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Trymaine Lee has asked enough questions for the year; he's ready to answer some of yours

The full episode transcript for Into Our Mailbag


Into America

Into Our Mailbag

Trymaine Lee: We are ready. Now, this is hard for me to get my mind around. Into America it is approaching its three-year anniversary, three whole years. And in that time, I’ve asked a lot of questions.

Archival Recording: I’m going to ask you. A minute ago, you said --

Archival Recording: I want to ask you. I want to ask you a question about that. How did you get to this point?

Archival Recording: I want to ask you this, man.

Archival Recording: I’m going to ask that question again.

Archival Recording: But I want to ask, and I’ll put you on the spot. How much has actually changed in a year?

Archival Recording: What is this bill actually trying to do?

Archival Recording: Also, I want to ask you that because this speaks to --

Archival Recording: And I want to ask you, man, just straight up.

Archival Recording: So my producers asked me to ask one last question, and I thank you --

Archival Recording: Well, I do want to ask you --

Archival Recording: And I want to ask you, last question for real this time --

Archival Recording: I want to ask you.

Lee: But this week, we’re turning tables and letting you, our listeners, former guests and friends of the show ask questions.

Archival Recording: Trymaine, my question is --

Archival Recording: I have two questions.

Archival Recording: I have a question for you.

Archival Recording: My question is --

Lee: As we approach our 200th episode of Into America, it’s time for our first-ever Mailbag episode.

Aisha Turner: OK, so a more controversial episode.

Lee: Oh.

Turner: Maybe not controversial --

Lee: Scandal.

I’m Trymaine Lee, and this is Into America. Today, we hear from you. I’m joined by Executive Producer Aisha Turner to take your questions about how we make the show, stories about your favorite episodes, critiques of past shows and, of course, a few things you want to know about me, your friend and host.

Aisha Turner, Executive Producer of Into America.

Turner: Hi.

Lee: It has been a journey. We’re almost at 200 episodes. It’s kind of hard to believe. We’ve had, you know, so many shows from all across the country, all kind of experiences, all like engaging with race and politics through the lens of the Black American experience.

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: And it’s just a great time at the end of the year to kind of reflect on where we’ve been --

Turner: Yeah.

Lee: -- what we’re doing, also hear from, you know, a bunch of our listeners, so this is exciting.

Turner: I’m glad we’re doing it, Trymaine.

Lee: Yeah. So where should we start?

Turner: Let’s start with a recent listener e-mail, and then we can kind of get into some questions that people had. But I just thought this was a nice bit of commentary that came after last week’s episode about --

Lee: Mm-hmm.

Turner: -- the cemetery in Bethesda.

Archival Recording: There’s a pet cemetery about five miles away, and you would think you were in Arlington National Cemetery, five miles away. You have Black people who were buried under a parking lot.

Archival Recording: They should have the right to remain at peace with the Lord in their resting place, and that’s not happening.

Turner: This comes from a long-time listener --

Lee: Mm-hmm.

Turner: -- been listening since the beginning of the show.

Lee: An OG listener.

Turner: Yeah, T. Curtis. I’m just going to read a part of it because it’s kind of long. I experienced a range of emotions listening to this episode, but the one that stands out the most is embarrassment. I live in a neighboring county and I’m an educator in Montgomery County. I heard rumblings about the story of this Black cemetery, but do not know the full complete and human side of the story until now.

I will now do my part to support the effort of Moses Macedonia African Cemetery. I have no excuse.

Lee: Wow, that’s the one thing is when you do these stories and you engage with the history, and some of these stories are hard to listen to, they’re hard to report on, they’re just tough stories about our experience in America.

Turner: Yeah.

Lee: And it fills you with a range of feelings and emotions. But when there are moments where people feel like sparked into action, that’s a pretty good feeling, despite the feeling of like this embarrassment that you didn’t know about the depth of the story --

Turner: Right.

Lee: -- you know, your backyard or your next door --

Turner: Yeah.

Lee: -- that’s an interesting response.

Turner: Yeah. And also the fact that like we can sort of show people different parts, not just like parts of the world that maybe feel far away or another part of the country, but that we can actually like show people what’s going on where they live --

Lee: Mm-hmm.

Turner: -- I think that, to me, feels really powerful. And I’m from Maryland, too, and I think producing the story and getting to know this part of the state, I knew Bethesda always, but to get to know the story about the area that I didn’t know before, I think, is a really powerful part of the work we get to do.

Lee: I think when we’re at our best, we are, you know, uncovering what’s literally in your next door, right --

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: -- behind you. You didn’t know it was there because this history in America it’s all around us --

Turner: Yeah.

Lee: -- and not to be hyperbolic, but you can feel the history literally beneath your feet sometimes.

Turner: Yeah.

Lee: You can feel it.

Turner: OK, so that’s like kind of not quite a heavy way to start, but I think that’s sort of like getting into part of like why we do this work, great. So why don’t we get into a few questions that people had about how we actually make the podcast --

Lee: Mm-hmm.

Turner: -- and --

Lee: Torture, blood, sweat, people calling you all the time --

Turner: A lot of tears.

Lee: -- tracking, for hours, interviews --

Turner: Oh, right (ph).

Lee: -- stacked up. I'm sorry. Is that (ph) not what they're looking for?

Turner: You know what? Maybe that is what some people are looking for, sure. They want all the drama behind the scenes. OK. Well, the first question, which comes from Instagram from Antonio J. Lopez, how do we best position a potential segment to you?

Lee: Mm-hmm.

Turner: So basically this person wants to know if they want to pitch us a story because we are always looking for strong story ideas, how do they get it to us, Trymaine.

Lee: I would say the easiest, I mean, a lot of the stuff comes from, again, we have these meetings all the time. We have daily minute, pitch meeting. We’re always talking to each other. And so sometimes, the way I gather information sometimes I’ll have a seed, a kernel of something, right? A lot of times listeners or people of nonprofit organizations or publicist or any number of people will e-mail in.

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: E-mail is probably the most straight forward because easy for me just to forward it to a producer or I can respond and say, hey, this sounds great, I’m going to, you know, forward this to the team. But also, I think if you DM me, I’m always checking Instagram and Twitter for stories and stuff anyway, engagement will do anyway. And so, I think e-mail and then social media, and also, you know, sometimes will hit you on both, right? They’ll --

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: -- e-mail me and DM me, and it’s like, you know, I will see it at some point.

Turner: Yeah. I’ll also share the Into America e-mail address, which we’ll put in the show notes, of course, which is And so we’ve gotten a couple e-mails through there, so we did a story a couple of years ago on the fight for D.C. statehood, and that came just from like a listener inbox e-mail. But I do think a lot about the ones that you’ll sometimes forward to the team that you get personally.

Lee: Mm-hmm.

Turner: And the one that we actually just talked about, Bethesda that was one that someone just like --

Lee: Yeah.

Turner: -- wrote to you.

Lee: Well, no. No, she e-mailed and called NDS (ph) with that queue. No, again, so it’s amazing when people have a story to tell --

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: -- how persistent they are. She literally caught me on the phone, so it was like, yes, yes, ma’am. Persistence does pay off.

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: Right? I mean, don’t blow it up. Don’t blow my phone up too much, right, or my e-mails, but she is persistent. She knew she had a story that was important so.

Turner: Yeah. And then what are the kinds of stories that tend to stand out because you get a lot of e-mails, as you just said.

Lee: Mm-hmm.

Turner: So what are the ones that kind of make you take a second look or like make you then forward them onto the team and say --

Lee: Yeah.

Turner: -- hey, let’s look into this more?

Lee: I think the ones that are more constructive than the others, if you say, hey, man, what about Democrats taking Black (inaudible) for granted?

Turner: Mm.

Lee: That doesn’t necessarily help me much in terms of a story, right? Yes.

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: We’re onto that, like let’s follow that trail, but let’s use this pitch in particular. You have a community. You have a history. You have character. You have placed a piece of history that literally connects to today.

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: We’re actually wrestling over a piece of land today. What are they going to do with it in a contemporary context? Build a parking garage or a storage unit or housing, right? You know, for me, it’s always like this idea of how we dignify those that came before us, and how we respect those who came before us, and how we engage with the history in the past and those people in that way. And so, for me, this was the perfect pitch.

Turner: Yes. Well, we have a few other questions from sort of listeners, but also people who have, like, come through the show and worked on the show, as you said, over its almost 200 episodes.

Lee: Can’t believe it.

Turner: I know. OK. So why don’t we start with one of these, and we actually have a little voice memo.

Ellen Frankman: Hey, Trymaine, it’s Ellen, your old E.P. on this show. My question for you to remain is, has there ever been a moment during an interview where someone said something that you just never forgot, whether it was funny or sad or just profound? I love to know who said it, what the line was, and why it stuck with you.

Lee: Big shout to Ellen Frankman, the original Executive Producer of this show.

Turner: The original big boss?

Lee: Big shout to Ellen. Of the many stories that we’ve told, the many people that we’ve talked to, there are few have standout, but the one that I think most practically has resonated with me, there’s a episode we did where we talked to a Black police officer and a Black activist.

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: And we got these two guys together to talk about what it means to be Black in that ecosystem of a Black police officer who loves his community, cares for his community, and believes the best way to protect Black people is to serve as a police officer, to give Black folks a different kind of treatment than we often experience from white police officers, and a Black activist who is fighting to kind of dismantle the police because he sees the police as just like a weaponized force against Black people, whether you’re Black or white.

And he likened the situation to the plantation and the overseer, and the idea of reforming that system.

Archival Recording: I’m trying to figure out how to answer this question as respectfully as I possibly can.

Archival Recording: No speak your mind, brother.

Archival Recording: My man, appreciate you.

Archival Recording: Yeah, I'm not judging you. I'm here to communicate, right.

Archival Recording: That’s like asking if overseer, you know, can reform the plantation. A fact of the matter is we have to come to the understanding that both police and prisons are a direct descendant of the slave system, right? So if we like get that fact out the way, then we understand that police are just overseers or runaway slave catchers.

That being said, can a runaway slave catcher and an overseer help to, you know, reform the system of slavery? I think that answers its own question, absolutely not.

Lee: When he spoke about that in that way, I don’t know why I just think about it all the time. If the system is based on this inherent violence towards the people and inherently demeans the people, is there any, quote-unquote, "reforming" then? So that will always kind of stick with me.

Turner: Another favorite that I’ll add this for myself is LaTosha Brown, and I know I talk about her all the time. But I just thought she was so powerful. We had her on after John Lewis died in about trying to get like a new Voting Rights Act passed. I don’t remember the question you asked her, but she sang her response.

Lee: Mm-hmm.

Turner: I was just really moved by it and the moment. That has always stood out to me.

Lee: One thing you said at the beginning of this conversation when we’re talking about the loss of John Lewis and C.T. Vivian, and love seems to be central in all of this, right, the Kingian beloved community. And I wonder how that spirit of love and recognizing our humanity and our agency feeds the work that you do and in the work of Black Voters Matter.

Archival Recording: We shall not, we shall not be moved. We shall not, we shall not be moved just like a tree that’s planted by the waters. We shall not be moved.

Lee: It’s kind of almost a trope and a cliché of this, you know, Black woman who was in the spirit and stand strong, and all those things that had become very cliché. But LaTosha embodies this real soul and spirit about her that there is this spirituality, there is the soulfulness, there is the strength, there is this beauty in what she does and the way she does it and she will break out a song.

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: And in any other context you'd be like, oh, here somebody goes singing again. But then it's is like, well, I kind of do want to hear LaTosha sing again. I kind of do because I believe her, I believe her, and she believes in the community, and she’s fighting for her community. So it’s like --

Turner: Yeah.

Lee: -- there’re a lot though. There’re a lot because there are people like LaTosha Brown, but there are just people, everyday people who articulate their life experiences in a way. They’re telling their story, they’re telling our story for the sake of telling the story. And oftentimes, so that their people won’t be forgotten, and our community won’t be forgotten, and the strong won’t be forgotten or this beautiful thing, moment, person won’t be forgotten, but it happens all the time.

It happens all the time.

Turner: Yeah. Did I ever tell you I got a LaTosha Brown tattoo?

Lee: No. Ding, ding, ding, breaking news here. LaTosha Brown’s face --

Turner: No.

Lee: -- with a microphone.

Turner: I mean, I would. I am that much of a fan. No, I got that. So the We Shall Not Be Moved, our sound designer Erin had like dubs it for me because I just love that moment so much. And so I had it on my desktop, and I would play over and over and over and over again. And then eventually just got it written on my ankle.

Lee: We Shall Not Be Moved.

Turner: It just felt like it really encaptured 2020 also.

Lee: Yeah. I find that ironic that we should have moved on your --

Turner: I know.

Lee: -- on the ex-party, but you actually moved.

Turner: Don’t worry, I’ve thought about that, too.

Archival Recording: We shall not, we shall not be moved. We shall not, we shall not be moved. Just like a tree that’s planted by the waters, we shall not be moved.

Turner: OK. Another question from a former producer.

Archival Recording: Hey, Trymaine, it’s Shaka (ph). First of all, let me just say I’m extremely proud of you and so happy that we get to have a voice and role model and thought-provoking person like yourself on television in our ears. Generally, just touching our lives in some way every day, you covered some very tough stories throughout the year.

What are some of the stories that really touched your heart in some of the first stories that you tell people to listen to? Why should we be tuning in to Into America?

Lee: Listen, first of all, big shout to my man, Shaka (ph). I really like him a lot. Thank you, brother, for calling in. It was a pleasure to work with you. Really a bright light.

Turner: Yeah.

Lee: But I think one of the stories, the one that touches me not to say most, but taps into my reporter’s reporter, my Black man reporter, like brain and soul, is after George Floyd when we spoke to a young man named Christopher Martin.

Christopher Martin: I’ll be honest, when I think about that day and like how many feel, I think I am a lot more traumatized than I realized because I can’t really pinpoint a feeling on it if that makes any sense.

Lee: Mm-hmm.

Martin: My mind just kind of like blocks it out. It won’t let me, like, access certain parts that day.

Lee: I think there’s something about speaking to a young man, whether it's Trayvon at 17 years old, Christopher Martin, a teenager. And I can’t help but imagine myself in those years --

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: -- because I have a distinct vision of myself in the time. And it’s hard for me not to hear Christopher Martin who was the clerk at the shop that George Floyd came into allegedly handed a, you know, counterfeit $20 bill, and he ended up engaging with him. And, you know, he just had a lot of guilt on his shoulders.

Martin: I think the hardest part for me was when I would sit back and think of like what if. That part really haunted me because, obviously, no one in the store knew that he would lose his life, but it’s just the simple fact of like what if I would have not said anything and just taken the bill and then paid for it later on.

Lee: The reason we tell these stories about humans and our existence is because we're just fragile, we’re just flesh and bone. We’re just humans trying to make it through all these machines, structures, and all these forces that push us in this direction, push us in that direction, sometimes kill us --

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: -- sometimes poison us, sometimes lift us, sometimes hold us down. And to hear a young man who was going through so much articulate his pain, his guilt, to hear him speak about how he’s working through his emotional issues, where he was in his life when those lives collided --

Turner: Yeah.

Lee: -- like where he was in his life when he met George Floyd, his life before and after George Floyd --

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: -- that one to me, it just sticks with me in a way that, you know, I’d say a few others have, but I think about him and I think about his story often because again, it’s the weight of what it means to bear witness to Black life in America every single day and some of the violence heaved upon us. We are so much more than the violence heaved upon us. We are so much more than our victimization. We are so much more than that.

But I think our experience has been filtered through that time and again and how we just moved through it.

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Archival Recording: My next question, I know you are a big hip hop fan, and this is kind of a request, is there any way that you could get Black Thought and Questlove on Into America talking about their greatest cultural beautiful, Black experiences in Hollywood?

Lee: From your lips to the hip hop gods’ ears, Black Thought, top five dead or alive. You all can all argue with somebody else, you can't argue with me about that. Black Thought, Questlove, you know, honestly, they are probably three artists groups who have shaped me even in terms of as just me, Trymaine, but me as a writer. It’s Nas, Tupac, and Black Thought.

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: Right. The ways in which all of these artists, all these MCs tell their story and tell stories period, but if you do it with a higher degree of difficulty, then Black Thought. So listen, if we can get Black Thought and Questlove on the show, and I’ve had many interactions with them over the years. It’s just not as Trymaine Lee journalist, but lived in Philly, would be at the club, be at the show, and I’ve had all these chance encounters with Black Thought especially.

So I would love the opportunity to engage as journalists, as a fan, but also someone who really respects what they do. So, listen, man. Shaka (ph), if you know how, brother, if you can pull some strings, I don't know what strings you got to pull over here at NBC, but that would be a dream actually.

Turner: OK, so a more controversial episode --

Lee: Uh oh.

Turner: -- maybe not really controversial.

Lee: Controversy, scandal.

Turner: Or just one of our more commented on episodes, I’ll say, was our episode on Will Smith after the Oscars --

Lee: Yeah.

Turner: -- called "Was Will Smith Protecting Black Women?" So Jamira Burley was the guest that we had on that week, and so we’ll play a little bit of what she said in the interview.

Jamira Burley: For me as a Black woman, who grew up with 10 older brothers, my mother taught me that you never use words unless you are ready to back it up with your hand because you can’t judge how someone is going to respond to the things you say. I, in that moment, immediately after seeing it, I felt very happy seeing a Black man protect his woman where he felt like she was being disrespected, and we can have a conversation whether or not that is a form of protection, but I think that’s where the nuance is coming.

Lee: Yeah, this was one where I had a number of people either e-mail me or DM me for a couple of different reasons.

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: One, it’s like this behavior is abhorrent. There’s no defending it. There was another thing that Jamira said about, you know, why people just need to mind their business in this moment --

Turner: Yeah.

Lee: -- and why it is like, well, I’m a loyal listener but I am offended and shocked. And I will say the lens from which Jamira is viewing this situation is, you know, so often we see Black women being literally attacked, rhetorically attacked, just attacked, and other men and Black men often will either be standing by or give it a pass, think about Tory Lanez and Megan Thee Stallion. She gets shot.

But just the many ways in which we’re not physically protecting Black women often or we’re not at least socially standing up and protecting Black women. And so I think from that lens, to see a man, you know, stand up for his wife in a very public way, very dramatic way, a way that had many consequences and had fallout, but to see him standing up on behalf of his Black woman, his wife.

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: And so Jamira wasn’t alone in her response. So I saw her response on Twitter or Instagram first --

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: -- and then I saw a number of other Black women who said the same thing. And I knew that you weren’t going to hear that many places, and so where else? We’re engaging with how Black America experiences America and how we’re, you know, responding to being in the fishbowl sometimes. And I think this is an important idea deposit, right, and to get people talking about what it means to protect Black women. Maybe this is the absolute wrong way to protect Black women or maybe Black women might appreciate, somebody might appreciate, some form or it's (ph) so bad that we would appreciate that actually, smack him, right, whatever it is.

And so, in this moment it was certainly a thing I knew was going to be a little counter. I think we had probably some discussion about --

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: -- you know, whether it made sense, but I think it was an important episode, and that idea and that voice was important. And we can engage with them.

Turner: Yeah. Well, what about people who have said that, you know, we didn’t condemn or she didn’t condemn or we didn’t present a point of view that condemns the assault or the violence as much as people would have wanted to hear?

Lee: I honestly, me, as a host and as a journalist --

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: -- and my vantage point on all this is centering Blackness (ph) in this. I don’t condemn. I don’t do that.

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: I don’t argue with people. I’m not going to argue. If I’m engaging with you, sometimes there's a push and pull, but it’s not my role to condemn Will Smith for smacking Chris Rock. He has to deal with the consequences of that. I happen to believe that you can take any action you want, just be prepared for consequences.

We got to take a break, so when we come back, more on how we put the show together and how I keep my beer looking right. Stick with us.


Turner: One of the themes I think that comes up a lot even in this conversation has like come up a couple of times is just with the importance of doing stories around Black men, in particular. And --

Lee: Mm-hmm.

Turner: -- I’m just wondering if you could talk a little bit about why that’s so important and like why this particular --

Lee: Yeah.

Turner: -- demographic is a demographic that you really want to make sure that we’re talking to on the show.

Lee: You know, engaging with Black men and telling stories of Black men uplifting brothers is important because we are so marginalized and oftentimes, Black men only talks about through the lens of being institutionalized, through incarceration, through pathology, through absent fathers, through crime. You know, it’s always so limited and narrow when they are Black men all across this country who are fighting to make sure that their families are whole as possible, that their communities are as whole as possible, people who are game changers in politics and business, and everyday brothers who are just trying to make it because even though we know Black women are doing their thing and Black women will save us in so many ways because, you know, I think women will make sure of (ph) that. We got to make sure that we survive.

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: Right. And so we’ll do the politically expedient thing. We’ll make sure that folks are fed. But I think when it comes with the Black men, we are the most attacked.

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: We’re in a state where we are overpoliced, overincarcerated. Our death rates are already higher. All of the rates, you know, back in the '90s, we talked about like Black men as an endangered species, and somehow (ph) it really does feel like that.

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: So a few of us, you’re going to some spaces. And even college campuses or in the business world, there are just so few of us around for any number of reasons. It’s hard for us to get to that point where we’re healthy and whole. And then we’re dealing with the burden of manhood period, and then fill the lens of Blackness, and racism, and white supremacy, right? Having to engage and, you know, express our manhood in positive ways and progressive ways that move us forward and not limit us is always a challenge.

And so, I think it’s just important that like, no, we remind people. Especially me as a Black man, I’m around brothers who are doing dope stuff all day long --

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: -- who are positive, who are family people or not. And so, I always want to just remind people like, no, we’re here as Black men. We are here. We’re not just your prisoner, we’re not just the result of stop and frisk. We are not just those things. We are so much more. So me, being in this position is like, oh, no, we want to talk about some brothers. We going to see what the brothers are saying without also, you know, marginalizing other Black people, right --

Turner: Yeah.

Lee: -- where we should engage those stories well, but I think it’s important because when you look around, who else is doing it?

Turner: Yeah.

Lee: Who else is doing it? You know, I mean all the airwaves, you’re talking about Black men all the time, right? But do you engage, you know, with Black men?

Turner: Yeah.

Lee: So yes, very important to me.

Turner: OK. We have a couple people who have either been colleagues or guests on the show. One comes from our former colleague, Marie Dilemani, who used to work in marketing for us.

Lee: Love Marie, love Marie. She’s great.

Turner: Yeah. She wanted to know what Into America’s theme song would be.

Lee: Well, we happen to have a playlist that we developed at a recent team retreat.

Turner: That’s right.

Lee: So we actually do. We actually have a whole playlist that we developed. I think that’s tough, so we have a lot of songs thrown around. I think the one the most obvious, I think, that’s a contemporary, I think it’s, you know, Black by Buddy and A$AP Ferg. It’s just very black, right? And we, you know, pride ourselves. We’ve been a very Black show.

Buddy: OK, black, black, black, black on black, black, my thoughts so black, black, black, I'm Black, my skin is so black, I’m rockin’ that black on black, it’s black.

A$AP Ferg: Black rims on these black --

Buddy: Black.

Ferg: -- wheels, in this black whip --

Buddy: Black.

Ferg: -- with this black bitch --

Buddy: Black, black, black on black.

Lee: The kind of emotional theme song would be A Change Gonna Come --

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: -- because, for me, there’s like a 70 percent chance that I might tear up. OK, I’m lying. There’s like a 90 percent chance I’ll tear up whenever I hear that song because --

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: -- of what we just face as Black people. And there’s still this hope and everywhere you turn, and just you’re born by the river. You know what I’m saying? It’s like we’re moving. So I think that captures for me the emotional thing that this isn’t always, you know, we’re not just your entertainers, we’re not just so resilient that we’re going to laugh our way through the pain.

Sam Cooke: I was born by the river in a little tent. Oh, and just like the river, I’ve been running ever since. It’s been a long, a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come.

Lee: Sometimes there’s real hurt and there’s real pain, but then there is a hopefulness. There’s a weary hopefulness sometimes, but there is a hopefulness. And so I think that will be a good one. What do you think?

Turner: I would definitely agree that the change is going to come, and the thing that it was like standing out to me, especially once I understood more of the backstory and knowing that like Sam Cooke before that was doing more --

Lee: Mm-hmm.

Turner: -- I guess, there’s like less political songs sort of making that decision to like kind of step out and --

Lee: Yeah.

Turner: -- be a little bit more vulnerable, take more of a --

Lee: Mm-hmm.

Turner: -- professional risk.

Lee: And sending Blackness in a way that he would.

Turner: Yeah, exactly, and say what has to be said and not shy away from that, I think, is really powerful.

Lee: Mm-hmm.

Turner: OK. A few lighter questions, Trymaine. One from former guest and also our colleague, Shaq Brewster that we’re going to play some tape from.

Shaquille Brewster: Hello, Shaquille Brewster here. I’m a correspondent in NBC’s Chicago Bureau. And, Trymaine, my question is where do you get that voice? How can you be so smooth, but still authoritative and confident? How does one acquire that voice that you have?

Lee: Yeah, yeah.

Turner: I like Loki. He did want to play this one.

Lee: Listen, first of all --

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: -- no, first of all, for real, I think Shaq asked the question because he knows I love him. I love Shaq, to see what Shaq is doing --

Turner: Yeah.

Lee: -- some of the best, if not the best coverage out in Minneapolis post George Floyd was done by young Shaquille Brewster who was, you know, not only is he a rising star, he’s a star here and beyond. So I love Shaq. And in all honesty, I think the confidence. I do feel confident. I’ve always felt that, and this is going to be a big deeper thing, but I always knew approaching my journalism that no matter what happens, I know my people got me.

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: Right. My people, meaning Black people because I think a lot of Black folks respect and appreciate what I’m doing, but also my literal people of family from South Jersey, like I’m going to be good no matter what. So I do have a lot of confidence that things will work out the way they’re supposed to work out. And as long as you’re, kind of, mission-driven and putting one foot in front of the other, what could really go wrong?

As long as you don’t play yourself and don’t get fired. Like, try to not get fired. I think about that, (inaudible), walk up that line, say you know what, back up young man, do not get fired. I say that half joking. I'm kind of serious. But really, I think a lot of the confidence comes from just, you know, I do feel good about myself. I feel good about the work. I feel good about the stories we’re telling.

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: And I’m proud to do it. So I do feel, now, when it comes to being smooth, playboy, you either got it or you don’t. I love Shaq. Thanks for the question, Shaq.

Turner: People can’t see I’m rolling my eyes at --

Lee: Oh, they're rolling down there (ph) --

Turner: -- that last comment.

Lee: You weren’t the only one, but it’s true.

Turner: You have a nice voice, Trymaine. I will admit it into a microphone.

Lee: Thank you very much. I appreciate that. Thank you.

Turner: Mm-hmm. All right. Well, similar comments will probably gas you up a little bit.

Lee: Can't be gas (ph), I’m already there. Can't be gas (ph), it's not possible.

Turner: It comes from Damon Young, former guest, also a "Washington Post" columnist who asks, how old were you when your beard conducted for the first time?

Lee: See, first of all, Damon Young is hilarious. And we know some brothers just struggle, and I know there’s pressure for brothers to grow beards and everybody just can’t do it, so you got to get some fruits. You got to get some berries. You got to make sure, you know, there’s fruits and berries, a little honey, little agave --

Turner: Oh, my gosh.

Lee: -- little agave.

Turner: Oh, wow.

Lee: You know what I’m saying? A little agave, get it in there.

Turner: It’s a nice conditioner.

Lee: Listen, I know he’s joking, but my beard, it was never patchy. You know, some do have a little patchy beard or beard that just won’t connect. It’s been connecting for probably 23 years. So probably by the time I was like, I didn’t grow a beard, even a little skinny, little long jawbone, probably until I was probably by 22.

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: And then after that I was always able to grow it. And there’s a point probably in 2015, 2016, I said, you know what, I’m growing a beard out. I’m growing it out. And I was doing TV at the time, so I was a little like I wonder what they’re going to say. I don’t see anybody with beards, right. But I went with it and, you know, it’s like my thing now.

Turner: Was it always like a little salt and peppery?

Lee: No, no. It was all black. It literally just got pretty great, like there was like one strand. I see them like I saw a picture from like 20 maybe 18, 2017. It was just like one strip right here worth a few. And I was like, boy, look at you, getting grown. Look at you. And then today it’s like the whole chain is gray almost and it’s coming in. But each one, honestly, each gray hair, I take pride in because there are so many people who have not made it this far.

Turner: Mm-hmm, yeah, especially as a Black man as we know.

Lee: Oh.

Turner: Black men --

Lee: So many ways --

Turner: -- that’s going to --

Lee: -- so many ways to die, right, every single day, you know, but here I am.

Turner: Yeah.

Lee: Alive with a gray beard that connects (ph).

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: A bit shout to Damon.

Turner: All right. Next one comes from Barbara Rav (ph), former Into America Editor.

Lee: Another OG, another original.

Archival Recording: It has recently come to my attention that you like to rock a pocket square when you’re dressed in business attire. So my question is, what’s the story behind your style?

Lee: Big shout to Barbara (ph) I actually ran into Barbara (ph) at a conference in D.C. recently, and I was all suited up. She was just like, wait what, because we met once in person before the pandemic. So my style, honestly, it depends. I mean, since I haven’t been in the office recently, right, I haven’t been wearing many suits. But I like to kind of blend, you know, a little high/low, right? I might have some Jordans on, but get a nice little jacket or something, something nice would fit in.

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: I think the, you know, beauty of being a grown adult man is that you can buy some suits. Go buy you a suit. I always love a nice suit. Big shout to Suitsupply in Brooklyn. I’ve never worn a tie in many, many years. There’s a point where I said I’m not wearing any ties anymore. You only get this crisp white shirt. You only get the suit. You can get a little pocket square, add a little flavor in it.

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: You know what I’m saying? Let that thing fluff a little bit, a little --

Turner: OK.

Lee: -- rackish, not too rackish, but just a little bit, right?

Turner: Yeah. OK, I never noticed that I haven’t seen you in a tie. OK.

Lee: No, I don’t. There’s nothing like, to me, wearing supposedly a nice blue suit with a crisp white shirt, right?

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: Pop that button a little bit. Pop up that button a little bit. Let your collar do what it got to do, for real. No, for there’s a few things that look as fresh to me as that. And if you have the confidence to pull off some Js with it then do that.

Turner: All right, OK. And then last question from someone who asked, they wanted to know how your health is doing.

Lee: Yeah.

Turner: I think they’re talking specifically about your physical health, but I would want to ask about your mental health as well.

Lee: Yeah, because you think I’m crazy.

Turner: No, because (inaudible) over the (ph) years, like a tough, it’s like it’s getting dark outside.

Lee: No, I think my physical health is great. For those who don’t know, it was five years ago this summer I had a heart attack. It came out of nowhere. It was a close call. Again, I’m just fortunate to be here and survived. And it also was a great important moment because --

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: -- I think it forced me to reflect on how I’m prioritizing my physical and mental health. Now, I have been a former athlete, played some college football so I’d always, you know, been in shape. Let that go a little bit, right? I mean, I’m still working now, but not as focused. I think my mental and emotional health, I was doing fine, but my baseline was always a little stressed and just bearing the weight of everything that I thought I had to do in terms of telling our stories, which often meant telling stories of early violent death and police violence, and engaging with the parents. It was a lot what I was just doing because I’m like I got to do this. Nobody else out here can do this, so I have to do this. I just was so locked in to when I had my heart attack and almost dying and almost, you know, losing my life. I shifted much more intentionally. And so now, I’m working out much more often, running, keep my cardio up. And emotionally, I haven’t really been stressed in a few years, I’m a little stressed, of course, the certain stresses like I get this thing done or I got it, but I won’t allow anything to really, really stress me out.

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: It’s either going to get done (inaudible). I’m going to do everything I possibly can do it, but I’m not going to let anyone or anything like really pile on to me because I always flashback to we do have the last time --

Turner: Mm-hmm.

Lee: -- so now it’s like, you know, I’m probably the best, you know, best I’ve been in years and years. So I’m doing good. Thank you for that question. That was a very kind question. I’m doing great.

Turner: Yeah. Anything else you’d want to share with listeners, Trymaine?

Lee: No, but I would say, you know, I see this has been fun. We’re almost at 200 episodes, and so, you know, here’s some 200 more, right? We’ve had a long road, the show has changed. But I think as a team, you know, we just keep getting better and stronger and, you know, positioning ourselves to tell these really important stories. You know, it’s been fun. It’s been an honor, and so let’s keep going.

Turner: All right. Let’s keep doing that.

Lee: If you want to write to us and ask us more questions, our e-mail is That was intoamerica@nbc and the letters U-N-I dot com. And you can follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook using the handle, @intoamericapod or you can tweet me, @trymainelee. You can check out that Into America playlist I mentioned on Spotify. We’ll drop a link in our show notes.

Into America is produced by Isabel Angell, Allison Bailey, Mike Brown, Aaron Dalton and Max Jacobs. Original music is by Hannis Brown. Our executive producer is Aisha Turner. I'm Trymaine Lee. We'll be back next Thursday.

Turner: Any questions?

Lee: Not at this point. We got another in about 45 minutes, so I mean --

Turner: That’s sure, that’s sure. All right, cool.