Ferguson Special

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Councilwoman Attica Scott and attorney Lucie Brooks join us for a conversation about the Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown. We also talk about media coverage of the ensuing protests in Ferguson, and what could happen next.

(Photo by Brandon Herring)

Making Dance Accessible in Louisville; Plus Bill Cosby Accusations Bring Out the Victim-Blaming in Your Friends and Family

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“In the East End, there’s dance everywhere. In the West End, you don’t see that.” John O. Keen, artistic director of Keen Dance Theater, is taking on the 9th Street Divide (and the race divide, and the economic divide) in the world of dance.

After eleven years in New York, the Louisville native returned home to start his own dance troupe, with lessons affordable to low-income dancers, and a focus on diversity in casting and story telling.

KDTKeen joins us this week to talk about how embracing dancers of difference races, body types, backgrounds, and training levels creates a stronger ensemble.

And in Juicy Fruit, Salon’s Erin Keane sits in to talk about the allegations of sexual assault against Bill Cosby – and all the victim blaming in their wake, both in casual conversation and in the media. CNN’s Dom Lemon, for example, questioned a victim about why she didn’t use her teeth to fight off Cosby after she’s allegedly been drugged. When Janice Dickinson told her story to Entertainment Tonight, the first question we see interviewer Kevin Frazier ask is, “Were you trying to fight him off?”

Erin’s piece in Salon examines her own complicity in what seemed like an unspoken agreement among entertainment journalists to avoid asking about the allegations for all these years.

While Cosby himself has remained officially silent on the accusations (besides a statement from his lawyer which was removed the next day), he did address them after our show went to tape, at an appearance in Florida Friday night, saying he “shouldn’t have to answer to innuendos.”

She also wrote about that cosmic-sounding interview the New York Times Magazine did with Willow and Jaden Smith, which included quotes about the ability to slow down and speed up time. “When you’re thinking about something happy, you’re thinking about something sad,” Jaden explained.

“When you think about an apple, you also think about the opposite of an apple. It’s a tool for understanding mathematics and things with two separate realities. But for creativity: That comes from a place of oneness. That’s not a duality consciousness.”

People reacted strongly to the interview, many of them criticizing Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith’s parenting (which is nothing new). But are the kids actually troubled? Or is this just another case of concern trolling and respectability politics?

“If It’s Funny, It’s Funny”: Wanda Sykes on Humor and Giving Back; plus the Life and Legacy of Ol’ Dirty Bastard

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wandaYou know you’ve skirted a line when the White House officially distances itself from a joke you made at the Correspondents’ Dinner. Wanda Sykes had that experience after suggesting that Rush Limbaugh was the the 20th hijacker on 9/11 but was too high on Oxycontin to make his flight. She followed it up by saying she hoped his kidneys fail—a play on Limbaugh’s statement that he hoped the Obama Administration would fail.

“I kind of regret that I said that,” she confessed on this week’s show. “It got in the way of the main joke. I hope his kidneys fail—that was like a throwaway line, and I wish I had thrown it away. It overshadowed what my main point was.”

Sykes will perform Saturday night at the Louisville Palace, and joined us this week to talk about the fine line between edginess and offensiveness. We also talked about her charity work with the Ruth Ellis Center, a shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth in Detroit.

We also talked about her famous sketch, imagining what it would be like if she’s had to “come out” as black, like she did as a lesbian. Some of the parental reactions she enacts in the routine reflect her own family’s response when she came out of the closet. “It was really hard. It was hard for them. But I couldn’t blame them or shut them off or anything, because it took me forty-something years to figure it our myself, so obviously I had a hard time dealing with it too,” she explained. “At the bottom line is, they love me and I love them, and over time we worked through it, and now we have a great relationship.”

dirty versionWe were also joined this week by hip-hop scholar and writing professor Mickey Hess, who just completed a biography of Wu-Tang co-founder Ol’ Dirty Bastard—co-authored with Dirty’s best friend, Buddha Monk. He described the challenges of co-writing the story with someone who was so personally involved in it.

And in Juicy Fruit, we talk about the viral COGIC video of a man claiming the Holy Spirit has made him not gay, and the similarities between some religious tactics and conversion therapy (which is banned in some places).

We also shout out LaVerne Cox, who was just named Glamour Magazine’s Woman of the Year!

 

“A Prison within a Prison”: Advocating for the Rights of Deaf Inmates

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HEARDcollage“We call it a prison within a prison.”

That’s how advocates describe the lives of incarcerated Deaf and hard of hearing people. The vast majority of correctional facilities have no ASL interpreters, and it’s not unusual for inmates who rely on hearing aids to be denied the devices—or denied batteries to make them work.

Talila Lewis is the founder of HEARD (Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf), and joins us this week to talk about the work the organization is doing to try to improve the lives and ensure the rights of incarcerated folks with disabilities.

Lewis says the ableism in mainstream society is magnified in the prison setting. “If you don’t respond to an auditory command, you get shot or beaten or put into solitary confinement,” Lewis explains. “Everything around you is based on sound. So if you miss the bell at 4am to get up and go eat, you miss chow. That’s it.”

Click here for a transcript of this week’s show.

Being Deaf or hard of hearing in prison essentially means being unable to communicate with anyone around you. “It’s almost like being in solitary confinement,” Lewis says. They’re also more susceptible to physical and sexual assault, often asked to trade sexual access to their bodies for vital information from hearing inmates.

Because there are no accommodations in place to allow these inmates to communicate, it’s hard to find them, count them, and make sure they’re okay.

HEARD created and maintains the only national deaf and deaf-blind prisoner database, but without cooperation from departments of correction, accurate numbers are hard to come by. They estimate that Deaf, deaf-blind, and hard of hearing prisoners in the U.S. number in the tens of thousands.

We talk with Lewis this week about what we can do, and our local, state, and federal government could do, to protect the rights of this vulnerable population.

In our Juicy Fruit segment, Ebola fears continue to surface—this week, right here in Louisville. A Catholic Elementary school asked a teacher to self-quarantine after her mission trip to Kenya. Please note that if you are reading this from anywhere in the United States, you are currently closer to the Ebola patients in Dallas than Kenya is to the outbreak in West Africa.

The Washington NFL team continues to be the worst, now suing Native American activists who fought to have the trademark canceled on their offensive team name.

And if a server told you a bottle of wine cost “thirty-seven fifty,” would you assume $37.50, like a diner in Atlantic City did last week? The bottle was actually $3,750, giving the customer quite a sticker shock, and leading us to wonder just how many dishes we’d have to wash if a bill like that was ever placed in front of #TeamStrangeFruit.

[Transcription assistance by Cameron Aubernon.]

Civil Rights Educator john a. powell on Creating a Culture of Belonging; and LMPD’s Racial Profiling Study

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Civil Rights educator john a. powell will be in Louisville on November 11th to deliver the 8th annual Anne Braden Memorial Lecture, and he joins us this week to talk about his concept of a “culture of belonging,” and the problems with a so-called colorblind approach to policy and interpersonal relationships.

powell“Most Americans, including most white Americans, even if they don’t see race or try not see race at the conscious level, the unconscious is seeing it and acting on it and processing it in a very robust way,” he explains. “So in a sense we don’t even have a choice.”

And WFPL’s Jake Ryan joins us to help unpack the results of the Louisville Metro Police Department’s racial profiling study. The findings were called inconclusive, and they also only included traffic stops—perhaps missing more frequent ways black residents interact with police.

In our Juicy Fruit segment, it’s time for another annual event: the naming and shaming of racist Halloween costumes and displays (this year, a lynching scene in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, was picked up by the national blogs).

We also address the sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby that have recently resurfaced, and muse over a question Dr. Brittney Cooper raised this week in Salon: “[W]hat does it mean that while these men played progressive, loving family men on television, they potentially and allegedly raped and terrorized women and children in their personal lives?”

African-American Poetry from 19th Century America, Racialized Fear in Ebola Coverage, and the Annie Lennox Mess

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voices beyondThis week in Juicy Fruit, we of course talk about Annie Lennox, who released a cover of the iconic Billie Holiday song “Strange Fruit” in the same week she weighed in on Beyoncé’s right to claim feminism. Later in the week, Ms. Lennox gave an interview to Tavis Smiley in which she managed to explain the meaning of our titular song without even using the words black, African American, or lynching.

And Ebola coverage remains wall-to-wall in the media, but how does the fear of the disease tie in to deep-seated fear of what was once called “the Dark Continent,” and ideas about the “other” being scary and dangerous?

Shonda Rhimes also gets a shout out for her no-nonsense dismissal of a twitter user’s complaint that there are too many “gay scenes” in her shows.

And for our feature interview, we speak with Erika DeSimone, co-editor of Voices Beyond Bondage: An Anthology of Verse by African Americans of the 19th Century. Often when we think of black Americans in that period, we think of people who couldn’t read or write, because they weren’t allowed to learn. But DeSimone’s book dispels that myth—at the same time bringing to light beautiful poetry.

“Something is very wrong that we have this huge treasure trove of literature, this whole poetry movement, that nobody has said ‘Hey, let’s pay attention to this,'” she says.

We asked why this work has gone unnoticed for so long. “History is written by the winners,” she explains. “And by and large the winners are not African Americans in this country.”

Unpacking White Privilege. Plus, Are These Really America’s Favorite Desserts?

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wpc

In the late 1990’s, feminist and anti-racist activist Peggy McIntosh described white privilege as “an invisible weightless knapsack of assurances, tools, maps, guides, codebooks, passports, visas, clothes, compass, emergency gear, and blank checks.”

The invisible knapsack metaphor persists today as a way of introducing people to the concept of privilege. It comes in many forms – male, white, straight, cis, able-bodied, and other identities all confer certain benefits – but the suggestion of privilege can spark emotional denial.

On this week’s show we talk about white privilege and how it manifests itself in our culture, with Dr. David Owen. He’s an associate professor of philosophy at UofL, and is on the local planning committee for the White Privilege Conference, coming to Louisville this Spring.

In our Juicy Fruit Segment, we bring you the story of a hairstylist in Prince George’s County in Maryland, who was fired when his HIV-positive status was discovered by his boss.

We also dissect Sarah Silverman’s controversial equal pay video (and the enduring phenomenon of the celebrity non-apology-apology), and how gay-friendly comics often miss the mark when they stray into race- or gender-related humor. And finally, we celebrate National Dessert Month! Jai goes through a list of the most popular desserts in the US and we try to guess what they are. Did we agree with the choices? Let’s just say this week marks the first time the phrase “rot-gut dessert” was ever uttered on Strange Fruit.

(Picture courtesy of White Privilege Conference, which is still looking for volunteers! Find out how you can help at whiteprivilegeconference.com.)

SCOTUS Does Everything By Doing Nothing; Raven-Symone & the Usefulness of Labels

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This week, the Supreme Court decided not to hear the marriage equality cases that were pending in Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Utah. By doing so, they legalized same-sex marriage in many states immediately (including our neighbors to the north!), and paved the way for others to follow soon.

Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman joins us this week to talk about the decision, what it means, and what it doesn’t—particularly for those of us in the Bluegrass State. (Full Disclosure: Jaison and Kaila are long-time board members at Fairness.)

ep88collageHe also brings us news from Berea that makes this week bittersweet: After over three years of trying to pass an ordinance that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, the measure was voted down by the city council. We talk about the long fight there and the dedicated Bereans who fought it.

Chris also sits in for our Juicy Fruit segment this week, where the topic du jour is labels. Actor Raven-Symone received much side-eye this week for telling Oprah that she doesn’t identify as African American, but as American, and she doesn’t identify as gay or bisexual, but as a “human who loves humans.”

To Chris, it seems apropos to what he heard in Kentucky this week. “Those sorts of platitudes are exactly what we have faced in Berea and the other cities where people love to say, I believe in fairness for everyone, I don’t wanna discriminate against anyone, everybody should be treated with human dignity, but I don’t support […] creating protected classes,'” he says.

Chris also pointed out the tendency of younger people to eschew labels—or in some cases, to identify as queer rather than specifically gay—because they don’t remember a time when those labels were more necessary for solidarity and community building. “They don’t want a closet to exist. I don’t think any of us do. But we came from a place where closets were necessary.”

Jaison gives Raven the benefit of the doubt. “I saw it more as an indictment of society’s racism and homophobia,” he says. “She said, ‘If I allow you to label me as lesbian, if I allow you to label me as African American, I also allow you to insert upon me all those stereotypes that you think about blacks, and think about lesbians.’ I just think that because she isn’t a student of queer studies or black studies, she doesn’t have the language to articulate that in a way that sounds better.”

The consensus in our studio seems to be that if you’re comfortable with yourself and confident in your identity, labels shouldn’t make you uncomfortable.

“That’s cool and all, that you don’t do the label thing,” Kaila says, “but thank god we had people like Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Zora Neale Hurston—people who weren’t afraid to claim blackness, who weren’t afraid to claim queerness. Thank god for those people.”

 

Susan Sarandon & the WWE’s Damien Sandow Weigh in on Muhammad Ali’s Legacy; Janelle Monáe on the Android as a Metaphor for Oppressed People

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It’s been a star-studded week for Team Strange Fruit! We spent some time recently on the red carpet at the 2nd Annual Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards, where we got to chat with celebrities and honorees about the Champ’s civil rights legacy.

star studded collageAli famously refused service in the US Army when he was drafted during the Vietnam War, claiming conscientious objector status. The Army denied his claim, and Ali was found guilty of refusing induction, stripped of his World Boxing Association Championship title, and banned from the sport for nearly four years—at what would seem to be the peak of his athletic career. (Here’s a great timeline of Ali’s life.)

This week on the show you’ll hear us check in with Susan Sarandon, who was honored with the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Global Citizenship. She pointed out the significance of Ali’s actions. “You just do not see celebrities or athletes putting themselves on the line the way that he did,” she explained.

“If you look at the context in which he came forward, it was so heavy and so brave of him to take the stance that he did, when the country was on fire with so much racism, and the Vietnam War was so divisive.”

We also chatted with The Today Show’s Matt Lauer, and were completely charmed by Kid President. (We didn’t have room for all our red carpet interviews in the main show this week, so check our playlist at the bottom of the post for interviews with Holly Robinson Peete, Jim Brown, William Mapother, and more, as bonus fruit!)

For our feature interview, we speak to the Electric Lady herself, Janelle Monáe, who was in Louisville for the Idea Festival. She and some of of her compatriots from the Wondaland Arts Society spoke to a group of young people in a session devoted to improving the world by the year 2035.

She has famously avoided questions about her sexual orientation, preferring instead to eschew labels. We caught up with her in the green room before her presentation, and asked her why.

“First of all, I think it’s boring,” she said. “Although I wear black and white, I know that my life is not black and white. We’re complex beings.”

red carpetShe also explained her use of alter-ego Cindi Mayweather as a metaphor for oppressed peoples, and gave us one of our favorite quotes ever, on the subject of women: “We come in peace, but we mean business.”

And finally, for this week’s Juicy Fruit, we were joined in the Strange Fruit Studios by the WWE star Damien Sandow (That’s his character name, but he graciously started off the segment with, “I’m off today, so you can call me Aaron if you want.”).

We asked for his take on the recent attention on athletes and domestic violence. “When you’re on television, when you play for a sports team, you’re gonna have people—especially children—that look up to you, whether you like it or not. And that is a responsibility, in my opinion.”

Speaking of children, Aaron spends a lot of his time in schools, talking with kids about making good choices and helping each other. He was also at the Ali Awards and made a donation to the center after attending.

“It’s a history lesson,” he says about the center. “And also it’s a testament to the man. And that man has inspired so many people.” We know the phrase ‘gentle giant’ is clichéd, but it does come to mind when you meet Aaron—at least outside the ring. We’re glad he’s making Louisville his home, and can’t wait to see what he might do next!

Artist Turns Demolished Public Housing into… a Bee Sanctuary? Plus, the “Angry Black Woman” in the New York Times

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It’s IdeaFestival time in Louisville, and that means cool people who do cool things descend on our city to talk about the things they’re doing. We chatted with one of those folks, Juan Williams Chávez, this week about his work, and what it means to do social activism through art.

honey crewOne of Chávez’s big projects, the Pruitt-Igoe Bee Sanctuary, takes place on land that was once home to one of the country’s most notoriously awful housing developments. Built in the mid-1950s, the 33-building, high-rise complex fell into almost immediate disrepair, and was described in a Missouri history book as “something out of a Charles Dickens novel.” It was eventually demolished in the mid 1970s.

Today, thanks to Chávez, it is home to a bee sanctuary, where members of the community learn about urban agriculture. The decision on how to use the land wasn’t incidental. “Bees function as a community,” Chávez explains. “Pruitt-Igoe was designed for community. I wanted it to kind of go back to community.”

In our Juicy Fruit segment this week, we talk about the “angry black woman” stereotype that reared its head in a New York Times feature this week, pointed at television producer Shonda Rhimes.

The backlash was righteous and overwhelming, and the Times’ Public Editor ended up issuing an apology (and an acknowledgment of how troubling it is that none of its 20 critics are black). We break down the stereotype and how it does and doesn’t play out in pop culture.

“And speaking of things that are hard for a lot of folks to understand,” as Jaison says, “it’s Bisexual Awareness Week.” We dispel some of the most common misconceptions about our bi brothers and sisters.

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