What's the Narrative? | Crooked Media
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April 04, 2023
Pod Save The People
What's the Narrative?

In This Episode

DeRay, De’Ara, Kaya, and Myles cover the underreported news of the week — including the growing price of electronic messaging for imprisoned people,  secret funds funneled by the spouse of a Supreme Court Justice, Questlove’s Disney directorial debut, and a historical festival celebrating Black women filmmakers.


DeRay SMH: The rapid & unregulated growth of e‑messaging in prisons 

Myles Questlove To Direct Live-Action/Hybrid Adaptation Of ‘The Aristocats’ For Disney

De’Ara Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts celebrates past and future of Black women’s filmmaking

Kaya Activist group led by Ginni Thomas received nearly $600,000 in anonymous donations




DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay. And welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode it’s me, Kaya, De’Ara and Myles as usual, talking about the news that you don’t know from the past week. The news with regard to race, justice and equity that you missed what should have been top of mind in all of the national conversations. We talked LSU women’s basketball, they won! They won. And all things arts and culture happening with regard to Blackness. Here we go. Let’s get free. 


De’Ara Balenger: Family. Welcome to another episode of Pod Save the People. We missed you. We’re happy to be back. 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 and Twitter at @pharaohrapture


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


DeRay Mckesson: This is DeRay @deray on Twitter. 


De’Ara Balenger: So the headline update is that Donald Trump was indicted. What does this mean? This mean. This means that he is going to be [laugh] he is going to be prosecuted by the federal government. It will be the United States of America. Oh, no. Is it state? Is it just the state? 


Kaya Henderson: It’s New York. Yes it’s New York.


De’Ara Balenger: It’s New York State? 


Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm. 


De’Ara Balenger: It’s New York State. Um. So it’s for you know, it’s it’s the back and forth that’s been happening. I guess this is going on, what, seven, eight years about some campaign funds that were potentially, perhaps paid to Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet. Um. Yeah. So this is happening. He’s supposed to appear on Tuesday again, this time not made up by him. But in real life. 


Myles E. Johnson: Where’s he supposed to appear?


De’Ara Balenger: In New York. 


Myles E. Johnson: In in– 


Kaya Henderson: In court. 


Myles E. Johnson: In the court? In Rikers?


De’Ara Balenger: In court. In court.


Myles E. Johnson: Got it.


Kaya Henderson: No. Not Rikers [laughing]. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. 


Kaya Henderson: You know he ain’t going to no Rikers child. 


Myles E. Johnson: I don’t– 


DeRay Mckesson: Don’t you know– 


Myles E. Johnson: I don’t know nothing. I don’t know any I’m I’m plugged in. I avoid the– 


DeRay Mckesson: But there– 


Myles E. Johnson: –the drama. 


DeRay Mckesson: There’s a rumor, though, that they are that when he comes in, they’re going to let him bypass the mug shot. 


Kaya Henderson: Oh, yeah. I mean, they make those kinds of arrangements for rich people, [laughing] right De’Ara?


Myles E. Johnson: Uh uh. 


De’Ara Balenger: All the time. 


Kaya Henderson: High profile. High profile candidates. Let me rephrase. 


Myles E. Johnson: Where do I, where do I send the cigarettes is what I need to know. [laughter] I’m a put a I’m a put a– 


Kaya Henderson: Wait. Have you–


Myles E. Johnson: –little note in each cigarette. 


Kaya Henderson: Have you seen the meme? There’s a meme with Donald Trump behind bars and Hillary Clinton whispering into the cell. I brought some emails for you to read. 


Myles E. Johnson: Oh, okay. [laughter] But them emails. But them emails. But them emails. 


De’Ara Balenger: But– 


Kaya Henderson: So– 


DeRay Mckesson: You know that’s what they, they say it all. It’s always the small stuff that gets you right. It’s like never the the big it’s like what, Al Capone got taken down on his taxes. 


Myles E. Johnson: Taxes yeah. 


DeRay Mckesson: Of all the things that that he did and I think– 


Kaya Henderson: But this is also just– 


DeRay Mckesson: [indistinct] 


Kaya Henderson: This is also just the first thing right. It’s just the first thing. 


DeRay Mckesson: Hopefully. Hopefully. 


Kaya Henderson: And well, there’s the Georgia election tampering case. 


De’Ara Balenger: Yeah. 


Kaya Henderson: There’s a couple of cases brewing. And so this is just the first one. And it’s it’s a watershed moment because I don’t think ever has a, that’s I don’t think that’s exactly true. But we don’t usually indict former presidents, even Nixon was not– 


Myles E. Johnson: I think it’s the first I yeah– 


De’Ara Balenger: We don’t know. We don’t usually do that because former presidents also don’t usually commit crimes. So I think– 


Kaya Henderson: Yeah. 


De’Ara Balenger: –like The New York Times– 


Kaya Henderson: Yikes. Don’t say that. Don’t say that you can’t swear for nobody child. 


De’Ara Balenger: Well listen [banter] you can. Okay. Or they’re committing–


DeRay Mckesson: Right don’t get up here lying. 


De’Ara Balenger: Well, no, I think I think that then I had a problem with the New York Times headline because it was like for the first time ever, a former president will be yada, yada, yada. Yeah. Because he committed a crime. I feel like former presidents. Listen, it was in the confines of what was ethically responsible [laughing] and within that time period, within that construct of whatever that political and social landscape was. So it’s just I don’t know, I get I get a little vexed with the this is the first time a president and da da da. Yeah because he committed a crime. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah making it seem like– 


De’Ara Balenger: He’s got several cases pending. 


Myles E. Johnson: Making it seem like the actual indictment is just the indictment is the unprecedented thing where the president is the thing that it the former president is the thing that is the most like new and ridiculous. So we have to do new things that we’ve never done before because– 


De’Ara Balenger: Exactly. 


Myles E. Johnson: –he’s bringing like new horrors to the table. Yeah. So how long–


De’Ara Balenger: And it–


Myles E. Johnson: –is he going to be in jail. What’s what’s going on. I need numbers. 


De’Ara Balenger: Listen. 


DeRay Mckesson: He hadn’t even had a trial yet. [banter]


Myles E. Johnson: Okay well– 


De’Ara Balenger: Also–. 


Kaya Henderson: Too early, too early.


Myles E. Johnson: It’s called manifesting. [laughter] You see how that A and I kick, A and I came up with that picture and then a week later it was happening.


DeRay Mckesson: Not A and I. It’s AI. [indistinct] [laughter]


Myles E. Johnson: The AI, child. That’s an A and I. [laughter] You know, I’m on my I’m on my grandma talk this morning. 


Kaya Henderson: Now come on grandma. 


Myles E. Johnson: That A and I. 


Kaya Henderson: C’mon grandma. [laughter]


DeRay Mckesson: Wait, Myles I thought– 


Kaya Henderson: Wait. 


DeRay Mckesson: –you were an abolitionist. How you how you want Trump in jail? 


Myles E. Johnson: Hold on. I’m an abolitionist on every day except the ones in where Trump is going to jail. [laughter] I got to put it down. Angela Davis understands. Every we all got to have our things where we have to just we have to just move with the currents of life. So.


De’Ara Balenger: Okay so this and this [laughter] there’s a couple other tidbits, too. So he is expected to travel from Mar-a-lago, of course, on Monday. He is going to surrender himself on Tuesday. Since the indictment came out, his campaign raised over $5 million dollars. 


Myles E. Johnson: Whoa.


De’Ara Balenger: Um. 1 million of those were, wait I don’t want I want to get this right because, oh, 25% of those donations came from first time donors to him. 


DeRay Mckesson: Nuts. 


Kaya Henderson: I mean, this this is the danger, right? And this is what he knows and this is what his team knows is that this is a galvanizing moment for his base. Right. Whatever you feel about big government, whatever you feel about, you know, I watched his lawyer. Can I just tell you, his lawyer is hilarious to me. His lawyer’s name is Joe Tacopino [correction: Joe Tacopina] or something. And around this house, we call him Joey Taco because he seems like a [laughing] he seems like that would be his nickname anyway. Like their thing is this is a personal matter. This is not a political matter. This was not campaign funds. These were personal funds like and personal and the government needs to stay out of people’s personal stuff. There’s a whole lot of people who believe that, who, you know, feel like, listen, if you’ll go after Donald Trump, you’ll go after me. And so this is a galvanizing moment. Your boy, DeSantis, who was rising in the polls, is now falling in the polls. And it is fascinating to watch this whole thing play out. 


Myles E. Johnson: I just think I’m if I remember it correctly, I think in New York City Tuesday or Wednesday, it’s going to be around the 60s something, 70 something degree day, which means it might be barbecue weather. So I think when this happens, we should just have a barbecue. I’m just I’m just I’m just claiming the victory today we’re recording on Sunday. I know that doesn’t mean much for um the listener, but usually we record on Mondays and this is happening on a Sunday and I’m just feeling like we just need to claim the victory I need I think I need to see Trump go to jail. I think I– 


DeRay Mckesson: It’s not even any this is not just any Sunday either. This is Palm Sunday. 


Kaya Henderson: Palm Sunday. 


Myles E. Johnson: This is Palm– 


DeRay Mckesson: This is the beginning of– 


Myles E. Johnson: Oh! 


DeRay Mckesson: –Jesus’s Trek. 


Kaya Henderson: Holy Week. It’s Holy Week. 


Myles E. Johnson: [?] Jesus is he not making himself known. Oh by Good Friday. I need to feel good about going because the thing about it is it’s– 


DeRay Mckesson: Ash Wednesday first though, we got Ash Wednesday right after this um turn in. 


Kaya Henderson: No, no, no we don’t no we don’t. 


DeRay Mckesson: Oh. We passed Ash Wednesday. [banter]


Kaya Henderson: Ash Wednesday is oh God we gotta take you back to Sunday school babe because you got this all wrong.


Myles E. Johnson: You know we [?]. 


DeRay Mckesson: Vacation bible school, vacation bi– no, Good Friday is coming up. 


Kaya Henderson: Yes. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yes, that what I was saying, Good Friday. Yeah.


DeRay Mckesson: You right. Hallelujah. 


Myles E. Johnson: But hold on–


Kaya Henderson: Wedn– Wednesday is the Passover. We hope that we hope that this indictment does not pass him over. Right. We need it to– 


Myles E. Johnson: Right. 


Kaya Henderson: –actually happen, um but yeah, well, we’ll see. Let’s let’s not link this to my sweet– 


DeRay Mckesson: Y’all are funny.


Kaya Henderson: –baby Jesus because Donald Trump don’t have nothing to do– 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah I I– 


Kaya Henderson: –with sweet baby Jesus. 


Myles E. Johnson: I do think it’s like a moral, not a moral thing, but like a um uh just just how people feel, I guess like, I guess moral, but not just like in good and bad, but just like, it just feels like he has gotten away with so, so, so, so much so publicly. And I know that he is not the only rich, famous powerful white man whose gotten gotten away with a lot of things using money and using um political power and social power. But I think it’s the nah nah nah nah boo boo of how he’s been getting away with it that makes it feel like, oh, we need public repercussions for him. If there’s going to be any type of faith restored in uh legal and justice system like we need, we need to see. We need the cuffs. 


DeRay Mckesson: [laugh] Myles.


Kaya Henderson: In other news this week, it is March Madness running wild, and maybe one of the most exciting games of March Madness was the uh, I guess, the semifinals between Iowa and South Carolina. South Carolina, coached by the amazing Dawn Staley, um who has been undefeated. They are the they were the defending national champions. Um [clears throat] and it’s a team full of Black girls with lashes and long hair and doing all of the Black girl things. And they were beat by a team full of white girls and one of the baddest clearly one of the baddest female players ever, Caitlin Clark. You got to give the people their due, um but we were just talking about the double standard and how their emotionalism in games is treated by the media. And I want to shout out Dawn Staley um because after her team lost, of course, the media went in and said, you know, how do you feel about people calling your girls bullies? And and she basically was like, you going to keep your players my players name out your mouth. We’re not thugs, we’re not bullies. It’s not a bar fight or any of the other derogatory things that you are saying about our girls. We went on, we played ball. That’s what it is. And this is like it’s just fascinating to watch white supremacy rears its head in all of these different ways, not just in the usual ways, but on the courts and how to how the the media portrays these women. 


DeRay Mckesson: Yeah, Cait you know, Caitlin is an incredible basketball player, so, you know, and I she did a press conference after the game where it was a model in what you do when you are that good of a player, she shouted out by name the individual people on the team who made it possible for the win to happen. She was like, I got the most points, but but I didn’t do it alone. And she is given a grace that the Black girls just simply are not given that I saw people on Twitter would be like, oh, it’s the eyelashes, da da da da. And it’s like, those are some of the best basketball players we’ve ever seen. And to just see and hear the coverage of the way that the emotions of the Black women shows up is just gross. It was like, I hope somebody does like a I hope it’s covered on you know ESPN not going to do nothing, but I hope that somebody actually picks it up and mainstreams that argument a little more, and not just Twitter, because it was really frustrating to see and Angel Reese is that girl, you know, she’s a hometown hero. She really is. She can play. She got it. And I like that she talked trash. And when the guys talk trash, that’s part of the game, right? Like, that’s just what we accept to be real and true. 


De’Ara Balenger: This has been happening since the dawn of Black women in sports. I mean, I’m not none of this surprises me. Like even one of my little cousins plays in Minneapolis. She’s 15 and she is real good. Um. And this is a thing, refs, the refs, the parents coverage of these games, it’s always there’s always so much racism. Right. And I think the frustrating thing is this sport is such a creative and physical expression, and it’s one of those places where you go to try to avoid having to deal [laugh] with racism, institutional racism. It’s one of those places where babies can just do their thing. And yet, even in this context, they go up against so much bullshit, quite frankly. And I think partly this is, you know, I’m also just thinking about like the the legacy of like Black women basketball players, like from back and, you know, from Cheryl Miller, who was the biggest trash talkingest person ever. Probably to play on the women’s side. Um. And who could was good enough to go to the NBA at when she was at her um at the height of her game. Sheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie, all these amazing, incredible players who um have had set this legacy out. And it is knowing how hard they had to fight to just establish the sport, talking and even conversations around pay equity. We can get into the Brittney Griner of it all while she has to still play ball and why she was even in Russia playing ball. I just think. This is something we should give a great deal more of, of thought and support and activism and movement building behind because it’s still, these young folks still shouldn’t be suffering these politics. It’s ridiculous. 


DeRay Mckesson: I was just going to shout out that Angel Reese’s brother also plays. Uh. I think Angel’s older. He plays basketball from Maryland. Her her parents both play basketball. Like, I’m just saying, Angel Reese, stay in. Like, she really is that girl. 


Kaya Henderson: Of course you are. 


DeRay Mckesson: I love it. 


Kaya Henderson: Charm City native. Of course you are. 


DeRay Mckesson: I love it. [laughter]


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. I don’t know a lot about basketball at all. 


Kaya Henderson: Say what? What?


Myles E. Johnson: I do not know a lot about basketball. I know it is surprising, um but I do know a little bit about racism. And I know when I– 


Kaya Henderson: Ohh. [laughter] Yes.


Myles E. Johnson: And I know it when I smell it. And I don’t care how well you are doing on that basketball team. Um. White woman who is getting uh public privilege for doing the same emotions that the Black girls are getting. Because [?] what’s your name is to me. And I think in order for you to show that there’s actually true alliance and you are actually playing a fair game, it would be righteous, ooh righteous for you to get up there and actually name what is happening to you and what’s not happening to them. You can still play a game, you can still be competitive. You can still talk your talk your um uh [?] we can say that, on the on the court. And you could also be a really brave person outside of the court and be a really courageous person outside the court and say, I’m not being treated fairly. I know you can do that. I know you can do it um the baske– because you know what else I was thinking about when I was hearing this? Because I hear so little about basketball, because I desire in my life to hear very little about basketball. And by and by proxy, I hear uh very little about women’s basketball because I if it involves sweat and a ball. Um no, but little leaks come through in my in my in my world. And I was reminded of Don Imus that nappy headed blank comment was a basketball um team center, too. So I’m thinking–


Kaya Henderson: Yes. 


Myles E. Johnson: What is going on over there? They might need–


Kaya Henderson: Yes. 


Myles E. Johnson: –somebody like me who does not care either which way [laughter] it goes about the game and just to call out racism. I’ll be the other other referee in the black and white worried about the Black and white. Like, I don’t want to hear anything– 


DeRay Mckesson: Ah c’mon! [?]


Myles E. Johnson: I don’t want to hear anything– 


DeRay Mckesson: I would be the other referee.


Myles E. Johnson: [laughing] I don’t want to hear anything more about that. And I it just makes me wonder because there’s so there’s actually so much material in my pop culture mind around women’s basketball and racism and these moments that I’m like, what makes me want to take the um the hood off and see like, what’s what’s really going on? 


Kaya Henderson: So just picking up off of a thread from last week, we were all, did you know that 30 million people watched the Gwyneth Paltrow trial last week, this ski thing? And we we talked about it last week. And the long story short is Gwyneth. Gwen, Gwyneth won. She won the case. She won a whole dollar plus all her court fees, which is going to cost this man a ton of money. And uh and, mister whoo you knew you were going to lose that one. When they called that mister that man up to the stage, the second time up to the what do you call it? I can’t remember whatever the legal thing is, called him to the stand a second time. And they said, sir, if your life is so radically different, isn’t this you ziplining in Costa Rica? Ain’t this you flying to Paris? Isn’t this you doing this that and the other in all of these different places? And he’s like, well, uh yeah, that was it. That was all she wrote. [laughing] And and–


DeRay Mckesson: No he said I believe so. It’s like–


Kaya Henderson: Right. 


DeRay Mckesson: So you’re parasailing. [laughter] He said I believe so. Wouldn’t you? Like you couldn’t just they didn’t find you walking down the street. You were whitewater rafting! What?


Kaya Henderson: And in what might be the shadiest move ever on her way out, Gwynnecent said, I wish you well. [laughing] 


DeRay Mckesson: Best performance of her career. 


Kaya Henderson: Honey. 


DeRay Mckesson: She nailed it. [laughter] Did it. They said they said the um somebody wrote the her legal fees amounted to her outfits during trial. It’s like I know that’s right. Did it.


Myles E. Johnson: Listen listen. No she it was it was good good, good entertainment. It made me really a fan of Gwyneth Paltrow, I don’t think not that I was didn’t like her. I just didn’t there was never a connect with me in her in her work and so the Talented Mr. Ripley. Um. So, like, it was really good to like, see her just, I don’t know, just be in control in Prada boots. Oh, I love the Prada boot. 


De’Ara Balenger: She’s sharp. She’s sharp.


Myles E. Johnson: She was. Oh, goodness. 


DeRay Mckesson: And just it really was a level of unbothered that is aspirational. Like–


Myles E. Johnson: Aspirational. 


DeRay Mckesson: –no sweating.


Kaya Henderson: Unbothered, honey. Unbothered, yes. 


Myles E. Johnson: Emphasis on aspen. 


DeRay Mckesson: Not nasty. 


Myles E. Johnson: Aspenirational. Yeah. Just [laughter] so I am super excited. You know, I love. Ugh. I love, love, love, love, love, love Questlove. I’m so glad I actually get to say this because the the public record of me and Questlove is a little murky. Um. [laughter]


Kaya Henderson: Clean it up. Clean it up. 


Myles E. Johnson: I used to have a column for Okay Player. It was my first column, which is owned by Questlove. Um. A couple of years later, I wrote um, you know, a nice critical article, wondering how The Roots, the best rap group ever to exist with one of the best rappers to ever exist, was playing backup for Mr. at the time, apolitical um Jimmy Fallon. And I was like, kind of pushing on that whole idea. And then Questlove commented me with a with a Black thought freestyle. So I am responsible for one of the best freestyles that has happened in the last ten years because of my critical push. Black feminism and queerness [laughter] and literature works and shapes culture. But I’m glad to talk about Questlove in a totally positive light. Questlove is directing a live action version of Aristocats. Um one of the one of the reasons why I’m so excited about this, if you don’t know about The Aristocats, it is a 1970s film that is about some cats whose owner are about to get rich and there’s alley cats and aristocats, and there’s some racist stuff going on in there, that I’m hoping, I’m sure they’re going to wash out. And it’s a really good heart warming, fun, funky, jazzy film. Um. One of the reasons why I’m most excited about Questlove directing this specifically is because of his perspective and his tastes. Questlove um his the other film that he’s um directed, has been the soul documentary that I thought was stirring. The Soul documentary is about the um fest the um music festival in the 19 um was that 1969? And yeah 1969 in um in Harlem, and they had Nina Simone there, it had um, uh why am I blanking. Because like now I’m only seeing the Nina the um the Nina the um the uh Summer of Soul. Excuse me, but now I’m only seeing the um the Nina like because Nina Simone in front of the um from the stage but any who it’s just had incredible, incredible, incredible performances in it. It also just kind of contextualized what Black people were doing around the same time of like the Woodstock moment. And I thought that he just was such an uh a visionary of how he um crafted that. And I get to see his gaze. Mahalia Jackson, Gladys Knight. It’s all coming back to me now. David Ruffin. It’s all it’s all coming back to me now in a flood. No help from my producers. It’s just me and my own little memory. Um. [laughter] But it’s all but yeah, it was just such a it was just such a stirring documentary and I’m so excited about Questlove’s gaze to be on Aristocats because I think it’s a chance to really contextualize um that story in a way that is like Black, that’s jazzy. I don’t know what he’ll be able to get away with because it’s still Disney. So I’m sure they’re like, we want it maybe they want it to be more inclusive, but I would really love for this to be a film that is, you know, just jazzy and and Black. And a really, really re-imagining. Not Lion King not just a retelling, but with live action animation, but a real reimagining of this story as something that is a part of um the Black jazz and um funk canon. And I think Questlove being the director, really gives me a lot of hope that that’s the that’s the way that they’re going and it’s just and it’s just an exciting, exciting idea. Once they I don’t, the real true tell tale sign will be when we get to hear the everybody wants to be a cat. Like when we start, when we start hearing some of the the the the songs that are famous from that, from that and hear the take on it, then  we’ll be like, okay. Oh, they’re getting funky. Oh, they were playing. They were, they were playing around. So I’m excited about it. Some people are not. Some people have been burnt too many times by Disney Live Action. But it’s Sunday. I’m faithful. And um I believe I believe a new day is a new day. So we not gonna, we not gonna hold Disney for yesterday since we gonna we going to look to tomorrow’s blessings. Are y’all excited? Are you do you not care? Did you get responded to with your essays with a freestyle? Tell me. [laughter]


De’Ara Balenger: No, not everyone can be a culture shaper like you Myles Johnson. 


Kaya Henderson: [laughter] Ooh child. 


De’Ara Balenger: But I will say that I got excited by this because I don’t know if y’all have seen them, but Questlove did this Storyville series where it’s animation, it’s two animated series like shows, and one is about the time where Prince asked Questlove to put a party together after– 


Myles E. Johnson: Yes! 


De’Ara Balenger: –one of Prince’s concerts. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yes. 


De’Ara Balenger: It is hilarious.


Kaya Henderson: Can you send it to us? 


De’Ara Balenger: Yes. And the other the other episode was Questlove doing whatever he could to try to get invited to Patti LaBelle’s house for dinner. 


Myles E. Johnson: Thanksgiving yes.


De’Ara Balenger: He was giving beats away. He was [laughing] they honestly, they are like they are spectacular hilarious so well done animations. But yeah, I’ll send them to y’all. So I’m very excited to see this just given what he did just with those two kind of moments that um that I’ve been watching over and over over the years. 


Kaya Henderson: Um. I had no idea that– 


DeRay Mckesson: My my comment will be quick. I’ve never seen it. I’m excited. I don’t even know what The Aristocats is. Never seen it. 


Myles E. Johnson: Ah! 


DeRay Mckesson: Never listened, don’t know the songs. So.


Myles E. Johnson: Oh. 


DeRay Mckesson: I’m I’m simple. 


Kaya Henderson: I I will I will sort of echo that. I mean, I know what the Aristocats is. I didn’t see it, but I feel like I’ve seen every other Disney movie. I’m not sure how I missed that, and I didn’t even know that I should be excited about it until you brought it to the pod Myles because I was like, mmm yeah so what? But I do think that it is exciting to think about reimagining a Disney classic in a completely Questlove-ish kind of way. You know, when we put our hands on things and remix them, um it is usually it ends up being a cultural moment. And so now you got me looking forward to the Aristocats when that was not even on my radar screen. So thank you, sir. 


Myles E. Johnson: Questlove needs to hear that. 


Kaya Henderson: Thank you sir. 


Myles E. Johnson: And forgive me. Yeah, he has just a great [?] of like– [laughter]


DeRay Mckesson: And forgive me.


Myles E. Johnson: In things he’s done. 


DeRay Mckesson: Psycho. 


Myles E. Johnson: Like down to the Soul Train book, which is like a book that I really should gift all y’all but it’s a book of Soul Train. That was um uh totally done by Questlove. He was in the Soul movie a couple of years ago, which was about the soul, and it was jazzy, and he played the voice of the main character. So it just and–


Kaya Henderson: Oh, oh the the animated thing Soul. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yes. 


Kaya Henderson: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 


Myles E. Johnson: And then of course– 


Kaya Henderson: I saw that, that was good. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. Then of course, Summer of Soul and that, so it just made me excited that like oh this is who they’re choosing to direct it. This might be something that you know will be Black and beautiful. So yay shout out to Questlove and Black thought. 


Kaya Henderson: Um. My news is about Ginni Thomas, Virginia Ginni Thomas, who is the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and her conservative shenanigans that are happening all over this country that seem to go unaccounted for. The latest thing is that um she led an activist group that received nearly $600,000 in anonymous donations um that were to wage a cultural battle against the left over the last three years. And they found this out as a result of a Washington Post investigation. There is uh a way that you can um collect money through another through somebody else’s organization called fiscal sponsorship. And so, for example, I might start a new nonprofit or I might start anything and I might say DeRay, I want Campaign Zero to be the fiscal sponsor. And that means all of the money goes to Campaign Zero. The tax deductions that people get, get they get from Campaign zero. But I might be running a completely different operation. Hoes and Prose. Right. And so [laugh] you could give your money to Campaign Zero uh for my Hoes and Prose organization if you like.


Myles E. Johnson: What what’s the what’s the name of that um business? [laughter] [banter]


Kaya Henderson: Fiscal, fiscal fiscal sponsorship. 


Myles E. Johnson: No the [?] you said hoes and prose?


Kaya Henderson: Yeah, that was just my like– 


Myles E. Johnson: Got it. 


Kaya Henderson: –attempt to be provocative. [laughter] Um. But [laugh] the long story short is it allows Ginni Thomas to collect money and do activities that then are not reported to um the federal government the way that other nonprofits need to report. She has a group called Crowd Sourcers for Culture and Liberty, and they channeled funds through a right wing think tank in Washington. Um. And there are all kinds of problems with money, that dark money, right, with money um from donors who are not publicly identified, because [clears throat] lots of those donors oftentimes have conflicts of interest. And so uh Ginni Thomas is particularly well known because she is a very active conservative operative um who has been um uh she’s been tied to the whole election denying thing and really working at the highest um seats of our government to get folks to deny um President Biden’s electoral win. She has been criticized for entertaining people who have business before the Supreme Court. And in all cases, she and her lawyers say Clarence Thomas don’t have nothing to do with this. She doesn’t whatever, whatever. And it’s hard to believe that there’s this much smoke on this lady and nobody has done anything to really hold her, her or her husband accountable. And so there’s a whole long article. And I it’s not even worth maybe it is worth the time. It’s not worth the time enumerating the details. You can go back and read it. But I’ll say this, and that is the Republicans are out here doing everything in every way possible and oftentimes avoiding the same level of scrutiny that they want to cast upon the Dems. And so if we don’t know that these things are happening, then we wake up three years later and realize, why are we in the midst of culture wars? It’s because Ginni Thomas and her friends have been orchestrating this thing for the last few years and beyond that. So I bring that here because you need to know how the people are moving. 


Myles E. Johnson: It will always it will always shock me at like the um the the publicness or the bold, though no better word, the boldness of people who know that they’re doing things that are um legally ambiguous if I’m being the most polite, you know, and they’ll be at the loudest ones and they’ll be doing things that are that are adjacent to money laundering. And then they’ll also be the loudest ones about a presidency being fake. And you would think if you were doing something that crooked or if you were doing crooked things, you would be quiet. You would you would you wouldn’t talk about it. But it’s but it’s the um the boldness that always perplexes me. Thank you for bringing this to the um to the podcast because you know, I was sleeping too well. And you and you always make sure that that doesn’t happen for too long. Auntie Kaya. 


DeRay Mckesson: What I’ll say is um it goes and this is just it goes without saying that if Ginni Thomas was Black, this would be wall to wall coverage. We’d be hearing about it every day. Stole the country da da da. Like it would be nonstop news. The second thing is that there is something around um and I don’t and this is not the right language, but the left is so intent on playing fair like that’s the language people use and sort of like above the fray and da da da da. And it’s like we are in the mud, we’re here, the mud is here. So trying to play as if you will keep have clean hands. We’re in the mud. We’re already here. So when I think about AOC holding down the like public narrative, like AOC is probably the best communicator online who just sort of says the thing like she fought Amazon in New York and got beat up for it, but she was right and da da. And it’s like more of the left needs to coherently say, like, hey, this the Ginni stuff, ain’t making sense y’all. This not making sense. And I do worry about this the desire to, like, quote “play fair” and above the fray. It’s like we’re in we’re in we are in the mess. What were you gonna say Kaya? About the Amazon thing?


Kaya Henderson: No I was just going to say, I don’t know if she was right, because the whole reason for her opposing Amazon was because she didn’t fundamentally understand the idea that [?] tax credits are not real cash. And so her position was and we don’t I mean, we don’t have to talk about this, but her position was let’s not use this money for Amazon, let’s use this money for other things infrastructure, education, blah, blah, blah. There is no money, right? There were credits. And so– 


DeRay Mckesson: Credits. 


Kaya Henderson: And so her her constituents actually lost lots and lots of jobs. But, you know, whatever. I’m not a Queens constituent. 


DeRay Mckesson: Wait but Amazon but my my push is that Amazon didn’t actually [?]. She didn’t believe them zooming out. She didn’t believe that they actually were going to finish building the thing. And then [?] they didn’t finish, they just stopped construction on that building. That’s what I but your point about tax credits taken. 


Kaya Henderson: Okay.


De’Ara Balenger: We are talking about the highest court in the land. 


Kaya Henderson: The highest court in the land. 


De’Ara Balenger: I do not understand why this woman is not more scrutinized. I feel–


Kaya Henderson: Indicted. 


De’Ara Balenger: Indicted. I feel like she’s having teas with Marjorie Taylor, whatever her name is like. I just like who are they consorting with? And what are they doing? And the fact that they’re raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to do misinformation, disinformation, whatever they’re doing is shocking and scary. And I just can’t I can’t believe this. I mean, I’m even thinking, like, not even if you know, Ginni Thomas was white. But what if you know someone in Justice Sotomayor’s family was doing this or someone in Ketanji’s family was doing this, It’d be an absolute no and it’d be everywhere. So the fact that this woman I mean, just think how long Clarence Thomas has been on the bench. How long. So there I think we’re just Kaya, getting to the beginnings of what her antics have been and what she has been up to. It’s shocking to me. So my news, I thought it was I saw it and I got so excited and then I realized I missed it. I missed it. So a month ago, the Sojourner Truth Festival Film Festival happened at the University of Chicago. Evidently, the original festival, the original Sojourner Truth Festival happened in 1976. It was organized by Margo Jefferson, Patricia Spears, Patricia Spears Jones, Faith Ringgold, Monica Freeman, and Michele Wallace. Mm mm mm mmm. To have been a fly on the wall in 1976. Um. It was a you know, it was the Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts. It was a celebration of Black feminist art, a space that fostered collaboration between artistic mediums. So what I found fascinating, Myles, I think you’ll find this fascinating, too, is that in the late 1970s, Black women like Faith Ringgold and Audre Lorde were basically like, we’ve we kind of made an imprint in literature, in visual arts. What we need to do, though, is to penetrate film making, documentary making. And so their idea was to get up and coming filmmakers, documentarians, um and these like literary and visual art giants together to figure out how to strategize around really creating more space, more impact in film. I mean, you can see there’s also like the program for this festival in 1976, and you would die to see the program like the panels and the conversations. It’s like Ntozake Shange and Audrey Lorde. Like what? Mind blown. Um. So anyhow, the festival like it had, 40 years have gone by, another festival hasn’t happened. And what ended up happening is a film scholar, Hayley O’Malley, um was doing some archival work and basically came on to find that this happened in 1976 um and, you know, kind of had some conversations with some other folks. Um. Nadia Field was at the University of Chicago um and they decided to put this film festival together again, and they partnered with Michelle Wallace, who was at the original festival. So she became very much a part of this one. And I just thought this was just fabulous because even 40 years later, the discussion is still very much. Black women um and we’ve had this conversation with, you know, with the Oscars and lack of nominations, etc., etc.. But Black women still have such a long way to go in filmmaking being able to have, you know, access to know how to make a film, having access to funding to to make a film. So this festival also paid homage to Madeline Anderson, who became who began making documentaries in the 1950s. Um. She was called The Grandmama of Black Women’s Filmmaking. And in 1976, at the original festival, she received the Woman of the Year award. So I just wanted to bring this to the pod because I just thought this was the sweetest piece of news and Myles. I can’t believe we miss this. 


Myles E. Johnson: Oh, my goodness. We need we need [?] on the good cultural things happening around the nation. 


De’Ara Balenger: Come on, now. 


Myles E. Johnson: Just like what is–


De’Ara Balenger: Come on. 


Myles E. Johnson: –going on. 


De’Ara Balenger: Listen. Julie Dash was there. Barbara McCullough was there. I mean, living for this festival. So shout out to all the organizers involved. Let’s make this an annual thing. 


Myles E. Johnson: Julie Dash has a book with Bell Hooks that um I keep by my, my bed. And as I’ve been just doing more things in theater and film and stuff like that, I’ve returned to that book so much. And what I love about this this the original film festival and then bringing it back is that it also bring take makes room for Black women filmmakers who are not necessarily interested in the mainstreaming of their ideas and of their film and their storytelling. And I think that now it’s been the new the new the first frontier was just making it. And getting a thing. And I think the New Frontier is how do we make space for stories to be told that are not interested in the in the in the edits and the push and pulls you have to do in order to be a blockbuster hit. And I and I and I returned to um Julie Dash so much because Daughters of the Dust it was just it just um it has just echoed in people’s in in in people’s art to this day. Of course, we know because Beyonce um referenced that again in Lemonade in a [?]. But when I just look at I can literally do a daughter to the dust to now. And show how the ways that we picture people, how we imagine things, how that film has has done has has totally influenced it. And I only think that if Julie Dash for whatever reason was just interested in no, this is no hate, to waiting to exhale. But if she was only interested in how do we make Waiting to Exhale or how do we, you know, create this, this most commercial, this new soul food, then we wouldn’t have something that is so um was so esthetically uh bold and and and game changing. Thank you for bringing this and let’s just, do we email them, and see what’s going on next? Can we pass out waters? [laughing]


De’Ara Balenger: You know, you know I will be in touch. I will be in touch with the organizers. 


Myles E. Johnson: Okay. 


Kaya Henderson: I thought this was, thanks for bringing this De’Ara, um you know, I deeply, deeply believe that people need to know where they come from in order to know where they’re going. And so the thing that was most exciting to me was the connection between this 1976 symposium and then this symposium. I think it’s also really important for the youngs, and I’m operating my full Auntie hood right now to understand that, like, not only do we stand on the shoulders of giants, thank you to all of those women, but also this stuff is not new. And you all ain’t the first folks fighting for freedom. And by drawing these intergenerational connections, right um then the future movement is strengthened. Right. And so cool for them to bring back 95 year old Madeline um. Somebody is going to tell me what the lady’s name, Madeline Anderson. And cool for um the newer film makers to be able to touch and feel the Julie Dash’s of the world and cool that they get to um mentor and inform one another, inform the future of of Black women in filmmaking. And so I say that from a place of love like we need to other other communities understand the intergenerational connections. And I think sometimes we do, but sometimes we don’t. And so it is heartening to me when I see these kinds of opportunities, remember reflecting on our past in order to inform our future. 


DeRay Mckesson: I’ll say um this this episode has been my arts learning like didn’t know what the Aristocats was. Uh. Had never heard of this film festival. And so so thank you both for bringing these culture pieces that that are really teaching me. When I think about this, two things come to mind. Kaya. You’re right. As an organizer, I always remind myself that I didn’t discover injustice and I didn’t invent resistance right. Both, way before me. I get to I have new tools that they just could only dream about. And that is what makes this moment very different is that the way the pace we can organize, technology has just changed, the way we can do the work. But the work has remained, unfortunately, largely present. The second thing is, while we talk so much about the organizers of these events, I’m always reminded that when we talk about community building, community is built, it’s an action, and that if not for the people submitting to these festivals, there is no festival, right? Like there are there are all the unnamed people who actually power all of the things. We as organizers, as leaders, we can make the, you know, you can open up a school, but if don’t nobody come it’s not a school, right? You can open up an after school program but if nobody comes it’s not a, you can write the essay that if nobody ever reads it, it doesn’t have the impact. Right. And I worry sometimes that we forget all the unnamed people who make the thing a thing. All the people who came to Summer Soul who made it. You know, they Bobby you know, Mahalia can scream into the void and that if nobody’s listening it’s not a, you know. And I and I want that that De’Ara your news reminded me of that that that there is a legacy that the seventies reminded us about the power of community and that people have, people power the thing. Organizers make the frame but people power the thing. 


Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.


Myles E. Johnson: I love that. 


DeRay Mckesson: That’s my Palm Sunday message. 


Kaya Henderson: Yes. Yes. Yes. 


Myles E. Johnson: I love it.


DeRay Mckesson: Um. My news, I have the depressing news on the pod today, just got to keep us grounded. Um. My news is about um the cost of digital stamps. So in most states, so though there are 14 states that have that have wholesale banned physical mail. So, you know, there’s that. So the only way to send something is through virtual mail. So like a, a mail client on a tablet, that’s the way this works. And Prison Policy initiative just put out an analysis of the amount of a digital stamp is how we think about them in organizing. In some states, a digital stamp is as high as 44, 50 cents. Um. And think about that to send an email with the character limit. So this is not like an unlimited it’s not like a write what you want. To send one email with the character limit, 50 cents. That is in, uh let me pull up the state. That is in the gloriest state of Arkansas. I mean, Texas is 47. Some might as well be 50. And the dirty little secret, because I’ve had to do this with people I’ve been communicating with who are incarcerated is you send what, you you pay to send your email, you pay for a digital stamp. Again, it’s a email. There’s no cost there. You prepay for a stamp for them to write you back. You might even buy quote “a book of stamps” for them. So you like just sending one communication might be $5 in the end because you’re like, you know, if it’s a long email, it’s a couple of things, if you’re sending a picture. And mind you, the wages for people incarcerated is really low, right? Some places 30 cents a day, 40 cents a day, a dollar a week. So it doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but the idea that you pay to send emails. An email like an individual email, every is just so wild. And prison policy initiative an organization that I’m obsessed with, they are amazing. Go visit Prison Policy Initiative, everybody. They just did this analysis that I had never seen before and really lit a fire under me. 


Kaya Henderson: Just when we thought you could not go any lower in the exploitation of the incarcerated, there’s this right. Um. And I you know, I am. You say it all the time. DeRay. Like, just when I thought it couldn’t get anywhere worse. There is something worse. Um. I mean, who is responsible for the interests of the incarcerated? Like, where is the voice for reason and humanity? Like there is the the so thankful to the Prison Policy Institute and a bunch of people who are doing this work across the country. I know that there is a voice, um but our willingness to treat incarcerated people like they are not people is pretty astounding. Um. And we see it in everything from, you know, how they treat women in jail to we’ve we’ve talked about countless cases um and issues on this podcast. But I just the level of corporate greed, the unrestricted, you know, um access for corporations to exploit these folks is it’s just unmatched. Like there’s no other population that we just let people run roughshod over like our incarcerated folks. Um. And I don’t know, y’all are going to tell me what to do about that, but it’s pretty sickening. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah, echoing those thoughts just really disgusting. It [laugh] it almost makes me want to wonder, like if I’m hearing this correctly because I’m like, whoa, stamps were a thing created when you have physical mail for a purpose and they just just kept that just to now, it’s just to make money like there’s no I uh the the the exploitation kind of it’s like like throwing my head in a circle. It’s really disgusting. And um I thought about this last week or maybe a couple of weeks ago when we were talking about another thing. I was like, we should just make or I was just like, there should just be a list or I should just make a list of things like this that are happening in prisons, just a comprehensive like boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. Bullet point, because I’m always baffled by the things I didn’t know that are happening that are making sure that prisoners lives are subhuman.


De’Ara Balenger: DeRay. This is also, so this company, Securus. Remember when we talked about– 


Kaya Henderson: Uh oh. 


Myles E. Johnson: Okay. 


De’Ara Balenger: No but remember a few weeks ago when we– [laughing]


DeRay Mckesson: She she’s looked at the board everybody. 


Kaya Henderson: She’s looked at the board. 


DeRay Mckesson: That’s what we’re about to get to. 


Kaya Henderson: That’s right. [laughing]


De’Ara Balenger: But it’s the same umbrella company. Remember when we were talking about Rikers? And what were we talking about there, we were talking about phone calls, right? Charging for phone calls and then further looked into it and even like ankle monitoring. So this company so it’s 50% of they now own, are controlling 50% of when it comes to these these emails. Charging for these emails, but also clearly monitoring so many like over and owning so many other aspects of corrections and also um corrections, but also once people are are, you know, are are released, still part of the process and getting paid for monitoring those folks that are still under police like court supervision. So all that to say it is just, we should just spend a week doing a deep dive on this company and who these people are and really how much they’re how much they’re controlling and also who they’re lobbying to ensure that they get all of these contracts. Because they’re just winning contracts like that’s what it is across all of these states. 


DeRay Mckesson: Wow. Boom. [music break]


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