Join author, educator, and learner, Annmarie Kelly as she laughs, cries, and kvetches with the writers, musicians, entrepreneurs, and wanderers who inspire all of us to reach beyond our divisions and discover what it means to be wild, precious, and brave.
Mikki Kendall is a writer, activist, and “occasional feminist” whose book, Hood Feminism, challenges us to rethink our perspectives on what it means to be a woman, an ally, and a progressive member of any community. Annmarie and Mikki discuss education reform, sexuality, affordable housing, and whether watching The Muppet Show can be both escapist AND a feminist battle cry.
Greenlight Bookstore -- Through knowledgeable staff, curated book selection, community partnerships, and a robust e-commerce website, Greenlight combines the best traditions of the neighborhood bookstore with a forward-looking sensibility, and welcomes readers of every kind to the heart of Brooklyn.
StoryStudio Chicago -- A writing center located in Chicago and online, which helps writers hone their craft, express their creativity, and tell their stories. Learn more and register at storystudiochicago.org
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Annemarie Kelly: Wild Precious Life is brought to you in part by Greenlight Bookstore. Through knowledgeable staff, curated book selection, community partnerships and a robust e-commerce website, Greenlight combines the best traditions of the neighborhood bookstore with a forward-looking sensibility and welcomes readers of every kind to the heart of Brooklyn. Learn more and shop online at greenlightbookstore.com. We are also brought to you by StoryStudio Chicago, a writing center located in Chicago and online, which helps writers hone their craft, express their creativity and tell their stories. Learn more and register at storystudiochicago.org.
Annemarie Kelly: I'm Annemarie Kelly, welcome to Wild Precious Life, a podcast about dreaming big and making real connections. In each episode, I talk to prizewinning writers, musicians and entrepreneurs who teach all of us how to make the most of the time we have. There are a lot of things I love about this podcast. I love telling stories to strangers, I love that the laughter we share travels around the world and I love that we hear from Wild Precious listeners everywhere who are taking risks, standing up for justice and making the most of the time we have.
Annemarie Kelly: One of my favorite things is that week after week, I get to meet fascinating people who both challenge and affirm my worldview. Today's guest, Mikki Kendall, challenged my assumptions about a whole lot of things. What it means to be a feminist, what it means to be an ally, what it means to stand up for what we believe. She even has me questioning niceness. We cover a lot of ground today. Education reform, sexuality, affordable housing. At first glance, these might seem like unrelated topics. But what was so clear from my conversation with Mikki was that, too often, we turn a blind eye to the needs right in front of us, in our community. Whether we admit it or not, we are interconnected. When we invest in our schools, when we invest in affordable housing, when we invest in one another, it matters. So, open your eyes and hold onto your hats.
Annemarie Kelly: Our guest today is Mikki Kendall. Mikki is a writer, diversity consultant and an occasional feminist. She has appeared on The Daily Show, Good Morning America, MSNBC and Showtime as she discusses race, feminism, police violence, tech and pop culture at institutions and universities across the country. Mikki is the author of Amazons, Abolitionists and Activists, a graphic novel illustrated by A. D'Amico. She is also the author of The New York Times best-selling book, Hood Feminism, Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot. This book was named best of the year by BBC, Bustle and Time. NPR called Hood Feminism a searing indictment of mainstream feminism, writer Elizabeth Gilbert calls it essential reading and I call it a masterclass in some hard truths for those of us who feel we espouse progressive values.
Annemarie Kelly: So, Mikki Kendall, welcome to Wild Precious Life.
Mikki Kendall: Thank you for having me on.
Annemarie Kelly: We are grateful for your time and I feel like there's so much to talk about. I want to talk about beauty myths and fast tailed girls and anger and the housing crisis and education and the failures of mainstream feminism and the dismantling of the patriarchy. And so, I feel like 10 minutes, we could just knock all that out. I think we'll just go for it. I mean, for real, I don't know how you got all of that and so much more into one, relatively, slim book. It's pretty amazing. But first, can we just back up and start with your story for folks who aren't lucky enough to know you for your writing or your activism. Would you mind just telling us the story of you?
Mikki Kendall: So, the story of me is complicated. We're going go with that. I'm one of those girls, right? Grew up on the south side of Chicago. I think they're calling us hot cheeto girls now. Fun fact, Hot Cheetos are delicious, we'll be okay. Hot pickles are too. And I was one of those girls that used to get the at risk girl lecture about not getting pregnant, right? And I had a grandmother who would, literally, choke me out if I talked about dropping out of school and some family members that were a little special, my grandpa and all these things that, for me, are normal. This is just how my childhood went.
Mikki Kendall: I've since learned that people, sometimes, get very focused on, "What was that like? That growing up in a two parent household in the suburbs?", and I don't know what it was like, it's fine. I, eventually, lived with my mother and stepfather in the suburbs. I don't recommend. I don't. But my story is one where I made a lot of not so great choices out of an array of not so great choices and then I had to figure out how to come back from that. Or, I made, what looked like a bad choice turned into a good choice or a good choice turned into a bad choice, right? Because that's life.
Mikki Kendall: Life is very messy. And, along the way, I learned a lot about both what I thought feminism was and what I felt like feminism needed to be. And I got divorced, lived in the projects, I was on food stamps as an adult, the whole poverty shit. And feminism, usually, talks about women like me as though we are a problem solved, that it is something someone should figure out. "Those women have nothing to say but we should help them, fix them, therefore, downtrodden less." And so, when I would then interact with broader feminist things and they would say, "Oh, that's not a feminist issue, right?" And housing wasn't considered feminist, gun violence wasn't considered feminist, hunger, all of these things that are in the book were somehow seen as being issues but issues for other people to solve, not for feminism to address. I'm determined, the only thing I ever get right is to make people think about the material conditions of women as feminists issues.
Annemarie Kelly: I love it. I love it. I'm grateful for that. And I actually read both of your books at once. So, I was reading the graphic novel that you did, Amazons, Abolitionists and Activists with A. D'Amico and, in this one, I felt part of this larger journey, right? This was all of us. This is a history of women I didn't even know, I didn't know. So, in this one, I felt like I was on the team. And then, in this one, in Hood Feminism, I was reading it, I'm like, "I think I might be the villain of this story. I'm not on the team." In fact, I'm shaking the book hard. I'm like, "Oh, no." In fact, I am the problem in this one. And, have you had that kind of a response from the white lady readers?
Mikki Kendall: So, there are some people who have a lot of feelings, so many feelings. And, sometimes, they express those feelings to me, sometimes they express them to other people. And it's a weird split, right? There are people who have never thought about these things. And then, there are people, because of a single incident, sometimes have thought about them but didn't think about them as an ongoing problem.
Mikki Kendall: And so, I have a couple of different versions of this conversation. I have people whose feelings are really hurt by the Hood Feminism. I have people who were like, "Oh, I knew some of this. I didn't know all of it. I never thought about it this way." And then, there's a subsection of white women who also, for the most part, were poor, were really struggling financially at various points, who had other experiences along those lines who were like, "This is why I don't like feminism. Oh, okay. Now I know what I need to do better", right? And it's an interesting journey.
Mikki Kendall: For the women who are not offended by and large, the white women were not offended, when you talk to them, they grew up in a low income communities, they also never felt like feminism was for them because the CEO conversation, really, wasn't part of it for them. And, they were, generally, retail, lower income, lower wage jobs and talked down to by some of the same people who would say that feminism is for all women, right? And so, they were able to tie in, even if it wasn't necessarily always about race. One of the things that's been really interesting for me. Usually, when we talk about racism in America, we tend to point at pro-white people. But the most aggressive about this book has not been pro-white people, it has largely been very well-off white people who are horrified at the idea that they might not be the perfect liberal ally. They also don't want those kids in their school. So-
Annemarie Kelly: Isn't that the truth? Did you listen to the nice white parents, the Hannah Joffe Walt? That's exactly what she's talking about. The nice white parents, the well intended parents in the schools who are listened to at an astronomical rate and whose decisions screw things up for everyone. They have no thought about the consequences of their decisions beyond their one child. As someone who's worked in public education my entire adult life, I see what looked like segregated schools to me when I'm the only white woman standing in a room full of learners of color.
Annemarie Kelly: And, I'm wondering, "Why am I the teacher here and, if Brown v. Board was 1954, why are you all learning in a school where we don't have the things we need and right down the street, they do have the things they need?" And everybody knows it, but nobody says it. We mandate that you go to a school, but no one is legally bound to provide, first off, equality, let alone, equity in our schools. We have all of these rules that are rules and then you scratch the surface of them, and I was like, "Well, it's a rule. But it isn't fair and it isn't right."
Annemarie Kelly: And I appreciate that you talked about education as one of your chapters. I have never seen, in a feminist book, not in any of them in college, I've never seen a feminist discourse on education and I was grateful, grateful for that. Also, I should say, the fast girls. That chapter just killed me because at the same time that I felt like I was the villain of this book, I was also like, "Exactly." Right? My grandmother passed away, God rest her soul, in 2016 so she never lived through that particular period in our history, but I recognized those values. I was told to be a good girl, you knew exactly how you're supposed to be.
Annemarie Kelly: And then, I was 12 when my boobs came in and they were huge. They're still huge, right? So, here I am trying to be a good girl but I'm the one who the camp counselors are hitting on at church camp when I'm 13 and I'm made to feel like it's my fault, right? That even though hormones are making you feel the feelings, God forbid, you act on any of that. So, I was really grateful for that aspect of feminism. We talk a lot about reproductive rights and there's lots to say there, but what we teach girls about their bodies well before any of those choices.
Mikki Kendall: And this is the thing that, I guess, it as why part of why it's in there. I see people respond to young women on social media as though they don't remember their own teens. Right? So, they will see a girl dancing on TikTok and she's got hickeys and people are like, "Where's her mom? How could they let her be outside like that?", or whatever. And I'm like, "I'm sorry. I was around in the '90s. I know exactly what we all did, Susan." Like, "You may not have pictures of you, but we were at the same parties. We were kissing some of the same trash boys", right?
Mikki Kendall: I went through an awkward phase where I really liked white guys [inaudible 00:11:37] jackets and have long hair. And I know all of the bad things I did there. I went through a separate phase that was really all about guys that look liked Method Man and I know what I did there. And at no point in any of that I was, somehow, supposed to be less innocent or less whatever because I was exploring my own sexuality.
Mikki Kendall: I was going through a perfectly normal developmental stage. We were all going through a perfectly normal developmental stage. The way people feel about us going through that perfectly normal stage, the way those people will try to prey on you for going through that perfectly normal stage, those parts were not our burden to carry. Right? Your boobs show up when you're 10 or 12 or 13, right? I am generously and enhanced around the rear end. I am generously endowed, we'll put it that way. That showed up, I think, I was 11. You can't put that away, right? You use only so many of the sweatshirts you can put on and cover up the girls. There's only so much you could wear on the bottom. But, basically, your body is the one you're inhabiting and everybody else responds to it. And then, you're told their feelings are your responsibility. No. Their feelings, especially the adults, are them proving that their creeps. A lot of them are proving that they're creeps.
Annemarie Kelly: Yeah, I know. And my grandmother, I loved her, she was one of my favorite people, but they don't know how to talk to us except to just tell us to cross our legs and say no. So, do you think we're doing any better teaching this next generation of young women? Our daughters, our nieces, do you think they're getting different messages about sexuality today?
Mikki Kendall: I think we are doing a better job of teaching them about sexuality. But, I think, the way that we're doing it is backwards, right? So, whether we're talking about Cardi B and [Magda Stallion 00:13:31] walk or other things like that, we're seeing those things and the girls are responding to seeing that imagery and then we try to shame them in some ways. Well, some of us. Some of us are like, "Oh, no, girl. Go ahead. Do you. Here's how to be safe." Right? I am the birth control auntie. "I will take you to the doctor, I will take you to the clinic, there is no judgment here. Except you should wrap it up. And if he's ugly or mean to you, why are you letting him breathe on you?" Right? Also, if he's old, auntie will kill him. So, before you come to auntie, I need you to look at his age because if the numbers are wrong ... Right?
Mikki Kendall: And so, I think we were doing somewhat better. But, I think, in a lot of respects, we're really uncomfortable with the realization that young women might own their bodies. And, again, I also feel like people get very hypocritical as they're watching younger women, because many of the people who have feelings about this, they're perfectly fine in purchasing, commodifying, engaging in those behaviors, not only in their youth, but sometimes right now. They just don't want the young women to be able to make a choice. They don't want them to be able to say no, right? And I feel like we are teaching girls slightly better about saying no, but we're not teaching them enough about why it's okay for them to say yes. And why it's okay for them to refuse to be ashamed of enjoying themselves.
Annemarie Kelly: Now, that's so well said. I have a three kids. My son is eight. I have two daughters, 11 and 16. And, my daughter, I think, it was last, last year if I could take her and her friends to see the JLo movie, the Hustlers movie about strippers. And, at first, I had my, "Oh, my", moment in my head and what I said to my daughter was, "Sure. Absolutely." Well, big surprise, the moms of some of her friends said, "No way. You're not going to see a stripper movie." But my daughter and I absolutely went because here she was asking me to take her to a movie to talk about bodies and women and commerce and poverty and our common humanity and what it means to confront the patriarchy, what that looks like. And she was asking me to talk about those things. I feel like, as moms, we percieve it our peril when we ... There's not that many opportunities where girls come to us, right? They come to you for-
Mikki Kendall: Right.
Annemarie Kelly: ... birth control one time. And, if you say no, they remember that you said no. And women remember, right? We don't keep coming back. So, you have a limited number of chances to really say, "Yeah, mom. If JLo is older than you, how come you can't spin in a pole like that?", and then you have that conversation about mom's core strength and how she wishes she could. We also talk about bodies. And I was grateful she asked. I was glad for, in this case, to sit with her and watch that movie.
Mikki Kendall: And this is the thing. So, one of my kids is non-binary and possibly trans. We're working that out right now. And I have been the lowest reaction mom in the history of lowest reaction moms. Even though I know that there are members of my family that would have a big response, but it's mainly I want this kid to keep talking to me. I want this kid to feel safe coming home. I want this kid to know, no matter what, mommy loves you. Right? And they give you so few corners to turn, right? It's not really a straight way, this parenting gig. And, you can basically pick, "Is this going into an estrangement or are we going to speak to each other for the next 50 years?", and some of these pivots. Right? Is this going to be a thing that the therapist has to hear about or is this a thing where they roll their eyes and are like, "She's fine. She's just so embarrassing." And I always err on the side of, "She's okay. It's just she's embarrassing. Right?
Mikki Kendall: Because there are things that are really big issues, drugs and all of it. And then, the rest of it, I'm just kind of like, "Listen, at 16 you feel like it's inappropriate. But, at 18, you're sending them off to college". I would rather we have this conversation at 16 and be honest about bodies and expectations and sex and what they may encounter in a couple years, than wait until they're 18 and they're calling me because something went wrong and, maybe, I got to bail them out or, maybe, they're in a hospital. I definitely don't want that door. I want the first door.
Annemarie Kelly: Absolutely. Because, at least, they know what it is you'll say because, at least, you've had those conversations. And I think about some of the terrible taste that I had in boys who did not treat me right. And I know that that's because I grew up feeling like there was something wrong with me. And so, to be acting on any of that sexuality. I was just confirming what everybody knew, that this was not okay. So, of course, they shouldn't treat me well. What is all this?
Annemarie Kelly: I thought there were all kinds of myths in your book that you debunked in it. I'm going to list a few and you could just have your pick. But the myth of pull yourself up by your bootstraps and/or America, the meritocracy. Take your pick. Do you want to comment on either of those two things?
Mikki Kendall: I want to talk about the bootstrap thing because I think people think that that works somehow. And, A, no one's ever pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. Literally, no one. You can lift your foot, maybe, with the bootstrap, it's probably going to break, but maybe you can lift your foot with it. You can't climb any ladders. Not even [inaudible 00:18:59] ladder climbing boots, right? And this ties, actually, into the meritocracy, so we're talking about both of them. [inaudible 00:19:06].
Mikki Kendall: So, people will say I got where I did because I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and I got here under my own steam and hard work and meritocracy and blah, blah, blah, and blah, blah, blah. And then, you just have to ask a couple of questions about where they went to school, right? How they got that first letter for college, their first job, et cetera, and you find out very quickly that bootstraps actually means parents and teachers and other community members who helped. And that the meritocracy is mostly relationships made through those various connections that led them to the college, the degree, the trade school, whatever.
Mikki Kendall: And, I think, people think they need the bootstraps lie, to believe the meritocracy lie because, otherwise, they might have to admit that they are relying heavily every day on a community that not everyone can access and the privileges that community has gotten through, and we're going to really get [inaudible 00:20:04] here, through being white at the right time in American history. Through being at the right income level in American history and through pure, just, luck.
Mikki Kendall: This is the thing, all of this hinges around the idea that if you're not rich, you're just hard working and nothing lucky or fortuitous or privileged has never impacted your life. Most people in America, in the world, are not rich. We have a weird thing with wealthy people where we think hoarders, and that's really what they are at a certain point, right? If there's a B in your income level and your net worth, you are a hoarder of cash. You are someone who does not recirculate it into the economy, you just hoard it. I'm just going to say that. And we don't call that hoarding but that's essentially what it is, right?
Mikki Kendall: There comes a number where everything past that number, you're not buying the thing that you need, you're barely buying anything you want. You have seven yachts. The first yacht's not broken, you just don't know what else to do with all that money and you have the emotional capacity of a ferret so you don't actually decide to give that money to people who could use it, to donate it to charity or whatever. Instead, you buy yachts. I don't know what the yachts do when they're not at home. I think you just have them like Monopoly. I don't know.
Annemarie Kelly: I don't know about you, when was the last time was you bought a pair of boots, but there are no bootstraps on any boots anymore. So, maybe there was, back in the day, a bootstrap but you can't pull yourself up by something that isn't there. So, there's also that. But another myth that I found in your book again and again is this myth that hard working people aren't homeless because there's a program for that. Right? You choose to be homeless is another myth I saw debunked in this book. Can you speak to that? Is there a program for that? Are there hard working people who are homeless?
Mikki Kendall: There are millions of hard working people who are unhoused, homeless or in unstable housing. The programs you think exists have been woefully underfunded not just in terms of what they will pay out, but even in terms of funding, staffing for them. So, you have waiting lists for those programs that are a decade long, that are two decades long. But it's a very handy dandy way to say, "Well, they are programs for that that will prevent you from being homeless." And we, literally, see people, and I'm using New York as an example, who are in New York with multiple jobs, the articles exists, you don't have to believe me, you can Google.
Mikki Kendall: Employed and homeless in New York, I think, would be the catch phrase. Or, employed and homeless in America and you can see people who, sometimes, have two or three jobs. What they don't have is affordable housing. And we have a lot of housing that is, essentially, ghost housing. The words luxury condo should be a red flag to you, wherever you are, because you know what lives in those luxury condos mostly? No one. They're just a way to monitor money, move some cash around for various investors. They're not really housing, right?
Mikki Kendall: And you'll see this and you'll say, "Well, if you work hard enough, you can afford." I'm a New York Times bestselling author, I make a really good living. I still can't afford $8,000 a month in rent. I can't afford the numbers on some of these luxury places that I see. And we have two college degrees. I am a veteran. I've done all of those bells. I ring all the bells and whistles, right?
Mikki Kendall: We've just paid for college for my eldest, we're paying off our own student loan debt, all of this, but we are doing the thing everyone says. We live in a place, it's nice enough, but it is not luxury. It is merely comfortable, right? We had to severely cut our living expenses. I don't think I'll ever get to a point where I could afford or justify, even if I could afford, spending $8,000 a month on housing. They just can't imagine, right? But I also don't live someplace where that's considered a normal rent. However, if you were in several major cities, in New York, this bay area, even frankly, unfortunately, some parts of Chicago these days, people think that rent should be the equivalent of a month salary. Right?
Mikki Kendall: Daycare costs, the equivalent of a month salary. I don't know how you live but if a two bedroom is $2,300 a month and daycare is $2,000 a month, even if you are making $72,000 a year, you are not making enough to afford that lifestyle. Which would mean you would need an apartment that would cost more like $1,200 a month for a two bedroom if it's you want a child and all that. Good luck finding something that costs $1,200 a month that's a two bedroom that you would want to walk into and bring your child into in most major cities.
Annemarie Kelly: That's very true. That's very true. Let's do one more myth from the book before I pivot. I love this one. Quote, "Women should be nice." That is a myth from the book. Can you help me with that one? Mikki, my nice friend? What-
Mikki Kendall: Yes.
Annemarie Kelly: Should women be nice?
Mikki Kendall: Niceness is useless. I'm going to be honest with you. Niceness is where you smile really pleasantly and you say things or you do things that are often uncomfortable, inconvenient, unpleasant, whatever. Or, useless. And here's the kicker. Kind is effective, right? If I am on the side of the road and I have a flat tire, a nice person will say, "Oh, you poor thing. Here, I'll sit with you until AAA shows up." A kind person, who may or may not be nice to me, will pull up and say, "You can't change that tire?" Come up here and change the tire. Right? You see the-
Annemarie Kelly: I liked that quote, "No one has ever freed themselves from oppression by asking nicely."
Mikki Kendall: Right. No one. And here's the thing, no one gets anywhere by saying, "Could you be nicer to me about this violence? Could you be nicer to me about this hunger?" You know what's effective? It's the very kind people who sometimes are not hungry themselves to say, "Hey, these tax dollars are supposed to take care of you, right? Hey." Shirley Chisholm is my favorite example of this. We have all of this surplus, we have all of these poor people and you were just going to let the surplus sit there? Let's create a program so they could access that food. Let's create programs because, otherwise, it's just [inaudible 00:26:26], right.
Mikki Kendall: We also will tell women that they need to be nice to men who are stalking them on the street, who are harassing them or whatever the heck else. Here's where I'll remind you that a lot of women who have been very nice ended up dead. That's what they ended up. They ended up dead. So, I've yet to find an example where nice works out for the person someone is being nice at generally, but especially for the person who's so focused on being nice, they've given up on being effective. I would rather be effective.
Annemarie Kelly: No, and I see that I follow you on Twitter. And, I think, that in Hood Feminism, you referenced a quote by James Baldwin, which many of us have heard, but it's always good to be reminded of, "That to be black in this country is to be in a state of rage almost, almost all of the time." And, part of the rage is it isn't only what's happening to you, but it's what's happening all around you. And, all of the time, in the face of the most extraordinary and criminal indifference, that indifference is largely from white folks, people in charge being ignorant every day about how much there is to be angry about.
Annemarie Kelly: And when I was reading this book, I had this MKU. I kept calling it Mikki Kendall University. I don't know when you're starting it. But because I would put the book down like, "Ugh". I get so angry when I'm reading it and then I feel terrible because I'm thinking what can I do so I do these little circles. So, I just need to enroll in a class, I think I also need to take a women's history class of women of the world. So, if you guys are offering that. So, the point is, we got a lot to do. We got a lot to do. And, I guess, I'm wondering two things. Where have you found to be the most effective places to put your, I don't just mean anger, but rage? Where have you found that it makes the most difference? And then I'm also wondering how do you protect yourself when it is too much?
Mikki Kendall: So, one of the things that I do is that I will try to channel anger into action. Okay? So, I asked a question on Twitter, a woman in the Bay Area, I want to say this was in California. Anyway, an older Chinese woman was attacked by someone, she fought him off and I asked, "Does she have a GoFundMe?" And it is actually more effective making people want to answer my question because they go to look for her GoFundMe. They chip into the GoFundMe and then they tell me about the GoFundMe, they tell people in my comments about the GoFundMe, they tell their friends about the GoFundMe. Because I was really angry and I really wanted her to get help.
Mikki Kendall: And, yes, I chip in but, also, I want other people to chip in. I want her to be comfortable and not to worry and all of these things. And I do that because the material needs, the day-to-day material needs are unlikely to be met any other way. And, for me, the thing that soothes my anger is knowing that I helped, right? The way that I helped may be different than the way someone else will help. That's my solution.
Mikki Kendall: And, in terms of protecting myself, I will have a setlist in my head of things I need to do before I feel like I've accomplished enough, I try to avoid burnout. And then, I go do something nonsensical like I watch Muppets in my bed and play games on my phone. I play Toon Blast a lot. I play Toon Blast. [inaudible 00:29:47].
Annemarie Kelly: Who's your favorite Muppets?
Mikki Kendall: Okay. So, Animal is my absolute favorite and Animal is so much my favorite that Animal lives on my desk. Right? But, also, Miss Piggy because you're legally required to speak. I feel like that's an important thing. Beaker, Scooter. Yes. Scooter's growing on me again. I [inaudible 00:30:09] Scooter. Rewatching Scooter's growing on me again. My husband and I have a debate about Grover because my husband really likes Grover and I really feel like Fozzie is better than Grover but that doesn't make any sense to anyone but the two of us, I recognize that. But I will sit there and I will watch The Muppets or old Wonder Woman, '70s era Wonder Woman show-
Annemarie Kelly: Linda Carter?
Mikki Kendall: Awesome. Really good. Yes, Linda Carter is legit. And I will eat whatever I'm eating. I'm addicted, currently, they're, technically, healthy snacks but they're these raspberry bites from nuts.com and they're fruit snacks. It's a problem though. It's a problem. I will sit there and I'll eat freeze dried cherries or raspberry bites or chocolate covered pecans and watch bad television. I like to use the Oculus, those virtual reality, right? There's a couple games Beat Saber and FitXR that let me mint my screen, work up a good sweat while feeling like, "I'm not really working out". Somehow, if I tell myself, I'm not working, I'm going to find a workout. I know that doesn't make any sense.
Annemarie Kelly: All right. Well, that's good to know. Because when I see you, I feel like you tweet 172 times while the rest of us have maybe had breakfast sometime. I see you doing the work and I want to be like, "Is there a GoFundMe for Mikki Kendall so she can just take a breath?" I'm glad to know that there are the raspberries and there are Muppets and there are nuts, that there is some self-care involved in you taking care of the world. Okay.
Annemarie Kelly: So, I have a couple of true and false questions because I know you do a lot of interviews and I wanted to just get some true and false in here so that you have a chance a take a moment. This is just a true and false. True or false? Food insecurity is a feminist issue.
Mikki Kendall: True.
Annemarie Kelly: All right. True or false? Guns are a feminist issue.
Mikki Kendall: Absolutely true.
Annemarie Kelly: True or false? Healthcare is a feminist issue.
Mikki Kendall: True.
Annemarie Kelly: True or false? Education is a feminist issue.
Mikki Kendall: True.
Annemarie Kelly: True or false? Affordable housing is a feminist issue.
Mikki Kendall: True.
Annemarie Kelly: True or false? Miss Piggy, and whether you like her or not, is a feminist issue.
Mikki Kendall: Technically-
Annemarie Kelly: I mean, I feel like-
Mikki Kendall: I'm going with true. I'm going with true.
Annemarie Kelly: I feel like she has been much maligned. She said what she wanted again and again and that fell on deaf ears. She was powerful. I mean-
Mikki Kendall: Yes.
Annemarie Kelly: ... come on. I think-
Mikki Kendall: And I feel like Miss Piggy taught us all that it was okay to [inaudible 00:32:43] up someone in the throat if they were bothering you. I feel like that was an important feminist lesson.
Annemarie Kelly: I told you-
Mikki Kendall: [inaudible 00:32:54]
Annemarie Kelly: ... we are the same age and yet, you're looking younger and I'm trying to be nice. Okay. So, I was thinking about this with the book and I don't like to leave people mired in only difficult questions with no answers. But what I hear from you and from the book is, I hear that some of the solutions just involves, you got to show up for things you don't think are your problem because it turns out those things are your problem.
Annemarie Kelly: And so, part of your problem is you need to show for the things that aren't your problem, because they are your problem. And even if you think they're not your problem, you have to show up for them because that's just what it means to live in community, on this planet. Some days, you are trying to be anti-racist and some days I am and some days I'm not. But you're out there and you're trying and you're working so that for my white listeners out there who all have aunt Susan's ... I love that part of your book, by the way. I don't have an aunt Susan, but I do have an aunt Susan, right?
Mikki Kendall: Yes.
Annemarie Kelly: I know exactly who that is. And that if we're going to be side by side prepping the meal at the holidays, I'm going to set some boundaries with my aunt Susan that I previously have not set. As white folks, I think, we're not always nice or kind but we don't speak up because we don't want to insult someone in our family who we think we cannot change. You know how you have the people in your family you cannot change? You think, "Well, I'll just not going to speak up because they're always going to be like that." But I hear you asking us, not just asking but saying, you have to speak up because sometimes standing up for all women means standing up to a few women, especially ones who are holding us back.
Mikki Kendall: And, I was going to say, the thing is that you'd be amazed how many of them will change when you actually make them think about why they're saying what they're saying, why they believe what they do. And I think that people think, "Oh, well. It's disrespectful to push back." But you wouldn't feel like it was disrespectful to push back at work or in school, probably, I would assume so. I hope so. So, if you would tell a co-worker, they were wrong or tell the random woman in the grocery store or parking lot she was wrong, why wouldn't you say, "Hey, aunt Susan, that's kind of messed up."? Sure, it's going to be uncomfortable, right? We're all going to get uncomfortable. But I feel like we all have to have uncomfortable conversations with relatives about much more mundane things, right? There's always that one relative, no matter whose wedding it is, she wants to wear white. You know there's one. You know there's one.
Annemarie Kelly: Only one?
Mikki Kendall: If you come from my family, there's always the one who wants to sing and can't sing. And somebody has to gently redirect that urge to sing, right? Things like that. And so, I think people should feel comfortable saying, "Hey, that's not cool", because you expect other people to say, "Hey, that's not cool." You expect other people to do that work. Well, that means you got to do that work. Also, stop putting raisins in potato salad. Please stop putting raisins in salad. Just saying. It's not good.
Annemarie Kelly: I put raisins in everything but I'm not sure that I've ever put them in potato salad. But now I might try it. I love me a raisin. They're sweet and a little shriveled. They're like the fruit equivalent of Animal. I'm going to put that out there. I think that they're ... you know?
Mikki Kendall: No. At most animal would be craisin. Animal would not be a raisin.
Annemarie Kelly: Okay.
Mikki Kendall: There is a difference.
Annemarie Kelly: I will give you that. He is a craisin. He's more craisin than raisin. I love that. All right, because I'm going to enroll at MKU, I'm going to steer our conversation to a close because I'm going to just wait for the registrar at Mikki Kendall University to open courses for me to attend. But, until then, I always close with a few icebreakers. I know people like to start with icebreakers but I prefer to end with them because I find them scary in the beginning. No one gives you honest answers, they don't even know you. So, who was one of your best teachers?
Mikki Kendall: That would be Mrs. Longley in third grade who both worked my nerves and made sure that I knew that I could do anything if I tried harder.
Annemarie Kelly: Shout out to her. What's one of your go to songs?
Mikki Kendall: I'm sorry. I just had to laugh because I just realized how this is going to sound. But just judge me later. Party Up in Here by DMX. [inaudible 00:37:06] and in my feelings and nothing is working, that song gets you hyped. It will, it will.
Annemarie Kelly: So, I used to ask favorite song but the go to song is better. Because, the go to song, everyone has a song that's slightly embarrassing that's their fluffing up song. I get way better answers for those and I will judge you later. What's a book you love? Doesn't have to be your favorite, but a book you love.
Mikki Kendall: A book I love is Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.
Annemarie Kelly: Oh wow. I had a friend who taught that religiously. I have not read that book in years. Have you read it recently? Does it-
Mikki Kendall: Yes.
Annemarie Kelly: ... hold up? And I don't mean hold up. You know how, sometimes, your favorite book you go back and like, "What?" I like that but does it hold up?
Mikki Kendall: Cassie Logan holds up. Cassie Logan absolutely holds up. One of the things about it is that, I realized when I was rereading it, and I read it and a bunch of other like Color Purple and that kind of stuff around the same age. I was wildly inappropriate in my reading choices just again. There was a V.C. Andrews moment in my sixth grade because what it's-
Annemarie Kelly: Right? The flowers-
Mikki Kendall: Right.
Annemarie Kelly: ... were in the attic, the secrets were in the garden. We passed them around. We were reading, at least. Okay. And what's a movie that you love?
Mikki Kendall: Oh, god. What is a movie that I love? Oh, your audience will find this disturbing, but Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. It's a Jodie Foster movie from the late '70s, early '80s.
Annemarie Kelly: I'm not sure I've ever seen that. I've seen that one with her locked in the house. I've seen, obviously, Silence of the Lambs.
Mikki Kendall: Oh, this is probably one-
Annemarie Kelly: I'm going to check this out.
Mikki Kendall: ... of her earliest films. It's actually really weird and really spooky and there's a whole other story about why I like it the way that I do it. And, the fact that I watched a lot of these movies late at night when I was supposed to be asleep.
Annemarie Kelly: I totally hear you. It's a whole different conversation we have to have about just the things we did were bad. But, all right. So, multiple choice. Dogs or cats?
Mikki Kendall: Cats.
Annemarie Kelly: Coffee or tea?
Mikki Kendall: Coca.
Annemarie Kelly: No one has said Coca yet. I love it. Mountains or beach?
Mikki Kendall: Oh, I don't know. I like both. Wait a minute, this is hard. I'm going to go with mountains because sometimes mountains have lakes-
Annemarie Kelly: All right.
Mikki Kendall: ... and hot springs. So, I can go to the hot spring and then that's [crosstalk 00:39:27].
Annemarie Kelly: Hotsprings was not a choice. I don't see hot springs listed here but [crosstalk 00:39:30].
Mikki Kendall: List it. List it.
Annemarie Kelly: Don't have to be nice. That's fine. Cake or pie?
Mikki Kendall: Mostly pie but, sometimes, cake. It depends.
Annemarie Kelly: Okay.
Mikki Kendall: My mother-in-law makes this thing that she calls jello cake is lemon limey goodness and it's really soft and delicious. But my husband makes this apple pie, that's why I married him. And so, some of these questions were into little dynamics.
Annemarie Kelly: I love it. You married him for his apple pie. Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Mikki Kendall: You're going to give me such a face. I am split in between. I can do either. I can do either. It depends on what's going on in my life at the time.
Annemarie Kelly: That's a super boring answer.
Mikki Kendall: In the winter I tend to get up really early for no reason. In the summer, I want to stay up all hours of the day because it's warm.
Annemarie Kelly: Got it. All right. Are you a risk taker or are you the person who always knows where the band aids are?
Mikki Kendall: I am the person who jumps off the cliff, but the band aids are in my bag. I'm just going to [inaudible 00:40:29].
Annemarie Kelly: All of your answers are both and you're ridiculous and wonderful. And what's your favorite ice cream flavor?
Mikki Kendall: Goat cheese cherry.
Annemarie Kelly: Goat cheese cherry. Fancy. All right. I've never tried that. It sounds gross.
Mikki Kendall: No, it's delicious. I also like rocky road and cookies and cream. I really like ice cream.
Annemarie Kelly: Is there goat cheese in those?
Mikki Kendall: No, but if you put the goat cheese cherry with the cookies and cream, it's not the worst thing. It's actually pretty good.
Annemarie Kelly: So, you found a way for that answer to be both as well. All right, last one. If we were to take a picture, just a moment of you happy and doing what you love, what would we see you doing?
Mikki Kendall: Probably playing a botched version of tag in a field somewhere with my family and my friends. So, here's the thing. We wouldn't have to hit each other with our hands but it would probably be a Nerf or a ball or something. Because we do really silly things. We are ridiculous. We have no force.
Annemarie Kelly: I love that image. I have this idea that, one day, when I actually have a studio that's not my closet, that I'll actually ask people to have a snapshot of them. And I love the idea of seeing you in a field playing Nerf tag. I just think that would be great to have those. That'd be great.
Annemarie Kelly: All right. I cannot stress this enough, especially to my white lady listeners. It is not Mikki Kendall's job to teach us what to do or how to be. But it is certainly our job to listen and engage and ask how, in partnership, we might proceed as better more loving humans and to right the wrongs of history that are continuing right up until today. Just like I think it's funny to close with icebreakers, I'm also closing with the opening dedication to Amazons, Abolitionists and Activists because I think it's beautiful. And just say this is for the ones who paved the way, the ones who learned to make a way and for those who face roads yet unknown. I think a lot of us know that world that we have to face and we're afraid to walk down.
Annemarie Kelly: And then, I thank Mikki Kendall. I think that you are someone whose courage we mine and we are grateful for. I'm grateful for your wisdom, your leadership, your sass, your love for The Muppets. I'm grateful for your willingness to come here today and I promise we're going to see each other again on the journey because, whether or not I have earned my place in your sisterhood, I want you to know I am working on it.
Annemarie Kelly: And, to my listeners, I'm asking you to answer the call. You can find Hood Feminism or you can find Amazons, Abolitionists and Activists at any independent bookstore near you and cash in some privilege, folks.
Annemarie Kelly: Mikki Kendall, thank you for being here. And I'm wishing you love and light on wherever this journey takes you. And, folks out there, until next time. Be good to yourselves, be good to one another and will we see each other again on this wild and precious journey?
Annemarie Kelly: Wild Precious Life is a production of Evergreen podcasts. Special thanks to executive producers Gerardo Orlando and Michael DeAloia, producer Sarah Willgrube and audio engineer Eric [Coltnow 00:43:56]. Be sure to subscribe and follow us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.