Are the States United? | Crooked Media
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May 13, 2024
Pod Save The People
Are the States United?

In This Episode

U.S. states double down on resistance to racial equity, the Met Gala sparks intense protest amidst Gaza-Israel conflict, and skepticism around Biden’s upcoming Morehouse  commencement speech.



Katie Britt proposes federal database to collect data on pregnant people
Aces star A’ja Wilson announces signature shoe with Nike

Anita Baker Atlanta concert canceled minutes before showtime

The Met Gala has fueled backlash against stars who are silent about the Gaza conflict

Philly narcotics cops secretly used surveillance cameras. Video proved some of their testimony false.

A Virginia county board votes to restore Confederates’ names to schools

Morehouse faculty set to vote next week on whether to award Biden an honorary degree


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DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay and welcome to Pod Save the People. On this episode, it’s me, De’Ara, Kaya, and Myles talking about all the news that you don’t know from the past week with regard to race, justice and equity. The news that we should all be talking about. Here, we go. [music break]


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


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


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


DeRay Mckesson: This is Deray at @deray on Twitter.


De’Ara Balenger: Well, I’m back from my music tour. But it continued last night where I took my mother to see Jeffrey Osborne and Stephanie Mills at MGM in Washington, DC. That is my second weekend now, seeing Jeffrey Osborne, who is an icon and a legend. So if you all have a chance, go see him. Stephanie Mills. Absolutely sensational. 


Kaya Henderson: Woop woop. 


De’Ara Balenger: I feel good all over. [laughter]


Myles E. Johnson: When I think of home. 


De’Ara Balenger: When I think of a place. [laughter] Love overflowing, it was incredible. I had a really beautiful experience, but I hear that my close loved ones and brethren that were going to attend Anita Baker did not have the same experience. Actually, they had no experience at all. 


Kaya Henderson: Whoops. 


De’Ara Balenger: Now I’m not going to talk bad about Auntie Anita though. So I mean, if anyone else is willing, go ahead. But all I can say is that she did not show up and let her attendees know quite late for the show she had. She will be in DC June 8th. That’s not going to stop me from buying a ticket and trying to see her so hope she’s well. 


DeRay Mckesson: She canceled like minutes before it was supposed to start, Mother’s Day. What I think is heartbreaking about all of this is all of the older artists who must tour at this age. It’s actually really heartbreaking. 


De’Ara Balenger: Talk about it. Jeffrey Osborne is 76 years old. I saw Earth, Wind and Fire last weekend. Excellent. But hey. 


DeRay Mckesson: And not touring like, you know, they did this the first go round. People are touring because people are strapped for money at this point. And like what an industry we’ve created that requires this level of output just the forget even the performing, which is hard enough. The travel the like all of it, is just very, very tough to watch. 


Kaya Henderson: Well, and I hope on that note that Auntie Anita is doing okay and is, you know, um not in low cotton, but I also feel badly about all of the mommies and aunties and folks who were, yeah, you know, my demographic friends I got to represent, but–


Myles E. Johnson: Low cotton is crazy. [laughter]


Kaya Henderson: I got to represent for the people whose Mothers Day plans included Anita Baker. And minutes before they were left with absolutely nothing. What a heartbreaking Mother’s Day. Um. But I hope that those ladies still got to enjoy something somewhere. And now to you, Myles, with the enlightened entertainment commentary. 


Myles E. Johnson: Well, the disappointment that is going going to a wash over all y’all. Because I have nothing enlightened to say, I apologize. That’s the only thing that’s like coming in coming in my head. Um. I do think, I don’t know, like, De’Ray’s point is really interesting, so in my head if you are Anita Baker, Patti LaBelle and it’s not right. But if you’re Anita Baker, Patti LaBelle, anybody of that ilk, you are rich. And you come down off your cloud and you come and sprinkle pearls and diamonds and Chanel number five perfume on everybody, and you help us motivate to get babies. And that is just your service that you do. But you don’t necessarily need the money. But yeah, I’m of I’m of two minds. Yes, it is really sad that if that’s the case that she has to tour in, in her into um, into her old age, but also Stevie Nicks, who is, I’ve been on this huge Fleetwood Mac just obsession, but so but Stevie Nicks, who is ten years older than her, she about to get out there and tour too. So I don’t know if it’s the Black artist thing, but I kind of like to see our legacy acts continue to go. I think that’s something that when we look at Mick Jagger, when we look at all these like rock acts, be able to go into old age and be able to shake their bon bons until everything falls off. And Elton John has said goodbye to us several times. Cher has said [?] several times. We pray and hope that Madonna says goodbye to us. Please. Um. So like I do like that our older acts are still viable, commercial, appealing because I think some, you know, we we I don’t got to tell y’all that we can discard Black women artists, um specifically as they get older so. 


Kaya Henderson: But that’s that’s just it. It’s not necessarily have to. Touring is incredibly lucrative. And a lot of these people are out here because they can I mean. 


De’Ara Balenger: They can. 


Kaya Henderson: Look we done see New Edition. 


De’Ara Balenger: Charlie Wilson. 


Kaya Henderson: Right. Uncle Charlie is the king of it honey. 


De’Ara Balenger: And Kaya, I would say that like because I see a lot of acts. And me, this is my family’s thing and our elders are out there doing it. Okay. 


Kaya Henderson: They are. 


De’Ara Balenger: I’m more concerned for Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant like– 


Kaya Henderson: Oh God, about to have a heart attack on stage child. 


De’Ara Balenger: That’s what I’m saying. So it’s actually like [?]–


Kaya Henderson: But that’s but that’s because they haven’t been they have not developed their tour muscles. But somebody told them they figured it out. They figured it out. They had the one tour a year or two ago. It was very lucrative for them. They were like, let’s get out here and keep on doing this. But fellas, just get in the gym. Bobby. I didn’t see the second tour, this most recent one. 


De’Ara Balenger: My mom just saw Bobby on a Tom Joyner Cruise. My mom went on Tom Joyner cruise. 


Kaya Henderson: Did people say he’s better than he was the first time? Let’s pray for the brothers. Mmm.


Myles E. Johnson: Seeing Bobby Brown on a Tom Joyner cruise, that is like I literally smelled like the fry grease, I smelled  the hair products. I smelled a little bit of perfume. I I I saw the sandals. I saw the khaki shorts. 


Kaya Henderson: You saw the uncles with their fedoras on and their gators. Mm hmm that’s the Tom Joyner cruise.


Myles E. Johnson: I saw I smell so the um, the wine spritzers. Oh my goodness. Oh my gosh. 


De’Ara Balenger: Well, in other news, A’ja Monet [correction: She meant Wilson] has got a shoe with Nike. That’s a nice little deal. We just talked about this, how the folks of color are the last folks to kind of get the bigger contracts with Nike shoe deals, etc., etc. so I don’t know if Nike was reading the news and was like, here we go. But I’ll tell you this, she is deserving. She’s incredible. So I haven’t seen the shoe yet. I’m trying to find it. I don’t know if the shoe was released or if just the the deal about the shoe was released. 


Kaya Henderson: I think just the deal.


DeRay Mckesson: Yeah, shoe’s not released. The deal is released. And I’m super pumped for her because A’ja is that girl. And I’m also happy that the WNBA is now doing chartered flights for their, for all the teams, which is a big deal. If you remember, there was a big game that wasn’t, Angel Reese’s first game wasn’t televised. Somebody live streamed it like almost half a million people watched it on the live stream. Coach Staley actually watched the live stream because it was the only way for her to watch it. She’s just such a positive person. She sends the live streamer some money being like, let me pay you because you, you know, you did this. So I’m excited that the WNBA is, is finally being respected as a as like a league and not only us sort of highlighting a small set of, incredible athletes. 


Kaya Henderson: Yeah, the WNBA is having a moment for sure. Um. And I’m super excited about it. I have gotten more invitations over the last couple of weeks from friends who are like, I got tickets to whatever the WNBA team is in my town. Are you coming? Come go to the game with me. And so I think that’s wonderful. I also love the, did you see the um, sweatshirt that A’ja had on? Of course, I have a, [laugh] which I think. I love, love, loved it. Um. And so I one, I, I love that these women are finally getting the recognition and treatment that they deserve. But I also love the playfulness. I love the, the slight petty. I love all of the, the sparkle around what’s happening. 


Myles E. Johnson: And I think it was just a couple of weeks ago that we were talking about how it really takes these bigger sports companies to um, take the risk in air quotes to go ahead and initiate giving people these deals and creating these stars. I love that Nike is really, um doing what they have to do. And and in helping her create her star. So yes, she’s doing what she needs to do on the court to be able to be considered. But again, I think it’s these companies responsibilities to help push and create these um, stardom moments just as much as, as anything else. 


De’Ara Balenger: The other thing we wanted to sort of touch on, which is wild, is Katie Britt, who we all remember from she did the rebuttal for the Republicans after the recent state of the Union. And you remember then SNL did a whole sort of bit on her being in that really expensive kitchen. But anyway, she is on to new things. And she’s a Republican U.S. senator, she’s from Alabama, as we remember, she introduced a bill yesterday on Mother’s Day to create a federal database to collect data on pregnant people. 


Kaya Henderson: And the bait and switch, right, is it’s supposed to be resources for moms, you know, wherever, you know, things like information about adoption agency and pregnancy care providers and everybody except abortion related services. But the kicker is that they want people to, pregnant people to input their personal information. Right. And they’re proposing that the site is called And they’re saying that, you know, this is pro-life and pro-women and pro-family and all of this jazz. But you know, and I know that if the United States government has a database full of pregnant people, it will not be used for the right reasons. Why have we not had a government database full of pregnant people up until now? Because that violates my privacy. It ain’t none of your business if I’m pregnant, when I’m pregnant, how I’m pregnant for you to come and police my body. Are you kidding me lady? This is the trad wife lady who cried on the thing after the state of the Union. Oh my gosh, I just thought this was so bananas. And so, I don’t know, like, it’s par for the course in terms of this rollback that I think we’re going to be talking about a lot more shortly. 


De’Ara Balenger: Also like, how dare a representative from Alabama try to operationalize anything? Y’all can’t get nothing right in that state. Education, health, race relations, environment. Like what? Do you even know how to use a website or a portal to make things efficient? Y’all better get out of town. 


DeRay Mckesson: What’s wild is that I didn’t realize this was her. I saw this and was like, oh okay, I’ve never seen this woman before. And I was like, well, this is weird. And then I look and I’m this is the the rebuttal to the state of the Union. I did not realize it was her. The crazy just keeps coming. 


Myles E. Johnson: I think the thing also to remember with this is that because we have so many ridiculous characters inside of um, the quote unquote Republican Party, the fascist goal is still like hyper surveillance. And I think that that was the most disturbing thing about reading this was sometimes it feels as though these things are seen as bad, but quirky and weird motives or strategies that’s happening with the right. But this is like old school. What is the book, 1984? Like like this is old school big brother surveillance ideas being, um normalized just by even discussing it for real, even by not just calling it exactly what it is, even by where we’re really talking about documenting people’s bodies and knowing who’s pregnant. Which also gives, of course, when it comes to cis women giving information that we know that the government should not be trusted with about their bodies, but that also gives this kind of I just instantly went to the trans community and trans men, and I thought about trans men who are pregnant and how if that was anything that needed to happen, then you also have a database of trans men and where they are and who knows what that could birth. There’s so many different ways that this can um, be utterly disastrous. And the fact that it’s even being pushed is showing that there is this very old school fascist surveillance goal happening in mind, no matter how goofy or how quirky or SNL skitty it might seem, it’s old school evil. 


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




Myles E. Johnson: Speaking of old school evil, let’s talk about the Met Gala. [laughing] Let them eat cake um to quote um a TikToker who I can not remember her name. So I wanted to bring this um, news to the podcast because I thought it was really interesting because I don’t know about you all. Well, I do know about you all because you all were born and indoctrinated into celebrity culture like I was. I was born and there was maybe three things that I thought in my head that could never die, just didn’t seem possible. Santa Claus, my mom, Michael Jackson. So I say that to say is that celebrity was such an intense part of the culture that you get socialized into, specifically if you’re in America, and I assume if you’re just in Western culture in general. So the idea that anything would be able to happen to shake that or destabilize that really seems impossible. So I’m about to land this plane. So when it comes to um, the Met Gala, a lot of young people and TikTokers really saw what was happening at the Met Gala, um simultaneously with what was happening in Palestine and the genocide that we’re watching take place. They really highlighted the contradiction. So I don’t know if you all saw this, but there is plenty of videos of people taking like Doja Cat and and these other celebrities on the red carpet and just splicing it with footage from Gaza. And the whole idea is the same Earth, but two different worlds. There was one TikToker, Haley Baylee, not Haley Baylee. Bailey Hayley, something. She’s a white girl. 


Kaya Henderson: Oh yeah. 


Myles E. Johnson: But anywho, she came out in a very gorgeous gown. Shout out to her, but very gorgeous gown. And she looked in the mirror. Or she looked in the um camera and she said let them eat cake. The often misquoted Marie Antoinette um quote, she says that and that’s really something that Marie Antoinette probably didn’t say, but also that’s something that she’s misquoted of saying during the like French Revolution, during like class um upheaval and stuff like that. So it was really interesting to actually hear somebody say that when there’s actually class upheaval happening, there’s actually genocide happening in the world. There’s actually a lot of people here since the pandemic, um in America, who have not recovered successfully. So that felt so tone deaf. So then what ends up happening is not only were these things [?], then it becomes this thing that somebody coins the digitine. So the idea that we’re going to now go and block celebrities and companies, um but specifically celebrities, I’ve really seen like a very celebrity focused push when it comes to this um, quote unquote, “digitine.” But we’re going to block these celebrities who have not said anything about Palestine. And, on that list, you know, are some faves. Moment of silence. But Megan Thee stallion, we got Cardi B, we have Beyonce on there. [laugh] We have we have we have Beyonce on there. We have a lot of artists who we love that a lot of this specifically, I would say Gen Z and younger millennials are saying, we’re not willing to support you. And we also, and we’re in awe on how you’re making money from us. So you’re not just making money from us by us going to your tours and buying your records, you’re getting money by taking our attention. You’re getting money by the promise that advertisers know that you’ll have this many views if I post it. So we’re going to take that out. And we’re also not going to let you infiltrate our um timelines and our algorithms. So what blocking does as well is sometimes I see things. There’s celebrities who I’m sure Selena Gomez is a great woman, but when I tell you, I ain’t got nothing to do with no Selena Gomez, but I still see her ads. So really, when it comes to um, blocking somebody like that, it stops them from even being able to have the reach to me. So people are voicing their concerns through this digitine. And I thought this was so interesting because I feel like I’ve never seen this type of divestment from pop culture when I was younger. I would say like, not even the last ten years, but never when I was a teenager, or a pre-teen. Like it that just wasn’t a thing or an idea that I even had in my head. So it’s really interesting to see young people do that. People who are the most influenced, who the culture and the marketing dollars are most going towards influencing and trying to get their money, and their attention is really interesting to see young people take this stand and it excites me. It really does. But it also makes me wonder. Sigh. It makes me wonder how we got here. It makes me wonder how we got to the space where celebrities, specifically the type of celebrities that we have now, celebrities that are doing chicken deals and who are twerking in front of prisons. I know I always give Sexyy Red all the [?] when I have these conversations, but who have fried chicken deals and who are twerking in front of prisons and celebrities who and not sex shaming Kim Kardashian. But she never posed herself as a political item or as somebody who should be um regarded as such in how did we get to the space where that these are the people who we even ever relied on? It really reminds me just to close this out. It really reminds me of when Malcolm X would speak in the ’60s, and how Malcolm X would talk about the inherent racism and asking people who are in entertainment and sports to talk on behalf of Black politics, because it shows that you A, don’t take um, Black people and our intellectuals seriously. And there is this other kind of covert, sinister reason why you want somebody who doesn’t, who is not an expert in a topic to speak about a topic and reach the most people on a topic. And I think about that no matter how well I think Cardi B might mean when she’s talking about electorial politics and stuff like that. Why did you pick her to talk to us about electorial politics when she has her own language and barriers? I’m just trying not to sound elitist, but she already has our own [?] like, why her? And um, I think that that’s what this is making me think of is, yes, divest. But also why did where these people even chosen? We’re not in the era of Nina Simone right now. We’re not in the era of Fela Kuti or or even Jean-Michel Basquiat, where you have all these people who have these political understandings and also these artistic talents. And we’re really in the era of commerce and how did somebody who put commerce first end up being able to speak for politics and culture? How do we do that? So yeah, I’m excited to hear y’alls opinion, but that’s my news for this week. 


De’Ara Balenger: So I was in New Orleans for two weeks at Jazzfest. It’s the most magical time of the year and it just so freeing and joyful. But I noticed how much less time I spent on my phone because I’m like outside watching music, right? So I’m like watching Samara Joy take it all in. She did like, guess who I saw today, which is one of my favorite covers, and she killed it. And I guess throughout those days at Jazz Fest, it’s like, those folks really are the people that I want to influence me into, actually be into, in my, my spirit and space. Right? So whether it’s like Irma Thomas or Samara Joy or Trombone Shorty, it’s like when I’m on my feed, it is like commerce, commerce, commerce. It’s like some influencer trying to sell me something or, you know, this is the new sort of probiotic or this is the new like, but all of that gets in your psyche, right? Like that’s what you’re seeing and that is what is sort of influencing you, sort of speak. And so I think part of it is like we’ve got to get I mean, I know this sounds very cliche, but we just have to get off of our phones and get outside. Right? Because I think part of it is, and I think this has to do with Covid. And I think for me, it’s like there’s so much living that we need to do in community with others in a way that is joyful, like that exists still. And so the more of that we can do, I think the more we’ll have a aperture for compassion and empathy and creativity, really, and connection. So I don’t I don’t know. That’s what that has me thinking about. Like I went, so Queen Latifah performed at Jazz Fest second weekend. She brought out MC Lyte, Monie Love and Yo-Yo. I thought I was going to pass out, and then I was like, why don’t I follow them on Instagram? Because that’s actually that’s my vibe. If I am going to be on the thing. I’m a follow Yo-Yo and listen and soak up everything she has to say. I think the people that we’re following aren’t even necessarily like what is true to us. It’s like what has been presented. And then Myles, to your point around why have those people become those people? That’s the question, right? Because if I really have to think about who if I’m going to ingest somebody every day, it’s certainly not somebody that’s like rearranging their furniture in their house. 


DeRay Mckesson: I continue to be interested with how long celebrity sort of lasts in this traditional way. I you know, there was a time where the ostentatious da da da was really, I don’t know, aspirational to people. And I do think there are a lot of people who are not activists, who are not organizers, who look at this and are like, you know, you look at the extreme poverty happening and homelessness and da da da like, there’s just so much going on that everybody’s sort of like, this feels like a lot. And then you see this extreme display of wealth, and I just don’t know how long it lasts. You know what is interesting about the influencer saying let them eat cake, is that Marie-Antoinette did not say that, even though it is attributed to her. And that is even wilder, you’re like, you went out of your way to say, you know, like, ah! Um. So, you know, I’m interested to see where the celebrity conversation goes and I and I do worry the organizer in me worries that I think there are a set of people color for sure, who think that wealth will inoculate them against the ills of racism and da da da da da and baby, it will not. It just will not. And that when that message finally gets to them, it is always hard. 


Kaya Henderson: For me, this brought up a real tension because on the one hand, I think that, you know, some people are just artists. They never signed up to be spokespeople. They just want to sing or dance or play ball or do whatever. And they never chose to be an activist or to use their platform in that way, even if we want them to. And then other people actively use their celebrity to, you know, advance issues that are important to them. And I think you get a choice when you’re an artist. Right. And so to have somebody say, Beyonce should have spoken out on Palestine. I think one of the things that I love about Beyonce is she chooses how and when she wants to be an activist and advocate for the issues that are important for her. And none of us get to tell her when and how to do that, right? And so on the one hand, I think we’ve got to recognize that we don’t get to tell people when they should speak up or when they shouldn’t speak up and what have you. And I also know for, like, we can’t ignore the fact that, like, there are all kinds of implications for what happens when people speak up and there are some people who are afraid to speak up, there are some people who are consequences be damned, and each person gets to figure that out for themselves individually. What I thought was really interesting about this article, Myles, were two things. One is like the folks who are getting the most exposure from this is TikTok, right? Because like all of this is happening on TikTok, people have to go to TikTok to find this list and whatnot, and TikTok is having a moment as a result of these kinds of cultural um conflicts. And that’s commerce, right? That is commerce. And the other thing that I thought that was really interesting is that, you know, people want to do something, they don’t know what to do. And so this is their opportunity to try to do something and at least not say nothing. And the article took pains to point out that in lots of these sort of celebrity fueled campaigns like George Clooney’s, you know, real committed campaign against the genocide in Sudan in 2004 I think. That actually it has no influence, like nothing is lessened. There’s no fewer rapes or murders or whatever, that it has really no impact on, that these, you know, proclamations and assertions by celebrities actually have little to no impact on the actual issue and oftentimes divert people’s attention from the issue, because instead of talking about what’s happening in Gaza, you’re talking about the celebrities. And so I thought the article was really well chosen, Myles, as it brought up lots of different points around this issue. 


Myles E. Johnson: One thing I want to say to your point, Auntie Kaya, was, I did think because I know that the TikTok ban is happening, and I wondered to myself does this give these like record labels initiative to like make sure this ban happens because there’s a list going around blocking their artists. So I wond– I just wonder what might be happening around the scenes around power and who should own TikTok and when should it be banned. And and and if there’s more people who are interested in banning it or getting it sold that can happen. And um another question I have for DeRay, um if I could, because my Barbara Walters hat was just tingling was as somebody who got stardom at the intersect of activism and celebrity, and I think that you used celebrity in such a masterful way to get out your message. Do you think there’s still usefulness in celebrity, or do you think that what you accomplished those years ago, that that it’s an era and it’s done and that and that can not be recreated? Do you still think there’s usefulness to celebrity? 


DeRay Mckesson: Yeah, I think there’s usefulness in reaching as many people as possible. And like organizing is trying to get to build relationships with as many people as possible. And whether you call it celebrity or something else, I think that’s really powerful. I think that what I have found with issues of race and justice is, unfortunately, people think that these things are like um, they don’t think that it requires skill or expertise, right? 


Kaya Henderson: Anybody can. 


DeRay Mckesson: Yeah. They’re like if you grow up in a low income neighborhood, you are an expert on criminal justice. [laugh] And you’re like, no, this is–


Kaya Henderson: Nope. 


DeRay Mckesson: –like a you know, and I feel I feel like people felt like that in education at some point. But I do think that space has done a good job in some ways in being like, no, this is a field of expertise. But people in the criminal justice space and about race feel like if they just show up. So what I see is celebrities come into the space to do work, don’t know anything, don’t know any content. Don’t know how the structure works. Don’t know. They just know like this thing is bad. And so they’ll come in and and sort of put the attention on like I think about private prisons is probably the best example of what celebrities have done. People talk about private prisons because they’re such a big, uh it’s such a it feels so bad and so wrong and it is wrong. And less than 8% of people incarcerated is in a private prison. But it takes up so much. So all of the activists and organizers, we’ll be in rooms and people are talking about private prisons, and they’re ruining communities. And we’re sitting here like, y’all, it’s less than 8%. It is it’s a bad thing. But of all the things that but the celebrities are who drove people to that as a topic. And we can’t say it is not important. It certainly is not a top ten, top 20, top 30 issue. Does that make sense? 


Myles E. Johnson: That makes so much sense. And you just highlighted how where ever celebrity goes that inflates what how people perceive the importance because if just using it just as a as a placeholder but if Beyoncé cares about it. It must be the most important thing. And if DuVernay did a documentary about it must be the most important thing. And we don’t necessarily, um celebrities inflates the the importance of things because celebrity essentially is inflated importance of a person. That’s what kind of one of the going definitions of celebrity is, so it makes sense that it would do that to subject matters too. 


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




DeRay Mckesson: Okay, so my news about the Philly police, you know, I’m back on doing a lot of news about the police. I, so this is about the cameras in Philadelphia. There are thousands of cameras in the city of Philadelphia that are like CCTV. And what recently came out in the Philly Inquirer is that they are falsifying information and and using the pretense of there being video footage to prosecute people. Now, one of the themes about policing and the criminal justice system in general is that if everything was truthful, like if people play by the rules, it’d be a different system. But because people don’t play by the rules uh they’re able to do things. So it started off because there was, uh somebody who got charged with a drug offense selling, selling drugs, and the police said that there was video footage of it. When the public defenders went to go look at the footage, they realized a couple things. One, they realized that the police were able to control the cameras through their smartphone app. Nobody knew that until this. They also realized that they did follow the alleged suspect around before an hour, there was an hour of footage that the public defenders had no clue existed. And the most important thing is that even when they follow the suspect around on the CCTV, the moment at which the drug buy allegedly happened, the camera had no visibility into that at all. So this opened up a larger question about what’s going on with the 7000 cameras in Philadelphia. The police are literally fabricating evidence and using the threat of video footage to get people to both plead to crimes and potentially be convicted of them because of this faulty footage. So I was fascinated by this. The article, you know, goes on to so many other examples where people get charged with crimes, they get asked to settle. The city won’t release the footage or runs people through a ringer. You know, the judge is like, well, why did you not note in the paperwork that you used a camera and the police are like, oh, we don’t know what happened. And people’s lives have been literally just upended because the threat of the footage has been such a looming presence. And as you can imagine, you know, if somebody says they have you on camera doing something, you’re more likely to say you did it. And even the prosecutors are submitting subpoenas trying to get the footage. And again, there have been at least 70 cases that just this one person has worked on that have been dropped, because of this. So I wanted to bring it. I was fascinated by it. I didn’t realize that there were 7000 cameras in Philadelphia. I mean, that is a shocking number of cameras in a city that is so densely populated. And the police were really using this in a way to screw people over. The last thing is that there’s no accountability for the cameras, there’s no oversight group, there’s no reporting mechanism. If not for some really incredible public defenders, this would have gone unnoticed and more people’s lives would have been upended. 


Kaya Henderson: I mean, I don’t even know what to say about this, right? Like, we know the system is rigged. We know that it works against poor people of color. And then, like, you get some blatant trash like this. And I mean, what what is going to be most, one of the defendants, one of the people who was um, falsely imprisoned because of this camera stuff was like I was afraid to go to court, even on the day that my case was being dropped because of further interactions with police. Like, our community is under siege. And I wonder what, like just saying, okay, you’re out, you’re free. Sorry we messed this up is not enough. Like, not just accountability. This is why people want reparations. Where do people go to get their reputation back? Where do you go to get the trauma counseling after having this kind of encounter with lying police? There’s one policeman that they talked about in the thing who has the most infractions, and he’s still operating, he’s still out on the streets doing the thing. Act like you want to do something for my community and at least just take the the most egregious offender off the street. But the police are literally just unabashed about their, I don’t know, whatever it is. I don’t, malice mal intent like aggression, whatever towards communities. This is staggering. And if I I like I would leave Philadelphia. Like I mean, I know we don’t all have the opportunity to just whatever, but this makes Philadelphia a scary place to live for Black people. Good golly. Like, I don’t even know what to do with this DeRay.


De’Ara Balenger: This. It’s so interesting how I’ve been thinking about if Donald Trump becomes president, and I’ve been thinking about it in the context of what’s happening in Gaza, and how I do believe that Black and Brown communities will not just be targeted like what’s happening here, but actually, like, bombs dropped, right? And one of the places that made me think of this was Philadelphia, where police planted bombs before. Right. And so I think and I’m not trying to like do fear tactics or whatever. It’s literally just like what’s been coming up in my body around, I think protests and advocacy, it’s all going to look different if this guy becomes president, because I think what he is going to do to us will be unprecedented, and how he will squash dissent will be unprecedented. And so I think this that’s just happening in a Democratic state with a Democratic mayor and a Democratic governor. Can we even imagine what this will look like? So my news I’m going to try to get through this news because this news is about Morehouse College, which my father, who I lost in September, there is no greater advocate for Morehouse College than Leonard L. Long Jr. Okay, period. Ask anybody. Ask around. So President Biden got an invitation to speak at Morehouse College. He accepted. He is speaking at commencement. There’s been a lot of uproar, backlash, whatever you want to call it, about President Biden speaking. One, in my mind, he a white man, speaking at Morehouse. And I can’t remember there ever being and correct me if I’m wrong Twitter, X whatever y’all are calling it now, but I can’t recall a non melanated person speaking at Morehouse College commencement. Now, I think the other thing folks need to know, Morehouse commencement, which I’ve been to several because both of my brothers also went to Morehouse and my dad went to commencement every year. He graduated in 1978. They are so sacred and so beautiful. And to see hundreds of Black men getting that diploma on that day, it’s absolutely breathtaking. It is a sight to see. So one, I was thinking, what would my dad say? And the thing I miss most about my dad is that he was such an expansive thinker and such a, future focused person. And he didn’t let nothing bother him. Nothing. So I think one, he wouldn’t really care. He’d be like, you know what? There’s so much other things happening that commencement day. That man being present is the least of what is going to be celebrated on that day. Like I do think my dad would be like, I think my dad had more of an issue with the white valedictorian thing then he was [laughing]– 


Kaya Henderson: Whoops. Yeah. Me too. Mm chile.


De’Ara Balenger: He was like, how that happened? So I think one, I’m trying to think like what he would say to it. Now, the interesting thing is that the sort of beef now is that there are faculty at Morehouse that are saying he can come, but we’re not going to give him an honorary degree. And then because it’s Black school and I went to Black school and I love it. Morehouse somehow there’s a discrepancy, and like, they usually vote to give people an honorary degree, but because there’s never a beef, they didn’t do the vote, which was supposed to happen in September. What happened Kaya?


Kaya Henderson: In September, yes. 


De’Ara Balenger: It was supposed to happen in September. They didn’t do it. Black school. And now the faculty’s like, well, we got to vote. And the administration who you know, they old school are like, no, no, no, we got to. We invited this white man now, you know, very respectable HBCUs. Now we got to give this man the degree. It’s a very interesting back and forth. And then they have Cedric Richmond out there who, actually I didn’t know Cedric Richmond went to Morehouse. I had no idea until this. I mean, I have been on campus. I had my dad, my brothers, my uncle and I. I did not know. But anyway, Cedric, who was co-chair of the Biden campaign, said, you know, Biden’s done this for Black people, that for Black people, this for Black people, that for Black people. But I don’t really think it’s about I don’t know if that is the right strategy. Like you’ve done so much for us. So of course you deserve to speak. I don’t know if it should work like that either. Anyway, I don’t really have any solution. I just kind of wanted to raise it up to see if it had come on y’alls radar, because it’s just been on my heart quite a bit. My brothers and I talked about it somewhat, and I think it’s also hard for us like knowing that this is happening. My dad won’t be there. Right? That’s a whole thing. I understand that, but I think it’s also so interesting, the politics around this administration with Black folks, with this very highly esteemed HBCU, and how it just seems to all be a mess. 


Kaya Henderson: First of all, I didn’t realize that [laugh] that Morehouse had never had a non melanated speaker. 


De’Ara Balenger: And it’s interesting Kaya because, you know, I love to dig on people’s websites. 


Kaya Henderson: You can’t find it anywhere. 


De’Ara Balenger: I can’t find they’ve taken their links. When you Google past speakers at Morehouse, you can click on it. But then the page is down, which I’m like–


Kaya Henderson: Yes. [?]


Mmm, is it Black school or is that intentional?


Kaya Henderson: [laugh] So I also appreciate you bringing up the challenges of our community. At the same time that we bring up some of these issues. I wonder, you know, there are times where schools would be happy to have a sitting president come as their commencement speaker. And so I think it is really indicative, it is a significant indicator to the Biden campaign that you need to do some more work with the Black community, cause we not with you the way you think that we are with you. And I think this is really the canary in the coal mine, in case they had no other ideas, and I don’t know why they wouldn’t. But I think that this is pretty significant. I also think it was interesting to note that President Biden has been committed to HBCUs and has done a commencement speech every year at an HBCU, at Howard and at Del State, and now is going to Morehouse. So it’s not necessarily out of character for him. I think this is just indicative of where we are at this particular moment, as a community. I do think if they had voted on this in September, it actually would have been a slam dunk, right? It would have been a slam dunk. They would have been happy that he was coming because it was before October 7th and before people had a chance to see our response. But maybe the way I’d like to think about this is this is an opportunity. The Biden campaign said, you know, it’s not afraid of protesters. It’s not, you know, dissuaded by protesters. And so I think if there’s a way for him in his address, if he is allowed to do it, to meet the moment and give a message to the Black community, give a message to young people. I mean, these students have significant opinions, give a message to faculty about who he is and where he stands in times like these for our community. I mean, we gave him the election. South Carolina turned the country in terms of the presidential election, and it was because of Black people. And I think it is time for him to, you know, make a real clear statement that addresses our community. And I think this could be if the people get it right. Another pivotal moment in our national dialog. But we’ll see what they do with this opportunity. 


De’Ara Balenger: And I’ll just jump in quick Kaya and say, yes to all of that. And I think part of the messaging is not what I’ve done for you Black people. It’s what Black folks have contributed to this country and what someone in government, in public service for years has learned, has gleaned, has partnered on. You know what I mean? I just feel like if he goes there being like, I canceled loans, Black people are out of poverty da da da like that’s– 


Kaya Henderson: Well it’s incongruous with our lived experience, A, number one. B, number two, the whole point of this protest around the Middle East is solidarity, right? And what we see happening to other marginalized communities. 


De’Ara Balenger: That’s right. 


Kaya Henderson: Is significant for us as well. And so to not address that, I think ignores the real question of the moment. 


DeRay Mckesson: Now, you know, I think about I’ve learned so much about messaging since the protests, because everything was very high stakes. And, and we were um, get people understand something that had not had great breakthrough in the middle for a long time. I say all that to say that what worries me about this administration and this party is that they seem not to understand that public opinion can shift very quickly, and I think that they are like listening to pollsters and poll like I think that that is what they’re doing. They’re like taking a poll and they’re like, well, nobody cares about the college protesters. I think that is their you know I, somebody sent me the poll being like, DeRay, this is really niche. It’s not that big of a deal. Hakeem Jeffries gets on the news and says, you know, I don’t know if you saw his quote. He says, “I did not see any police brutality.” And I think they are watching the pollsters. And and I get it. And I think that there was a way that that was the best strategy 50 years ago. I think that makes sense. All it takes is one TikTok video, one reel, one post, to completely shift aunts and uncles to a whole different space. And part of our best communicators speak to where the shift is going to be. They like, sort of get there before the mass gets there, and this administration just has not done it. And that is what worries me. So I agree with you. If the speech is look at all the stuff I did for the Black people, that is not the message. I think that there is like a, all the all the people not responding to polls who are like, yeah, this don’t make sense to me. I’m broke. I’m struggling. The economy is not helping me. You know, you did clear my loans. That’s really helpful. And I don’t know where I’m gonna get dinner tomorrow. You know, like, that’s not showing up in the poll, but that is certainly what people are saying. And I think that this White House just has had a wild blind spot. I was even I was talking to a really good friend, somebody I’m close to the other day about this, and they were talking about reparations. And I was like, the word doesn’t work in community centers. Say what you will. But I’m like the word, the idea, people like the idea, but the and he’s like, but you know, don’t people understand it? And I’m like, though it’s a bad word, like you need to let go of the word. The word is not it’s not doing what you think it’s doing. And I don’t care how many books you send me on reparations, I can tell you that when my father hears reparations. He does not hear what you think. And he was like, what if we said something like reimbursement? I’m like, I can I can work on reimbursement. Like just there’s a messaging here that the pollsters, especially these pollsters are not going to lead us out of. 


Kaya Henderson: My news this week comes to us from Shenandoah County, Virginia. And it is fascinating to me because it is, as far as I’m concerned, an indication of where the country is four years post George Floyd. So the Shenandoah County School Board in Virginia has recently voted to restore the names of two local schools to their previous Confederate names. They are Mountain View High School and Honey Run Elementary School. Mountain View High School will revert to its former name, Stonewall Jackson High School and Honey Run Elementary will go back to being Ashby Lee Elementary School. And this is really the clap back to the 2020 moment of racial reckoning, where we made lots of changes, including taking down Confederate monuments, taking names off of government institutions like schools, where we created funds that are now under attack that were specifically designed to provide minorities with opportunities that previously they had not had access to. And there’s all of this pushback at the moment, including these schools. And it’s interesting to read the student’s response. There are students on both sides, students who feel like they are sixth generation Shenandoah County people with significant ties to the Confederacy, and they want their history acknowledged. And then there are lots of other students who feel like schools should be places of inclusion, and they don’t feel included when the school name represents people who were enslavers or who fought for the Confederacy. And so there’s not a lot to this story. In fact, a couple of brief factual points. Shortly after the schools were names were changed in 2020, some people in the community call it a knee jerk reaction to the George Floyd moment. And they’ve tried again in 2022 to restore the names to their former Confederate names. And that attempt failed. And then they tried again in 2024 and it passed. And so there is a significant amount of engagement from adults across the county. It seems there is a lack of engagement with students or counting student’s opinions. And I think it is emblematic of the conversations that are happening in communities across the country where people are not working across difference to try to figure out what the right thing is, but are really there’s a moment in this country where we’re clapping back. We had talked about on the podcast, the challenge to the Victory Fund, which is a venture capital fund that prioritizes women of color entrepreneurs and seeks to get them startup capital. Since there’s so much marginalization in the venture capital world, and we see the conservatives suing, we see lots of legislation that was created to give minorities and marginalized people an even playing field being pushed back, most notably the Supreme Court, you know, ruling against affirmative action. And now at very, very local levels, levels, we see, you know, things like schools being restored to their Confederate names, like we are in a moment in this country where we got to decide who we are. And I am deeply worried that we have lost the ability to see ourselves as a United States of America. And we’re growing increasingly tribal, increasingly isolated, increasingly not even agnostic, but aggressive against people who are not like us. And so I brought this here because I thought it was interesting and wanted to know what you people have to say about it. 


DeRay Mckesson: The organizer in me is like, you know, one of the things that I’ve learned in some ways the hard way is that getting the win is only one part of the work. Protecting the win is the second part of the work. And, you know, in just in this last decade, I’ve seen some incredible things happen around police accountability that, you know, when the people transition out of their roles or da da da, we are like having to go back and just make sure it didn’t get rolled back. And that is actually what I think the system has on the organizers is that they just are there forever. You know, like these police union people they are in the police union for 8000 years, I think about when I was in Minneapolis, the teacher’s union. She had been there for 30 years. So we’re sitting at the table being like, this clause doesn’t make sense. She’s like, well, my note from 1987 and you’re like, you know, that actually matters in the labor world. That’s not a her notebook from 1990 is a real artifact that we got to contend with. What her note said in that meeting. And I say that to say that, like protecting the win is as important as getting the win in the first place. And I was shocked by this. I actually thought this was The Onion. Not gonna lie, when I saw this, I was like, oh, that would be really dramatic. It wasn’t. It was this. 


De’Ara Balenger: I also wonder, just because there’s been so much work on the right with school boards. I mean, I wonder if that is also just sort of part and parcel of that. And DeRay, to your point around protecting the win, I feel like what the right did was like, you know what? The work we’re going to start to do is at the school board level. 


De’Ara Balenger: So you see, like Moms for Liberty and other sort of groups on the right who are going to school board meetings, who are running for spots on the school board. So, you know, I wonder if this is just also, you know, I don’t know if there any ties here to this particular county or what’s happening in Virginia here. But even in New York, I had some friends who were organizing against Mom for Liberty, being in New York City school board meetings to push anti-trans policy. So I don’t know. This is just mm mmm mmm mmm. [music break]


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