Miscarriage of Justice | Crooked Media
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December 05, 2023
Pod Save The People
Miscarriage of Justice

In This Episode

DeRay, Kaya, De’Ara and Myles cover the underreported news of the week — the ongoing criminalization of miscarriage, vulnerable groups targeted by power hungry GOP,  ski masks banned for the wintertime, and a debate on choreography copyright.


Woman’s abuse of corpse case heads to grand jury

Choreography Copyright Case Against ‘Fortnite’ Maker Epic Games Rebooted With First-of-Its-Kind Ruling

Backlash to affirmative action hits pioneering maternal health program for Black women

Philadelphia lawmakers vote to ban ski masks in some public places, a move praised by police but panned by rights advocates







DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay. Welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode it’s me, De’Ara, Kaya, and Myles talking about all the news that you don’t know with regard to race, justice and equity in the past week. The news that you should have heard about but didn’t. Here we go. 


De’Ara Balenger: Family, welcome to another episode of Pod Save the People. I’m De’Ara Balenger. You can find me on Instagram at @dearabalenger.


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


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


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


De’Ara Balenger: Well, we’re going to start with political hot takes. The first being the expulsion of formerly known as Congressman George Santos. Did we ever really know George Santos’ name? Is his name, in fact, George Santos? I feel like there was even– 


Myles E. Johnson: Everybody knows his name is Diva Down. [laughter]


Kaya Henderson: Was was that his name in Brazil when he was a drag queen? 


Myles E. Johnson: Probably. [laughter]


De’Ara Balenger: So he was, the House voted last Friday to expel him over ethics violations. He’s only the sixth lawmaker ever to be ousted from the chamber. So this resolution was passed with 105 Republicans in favor of the expulsion. And then the top GOP leaders, of course, voted for this man to stay. I will give it to him because there have been several attempts to remove him and somehow he has moved and snaked his way around those attempts. But yeah, so, you know, Kathy Hochul, who’s the governor of New York, she’s going to schedule a special election to replace him. Hopefully we’ll we’ll get a Democrat in that seat. I think that seat, though, is fairly Republican anyway. I think it’s in Long Island. What I found most interesting about this is like how much press it got. And even you would see him leaving the Capitol building and he’d be surrounded like it looked like paparazzi. And I was just like, what is it about this dude and his shenanigans that have really cultivated and built this momentum for him to build this profile? 


Kaya Henderson: I didn’t think the paparazzi were following him because he was so exciting. I think I mean, this this whole George Santos thing was really an affront to our democratic process. Like before he even took office, we knew he lied. We knew he was stealing money. We knew all of these things, and we just let it happen. And I think there are a lot of people regular John and Joan Q. Publics who think we live in a country where like law and rules still matter, and this was just complete and total flouting of all of that. And I think I think even the press that how we even found out about George Santos first was some little local press person on Long Island who was like, hey, hey, wait, wait, stop. This man is a fraud. And then later The New York Times picked it up and da da da. But like, I think the press was like, this is where we actually matter, where we have something to say and where what we do like makes change. And it wasn’t making change. 


DeRay Mckesson: So I will say two things. One is that this reminds me that most elections are high school student government competitions, like they are a popularity contest and what Santos did really well is that his cacophony of lies just played on what people think success is and a reminder that if you look a certain way and move a certain way, people just believe you. Let me highlight some of my some of the most interesting lies. He claimed that he was a former Disney actor and that he had roles on the Disney Channel shows such as Hannah Montana. That was not true. And his communications director refused to respond to that. He also said that his family escaped the Nazis, to which his team later clarified that he was, quote, “clearly Catholic.” But his grandmother told him stories about being Jewish and converting to Catholicism. He also said that he was a dog rescuer and ran an animal rescue charity called Friends of Pets United. Um. That was not true. He had volunteered at a dog shelter place. [laughter] He said that he was the landlord of 13 properties. My favorite is his team replied um that he was far from having an extensive property portfolio. He was actually in debt to his landlord. Uh. The last ones is that he said that he was a seasoned Wall Street financier and investor holding jobs at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. After he was elected, he said, and I quote, “He never worked directly for Goldman Sachs or Citigroup” and that he graduated from Baruch College. Uh. And he confessed that he did not graduate from any institution of higher learning and quote, “used a” or and used, quote, “a poor choice of words.” But again, he nailed every lie that people understand as being success. And in that way, he really did play the system well in lying. 


Myles E. Johnson: Uh. 


Kaya Henderson: First of all, let me tell you, I don’t ever want to be on the side of one of DeRay’s I’m a read you all the things list because–


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah, DeRay [laughter] DeRay one of them people you get in an argument and they come out with a little notepad. You like, oh, you were taking notes the whole time? Oh, I thought we were buddies. Um. As somebody who has applied my creative writing skills to a resume before. [gasp] [laughter] Um it what I think what’s really interesting about George Santos is that is that he got caught. Is that he that he’s no that he’s no longer there because he actually fits right in with what’s going on um with the Republicans. So it’s it to me, what’s more interesting is, is how extreme he must be lying and the how extreme he is lying um for him to get kicked out because we’re we’re we’re still having to speak about a potential Trump presidency. So we know that lies and frauds and and misinformation is not what gets you gets your political power taken away. I think that he was less connected and less valuable and he overvalued himself and his lies became bigger than the power that he was um attracting. But you know, I’m always going to just remind people this is not a moral save by Republicans. It’s just that he just wasn’t significant enough to protect any longer, in my opinion. 


DeRay Mckesson: I will say stunt queen until the end [laughter] because when he got up on that podium and the man before him, if you remember, he actually defrauded another congressperson. He, like racked up um. He like o–


Kaya Henderson: Credit card bills. 


DeRay Mckesson: Yeah. On campaign finance charges he like over donated to the campaign. He charged the person’s credit card too much. So the guy gets up and testifies and says, you know, he’s a crook. I’ve been personally victimized by him. Santos gets up after him and says, I want that stricken from the record. The chair says, your request to strike it was not timely. I want to remind everybody to like, behave. And Santos gets up and says, my distinguished colleague is accused of beating women and he says it so he’s like, I’m going to take everybody down around me. But he says it like with no irony, like, no and the man, there’s a Black man sitting behind him whose face is like, what is going on? What? But it’s like you bring a clown to the circus. What do you expect, it may be Santos. I’m interested to see. And did you see his filed those ethics violations against all those other people? 


Kaya Henderson: Yes he’s he’s not going quietly into the night. He’s like, well, I’m gonna take y’all down with me on my way out. And this is my my girlfriend says, play thug games win thug prizes. I feel like the Republican Party is winning some thug prizes with George Santos. Goodness gracious.


Myles E. Johnson: Um. Also did y’all see that uh the tweet with Ziwe? Comedian, comedian, actress, Internet person Ziwe?


Kaya Henderson: DeRay’s friend?


Myles E. Johnson: DeRay’s friend. Oh, yeah I forget. Every single, every other person I I I want to I want to gossip about, DeRay’s like– 


Kaya Henderson: F-O, F-O-D? F-O-D. 


Myles E. Johnson: Right. 


DeRay Mckesson: [?] I you know Ziwe. 


Kaya Henderson: What does, what does Ziwe say? 


Myles E. Johnson: She um invited to have, so you know Ziwe has like these conversations. Did you see the thing with um DeRay? You did Auntie Kaya?


Kaya Henderson: I no uh the the DeRay conversation with Ziwe? 


Myles E. Johnson: Yes. So you just know–


Kaya Henderson: Yes. I saw that. Uh huh yes.


Myles E. Johnson: [?] I’m establishing that you know her her interviewing style. 


Kaya Henderson: Yes mm hmm. Mm hmm.


DeRay Mckesson: So she so she invited um him on her show or to have a conversation because I don’t think she has a show on Showtime any more. But have a conversation with um George Santos. And of course, to me. You know Ziwe and comedians who do politically slant things specifically now are always a little shady to me. Just because it’s a fine line. Oh. I don’t want to say she’s shady, but it’s always a just a fine line between what are we critiquing and what are we platforming, you know? And I think because George Santos is such a ridiculous person, I totally get why somebody who has the comedic inclinations as Ziwe is like, no I want George Santos on and I want to talk shit and I want to um kind of feed the ridiculousness with more ridiculousness. But, you know. I don’t know. I feel like this this era is is taken away my um taken away my sense of humor. I’m like I’m like, do not play with that man. Do not make him seem cuddly. Do not uh absorb him into the mainstream and make him seem like another harmless, what would make him seem like a harmless, weird political figure. And to me, that’s what Ziwe does because that’s as awkward as her show and her styling is, it does rehabilitate people’s character as well. Um. And I think, you know, we can be more responsible with with our platforms and what we do with it, but also I’m lying because if she does it, I’m going to watch it. So maybe [laughing] maybe mm hmm. 


DeRay Mckesson: It’s going to be a fascinating episode because you get no prep. And she just– 


Myles E. Johnson: You didn’t know anything she was going to ask you? 


DeRay Mckesson: Oh, they were I got they were like, she’s going to ask you about activism. [laugh] And you’re like, well that’s not well, okay like that that was clear. Yeah. So I knew that was it. And the producers I met with the producers and they like talked through some things. So they were like, hey, is it the it it one [?] is it you know, like they were they asked some like, fact based questions to just see like what was up. But I but the stuff they asked me about they didn’t even she didn’t ask me about in the end. So no it was you know the saving grace for him is that she’ll record probably 50 minutes and whatever she puts out will only be ten, you know.


Myles E. Johnson: But it’s not on Showtime anymore, so that’s not going to be it. She’s probably going to go– 


DeRay Mckesson: Oh you’re right. 


Myles E. Johnson: -50 minutes and upload that to YouTube. [laugh]


DeRay Mckesson: Like at one point she literally says, DeRay, she looks straight at me and she goes, I want you to sing the Black national anthem and just stares. And we’re we’re filming. And I’m like, what are like, is this a test to see if I know the words like, girl, what is going on? And I know like–


Myles E. Johnson: That’s where you get to just say [?]. 


DeRay Mckesson: Right I know and I I coul– I my mind wasn’t even working fast enough to sing something that wasn’t it. But like, luckily I know the words, but I was like, oh my God, this is and then she brought up Eight Can’t Wait and she goes, you know, I heard there was a controversy with Eight Can’t Wait. I was prepared to talk about that. She goes, name the eight. I’m like, Oh my goodness, this girl is out to get me. I knew them, though. Let me just tell you. [laughter]


Kaya Henderson: In other political news we got Ron DeSantis and Gavin Newsom debating. Did anybody watch it? Right, me neither. And Ron DeSantis is having a bad week. He apparently got creamed in the in the debate, right? 


DeRay Mckesson: Yeah, but I and I didn’t know that Nikki Haley is doing well. Somebody said Nikki Haley’s doing well. 


Kaya Henderson: Nikki Haley, Nikki Haley is improving.


DeRay Mckesson: I haven’t heard of Nikki Haley at all? 


Kaya Henderson: She and Ron DeSantis are tied neck and neck in Iowa. So Trump has 45% of the is polling at 45%. And Nikki and Ron are the next two after him, both tied at 18%. So there are some machinations happening in the in the Republican Party. But they also I mean, 45 to 18, as your closest opponent, is a little bit of a problem. And there was a lot of chatter this week about how a second Trump presidency will be even worse than a first Trump presidency, that it will literally break democracy. And I think, De’Ara, you were mentioning earlier, Liz Cheney’s new book and part of she takes up that there’s an article in The Atlantic, there’s an article in the Post. There are all these articles talking about how like literally a, because Trump is already saying, you know, it is about retribution. He is going to, you know, like break the government and there are no many of the guardrails and and checks and balances that are put in place, including Congress. Right. The speaker of the House is one of his key collaborators that like all of the guardrails that are put in place to rein in what could be, you know, a president out of control are completely gone or are completely leaning in his favor. And so it’s about to be a problem. In fact, Liz Cheney says she’d rather see a Democrat win than a Republican. And, you know, the Repubs already don’t like her, but uh–


DeRay Mckesson: [laugh] They definitely don’t. 


Kaya Henderson: It’s about to be on and poppin. Liz, you got security girl? Can we help? 


De’Ara Balenger: And I think I think what was interesting about some of the the coverage and the feedback on DeSantis and Newsom is that Newsom really held Biden’s mantle. And I think I don’t know what where it takes me to and this is separate and apart from how everyone’s just generally feeling about the administration. And so this is just like a very in a vacuum comment um is that I think that’s what Biden would need, is a bunch of mouthpieces that are at least, you know, respected and have a record where um that can almost sort of legitimize him and also, you know, just get him a little bit closer to the people, given that you know, I think the last thing we want to see is Biden in a debate necessarily. So I don’t know. I just I saw I just I don’t know that that really spoke to me as like maybe Gavin is Gavin Newsom is somebody that the campaign should really get activated. I think he’s serving as some type of advisor or something like that. But um just having a whole roster of people that can be as strong as him, I think could be really helpful to the administration. 


Myles E. Johnson: Whatever do you mean when you say um Biden is the last person that we will want to see in a debate? I don’t know if I understand you clearly De’Ara. 


De’Ara Balenger: Well, what I’m saying there is that I don’t think we need to give any more ammunition to to anyone, particularly the GOP um around Biden’s decline, I think he would perform just fine. But I think there is, you know, a culture of ageism, etc., and that no matter how well he performed, it would still be seen as he is so old. What are we going to do? 


Myles E. Johnson: Ooh I love having lawyer friends. [laughter] That was that was good. [laugh]


De’Ara Balenger: How’d I do getting around that one? Mm hmm. 


Myles E. Johnson: No, that was. Oh, my goodness. Okay. 360 degrees around it. Yeah. [laughter] 


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




Kaya Henderson: My news this week comes out of the City of Brotherly Love that is demonstrating some not so brotherly love towards its Black and Brown people. This week, the Philadelphia City Council passed a bill that bans the use of ski masks in parks, schools, public transit or other city owned buildings. Um. Ski masks. Yeah, um a little I learned something in this article, did you know that ski masks were called sheisties. After Memphis rapper Pooh Shiesty, um who uses them in his right– 


De’Ara Balenger: Kaya. 


Kaya Henderson: Pooh Shiesty, who uses them in his, yes.


DeRay Mckesson: You saying Pooh Shiesty is hilarious.


Kaya Henderson: Listen. I can’t help it if I’m a auntie. It is what it is. Uh. And so, yes, people can’t wear sheisties in in Philadelphia because they will be fined $250 for each offense and up to $2,000 if a mask is worn during the commission of a crime. Um. As you can imagine, like many cities, um there have been an uptick in crimes across the country. In 2020, in Philadelphia, there were an uptick of crimes by perpetrators wearing ski masks. And the police complain that ski masks complicate policing because it’s easier for criminals to conceal their identity. As you can imagine, opponents of the bill have a very different um take on that. Um. But just as a point of fact, not everybody who has on a ski mask and is stopped will be given a citation because officers have the power to intervene when they think something bad is about to happen. Say what now? Uh. This sounds like stop and frisk to me, um but it is you know, it puts a ton of discretionary power in the hands of police um who can assume that something is about to go down because you have on a ski mask. Now, there are some glaringly obvious, you know, moments where this makes sense, right? They talk about people having ski masks on in 80 degree weather and standing outside of stores and whatnot. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. Um. This is clearly an attempt to criminalize Black and Brown people in the city. The ACLU representative says, of course, this is not going to decrease crime. All it will do is endanger innocent people of color. If Philadelphia was serious about curbing crime, says the ACLU, they would put money and resources in place for mental health, housing, childcare, afterschool programs, education and all of the other things that legitimately deter deter crime. Um. But at the end of the day, ultimately all this um law does is authorize police to make unlawful and unconstitutional stops. DeRay it reminded me of the statistic that you told us at one point how most police deaths, most police killings um start out with a traffic stop. Or most police misconduct are result of a traffic stop. And so the question is, I mean, I understand the climate in cities where crime is running rampant and where people want something to be done. My understanding is that this is part of this is also a part of the D.C. crime bill, which is coming up for discussion. Um. I hope that that’s not the case. Like we got to stop with this window dressing stuff to try to make people feel good about crime. Ski masks? That’s not the thing. And it is about criminalizing Black and Brown young people mostly. And so, I don’t know, I just brought it to the pod because DeRay sent it to me. And because [laugh] because at the end of the day, we should be beyond these Band-Aid solutions where we have evidence already that they don’t work. There’s there’s tons of evidence about stop and frisk and DeRay, you can speak better to that then I do. But um I understand our desperation to do something about crime. This is not the something that we need to do. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. So this definitely reminded me. I love that you uh you mentioned uh stop and frisk, but it reminded me of the walking while trans bill. And how I can see the blurred lines between what is considered a ski mask, now is a scarf that’s covered a certain way and these cold cities consider it a ski mask. Um. And then also like to your to your point, these these these Band-Aid solutions to bullet wounds. It’s it’s it’s it’s a conversation around poverty. It’s a conversation around the ownership inside of communities. Ownership meaning feeling belong to the community. There’s these other bigger systemic issues that we have to address. 


DeRay Mckesson: So what I find really interesting here and I I watched the debate about this happen on Twitter and it was interesting because, you know, and I am not mad at people when they reach wild conclusions, Black people that is. Because I’m like, as organizers, we got to tell better stories. But people are confusing, they don’t want people to wear ski masks with it should be a crime. Those are similar, but not the same. So I see a lot of I saw a lot of Black people in Philadelphia be like, y’all know these masks are crazy. It’s people wear them when they hot outside. Up to no good like, believe all those things. That is I’m not I’m with you on that. Criminalizing it does something very different. And the idea that the police can just say you had on a mask because the burden of proof for the police is in the toilet. So they can just say Kaya, Kaya can have a mask on her person and they can say she wore it and you’re just stuck. Unless you have a video, you are just hemmed up like you are literally in a process. So I’m nervous about that. And I’m nervous about um, you know, the fine because you fine people they can’t, they already poor can’t pay the fine. And then now we have people we’re like literally criminalizing people. And even if you hate masks, do you think that a kid who wears a mask to the mall should sit in jail for wearing it? No, like that that feels like a wild thing and that and not paying the $250 will lead to a bigger consequence like that is the way this works. The other thing is that masks aren’t killing people. Guns are killing people. So if you wanted to ban a thing ban like we should. 


Kaya Henderson: Wow. Come on. 


DeRay Mckesson: This should renew the conversation about banning guns, right? Like that makes sense to me. You should ban guns. Or if you really want to ban ski masks, ban the production of ski masks and, you know, like just like we did with plastic straws, it’s like you can’t sell like but criminalizing the person actually doesn’t get you closer to the thing, it actually just gives the police a much broader net by which they can harass people. And all these people would be mad when it’s their child getting pulled over and arrested for being a kid. You know, kids are going to wear ski masks like it is. It just is sort of a thing. And as you all know, people who’ve been victims of crimes, there are a lot of people who commit crimes who don’t wear no masks, don’t wear no, you know, like and there are a million other ways to cover your face and they’re not a ski mask. So–


Myles E. Johnson: Some of them get sworn in. Yeah. 


DeRay Mckesson: Right, right, right. Let them know. 


De’Ara Balenger: And I think it’s also just like, how rooted in data is any of this? I just feel like and also this this law seems pretty unconstitutional to me as well. This what what they’re trying to do here. So I just feel like what what are we balancing? 


Kaya Henderson: Say it counselor. 


De’Ara Balenger: What are we balancing against? Like, it’s just, oh, I got an idea. Here’s what I’m about to do. Like, and that’s really what it, what it’s giving, it’s not giving this is based on any type of, you know. You know, just to everyone’s point around like this isn’t the fix. Like it’s not. It’s just like another it’s something that a mayor is probably pushing because they had run on, you know, a tough on crime type type of approach. And so this is something they can check a box on. So. This just it just seems silly to me. But I will say this. You can walk down the street with a ski mask on when I’m on the street, if you want to. I’m a cross the street or I’m gonna say, let me see your face. So. [laughter]


Myles E. Johnson: So when I was first reading about this, it reminded me of the walking while trans bill. And then I was wondering and I wanted to like bring this to you all. Does this kind of open the door for more discrimination um if because this is being implemented? So can, now we’re talking about ski masks. But then could this now go over to, as we’ve already seen, drag show bans and things like that happen. Can the can these things now spread now that there’s a um now that there’s just like a standard for for this type of merging this into law? 


DeRay Mckesson: I just think that any type of, the criminalization of clothing is how we get the murder of Trayvon. Right. Like it, the line is so clear. It’s like a hoodie is dangerous. 


De’Ara Balenger: Yup. 


DeRay Mckesson: A hijab is dangerous. A ski mask it, like everybody can make a case for like a– 


Kaya Henderson: A Palestinian scarf is dangerous. 


DeRay Mckesson: Is dange– like it and, you know what’s never dangerous? Something white people wear. 


Kaya Henderson: That’s right. 


DeRay Mckesson: You know, like that is the that’s the way it works. It’s a peacoat. Not dangerous, you know what I mean? I think about the way these people have robbed communities and none of that’s dangerous. But like–


Myles E. Johnson: John Deere. 


DeRay Mckesson: –everything. Yeah. You know, camouflage, ban camouflage. I get nervous every time I see one them camouflage trucker hats. I’m–


Myles E. Johnson: What’s you trying to hide from? 


DeRay Mckesson: I’m crossing the street. 


Myles E. Johnson: Bob. 


DeRay Mckesson: I’m trying, right? I’m trying [?] ban the Confederate flag band, ban all them shirts. That makes me nervous. You know what I mean? 


Myles E. Johnson: Right.


De’Ara Balenger: But I’d also would say no one’s going to stop wearing a ski mask to commit crimes because again you can’t identify him. So it’s just, again, doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t make any sense to me. Again, there’s like no connectivity to like what you’re what you want, what the actual what outcomes that you want. It’s just there’s just no connectivity for me. And it makes. Yeah. It has–


Myles E. Johnson: That’s a really good obvious point. Uh De’Ara. That’s like a really good point because it’s like if you’re already about to commit a crime, [laugh] you’re not going to take the ski mask off and say well let me save this $2000.


De’Ara Balenger: You’re going to be like oh I’m going to take, let me take this ski mask off. Right. Like what? Come on. 


DeRay Mckesson: So my news um is about um something that’s happening in Ohio. And my preface to it is that, you know, sometimes the news seems so fantastical that people don’t understand the assault that is happening on your rights. That like you see it in the news, you you people have heard about the abortion might be illegal and women’s bodies are being politicized like that talking point sounds like a talking point to a lot of people. Because you don’t see it in practice. And those are not the stories that get lifted up. But I’m telling you this story today of Britney Watts, who is 33 years old. 


Kaya Henderson: Wait you might want to warn people that this may be triggering to some people because this is quite graphic. 


DeRay Mckesson: That was the warning. Kaya gave us–


Kaya Henderson: Thanks. 


DeRay Mckesson: –a trigger warning. Um. This is about Brittany Watts who is 33 years old. She is being charged with abuse of corpse. She miscarried 22 week old uh at 22 weeks she miscarried. Uh. She miscarried the baby while she was in the restroom and tried to plunge and flush the remains down the toilet. And it got stuck in the pipes. The coroner’s office removed in conjunction with the police, removed the toilet and took it to their office. And they have essentially charged her um with the version of um it is not murder but the the statute in Ohio reads, and I quote, “No person except as authorized by law shall treat a human corpse in any way that would outrage reasonable community sensibilities.” Now, the idea that she is charged with the crime after undergoing one of the most traumatic experiences of her life is so wild that it almost doesn’t seem like this is real life. And there is no way to think about this that is not trying to control a Black woman’s body, that is trying to send a message to people. I don’t even know what the message is besides, we have power and you don’t like I I can’t even find, like, a complicated thing here. This just seems like such an affront. Um. And the idea that the expectation would be that she would have to carry the remains to the coroner’s office herself is such a wild thing. And as you read the statute, the standard being reasonable community sensibilities, I’m a reasonable member of the community and I am like I’m trying to figure out how to get her more resources to support her through something that I understand to be pretty traumatic. That is my so my reasonable sensibilities are like, wow, she just had to deal with something that is unbelievably hard. Not she just committed a crime. The last thing I’ll say about this is that, you know, at Campaign Zero we spend all day on policies and laws and the looseness of laws like this just allow people to be taken advantage of because the crime is shall treat a human corpse in any way that would outrage reasonable community sensibilities. Now, I don’t know whose community they are referencing, but it certainly is not mine. 


Kaya Henderson: This is so bizarre to me, is so bizarre to me. I mean, just put yourself in this lady’s shoes for a minute. Like a 22 week fetus is like, I don’t know, five months, right? Like a five you’re five months pregnant. And you learn a few days before that your baby has died inside of you and you are going to have a miscarriage. Right. Like, all of that is devastating and horrible and terrible and crazy. And it happens. And you I mean, as you said DeRay. You’re supposed to fish the fetus out of the toilet like toilets are where lots of miscarriages happen. It is like and and then be charged for it? Like this is so bizarre. And it and and this lady didn’t have an abortion. She didn’t have an abortion. Like, if you want to be mad about abortions, be mad about abortions. This lady did not have an abortion. This lady’s baby died, died inside of her. And our way of handling that is to arrest the mother for not appropriately disposing of the body. How many people know how bodies are supposed to be, the fetus is supposed to. This thing is beyond the pale. Right. And and I don’t know what Brittany looks like, but I have a guess. I don’t know why why they chose her to make an example out of. But this is absolutely outrageous. And if there is a legal defense fund, let me know what it is, because I got a couple of nickels that I’d be happy to send to help defend this woman. This is outrageous. 


De’Ara Balenger: I think this also just goes to even our earlier conversation around the ski masks, like we are not seeming like a society that is cultivating our culture. And as an extension of that, our laws and our processes to be thoughtful around humanity and human beings and suffering. So if if the goal is always punishment, if the goal is always finding fault through kind of a black or white approach, there is no humanity or love or dignity or understanding in that. Like I have so many questions around this and so many questions around just her well-being. And my news is about, you know, Black women’s health and the attack on that. And it’s just, you know, we are a society that both in practice and in our systems, show we don’t value Black women’s bodies in particular. So it’s just interesting to see to see things like this, to see how how that how that is practiced. 


DeRay Mckesson: I will just say, um you know, the Republicans spend so much time talking about crime. And you’re like, y’all are spending a lot of resources on things that are truly not crimes. Like if a burglaries and murder and all that stuff is if it’s so bad, you shouldn’t have time to do to even waste on making this case up out of thin air. And here we are. 


De’Ara Balenger: And this and I’ll say this because this reminds me of one of Bryan Stevenson’s cases of um I don’t know if y’all remember this, Marsha Colby and I and it was in Alabama, but she was convicted of capital murder when she gave birth to a still born baby. [pause] Like, what? 


Myles E. Johnson: It just seems like like the fact that these situations are seen as anything other than like health care system crises like the fact that we’re not connecting those things. It just seems just wild to me that our the the road that we go down in in in in America always seems to end with prison and not this is a health care crisis. How do we give more Black women care? How do we um ensure, if we already know that this this Black woman’s body is going through this, how do we ensure that she has the care that she needs? How come we we aren’t panicked when we hear something like this and say, uh where are the mental health professionals and stuff like that? Because it’s hard to read this and not for myself need, you know, like need need a breather, let alone like actually going through it. Um. It’s it’s just wild that it just seems like in every in every corner it’s punishment over um restoration. 


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




De’Ara Balenger: I’m just going to jump into my news because it’s a from the 19th, backlash to Affirmative Action Hits Pioneering Maternal Health Program for Black Women. These black women organizing on they own, trying to take matters in they own hands, [laugh] running these incredibly helpful programs that are now under attack. So Briana Jones, a young Black mother in San Francisco, is supported by a program called Abundant Birth Project. And the whole program is designed to counter obstetric racism. Researchers say it leads to disproportionate number of African-American people to dial, die in childbirth which we’ve talked we’ve talked about repeatedly. The project has provided 150 pregnant Black and Pacific Islander San Franciscans $1,000 a month as a monthly stipend. This money has enabled Briana, who’s 20, to pay for gas to drive to prenatal clinics, buy fresh fruits and vegetables for her toddler son and herself, and remain healthy as she prepares for her second child. And what’s happening now is that the future of Abundant birth project is, you know, under this cloud, by this looming lawsuit alleging that the program, the first of its kind in the nation, is illegally discriminating by giving the stipend only to people of a specific race. The lawsuit also targets San Francisco’s guaranteed income programs, serving artists, transgender people and Black and young adults. So as we know, the litigation is part of a growing national effort by conservative groups to eliminate racial preferences in wide range of institutions following the Supreme Court’s ruling a few months back. In health care in particular these legal actions are threatening efforts to provide scholarships to minority medical school students and other initiatives to get, you know, physicians of color into the medical system. And we’ve covered this ad nauseum as well. How much a Black doctor, not even a Black doctor that’s seeing–


Kaya Henderson: Yes. 


De’Ara Balenger: –patients, just a Black doctor in the town. 


Kaya Henderson: Yes. 


De’Ara Balenger: How much of a difference that makes. 


Kaya Henderson: Yes. 


De’Ara Balenger: For health and death outcomes for that, those Black folks in that town. So I just wanted to bring this to the pod because I feel like a lot of this is kind of happening under the radar. And I’ve talked to a lot of my friends that are, you know, at really big institutional foundations who now are having to shore up a lot of lawyers and a lot of legal advocacy to make sure that their grantees continue to get grant money. But it’s all under the guise of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling and things like this, like $1,000 a month. What a huge difference that can make to to anyone, right. But in particular classes of people who have historically not had, you know, not been able to have upward mobility for several reasons. And a lot of those reasons are manufactured by the United States government. But really, I just I really would like to find out, like how we can get more of these stories on everyone’s radar, because I think what’s going to happen because, you know the Republicans are slow and steady that we’re going to look up in five or six years and a lot of these programs are going to be gone. So I just wanted to bring this to the pod, highlight it so that we can, as a community start to bring these up to one another, to try to figure out how we can be supportive. 


DeRay Mckesson: The only thing I’ll add is like, what is poverty? So people talk about poverty a lot, but we don’t name the income. So for um for for the 48 contiguous states and D.C., Alaska has its own Alaska and Hawaii have their own poverty thresholds that are marginally higher than the other 48 states and D.C.. But a one person household, poverty is defined as earning $14,580 a year. In a household of two, poverty is is defined as $19,720. That is $14,580 divided by 52 is $280 a week. $1,000 matters a lot. If poverty is 14 thous– I mean, we need to adjust the poverty line because $280 a week is not a lot of money for one person. And, you know, $300 a week is certainly not a lot of money if you had, it’s you and a kid, you know. So I worry that when we talk about poverty itself, people, people’s understanding of what actual poverty is as it’s defined, is really off. 


Kaya Henderson: I think what is what’s interesting is so first of all, this makes me incredibly angry, like angry. And it is important, De’Ara, to tell these stories so that people have an understanding. These people who are fighting against these policies don’t attach these policies to real people. They are fighting an intellectual battle. And what is galling to me about the intellectual battle that they are fighting is that they are using the very tools that were put in place to support people of color. Like they are using the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, which was passed after the Civil War to protect Black people, to give rights to the formerly enslaved Black people. And now they’re flipping that on its head to take things away from us. There’s one bright spot in this article to me, sister Khiara Bridges, who’s a Berkeley law professor and anthropologist, and she says that the Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action could actually support the argument that the program is legal. Walk with me for a minute. I’m just going to read this paragraph because it’s so just good. The court struck down affirmative action in part because the majority said Harvard and the University of North Carolina failed to show measurable outcomes justifying race consciousness in college admissions, while statistics on potential benefits from the Abundant Birth project are not publicly available. Bridges and others familiar with the program expect researchers to demonstrate that it saves and improves lives by comparing the health outcomes of families who received the stipends with those of families who did not. The outcomes could justify employing race to choose program participants, Bridges said. Now, kudos to the sister for playing legal games that will actually help us because that’s what these crazy conservatives are doing, playing legal games that are imperiling us. But she also says there’s another difference between the role of race in college admissions and the role of race in health disparities. She says if you don’t get into Harvard, there’s always Princeton or Columbia or Cornell, she said. Maternal death, the stakes are a little bit higher. It is galling to me that we have to have our legal scholars trick around with the law and words and research and whatnot just to make sure that Black and Brown and Pacific Islander and whoever else these people serve um aren’t affected by the legal maneuverings of people who literally are the reasons why there are racial disparities in health care. And it’s not just in maternal health. Apparently, the lawsuit is also targeting San Francisco guaranteed income programs, serving artists, transgender people and Black young adults. Yo, these people are out for our necks and we have got to act accordingly. 


Myles E. Johnson: You are. My news is around you know. When I’m not here being a legal aficionado, I’m somewhere dancing. Um. I have a lot of friends in my in my life who are choreographers, who are dancers. And this has been a topic that I’ve always heard them speak about. But now it’s in front of my face and it’s in front of the um, the world’s face. And I think it’s a big deal. And I wanted to get y’alls opinion on it. So Fortnite, a game that I’m too old to be playing. But Fortnite, uses dance moves inside of the video game there’s a lot of dance moves being made and a choreographer essentially sued the company that distributes Fortnite for copyright infringement, saying that this game is using dance moves that I created. The case was dismissed and now there’s been a movement. Is that the right language De’ara, a movement? There’s been a movement for it to be um reopened and and re and reexamined and hopefully go to trial. I found this interesting because I remember the first time I want to say a couple of months ago, a few months ago, we brought up Alfonso Ribeiro was suing because uh there was a game using his dance moves. And I started feeling that little that little trink in my in my stomach. And then I thought about the kids on TikTok, and the grown people, the people on TikTok who were creating dance moves and who um were seeing that their dance moves were being were being used and the and people were profiting and they were not a part of that profit. So it became obvious to me that even though to me in my head, it’s a it’s a dance move, it’s games. What does it matter? This is actually a really big deal because dance moves out of all things, have a really hard time being copyrighted, have a really hard time um showing that there’s ownership behind them and this case is an example of that. I wanted to read some stuff that I thought was the most interesting from the article. [pause] We see no reason to treat choreography differently, the court wrote. Reducing choreography to poses would be akin to reducing music to just notes, choreography is by definition a related series of dance movements and patterns organized into a coherent whole. The relationship between those movements and patterns and the choreographers creative approach of composing and arranging them together is what defines the work. The element of poses on its own is simply not dynamic enough to capture the full range of creative expression of a choreographic work. And just to conclude, the ruling does not mean Hanagami has won the lawsuit. Instead, the appeal. Um. The appeals court merely said that the lower court should not have automatically dismissed the case. The two sides will now return to the lower court for more proceedings, potentially including an eventual eventual trial. So it’s not a victory. But it does make you think about what is ownership now that we’re in this digital age and there’s so much money to be made off of dance moves, there’s so many companies who are looking at what’s happening with these people, with independent artists who are going straight to the people. That is the that’s the dark side of all the access to independent of independent um uh distribution that are that we have now. Where as if I post something on YouTube or on Instagram, there’s not that corporate interest to keep me protected. And now we have to create more um laws and we have to see these kind of landmark cases happen where if you’re an independent artist, an independent creator, you can still protect your work and still try to make a living out of it. And I wanted to get you alls opinion on it. And I think there’s a lot of ways that this doesn’t just affect people who are in the dance community, but also people who are in the music community and also people who just speak and people who are creative, who are doing anything creative on in the um in the public digital sphere to be protected from these corporations who are like, oh, kids like this? Let me adopt it and make Sailor Moon do it, and what can you do about it? You know. 


Kaya Henderson: Well, I’ll start. I’m skeptical. And here’s let me let me separate let me separate my skepticism. So, one, I will say companies profiting off of people’s work. Um. Clearly, that is problematic. And I am happy to engage in a conversation about, you know, how that works. Um. However, unless we talk about paying New Edition’s choreographers from back in the day, who is this little dude and where did he come up with these original dance moves from? The are the like at the end of the day? Oh my god, yeah. Like, what? 


DeRay Mckesson: Kaya. 


Kaya Henderson: Are you kidding me?


DeRay Mckesson: Kaya. 


Kaya Henderson: Are you kidding me? What? I want BTS to pay New Edition. I want all these people to pay the people who originated these things. And since we can’t, we don’t know that dude’s name. We don’t know whatever. We don’t even know the writer who told Alfonso Ribeiro because he didn’t create the Carlton dance is my guess. But somebody did, and we don’t know. Now he popularized it. There was probably a writer that was like, you’re going to do this nerd dance and da da da and he don’t get no money. So I think that there is a question of originality because, you know, I creativity, it there are clear cases where you created a work. It is a thing that only you can claim. And then I think there are lots of cases and again, I’m not I rail. I will rail against the corporate machine. I’m good with that. Let’s go. But um Hanagami, tell me where you got this stuff from because you didn’t like you were influenced by things you saw, things you, whatever, whatever. And and I think about, you know, I think about Alvin Ailey, right. Which is a pioneering Black dance company. And I’ve seen lots of other dance companies around the world who uh perform moves that I think originated in Ailey. But there’s not a you got to pay me or I own this or whatever, whatever. So I don’t know how you I don’t know how you establish ownership of a dance move in order to then hold the company accountable, I think would be my perspective on it. 


De’Ara Balenger: I love this issue. 


Kaya Henderson: And shout out to New Edition’s choreographers. 


De’Ara Balenger: Please, big shout out and Janet Jackson’s. I love this issue because I love protecting Black expression like I just it is so critically important and I think Kaya to your to what you’re raising is that, yes, there is a way like copyright trademark your dance moves. And someone who is leading a movement with this is JaQuel Knight. So Jacqueline is beyond well, he’s a bunch of people’s choreographers, but he came up with the single lady, the you know what I’m talking about when you moving your hand uh oh oh. 


Myles E. Johnson: Mmhmm. 


De’Ara Balenger: And so but that but again that that is that that became such iconic so iconic and so identifiable that like yes of course that should be protected expression. Right. And so I think it it’s so important for choreographers to get into a practice of understanding why it is so important for them to protect protect their work. And I think particularly for like for for Black choreographers. Even more so. And the other thing that’s happening is all the TikTok dancers, right? Like what is happening in terms of Black folks creating on Tiktok and then a white TikToker picking up a dance move. And then the virality happens and then the dollars happen. And there’s no you know, there’s no acknowledgment of like where Kaya to your port around the rigid, you know, the original moves where those come from. So I think if we start to get into a practice of folks protecting their protecting their work and their expression, I think we could save a lot of heartache in the future, but also just really start to get into, you know, the dance is so important. And I feel like part of why it has not been protected up until this point, because so much of American–


Myles E. Johnson: Go on. 


De’Ara Balenger: –culture and dance come from Black people. 


Myles E. Johnson: Come on. 


Kaya Henderson: Black people. 


De’Ara Balenger: So I think we really got to get into it because Kaya to your point around this, you know, this fella. You know, people say the same thing about my Bruno Mars, but don’t be talking about Bruno Mars out here. Okay. Don’t nobody talk about Bruno Mars. [laughter] Um.


Myles E. Johnson: Not that’s your hill?


De’Ara Balenger: That’s where I get crazy. But I think it it is. 


Myles E. Johnson: Okay. 


De’Ara Balenger: You know, it’s important for us to like this there’s a why. There is a why here. And let’s get to the why so that we can really start to interrogate why we’re finding this concept so hard. Oh well dance is so hard to figure out who, no it ain’t. Nope mm mm, moonwalk who did that? 


DeRay Mckesson: I just want to say I agree. That’s it. And Kaya’s deep reverence for New Edition. 


Kaya Henderson: Honey. 


DeRay Mckesson: Is hilarious to me. [banter]


De’Ara Balenger: If it isn’t love. If it isn’t love Kaya. 


DeRay Mckesson: And I love it.


Kaya Henderson: I’ve been googling. I’ve been googling in the interim and Brooke Payne who was New Edition’s manager and Ronny DeVoe’s biological uncle, is the choreographer of New Edition.


De’Ara Balenger: Ronny was my favorite one. 


Kaya Henderson: So y’all break Brooke Payne off a piece of the cash because uh yes he he– 


De’Ara Balenger: Yeah Kaya, I’m with you. 


Kaya Henderson: He did all of their choreography. 


De’Ara Balenger: Don’t get me started on NSYNC and Backstreet Boys. 


DeRay Mckesson: I love it. 


De’Ara Balenger: And all of them. I’m like, what, who? 


Kaya Henderson: Right. 


De’Ara Balenger: Child. 


Myles E. Johnson: No, I definitely agree with that. And I also think that probably sometimes non-Black people and white people swing for things is usually the Trojan horse that we need in order to–


De’Ara Balenger: Yeah. 


Myles E. Johnson: Begin those–


Kaya Henderson: Yes. 


De’Ara Balenger: That’s right.


Myles E. Johnson: Those other conversations [?]. 


De’Ara Balenger: That’s right Myles.


Kaya Henderson: C’mon Myles. 


Myles E. Johnson: So. 


Kaya Henderson: Thank you, Myles. Thank you. Mmm.


Myles E. Johnson: So I think that that’s really good. And I and I think the conversation around dance is really important because I do think there’s nobody, in my opinion, who’s a good writer. Emphasis on good writer who’s not influenced by like a tone, who’s not influenced by Toni Morrison. There’s nobody, in my opinion, who is a good musician who was not influenced by Prince, you know. Um. Emphasis on good. There’s a lot of people making music who are not influenced by Prince, but I would argue that the music’s not that good. But I think that with dance, there’s it’s harder to like, build that connection of, okay, what is like um reasonable influence because you are in the culture and what is copying somebody and what is stealing from somebody. And I think that it’s it might be it’s comp– maybe it is complicated, but I think that we have to dive in and figure that out and and and and and and read some more low suits lawsuits about it. [laugh]


DeRay Mckesson: The other thing this is what I’ll say. This is my like zooming out lens, is that capitalism really is just a insert bad word here because I know a lot of people who create beautiful things as a gift to the culture. I think about probably, you know, the New Edition dance, like they create this beautiful form of expression as a way to push the boundaries, as a way to, you know, encapsulate a moment as a way to communicate an idea. Never thinking that a person owns it. That it is like a ownable thing, some things, and then you get a 23 year old who’s like, it’s mine. And you’re like, well, wait a minute, buddy. Not I and not only is it not yours, but I thought it was everybody’s like I I I didn’t even put it out in the world with the idea that it was even ownable. But then now you got a fight in the legal system because you certainly aren’t going to let Joe Schmo, the ten year old own it. Who who is a who’s copying a copy of a thing you did that took you forever to make? 


Kaya Henderson: Exactly. 


DeRay Mckesson: And it just is just a brutal process the way that the idea that everything is to be owned and that we set up a system that allows that to happen. What it does to art and just thought is really unfortunate. 


Myles E. Johnson: Well, DeRay that connects to what I was saying even last week around minstrelsy and the idea of that you’re just doing something for the culture. You have to know what the culture is built on, like that entertainment is built on minstrelsy, on, on, on uh people being exploited. So don’t gift anything to the culture because the culture is built on stealing your stuff. [laugh] And built on it exploiting you. So don’t just give something to this green eyed monster called the culture. We have to be realistic about what we are creating and who we’re giving it to and what we need to do to protect what we’re giving it to. Don’t just get it’s the culture is not your great grandma who thinks you cute in the kitchen dancing. The culture is a monster waiting to exploit you. 


DeRay Mckesson: But Myles, isn’t it that our culture is not that right? Isn’t this like the whole push of Black feminism that like–


Myles E. Johnson: Black American culture? 


DeRay Mckesson: That like that there’s a there’s a part of community that is that is not about? I don’t know. I just wasn’t raised in a family where everything was oh like, you know I, we shared a lot of stuff, you know like that was I just won’t concede that like that the culture that raised me was rooted like the people that raised me was like everything was some crazy ownership thing. If anything, I’m like, how many people are going to live at grandma’s house? I’m like, please, somebody buy something because we are all crammed at grandma’s house. I don’t know. I just I feel like we grew up sharing. And is not this the push of Black feminism, that everything is not something to be sold and commodified and that community is a good in and of itself. And um and like what happens when like everything, including people and relationships and emotions are owned and and and used for some purpose. 


Myles E. Johnson: So I think once you start applying that private, intimate reality of warmth into the public domain, then you’re creating a fantasy. So once you put press upload into YouTube, once you press upload into Instagram, once you push tweet, you are now putting that warm fantasy that happened with you at your grandma’s house into the cold white monster machine. And we have to stop pretending that that’s not what’s happening. So if you want to maintain that reality, you have to keep it off the Internet. You have to keep it off the media. You have to keep it off of um uh keep it out of Hollywood. But once we start doing that, then we have to then say, no, I’m I’m creating this this thing. And then we also, as Black people, when we do that, have to admit to ourselves that we do things that are warm and great. And we um because of sometimes because of poverty, we immediately think about how can we profit from it? It’s you’re making me um reminding me of Jabriyah, the little girl who went viral, who was so cute. And her parents started getting a lot of backlash because she’s what did happen as soon as Jabriyah and we all know a little cute five year old girl, six year old girl, seven year old girl who just dances and sings. But as soon as it uploading to TikTok and as soon as the numbers came back, then where’s the song? Where are the television appearances? Then it became a business. That’s what happens when you upload things into the corporate in corporate entities. It becomes businesses. And if you’re not ready to become a business, you you will get exploited so it’s either you get ready or you keep it at your grandma’s house. Realistically. In my opinion. [laughter] 


DeRay Mckesson: I love it. That’s the T-shirt. 


De’Ara Balenger: Boom. 


DeRay Mckesson: Get ready. Get ready or keep it at your grandma’s house. [laughter] [music break]


DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning in to Pod Save the People this week. Don’t forget to follow us at Crooked media 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 is 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.