Heroes v. Villains | Crooked Media
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April 23, 2024
Pod Save The People
Heroes v. Villains

In This Episode

U.S. Supreme Court threatens the right to protest, Nestlé adds sugar to infant milk in poorer countries, Participant Media shuts down operations after two decades,  and the ongoing history of Tybee Island.


The Supreme Court Has Ruled to Let Louisiana Keep Hunting DeRay McKesson

Caitlin Clark signs 8-figure signature sneaker deal; yet, no Black WNBA players have signature shoes

Nestlé adds sugar to infant milk sold in poorer countries, report finds

Participant Shutting Down Operations After 20 Years: Film Studio Was Behind Oscar Winners ‘Spotlight’, ‘Green Book‘

Georgia beach town, Tybee Island, trying to curb Orange Crush, large annual gathering of Black college students

Tybee Island, Georgia’s Black History Trail






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 talking about the underreported news from the past week. This week we talk about sports, we talk about my Supreme Court case, we talk about politics. As usual, the place to come to hear what you probably didn’t hear in the past week. Here we go. 




De’Ara Balenger: Family, family, welcome to another episode of Pod Save the People. I am 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 and TikTok at @pharaohrapture. 


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


DeRay Mckesson: And this is DeRay at–


De’Ara Balenger: All right. We’re going to kick off today really getting into this case. DeRay’s case which I mean, DeRay, I feel like since I’ve known you, which has been years, this case has been sort of pending going back and forth. Court of appeals, Louisiana State Supreme court, now at the Supreme Court. But the latest ruling, which I still have a hard time like. I’m reading it and I’m sure DeRay this is even even worse for you since you’re named in the in the case. I’m reading it, but I can’t. It just does. It’s [?] it’s not computing to me. It really is wild that you can be held liable for organizing a protest. Like it’s just I don’t understand. So can you sort of walk us through what is happening and also just sort of what you can tell us in sort of the lead up to this. And I’ve actually it’s, you know, it’s I’ve heard it from friends of ours that were with you that day, but I’ve actually never heard it, heard it from you. 


DeRay Mckesson: So in 2016, I went down to support the protests that were a response to the killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, incredible organizers put it together. I went down to support. They were a group of us that went down to support. I flew after work on Friday, got to Baton Rouge, met with some people, went to sleep. Next day was the protest. Um. I got arrested pretty early and going out like the police told me to get in the street, get out of the street. I got out of the street because I didn’t want to get arrested. Did not plan to get arrested. Get arrested anyway. Spent the next 17 hours in jail when I get out there are five officers who have sued me. There were couple, if you remember, at that time, some officers who got shot in Dallas. Their family member sued me for saying I incited a riot. And then other officers in Baton Rouge, all five cases got dismissed, which was great, including this case. And then they appeal this case and we lose on appeal. And that is where that’s how this started. I’ve been to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals twice, lost both times. I’ve been to the Supreme Court now twice. They sent it to the Louisiana State Supreme Court the first time to ask if I could be sued under Louisiana state law. They were trying to punt it away from being a federal question. Louisiana said I could be sued. That was not what we wanted. So then I had to go back to the Supreme Court. Now that we had an answer to the question that they asked. And when we went back to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court decided not to hear the case. Luckily, Sotomayor did write a statement, and her statement essentially says that they already answered this question in another case, after the Fifth Circuit wrote their decision but before this week, and people should look at that decision. And because of that decision, they don’t need to make a decision on this case. So that’s where we are. Um. You know, I do think some of the coverage has been more alarmist than true at this point. Is that the other case that they named the Counterman case, combined with Claiborne, which is the historic civil rights case that does not let people sue protest organizers for civil damages, um those are strong. And it will be really hard, given those two cases, for someone in the three states covered under the Fifth Circuit to be held liable for that bad decision that still exists in the Fifth Circuit, which is my the decision about my case. Um. So the ACLU will represent people if they are charged under that case or or there are cases brought under that case. Uh. And I now might have to go to a jury trial in Baton Rouge, which I am not excited about. So we are for the first time, I did get deposed. I sat through a couple hours of a deposition. We deposed the officer uh but all of the actual case about whether it happened or not has been on hold because we were dealing with the question of could I be sued at all? So here we are, and back to district court I go. 


Kaya Henderson: DeRay, do you think that I mean, one I think, thanks for clarifying that because the media coverage is very alarmist. Um. Do you think this has a chilling effect on on protest organizers? What what do you think is the broader like the the technicalities of your case are one thing, but then there’s the broader narrative and the broader effect on protests. What do you think that looks like at this point? 


DeRay Mckesson: Yeah. You know, that was our whole legal claim is that we were worried about the chilling effect that would happen, that that would happen. I will tell you, you know, um I’m so lucky to have the ACLU represent me. We have, a Supreme Court lawyer is also on our team. We have, like, a whole set of incredible, really talented people who are doing this as a part of the case, because I knew them or had relationships that leveraged them. Uh. And with all of that support, this is still a lot like I have to turn over the text messages and the like all this, it’s just a lot to do. And I and I do worry about how this could crush people if even if they’ll win in the end, getting roped up in these court cases for this long is like a lot of work. It’s a lot of time. It’s money, it’s travel. And that, I think, is actually the real danger here because I could see people sort of accepting a consequence or just sort of settling because the weight of the system, and I’ve been in this case since 2016, it’s 2024. Well, we’ll keep everybody posted on how it goes and, and what’s next? Um. You know, maybe they’ll drop the charges. Who knows? I don’t know, but we are prepare for a jury trial in Baton Rouge at some date coming soon. 


De’Ara Balenger: This country is something else, ain’t it? 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. I want to ask you all the, all the questions I really have to ask you are really messy. So I’m just trying to [laugh] so I’m I’m trying to keep it cute. I don’t have any um un messy questions to ask. I guess I’m curious about. I know, and I can only imagine, like, how your spirit is doing, with actually doing this case, but also um I’m curious about, like, how you’re reacting to, like, other people’s reactions in the case, like people who use, like uh like social media reactions, um people using this as like a way to like be alarmist about even the case, but also to like um, perpetuate, like, narratives around you. Like, I think I’m just curious about you your that all of this happening, like what’s going on in your brain as all of these things are happening simultaneously because it’s not just the Supreme Court case it’s also a public opinion case now, and it’s a social media thing and all these other things happening. So I wanted to know about that. 


DeRay Mckesson: Yeah. The some of the you know I I wish I can’t wait till the case is actually over so I can talk about some of the things that the lawyers are like you can’t say this now that I know from the deposition or I know, you know, so like that is I can’t wait for that day. I will say, I was surprised to wake up and see people being like, you know, he centered himself in this case. I’m like, the police sued me. I didn’t sue myself. I didn’t ask the police to sue me. We have said it every step of the way like that they brought these claims with no facts that I organized anything. I’m like, I did not organize the thing. And and they sort of what I can say is that the police’s sort of claim is that my social media presence was a galvanizing force enough to be organizing. That’s sort of that is one of their major claims, sort of. Um. And I don’t know, I, you know, I what I’m fascinated by is the same people who are like, you know, they hate me and I don’t I do no work, center me. So they center me more than center me. I think I’m fascinated by that. I’m like, you know, if I wasn’t a big deal, you but you talk about me so much and the people that I don’t like, I literally act like they don’t exist. I, you know, I’m not spending a whole lot of time talking about them. So um, I was surprised to see sort of the narrative of, you know, he did this like he lost the right to protest. I’m like, they sued me. I didn’t sue these people. 


Myles E. Johnson: And what do you think your relationship. I mean, I know that you just can’t just predict it, but what do you think your relationship with protesting and public organizing is now in the future? Has this dimmed? Has, are you rethinking how you’re, like, organizing things like has it shaped what you even want to participate in? 


DeRay Mckesson: No. So the ACLU has been really clear to me, and they’ve wanted me to tell everybody that the right to protest is still alive, and that they will support anybody who is threatened with this ruling from the Fifth Circuit. So I feel less strong about protesting as I did before. I do need to get out of this case. So I’m like, you know, [laugh] I’m trying to, you know, and there’s some courts around the country that don’t like, Louisiana’s one of them, who don’t like the public weighing in on things. So we have you know, I haven’t written essays about it, haven’t tweeted about it, really the facts. Whereas there are other cases in courts, like in New York where they’re so used to the media or like, you know, you think about all those places where the like California, where the courtroom trials are publicized. Louisiana is not a place that likes the public weighing in on things. So we have been pretty quiet and not fought this in the press. We fought it in the courtroom. I’m also I saw somebody who pretends to be a journalist do this whole thread about this case, and I’m like, did you read what we wrote? Like, you didn’t read our brief. You didn’t read the four amicus briefs that were in support of ours. You didn’t read Sotomayor’s statement. You just are, like, going on vibes. And that is actually the only thing that is annoying to me. What do you think, Myles? What do you think by seeing the uh, by seeing the conversation that has emerged? 


Myles E. Johnson: I think that everybody I understand the barrier to um journalism and law. I believe in it more and more every day that you need to go to school somewhere, or get some type of training, or get some type of like institute, if not institutional experiencial uh pedigree before you start doing stuff. Because what I do think is that people make are I see people making this case about you and it’s and and although you’re named it to me, it becomes obvious that this is about something way bigger than you, and it makes me sad/aggravated that so many people are, in their own way, so fascinated with popularity, social media, celebrity that they can’t remove you. You know, it’s what I’ve always been able to uh not like somebody but also say, oh, this person is a Black, trans, queer person. I want them to be just as protected and just as um and have just as much access as as I do, because that’s one for all, you know. And to me, um it’s aggravating when things like this become, um flattened into, like, the social media fodder. So whatever what’s fascinating you on Shade Room or went viral yesterday. Now, this is a part of it. And this is um, you know, frankly, like, more important [laugh] and more and more substantial so attacking this like you would a Shade Room post seems like this really irresponsible and it makes me sad that even in moments like this, we can’t just kind of like, okay, let’s put our grown up pants on and like, let’s hate DeRay tomorrow, God willing, he’ll still be here to hate tomorrow. But today we can’t let this happen because this is obviously this means a lot for this means a lot for everybody else who decides to protest and organize, too. So those are those are my those are my initial thoughts that I can say publicly. The other ones I have would involve a lot of curse words. 


De’Ara Balenger: And I think, Myles, what you’re talking about is just like the humanity of it, right? Like DeRay, it’s actually really hard for me to look at those pictures of you being arrested, like it’s not. I think that’s why the headline it’s all been a like as as someone who is dear to me, it’s been like a lot to see and to see with such frequency. And so I think everything that Myles said, I think that that’s when you when you. When you can’t look. I mean, from my point of view when you can’t look at a Black body that’s being taken off. And and have some empathy. Y’all. Really? Y’all really are worshipping at the social media gods. I hope I’ll never catch that bug. 


DeRay Mckesson: Kaya. I’m interested in what you have to say about the Caitlin Clark WNBA, the shoe deals. This is a big topic last week on Twitter at least, that there are only three women who have signature shoe deals um in the WNBA, they are all white. Caitlin Clark just got the third and it sparked a conversation both about race in the WNBA. It talked, sparked a conversation about A’Ja Wilson, who is um, who is a star in the WNBA and also doesn’t have a signature shoe. And I was like, let’s see, I want to see what the people got to say about this bur Kaya is our resident sports expert. [laughter] Please lead us.


Kaya Henderson: Oh my gosh, um that really is the funniest thing in America. But um, but here is what I think. So I think we have to separate basketball and business. Right. And there are two different things going on. It is absolutely right that Caitlin Clark has no NCAA, she don’t have a ring. Uh. She has not even started to play in the WNBA yet. And that, you know, basketball, not even just women’s basketball, but basketball is largely a Black sport. And the disparate treatment, everything from, you know, the headline after um the national championship being about her losing instead of Dawn Staley and South Carolina winning, all of that. Right. I’m here for it all as a Black woman. Let’s put that aside for a minute um. Caitlin Clark’s marketing potential, business potential, the amount of money that she’s generating in this sport is staggering. And um, and, and, you know, we running a capitalist country, like, literally I learned today that the WNBA season kicks off in a couple of weeks. Right? Already her jersey has outsold any other rookie jersey in history. Um. Already the ticket prices for the Indiana Fever are triple what they were before they recruited her. And this, this thing, this was staggering to me. Other teams um are changing the venue of where they play when they play Indiana because they’re expecting record crowds. So, for example, the Washington Mystics play in a 4000 seat arena. They are moving to a 20,000 seat arena because they expect that kind of a capacity crowd for Caitlin Clark. And so the shoe people are super smart because she will sell out zillions of shoes. And I don’t think that you can ignore that. I mean, I don’t, I I it don’t have to be right. But what I am saying is you cannot ignore the marketing impact that this girl is having. Um. On on sports, not just even women’s sports. And so I don’t think that, you know, is it just? No. But, you know, A’Ja Wilson, people are not moving their venues to come see her. And so that’s why I think you’re seeing the, the I mean, I think you’re going to see a record number. We were arguing about this this morning. Right. It’s a whatever eight figure deal. It could be as low as 10 million. It could be as high as 90 million. Um. We have no idea, but I I think that Nike has an opportunity. That’s my last point on this. Nike has an opportunity to position itself as a champion for women if they give her a really good deal. Because basically what they can say is we think it’s trash that she gets that, that women get so little in the WNBA. We’ve been part of perpetuating that. We want to give this girl, you know, what we think she’s really worth. And that could actually change the game in terms of what many women get, uh in their deals. And she might be a flash in the pan. Who knows. But I think it is an interesting thing to watch. But I really do think from a business perspective, I’m not surprised at all about this. 


Myles E. Johnson: I like that. I think so too, because even and I could like totally be wrong. But from my perspective, um and I think this is true with like celebrity culture in general, it’s such like a um, it’s like hard to know what comes first. Like, sometimes it feels like a company makes the star. 


Kaya Henderson: That’s right. 


Myles E. Johnson: Or it makes somebody really important. 


Kaya Henderson: Yup. 


Myles E. Johnson: So it doesn’t always feel like that person like in the hugest air quotes ever, “earned it” and then they like and then they get it, even though that’s the narrative people like to see. Sometimes it’s just like, oh no, like we kind of decided that this is the person and I’m not the sports person here, but I have heard about people like companies like almost like creating sports stars out of people who weren’t the best players. 


Kaya Henderson: Absolutely. 


Myles E. Johnson: And I look back and be like, you think these are the best players, but that’s might be somebody who’s in my consciousness as like, as one of the best players because they were so popular, or because they got these big deals and because they kind of transcended popular culture or it’s um sports culture and and it went into popular culture. So um, I think that you’re totally right Kaya around like, oh, no, this also like these big stars and big deals are also like created and and and and why not take the chance on creating that with um with with with women specifically in this moment. Yeah. And I think Nike only has things to gain from doing something like that too. 


DeRay Mckesson: Yeah. I do think, too um um the last ten years, I’ve been really interested in, like, our inability and, hoping that there’s more of an ability to name things as a phenomenon as opposed to trying to, like, you know, scientize it and [?]. 


Kaya Henderson: Yes. 


DeRay Mckesson: It’s like–


Kaya Henderson: That’s right. 


DeRay Mckesson: Some things just are. So when I think about, like Caitlin, when I think about um, Angel Reese, Angel Reese, I first knew her as the Bayou Barbie. That was, you know, she was I remember, I only knew Caitlin Clark because she waved off Raven. And that was like this meme moment. And da da da da. And that created like that that whole last year created like that, I think laid the foundation for this year to even be a thing where we could come back and look for the rivalry and the drama and the, we knew all the players because last year was such a crazy year in women’s basketball, in college women’s basketball, and it was like, well, Caitlin broke all these records this year and you’re like that just is just it’s true. Like that, yeah I don’t know, it’s true. Um. And and I do think about her as like a phenomenon in a certain way. And I like, you know, I don’t try to, like, explain all of it. I also think that Angel um, Angel also, like, it has incredible marketing potential and can do will do a lot for the sport in the way that she did last year. Like we all the Bayou Barbie is like a whole thing. That’s like a that was a–


Kaya Henderson: Yup. 


DeRay Mckesson: –big deal. So I do think I do see a disparity in the way that brands sort of respond to them. I also think there is something very different about their bases, like who are, you know, they are they are speaking to very different people. And and that I think is fair to critique. Um.


Kaya Henderson: Yes. 


DeRay Mckesson: The last thing I’ll say is I do love that, that it doesn’t seem like the negativity in the public has seeped into their relationships. And I love that. 


De’Ara Balenger: Mm hmm. 


DeRay Mckesson: Like I love that like they this class of WNBA people are like, we not talking about each other online. We not fighting each other online. Our family’s not fighting each other. Even when Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird are saying shady things. Caitlin is like, I can’t wait to play. Angel is like, I can’t wait to be a rookie again. You’re like, you won a national championship a year ago, made it, and her quote is, I can’t wait to be a rookie again. And you’re like, yes. You know, I also didn’t realize how sexist the WNBA used to be. It used to make those women show up in business clothes at the draft. It’s crazy. So I’m happy that they don’t have to wear business clothes anymore, because that was silly. And I’m happy they got to dress the way they wanted to dress. 


De’Ara Balenger: DeRay. I just want to pick up on that because as somebody who I love the WNBA and I love the New York Liberty and the Washington Mystics, and I go to these games and you actually feel–


Kaya Henderson: Much more excitement than you do at them NBA games chile.


De’Ara Balenger: So much more exciting. They are so much more inclusive and the vibe is very much like a unity, joyful vibe as opposed to like an adversarial, competitive vibe. And it it these games are amazing. So I think I think what, what what these women are also doing is sort of like revolutionizing the way we even approach sports and how we, how sports are actually supposed to bring us together, not separate us. And I think that’s exactly how you feel. And I think that’s the sentiment now that even this class is is taking in to the NBA. And I think it’s absolutely incredible, and I can’t wait to see. I can’t wait to see them. And I have so many favorites that I have that I follow on Instagram, like Tasha Cloud, she’s one of my favorites now she plays with um, for the Phoenix, whatever they’re called. But I love them, love it, love it, love it, and happy to see this and hope we just keep on covering the WNBA as Kaya is our resident expert as the months go on. 


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




De’Ara Balenger: [music break] So y’all, my news today is about Participant Media shutting down. And so for those of y’all that don’t know Participant Media is it’s a it’s essentially it’s a production company film documentary TV series from time to time. But it was founded really under the premise that you could use content to evolve people’s thinking, being, and actually then compel them to act on a particular issue or societal challenge. And so I’ve worked I’ve worked with Participant on and off probably since like 2017. So the first thing I did with Participant was When They See Us with Ava DuVernay, and that’s really When They See Us is such an excellent example of Participant’s work in the world, because it really was to build social impact campaigns that accompany these films. So for When They See Us, DeRay, you probably remember that we did a big push around prosecutorial reform because as we know, um with The Exonerated Five, really what the challenges with them were an overzealous prosecutor who sort of went, unaccountable and un, you know, sort of her powers were so imbalanced in terms of what she did to, to to prosecute those kids and all of the illegal things she did to prosecute those kids. But all that to say, you know, then, you know, Just Mercy, um Judas and the Black Messiah, and then even things like Inconvenient Truth, that was a really early one for Participant. Um. American Factory, you know, sort of the list goes on and on. Roma, in terms of the films that Participant really put investment into, both in terms of getting the thing made, but then also in terms of making sure that there were these really mega impact campaigns that really talked about the themes, the important themes in these films and how we can change, change a particular challenge, whether through policy, whether through community organizing, whether through just like building a network of folks who are coordinated in their efforts and their advocacy. So I’m really bummed that they’re closing their doors. And just some really great people that I’ve worked with over the years, and they’ve been such an incredible vehicle for impact and for making the case why impact around film and documentary is so important. Now you can’t talk about Participant without talking about the Green Book so that, Participant, [laughter] the Green book, and I remember sitting in a conference room with the head of Participant, Head of marketing, all of the white peoples, and I said, y’all, what are you going to do when Green Book wins the Oscar? And you know, I’m fresh and new out of politics in sort of the film world. And they’re like, oh, it’s never going to win. Roma’s going to win because Participant was also a producer a producer of of Roma at the time. I say, y’all, I don’t know the film business, but I know white people and that film [laughter] is going to win. And it did and it did. And so it’s been an interest. It’s also been an interesting case study with Participant and even with like Mahershala himself to, to for for a film to win an Oscar, but then everyone to be really sort of apprehensive around talking about operating around the film, amplifying the film. Um. So it’s sort of like won the Oscar, but [inhales breath] yeah, just an interesting journey with Participant. And I think Participant learned a lot about Green Book. And I think that’s how you went from Green Book to Judas and the Black Messiah. Right. Because it was like, oh, maybe we should get–


Kaya Henderson: Those were not right–


De’Ara Balenger: –some Black–


Kaya Henderson: –behind each other. Were they?


De’Ara Balenger: [laugh] They were in my tenure, they were not right behind each oher.


Kaya Henderson: But not right behind each other.


De’Ara Balenger: No, no, no, it was an effort. Just mercy. Just Mercy was in between. 


Kaya Henderson: Okay, okay, okay all right. 


De’Ara Balenger: Um. 


Kaya Henderson: Let’s not–.


De’Ara Balenger: So. 


Kaya Henderson: –talk about people’s least fine moment. [laughter] Right? Bryan, Bryan, Bryan Stevenson says we’re not our worst thing that we’ve ever done. So let’s. 


De’Ara Balenger: But I will say it was it sort of was an inflection point with them that I think had not happened. Wouldn’t have got them to where, where they are. Um. But but you know, they ain’t, now it’s closing. So you know I just think that film is so important to representation and shaping minds and shaping our culture. And it’s so critically important to make sure that we have folks in the film business. And we’ve talked about this sort of ad nauseum before that that are true to people and and true to experiences. And so it’s a bummer. It’s a bummer that, you know, even Participant, even with its flaws, um is is is closing its doors. It also provided a lot of opportunities to, you know, new up and coming directors of color, talent of so yeah I wanted to bring it here because I’ve been bummed about it this week. So, just wanted to share that with you all. 


Myles E. Johnson: It’s a little scary, right? Because how I see it and please, you know, illuminate me if I’m wrong and direct me and drop some links. My how I see it, entertainment is getting a little a little dumber and getting a little bit more shallow. And I also think that this is reflecting maybe the exhaustion people have with, you know, like kind of like for the last like five to ten years of people really um, having a lot of this like kind of like social, politically aware content and and creativity coming out. And I think that it’s really, I think sometimes we can take for um granted, like companies that championed um ideas and social and political um advancements and and and folding that into the entertainment and art that we are seeing. Because if Hollywood’s left to their own devices, we get things that are um, I’m not going to name anything, but we get things that are um, not necessarily um interested in that and centered. So it does and this it is a little scary to not have somebody or have a company that’s on the team of okay we need to get this out or oh, this is what this story is talking about? How do we make sure that this story and this, um social impact translates into the world? Um. And and how can we make it so this film doesn’t just end at the, at the, at the, at the credits, but we, we can actually make sure this like, impact ripples throughout um society and throughout culture. Um. So it’s a, it’s a it’s a little scary also [laugh] because I remember reading the article about um the higher ground Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s um President Obama’s um company that kind of has like a and have a very similar angle and stuff. The thing is about that and specifically about them is that I don’t know if they would have done um Black Messiah. You understand what I’m saying? I don’t know if they would have done certain things that don’t that don’t necessarily interest their um, neo neoliberal, um neoliberal new wave conservative ideals. So I do think that we can’t just rest on. [laugh] We can’t just rest on, oh, they got it. Or these people have it because people with political interests who are making entertainment have those political interests still so, I liked and I’m probably being a smidge more naive than I than I really am around this company. But it did seem like there was a bigger breadth of things that could be talked about and be seen. And I think that has to do with people maybe just wanting things to get more progressive. And there’s something different that happens when people want things to get more progressive in their own way. So I do think there’s a there’s still a huge emptiness left with this company not being here anymore. Um. That it’s just not replaceable with, like, Higher Ground or something that um has a former president and and and first lady. 


De’Ara Balenger: Yeah. 


Myles E. Johnson: Um. Behind it because there’s going to be obvious, um interest in that. 


De’Ara Balenger: I I Myles, I think that’s absolutely right. And I even think it goes to sort of like, just like how we put ourselves in these boxes just around genre, right? I think even for Black folks to do, whether it’s Afrofuturism or even something like American Fiction, right? I think it’s like, I think for Hollywood for it’s either like for Black people, it’s like it’s a slave movie. It’s a bang bang, shoot em up movie. It’s a love story. And those are sort of like our areas of operation. And so when you do, I think Participant had started to really build a muscle around like right now that I’m very curious about uh, Kahlil Joseph has um who is a visual artist, has um a film. It’s like a doc narrative called Black News that Participant is producing. But even for them to take on something like that, that really was just like, you really weren’t sure what it was, but you trusted in his genius that it was going to be something that sort of fell outside the the normal bounds of like, what a film genre was. Um. Yeah. So I think it’s even spaces and places that just really push Black creativity. Um. We just need more, more of that. 


DeRay Mckesson: I will say what this reminded me of is I think the the highest decision makers in Hollywood have not changed. That I think a lot of people changed. I think there are a lot of layers that changed. I think that creators got more access than they ever got. But, you know, I don’t buy the, I do think people are tired, I think there is fatigue, but I think people are more fatigued by living in poverty and in a crazy world than they are in talking about it. And I think I find people every day who are like, trying to make sense of what’s happening, who are looking for content that helps them make sense of what’s happening so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming and doomsday, they’re trying to understand how we got here and what it means. And and you know, I think they’re interesting people making that content. I think that the decision makers are like, we are done talking about this. They they are the people who are like, we are done platforming this. Da da da. And this is what that reminds me of, because I think that people are hungry for the content still. 


Myles E. Johnson: But are the films doing well? Just commercially. 


DeRay Mckesson: Oh, I don’t know. I mean, what film is doing well, that’s not a remake of X-Men, you know, or Superman. So if that–. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. 


DeRay Mckesson: –is the bar, then nobody then. Yeah, I think they’re doing as well as the other ones. Like, I don’t think, you know, the blockbusters. 


De’Ara Balenger: I just–


DeRay Mckesson: There’s a critique that even–


De’Ara Balenger: I don’t think we’re–


DeRay Mckesson: Like, do we need to make remake good times in the way we did? You know, I think that–


Kaya Henderson: Oh my God. 


DeRay Mckesson: –we’re like, remaking everything, you know? [laugh]


Kaya Henderson: That’s horrible. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah yeah I agree–


De’Ara Balenger: But I think we’re not even getting we’re not seeing what could get made. I think is the issue is that I think and that’s what um, the director of American Fiction, I’m forgetting his name. What’s his name? 


Kaya Henderson: Cord Jefferson. 


De’Ara Balenger: Like, that’s what he said in his speech. It’s like no one like I he heard so many no’s. So I think we don’t even know the expansiveness of like what what the film, what it could look like because people are so busy making the remake of Good Times and the, you know. And so I think I also feel like [?] right now Ryan Coogler is making a thriller with Warner Brothers and getting I would, I would hope, after Black Panther movies that he would get what he needs to be able to make, these will be blockbusters. But again, it’s like–


Myles E. Johnson: Right. 


De’Ara Balenger: Ryan Coogler is someone who has completely rewired how people interact with him in the film business. And the other thing I learned about this film Ryan Coogler doing is that he arranged it so that his he will actually own this film after a certain amount of years. Which is the first time anybody’s done anything like that, right? So I think it is it’s like, we just need to see more, and we need to figure out how to get more into the world and I think, Myles, you talk about this a lot in terms of we just got to get outside of these white institutions and sometimes Black institutions to do to do that. So. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. I guess I guess just like to like DeRay’s point. I guess I was just like thinking through I think. You see it, so many people trying to hit that, that note, I think that like, maybe like Jordan Peele is somebody who I can think of off the top of my head who hit that. 


De’Ara Balenger: Another person yeah. 


Who who–


De’Ara Balenger: Yeah. 


Myles E. Johnson: Who who hit that note of like, okay, how do we create something that is Black, expansive, different narratives and stuff like that, and then also make money, which to me, you know is not necessarily the job of the artist all the time, you know what I mean? And I think that, like, I think I love Kahlil Joseph, like um, like, I think he’s absolutely genius. I love Arthur Jafa. I love these, like, people who I’m like, I don’t want Arthur Jafar thinking about the bottom line–


De’Ara Balenger: The business plan. 


Myles E. Johnson: –and budgets and stuff like that. 


De’Ara Balenger: Yeah. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah, but it does it does seem like we’re in an era for entertainment where people just. I remember um, reading about the Barbie movie and how Mattel actually invited um different directors, um Lena Dunham being one of them. Um. Ooh, who’s Greta Miss Greta who did Barbie to being one of them. 


De’Ara Balenger: Greta Gerwig. 


Myles E. Johnson: Greta Gerwig. Um. [laughter]


Kaya Henderson: Miss Greta, I love it. 


Myles E. Johnson: But um, but invited them to Mattel and basically said, like, hey, we have all these like, you know, brands and you know, toys and stuff like that with Mattel. Are you interested in basically making a movie around that? And I just think that, like, although you can get some cute, subversive pop feminist stuff, I also think that like, wow if that’s where entertainment is going. That’s kind of scary too. So I guess I guess just in my head I’m just thinking out loud around, how do we, is there a formula or how do we make a formula of like what can be really, impactful and expansive narratively, but also like gets people to watch and, and and, and spend their money to watch and and consuming, you know, because it seems like that that has not been a, a note hit. 


Kaya Henderson: Um. I have a personal thought. And then I have a professional thought. And the personal thought is um, that Participant Media has had an outsized impact on me personally in two particular ways. So one, they did Waiting for Superman, which, was the first film in recent history documentary on education, and as somebody who’s been in education for 30 plus years, it was really the first time that I saw my issues, um a quick cameo of me too but we won’t even talk about that. Um. But the first time that I saw my work uh lifted up on a movie screen, and that had a tremendous impact on me and changed the conversation about what was going on. And then as a small business owner, you know, my company does curriculum that is focused on African American history and culture. And we partnered with pParticipant on a couple of their films. We did curricula for um and a whole weekend of activities around Judas and the Black Messiah.  Um. We did um, we did, we partnered with them on um, the Africatown documentary. 


De’Ara Balenger: The Descendants. 


Kaya Henderson: The Descendants. 


De’Ara Balenger: Oh. 


Kaya Henderson: Yup. 


De’Ara Balenger: Oh, everybody, please go watch The Descendant. Ooh.


Kaya Henderson: And um, and we also partnered with uh, with them on When They See Us. And so to, you know, major movie studios don’t reach out to small curriculum producers to, to partner on um projects. And that was huge for us and gave us exposure and, and, and opened us up. And so personally, I’m really sad that we don’t have that channel anymore. And then professionally, I am sad because I do think that they tried to put a stake in the ground around the fact that you could do good and do well at the same time, that you could make socially conscious movies and make a good bottom line, and that this was the right thing to do and I hope, like, I, hope that message isn’t lost or like I don’t want that to be defeated. I want that to still be an idea that people embrace. Um. We literally we’re not talking about climate change until An Inconvenient Truth. Period. The end. Like, there is nobody who can debate the importance of that film in bringing climate change to the forefront. And so I worry about of those discussions nowadays. I think it also, um I think it also points to the changing role of, of studios, right. When any document, I mean, I have a ton of friends who are making important, impactful documentary films, and their goal was never to get to Participant Media. Their goal was to always go straight to Netflix and get a streaming deal. And so I think it also, um is indicative of the changing role of who makes movies and who decides which movies get made. And I’m deeply worried about films with social conscience topics, um and where they go in all of this. DeRay, I agree with you. I think people need these films and are hungry for the content that helps them make sense of our increasingly complex world. And so this is really a sad thing for me. 


DeRay Mckesson: So my news is about Nestlé. It came out that Nestlé is adding sugar to products in the global South. So in the poorest countries, uh Nestlé is adding sugar to infant milk and cereal. Or Saralac [should be Similac] so like baby formula um intended for infants aged one and above, and for uhchildren between six months and two years. And in the European markets like the UK, there is no sugar in the formulas for the same children, and the US guidelines and UK guidelines make it clear that children under four or under two should avoid sugars. So in the UK it’s under four, in the US it’s under two. And there are two major reasons. One is for obesity and weight gain, making sure that kids don’t um become obese as infants. But the second is also for tooth decay. So making sure that as their teeth come in that they don’t rot out because they have all this sugar. And it came out because uh a nonprofit had worked with people to do a study and, and they saw that Nestlé is putting sugar in, uh in foods. And it just made me think through, like, I’m like, you know, it’s just a treacherous capitalism is really something. And not only for the health issues, but you also, you know, these kids get addicted to sugar as infants. That’s a, you know, I think about how much Kool-Aid and all that stuff I drank as a kid and had to wean myself. It was like, you know what I do not need sweet tea every single day. I’m like, I drink so much Kool-Aid and sugar. I drank a ton I ate a lot of sugar when I was a kid, and now I have a much better relationship to to those um, to those things. But I wanted to bring it here because I was shocked by this. And it was also frustrating to see that in white countries, the guidelines are followed by Nestlé. And those same guidelines are ignored uh in the poorest countries and then the global South. 


Kaya Henderson: I am I’m sorry. I so first of all, reprehensible. Second of all, not the first case. In fact, if I remember correctly, some time ago, um we did we covered the fact that Johnson and Johnson, u was continuing to market their baby powder, the cancer causing baby powder, [laugh] in it or it hadn’t changed the formula. Yeah. Somebody look it up because I can’t remember the details. But basically, you know, Johnson and Johnson was sued here in the United States for baby powder causing cancer in women. For all of the Black women, at least, who have, you know, used baby powder to stay dry and deodorize and all of that kind of stuff, and were hit with ovarian cancer and all kinds of feminine cancers. And um, I think, if I remember correctly, they forced to change the formula, but they did not change the formula in Central and South America and in sub-Saharan Africa and places like that. And so I think this is, um I think this is not unique, unfortunately. And I think that it, um goes to what the world thinks about people of color and poor people and capitalism and yikes, horrible. 


Myles E. Johnson: It just illustrates such a broad need for somebody, for people, for organizations that care about everybody, you know. Um. I think that one of the things that, like a friend was talking to me earlier about, um earlier this week about was thinking um, without borders in your head. Um. And they were connecting this to gender, but also connecting this to, like, kind of like internalized imperialism and and and nationalism and how it’s really an important work to think globally. So, it matters what happens to the children in America, and it matters what happens to children in the UK and it matters what what happens to the children in the Global South. And there shouldn’t be different standards, um for those for those things and I think Nestle is an example, but, but, but it really just illustrates how disappeared and and and not considered other children are in on the globe simply because of where they were born, and I and and and  I would just want more organizations and more people to care globally about children. And in in just because of where they land on a border doesn’t make what, what’s happening to them any less important. 


De’Ara Balenger: You know, y’all, I can’t help myself. So I had to look up this global board of directors. I just put it in the chat.


Myles E. Johnson: Mm hm. 


De’Ara Balenger: And what’s fascinating is that they actually are, like, really boastful of their diverse and balance board. We have a diverse and balanced board with complementary backgrounds, providing a broad range of relevant skills and experience. And then they have like like sort of a a chart where they list everybody, they list their nationalities, but then they list the, like the different skill sets that are important to them. And they’re all very businessy. Right. So like people who are CFOs and CEOs, international business, um retail brand marketing, technology, what they don’t have here is anybody who has an expertise in public health, which I don’t understand why they don’t, considering how they are putting foods that are detrimental to people out into the world. Like, I just I don’t understand just from, like a, a building a board and company perspective how you wouldn’t have anyone that understands the human body on this board. But I guess it makes sense since they gotta put sugar in things. Um uh. Depending on the part of the world. But just just an interesting thing. And, you know, I love to look at sort of the board makeup because that always tells you everything you need to know about that particular company. But yeesh. 


Kaya Henderson: Okay, I want to circle back on the Johnson and Johnson story and get it right. So in 2020 it’s talc in in the Johnson and Johnson powder that it seems causes ovarian cancer. And in 2020, which is when I started on this podcast, can y’all believe it’s been four years? Woop woop. Um. But in 2020, Johnson and Johnson decided to end its talc based sales in Canada and the United States, which is probably when we reported on this, because it was a travesty to only end sales in Canada and the United States, and not in sales globally. But I’m happy to report, my friends, that uh Johnson and Johnson has dec– has decided or decided to stop selling talc based baby powder globally in 2023. So uh, as of this past year, it seems they are only selling cornstarch based baby powder and no longer shortchanging the women of or the people of people of color and poor people around the rest of the world that don’t live in U.S. and Canada and selling them talc based stuff. So congrats Johnson and Johnson for being late to the party, but for figuring it out. 


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




Kaya Henderson: My news this week picks up on Myles’s article a couple weeks ago about Freaknik. Um. Which, if you remember, Freaknik started out as a Black spring break um tradition in Atlanta for, kids who couldn’t go home over spring break. And I had never heard of Orange Crush or Tybee Island until this week. But it turns out that Orange Crush is the annual Black Spring Break bash um in type on Tybee Island, which is Georgia’s largest public beach, it’s a small island only three miles just east of Savannah. And Orange Crush started more than 30 years ago, um by students at Savannah State University, which is an HBCU. Um. It was organized in 1988, and in fact, one the current mayor of Savannah was one of the original organizers, and it was a university sponsored event until 1991, when the university ended its involvement. And so the event since then has been unpermitted. Well, here’s the problem. Tybee Island, again three miles big, long, wide, whatever. Three miles, has 3100 residents. And last year, Orange Crush brought over 100,000 people to the party, which overwhelmed the small island. Their police force, which consists of 12 people, scrambled to respond to emergency calls reporting gunfire and drug overdoses and traffic jams and fistfights. Last year, there were 26 arrests, including one road rage shooting, where a white man fired a gun into another car and injured one person. This year, they are taking precautions to manage this differently by adding 100 additional sheriff deputies, Georgia state troopers and other officers that will be deployed to three mile Tybee Island. This does not sound like a recipe for success to me. Um. The governor has also recently signed a bill, DeRay, that allows local governments to recoup additional expense costs from social media organizers of unpermitted events. And so, of course, there are racial dynamics, De’Ara. Like you, I had to Google the stats and see what was going on. 92% of the island’s residents are white. The mayor is white, and he has stated that his goal is to end this event. There is a very small Black population, um one of which is the city manager, and she is responsible for operation. So what is she doing? She is focusing on managing the traffic. She’s providing porta potties. She setting up barricades to keep residential property safe. She is trying to manage the situation. The mayor said he’s trying to end the event. Um. And the there is a small Black population who uh remind us that Tybee Island has huge crowds for the 4th of July and lots of other summer weekends, but those weekends are largely white, and the response is completely different. They are not calling out 100 additional police people. Um. They believe that um it will be overpoliced and that all of this is because uh they believe that Black folks are criminals. And so what it made me wonder to myself is, you know, Daytona Beach welcomes hundreds of thousands of of white kids, and you’re not gonna tell me that they’re not drunk and crazy and, you know, doing all of the things that Black spring breakers do, but we don’t read about that. We read about Miami, which shut itself down to Black spring breakers this past year. And so where I mean, why is it not why is it I already know why it is. But if we if we can tolerate white college students going to blow off steam and enjoy their spring break, where are Black college students supposed to go to enjoy their spring break together? Um. It looks like it increasingly may no longer be Tybee Island. Apparently Biloxi, Mississippi is billing itself as the annual Black Spring break um destination. And good for them if they can, you know, invite Black folks and cash in on all of the money that we bring to these places, because our money is green and it’s long. Um. But I really do. You know, it I I brought it here because we think about the the criminalization of Black people. We think about um, the over adultification of Black young people. We think about all of these things when, you know, all of us were young spring breakers at some many of us were young spring breakers at some point. Most of us–


Myles E. Johnson: Some of us are still young spring breakers. 


Kaya Henderson: Some of us are still. [clap] Come on, nephew. Um.  [laugh] Who want to go places and have a good time with our friends. The vast majority of us behaving and doing what we’re supposed to do. But this criminalization piece is um, you know, is par for the course. So I brought it to the pod because I had never heard of Tybee Island or Orange Crush. I also hope there’s a couple of organizers who are nine times out of ten, likely to be sued. And so thank you, DeRay, for sharing that the ACLU is willing to, I guess, protect against protests. Maybe not this, but it does it it creates and it will create an interesting, I think, legal standard once you start to sue these social media influencers because, you have to be able to I think you have to be able to prove that they actually organized this. 


DeRay Mckesson: Whether they had intent that there was like intent behind–


Kaya Henderson: Yup. 


DeRay Mckesson: –other people’s actions. 


Kaya Henderson: Yeah. 


DeRay Mckesson: And like, no matter what I said about coming into the street, I certainly didn’t tell people to hit the police upside the head. 


Kaya Henderson: Right. 


Myles E. Johnson: [?] Well. Thank you for bringing this to the podcast Kaya, because this is a really interesting story, because ever since I brought the Freaknik thing in to the um podcast, I’ve been thinking about Daytona Beach in Atlanta, and it’s, and now I’m thinking about Tybee Island. And I think the thing that, I don’t know, this might be like a little like, cynical, but I think what makes Daytona Beach work is because most of a lot of the police officers, the adults there, the older people there, see these kids who come as extensions of them. 


Kaya Henderson: Absolutely. 


Myles E. Johnson: Some type of so so they say like, look at those crazy kids. But they see their nephew, they see their cousin. 


Kaya Henderson: Yes. 


Myles E. Johnson: They see their they see they see their children in them. So there’s a type of like even if it’s annoyance, it’s a type of like tolerance in and um and grace that they have. Whereas Black children, you know, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin are seen as just criminal. And, and there’s this projection of like [?] animilality, see them as animals, okay. [laughter] When they’re going around so I think that so I think that obviously overpolicing it is going to birth more violence. But also, I think that in order for there ever to be like a space for Black folks or specifically for young Black folks to be able to successfully celebrate and have fun, and maybe even make mistakes, but not have those mistakes, um decide the rest of their lives. You have to–


Kaya Henderson: Yes. 


Myles E. Johnson: –be able to see those children, see those kids as kids. And I just don’t think that that is um true for people, and I don’t I don’t think that’s um for lack of better words. I don’t think that’s like interracially true. You know, I think that I see Black kids, 18, 19 year olds and younger and I see like, oh, that’s my cousin. Even if they’re bad, I’m like, I’m like, oh, there go my cousin, there go my like, whatever or don’t, don’t talk like that or get out the street. Um. But if you don’t have that interracially then you’re just going to end up overpolicing and then perpetuating violence on children because you see them as something to be scared about, scared of.


De’Ara Balenger: A couple things to add. One, this is stolen land white people. Okay, so what are y’all talking about? Okay, so second of all, there is, we all got to we all coming now. I just saw that um the University of Georgia. Georgia Southern University, I believe, put together a project of Tibby Martin Luther King human– the and and actually, the woman that was was named in this article. Kaya. That’s a resident there. They have a whole, Black history trail, that takes you through Black contributions, Black history on this island. So not only not only are we going to have Orange Crush, we’re going to have more programming activities to come. 


Myles E. Johnson: Okay. 


De’Ara Balenger: So y’all better start getting more police. 


Kaya Henderson: Let’s go let’s go to Tybee Island. 


Myles E. Johnson: Orange Crush, mingle wisdom. 


De’Ara Balenger: Because yeah. Yeah. Cause’ it just everything don’t belong–


Myles E. Johnson: Pineapple Express. 


De’Ara Balenger: –to y’all. It does not belong to y’all. This is crazy. It’s so wild. That’s all I have to add. 


Myles E. Johnson: You know, I’m from the suburbs of um well, born in Long Island, but grew up in the suburbs of um Georgia. And if I remember correctly, Tybee Island is, like, in Savannah or right next to Savannah. Like very–


Kaya Henderson: Yes just–


Myles E. Johnson: –close to that?


Kaya Henderson: Yes. Very close to it. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. So um, because I remember, like, just like hearing it, hearing about it a lot. I don’t think I ever visited there in my I can’t remember, but I used to always go to Savannah. But it’s also wild, speaking of this land stuff like that, those that’s where a lot of Black people came in from. So that’s where that’s where a lot of so so yeah. Just to–


Kaya Henderson: Second largest, second largest slave port. I think after Charleston. 


De’Ara Balenger: Charleston. Mm hmm.


Myles E. Johnson: Mm hmm. So I’m like so I’m like you know to what you’re saying about the Indigenous land, it doesn’t belong to you. But also like how dare you stop anybody from coming from coming to that very place that y’all–


De’Ara Balenger: That’s right. 


Myles E. Johnson: –grabbed us from like what? And and sent us to, to like that that that’s a little ridiculous. 


De’Ara Balenger: And now I’m on and now I’m on Zillow looking for homes. So here I come. 


Kaya Henderson: You about to be a resident. I love it. 


DeRay Mckesson: De’Ara. 


Myles E. Johnson: Okay. 


Kaya Henderson: Let’s own us some land. 


DeRay Mckesson: All the Black people going be there visiting their cousin De’Ara. They’re like, no we here visiting De’Ara. 


Myles E. Johnson: Right. Right. [music break]


DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Well that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning into Pod Save the People this week. Don’t forget to follow us at @CrookedMedia 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]