If you can relate to what folks
are talking about, great! I think that that is exactly what we need in this day and age to tear down all the barriers in the walls that exist.
Right. If the bridge can be hip hop, cross it. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, party people… This is Talib Kweli. This is The People’s Party. We have Jasmin Leigh in the house. She’s gonna hold me down. We have a lot of beautiful, wonderful, inspirational things to talk about and we’re gonna talk about ’em tonight with one of my favorite people on the planet. Award-winning commentator, activist, journalist, lawyer… I mean this woman does it all. She is the voice for the community. We love around here. Give it up for Miss Angela Rye. Angela!
Hello, friend! How are you?
I’m good— how are you? Good to see you.
Good to see you! Hi Jasmin!
Hi Angela! Thank you for coming, Angela. Thank you for having me. We are honored by your presence. Thank you, that was so nice! I’m happy to be here! I’m happy that you’re here, too. Thank you for joining us on The People’s Party. The People’s Party. That’s a thing. That should be like a real thing. It should! I hope there’s like merch and
a movement that’s starting. You’re a part of the beginning of it. You know we want to be “Sophistaratchet”. Yes! That is a thing, too! Yes, I read that about you; I read that
you were “Sophistaratchet”. Yes, I should’ve trademarked that.
That was a thing… So, you and me— and you can correct me if I’m wrong… but our relationship developed on Twitter first? I think that sounds right. Yeah that’s probably right. I was once suspended on Twitter. Yes I remember this! Yeah, I’ve been locked on Twitter and I’ve been suspended on Twitter. And people don’t really understand the difference a lot of times. No, they don’t know sometimes if you the troll or the troll-ee. That’s right.
That’s what happens… Trollin’ the hell out of me… You know, I troll the trolls sometimes. Yes. And a white supremacist troll had actually post posted my mom’s address… Yeah! Exactly right.
Crazy! But yeah— a white supremacist troll trolled me and posted my mother’s address, and I wrote something like, “You can be found”. Yeah. And I was suspended. ‘Cause you can.
Yeah, you can. And, I was looking for him!
Especially if you post my mama’s address… Yeah, I was looking for him…
Like, I might be finding you right now. Yeah. Like I don’t want to go too deep into it but he could have been found,
you know what I’m saying? And I got suspended for that. And the first person I called was Angela Rye. I remember. So my uncle Steve had just passed away, and we were at his memorial service
— like on the way there — and I was talking to my mom and I was like, “Mom, they suspended Talib’s account!” And she was like, “Who?!” I was like, “Nevermind!” So I’m like on the way to the memorial service like, “I’ve gotta get his account reinstated!” So I just done an event with Twitter and they were fantastic. And I think it changed quickly. Right?
Yeah! I was suspended for about an hour. Oh, look at you go… alright. Yeah, an hour later I had my account. I had an apology. Yeah. And it took them about three days to give me all my followers back; I think I had about 800,000 followers…
Oh, I had forgot about that part, too. Yeah, but it was interesting… You know, a couple years later I was locked because I had a white supremacist lawyer, Jason Van Dyke who was threatening me and my fans with, “I’m shoot you and hang you…” and all types of things and I posted his business address and they locked my account but I remain on Twitter because you know I enjoy it. Yeah, you really enjoy it.
I do. I do. I enjoy it a lot. Yes. We know. We know. Sometimes I feel like I should tell him to take a spa day. Like, you need a spa day. We need to like do some breathing exercises. You know it’s crazy: I’m privileged. Very privileged in my life. I take a lot of spa days. I know but I’m saying right when I’m watching you Tweet, I’m like, “Right now!” I’m probably at the spa when I’m tweeting. Oh no no. We are definitely taking your phone ’cause you are missing out on some things… I will be honest with you, since the 2016 election… … which was traumatizing to me and in a lot of ways was a game changer — some good, some bad — I really have not been on Twitter as much. I noticed. It has taken me a moment to just really get in alignment with myself, figure out how I want to present to the world, and what I feel is like the healthiest way for me to engage, and I don’t think Twitter is it. There are some things I think from folks in our own community that I’ve seen that have been harmful to people I care about and to me directly.
I agree. There are things where like — I remember being on air saying that like the Make America Great Again hat is triggering for many of us, and the response to that from
the other side was not to figure out why like, “Well what’s going on? Why?” “We don’t want anything we’re championing to be triggering the folks.” Their response was to send me Make America Great Again hats over and over and over again. That’s not a death threat, although I have had some of those too… But I just feel like, for what? Like, this is not real life, you know what I mean? And if this isn’t constructive discourse this isn’t the type of conversation I want to have. No, yeah: I understand. I tell people about my Twitter feed and it’s like I really enjoy it. I feel empowered by it, but I understand that it’s a unique thing for me. I understand my life experience has led me into a unique place to have a unique platform with a unique plethora of information that allows me to push back in ways that others can’t, but that might be triggering for other folks. It might be stressful. It’s, like, for me it’s not. Wait — I have to tell you one more thing! So you were talking about where we first like met or at least had a conversation. I want to say this — and I’m not going to speak on behalf of the culture but I know that there are tons of people who are of the culture who feel this way… like your music has been game changing and healing and transformative to so many of us. I used to have Beautiful Struggle on repeat like I might just bring that back today, just ‘cuz. Like that whole album was incredible to me.
Thank you. And of course everything before that but like that one in particular was like, “I love this”. You’re gonna make a black man blush. Good! Come on, blush! I see it! I see it coming!
Receive your flowers! Well, you know what’s crazy — and Jarret can appreciate this, from Rawkus, because he’s in the house, as well… You know, Beautiful Struggle — that’s the album where I started having black female fans. Like before then it was mostly male. Yeah. Lot of white fans because it was very much you know sold and marketed, presented, based on who I was as underground and that culture was very testosterone-driven. And, with Beautiful Struggle I had achieved a little bit of success, and now I could afford. Mary J. Blige and Faith Evans and I had Neptunes’ beats on there, and it’s like there was things I did as a black person that I think went against sort of what the hip hop culture I was a part of at the time was it was. It was like people were like, “Why is there all this singing on there?” “Why is it all this—” and I’m like, well, this is where I come from. Like I might exist and do this underground hip hop — backpack, nod-your-head real well, but I come from lush sounds and R&B and vocalists and I was I was the first artist to have Mary and Faith on an album together since Biggie. That was like important to me. You know what I’m saying? But you you are very much involved in hip hop culture and you just telling me that story lets me know — like, when I read things from you… I read this thing that you did for CNN where you made your point very well but you quoted J. Cole lyrics while you were making your point. You’re associated with hip hop so much. You’re associated with Common. You’re associated with the Breakfast Club. Why are you so associated with hip hop? I think that there are things about like, the way that I think about my house… So my parents have black art on the walls and black books on the shelves, and made sure that I had black dolls, but I have a brother who’s 14 years older than me, Brian, who I call “Bubba” Shout out to Bubba. And Brian was always listening to hip hop. And so I think that was my entree into hip hop, but to me, I can tie every song growing up that influenced me in any way to an experience. And that’s not unique to hip hop: that’s R&B, too… … that’s listening to Motown cassette tapes on roads trips with my parents, like… But of course many of those beats are sampled by hip hop artists, so there are just experiences that I have that are tied directly to music. Music is so, so important to me — not just because I can quote a lyric on CNN but because when I heard that lyric, it spoke to my soul. You know what I mean? In a real unique way. So I think that I’m not talented in that way… You’re very talented. I understand —
No! In that way! Right right right…
In that way! Like, I be in the soprano section… in the third row. Right.
Like it needs to be far back. Like you don’t have the mic right over my mouth. Right. But I think that the reality of it is I love beats and I love the inspiration that our music — and art, period. I think about like Alvin Ailey and you know the shows that we’ve had on Broadway or that never made it to Broadway or television shows growing up — like I love what art has done for us and our expression of that. And it’s so dope that folks try to culturally appropriate it, but you just can’t to us better than us. In 2019, it’s crazy because like hip hop has changed so much, and it’s not just “a black thing” now, like all different cultures are doing hip hop, and when it first came out it was pretty much so we could tell our stories. But in 2019, do you think that hip hop is more like party music or is it still like revolutionary? So this may be something I get trolled for but this is my truth. I believe there’s a distinction between hip hop and pop rap and I think there right now there’s a dominance of pop rap. But I also think that it’s not all the way fair to say it’s always been black. There were, you know — there was a group called The Beastie Boys. I’m just saying… I’m just saying…
Yeah, but… But it was overwhelmingly black then and it’s still overwhelmingly black now, and I think the reality of it is it allows people to express however they see fit. And it has always had a multicultural audience and supporters and fans and like more power to the people. If you can relate to what folks are talking about: great. I think that that is exactly what we need in this day and age to tear down all the barriers and the walls that exist. If the bridge can be hip hop, cross it. Right. Chuck D once famously called hip hop CNN for the black community. Love it. You know, now we have a lot more channels. That was back with CNN was like really like THE news channel, right? Now we have a lot more, but… I think, to Chuck D’s point, hip hop was feeding the community with information, with inspiration — feeding marginalized communities with all that. Does hip hop still do that? I think it does. You talked about J. Cole a moment ago. Like I know so many folks who learned about tax policy on the last J. Cole album. Even this stuff that Cardi does — who I think has crossed over between hip hop and pop rap — she still like she’s speaking to people using her personal experiences to educate folks. And even uplift.
Mm-hmm, and uplift. And I think the other thing that hip hop is doing a little better now… like, even if you look at the 4:44 album getting people to talk about their experiences — and it’s crazy because we started talking about 2016 and how that was transformative to me — I can’t believe how impacted I personally have been from Nipsey’s death and the community. And one of the things, going back to like what we learned from hip hop, all this stuff that he was talking about us doing — the ways in which he was pouring back into the community that raised him. Like, we have so much to learn and if we are responsive to and heed the lessons that are in hip hop, we would be doing so much better, starting with Chuck D. Like you… like, man… I mean, if we would really listen and not just be like, “Oh, that’s deep!” and then move on, but, “Oh, that’s deep: how am I gonna apply?” We’ll so much better off. Yeah man, I agree. Chuck D’s name comes up so often in these conversations. Incredible. It’s interesting: Chuck D went to — graduated from Adelphi university years later in his career, while my father was teaching there. Oh man… A little while ago — about a couple months ago — my father and Chuck D did a conference together, which was interesting for me to watch because like it’s my hip hop father and my actual father sitting down and having a conversation. That’s dope. My parents made sure that I had — you were talking about black books I didn’t have black dolls but I had all types of black things and I’ve seen you do interviews talking about this Anheuser-Busch “Kings and Queens” poster which I also had in my house.
I was gonna ask you if you had it! Like, we’re old enough. It’s the older
ones that know this. Yeah, you know. You have that. You’ve got the footprints in in the sand — the Jesus with the footprints… and got the Anheuser-Busch… I didn’t have the Jesus but I definitely have— Did you guys have the statues with all the naked African women? I did.
My mom had those all over the house. Yeah we had ’em! For sure! Statues with it with the spear. There’s a picture I should have posted, too — but there’s a picture of me and my brother, he was going to his prom and I’m looking up at him with the badest leg warmers that ever existed. I used to wear the things every day — but there’s a picture of Jesse Jackson hanging on the mantle. Next to that is this picture with Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. And then — what else is over there… There’s like essence in the basket. Anyway… it was a very black household. So your father was an activist in Seattle… He still is: Eddie Rye. Eddie Rye with a bullhorn. Shout out to Eddie Rye. And he named you after Angela Davis. I’m named Talib Kweli. Yeah. How important is it for you to have that representation in your name and your household? That black representation growing up? Well it’s major, and the more I learned about Angela Davis, I was floored and humbled, and I’m like “How am I ever gonna live up to that?” So some of it, too, was like pressure, but a full-circle moment for me was just this past January, meeting her for the first time, being like… And then for her to know who I was, I was ready to die right there. I was like, “This is so dope!” You feel like you’re in the right place, right? I just felt, like, whole. You know what I mean? It was in that moment where it was like just complete. Like, wow. This is somebody who not only knows who I am but who says she’s proud of what I’m doing. Like, it meant the world to me. And especially like — she’s brilliant… Ain’t she, though? Oh my God. She’s like brilliant. The stuff she’s doing on mass incarceration, the way in which she’s advocating for our brothers and sisters in Palestine… like all the stuff she’s done… I heard a conversation with her and she mentioned that somebody asked her, “Do you feel spread too thin?” Like having to mobilize and work on behalf of people all over the world. And she was like, “No. If there are people struggling somewhere, like, it’s our obligation to kind of help them.” Right. And I’m like, “Man, that is so real.” But she’s incredible. Yeah, I think you’re a representation or how you grow up like really molds your mind because, as you keep talking about black dolls, we weren’t allowed to have anything besides black dolls. So when we were growing up, we knew black was beautiful. I went to an all-black school. We were taught Lift Every Voice and Sing. Like, we had those things to look up to. Yeah, no: it makes a huge difference and I and I think what I’ve noticed now — or what I’ve come into realizing is that that is still a form of privilege. So I’d like to acknowledge that, too. Like — Absolutely. It’s an educational privilege.
Thank you to my parents… man! Like the education piece. The fact that my mom knew that like as soon as I left the house — every day — that my blackness would be tried and tested. That I might be invisible in textbooks. So they were like, “We’re going show you some other books.”
Right. Like, it was just a major, major, major thing and I am so grateful for them. Well I think the reason why Angela Davis could come up to you, and know who you are, and be proud of you is because you really have on many levels become our voice. Mm-hmm. When we see you on TV, like, you say things with your face, with your eye, and with your words, that, when I’m watching, it’s very rare that I watch a talking head commentating on politics that I’m like, “That’s exactly how I feel.” “That’s exactly what I would have said.” You spoke when we first started talking about how emotional the 2016 election made you feel, and we all saw that. We all saw you on TV going through that. Do you still feel the same rawness or is it more numb now? I think that I vacillate between frustration and anger and disbelief. Like, and you know, you’re kind of like — what I’ll say for me — I judge myself like, “Why aren’t you over this yet?” You know what I mean? Like, so I’m not being very kind to my wounded inner child in those moments, but I’m just like I want to get over it but I can’t because every single day there’s something else more treacherous happening. And on the thing about the voice that I think is important… One: Thank you. That means a lot coming from you. It also feels like a lot of pressure. And sometimes I don’t want to bear that pressure like I just want to speak my truth without having the responsibility of the community. And I think, especially now, because there are things that I say that the community doesn’t love, I am — another point of privilege — is… whether its in every relationship I’ve been in every boyfriend’s family members have all loved me, I’m used to the community being like “That’s our girl! That’s our girl!” And like, within the last seven or eight months it’s been like division even coming from the community and that shit hurts. Sorry — am I not supposed to… Nah, you can curse as much as you fuckin’ want. I’m sorry, okay? That’s my truth! Let it out! That’s an important point that you’re making. But it hurts! It’s really sad because it’s like, Yo! Number one — Black folks aren’t monolithic. It’s absolutely right.
We’re not gonna agree on every single thing all the time. And that’s why our discourse is at right now, where if don’t agree with every single thing I agree with… Yes! Every single thing, and it’s like “Yo! I don’t.” Number one — I’m not I’m not ever going to be the type of voice where I’m going to speak your truth and shame mine or hide mine. I can’t do that, you know? You know what I think that comes from? Coming from academics and speaking to the academic privilege, I was taught — drilled in me — that you have to research. Yeah. Coming from you know the Five-Percent God body community in Brooklyn when I was running the streets, I was taught show and prove. Yeah. Show and prove. If you don’t show and prove then, you know, your word is not bond. Your word has to be bond. And so now we have a generation, I think, of people who you have experienced as a lawyer, you had to go to school for this. You have experience in the community. People talk about “on code” but don’t really understand what that means. People are getting their information, in my opinion, from YouTube exclusively. They’re watching talking heads on YouTube and it’s like confirmation bias. They’re watching things that validate what they already believe. They’re in those comments sections and then they’re going to Twitter and Facebook and they’re speaking on what they saw on YouTube and then making YouTube videos about what they saw on YouTube and they’re like click and let me monetize and give you my opinion about… And so when you don’t have. sort of a filter, you don’t have any type of — and I don’t want to say… It’s not about authority or gatekeeping. It’s just about knowledge. But the thing is — so, yes I agree with that — but I also think that for me my role as a voice is not be… I want my word to be bond, And I will also misspeak because I’m human. I will forget something. My husband was on the phone with my assistant earlier, I was like, “Oh I got pay this
makeup artist” from something two weeks ago, and then I was like, “When I told you I was gonna do that,
did you do it or did I do it?” And she called me back 45 seconds later to make sure I did it. That’s a problem — like, you know, when your short term memory is just… So my point is, in saying this, that sometimes I’ll say things thinking people will understand the full context, but they don’t because they’re not in my head. I do that with my team all the time. But there is no room for error. We’re not giving each other any grace and it’s from, like, a spirit of love. Now, granted, if you go back to you know, Marcus Garvey, W.B., Booker T. — they weren’t always so gracious either. Some nasty comment sections. They would’ve had YouTube videos, child: it would be lit right now. They would’ve been calling Malcolm X an immigrant. Yeah! Or that right now. Yes, but I think that — or Marcus Garvey, too… but, like, the point that I’m raising is just that I would like for us to evolve beyond even where they were, as brilliant as they were. Like, can we operate from a place of love, agree to disagree truly respectfully, not just to be saying it. Right: revolutionary love. That would be a thing. Not just revolutionary rhetoric. Yeah. And listen to understand, and not just listen to condemn because I feel like a lot of these new kids — Number one, they’re very very privileged and they feel like what their word is goes, and they don’t really do all the research like you’re saying because before we had to go and look at encyclopedias. So it’s like most of our information is written down and it’s coming from the same place. Now there’s so many outlets of information you can get that you have no idea if it’s correct or not. And some of that is good, you know, because the encyclopedias were written by old rich white men, but — I loved reading the encyclopedia, though!
Me too! But it’s about vetting your sources, right? It’s about understanding that if you’re reading Huffington Post or The Root or you know, whatever the story is —
you have to understand this is a left, progressive bias, and they might be biased in their thinking. I’m of the opinion that the leftist bias is closer to the truth. That’s my own opinion. But you know you have to understand that there are sites that have a right bias, and Encyclopedia Britannica has a bias. And there’s also sites that just are wrong. You know? And to me like if there was one thing — like, If I die tomorrow, I want people to know this because it’s in print does not make it fact. That’s right.
Period. Like we got a thousand textbooks — I use this example all the time in my… See how I didn’t even finish my last sentence, but I have a better idea… There’s an example that I — Take note: that’s what smart people do. Yes.
They cover it all. Or you got ADD or something… … but there is a thing that I say in speeches often where I’m talking about George Washington and those are not wooden teeth. Those were not wooden teeth in his mouth. They were teeth from his slaves. He didn’t learn that in class because they wanted us to believe he was just out here picking apples or whatever the hell. He was like — right?! Didn’t you learn about George Washington and his apples?
Right. Yeah. You learned that he had wooden teeth in his mouth.
Yeah. Like, they want to glamorize this stuff, and I posted something about that — man… some of these dudes, they had no business on Mount Rushmore and it somebody from Indian country was like they they didn’t need Mount Rushmore, they took that from us, too. And I was like, “Facts! You right!” So, you know, anyway… I don’t even know what my point was. Oh, it’s not fact because it’s in print the textbooks are lying, too.
That’s right. That’s right. But you just got to read everything. When you read an article, try and find at least four more articles on that same thing to try and figure out if it’s telling you the truth or not. Come on journalist and teach. Come on. Come on.
No doubt. So, when I say something that people have an issue with, they go after my music. If they can’t beat my argument, they’ll go after my music or they’ll be like, you know, “Mos Def was better” or this and that… With women, they’re going to go after your looks, or your hair,
Yes! and your clothes immediately. There’s a — I won’t give him any any power. by mentioning his name — but there’s a… … not even an activist… what is he? I don’t even want to call him a scholar because he couldn’t get tenure. A person.
A person, who like is mad at something I said recently. He’s always mad at me. He claims that I was arrogant when I met him. I think I was just rushing out of the venue, but people decide that’s arrogant… but he called me a bitch on whatever platform he has. And so I think that’s interesting. To me I’m more offended by “bitch” than I am “cunt”. “Cunt” doesn’t it hit me as much as like — That’s a white people… Yeah, I think it might be. Yeah, white women get very upset. Yeah, I don’t want to be called one necessarily… You know that you can get kicked off of Twitter for calling a woman “a cunt” but you can’t get kicked off Twitter for calling a woman a bitch? Interesting Yeah. “Cunt” is seen as — I know the T.O.S. very well…
Let’s talk to Jack [Dorsey] about that. I know!
… very well. I told y’all!
I know the in’s and out’s… If y’all didn’t know Talib was a troll, he’s a troll on Twitter, y’all. This is professional. High-grade troll. Professional. Hey man, I troll the trolls, man. I bully the bullies. That’s what I do. I make them rethink their decision. Is that what you do? That’s what I do. I make them rethink their course of action like you might want to back up… Let’s talk about feminism versus womanism. Yes, let’s.
What is your definition of those? So I do believe that feminism… … the intention of the feminism-definition is to ensure that women have the same rights as men, and deserve them. And of course we do. Womanism is, I think, a different iteration of that because — particularly women of color — felt as if feminism didn’t include them… … particularly when the movements kind of started. I think it’s interesting as we’re creeping upon women’s suffrage that the centennial anniversary for women’s suffrage, which would be 2020… … that this is still a discussion point. But I think it needs to be one. 53% of white women voted for Donald Trump. White women are clearly silent in the South where, you know, these abortion bans — bills restricting reproductive justice rights — are being, you know, passed writ large and it’s like at what point do you put your interests over your husband’s and your son’s? So I think that still remains an issue. I was reading this article — I dunno, I want to say a few months ago when they were talking about women’s suffrage coming — I’m gonna send it to you, ‘cuz it’s actually really dope.
OK. But this writer was talking about not repeating the mistakes of the past, right? And making sure that this this time, in 2020, it’s a more inclusive movement that, if it’s a race issue but is still a woman bringing the race issue to you, it’s time for white women to align behind this race issue from the spirit of intersectionality. Like, be really embracing that — and it not just being upon us to embrace intersectionality. That’s the criticism that the black community has with feminism… And not the black community — certain aspects. Some people. They criticize intersectionality, as well. I am someone who would like to think of myself as supportive of feminism — Of the concept of it, not of how it’s been played out in black communities with black women. I’m also supportive of womanism. But there — you know… I publicly identify as a feminist. I publicly identify as a womanist. To me, it’s as if they’re saying the same thing. What do you think it is now — and tying it into the reproductive justice conversation — because from what I understand, reproductive justice as opposed to talking about being pro-life or pro-choice, brings in the fact that white women have a better shot of getting abortions, and it brings in the health risk and it brings in the class of race issues that don’t get talked about in the pro-life/pro-choice thing. What do you think it is that’s creating — besides the obvious — misogyny and sexism, that’s creating such a hatred and such a backlash for women, particularly now, standing up their rights? I think that the religious right has cloaked this in what is holy and I think that if they are to cloak it and what is holy that the religious right should have to state whether they are Christian when they go and get that Viagra. I think that the religious right should have to take a lie detector test on whether or not they’ve ever pulled out. You know, like, I’m just like let’s just be for real because the hypocrisy is insane, and I normally don’t talk about sex like this ’cause I grew up in the church but now I’m just like listen, if we’re gonna legislate vaginas we’re gonna legislate penises, too. That’s right ‘cuz can go get a vasectomy. But I want to legislate vasectomies, too. You know, and even — I started looking at this when I found out that the military paid prescription prices — or paid for prescriptions for Viagra, but they didn’t want to pay for the prescriptions for transgender people in the military. So I was just like, “This is some hypocrisy that’s unbelievable.” So, anyway, it’s just like their description of this is “He who is without sin cast the first stone” and I’m just like — it’s more of that. It’s not really about what is holy because it was about what is holy, there wouldn’t be migrant children sleeping on rocks. If it was about what is holy, we wouldn’t be locking people up so that private prisons could make more money. If it was about what was holy, we wouldn’t have the homelessness crisis that is rampant throughout the country, right? If it was about what’s holy, we wouldn’t be fighting for people to be making minimum wage. A livable wage that is a minimum wage, right? It is about control. It is about fear. And it’s… yeah. They’re on their Pharisee-type stuff… That’s interesting to me because I didn’t grow up in a church. But what I’ve seen happen in politics and I’ve seen a black community — certain people in our community — fall for this. It’s this idea that the right-wing or conservatives own family values or they own the concept of wanting to be active in your community and this and that… And, you know, it’s very important to me that people understand that you’re someone who is not a right-wing person at all… At all.
… but you grew up in the church, and you have the same values. Like, those values are not owned by a political party in the same way that the right-wing doesn’t own homophobia. But the other thing is, like you said, they don’t own family values. I would say that they don’t even display family values… I agree with that.
… which is why there so many broken families. And that’s how long the con is because they don’t even display family values but they’ve convinced the whole country that not only that like if you’re not a right-wing person, you know, like right-wingers and white supremacists who argue with me online — they try to claim Malcolm X because they’re saying he’s a conservative because he’s religious and he’s a family man. He must be a conservative… He’s a pro-black, Pan-African son of an immigrant, Muslim black man who didn’t even identify as an American. They’re trying to claim Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King [Jr.], too. And who else? They’ve been trying to claim King for years but this Malcolm thing is new. You know?
Yeah. That’s fair. I hear you. They probably are pulling old clips. I think the worst thing that happens now, speaking of what happens online, people take, like, small sound bytes but take them out of context. They took the Ballot or Bullet speech, and they make these GIFs and these these memes where they take where Malcolm says he’s “not a Democrat.” But he also said, “I’m not a Republican.” “I’m not an American.”
That’s right. That’s right. They just take the “I’m not a Democrat.” He was very critical of Democrats and liberals, but he would also criticize the Republicans in the same sense. They would just leave that out. It’s not just the labels though. It really is democracy. There’s no such thing as a democracy with a two party system. And the third lane is nonexistent. The independent streak — the Green Party ain’t a thing. Bernie is, you know, Independent until he needs the Democratic base for votes. It’s not a real thing. And so I always think about — speaking of posters on the wall — my dad brought back home… … right after Nelson Mandela’s election, like this thing about South Africa’s democratic system and there were all these parties, like they had parties based on sports… There were a gazillion parties on this poster. And in my mind, in high school… in middle school, I was like that’s what democracy is supposed to look like. And I’ve never shared that thought. I’m like we could have a Black Party. If the Tea Party pushed Republicans further to the right, we could have a Black Party that pushes Democrats further to inclusivity. Don’t call yourself a big tent party if half of the damn party is invisible to you. So it’s so funny to me because they’re still saying I’m bought off by the Democrats. I’m like, “Where is the money then?!” These folks are afraid of me?! Like I’m not bought off by no damn Democratic Party. I’m more critical of the Democrats
‘cuz I expect more out of them than Republicans, but I’m like, “You guys are so dumb.” They say I get checks, too. They say I’ve got a Soros check and a DNC check and… Oh, you got a DNC check, too? Write some checks for me
because I need some checks… The DNC don’t be paying no money. Yeah. No, no. They really don’t. No, they really don’t. And they were mad at me, too, not that long ago. My friend is a senior adviser over there now, but not that long ago they were like… A lot of people in our community or sort of… … over the voting thing, you know? And I’ve even in the past spoken on why I didn’t vote. I’ve evolved in my thinking is that Yeah, I was about to say you just got a CNN-look. Yeah, is that one of the looks? Yeah, I was like, “The hell?!” So, early in my life, you know, I didn’t like all the money in politics. I didn’t like the Electoral College. I didn’t like my choices. I didn’t — I still to this day don’t like the concept of voting for the lesser of two evils. I don’t agree with that concept. What turned me around on voting was reading about Malcolm X and Adam Clayton Powell and Malcolm, who’s my hero… How they used to vote as a strategy and as a tool. Block voting. Getting the community together on certain issues that we can — and looking at other communities in New York City that were doing the same thing. Of course other communities didn’t have the history of slavery like our community has, so it’s different. A different level of organizing. But I understand why people don’t want to vote. So I’m not critical of it. I now speak in favor of voting, but I don’t — I try not to shame or look at someone because I know what that feels like. I know why people thought like that. Right now we have a situation where Donald Trump — People in our community say, “Well, why does it even matter that he’s president?” Because on the ground, whether it’s Trump or Obama, conditions don’t change. And there’s truth to that. But there’s also truth to the fact that there’s aspects of the Trump administration that are dangerous in ways that we’ve never seen. And I think that you’ve spoken on those things very eloquently. And so what is it about Trump that makes him more anti-black than our past presidents? Yeah. I don’t know that he’s more anti-black than our past presidents? I think that he’s more bold with it. It’s not like implicit: it is explicit and clear. I think that I take issue with voting or getting people to vote just to oppose him. I feel like there is an empowerment strategy that must exist to get people to see their importance. I really believe our failure to mobilize around — not just voting either because I think that’s part of the problem — but around our representation holistically in politics is. we’re still kind of carrying slave mentality. And what I mean by that is if you’re not economically empowered because you don’t have the resources and if your community is suffering because it doesn’t have the resources and the one thing you can do is engage in a political process to get those resources to the community and to businesses to change lives is engaging in the political process, like, that is the one place where we can change things and for whatever reason that does not click for us. Right. One of the things I think that was the most humbling for me where I related more to this idea of not voting or why even do this if it’s not going to change is in the 2018 election watching what happened with Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum. I promise you Andrew won. I agree. I cannot wait until it’s uncovered, I don’t know how it’s gonna be uncovered, but I promise you he won. And in my opinion — There was such a groundswell, as well. Man! And my visceral reaction was like, “Why the f*** do I even do this?” Like, “Why do I even do this?” A lot of people get stuck there. And that’s what happened, so I was like let me sit with this so I can understand it so I’m more empathetic going forward but like how do we change it because we can’t stay here. They were going to kill us. And I’m not talking about taking lives and it being another civil war although it could be that way. But like they’re going to starve us to death of all the resources it is a slow death. There’s an analogy that folks use all the time talking about, If you put a frog in boiling hot water it’s gonna pop right out. But if you put the frog in the pot of water and slowly increase the temperature it’ll be boiled to death. That’s what’s happening with us. So the reason why we have to pay attention to everything that Trump is doing and all the little Trumps in states and in city councils all over. And the judges they put in so they can have this anti-abortion legislation. And the judges who will say that they can’t even acknowledge that Brown versus Board of Education is the law of the land which integrated schools like… We have to pay attention to that. That’s right because they’re playing the long game. Yeah! And they’ve been doing that. There’s no better advocate for us than ourselves. So I’m saying vote so that you can put people who think like us and look like us in office. Vote because there would have never been a BET if Bob Johnson didn’t engage in the political process. Sure he sold it to Viacom now but the point is we had representation on air. All of that stuff happens through
the policy-making process. And that’s been sort of your whole mission, from my perspective. Impact, which from what I could tell took off very quickly. It has been super-successful. “Legislative advocacy” is a term that I had never heard of until I looked up what I want to ask you about. And that sounds like what you’re talking about here. Part of it is legislative, but I’m really talking about political advocacy overall. Whether it is aligning state legislators like American Legislative Exchange Council that was stood up by the Koch brothers, they were writing up bills and those state legislators in other places were copy and pasting that same legislation and droppin’ it. We need to be doing the same thing!
Right. That doesn’t take money to do. So we developed a whole database of every black elected official in the country, and I promise you we are gonna make that work for us. You know when you Google search somebody and things come up? And, you know — with Angela Rye… CNN… Angela Rye… Impact… “What does Angela Wright do” comes up. And it’s because… What?! Who is this fool, actually? You know especially around like the CBC, the Congressional Black Caucus. People are super-ignorant about what it is that the Congressional Black Caucus does. So I would like you to enlighten us. Yes absolutely. So I worked for the Congressional Black Caucus during the 112th Congress. I was the executive director and general counsel. The Congressional Black Caucus now because people turned out in the 2018 election is the largest it’s ever been. There are 55 members of Congress, black members Congress, who are members. There are two black members who aren’t joining, so 57 members total… … They’re Republicans. But what they do — they’re called the conscience of the Congress, and over time the CBC has done everything from introducing a budget every year that they thought — You know, basically how different departments should be funded. They have introduced a bill on reparations. Every single Congress, Mr. Conyers started that and Sheila Jackson Lee — Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee from Houston just took that bill over. Whether it’s in the amendment process, making sure that we’re represented — that communities of color are considered, that they’re advocated for — those are our voices, and I see them as mothers and fathers, some of them big brothers big sisters now… We don’t always all agree. They don’t always all agree with each other.
Right. But they are some of the best fighters we have in Congress, and I’m just grateful to see how they continue to evolve. What do you have to say to people who work within our community who are critical of them in the same way that they’re critical of people like Barack Obama? Critical of them for working with big banks or working with certain lobbyists… What do you have to say to those critics? So, the first thing I would say is I was the CBC ED during President Obama’s tenure, and some of the toughest moments I’ve had was when the CBC couldn’t get support from the Obama administration on things. Like, we were doing a jobs tour, and it was devastating to me that we couldn’t get support and alignment with them. They decided to do a jobs tour in rural America when we were going to the heart of the community. That’s when black unemployment was double — like, well it’s always double the national average, but it was like 16 percent. It was super-high. So that was really crushing, but there were also some moments where we really did align and could work together. I think that, again, the way that you make policy is not monolithic, and they have to take into consideration what’s in the best interests of their constituents in their districts. And sometimes those things are not in alignment. Right now, this is the first time where I think most of the CBC members do not represent majority-minority districts, meaning they have more white constituents than they have black. Wow. They will still be the voices of black Americans because we don’t have anybody else.
Right right. Also you talked about big banks: Congresswoman Maxine Waters is the chair — the first woman, the first black person ever, to chair Financial Services. Child, she has taken these big banks to task. Like, it is not happening. Yeah, we love Maxine Waters around here. She’s like, “Maybe we should break y’all up.” Auntie Maxine.
You know. “Maybe y’all should go to jail!” You know… Yeah yeah yeah.
“That way…” You know, like she does not… she does not care. And she’s like the dopest, fiercest advocate ever. That was my first political internship. Shout out to Maxine Waters.
Yes. The Queen! Do you have a top five favorite MCs? So I’m gonna say Black Thought. Black Thought. Exactly. I’m going to say… I’ve been trying to tell ’em… I’m gonna say J. Cole. I’m gonna do some newer ones because I feel like the newer ones don’t get… OK, J. Cole.
Yeah! I’m gonna say Kendrick. I’m going to say… I need a woman… I’ll put Lauryn in there. Yeah, Lauryn’s gotta make the top five. I had to put Lauryn in there. Miss Hill…
How many do I have? You’re at four. Damn! See what happens? Every time! You’ve got one more. A lot of competition for that last spot. I know! Choose wisely. I’m like… I’m gonna say Tupac. Tupac Shakur… I’m gonna say Tupac. I have like five more! In the spirit of revolutionary love…
Man! … for Tupac Shakur.
I love Tupac. Ladies and gentlemen, Angela Rye. Thank you! In and out. That was fun! Not enough time!