It was in one of the messiest times of my life that I found Jermaine and his work. I was technically homeless, jobless, freshly divorced, and had just relocated to a new city during the middle of the lockdown in a global pandemic when George Floyd was murdered with the world watching.
In the weeks following his death, I had countless hours and conversations with so many friends (y’all, thank you) and I arrived at the shocking and terrifying conclusion that despite my upbringing in diverse neighborhoods and all the cross racial relationships in my life that I had no fucking clue how racist the world still is, how securely intact white supremacy is, and how complicit I am in all of it just by being white and staying blind to it.
It was an awakening like none other and I knew I needed some new teachers to help get me up to speed ASAP.
Jermaine is the founder of The Humanity Archive and is easily one of my favorite new humans I found in 2020. His podcast explores history through the lens of the untold stories of marginalized heroes. His IG account gives powerful and digestable history nuggets every day. And his blog provides perspectives, playlists, and prose that are equally engaging and entertaining.
From his site: “JERMAINE FOWLER IS A NEW KIND OF HISTORIAN: YOUNG, PASSIONATE, VISIONARY, AND A MASTERFUL STORYTELLER. NICKNAMED “THE PROFESSOR”, AS A KID FOWLER PURSUED A CAREER IN BUSINESS MANAGEMENT BEFORE RETURNING TO HIS CHILDHOOD DREAM, TO EDUCATE THE WORLD ON HISTORY.”
Jermaine’s podcast and blog has been an incredible source of new information for me in regards to expanding my awareness and the learning about stories that haven’t gotten the attention they deserve and we need to know about.
I want to acknowledge Jermaine for the space he creates to have this conversation with me: he shares perspectives and offers insights as I sort through some questions that have come up for me in my unlearning journey. He does so with such generosity and openness and I’m wildly grateful to him for having this conversation.
This is a conversation that is extremely vulnerable on both sides; it shows the gaps in my unlearning that I’m still moving through and Jermaine holds space for uncomfortable questions and the awkwardness of my unlearning. My hope in sharing this with you is that we continue to normalize coming together to have tough conversations in pursuit of justice for all.
One of the things we discuss when we recorded back in early December was the decision of when to release this episode. On one hand during Black History month seems like a great idea given the extra attention that will inevitably be given to his work this month, yet on the flip side does doing that actually perpetuate the injustice of only recognizing Black history during one month (ironically the shortest month) of the year? It’s great to see the narrative opening up this year around that very idea and with that we’re releasing the episode during February to support both sides of this argument.
In this episode we dive deep real quick:
-We talk about the importance of having uncomfortable conversations and why it’s so vitally necessary for us to all to be doing, with ourselves and with others.
-Jermaine and I go down the path of exploring what it means to lead an examined life and the dangers of not doing so. It’s time to choose your legacy and which side of history you want to be on.
-We discuss the idea of braving the wilderness within, which has been a huge theme for me this past year, inspired by what Jermaine wrote about in this Instagram post. It can be a scary thing to do, which is why so many of us avoid it for so long. And yet there is so much freedom on the other side of it.
-While fighting racism and white supremacy has to start at the individual level, it’s never really about individuals themselves….it’s in then having a collective of people fighting against the institutions and systems that hold it in place.
-Why Ally’s aren’t it, what words we could choose to use instead and how to avoid the wash, rinse, repeat cycle of Black deaths as a spectacle.
-One of my favorite ideas to explore right now is using entertainment and Hollywood to educate & awaken….Jermaine is entertaining AF telling his stories, which makes it fun to learn with him. We talk about how we can bring counter narratives to the forefront and why it’s so important.
-And we talk about our mutual love for Levar Burton and our hopes of getting Jermaine a shoutout from one of his lifelong heroes.
You can listen to the episode HERE or wherever you get your podcasts like iTunes, Spotify, etc.
1:05 Jermaine’s background
3:30 George Floyd opening the door to an examined life
8:33 Using history as context to understand today’s tensions
10:02 Shame, fragility and moving past it
13:10 What does the examined life look like
15:06 Braving the wilderness within
18:50 The human storyteller & reading rainbow
21:35 Learning about Emmett Till, desensitization of Black bodies as a spectacle
32:37 Individuals vs Institutions
34:00 Eddie Glaude quote & the first step of reconciliation is acknowledgement
37:53 Using the entertainment industry to educate & meet people where they are
46:15 Collective thought patterns and the part neuroscience plays in racism
49:34 Willie Lynch letter & the importance of creating counter narratives
55:32 Reimagining the education system
1:03:44 Where do we put the racist monuments? Hint: not in a theme park.
1:12:07 Where does someone even start with re-learning history?
1:13:51 The history of Black History month and how it actually supports & perpetuates segregation
1:18:00 Exploring Indigenous stories & calling out America’s history of genocide
1:10:27 Supporting Jermaine and his work
1:12:37 How Black History Month supports segregation
1:16:53 Request for Indigenous stories
1:20:30 Last question