Amanda Seales the Deal | Crooked Media
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October 24, 2023
Pod Save The People
Amanda Seales the Deal

In This Episode

DeRay, Kaya, De’Ara and Myles cover the underreported news of the week — Southern GOP’s latest attempt to steal the House, Chicago’s ongoing contract with ShotSpotter, the earliest known U.S. novel authored by an enslaved Black woman, and the secret world of immortality science. DeRay interviews Amanda Seales about her new political-comedy documentary ‘In Amanda We Trust‘.


North Carolina Republicans unveil map proposals that could help GOP gain up to four House seats in 2024

Searching for America’s First Black Woman Novelist

Once again, activists call for Mayor Johnson to get rid of ShotSpotter

So far, the Johnson admin has

Inside the secret world of immortality science







DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay and welcome to Pod Save the People. It’s me, Kaya, De’Ara and Myles talking about all the news that wasn’t talked about as much as it should have been in the past week, especially with regard to race and justice. And I learned some new stuff today that I didn’t know, so I hope you will too. And then I sit down and talk to comedian and activist Amanda Seales to talk about her new independent documentary entitled In Amanda We Trust. And Amanda was amazing. So here we go. Let’s jump into it. [music break]


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. 


Myle E. Johnson: I am Myles E. Johnson. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter, Threads, TikTok, at @pharaohrapture.


Kaya Henderson: I’m Kaya Henderson. You can find me at @HendersonKaya on Twitter. 


DeRay Mckesson: And this is DeRay at @deray on Twitter. 


Kaya Henderson: Well, friends, my news this week is coming out of the great state of North Carolina, where Republican legislators who hold a super majority in the state legislature released two redistricting proposals this past week. Currently, the state’s congressional delegation is split evenly, seven Republicans and seven Democrats, which actually reflects the political divide of North Carolina voters. Seems like that’s the way it should be, right? However, under the new proposal, three House Democrats and maybe a fourth would be put in an almost impossible to win situation because of the way they are gerrymandering these maps. The North Carolina Democratic Party condemned the proposals, of course, and the chair of the party, Anderson Clayton, said, diluting our voices, specifically the voices of people of color to entrench power is a manipulation of our democracy. And while you might think to yourself, well, the governor could just veto the maps, um the Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, does not have veto power over redistricting legislation in North Carolina. So what would happen if these maps are accepted? Um. The Republicans could win 11 of the 14 congressional districts in North Carolina. Um. And, you know, we’ve been in lots of conversations. We had the conversation about the Alabama redistricting a few weeks ago where the Supreme Court threw out their maps. They came back with another wack map and the court threw it out again. Um. And here we are, our friends in North Carolina who have not learned the lesson and are literally x-ing out, you know, mostly Black people’s votes in North Carolina. The only thing that might mitigate this when it comes to the national election is Democrats in New York. Democrats in New York pay attention. You could actually save us from this. The Dems in New York State have the power to do the redistricting maps in New York, and the way they draw their maps might cancel out any sort of national advantage that the Republicans have based on what’s happening in North Carolina. Okay. So how did this happen? Um. In 2022 the midterms provided wins for the North Carolina Republican Party. That, first of all, gave them greater authority over the redistricting process and it allowed them to flip the North Carolina Supreme Court. People think midterms don’t matter. Midterms matter significantly because when they got control of the court, the new GOP majority in the court threw out a ruling by the previous Democratic leaded court, which was a ruling against partisan gerrymandering. So the Democratic court said, you can’t gerrymander. The midterms happened, Republicans win. The Republican court says out with that, you can gerrymander. And that ruling created the maps that the first ruling created the maps that reflect the state’s currently evenly divided congressional delegation. But this new map will give Republicans 11 out of 14 seats in Congress, um and that will tip the majority in uh even more in the Republicans favor in this next presidential election. Um. And so or could if New York doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do um and so I brought this to the podcast because I feel like there is a lot going on in the world. Um. Of course, you know, Israel and Palestine, of course, um and all of the things that are happening right now and under our noses hardworking Republicans continue to encroach upon our Democratic and ideals um by disenfranchizing voters. And if we don’t pay attention, um we wake up and realize that North Carolina, which was a pretty purple state, has now gone completely and totally red because of people’s voting or not voting in midterm elections. So I brought this here because I think um there are so many things, you know, racism seeks to distract and there are so many other things that we are looking at that we’re not focusing on, things that are happening now. So to my friends in North Carolina, pay attention to what your GOP legislators are doing to my friends in New York. Pay attention to what your Democrats are doing with their redistricting maps because we might need you to save the republic. 


Myle E. Johnson: I am just beyond exhausted with us having to save ourselves from our own government. It’s like there’s so many things going on in the world. There’s so many things going on in this nation that are urgent. And then every now and again, aka every 24 hours, we have to make sure that the leak from the of the Titanic is not coming from the inside. Like we’re like, it’s like we have to worry about the icebergs that are um outside of us and then also these just selfish, narcissistic, evil people who want to drill holes in the boat today and it’s and inside the Titanic and it’s like I think the um the exhaustion of it is like hitting me, the intellectual exhaustion of it. And I think that’s probably the goal, right. To feel or to make people feel exhausted, make them feel like there’s not once you cover up one leaky hole, there’s another one to cover up. And I love that you bring this to the podcast because it fills me up with some type of will [laugh] to to continue to fight. But Jesus you all like. [laughing] It’s it’s it’s always another thing. It’s always another thing. 


De’Ara Balenger: What this took me to and I don’t know, I’ve been very much in a space of being connected to our ancestors. Um. And so it took me to what what was going on in North Carolina in terms of Black people in political engagement. So during Reconstruction, so from 1868 to 1900, there were 111. Come on Kaya, got on the reconstruction. [laughter] There were 111 Black men, albeit in the North Carolina legislature. The latest I can find in terms of numbers as of February 2023 was 26 Black folks. Now, from 1900 to 1968, which were our Jim Crow years. Zero Black folks. So for 68 years in North Carolina’s history, there was not one Black person in that legislature. And so it brings us to today. And I you know, I think it’s, these I think I’ve thought of what’s happening today and what happened years ago. Like definitely a through line. But I think in just like how I was seeing them, it was sort of disconnected. But I think stepping into the feet of our ancestors, it’s like what happened between 1900 and 1968 can happen today in 2023, and it looks like that is what’s happening. So you know, I think I think that’s the the fascinating part to me is that you know, we’re going to continue to be in this struggle, but like, how are we going to orient ourselves in this struggle and how are we going to partner, work with our people. So that we don’t get back to zero zero Black folks in the North Carolina legislature and beyond. Because they’re coming. They’re coming for us.


DeRay Mckesson: What this reminds me–


De’Ara Balenger: They’re coming. They’re coming for us. 


DeRay Mckesson: De’Ara, I didn’t know any of those numbers about the Reconstruction era, Kaya thank you for bringing this, because I hadn’t heard about it at all. And Myles, I think you’re right. You’re like, whew, there are fights on every front it feels like. What this reminded me of is is that they cannot win without cheating. 


De’Ara Balenger: Right. 


Kaya Henderson: Ooo. 


DeRay Mckesson: That is the like–


De’Ara Balenger: Right. 


DeRay Mckesson:  –that is just [?]. 


Kaya Henderson: C’mon you better preach. [clapping]


De’Ara Balenger: Right. 


Kaya Henderson: You better preach. 


Myle E. Johnson: Come on. Oh.


DeRay Mckesson: That like if we play–


Kaya Henderson: There’s a word, there’s a word.


DeRay Mckesson: –by the rules. 


Kaya Henderson: Yep. 


DeRay Mckesson: They will lose. That’s just a game. That’s what’s true. And the question for us in the organizing world becomes, how do we help people realize that they are cheating? Like this is not you know, they are cheating. This is they are cheating. You know, but they can’t win if you play by the rules and as all of you know, the more people that vote, the more likely the Dems are going to win. Not even because people have some deep, what annoys me about this conversation is that people think that Black people or the left da da da have some deep affiliation with the party. They don’t. People hate the Democratic Party on the left. We just know that the alternative is literally trying to kill us. So like when people sit up and make a choice, they are like, do I get the people that I’m like, shakey town about or do I get the people who are like, you aren’t people? And you’re like, well, that’s not a hard choice. That is actually a pretty easy choice. And when I think about this situation that you described to us in North Carolina, it is a reminder, again, that like they know that people will make that calculus when they have to and they are rigging the game. So that even when you choose, even when you vote, even when you do all the things, it is impossible for your vote to matter. And, you know, yeah, I you know, we got to I don’t even want to say we got to play the game like them. We got to make the game fair. 


De’Ara Balenger: That’s it. 


DeRay Mckesson: That’s the that’s the goal. The game has to be fair.


Kaya Henderson: Mmn ooo, I needed that word this morning honey.


Myle E. Johnson: That was–


Kaya Henderson: Thank you brother DeRay. 


Myle E. Johnson: That was so good.


Kaya Henderson: Mmm. 


DeRay Mckesson: So mine is about Brandon Johnson, the mayor of Chicago. And I just wanted to bring this here because there’s this conversation happening online about his recent moves. And it made me think about what is our relationship to elected officials that we like? What is our relationship to elected officials that we work really hard to get in office? What is our relationship to elected officials that we identify with and that speak to our lives and our struggles? And somebody said it better than me. But this idea that you don’t have to consider them your adversary, but they are definitely your opponent. And I think that is true. So when you think about Brandon Johnson, uh Brandon, when he campaigned, he said that he was going to get rid of ShotSpotter, which is the technology that purports to detect gunshots, and um he didn’t. So the first news that came out about ShotSpotter is when the contract got renewed in Chicago. Again, he said this as a declarative statement when he ran. What he so all of a sudden the contract gets paid. And then his response is it essentially was on auto pay from the last administration. And the city of Chicago just automatically paid the new contract for ShotSpotter. And everybody was like, well, that feels really, you know, like auto pay? It feels like a weird way to justify that one. But okay, boom. And then he appoints this guy to, like, run public safety. This guy will not say he’s against ShotSpotter. Mind you, Brandon ran this is one of the claims that he made when he ran. He just approved the police union contract that gave essentially more money to the police then even Lori Lightfoot did, and he increased the police department budget. These are all essentially things that he said he was not going to do when he ran. Now the question becomes, what do we do again when our friends, when people we like, people we identify run and my reminder in this is that these people, even when we like them, have a job to do. And that we really do ourselves a disservice when we like if we the way I think about it is like if we can’t tell the truth to our friends then we are really down bad. And if we can’t hold our friends accountable, then we are the we are down super bad. And I’ve seen people struggle to be critical of Brandon’s decisions, Mayor Johnson’s decisions because he was a teacher and the teachers union and da da da da da da da. And I and it’s like, buddy. You making some bad decisions and we got to call them out. And that doesn’t mean that the alternative guy was better. He was crazy. But, Mayor Johnson, you got to step it up and I think about this with Biden. I think about there are a host of people who like we like them. They do good things and they make decisions that don’t make sense. And we have to name them every time as well. 


Kaya Henderson: This is curious to me because if I remember the Chicago election between um Johnson and Paul Vallas was the opponent. Vallas was heavy on the like more money for police, tough on crime da da da da. And Johnson, you know, positioned himself as the opposite of that right um of being reasonable. He spoke out against ShotSpotter, it’s racist, it’s blah, blah, blah and whatnot. And he gave more than $10 million dollars more to ShotSpotter than the previous administration. Like his signature, it was not autopay. The article that I read, I’ll put it in the thing says that his signature approved giving $10 million dollars more to ShotSpotter. Um. And so there’s a question of are you not paying attention to what’s happening? Do you not do you not believe what you used to believe? Like, what is going it you know, I think there is also a question around um sort of what union loyalties, you know, how they play into this, because as we know, labor, you know, often supports other labor organizations. And so um it really is I mean, I appreciate you, DeRay, sort of saying all our all our people might not be our people all the time. Basically is is what you’re saying. And I appreciate you providing some nuance and saying we’re not saying, you know, anti Brandon Johnson, but we are saying we have to call out, you know, [?] nonsense when we see [?] nonsense and this is incoherent, this is misaligned. And mostly this is harmful to the Black community that Brandon Johnson, you know, represents um or at least claims to represent. So um this is interesting. And it’ll be this is going to make me pay more attention to the sort of policy decisions coming out of the Johnson administration in Chicago to see if he’s walking the talk or if he perpetrated a fraud. 


De’Ara Balenger: I’m just going back into the articles, just DeRay about this, the ShotSpotter payment, because that is I think that’s a curious thing for me too, where it’s like we mistakenly we unwittingly signed something that the previous mayor da da da da da. And I’m just like. In addition to being held accountable by activists, do you all some help with some interns or something in there? Just also– [laughing] 


Myle E. Johnson: You’re hiring. 


DeRay Mckesson: Right? It’s like, can somebody check auto pay? Do we need to have De’Ara on assignment to check the auto pay bills in Chicago?


De’Ara Balenger: Listen. But I do you know I, my compassion comes in because these are huge cities with huge bureaucracies. Um. And it is it is sort of an impossible task to make sure that you are on top of every single thing at every single moment. But it’s also democracy. So it is if you do misstep, that’s when folks are like, uh remember you said you was going to do X, Y, and Z. So I think it’s to me, it’s it’s just it is a reflection of things working. And I think, DeRay, when you bring up the Biden administration. You know, they are acting on the acting for the communities they hear from most. And I think that’s most elected officials. And so I think we we have to do an even greater job of of ringing the alarm and being as vocal as possible. Because if we just think if we were had not been watching this, it would have it would have gone on and no one would have known the, you know, been the wiser. So this one was really, really interesting. And now more curious about Brandon Johnson. Um. I hadn’t really been paying attention to Brandon Johnson, Brandon Johnson in Chicago at all, given that I live in New York with Mayor Adams, it’s it’s hard to pay attention to all these other mayors when we got what we got going on here. I am in Houston at the moment. And I can’t wait to see the faces on this screen when I remind everyone that Sheila Jackson Lee is running for mayor of Houston. I’m a leave that there.


Kaya Henderson: Say what now? 


DeRay Mckesson: And the party just endorsed her, uh Jeffries–


Kaya Henderson: Hoowee. 


DeRay Mckesson: –just just came out and supported her. 


De’Ara Balenger: Mm mm mm. Mmm mmm mm.


Myle E. Johnson: Yeah, I think I have, like, a more general thing to say. Um, and it’s been cooking in my brain, and it’s still a little gooey, so if it’s not coming out quite right. You know, blame it blame it on my mind not my heart. But [laugh] it just. I think we’ve expired the time uh the time of pretending that these officials are doing things perfectly is expired. I feel like there was like this weird time that Trump, when Trump left. And even now, because everything’s happening and Republicans are doing, you know, just evil villain type of stuff, I think that sometimes it impairs our ability to critique and it impairs our um ability to hold these officials accountable. And what I’m seeing is this frustration with we can’t really say what we want to say about Biden or really can’t really critique what we want to say about these officials because we’re afraid that that’s all we have. But at the end of the day, the whole system is not on awe inspiring. [laugh] There’s things that are wrong. There are things go, happening that are wrong there are there are there is incompetence that needs to be called out. We can’t be afraid of expecting excellence. And that’s what sometimes it feels like, that we can’t expect excellence because then we’re going to end up with horrendous. And and I just feel the the frustration with that inside of me and I know if I’m feeling it. Other people are feeling it too, and we are going into 2024. It is going to be an election year. I am so excited and horrified and I think that is going to be the thing, like just taking it to, I guess, you know, the national like sector like we have like we Biden is is is not is not just going to be you’re not the right opponent you know and yeah again a gooey thought it is not necessarily cooked all the way but I’m just feeling that frustration around having to be silenced or having to edit yourself just to make sure things keep going along and getting along. Thank you all for riding that ride with me. [laugh]


DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People. Stay tuned, there’s more to come. 




Myle E. Johnson: So first of all, I want to uh just say that, yes, I am coming out on this podcast. As you know, beautiful and beautiful topics are interesting to me. And when it comes to last week’s body image and this week, anti-aging, because that’s what beautiful people think about. And this this conversation I really wanted to bring to the podcast, A, because I love throwing things in all these brilliant people’s minds to hear their opinions. But the reason why it was interesting to me is because it feels like there’s a little bit of a guilt piece that’s missing from the article. So let me tell you what the article is about. Dazed magazine released this interview with this multimillionaire named Bryan Johnson. Bryan Johnson is described in the Dazed article as a vampire millionaire. That means he’s doing all types of weird stuff with his son’s blood [laughing] to make him be to make him seem um alive and and and and and all types of details about DNA [?] in technology that makes, basically it makes your life span um longer. The reason I’m always kind of reading articles about how just what’s going on culturally and what people are doing and the gaps are so wide that it’s fascinating that all this stuff is happening. Some people are living science fiction novels, while other people are like living these uh 16th century, you know, horrors. And we’re on the same planet in the same timeline. That’s always fascinating to me. But this was really interesting because, A, there are other things to worry about and then, B, the piece around wanting to live forever feels like we’re not necessarily getting to the fact that I really feel like these people are afraid to die, but not in the regular existential in my agnostic atheist, do I believe in life after death. Not in that way, but in the way that they’re afraid of consequence. They’re afraid of of they’re afraid they’re afraid of less of there being oblivion in death. But more they’re afraid of there actually being responsibility for what you did in death. And so sometimes I see these article. Sometimes I see these articles and I see this huge industry around that anxiety. And in all of these practices that they’re doing sound just as absurd as the evil that they’re letting that that they’re letting happen. The the the the getting so much money and not thinking to share and getting so much money and not thinking to how am I going to let humanity happen is no it’s how do I live 250 years and and not live the last 50 years in bed. Um. I’m going to read a little piece from the article that I found absolutely fascinating. And again, it’s a it’s a it’s a kind of a long interview. So definitely go um go read it. It’s on. It’s on Dazed. Then there’s Bryan Johnson. You might know him as the multimillionaire who drained blood from his teenage son in a bid to extend his own life. Since launching his Experimental Blueprint project a couple of years ago, Jonathan has evangelized for a holistic approach to anti-aging at every opportunity. His output, which is which showcases the expensive treatments he tests exclusively on himself, ranges from magazine interviews to glossy YouTube vlogs to Dank memes. If we need help, um defining dank memes I got y’all. Then this was a quote from him. “Blueprint was a contemplation of what it will mean to be human in the coming decades and centuries,” Johnson says, “looking back on projects not so humble beginnings,” he points out that we spent a lot of time talking about how to build better technologies, computers, smartphones, virtual reality or AI, and worrying about their risk. We spend disappointingly less time thinking about the future of us. That said, his vision for the future of humanity often means integrating with these emerging technologies. For example, he’s developed a specialized algorithm to process all of the data he collects about himself, match it up with relevant science, and turn it into actual anti-aging treatments. In a nutshell, an algorithm runs me, he says. Initially, when people hear the idea, they think it sounds dystopian. The majority of my time is spent explaining the nuances. So again, I think that what this does do is put me in the mind of some of these people. And, of course. I don’t want to make it seem like millionaires or billionaires are a are a race group. But I do think there’s there’s a commonality [laugh] in how they’re thinking. So it’s putting me in the minds of what is is causing anxiety in these groups of people and what they’re concentrated on. And to me, this is connected to like the moon conversations, the submarine, the all these different things that we’re that they’re doing to almost escape the reality and I think in times like this, specifically, with everything happening nationally and globally, I wonder why are we try– what’s the motivation to be here if you’re not putting your money towards having clean air? What’s the motivation for you to be here if you’re not putting the money towards it being a safe place that isn’t um overrun with uh terrorists and isn’t overrun with crime? Like what what is your purpose to be here? I saw Fran Lebowitz um in Kings Theater a couple of days ago on Saturday, um and she had this comment that really rang in my ear. She says uh millionaires and billionaires often think that that because they live in different worlds and they’re in Aspen, that there is different air, but there’s not a different air. So everybody should be concerned about environmentalism. Everybody should be concerned about these other um these kind of global pursuits that the left is offering. And it’s articles like this and stories like this that remind me that there is an intellectual logic gap that I don’t know how to fill. Like, I don’t know how somebody can look at the Doomsday Clock and hear environmentalist and then think yeah, I want to put 150 years on my life. But the planet is telling you that you y’all got to go. We’re getting eviction notices in the forms of natural disasters all the time. [laughter] So–


De’Ara Balenger: That part. [laughter]


Kaya Henderson: Eviction notices. Tell it.


Myle E. Johnson: So I’m just super confused. So, yeah, I don’t have an assessment of it, but I wanted to bring that thought to you all like what do you all think is that gap. I wanted to hear Auntie Kaya’s uh creepy [laughter] you know, the creepier the better with Auntie Kaya, I love seeing her reaction to it. So I wanted to hear her thoughts about it, but also just kind of dig into what is happening that’s making people be so narcissistic, to be so scared, to be so obsessed with their own individual life, but not think but where what if there’s not an earth for this life to be on? If this if the other people who I am inhabiting this long life with um hate me. Well like what what what in your mind is going to happen? Are you just going to, like, figure out the cuter life and then move to the moon? Like, is that, is that the plan? Yeah. What’s going on uh millionaire [?] friends. [laughter]


De’Ara Balenger: You know what this makes me want to ask, though, is like. It’s like, who who are your people? Like where you come from? Well–


Myle E. Johnson: Count Dracula apparently. 


De’Ara Balenger: –and that’s what I’m saying is that no mention. I’ve done looked at all kinds of articles about this man. It doesn’t talk about who his parents are, what values he got from his parents, who his community truly is beyond the Amazon man and the Tesla guy. I think you know, and you all know I’m just coming off my dad passing on September 29th. And one thing that has comforted me about my dad’s passing is that my dad lived with purpose. Okay? Every single day. Purpose. And I think that’s what’s missing for these folks, Myles, is that their purpose is so self-centered and so inward that, yeah, they want to extend their lives because they they’re like, we ain’t done nothing to help nobody while we here, so what is our karmic future in the afterlife? So I don’t know. That’s what this takes me to. I’m just like, they just seem like they are lost, lost, lost out here, so disconnected from whomever their ancestors are, so disconnected from who the community is and as extension of that Mother Earth. Like I just and all the pictures of this man online, I’m going to have nightmares. I can’t, listen. [pause] That’s all I got to say. 


Myle E. Johnson: Because we don’t have television right now. Auntie Kaya has her um thumb and her index finger on her chin, looking Auntified and and confused in a very butter pecan um way. 


Kaya Henderson: So, first of all. [laughing] Oh, my gosh. So, first of all, like, I just I mean, I read this and I’m like, say, what now? And so let me just read this one thing. Through various treatments involving lasers and light therapy, gene therapies, countless skincare products, a prohibitively precise diet plan, intense workouts, and a regimen of more than 100 pills per day. He’s trying to rejuvenate his skin alongside the rest of his body. Yes, all of it. All of it y’all. Um. To the quality of an 18 year old. He also colors his hair, though he’s actively looking for alternatives to rejuvenate the pigment. Like he’s 46. He wants to be 18, and he feels like the future is going to be exciting. And so he wants to stick around to um be here for it. I mean, the short answer is child, bye. But oh you want to engage and so I will I will engage. I you know, I’m I’m the old lady of the group, right? I just turned 53 and I am embracing being an old lady. I know I’m I’m clear that I’m not well I’m embracing middle age. I’m embracing growing older gracefully and like, as I look out at I mean, it’s interesting, Myles and De’Ara that you sort of asked, who are his people? Who is his community? Who is he surrounded by? Because I do think that community matters a lot in terms of what our outlook is about the about aging and the end of life. And like, I just think about like how I think about my grandmother, who, you know, was 89 and lived one of the most joyful lives that I have ever known, especially as she got older. I think about, you know, I mean, I have lots of elderly men and women in my life who maybe became their most beautiful when they got old. Right. And and who were not spending all their time trying to hack life. Right. Who were embracing life the way it was intended to be. I think about the Black community that surrounds me and how people are prioritizing, you know, farming. I think about my Indigenous friends who are bringing Indigenous earth practices back to the forefront. I’m thinking about how we are, how cooking is changing for us, right? And and at a time where some set of people is trying to out tech themselves into the future, I think many of us are going back to the practices that have withstood the test of time over centuries and generations. And so I do think that ultimately this boils down to who are your people? Because my people tell me that growing old is beautiful my my people tell me that there is wisdom in age. My people tell me that gray hair is beautiful. One of my best friends has a full head of gray hair. And honey, you can’t go nowhere without men knocking themselves down to get at her like and so I do just think that we fundamentally have different um ideas about the end of life and aging based on who our people are. And this dude need to get him some new people. 


De’Ara Balenger: I will also say that somebody needs to check this man’s basements because this is also giving me some get out stuff. And what is he not telling us? Because I’m sure he is I’m sure he’s looked at Black people and been like, what now why do you Kaya look like that at 53? So he might honestly go lock your door Kaya, right now, please. [laughing]


Kaya Henderson: I look I also want to know I also want to know who what mother is letting her 18 year old son–


De’Ara Balenger: That part.


Kaya Henderson: –give his blood to his–


De’Ara Balenger: That part. 


Kaya Henderson: –daddy so that he can live forever but.


DeRay Mckesson: This makes me think not to be that guy who’s like capitalism is destroying everything. But Lord knows people don’t need excess wealth. You’re like, you know, this is what happens when you just got all that money just sitting around.


Kaya Henderson: And time and time on your hands. 


DeRay Mckesson: And done nothing to help nobody and can’t even you not even enjoying it out in the world. When I first read this, I was like, oh, he’s 80. He not even 80, this man 40 something. You’re like buddy. And also, there’s another article that I didn’t put in the chat, but there’s another billionaire who the guy who started Lululemon actually uh has a rare disease, and he is single handedly funding the pharmaceutical industry to create medicine to attack the disease because the pharmaceutical industry was like not enough people get this for there to be medicine and he is pouring his wealth into funding it and it just is a reminder that, like money is making a lot of decisions that, you know, other things should be making is one. The second is like I and I didn’t even think about like, where are your people as a response to this? But that is true. Like you aren’t even, like, enjoy like, part of the beauty of life is that it is finite. That you like know, you know it’s coming, you know. And the question becomes, how do you make it matter in the in the in-between? And if if capitalism is your goal and you have amassed as much money as can be gotten, I get how that would create an anxiety like that is if that is your animating feature in the world. I get how when you reach that point, you’re like, well I just want to be here forever da da da cause you there is no purpose. There is no meaning. Like that was the one thing and you did it. And that just isn’t what a full life looks like. 


De’Ara Balenger: Well. Speaking of fascinating white men. My news today is about Hannah Crafts, who is was an enslaved woman who wrote a novel that was years, I think, in 2000, discovered by Henry Louis Gates. And then maybe it was even prior to 2000. Um. And then he he then went out, Henry Louis Gates, and published this manuscript. But evidently, in the literary community, there’s always been push back like, hmm, is this true? Could a slave wom– enslaved woman really written this? [sigh] So part of this took me back to remember when we talked about the portrait of Bélizaire? So the enslaved young boy that was in the portrait that was covered up. Right. And part of that was like– 


Kaya Henderson: Oh, yes. 


De’Ara Balenger: You know, Black people in nice clothes didn’t exist in the late 1800s. I mean, it just it blows my mind, just like the thought the thought around that Black folks wouldn’t have a skill set or proclivity to, you know, write a beautiful novel. Um. But anyway, so this New York Times article, which when I saw the headline, I was like, ooh, fascinating. And and I actually I need to go buy Hannah Crafts by Henry Louis Gates is the the published novel that he put out for Hannah Crafts, because I wasn’t quite I wasn’t that familiar with her. I don’t know what I was doing in 2002. I think I was in law school when I really wasn’t reading any novels. Um. But anyway, this this. So the manuscript, the the, the the novel gets published. There’s all this pushback around, can this be true? Is this truly resourced? Yada, yada, yada. So this guy, Gregg, I’m going to butcher his last name Hecimovich. Gregg goes on this campaign to really prove to to prove because we’ve got to prove that this Black woman has written this manuscript. So he’s done all these years of research and, and, and now have put together kind of this biography of Hannah Crafts, who she was. But not only that, like who her descendants are. What you really don’t get from this article is who Hannah Crafts is. But what you get from the article is how grateful we’re supposed to be to Gregg in his efforts to [laughing] to legitimize this Black woman. And when you Google Hannah Crafts now, guess whose photo pops up? It’s Gregg’s. [laughter] So I guess my struggle in this is my struggle in this is [laughter] well what listen, the article to me. I’m like, you know what? You know, it’s for it’s for the right audience it’s doing what it’s supposed to be doing because like, now I’m like, I got to figure out who Hannah Crafts is so that I can have my own experience with Hannah Crafts in a way that is not seen through the prism of this white man. Right. And, you know, clapping my hands that he went out and did this research. But it’s still the way and I remember this with the Bélizaire portrait. It’s the way that the information is presented to us, right? It’s like we’re going to cover this story because this story has been legitimized by a white lens. And so therefore, it is it is good enough for us to bring it to you. And when you go into this article and you kind of click on the articles back to 2002 when Henry Louis Gates came out, put this the Bonds woman narrative out in the world, all the language around it is still slave woman this and slave woman that. So at least the New York Times has evolved so that now we’re at least saying because the headline of this actually just says America’s first Black woman novelist. And to me that is that is that is progress in that it’s not you know first novel by a slave woman is found and da da da da. So all that to say I had lots of feels about this article. You all should read it. I am now going to spend my next couple of weeks getting into Hannah Crafts so I can figure out for myself who this woman is, and I’m sure I will have a deep appreciation and gratitude for her. 


Myle E. Johnson: It will be a beautiful day when other people specifically um resourced white people, um actually engage with the Black mind and imagination experience as a tool, you know, to know that like oh actually the work is not done until the Black person has engaged with it, until there’s been other people doing it. And it’s and it’s a tool it’s not just um what looks good. It’s not a vanity idea. It’s also a tool that needs to be centered because if not, this these are the kind of uh storytelling things that happen and this is the kind of erasure that um that can take place. But besides that, thank you for bringing this person to um my I just I had no idea that you educated me um Auntie De’Ara.


Kaya Henderson: Um. I will say, De’Ara, that’s not exactly how I thought this conversation was going to go. Um. [laugh] I was [laughing] I was first of all, I had never heard of uh Hannah Crafts. I feel like I’ve heard of the Bonds women’s narrative, which is the book that she wrote. Um. But I haven’t I hadn’t read it. And now I’m really, really intrigued and am am going to pick it up. Um. But this story, I mean, [sigh] like one thing that I I will I’ll I’ll just say in my reading of the thing is it wasn’t like has some of it set out to legitimize it. And in fact, he thought she couldn’t have written a book and he set out to prove that it she was not the author of the book. Right. Henry Louis Gates found the manuscript and he was like, oh, yeah, this Black lady wrote this novel. I’m a publish it. And the people were like, nuh uh the Black lady couldn’t have written this novel. And so they asked for the papers of her enslaver at Mr. Professor Hecimovich’s university, and he jumped in and was going to prove that she didn’t write it. And his research then unearthed that in fact she did write it. And what was interesting to me about this is it tells a very different story. I mean, the book I want to read the book because apparently it really tells a first person’s account of slavery in ways that we don’t usually get to hear. Much of it very, very gruesome in ways that somebody describes like even reasonable people think is too much or something like that. But um this this Hannah Crafts master, or their the family that owned her apparently prized literacy amongst their slaves and taught their slaves how to, their enslaved people how to read and write. And that is not a narrative that we usually get out of, out of slavery times. We get that it was dangerous, that it was, you know, punishable by death to be able to learn and read, learn to read and write. And somehow or another, this particular family thinks it enough of their enslaved people to actually educate them. In fact, um one of the criticisms as to why it could not have been written by an enslaved person is because it actually pulled on themes from Victorian novels like Dickens and in Mr. Hecimovich’s research, he finds out that next door to the the enslavers home is some kind of a women’s college or something and they have Bleak House the Dickens book in the library. And so and it seems like from her writings, she could have gotten access to the lessons from the students and the thing. And so for me, it’s also interesting because it provides an alternative to the regular narrative about um about slavery that and literacy. Right. And, you know, I’m super interested in education. And I mean, this is a 304 or 305 page novel like so this woman had time on her hands to write. She had resources to write. And, you know, he says, at some point, I wonder why she didn’t publish it. Well, I don’t know a whole lot of publishers–


De’Ara Balenger: Gosh man. 


Kaya Henderson: –at that point who were publishing Black people’s–


De’Ara Balenger: What? 


Kaya Henderson: –anything. [laugh] Um. But I do feel like, you know, the historical universe, you know, gave us a little carrot and allows us to jump into this. It also, like it just surfaced some new things for me. She lived, she went she escaped, Hannah Craft escapes–


De’Ara Balenger: And she was in North Carolina, by the way. 


Kaya Henderson: And she–


De’Ara Balenger: So this is like a really interesting through line through our early conversation. 


Kaya Henderson: Whew child. And she moves to Timbuktu, an all Black settlement. And I didn’t know about Timbuktu, so I got to do a little research on that. So I just found this chock full of interesting information that makes me want to learn more. Um. And it just shows that Black women been killing the game since the beginning. 


DeRay Mckesson: De’Ara, had never heard of her. This story your read on this top tier ten out of ten no notes. The only thing I’ll add is I had no clue that this is only one of two known novels by enslaved or formerly enslaved Americans. One of two is wild. I mean, that’s wild. 


De’Ara Balenger: Mm hmm. 


DeRay Mckesson: So that’s nuts. The second thing is, Kaya, both everybody pointed out that, like, you know, as as as interesting as the book about Hannah might be, his intention was to discredit her. And we should never, ever lose sight of that. The third thing is that when I read the piece about Dickens, I’m like, well, maybe she taught Dickens. You know, like the book came out. 


De’Ara Balenger: Boop boop boop. 


DeRay Mckesson: In that time period I’m like, maybe he’s up here, like, striking similarities. I’m like, I’m sure he took all them riddles from Black people. I’m sure the storytelling was some stuff that the Black woman who raised him probably told stories in a way. And he wrote it down. That was my assumption from jump. It was not that she borrowed. It was that he borrowed and he got he got and by borrowed, I mean stole. He stole a storytelling technique. And I what makes me annoyed this is that I was watching a very cute video, actually, of this country star the other day um on TikTok. And and I was reminded that Black people made that too you know, I’m like, all this stuff is Black peoples, who made the American project a project. And um I was I was, like, annoyed in my bones. 


DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People’s coming. [music break] This week, we welcome comedian, activist and creative visionary Amanda Seales on the pod to talk about her new political comedy documentary, In Amanda We Trust. The doc follows Amanda in Washington, D.C., on a journey of curiosity to find out if she could or should run for political office. We also got a chance to discuss a host of other things. Amanda is amazing and I it was such a good conversation. I learned some stuff about her. I hope we can do some cool things together because she’s dope and she knows a lot about Black history, about the world, about America. Has lots about politics. You’ll love her. I did. I do. Here we go. 


DeRay Mckesson: The one and only, Amanda Seales, thank you so much for joining us today on Pod Save the People. 


Amanda Seales: Thank you for having me. 


DeRay Mckesson: Well, I love the documentary. I have a lot of questions about some parts of it. But before we start there, can you tell us, like your journey not only to comedy but to using your voice to talk about these societal issues, which is not what a lot of your peers are doing, and you have done it consistently, whether it is the documentary, whether it’s Instagram. I actually just met somebody the other day and he said to me he was like, do you know she has the show that’s live? Da da da da he’s like, Amanda Seales, do you know her? And I was like, [laughter] I’ll be talking to her soon. So um, so, yeah what talk to me about that process. 


Amanda Seales: That’s always been who I am. It wasn’t even a process. Like, honestly, like, that’s always been just uh the way that I kind of processed my art. Um. I think I grew I grew up in a Grenadian househome, household where literally today as we’re recording this is the. I don’t like the word anniversary for these types of things, but this was the day that Maurice Bishop was put in front of a firing squad and murdered in Grenada, who was a revolutionary in Grenada. Whether you agree with what he was doing or not, he was a revolutionary. Um. So like I come from a revolutionary people is my point. Uh. And I grew up, you know, just listening to a lot of Bob Marley. And I just feel like, you know, you hear Redemption Song enough times. You hear Buffalo soldier enough times, you hear, get up, stand up enough times like it becomes a part of your molecular DNA. Um. And so I’ve just always been somebody who was consciously aware of just injustice. Like, I remember when I was like in preschool when I was three, the teacher told us we were stupid. And I came home and told my mom, like, this is an outrage. This lady told us we were stupid, you know? And my mom, like, came up in that school and was like, don’t you ever call [?] stupid again. [laughter] You know so like I you know–


DeRay Mckesson: I know that’s right, come on mom. 


Amanda Seales: [laughing] So, like, that’s always been my my M.O.. And as I gained more knowledge and more confidence right and more support in my life, uh it just became a lot less of a thing that I just naturally did and like a thing that I felt like purposeful in doing. And uh I purposely went to Colombia. I went to I mean, I went to grad school for African American Studies with the very clear intention that I’m coming here because I want to speak for and on behalf of and in, you know, in the empowering of my people. And I feel like I need to have like this academic background to go along with what I have because I know this country and what [?]. Um. And so that’s always been it, you know, to be honest DeRay like, I don’t think I like of course, there’s been projects that I’ve been a part of that like weren’t necessarily about that, you know, like I don’t feel like Insecure–


DeRay Mckesson: Yup. 


Amanda Seales: –was like um, I mean, Insecure by its nature was definitely like a game changer, but like, it wasn’t like we was on there talking about Palestine. 


DeRay Mckesson: Right, right, right, right. [laughing] You know, next year will be the ten years since Ferguson. And it has made me really think about how much we all have learned and grown since the August of 2014. I’m interested in what has that been like for you? You know, you think about your grad school experience and and learning in the classroom and just it feels like the conversation has just shifted so much in ten years in some ways. And then some ways I’m like, whew we are still stuck, but what what has your journey looked like? And I in terms of what you’ve learned, I even think about the first time I got challenged for using crazy. I used to be like, that’s so crazy. And people are like DeRay, you can’t keep calling things crazy like that. And I was like–


Amanda Seales: Right. 


DeRay Mckesson: Oh, I didn’t even, you know, so like ableist language I didn’t know about. I think about like the conversation about trans. I’ve learned so much in ways that I didn’t even know I didn’t know. So I’d love to know what that has been like for you. 


Amanda Seales: Sometimes I’m with it, sometimes I’m like, come on, y’all.  


DeRay Mckesson: [laughing] Amanda. 


Amanda Seales: Like come on y’all. Just because, like, there is. I am a comedian, right? So there is something– 


DeRay Mckesson: Yes. 


Amanda Seales: –to be said for, like, everything doesn’t have to be everything. Like, everything doesn’t have to be couched in, like, when we talk about, like, the PC of it all. When people first started saying that, I was like, I don’t understand, like, how that’s difficult for y’all because I took it more so like, well, I’m not out here being transphobic in my comedy and I’m not out here being racist or misogynist in my comedy. So like, why would that be difficult for y’all? But then it got into, you know, just like specific words, like you can’t say lame because that means da da da like, you can’t say someone is tone deaf because that etc., etc.. And so I think there’s something to be said though, for this, like there’s like a literalness that that I don’t think necessarily serves us in the best way all the time. Um. 


DeRay Mckesson: Yeah. 


Amanda Seales: I think that there’s a there’s there’s a there’s ways in which language can be used that have multiple meanings. And um I think that there’s some things that we find out like are derived from very disingenuous, very like negative places. And then there are some things that are simply just descriptive. Um. For instance, like I learned recently that like the term tone deaf people were like, that’s ableist. 


DeRay Mckesson: Yeah. 


Amanda Seales: Um. I think, though, there’s something to be said for the fact that, like I, to my understanding, the term tone deaf did not come from being derogatory to individuals who are hard of hearing. 


DeRay Mckesson: Yes. 


Amanda Seales: It it came from combining one word that means one thing and one word that means one thing and bringing them together to mean a new thing. 


DeRay Mckesson: Yes. 


Amanda Seales: And so I think there’s a difference. And I think that sometimes when we don’t acknowledge that difference, we get caught up in things that aren’t necessarily bringing us forward. I mean, of course, somebody who’s deaf might be like, well, you know, fuck you, Amanda, how dare you, right? Like that that that is bringing us backwards. But you asked me, so I’m answering. 


DeRay Mckesson: I appreciate the push. Okay, let’s talk about the documentary. I you know, I feel like I’m pretty aware and I know people’s stories. And then I watched your conversation with [?], and I was like, didn’t know this part of her story. I like just straight up, didn’t I like, I knew he was a teacher. I didn’t know the part about um–


Amanda Seales: The students. 


DeRay Mckesson: The kids who were self-harming, like didn’t know it. 


Amanda Seales: Yeah. 


DeRay Mckesson: I like, listened and I was like, Oh, okay. Like, Amanda, teach me. Um. Can you talk about what led you to do the documentary? You’ve obviously done it and you’ve been telling the truth and telling stories in a host of formats already. Why the documentary? 


Amanda Seales: I got to tell you, I was led like like most things. It’s like a Amanda’s on a mission. I’m going to do this thing, and then I do it. Um. It wasn’t that way with this, you know, I really set out DeRay to do ahh I really set out to do a standup special. That was the plan. I was going to do a standup special. And when that didn’t end up happening, because I realized, like, I didn’t have the money to, like, do the special at the level I wanted to do it. Um. I said, okay, I’m going to take a different route and I’ll just use old footage, but then I’ll do like some segments that I can put in between the old footage that will like sprite, spruce it up. And when we went to shoot the segments, we just got such an abundance of dope footage that we were like, huh? And I kept saying, man, we got such good footage, man. We may not even need to standup. You know what I’m saying? And I, you know, careful what you say, right? Because then we hit a wall where we realized that the previous footage that we had was not the same quality in terms of like the technical aspect of it. And it would have looked like two different films, like and not in like the not in a good way, not in like an artsy way, you know what I mean? 


DeRay Mckesson: Right right right. 


Amanda Seales: And so then I had to I had to just make a decision. And I spoke to my director. This is also the beauty of doing something independent, like I had to make a decision, you know what I’m saying like? 


DeRay Mckesson: Yes. Yeah. 


Amanda Seales: I didn’t have to think about it and then think about now how am I going to ask massa for– 


DeRay Mckesson: Right. 


Amanda Seales: You know. 


DeRay Mckesson: Oh Amanda. 


Amanda Seales: –permission? Um. So I was really proud of us because we made like a [snaps] quick decision. And thankfully we had an editor shout out to Mark, who was just like alright, alright. All right, let’s do it. And we turned and we pivoted. And here came this documentary, which it’s so funny how like so how often things just happen by accident, right? Like, I’ve never seen a format like this before, um which is why it became even difficult on, like how, what to call it, and then eventually we’re like, well, this is it is a doc. I mean, you’re just taking a different route, but it is a doc. And what also led me here, just in terms of the segments and deciding to even do these segments before they were compiled in a documentary was the reality that so many people are complaining or frustrated about the state of things, but really don’t know how it got here or how to change it. And I think considering what we’re watching unfold this week with the genocide in Palestine and the way the American government is responding to it, it heightens even more the necessity to really understand what role do politicians and law, politicians as lawmakers, what role do they play in our lives? Because I really feel like we’ve gotten way too far away. And the further we get away from government, the more it becomes involved in our lives. 


DeRay Mckesson: I will say there’s that a part at the um towards the end where you’re doing the like person on the street interviews and–


Amanda Seales: Mm hmm. 


DeRay Mckesson: One person’s like health care for all and another person’s like hmm parties.


Amanda Seales: Free movies.


DeRay Mckesson: Right free movies. [laughter] I was like, whew I mean, this is honest. That is it was like very. I was like, cause she said health care for all so confidentally. I’m like, Oh, but she got me. She was like, you know, I looked for it. And then she pivoted to what, libraries or something. I was like, girl parties is what you actually–


Amanda Seales: [?] Right. Pizza parties! 


DeRay Mckesson: I was like, oh goodness. Um. Now I’m happy you said that, though, in terms of especially the current crisis that’s happening around watching genocide in real in real time. Um. What has it been, what have you learned or what has it been like to to teach people? Like, what have you learned about the way people do think about the government? Or like, is there a question that people have that you’re like, Oh, I thought, I didn’t think this is what we’re going to have to spend a lot of time on. But this is the thing or or what is or are people are too busy–


Amanda Seales: Yes. 


DeRay Mckesson: –to. What’s the, help me. 


Amanda Seales: The number one thing–


DeRay Mckesson: Help us. 


Amanda Seales: The number one thing that I’ve noticed is that people and I, I want to also say, like none of this is coming from an elitist place. I am learning as I’m teaching, like I am somebody who had disassociated myself from politics because I was so down with Trump and then, you know, realized like, yeah, you don’t get to do that, especially as a Black person in America. You simply just don’t get to do that. Like the if you the more you disassociate, trust me, you associated. Um. 


DeRay Mckesson: Right. 


Amanda Seales: And so I I’ve had to immerse myself and learn. And, you know, I think the thing that was very revelatory for me that seemed oddly obvious, but that I was missing and that I think a lot of us are missing is that these are not simply politicians, these are law makers. Like when we think politician at this point, I think a lot of us just think people who act like Hollywood in DC. 


DeRay Mckesson: Interesting. 


Amanda Seales: Like that’s really I mean, we had a reality star as a president. Like that, to me–


DeRay Mckesson: Right right. 


Amanda Seales: –is where I think a lot of people look at it, they look at it. And even if it’s not in D.C. or it’s local, it’s almost as if people look at it look at they look at it like just like a job description versus there being an actual action behind it that directly affects you. And I know that we’ve we’ve said this, we’ve said this, we said this. But I think that the fact that we refer to people as politicians disconnects folks from the actual reality that they are signing into law, things that change your life. They are the ones with the stroke of the pen that can change it. And when we don’t have that connectivity, we become less accountable for ourselves in how we affect who gets that power. Right? We we’re not even thinking in that way, you know, and that’s it’s something that I’m like challenging myself, like stop calling these people politicians, call them lawmakers. Call them lawmakers, call them lawmakers because, like, literally your language needs to change in how you refer to these people to help people like get grounded. We are very unknowledgeable as a people in America by nature of just the lack of curriculum around previous and current uh discriminations and oppressive law legislation, etc., like we don’t realize how much we don’t know. So like, I feel like I am in a constant state of awakening about how this operation runs and that the bottom line, I think most of us are really not truly connected to the realities of they made these laws and they can take these laws, they made these laws, they can change these laws and take these laws. Like the poly in politician is really policy. 


DeRay Mckesson: Is that a T-shirt? 


Amanda Seales: Maybe. 


DeRay Mckesson: You need to make that a T-shirt. [laughter] You need to make that a I am I am ordering the first t shirts. That was [laughter] put that on a sweatsh– I’m in. One of the things that I’ve been interested in too in that vein is, you know, we I’m obviously an organizer day to day and we say everything goes back to race because it really does go back like it’s not like a–


Amanda Seales: Everything. 


DeRay Mckesson: –conspiracy theory. You’re like, but I’ve been shocked where people are like, you’re being dramatic. And I’m like, I don’t know I think the world was dramatic, you know? Like, I think that the truth is actually wild. And I was having this conversation with somebody the other day about like we gave white people homes, right? Like the Homestead Act. We literally gave white people homes in mass as national policy. 


Amanda Seales: Land. Yeah. 


DeRay Mckesson: And they were like, I didn’t learn that. And they’re like did we? And I’m like, yes, we did that. You know? 


Amanda Seales: We did. And you know what? We did learn it, but it was contextualized as benevolence and it was not contextualized that at the same time we were doing that, we were denying Black people homes. 


DeRay Mckesson: Absolutely. 


Amanda Seales: We were denying former slaves homes. So that’s how we end up getting this disingenuous schooling, is that things are not taught within the comprehensive point of view. They just talk like individual things like we’re taught oh, Lewis and Clark, Manifest Destiny, they went across America. It’s like, yeah, but you left out the part where they were also leading the way for there to be massacres of Indigenous people in America. Like you left that–


DeRay Mckesson: Absolutely. 


Amanda Seales: –part out. 


DeRay Mckesson: Or Reconstruction. I didn’t even know Reconstruction was a thing–


Amanda Seales: Sir, don’t get me started. 


DeRay Mckesson: –until I was an adult. 


Amanda Seales: Don’t get me started. Don’t get me started. Don’t get me started.


DeRay Mckesson: Zero. I never heard of it. 


Amanda Seales: Don’t get me started. 


DeRay Mckesson: Had you heard about it in high school or coll– I didn’t even know Reconstruction was– 


Amanda Seales: DeRay! 


DeRay Mckesson: –a period of time. I didn’t. 


Amanda Seales: De’Ray. My nigga I just learned about Reconstruction two months ago on a Delta flight. Don’t get me started. 


DeRay Mckesson: Shut up. Really? 


Amanda Seales: Sir. Sir, I have a master’s in African-American studies, and I did not understand the ca– like, Reconstruction was a word that I us–that I heard. 


DeRay Mckesson: Yeah. 


Amanda Seales: Applied to there was the Civil War, and now the Civil War was over, and they had to reconstruct. 


DeRay Mckesson: [laugh] Amanda.


Amanda Seales: They had that that’s it essentially. It wasn’t until I was on this Delta flight and I started watching these these videos, a part of this masterclass series called I think it’s called like Black History, Freedom and Love. And they did this in 2020, but they have it like it’s still a master class and it’s still on Delta. And it has like, these like 10 to 15 minute videos about various topics, they did three seasons. They have people delivering these videos like Nikole Hannah-Jones, Professor Kimberly Crenshaw, Sherrilyn Ifill, uh Cornel West, I mean, Angela Davis, like, I mean, they have like an elite group here, right? So I was just like, let me get some let me get some knowledge real quick on this flight. Let me get some knowledge real quick because none of these movies, I’ve seen all these movies. So I just was like, Oh, let me see this video on Reconstruction. [pause] What? [laugh] 


DeRay Mckesson: Wow. 


Amanda Seales: Like I sat there in shock and in awe that what I was witnessing was the true like the holes of my scholarship. Like these gaping wide chasms of my scholarship to the point where then I went and um started reading this book by Eric Foner uh about the Reconstruction.


DeRay Mckesson: Who is the scholar. He is the reconstruction guy, still alive. 


Amanda Seales: Still I was like, if you going to do it, like do it. 


DeRay Mckesson: Come on. 


Amanda Seales: So I started reading the Second Founding um by Eric Foner, and you just start to truly understand something. And let me tell you the key thing that I grasped from this, there’s a couple of key things, if you don’t mind me. 


DeRay Mckesson: Come on, teach us. 


Amanda Seales: One, it has been the Supreme Court every time that has prevented this country from moving towards the democracy it claims within its constitution to be in pursuance of. So when I say that is that the Constitution was written at the time for landowning white men, but it was written in a way that had like it had like looser language than was like– 


DeRay Mckesson: Like breathing room. 


Amanda Seales: Breathing room. So then when after the Civil War, when they were like, okay, here’s the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, you know, here you all get to be citizens here you all get to vote. And now here you all, you know, you you get to just live in America. There was language. The language was very loose in those too. And the Supreme Court, the Congress, there were people in Congress who were like, this language is too loose. Like, if we’re really going to move towards equity, we need to like, protect Black people very deliberately in this language and the Supreme Court was like, nah, we not going to do that. Y’all can’t do that. And the Supreme Court was like, you as Congress, you don’t have the power to protect Black people. 


DeRay Mckesson: Hmm. 


Amanda Seales: But they gave that same Congress the power to support slave owners with the Dred Scott case and say that slave owners could come to free states and take people and bring them back if they think that their slaves that who were escaped. So when we look at what’s going on with our Supreme Court now, we have to understand that this is not necessarily just an American problem. This is a actual, like, hierarchical problem where we have what’s taught as checks and balances, except for them. Except for them. And they have been the problem every time. And we have been tricked into thinking that it’s been the president that’s the problem or it’s been the Congress that’s the problem. And I’m not saying they haven’t been problematic, but they have only been able to get away with it by nature of the Supreme Court saying, go ahead. Actually, you know what let’s just give it to the states. Let’s just give it to the states. Let’s just give it to the states. So that was one. Two, I didn’t think that I just feel like I thought that there was like the Civil War and then we just went straight into Jim Crow. And that’s simply just not the case. Like [?]–


DeRay Mckesson: Not the literally not the case at all. 


Amanda Seales: It’s not the case like this again, those those 13th, 14th and 15th Amendment allowed for rights. But they but what it did do, it forced Black people, though. And this happened again with the civil Rights and the Voting Rights Act and the Housing Rights Act, it forced Black people to hold America accountable. So, like they had these laws in place, but because they didn’t create something that said that we as a America have to hold these laws in place, it said that if you want to challenge this, if someone does this some sideways shit, you’re the one who’s going to have to bring it to the Supreme Court, which honestly, it’s like, okay, so y’all y’all wouldn’t let us read. And now we got to be lawyers? Like how that work? But, but what the real what the reason why this is so really important, though, is because. They took our rights back. And enough people, not enough people understand how easily that was done and how quickly. Like there was 20 years of like, okay, like we out here– 


DeRay Mckesson: And Black people were on the up.


Amanda Seales: On the up. 


DeRay Mckesson: On the up. 


Amanda Seales: They’re a part of government. We’ve seen the Roaring Twenties, like, you know, okay, okay, we’re moving we’re moving. And then they were like, ahh y’all getting too hype, let’s let’s tone it down. And that’s when we see the fugitive slave laws. I mean, sorry. That’s when we see, you know, Green Book–


DeRay Mckesson: Jim Crow. 


Amanda Seales: –pop up because you have Jim Crow, which is really simply just apartheid. And we keep calling it Jim Crow, but it really is apartheid. And so, like, those two things were very just illuminating for me um because I feel like those are huge themes that we’ve seen consistently and that are like rearing their ugly heads. And if we learn from history, then we can prevent it. But if we don’t know it, we can’t. 


DeRay Mckesson: Yup, it’s interesting. One of the things that stuck with me about Reconstruction was the amount of Black wealth. And as you just said, the people had it and it was taken away. Like–


Amanda Seales: Yes. 


DeRay Mckesson: Money did not protect Black people. 


Amanda Seales: No. 


DeRay Mckesson: Rich Black people–


Amanda Seales: Say that. 


DeRay Mckesson: –got screwed like everybody else. 


Amanda Seales: They got lynched too. 


DeRay Mckesson: And I look at this. Yes. And I’m looking at this moment like there are Black people who really think that their little millions is protection. And I’m like, we actually have I didn’t know this before, but I’m like, we did this. We we been here before. 


Amanda Seales: [?]. 


DeRay Mckesson: We were mayors. We ran cities. We–


Amanda Seales: We had to–


DeRay Mckesson: –ran towns. 


Amanda Seales: Yes. yes. 


DeRay Mckesson: Snatched away. 


Amanda Seales: Snatched and snatched because the white people became more and more belligerent in their feeling that we didn’t deserve it. DeRay, are you looking around? Because that’s what I’m seeing. 


DeRay Mckesson: Absolutely. Been here before. 


Amanda Seales: So it’s very it’s when you start studying, it’s like tragic and empowering at the same time, because I do feel a certain level of empowerment in like okay. I feel like I’m seeing [?], you know what it feels like? It feels like I’m like, on a field. Not that kind of field. And I’m learning, [laughter] like, the playbook. And so now, like, I have, like, a lot more ways in which to defeat this opponent because now I have more plays in my coffer like to pull from. But nonetheless, you know, we’re we’re constantly working just against ignorance. Like that’s what we’re really, really up against. I mean, even like you said, like just the fact that so many people feel like, well, if I have money, we’re good. They don’t want you. 


DeRay Mckesson: Been there. 


Amanda Seales: You have never been wanted here. You have never been wanted here. They have only– 


DeRay Mckesson: Been there. 


Amanda Seales: –wanted you for for for they have only wanted you for labor. 


DeRay Mckesson: You know what I you don’t need any more work to do. You have a full plate and you are successful [laughter] and amazing. 


Amanda Seales: Damn it. What are you going to tell me?


DeRay Mckesson: But let me tell you that if you–


Amanda Seales: What are you assigning me?


DeRay Mckesson: –wanted to. I think you would be a phenomenal and Campaign Zero would do this with you. Like, not book clubs, but like reading clubs, reading groups. Like, I think there are some essays out there that people just need, you know, like right now, if you were trying to read an essay, where would you go? Like, who would you need people to talk about it with? Right? And I think a lot of–


Amanda Seales: Yeah. 


DeRay Mckesson: –people don’t have a they don’t have a home–


Amanda Seales: A group. 


DeRay Mckesson: –to do that. Do you know what I mean? 


Amanda Seales: No. 


DeRay Mckesson: And I think that you are a clear storyteller who who people trust who could bring in a set of people who otherwise wouldn’t feel like they can pr– it’s one of the issues we have on you know, we do all this technical work on the police and people just don’t feel like they can talk about police unions. They’re like, I don’t know about unions, I don’t know about labor. So we have to create entrances for them. And I think you’re just a really good entrance maker. So that is my that is my not even push– 


Amanda Seales: I want to–


DeRay Mckesson: Just a little plug.


Amanda Seales: That’s just aside, but I actually want to connect you to somebody who is trying to do this already and somebody and they are the most reputable, actually. Um. And I just don’t want to put them out there right now. but–


DeRay Mckesson: Okay. 


Amanda Seales: They’re trying to do this, and I would love to be in partnership with them in doing this. Um. But the reality is you’re you’re so right. Like, there are a lot of people who do want to know and like be be, we need like salons, you know what I mean? Like America used–


DeRay Mckesson: Yes. 


Amanda Seales: –to have salons and they would have these–


DeRay Mckesson: Yeah. 


Amanda Seales: –salons so that we could like talk about things and like you know ideate and and um and and philosophize, you know because that’s the other thing too. It’s like because of this internet and it’s immediacy. People expect everybody to show up with thoughts fully formed and, you know, just no level of real like exploration. So I try, you know, to let people know, like you might hear some thoughts from me that are in process, um you know, and and I think it’s important to do that. And we don’t have safe spaces to do that. Right. Like there like this week is actually a great example of people who started the week one way. 


DeRay Mckesson: Absolutely. And you need good facilitators to who can like hold the space and push and acknowledge and say–


Amanda Seales: Yup. 


DeRay Mckesson: Okay, Amanda, I see what you’re doing. Let me connect the, you know, like so I think that’s I think that is real. I want to know too, talking about this week. You know um it there are moments where people the public conversation is very intense. There are some things where the public conversation is full but not intense. This is one where, like there seems to be a real line around the Israel Palestinian. 


Amanda Seales: I [?] a nigga over this. Okay?


DeRay Mckesson: Really? 


Amanda Seales: Yes. 


DeRay Mckesson: So how do what how do you wade through these moments where people feel very, very strongly on both sides? How has that been for you?


Amanda Seales: Because you can feel you can feel strongly but you got to know what you know. So that’s what I’ve been telling because, you know, people be calling me DeRay. You know, they be calling me. 


DeRay Mckesson: [laughing] Amanda. [laugh] [sigh] I mean, I know you’re funny. 


Amanda Seales: They be call–


DeRay Mckesson: And you’re a comedian but– [laughter] 


Amanda Seales: Baby, they be calling me girl. What is all of this? You know, because I I thought etc.. And now I’m understanding X, Y, Z. And I’m like, I know, I know. They like can you send me some videos? I’m like, let me send you some links. And I love seeing people have a voraciousness for information. Um. At the very least so that they don’t uh get canceled for no reason. Um. [laugh] But. But I think there, you know, listen, there is a lot of feelings, but one thing that you get afforded, if it’s not necessarily like directly related to you, is the opportunity to have objectivism okay and objectivity at the end of the day is going to be informed by facts. I mean, that’s just where it lives. That’s the whole point of it. So once you start studying facts, you know, there’s really just a very clear understanding that’s here because it’s not new. [laugh] This is not new. It’s it’s it look  different, but it’s still the same formula. You know, it’s like in the Wu-Tang on the on it’s like on the purple tape when Ghostface is like, I got a whole new way to do clocks. I got a whole new way so what we’re going to do is we’re going to do this side blue but oooh but wait for it wait for it on this side, we’re going to do cream. So it’s going to be like blue and cream, which is oddly fascinating how that actually lines up with this, because that was not even intentional. 


DeRay Mckesson: [?].


Amanda Seales: But [laugh] but it’s still but it’s still clarks. You understand what I’m saying, like it’s still the thing. It looks different, but it’s still the thing. And that’s what we’re looking at right now. Like it’s still colonialism. It just looks different. And then and we know that that’s the way things go in the world, right? Like, things evolve. Things things evolve, but they’re still attached to like a certain level of principles and behaviors that identify them as such. And when you swing when you when you’ve studied enough or you’ve lived enough and you’ve seen it enough, it doesn’t take much to be able to identify it in something else. And so that’s really where I’ve been trying to encourage people to go is just go to the facts. 


DeRay Mckesson: Have you before I ask you this question about Israel and Palestine, are you a Wu-Tang Scholar? 


Amanda Seales: I mean, I like to think so. 


DeRay Mckesson: Because you asked Bowman that question, you asked Bo you asked Bowman um–


Amanda Seales: Well I did ask him about the Wu. You know, because the Wu is a very grounding like starting point for someone’s true hip hopness. I tried to date somebody–


DeRay Mckesson: Okay. 


Amanda Seales: –who told me they were a hip hop head, and then I asked them. I like asked them like no they said they were a hip hop head and then they and then they said, but I don’t really know about like Wu-Tang or anything. And I was just like, get out of my house. Like, [laughter] what are we what are we even talking about? So like, Wu-tang– 


DeRay Mckesson: I was like that was your fir– when he answered it, right I was like, whew thank you Bowman. Because this would be an awkward start [laughter] to the interview.


Amanda Seales: You know what, though? Let me tell you, that interview, those interviews really showed me that I’ve like really grown as an interviewer. And I’ve been doing my Small Doses podcast now for like five years since 2018. And I was really proud of myself because I really love that you said, like you didn’t know that about Jamaal Bowman, you didn’t know about his his um, his, his journey to being um our representative. And I feel like that was able to come out because a safe space was created. Right. And like, that’s hard as an interviewer. Like sometimes because especially–


DeRay Mckesson: Yes. 


Amanda Seales: Like people like that, like they are always being interviewed, you know what I’m saying? 


DeRay Mckesson: Right. 


Amanda Seales: So they’re kind of always coming with like, I’m here to do this. I’m going to say these things, I’m going to do these things. And I was like, yeah we not going to do that. 


DeRay Mckesson: And I don’t wanna give away y’all need to watch the documentary. But the moment where you ask him what was the moment and you don’t let him off, and I was like, I was like, I can see, I can see you in this place with your wife and them kids being like– 


Amanda Seales: So the reason why I like to ask folks that, because I asked Marianne Williamson that and she refused to answer it, like flat out. 


DeRay Mckesson: Interesting. 


Amanda Seales: She refused to answer it and she was offended by the question. 


DeRay Mckesson: Wait, I didn’t I didn’t miss that in the documentary, did I? 


Amanda Seales: No, that’s on my podcast. 


DeRay Mckesson: Okay. I was like, I did watch. [laughter] Okay okay okay. [banter] But I’m like oo but I thought I watched it. Okay.


Amanda Seales: Yeah she refused. 


DeRay Mckesson: Okay, she refused to answer it. 


Amanda Seales: She wouldn’t answer it. I asked her three different times in three different ways. She wouldn’t answer it because she was like, I didn’t just come up with this just on a random day. And it’s like, well, everyone does, though. It arrives. 


DeRay Mckesson: Right. 


Amanda Seales: Like it arrives, right? Like I am. The example I gave her was that Cori Bush told me that, like, you know, three different times, people that approached her about running and she was like, Nah. And then the last time she was like, Well, let’s talk, right? 


DeRay Mckesson: Yeah like you– 


Amanda Seales: So–


DeRay Mckesson: You make a you you make a decision that is a [laughter] that is a that is a fact Marianne Williamson. 


Amanda Seales: But there’s a humanity in that, right? And there’s, there’s a human, there’s a groundedness in like where that decision came from and why that decision happened. And we are at a very critical time where people are starting to really realize like, well, we need to elect people. But there’s like this morality that people want and like, how do we reconcile the two? Because the space itself is immoral. Um. And so, like, it’s a question that I feel like in a very quick way helps to illuminate someone’s like just humanity as it as it relates to their public servitude, because he wasn’t, you know, he was literally watching his kids playing in the water like, I mean, you know what I mean? Like, it wasn’t like–


DeRay Mckesson: You gave it away, not me. Okay. I was trying not to say it. 


Amanda Seales: You’re right. My bad. 


DeRay Mckesson: Watch the documentary y’all. 


Amanda Seales: But but but but yeah, but like, the way it unfolds is beautiful. So go to In Amanda We Trust. 


DeRay Mckesson: I’m assuming people disagree with your position about Israel and Palestine in this moment. And how has how have you managed that disagreement? 


Amanda Seales: Oh, I’m just resolute. I’m just like, what are you disagreeing with? [laugh] Because if you’re trying to tell me I’m anti-Semitic, that is completely, wholeheartedly, and 100% untrue and I will simply just not accept false assertions. Um it anti-Semitism would mean that I do not believe in the rights of Jewish people to exist in this world. Uh. It would believe that I don’t see their humanity. It would believe that I don’t see their access to joy as something deserving. And none of those things are true. I can believe that Palestinians deserve all those things and that Jewish people deserve all those things. And at the same time identify the Israeli government impeding upon Palestinians doing those things as a problem. I can do all of those things at the same time and I can chew gum. And then there’s also just like the the reality that a lot of people are not connected to their humanity anymore. 


DeRay Mckesson: Hmm. 


Amanda Seales: And you not going to try and convince me to disconnect from mine. Um. You’re not also going to convince me to disconnect from just history and facts. And I I already know the world that we’re in. We are in a white supremacist world. That is the world we’re in. We are in a white supremacist colonial capitalist world. So that’s the context that we’re in. And you cannot just dis– you can’t just like take something like obfuscate, obfuscate that. Like the fact is what it is what it is. And so you have to look at everything within that lens. And when you said earlier, like everything is about race. It is. 


DeRay Mckesson: It is. 


Amanda Seales: It is. 


DeRay Mckesson: It is.


Amanda Seales: This is where we are, you know, like, I mean, we’re we’re [sigh] so that’s so that’s my response. I mean, I um, I will tell you that I have been very, very, very, very fortunate that I haven’t had any of my like, professional um I haven’t had any of my professional spaces marred or questioned in my defense of of what’s going on. I, I also believe I’ve built a life where I am expected to speak in in these truths. Um. And I stand on that and I feel very guided by a higher power to do that and very protected. I also feel protected by the people. You know, Ossie Davis said, never stick your neck out deeper than your feet are rooted in the people. He told me that to my face at Purchase College. 


DeRay Mckesson: Come on, come on, come on. Let them know. 


Amanda Seales: [?]. 


DeRay Mckesson: I didn’t read that. I didn’t read that. I heard it. 


Amanda Seales: I heard it. Okay. I was told it eye to eye. 


DeRay Mckesson: You got to come see Purlie. Purlie Victorious on Broadway, by the way, his play. 


Amanda Seales: Oh, do you mean Pulie that I starred in at Doctor Phillips High School in 1999. That was a legendary– 


DeRay Mckesson: Let em know! 


Amanda Seales: –production where I play the role of–


DeRay Mckesson: My name is Amanda Seales everybody. 


Amanda Seales: Missy Judson. Walk him up [singing] like, is that what we’re talking about? Are we talking about are we talking about the Purlie Victorious that we actually had to bring back at the end of the year because it was so successful in the beginning of the school year that we had to bring it back. 


DeRay Mckesson: Let em know. 


Amanda Seales: And it is a literal like legacy production. Are we talking about Purlie Victorious that starred Michael James Scott, who is currently playing the role of the genie in Aladdin on Broadway? 


DeRay Mckesson: Let em know. 


Amanda Seales: Are we right about that Purlie? Maybe we’re maybe we’re talking about the Purlie that we then took to the state competition and blew everyone away. Or I think DeRay I actually think you’re talking about the Purlie that I will be attending and that at the end of the show will be sitting on a panel with Kimberly Crenshaw, who invited me there–


DeRay Mckesson: Let em know. 


Amanda Seales: –to have a Talk Back with Leslie Odom, Jr. I think that’s, is that the Purlie? 


DeRay Mckesson: I think that might be. I think it might be that one. See look at God.


Amanda Seales: Down home [singing] Look at God. 


DeRay Mckesson: Look at God. I love it. 


Amanda Seales: Listen. It’s very serious. 


DeRay Mckesson: It is a small, good Black world. 


Amanda Seales: It is. 


DeRay Mckesson: Um. There are two questions we ask everybody. The first is, what do you say to people, Amanda, who whose hope is challenged in these moments, who are like, I came to your live show, I listened to your podcast, I watched the videos, I shared the videos, I read the book, I went to the talk and still I’m like,  mm the world ain’t changed the way I want it to. What what do you say to those people? 


Amanda Seales: Um, I’ve been working on that. I’ve been working on what to say because [pause] this is a time where I feel like many people are expecting to see the change that they wish to be. Um. But you really just have to be the change that you hope the future sees. And that has to be enough. And the only way for that to be enough is for you to tap into your spirit and soul. And because it requires selflessness and we have been trained to be selfish, which is why this world is descending into madness, which is why our climate is, you know, changing because of our pressure, um because of our greed. Right. Um. We lost. We have lost sight of the idea of the reality that we’re all connected. And I like to think that the ancient people, even if they didn’t know that there were other people they knew that they themselves were connected. And so they had to operate a certain way. And of course, like we study these we study these ancient civilizations and we find things that are abhorrent, etc., because humans themselves are just really ridiculous beings. But I think we’re at a time where the world is drastically trying to shift. And it’s going to require. It’s just going to require us to say. I want to feel good that my spirit that’s going to live after me feels good about what I did here. And that really is all I can offer people. We are not going to see the change to the extent that we want to see it. I do not believe that I am not going to mislead people. You know, when I tell people about voting, I’m like, You’re not voting for a person. You’re voting for a path. That’s what we’re voting for. 


DeRay Mckesson: That’s the next T-shirt y’all. [laughter] That’s the next T-shirt. I now work for Amanda Seales, everybody I am the unpaid consultant. That is the next T-shirt


Amanda Seales: Because listen, like people want to vote for Jesus and he’s not running for office. 


DeRay Mckesson: Right. 


Amanda Seales: You know, like, this has never been a moral high ground. So it’s weird to apply. It’s not weird. I understand why people are applying morality because they’re like, well, I want someone who’s going to honor the things that they said they were running on. And in order for me to feel confident about, you know, trusting that they are going to do that, I have to trust that they’re a moral person. I get that math. Uh. The the problem, though, is that there would have to be an entire deconstructing of our political system. 


DeRay Mckesson: Right. 


Amanda Seales: For us to, you know, be able to fully trust that. So I guess my what I really want to just come back to is that we got to lean into love. That sounds corny, but that’s really you got to lean into love. And and that that is really the best thing that you can do for you and for the future. And if you want to be selfish, then I can also inform you that you probably gonna have to come back to this bitch. So the best thing you can do is set it up for a return. [laughter] 


DeRay Mckesson: Um. And then the very last question, what’s a piece of ad– [laugh] what’s a piece of advice that you’ve gotten over the years that’s stuck with you? 


Amanda Seales: Well, that Ossie quote is definitely one. This is going to be really, really, really, really, really corny. But be yourself. 


DeRay Mckesson: Corny is honest. Okay. 


Amanda Seales: Be yourself. And it is so difficult for so many of us to be ourselves. First of all, a lot of us don’t even know who we are. So be yourself is really actually a very deep statement. Um. I heard something else recently that I thought was really just like obvious but impactful. And it was the love of your life is the love of your life. The love of your life is the love of your life. 


DeRay Mckesson: Oh okay okay, okay, okay, okay. Come on. Preach, preacher. Preach. 


Amanda Seales: And you know, I recently got out of a long relationship. And I think that one of the main things that caused our relationship to eventually dissolve was that I really love my life and I really love myself. And that wasn’t always the case. But I did the work to get there. And I will not abandon myself. And he he doesn’t. He wasn’t there. And so it be it’s like we can’t exist. We can’t coexist in that space. 


DeRay Mckesson: Right. 


Amanda Seales: Right. Um. But that that phrase, the love of your life is the love of your life, was so impactful to me because it really said to me, like, it really, it’s about you loving your life. And so many of us feel like we’re spending our whole life looking for someone to love us. 


DeRay Mckesson: Yes. 


Amanda Seales: You can love you. 


DeRay Mckesson: Well on that note, preach, preacher, preach. [laughter] Everybody this is the one and only Amanda Seales, please go watch In Amanda We Trust. 


Amanda Seales: Go to and get it. 


DeRay Mckesson: And–


Amanda Seales: Thank you. 


DeRay Mckesson: We consider you a friend of the pod and can’t wait to have you back. 


Amanda Seales: Thank you. And I’m not sure when this is going to air, but I’ll be doing a screening of In Amanda We Trust in Los Angeles on November 19th at the Hollywood Improv, and uh when I do the screenings, we give away free stuff. We do political trivia, I do a Q&A. It’s always a really good intellectual Black ass time. [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 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]