What Would MLK Say? | Crooked Media
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January 16, 2024
Pod Save The People
What Would MLK Say?

In This Episode

DeRay, Kaya, and Myles celebrate MLK Day and cover the underreported news of the week — Black people screened out of clinical trials for new Alzheimer’s treatment, Regina King set to play Shirley Chisholm in upcoming Netflix film, and  vice president of a Missouri HBCU dies by suicide after colleague intimidation.

News

Bernice King Says Her “Mother Wasn’t a Prop” After Jonathan Majors Compares Girlfriend to Civil Rights Icon

Promising new Alzheimer’s drugs may be less effective for Black patients

Regina King Wants Us to See Shirley Chisholm As the Superhero She Was

An HBCU administrator died by suicide. The school’s president is now on leave.

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

[AD BREAK]

 

DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay and welcome to Pod Save the People. On this episode it’s me, Kaya and Myles talking about the news you don’t know with regard to race and justice from the past week, the topics that we should have all been talking about but weren’t. Here we go. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Happy Martin Luther King Day Pod Save the People family, we are coming to you live and direct. Not exactly live, we’re taping on Martin Luther King’s birthday and we are excited about our conversation this week. But in honor of Doctor King, I wonder if you all um would want to start by sharing your favorite factoid or quote or whatever about Doctor King. We all know Doctor King you know, freed the Black people is what they teach the young people in school sometimes. [laugh] But there are so many interesting other things about Doctor King. And in the spirit of us being, things that people don’t usually pay attention to, what don’t people pay attention to about Martin Luther King that you love? 

 

DeRay Mckesson: This quote I wish was on more T-shirts because this is I think the mood of me definitely right now is the quote is, “I’m tired of marching for something that should have been mine at birth.” [sounds of agreement] Like, come on, just just this is just easy, simple. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Come on. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: I love, love, love that. Um, I think for me, A, I think that just like, politically, a straight thing that I love about Martin Luther King is just the fact that he was deeply anti-capitalist. I think that there’s so much, um, overlooking of the fact, that fact about him, but you really can’t truly engage with him without understanding where he, um, stood when it comes to the economy, when it came to, um, just having a more fair opportunity to have, uh, economic actualization in this world. Another thing that I love about Martin Luther King is The Boondocks episode, because listen. I think so via cartoons, via Black fiction and Black imagination there was like a really cool work that happened that basically was like, what would you do? Or what would happen if Martin Luther King were to have came back? And what would he think about the current culture? And I don’t know. Of course, The Boondocks took it to this very, um, boondockian wild place, [laughter] but I find it useful to always think about that. I I find myself, even when I’m engaging with modern culture now, thinking now if Martin Luther King’s gaze was on this, what would he think? Like, what what would his response be? And it’s been an interesting thought experiment to do in in I and yeah so today’s like today I think about that too. Like what would Martin Luther King say about Sexyy Red? [laughter]

 

DeRay Mckesson: Myles. 

 

Kaya Henderson: What would he say about Sexyy Red? What would he say Myles?

 

Myles E. Johnson: Was this was this–

 

DeRay Mckesson: Right. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: –the dream? [laughter] 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Was uh [laughing] oh, Myles. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: I don’t know. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: That came out of nowhere. [laughing] You got me. [laughter] I will say, as an organizer, what I’ve always appreciated about King is it was a focus on telling the story and giving voice to the issues, and also a deep commitment to changing structures. Like he understood that if the structure doesn’t change then the outcomes won’t change. So as much as we remember the speech, it’s like people forget the Civil Rights Acts, Voting Rights Act, the Poor People’s Campaign, like they were like deeply, deeply structural. And I also appreciate how he even though it came about in a sort of, uh, unanticipated way, started to help give voice to the fact that the way that oppression looks across the country is not uniform. So when he writes about or talked about going to Chicago and seeing just the difference from the South. Still bad, but just different, and helping people realize that they have to organize for their reality, even if the themes are similar. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Absolutely. Absolutely.

 

Kaya Henderson: I think one of the things that I really appreciate, one of my favorite things is, I feel like there’s always a King quote that I’ve never heard of or never come across that is right for the moment. And so I appreciate the fact that he wrote so much. I feel like there is so much, um, leadership knowledge to learn, and leaders are out here leading but not capturing the stories, not, um, sharing the narrative, not shaping what has happened to them, um, or sharing their experiences. And he was such a prolific writer. And every year for the King holiday, I read the letter from a Birmingham jail, and I’m just reminded of how timeless the issues are, how you know relevant his voice was then and now, and it’s all because we have all of this stuff written down. Um, I found a quote this year that I had not heard before. Um, and it comes from the Purpose of Education, which he wrote in 1947. And he says, if we’re not careful, our colleges will produce a group of closed minded, unscientific, illogical propagandists consumed with immoral acts. Be careful, brethren, be careful teachers. And as an educator, that speaks to me. But when I think about what’s happening right now in the country, especially as we look across higher education. When I look at, you know, how much fake news and propaganda and whatnot is running around out here masquerading as fact. I feel like Doctor King, I mean, you got something for every situation, every situation. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Prophetic, prophetic. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Timeless. Timeless. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. Transitioning to somebody who thinks they’re Martin Luther King, [indistinct from Kaya in background] who is not. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Oh, come on with it. Mmm. Jonathan Majors, your friend. What? [laughing]. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Coretta Scott King’s children said, “keep our mom’s name out of your mouth.” 

 

Kaya Henderson: Mm. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Yes. 

 

Kaya Henderson: What is Jonathan Majors fascination with likening himself to Martin Luther King? Like I do not understand at all why he has decided that this is his– 

 

Myles E. Johnson: You know, I don’t know the specifics, Auntie Kaya, but what I have thought about is how that kind of like how like Black exceptionalism and tokenism breeds narcissism, because I’m thinking you have to have been in situations your whole life because of your education background, because of the sets you’ve been on that make you feel like you are, um, a savior to, to, to to really, um, prop up and affirm your messiah complex. And I think that Jonathan Majors is a case study of what happens when somebody believes their own hype, believes what’s being told about them, believes that the reason why you’re, um, infiltrating this is because some secret, you know, code has been sent from, you know, Wakanda in the sky. And you’re here to break people free with Marvel movies. And I think that– [indistinct] [laughter]

 

Kaya Henderson: With Marvel movies. Yes. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. So I think that, like, when I really sat and watched that interview and thought about it, I’m like, oh, this is this is a type this is obviously exaggerated, but I think I’ve seen this type of narcissism sprung from tokenism and exceptionalism in the Black community before. And, um, it’s, it’s it’s refreshing to see it be humbled in real time with a whole bunch of Black folks being like, you look wild. You sound crazy. Like, you know, it feels good to, um, see see it being reckoned with in the real time, which is one of the very few benefits of the internet, I guess is everybody gets to take they lick. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Mmm. Mm mm mm.

 

DeRay Mckesson: I will say, um, what’s really interesting is that he clearly doesn’t realize or just doesn’t care that using Coretta’s name like this is deeply misogynistic. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Mm hmm. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: And, like, positions Coretta as a mere prop of Malcolm, not as a person with agency, not as a person who had her own life and career, who continued to be an activist, who was a mother. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Come on, DeRay. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Just how demeaning he has been in repeatedly using that, both calling the white woman Coretta, which just confused me. And then Meagan Good as Coretta. But yeah, he just like the whole and that’s why when the, you know, Martin Luther King Junior the third and Bernice had to come out being like, hey, this you know, my mother is not a prop. Like she was a whole person who made her own decisions. She was not only Martin’s partner. So, yeah, just weird Jonathan Majors and I do love Black people say Happy Jonathan Majors Day. I think that is really funny. And we are some funny people. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: You can not keep us down. So my news for this week is um I’m so excited about this. Like I’m kind of jumping out of my skin around this. Regina King just presented the honorary Oscar to Angela Bassett, and around that same time, it dropped that she’s going to be starring as Shirley Chisholm in a new Netflix film. It’s going to be, um, it was written and directed by, um, John Ridley, who did 12 Years a Slave. My eyes are squinting with that, but I’m excited. [laughing] I’m excited. I’m excited nonetheless, because I love the Shirley Chisholm story. And I also feel like, unfortunately and, you know, I think we go through the data all the time. Is that so many people are going to be learning about their historical facts via film and I think that we have those kind of, um, greatest hits of people who we who we center and who we prop up, you know, it even being Martin Luther King Day and I but I also feel like Shirley Chisholm is such an important figure in, um, Black American history, you know, of course, American history. Um, I want to read some stuff that, um, Regina King had to say. She said, luckily, I got to talk to the people that knew her very well, says King. I watched every bit of footage there is out there of her. From all of that, you start to look in between the cracks, right? Paying attention to all those little things showed me just how much of a strategist she was. It takes great strategy to be able to be in the spaces that she was in, and go toe to toe with the people that she went toe to toe with. She also goes to say, it was always a little disheartening for Reina and I to have so many people over the years of our lives not know who Shirley Chisholm was, King says. What she did was so pioneering. She was a true maverick. And, you know, we use this term all the time. But she was a true first. I think this is I don’t know, I’m just like giddy. I’m just giddy. Shirley Chisholm was um the first Black congresswoman. She was the first Black woman to run for president. You know, I’m not a Wikipedia. There’s not [?] over by my name. But I want to say she might just be the first woman to run for president. Um, and I think that she’s such an interesting figure, and I’m and they’re saying that it’s going to be centering around that year that she did do her campaign, but they are going to go into her personal life too. I totally understand duh, while we’re focusing on that year that she, um, that she did her campaign. I’m Gilded Age core right now, so I’m like, limited, limited series me. Like, give me it, give me the I’m Crown. I’m sold on that whole format. I’m like, give me everything in five years. Because I really would love to be able to sit with her and sit with the different actions that built up to that year. And I’m sure they’re going to like [?] and and story tell in a way that still gives you some type of perspective. But yeah, I don’t know. I’m kind of thirsty for that. I’m thirsty for a limited series that connects Shirley Chisholm and Michelle Obama and, um, and other, uh, political Black women, like, I’m just thirsty for, uh, a deep dive into these people’s stories outside of what we kind of, like, know them for. But nonetheless, Regina King looks amazing as Shirley Chisholm. The tone, the lighting, everything got me really excited. So I wanted to bring this to the podcast and also get you alls, um, feelings on it. And, um, who would be the next person, um, that you will want to see have a film if, if we can choose some somebody who maybe is a little bit, um, less less known in the public mainstream zeitgeist. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Hmm. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: I’ll say right now that I want a Marlon Riggs movie. Marlon Riggs, [?] , the gay Black men who were intellectuals in the ’90s, [?] who who passed away from complications of Aids. I need for them to be front and center somewhere. 

 

Kaya Henderson: This is a good question. Who do we want to learn more about? Or who do we want people to know more about? I’m going to continue to ponder that question, but I think the Shirley Chisholm, um, movie, um, I’m looking forward to it. Like you, Myles, I feel Shirley Chisholm-ish, right? Like she’s a West Indian woman from Brooklyn. I’m not from Brooklyn, but I’m from New York, West Indian. And she was doing the things when nobody thought Black women could run for Congress. You know, she was elected to seven terms in Congress. And so she was there by herself for a long time. Um, which also makes me think a lot, especially when you hear my news about what it took to be the only Black woman in Congress. Right. And one of my worries a little bit in how we tell these stories is we’re like, Shirley was a badass. She was in there. She did all of the things she fought for economic justice, she blah, blah, blah. But she was also a person. She was a teacher. She didn’t have kids. She had a couple of miscarriages. And so, like, I wonder if we will explore the human side, not just the superhero side of Shirley Chisholm, but if we will explore the vulnerabilities and the things that made her a whole person. Because one of the dangers, I think I we need to be celebrated as Black women leaders and we need to our stories need to be told. But I’m also deeply, deeply, you know, resting in this question around how we portray Black women leaders and how that impacts our leadership or our inability to be whole people in leadership because, you know, we all now got to go out and be superwomen like Miss Shirley. Well, in fact, it’s much more complicated than that, especially when Black women are going into spaces that aren’t made for them, that aren’t, um, aren’t hospitable to them. And, you know, Myles, you raised this when we talked about Claudine Gay last week or so. When we stop going into leadership in places that aren’t for us. And so I grapple a lot with like, come on, Shirley, I’m down, let’s go. Let’s tell the story. Let’s do all of the things. And that empowers me and inspires me. But at the same time, figuring out how we tell the more nuanced and complicated stories of what it really takes for Black women to lead. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: So two things. One is shout out to Regina King, who just is a star. Most people don’t realize she was, uh, both boys voices on Boondocks, which is one of the things I first fell in love with her on. You know, we interviewed her on the podcast a long, long time ago, um, for another project. So it’s good to talk about her again. And with Shirley Chisholm. I’m super pumped to see this. Uh, we have a call out right now to try and see if we can screen this, because I would love to screen this. It doesn’t come out till March. I would love to screen it during Black History month with activists and organizers, but I didn’t know that the minimum wage law of 1974 would not have happened without Shirley Chisholm. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Okay. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: So Shirley Chisholm led all of the behind the scenes work with the minimum wage law increase. Uh, the New York Times wrote a very nice piece, essentially just highlighting all the work that she did on it and the reason why the 1974, uh, adjustment to the minimum wage law matters is that not only did it go from a dollar and 60 an hour to $2 and 20 an hour, uh, which was a big deal, and that impacted about 35 million people. But it was and this was why Shirley Chisholm matters and why it’s important to get people whose identity is not only the identifier but their experiences and their values also mirror your own. Because what she pushed for and helped happened was it extended the wage for the first time to about a million domestic workers. Before then, the minimum wage was not applied to domestic workers. And she talks about what it means to have been raised by domestic work. She said, and I quote, “my own mother was a domestic, so I speak from personal experience.” In her speech before the House, she said, “Mister Chairman, on the days when this House has debated the welfare bills and poverty bills, this chamber rings with fervent speeches about the work ethic. Yesterday and today has echoes with warnings of inflation. What I would like to know is when are the members of this House going to apply the same standards to the working poor as they do to themselves.” Shirley, you deserve this. It is overdue. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm. 

 

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

 

[AD BREAK]

 

DeRay Mckesson: So my news, um, hits close to home in some ways. My grandmother passed away, uh lived a long, beautiful life and her funeral was a couple of weeks ago. I and she suffered with Alzheimer’s and dementia for the last, uh, probably seven years of her life. And, you know, she was supported by her kids and grandkids and grandma had a good life. And then I looked up uh and saw that there’s actually a groundbreaking treatment for Alzheimer’s that is about to come on the market. There are actually two of them that have just sort of passed trials in a way that they think will actually offer some relief to people. I did not know that older Black people experience dementia at twice the rate of their white peers, and Hispanics experience dementia at one and a half times the rate of white people. Now, the reason I’m bringing the news here is that the drugs that seemingly are going to offer some relief and slow down the process and progress of dementia might not work on black people because they were screened out of the trials. And there’s, uh, you know, a long story about why they were screened out and if they had enough of this certain chemical in their brain to be screened in. But what it later goes to is this question about, like, whether the screening process was actually a fair one when we think about the way that bodies produce the particular level of chemical that they talk about with dementia. And we’ve talked about clinical trials before, but in some way I really did think that because there’s been a lot of focus on race and equity and da da da that, like there’s a process to stop these things that like, that we figured out a structural fix to make sure that we actually were screening by race better, and the trials were equitable and and still and still we’re not. So the way the number is after everybody got screened out, it left just 43 Black people out of the 947 people enrolled in the trial. So less than 5%. Uh, and remember that Black people make up 13% of the US population. Um, so I say that just to like it was a sobering thing and I’m like, God, I thought we had, like, figured this out. Um, and we cannot. 

 

Kaya Henderson: This is really, really galling. And it reminds us that, um, I mean, this is also why having Black doctors lead clinical trials or women lead clinical trials results in, you know, solutions for women and people of color. It’s because these people are not thinking about us literally. They are not thinking about us. They are figuring out how to save themselves and not trying to figure out how to save all people. And, you know, I’m sure there was federal funding that was supportive of this because the Alzheimer and dementia, you know, epidemic across the United States is rampant. And and, you know, we all want to figure out what we could and should be doing. But I don’t understand how we sanctioned trials that are not representative of the population. Like this is so like it makes me so angry and, um, I, I think I’m gonna leave it there because, I might say a bad word. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: [laugh] I think the new frontier for us and I think for as American people but then when I really think about, like, Black Americans is aging, right? I think that there are people who are living longer. I think that when it comes to what’s happening with Covid right now, what researchers are finding out what Covid does, I think that we’re going to be facing a lot more people dealing with these things like Dementia and Alzheimers, and I think it’s essential for us to figure out ways to address those things now. And, you know, I always wonder if I sound like a little naive Black Panther cub when I say this, but to me, I’m like, well, we have to figure out a way to start our own medical institutions and research and make it because sometimes it’s not just enough to have that doctor or have that nurse or have that one researcher. It’s really a foundational thing and I and I know that it’s a lot of work and I know that there’s a lot of, um, tape around it and things you have to do, but I’m like, there needs to be a generation that starts that work. Because if we don’t, we’re just going to be at the mercy of a white supremacist medical institution when we are facing these crises. And that terrifies me because, like I said, when it comes to Covid, when it comes to our already our rates of Alzheimers and Dementia. It’s looking like this is going to be a battle that we’re fighting as more people are living to get older and living longer lives, this is something that we’re going to have to face head on, and I don’t see how we’re going to be able to do that by just trusting or waiting on these white supremacist medical institutions. 

 

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

 

[AD BREAK] 

 

Kaya Henderson: Well, my news this week is you already know where I am, because I done said it in everything that we’ve talked about so far. But, um, I am deeply, deeply worried about Black women in leadership. It came out this week that, uh, at Lincoln University of Missouri, which is in a small HBCU, uh, the state of Missouri, an administrator, Antoinette Bonnie Candia-Bailey, or Doctor Bonnie is what they call her. Um, who was the vice president of student affairs there, died by suicide after she was recently fired. That is tragic. It is tragic. Um, it is absolutely tragic. But what adds insult to injury is before she died, she had complained significantly about the white president of the university. Uh, a guy named John B. Moseley intentionally harassing her and bullying her and setting her up for failure and more. And, you know, we again talked about Claudine Gay. Um, there is a there is a, uh, a situation that is happening with Black women in leadership. And this, this suicide brings forth so many different issues for me. In fact, God-Is Rivera, who is the chief content officer at Essence Ventures, had a quote this week, and it says, “it is undeniable that Black women are under attack in the workplace and beyond, and it is costing us our well-being, our mental health, and for some, their lives. I hope many leaders will think of the memory of Doctor Antoinette Bonnie Candia-Bailey as we step into our roles every day and remember that we have a responsibility to build and execute, but also to protect.” Um, we get these jobs again we, you know, are superwomen we try to do all of the things, um, and we’re doing incredibly difficult work in really hostile environments, and we don’t have the support that we need. In fact, um, last week, the Washington Area Women’s Foundation released a report that said Black women leaders often experience a fundamental absence of trust in their leadership. Um, and it went on to say, you know, it’s everything from it’s that it’s unrealistic expectations, it’s microaggressions, it is unacknowledged efforts. Doctor Bonnie was working overtime in at her post at Lincoln University and got one of the lowest performance ratings that you could possibly get. Um, it is the divide and conquer mentality that that, um, makes scarcity a thing and has women of color competing against each other in the workplace. And, you know, again, implications for our mental health. There are not many spaces for Black women leaders to rest and recharge. In my leadership journey, I done been to 950 zillion fellowships in the fanciest places, retreats that do all of the things, but rarely are they by or for Black women. And so, um, I want to shout out the Highland Project, uh, which is a nonprofit that supports Black women’s leadership. I’m an inaugural Highland Fellow, and I’ve been able to use funds from the Highland Project to create retreat spaces for Black women superintendents. And when we go on these retreats and we take these women, other Black women leaders in the education, nonprofit space, um, it is so crazy how transformative spaces of rest and recharge are for Black women leaders. Um, and so I’m raising this because, um, I think we have solidly gotten the message that Black women leaders are amazing and transformative and super power and Shirley Chisholmed, um, but I think it’s really important for us to start to understand that we’ve got to take care of ourselves and each other. That we have to attend to our mental health, that we can’t go into places by ourselves that are inhospitable to us. We need to go with a gang gang, um, that we need to I just got a, um, a really cool I don’t know who sent it to me, but thanks to whoever sent it to me. Um, I got a preview of the rest deck, um, from the Nap Ministry. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Oh, I got that too! 

 

Kaya Henderson: Tricia Hersey. Right. Um, 50 practices to resist grind culture. Um, and so my hope for Black women leaders in 2024 is that we recognize these signs and symbols. I want to lift up my friend Cherie Labat, who was a superintendent in Columbus, Mississippi, who passed along this week after an illness that was exacerbated by Covid. You know, younger than me. Black women leaders are out here dying, friends, dying. And, um, we can’t get free if our Black women leaders are dying. And so I want to take Myles’s challenge to try to bring something positive, to try to bring solutions, and my hope is that in 2024 we will go together. We’ll take care of our mental health, um, and we will lead differently. We can create new leadership paradigms for Black women that both respect our hustle, but also take care of our health. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Now in the way that Black people have to be exceptional to do almost anything at a moderately high level. I’m always shocked or I shouldn’t be shocked but but I am at how white people can be beyond mediocre or less than mediocre and do even more incredible things or have incredible roles. I bring that up in the context of Doctor Bonnie’s death, because the president of LSU who was harassing her. Let me just tell you about John Moseley. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Tell us, mmm.

 

DeRay Mckesson: John Mosley was formerly the director of athletics there in 2015, and he was the head basketball coach in 2015. He earned his Ed.D. from the University of Missouri, Columbia in 2020. He became the interim president at Lincoln University of Missouri in May of 2021. And the actual president and January of 2022. Now, in what world would a white man like how does this make sense for him to be the basketball coach at a HBCU? 

 

Kaya Henderson: HBCU child. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Just earned his a terminal degree in 2020, and becomes the interim pres– how? There is not a world where a Black leader would have just the trajectory is so unreal that I it would be people would laugh at you to even suggest that the basketball coach could be the president of the university, and yet he was interim. And shame on this board of governors, majority Black. Black board chair, I mean shame on every single person who signed. I would have resigned from this board before I would cosign this. There’s just like nothing that would keep me apart of this process. And he is on leave because he volunteered to go on administrative leave. Paid administrative leave while the board has said they’re going to conduct a third party investigation. I mean, what? 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Mm. Mm mm. Um, you know, I’ve been really transparent about just like my mental health and both my mental health and my spiritual journey. And moments like this remind me of lessons that I have learned and I continue to learn. And I’m no way saying that the things that I’m suggesting are like fixes or or cures to, um, to to depression or suicide or anxiety or any of those suicide ideation or, um, anxiety or anything like that. However, I, I really return to that, um, Toni Morrison essay where she, um, where she talks about work. And it was, um, it was published in The New Yorker, and she really meditates a lot on the separation that her family told her to do between what you do and who you are and you leave your work here. And I wonder now that Black people are able to go to new heights. Is there this rebellion against going to certain depths when it comes to like what you’re connected to, your community and your culture and that separation? I think that, of course, because we’re in um American capitalism, where it’s encentivized to identify with what we do, specifically if what we do is glossy, right? When Toni Morrison was writing about her cleaning a house, but if what we do is is really glossy and it’s impressive, and it gets and it maybe gets us some things. I wonder if we’re still not practicing that kind of spiritual, cultural hygiene, of being like, these are not my people. You know, there’s they’re they’re the only way I’ve been able to do much of anything when it comes to my professional life or where I’ve been asked to go, is that I know that I have my people. I know I have my mama and my sister, and I got my friends. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yes, yes. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: And I got friends who don’t know nothing about what I do. And they’re like, what, who cares? And that those are the things that happen. And I invite them over and we eat and we make, um, dark jokes and we and, and, you know, and we listen to certain types of music. And those are my people. And when I’m in these offices and when I’m going to these different, um, gigs or whatever, I’m blessed enough to do, I’m a representation of my people. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yes. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: But these are not my people, you know. And I wonder if, because we are so integrated in in certain ways, if we don’t practice that enough. And again, this is no way excusing anything that he’s doing, obviously. But I wonder if there’s a way if when a white boss is talking to me that I’m like, oh, this is my opponent or this is my task, you know what I mean? But that’s also because I have my people. And so I don’t have to see your acceptance as something that I need or, or anything like that. I see this as something that, okay, this is this is the task. This is the job. You know, here I am at the, um, Piggly Wiggly and you got and you’re [laughing] and this manager or this coworker got me effed up. And I’m going to go ahead and do what I gotta do and talk to whoever I gotta talk to or make whatever plans. But I’m not taking this home because it’s not. This is what I do, this is not who I am. And, um, I think that that should be a part of our cultural work and our rest and our, how the Nap Ministry names like our divestment from grind culture is not identifying with what we grind with. That is just our occupation. You know, we are so much more than that. And I think that’s just a little dimension I want to bring to these conversations, because I think that that is, um, missing too. 

 

Kaya Henderson: It is really, really important. I, you know, I go back to your Shirley Chisholm article and she talks about how important from five to nine or something like that, she was sent to live with her grandmother in Barbados, and how her grandmother told her she was enough. She was smart. She was amazing. She all of those things. I had a grandmother like that too, who every day before we walked out the house would say, we’d say the 23rd Psalm so that we asked for protection before we left. She would say Black is beautiful. And so I knew that I was beautiful. And she would always say to me, you know, you the smartest little girl I ever met. You could be the president of the United States. And I didn’t know that there hadn’t been a Black president or there hadn’t been a woman president. But I literally grew up thinking, oh, of course I could be president of the United States. And I say that because, you know, we can create the retreat spaces and the therapy and do all of the things. But we could also, in very simple terms, equip our young people. We can speak this enoughness we can speak this you are who you are, not what you do. We can prime our young people to be, you know, mentally ready for this world that they are going to go into. Just with some positive talk. My grandmother hadn’t been to college, she ain’t no child psychologist, but she knew if she spoke that that into me, that that would carry me through my life. And it has. And I thank Shirley Chisholm’s grandma. I think all of these grandmas out here who are telling their children. Later from them people at work, child, we love you, you the bomb. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Exactly. Exactly.

 

Kaya Henderson: This is what it is. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Kaya what did your grandma call you? 

 

Kaya Henderson: Kaya. [laughter]

 

Myles E. Johnson: And even as even as you were saying that Auntie Kaya, I was looking at your background and how like, you still have, like, Black children reading. And I think about when Bell Hooks was talking about, um, your home being the first place of, um, esthetic and cultural and spiritual authority that you have. Meaning, you have the right to, um, you guys look at my background. You see my [?]– 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yes. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: –put in. Pictures of me and it’s so essential because that shapes your imagination. It shapes that’s the that’s that’s it’s just so important. And sometimes because it’s seen as, um, esthetic, feminine, um, or all these other things it’s downgraded, but I’m like, no, there’s a reason why you walk around this nation and you see a whole bunch of white messiahs and presidents and marbles because it does something to your psyche. So–

 

Kaya Henderson: Yes. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: We have to combat that. And even if that’s the only place we have the authority to combat that is our homes and where we can take up personal space, it has to happen. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. [snapping]

 

DeRay Mckesson: Let’s go. Come on MLK day. [laughter] Preach to the people. 

 

Kaya Henderson: 2024. Y’all ain’t ready for us. We coming. [laughter] [music break]

 

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

 

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