and, you know, I think and I think that Audre Lorde did that so beautifully um throughout Sister Outsider, but specifically the uses of erotica, it it to me that and the Nap Ministry’s um the Rest of Resistance they are they are sister texts when it comes to um politicizing things that are not seen as political and using them to um uh broaden our like, point of view and br– and broaden how we see things and how we engage with life and re– and and last thing I’ll say, because I’m a geek for Audre Lord. But the last thing I’ll say is that she also made like, it’s like that um it’s it’s that audacity that you feeling good or feeling good is a, is a part of the political plan too. That, that that is a part of the political plan too. I think Rest as resistance and that, that specific essay, but also Audre Lorde’s work. She’s the one who came up with self-care that everybody’s bastardized and–
Kaya Henderson: Was revolutionary.
Myles E. Johnson: Yeah.
De’Ara Balenger: Yes.
Kaya Henderson: Yeah, yeah.
Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. So yeah, I think that’s just I love me some Audre Lorde. Oh my lord. [laughter]
DeRay Mckesson: The cool thing about this book is one is that uh it used to be, I don’t know if it still is. But it used to be in the International Baccalaureate curriculum, which I just love. I love that high schoolers were reading this text. I think that is incredible. I wish I had read it in high school. I didn’t get to experience any of Audre Lorde until I was in college. Uh. But the essay that I that really changed my life and made me think about how I thought about utility was the transformation of silence into language, into language and action, which begins, um I’ve come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised and misunderstood. That the speaking prophets me beyond any other effect. I’d always been like, well, what is it? Why why do we need to say the thing if we already know the thing? And you know, what does it mean to tell people things that they already like and then this essay, this is just the beginning of it. But this essay helped me understand the political power, both the saying the thing and just the personal importance of getting out and sharing with people. Even if people push it and disagree with it or use it in ways that are not your intent uh sometimes, like the act of of getting it out and and the act of not being silent is actually a powerful and political thing. I didn’t understand that until I read this essay.
Kaya Henderson: It’s so interesting. I feel like last year, um during the Blackest Book Club, I, Myles brought All About Love by Bell Hooks and I was like, you know what? I’m a read that, and I feel like this is the thing that I’m like, you know what? I got to read this. Um. I read it a zillion years ago, and I can’t remember what I had for lunch, but I remember it making me think a lot about what being a Black woman means, right? And as we think about where we are in this country and who we are and how Black women are treated. I, I want my leadership and my, you know, narrative to be tied to my Black femininity. Like, I I don’t want to like you know there are people who are like, I’m not a great Black leader. I’m just a great leader. No, no, I want to be a great Black woman leader, because my Black woman-ness is part of who I am. And I feel like Audre Lorde gives us permission to inhabit Black femininity in all of its divine power. Like, I want to lead with emotion. I want to lead with caring. I want to lead with all of the things that, you know, the world says we shouldn’t be. I also want to lead in a collective way, and I feel like, you know, part of what I remember of this collection is it calls us to be in, in relationship differently with other Black women, whew child, we need to read about that. Um. And it calls us to redefine our relationship with white women. It calls us to rethink our relationships with Black men, because we can’t get free unless we all getting free together. And so I’m this is the one that I’m going to go um, this is the one from somebody else’s list that I’m going to go back to and dig deep into. Um. Because this is like a right now word, probably, uh for where I am in my thinking, so thanks for bringing it, De’Ara.
Myles E. Johnson: To piggyback off of what Kaya said. Kaya, auntie Kaya. Um. I think also, when it comes to this specific text with Audre Lorde, um and I think about Pat Parker too, who’s not even. If Audre Lorde’s not talked about, Pat Parker is like car– people just don’t talk about her. But like, these are lesbian Black women. And I think there’s something about lesbian Black women who create text, who think, who are um who make poetry, who are writing essays, who, who, uh who are theorizing about Black womanhood and the state of Black womanhood that are not um, so engaged with the with the patriarchal standards when some [?] when that is like a or it has been ruptured and and maybe the ways that you’re thinking about liberation are not including um that are queered are not including um traditional uh women uh dynamics, um are not thinking about um your desirability or, or anything like that when it comes to um uh with other men, I think there’s something acutely radical that’s birthed when that is not inside of your consideration. I think that’s also why I think that all um straight women, cis het women should be reading the trans authors, trans Black authors and lesbian um Black women authors, because there’s a way when you’re not necessarily um dancing with certain devils, there’s there’s heaven. Here I go. There’s heavens you can imagine when you’re not dancing with certain devils. And I think that that it’s, I found that really useful in um to all my straight and cis Black women, um who have read those texts and been like, oh, wow, that that made me think about something differently because she’s not concerned about that, [laugh] you know. And it made me think about being more radical. So I’m excited to hear what your thoughts are about that too. That’s going to be a good talk.
DeRay Mckesson: Kaya, I love that, and I love this idea. You know, people do the language of, you know, I’m a good leader. I’m not just a good Black leader. I’m like, that is so that became sort of like, popular at a point for people to say. As some like like elevated standard that like being a Black leader is like less excellent than being and like, that was the way people and people in, in rooms that were like ostensibly pro Black people would say that. And I would be sitting there like being Black is the honor of my life like that is like I that’s my superpower. I’m like, excited to be Black. Um. So I love you saying that because that is true of me too. I want to be the best Black leader you’ve met. You know, I want to. I want to lean into that. Um. I don’t want to run away for it, or I don’t want to explain it away, which is what people do. I don’t want to have to contextualize it for you about how Black is excellent as well. I want Black to be the thing that you see and like yes. Um. So I love that. Thank you Kaya. Pouring into pouring into us on this fine February Black History Month day. Hallelujah.
Myles E. Johnson: Okay, okay. Okay. Because it’s such an intellectual relic from, like, segregation, right? Like, it’s like you have to you have to see the water fountain in your heads in order to even arrive at that. It’s the whites only and the Black only uh water fountain so I feel like it’s always stemmed from that. Never just thinking about how great Black Black leadership is leadership. [laugh] We taught people how to lead.
De’Ara Balenger: Mm hmm.
DeRay Mckesson: And we built all of this. It’s fine just to remind people. [laughter]
Kaya Henderson: Y’all, I told you this was one of my favorite things on the pod. And um, we are just getting started, so thank you for sharing um today. And I’m excited about next week and the week after and the week after that, because all this month, we’ll be talking about the books that we’ve selected. Again, go on our social media and you’ll see all of the books that we’ve selected. You’ll also see books that we selected for young people. Um. Tell your friends to tune in. This month is an excit– I mean, first of all, you should be listening to us all the time. You should be telling all your friends to tune in all the time. But, um tell them come and get some of this good, good literature. Tell them to come and get some of this good, good nonfiction. Tell them to come and get some good reading stuff in the month of the kickoff month for Black History year, because that’s what it is. Black History Month is just the kickoff for Black History year, because Black history is American history and it’s happening all year. So thank y’all.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Well that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning in to Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out and make sure you 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 AJ Moultrié and mixed by Evan Sutton. Executive produced by me and special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger, and Myles E. Johnson. [music break]