rp daily: read. write. lead.

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read. write. lead. tom and rp spent this Juneteenth in discussion with alyesha wise, who is a spoken word poet, artist, and speaker from camden, new jersey. alyesha currently resides in los angeles where she is the co-founder of Spoken Literature Art Movement—an organization providing poetry education and extensive programming for poets, and is a teaching artist for Street Poets—a non-profit mostly serving juvenile injustice-involved youth.  

to learn more about alyesha wise: https://www.alyeshawise.com/bio.html

to check out alyesha’s poetry: https://www.alyeshawise.com/poetry

tom scott is chairman & co-founder of the nantucket project. rp eddy was the architect of the Clinton administration’s pandemic response framework and the United Nations response to the global AIDS epidemic & is CEO of global intelligence firm Ergo.  

rp is co-author of the best-selling award-winning book Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes with Richard A. Clarke, Former National Security Council counterterrorism adviser.

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transcript

 

[00:00:16] So hi, everybody. It’s Friday. It is June the 19th. It is. 

 

[00:00:23] Quite popular at the moment, and I hope for the future known as Juneteenth, which is in a word or term, I don’t think that many Americans would have used. Two weeks ago and now it seems to be on the lips of everybody, which is pretty cool. And I’m going to describe it in a minute. Welcome, Alisha and Arpey. 

 

[00:00:48] Hi, guys. And Lisa, I’m going to give you a more formal introduction in a moment, but just by way of background. So Juneteenth. It’s also known as Freedom Day or at Emancipation Day. It’s from June 19th, 1865, when Texas freed the last slaves who are still being held. Two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. 

 

[00:01:07] So this was well after the time that legally they had been freed, but practically they had not. Lincoln was assassinated two months before this date. And so that’s what it’s meant to both remember. And then I you know, what I’ve been told by many people is also to celebrate. So it’s a day of remembrance and a day of celebration. 

 

[00:01:34] One of the things you guys have heard us talk about over the months and an Aleesha, this show was primarily started as a response to Kofod because of our PE’s expertize in that specific field. But then more generally in government, in business and in other places, um, and it’s evolved over time. But one of the things that Arpey has talked a lot about is that statistics don’t tell very good stories, narratives do, and that people the imprints on their souls tend to come from. 

 

[00:02:04] The narratives, you know, the narratives and you know my own sense of poetry, which is rare. You know, I don’t like spend a lot of my days in poetry. I guess you could say that there’s poetry and music and poetry and other things, and I spend more time in those places. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to have this profound respect for poetry as like an emotional storytelling efficiency that’s very powerful. And I think that you’re someone who’s particularly powerful in that realm. I want to mention one other thing, which is that Arpey and I are two white men who have our own perspectives. I think we hope to be open and hope to be. Part of solutions. But we also, I think, recognize our limitations and that. 

 

[00:02:54] You know, I think you can help us individually to the extent you’re open to that and others who are watching, so I just want to recognize that as we kind of dove in here. I’m so Alisha’s a poet who I came to know through a friend of mine, Mick Ebeling, actually connected me with you. And then she spoke at the Nantucket Project, performed at the Nantucket Project, and has performed in a variety of ways with a sense. And at the moment, we’re hoping to put a trip together where we’re going to travel the length of the Mississippi and do a series of conversations along the Mississippi. But she’s the co-founder of Slam, which is the spoken literature art movement, and it’s about poetry, education. And she is a teaching artist for street poets, which, you know, you think about that and you think about that in these times. And, you know, if I would hope to accomplish something from our trip, Alicia, it is to sort of elevate your words and your message and tie it into a big message that is sort of. Foundational lies by poetry. You know, at the moment, the notion is can we open and close each of these episodes, we’re going to build with poetry. And that’s that’s the idea anyway. That was a big and long introduction. And I, I. But I wanted to set the context in a way that I hope is useful. But before we go on, just Aleesha. Hi and welcome in Arpey. Feel free to jump in, but respond anything I said. 

 

[00:04:17] Aleesha, you said a lot of great things. Hello. Thanks for having me again. Yeah. 

 

[00:04:26] I was struck by what you said, something that Arpey said about narrative’s being more powerful than statistics. 

 

[00:04:35] I don’t know if I misquoted that, but I just I really latched on to that because it’s something I’ve been I’ve had in my head for many years. And I say that quite often. And I get it. I just that really stuck with me. Today is a very complex day in my head. It’s a celebration. And it’s also like I’m I’m really happy that somebody said you’re you’re allowed to be finally free all the way free, I guess, whatever that means. So it’s like I have these battles in my head when it comes to Juneteenth. But overall, it is a celebration. And I’m glad to say it’s getting more recognized for sure. 

 

[00:05:12] Yeah. And Alicia, when you think about the way I described poetry, which I do remember the words I said exactly. 

 

[00:05:20] But I always think of it as an efficient storytelling device that can touch your soul. 

 

[00:05:24] Efficient just time. It’s quick. How do you react to that? 

 

[00:05:30] Yes, that’s that’s what it is. I mean, I always. Poetry has a way of. Yeah. Delivering a message that you’ve probably heard over and over maybe from a mentor or maybe from some random adult to your teacher or your parents. We hear messages all the time and it probably goes like right over our heads. The poetry has a way of really getting it right to you and just taking things and just delivered it for you in a way that really just touches your soul and your heart. And I’m grateful that that happened. That’s what happened to me. I just heard a bunch of poets speaking some truth and I was like, whoa, you know, I was very young. And I was like, guys, I was very impacted by that. Just telling me things that I probably heard before. But in a way that really struck me enough that I want to I want to make change. Like I’m I’m fed up. And it was something about the way poetry was delivered to me. And I wanted to be part of that solution. 

 

[00:06:22] And when you so when you sort of delve into this world, how satisfying is it now? I’m so in my head. And what here’s what I’m imagining like. First, you start with, like, strong feelings and ideas. Then you start creating art. Then you create audience and it’s in it. You know, the satisfaction of it waxes and wanes. Is that true? Am I describing that right? 

 

[00:06:46] I mean. Yes. It’s really I used to have I guess I used to be able to say this is how the journey goes. But overall, I mean, there’s really no formula to it. I mean, overall, it’s very satisfying just knowing. First of all, I believe this is something I was too, I guess, proud to say a few years ago. But I believe strongly in what I do. I believe in my voice and the impact it has. And to have that belief and know that people were in the room are going to be impacted by that and want to actually do something after you speak. That’s such a responsibility as such a charge. It’s such a it’s also very it’s an adrenaline rush at the same time. That’s not why I do it, but it is, you know, so. Yes, it’s to answer your question. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. 

 

[00:07:35] Do you when you think about that adrenaline rush and one of the things that I’ve come to know is that the power of focus is just so intense. You know, there’s something and that those things that bring us to that place, a focus for me are rare. And so when I’m in that moment, that adrenaline seems to fire up. Does that make any sense to you? Like, how how do you react to that when you describe the adrenaline thing? 

 

[00:08:02] Yes. Till what what happens on stage when I feel that rush or what happens? It’s not even just on stage. I’ve been doing a lot of my performances. The isn’t I. I don’t feel the same, but I still feel very. Yeah. Charged up. And what really gets me is not knowing or not thinking. Oh, the audience is going to react differently. It’s not about that. It’s like I have a responsibility right now. I believe that I have the power to deliver this message. And I’m just I’m really, really, really passionate about every single thing I write. And that’s important. And coming from someone who is also a teaching artist and who has a lot of who is and who teaches poetry probably way more often than I perform it, I encounter people who sometimes get into this for reasons that people get into a lot of things. It’s like, oh, I saw poets go viral on YouTube. So let me try, you know, and I notice a difference in the energy. I notice the difference in the passion. Even if some somebody is a really great performer, there’s something missing there. So my heart is always connected to it because it’s not about the applause, even though that is a plus. I’m not going to pretend it isn’t, but it’s the it’s what I’m doing it for. And that’s I’m so grateful because when I was 11, that’s what got me going. That’s what got my heart beating here in poetry and being affected by the message being who was delivering it and then realizing I could do that same thing to this day. That’s what gets me going. 

 

[00:09:33] Yeah. I’m going to play a clip, Alisha, of you at our place. This is this is last fall. 

 

[00:09:44] Since we’re together, we might as well try since we’re together, we might as well say I am here. I showed up. I am willing. I feel you. I am a blank page. And I’m asking that you trust my rough draft. Won’t you please. Won’t you. Please. Won’t you. 

 

[00:10:06] Please. Please. Please. Neighborhood. 

 

[00:10:20] OK, so for me, you know, the notion of Nabor, which is the notion of our trip. OK. And the idea is that conversation is the answer. Right. And that’s what we mean. My neighbor, like loving thy neighbor, is the root of it. And, you know, when we do that gathering, we’re there for four days. And I’m trying to highlight something that we were just discussing, and that is that I’m going to speak as a producer and a producer who has a hope. And my hope is that we can translate our message. And if you’re producing and trying to translate a message and somebody like Aleesha stands on the stage and delivers, you just saw a small part of what she delivered. That’s a gift. You know, for me, I’m like, wow, I just got a heavy and intense dose of what I had hoped for. And that’s why that’s why I think of this inefficiency. And I know there’s another part to this. There’s probably many layers to this. But, you know, your body language, your intonation and the performance itself, in addition to the words, is very powerful. 

 

[00:11:20] How do you feel about the way I described it? Because there’s something maybe crass about being a producer, but maybe there’s hope in the message. But how do you react to that? 

 

[00:11:30] Yeah, I mean, I can’t you know, when it comes to you being oppressed, somebody said, you know, that’s it, that’s how you do it all. But you mention something about like, you know, your your body language and everything and. Yeah. It’s just I don’t just treat the calm as like, OK, I’m delivering a poem. There’s something about everything that goes in it, including the body. I always I still almost feel that your body is directly connected to your craft. And that doesn’t mean you have to be quote unquote. Well, we’re healthy. It just means being in tune with yourself and being honest with yourself. How do you feel? And let that let that flow through your performance and above that. You know, I’m at the acritical performer. It’s just that’s how I perform. But I know people who are very still when they’re up there. Some of my favorite performers don’t move at all. I’ve seen some people who are just looking right in their eyes, but that’s their body language and that’s their body connection with the audience. And it does something and it’s believable and it’s powerful because it’s honest. You know, as I say, however, you’re connected to the work. Let that flow out. So, yeah, whatever you receive from it, I’m I’m I’m grateful. You’ve been a producer. He gives them. But that’s also my goal. I want to make the people inside. It is a bit you have to be and I remember that day I was super nervous. I was like, please get into the work release and remember the message, because I was I was very nervous before I got there. 

 

[00:12:53] Well, so I’m glad and thank you for that. R.P.M. man. You know, one of the themes that we’ve been talking about over the last few months and Alicia, you may have seen some of it or none of it. 

 

[00:13:02] Neither way. There’s I don’t take offense if you’re having fun, walk watching. But I do want to point out that one of the things that I’ve repeated over and over again, and it was particularly it became profoundly obvious to me on my trip, is that when people say the system is broken, I don’t want to argue, yes, it is or it isn’t. But I think the culture is more broken than the system in the culture has more power than the system. And and so what what what I think we just witnessed is a lot of culture. You know, this is like an ethos of a people that is forming and, you know, Arpey, somebody who comes from the realm of government and hears me kind of saying this over and over again. 

 

[00:13:40] I mean, I think in some ways I don’t want to overstate and take. But, you know, I think we’ve had a melding philosophically Arpey of sort of like one of the things like your expertize or the relationship between charismatic leaders and people with expertize. And then this question of like how a system of culture interacts with a system of government and how those things work. 

 

[00:14:01] Just curious how you might react to any of that Arpey and sort of this journey and anything that you’ve heard from Aleesha. 

 

[00:14:08] Oh, hey, Alicia. Good to see you. I was in the audience when you did the poem. The clip just represented. And it was so powerful and awesome. So thank you. It’s a privilege to be here with you. Yeah. I mean, Kerry’s telling stories, right? Like, you know, we we don’t learn from stats. We learn from stories. We learn from poems. I was watching a bunch of Alisha’s poems. Morning. Absolutely rocked to me. And and that’s what a leader can do, right? That’s what a narrative can do. That’s what we’ve talked a lot about. I think I think the Vache Murthy, the surgeon general from Obama, gave us a really great lesson when we sat with him and they said, you know, there’s there’s we’re being attacked by disease. It’s a pandemic. That’s a moment of horror, period. There’s movies about that. That’s a horrendous thing. You got that. Then we have this is pre George Foyt. And then we have a situation where we don’t know that we as herd animals can look to a leader to protect us. I don’t think very many Americans feel like we’re being well at and protected in the face of this enemy. So that in and of itself is a problem. Right. But it creates this dread, this fear, this fog inside all of us that cycles into other negative, negative things. So the charismatic leader, charismatic or not, the person who is able to convey to us a message in this situation, talk about a message of hope and protection that we don’t have, is a very integral thing to who we are biologically. Right. Like, we literally have parts of our brain looking for the alpha leader so we can follow them. We are herd animals. If we don’t find that alpha leader, if we’re not that alpha leader and we don’t find that alpha leader, we are uncomfortable if we don’t know where we’re headed and that uncomfort, you know, leads to really negative outcomes. So one way to lead, you know, this think about the best speech you’ve ever heard, the best the most motivated you ever were. It was from a story. 

 

[00:16:09] Yeah. Do you think of these things, Aleesha, in that way, in other words? I mean, you Arpey was using terms like Alpha and leader and those kinds of things, which I happen to agree with him. But do you ever think of it in that way? You ever think of yourself like, what role do I play in leadership etc? 

 

[00:16:26] I do. I think of the responsibilities I have quite. 

 

[00:16:31] Just yesterday I had a big talk with myself and with some friends, just about like when you step in to as a poet, I don’t think it’s just because you’re an artist or a poet or whatever, you have to become a leader or you have to assume some type of responsibility. But when you put yourself out there like that, which I have for many years, you know, I have to do, I’m in front of people giving speeches. 

 

[00:16:54] I’m talking about really caught in heavy topics that are transformative, especially to the communities that I represent. So in that way, I set myself up to be a leader in. But I also think about what that means. Like when I think of leadership, I think of setting an example. I think of being responsible. I don’t think of like I am I’m in control or I am the lead of this, like, flock. I think of I’m part of the community and I just have more responsibility, more of a lack of other words, like a higher. I don’t want to where hierarchy. But that’s the way it in my head. I like to think of when I think of community, I don’t really necessarily think of leaders. Now I know it’s necessary. I know it’s necessary to have people who are. 

 

[00:17:41] Kind of delegates things and someone who I guess is in charge, but overall, I think of a community kind of leadership, I think of people coming together to work together. 

 

[00:17:53] And that’s how I’ve been functioning for a long time. And that’s how I kind of want more of our communities to function in. Yeah. It’s been a conversation even right now with all of the things going on with process and everything we talk about more ways a community can serve. So, yeah, this I got to have a back and forth, but I know I have more responsibilities. So, yes, I am a leader in a lot of ways. But I want to be part of the flock at the same time. 

 

[00:18:18] I’ll just give you one. You know, leader of all these words are pretty, pretty broad and articulate tools until they’re come out of your mouth, in which case they’re amazing. But, you know, you I watched me videos today. You have one. I think it’s called Good Guy, and it’s about two minutes long. And watching that video, you led me I followed you into a series of thoughts I hadn’t had before. Just that simple. Right now you can lead some in action, including the thought. I don’t know. In that instance, I was your follower. You led me. I realize things I hadn’t realized before. 

 

[00:18:56] And that was that was pretty neat. 

 

[00:19:00] You know that, by the way. Sorry. Did I step on you The Early Show? Were you gonna say something? 

 

[00:19:04] No, I just I just had a moment because like. Out of all the poems, if you if you asked me to think that I picked the poem that I like might demonstrate my leadership. I wouldn’t have picked that one. But it makes sense. It does make sense. It’s just I was kind of like happy you chose that one. Good. Usually. Usually people will pick something that’s like super. That’s about like me being a black woman or like something I have to do with race more than something I have to do with like, you know, about men when it comes to. Yeah. Leadership is just. Is it interesting? 

 

[00:19:37] I thought, well, it was because it was because it talked to me. Right. Yeah. You know, I, I think of myself as a good guy. Like Gossling, I take a lot of pride in I think my parents were I think of myself as a good guy. And so those two words, again, words. Right. But, you know, I have an image of what that means and what I try to live up to. And then in your poem, you talk about a very different you talk, I think about someone sort of abusing that concept or people you don’t know. I don’t want to interpret. I tell you what, it’s what it sounds like to me. So that’s why that moved me. 

 

[00:20:14] Yeah, yeah. Yeah. On point. That’s what it is. 

 

[00:20:18] Well, you know, it’s some. For me, this is a net feeling I have, my net feeling is hope. And when I say net net of the last three months, the last three months have been a really profound three months filled with challenge. And look at the net feeling I have is one of hope. 

 

[00:20:38] And the hope has to do with, you know, kind of what you were just describing, Arpey, which is like, you know, things get crusty. It’s that that’s just nature that things get crusty. And how do that how does that crust get removed and open and then improved upon? Well, sometimes it happens through struggle. 

 

[00:20:55] Often, frankly, it happens through struggle. And then the question is like ten, you sustain an energy or build an energy. When I was hearing you talk about leadership, Alysha, all I can think of is like being your sister’s keeper, your brother’s keeper. And that that is leadership. And, you know, it’s like servant leadership, which is derived of love, like that’s what it is. If you’re gonna put your energy into, like, a humble approach to your gift. So I believe in Dharma. I just do. And Dharma, for those of you don’t know, is essentially what you were born to be. OK. And I believe in that and that and that there’s like this miracle of creation from whatever source you want to believe. That seems to be the case, that someone’s gonna bake incredible food and someone else is going to you know, and there’s this mix of things and someone else is going to tell the stories, which means, by the way. And I think this is so critical to story. They have to be observers. Right? They didn’t just this didn’t come from nothing. 

 

[00:21:48] These are people who are observing reality and really considering reality and then synthesizing reality and sharing reality. Now, very often we just it’s the sharing that we receive, which is probably the act of leadership. But that act of leadership began with a passion and a curiosity. That was the observation that with no observation, there’s no there’s no message. And so I think in that spirit, I think of you. I mean, that that’s what I mean. I was using the boring terms. What do I want as a producer? I want someone to lead these people down a path. 

 

[00:22:18] So your leader, period. And you’re you know, and in that moment I’m like, get the fuck out of the way. Like, let her do this. So, you know, and I’m mentioning that because me too. I don’t like the word leadership because I. And yet I believe in it like, you know, when we’re in school, like, learn how to be a leader. And. Okay. Whatever that means. 

 

[00:22:39] It is such a mess. You know, you go to the leadership section, a bookstore. It is just it’s again, it’s as such the word means nothing because it means everything. But if people follow you, you are a leader. Value to thoughtful action. And then there’s followership that matters to you. And you mentioned survey leadership. I think that’s such a critical point. A quick thought. I don’t know if this is completely putting on the spot in, Tom. I’ll let you decide if this is about ideas as well. Is there any way we can get you to read? Good guy. Well, we’re together today. 

 

[00:23:14] If it’s fine with be all you know, it’s a very explicit poem. 

 

[00:23:19] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. 

 

[00:23:23] Do you need a minute to do it? 

 

[00:23:25] Yeah. I don’t want to snack on the thing or somewhere. OK. OK. I don’t think I know mate so well while you’re looking. 

 

[00:23:37] Think think about and I don’t want to disrupt you. But when I’ve mentioned that the the the hope, can you identify? Like, how do you feel when I say that as far as hope is? Well, hope is my net position on where we are in life today. If you like if I woke up this morning, say, how do you feel about your life in the state of the world? The predominant thing for me is hope. How do you react to that? 

 

[00:24:03] Yes, I’ve had I’ve had a lot of. Moments of hope in his last three months. And it goes in and out. There are moments where I’m like, well. Nobody’s trying to do anything. 

 

[00:24:17] People are complacent. Whatever. But I’m a continue to be myself and be the person I know I am, but I’m kind of just losing hope in people. So that word is still there. It’s a different feeling. Then I have moments. It’s been most often in the mornings, not every morning, but most often in the morning. I feel like I’m still here. I’m good. Maybe I. I’d do like my yoga. A little workout at the Tilled charge stuff. Usually after Sharon like doing some. I’ve been getting back into writing. I took some time off because I wish I was too stressed out to even want to write. But I’ve gotten back into writing and creating and doing a lot of online performances. And they’ve actually been giving me a lot of hope, just seeing even people on a zoom screens, people who are committed to see a change, committed to just like I’m going I want to be a good person. I want to show up. Even if they’re flawed, they’re like, I’m showing up in those people. 

 

[00:25:17] They give me hope, you know? So I’ve had more of that than I’ve had moments of just feeling kind of frustrated and lost and discouraged. So, yeah, I hold on to that word. I know I know a lot of people who don’t like the word hope. And like, we need more than hope. Forget hope. But it’s. I feel it. I’m more of a person who gravitates towards, like energy and what I feel in here than I do like while this is happening. And, you know, statistics say bubble blog. You know, we might not make it a more if like, I feel it here. And more often I’ve been feeling that we’re we’re gonna be good. It’s just not going to be easy. 

 

[00:25:54] Are you ready to read the poem? So are you all ready to go? Tom is intense. Prepare yourself. 

 

[00:26:05] Good guys are everywhere and they don’t see me, good guys pull up the chair. Good guys hold the door unlocked the passenger side for good guys. Drive safe. Yes, good guys need you to like it. Good guys say try this. Read this. I talked to this good guy. Say, trust me, good guys say, well, fuck you then. Good guys look like they’re wearing a suit and tie. Good guys make that as good guys graduate for the good guys. Sweat and sweat and touch themselves in public. Good guys tell you the cover up, bitch. No, not bitch. Good. Guys, don’t say bitch. Good guys love good women, hate bitches. Good guys are everywhere looking for bitches. They were in the clubs and on the bus and in the office and wherever women die from. All men. I once met a good guy at a party. He spoke nice. Asked me out. I said, I am engaged. He’s not. Well, I am a doctor. I met another good guy in a record store. He grabbed me like I was asking to be bought. I said, don’t touch me. He responded, Why do I always got to act like that? The remaining details of the stories don’t matter. They both about other men who saved me. How could be here? Good guys are everywhere and I can’t tell who is what. Good guys are everywhere. And I am looking at at least one for saving. But sometimes the room is full and I say no. In a fist swings my way and all the good boys back against the wall and the clerk and caught and sweet smile. And let me buy you a drink of good shakes his head and lowers his eyes so low it does not see. And I am 16 years old again fleeing from a glass bottle down or dark alley running, running, running without a good guy to help me home. 

 

[00:28:00] So I find myself definitely on both sides of that poem. Is that the idea or the idea of the poem? 

 

[00:28:15] I don’t like the idea of the parliament is everything. I’ve especially grown up where I grew up, grew up and just yes, just observation. I know there are actual good guys out there, but like you said earlier, there are those who abuse that term and who actually I’ve seen them say, you know. Come on, I don’t like you. Girls don’t want to go guy do everything for you. And they think that’s a permission to manipulate women into it. Yes. Take advantage of women. And I’ve experienced that firsthand, especially growing up in the neighborhood that I did in not saying that misogyny and stuff is more prevalent in black communities in inner cities. But that’s you know, that’s my narrative. That’s my story. So I definitely know that it’s heavy there and nothing’s really done about it. 

 

[00:29:06] So you had to write that poem for all of the guys who were like, not me. 

 

[00:29:13] I remember the first time somebody said to me, the road to hell is paved with good intention, which I think I was like 35 when I heard it. 

 

[00:29:21] And I did. And I know I heard I was like Aaron area. Know that’s that’s me. I think I think that’s enough. And it was, you know, you know, just the notion that it was on the road to hell. 

 

[00:29:33] Help. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. I can see that anywhere anyway. 

 

[00:29:38] I’m going to. Yeah. 

 

[00:29:42] I’m going to I’m going to bring in who I think is a good guy. I think he’s a good guy. I’m pretty sure he’s a good guy. He certainly has elements of him that make him a good guy. And I thought it might be an interesting way to sort of consider the moment. 

 

[00:29:58] And it’s I just have a little bit of the clip, but I think you both will remember it. I hope you both remember it. 

 

[00:30:04] And I think you were both were there. So let’s try this. 

 

[00:30:11] I’ve done some research. 

 

[00:30:12] I looked for some examples where justice prevailed and the quality trial from Liberty One and nobody had to do anything uncomfortable or inconvenient. I can’t find any examples of. 

 

[00:30:23] And that was from last fall, that’s Bryan Stevenson for those of you don’t know, Bryan Stevenson, who runs Equal Justice Initiative down in Montgomery, Alabama. And among other things, he is sort of brought out. He’s built a system of memorials to lynching. He’s also gotten many innocent people off death row and other sentences. But he also is just a very thoughtful person who speaks poetically. You know, I think he speaks beautifully. I don’t know that you’d call him a poet, per say, but he sort of certainly speaks beautifully. And I wanted to put this clip in because it relates to the clip. I showed a view which was about neighbor. It relates to the notion of being together, of community. And to me, it’s a place that. 

 

[00:31:13] Is the right ask right now, which is to be proximate. And that’s what he’s talking about. He’s talking about be physically together with people like you and unlike you. 

 

[00:31:24] And there’s an answer there that is about truth and love. That’s my interpretation. First of all, do you think, Michael, how do you feel on my interpretation? And you can say whether or not you think he’s a good guy, too. 

 

[00:31:37] Actually, remember, I was there. I was one of my favorites. It might have been my favorite. I can’t remember it. It was some dynamic speakers. But definitely one of my favorite speakers. 

 

[00:31:47] And I was, first of all, impact that, because when it comes to just be the the American justice system, the prison system and everything. I’m very invested in that, in what’s going on. And I was just especially working for Street Poets where we directly work with incarcerated and previously incarcerated people, mostly youth. So, yeah, I was just all the way in and he just he genuinely felt like a good guy. There are people who do. Great work, but I don’t think they’re good people all the time. And granted, I don’t know him personally, but yeah, I just felt like I was like, this is a really good person doing work that I believe in. So I read that Alice Cooper. 

 

[00:32:27] I’m a fan. Yeah. 

 

[00:32:29] And tell me how you feel about either one of you guys. You know, this notion of to be proximate. You know, I feel like, you know, one of the themes that we’ve been focused on for the last couple of weeks is about being willing to be uncomfortable. And then I think the other part of this is, you know, if you want to be part of something beneficial for the future. I keep saying get in your car. Now, that just assumes that you live near people who are different to you, but you might need to get in your car to get there. But that’s very different than going online, and that’s very different than reading a book. And that’s very different than other things. I’m just curious how you think about that concept of being proximate. And what does that mean? And how can people practically think about that? 

 

[00:33:13] I’ll give you a quick thought. I’d love to hear you think, Alisha. But, Tom, you talked a lot about exactly. 

 

[00:33:20] You said get in the car. We saw a lot of clips from your muscle for Muscle Shoals manifesto trip. And I kind of knew it made sense, but it didn’t I didn’t quite get it. And now we’re our this week and a half into this car trip, and I totally get it. And even though at home, you know, we were self quarantined. I tried really, really hard not to read the click bait media. And I tried really hard not to read divisive things. I didn’t realize how polarized I had become. And I think you might recall I was really pretty negative before I left. And I was out of moment, probably of the most negative I’ve been about our country ever. Right before I left. And a variety of things kind of got me back to be more optimistic. But a big one has been getting out and being proximate meeting folks in, you know, Iowa and Wisconsin and North Dakota and South Dakota, excuse me, in Montana. And and just being re acquainted with how extraordinary that people in this country are, how kind they are, how thoughtful they are. You know, we we had to cancel hotel reservation, yesterdays things, super simple. We gave her credit card. We paid for a room. It’s a pretty high season time there. Kelly called up and said there was snow in the past. We couldn’t make it, which is kind of neat, but we literally got stuck on the top of a mountain. And I did turn around because it was still in the past. And we call the hotel up fully expecting to pay for the room. I wouldn’t have minded was 10:00 at night. And the guy said, you know, these are complicated times. We have to do everything we can for each other. And everyone in the car, including my six year old Robert, is touched. And, you know, you do get to get reacquainted with that. And it’s fantastic. And that’s proximally it’s getting on scene people and not seeing what the world gives you over bits and bytes over these screens. 

 

[00:35:19] Yeah, I get you. I got lost in that, really? Yeah. Okay, repeat it one more time. Just make sure I’m answering the call. 

 

[00:35:26] I’m curious if how do you think about I mean, look, the idea of the trip. Right. We’re gonna go down the Mississippi River and we’re gonna. I mean, you know, let’s be honest. There’s probably a moment we’re going to we’re going to want to get away from each other. But the idea is that we’re gonna get hyper close to other people. Physical, I mean, will you will wear masks. But and we want to really understand the nuance of the truth of people who aren’t like us. And I just don’t know if you can do that without being physically close to each other. Like, we’re talking about physical proximity, ssion to each other. And if we do that and if we do that regularly, I believe in if I have a hope, it is that that’s how we’re gonna improve our culture. And that’s asking us to do something that many of us don’t do much anymore because our computers do the work for us. I’m just curious how you feel about that overall. 

 

[00:36:16] Yeah. Okay. Yeah. So, God, I love gathering people together. 

 

[00:36:23] It’s something I’ve been doing for quite some years. And it’s kind of interesting for those who know me personally because I don’t like being around people with you hear me out like on my own. I’m just like, yeah, I’m very introverted and very by myself. But when it comes to community and when it comes to just. Yeah, well, two. Feel something. I like to e-mail people and say, hey, I’m having this black woman necessary brunch or I’m having this community gathering at my home. I’m bringing people together as it’s been a year down the street. So this pandemic has really affected me a lot right now, because one of my favorite things to do to try to lead back to that word and to try to be there for community is to bring community together. It’s one of the reasons why I really loved when I went to Nantucket Project, because the whole idea was something that I’ve done on a very smaller scale. Not that not that type of that which is bringing people together. So I do believe that that’s a healing thing that we need. I’m very discouraged that, you know, not only are we trying to do the same thing on these screens, but I also believe these constant screens are very unhealthy for us. But physically, my body has been even my eyes have been darting back and forth. It’s so strange. So I miss that. I know I need that. And I’m just if I’m being honest, I’m nervous. I’m I’m very nervous. You know, I’ve been I’ve been paying attention probably too much because I want someone to just magically say one day, oh, we’re fine. It all disappeared, you know? And then while waiting for that unlikely announcement. All right. Now I’m also seeing reports of how, you know, it impacts like more vulnerable communities, African-American community, indigenous communities and whatnot. So it’s. It’s been a lot. And to be separate from people, I have my first hug ever in one eye ever in the last three months, I had my first hug outside of my husband just a few weeks ago with a friend of mine was like, oh, I just guess, you know, that’s just my results came back on time. And I was like, I need that hug. And I don’t even like hugging Pee Wee. There I go. I’m good without a hug. But I was like one of the best as I had a long time. So, yeah, I miss it. I miss it so much. But I’m also I’m relying on an expert in at the same time, I don’t trust a lot of people. 

 

[00:38:54] So tell me it like when you mentioned in Arpey has talked a lot about this over the over the weeks that it you know, the communities that the disease impacts include people of color as a you know, a higher whatever the word is, it impacts those communities more than others. 

 

[00:39:19] How do you react to that? Like, how do you feel about that? 

 

[00:39:23] I feel like it’s another part of. Environmental or no, not. I just feel like it’s another aspect that’s like what we’re talking about right now. Just race. And I really do feel like a lot of people have dismissed it because of that in my Woj percent. Sure. No. I’ve even had this talk with my husband. You know, it’s not just that. It’s not just like about, oh, I feel like white people feel that way, although that’s part of it. I’ve had friends and stuff, you know, family members. I’m not going to call them out because they might be into but who are like, you know, just chillin and like no party. And some of them are in the medical field. And it just makes me wonder. If this was something that was like. If it was constantly being said that it was affecting everyone at a very, very like devastating in a devastating way the way it is our communities. I just wonder how would be treated. And at the same time, I’m hearing that it’s getting a lot worse in other communities as well. I’m seeing what’s happening down in Florida and et cetera. But, yeah, I’m just I’m just wondering if the. If the lack of concern that I suppose it’s like icebergs, everyone was like, oh my gosh, what is this thing is in the reports came out of the communities it was affecting. And I felt like people kind of eased up. And, yeah, it just it definitely plays in my mind every day. And I just find myself kind of screaming on my computer screen right up Twitter drafts and then delete them because I’m angry and I’m upset. And I’m also confused because I don’t know what troops were being told. 

 

[00:41:03] Yeah, well, I mean, my own perspective on that is that you can’t be all wrong. Right. That I think a lot of what you just said is real. And I’ll give you an analogy, and I’m even uncomfortable saying this, but I do. When the first time I heard it, it really stuck with me. If you remember, the group of mostly what I saw were men and they were white men who went to the Michigan statehouse month or so ago with those heavily armed. And I saw it somewhere. Somebody brought it up to me. And so imagine if all those people had been black. How how would people have reacted? And I thought, you know, it’s kind of shocking to hear that in a way. But then as I as it sunk in, I was like, yeah, you’re totally right. You’re totally right. It would have been reacted to in a very different way. Now, I can’t prove that, but that’s what my heart tells me. And that’s an analogy to what you’re saying. It’s a bummer. It’s it’s sad. But I would wonder, like if we all asked ourselves that question, really ask yourself that question. What do you really think would happen? And how might those same people who were there that day react, those same people? And I don’t know them. I can’t necessarily judge them. I’m speaking in total generalizations here. 

 

[00:42:28] But I still think that it’s hard for me to let that go. 

 

[00:42:33] I don’t even have my thoughts for a minute. I was just going to say that that is something I’ve been seeing, too. Just seeing those images. Of just, yes. Very heavily armed. I can’t I just can’t fathom. I can’t imagine any. I’m also thinking about it also makes me think of all the stories of just like. Like people who I know who have who have you know, they have what my mind is just drawing a blank right now and they’re legally allowed to carry. They’re legally allowed to carry. OK, here we go. And just that fear that they have. People I know actually even, you know, my husband or whatever, he’s he’s Cuban in all types of other brown identities. But what it means to be able to walk with that freedom and to have that freedom is. I don’t even have personally, I’ll say me, I don’t own a weapon. But even if I’m around someone who does like, I have that fear, like, well, that could get us in trouble knowing that it’s a legal thing. So it’s just that frustration. And then when you feel like you have to prove to people that that’s a legitimate fear. 

 

[00:43:53] It’s. There’s no words to describe it. 

 

[00:43:58] I was just going to comment on the irony of those armed protesters called in the Michigan State Militia, people who tend to correlate very much with small government, you know, high resiliency, strong Second Amendment. Get out of my face kind of folks haven’t really shown up and been protesting against the government, you know, killing black men and the government overreaching in that area. So, you know, look, let. So that’s that’s sort of a philosophical view. But to be clear, there is a very, very easy to see evidenced example of groups like that, not only having neo-Nazi affiliations, obviously in a number of the protesters in Michigan, just, for example, had neo-Nazi tattoos and garb, but taking one step further. And this is where people might I might lose some folks. But, Robert, the Russian government inciting and supporting those groups in America. 

 

[00:45:05] Now, those are facts just while we’re on the topic. 

 

[00:45:12] Yeah, well, it’s you know, the thing I wonder about, and it’s one of the reasons we want to have you here today, Alysha, among many, but. We live in a world where it’s hard to have time to think about these things and that often when you sort of thought about these things and considered these things, I mean, I I used to listen to the radio every morning, an NPR station, and I used to listen to the news. And I don’t even do that anymore. I don’t watch the news. I do read the news. I don’t watch the news. And now I don’t listen to the news. And what I’m finding is I have more time to contemplate and think and just be human. And so the conversation we’re having right now, which, you know, somebody somebody probably doesn’t like what I said about Michigan or whatever, you know, and. And then my question is, OK. What would you do with 20 minutes to think about it? 

 

[00:46:11] Now, I’m not sick. They might say, well, nothing. I say, OK, fine, but we don’t have time to think about things. We don’t have to have time to consider things. And like in that’s where I you know, that’s where love takes hold. Like, that’s that moment where that thing happens, where, you know, the thing I keep going back to an I don’t know if you were there unless you’re Arpey, either one of you. But the moment for me at last. So. So Bryan Stevenson won the audience award last year. There was a variety of special moments. I showed you onstage stage, Alysha. 

 

[00:46:41] The one that sticks with me the most was the last second the last person onstage, which was Taunter, Love and tonsure. Love is a woman who’s a black woman from Sheeler’s in Oakland and she’s an elementary school teacher. 

 

[00:46:53] And she told a story onstage where she said she was afraid in Nantucket. Right. And, you know, you had to be there because, trust me, I’m not going to do a good job recounting this for you. So just I hope you can trust to know that I know that I can’t do this well. But she talked about feeling unsafe and she she cried. She teared up in the moment. And I remember sitting there thinking, holy shit, two people have a some in window to truth right now that is so powerful. Now, here’s the thing. She wasn’t scheduled to speak then. That was not a plan. She didn’t know she was going to realize that. Then there is no chance we were gonna have that moment unless we had time together. 

 

[00:47:38] Time. It was the gift and she was a gift and other things were gift. And Brian was a gift and you were a gift. And in many ways, you probably set her up in so many things that happen. But what really happened was we let the world be organic. We had a moment to sit there and think about it. I’ll never think about it differently again for the rest of my life, because I do generally know that she was safe. That doesn’t frickin matter. Does it matter if I think she was safe? What matters is how she felt. And if you if you had any faith in humanity and you were listening to her, it’s like, wow, I just got an amazing lesson. 

 

[00:48:11] You’re not going to get that lesson flyin through Instagram? 

 

[00:48:16] Definitely not. Yes. Social media is very briefly talk about that. It’s very informative. I need it, but I don’t wanna use the word. NE is very informative, but at the same time, you could just kind of get lost in it. But yeah, those in-person things. I remember that moment. I remember the moment. I’m pretty sure where we were. 

 

[00:48:39] We had like a side of Ben. Yeah. I think that is that’s when it was kind of past summer. Yes. Someone said, I’m going to go ahead and do it. And I think that was represent. It was just like a. 

 

[00:48:52] It was just a good metaphor for or just for everything we kind of need right now. It’s like the past that Mike and to say, hey, you need to speak right now. We’re gonna make time for you. 

 

[00:49:04] And I was so that was so powerful. And I definitely second. I mean, I, I feel a lot of what she felt. I don’t think. The emotions she had. I didn’t have as much I don’t want to say it was like identical, but I do remember walking around those streets and going, OK. You know, so I definitely feel kind of like one of the odd ones here. And that’s something that’s a constant thought. And another thought that follows that is like how many people notice me, how many people are okay with me? And it’s not that that’s gonna affect. 

 

[00:49:43] It’s not that that’s going to change the way I feel about myself or I’m going to go in my hotel room and cry personally, but it is going to sit with me and it has long term effects. You know, those thoughts and you kind of just got it. I’m I’m speaking for myself. It’s got to kind of suck it up. 

 

[00:50:00] You know what I thought about that? I thought I thought about the streets I’m choosing to walk on. And I also think about how many other people have to have these thoughts. Let me go this way, because I see more people walking this way. And I know women in general have those thoughts, but I do feel like it’s increased. The more identity you have, the more intersecting identities you have in. Yeah. There’s been times in my book is getting a little dark, so let me go that way. And it’s not just because, oh, I’m a woman by myself. It’s also because this is a predominately white area. I’ve never been here before. I’m on the damn island. And it’s it’s you have terrifying moments. But I will say there was something about the NBA that didn’t feel as bad as like when I’m walking in a like a suburb like maybe, I don’t know, a few miles from here or from where I grew up in South Jersey. It felt a little bit. It felt more safe in those areas. But I still acknowledge where I’m at. And to not get too comfortable. 

 

[00:51:02] I’m so happy you were at that other meeting because what happened was there was about 20 or so of us. I don’t remember approximately who were having another meeting. And it happened in that meeting that one of the speakers sort of stepped aside and said, I want to have this conversation with you is what happened. And so the point of that is that there was room to do that. 

 

[00:51:21] There was relationships had developed in proximity. Right. It was proximity that was sort of bringing it to the moment. And it was the unplanned beauty of that moment that brought on that moment. Now we’re gonna make a film about that and hopefully we can capture some of it in that film. You can’t always capture those things. We’ll do our best. But I’m glad you were there. Yeah, that’s cool. You know, at the beginning, we talked about Juneteenth as something. That many Americans are discovering, and it may well be that many white Americans are discovering for the first time, I don’t know. I mean, I know enough to know. I don’t know. Right. I know that. But, you know, the predominant story of Juneteenth in my world is new. 

 

[00:52:10] The predominance of you know, when you when you first met it, it actually struck me. 

 

[00:52:17] Not as like. 

 

[00:52:20] You were trying to make it seem like it was like this thing that no one’s heard of before. But I did think it was interesting because I’m not trying to compare you to the president, but he did just make a statement saying like nobody’s ever heard of you Juneteenth before. 

 

[00:52:36] And as much as I thought that was interesting coming from him, I also think that in white America, a lot of people haven’t really heard it or acknowledged it might have heard of it, but it hasn’t really been like, oh, this is something I think about consciously every year. But I didn’t grow up in a household that taught me about things like that, not trying to dismiss, you know, disrespect my my parents or anything. But he just wasn’t like a conscious family. Just like put a roof over your head, do good in life. But when I got to the Philadelphia community and branched out and got to the Polish community, Juneteenth is something I heard of constantly. So it makes me think of all the things that I’ve learned in that very I guess for the word everybody Husing in dismissing now is like Wolke. But I’ll say, like the conscious Philly community in the holiday did feel like this very. Very secret thing in the black community, felt like we know about this, maybe other people do, and this is I’m only speaking on behalf of myself, but I do find it very interesting how right now it’s being talked about. And I’ve even seen things from people who are from, you know, could start off as a Texas holiday. And I’ve seen people from Texas, you know, activists and people who have been celebrating this in very big ways every year who are like they feel like it’s kind of being cold out there would be in a race. And I’m wondering, even me being a black American, like, what does that. Are we celebrating? I think I brought this up in the beginning. Are we doing this day justice? Are we really taking time to think about what it means? The fact that two and a half years went by and a lot of us still thought we were, you know, enslaved in somebody was just like, OK. Now you can go ahead. I, I just want to make sure that. I’m grateful, you know, even you say that I’m grateful people are learning. But at the same time, it’s that I really hope that we’re taking a moment, taking time, bringing that we’re back to really sit in. Yes. See what it means to all of us. Yeah. 

 

[00:54:46] I totally appreciate what you’re saying. And I. 

 

[00:54:51] If I were to speak for myself, based on what you just said, it relates to what I originally said. It’s new to me. That’s that’s that’s my experiences, it’s new to me and I’m sure, again, influenced by what you just said. 

 

[00:55:09] I don’t understand the significance of it. I mean, only a little bit. So I appreciate it. I get it. I totally get it. 

 

[00:55:19] Yeah. I appreciate your honesty. Yeah. As if it will never. I would never not have a moment, Ramli. OK, when I hear someone say it. Yeah. It’s like this. I’m just hearing about it. I’m always going to have that reaction is like interesting. But I also you know, I’d rather someone be honest and be like, yes, I’ve heard about this forever because I can’t stand. Yeah, that type of yes. 

 

[00:55:45] Well, I appreciate you being honest as well. And I’d love to. We’d love to hear from you. ARPEY want to say anything before Leesha? 

 

[00:55:56] No, thank you. I had not heard of it really either. Which is kind of stunning to me. 

 

[00:56:07] So this poll, my hear of originally wrote for a it was a death penalty focused event here in Los Angeles and asked me to write a poem about abolishing the death penalty. Then I have been editing it over time. So this is where is that right now to reflect what’s happening now? 

 

[00:56:30] My baby brother was charged for a murder he did not commit. He’s a young man born in a city that reeks of death, spent two years behind bars thinking of death. Only if police Browder was not a black boy, a backpack wouldn’t have been grounds for imprisonment. I’m thinking Sabrina Butler survived seven years on death row by dreaming about her living child. After being accused of murdering the one she could not revive, the definition of revival is an improvement in the condition or strength of something, maybe in America. This is a myth. Maybe mostly for the black, the marginalized, the poor souls who could be added to the numbers as if we do not count. The second step, Maple’s set themselves inside a single person sized cell. Nothing about this. We just slow disability into the mind and muscle. And this is how you commit a crime. Actually, the American justice system kills a spirit, funds a police force, kills a camera, kills a body. Films that did nothing about this DCB, the so called criminal here on this land is often times innocent. Often times a bias for conviction away from home, from programing, from resources, from home, from home. The actual criminal here on this land is the one who always gets to go home after the cover up, after the conversion, after the cup of coffee, after the gavel, after the promotion. This is how you commit a crime. Actually, take away the touch, take away the empathy. Take away the sunlight and ask them what do they see? Nothing. According to Damien Echols, who said, quote. I miss the stars. You know, I have seen the stars in years and years and years, end quote. And we could ask Troy Davis, but. The missing the missing is a person forced to cave in on their self. Over and over during a long after the census. I am not saying I do not believe in accountability. I’m saying I believe in it. Just I’m saying I believe in it. Lower case, something that at least tries to seed the human, bring the human back, something that recognizes how come is a question mark, not a period. Admit there is no justice here. Peri admits it is more about power and paper than a penalty period. Count the statistics, grab a hold of reality, the facts inside of your fists until they fester. In other words, get a good grip and let the system go. 

 

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