This week on the pod, we’re commemorating Juneteenth. After catching up on news, Amanda Weinstein, Jasmine Clark, and Rachel Vindman talk about what Juneteenth is, why we celebrate it, and what conversations and events they've been a part of in their communities this week. With the right-wing outrage over Critical Race Theory and teaching accurate history in classrooms, it’s more important than ever to remember our past… the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The hosts are then joined by Meredith Lawson-Rowe, a suburban mom in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. After winning her race for city council, Meredith has been organizing Juneteenth celebrations in her town. Then Jasmine interviews Jo Banner, who founded a nonprofit along with her twin sister called The Descendants Project. Their organization is dedicated to uplifting and protecting the descendants of enslaved people in Louisiana river parishes. Jo and Jasmine discuss Juneteenth, plantations, the legacy of slavery and how Black lives are still being disregarded in the present day.
Finally, Amanda, Jasmine and Rachel raise a glass to community events, living in the moment, and a really meaningful interaction with a constituent in this episode’s “Toast to Joy.”
If you’re ready to join the Great Troublemaker Turnout, please sign up here! Talking to the people in your network is the most impactful way to influence voters, and Red Wine & Blue is committed to providing everything you need to tap into this super power: training, tools, community, and support. Suburban women are taking a stand - join us!
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The Suburban Women Problem - Season 2, Episode 25
Jasmine Clark: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us. I'm Jasmine Clark.
Rachel Vindman: I'm Rachel Vindman.
Amanda Weinstein: I'm Amanda Weinstein.
Jasmine: And you're listening to The Suburban Women Problem. This week, we are celebrating Juneteenth! I'll get to share my interview with Jo Banner, who founded the Descendants Project along with her twin sister Joy. It was so interesting talking to her about the Descendants Project, it's in Louisiana and she talks about how, like, she basically left Louisiana, you know, went off to college, but she came back because it was just like, she was drawn to that community and she just has such strong ties to her community. So it was a really, really interesting interview. And before that we'll be joined by Meredith Lawson-Rowe, a city councilwoman in Ohio who's organized Juneteenth celebrations in her town.
But first let's start as always with a check in. So how are y'all doing? And what's been blowing up our group chat?
Amanda: Oh man. There's a lot going on. I mean, first I would like to talk about your tweet, Jasmine, about what the federal government plans to do on guns. Because I thought you had the perfect statement on this, that yes, what they're doing is important, right? Getting red flag laws that allow judges to take guns away from people who are a threat to themselves and others. You know, broadening what we consider, you know, domestic violence offenders to include boyfriends. Right? All of these things are very important and very historic. And what you said was, and we need to do more.
Amanda: Both can be true.
Jasmine: Yeah. I think, you know, sometimes it's easy to see what's missing. Mm-hmm , it's easy to see the parts that you wanted that aren't there without acknowledging the parts that you wanted that are. And so I think it's very important that we just acknowledge that, number one, it's taken almost three decades to even get this much done. And while I do feel it is a bit inadequate in that we need a whole lot more, I will not poo poo this moment. But just like with anything, an object in motion stays in motion.
Jasmine: And so this is the motion that we need to keep the ball rolling, but the ball does not roll until there is something that pushes it. This is that push. So I get it. I get people who are like, I'm angry that there's not a full weapons ban or, you know, I get that, I understand people's angst, anxiety, just, you know, disappointment. I get all of those things, but we cannot make perfect the enemy of good in every situation. And we have to celebrate our small victories.
Amanda: The ball was not rolling. Like we all know that the ball was not rolling before. So that push is really important. And when we talk about common sense gun laws, like even reading it, you're like, that's not already a thing?
Rachel: Yeah, I know, I know, when you're reading it, you're like, “oh, wow.” But I count it a victory that there are so many opponents even to these laws. Not because I'm happy because they're upset, that's not what I mean, but they're upset because… because if they weren't, if they didn't matter, then people wouldn't be upset about it. So closing, closing some of the loopholes, the red flag laws, I mean, especially for domestic violence and including boyfriends, those are big deals and that is really they wouldn't be fighting it if it didn't bother them.
Jasmine: Yeah. I mean, such a good point, Rachel. It's almost like, you know, not to be flippant, but it's like, if you don't have haters, then you're not doing it right. Like, if the NRA is not hating on what we're doing, then we're probably not doing enough. So the fact that the NRA is like, “whoa, whoa, stop the presses. Stop doing this.
We don't even want that.” That at least lets us know that we're going in the right direction. Because honestly, if the NRA is on your bad side, like you are doing it right.
Rachel: I mean, I think taking one step, getting that ball rolling, whatever you want the analogy to be, that's also their problem. Because they know they can make it scary when there's nothing, but when we start doing something and guess what, the world doesn't stop turning and everything doesn't grind to a halt– or maybe, oh, what if we have less gun violence when we have these laws, right– then maybe we should have more. That's what they really ultimately are fighting against. That's what they never want you to do is take the first step. And here we are. So I think that's good.
And personally, even though I don't have anyone in this age group, I was super excited this week to hear about the vaccine for the littles. They certainly took their time because this was the last age group and we have so many people protected. They really took time, like making sure the dosage is right and it's a lot different than the schedules for adults. What is the schedule, do you know what it is?
Amanda: Yeah. So I know it depends on the brand. So one, it's actually three shots and I think there's another brand where it's two shots and it's like, it's something like every four weeks. So it's different. It's not the same as the adult one.
Jasmine: And I think to your point, Rachel, the fact that they took the time to really do this research and to go through the trials and to not rush it, because I think there was a, you know, a push to hurry up and I get that because everyone else had been vaccinated. So people were like, what is taking so long to get this vaccine for these little kids? I mean, I get it. If I had little kids, I would've been one of those people.
Rachel: Sure. Yeah.
Jasmine: But I think that they said, you know, there's a way to do this and there's a way to do this right. And we're gonna do it right. And so I, I hope it gets those who are interested in vaccinating their little kids, the ones who were not eligible and are finally eligible. I hope it gives them a bit more peace of mind, especially as people are getting on planes and are traveling and there's no mask mandates. They're really, we really were leaving the youngest of us the most vulnerable and kind of just being like every man for himself.
Rachel: Even Ron DeSantis is on board now, because at first he was the only governor –
Amanda: Oh yeah, didn't they forget to order it for their young kids or something?
Rachel: I don't think they forgot.
Jasmine: Oh no, he didn't forget. He refused. They refused to order it.
Amanda: What? So much for medical choice! Like, gey, you want medical choice, whether or not to vaccinate? Guess what? We're gonna take it away from you and not order it for you and your kids. Like, oh, so that's really what they think of medical choice.
Rachel: No, he was making the choice for them about what they could do.
Amanda: So I think we also need to talk about Red Wine & Blue founder, Katie Paris. So she recently went and confronted Betsy DeVos publicly about Ohio, the way we tried to enforce a trans ban for sports by enforcing internal and external genital checks for kids to play soccer. And Betsy DeVos was like, “oh, I'm not gonna answer that question.”
Jasmine: Yeah. She was like, “ohhhh.”
Amanda: She's like, “I'm gonna pass that to someone else.” Because that one sounds bad.
Jasmine: I'm not surprised.
Amanda: No. So she, yeah, so Betsy definitely passed it to our Senate president, Matt Huffman, who was like, “okay, we're not gonna do the genital checks anymore. Like, that's bad. We're gonna take that out.” Right. So here's where the “and” comes in, right? That's amazing that they're taking this out and that Katie Paris, through her question, got them to officially state “we are taking that out of this bill.” That is amazing. She did that.
And the “and” is… and we need to do more. I mean, they're still gonna do a trans ban and they're still gonna pick on trans children. Like literally we're talking about 10 year olds playing soccer here. Like maybe we have more important things to do in Ohio.
Rachel: They pass these laws not even thinking because they never think it's going to be them. They never think they're going to be subject to these laws cause they don't care what the hell they say. Because they think it will never, ever affect them. So they think they can do whatever they want.
Amanda: No, it's clickbait politics. Like it's the same thing with an article. It's like, what could be a clickbait bill? It's a clickbait bill.
Rachel: Yeah, it is. It totally is. Yeah.
Jasmine: Oh wow. That's a good point. That's a perfect description. But you know, it's all fun and games till you have to actually live under those laws.
Amanda: Right! There's always second order effects. Like I feel like Republicans used to know this, where they would complain about these second order effects and the unintended consequences of government doing this much. They are literally like the party of unintended consequences right now.
Rachel: Can I just… so my favorite moment from the hearing on Thursday, I can't quit like quoting this, I actually did a tweet about it with a picture of Ace, our dog, when a few weeks ago he got into the trash. But my favorite quote from the hearing was from John Eastman… “I think I should be on the pardon list if that is still in the works.” And I just think about it all the time. I go through my whole life without ever thinking I have to be on the pardon list for anything! Like who says that? Only people who are criming!
Jasmine: Haha, “criming.”
Rachel: Only people who like, go out, they do whatever they want with abandon, they don't care about the consequences until they think they might get caught. Or they won't have the cover from the White House or whatever. And then they're like, “oh so maybe I need a pardon.”
Amanda: At least he was smart enough to think he needs a pardon! Jim Jordan's like, “there's nothing new I learned about here.” And everyone's like, “That's bad! They are revealing stuff that supposedly you guys didn't know or organize, but when you're stating outright, like we all knew about this, you're stating this was all part of the Republican plan!” Like Jim, you should be asking for a pardon right now. He's not even asking for it!
Rachel: Yes, exactly. We’re really lucky that these are the dumbest coup plotters in the history of the world. But we really don't wanna give them a second chance.
Jasmine: Right. But… little pivot, this weekend we just celebrated Juneteenth and you know, it was technically the second year since it's been a federal holiday, and so I'm really excited that a lot more communities got involved. And so to give everyone a little bit of background on Juneteenth, Juneteenth is considered the longest running African-American holiday and it commemorates the end of slavery. But not the way you might think. Whereas most people think of the Emancipation Proclamation, which was signed in 1863, as the end of slavery. The important thing to note is that emancipation actually came at different times in different places in the United States. And in particular in Galveston, Texas, it wasn't until June 19th, 1865, that troops arrived there and announced that all the enslaved black people in Texas were free. And so they kind of shortened the name from June 19th to Juneteenth.
And that is what we are now celebrating. It is now officially a federal holiday and you know, more and more people are starting to learn about it. I appreciate it, especially in the context of all the things that they're trying to take, all the history that they're trying to take outta the classroom, I am glad that this is something they can't take from us, cause now it is an official holiday. But I don't know. What do you guys think? Did y'all do anything for Juneteenth?
Amanda: So we have in Cuyahoga Falls, we had a very nice reverent… I wouldn't call it a celebration, it's more like an acknowledgement of the history of what Juneteenth is and the town's connection to it. And learning about families that lived there. And I always find this fascinating because I feel part of what we lose in our history is who we are, who all of us are. And I feel we haven't done the same thing like Germany…. when you walk through Germany and you see the little stones and you see the names of families that were there, we don't have that in the US. And even here, like I live within walking distance of, you know, stops that used to be stops in the underground railroad, but I don't know what houses there are. There's nothing that marks it. And I feel like it is this forgotten history. And we don't know our place in history and don't know the true history because we just haven't remembered it the way that other places have remembered their history.
Jasmine: In Georgia, celebrating Juneteenth was not a big thing. So in Texas it's been celebrated for a while, but in Georgia, It wasn't something we talked about in school. It's not something I really learned about in my history books.
Amanda: I didn't know about it.
Jasmine: And so I really started learning about Juneteenth maybe about a decade ago. And I, you know, that was just through me having conversations with other people, but I didn't really know about, I, I, I can genuinely say I was not taught about Juneteenth. So when did you guys learn about it?
Amanda: I feel like just a couple years ago.
Rachel: Yeah, just a couple years ago. You know, Amanda, when you compare it to Germany, there's a lot of pressure on the Germans from the entire world to not forget what happened during the Shoah or the Holocaust. But I think that we don't have that.
Jasmine: Like you said, there's tremendous pressure for Germany to basically right the wrong that was Nazi-ism and Hitler. Hitler is a pariah. He is not someone that is celebrated. Now come to the United States… slavery is not something that the world, even if they're like, “yeah, that was a bad part of y'all's history, but everything's good now,” the people who were involved, the people at the top, the generals, you know, they didn't become pariahs. They became heroes!
Amanda: Still have their statues.
Jasmine: Yeah. You know, and I think so to your point, there's really no incentive to talk about what happened and the wrongs and the ugly parts of our history, because there are some people that don't see it as ugly because the streets are named after generals. The schools are named after generals. There's statues. See, so clearly this couldn't have been that bad because I mean like there's statues and road signs and bridges and everything named after these people.
Amanda: And I do think there is something every community can do. Like could we have, you know, couldn't we get in Ohio, a stone at every single home that was a stop on the underground railroad? Something that makes you stop and see, at some point we fought against this. We were actively doing something to make the world better. Like this is part of who we are. We should continue being this part.
Rachel: That's why I do think that, you know, recognizing Juneteenth in any way, just acknowledging it in communities that acknowledge it with the celebration is also really special.
Jasmine: Absolutely. Well, on that note of acknowledging Juneteenth, today, we're bringing back a guest we had on the podcast almost a year ago. Meredith is a suburban mom in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, who won her local race for city council. For the past couple of years, Meredith has organized a Juneteenth celebration in her town. Meredith, welcome back to the podcast!
Meredith Lawson-Rowe: Thank you. I'm honored to be here. It's a privilege.
Jasmine: We had you on the show last year to talk about your run for city council. And then I actually got a chance to meet you in person here in Georgia. That was awesome. Thanks for coming to visit me. So how are you and how are things in Reynoldsburg?
Meredith: I'm doing awesome. Things are going well in Reynoldsburg. We just celebrated our third annual Reynoldsburg Juneteenth. So I'm just now at the point where I can exhale after all of the excitement.
Jasmine: That's so cool. We went to a Juneteenth festival this year as well, and I think it's just different now because now more people are aware of Juneteenth. We had been having them all this time, but now it's more of like, more people are like, oh, I wanna be involved in this. And you know, it was, it was a different atmosphere, but it was great. I really enjoyed it.
Amanda: Same. And I think more of the media is picking up these stories too. And they're covering these celebrations where they weren't before.
Meredith: Juneteenth is a celebration that's very near and dear to my heart. And so when I was elected in ‘19, I wanted to do something for Juneteenth 2020, but the world stopped. Thanks, Covid. And so in terms of us having a, a, a large celebration, I was encouraged by our mayor to still plan something. After I asked him to write a proclamation recognizing Juneteenth in the city of Reynoldsburg.
So long story short, in about 10 days or less, I planned a small celebration on the steps of city hall. And it was so meaningful because even though we were in the middle of a pandemic, neighbors still had come out in order to commemorate the end of slavery. It was very important to me that we focus on the historical context of it all, as well as a celebration. So, last year in ‘21, even though we were still in a pandemic, we were able to have a small festival, like outside, as our celebration. And we had vendors and food trucks and speakers, and it was just a grand time.
Amanda: Oh, that sounds so fun.
Rachel: Meredith… Why is it, why is it important to you to celebrate and acknowledge Juneteenth?
Meredith: I think it benefits us because first of all, we're having the conversation. We're talking about our history. So much of our history is not shared in public schools. For instance, my mom is from Texas, but I didn't know about Juneteenth until I went to college. So it's important to me that I have grandchildren and they know what Juneteenth is. They know that it's a celebration. They know that it's Emancipation Day. They know it's a commemoration of the end of slavery. My hope is that we will continue talking about accurate history in the United States, because if we don't talk about accurate history, whenever someone decides they want to tell a half truth of the history, then things get misconstrued.
Jasmine: So, Meredith, like you've had the opportunity to organize this. And as you said, it started out as just a little gathering at city hall, and now it's grown into what you just had this past weekend. And so maybe there's other people out there that, you know, are like, “I would love to also put together some type of Juneteenth celebration for my community because we didn't do it this year, but I really want to, you know, experience this for my community.” What advice would you give to that person that's like, “How do I go about organizing a Juneteenth celebration for my community?”
Meredith: Juneteenth can be as elaborate or as simple as you would like it. Juneteenth is celebrated many different ways throughout communities right here in central Ohio and in the nation. And it's community-centric events. So it could be a cookout, it could be a parade, it could be cultural reading, spoken word, prayer gathering, concerts... so whatever is most appropriate for your community. Your creativity actually is the one that would limit whatever your options are to celebrate Juneteenth.
Rachel: You know, Meredith, I'm so happy that we celebrate and talk about this now, because I think it's, it's really important, especially at this moment that we're in with the critical race theory nonsense and other things. It gives us a real chance for me as a mom of an 11 year old– she's actually at camp now, but we were able to discuss before she left, you know, we were able to talk about Juneteenth and I think we saw a sign or something for an upcoming celebration. And we have to acknowledge the bad parts of our history so we can move beyond them. So I just thank you for your efforts in what you're doing, because unless we have these conversations and admit where we were wrong to try to move past it, just papering over it and not talking about it is not gonna get us anywhere.
Jasmine: Right. You know, giving context to the history and just letting people know, like, there's history, there's good and there's bad, but we acknowledge it all. So Meredith, I just wanna thank you so much for joining us today. It's always a pleasure to have you on the pod.
Meredith: Well, thank you so much. It's such an honor and a privilege. Thank you. I appreciate everything you guys do.
Amanda: Thank you so much.
Rachel: Thank you.
Jasmine: Now we're going to take a quick break and when we come. We'll have my conversation with Jo Banner of The Descendants Project.
Jasmine: Our guest today founded a nonprofit along with her twin sister called The Descendants Project. Their organization is dedicated to uplifting and protecting the descendants of enslaved people in Louisiana river parishes. Jo Banner, welcome to The Suburban Women Problem.
Jo Banner: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Jasmine: Yes, absolutely. So very exciting. This week we are celebrating Juneteenth and there are a lot of people that are just now learning about Juneteenth. I think it's one of those holidays that has not really been known across the country until very recently. So, could you tell our listeners about the history of Juneteenth and specifically what it means to you?
Jo: Well, Juneteenth started in Galveston, in Texas. So it's a holiday that memorializes when the Texas, the Galveston enslaved realized they were actually free. And so they had that celebration. It's funny because this is an event that's really kind of, it's really specific to Galveston, but it's something that's happening now all around the country.
So we've kind of like, adopted this event to remember all of our liberation. I think Louisiana's one actually happens in July, the beginning of July. So yeah, I think that it's an important holiday, it's good that it's getting recognition by the country so that we all can think about it. We think about slavery a lot. But it's also good that we think about when we were actually free. At least I think about slavery a lot, because let me where I'm at in Louisiana and what I do. It's a big focal point. But it's also good to remember the moments of freedom and joy that we've had. Even under such heavy circumstances.
Jasmine: Yeah, absolutely. I'm actually really happy as well that as a country, we are acknowledging that this happened and honestly informing and educating people about it, because I mean, people just didn't even know about this. This is like something that people are finding out about in 2021 and in 2022 and like, there's a lot of people that are still not quite sure what Juneteenth is. And you know, it's a horrible thing, but I think this is an opportunity to educate people.
Jo: Right. And, and it's something that… it's good that so many people are getting attention to it, I'm a little shocked that the commercialization of it so quickly.
Jasmine: I agree.
Jo: But yeah, that's kinda what happens, but at least the message is getting out, right?
Jasmine: Yeah. I think the commercialization just comes from the fact that our consumerist capitalist economy will find a way to make money off of literally everything.
So you grew up in Wallace, Louisiana, and like a lot of your neighbors, you can trace your ancestry back to the people who were enslaved in the local plantations. So you and your sister Joy both left Wallace for school, but then you both came back again. So why was it important for you all to come back to your hometown?
Jo: I think it was, well, it was important because my grandparents, my parents too, but we spent a lot of time with our grandparents– so I say “we,” because I have an identical twin. So let me just warn you, if you see me saying “we” or “us” it's because Joy is always with me.
But yeah, our grandparents took care of us, were our babysitters as our parents worked. And every day, essentially, we learned amazing history about the area. And it was so multi-dimensional. We could be talking about plantations or we could be talking about gardening or we could be talking about folktales. or the river, or, you know, fishing or hunting or cooking. So they just gave us this wonderful view, 360 view of what our community was like. And also our heritage and our place and rootedness in the community. Just, we grew up with a, with a love of it and seeing so much potential.
So it was just, I mean, I fell in love from a very small, from a very young age with the community and the history. And I, and I think my grandparents instilled that into us. So for me it wasn't a decision. It was like, “I'm always gonna be here.” And I wanted to really give back to my community.
Jasmine: I love that. I love that. All right. So you also went on to found your nonprofit, The Descendants Project. So what led to your founding of this organization?
Jo: I have been in the tourism industry for over 20 years. I worked for plantations as a tour guide, and then I also worked for a tourist commission in the area that is all about plantation tours. So working in this field for all of that time, it started to bother me, really bother me that I did not see descendants of enslaved represented. Or maybe not “represented,” but asked about how we wanna be represented.
Jasmine: Right. Gotcha.
Jo: So no one was checking in with us to say, “okay, this is your history.” Right? In addition to that, I was tired of bits and bites about history being removed and then placed in a narrative where it was convenient and sanitized and comfortable. So like, we'll talk about slavery, but only if we can do it in a way that doesn't hurt the, the enslaving family. It's all of these hoops you have to jump through in order to get our history presented. And that's not what the truth is.
Jo: It's all about just unfiltered… facts. So I saw that happening time and time again. What I really wanted was a way to have input in our own history and our culture to be recognized and for descendants of enslaved people to have a fair participation in an economy that's based in a tourism industry. So that's what we started off with redefining. Louisiana loves to call our area “plantation country.” The tourist commission that I worked for used to call us “New Orleans plantation country,” which was a double kind of insult because we're not New Orleans. And I mean, “plantation country” is not a way to define yourself. It's just really insensitive. So we wanted to change that.
Like, I was tired of trying to put myself in this bubble and ignoring all the other parts of me and only being accepted for this one, this one appropriate look, one appropriate presentation. We wanted to have freedom in that. So what we did was we started The Descendants Project in order to give more facts, give more information, talk about things that exist outside the plantation, off the plantation. Such as the folk tales, other landscapes, not that they weren't connected to the plantations, but just trying to be more than one thing, trying not to be defined as one thing. So that's why we started The Descendants Project.
And then we, we had thankfully– not “thankfully,” maybe, but now I am thankful that we're more into environmental justice and stopping heavy industry from continuing to encroach in our area.
Jasmine: So speaking of, that actually brings me to my next question. Because your region is unfortunately known as “Cancer Alley.” And that's because of the toxic petrochemical plants that have popped up in the area. And it's just another glaring example that even generations after slavery was abolished, Black lives are still being disregarded. Just in a different way. So like, what are the connections that you see between slavery and the current treatment of Black communities in Louisiana and maybe just across the country?
Jo: Well, what we're seeing is just a lack of concern for Black bodies. A lack of concern for us, even sometimes not even seeing us, like being seen and not being seen at the same time, which I think is something that is that, that many people of color, especially Black people, have to navigate.
So like, for us, we are battling this grain elevator that's trying to locate into an area, despite the fact that there is that the zoning for the land is incorrect. We've gone through the law. We've seen the map, seen all of this stuff and still there, this company is trying to tell us “no, we're right. We're gonna come next to you. We don't care what the law says. There are no rules when it comes to us. You have rules, but we don't have rules.” And what is that if not slavery? That we can't even build our homes, raise our families, without somebody coming in next to us and saying, “you can't live here anymore,” or “you don't have the right to clean air, to clean water, to clean soil because economically it's what benefits us.”
Jasmine: Yeah. You know, I don't think a lot of people make those connections. I recently looked at a map that shows kind of like the economic conditions now versus the economic conditions during redlining, where they've, they've basically designated certain communities, communities of color, Black communities, and said, “those people are dispensable. We can do whatever we want.”
So could you tell us more about the work that your organization does to fight for the people in your community?
Jo: Well, one thing that we are doing, and it does tie into the grain elevator, but it's what we're trying to impress on other people is that we're talking about zoning, but there's so many different ways that zoning could hurt you or help you. So we have to get familiar with that. Maybe it's not as sexy as maybe marching or what have you, you know, but like, we gotta start going to meetings and protesting by using the law and using those two or three minutes of public comment that we have. And pushing back on those systems. To make our community aware of all these different routes that the government is participating in, there are many ways of holding us back like keeping us away from information.
So it's just awareness, is one. We have made a campaign, we haven't officially launched it, but we will in the next few days called Hands of the People Empowered, or HOPE. And the main focus of that campaign will be to educate our community about the freedom of information act, how a meeting agenda, a public meeting agenda should go out, is it being advertising right, the journal of choice that's on record all these ways? These things, we have to understand them. And when someone tries to shut us down, we can say, “no, well, look, this is a request that I had. You have three days to get a response to me. I haven't heard from you.” We can take on these tools to at least start fighting back. And when they aren't answering, getting legal help, getting attorneys involved and, and putting pressure on them from that.
Jasmine: I love that. I love something that you said. So when you're talking about things like zoning, or when you're talking about things like meeting agendas, yeah it's not the most sexy thing, but sometimes the least sexiest thing is one of the most important things that you really need to know. They don't package those things in sexy packages. They make it really unattractive so you don't pay attention.
So what do you wish that our listeners knew about slavery and the effects that the descendants of enslaved people are still feeling to this day?
Jo: There are two parts to slavery. That's actual enslavement, and then there is a system of slavery. You can still have the system of slavery without actual enslavement.
Jo: So that is what I have understood. What's happening now in so many ways, it's like, this is plantation politics! Seeing it and exposing it is scary to the people who are, who are uplifting that system. And when you start digging at it, that's what really will rile them up. So what we are doing now is pulling, pulling that system apart piece by piece as best that we can. So that's what I want everyone to understand. It's so scary and deep-seated. It's so hard to see sometimes, that's the thing. Sometimes it can be so obvious, sometimes it's just like you just see a little hint of something and you're like, “wait a second. Was that slavery?” But, you know, it’s a system.
But it makes me think of… so we deal with some of the plantations and some of the plantations we have, like Whitney, Whitney Plantation really has this mission where they are honoring the enslaved, talking about the enslaved. But then you have other plantations who realized, “okay, well, we can't get away with not addressing slavery. So we are gonna make it look like we are really addressing this issue,” and it looks like a good thing, but it makes it more difficult to see them. You know, it makes it more difficult when they can add a couple elements to that tour and say, “you see, we're, we're equal, we're doing this and we're changed.” And they really haven't, because that management is the same, that marketing is still marketing as a bachelorette party, or they're still doing those different things. They haven't really had that monumental change that's needed. They're just perpetuating a lie. And then we, as Black people, we're the ones left to figure it out.
Jasmine: Yeah. I completely understand. And then you add onto the fact that now state after state, including the state where I live, in Georgia we can't even teach about it in the classrooms because it's gonna “make someone feel bad.” So you know, that in and of itself, I would say is a system. That is a system that is meant to erase or deny people and their history. I could go on and on about this.
Jo: Well, slavery is an economic system. How can you not talk about it? How can you not talk about steel when you talk about America? Right? How can you not talk about, like, your banking systems without talking about slavery? Or agriculture. How do you talk about that without talking about slavery?
Jo: If you wanna take it away from the Black and white, what about the green of it? Right? You have to talk about that part of it too. That's just what the country is made of.
Jasmine: Absolutely. I am a hundred percent with you on that. All right. So now we are going to switch to my favorite part of the show, and this is where we like to ask our guests a few rapid fire questions. So are you ready?
Jo: Sure I am.
Jasmine: All right. So what's the best thing about Wallace?
Jo: The best thing about Wallace is our community. It is just a connection to everything. I feel like the rootedness of our community is so deep, it’s spiritual.
Jasmine: I love that. I love that. All right. Next question… if you could be a guest star on any TV show, what would it be?
Jo: What would it be? A guest star, any TV show? Oh my goodness. I guess maybe anything with Jason Momoa in it. Haha.
Jasmine: Haha. I love that. And it's like, I don't even care what the show is. I just wanna be on it with him.
Jo: Yeah, really!
Jasmine: Yeah. I'm with you, I'm with you there. So what's your favorite thing about being a twin?
Jo: My favorite thing is all just having someone that gets me all the time. I'm a pretty weird person. I, when you're from Louisiana, there’s like a 50/50 chance that you're gonna come out weird. And, and I definitely got the weirdness, the Louisiana weirdness. And so it's good having someone who really gets me and, and we get each other with that and, and supports me when I have a crazy thought. Like, how about we start a nonprofit and we do this on our own? And yeah, just having that person there. Support.
Jasmine: I love that. I don't have a twin. I do have a sibling, but I don't have a twin, but I've always heard that having a twin is really cool. So you also own a restaurant in Wallace called the Fee-Fo-Lay Cafe. So what's your favorite dish on the menu?
Jo: My favorite dish are… we call them T-cakes, which are, it's a sugar cookie like dessert, but soft. And it has almond flavoring and buttercream icing that I use. It's a recipe that's handed down for my great-great-grandmother. So it's been in our family for over about 150 years at this point.
Jasmine: Oh, wow.
Jo: And they, they're just, my favorite thing in the world are T-cakes and like, I've been making them for years and I got it just right I think now. They've been good for a long while, but now I just got 'em perfectly to the way I like and what other people like. So that will always be my favorite.
Jasmine: So what do you do for self-care?
Jo: I ride my bike. I love riding a bike. I love riding on the levee, which I live right next to, so yeah, a bike ride is my therapy and a lot of evenings when I need to decompress, if I can get on a levee and, and take a, a bike ride, that's not so brutally hot. It's perfect.
Jasmine: Yeah, it's really hot here. I don't know if I could do that, I can barely walk to my mailbox without sweating. Haha. So that is actually the end of our rapid fire questions. Can you let our listeners know where they can go to find out more about you and your work?
Jo: Sure. You can go on social media, like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at The Descendants Project. We also have a website where you can subscribe to our newsletter. It's a good way to keep up with our updates. We often ask for just comments from the public when we are fighting these different permits, and so having a signature on the petition means the world to us. So yeah, that would mean just everything. Just having more people subscribe and follow us and, and chime in when necessary.
Jasmine: Awesome. Well, Jo, thank you so much for joining us today. It has been great talking to you and we appreciate you stopping by on The Suburban Women Problem.
Jo: Thank you for having me. It's been a pleasure.
Rache: Welcome back, everyone. Jasmine, the part that I, one of the most compelling parts of the interview, which I loved, was talking about the plantations. And I think this is something for me… I, you know, watched so many series like North and South growing up. Like it was, I didn't even think about, even if you watch those shows, they talked about slavery and they don't really don't glorify slavery, but what they glorify is living in plantation. The, you know, the yesteryear, or the simplicity or aspects of it that I think we have to talk about. That in a lot of ways, I've never really examined before. I have, obviously, in the past few years, but the way you guys did it in the conversation was, was really good.
Jasmine: And that's why these conversations are so important. And that's why we have to keep having these conversations. That's why we have to push back on the laws that are trying to stop us from having these conversations. Because they want to be able, they wanna be able to teach slavery like that. That's he anti-CRT way of teaching slavery, is like, “why would they treat slaves bad? Because that would be like, you know, abusing the cattle and abusing the horses. And we love horses.” So, you know, that's literally what they want to teach.
Amanda: I will say, you know, I also love the less sexy talk about zoning and like what we can actually do using these policies that seem super boring and like, why does it matter? But they actually really do matter about some really important stuff.
Jasmine: Yes. After my conversation with Jo, I had the opportunity to be on a panel, a Juneteenth panel, and it came up during that as well. The question that was asked of me was, you know, “on the political front, what are things that we can do to make sure that we have equity in healthcare and health outcomes?” And one of the things I talked about after having this great conversation with Jo was the fact that, you know, zoning is not sexy, but there is a reason why they're willing to put this thing in your neighborhood that's gonna emit things into your air that you breathe or seep things into your soil and groundwater that you will eventually drink, and they're not putting that somewhere else. Something as simple as zoning really does have an effect on the inequities that we still see in our communities across the country now. Yeah, not sexy, but super duper important.
So before we go, we like to share a little joy with each other and with our listeners. So Amanda, let's start with you. Do you want to start us off with your Toast to Joy?
Amanda: I would love to. So recently we went to… our community every year, we have an ice cream social, and it is like exactly what you're picturing. Like an old fashioned ice cream social, where we all go downtown and we eat ice cream and like, visit the fire trucks that are out. And, you know, we had a movie on our green and it's a great community event. And so my Toast to Joy is our ice cream social. And I love these community events where we all come together and it was very well attended! Man were people ready to be like, let's come back as a community and see each other. So my Toast to Joy was to our ice cream social. All right. Rachel, what about you?
Rachel: Well, this weekend one of my neighbors–who moved away during Covid, and they actually were gonna take a few months in Puerto Rico and it turned into a lot longer than a few months– but they're moved back to the US. They were in the area visiting and we got together with some other neighbors who've moved, former neighbors who've moved out of our neighborhood and it was just really good to be back together. And we had such a special community and it was nice to be reminded of that and just our time together. I think you know, as we all move through the seasons of life, we can long for what we had, but it's also a nice reminder that they're still my friends, even if they don't live across the street or, you know, a couple doors down anymore. And I can still count on them.
Amanda: Love that.
Rachel: So that's my Toast to Joy, to friendships in our great neighborhood. It's like that line from The Office when Andy is like, the last episode, and he was like, “I wish there was a way to know you were living in the good old days when they were happening” or something along those lines. But I think we have a lot of good old days in our lives throughout our life, but it just is kind of important to appreciate what you have when you have it.
Jasmine: Be in the moment.
Amanda: Yeah. I love that.
Rachel: Yeah. You have to be in the moment. So how about you, Jasmine?
Jasmine: I had a lot of good things happen this weekend, but one thing that really stands out to me is my neighborhood had their–or actually it was my community Lilburn, Georgia–we had our first Pride prom.
Jasmine: And it was, you know, just an opportunity for people to celebrate in an inclusive environment. I attended, but there was a moment during that event that really stands out to me. And that is when someone who was there, she walks up to me and she kind of looks at me and she goes, “are you Jasmine Clark?” And I said, “yeah, that's me.” And you know, I was like, “yeah, don't, don't tell anyone how much fun I'm having!” And she was like, “I thought that was you.” And she says, “I just want you to know you saved my life.”
Amanda: Whoa. What?
Jasmine: And I was like, “What?” And she basically said that during the pandemic that she was dealing with unemployment issues and in Georgia, the unemployment thing was horrible. Like basically they closed all the offices because there was a pandemic, but on top of that, they stopped answering the phones. And so this woman, for three months, was just waiting and nothing. And she could not get a single person on the phone for three months. And she said, “And then I called you. And immediately you got the ball rolling and you saved me and my family from being homeless. You, you just allowed us to be able to survive.” And she was like, “I will never forget that.” And, you know, again, I was having a great time, but that moment really stuck out to me because I really hope that what I do just in life, but also as a state representative, I really want it to be impactful. I don't know what brought us together at that moment on the dance floor at the same time, bu that moment is… I mean, it really just reinforces and validates why I do what I do.
Amanda: Oh, and can I just say… I know elected officials who I will not name by name, but I know for a fact they're known for not getting back to people. They're just, they won't respond. They don't care what your issue is. They don't care if you called, if you emailed, if you put a comment on their Facebook page, they will not get back to you because they don't care.
Amanda: You cared. And that to me is a huge qualification for elected office.
Jasmine: Yep, absolutely. On that note, thanks so much to everyone for joining us today and we'll see you again next week on another episode of The Suburban Women Problem.