Yasssss! 2014 Words of the Year on Fleek


The end of 2014 is upon us, and that means every outlet is publishing Best-of lists. We weren’t too impressed with the Wall Street Journal’s Best Pop Culture Moments last week, but one list we can get behind is the American Dialect Society‘s nominees for 2014 Words of the Year.

Like most cultural phenomena, lots of language has its roots in subcultures – including some from gay black culture. One of the words on the list is yass, an affirmation audiences have been screaming at house ball contestants for years, that made its way into mainstream usage with a little help from Nicki Minaj.

Detail from the Brennan House

Detail from the Brennan House

Social justice movements and hashtags also help coin new words and phrases; this year they gave us Gamergate, columbusing, and #notallmen (and its response, #yesallwomen).

Grant Barrett is an officer with the American Dialect Society, and compiles their list of linguistic contenders every year. He joins us this week to talk about 2014’s nominees and where they came from. He also sheds a little light on the more inexplicable (to us) choices, like “on fleek,” an expression that caused Jaison to feel old for the first time in his life.

And we spend our Juicy Fruit segment in the historical Brennan House in downtown Louisville, where we learn about preserving sites with historical significance to the LGBT community. Kentucky recently got a grant to help add LGBT-important sites to the National Register of Historic Places, and Preservation Louisville Director Marianne Zickuhr joins us to talk about the work they will do on the project. Hint: It involves Baby Vicco!

Human Rights Campaign Study Finds Louisville above Average on LGBT Equality


hrc indexLouisville is looking pretty good this week! We recently got a 66% on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index—higher than the national average of 59%, and the highest rating of any city in Kentucky. The index looks at factors like non-discrimination laws, domestic partner benefits, openly gay elected officials, and more, and largely finds cities leading the way in the US, while states sometimes lag behind.

This week we’re joined by Cathryn Oakley of the HRC, who tells us more about the methodology, and how this year’s study compares to previous years.

In Juicy Fruit, we cover more Louisville news: WFPL health reporter Ja’Nel Johnson sits in to tell us about an encouraging story from the University of Louisville medical school. It will be the first med school in the nation to include specific instruction on treating LGBTQ patients.

In other hot (and medical) topics, an employee of Norton Healthcare was fired after her racist facebook post went viral (including a share from our own Jaison Gardner, who was mentioned in some of the media coverage).

Toni Morrison has a new novel coming out in the Spring, and last week was also the anniversary of James Baldwin’s death, so we spend some time this week showing respect to these legends of Black literature and discussing the significance of their works.

And finally, the Wall Street Journal’s arts & entertainment blog, The Speakeasy, released its list of The 15 Best Pop Culture Moments of 2014. Some we totally got (the Oscar selfie, “Adele Dazeem,” Pharrell’s hat), and others we barely even registered this year (President Obama on Between Two Ferns, Katy Perry dressing as a Cheeto, something about Sharknado 2…?). We didn’t have time to include it all in this week’s show, so the pop culture moments conversation is bonus fruit this week:

Strange Fruit Holiday Music Special!


holidaymagicThanksgiving is over, so now even the Scroogiest Fruitcakes have to admit it’s not too early to put on some Christmas tunes!

This week we talk about our favorite holiday music and movies, listen to some songs, and Dr. Story shares her philosophy on holiday decorating: “My favorite color is glitter.”

We’re also joined in the studio by Jeff Buhrman, formerly of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington D.C., who is now the artistic director of VOICES of Kentuckiana. VOICES is Louisville’s LGBTQ chorus. We talked to Jeff about their upcoming holiday program Holiday Magic, and about the power of music to forge communities and change lives.

We have two pairs tickets to give away to the VOICES concert, too! The concert happens December 6 & 7 at the Clifton Center. Leave us a comment with a holiday song you love, and we’ll throw your name in the drawing (and add your song to our holiday playlist!


Ferguson Special


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


“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


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


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


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


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?



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.)

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