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June 03, 2024
Pod Save The People
An Inside Look with Rep. Jamaal Bowman

In This Episode

Damning messages from a far-right group chat, Trump becomes first U.S. president convicted of crimes, a discussion on discriminatory housing practices, and the grand return of a lost holiday predating Juneteenth. DeRay interviews Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY 16th District) about life as a Congressman, efforts with the Hip Hop Task Force, and more.

 

News

Off Leash: Inside the Secret, Global, Far-Right Group Chat

She Made an Offer on a Condo. Then the Seller Learned She Was Black

Donald Trump becomes 1st US president tried and convicted of crimes

An African American holiday predating Juneteenth was nearly lost to history. It’s back.

What is Pinkster? – Historic Hudson Valley

 

Follow Pod Save the People on Instagram.

 

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

[AD BREAK]

 

DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay. And welcome to Pod Save the People. On this episode it’s me, Kaya, and Myles, talking about the news that you don’t know from the past week. And then obviously an update on the election, because the fall is coming here and there’s a lot going on. And then I speak to Congressman Jamaal Bowman about his efforts in Congress, what he’s learned, what’s next, what he’s doing. He’s the man. Here we go. [music break]

 

[AD BREAK]. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Hey y’all, we are back for another great episode of Pod Save the People. This is DeRay at @deray on Twitter. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: This is Myles E. Johnson or @pharaohrapture on Instagram and Twitter. 

 

Kaya Henderson: I’m Kaya Henderson at @HendersonKaya on Twitter. 

 

DeRay Mckesson, narrating: So a lot happened uh since the last time we have been together. But the biggest news in the news is about former President Donald Trump. If you remember Alvin Bragg, the D.A. in Manhattan and New York City, he was charging Trump with 34 counts of falsification of business records. I will never forget the drama around Alvin Bragg because people said he wasn’t qualified. He didn’t understand how to do it. The original attorneys in the office quit when he got elected because they were like, the strategy is wrong. And they said all this stuff about Trump. Other people had declined to bring these charges against Trump. But Bragg went forward, and last week, Trump was charged or found guilty of 34 counts of falsification of business records. And I saw the news and was like, woo, 34 counts is really intense. Now the question becomes, what will the sentencing be? 34 felony charges means that in his now home state of Florida, he is ineligible to vote. There are countries he can no longer travel to because they do not let people with felonies from America travel to those countries. 

 

Kaya Henderson: [laughing] I love it. 

 

DeRay Mckesson, narrating: He is still running for president. If you heard, he announced that he raised something like $34 million after he was convicted. And I wanted to bring it here to talk about it has been really interesting because it’s like we also can never trust Trump talking about anything. So do I think he raised $35 million? Absolutely not. Just like I don’t he wasn’t a billionaire. Like this man is just lying and the press is just eating it up. But before I have any more thoughts about it, I wanted to bring it here to see, uh what y’all think? 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Oh, oh oh it was a so it’s it’s it’s interesting because I love being in New York City during moments like this, because I’m from, you know, suburban Long Island and suburban Georgia. So I did not really even click that that was happening on the day that it was happening last week. But I was walking the Manhattan Bridge [laugh and cough] during that time because I take my long exercise walks. And the moment that it happened, I literally saw people like on their phones, everybody looking at their phones talking about it, and I have my big headphones in. So literally it was announced and I saw people starting to interact with each other, and I kind of felt like, well, should I be going [indistinct] and what’s going on? And I look at my phone and I’m like oh, that’s what everybody’s talking about and doing. So it was an interesting point of view to have to get that news, like literally on the streets while like walking into Manhattan. And I don’t know, I think the framing that I’ve been seeing that’s been interesting to me as well, has been around people learning that you can definitely still be in jail [laugh] and and be a president. And be a president. I think there’s some people who keep on looking for like that silver bullet and and surely 34 convictions of anything would be a silver bullet. But like no, he is one of those zombies that, like, you think you could get him by the heart or a headshot and he’s like, no, I don’t have any of those organs. So I’m still going to come towards your White House. So I think it’s been interesting to see the conversations around people understanding more fully what a president can be, and what a president can’t be. And I’m interested in knowing your thoughts on this too, DeRay. Like, I seen more people have conversations around the voting rights and the rights of felons. And I seen some people kind of like create this as an opportunity to really poke holes in why felons can and can’t do certain things, and how that’s more so based in um anti-Blackness and, and in slavery than in, in any type of like upholding of like a moral system so I was excited to hear your take on those twists that I’ve seen too. 

 

Kaya Henderson: It’s interesting to me. First of all, I was stunned that he was convicted on all 34 counts. I did not expect that to happen, primarily because our justice system is so unjust, although my grandmother used to say, every broken clock is right twice a day, and this is one of those times. I was dubious because when you are wealthy, when you are white, when you are of privilege, you usually see all kinds of shenanigans happen that weasel you out of these things. And even though he was convicted on all 34 counts, like if any young Black man or woman or young Latino man or woman was convicted on 34 felonies, they would not be released on their own recognizance. They would not be home until sentencing. They would not be able to appeal and have the appeal stave off jail time. They would go directly to jail for the most part. And so I still think that there is injustice in the system, in the way he’s being treated. And I could be convinced he’s a former president. And so we have to do something a little bit different. But it reopens for me, the disparity in how we treat people within the justice system. I’m proud of the jurors. I hope that we afford them the level of protection that they need, because the right wing folks are coming for them. Um. I have a friend who served on the Roger Stone jury and she was harassed, intimidated. I mean, it was relentless. And so I have a little bit of a bird’s eye view into what those jurors might be experiencing. It reminds me of the importance of jury duty and how it’s not a responsibility that we should shirk. There’s just so much here. But the long story short is I’m super excited about the number 34, and I’m super excited about Tish James and Alvin Bragg. Ooh ooh. Y’all rock. Let me figure out where to send some campaign contributions. Yes, we have to support these people, y’all, when they do the right thing for us. And yeah, that’s all. That’s my stream of consciousness thing. 

 

DeRay Mckesson, narrating: I do love that it is like these Black prosecutors who are just not afraid. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Come on. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Of holding the former president accountable, whether you like them or not. And you know, we have complicated views on some of the prosecutors, but I do appreciate this idea that, like, nobody is above the law. Now like the sentencing consequence carries a maximum of four years per count per 34 counts and a fine of $5,000 per count. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Can you say that again? 

 

DeRay Mckesson: But there are no mandatory minimums. 

 

Kaya Henderson: 34 times four, do the math.

 

Myles E. Johnson: Okay, so but I’m saying so four years of jail, every conviction is what we’re saying. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Four years of prison– 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Prison, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. [laughing]

 

DeRay Mckesson: — [?] every conviction, and a $5,000 fine is what is possible. But there’s no mandatory minimum. So the judge has the sole option. He could do probation. He could do home confinement. He could just do a fine. You know, if Trump gets less than a year, he’ll serve it because he got convicted in New York State, like it’s a state violation. He would serve it at Rikers because that’s where you serve sentences less than a year. And the Secret Service has been working to figure out how they will protect him in prison. That is also wild. So it’s all crazy. But to your question, Myles, it is interesting because people are like, I can’t believe felons can’t vote, former felons can’t vote. I can’t believe [?] and it’s like you always knew this was wrong, but you didn’t care when it was Black and Brown people because you were using the criminal justice system as a way to manage Black and Brown people, but give it a moral veneer. And now you’re like he should be pardoned for the good of society. And I’m, I mean this is how I feel about Marilyn Mosby obviously very differently. But it’s like we are putting people in prison for things that really, you know, we could but if we’re going to be heavy handed, let’s be heavy handed for everybody. And you see the way that money and power and publicity changes the way the system works and 34 convictions is wild. People have been sentenced to long sentences for less intense things in one felony conviction. 34 is nuts, as a former president for sure. So I’m super interested in this. I am really worried, though, about the way the media repeats Trump’s statements, even when we can’t verify them. Like y’all reporting that he raised $34 million and ain’t seen no slip, no document, no bank note is irresponsible.

 

Myles E. Johnson: DeRay, it’s so wild. Like and sometimes I feel like I’m in like the Twilight Zone because I’m like, I remember before he got elected, you know, like I remember the dialog between that. So it’s always so wild where I’m just like, are we repeating the same things, did I have a fever dream and I’m the only one? Did everybody else have like, just like alternative universe Clinton presidency? So we’re repeating the same things sins because we don’t know any better? I’m like, this is exactly what we did to get him elected the first time is just totally just keep repeating all the lies that he says, and also just keeping him inside of the sensationalist news and not just reporting him as news, but also as sensationalist entertainment news too. This is exactly the soup that helped him dominate it, because he’s already going to do that on Truth.org and Republican and trailerpark trash.net. 

 

Kaya Henderson: He also just joined TikTok. Remember he said he was going to ban TikTok, but he just joined TikTok so that he could perpetuate this on yet another platform. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Oh gosh. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: The other thing this is uh coming back to a news topic is about Diddy. So Rolling Stone has a very long piece about Diddy that they just put out. You might have heard that our favorite former rapper, 50 cent, [laughter] I’m saying that, you know, laughing, [laugh] that 50 cent now he just sold a Netflix uh docu series called “Diddy Do it?” to Netflix. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Oh, clever. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And uh Biggie’s mom just released a statement saying that she would slap Diddy. So I bring it up, and and since we last talked about it, there have been a host of other, lawsuits filed against Diddy that range from sexual assault to sexual harassment to workplace intimidation and a hostile work environment. So I wanted to bring it back to see if there any, fresh thoughts, because it still is a topic that is alive very much in the conversation. And I think is representative of sort of the underside of hip hop that people just would not expose or talk about for so long. 

 

Kaya Henderson: That’s the thing that’s so interesting to me about all of this DeRay, how people didn’t talk about this for so long. One of the things that was most interesting about the Rolling Stone article, and I haven’t read the whole thing, but it traces Diddy’s abuse of women back to his Howard University days. And so there is a consistent pattern. They talk about an event where he beat this woman outside of a dormitory, and lots of people saw it. Lots of people corroborated. The woman refused to comment, but there were lots of other people who did comment and verified that the story was true. And so for 30 years this has been going on. It seems you’ve heard rumors, you’ve heard innuendo, you’ve heard some of these stories in the cultural rumor mill. But this Rolling Stone article really goes out of its way to try to document. And the big question is, every like so many people knew about what was going on. I’m tired of all of these TikTok with ex bodyguards talking about, yeah, I saw this. I saw that. Complicit, sir. Complicit. That’s what you are. Because you saw it. You didn’t do anything. And now you want us to be your friend because you are telling tales. There is Diddy at the center, but there is a conspiracy that has to happen in order for this kind of long term abuse at scale to happen. And it all traces back to celebrity and power and money and people’s desire to be close to celebrity and to become celebrity. And uh, we have some examinations to do in the culture. And this is not the first time. And there are people who have been saying things. Shout out Kimora Lee, for example, who’s been talking about this from the beginning. But there was a conspiracy within the hip hop community to cover all of this stuff up, and that is fascinating to me. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: I’ve been doing my good cultural journalistic research and watching reruns of My Life in the Fast Lane, which is Kimora Lee Simmon’s reality television show that came on E! in the early 2000s that I was obsessed with, um which was probably a sign of to be queerdom. [laughing] But one thing that I like was thinking about while I was watching it, and I, and I’m like, open to be corrected on this you all, but I just want to be honest, is Mary J. Blige just came out with a project called Strength of a Woman. Janelle Monae has utilized both like feminist and queer political angles in order to help brand herself, as did so many other people. Janelle Monae is signed to Diddy. Like Mary J. Blige obviously has these kind of like hooks on Diddy. And then there’s obviously like a litany of men who are associated with Diddy, too. But I’m wondering, I feel weird about it. Like, I feel weird that they’re not saying anything or that they haven’t said anything, even posted the tape, unless I just missed it, like if there are statements that I have like missed. Because that could totally be true too, but it just feels really strange that people who uh naming people who are notoriously close to Diddy also have built a brand on women and or queer and or sexual empowerment, and has not said anything. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Janelle Monae signed to Diddy? 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Mm hmm. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Really? 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Mmm hmm.

 

Kaya Henderson: Myles said mm hmm definitively. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I didn’t know that. Okay. So I let me I think this might sort of touch on this, I think what I didn’t appreciate and remember how it was that rumor that or not even rumor, but that Diddy got Wendy Williams kicked off the radio. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Like she had to move from New York City. From [?]97, what I hadn’t heard until this weekend was that what he said to the radio station was, if she does not get moved, nobody I’ve ever worked with or any artist on any label, our brand I ever work with in the future will come on your radio station. And that was why they moved her. And I do think about like, just the way bullying works, where people make these really wild choices because power is concentrated in such a dense way. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yeah. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: There are almost no people that have the equal amount of power to push back. And, you know, Diddy was in this culture moment where he had a lot of artists who were defining the moment and you have to make a choice about, you know, what do I do? And we are all in the moment where we fight bullies back. Like that is sort of what happens. I also think about that moment where the internet wasn’t a thing, and blah like where your option to fight back had to go through a traditional route, and if one phone call could get something killed, you were sort of screwed. I think about I have a friend who is sort of a big name in another field, and a not great piece about them came out. I remember trying to help them think through it, because we knew it was coming and they were like, oh, I’ll make a phone call. And I was trying to explain, those days are over the like, make a phone call, kill this. You can make a phone call and try and like make it less bad. You can like tease out some things, talk to the fact checker. But the idea that you can just make a call and kill the thing, it’s not what it was a generation ago. That to me explains why some people have been quiet. And Myles, you know, I have talked to people who are famous, who are close to Diddy, and they privately are like, yeah, no photos. We’re not talking to him anymore. And but I think they’re trying to figure out, what is the public win freedom for them saying something publicly? Like what do they gain from saying something public as long as they don’t ever hang out with him or be with him, or be around him again. Especially the women I know who have worked with him really closely are like, yeah, we definitely can’t talk to him or text him or be around him. 

 

Kaya Henderson: I also think there’s something to like. I mean, when you have been traumatized or victimized by somebody, like what it takes to confront that, that victimization happens on your timeline, not other people’s timeline. Right. And so I can imagine that this must be hard for some people who both won with Diddy but also were traumatized and victimized by Diddy, and they’re probably trying to figure out, like, what do I do in this moment? 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Yeah, that feels honest to me too. It’s just, again, this was something I was working through in my head around how to feel about. I’m always thinking about people who build things on certain platforms, and when it becomes that time to show and prove, they’re not there. And to DeRay’s point to around what’s the public reward? I think that’s the weird thing that we’re seeing in celebrity culture right now, is that everything you do publicly can’t only be for reward or be for like, benefits. Some things are just so in the future. The silence when you hear the stories of Dee Barnes and the stories of Michel’le. The silence of the people who are around them, is just as deafening as the actions, like a lot of times for us. So I think that if for nothing else, even if it doesn’t create this big win or reward or move the needle back and forth today or tomorrow when you say something, I think in 20 years, because we’re only going to get more progressive we’re only getting more womanist, more feminist as and more aware as time goes on. I think that in 20 years you’ll look back and be really happy that you said something publicly towards this. Specifically if you are a person in public life too. Unless, again, like Kaya said, if you’re working through your own victimization, that’s totally different. 

 

Kaya Henderson: I think you bring up a very good point about, as we think about the future and what it means to look back at this moment, like there are people who started their career I I’m a Gen Xer, and, you know, these people started their careers like there was not social media and navigating now what it means to live life in a social media world versus what it was before. And like, I think there’s a shift that is happening. I think some people are comfortable being accountable on social media, good, bad and ugly, because this is the platform that they’ve always dealt with. But I think some of us have not always been comfortable being accountable, just depending on when you entered social media, what your life was like before. So all of these things are interesting. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Well, we will keep following this. You know, it feels like this is not the end of the Diddy story, and it’s not the end of what the unraveling of the underside of hip hop is. So there we go. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Can we end the banter on just one really nice note, positive note for the culture about cousin Simone? [laugh]

 

Myles E. Johnson: Cousin homegirl. Can I borrow a dollar, Simone? 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Simone Biles being that girl. Her record ninth win at the US gymnastics all around. 

 

Kaya Henderson: All around. Uh huh.

 

DeRay Mckesson: And she did that after taking a break for mental health and people thought she was out of the game and she is back and the last thing I’ll say before I open it up is what I love about Simone’s story is that for a long time in gymnastics, it has been like only super young girls can do it. Like they shouldn’t build muscle mass. Da da da da ad. Like it’s been privileging very, very young girls. And Simone is not as young as the field and is still that girl. And nobody has literally nobody has done it like her. That’s not even like a, oh we like her. It’s true. So I can’t wait to see what she does in Paris. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yeah. I mean, she is literally the greatest of all time in the gymnastics world and, like, love that she is doing it on her own terms. Took the break, got married, is 27, is living life on her own terms. And like I love for little Black girls, for Black people, for anybody aspiring to big things, to take the message that like, you can live life on your own terms and still be the absolute greatest. Boom! 

 

Myles E. Johnson: I’m so proud of her. On a more shallow but, you know, not so shallow note. I also love [laugh] I just love that there’s a thirst an emptiness of dark skinned brown skinned girl representation in media right now. I don’t know if you all have noticed, but I was thinking about stars and musicians and actors and so many people. I’m like, oh my God, we’re in like a what kind of like light skinned, high yellow Renaissance are we in? Like, it’s so [laughter] I’m like, it’s so rare to see somebody who’s brown skinned before and I think about like when I was, younger I think about like all like Brandi, and SWV girls and Toni Braxton. There was a lot of darker, brown skinned people who had fame, and it just feels like that’s not happening. So I also just really shallowly love looking and seeing her dominate media and looking how she does, because it feels like that is just as important, specifically when it comes to people who don’t necessarily care about sports but love cultural entertainment representation. Whereas where I enter, into into caring is like, oh, a Black girl who got the four Black grandparents. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Oh my gosh, I love you so much Myles.

 

DeRay Mckesson: Myles you’re out of control. [music break]

 

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

 

Kaya Henderson: [AD BREAK]

 

DeRay Mckesson: Okay, so my news is about the rich and powerful secret group chat on the right. Also the whole flag stuff with Alito. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Mmhmm. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: The Supreme Court justice who was at one of his houses was there were pictures of a upside down flag or like one of the flags that represents January 6th. And he essentially is like that was my wife did that. She’s a private citizen, has the opportunity to do that. That’s not even my news. But I just bring that up because I am floored by it because if Ketanji had a Black Lives Matter flag at her house, it would be wall to wall coverage about bias and da da da. What I use that as an intro to y’all the rich, mostly white people on the right are planning and they are gunning for democracy. And I don’t even say that flippantly. So my news uh was in the New Republic and it is called Off Leash inside the secret global far right group chat. So there is a group chat run by Erik Prince. He is the founder of Blackwater, which is a military contractor, ie., they’re a huge contractor for the U.S. government. They provide security across the world. They’re like a hired hit force that you can get for your business or private people. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Or your government when when your government can’t do things legally, you could hire them to do the illegal things. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And you know his sister, because his sister was none other than Betsy DeVos, who was the secretary of education under Donald Trump. Y’all, it is not a conspiracy. The people are really all in one little group. So they have a WhatsApp group called Off Leash, which is the name of his podcast, and it’s about 400 people from around the world, 400 people who are politically connected and have a lot of money. And in the chat they talk about a ton of things. But the thing I’m going to harp on, not only the foreign policy they talk about, but they really do lament democracy and the idea that democracy, where people get to vote and choose elected officials, is manipulated by populists and Marxists, while also saying that Trump is the guy, like they need to protect Trump and and I just think about what does it mean when they’re these secret group chats of really connected, really rich, uh and politically powerful people who are lamenting the fact that people get to vote, that there’s representative democracy, that people can choose their own future and pushing Trump. You know, the thing about Trump is that nobody is like this man’s a genius. Even the their people aren’t like, he’s smart. He just is going to do all the things that will make a set of people get richer and more powerful. And what is just so clear about the rollbacks on democracy is that there’s just a lot of money to be made in it. Like, I’ve never heard a compelling argument from the right about the policy perspective, but Lord knows I have understood the moneymaking motive of deregulation and the rollback on immigration and those sort of things. It either is money or it just is straight up white supremacy. And I bring it because I’m not shocked by this, but I do want to name it, because I think so often when we talk about this stuff, it sounds like a conspiracy theory. It sounds like, why do you think they’re out to get people? And it’s like, no, no. There is a secret group chat of 400 politically powerful and rich people around the world trying to destabilize other countries and trying to scale back democracy in this one. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: I saw this in the news a few times. This was such an odd thing to read because it felt like a TikTok conspiracy to me. Like I could imagine myself seeing this on YouTube or on TikTok. And say you know there’s this big master group chat of far right powers who come together and send emojis and and and white supremacist ideas and I’m and I’ll be like, yeah, I would have said that sounds ridiculous, but apparently, um we’re in ridiculous times. Because it’s the it’s the truth, so so there’s been a few times in history where what happened on the right privately has become public, and there is shock. I cannot believe you spoke like this. I cannot believe you actually said this. I think what’s interesting about this as you read it, is that what has been said in this group chat versus what has been displayed in public, that is paper thin, so that shock is not there when I can remember just in younger age when you somebody said something just wildly racist or wildly xenophobic and, and, and you can pretend to clutch your pearls, there’s not that there. So that to me is the most interesting part of this news is that although this thing that feels like it should feel a little bit more explosive still came on the scene, and we’re still talking about it, it doesn’t feel as far off as I remember these type of moments feeling in the past. Does that make sense? 

 

Kaya Henderson: I agree that the well, I’m still shocked um I am– [laugh]

 

Myles E. Johnson: Valid, valid.

 

Kaya Henderson: I’m a old lady. I’m a old lady. I’m still shocked. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Listen. The group chat is crazy. 

 

Kaya Henderson: I mean, I think for me, maybe I did not fully appreciate the, internationality of the conspiracy. Like the Romanian mercenary who is currently, you know, wreaking havoc in the Democratic Congo like we, you know, we’re like, oh, remember the Congo, remember but people have no idea what’s going on in Congo or why they just know that there’s a conflict. And we should also think about the Black people. The Romanian mercenary who is leading the issues in the Congo is in the group chat. Right? Like the conspiracy to destabilize the world, like was the thing that was, I think, shocking to me. And [sigh] it is to the earlier conversation about Diddy and the ability to fight against concentrated power. What do we do about this? What do I do about this in my little house in Washington, DC, trying to educate these poor little children around the country and hopefully maybe the world. Like what? How do we fight against people who are richer, more powerful, who are connected and networked in ways who manipulate laws in our country and other countries successfully to maintain power and control? Like, what is the [laugh] now that we know about the group chat, what do we do? That is the question that this leaves me with. So if you all have some good ideas, hit us up on the socials. Tell us how what we should be doing together collectively, because collective action is the only thing that’s gonna push back. You know, the people united will never be defeated. I believe that for real. But we got to unite. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Do we think there’s not a left group chat? 

 

Kaya Henderson: [laugh] We know there’s a left group chat child. [laughing] 

 

Myles E. Johnson: I was like [?], I’m like, can we get into that? Maybe we need to be more fiery, like, what’s going on? 

 

Kaya Henderson: I don’t know if the left group chat is as coordinated and as resourced as the right group chat. [laugh]

 

Myles E. Johnson: I’m like y’all using emojis. That’s what’s getting me. I’m like this is how [laughing] there’s just a familiarity here when you start putting little emojis in. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: The left group chat also is not trying to like rollback people’s right to vote. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yup. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: You know. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Yeah absolutely. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Ooh child. Well my news goes to regular old run of the mill American racism, which is still alive and kicking. As most of us know, this is a story out of Virginia Beach about two really exciting and a lovely young couple, Dr. Raven Baxter, she’s 30. She is a molecular biologist who works at Mount Sinai in New York, and her partner, Dr. Ronald Gamble Junior. He’s 35. He is a theoretical astrophysicist who works at NASA Goddard Space Center, whatever that means. I’m sure he does really, really important things that I don’t understand. This young Black couple, y’all. First of all, can we shout out Doctor Raven and Doctor Ronald because they are examples of Black excellence? Full disclosure I follow Raven the science maven, and had no idea that this was who this was when I read this article. But she is a science communicator who helps break down scientific content for folks in regular terms on Twitter. And they she mostly but they together cause Black partnership and Black love is real, set out to buy a condo. She made an offer on a condo in Virginia Beach, $749,000 on the beach, her sort of dream house. And she was doing the deal mostly remotely. She lives here in the Washington, DC area and got her realtor to go and do a virtual tour of the place she fell in love with it immediately. Made the offer. The offer was accepted and came down a couple weeks later to do the inspection and to see it in real life. And as she and her Doctor boo thing were leaving, the seller was coming in. The seller is a woman named Jane Walker. She’s 84 and she’s white. And so they met in passing as the buyers were leaving and the sellers were coming. And a few hours later, Doctor Raven and Doctor Ronald got a call from the seller’s realtor saying that she wanted to pull out of the sale because the buyers were Black that she could not see turning over her keys to Black people. And I bring this up because we’ve talked about discrimination and real estate and the housing market right now is probably the worst time to buy a house in U.S. history. Interest rates are higher than they’ve been, inventory is low. There are all of these reasons why housing is rough right now. And these two young Black people got their little money together and they’re buying their house. And the lady said, no, because you’re Black, violating two federal laws, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Civil Rights Act of 1886. Doctor Raven was smart enough to utilize her Twitter community. I’m telling you, the people united can never be defeated. And she was like, y’all what do I do? And they were like, look, girl, call Hood, call these people. Call the National Fair Housing Alliance, file discrimination complaints, do all of the things. And she did. And so those things are pending. But there’s a report from the National Fair Housing Alliance that show that 87% of real estate agents participate in racial steering, where they show houses in only in neighborhoods where most of the neighbors are the same race as the buyers, where they refuse to work with Black clients, where they show fewer homes to Black and Latino buyers than white buyers. We did a piece some months ago about how mortgages are denied more to Black people than anybody else, and so the industry is corrupt. But also the seller sort of thought she could just decide, no, thank you. And it takes me back to redlining and racial covenants and all of these things that we think are beyond us and they’re not beyond us. Good old American racism, still alive and kicking today. The good news is that the two real estate agents, both the buyers and seller agents, got on their jobs and, you know, have figured out how to preserve the deal. They’ve gotten the Miss Jane Walker’s relatives to convince her that she cannot do this. And so the sale will proceed. But I brought it here because I think a lot of times we think, oh, we have done all of the things. Yes, I’m Black, but I have a great job. I can afford this. I have the means, the opportunity, the motive, and even still, a little old 84 year old white lady set in her racist ways can derail our opportunities to connect with the American dream. Still alive and kicking. And I’m wishing Doctor Raven and Doctor Ronald good luck as they find their dream home. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: What a disappointing story. Um. It brought me deep annoyance to read this story. I think this is a little bit for me in my in my brain, also connected to what I was trying to say with Simone Biles too, is that I do think that this to me, it kind of really exemplifies like where colorism kind of comes to play because this is a darker skinned Black woman. And I do think that part of what she experienced there was a colorism dynamic too, that would not have been a universal experience for everybody. And I think that we would be a little bit, naive in not saying that too. That this is a darker skinned Black woman. And I think that when it comes to how all Black people are experiencing racism in America, I think that this could have very much so not have happened to somebody who looks like Vanessa Williams, and very much so still happened to this woman, if that makes sense. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yup. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: So I think that it would just be a little naive to not note that too. And then y’all know I’m a little bit weird when it comes to stories like this, because should it happen? No, but I just look around at where we are. So I guess in my head I always think about what are the possible solutions. So I think the possible solutions are more and more, Black real estate agents. Of course property to me, real estate and property in America is the battlefield for a lot of Black people when it comes to economic mobility. So us being on both, on all sides of it. But this is just not something that’s going to be given up easily. Specifically, when we think about I live in New York City and I think about who’s renting stuff and who’s putting things on the market. Like a lot of these communities are owned by older people who have that same sentiment as the 84 year old white woman. So I think the answer has to be going in on the inside, if that’s what we need. And also and also doing all the markers that make us have things. But us being in banking, us being in in real estate, working in all these different places so we can advocate for ourselves. But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t also say that um. [laugh] That even that might expire. There’s a Marcus Garvey and a Martin on both of my shoulders at all time. So part of me is just like, you know, where they got a lot of land too? Ghana. [laughter] I’m tired of asking you all for stuff. [laughing]

 

DeRay Mckesson: I’ll just do a little civil rights history lesson is I remember the Civil Rights Act of 1968 is the reason why it is illegal to discriminate based on race because of what is called the Fair Housing Act, but it is a part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 that comes following the assassination of King and the riots. It is one of the defining legacies of the civil rights movement, that it was not only an emotional cry and plea about the injustices, but it led to deep structural change across the country. The Fair Housing Act is just one piece of the Civil Rights Act. You probably also know the hate crime legislation that was a part of it, discrimination of a host of things was also barred. Disabilities, there are a whole lot of things in the Civil Rights Act in 1968 that are really important, but fair housing is one of the key parts of them. It was one of the demands of the civil rights movement. It would not have happened if not for the organizers and the protesters and people coming out and saying, that this was the only way for there to be justice. So, you know, shout out to any organizer activists, you know, because they are who fought for these protections. And it is wild that it was not illegal to discriminate based on race in the housing process until 1968. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: And this might just be a coincidence. You have to say no, you’re you’re reaching. But even with the credit score coming in and like well didn’t that was introduced in the ’80s? I’m sure somebody has have had to connect the uses of credit scores in order to get people into the stuff to a reaction to those laws being passed too. Yeah. So again, I feel like we’re just in this little cycle that we need to maybe we can’t passport our way out of everything, but we can try. [laughter] Um. Today I have some news that I did not know. I love a holiday. I love a day off. I love, I love a reason to not do anything. And I love a something that’s historically based in my own religions or in my own community, my own heritage to not do anything. Because I will take your holiday too. That has nothing to do with me and take it off as well. So I love the ones that I can say, well, this is mine too. This is really a Black one. Um. I had no idea about Pinkster. I had no no, like, just no clue about the legacy of it. And as I was looking for things to talk about, I saw so specifically this year, it seemed like a lot of people were talking about it. Some people are trying to really get it to like, a federal holiday status, and I thought the idea around it was really interesting. And so we know about Juneteenth. Juneteenth is a holiday that was founded basically around enslaved Africans. When they actually found out they were no longer um enslaved. And that was a holiday, from my recollection, that started in Texas. But then I just know in the South that was a bigger deal. This one is one that has more of a northern Black uh heritage. So I thought that was a really interesting twist to this one, too, and might bring some peace through the the constant North Black southern Black confrontation. Everybody everybody get a little holiday. Um. The article reads Pinkster is a holiday that was celebrated over several days by African and Dutch New Yorkers throughout the 1700s. The holiday was brought to the New World by Dutch settlers in the 1620s, and flourished in the areas of the heaviest Dutch settlement, the Hudson Valley, northern New Jersey, and western Long Island. These same areas also had significant populations of enslaved Africans from the 1600s until the emancipation in New York in 1827. For enslaved people, the year offered few holidays or breaks from tedious and often grueling work for rural captives, in particular, who are often isolated from larger African communities. Pinkster became the most important break in the year. Despite Pinkster’s Dutch origins, Africans in New York and New Jersey were so successful at incorporating their own cultures into the celebration that by the early 1800s, Pinkster was actually considered an African American holiday. Pinkster was celebrated over several days. The Dutch observed Pinkster by attending church services, and important church functions like baptisms and confirmations were often held during the festival. Neighbors visited one another and children dyed eggs and ate gingerbread. Enslavers granted time off to captive men and women, the Pinkster holiday afforded enslaved Africans the opportunity to reunite with loved ones and family members, who often lived some distance away. Many journied from rural areas in New York City, with a significantly larger population of both free and enslaved Africans by the mid 1700s. Markets in New York and Brooklyn were attracting large gatherings at Pinkster time. Enslaved men and women sold such items as berries, herbs, bark, beverages and oysters at these markets, and in turn used money earned to participate in the Pinkster Celebration. This was a really interesting holiday, too, because it also made me think about the kind of legacy of Black people. It so coincides with that when I think about the legacy of jazz, and how European instruments were manipulated in order to birth something new and and to hybrid something. When I think about soul food and how the animals that we had and the access to vegetables that we did have were used in order to create something new. And when I think about spiritual legacy, specifically of things like um, what we know as Haitian voodoo or New Orleans Voodoo, how a lot of those things were twisting Catholic imagery and saints in order so these enslaved people can still worship their own deities, so they would cover up, Orisha with a saint in order to be able to still, um worship their own religion, but in plain sight. This feels like very on the same track of that, using this already established Dutch holiday in a moment where slave owning white folks were going to like a religious festival, and using that as a way to twist in your own cultural moments and using that as a celebration because you already had it. I thought one thing that was interesting too, as I was researching it, is that there was such a big basis of leisure in it, and that’s one thing that made it the most like interesting to me, and that there was a need to walk around and buy things and to celebrate in, I don’t know, I think in my head it’s I often don’t imagine enslaved people as doing some of the same things that we do now. When I think about us going to festivals and going to different markets and buying stuff. I think that in my head that didn’t happen until everybody was free. So even me reading about this clicked something in my head that there was already these communal big desires and actions of wanting to be in celebration and wanting to be in community, and in an economy with each other. Even before we were considered fully human, that was already being established way before emancipation. And that kind of changed the chemistry of my brain when it when I’m thinking about enslaved folks, too. So that’s another reason why I really appreciated this article. So let me know. Did you know about Pinkster? Um. Will you celebrate? Will we be celebrating next year? Who got the rooftop? 

 

Kaya Henderson: Myles. I didn’t know about Pinkster at all. And we teach African American history and culture at my company Reconstruction. And so I sent this to my curricular team and was like, yo, what’s up with this? How come we didn’t know this? Maybe other people knew this, but I didn’t. And so we will incorporate this into the history that’s not taught. Right. This is our history and the similarities to what we do today and how we do. I mean, I just think about we’re on the verge of summertime and how many summer festivals we go to where there is dancing, where there are vendors, where, you know, we reunite with family and friends and we’ve been doing this. We not new to this. We true to this, right? We’ve been doing this for a long time. It is always also just refreshing to me to see opportunities historically where, as you pointed out, our humanity is actually recognized and celebrated. And so this was like refreshing and new. And I grew up about 20 minutes away from Philipsburg Manor, which hosts a Pinkster celebration. Never heard of it. And so we’re going to look in and dig in deep and figure out how we commemorate Pinkster moving forward. We might not get a national holiday, but I’m with you, Myles. I love a holiday. So let’s add this one to the calendar. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Yeah, I didn’t know anything about Pinkster, so this was all learning for me. And shout out to celebrating in the future. But yeah, this was 100% new. So thanks for bringing it. 

 

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

 

[AD BREAK]

 

DeRay Mckesson: Congressman Bowman, it’s great to have you on the pod. How have you been? 

 

Jamaal Bowman: Been good, man. Been good. Good to be with you, man. Appreciate you having me. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: You are up for reelection soon, and I wanted to check in about how is Congress what you thought it would be when you were running? You hadn’t ever been in Congress before. Tell us about it. 

 

Jamaal Bowman: I had never been in any elected office before. Not even, like, you know, class president. So I had no idea uh what Congress was going to be like. The first year you just got to get used to the language and the parliamentary procedures and decorum. You know, like when you give a one minute on the House floor, you got to start by saying, you know, I ask unanimous consent to address the house for one minute and to revise and extend my remarks like things like that. You know what I mean? So you gotta get used to that stuff. So I didn’t know what to expect. The structural and institutional racism comes through the walls and lives and breathes in the statues and the paintings and the house floor, quite frankly. And the building itself, which was built by formerly enslaved people. Right. And so that hits me every time I come here. But in terms of like, the content and just the engagement and dialog with my colleagues, that’s been all cool. That’s been all chill, except for obviously, in my opinion, we don’t do nearly enough to fight for just foreign policy or, you know, justice for Black and Brown people or poor people or marginalized people. And so that’s been my biggest sort of frustration. Like, we have a lot of sense of urgency for some countries and people and special interests, but not for the American people. And that sucks, obviously. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Now, let me ask you a 101 question, because it is a question a lot of people, you’re in Congress, you represent parts of New York City. What is your role in New York City politics? You know, with the NYPD or Rikers or the school system that you know very well because you worked in it? Like, what does that mean as a congressperson? What do you do? What’s the relationship? 

 

Jamaal Bowman: You know, it’s a great question. I sit on education and labor and I sit on science, space, and tech. So anything that falls under the jurisdiction of those two committees are definitely in my wheelhouse. So visiting a public school, visiting a college, meeting with school superintendents, talking about any aspect of education, in my jurisdiction. Same thing on science, space, and tech, where I am the ranking member on the energy subcommittee. So anything under the umbrella of energy, you know, regarding clean energy, renewable energy, fossil fuel, and getting off of fossil fuels. That’s all under my jurisdiction. In addition to that, anything that kind of happens in the northeast Bronx or near the northeast Bronx, I may lean into it, depending upon what the issue is. And the same thing based on the areas I represent in Westchester. Local policies are driven by city council or town councils or trustees. Same thing at the county level, same thing at the state level. However, there have been a few times where I may weigh in in a particular area to just share my support for an initiative. For example, when the governor was considering the Building Public Renewables Act, which is a huge piece of climate legislation that’s going to help transition New York City buildings and New York state buildings off of fossil fuels. You know, I led a congressional letter to the governor that was published in The New York Times that we feel helped that bill to get over the finish line. So it’s more advocacy as it relates to certain issues locally. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And then the last, general question before we go into specifics is you’ve been one of the more progressive members of this Congress, for sure. And I have to imagine that that has been hard given the opposing party and, frankly, some members of your own party. But I want to know, what is it like walking into the building every day and knowing that some people have, you know, you’re the radical to some people. [laughter] You’re the crazy to some people. And for some people, you are their guy. What does that feel like? What is that like? 

 

Jamaal Bowman: Yeah, I mean, I try to stay rooted in the people that I serve in the district, especially those who have been marginalized, those who have been left out of the conversations that we have here in Congress or at any level of government. So I I always try to stay rooted in the people that I serve because they are me and I am them. You know, I was raised by a single mom, lived in the projects, lived in rent stabilized apartments, grew up during a tough time, you know, crack cocaine epidemic. Now a working class married father of three, you know, kids in school, you know, and I want to emphasize working class because people may may think of, remember, Congress is prestigious as a position, but in terms of my salary versus the cost of raising three kids and having a mortgage. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: In New York City. 

 

Jamaal Bowman: Right outside New York City. Yonkers is really tough. Westchester County, which is just as expensive as New York City in many ways. And so you know I stay rooted in that. That’s who I am. And what’s challenging is frustrating, actually. You know, when we first got here, man, we couldn’t even raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. You know, it’s still $7.25. And I can’t comprehend that. I can’t comprehend how the most powerful body in the world continues to leave working class people behind, poor people behind. And we weren’t able to move forward with that particular piece of legislation, as well as many others. Affordable childcare, lowering utility costs, you know, ensuring the wealthy pay their fair share. You know, this place is really driven by special interests, corporate interests and big money politics. And a lot of our my colleagues, because they are funded for their campaigns by that big money. They don’t speak out against big money. Whereas we from the very beginning, we don’t take corporate PAC money. And so we stay rooted in the people and with the grassroots organizations that we serve. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Now, the hip hop task force. 

 

Jamaal Bowman: Yes. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: You were a part of getting that set up. 

 

Jamaal Bowman: Yeah. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Talk about what you hope it does. Why does it matter of all the things that we’re dealing with, why is this one of the things that matters? 

 

Jamaal Bowman: Yeah. You know, I hope it pulls in fans of hip hop artists within hip hop who have very influential voices, like everyone from Kendrick Lamar to [?] and everyone in between. I hope the energy and the humanity of the culture that I grew up in can begin to resonate here in Congress as it relates to particular issues. So hip hop has talked about all of the issues we cared about throughout the course of my life. So whether it’s police brutality or criminal justice reform or poverty or mental health or domestic violence, whatever issue, the progressive movements and people like you and I are fighting for, hip hop has articulated why those issues are very important to the communities that the artists come from, but also to the entire country. And so the Hip Hop Taskforce is about galvanizing that energy and bringing it into spaces where it historically has been left out. I mean, you know, we all remember C. Delores Tucker and many others, right? Running over I mean you might be young, you’re young. I don’t know if you remember this. But I remember hip hop being under attack from back then. You know, whether it was NWA or Tupac Shakur, or Ice-T, you know, so-called gangsta rap. It was always the criminalizing. And it’s happening now with rap on trial and artists being put in jail because of their lyrics, as opposed to just criminalizing the artists for expressing who they are based on the communities that they come from. Let’s look at the core conditions that created the circumstances in which our artists have grown up and been nurtured in and manifested as as who they are. We don’t do that. And my hope is we begin to do that in a real way. While working with, again, fans of the of the culture and those who work within the culture to move certain policy agendas forward. George Floyd, justice in policing, taxing the rich, again justice reform, on and on and on. So that that’s that’s the hope, you know, and that’s why we created the taskforce. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And talking about those underlying conditions, what is the policy solution for like poverty or the lack of child care? Because I, I talk to people all the time who feel like nobody’s looking out for them, or they’re like, I don’t know what they’re like, you know, I know what poverty feels like because, you know, everything’s way more expensive than it used to be, and da da da. But it doesn’t feel like there’s actually a fix, right? Like people sort of can’t touch or feel the fix. How do we help people? Or is there not a fix? I don’t know. 

 

Jamaal Bowman: Of course there’s a fix! 

 

DeRay Mckesson: You tell me, how do we help people? What is it? How do we do this? 

 

Jamaal Bowman: Humanity, anti-Racism, and anti-discrimination policy and money, quite frankly. I mean, if we cared about people and we didn’t govern to sustain a racial and economic caste system, we would address the issue of poverty. We would address the issue of affordable childcare. But because of us being rooted in institutional, structural and cognitive racism and bias, our policies are written that way and their bills are introduced that way, and they become law in that way. And then the implementation of those laws continue to leave certain groups of people behind. You know, the conversation is often, oh, we don’t have enough money for this or enough money for that. Oh we have this much, usually driven by the right, but Democrats are part of this as well, oh we have this much debt and we need to get out of the debt. You know, it’s always about saving money when it comes to poor people or Black and Brown people or women. But when it comes to tax cuts for the wealthiest, we seem to be able to move forward with that. Or corporations, we move forward with that. So it’s governance rooted in humanity and rooted in the understanding that when we help all people, it’s better for the country, it’s better for the economy. It’s going to dramatically decrease carceral cost and health care costs and produce better education and economic outcomes. But see when we do that now your racial and economic caste system is disrupted. And don’t even get me started on reparations, right? Which should also be a part of this conversation. So it could totally be done, could totally be done. And that’s why, you know, I was proud to run for office. First time ever ran for anything. Proud to be elected as the first person of color and Black man in history in this seat. But we need more, man. We need millions more to to to be engaged, to be involved, to come out and vote. Because at every level of government, US Senate, US House, state races, county races, local races, school board. We need everybody involved man. That’s the only way this is going to change the way we want it to. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Are there any policies, uh that we should be paying attention to with regard to poverty or housing or, you know, you talked about the George Floyd Act, so we’ve covered that before. But what are the things that we should be paying attention to and watching that maybe didn’t get a lot of press or coverage but are big deals? 

 

Jamaal Bowman: Man, a ton. So in terms of poverty, we have a bill, it’s called the Babies Over Billionaires Act. And it’s all about ensuring that we tax unrealized capital gains at a certain percentage and then reinvest that money on any area related to our children. So whether it’s universal childcare, universal pre-K, fully funding public schools or free community college, that money, which would raise $1 trillion over ten years, can go towards any one of those areas. That’s one example. We also have another bill called the Ending Corporate Greed Act, which is similar and really focuses on making sure corporations are contributing their fair share to the economy. So that that money can be reinvested in the areas that people need. And so some of you might ask, well, how does that deal with the issue of poverty? Well, if you are not paying a rent payment for child care, that’s extra money in your pocket that you could then save, invest, spend how you want in another area. Get yourself out of debt. Whatever the case may be. In terms of housing there’s a few. Ilhan Omar has a bill, the Housing for All Act, I believe it’s called, but I might be wrong about that. But it’s another bill that seeks to ensure that everyone in the country has a home, period. And affordable homes. Right? And that’s another bill that, again, seeks to spend $1 trillion over ten years to build homes for everyone. The Green New Deal for public housing is another bill that I’m a original co-sponsor of that looks at the issue of housing um very specifically. And then lastly, Cory Bush and Barbara Lee led, I’m a co-sponsor of a resolution, uh seeking to generate $14 trillion in reparations for African Americans based on present day and historical harm. So this is just a few, many more obviously, that people could be paying attention to. But I’m glad you asked the question, because people out there need to know, like people like us are introducing these transformational bills, and the more we have people lobbying on our behalf across the country to push those bills forward, the more likely they are to get attention. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: You know, I’m so curious about this. What’s the most common way people reach out to you? Is it, do people leave voicemails on the office phone? Is it emails? Is it they stop by? Like what is what does that look like? I’m so interested. 

 

Jamaal Bowman: Yeah. I mean, they call the office all the time. You know, they call the D.C. office or the district office. What’s interesting is we get a lot a ton of calls from from our district, but also all over the country. Just, you know, when people see me on the news or see me stand up for a particular issue they care about, they’ll call from all over the country to just say thank you for what you did. Thank you for standing up. Whatever. Yeah, I got a couple examples of that. One when I was going at it with Thomas Massie outside the house floor about ending gun violence. That interaction got a lot of attention, went viral, and we got calls from all over the country. Man, people were so thankful that we stood up in that way for our children and for ending gun violence. One of the original co-sponsors of the ceasefire resolution, related to the mass slaughter that’s happening right now in Gaza. We got calls from all over the country in our office, from people who are just saying thank you. So people call the office all the time. People also reach out sometimes on social media, like through DMs. And then when I’m in the district, when I meet people, interact with people, I give out my number to people, you know, just so they can just text me or contact me or keep me in the loop on certain things. And then I just connect them to my office, you know, to get them the support they need. But, you know, in my opinion, not enough people use our services. You know, there’s a combination of reasons. One, we have to continue to do as well as we can to reach out to people, communicate and bring them in. But the second thing is people are mad overwhelmed and busy, you know, saying like they got multiple jobs, they got kids commuting back and forth, and they don’t always have time to pick up the phone, call their member of Congress. But they should, because we can help with like IRS, immigration–

 

DeRay Mckesson: Passports? 

 

Jamaal Bowman: People that deal with passports, passports. My I got shout out to Adeli um Espeaot she is my case manager. She is incredible, man. We be killing the passport games. And that’s a big one. It’s funny because, like, there’ll be situations where again real quick. Someone recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. What they wanted to do before they pass on was visit a certain part of Europe with their favorite cousin. They didn’t have a passport and they don’t have much time to, we helped them get a passport. And when you run into someone in the district under those circumstances, they are so grateful to you for helping them. And their family passed away, they got to get overseas for a funeral. We can help them with that. So that that passport thing is not just for people going on vacation. It’s like real, like real life or death situations for people. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I love it. Is there something that you’re particularly proud of? 

 

Jamaal Bowman: Yeah, man. Um. I’m proud to be Jamaal Bowman in this seat, because that means a lot for a lot of people. You know? Yes. I’m proud of bringing in, you know, over a billion dollars to the district and working to bring in vaccination sites when Black people and seniors were dying left and right. Proud to work with the governor to bring in 40 million to reduce gun violence. Proud of working with Biden to write the Chips and Science Act and bringing in wealth building opportunities to the district. Proud of all of that. But I’m probably most proud when I’m in Bessemer, Alabama, which I didn’t even know existed before I got to Congress. And some young Black man is like yo Congressman Bowman. I love you, man. Thank you for your work. You know, I support you. Or I’m walking down the street in Chicago randomly, and some kid is at the stop line and was like, Congressman Bowman, man, love your work. I’m coming to D.C. to support you, like that kind of thing. You know, before me, there was um, Eliot Engel here, you know, and no offense to Eliot Engel. He was here for 30 years, but he didn’t connect with our communities in a way that I think is important. Now they have me, first Black man to be in this seat, first person of color. You know, I walk and talk a certain way. You know what I’m saying? So it pulls certain people in. I think I’m most proud of that. Last week we had there’s this core innovation program in my district that we provide over a million, $1.1 million of funding to, and it’s an alternative to incarceration program. Young person commits harm, instead of sending them to jail, let’s put them in this alternative program, give them mentorship, give them education, etc. so we invited them and sponsored them to come to DC to do like a capital tour and all that. So having them come here man, and like me meeting with them and giving them the tour and all of that, that’s it right there. Because you know, you can’t be what you can’t see. Right? For them to see me and talk to me and be close to me. And it’s inspiring for them because I remember it being inspiring for me when I was a young kid, getting suspended from school and getting in trouble with the cops, and it was inspiring for me to help me to get here. So that’s probably what I’m most proud of. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I love it. Um last couple questions is what’s a piece of advice that you’ve gotten over the years that you’ll never forget? 

 

Jamaal Bowman: This might be cheating, but it wasn’t advice given to me personally. It was in a song. It’s in a hip hop song, you know, coming full circle, the hip hop task force. There’s a song, Move the Crowd by Eric B. & Rakim, 1986 Paid In Full album. And Rakim has this line with knowledge of self there’s nothing I can’t solve. It’s 360 degrees I revolve. It’s an actual fact, it’s not an act. It’s been proven indeed, and I proceed to keep the crowd moving. Like that knowledge of self line that pretty much that’s been like my guiding light throughout my life. It’s informed my work in education, my education advocacy, what I try to do with kids now, how I try to govern. It’s just my foreign policy, you know what I’m saying? Like knowledge of ourselves helps us to create understanding of self, but also understanding and empathy towards others, which I think leads to uh less conflict and war and more peace and diplomacy. So so that’s one. And then, you know, my mom, man, and this sounds super cliche and corny and wack, but my mother was the first one I ever heard say it. And when she said it, it was like gold for me. She was like, you can be anything you want to be, man. You know, I was like seven. And we were sitting at the dining table and I think we were coloring the coloring book, and I couldn’t color within the lines. And I was crying because she could color within the lines. I was upset at myself. And that led to a conversation that led to her saying that. I never forgot that. And I’ve always lived my life as that and I yeah probably that. It sound real corny. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I love it. 

 

Jamaal Bowman: But when you’re seven and your mother is a single mom raising you. And she says that in that circumstance, you never forget that. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: What did she call you? Did she call you Jamaal? 

 

Jamaal Bowman: Yeah yeah yeah. Jamaal. Yeah. I was her only boy, too. So you could imagine. I got forced–

 

DeRay Mckesson: You didn’t have a nickname? Jay? 

 

Jamaal Bowman: I had a nickname, but not from my mother. My nickname was Strongback, but it was not from my mother. It was because I played basketball with a lot of intensity. And all of a sudden they starting calling me strongback. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Strongback. 

 

Jamaal Bowman: Which is hilarious. Now at 48 years old my back is not that strong. [laughter]. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Last question is, what advice do you have for people who feel like they’re fighting and fighting and things aren’t moving in the way they want them to move? And they’re like, you know, we protested, we called, we emailed, and they’re still sort of challenged a little bit by hope. What do you say to those people? 

 

Jamaal Bowman: Keep going. Keep learning. Take care of yourself. Meaning eat right, exercise, lift weights if you can. It’s all really important. Just self-care is super important. But keep going. Be gentle with yourself, man. I remember, you know, I used to always want to change the world in five minutes, you know, and I’m still impatient like that, you know. But I give myself at least a couple of months or a year to do something big. You know, not five minutes. Um. So self-care. Keep going, keep learning. And when I say keep learning, man, keep reading. Like, read everything and like, don’t be stubborn to think like, you know what you know right now. You know, 48 years old, May 20 something, whatever the date is, that what you know now is that’s the truth. You know what I’m saying like that’s the forever truth. There’s some things that are, but there are other things that are not that we keep learning and then connect with others man. Like, none of us can do this work alone. And can live this life alone, man. You know, my greatest blessing is I had an incredible mom, incredible family, but also my wife you know, Melissa. Just having her man. My favorite thing to do, brother. After all of this, I go home, she has her seat on the couch. I sit right next to her. I just lay my head on her and we just watch something mindless on TV. And I fall asleep like that almost every night I’m home. And so, you know, the more we can connect with each other, that’s all, you know it sustains us, man. So, yeah, those are those are a few pieces of advice. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Where do people go to stay in touch with you? Is it is it Twitter? Is it a website? Is it Facebook? 

 

Jamaal Bowman: Yeah, yeah. If people want to stay in touch and actually like interact, probably Instagram DM will probably be best. The handle is @JamaalBowmanNY J-A-M-A-A-L-B-O-W-M-A-N-N-Y. I can’t talk about the campaign in my office, but uh DM me. As a matter of fact, a better handle because I’m in my office is @RepBowman. R-E-P-B-O-W-M-A-N. DM me and we could begin dialog and take it from there, man. Yeah. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And is there a website? 

 

Jamaal Bowman: Yes. Again, I’m in my office so I can’t give you the other one, but DM me. I’ll give it to you. Bowman.house.gov is the website and you can see all the work we’re doing on the official side of all the bills we’ve introduced and the advocacy and all the community stuff. 

 

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

 

Jamaal Bowman: Appreciate you brother. Thank you man. [music break]

 

DeRay Mckesson: Well that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning in to Pod Save the People this week. Don’t forget to follow us at @CrookedMedia on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. And if you enjoyed this episode of Pod Save the People, consider dropping us a review on your favorite podcast app and we’ll see you next week. Pod Save the People was a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by AJ Moultrié and mixed by Vasilis Fotopoulos. Executive produced by me and special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger and Myles E. Johnson. 

 

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