The Veil is Gone (with David Gborie & Langston Kerman) | Crooked Media
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April 11, 2023
Pod Save The People
The Veil is Gone (with David Gborie & Langston Kerman)

In This Episode

DeRay, Kaya, and Myles cover the underreported news of the week — including the DEA illegally purchasing customer data, DeSantis war on immigration, and the influential photographer who proclaimed ‘Black is Beautiful’. DeRay interviews comedians David Gborie & Langston Kerman about their iHeartMedia podcast ‘My Momma Told Me‘.

News

DeRay The DEA Bought Customer Data from Rogue Employees Instead of Getting a Warrant

Kaya DeSantis Pushes Toughest Immigration Crackdown in the Nation

Myles Kwame Brathwaite, Influential Photographer Who Proclaimed ‘Black Is Beautiful,’ Dies at 85

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

 [AD BREAK] 

 

DeRay Mckesson, narrating:Hey, this is DeRay. And welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode it’s me, Myles and Kaya, talking about the underreported news from the past week with regard to race, justice, and equity. The news that you don’t know but should know. Then I sit down and talk to comedians David Gborie and Langston Kerman to talk about their new iHeartMedia podcast, My Momma Told Me. Here we go. [music break]

 

Kaya Henderson: Welcome, welcome, welcome family to this week’s episode of Pod Save the People. We are so excited to see you, hear you, talk to you, touch you, all the things. I am Kaya Henderson and you can find me on Twitter at @HendersonKaya. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: I am Myles E. Johnson. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram at @pharaohrapture. 

 

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

 

Kaya Henderson: We are missing De’Ara this week. Um. She couldn’t be with us. But we are excited to share with you a little bit about what has been going on this week. Um. Lots of news out of Tennessee with the three lawmakers who were reprimanded, two expelled, expelled, expulsed, whatever, put out of the Tennessee legislature and won the white lady, the two Black men were put out. The white lady was saved. We can talk about that in a minute. Um. But for supporting um the citizens of Tennessee as they protested against the lack of action on gun violence. And so the two Justin’s uh representatives were expelled from the legislature. And there’s a vote, I think, today um to try to reinstate them. And so this has been an unfolding saga over the last week with Republicans sinking to a new low, bringing back some super old law um instead of just reprimanding or censuring them, they have expelled them for violating rules of decorum and largely robbing the people of their elected constituencies, a voice in the legislature. So what say you friends? 

 

Myles E. Johnson: That. I mean, that’s wild. That that that’s wild. Not not [laughing] not surprising that that would have um that that would have happened. I did like when I was watching like is like a very using that word loosely. I like that the white woman who was also a part of the scandal named it very clearly. There wasn’t any type of like, you know, poking around at it or anything like that. I like that it was named really clearly, which I think is the type of like radical truth in those moments that we need from all people of all races when we’re in those situations. I’m not going to hold you maybe 10 minutes before I got on this podcast, I saw one of the young men in the airport singing we shall overcome with the old white lady. And it’s it’s the balance between the I’m always going to be kind of shocked about the balance between the absurd and the very, very um the almost absurd leaning on comical in the very serious political moments that this generation seems to be able to conjure. Where I’m like, am I watching an SNL skit? Is this real? It’s a little it’s it’s wild. But, you know, those are those are all my thoughts on that. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Um. So if the if the two Justin’s didn’t have power, the whole legislature would not be up in arms about them. So clearly there is something about young true progressives like not even just progressive in speech like they like carry the mantle, believe the things were activists before they became legislators like coal, whole thing. So shout out to them. Um. And I thought that they they managed the moment really well that like this could have been a story that like was just a local story and da da da. And I don’t know who who picked it up, but the fact that it became a national galvanizing moment for people is actually an important thing. I think it highlights, you know, what happens in especially those southern states that, you know, we know about reconstruction and we know the history of this. Like when Black people get political power, all of a sudden the rules change and da da da da. So I think all that is actually really great. And I’m interested to see what, but what happens if they get reelected? Do they get reappointed? And I do think that the um it the Republicans like inadvertently have created heroes in a place where, like you really do. You know, when you when you galvanize people like they need more people to vote, that’s just like a numbers game. If more people vote, then we will have the things that we want, especially in places like that. And but it’s hard to get new voters to come out sometimes because the system has been screwed for so long. And you create heroes like this and heroes often bring new people to the fold who just would not participate otherwise, especially because this is so wild, you know what I mean? Like, it’s not getting not kicking out the white woman was really the thing that, like, I can see people who would never, ever vote be like, oh, we got to go because of this. You know what I mean?

 

Kaya Henderson: But then on top of that, I mean, I think one, I feel like the Republicans never cease to amaze me at how low down dirty they are willing to be in pursuit of power. And so literally to throw people out of their elected positions, not for like murder or rape or campaign finance or whatever, whatever. Right. Like we are literally like talking about somebody who spoke out of turn in the legislature. And so they amaze me. But you’re right, DeRay. I think that they are completely misreading this moment. And then their like abject exercising of power, are creating the exact opposite. Right. So what they’ve also said is because through the legislative process, they are having a hearing or something today where they could actually vote to reinstate these folks. And the Republicans have threatened that if they reinstate these dudes, that they will withhold education funding and infrastructure funding for Shelby County, which is the county that Memphis is in, which is uh where these folks are representing from and where, you know, one of the most significant African-American populations is in the state of Tennessee. So if you put these people back into their elected position, you’re going to take that out on the backs of school kids and citizens of Memphis? In infrastructure funds like this is wild. And this is when the moderate amid middle America can say mmm a bridge too far. And this is why, like we forget, the Republicans are losing. They have lost the presidential race. They’ve lost like they won the House, but they lost the Senate like they are losing. And these strong arm tactics, I think, you know, the my auntie say what God meant for what uh what you meant for bad god meant for good? This may be the thing that ushers a completely different way of being in Tennessee. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Definitely pray so. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Um. What else happening this week? 

 

Myles E. Johnson: I know that we were going to talk about the Eldorado ballroom, but then uh Mo’Nique came out on a Netflix special. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Oh, yeah, I didn’t. I have it downloaded. I haven’t watched it, but I have heard the only two things that I have heard about it are, one, that it was not very good at all. Um. [gasp] That’s what I heard, that’s just what I heard. I haven’t watched it for myself. [laughing] Yes, it was [?] because– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I heard that, too. I’m not going to lie. I heard that, too. I haven’t watched it– 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Audible gasp– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: –but I head that too. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: –but louder. [laughter]. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: She’s a, Mo’Nique is a Baltimore girl, so I’m a ride to the wheels fall off. But I heard but people did say, like, not as funny, da da da, I don’t know. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yeah, I heard that. And then the big headline that I heard is that she, quote unquote, “sort of comes out as bisexual on the thing.” And that has all the people talking. What should we know, Myles? Where should we know? 

 

Myles E. Johnson: You know what? I think that I totally unders– so I thought it was amazing. I thought that she out per– I thought she outperforms. So I’m almost on it’s this is just my opinion. But I’m on almost the opposite end of people who say it’s bad. It’s not like, oh, I enjoyed it whatever. I thought it was amazing. I’m counting this as probably like a landmark performance in Black comedy world, period. And I’m going to say that in ten or twenty years, I’m saying it. Oh, yes, I am. 

 

Kaya Henderson: I see you. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: In ten or twenty years we’re going to have we’re going to look at that special with new eyes because she indicts um uh the church. She talks about the church, she talks about um queerness. She talks about transness in a way that is not making fun of transness, but talks about her um, her uncle Tina, who who she grew up with. And she also talks about being um wrongly put in a special education classroom um for three years and what she experienced there, which is this whole talk about public school. So I do think it was darker, it was slower, and it was more commentary and illumination that it was just, oh, I’m here to make you laugh and punch line, punch line, punch line. But I think that it felt really important when I was watching. I’m not going to I’m not going to hold you. And I think the other thing, too, is I think when a Black woman who is big and from Baltimore with that kind of attitude gets a mic, you not going to just hear jokes. Because she knows too much though. [laughter] She she’s going to be like, Yeah, comedy, special, comedy special. Now that I’ve got y’alls attention, let’s gather around and talk about this this da da da this. So I feel like she didn’t have the the the luxury of Dave Chappelle, who’s going to have five specials to talk about five different things and then more stuff. I think that it was a little bit of that I got the mic, who knows when I’ll have it again so that that’s my opinion. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: You better ride for Mo’Nique. Come on. 

 

Kaya Henderson: I love it. I love it, I love it. [laughing]

 

Myles E. Johnson: I’m riding for Mo’Nique in the best car possible. I’m going to put you [laughter] until until Auntie’s taxes come in and she doing some Trump stuff. I am riding with you, and I’m riding with you in the new Cadillac. 

 

Kaya Henderson: All right, All right. I’m going to watch it. I’ll watch it. I’ll watch it. I’ll tell you what I think. [laughing]

 

Myles E. Johnson: The other thing that happened to me um uh this week is I went to um almost all of the Eldorado Ballroom um performances, which is what Solange and Saint Heron um curated these events that were celebrating different types of um Black art that maybe wouldn’t be always celebrated in in academic or contemporary art or theater context. So this was held at Brooklyn Academy of Music [?] um 10 minutes down the road from me, and it was so good. So I went on, was that Friday? I went on Fri- oh yeah it’s Good Friday and she had the Clark sisters there. It was amazing. The set design was minimal, beautiful and Twinkie was there, had a whole um organist section, organ section, and and and and got she got to speak and they were dressed by Solange, so they were in these slightly avant garde minimalist clothes with the black um and and and theatrical lighting. It was just delicious to look at, and it was so beautiful to see. And the whole of the opera house kind of turned into this um, this, this church and um turned into a [?]  into a place of like worship, but also a place of uh reverence for Black music. The Clark Sisters, all of them were crying and so appreciative, I think a little bit amazed at the, you know, the secular crowd who came out to um uh you know, just give them their honors for changing the landscape of music, not just in gospel music, but in music, how we use our voices in music in general. They just have changed music for forever. And it was just so beautiful to witness um yesterday. Well, excuse me Saturday. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Can you talk about what did how did how how do you think they changed music outside of gospel music? 

 

Myles E. Johnson: For me, the thing that comes to my mind is how they use their voices. I was so amazed that in certain places I felt the energy of Ella Fitzgerald in the room and how and how they brought that down. But then how they use their voices became main– because they were making mainstream music changed the way how mainstream R&B artists at that time and um all of all of it [?]. I don’t know what’s going on right now child with the with the era of these whisper singers but I’m thinking about the nineties and early 2000s, how the Gospel howling and how the way that we use our our voices have changed. And then, you know, I, I, uh I’m scared to say this, but it’s just the true facts of it. I think that we have to look at the, the the horrible R.Kelly-ification of stuff and I think that that kind of like toeing the line between the modern, the gospel like I think that they did that for whatever reason. R.Kelly is the first person to come in my mind around really making that kind of mainstream inspirational music, you know accessible. R.Kelly and Kirk Franklin come in even though–

 

Kaya Henderson: No, no, no, no, no, no youngster. In fact, this is where the Clark Sisters literally changed music because in the early nineties, I mean, gospel was a whole separate thing. And most of our our singers came from the church, but then they went secular and the Clark Sisters sort of pioneered, I call it disco gospel or house gospel, but they’re there, I think like 1993 or ’94, You Brought the Sunshine, which was a plain old gospel song, right? Like, think about I want to thank you, Heavenly Father. I think about you brought the sunshine. There were a whole bunch of gospel um hits with mainstream musical arrangements that just hit the airwaves and crashed the wall between gospel and secular. And so they were playing it on the regular radio stations. People were dancing to it in clubs and like the, you know, the sacred and the profane are always in tension with one another. And the Clark Sisters were one of the first groups that literally knocked down the wall between gospel and secular and made the way for people like Kirk Franklin and– 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Well that that’s what that’s what I was saying. [laugh] I was– 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yeah. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: I will say that they, crap, I was trying to think of people who made careers out of being very successful off of that, with the innovation of Clark Sisters. And I was like the first people who I really think about. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Oh. Sorry. I didn’t hear that.

 

Myles E. Johnson: No I was saying, I was saying they were innovating it, I was saying the Clark sisters innovated it. And then–

 

Kaya Henderson: Yes. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: –when we think about who capitalized off of it, we have to name like R. Like somebody like R.Kelly who just did even though we–

 

Kaya Henderson: Yes. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: –know he’s you know. A demon.

 

DeRay Mckesson: They were singing, You Brought the Sunshine in the club? 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yes. Oh, yeah. Uh uh. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I love it. 

 

Kaya Henderson: And I want to thank–

 

Myles E. Johnson: Club and you see the sunshine [?]– [laughter] I get it.

 

DeRay Mckesson: Okay, Myles. 

 

Kaya Henderson: No I mean.

 

DeRay Mckesson: You were not there, but Kaya was there. [laughter]. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Jesus is a love song is God, God said, sing that song. You know what a song. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Listen, it’s just a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. And before we go to the next um topic, the Eldorado ballroom that I went to was on Saturday, and it had Linda Sharrock. Um. And Archie Shepp these are amazing landmark jazz artists. Linda Sharrock is a jazz vocalist who used her voices to howl. She was howling for maybe 30 minutes along with an avant garde jazz group. Um. When I think of how she hasn’t performed in New York City since the 1970s, I get emotional thinking about it. Because when you think about what she was, who her contemporaries were, were maybe Aretha Franklin’s and Gladys Knight’s and Patti LaBelle’s and Nina Simone’s and for her to say, you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to use this Black woman’s voice to articulate pain and suffering and be avant garde. And not only, it be a challenging listen. And and and it’s just I get moved thinking about it and to be able to see her. She had a stroke recently or I’m no excuse me, not recently, but ten years ago. So this was her first comeback performance and Solange just really did her right. Archie Shepp is um 85 years old. You know so be able to see him on a New York um stage in um the in on the BAM opera house was just a blessing. It was just a beautiful night and just shout out to Saint Heron, Shabazz, uh Solange, everybody I know who had to be a part of making that happen. It was just a great, great, great experience. 

 

Kaya Henderson: I love the intergenerational connections. I love the not just the honoring for what it means for the veterans, but what it means for the younger artists to be connected to this rich musical legacy like that’s exciting. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: So this week, my news is about the passing of Kwame Brathwaite. So Kwame Brathwaite was the pioneer of Black is beautiful, so he really created the imagery around Black is beautiful, that if you Google these um his name, you see the images, they would you’re bound to be familiar with um a lot of them. And he just passed away. And I was just soaked in his books and and documentaries this week to really really with new eyes just amazed about how influential he is. When we talk about um a Solange, when we talk about a Beyonce and specifically with Black is king, eliminates. When we talk about daughters of the dust. When we talk about really picturing Black people in film in an editorial photo differently. He busted that door open by um photographing people with exclusively natural hair, um uh African African jewelry, lighting us differently, lighting us to accentuate the darkness of our skin, not to take it away or to or to wash it, wash it out, really juxtaposing us with vibrant, um bright backgrounds that make our skin more luminous, um really making it so uh we weren’t always smiling in pictures. That was one thing that I just by myself came up with [laugh] when watching it was the beauty, but then the watching how so many Black people weren’t smiling, which to me is such a big deal where you oh I can get I don’t maybe I’m a crybaby today what is going on, but I think about how many before oh. I think about how many people before those pictures were taken, had to pretend and smile in pictures in order to get their picture taken or how many um uh Sambo or Aunt Jemima images were created of us smiling and us really pretending to be pa– to really us us pretending to be happy when we were truly in pain, and how these photographs were real– Kwame’s photographs really just, just blew that off and then just showed us looking more contemplative. Showed us looking like we were meditating on something and then also expressed a type of like intelligence through it. Because if we’re going through what we’re going through in the sixties and seventies, then aren’t we thinking, aren’t we contemplating, aren’t we in the quietude of our lives? Aren’t we um aren’t we expressing something besides this kind of like, oh, I’m just happy to be here joy, I’m happy to serve type of imagery, images that we were getting. And, you know, I don’t believe in physical loss when people die. I do think of I do believe in the gaining of an ancestor. And I think we just gained a mighty, mighty ancestor who I think in my personal belief will be speaking and photographing and creating through the minds and the eyes of so many of our artists. It’s just beautiful when I con– contextualize him with other people like Tyler Mitchell and other um young Black photographers, it’s just, wow, what like, what a legacy. I if you would have not heard of him, I would definitely just implore you to research and buy the books and buy the the cool coffee table book set that that have come out in his name, too, because it’s such a legacy. And it really was that turning point when it comes to Black is beautiful, Black power and imaging and aestheticizing. A new way of seeing Black people. He really was the person who was creating the aesthetic that came with the revolutionary thought of that era. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Thank you for bringing this to the pod, Myles. No idea until I read this article who he was um, but I feel like I grew up seeing that imagery. Right? I’m a child of the seventies and eighties, and so a lot of those pictures are familiar to me. And um it just made me think. What it really made me think is I’m sure his mama or his daddy or his grandma or his auntie was like, little boy, you need a real job. You shouldn’t be a photographer. And when you think about what using his art and his creativity and his vision to do did for us as a people, I think a lot of times we um we try to snuff out the creative thing in our young people in pursuit of more traditional careers, things that are going to put food on the table. But this man’s vision for photography and for his people literally changed how we see ourselves in the world, right? And like we needed him. We needed him as an artist, we needed him as a creative. And so shout out to all of those adults who supported his creative vision when he was young, who supported him in doing the thing that I’m sure a lot of people said he shouldn’t do um because we would be a different people as Black people in America if it wasn’t for Kwame Brathwaite. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Um. This makes you think of the Nikki Giovanni poem that you put us on episodes ago, that ends with I really hope no white person ever has cause to write about me because they’d never understand Black love as Black wealth. And they’ll probably talk about my hard childhood and never understand that all the while I was quite happy. And when I think about Kwame [?]– [laughter] I’m just making the connection um is that I just think about Kwame saw us, how we see us and had the camera to do it right? Because we saw those images when we woke up, we saw those images when we went to church and to the corner store and the playground. But those were not the images that were produced en masse. It was always something else. And I had never even thought about somebody sitting down and being like, Black is beautiful, isn’t it? Like, as like a concept. So shout out to Kwame, long life. And I’m happy that, you know, they lived in an era where this stuff was not celebrated. There were not retrospectives about him during his I mean, I even think about how the protest brought Baldwin into I mean, Baldwin was always Baldwin but Baldwin you know, post protest becomes, you know, Bell Hooks for the first time is on the bestseller list all of a sudden because he’s these moments come up and I think about how beautiful it is it is that in this moment uh people are finally sort of doing the work of celebrating him. And I didn’t know that his you know, he was with his brother for so long. They were creative partners and his brother died. And um he was sort of like his brother was the storyteller. He was a photographer. His brother was a storyteller. And at the end of his life, he started to tell his own story. So shout out to Kwame. [music break]

 

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

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Kaya Henderson: My news this week comes from the dark state of Florida, where your friend, Mr. Ron DeSantis is has introduced to the Florida legislature what amounts to the toughest crackdown on undocumented immigration by any state in more than a decade. Because there is a supermajority um of Republicans in the Florida legislature, this bill will probably pass. And Mr. DeSantis says that it is a response to President Biden’s quote unquote, “open borders agenda”, um which he says has allowed an uncontrolled flow of immigrants to cross into the U.S. from Mexico. What’s included in the bill? Well, if you are housing or hiring or transporting undocumented immigrants, then felony charges are in store for you. Um. He will require the hospitals to ask patients their immigration status and report it to the state. They will invalidate out-of-state driver’s licenses that are issued to undocumented immigrants. Florida doesn’t issue uh driver’s license to undocumented immigrants, but other states do. And in Florida, they will invalidate those. Um. And he will direct the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to, quote unquote, “assist federal authorities in enforcing enforcing the nation’s immigration laws.” And they say they are not anti-immigration, but there is a way to immigrate to the United States legally, and they are just trying to deal with illegal immigrants. Um. DeSantis has also proposed eliminating in-state tuition for undocumented students and DACA students. Kids who came here uh when they were too little to make a decision for themselves and have lived here their whole lives. And as you can imagine, this is going to stoke fear and and promote racial profiling and all kinds of craziness and is actually out of step with how most other Republican led states are moving at this point. Um. In Republican led states like Indiana and Utah and Arizona, they’ve actually been passing sweeping immigration reform that supports undocumented immigrants, providing them with health care and in-state tuition and and all kinds of other things, because those states recognize undocumented immigrants contributions to their state’s economy, livelihood, culture, etc.. It is pronounced that Mr. DeSantis is going after this in this way. The other state, of course, which is also on this train, is Texas. Um. And we know that because we’re watching these states bus people to bus undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities. But the reason that this is really important is because, as we all know, Mr. DeSantis has presidential aspirations, and um he is on a book tour right now promoting his book, whose subtitle is basically like Make America Florida, and what he is saying is what he is doing in Florida is a blueprint for what we need to do in the country writ large. And so all of these educational um pieces of legislation, the book banning the the anti-immigration stance. He is signaling to their base that this is what he will do when he becomes president. And, you know, this has given me straight Handmaid’s Tale vibes. So this is how we go from from here to, you know, the police state. This is how we go to, you know, rampant legalized discrimination and whatnot in ways that we haven’t seen before. And I think that people I brought this to the pod because I think people are not paying attention to death by a thousand cuts. Each one of these small things adds up in really big ways. And, you know, I think about the Holocaust poem, right? They came for this group. They came for that group, they came for whatever and when they came for me, there was nobody left. You know, Mr. DeSantis has an all out assault against people of color, against LGBTQ people, against immigrants. And I, one, I don’t he clearly he’s not a mathematician, because if you put these groups together, we will swell against him and defeat. Um. But I think it’s really important for people to connect the dots and understand the concerted assault on marginalized voices that Mr. DeSantis is not signaling is shouting that this is what I’m going to do when I become president. So I’m saying this because I don’t want nobody to be like, oh my gosh, we didn’t think that this was going to happen. We didn’t think that the man is telling you what he’s going to do. Mama Maya said, When people show you who you are, who they are, believe them. And so. This is your Ron DeSantis update. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: This is one of the things that I literally didn’t hear about until you put it in the thing. And I feel like I see a lot of the DeSantis stuff. Um. I clearly remember him putting immigrants on planes to Martha’s Vineyard, right? Like, there’s like a lot of it that’s been so crazy. But one of the things that you highlight so well is that they are just like a steady drip. And you just get you like you miss some of it. You’re like, I saw this today and I didn’t. I look at this and I’m like, not only they are going to charge people with third degree felonies, so it can be– 

 

Kaya Henderson: Felonies. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: You know, it could be something like a landlord renting to somebody, violation of the law. 

 

Kaya Henderson: That’s right. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: You driving your neighbor to the store violation. I mean, this could be–

 

Kaya Henderson: That’s right. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: –just mass criminalization. So two things come to mind. One is that this is only possible through the police like these laws don’t like they don’t matter unless the police enforce them. And you think about how, you know, this is a part of why the Republicans fund the police so much. It has nothing to do with public safety. But the only way you enforce the racism and bigotry is actually with the police state. That’s like it’s not about violence, it’s not about homicides. Like it’s actually the enforcement of hate and bigotry is like what you need, so you can do it at scale. So that’s one. The second thing is I think about uh the stark difference between the right and the left. As you look at DeSantis and you’re like, the only thing to rally your base is hate and bigotry. That’s it. That’s like the only that is the unifying message. Like this is the thing that brings our people together. It’s not a great school system. It’s not neighborhoods where people are happy. It’s not it is literally how can we hurt people that are not us? And that is just so I mean, I know we know it, but I think about it out loud. I’m like I think about all the stuff on the left where uniting over free yourself, be yourself, love who you want, you know, like [laughter] the we are that’s the way we unite. And y’all are literally like, how can I hurt anybody that is not me is actually the subtext of all the decisions you make? And that is just, I don’t know, naming it again, reminding me of how dangerous and wild it is. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: I don’t think I’m being dramatic, but I might be being dramatic. It’s just genocidal, right? Like, this is like this is this is legislation that is made to um eradicate a people either literally– 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yes. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: –or literally. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yes. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Either literally physically or um through prison. And these and that and that’s what this is. This is. This is uh. This is. Oh. A political way of of to me doing something that’s genocidal. And I think that’s the thing that like um uh, just kind of takes my breath away about it, too. The other thing that takes my breath, not that just doesn’t take my breath away. The thing that I would like to remind people is sometimes we can be hyper fixed in a celebrity focused world on one character. So I think for so long Trump was the character. And I think that what DeSantis does show is that there are no there’s there’s there’s no bottom to the evil cartoon characters that the Republican Party will create in order to um uh galvanize people, but then also in order to like, remain in control and hyper fixating on one celebrity or one character that they create is not how we you transcend this? You have really have to talk about the ideas around hate, around um fear mongering and all these and and around violence through legislation. That’s what you really have to focus on, even when they’re giving you one puppet to focus on, because that’s the that’s the distraction the id– the bigger ideas and the bigger structures that they’re creating and um empowering are the things that we need to focus on if we’re going to you know, I feel a little optimistic saying this but living a [?] living in a natural future that is freer, and safer and um happier. For for us all. 

 

Kaya Henderson: I mean, this conversation is making me also think like I have Republican friends who don’t believe what these people believe. Right. And so, like I’m saying, the Republicans won’t stoop will stoop to whatever, whatever. And like, I’m not talking about my Republican friends. I’m talking about these extreme far right people who like DeRay when you said so clearly, the galvanizing message is, how can I hurt anyone who is not like me? Like, I actually don’t believe that most Republicans believe that. I think that there is a set of Republicans who believe that. I don’t even know if they believe that. They believe that that is the way to get power. Right. And so they will pursue that at all costs. But there are a bunch of Republicans who are reasonable and regular and who like their neighbors and who would drive their neighbors to the to the store for something or whatever, who don’t want to be felons as a result. And so the other thing that this makes me sort of wonder is if you call yourself a Republican. Where do you stand in moments like this? If you call yourself a Republican and you are an immigrant? Where do you stand in moments like this? Because it is the reasonable people who are going to deliver this country to be the place of freedom, freedom to love, freedom to be, freedom to whatever. And that takes Republicans and Democrats. And so, you know, it’s one thing for Dems to rage against the Republicans, but where is the self-correction in the Republican Party from the reasonable middle? Who does not believe that the only galvanizing force for them is hate and bigotry? Y’all done got me riled up child. Jesus.

 

DeRay Mckesson: And Kaya to that point, my only push for all of us would be that like at a certain point, when you continue to hang around people with compromised morals and values– 

 

Kaya Henderson: Oh, come on.

 

DeRay Mckesson: –people are right to assume that you share them. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yeah. Okay. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: So the Republicans who are like–

 

Kaya Henderson: Say it say that one more time. Say that one more time for the people in the back. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Yeah. You know, it’s like– 

 

Kaya Henderson: They didn’t hear it. Mmm.

 

DeRay Mckesson: Yeah. You know, when you hang out with them enough. And I think that there are a number of Republicans, I have friends too, who would be like, I don’t believe that. But it’s like that is your that’s your party. They your people. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Those are your people. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And– 

 

Kaya Henderson: Those are your people. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And and their values, when you continue to stand by the the umbrella, you are participating in the values, you are. If you’re not naming, if you’re not calling them and naming them. And that is what I just have to be reminded of. And that is true for all of us. But, you know, our values–

 

Kaya Henderson: Yes. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: –are like, how can people be free? [laugh] And we fight about, you know, what that looks like and what the– 

 

Kaya Henderson: The ways. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: But the Republican values literally are like, how do we you you named it right, how do we maintain power? And my addition is the answer to that for them is always hurt somebody else. Right. And the, the thing that I’ll repeat as an organizer, this was like my aha moment that like, you just cannot do this without the police. Like, literally it doesn’t– 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yeah, yeah yeah yeah. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: You can criminalize all these things and da da da but it just doesn’t matter if there aren’t the police so public safety framed as homicides becomes the the narrative even though they are relatively rare. But you need to use that to build the army to enforce this– 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yes. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And it’s like that is actually the story that we need to remind people more, like that’s why you should be against the crazy funding. It’s not it’s not. The homicide stuff is not really happening. You know, people kill people they have relationships with. So we need to figure out how to help people through conflict. But it’s like this sort of stuff, like who’s going to stop the person driving to the store? The police. Who’s going to, you know, respond to the call– 

 

Kaya Henderson: Go after the landlord. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: –saying Kaya’s helping the– Yes, it is the police. Um. Okay. So my news, you know, I feel like we we’ve been saying this often is like, who knew you could be shocked and then uh this is in good old Vice. It is a story about uh the DEA buying customer data from employees inside different companies instead of getting a warrant. And I was truly just surprised. So instead of getting a search warrant for consumer data, the DEA was paying individual employees inside agencies and companies so they could access to data and then they would give it to the DEA. So this is things like the UPS or like not just UPS, but like the package industry, uh airline industries where flight itineraries, dates of birth, seat numbers, uh private bus companies to say who uh bought tickets with cash. I mean, it’s like this is definitely what you see on TV in a TV show. I just didn’t think I don’t know. I was I was actually surprised. And when this came to light in 2014 and in 2016, because of watchdogs shout out to the watchdogs, all agencies need watchdogs, the DEA said to Senator Grassley that they had updated the policies to ban payments to employees of other agencies or quasi government agencies. But then recently, Senator Wyden’s office, um he was told that the DEA’s policy still allows agents to pay employees inside private companies for access to the data, and that this was a loophole. [laughing] What a loophole. Um. And this came to light originally because in 2014 there was an inspector general’s office report about Amtrak that found that a DEA, uh that the DEA paid an Amtrak employee more than $850,000 over a 20 year period for confidential passenger data. And then in 2016, the Office of Inspector General published a report on the DEA’s management oversight of its confidential source program. But most of it was about waste. But the report also highlighted that the DEA was paying workers inside companies and agencies for data. Examples include an airline employee received more than $600,000. A parcel employee so like one of the package companies was given over a million dollars. And then the report also found the DEA used at least 33 Amtrak employees and eight TSA employees as sources. The final example that I’ll give you is that in one of the cases, the DEA paid a security screener to send information to the DEA about passengers carrying large sums of money. Mind you, this is why we have search warrants so that you have to establish some basis for this information. And let’s be clear, it’s not like the DEA. It’s not like the net sum of this is, you know, you stop the next, you know, terrorist attack. You are literally doing this to try to prove criminalization of people and try to suss out things that you can hem people up on. But this is why we built rules and processes. So I brought it here because hadn’t heard of this legitimately surprised me. And yeah. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: No I love when you bring things like this to the podcast DeRay because it just informs me. But the other thing too, is stuff like this just gets I think I can’t think specific about it. I think that I get totally, who needs to be fired? What needs to be overthrown? Um. Yeah, because the the um the system is so thick and so and so complex. And stories like this remind me about how how thick and complex it is. How you can just do things that when you’re when you’re reading the article, I’m like, am I reading, like the plot to, like, you know, of Secession? Like a like a like or some kind of, like, criminal political uh series that’s going to be auctioned on Netflix. It’s just really ridiculous. And I wish. Even though this is obviously in media. I wish there was a way and I always and I often think about ways with DeRay about how to make stories like this a little bit more mainstreamed and a little bit more um I wish I wish people of my generation and a little bit younger knew about the about these situation, about these type of like situations, because it’s it it we need to know about it. So thank you for bringing it to the podcast to educated me, but the only thing that it makes me want to do is um things that I can’t talk about publicly because if it, you know, if that ends up happening. I’m not going to incriminate myself. 

 

Kaya Henderson: [laugh] Um. I want to say shout out to investigative journalists, because if there weren’t investigative journalists, we wouldn’t know things like this or things like Mr. Clarence Thomas or honorable Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas taking all of the money from the rich Republican donor and taking trips on mega yachts and super jets and all of this stuff. Uh.

 

Myles E. Johnson: He’s going to hell.

 

Kaya Henderson: Listen. That’s the least of where he’s going. And uh and and stories like this which show that our law enforcement agencies once again are see themselves above the law and will do whatever to further their purpose and their power. The thing that um the thing that is unsatisfying about this to me is, you know, the two senators have said, oh, my gosh, this is happening. The DOJ is investigating. The people have until May 8th to respond. And at most, what will happen is, you know, they’ll say, you can’t do this anymore and it’ll stop for a while and then they’ll figure out some other way to to keep this thing going, A number one. But B, number two, nobody is actually nobody will be held accountable. So who are they talk in this article about the agent whose job it is to find these people in these companies that have the information that they want and to bribe them. He should go to jail because he broke the law. All the people who are um hiring these folks, they should go to jail because they broke the law. All those people who got money, we know who they are because we know how much money they got. They should go to jail because they broke the law and they should pay restitution. Like the lack of individual accountability is the thing that means this is going to keep going on because once Amtrak people and TSA people and stuff see that texting the DEA who’s coming through at this particular point lands you in jail and means that you’ve got to pay back money, then they’ll stop doing it. But when nothing happens, these people go home with their $1.6 million dollars that they’ve gotten, then there’s no disincentive for these people to not be put in the same compromising position and to do the same thing. So where is the individual accountability? Individual people did this. Yes, it was policy and we should change the policy. But why don’t we hold the individuals who did this accountable, both at the federal level and the DEA and in all of these companies that, you know, have provided this information? It’s infuriating. 

 

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

 

[AD BREAK] [music break]

 

DeRay Mckesson, narrating: This week who welcome comedians David Gborie and Langston Kerman to talk about their new iHeartMedia podcast, My Momma Told Me. Each week they take a deep dive into the most exciting, groundbreaking and sometimes problematic Black conspiracy theories. It is fascinating. We talk about their career journeys and the modern day controversy surrounding comedy. It was a really good conversation. I’m happy we had it. Are there certain topics that are just off limits? Is there a way for comedy to spark meaningful, harm free conversation? I want you to hear. It’s great to talk to them. Here we go. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Guys. Thank you so much for joining us today on Pod Save the People. 

 

Langston Kerman: Yeah. 

 

David Gborie: Thank you for having us. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: We started the podcast in 2016, so we’re a couple hundred episodes in and you are the first um comedians we’ve ever had on the podcast. 

 

Langston Kerman: Oh no. 

 

David Gborie: Oh wow! 

 

Langston Kerman: This is not the way you start. 

 

David Gborie: Poor precedent. [laughter] Poor precedent to start. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: [indistinct] Excited–

 

Langston Kerman: Yeah you could have, there’s so many legitimate uh people you could have gone through and you’re like nah– 

 

David Gborie: You could have got Mo’Nique. [laughter]

 

DeRay Mckesson: Excited to have you both. Let’s start with um so Langston and David, let’s start with how you got to comedy. Like, did you were you always like the funny kids in school or did you, like, watch a special one day? And you’re like, I want to be I want this to be my work. Like, how did, what’s your story? 

 

Langston Kerman: Uh. 

 

David Gborie: Langston you go first. 

 

Langston Kerman: All right, I’ll kick this bad boy off. I, I was not funny in school, or at least not in a way that people believed in me, uh [laugh] if that makes sense. There wasn’t a thing where people were like, yeah that dude. I bet he’s going to be a comedian one day. I was writing very serious uh poems. I was the spoken word kid for a very long time. Uh. And then I– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Do you still do spoken word?

 

Langston Kerman: I do not no I I’d uh I’d shoot myself in the foot if that were still a thing I was pursuing. [laugh] Um. But but I think that I was always fascinated with the art form. I used to stay up late at night to watch Comicview. And I think like watching though, because that was such like high energy comedy and like, people were so like using their bodies and sort of like involving so much of the, the, the physical form that I imagined it was an impossible thing for me because that’s not my my style. It’s not how I move. Um. And I think later in life, I started to expand my palette and see other ways that comedy can be done. And I was like, Oh, okay, I can I can kind of marry some of these things. I’m not going to be Arnez J, but I might be able to figure out a way to to at least be able to be in the same room as somebody that funny. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Okay. And David. 

 

David Gborie: I love that Arnez J is your bar. 

 

Langston Kerman: Come on, baby. 

 

David Gborie: Like that’s [?] above or below. 

 

Langston Kerman: That’s, we all had our host. 

 

David Gborie: That’s amazing. [laughing]. 

 

Langston Kerman: He was my favorite host. C’mon.

 

David Gborie: No I got it. I got it. Uh. [laughter] I guess. I guess I was funny. I didn’t really care about. I’m not like. I didn’t care about being funny. I’ve always been funny. I guess I didn’t really care about it. It wasn’t particularly like an interest to me. I didn’t grow up watching standup, I think mostly because my mom’s a foreigner and it was just me and her. So I don’t know if a ton of foreigners are like, that’s not like your first entrance into like what American humor is. We were big, big on all the Black ’90s sitcoms. But I uh I had had a friend from high school who started doing standup comedy, and I moved to the Bay Area, and I didn’t know anybody. And I was just working. And my friend was like, oh, if you don’t have anything to do. It’s a good way to meet people [laughter] and like, you should try it out. You should try it out. And then I tried it out and it went well. And then here, here I am. 

 

Langston Kerman: Wow. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And how did the two of you meet? 

 

David Gborie: Uh. Some show? 

 

Langston Kerman: Yeah, through. I mean, it was standup. We were we were–

 

David Gborie: Yeah. 

 

Langston Kerman: –telling our sillies and then a I think met and uh–

 

David Gborie: We got to L.A. around the same time, right? 

 

Langston Kerman: There was a group of of Black comics in L.A. that all kind of came in the same era. And and I think hit it off because it was like, oh, we’re young and and we’re we’re moving with the same energy, so let’s all just be cool and kick it when we can. 

 

David Gborie: Yeah. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: As you know, I’m an activist and uh that is how I spend most of my my time. Um. I did listen to the episode where you all make fun of George Washington Carver. [laughter]

 

Langston Kerman: I defended the man. As as as passionately as I could. I thought I thought this was going to be a terrible decision to to accuse him of not making peanut butter. But then I think we landed on something that actually defended his honor even more. In that–

 

David Gborie: No, I like the overall point. 

 

Langston Kerman: It’s to say that he’s just a peanut butter man is, it’s reductive. It makes him less of the hero that he actually was, that that man could have made peanut butter rocket fuel. And we don’t know it because they just they made him into a spread guy. 

 

David Gborie: Yeah. The to think that, like, his ultimate contribution was just like peanut butter. Yeah, it just. It does feel very reductive, right? Like, what else was he doing in there? Because, like, I maintain if you left me– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: What else was he going to do?

 

David Gborie: –and a bunch of peanuts, if you left me and a bunch of peanut but– peanuts together, I would figure it out in, like, a couple of weeks. 

 

Langston Kerman: Yeah. [laughing]

 

David Gborie: And I’m not even a scientist. I’m just. I’m just a guy who likes bread. You know what I mean so? [laughter]

 

DeRay Mckesson: Now, what made you all do a podcast? You obviously stand up and, you know, most people’s introduction to comedy is not is like specials or going to comedy shows. I don’t think of it as podcasts. Like if I called my dad, and was like comedy pod– he’d be like what are you’re talking about? What made you like, why did you choose this uh format for your art? 

 

Langston Kerman: Um I. Well, I I started the podcast uh about three years ago, two and a half, three years ago, uh and I’ve just always been very fascinated with conspiracy theory and specifically uh the psyche that sort of lives inside of conspiracy theory. How much of it is rooted in truth, how much of it is connected to something that actually is happening out in the world that we we wish we could acknowledge. So we make more sort of like hyperbolic connections in order to make that truth feel active. Uh. That’s always been exciting to me. And specifically, Black conspiracy theory felt like a very untouched space. That’s not a thing that a lot of people are exploring. And so I was doing it for a little while uh by myself, and uh Gborie has always been one of my favorite comedians, but also was an excellent guest on the podcast. So when it came down to uh, as you may know, the burnout that can sometimes happen of being by yourself working on this thing, uh it was like, oh, we need we need to maybe consider a co-host. And Gborie uh very graciously was like, yeah, I’m down to come clown with you. And so I think that that at least was the impetus of of where our our partnership came. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Was there a conspiracy theory that brought you two, as a guest? 

 

David Gborie: Uh. Initially, we had talked about I had been on talking about the Black Illuminati, but I mean, I wanted to do it [laughing] I wanted to do this podcast because I think that there is like uh. I’ve just had friends honestly, my whole life I’ve had friends who not I’ve particularly lost, but maybe they’ve gotten lost in the idea of Black conspiracy theories, specifically because I used to have a joke about it where I talked about I think that a lot of times Black men specifically are susceptible just in that like we see how the system works. So if you’re like, if the system itself is rigged, what else is like possible? And I think it can lead you down these really crazy, these really crazy roads where, like, you’ve never found yourself in the barbershop and they’re watching one of these YouTube videos and it’s like Prince predicted 9/11 and you’re like– 

 

Langston Kerman: Yeah. 

 

David Gborie: How did we get here? How did we get here? 

 

Langston Kerman: And then there’s a dude who’s in charge of your hair being like, this is legitimate and you can’t really argue with it because what are you going to do? Look dumb? 

 

David Gborie: Bro, I remember the guy was like, I’ve known Prince’s voice my whole life. That’s Prince. And I was like, all right. [laughter] You’re like [?].

 

DeRay Mckesson: Are there any of those conspiracy theories that you think are more fact than fiction? 

 

David Gborie: [sigh] I mean, that’s difficult because I think a lot of them are based in some type of vacuum and they spin off is kind of how I feel, view it. [?]

 

Langston Kerman: I think conspiracy theories are honestly more a symptom of fan fiction than they are fictitious, if that makes sense. It’s a lot of them are rooted in a type of truth, and then somebody gets a little crazy with the way that they’re going to write about these things. Like even, you know, we’ve we’ve unpacked old episodes of like the that conspiracy theory that Tommy Hilfiger uh went on Oprah and said that he didn’t want Black people wearing his clothes. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And baby everybody knew that one. I mean we were–

 

David Gborie: That was real–

 

DeRay Mckesson: Everyone knew. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Everybody. 

 

Langston Kerman: Everyone claimed to have seen the episode where the man said it. And it’s not true at all. Tommy Hilfiger never said that. He never even kind of was. I don’t even think he was on Oprah at the point that he was being accused of having said that. However, what is true is that there is a history in in certainly high fashion of exclusion and sort of intentional uh separation of these races and compartment, you know, compartmentalizing the people who are belonging in the clothes. And so like, nah, Tommy Hilfiger didn’t do it. But if we pretend like high fashion hasn’t like intentionally kept Black people out of it. We’re being we’re being silly. So if Tommy Hilfiger falls, falls in it, I don’t care. I don’t know, that’s funny to me. [laughter]

 

DeRay Mckesson: It wasn’t funny to Tommy. [laughter] That was a, that was a moment. Now, I’d love to ask you all, you all you obviously have seen the conversation about some other comedians who people experience them as transphobic and homophobic and or sort of against uh the woke conversation. Right. Like sort of issues that people like me would be very like, this is the work that I do every day and people are like– 

 

Langston Kerman: Yeah. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: –you’re too woke and da da da. How do you how do you enter into those conversations where people feel like not everything is up for a joke or some of the jokes harm communities and and we shouldn’t participate in them if they actually do inflict harm on communities, even if they are funny. How do you how do you find yourself in that conversation? 

 

Langston Kerman: I uh and I, Gborie, I imagine our answers may not be completely aligned. I’m not sure I would say that for me personally, I do not believe that there is any version of like uh some woke space that that can’t be touched or like uh that there were there’s an attack on on the truth that the way that uh maybe an older class of comedian might pitch. I think what I do believe is that especially for our podcast and my own comedy personally, my goal is to never be talking about anything that I can’t speak about from some version of a personal experience. So even if it is the personal experiences, truly doing research to try to learn about these things and unpack the true or false evidence that I’ve uncovered, I don’t want this to be weaponized against another community as much as exposing the silly that is underneath everything. So I do think that there are ways that we can talk about trans rights and talk about sort of like queer activism or any issues that are sort of like big hot button issues right now without being like, ha ha ha, you silly transpeople. It’s more of like, hey, this is objectively funny. We can agree that this part’s silly and the other parts that are being weaponized, we can acknowledge without pointing a finger or making someone feel bad. 

 

David Gborie: Yeah, I I agree with that. I agree with that to a point. I think also there’s uh you can’t if you don’t allow people to talk about these things and explore these boundaries, then you’re just going to it’s gonna it’s gonna it’s going to breed contempt and resentment if people and I think a lot of times learning about some of these bigger concepts for some of these some of these guys are just like they’re 65. It’s a it’s a it’s a tough thing for them to figure out, you know what I mean? 

 

Langston Kerman: Yeah. 

 

David Gborie: So when they try to push against the walls, it’s going to be it’s going to sound kind of like uncouth or however we feel. But I think there’s a level of I think it bums me out that there’s not like a level of dialog back and forth where these because these comics are like in an echo chamber as well, right? So it’s like, I wish that somebody like Dave Chappelle had a young person who could be like, okay, I understand why you think that, dummy, but here’s what’s really going on. [laughter] But it’s like these people are, he only interacts with like the Internet, you know what I mean? So it like doesn’t help– 

 

Langston Kerman: Yeah. 

 

David Gborie: –for that thing. But I definitely am on board with like you got to be able to talk about anything because if you don’t, that’s what starts to breed resentment, you know what I mean? 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Yeah, my this is a push to understand, not a push to challenge. Is um I wanna understand better how you, what if at all is there responsibility of the comic um to or what is the responsibility, if any, of the comic? To like not engage in harm, I think is. But that doesn’t sound. Let me give an example is that like because I. Because I don’t think I’m saying. Can you talk about it? Because I am with you on the, can you talk about it? 

 

Langston Kerman: Sure. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: But there are a lot of things that like I can probably talk about poorly right that I like should my right to talk about it is sort of whatever. But like me fumbling through it, like I’m not convinced I should fumble through some topics in public. Is sort of my offering. Does that make sense? 

 

Langston Kerman: Yeah. 

 

David Gborie: Right. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And that some of the fumbling through it is I like might do damage in the fumble. Because I don’t know what I’m talking about, which is different than like can I? It’s like I mean I can. Does that make sense? 

 

Langston Kerman: Yeah. I mean, I think that that uh I there are parts of that I [mic starts cutting in and out] 100% agree with my microphone is being uh icky. Uh. There are parts of it that I 100% agree with that like yeah it’s it’s not dope to to fumble through things that are potentially uh dangerous. Right. Harmful for another person’s livelihood, their comforts, all of that stuff. Uh. And then I think there are things that are like we’re fumbling through it because that’s part of what life is. And so I think it’s a romantic little balance, if I’m being honest with you. I think that, like comedians are often still figuring out that balance because we are we are weirdos and artists and frankly, should not be anyone’s heroes um and are sometimes pinned in a position where for a very brief moment we are heroes, or at least our greatest are treated as such. But I assure you they’re not heroes. Uh. And so I think it’s it’s a it’s a game that we’re all managing and need to probably manage better. But it that doesn’t change the reality, which is some of those fumbles are really useful conversation and some of those fumbles are potentially harmful. And we have to do better when we can to at least uh pull back on the fumbles that are harmful while still like tiptoeing and doing all the other stuff because that’s what our art form is. 

 

David Gborie: And I mean, that’s the thing is like a lot of a to get to it to get through the fumbles, especially with comedy, is like to get through the fumbles it is to have to talk about it. So it’s I have to run this joke in front of a bunch of people and see how it works before I even get to a place where I’m like, oh, this is good. I can put this out. Like, that’s just the trial and error of what this is. You know what I mean? If you’re not allowed to do that, then you’re not really ever going to get to a point where it’s good. 

 

Langston Kerman: And I do think, that too, that there’s a very big difference between somebody going up on stage and being like, what the fuck is up with trans people uh versus somebody speaking from a personal perspective. To me– 

 

David Gborie: Right. 

 

Langston Kerman: Like, even like in Chappelle’s five year now run of trans uh exploration, the part that felt the most like useful, honest, whatever was the part where he was unpacking the weird friendship he had built with the the trans audience member that was coming to see him. We’re we’re talking about something useful to the conversation. So again, the personal and and really driving from what you know, and not just speculation and and sort of like mean words feels like where comedy needs to be if it’s really going to protect the people inside of the jokes at all times. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Um so last push on this and Gborie, I think this is more of a push for you because you’re the person who said it, is I’m trying to figure out. And I think I, I think I’m like I think this is actually what we get pressed about a lot with the comedians, which is why I’m pressing you, because you actually are a comedian. You both are comedians. Is um I don’t think you would agree that people like if a white person got on stage and fumbled through, should they say the N-word or not and repeatedly said the N-word, we would say that that was unacceptable. I believe, like activist me would definitely say that was unacceptable. If that like–

 

David Gborie: I I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I mean, which–

 

David Gborie: [indistinct]. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Which doesn’t make, I’m asking a lot of things that aren’t acceptable. But you would say that was okay? That’s my push. That’s what I’m trying to like understand. Where is the fault line? 

 

David Gborie: I think the space for growth is always okay, right? If that’s really–

 

DeRay Mckesson: Well what’s the growth, you know it’s wrong that white people know it’s wrong to say, like, why why do I need to like suffer through– 

 

David Gborie: I think some of these I think I think some of these people and these aspects where you have seen it, I think these guys think that they are cutting edge for their art more than they think that they are, they understand the damage that that word does do. And I think how do you learn what the damage that word that does that word does to? Say it in front of some Black people? See how it goes. 

 

Langston Kerman: Yeah. 

 

David Gborie: You know. I think sometimes there’s like that level of [?] and I understand the size of because you’re worried about the size, right. The size of like–

 

DeRay Mckesson: The size of– 

 

David Gborie: –Dave like when you’re talking about what comedians should and shouldn’t fumble through, you’re not talking about Joe Blow, comedian at open mic, you’re talking about Dave Chappelle. You’re talking about– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: No I think the open mic matters too. I think I think what I want to acknowledge what I’m what I’m sort of trying to push on and I don’t know the answers and I’m earnestly asking you, is that like the um sometimes words open up space that create like that do real damage. So I think about like when I as a young gay Black kid growing up, when people said faggot in a room, I was in. It like did something very like it was not like a it wasn’t a throwaway word, it wasn’t casual, it wasn’t random, like the word opened up space that like, could hurt me in a very visceral way. It wasn’t just a word. Does that make sense? 

 

David Gborie: Yeah, I definitely understand that. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: So I like, I never want to minimize and I like totally hear you. I hear the fumble thing. I’m like, people should learn and grow. I like I’m I get that, too. So when I think about rooms of like I think about a room where there are a couple Black people and not a lot of Black people and a white person’s like “fumbling through” in air quotes, using the N-word, that space is just different all of a sudden. It’s no longer like for those Black people, the space is different. Does that make sense? 

 

David Gborie: Yeah, definitely. Like, like I said, I’ve been in that position. I think to get to get anywhere is is, you know, it’s ugly. I just think that cutting it off completely is not is not really the the wave man. 

 

Langston Kerman: I guess for me, I feel like so many of sort of like the the the premises of like the white comedian who’s in a room saying the N-word and sort of like being harmful in that way is kind of antiquated to some extent. Like it’s not even a game that they’re playing anymore. And I think that we also have to be tracking what the actual, like harmful games are and not just sort of like getting caught up at like the open like that is a very open mic thing to sort of like Joe Rogan’s already apologized for his N words. Like they’ve moved past that version of it and now their games are a different kind of game where they use coded words and sort of like very intentionally clean language in order to be offensive or strategic against communities that they want to harm. And so for me, it’s less about like picking apart uh the the words, right, and being like, you can’t say this, you can’t say that. But more being like, hey, I’m clocking what the intention is underneath this thing. I’m clocking the want uh that lives inside of your comedy. So, you know, for and maybe, Gborie, this is this is also where you’re at. But like for me, comedy is less about like policing the language and more about identifying the the actual people who intend harm and and want to make people feel worse inside of this thing. 

 

David Gborie: I think so for sure. Yeah, I agree with that. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Okay. I cannot thank thank you for uh for us working through that together. 

 

Langston Kerman: Hell yeah. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Um. Back to your podcast. [laughing] Um. Tell me a guest you’ll never forget. 

 

Langston Kerman: Oh, we’ve had some pretty great people. 

 

David Gborie: Yeah. 

 

Langston Kerman: On the podcast. 

 

David Gborie: Wow. Never forget. 

 

Langston Kerman: Uh, we, we’ve had uh Yassir Lester, who is always phenomenal and– 

 

DeRay Mckesson: You’re answering a different question. 

 

Langston Kerman: Oh, well, I’m trying to. I’m trying to get to the– 

 

David Gborie: Yeah. Trying to get to who– [banter]

 

DeRay Mckesson: I like Yassir though, Yassir is great. 

 

Langston Kerman: Um no I. Unacceptable answer. You made that clear. Well, we’ll give you a better one. Uh. [laughing] 

 

David Gborie: I mean, I think Yamaneika for me as far as– 

 

Langston Kerman: Oh Yamaneika was great. 

 

David Gborie: Langston and I both really delight when the conversation gets very wild and kind of goes way off track, and we start talking about some really crazy stuff. And that’s. I think that uh Yamaneika Saunders talking about the ghosts uh surrounding her genitals was a pretty [?] [laughter] episode. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Okay, that is not where I thought that was going to go with the ghosts, but here we are. 

 

David Gborie: [?] was uh unforgettable. 

 

Langston Kerman: Yeah no Yamaneika Saunders is an amazing comedian. And uh and truly took over our podcast in a way that no, no other human being probably ever has. So, yeah, I think Yamaneika is a great answer to that question. Forget Yassir. He’s out of– 

 

David Gborie: Yeah Yassir’s out of here. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And then if people, so if new listeners had to start somewhere, which episode should they start with? 

 

Langston Kerman: Oh, that’s a– 

 

David Gborie: Ooh good question. 

 

Langston Kerman: That’s a good question. I think that that we tend to uh cover a range of topics. They are sometimes very like difficult topics, words like uh things that are rooted in in sort of like challenging conversations. And then there are a lot of silly billy topics uh that are a lot more palatable and easy to to enter on. I think our mini episodes uh on Thursdays tend to be very easy, palatable conversations and are rarely like deeply offensive to people. So maybe start with the mini episode. It’s me and Gborie just uh riffing on emails that our listeners send to us. And then if that feels good to you, you work your way up to a big old regular episode. You know. 

 

David Gborie: I say, jump in. Brandon Kyle Goodman. [laughter] Uh. The myth of the Black phallus. Or I mean, whatever or I also think Jay Jurden. What was Jay Jurden? If you’re my momma told me if your hair, if you don’t wash, if you leave your– 

 

Langston Kerman: Oh. 

 

David Gborie: –hair wet, you’ll get a cold. That’s also a very great–

 

Langston Kerman: Yeah. You’ll catch a cold. Yeah, that’s a nice– 

 

David Gborie: –starting point. 

 

Langston Kerman: And Jay, Jay’s really funny. And and uh that one got a little chaotic in a beautiful way. So. Yeah. 

 

David Gborie: Yeah. 

 

Langston Kerman: Jay’s a great answer. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And Langston. I believe you’re a father. Yes?

 

Langston Kerman: I am. [?] but they’re going to take this baby away any day now– 

 

David Gborie: Yeah. 

 

Langston Kerman: But yeah. No, for now. Sure. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I’d love to know how um fatherhood has impacted the way you think about the the storytelling part of comedy, if at all, or if it has influenced the way you think about comedy’s role in society or not? 

 

Langston Kerman: I think. Well my baby is young. She’s a she’s a year and a half, so she doesn’t understand uh certainly work or the work that I do. So it hasn’t affected my fear of like, oh, she’s going to see this and this is I have to be more careful kind of thing. But I do think it certainly has made me feel like I think what fatherhood has done more most importantly, has made me very aware of the small moments that influence our our larger interpretations of the world. And so it it, I think, maybe makes me zero in harder on those small moments and not just sort of glaze over them because it’s just a part of life, whatever, whatever. But um like every moment kind of matters now because I’m watching it matter so much to a little person, right? Like she watched something that like a person squeezed a baby’s cheeks and now she is walking around our neighborhood, seeing other children and squeezing their cheeks because she thinks that that is cute and a way of showing respect to these other babies who do not like it at all. They don’t care for it one bit. But this is what she wants to do. And that’s a small moment that created this larger interpretation of the world for her. And I think I am zeroed in, I think in a lot of ways on those kinds of things, both for my child and the world at large, if that’s if that makes sense. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Boom. There are two questions that we ask everybody. The first is what’s a piece of advice that you’ve gotten over the years that’s always stuck with you? 

 

Langston Kerman: Mm. Gborie you want to go first, or you want me to to do this, I got something in my head. 

 

David Gborie: Oh, I mean, always my literally. My mom told me when people show you who they are, listen. 

 

Langston Kerman: Yeah. 

 

David Gborie: That’s always helped me out. You know what I mean, don’t, pay attention. 

 

Langston Kerman: Yeah yeah yeah. I like that. I I somebody uh on Twitter once said, don’t stand still on an escalator. Life’s too short to stand still on an escalator. And I don’t know why that that lives with me, but it lives with me forever. Like I it feels like, God, I gotta I gotta get moving. 

 

David Gborie: [laughing] I gotta get– I gotta take the stairs. 

 

Langston Kerman: I am. What am I doing? I’m standing on this escalator. I got to move. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: [?] still on the escalator. Okay. Um and the second question is, what do you say to people who feel like they’ve done all the things and they listened to your podcast, listened to mine, they read the books, they were in the street, they testified, they voted, and the world hasn’t changed in the way they wanted it to yet. What do you say to those people, the people whose hope is challenged in moments like this? 

 

Langston Kerman: Mhm. Um. I. To me and I think it’s, it’s maybe the, the motivation that lives underneath our podcast is to uh, to find ways to experience joy in the hard conversations. I think that that is the most important thing that we sort of aim for inside of our our pod is like we should be laughing at things that are difficult, things that make us uncomfortable, things that maybe are constantly returning us to that sad place, that sort of like inevitable defeat that we keep feeling. And so I would say the best I can offer you is, is find something that makes you laugh, even if you’re laughing at the thing that you’re trying to fix. You know what I mean? 

 

David Gborie: Yeah, I mean, definitely gratitude is the attitude, right? When you feel hopeless or whatever. Those are the times, I think, at least for me, that’s when I lean into like my community or my family or Sierra Leone in general. Like [laughter] I think just kind of refocusing on the things that you can change and the people that you love and your community, that that really goes a long way. 

 

Langston Kerman: Yeah good answers all around, I’d say. [laughter]

 

DeRay Mckesson: So let people know where they can go to stay in touch with you, where they can find the latest updates. How do people stay tuned? 

 

David Gborie: I have a small internet footprint. Uh you can find me on cool guy Instagram at @coolguyjokes87 other than that, you know, don’t worry. Listen to the podcast. So it’ll be bit alright. 

 

Langston Kerman: Yeah listen listen to My Momma Told Me, it’s a very silly podcast and uh maybe you’ll learn something, huh? Uh and you can follow me at @LangstonKerman on Instagram, and I’m finally free of Twitter. So yeah just Instagram at this point. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Boom. Well, we consider you friends of the pod and can’t wait to have you back. 

 

David Gborie: Thank you very much. 

 

Langston Kerman: Yeah. Thank you for having us. [music break]

 

DeRay Mckesson: Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning into Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out and make sure you rate it wherever you get your podcasts. Whether it’s Apple podcasts or somewhere else. And we’ll see you next week. Pod Save the People is a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by AJ Moultrié and mixed by Evan Sutton. Executive produced by me. And special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger and Myles E. Johnson. 

 

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