Violence Against Black Americans, from Lynching to Police Shootings

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Poet and activist Lance Newman joins us for Juicy Fruit this week, where some stories from this week lead to a broader discussion of violence against black Americans. We talk about the through line of retribution against African-Americans who are perceived as not knowing their place. Emmett Till, Malcolm X’s father Earl Little, lynchings, the massacre in Rosewood, Florida–all were incidents of white supremacist violence that went well beyond just murder. (We do describe the details of some of those killings on the show this week, so if you can’t listen to that, you’ll want to skip from minute 7 to minute 17 of the show.)

The over-the-top nature of how the murders were carried out and what was done to the bodies was intended to terrorize other black people and let them know they could be next.

Dr. Story draws a comparison between historical violence to today’s police shootings to point out that the need for a Black Lives Matter movement goes far beyond just the events of the past few years.

And our colleague and friend at WFPL, health reporter Ja’Nel Johnson, has a huge project out this week looking at racial disparities in health care. It’s called Sick & Tired, and she joins us for our feature interview to tell us about some things that were brought to light in the project–though they weren’t necessarily news to Ja’Nel herself.

“This is my life. This is my parents’ life this is my sister, my uncles, my aunts, my friends. These are the everyday struggles,” she explains. “Really I just want to try to educate other people who may not understand and realize that there are still people in this country who do not have fair access to healthcare because of race, because of their income, or educational levels, or other things like that.”

Sick & Tired is a four-part series. On our show this week, we listen to the feature about violence as a public health issue. You can listen to the whole series here.

A First-hand Account of the Fairness Arrests; Fashion Designer Frances Lewis

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Three Fairness leaders were arrested Thursday morning at the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s Ham Breakfast & Auction. Fairness and ACLU folks were at the event in silent protest of anti-LGBT Kentucky Farm Bureau policies, as they do every year. Friends to the show Chris Hartman, Carla Wallace, and Sonja DeVries were lead out of the event in handcuffs and have been charged with failure to disperse (with an extra change of disorderly conduct for Chris).

Amber Duke from the Kentucky ACLU was there, and she stopped by our studio later that afternoon to tell us what happened. This story is still developing, because Chris & friends are considering filing suit against the Kentucky State Police. Keep an eye on our twitter and facebook and we’ll keep you posted as things progress.

Our other guest this week is Louisville-based fashion designer Frances Lewis. Her work will be featured in an October 16 event called Borrowed Time: A Fall Fashion Experience.

Since we had a fashion designer at the mic, and since it’s that time of year again, we asked her expert opinion about the perennial problem of offensive Halloween costumes. This year’s early frontrunner is a “Call Me Caitlyn” outfit mimicking what Caitlyn Jenner wore on her Vanity Fair cover.

We also wished our attorney friends luck as they pursue $2 million in legal fees from the commonwealth. Governor Beshear has said he doesn’t find that amount reasonable.

And the story of the book club women who were thrown off the wine train for laughing too loudly leads our hosts and guest to reflect on instances of microaggression, and times when they’ve been targeted for taking up space while black.

What’s it Like to be LGBT in Rural Communities?

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We’ve always been proud of how cutting-edge Louisville is on LGBT rights issues (and can often be overheard bragging that our Fairness law included transgender protections even before New York’s did). But what about the rest of Kentucky?

Ashlee Davis delivers opening remarks at the Rural LGBT Summit in Lexington

Ashlee Davis delivers opening remarks at the Rural LGBT Summit in Lexington

We went to the Rural LGBT Summit this month in Lexington to find out. The USDA has been holding these summits throughout the country, both to shine a light on issues faced by rural LGBT Americans, and to make sure those same folks know about the assistance they can get from the USDA. We can’t deny our status as city slickers (though we temporarily daydreamed about gay farmers), so the summit was a great learning opportunity for #TeamStrangeFruit.

Jai and Doc co-hosted a panel featuring folks who are “champions of change” in their communities, and we bring you an excerpt of that conversation in this week’s show. Stay tuned to our Soundcloud page for the whole thing.

Also in this week’s show, we go about as far from rural as you can get: Broadway, in New York City, where Hedwig and the Angry Inch is closing early after a poor reviews of Taye Digg’s performance in the title role. Are white audiences resistant to a black man playing an iconic part like Hedwig? Did Broadway fans turn against him after he reportedly broke Idina Menzel’s heart? Or… was he just not good in the show? We discuss.

One artwork that seems like an unmitigated success is “Hell You Talmbout,” the protest anthem released last week by Janelle Monáe and the Wondaland Arts Society. The verses of the song recite the names of black victims of police shootings. Half vigil, half battle cry, it’s already finding its way into protests all over the country, and we listen to a group of trans rights activists adapt it to commemorate trans victims of violence.

And finally, “Straight Outta Compton” came out, and it made a ton of money. We haven’t seen the film yet, but we talk a little about claims that it erases the abuse of women perpetrated by its subjects.

What’s Next for County Clerks Who Refuse to Issues Marriage Licenses?

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It’s back to school time in our part of the country, and this week we’re full of nostalgia about our favorite parts of going back to school (cute Trapper Keepers and lunchboxes, of course!). We also bring you the story of Courtney Holmes, a barber in Dubuque, Iowa who’s making back to school a little easier for low-income families. He’s offering free trims to kids with just one stipulation: They have to read to him while he cuts their hair.

Doc is going back to school this month too, returning after her sabbatical to her position at the University of Louisville. UofL was recently named the most LGBT-friendly college in the South by Campus Pride Index. We love the atmosphere of acceptance on campus, but wonder why coverage never seems to include the student activists and professors who make the school welcoming specifically for LGBTQ students of color.

And Kelly Osbourne, last mentioned here when Giulia Rancic said Zendaya’s dreads probably smelled like patchouli and weed, is back in our newsfeeds this week. She was co-hosting The View, when the conversation turned to Donald Trump and his anti-immigrant positions.

Osbourne said, “If you kick every Latino out of this country, then who is going to be cleaning your toilet, Donald Trump?” Rosie Perez and other co-hosts were quick to object, while the audience seemed stunned into silence, and Osbourne was quick to back pedal, saying “Come on, you know I would never mean it like that.”

“She probably considers herself to be an ally to people of color,” Jai says. “[But] true allyship comes in your ability to say, you know what? I messed up. And I apologize. As opposed to saying, ‘But I’m one of the good guys!'”

And finally, there was progress this in the case of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who’s refusing to issue any marriage licenses because she says she’s religiously opposed to same-sex marriage. On Wednesday, a federal judge ordered Davis to start issuing licenses again. But on Thursday, she was still refusing to comply, citing her intention to appeal.

WFPL’s State Capitol Bureau Chief, Ryland Barton, joined us this week to talk about what could happen next, and help parse out some of the technical aspects of the conflict.

Sharpe Suiting Designer Leon Wu

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Suit designer Leon Wu says a person’s first suit can be a milestone. “Historically, a father will bring in his son,” Wu says. “It’s like a coming of age sort of thing.” But what about a person who didn’t grow up as a boy?

Wu can relate. “Ever since I was five I would envision myself as a more masculine person,” he explains. “Growing up I was happy getting my older brother’s hand-me-downs. I didn’t need to go buy any ‘female’ clothes.”

Wu is the founder and CEO of Sharpe Suiting, a clothing company catering to masculine-of-center folks who want to look dapper in suits custom-tailored to every type of body. He joins us this week to talk about their work, and what it’s like to work with trans-masculine populations. “Whenever somebody transitions or they decide to adopt a certain type of gender representation,” Wu explains, “it is in a sense like another puberty.”

Also this week, we meet Louisville Public Media’s new executive editor, Stephen George. We chat about diversity in newsrooms and news coverage, and why it seems like we only see black neighborhoods on the news when it’s about crime. “It often gives people a very wrong idea about what’s happening in certain parts of this community,” George says.

In Juicy Fruit, we bring you the story of Jesse Jacobs, a 32-year-old gay man who died in police custody in Galveston, TX. Jacobs had been taking Xanax for over a decade to treat severe anxiety disorder. But after he turned himself in to serve a 30-day sentence for DUI, jail personnel wouldn’t give him access to his medicine. He started having seizures (a known effect of sudden Xanax cessation) and died a few days later. Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochessett insists Jacobs died of “natural causes.”

And we take a look at The Advocate’s list of 10 Tips on Growing Older for LGBT People under 40. Some make perfect sense (build a support system and be part of a community), while others left us scratching our heads (don’t drink, and prepare to die alone if you don’t have kids?).

Dr. Britney Cooper on the Movement for Black Lives Convening, and Police Violence

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Last week in Cleveland, activists from across the country came together for the Movement for Black Lives Convening. Panels and breakout groups talked about police violence, LGBTQ inclusivity, self-care, labor organization, and a full schedule of topics relevant to the Black Lives Matter movement.

pepper sprayDr. Britney Cooper was there, and two incidents stand out in her mind: First, conveners were at a nightclub when one of them – a trans man – was forcibly removed from the men’s restroom. En masse, attendees exited the club in protest and solidarity. They stood outside the establishment chanting, singing freedom songs, and documenting the whole thing under #ShutItDown.

Then, on the last day of the conference, they witnessed a 14-year-old black boy being arrested for intoxication. Activists surrounded the police cruiser in protest, and some were pepper sprayed by a Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority police officer. After negotiation between organizers and officers, the young man was released into his mother’s custody instead of taken to jail.

Dr. Cooper joins us this week to talk about her experiences at the convening, and what she sees as some of the next steps for those working to put an end to police violence and lack of accountability.

We also talk about the indictment of University of Cincinnati Officer Ray Tensing, who is charged with murder for shooting Sam Dubose in the head during a routine traffic stop. Tensing had claimed he feared for his life after being dragged and nearly run over by Dubose’s car; his body camera later proved his account to be untrue. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters called the shooting “the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police office make,” “totally unwarranted,” and “an absolute tragedy.”

smurfAnd we also talk about the latest casting news in the live television version of The Wiz: Queen Latifah will play the title character, with Mary J. Blige in the role of Evillene.

And it’s Jaison’s birthday week! Doc sings the praises of those born under the Leo sign, which naturally leads to the question of whether Vanity Smurf was a butch queen.

News Round-Up with Marriage Equality Attorney Joe Dunman

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2015-07-22 14.41.04Remember that whole Supreme Court marriage equality thing a couple weeks ago? It was kind of a big deal? Well one of the attorneys, Joe Dunman, joins us this week for a news roundup, and to give us the latest information on two Kentucky county clerks who have refused to issue marriage licenses.

Dunman, who is a civil rights attorney and co-host of the Parade of Horribles legal podcast, also weighs in on the death of Sandra Bland in police custody, and how police interactions are different for white people.

We also talk about the case of local prosecutor Karl Price, who lost his job after making racist remarks in legal documents and in court. Price was given a chance to apologize, and issued a classic faux-pology—which was not good enough for his employer, Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell.

Strange Fruit #128: We’re Starting to Be OK with Trans Folks—But Not People Who Desire Them

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Earlier this month, hip hop artist Tyga was publicly accused of cheating on his girlfriend, Kylie Jenner. Why is this even a story, outside of the gossip blogs? Because the person he was allegedly having an affair with was a transgender model named Mia Isabella.

The response was brutal and, sadly, predictable. One meme suggested that Kylie Jenner must really hate transgender people now (referring to the fact that her parent Caitlyn is trans). So we wondered, why does it still seem so scandalous to some people that a straight, cis man could be attracted to a trans woman? And why are people so affirming of Janet Mock and LaVerne Cox, but have no compunction about posting jokes that hinge on the othering of trans people?

To help us unpack all this, we called Preston Mitchum. Mitchum is an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies teaching Advanced Legal Research & Writing, and is a fierce advocate for trans rights.

Later in the show, we also talk about Serena Williams’ historical success, and what’s behind gender-based criticisms of her (Hint: more transphobia!).

“Buster” Musical Tells Story of Activist Louis Coleman

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Many of Louisville’s activist leaders got their start marching behind the same man: Reverend Louis Coleman. Now his life’s work is being portrayed in a brand-new musical called “Buster,” written by Larry Muhammad and directed by William P. Bradford II.

They both stopped by the studio this week to talk about the project, which opens this Thursday and runs through July 26.

In Juicy Fruit, we talk about the “Respond with Love” campaign, started by Muslim groups to raise money to rebuild Black Churches recently destroyed by fires in the South. The effort, spearheaded by the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative and the Arab American Association of New York, defies the widely-held idea of animosity between Muslims and Christians.

We also talk about recent data showing that Latino/as now outnumber white people in California.

busterpostertake19And we almost can’t believe it, but Raven-Symone did something good this week. She went head-to-head with Candace Cameron Bure when The View discussed the bakery in Oregon who refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple.

And we close out this week’s show with Jai’s own reflections on the legacy of Reverend Coleman. His first time getting a citation for protest was with Coleman, demonstrating against the lack of minority contractors building Slugger Field.

But it was only a few years later Jai was writing a column for the Courier-Journal against Coleman. JCPS was considering adding anti-discrimination protections for LGBT employees, which Rev. Coleman publicly opposed, saying, “I just don’t think policies should be put in place to protect habits or behaviors.”

Many of us know people like this: activists who are very dedicated to one social justice cause, but seem ignorant or just plain bigoted on another. No one knows how Rev. Coleman’s views on queer issues may have evolved had he lived into our current era of wider LGBT-acceptance. So for gay black folks, his legacy is a complicated one.

Professor Burt Ashe on the History & Cultural Significance of Dreadlocks

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University of Richmond Professor Burt Ashe always saw himself as a sort of a renegade. Edgy. Bohemian. But no one else seemed to agree. “The way that I presented to the world was completely, just amazingly, conventional,” he says.

So he decided to change his look. “I thought maybe that me growing dreadlocks might be a kind of pathway to allow what was inside to be presented outside.”

bert ashe

In doing so, he learned about all the presumptions the world projects onto black people with ‘locked hair. Jai had ‘locks for 7 years, and like Ashe, he was often asked if he was Jamaican.

Ashe’s book, Twisted: My Dreadlock Chronicles, explores the history of dreadlocks, and details his own relationship with the look.

The natural hair movement continues to gain steam with black women, but what about men? Ashe says he got some interesting responses from them while working on the book. For example, “It’s just hair, man. You’re over-thinking this,” and, “Dude, your relationship with your hair is a little too….”

“It’s sort of a questioning of my masculinity,” he says, “because I decided to talk about my hair and to reveal the anxiety that comes along with ‘locking ones hair.”

But he says there’s a significance to black hair, regardless of gender—that we choose our hairstyles for a reason, whether or not we can put it into words. “I think it’s time we start thinking out loud about the cultural realities and personal realities of what we do with our hair means.”

In our Juicy Fruit segment this week, we talk about #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches, and the history of domestic and racist terrorism in the United States. On this Independence Day weekend, we wondered whether the founding ideals of our country—as a nation of immigrants, where you can be free from persecution—still hold true today.

At the same time we’re confronted with more racially-motivated violence, like the Charleston shooting and the burning of black churches, we’re also seeing some striking acts of civil disobedience. Bree Newsome becmse a household name after removing the Confederate flag from South Carolina’s statehouse. And someone in Boston painted “Black Lives Matter” and dumped red paint on a statue of Christopher Columbus.

On a lighter note, we also recap what we loved and hated about the BET Awards, and argue about which members of #TeamStrangeFruit cried last week in the County Clerk’s office, and which simply had allergies.

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