Strange Fruit

A new episode is posted every Saturday.
Dr. Kaila Story and Jaison Gardner

Dr. Kaila Story and Jaison Gardner host this weekly podcast of musings on politics, pop culture and black gay life.  

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Strange Fruit
10:00 am
Sat March 9, 2013

Strange Fruit: Reverend Maurice "Bojangles" Blanchard on Faith and Fairness

Our friend Reverend Bojangles Blanchard is always up to something. On any given day, he could be getting ordained, arrested, or interviewed on MSNBC. But this week, the leader of True Colors Ministry took some time out of his busy activist life to stop by the studio and catch us up on the latest. 

  He'll be marching at the State Capitol on March 26th in support of marriage equality.  We spoke with the good Reverend about the event he has planned, why faith remains important in LGBTQ life, and the fine line between paying homage to civil rights leaders of the past and co-opting their tactics and images.

And in this week's Juicy Fruit segment, a look at Kevin Hart's Pope Quvenzhané Wallis sketch on Saturday Night Live lead to a discussion of drag used by heterosexual male comedians—when it's respectful, and when it's not. We also looked into reports that Dr. Story's home state of Michigan has been keeping records of confidential HIV testing results, and possibly using the results to criminally prosecute gay men for having sex.

Strange Fruit
10:00 am
Sat February 23, 2013

Strange Fruit: Penny Tration Waxes Philosophical on Drag Performance

Drag artist Penny Tration has a local icon to thank for her performing career. "I grew up in L.A., so I've seen a couple drag queens," she explains. But for the longest time, it wasn't something she thought of doing herself. "I've also seen people garden, but I'm not attracted to doing that."

All that changed one night at The Connection, the first time she saw our local Mistress of Mayhem, Hurricane Summers, on stage. "Hurricane kind of embodied for me, for the first time, somebody who wasn't just doing drag. She was hilarious. She picked up the mic, and she was really funny. And that's something I hadn't seen before."

Penny was a contestant on Season Five of RuPaul's Drag Race, and though she didn't win, she was a fan favorite, and says the experience opened up more opportunities to act, perform, and, according to some of her fans, even change lives. "Now let's be clear: how did drag change anyone's lives? I don't get it," she concedes. But she once met an audience member who told her she'd lost her partner two years before. "She hadn't been able to leave her house, and it was the first time she'd smiled in years."

Penny says she knows drag isn't forever, and like any job, it has its ups and downs. "It's kind of like being a nurse in a nursing home. Half the time your cleaning up vomit and poop, and then you'll get somebody who's like, 'Oh my god, you changed my whole day because you were here!'"

She's in town to perform tonight at Pandora Productions' fundraiser, Masquerade Fire and Ice, and she took a few minutes earlier this week to talk to us about her work.

Elsewhere in the news this week, President Obama gave a speech about violence, which seemed to implicate absent black fathers. As Kaila explained, this idea is nothing new. "This idea that the problem of the Black community is the problem of absent Black men—this has been reiterating and resounding commentary, probably since the Moynihan Report," she reminds us. In his report, Daniel Moynihan said the problem in Black communities was largely the fault of Black women. "They were too strong, they drove their men away, and their men either ended up in jail, on drugs, or absent fathers."

Dr. Brittney Cooper had some great analysis of the problems with Obama's speech, and we talked about it this week in our Juicy Fruit segment. Clive Davis came out of the closet as bisexual this week (at age 80!), and a gay porn star broke into a Louisville Fire Station and performed a lewd act over the equipment (yes, really!). And we wish Kaila bon voyage as she heads to Stanford this week to be a panelist at The Pleasure Principle: A Post Hip-Hop Search for a Black Feminist Politics of Pleasure! She'll be checking in with us by phone for next week's show, and we can't wait to hear all about her trip. Until then, have a great week, Fruitcakes!

Strange Fruit
1:30 pm
Thu February 21, 2013

On Nina Simone's Birthday, Dr. Yaba Blay Comments on Colorism in Hollywood Casting

Nina Simone
Credit www.ninasimone.com

Today would have been the great Nina Simone's 80th birthday. 

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Strange Fruit
10:00 am
Sat February 16, 2013

Strange Fruit: A Very Catholic Episode

It's been a whirlwind week to be a Catholic! The church was shocked by the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI would retire, due to ill health. Popes don't retire! At least not in the past 600 years.

But retire he did, and the question on everyone's mind is, who will be the queen bee of the Vatican? Some have mentioned Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, who'd be the first African pope— a cool prospect, except he has defended the so-called Kill the Gays Bill in Uganda. 

Let's face it: none of the papal contenders are likely to stick a rainbow flag sticker on the bumper of the Popemobile. But that doesn't mean all Papists are anti-LGBTQ. In fact, right here in Louisville we have a group of Catholics for Fairness. This Sunday they're holding a pilgrimage to the Cathedral of the Assumption, urging the Archbishop Joseph Kurtz to support statewide Fairness via Senate Bill 28 and House Bill 171.

We spoke with one of the organization's leaders, Father Joseph Fowler, about the pilgrimage, and why he felt called to anti-discrimination activism. Jai also talked about growing up in the Black Catholic Church, and how faith can coexist with critical thinking.

Strange Fruit
10:00 am
Sat February 9, 2013

Strange Fruit: Boy Scouts, Beyoncé, and Mark Anthony Neal on Black Masculinity

Society treats Black boys like men, and Black men like animals. 

That assertion is what stood out to us, and many who were lucky enough to be in the audience last week, for Mark Anthony Neal's lecture at UofL. Dr. Neal is a professor of Black Popular Culture in the Department of African and African-American Studies at Duke University, and he came to Louisville courtesy of our friend Dr. Ricky L. Jones and the Center for Race and Inequality

Dr. Neal's latest book, Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities, examines depictions of black men in popular culture, and while he was in town, he stopped by our studios to tell us more about his work. Our conversation covered Tiger Woods, Jay-Z, Muddy Waters, and even Stringer Bell and Omar Little, as we tried to make some sense of how pop culture interprets and positions Black masculinity.

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Strange Fruit
10:00 am
Sat February 2, 2013

Strange Fruit: It's the Super Strange Fruit Bowl, Featuring Wade Davis

Huddle up, sports fans! It's time for the Super Bowl (or so we hear), and it's been a huge week for LGBTQ sports news!

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo has gotten lots of positive attention for being an advocate of LGBTQ rights, and for using the spotlight of the Super Bowl to get the word out. And Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried released an adorable video in praise of his two moms. Sadly, not all the news was good. Kwame Harris was essentially outed this week when he had to appear in court on charges he assaulted his ex-boyfriend (Harris had never publicly said he's gay, but for what it's worth, his former teammates say it wouldn't matter to them).

In what was probably the biggest LGBTQ-related story of this Super Bowl season, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver had a not-quite-progressive reaction when asked whether he'd be comfortable playing football with gay people. In the quote heard 'round the sports world, he said:

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Strange Fruit
10:00 am
Sat January 26, 2013

Strange Fruit: Gone to Atlanta, BRB (Also, More with Fairness Campaign's Chris Hartman)

Our fearless hosts, Jaison and Kaila, are in Atlanta this week for the National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change. So instead of a full show this week, here's part two of the conversation we started last week, with Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman. Last week, we talked about Vicco. This week we broaden the scope a bit, and talk about fairness gains across the Commonwealth, and the country.

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Strange Fruit
10:00 am
Sat January 19, 2013

Strange Fruit: Fairness in Vicco; Keen Dance Company Founder Returns to Louisville

Vicco, Ky., brought national attention to the state this week by becoming the smallest town in the United States to pass a fairness law. Like many of you (we're guessing), we'd never even heard of Vicco until the news broke. So we invited Fairness Campaign director Chris Hartman to join us this week and tell us more. 

"It's about three and a half hours east," Chris explains, "and several hundred feet up."

Hartman and others from the Fairness Coalition worked directly with Vicco leaders on the law. He said folks in Vicco are what we might call "non-traditional allies" who may not fit our idea of what LGBTQ-rights supporters are.

"But that may just be because we all have some inappropriate stereotypes about what rural Americans are like, about what Appalachian folks are like, and about what people who live in coal country are like," Hartman said.

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Strange Fruit
10:00 am
Sat January 12, 2013

Strange Fruit: Top Dog/Underdog Explores Black Masculinity; Who Can Use Gay Slurs?

Brian Lee West and Keith McGill in Top Dog/Underdog

This week the Strange Fruit team got to sit in on a dress rehearsal of a local production of Suzan Lori-Parks' play, Top Dog/Underdog. The play looks at a pair of brothers whose dysfunctional relationship provides a framework for questions about family dynamics and what defines black masculinity.

We spoke with the play's cast, Brian Lee West and Keith McGill, about working on the piece, and how their own lived experiences informed the choices they made on stage. McGill portrays Lincoln, the play's older brother. "When [director] Kathi Ellis first approached me with this play," he explains, "I read it, and I went, 'Oh my god, that's my brother and me.'" 

He says the play mirrors the real relationships between brothers. "Once you're the younger brother you're always the younger brother. Once you're the older brother you're always the older brother, whatever happens. And in certain situations, you go right back to those roles."

West says the play forces you to think about what shapes our self-identities. "How do you define yourself as a black man? Is it how many women you have, is it holding a steady job, is it being able to get it over on The Man and prevailing?"

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