Woke Wednesdays and Public Discourse

Hanna Mason, Host of the Woke Wednesdays podcast, joins us to talk about her show and the state of social justice and politics in America. We discuss:

  • How she got started podcasting
  • Her presentation on How to Evoke Change at the Advertising for Change event in Atlanta
  • Are we in the most divisive time in American history?
  • The state of progressive voices and politcs in the US
  • Under-represented voices that need to be amplified, such as black trans women
  • 2020 Democratic candidates
  • Hannah’s plan to become Secretary of Education

Links:
Woke Wednesdays podcast – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/woke-wednesdays/id1443999786
Advertising for Change – https://advertisingforchange.org/


Transcript

Susan Cooper  0:00 
Welcome to Inclusion Catalyst with your hosts Mickey Desai and Susan Cooper.  We invite diversity leaders to the table to deconstruct complex social justice issues and showcase the best inclusion practices in our workplaces and our communities.

Mickey Desai  0:18 
Hello again and welcome to the Inclusion Catalyst. I’m one of your co hosts Mickey Desai and with me, I’ve got Susan Cooper. Susan, are you there?

Susan Cooper  0:25 
Hey everybody, this is Susan Cooper.

Mickey Desai  0:27 
Susan, who’s our guest for today?

Susan Cooper  0:29 
Today we have Hannah Mason from the Woke Wednesday’s podcast.

Hannah Mason  0:34 
Hello.

Susan Cooper  0:36 
Hi, welcome. Hannah is joining with us today. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2018 and has since been working to educate people on politics, current events and the importance of lifting up voices of underserved populations. Her podcast covers everything from income inequality to systemic racism, to current political candidates and the state of the healthcare system. So one of the things that I love about her is that she is not afraid to take on big topics, clearly.

Mickey Desai  1:09 
What was the calling Hannah? I mean, people don’t usually do this thing unless they have some sort of, yeah, like major passion or calling.

Hannah Mason  1:16 
For sure. So, if I’m honest, I started, I guess posting these, I mean, for lack of a better word, they’re definitely random. It was not planned. I would just post random little tidbits and statuses on Facebook in the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign. Honestly, not even realizing what the I guess feedback I would get from other people into who I was just doing it because I, as I was learning about more. I felt other people should learn more. I grew up – just a little background-  I lived in a pretty conservative household, which some might find Interesting considering the fact that I’m black, but I grew up in a very conservative religious household. So growing up, I never really, we didn’t really talk about politics, but we when we did it was definitely from a very conservative standpoint. And as I got to college, and I started taking different classes and just interacting with different people, I started learning more, reading more and just gaining this, I guess, this unfounded knowledge about just our country state is how things essentially are for the most people. And I just felt like I needed to, I guess share it with others, and people really were engaged with it. And even as it started to grow, and I started going into like posting videos and having like Facebook Live guests, I still was very, I guess apprehensive about having a podcast. One because I’m not the best with technology. So that’s just like a personal thing. And two, it was never something that I just thought, well, this needs to be this big thing. And I need to like share all of my thoughts and opinions with like the whole world and just something that I thought I can change the mind or help influence the minds of some people, it can just be in some sort of ripple effect. But people kept asking me and asking me “why, why don’t you have a podcast?” And I was like, Well, what? I don’t know how to do that. So like, are you gonna help me? But my friend, Trey, who’s the producer now? We met at UGA. And he would ask me like, why don’t you have one of you should do it. You should do it. Like, I don’t know what it was that he said that convinced me. I’m just like, okay, but you have to do all of that because I don’t know how to do that. And I wasn’t in a place where I honestly had the time to learn. But I just graduated college like I was about to move across the country by myself and start grad school and start school and start work. So I just, I just didn’t have time. So he said, Okay, we’ll we’ll do it, we’ll do it. And here we are today on Spotify and Apple and other streaming networks.

Susan Cooper  4:20 
So we first had the chance to meet you, Hannah at an Advertising for Change event here in Atlanta, where you, you gave a great presentation called, Using your Platform to Evoke Change, and it was about your podcast and activism and what people can do to get involved. So how did you get involved in that event?

Hannah Mason  4:40 
Yeah, so one of my and Trey’s mutual friends who we went to UGA with, she actually works at the advertising company. And she’s a lot closer with Trey than me because they’re the same major but she reached out to us. And she told us about this event and the company was having and she thought Wow, like, I think Woke Wednesdays would be a great fit. Like a lot of people listen to Hannah. And I think it would be a good fit. And then she brought it to her boss and her boss who I didn’t, like I had never met and never heard of was like, wait, you know, the host of Woke Wednesdays? She’s like, Oh, we listened to that. I love that podcast. I listened every week. And I was like, when Emma told us that that’s her name. I was like, Wow, I didn’t even like, I guess I just didn’t think that people I don’t know listen to me. I guess they do. So then we got a contract. And we like had a couple meetings, just figuring out the logistics and things like that. And then I flew out and it was honestly a really cool opportunity. Because when I got to come home and engage in my first ever speaking event, like that, so it was a really cool experience that I got to have but that’s how we got involved.

Susan Cooper  6:01 
Well, I’ll just say I think I think you should try to get on the speaker circuit more because your presentation was really good. For that being your first presentation, like you should do more of that, I think.

Hannah Mason  6:12 
Thank you. I was so nervous.

Susan Cooper  6:17 
So in your intro, I wanted to ask you  – in the intro of your show, you say that your mission is to talk about issues that are part of the public discourse during one of the most divisive times in American history. So this is kind of a broad question, but what do you think is contributing to the divisiveness and public discourse at this time in history in America?

Hannah Mason  6:39 
Yeah, that’s a really broad question, but it’s a good question. I do want to say that. Well, I definitely think we’re at a divisive time right now. I honestly think every time in our history and our country’s history has been divisive. But I would say through me like I I’m specifically living in this time period, just because I’m only 23 years old. And I don’t have a recollection that much of growing up and things that were contentious and things like that just because I was younger. So I do think, right now, we are living in a divisive time. But I think like I said, every time we’ve ever lived it, but for me, the simple answer to that is with technology advancing, I mean, social media is crazy right now. And getting even more and more advanced for lack of a better to them, I think is easier for people to be able to engage with and see more of inequity and oppressive politics and policies that are being put in practice. So I think one that is why we’re I guess you could say in a more divisive time because people are just able to see it and I mean, in the civil rights movement, that was one of the things things, especially for Fannie Lou Hamer, she wanted to be on TV, so people could see the atrocities that she had to go through, and that other black people and other marginalized communities were experiencing. So I think one people just having the ability to see it for them for their own eyes. And I’m also thinking specifically for people who might belong to different marginalized communities. They’re just tired of the status quo. And I’m not saying that people in other times, if history wasn’t like, I’m definitely not saying that. But I think right now people are over it and people are calling for accountability and holding people to higher standards for not being discriminatory or bigoted or racist or sexist or misogynistic. Yeah, I think that’s, in a nutshell why I think it’s one of the most divisive times because I think people, we’re just tired of the bullshit.

Susan Cooper  9:04 
They’re kind of being they’re being exposed to communities outside of their bubble. Exactly.

Mickey Desai  9:11 
Social media does a couple things, you know, it exposes us to all kinds of different stuff. But it also gives us this safe little silo where we can sit here and fire pot shots off at each other for things that we don’t necessarily agree with. Right. And that’s, that’s where I think the perception of division comes into play. But I remember hearing people talk about like the Goldwater election stuff that was happening. Certainly long before I was a voting age. And they were talking about people sending death threats to each other back in those days, and I’m like, man, are we any? Are we really any more or less divisive than we have ever been?

Hannah Mason  9:46 
Exactly? Yeah.

Susan Cooper  9:49 
So along the same vein, do you think you know, since you started, what you’re doing, you know, around the 2016 election, do you think now that we’re, you know, three years later, do you feel like we’re any more woke now as a society than we were then?

Hannah Mason  10:05 
No, no. I mean, yes and no. Overall, like, I definitely think we’re seeing more and more progressive voices. More and more underrepresented voices being uplifted, in terms of I mean, like, local state elections is happening and things like that and the organizers not backing down and pushing for what they need and what other communities need. But I still think that there’s this I still think that there’s this group like population who I mean, honestly just refuses to look at our society for what it truly is, and accept it and deal with those consequences. I mean, I’ve come into contact with so many people I mean, so many, especially coming from Dublin, Georgia. I don’t know if you know anything about it, but it is not like the mecca for progressivism and for pushing underrepresented voices at all.

Mickey Desai  11:13 
So I’m sorry, I’m just gonna say you I think you’re being polite. Yeah, no,

Hannah Mason  11:18 
I am being. It’s, it’s just not like, where I grew up, it was very divided in terms of race and class. And in some ways Jinja it was just that’s just what it was. So there’s still a lot of people, not just in my hometown, just in general, who have for years refused to accept America for what it is and like, look at it and say we need to reform our country and like actually be better. But, I mean, Does that surprise me? No, because of who our president is, and how people I mean, sorry, if this is it, XML I don’t really care if this isn’t doing like Let him get away with saying all the things he said and doing all the things he did and still voting for him, if that makes sense.

Mickey Desai  12:10 
Absolutely.

Hannah Mason  12:11 
But I also do want to point out, I don’t think, I mean, I don’t like Donald Trump in any way, shape or form, if you didn’t know. But he is not the face for what America has grown to be. He’s definitely a product of what it is, but their past presidents and past politicians and pass people who have contributed and build this problem as well. He’s just, I mean, he is a part of it too, but he is not what like, you know.

Susan Cooper  12:48 
Yeah, the problem is much bigger than just Donald Trump.

Hannah Mason  12:51 
Exactly.

Susan Cooper  12:52 
The systems that are have been put in place that put him where he is today are the problem.

Hannah Mason  12:58 
Exactly. Thank you for Saying that so much.

Susan Cooper  13:04 
So, are there any groups you know, and and the topics that you’ve covered on your show and the voices that you seek to lift up that have been neglected shunned and misunderstood as you, as you say, in your intro?

Hannah Mason  13:18 
Do you feel like there are any particular groups that are that are the most neglected and misunderstood and, and what can other people just everyday people do to help lift up those voices? I mean, I think there are a multitude, the one that I literally think about, especially right now, because of what is happening in 2019 is black trans women. I mean, black trans women are being murdered add up an alarming rate, I think, I don’t know that specific number, but it’s definitely between the 20s and 30s of black trans women being murdered, literally just killed because of who they are. And I think one is me being a black womanhood being a cisgendered heterosexual woman, I have a responsibility with my platform, and just who I am to be able to uplift those voices. By letting them take control of the conversation. I think that’s what often gets. That’s what doesn’t happen. I mean, you saw it at all. I don’t know if you saw I was watching it. At the CNN Town Hall I was in a few weeks ago, it was an LGBTQ townhome. And different people came up and spoke, but at the very is, we had yet to hear from a black trans woman, and what her name is blossom. She literally took the mic and said, We have been talking for about an hour and a half. And that has yet to be a question reflecting epidemic that’s going on with black trans women being murdered. And that is the I mean, her saying that that’s the problem right there. They’re not given the platform to amplify their voices and talk about that. issues that most concern them and affect them. So I mean, that’s one way people can help. I mean, like with the media, for example, that’s giving people the agency to come on these shows and things like that in amplifying them so that their voices can be heard and that the issues that are most pressing for them are heard or talked about or talked through. That’s, that’s what people can do, at the very least, and be willing to learn and listen, and to be able to look at their own implicit biases and discriminatory practices. That’s what we can do as a man at the very least.

Susan Cooper  15:41 
So recently, you’ve done a series of political episodes on your show. Yeah. And so you took one for each episode, you covered one of the 2020 presidential candidates. Yes. And there are a lot of candidates. So there are a lot and so I think, my perception is that a lot of people are just overwhelmed by so many candidates, and they’re just kind of checked out. And they’re just waiting to see where the chips fall like, Who are we going to end up with here? Yes. So from from all that you did, I’m sure you did so much research on all the candidates. What were some of your biggest takeaways from that series that you did?

Hannah Mason  16:24 
Yeah. I mean, I learned a lot of me, like you said, there’s so many we did. And I will say this, we didn’t cover everyone because there’s literally so many. And it was just it would have been a lot. And I also wanted to I mean, this might sound rude. There’s some people that were running and that are still running and aren’t doing so deservedly. And I didn’t want to use our platform to kind of amplify that even more. But yeah, I learned A lot about each of the candidates. There’s something new, multiple things new that I learned about each of the candidates we did two episodes on. But I think some of my biggest, biggest takeaway takeaways, and this isn’t just from my research, but just the overall media coverage to I was encouraged, obviously, with the 2016 presidential election was my first time ever voting. But with this one, I am engaged but times 1000, especially with the media and seeing how certain candidates are getting the recognition and the coverage that they’re getting versus others who should be getting in. And what I mean by that is specifically Julio Castro, I mean, I have really really appreciated him heading the charge for authentic and inclusive conversations that’s centered around marginalized communities. I mean from his police plan to his immigration reform plan. He has been He’s been on it every step of the way. Yet his media coverage, his polling just does not reflect that. And it honestly infuriated me, because there’s certain reasons why I think that is I mean, besides the fact that he is a minority. Um, I think for some people, he’s too progressive, he’s too radical, and they just don’t want to deal with that. But I don’t agree with that at all. So I’m definitely taking away seeing just how media bias has been in portraying some of these candidates and even Kamala Harris, which I will say, I am not a fan of, for different reasons. I see how she is portrayed, versus how candidates like Pete Buttigieg or Beto O’Rourkehas been betrayed. And it’s just disproportionate to say the least. So yeah, those are some of my biggest takeaways, just seeing how the entire thing has been portrayed. How do you think we can get more people engaged since I feel like a lot of people at this stage are kind of they know that next year 2020 is going to they’re just going to be inundated.

Susan Cooper  19:12 
How do you think we can get people more engaged now? Right to really start getting engaged in the issues for?

Hannah Mason  19:20 
No, that’s a good question. I think one, you have to look at, well, who is able to even vote? Right, like people who aren’t able to vote, not saying they’re not engaged, but they don’t have that. Right. Right, like people should have the ability and the right to vote, at least I mean, we saw it in Georgia gubernatorial race with voter suppression. So when we have to address the problem of voter suppression, which is through like gerrymandering, you see purge ballots of Florida Governor just introduced the poll tax, felons not having the right one. We need to address these issues of how people don’t even have a that right? And then. But we do that by having authentic conversations and bringing these people to the table and asking them, what do you need? How can we better serve you? I think Elizabeth Warren specifically, has done a good job of that in terms of she met with different leaders, specifically different black leaders over the course of her campaign, and her policies have been reflective of that, because they’ve told her what the black community and other communities need. And she’s done that in her policies. So I think those who were running need to start having more dialogue like that. I also think voting should be a national holiday. I mean, when it’s ridiculous that it’s not and I think that is another tactic of voter suppression because it keeps working class people from the polls. I mean, it just, it’s just simple. People can’t a lot of people can’t do off of work to go vote, it is not that voting is not a priority for them. It’s just they have to make choices between am I going to have enough money for food for water for my bills? Or am I not because I’m choosing to go vote. And that’s how people should have that choice people should have to choose between those two things. So those are some ways I think we can give people like involved in the process, we need to include them in the process.

Mickey Desai  21:29 
And I know we’ve touched on this already once but with all the different voices that we’re seeing on the Democratic side of the elections process these days on the one hand is kind of frustrating. It is kind of frustrating to to filter out all the different candidates and all the all the worthy people who I think are worth listening to. But and there’s a there’s a small voice in my head that says why is the Democratic Party allowing this Why can’t we have already narrowed it down by now? But what we’re really looking at is simply the elections process right? I mean, there’s there’s really no No way to get around it and what’s happening is the American thing to do.

Hannah Mason  22:03 
Right? I thought, I mean, like, there’s so many people who are running and honestly, I mean, I mean this. I truly mean this. I see so many mediocre, specifically white men that are running. And I’m just, it’s infuriating because a lot of them like the the other billionaire who just got in the election. Bloomberg. Yeah, yesterday. Yes, literally yesterday for me. It’s like, I’m not saying the Democratic Party is like the best party because they’re like, it has its flaws inherently. And there are things that the party does that just is beyond me. But if you are someone who would like to attribute to being aggressive and helpful, I mean, to me, why aren’t you using your platform and your voice in different ways you don’t have to go run for president. You know, Not just him. I mean Tom Steyer, even Bill de Blasio, I just didn’t understand that because the people of New York City don’t even like him. So I don’t know. I just think the Democratic Party has a lot of work to do, as well as the Republican Party, but the Democratic Party is not without fault at all.

Mickey Desai  23:21 
Yeah, I think that’s fair. Well, can we sneak in one more question, Susan.

Susan Cooper  23:28 
So one thing I wanted to mention was, when we saw you speak at that event in Atlanta, someone asked you what your plans are for the future. And you said, like point blank, I’m going to be Secretary of Education. And like, I was like, Oh, that’s so awesome. I got chills. I was I was so impressed with your confidence and just straight up like, this is my plan, and this is what I’m going to do with my life. So I love that so like, What drives you to have that goal why why do you plan to be Secretary of Education.

Hannah Mason  24:02 
Yeah, I mean, so I was a teacher. I’ve been honestly in the education world since college with my tutoring and student teaching. And I’ve seen not just with my teaching, but when I was in high school, I’ve seen racist policies inequity firsthand, and I’ve experienced it. It has left me angry, it has left me in shock and has just left me just pissed off at the idea that something that our country specifically is pushing for and advocates for could be used to the detriment of others, if that makes sense. And for me, it’s unacceptable it shouldn’t be allowed. As someone who has literally gone through the education system has witnessed it firsthand who has experienced poverty. firsthand, I know what it’s like. And I still know what it’s like as my logical journey to have these big educational aspirations and not have my needs met and not have the ability to have the resources I need to be successful. And I want to work with my absolute hardest to make sure other children don’t have that same struggle that I’ve had and that I’m currently having right now. Um, but I will say like, I know, that’s like a huge aspiration. For me, it’s about half people who know what it’s like, and who can identify the root causes of systemic inequity in education and poverty, and routing those out and say, no, we’re not going to do that. We’re going to create these other policies and these other resources for not only students to be successful, but teachers to be successful. School school nurses, social workers, counselors, psychologists, everyone to be successful in the education world. And not just in middle school, high school K through 12. I mean, higher education as well. And, wow, it would be incredible to be secretary, Secretary of Education. If that is not the end all be all. That’s okay too, because ultimately, my goal is to write and help advocate for meaningful policies, so that all kids can have a rigorous, inclusive education that they’re deserving.

Susan Cooper  26:38 
That’s awesome. Well, I think I think we’re about out of time. So we want to wrap things up and we want to, you know, definitely direct our listeners to listen to your podcast, Woke, Wednesdays and then also, do you want to tell us, your website or how anybody can get in touch with you if they want to?

Hannah Mason  26:58 
Yes, so We’re actually about to start a vlog series  – pray for me because like I said, I’m not good with technology now like, it is embarrassing. I don’t know like Millennials are still good at technology like listen me. Anyways. Our Facebook is at have a local Wednesday as well as our Instagram. You can reach us at either those and our Twitter is at woek underscore Wednesdays, if you would like to follow us I’m definitely I love Twitter. So please follow us on Twitter. See

Mickey Desai  27:34 
Hannah, this has been great. Thank you for joining us.

Hannah Mason  27:36 
Thank y’all for having me.

Mickey Desai  27:38 
And this has been another episode of the Inclusion Catalyst. Thank you for joining us and we’ll see you again in another couple weeks.

Susan Cooper  27:50 
And that’s it for this episode of Inclusion Catalyst. If you enjoyed it, please subscribe and share with your friends and colleagues.