Narrator: Hi everybody, my name is Remy. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast, with your host Jen Hatmaker, my mom. She writes books and speaks to crowds. But she mostly loves talking to amazing people every week on this podcast. Thanks for listening! We hope you enjoy the show.
Jen: Hey, everybody. Jen Hatmaker here. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast. So happy you are listening today. Happy to be in your eardrums. And you are going to be glad that you hit play on this episode.
Okay. As for today, we are in the middle of a series called For the Love of Podcasts. And what is so great right now about the podcast world is, we are getting to pull up a seat to so many interesting tables and to hear about different experiences and different perspectives and learn from different leaders, different kinds of thinkers. I cannot tell you how much this has mattered to me and how much I have learned and how grateful I am for the podcast work of so many outstanding people in our culture right now. I’ve literally listened to people near and far, from all walks of life, who are showing me what it means to be a human in Compton, or in Copenhagen, or Cape Town, or wherever. I am learning so much. And if you are too, that’s just icing on the cake for me.
Today, ahh, what a good episode we have today. I have a few of my favorite people on today, and I am delighted for you to know them and to hear about their work. So today, I’m talking with Jason Petty and wife, Dr. Alma Zaragoza-Petty. You might also know who I’m speaking to in the second half of the show, my dear friend, storyteller, and all-around good human, B.T. Harman.
Okay. So first things first, Jason Petty, he’s a rapper. He’s an activist. He’s an artist. You might know him better by his stage name, Propaganda. So great. So Jason and his amazing wife, Dr. Alma, she is a university professor, you guys. No big deal. They host one of my favorite podcasts, and I want to make sure you know about it. It’s called The Red Couch Podcast. And they have all kinds of very candid conversations and interviews, covering everything from pop culture, to politics, to social justice issues. And they bring really unique perspectives to bear for every single conversation they host. They are both so smart and so interesting.
The two of them actually grew up in different parts of L.A. Jason’s dad was a Black Panther. Alma’s parents immigrated from Mexico before she was born, and she grew up both in Mexico and the U.S. So they are these amazing parents, leading an interracial family with so much humor and grit. I just love them. I really do. And I love the things that they’re talking about and the way that they’re talking about it. I have learned a lot from the both of them. So they’re inviting us all along for a ride on their show.
So just a quick hat tip here: The Red Couch Podcast is on The Liturgists Network. So you know what that means: it is full of smart and open and engaging conversations that challenge us and stretch our brains and our hearts, which happens to me every single time we talk to folks from The Liturgists. So we’ve had them on the show, in fact: Hillary McBride , Mike McHargue , also known as Science Mike, just a great bunch of human beings. I love them. I learn from them. I listen to them. So Red Couch Podcast is a part of that umbrella, so you already know it’s good.
So today, we go straight into what Jason and Alma’s work looks like and how they do it and what their perspectives and point of views are, why it all matters. I got so caught up in talking with them, we just went off to the races. So we’re going to jump right into the middle of our conversation. So buckle up, you guys. We are absolutely coming in hot. I am pleased to share my conversation with the insightful, funny Propaganda—Jason Petty—and his wife, Dr. Alma Zaragoza-Petty.
Jen: I’m super glad to have the both of you on the show today, welcome Propaganda, welcome Alma. Thank you for saying yes to this.
I think your work together, golly, it’s like . . . it’s greater than the sum of its parts even because what you do together is really, really special. You’ve got this sort of . . . I don’t know. Is ministry the right word to call it? It doesn’t look traditional in the ways that Christians have always put ministry in real tidy categories—which for me, of course, as you know, is refreshing.
So I wonder if you can sort of sum up both of you, your mission—specifically for your art and music, Jason, and then also the both of you for your podcast, because you’re just carving out some space here in the wilderness, where there isn’t necessarily exact precedence.
Prop: Yeah. Man, that’s great, dude, because those are questions we ask ourselves all the time. Like, “Okay, so what are we doing?”
Alma: Yesterday we were questioning our whole existence.
Prop: Yeah. So a lot of our stuff is really truth telling with a hope of vision casting. So it’s like, “How do we help people just imagine a different reality?” But the only way to do that is to take a real look at what’s happening now. You know what I’m saying? And being able to get a grip around that.
There’s also an importance for us to tap into, celebrate, and elevate our sort of perspectives as people of color, and be a voice for those who . . . Probably a lot of this stuff that we bring up or that we talk about is not really revolutionary among other people of color. We’re talking about this already, you know what I’m saying? And already have a perspective of seeing the world sort of the way that we see it. We just have sort of, you know, degrees at the end of our names and a microphone. You know what I’m saying? So for me, the music is supposed to, again, like, vision cast and kind of use sort of the gift of being from the margins to help sort of project a better future for all of us.
And then my hope for the pod is the same, to tackle conversations that really are happening off the mic in the rest of the communities. You know what I’m saying?
When I was taking the exams to become a California high school teacher, you have to take US, world history, civics, government, econ, right? You have to be able to pass all these exams to prove you can [teach] it.
I passed all of them first try, except for the economics one. And it wasn’t that I didn’t understand. I just didn’t know the vocabulary. I didn’t know how you wanted me to answer these questions, right? Because economics is simple: just you don’t spend money you don’t have. That’s easy. You know what I’m saying, right? And if you spend money, spend money on what’s going to make you money. I don’t understand why you need all these charts for that. Right?
So for me, it was like I couldn’t name the charts, I couldn’t name this. But I walked away feeling like, “Man, maybe I’m not as intelligent as I think I am.” Even though I was like, “But I’m telling you, I know what you’re asking me, you know?” So I feel like having to figure that out on my own, and be like, “No, Jason. You do know what you’re talking about. You just have to learn their language,” was important to me.
I want other people in the world that maybe don’t have the degrees that we have or don’t know the edu-speech or the king’s tongue to be able to articulate what’s happening politically or socially, or whatever the case may be, to have the confidence to know, like, “No, you actually do know what you’re talking about, so let me translate this. You’re not unintelligent. You actually have a different type of intelligence. Now, let me just give you vocabulary for what you already know.”
Jen: I love that. I’ve never heard anybody say it just like that. That’s pretty profound. Alma?
Alma: Yeah. I think for me, it’s been definitely seeing this more as a ministry has been helpful. And then also not only that, but seeing how this work has shaped how I look at things.
So for instance, I used to always have this idea that I didn’t want to be a leader because leaders are jerks. They’re out there just telling people what to do. And I was sitting on this high tower and judging me. You know? And maybe that’s because of my “you’ll see” perspective because of just the experiences that I had up to that point.
One of the things that I really enjoy about doing with the podcast and realizing this is part of what it does is that we’re not about—at least for myself, I know that I’m not about being a leader for just being a leader’s sake. At the same time, for a long time in my life, I have always been a leader. I have always done things that people were like, “Oh man, you’re gonna do that? That scary.” And I’m like, “Why?” I was just doing things that were out of the norm, and to me that didn’t equal leader. That equaled a crazy person. Like risk taker, or like, acting on your trauma at times, which I’m sure have some other problems.
I was always excited about doing things out of my comfort zone, but I didn’t see it in that way. I saw it more as this risk taker.
I joined a gang at one point in my life because I was like, “Yeah, I’m hard and I’m doing this thing. And it’s so different. My parents hate it.” And I think it’s almost like that had to be redeemed in this context for me to realize, “Oh, it’s not so much that I’m a leader because I can do it. I’m a leader because I can also show others the way, that it’s actually not that hard. It’s actually just the beauty of living into your own originality and your own creativity in whatever manifestation that takes.” It could be more artistic or it could be more in a conventional sort of nine to five kind of a job, whatever.
The point is, that is probably one of the things that I’ve held onto. And whenever I am feeling kind of like, “Wait, what are we doing this? Why are we trying on all these different roles in our lives?” And then adding this? It’s like, “Oh, that’s right, because there’s a lot of people out there that are still disenfranchised and still don’t see their potential.” And sometimes even if we can just reflect a little bit of that in us to them, then it’s like our work here has been done—at least for me, that’s kind of what I’m doing.
Prop: I’m going to jump in here real quick and just [point out] how she slid by the fact that she was actually a member of the gang here. And one of the most notorious street gangs in Los Angeles. It’s one of the greatest stories. It’s not just like, “Oh, these are just my friends acting stupid.” It’s a legendary—
Alma: It’s because he wanted to be a gangster but you couldn’t!
Prop: Because I couldn’t! Daddy would’ve killed me!
Prop: She was a gangbanger. But you’ve got to tell them this story. Can you tell her how you got out of it though?
Alma: Oh my gosh. It is pretty crazy.
So I ended up accidentally showing my grades to one of the lead people in the gang. She saw my grades basically accidentally, and she was like, “Whoa, you have straight A’s?”
I was like, “If I don’t have good grades, my dad will kill me.”
And she was like, ‘Wait, your dad cares about what grades you get?”
And I was like, “Uhh . . . yes?”
And she was like, “What are you doing with your life? You should just do that.” [To me] that sounded like, “Why are you here with us?” And I honestly, at that time, all I felt was yet again, I had been rejected.
Prop: Rejection. You’re right. [Even the losers were like], “What are you doing?”
Alma: I’m like, “Even losers don’t want me?”
Jen: “The losers don’t want—” Okay, that’s crazy. That is amazing. And so you stepped away?
Alma: I did. They let me walk.
Prop: Which is unheard of.
Alma: That’s the only way you could do it, actually, like that.
Prop: The only way to walk away is if you get pardoned. Yeah, you get jumped out, or you die.
Alma: Really got that. No idea. Of course, it was a blessing.
Jen: How old were you when that went down, Alma?
Alma: I was my daughter’s age, probably. I was 13 or 14. So it was like pivotal developmental years.
Jen: Gosh, your life just could have taken a completely different path.
Jen: One thing that I love about listening to the two of you, and you kind of said this a second ago, Jason. You said part of your goal, part of your work, is how do you help people imagine a different reality?
Jen: And I really appreciate it. Also what you just said, Alma, about leadership doesn’t just look one way. Leadership can be creative. It can be academic, it can be gentle. It can be assertive. I think you’re right that you were a leader all this time. You just weren’t using the right language around it.
One thing that the two of you do is that you show, with your words and your life, how important it is to train ourselves to see this world through different cultural lenses. And how to look practically at the cause and effect. That one or a series of events can [look different to] different groups of people because obviously our nature’s to be self-centered. It’s challenging to look outside of our family. It is challenging to look outside of our own experience, our own community. It’s like a black hole that wants to suck in all of our attention, and assume that it’s the center of everybody else’s universe too.
So I wonder if for a minute you could each talk about . . . how would you counsel us? How would you advise us as human beings to see outside of a very confined scope—whatever it was we were handed, whatever it was we grew up inside of—and why that is really, really crucial work that each of us decides that we have to do?
Prop: Yeah. That’s good. Man, that’s a great question.
Alma: I know.
Prop: So here’s what’s interesting. When you’re [part of a] non-majority culture, you’re already forced to live at least a bi-cultural experience. Because if you’re going to exist in just macro culture, you have to learn how to see the world through white people’s eyes. But it’s just a part of experience, right? So you’re already thrusted into it. So it was not an option. It’s not an option to already have to do that. You know what I’m saying?
And now you could take that, and then go and lean into it and be like, “Man, the world’s not a binary. There is so many other experiences. There’s so many other intersections about it. So me as a male, I could be like, “Okay, what does it look like to walk in here as a woman? [Or] walking in here as a black woman?” Or what about . . . “ You know what I’m saying? And a Latino woman, you know, a Latina, because I’m married to one? So you just need to understand sort of these different ways to throw yourself into others’ environments. The reality of this is not an option as a person of color.
As somebody who’s part of majority culture, it is an option for you. And if you do desire to grow, it’s just like, “Yeah, that’s just one of those things.” You just have to find a way to immerse yourself in a world that’s not yours and just come in as a learner. You know what I’m saying? Your defense is down. It’s not about self-preservation, it’s about exploration. I think a lot of times to me that’s what I’ve seen. If I were to diagnose certain people, I would say I feel like it’s an understandable tendency to for self-preservation is like sometimes, you have to figure out how to get over that instinct and allow yourself to be in a space that’s not made for you.
Alma: I think aside from the social, political kind of stuff that Jason touched upon, something else that comes to mind is understanding my life in relation to others, and how we’re all in this. You often hear about this political project or this idea of the world and how do you imagine like a different world? And I mean for us, at least for me, I know my spirituality, my religion informs a lot of that.
And so often I think about like, “What does it mean to be in a love project? If I am in a love project with the universe, what does this look like? What does it look like for me?” And I’ve challenged myself a lot on this. It’s because for a long time I was so insulated and it was all about me and my culture, my people, and we went in as everybody else, it’s actually really easy for me to understand a white majority perspective. Because I’m like, “Oh, that’s just what I did, except with no power and the brown version of that.” You know?
Alma: And so it’s really easy for me to get it.
But because it’s also easy for me, I have the patience to be able to say “Oh, just because of my own beliefs doesn’t excuse—I’m not excused by the . . .”
I feel like you often hear this idea of we’re called to love people, but I don’t have to like you. And I feel like that’s just such a cop out. No. That’s not actually what God meant. And at least I take that really seriously. And how do I then love someone who is pissing me off with the questions around like being a person of color, or like not understanding why those people actually saying generalizations or things that are discriminatory, or things that they don’t even realize are that. And how do I love that person? Because I’m called to love them, even though I don’t want to.
And even though I had this cop-out version of love that I want to lean into sometimes, I feel like, “No, I’m going to push myself past that.” And that means I’m not always going to be the person, that person, you know, like I’m gonna call it, you know, if you’re in a good place sometimes and I need to recognize, so I need to love myself enough to be like, “Man, I can’t love myself enough right now and love you too. So let me focus on loving myself and saying I can’t be there for you right now.”
Or I need to actually extend out and say “Hey, now, what you said? That’s just really problematic for all these reasons. And I just want to let you know that because I care for you and I want you to not make this mistake that someone else because it really hurt.”
Jen: This work has. . . It just has a very real enemy in white fragility. You know? It does. This is where the rubber just leaves the road for so much important work in the world right now because white people are absolutely accustomed to being the majority in the room at all times. The world was built around our experience. It was built for our protection. It was built for our promotion. It was built for our position, and it was built for our power.
So when anything, anything comes in from a side door and feels like it threatens the equilibrium there that we are accustomed to living in, I mean, it just can go right off the rails. And I see this all the time in my work too.
I’m sure you guys probably know Latasha Morrison. She’s my friend. She does really cool work and her space is called Be the Bridge. And she’s working really hard on racial equality and reconciliation, primarily inside the church but also outside of it. And she has . . . This goes back to something you just said, Jason. She’s got a rule, there’s a lot of threads to her work. It’s not just one thing, but one of the spaces is kind of an online private Facebook group, and it’s huge at this point, where you could just sort of pull up a chair and on the daily, just be paying attention.
But her rule is—and I love this, and I have learned so much from her—is that if you are white and you are coming into the space, presumably to learn, you cannot say one word, not a word. You cannot comment.
Prop: Oh yeah . . .
Jen: You cannot you cannot respond. You can say zero, and it will be checked for three months.
Jen: So that in three months, you just sit there, and you listen and you pay attention. And I find that such good leadership because that gives just a little bit of time for white people to get over the shock of their own, like, shame and defensiveness, which always just comes out so wild and then so offensive. And so I think the work . . . The onus is on us here.
Jen: And so, I so appreciate the work that you’re doing because you are teachers and you are leaders in this space. But the work is ours. You cannot do that for us, nor is it your responsibility.
Prop: Whew, preach!
Jen: So this is why I’m so happy to put leaders like you in front of my predominantly white audience because we have so—if we can come in humbly, if we can do it, then we have a lot to learn.
When both of you guys—gosh, you don’t ever shy away from the hard stuff. It’s so funny because your chemistry together is so cute and fun. It’s so married and it’s so familiar and it’s so great. But then you guys go in. You talk about Iran, and Palestine, and Brexit. I mean, there’s just no end to what you won’t touch on. You really, really go into some of the most tangled topics of the day. And you share them in a way that strips off a lot of the pretense and lingo that is hard to wade through and you kind of expose them down to their basics.
So obviously, I have to talk to you about this, but one of the segments I liked the most in each episode is Hood Politics, obviously. Brilliant. So tell my listeners, if they’re not familiar with your work yet, what that segment looks like and what it’s about.
Prop: That’s great. Now that’s almost reflecting back to the economics thing that I was saying, is like you kind of don’t know what language, but you actually know what you’re looking at. So, it’s kind of the idea of like I just have this strong held belief that if you understand sort of inner city living, like hood living, you understand geopolitics. If you’ve even made it through a middle school, just middle school dynamics, just how all that works. I really think you can understand geopolitics because it’s really not that far from it.
So, what we want to do—it’s unfortunate to say—what we want to do with Hood Politics is take it very—it’s kind of cheeky like approach to in political pundits. But it’s not so much . . . it’s commentary. And it’s commentary in the sense of, “I know a lot of this is confusing. I know there’s a lot of bias. If you’re going to watch television news, it’s over before it started. You know what I’m saying? So here’s a way to at least understand the talking points in a language that you and I might actually be familiar with.”
So again, it’s just this idea of you take the little hood kid that just doesn’t think that they’re equipped for this. And I just kind of like want to go, “Actually you are, man. You actually know what you’re looking at, right? And you understand what you’re looking at.” So that’s kind of the approach.
Since the genesis was that, and then the way that I learned to sort of try to do it was just teaching inner city social science—I taught 9th graders and I had to teach them social science. And they were the hood kids. You know what I mean? So it’s just like, “Okay, dude, what’s the language?” And they’re just intimidated. As soon as you open up and you say, “We’re about to talk about politics,” They’re like, “I’m out, I’m gone.” It’s like, “Well, no, this is your life. Even if you’re trying to understand history. To me, the easiest understanding of history is, well, it’s just people doing what people do.” So, if you look in at this situation, what would you do? What would your mama do? That’s probably what happened.”
Jen: Yes, I love it. That’s great.
Give us an example. Give us a little shortened version of Hood Politics so everybody can kind of hear what’s up here.
Prop: Here’s an example. Let’s just say you, Jen, your family gets a tax return or something, and then you guys move across town, right? But when you move across town, for generations, that’s been sort of a rival neighborhood, right? But it’s okay because, Jen, you have a big sister, and your big sister has been dating one of the guys over there forever. So even though you’re from a rival hood, you have what’s called a “hood pass,” right? Which means, “You’re really not supposed to be here, but I’m going to give you a pass. Right? Because your big sister is dating one of our OGs.”
What if they break up? Your hood pass is revoked, you are now all out in the open.
Let’s say it was a good breakup. The guy’s not going to be malicious. He’s not going to be like, “Go after Jen!” He’s just like, “Hey, look, whatever transpires now, I got nothing to do with that, but me and her are done.”
This is what our president just did to Syria and Turkey. They just revoked the hood pass because we’ve been partners. America’s been working with the Syrian Kurds to help quell ISIS, right? And it’s been working with Turkey, we’re long time partners with Turkey, but Turkey can’t stand the Kurds. But the only reason why the Syrian Kurds have been safe is because we’ve been present. The second we leave, the Syrian Kurds got they hood pass revoked, which is now as I’m looking at the TV right now, Turkey just invaded Syria.
So I’m like, you just got your hood pass revoked. You can’t throw your hands up and be like, “Whatever happens, happens.” It’s like, “Well, you already known it’s going to happen. You just revoked the hood pass.”
Jen: That’s a great example. As you were telling the story my brain was like, “Wait, what is it?” I was trying to find it. “What’s happening?” That’s a perfect example.
I’m curious, what’s the feedback been from Christians of color about your show? Or even a particular story that stands out to you from a listener.
Alma: For me, it’s been a lot of like, “Thank you for being my church in the interim.”
Prop: Yes. Not being beholden to any particular denomination, this has been, I have found, very freeing for our listeners. A lot are like, “Oh great. I’m not crazy. Thank you.” You know? So that’s been a lot of the responses we’ve been getting. It’s like, “Man, finally, this is stuff I can’t say at church, you know what I’m saying? But I feel like we’re all thinking this.”
Alma: The most impactful one that I received was actually as we’ve been doing this tour, when we were in Texas and someone mentioned having us as a resource during her divorce and having a place that was home before her divorce and then carried her through her divorce.
Prop: Yeah, we’re in Houston, Texas, and in the same room there’s a 60-year-old white dude. And then there was a transgender person sitting in the back, and then it was just like the row of the Black Lives Matter, like, woke black people in the front. It was just like, “Who draws this? Look at this room! You know what I’m saying? So, yeah.
Jen: I’ve heard you say before, Jason, that civic engagement—because you guys go as the example you just gave us as a perfect, a prime example of the sorts of stuff that you talked about—that for you, civic engagement, you understood obviously with your dad growing up, this was an important part of your faith. They weren’t separate. They were very together. But that’s not something you see as much anymore, which I couldn’t agree more than that.
So I wonder if you could talk about that a little bit. Why do you think that has changed? How do you think we can restore it? How would you sort of counsel Christians and people of faith in general to reimagine civic engagement?
Prop: Yeah, another great question. You’re good at this.
When laws are an issue for your actual personhood, you just can’t not engage. Now, I think when you sort of build an insulated, fence around thing a whether it’s your Christian radio stations or music or coffee shops or whatever the case may be, you get this illusion of this moated castle that you can exist in and everything’s good inside of this, and everything out there is unsafe, is evil, is not good, it’s just a very comfortable life.
So when you think about that, it’s like, “Well, the laws aren’t affecting your quality of life anymore.” So you don’t think about it, you know what I’m saying? Which is obviously a very selfish, one-sided way to look at the world, you know.
But as a believer, I think the first thing you have to step back and be like, “Who built this moat? And why is it even here? What do you mean them? What do you mean? There is no them! What Jesus are you talking about?”
I felt like Jesus kept going. “No, them too. No, no, no, no, no. Them too. Nah, them too. Yep, nope, they’re us.” So when you don’t have a motif that has sort of this walled-off city, then you’re like, “Well, what affects them affects me. And if I’m going to be a good neighbor, the way to institutionalize my neighborliness is to have civic duty.
Jen: That’s so good
I wonder if you ever view your work particularly on the podcast, as a resource for other people of color who are just sick of explaining their experience all the time, and having to code-switch all the time, and having to shape shift to this sort of white majority culture all the time.
So I wonder if you could talk about why it’s important for people to understand that conversational fatigue around the experiences of people of color and for you is so real that it’s just exhausting, that heavy lifting is too much to ask.
Do you see your work sometimes as people being able to say, “Here, just listen to this. Here, download this, and then come talk to me with your questions.”
Alma: Yeah. We literally tell all our listeners, “Hey, we’re going to talk about this today. So if you have a white person in your life that’s asking you about this, just share this episode, and hopefully it’ll clear up some stuff, then you don’t need to be tired while explaining it yet again to someone else because—”
Prop: Because sometimes it still feels like our bodies and minds are commodities. Even in a person trying to get out of the sort of a . . . a racist motif, I’m still feel like I’m being used as a product because you outsource it and all of your hard work, you know what I’m saying. I’m just like, “Do the work. Here, this is this. We already did it.”
Jen: Yes. Perfect.
But what about for you guys because it’s demanding that you’re doing you’re rowing this ship pretty hard. So on your hard days, when you are worn out, when you’re tired, when you’re low from just the demands—basically of your schedules, first of all, but then just the hard work that you are doing here—what does hope look like for you? I’m curious what joy looks like for you. What do you do either individually or together, or both? That keeps you fueled up to keep your foot on the gas here?
Prop: We definitely know how to unplug, know how to, “Yeah, we’re not answering this question. We’re just going to movie night with our kids.”
We both have massage memberships, so, going to get massages. We’ve got hobbies.
I will lose myself in it in a series or a documentary. We’re watching together The Boys, which it’s so dope. When I’m by myself, I’m in the next season of Peaky Blinders is out, so I’m watching that. Ain’t nothing like seeing gangsta white dudes like, “These fools is hard.”
Jen: How about you, Alma?
Alma: For me, hope right now, I’m going to do just similar stuff. I really love . . . I’ve really taken meditation seriously lately. So I’m like okay, wake up at 5, 5:30 and actually do this. I am pretty religious about my gratitude for the day. No matter how sucky your day is, there’s something to be grateful for it. And finding it is what gives me hope.
Jen: I feel like that gratitude message is everywhere right now. I just can’t escape it. I mean, because it’s so powerful. It has such physiological and psychological effects on us, spiritual effects on us. That’s such a healthy and mature practice.
Thanks for mentioning all those, actually. Those are so useful.
Okay. What’s next for you guys? What’s coming up? What are you doing? What are you working on?
Prop: Touring. Touring the pod.
Jen: How’s that going by the way? Is that fun?
Prop: It’s fun. It’s hard. It’s hard because it’s touring, I’ve been so used to touring by myself. So it’s just like, out on the plane [with] all the homies. You know what I’m saying? But now it’s as a couple. That’s been the biggest joy. It’s like, “Oh my God, my wife’s like with me. This is so fun.” But it’s harder because we are with the kids. And it’s a new thing. It’s like trying to get the audience to get their brain around, like, you’re coming to see a podcast. Like, “Wait, what?
Alma: We’re sitting on this stage in chairs.
Prop: Yeah. “Wait. So you’re going to rap it up?”
“Well, yeah, I’m gonna rap, but like later.”
“Well . . . which one is it?”
So it’s been a little difficult as far as sort of learning curve. But once people are in the room, it’s been absolutely life giving.
Jen: That’s awesome.
Alma: Yeah, and I cofounded Prickly Pear Collective, which is an org that exists to create community for people who are finding themselves in the outskirts of church, but wanting to have the community. And so we often say that we’re kind of at the intersections of church, therapy, community. We really want the people who have a hard time or are prickly on the outside, who are kind of harder to get close to—basically the younger me’s.
Jen: That’s great. Oh my gosh, that’s great. We’ll link to all that stuff you guys and my listeners are for sure going to know more about that.
Jen: All right, we’re wrapping it up here. These are three quick questions we’re asking all of our guests in the podcast series.
Here’s the first one. Just top of your head. What—if any, if you even have time? My gosh—what podcasts are you listening to right now?
Prop: Oh, I can think of three of them real fast.
Behind the Bastards. Okay, it’s everything you don’t know about history. It’s the funniest, but deep. It’s funny, but it’s a deep dive into. . . Think about if you’re going to talk about Hitler as if he’s Michael Scott. It’s terrible.
Same host, he had a show called Worst Year Ever, and it’s about the 2020 election. So it’s almost like a debrief with your friends after debates on or you’re just like, “Oh my gosh, what just happened right now? I’m so tired.”
And then for my faith, it is The Bible for Normal People with our friend Pete Enns.
Jen: Yep, same. We’ll link over to all your suggestions. I’m always looking for new podcasts. And sometimes I want to be funny. So thanks for throwing in a couple of those.
All right. Just off, I know there’s probably plenty, but just pick one. What’s your favorite thing or maybe the most profound thing that you’ve learned from doing your podcast?
Prop: Wow. Most profound things.
Alma: I think for me, the profound thing is actually, I feel like the journey of doing the podcast against my will in the beginning has become . . . it’s sharpened me. Iron sharpens iron, so It just helps me to become more in tune with my voice, finding my voice literally and figuratively.
Jen: That comes through. It really does. Yeah. That comes through loud and clear. How about you, Jason?
Prop: I think it’s doing something for the success of someone else was my own experience. But of course, I benefit from this, but I think, no, the world needs to deal with my wife. And every time she gets a speaking engagement that I don’t, it’s like, that’s why I did this. And I’m actually happy. Oh my God. Like I really did this for somebody else. You know?
Jen: That’s so great.
Last question. This is a Barbara Brown Taylor question. We ask everybody this, every series, every guest. And it can be whatever you want it to be. So you answer it how are you feel you feel like it. The question that she asks is: what is saving your life right now?
Alma: I know that an answer for it.
Prop: Go for it.
Alma: Bulletproof coffee, that’s the thing. Every morning I am super hungry. There’s a lot to be done: take care of myself, work out, feed the children, feed the husband, feed myself. But I don’t feed myself, so I end up just having a Bulletproof coffee on my way to work. And then I feed myself then.
Jen: I just feel so understood right now. Coffee will literally get me out of the bed in the morning.
Prop: Oh same.
Jen: I just think, If I get up, I can be having coffee pretty soon.
Prop: Yeah, I’d say the Calm App.
Prop: Yeah, like the Daily Calms. It’s just 10-minute meditations. I’m like, This is great. Slow down, Jason.
Jen: Okay. I wrote that down too. You guys should see all my notes. I’ve taken so many notes over the course of this whole entire interview.
Okay. I want to just tell you a couple of things. Thank you for being who you are, and for bringing your experience and voice to bear on this culture right now. It matters. It really matters. I want you to know that we are listening, and learning from you, and you’re really important leaders right now and I’m proud of your work, and I’m proud of your tenacity.
And I feel like you are so special in that you make these conversations, you make these spaces accessible. You really do. You are the type of leaders that . . . I’m drawn to you. And so, thanks for all that you do. I know that there’s a cost to it, you know I understand that. And I see it, and I honor it. I honor your work, and I’m telling you right now that it matters.
Thank you. Thanks for coming on. Thanks for being my friends. Every possible way.
Alma: Thanks for making me cry with your beautiful words.
Prop: Oh, my God. Yes.
Jen: Love y’all.
Super grateful for those two. I really am.
I want you to know that Jason has been a good friend to me. And the two of them always give me so much to think about. I’m really happy to introduce them to you if they are new to you. So we’ll link to everything they mentioned so that you can get to know them better also: their podcast recommendations, the shows they’re watching, their tour dates, all of it. Nothing pleases me more than getting to learn alongside you from such important, wonderful leaders putting such good work into the world.
Speaking of good work, you 100% want to stick around for the second half of the show as I talk to my delightful friend, B.T. Harman, about his new true crime podcast. You guys, true crime! It’s the real deal too. So we’re going to hear all about how B.T. found this story to tell and what we can expect out of it, including its really interesting name. So you’re not going to want to miss it. See you in a sec.
Jen: Hey, guys. Welcome back to the second half of today’s episode. I have on one of my favorite people today. So lucky me and lucky you. You probably remember my guest. He has been on the show before. And the first time he was on, he went by Brett Trapp. Do you remember Brett? Oh, it’s one of the greatest, one of the absolute greatest. And these days, he is going by B.T. Harman, which we will talk about, where B.T. Harman came from. Hint: marriage.
So if you have been listening for a while, you’ll remember him, of course. There’s a lot that’s happened in his life. He’s going to fill you in on all that. But if you’re new to B.T., let’s see, he’s a speaker. He’s a consultant, and he is an amazing storyteller. And he lives in Atlanta’s historic Cabbagetown neighborhood, which features prominently to our discussion today. So bear that one in mind.
His personal ethos is to tell stories that seek the thoughts of a healthy culture. That’s a big umbrella, but you know I’m all about that, digging out underneath conversations that matter when they are rooted in justice and forward progress and healthy lives. So it’s really no wonder we’re friends.
And I’ll mention this today, but his first podcast was called Blue Babies Pink, which he’ll explain to you a little bit. But that was my introduction to B.T.. That was when I first just knew him as nothing other than a listener. I had never met him. My friend, Tara Livesay, sent me that podcast and said, “This is must listen.” And I powered through it, the whole thing, and just went, “I have to know this person,” and reached out to him and said, “Can I know you? Will you come on my podcast?” And thus, we began a friendship that is so, so dear to me.
So I’m excited to have him on today because he’s just launched a brand-new podcast. And this time, it’s true crime. All right? A true crime podcast called Catlick, which we will talk about. We’re going to ask about the name. What does that even mean?
And this is a really important piece of work that he’s essentially been working on for four years, you guys. So we’re going to talk about all of it. What is it? What’s it about? What’s the story underneath it? How did he find it? All of it. I’m just telling you . . . This is my prediction: you’re going to get to the end of this podcast, and by the time you are there, you will have already downloaded Catlick. You will have already subscribed, and you will not be sorry.
So as always, I am so pleased to share my conversation with one of my favorite people, the host and the creator—not just host—he absolute creator of the brand-new, true crime podcast called Catlick. Here he is, you guys. B.T. Harman.
Good morning to my friend. I am so happy to have you back on. Welcome back to the show.
B.T.: Hey, Jen. It’s good to be here. Super pumped.
Jen: I know. I feel like I’ve gotten to see quite a bit of you lately. I’m happy about it. We’re popping up in the same places, and I love it. And you always have your very handsome fella with you too, which is just a bonus. It’s a bonus Brett.
B.T.: Agreed. He’s amazing.
Jen: Well, speaking of bonus Brett, we’ve got folks that have been listening to this show for a long time. And of course, they heard you on the first time you were on the For the Love Podcast, which is maybe a year and a half ago. And quite a bit has happened in your life since then.
B.T.: Yeah. So my name’s B.T. Harman. I live in Atlanta, Georgia. My previous name was Brett Trapp. But in 2018, I married a man named Brett Harman, which was problematic on several levels. So I took his last name, and then shortened my first name to the initials B.T..
That’s it. But yeah. So that was, gosh, I bet a year and a half ago. So since then, life’s just been great. We live right smack dab in the middle of Atlanta. We got a cat named Walnut.
Jen: Yes. Walnut makes a lot of appearances on the ‘Gram.
B.T.: Walnut is our little superstar. Yep. He is awesome. He’s a sweet cat.
Jen: Did you know that you were going to be a cat person? Is that news to you, or was that known quantity?
B.T.: It’s funny. I feel like I’ve had big cat energy since I was a kid. Jen, there’s a picture . . . I grew up in Azle, Texas, outside Fort Worth. There’s a picture of me with this black cat that we had growing up, when I was about two. I’m sitting in the yard, and that cat is sitting right next to me. I’m not kidding you, Jen, that cat slept in the bed with me until my freshman year of college.
Jen: What? Okay. All right.
B.T.: Yeah. I’ve been a cat person from the get.
Jen: Okay. That’s fair.
In this series, you are the only podcaster talking about a true crime podcast, which is exciting and sensational. So let’s talk about it.
It just came out. You just released it. I am hooked. I love hearing your voice anyway, but it’s this . . . I honestly can’t believe no one’s ever stumbled upon this yet. It’s so intriguing that . . . It feels shocking that you’re essentially breaking the story for modern-day listeners. So bravo to you.
So let’s first talk about the title, because what does Catlick mean? It’s not easy to forget, but what is that about?
B.T.: Yeah. So just a quick overview, Catlick . . . I mean, you’ve listened to it, Jen. It’s a historical true crime podcast. And it’s sort of partially both. It’s partially true crime and partially historical. It’s a blend. The tagline is, “It tells the lost story about spies, villains, and midnight vigilantes nearly destroyed the city of Atlanta in the early 1900s.” So the story is all true. I say, it’s not based on a true story—it is a true story. I’ve spent four years up to my ears in old archives and news clippings. And that’s really been a big focus of mine, really, for the last four years.
The original title of the show was going to be 56 Months in Atlanta because it covers this 56-month span of time, from month one all the way through the finish. But that name was too long, and it felt too regional because I’ve been very clear: this is not just for people in Atlanta.
Jen: Oh, good point.
B.T.: It’s really relevant for anybody who lives in America and wants to understand the history of America better. So about a month before the launch, I changed the name to Catlick. Which, for those who listened to my previous podcast, it was called Blue Babies Pink, which was confusing to people as well. So I guess it’s my shtick now.
Jen: It is.
B.T.: I like the mysterious name that you don’t really understand until I come out with it. So I can’t reveal the whole meaning of the name today. I’ll get to that several episodes in. But I will say this: it is interesting, if you look at the word Catlick, it does have the letters “ATL” in it.
Jen: Oh. Clever.
B.T.: Yeah. And I will say, the meaning is related to the theme of the show, which is really around race and America’s history with race. If you listen to Blue Babies Pink, Jen, the subtext was faith and sexuality. This is a hard turn in another direction and really unpacking some of these really hard conversations that are happening around race.
Jen: Well, okay. Let’s talk about that a little bit. In just a minute, I want you to high-level just the storyline. But as you just mentioned, it is just littered with racial strife and injustice and struggle. So I know you and I have talked about this . . . Because you have to tell a story like that with great care, especially as a white dude. So can you talk a little bit about how you put some scaffolding around your research, but then particularly around your storytelling, so that you are treating that story with the proper respect?
B.T.: So yeah. I mean, the point you bring up is fantastic. It’s really why I delayed and sat on this idea for too long. Because I just thought, “Gosh, do we really need another white guy putting out a podcast?” for one, and “Do I need to be the one to speak into this?”
If you understand the history of Atlanta, it’s just filled, from the city’s beginning, of racial turmoil. And the people who had all the power were the white men. So when you read Atlanta’s history, you’ve got to be careful because it’s only coming from the perspective of . . . Particularly with the newspapers. The newspapers only employed white, male reporters for the first essentially 100 years of their existence.
So it was something I really debated. And I’m a big believer, Jen—as you are—of just listening to the experiences and stories of others and gleaning wisdom from that. Yeah. About maybe, I don’t know, three, four months before the podcast began, I assembled what I called an advisory council. And it ended up being 14 African American friends of mine here in Atlanta. Some that are close friends, some that were acquaintances, some that are in the work of racial justice, some that just have normal jobs. So really just went to them and said, “Hey, guys, I’m starting this podcast. It’s about Atlanta. It’s about race. My perspective is limited. I need your insight. I need your wisdom.”
So I had one-on-ones with all 14, heard their stories, heard their experiences, and just said, “Hey, what advice do you have? How can I navigate this well, in a way that’s honoring to the African American community as I bring these stories to light?” And it’s been a really beautiful relationship with that group, and they’re still with me. I still send them email updates and am asking for their feedback as we go.
Jen: That’s great. I applaud that, of course. That just is so useful to the proper telling of any story that’s really seeded in white supremacy and racism. You just simply have to ingest that perspective. So I love that. I love that you did that.
And I’m curious, why this? Why a true crime podcast, first of all? Was it that you were a super fan of some other true crime podcasts that inspired you? Was it the information that drove you that you stumbled upon? What was your front door into a completely different genre here?
B.T.: Oh, yeah. I am definitely all about a true crime podcast, as probably a lot of your listeners are. Some of my favorites that I’ve gotten into the last couple years: of course, Serial was the first blockbuster podcast. Everyone’s done Serial. Dr. Death was a good one. Dirty John, which I think has the greatest ending of any podcast ever. Yeah, it’s a good one. And then probably my all-time favorite is called S-Town. Have you listened to this one?
Jen: I haven’t, but I know all about it.
B.T.: Okay. Yeah. So S-Town’s pretty cool. It’s set in Alabama. It’s a true story. There’s a character in there named John B. McLemore, who’s just . . . I think he’s the greatest real character in podcasting history.
B.T.: So yeah. I’m definitely into that genre. And I’m really . . . I won’t say inspired because a lot of them are really dark stories, but I’m a storyteller by trade. I feel like that’s what I’m put on this earth to do.
I just love putting together a good story, engaging people’s emotions. And ultimately, my goal is to really cause them to think more deeply about a topic, and ultimately, I hope that makes a difference. I grew up, as I mentioned, Southern Baptist. In high school, I did what a lot of white, Baptist males do: I surrendered to the ministry.
Jen: Of course.
B.T.: I thought I had to be a preacher to make a difference. But that’s what I love about the day and age we’re in now is, it’s not just the preachers making a difference. It’s all kinds of storytellers. And I have tons of respect for preachers, but I just think people would rather be told a story than be preached at. It’s become my little platform.
Yeah. 2017, BBP came out. Shoestring budget. And this year, this time around, I really wanted to up my game, increase the production value and that kind of thing.
Jen: So talk about how you even found this story. How do you know this stuff? How did you learn it? How did you stumble upon it? And then ultimately, how did you begin unraveling all the threads so that you could tell it to us?
B.T.: Yeah. It’s an interesting story. So it begins in 1985. I was three years old at the time. But there was a group of men here in Atlanta, and they began doing an assessment of an old, abandoned cotton mill, really near downtown. It’s a little mill community called Cabbagetown, which had grown up around this mill in the 1800s, early 1900s. So the mill itself is this giant, old, redbrick building with smokestacks. It had been built in 1881. It closed in, I think, 1978. So it had been open, in production, for 97 years.
So 1985, these men start working their way through it, and they’re assessing it because they’re thinking about turning it into lofts and whatnot. So they get down to the basement of this mill, and they essentially come across a big, black, steel door. It’s the door of a safe or a big vault. And as it turns out, this is where all of the owners of the mill, these very wealthy tycoons, had kept all the company records. So they go in there, and there’s just this huge treasure trove of ledgers and filing cabinets and correspondence. And they also found spy reports. So it’s like, why are the owners of a factory employing spies? That was one of the first questions that came out.
But the guys who found all of this stuff, they had a sense that it mattered. So they called Georgia Tech, which is the university down the road, and they said, “Hey, y’all might want to come check this out.” So they came and picked it up, hauled it off, and began to study all of these documents. And this was in 1985. I was, again, a tiny child in Texas. I had no idea this was going on.
So fast forward to 2015. I was living in Atlanta at the time, but renting, but looking to buy a place. So I start searching online, and I pull up these incredible, old lofts at this cotton mill in downtown Atlanta. So the pictures are incredible. It’s exposed brick and these ceilings and big windows. And I was just mesmerized by how beautiful these lofts were. So not long after that, I was in Cabbagetown for a meeting with a buddy of mine, named Jeff. He lives closer to that area. And he was like, “How’s your house hunt going?” I said, “Oh, it’s going well.” And I point up to the Stacks, the Cabbagetown place where these lofts are. I was like, “I kind of want to live there.”
And he sort of pulls back and is like, “You don’t want to live there.” He’s like, “That place is cursed.”
B.T.: And I’m like, “What are you talking about?” So he talks about this fire. There was a fire that broke out there in 1999, when they were doing renovations. In 2008, a tornado hit it. It skirted around lots of Atlanta but hit this one particular part. So I literally go home, and I start researching.
Jen: Of course.
B.T.: I’m like, “All right. I don’t really believe in curses, but this is interesting, so let me research.”
So as it turns out, the tornado and the fire had both happened in the last 20 years. And when you began to study the history of this mill, I mean, Jen, it was just . . . It was 100 years of hell and chaos. I mean, in this little community: poverty, crime, drugs, prostitution, all in this tiny little neighborhood that was wrapped around this mill.
So I researched further, and I found out that this mill actually butts up to some railroad tracks. And in 1858, which was before the mill was built, a couple of guys had built what was called the Atlanta Rolling Mill. This is basically just this huge, ominous factory, pre-Civil War, that made iron products, iron railing, and that kind of thing.
In 1863, at the peak of the Civil War, it gets bought out, and they rename it the Confederate Rolling Mill. It begins producing cannons and iron rail and metal cladding for the Confederacy. So this was literally where the Confederate war machines were being manufactured. Of course, the Confederacy was an evil empire, enslaving all these people. So this was the spot where a lot of the arms were being produced.
Jen: Gives me weird goose bumps.
B.T.: Yeah. There’s just this dark history around this one particular piece of land.
1864, Union troops come to Atlanta. They end up blowing up this mill to try to keep it from falling into Union hands. So yeah. The more I researched, just more strange things. And of course, when you keep going back further, the land was stolen from indigenous peoples who had lived there before. So it was just weird. I’m not saying that it is a curse, that I believe in curses, but there were just so many strange things to happen on that particular piece of land. And that really sent me down this rabbit hole of research about Atlanta and the roots of Atlanta, where it came from.
So over time, to bring this to a point here, I discovered essentially four stories that all happen in Atlanta in the 1910s. I put them all in a timeline in a spreadsheet. That’s when I discovered this 56 months piece. The newspapers were covering them. And I thought, “Gosh, somebody ought to make a movie about this.” But I didn’t have movie money, but I had podcast money. So that’s where it came from.
Jen: It’s so great. As you’re talking about it, I’m leaning forward in my chair. My mouth is practically on my microphone. Oh, it’s so intriguing! I told you when we were talking that I am absolutely fascinated with history at the turn of the century, late 1800s and early 1900s. Something about that time period is so interesting to me, including I cannot get enough of the old maps and the old pictures and the cities before they were developed into what we see them today, the development of big cities.
So that leads me to my next question because you told me in Denver [at Evolving Faith 2019] that you’ve got a really cool visual component to the show, called The Vault. My ears just perked right up. So interesting. So innovative. You’re trickling it out right now on your social media accounts.
Can you talk about what The Vault is? And also for sure tell us who we need to credit for some of that beautiful, beautiful artwork. It’s so visually stunning, and I’m excited about this.
B.T.: Awesome. Yeah. So I have obsessed over the visuals for this, which is a little bit weird because a podcast is, by its nature, not visual. But as a storyteller, humans are visual.
So I began planning about a year ago, how can I augment the audio story with a visual story. So my first hire actually on this project was an illustrator from Atlanta named Rachel Eleanor, somebody I’d followed on Instagram forever. And she just has this amazing whimsical style of illustration. So I went to her, and I said, “Rachel, I’m doing this podcast. It’s historical. And as I talk to people, a lot of people think history is boring, and it’s stale, and it’s stuck in these black and white photos.” So I just said, “Here’s my story. Here are the characters and places. I need you to bring them to life. I just need you to illustrate these characters and these places to make it seem more real.”
So that’s what she did. So it kind of softened up the story and the characters and just made it more accessible for your average person. It’s actually interesting, if you go to @CatlickPodcast on Instagram, Rachel illustrated this massive image for the podcast grid. It’s almost like a map that’s showing some of the scenes from the podcast. I think it’s 150 images long. So that’s also cool. But yeah.
The thing you mentioned, it’s called The Vault. And this is a digital visual companion that goes along with the upgrade. So it’s a website you log into. And you go in there, and it’s got historic photos from the stories I’m telling. It’s got news clippings, old maps, links to videos. I also do some original content, walking tours of Atlanta now and here’s some recommendations on where to go and eat if you come to Atlanta. So it’s really, really neat.
So the podcast itself is really half of the experience. And if you start listening to Catlick, I would strongly encourage you to check out The Vault because it’s going to bring all of these stories to life and put faces with the names and help you keep up with the plot line. It’s at Catlick.com.
Jen: So obviously, you have been deeply invested in this story for months but really for years. So it’s coming to life right now. It’s just out into the world. So I’ve got a couple of questions. You’ve dropped the first three episodes. So what is it from here on out? Is it one a week? What’s the scope of the podcast? I want you to talk about that and how we get it. And then second of all, what are you hoping, as a storyteller, that your listeners ultimately walk away with?
B.T.: Great. So yeah, our plan is to release one episode per week. We’ll be doing that really through the end of 2019 and the early part of 2020. So it’s going to be about 20 episodes long. And you can access that at . . . Catlick.com is the website. But you can get it on pretty much all of your major podcasting platforms.
But to answer your question of, what do you want listeners to take away from this, I would say I just want . . . People need to understand, Jen, America’s history of racial terror. My instinct there was to say “injustice,” but actually I think terror is a more appropriate word, particularly with this era that I’m discussing.
There’s an organization called Equal Justice Initiative. Bryan Stevenson is the founder of it, an amazing African American thinker that does work in this space. But he always says . . . I’ve never forgotten this quote, and they put it at the end of all their tweets as well. He says, “To overcome racial inequality, we must confront our history.” And I think that’s so true. Most of us don’t know history.
Jen: Oh, right. Absolutely.
B.T.: Yeah. We weren’t listening in 11th grade history class, and we didn’t take any classes about history in college. So it’s just—
Jen: And nor did my teachers teach it correctly. I definitely received a version of American history, where essentially colonizers were the heroes. I had to confront our actual history as a grownup.
B.T.: Totally. Yeah. And a lot of times, that history is . . . Yeah. It’s edited out before we can even see it. You would not believe, and this is all new to me as I’ve done this research, the things happening in this country 100 years ago and the intensity of hate and bigotry and racism that was just running unchecked, particularly through the American South.
And I’m clear from episode one to say, “Guys, some of this is disturbing. Some of this is stuff you don’t want to hear.” And I get that there’s this line of thinking that says, “We need to just let this stuff go away. It’s over. It’s in the past.” But I think it’s our job. Every generation has to retell these tales.
As I was doing this research, seeing these four stories, every single one of them had some kind of racial element. And that’s where I saw this theme developing. That’s what I hope comes out, is that, yes, it’s a true crime-esque podcast, but I want it to have a bigger meaning behind it. I want it to cause people to ask questions and to get interested in the history of where we have come from because I do think you’ve got to understand that. You’ve got to understand what’s happening 100 years ago to understand where we are today because we’re literally repeating so many of the same things that we did back then. It’s unbelievable.
Jen: Right. Just the forms have changed, the structures have changed. I cannot wait to hear this, beginning to end. And I appreciate you saying that some of this content’s going to be really hard to hear so listeners know that going in. This is painful, painful history, but important history. And the way these stories weave together is just really . . . You’ve done a lot of heavy lifting here. I think this is going to be just such an important project for people.
Jen: Okay. We’re going to wrap this up. As I mentioned to you, we are in a series about other podcasts. So I’ve asked all the guests, all the other hosts, in this series these questions. Here’s the first one: besides the true crime podcasts you mentioned earlier, are there any other podcasts that you are listening to right now?
B.T.: Yeah. Two right now that I’ve been super into. One is called Freaknik: A Discourse on a Paradise Lost. It’s by this guy named Chris Frierson.
And if you don’t know, Freaknik was a big African American spring break party that grew in the 90s. It’s just a big party. And it eventually got shut down. They tried to bring it back, but now it lives in the collective consciousness of Atlantans as this mythical thing in Atlanta history.
So this guy goes back and he’s interviewing people that were a part of Freaknik and the origins of it. But he does a really great job of . . . Though it’s about this big spring break party, he does this really masterful job of weaving in so much great commentary about Atlanta’s history and the past with race troubles and that kind of thing. So it’s been great. It’s been super eye-opening. I don’t think there’s many, if any, white people on it. It’s all African Americans giving their perspective on that.
The second podcast is called Love or Work. It’s by a mentor of mine named Jeff and Andre Shinabarger. And they’ve been doing this project, gosh, for two or three years now, on asking this question: can couples stay in love and, at the same time, make a difference in the world or with their work, with your nonprofit work, whatever it is? So they’ve been doing these incredible interviews with all kinds of couples and really doing some really great research as well. So as a newlywed, that’s just been some really fascinating, good, just helpful stuff, hearing from couples who’ve been married for 50 years. And he’s had marriage counselors on. It’s been great.
Jen: Oh, I love that. I wrote all that down. By the way, everybody listening, we will link on the transcript to every single thing, every podcast B.T. mentioned, obviously including his own. If we mentioned it, it’ll be linked.
Okay. How about this: what’s your favorite thing or most intriguing thing . . . I don’t really know what the adjective is, but what’s the most essential thing, maybe, that you’ve learned thus far from creating and producing Catlick.
B.T.: In my research, part of it was just going to a lot of antique stores, trying to buy old books and get back to first, original sources. One of the things I found in one of my antique store hunting days was this black and white panoramic photo, really more like a sepia tone. But it was in this old frame with chippy paint, and it was a group of all these people. And at the bottom, it says, “Coca-Cola Convention, Atlanta, Georgia, 1923.”
So as you probably know, Coke was founded and is based out of Atlanta. So at this point, 1923, the company would’ve been around for about 30 years. But there’s this big group photo of all these people, probably about 300 people, what I would assume is the leadership group or the team. Jen, guess how many people in the photo were women?
Jen: I’m going to say five.
B.T.: Yep. Yeah. Zero.
Jen: Was that it?
B.T.: And you can guess how many people of color there were as well.
B.T.: Yeah. Zero as well. So literally it’s this photo of 300 men, all in suits. They’re all brunette. You can’t even hardly find a blonde in the group. So when I found this, I bought it. I was like, “Man, this is how it used to be.” I see that photo and think, “Gosh, white men were not the only ones in Atlanta capable of running a business back then.” This is just a visual depiction of a broken system with lots of bad thinking.
And I get some people are hearing this, thinking, “B.T., you’re virtue signaling.” Whatever. I get it. That’s fine. But it’s true. This was a broken system that excluded so many people. There were brilliant women and people of color in Atlanta who would’ve made amazing contributions to Coca-Cola.
So we’ve got a long way to go. But I’ll be honest, we’ve come so far. I always trend towards optimism, gratitude. And we have come a long way. We’ve made so many positive strides, but at the same time, as you know, we still have progress to make. We’ve got to keep pushing forward.
Jen: That’s so good. That’s so great. I sometimes get the same exact feeling when I look at a panoramic picture of portions of our government. And I just have to ask, are white men our only representatives up there? And that’s just what I see in the pictures. So we have come so far, but we have so far to go. I really appreciate you saying that.
Here’s the last one, I asked you this the last time you were on the show. So let’s just see what your answer is this time. It’s Barbara Brown Taylor’s question. What is saving your life right now?
B.T.: I have been drowning in design work lately. I’m doing a lot of the design for the podcast, the website. So have you ever wanted to cut a person out of a photo, like if they’re in the background? Remove the background. You know what I’m talking about?
B.T.: We’ve all needed to do that at some point, but it takes . . . It’s like Photoshop. It takes time. It’s like trick. It’s just a nightmare. I have discovered . . . I forget how I found it. There’s a website that will do this for free in about three seconds.
Jen: Oh, wow.
B.T.: Again, this is super granular. The website address is remove.bg, which is a weird URL. Remove.bg. But this is not an ad. I don’t know the people who run this thing. I literally just found it, and it’s been so helpful because it’s something everybody can use. It’s like magic. It actually gets it right and cuts them out, and it gives you an image of your person. So that’s it. That’s giving me life.
Jen: I respect that. Time is our hottest commodity. If somebody can save me from two hours of trying to cut somebody out of a photo and just email it back to me in five minutes, I’m going to pay for it. So listen everybody, we’ll link over to them too because some of you guys need to cut out your old boyfriends out of pictures.
Okay. I’m so excited about this. I really am. I think this is fascinating and interesting and important. We’re here just at the genesis of it. So listeners, you are just going to want to listen to Catlick. I mean, that’s it. That’s the end of the story. Go subscribe.
And thanks for all your hard work on this, B.T., because this is the culmination of years of research. So as somebody who loves history and finds it incredibly important, I’m thankful that you did all that work and that now we get to be the recipients of it. So well done, friend. And I can’t wait to get to the end.
B.T.: Thank you so much, Jen. I hope your listeners enjoy it, and I appreciate you having me on.
Jen: Absolutely. Talk to you soon.
So good, right? B.T. is just the greatest. I am a huge fan. Obviously, you’re going to want to check out Catlick. Let your eyes lead you first. I cannot get over all the artwork, how beautiful it is. And also this top-notch production value, masterful storytelling. Put this one in your queue, you guys, you will not be sorry.
I am so thankful to all of my friends today. Today was a fun day with friends that I love. Thank you to B.T.. Thank you to Prop and Alma for their time today. I so enjoyed my conversation with them too.
So I’m just grateful for smart, creative people just putting really good work into the world. And if I have been able to introduce you at all to what it is they’re doing and you fall in love with it? Well, then my work here is done.
Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Hope you enjoyed this chat. Be sure to subscribe to my mom’s podcast and give it a “thumbs up” rating if you like it. From the whole Hatmaker family, hope you have a great week and see you next time!