I Wish A ... Would Try to Ban Us (with Jacqueline Woodson & Hillary Crosley-Coker) | Crooked Media
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November 16, 2023
Stuck with Damon Young
I Wish A ... Would Try to Ban Us (with Jacqueline Woodson & Hillary Crosley-Coker)

In This Episode

Jacqueline Woodson joins Damon to discuss her decorated career and what we can do to combat the legislative effort to ban books from Black and queer authors from classrooms and school libraries. Then journalist Hillary Crosley Coker comes through to celebrate and contextualize the legacy of Jezebel and the rest of the now extinct Gawker Media Network.

TRANSCRIPT

 

Jacqueline Woodson: All these books that are telling American history from the side of the people who were harmed by the past are getting pulled from the classrooms because they are saying they make white kids feel bad. [music plays]

 

Damon Young: So welcome back, everyone to Stuck with Damon Young the show where we are banned in 17 states. I mean, not not really. But a nigga can dream, right? But yeah, you know, although the South gets most of the attention for this. School districts all over the country have been the subject of books getting challenged and banned by parents and administrators who believe the content is too Black or too Muslim or too queer or too anything other than cis het Christian and white. And to talk about some of the historical context of book banning and what we could do to fight this. I’m joined today by living icon Jacqueline Woodson, and then the homie Hillary Crosley Coker comes through to talk about in the Jezebel, her time working there and what, if anything, exists now to replace the voicey, fearless messy and radical content from blogs like Jezebel and Gawker. All right y’all. Let’s get it. [music plays] Jacqueline Woodson is a MacArthur genius and author of 39 books, including her latest Remember Us, which is available in stores right now. Jackie what’s good?

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Oh, man. Seeing you is good. That’s for sure. 

 

Damon Young: And also, before we got on, one of our producers, Ryan was talking about how great your background is and how just unique it is and how curated the placement is. And, you know, I shared that, you know, it’s a flex, actually, because all of those plaques, all of those awards, all those medals, those have your name on them. Those aren’t just random. [laughter]

 

Jacqueline Woodson: It’s crazy. 

 

Damon Young: But there’s a method to, you know, the curation there where you actually were saying that you did not intend to flex in this manner. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: This is my pre-pandemic pre Zoom wall. And my whole thing for years and years was that I was going to have my desk, I was going to have all the awards and stuff behind me. It has nothing to do with what I’m currently working on, what I’m trying to do. So I wouldn’t look at it. I’m looking at this blank wall. It just has an eyebrow drawing on it and I love it. I love just looking at blankness. But now this is the backdrop in my Zoom because we’ve become this Zoom culture [laughter] it’s it’s bananas. Every time I look up, I’m like, Oh, no, there goes my past. But I was asking you about your color curation. [laughter] Like, are your books curated by color? There’s like an umbra going on too. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah, yeah, yeah. There’s a color coordination thing happening there where it’s just. It is what it is that’s just out of books are curated on this bookshelf. There’s a couple other ones in the house, but yeah, for this one—

 

Jacqueline Woodson: How do you find what you’re looking for? Do you remember the color of spines? 

 

Damon Young: Well, the thing is, there aren’t a lot of books here. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: There’s maybe like, on this wall right here may be 150. 200. And so those are mostly books that I’ve read recently. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Wow. 

 

Damon Young: Right. Not older books, but books that, you know. And by recently, I mean, like, in the last four or five years. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Okay. 

 

Damon Young: Right. And so I’m not re reading those as immediately as some of the other ones that are a bit older and that I come back to more often. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: So, yeah, that’s a good question, though, because you’re the first person to ask me that one, it’s like, okay, how do you find what you’re looking for? 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Right. Because there’s so many different ways to cure rate in a book collection. You could do color coded. You could do just random, right? It could be an alphabetical or chronological order also. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: It’s true. It’s true. But titles or by author name? I do. You know the author’s last name? 

 

Damon Young: Okay. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Is my way of doing it. 

 

Damon Young: So you’re like a bookstore? [laughs] Basically. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Yeah. I’m like a alphabetize to the bone bookstore. 

 

Damon Young: So you’re on tour, and this is book number—

 

Jacqueline Woodson: 39 or 40? I’m not sure. 

 

Damon Young: Oh, my God. 39. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: I stopped counting. I’ve written a lot of books. 

 

Damon Young: You have written a lot of books. [laughs] Right. A lot of great books. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Thanks Damon.

 

Damon Young: Can you just tell us a bit about, I guess, the latest? 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: So this is a book called Remember Us, and it takes place in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn in the seventies and which is where I grew up. And it’s about the fires that were happening in the city in that part of the city. During that time, these fires were happening in Bushwick and in the Bronx, and sometimes they were electrical. A lot of times they were the result of landlords setting their buildings on fire to get the insurance money. And it revolves around the girl Sage, who’s 12, who’s a basketball dynamo, and her bearing witness to these fires. And so it’s trying to talk about a lot of stuff, but that’s the foundation. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. I mean, you know, just typical light fare [laughter] just lightness. Through and through. Right.

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Just a Tuesday.

 

Damon Young: [laughs] Yeah. And so how’s the tour been so far? 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: It’s been interesting. I’ve been to a lot of cities. I mean, you know how this goes. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: But I think we’re still trying to figure out how to do it post-pandemic, right? People are starting to come out again. Publishers are trying to figure out how to get them into spaces. Is it’s been interesting. There were a lot of people on tour, like I kept missing Roxane Gay because she’s on tour with Opinions. And then Rachel Eliza Griffiths is on tour with Promise. So all these people who we revolve around the same communities were out in the world trying to amplify our voices. And it’s a different time. It’s a book tour, post-pandemic. This is my first time going out in it, so. 

 

Damon Young: I’m not as vigilant. I guess in the last maybe three or four months, my vigilance level has reduced and I was hyper. I still mask in airports, airplanes, elevators. [laughs] Ubers.

 

Jacqueline Woodson: With good reason. 

 

Damon Young: But I am doing public events. Right. I just did a thing with Isaac Fitzgerald. Last week. He came to Pittsburgh. He’s on his paperback tour. He was at Whitewell Bookstore here in the city. And I did not mask up. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: And you were in conversation with him? 

 

Damon Young: Yeah, I was in conversation with him. And your point about just the anxiety that people have, where I think that people are definitely itching to return to some sense of normalcy and it’s like, well, how do you determine what is the right thing to do? 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Right. How do you determine, like, am I being hypervigilant? Am I overcorrecting? Or am I, like, under vigilant? Am I, like, trying to, I don’t know, return to normalcy that isn’t actually there right now? 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it is for real. It is. I feel like there is this level of denial, too. I mean, I was at a party last night and there were a lot of us there, and it was a food party. I don’t know if, you know, mentioned Min Jin Lee, but she wrote Pachinko and she throws these hella dinner parties [laughter] and so we’re all there. We’re sharing food. We’re in the space together. And I think there’s just a level of we want to feel hopeful. We want to feel like we can do some of the stuff that we loved doing before. And because now people are living with COVID rather than dying with it. For the most part, I think there is this way. I think about it like the post AIDS period where people are still of course having safe sex, but they weren’t terrified that they were going to die because there was a way to live with that chronic illness. And I think in the same way with COVID, yeah, we might get sick, we might lose a day or two, but at the same time, we want to live. [laughs]

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Not only in our bodies, but like in our communities. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. And, you know, that’s that’s a good point you bring up about just. Yeah, I think my vigilance is conditional. Also. Like when I’m in an unfamiliar space, I’m more an unfamiliar space that it’s packed. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And that it’s closed or whatever, I’m more likely to mask up. But, you know, for instance, I’m a be in Harlem for the Fête.

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Oh, yes. 

 

Damon Young: At the beginning of the month I’m coming in. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Yay. 

 

Damon Young: I’m probably not going to mask. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Yeah. No. 

 

Damon Young: And again, I, we’ll be around people I know going to be having a great time. But there’s no reason for me to be any less vigilant there then I would be like in some unfamiliar space. But again, I feel like there’s like this psychosomatic thing happening where, you know what? I know these niggas [laughter] because I know them that gives me another layer of protection. And equating it to the AIDS scare I think works. And I’m even just thinking about my own background, my own education, my own upbringing. I came of age in the eighties nineties. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Right. That’s when I was a, you know, pre-teen teen. And so you were taught to be terrified of four things. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Quicksand [laughs] right? You’re taught to be terrified of quicksand, drugs. All of that, you know, say no to drugs all the DARE all the this is your brain on drugs. Those commercials, like if you took drugs, you were going to die like that. That was it. And AIDS. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Particularly in the nineties. Like, you were terrified. I’m in middle school, high school. And this was just drilled into us. Like, if you have sex, you might die. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Right. And the thing is that hysteria existed for a good reason. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Right. Because it was killing lots of people. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Right. I think the hysteria was overcorrection. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: To what was happening. And it’s funny. This is probably the most awkward segue I’ve ever made for this podcast. But, you know, speaking of hysterias [laughs] right, we’re in the age right now where there is a lot of hysteria about books. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: And about education. And about books from people of color or books from queer people or books from people who are not cis het white men. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Essentially. And so what has your experience been with the book banning that’s happening and that’s becoming just more and more pervasive throughout the country? 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: The struggle is real. I think that it’s finally getting amplified as what it is, which is an erasure of history. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: And I think that I’m starting to see some push back. What people were thinking and saying before was that this was about first pornography, right? That was, quote unquote, “The books that we were trying to indoctrinate kids,” quote, unquote. But now people are realizing it’s books like Brown Girl Dreaming and the Story of Ruby Bridges and the story of Martin Luther King in the Civil Rights Movement, all these books that are telling American history from the side of the people who were harmed by the past are getting pulled from the classrooms because they are saying they make white kids feel bad and that the fact that what is happening is books by queer people, books by people of the global majority are suddenly being not only banned, but the bans being legislated so that teachers and librarians can get fired for having a book in the classroom. I mean, Red at the Bone is banned because it talks about the Tulsa race massacre. And that was a time where white people were not behaving in a good light. Right. So I think that this is such a deeply dangerous time for us and for our young people, because the idea of walking into a classroom and not seeing any reflection of yourself in the literature is a really dangerous place to be, to have this sense that you’re not legitimate in the bigger world. And writers like myself and Virginia Hamilton and Walter Dean Myers, and then, of course, Jason Reynolds and Kwame Alexander and Angie Thomas, all of these writers who came along to let kids see themselves in the narrative. 

 

Damon Young: Mm. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: And provide these narratives where they had as Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop talks about mirrors and windows, mirrors that show reflections of themselves and windows into other worlds. The fact that these books are being pulled from school libraries and sometimes even public libraries is a really heartbreaking thing for me because I love young people also. It’s just going to make people even less bright because they have no sense of history. [laughs]

 

Damon Young: You know, obviously I try not to be a victim of the present. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Right. And recognize that, you know what, I’m 44, which, you know, I’ve been around for a bit, but I haven’t been around, you know, forever. Right. And so it might seem like to me that this period is unique in terms of the hysteria being unique. The political push to ban books, to censor, to constrict, to restrict is somewhat new. But again, I wasn’t a working adult during 9/11  I was an adult, but I wasn’t like an adult who was in the world right during 9/11, I wasn’t an adult in the eighties or the nineties. And so I’m going to ask you, like, is it right to say that this period is unique or is this just like another version of things that you’ve witnessed happening in the last, you know, 20, 25 years? 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: It’s a good question. It’s not unique in the history of the world, right? We have seen book banning’s. We have seen the history where people are exiled, imprisoned, killed for what they’ve written, or what they’re reading. Right. That idea of having to hide a narrative just shows us, of course, how powerful books are. But it is unique in the history of the 20th century and of course, the 21st century cause the 21st century’s so young in that in the past it hasn’t been legislated. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: So you know that we have school boards, we have parents coming in, stealing books out of libraries because they didn’t want their kids to read them, are getting on school boards. When we look at the rainbow curriculum of the nineties, where it was a real push to keep books that dealt with queer themes out of schools. Right? So I remember Heather Had Two Mommies was one of the big books that people were like, This is a book that’s trying to indoctrinate kids. And so parents got on school boards to exercise that power. And in this period we started the school boards. And this is again, why voting is so important, right? You vote all these different levels. So school boards and then they became parts of districts and then they became part of city councils. And and it just kind of moved up the ladder until we get to this point of people saying it’s against the law. If you live in Florida to have these books in your classroom and if you’re a teacher bringing those books into the classroom, you will be fired. And if you’re a librarian who has these books on your shelves, you will be fired. And that’s something I haven’t lived through before. And I’ve been here for a long time. [laughs]

 

Damon Young: And I think, you know one part about it that we have to be careful about and I’m speaking to myself, too, is that I think there’s a presumption that this sort of thing is happening in certain parts of the country or it’s concentrated in certain parts of the country, particularly in the south, maybe in the southwest. But there’s shit happening in western Pennsylvania right now. Pine-Richland is a school district in this county where they’re having like a book ban controversy right now because of school board, because of parents and people who are wanting to remove books from classrooms. And again, this is 10 minutes outside of Pittsburgh. Right. And so this thing, you know, and again, it’s just a mistake to assume presume that this thing is limited to like Florida or Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, whatever, because it is pervasive, it is spreading. It is everywhere. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: So true. 

 

Damon Young: Right now, too. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: So true. 

 

Damon Young: I wanted to ask you too, you know, like as someone who who has had books banned. Right. Have you ever felt any like, radical or like subversive? Like. Like. Holy shit. You know what I mean, my book is so explosive. [laughter] My book is so radical, so Black, so queer. It’s so explosive. They can’t even put it in school, you know, a kid gonna pick this book up and set on fire, you know what I mean. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Oh my God. 

 

Damon Young: Have you ever. I’m not saying that this is your prevailing thought. [laughter] About have your books bad, but have you ever felt any of that? 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: You know, that’s so funny. The history of children’s writing is a history of people being somewhat subversive, right? You’re going to underneath the telling of the story, there’s a deep moral code, right? And the way that a deep way that you believe the world should be. And you’re not going to stand on a soapbox and say, this is how the world should be, but you’re going to write a book called Each Kindness about a girl who is in kind and lives to regret it. Right. And that’s going to show a young person the impact of their unkindness, not only on the greater good in the bigger world, but on their own body. And that kid is going to think, well, when have I been unkind? And so this is all happening on the page of a book, and I know I’m doing that. I know I’m talking about when I wrote Brown Girl Dreaming, I knew I was saying, I have a right to be seen in this world, and so do you. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: And I’m not going to say that, but I’m going to write it so that you feel that. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: And I also don’t think that I’m dropping some kind of bomb. [laughter] Like, I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said before, but what I feel like I’m doing is having this conversation with young people to show them their power. And I think that this is what adults tend to be scared of, right? If a white kid reads a book about a Black kid who’s had some kind of life that that white could never imagine, that white kid is going to go, I want to know that Black kid. I want to have a conversation with them. I you know, I want to see that world. I want to listen to that music. I want to learn that dance and that conversation, I think, to a in this country where people are growing more and more separate is threatening. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Because they also know how much power young people have. I mean, we see them we see them walking out of schools, we see them, you know, shutting it down. We see them like having the conversations that are trying to change this moment and end climate change and all of that stuff. And this is why they’re going for books in schools. So I love that my books are out there. I love when kids, read them and get them. But I’m still surprised when a book like Each Kindness is banned or challenged because I’m like. 

 

Damon Young: Like really? [laughs]

 

Jacqueline Woodson: That book is about kindness, like at the end of the day. So I have a lot of thoughts going through my mind. All at once. [laughs]

 

Damon Young: Thank you for sharing that. So I have a residency up at University of Pittsburgh this year. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Nice, congrats. 

 

Damon Young: Thank you. And part of the residency, I did a workshop last week. I’m doing two workshops in in the spring. And the first workshop I did was on humor writing, right? It was an hour long, really interactive, you know, just try to make it really fun for students and community members who attended. And someone during the end where, I had just, people asking me questions. You know, one student asked about like, well, what all of this happening book banning, book burning book, whatever, you know, happening in the country. And then also you have different publications that are shutting down, that are closing down. And it’s like, well, what is it? You know, if I’m like, I’m 21 years old and I want to be a writer? Like what do you suggest I do. Do you have any hope for my career going forward? You know, as someone who was interested in being a part of this world who who needs to write, but is seeing all of these different obstacles in a way to prevent me from doing that. And so I know that you you know, you have a residency, right? You know, and I guess I’m just curious, like, what can we do? That’s a specific question about like authors, you know, people that have some status, but then also like people who are just listening to this podcast. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Right. So maybe two separate answers, like, what can we do to help fight this? 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Mm hmm. So the first part I’ll take is in terms of the obstacles, there are always obstacles, right? There’s always something standing in the way. If it’s not your parent saying, oh, writing’s a good hobby, but what are you going to do to earn a living [laughter] and get out of my house? And when I was coming of age as a writer in the nineties, it was this moment where the bodega door open for like a second and they let a few writers of color through. Right? But especially in the world of adult writing, aside from like Terry McMillan and the goats of Toni Morrison and James Baldwin and those guys who had written that was a white boy world. Right. And for me, that wasn’t going to stop me. So the question is, how do you not let it stop you? Right. And I think people have their eyes so much on the mainstream publishing prize. And if that model is not working for us, then what do we do? So I think especially as a focus of the global majority, we’ve always had to think outside and around these boxes that folks have attempted to put us in. And there’s so many more ways of getting your work out. And I think you can’t be afraid to struggle. Right. I mean, you know it Damon, and I know it’s like it wasn’t like we woke up and we were getting paid for writing. We had all these other hustles going on so that we could write. And I do think if writing is the thing you want to do, what is all this stuff you’re going to do? I worked jobs where I’d work four to twelve, come home and write from 12 to 3 sleep, you know, from 3 to 9, get up and start writing again. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: In terms of what we can do as people out there. I mean, you’re doing it. You’re teaching writing. Like, that’s all you can do is you can give a person the tools. I created Baldwin for the Arts to give people the space to write. And like, when you have the tools and when you have the space, then the only other thing you need is the fortitude to get it done. And no one as, you know, no one holds your hand through writing. 

 

Damon Young: Right. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Like that’s the thing that you have to do on your own and believe in it enough to get it done. So and I think it’s hard. I think that’s one of the hardest things, is the faith. You have to have to create work. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Right. Like, especially out of nothing. I remember writing my first book and being like, I’ve never done this before. I don’t know how to do this. How do I learn how to do this? But I knew I’ve been reading all my life and that’s all I needed to know was that in reading I was already learning. I was already being given the tools by the writers who came before me. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. In the process of writing. It’s always terrifying in a way, because you have this blank canvas and you’re like, Okay, I’m going to create something out of this. I’m going to try to make sense of what’s in my head. Like all this shit circled around in my head. I have an idea. I think I have an idea and I need to transfer it on the page and and make it, like, legible or readable. And it makes sense. And also representative, what’s actually what’s in my head. And that’s sometimes the thing that ends up on a page is different [laughs] than what you thought. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Yes. 

 

Damon Young: Was going to was going to end up on a page. It’s like, Oh, I guess I got to deal with this. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: So true. 

 

Damon Young: And so, yeah, and even as you’re getting better, like you could recognize, like, oh, I’m getting better at this, it’s still like, terrifying. It’s like NBA players still get butterflies and get nauseous before game sometimes. It doesn’t mean that they haven’t put in the work. It doesn’t mean that they’re not great at what they do, but it still it’s like damn, game is about to start. You know. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: It’s true. And it’s also that’s their first time playing that game. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Right. You know, they’ve never played that particular game in that particular space at that particular time before. Like they’ve played against that team before. They’ve played in the stadium before. They wore those shoes, before they took their jump shot before. But they have never had that moment that they’re living in now. And I feel like that’s the same thing with writing, right? Like I’ve written all these books, but I’ve never written this book I’m writing now. So. Right. I knew how to write those books behind me, but I don’t know how to write this book in front of me. And so that never, never goes away. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. And so Baldwin for the Art’s. Can you tell us a bit about this residency and the genesis of it and what you intend to do with it. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: So it’s fire. I’m proud of my board. I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of Sweden because I got a big grant from Sweden back in 2018. I got a call and they’re like, you know, this is Sweden, calling. And then I was like, Yo, why are you calling me at five in the morning? 

 

Damon Young: Just the whole country. That’s the whole country on the phone. [laughter] Like this is all the Sweden calling.

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Everybody. But, but it was wild because it was the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award and it was given by the Swedish government, basically. And it was $625,000. And so they like basically come to Sweden, get this money and go do whatever you want. And I was blown away because when I got Stockholm, like there were these huge flags of my face hanging from all the lampposts in the city. I mean, it’s bananas in this wonderful way. 

 

Damon Young: Oh, wow. Oh, my God. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Yeah. They. Because Astrid Lindgren wrote Pippi Longstocking like she is literally her face is on their currency. That’s how seriously they take writers. You know, can you imagine that happening here? But until the money came out of the blue and I had gone to residences like MacDowell to Hedgebrook to all these places and I loved Hedgebrook, I loved MacDowell, and a lot of times I was one of very few writers of color in the space, one of very few creatives in this space. And I had said, Well, wouldn’t it be amazing to have a space where you don’t have to explain where you can just go, be who you are, be around your people and, and do your work? So I took the money and bought land and created Baldwin for the Arts, which it’s a residency for visual artist composers and. And writers of the global majority. And so you’ve been in existence. We’ve had, I think about 70 artists come through so far. And, you know, we pay for everything. We pay for their transportation, we pay for their food, and we just give them a space in the country to create. And it’s been amazing. I mean, people have created amazing stuff. It’s been life changing for people who’ve never done a residence before because you have to face yourself, right? You get there and someone said, I see you. I see your work, I see what you’re trying to do. Now go do it and push it. Like. Back to the obstacles. It’s like I have no obstacles. I have this time, I have the space, I have this beauty. I got food in the fridge. I’m here. So now what? And it’s great. It’s challenging. And people do the work. 

 

Damon Young: Oh, wow. Okay.

 

Jacqueline Woodson: So the Swedish money was completely out of the blue. And then I got the MacArthur, and when I got the MacArthur, I was like, ooh, now I got more money for Baldwin. And so then we put that in and then finally my account is like, yo, you got to stop doing this. Like, we got to find another way to do this. [laughter] Plus my kids, my kids are like, Mommy, what you’re doing, with our inherited I’m like it ain’t your inheritance. Like. This is what the ancestors brought us here to do, to make spaces for, you know, the people coming, so they’re like, we the people coming and I’m like nah, not so much. Like you’re the people here [laughter] you know. Speaking of which, when I told my son I was talking to you, he was like, Oh, shoot really? So he is such a huge fan. I mean, I’m a fan, but he’s like a super fan. 

 

Damon Young: I have a good friend that what I shared that I was to have you on the podcast. They are currently overseas working right now. They’re like, I will fly to Pittsburgh [laughter] and come to your house just to be on the other side of a Zoom with Jacqueline Woodson. And they were serious. Like, I will catch a plane from Sierra Leone and come to Pittsburgh, right? 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Oh man. She can Zoom me anytime. 

 

Damon Young: So question also. So for those of us who do not have Sweden on the phone, right, who do not have Sweden calling, hitting us up, texting us. So if someone like me, yes, I’m teacher writing, that’s one thing. And I’m continuing to work and I have this podcast where I try to get as many writers on as possible. One, because I just I just love talk to y’all. And being in community with y’all and, you know, it replicates something that we haven’t really been able to do because of the lockdown pandemic. But also I just think that writers, if you’re good at writing, you have to be conscientious, you have to be self aware or at least working towards self-awareness, you know, about like your place in the world and how things work. And so it’s just always fascinating to me to talk to other writers just to see how their brains work about, you know, things like this. Right? But I digress. Like what do you suggest I do to fight this shit that is happening right now. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: You know, Damon, it’s such a good question, and it’s one that I ask myself every day, like, am I doing enough to create the change in the world that’s going to make the world just a little bit easier for the people coming? Because what’s happening in the world now is making it much harder for them. Right? But I think that you’re doing it. I mean, just the fact I didn’t have a podcast, I didn’t have writers voices in my ear. I didn’t meet writers like I didn’t have author visits, like I didn’t have social media where I could go see what a writers day look like. Like, you know, I know it’s not the truth of the day, but, you know, the day that they try to show us on social media. And I think that just first and foremost acknowledge that the work we’re doing is valid. Right. And is important to that young, Damon Young or Jacqueline Woodson, who’s like, I want to do this and acknowledge that, you know, coming from for me, like coming from I know you came from working class, but I came from a working class, poor background, right? And being able to know that this is possibility and that I feel like young people have so many more tools for telling their stories than we did. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: And support, support, support people. DM me all the time asking questions. People, you know, get on my website and ask questions, even just the sharing of information. One thing we have in the children’s book world is we have a revival that, I mean, Alexander started putting together where we just have this huge Zoom and get on and people ask about contracts, they ask about speaking engagements, they ask about that. And really back in the day, what people had was they had church right to go there and disseminate this information. And because there’s so much noise in so many places, I think it’s important that we use social media, but we also have these small gatherings and also these gatherings that not a lot of people know about so that we can be more kind of targeted and concentrated about the information. But it all comes back to the same narrative of community, right? Like what are we doing inside our communities and how is our community supporting us? Because. You know, you and I know given the work we do, we could die trying with all the work that people may ask us to do. I have a shirt that says. I can’t. Sorry. Because I do also think that being able to have [laughter] the ability to say no is important because we do get asked a lot. 

 

Damon Young: Jacqueline Woodson, thank you so much for coming through today. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Oh man I love talking to you. I love your podcast. I love your books that, I, you know, you’re just a hero to me. So thanks for having me. 

 

Damon Young: You know, it is an honor and a pleasure for you to be able to be here with us today. And also, you know, are you going to the Fête? Are you going to be there? 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Bro, I started that Fête. 

 

Damon Young: I know you started it. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Like you know, I’m going to be there. I’m so excited. You’re going to be there. [laughs]

 

Damon Young: You be in Sweden, you be on the moon and Wakanda, you know, wherever you be touring, doing your thing. So I don’t I don’t know. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Oh, man. 

 

Damon Young: Just making sure. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: I’m so excited you’re coming through. Yes, yes, yes, I will be there. It’s going to be fire. And this is the 10th anniversary. And you know, we have a cap. So you already registered, right? 

 

Damon Young: No, I didn’t. I didn’t register. I guess I’ll do that today. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: We’ll make it happen. For you [laughter] I’ll make sure. I’ll do it for you the minute I get off of this. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: But I’m psyched to see you there, and I’m. I mean, that’s another way of having a community, right? That Fête like we could have one of those in every state. Because people in publishing and people who are writing and do this work exist in all 50 states. It’s not just New York, but but we’ll always be the original. [laughs]

 

Damon Young: All right. Thank you for coming through, and I’ll see you soon. 

 

Jacqueline Woodson: Bye. 

 

Damon Young: Up next, Hillary Crosley Coker, just to talk about the end of Jezebel and what comes next. But first, Damon hates. [music plays] Yes. So although we teased this with Damon hates I think I’m going to bear bit and talk about something that I appreciate, especially since, you know, we’re about to come up on Thanksgiving and it’s the day we’re supposed to be thankful for, for things, whatever. And so I just want to say that I am really thankful for the production crew of this podcast because podcasting is not necessarily a natural thing for me. I am a person who, you know, I’m an INTJ, an introvert and a Capricorn, which means I don’t like to talk to no one ever about anything. It’s like a nexus of all the people who don’t like to say shit to no one. Right. And so this is just not a natural thing for me. I’m a writer. I like being able to have the perfect word, the perfect cadence, the perfect rhythm, you know? And even if I don’t have the perfect word, perfect cadence, perfect rhythm, I like the journey to finding it. Whereas when you’re talking out loud on podcast, of course things are edited. Of course things are sometimes scripted, but there’s just less control, you know, and less. And for me, there’s less chance for like the perfect thing to come up. And I have to be okay with, you know what? This might not be the perfect way to respond. This might not be the perfect way to ask this question, but it’s okay enough, right? And so in order for someone like me to to be competent and I’m not gonna say good, but just to be competent, you need a good team. And so I have been fortunate enough in the two seasons I stuck with them young to have a very, very talented, very, very conscientious, very, very hardworking team. That makes me sound good. And I know that’s hard you know what I mean, and I know I’m not the easiest person to work with all the time. I have my issues, you know, I could be stubborn and I could be weirdly demanding at weird hours. Right. I know that these things are part of, you know, who I am. And so, again, that’s Ryan. That’s Morgan. That’s Natalie. That’s Sarah. That’s bot Natalie’s. There’s multiple, there’s mad Natalie’s just like eighteen Natalie’s that are part of this crew that season one with Reuben and Ashley. I just want to say that I do appreciate you all for. For doing this. And I’m thankful for everything they’re doing behind the scenes to allow me to be decent at this. [laughs] I’m not gonna say I’m good, but allow me to be decent at this. [music plays] The homie Hillary Crosley Coker is a writer, editor, journalist. She’s a multi hyphenate. She has multi talents. Multitalented person. Hillary. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Hello. 

 

Damon Young: How you doing? 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: I’m good. You know, good morning. I mean, the world is trash and everything is terrible, but I’m doing the best that I can. 

 

Damon Young: You look good. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Thank you. I try to look cute when I’m sad about the fate of the world. [laughter] My mom said, Then you’ll get compliments and I’ll make you feel better. I said I don’t know if—

 

Damon Young: Exactly. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: —feels self-centered, but I’m a try it. 

 

Damon Young: I got to share this. So last year, around this time last year, I was in New York City. We hung out for a bit, went to breakfast, walked around Brooklyn a little bit. And you said that my jeans were so tight that it looked like it had given me a yeast infection. Did you not say that. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: They were very tight. I completely claim it, and I’m laughing because that was a joke that we had in college. We’d be like, Child you can’t have your pants too tight you’re gonna get a yeast infection, what are you doing, where are you going? And when I met you, you didn’t wear pants that tight. So then when I saw you, I was just surprised I was like oh, it was like Kendrick with money, and then Kendrick, like Section.80 Kendrick. And I was like, Oh my God, like, he’s this nigga. With tight pants in the game now so you can’t breathe. That’s how you know you’re popular. [laughter] You can barely walk down the street, go start a fire. Even the other hipsters were like, God damn. It was. It was a time. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: It was a time. [laughs] But I love you, though. 

 

Damon Young: Anyway, we’re here to talk about you. We’re here to talk about you and your career. Right. So, Hillary? 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: You have written, you know, numerous different places. You’ve worked for a bunch of different publications. Can you name just some of the ones that you’ve worked for or currently do? 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Ah yes, I am a veteran because we just had Veterans Day. I’m a veteran of the Source Magazine. O.G. days. Benzino and Dave Mays and Kim Osorio were my first bosses. That was my first real job. I used to play Some How Some Way when Benzino was coming into the office to let everybody else know that he was coming down on us. And we had to prepare it was like a war cry. And everybody would peak out their offices, like, gird your loins. 

 

Damon Young: Really? There was like an intentional—

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Oh. Yeah, I was Kim’s assistant, so I was the first person to get the call to be like, Oh, here comes this guy. And so everybody was like, Thank you, Hillary. 

 

Damon Young: So why Some How Some Way why not like a song about like. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Because we got to make it up album hood someway. [laughter] You can’t be here forever. This can’t be our lives forever. 

 

Damon Young: I would think it would be a song about niggas with no necks like if there’s like maybe My Neck, My Back. Maybe you would have played that. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: I don’t think that was out yet, but that would have been a good. [laughter] That would have been a good funny joke. Or Jadakiss We Gonna Make It wasn’t out. Yeah, you know, I’m an old head so I was working with the scraps I was given. But yeah, that was my first job. And then I went back to MTV News, which became my like, abusive boyfriend. I kept going back to that place. I’d eventually promised my mom I would never go back because they just treated us freelancers so poorly. But we did such cool stuff. And then I went to Billboard and I was very buttoned up and had to work with all of the executives. And now I look at all these people popping out with all these claims against them, and I’m very glad that I’ve always been aggy and nobody tried to do that type of foolishness with me, cause I guess they were like, She going to shame me in public or punch me in the throat one of the two. And I don’t want to be there. I don’t know. God bless the ancestors for looking out. And then after that, just, you know, so many places I wrote for Rolling Stone and I was at The Root, which is awesome. Got very Black. It was the Trace magazine, the original Black Girls rule. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: And then I went to Jezebel cause I loved it. I really liked the angry feminism that I was reading, albeit angry white feminism. And so I thought when they were trying to say things about Black women, they just really didn’t have the skin in the game. They needed to have clearly Black female writers who could speak about the things that they were trying to cover outside of obviously Dodai, who had been there and who helped me join. And she can’t write everything, though. So I remember emailing Jessica Coen, Hey, you know, you need help, and she needs help, too. She can’t be the one woman gang. I’m pretty great and I have a wedding to pay for. What’s up? And so I ended up joining the team, and that was one of the first places that I actually worked that I didn’t want to murder people on a regular basis. Like people weren’t acting like they were curing cancer with an article about like Beyonce’s bangs, an article I wrote because it was during the I don’t know, she had these super short bangs and everybody was like, Beyoncé, you’re so beautiful. But like, this is a moment that is not as flattering as it could have been. And I just feel like risky. Don’t ever wear this wig again. And so it was fun to be able to just write silly things like that. But it was great to join the little Jezebel mafia and really have a good time. And that is where you and I met. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. Yeah. So we met in person for the first time in 2015. A video you were doing on the new Black. Right. And invited me up to New York City. We recorded, you know, when you were talking before about how nigga get some money, get some status, and their clothes get smaller. And also niggas forget they niggas too sometimes, too. And so the new Black thing was a part of that. We’re just this is back in like 2015 was like, you know what? We’ve evolved past Blackness, you know? 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: It wasn’t quite the Jay-Z evolved past kneeling. We hadn’t gone there yet. No, it was definitely the comments that we all just need to like, forget about the past and like, hug each other. And then Kanye was doing his little voice affectation when he was on the Kardashian talk show that was short lived for a section. Everything was very vocal fry And then Raven-Symone was like, I’m not Black, to Oprah. And Oprah was like, Don’t put me in this. I don’t want to be here. And then Pharrell was like, Yeah, we’re just like, why are we focusing on Blackness? It was like, Your name is Pharrell from Virginia. What? Your momma named that made that up. 

 

Damon Young: Pharrell and Raven. Raven-Symone, y’all niggas is niggas. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Hyphen, Symone. S, Y, M, O, N, E.

 

Damon Young: Like I don’t. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Come on man. 

 

Damon Young: For Pharrell, Pharrell’s—

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Come on. 

 

Damon Young: —last name could very easily be Jenkins like Pharrell Jenkins. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Jenkins. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah, exactly. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: And I saw I watched the documentary where Dave Grohl, the drummer from the Foo Fighters, went back to certain musicians with their mamas and talked to them. And Pharrell looked like he sat in pew number three [laughter] every Sunday with his mama, with her pressing girl. And she’s beautiful and she’s lovely, and she’s a regular Black woman. And I love it because his whole thing is like, I’m an alien. And it was like, nah, baby, you’re just from Virginia. [laughter]

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Is fine. It’s fine. Like, live your best life. Do your thing. 

 

Damon Young: All right. So I have my blog, Very Smart Brothas. And Panama and I. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Yes. 

 

Damon Young: It was just us writing, you know, for the first couple of years, it was this, you know, I take a turn for a week and then it’d be Panama’s week and we bounce back like that. And then I end up getting a grant, the Advancing Black Arts and Pittsburgh Grant, which helped me, you know, I guess transition VSB from just us to like more of a digital magazine where we had more contributors. We were able to pay for a new layout, new design. Etc.

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Shout out to Pittsburgh. [sound effect]

 

Damon Young: And when I wrote the grant, I gave a shout out to Jezebel. Like I mentioned, Jezebel pretty prominently in the grant because it was like, you know what—

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: I never knew this. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. Jezebel. Like the fearlessness, the humor, the vulgarness [laughs] right? The levity, all of that. I wanted VSB to be a place that made niggas feel the way I felt when I read Jezebel. You know what I mean? It’s like, Oh, shit, these mother fuckers is doing it. They don’t give a fuck. They’re just writing about whatever they’re going at people they’re funny. They’re silly they’re messy. And I wanted VSB to be a space for for us like that. And so again, it was in the actual grant that helped transform VSB into something bigger. And so you name all these publications that you worked for, right? Jezebel is gone now. MTV News, I think, is no longer. The Source. The Source. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: It’s no longer. 

 

Damon Young: What is it a newsletter like now, like what is happening with The Source?

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: They doing something I don’t know—

 

Damon Young: But it’s not the same. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: No. 

 

Damon Young: Isn’t that like it’s not the sort of place where it could be like an aspirational like if you are a young, Black, young, any person interested in music, interesting culture. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Not like it was.

 

Damon Young: I want to graduate when I graduate from college. I want to I want to move to New York City. I want to work for The Source. It’s not that anymore.

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: That was the time. 

 

Damon Young: Right? And so Jezebel and Jezebel is the latest of these spaces that were aspirational spaces for a lot of people like us. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Right. That no longer exist. And so what do you say to like a a 21 year old you who wants to have your career right now? 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Well, I would say that there are other places that are, you know, taking up the torch that Jezebel held from other magazines before them. Right. Because we were in the shadow of Ms. and, you know, the freelance writers that would want to write something smart for a lot of the women’s magazines and they would squeeze it in. The editors who were like, yes, we’re here for the fashion, but also I want to write this piece about like, you know, actual stuff that women are going through and they would have to fight behind the scenes. So shout out to everybody who has been doing this work long before Jezebel, who even made that a door that we can walk through. And so after us, I think The Cut has been doing really good stuff and they were doing good stuff before. But I think, you know, they took the P’s and Q’s from Jez and a couple of our writers has had gone over there shout out to Callie, who I love her. She’s like a fabulous little red haired half twin witch sprite like she’s [laughter] Callie is hilarious. I’m pretty sure one of my ancestors said something to her while I was in a cab with her and she just stared at me and I was like, What is it, Callie? And she was like, nothing. And I was like, you lie. But we could talk about this, you know, in five years, what I’ve had my spiritual awakening of 2020. 

 

Damon Young: And this is Callie, last—

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Beusman, I believe I might not be pronouncing that properly. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: But she’s wonderful. And she was over at The Cut. She also went to Vice after. And so they were just they have taken that and are doing a good job of calling bullshit on certain things that I think Jezebel would have done or in writing articles that I know we would have run. But, you know, it’s they’re owned by other people and it was something very free about working in the Nick Denton fuck you, I’m a millionaire, so I’ll let my people write whatever they want. Kind of vibes. The Gawker at that time, I mean, maybe obviously like to their detriment to all of our detriment. But in the beginning it really was freeing. But it also reminded me of how to protest, because that was always something that we had to deal with as the feminist website, the women’s centric website, where people would do like the weirdest sort of online attacks to us. And we would say, okay, so fix it. And they would say, Well, no, you need to. And this was like the the management of Gawker in general. They’d say, oh yeah, we hear that you’re like getting rape gifs dropped on all your articles. Well, you’re going to have to, like, write a post about it and then Nick will see it, and then we can, like, do something about it. I was like, What? Why do we have to do all of that? But that’s America, right? Like, we have this war now that a lot of people don’t want, right? And we’re all saying, hey, we don’t want this. And then they get up and they say, no, no, no, we support whomever. And then we all have to go outside and protest in the cold to say, no, no for real. We talked about this, but now I have to go show you. This is my digital post as a walking person with a sign that says, I don’t want this. Thanks, Gawker. [laughter]

 

Damon Young: And, you know, and that’s a that’s a great point to bring up about just one just the ethos of the version and of protesting and of using your voice, you know, and prioritizing your voice, you know? And I think people might see people at places like that who are like, you know what? They’re using their voice, but they’re using it in a way where it’s actually sacrificing their safety. And it’s like, no, you are using your voice in a way to protect yourself because this is what you have. This is this is the most valuable part of the thing that you have. And that’s going to be the thing that makes people pay attention if they are going to pay attention. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Right. So it’s actually the opposite way. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: And I really believe that that that is my protest. Like a lot of people, you march, you you bake, you’re volunteering your house, to. You know what I mean? 

 

Damon Young: Bake? 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Like protesters got to eat. So somebody is you know, it’s like at the church, somebody making the dinner in the back for after the let out. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah, that’s true. Protest baking. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Everybody does their part. And for me, that was that is my part. 

 

Damon Young: And, you know, I guess one of the I guess most tragic parts of like Jezebel not existing really anymore in other spaces like that. Okay. So you’re always going to have like The New York Times, you’re always going to have also like the New Yorker the Atlantic, like those places are going to exist. All right.

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Long money funding them. 

 

Damon Young: But but like the in-between spaces, the blogs, you know what I mean? Where you had like more voicey content and people who might have been it that I’m not going to say you had people who are more radical, but you had people who had freedom to be more radical and to speak truth to power in a way that, you know, that might not always happen at a larger publication. And so now you don’t have those spaces. We have less of those spaces existing, and now you just have less of an opportunity for that type of content or for that type of protest. Right? And so if you’re getting all your information from like mainstream publications and from newspapers and from The Washington Post and the and The New York Times or whatever, which is great. But you’re but you’re not getting a complete picture because you’re not getting. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: The greys. 

 

Damon Young: The greys, you’re not getting the message. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Yeah. I think Nick described Gawker as the conversation behind the conversation or the conversation behind the article, like what the reporters were actually talking about. I remember when and this is not at all going to be a big long thing of like Nick Denton was great because he definitely got into a fight with a man he should not have pushed out of a closet. And that’s why we are all here with Peter Thiel revealing himself to be Darth Vader while hiding behind Hulk Hogan in that whole thing. Look it up if you’re wondering why I’m talking about this. But it was definitely a loss during the Trump years because Gawker would have had a field day because it was such a cluster train wreck, explosion, bomb happening, melt, nuclear meltdown every day. Can you imagine the stories that Gawker would have run during the during the Trump years? It would have been glorious, like all of the ways that people were sort of nervous about calling things out. And I think that was really the beginning of, you know, our march to wherever we are headed now, which seems a lot like fascism. And, you know, there’s ways for that to be silly and fun and also call out the red flags that are flying proudly and loudly in a place where, you know, the only person you have to report back to really for permission is Nick, who would be like, burn it all down. This whole wave was like, no, get him. Yeah, like I’m rich and I am. But I don’t think of myself in rich terms in this way because I’m an open book [laughter] because my wealth allows me to be an open book, right? 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: But I don’t necessarily think of it in that way. And everyone should be an open book and no one should have secrets and no one should be in the closet and nobody should have very everything should be exposed. And so in that way, I really missed the things that Jezebel would have been able to do in those times and Gawker would have been able to do in Deadspin, because I think that was another one of our talks to where Matt Barnes was like harassing. Was it his ex-wife? And he, like, drove. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah, Gloria yeah. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: All day and all night because she went on a date with like, Derek Fisher was it Derek Fisher. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. It was Derek Fisher yeah.

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Right. And I think Deadspin had written about it, and we were like, yeah, because this is so hilarious that this man is so controlling and giving you all kinds of domestic violence, red flags that you want to drive someplace to ask a woman about a date when you really could have had a phone call. And also is none of your business like what this is not hilarious arrest him immediately. Like—

 

Damon Young: Yeah, yeah, I remember that. Yeah, that story. It was like everyone online well not everyone, but it seemed like the prevailing commentary about is like, oh, this is so funny. Matt Barnes. Matt Barnes is a wild dude. Y’all Matt Barnes. You don’t fuck with, but this is and I think it might have been Albert Burneko at Deadspin who wrote like a piece. And it was the first piece I seen and it’s sports context that was like, Yo, this is fucked up. What the fuck is happening here? Now. Now, Deadspin had that same ethos that Jezebel did, a lot of the Deadspin people are at Defector now—

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Which I love. Support Defector. I love Deadspin Defector people.

 

Damon Young: And The Root. You know, and while I was at The Root, we did. You know did what we could do to speak truth to power. You know and our I was there during the Trump years. Right. I started at The Root in 2017. And so, you know, so much of my so much of our content was, like, directed at like just not just at him, but at just the circumstance that created him, you know what I mean? And making fun of him and talk shit about him and talk shit about the people who elected him or whatever. But again, The Root also is another space that doesn’t exist in the same ways it still exists, but it’s not the same as it was as it was five, six years ago. You know? And I don’t know, I just you know, you look at this, right? And then you look at like the book banning. We had Jackie Woodson on for the first half of the show and we talked about just the book banning that’s going on not just in the South, but in everywhere in the country. I mean, there’s a school district again that’s 10 minutes from where I live, where this shit is happening, where there’s like a controversy. Like, again, Western Pennsylvania, Allegheny County, Pittsburgh. Right. So this shit is pervasive and these things are connected like the book banning and the hysteria about, you know, not allowing like books from people of color or books for queer people and to libraries and to classrooms. I feel like it is the same thing as what’s happening with these in-between spaces that are more radical, that are more voicey that are less mainstream. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Well, see, I feel like the book banning is one thing. And then there’s the angel investing of media. Like people are getting money in financial influxes from people who expect a return on investment as if it was an app. But you’re not going to get that kind of return on investment like we’re now we’re looking at the crumbling of Vice, right. Which I feel like is constantly going out of business. They’re constantly falling apart. And I always—

 

Damon Young: I feel like they have been. [both speaking] 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: And wondering, okay, so when need you actually cut off the lights and close the door? Like, at what point is it a wrap? Like it’s constantly a wrap, but it’s never a wrap. Like when is what’s going on over there. But that is a good example of taking a lot of investor money and then the investors think that they’re going to get it immediately. But that’s not how news media works, right? And you’re probably never going to get this balloon sum that you invested because you’re dealing in news. And so sometimes you’re going to be high, sometimes you’re going to be low, Sometimes you’re going to have a lot of viewership because you’re speaking exactly what the people want to hear. Sometimes you hit, you know, that viral moment and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you’re just over here doing good work. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Which is not enough, I guess, to get back all of the money that people have invested and then you go belly up or not because it’s like it’s like Vice and Medium are always falling apart but never actually fall apart. It’s very strange, but it’s that kind of thing. And, you know, ironically, one of the Gawker alum Cord Jefferson wrote that into the Succession script where I don’t watch the rich white people television show, and I should because everyone tells me it’s very good. But I watched the first episode and I was like, Wow, these people are fucking awful. 

 

Damon Young: The first episode is hard. It’s like Yo, wow, why would I spend time time. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: They’re the worst. 

 

Damon Young: With these people? Yeah, but it gets it. If you could get past that first episode particularly it’s worth it. But yeah that first episode is is tough? Yeah. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: That’s what everybody keeps saying. It’s like, I hope Dad dies. Is he going to die? Well, if he dies, what are we gonna do? Anyway, the whole point is they talk about not in the first episode, but I think Kendall comes in and he fires the fake Gawker that they’ve written into the show because his dad told him to. And he was like, yeah, we’re going to keep the cooking. The what? One site and the weed site? 

 

Damon Young: And the weed site yeah. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: And everybody else gotta go home. Yeah, because those are the ones that are getting the most clicks. Sorry. Bye. And that’s kind of where the internet is has gone. And it’s, it’s more of a question of, okay, you know, the Sprite commercial because I’m an elder, what’s my motivation? What’s my motivation? Where is this going to go after I write it? Will it be here and Googleable? Or is this entire website that we’ve all done, all these things, poof, going to disappear into the ether like the LeBron, you know, stuff that goes in there and then it—

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: What are we what is this for? I mean, I know for me, it’s my protests and I do my best to try to download everything that I write that I really care about so that I can have access to it even after the website inevitably dies or it gets absorbed into whomever else is going to buy it and turn it into some acronym we can’t really use. But. Hello, Max? What? It’s just HBO. No, it’s not. It’s something else now. And that’s what I mean. Like, it’s constantly evolving, constantly changing. And so it’s just really frustrating. But I mean, we’ve watched it on television. That’s kind of where it is. It doesn’t really seem to change to your point outside of legacy brands that have long money. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. Got a little dark at the end. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Sorry. 

 

Damon Young: No that’s fine. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: [laughs] Sorry. I mean. Listen I’m not trying to be super dark. I’m just saying. 

 

Damon Young: And again, I’m not. I don’t want. I’m not saying that it that you have to bring light. I’m just saying I’m acknowledging that shit is dark. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Shit is dark to your point. But also, there are different ways that people are coming forth and what’s to say that things aren’t being burned down so that they can regrow in another way? 

 

Damon Young: Look at you. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Like to the James Baldwin quote where he’s like, I cannot give these babies no hope. Like, I have to have hope as a Black person in America. I have to have hope that things can change, Things can get better. Things will eventually get to where they’re supposed to be and justice will come. If I don’t, I’m going to die. You know, I don’t want to die. I want to live. I have two kids. I got to live. I don’t have a choice who’s going to take care of these babies. But in all seriousness, I do think that they’ll just be another way. Right. Because Jezebel was born out of a lot of women’s magazines and people being tired of looking at extremely airbrushed versions of themselves and, you know, articles telling them how to be skinny and how to, like, not eat at this time and how to exercise within an inch of their life. And all of these ways in addition to nice things, right? Like cute makeup and fun clothes and like pithy ways to have a party and all of those things that are nice things to to think about. But people like me wanted to know some other stuff, too. And so I’m glad that I got to work at a place where I could write an entire article in defense of television peen. I think it was really just like, you know, watching naked dicks swing around on television, on stars. And I was like, this is great. I love that I’m here in the art department is like, oh, no, I’m super pumped about that. I’m going to make a pickle, and then we’ll just put it on a TV. And I was like, this sounds great. [laughter] Or I got to do you know, that interview with the the Howard administrator who had been working when Rachel Dolezal was still white and she was attending Howard, and he spoke to me under the condition of anonymity because he didn’t want the Dolezal fans to come for him. Like all of these kinds of things are the good, fun things that I got to do at Jezebel. In addition to like yelling at the mayor of Baltimore when during the Freddie Gray thing, when she was yelling at the protesters and saying, y’all need to go sit down. And I was like, Ma’am, you need to sit down. A Black man just got killed by your police department. And instead of being like, Huh, how can I fix my administration? Which clearly has, like, given the circumstances to make them feel comfortable for them to be able to do this. And instead, you turn around to the Black people who are mad that they’re getting brutalized and be like, Y’all need to sit down and shut up. Like, these are the things that I got to cover. So it’s a blessing and somebody is going to figure out a new way to do that someplace else. 

 

Damon Young: Hillary again, it was great. Great to have you on. 

 

Hillary Crosley Coker: Always. 

 

Damon Young: Again, just want to thank Jacqueline Woodson, Hillary Crosley Coker for coming through. Just great conversation. Great guest, great people, great topic. Thank you all. Could have been anywhere else in the world, but you chose to be here with us at Stuck with Damon Young. Also Stuck with Damon Young is available wherever you get your podcasts. But if you’re on the Spotify app, please take advantage of interactive questions and answers and polling and all of the fun stuff that’s over there. So again, go head over there. Knock yourself out. Also, if you have any questions about anything whatsoever, hit me at deardamon@crooked.com. Lastly we will be dark next week because it’s Thanksgiving, which means we will be back two weeks from today. I just want to give everyone a heads up about that. So again, come back in two weeks, not next week, and we’ll see you all when we get back. All right. [music plays] Stuck with Damon Young is hosted by me, Damon Young. From Crooked Media, our executive producers are Kendra James and Madeleine Haeringer. Our producers are Ryan Wallerson and Morgan Moody. Mixing and mastering by Sara Gibble-Laska and the folks at Chapter Four. Theme music and score by Taka Yasuzawa. And special thanks to Charlotte Landes. And from Spotify our executive producers are Lauren Silverman, Neil Drumming and Matt Shilts. Special thanks to Lesley Gwam and Krystal Hawes-Dressler.