While many Black women are beginning to rise within the entertainment industry, Janet and Alexa - two Black women in their early twenties living in Los Angeles - saw a Black female comedy duo missing from their age demographic. So they decided to start Here’s The Thing
- their own Podcast and YouTube channel! From fetishes and dating to activism during a global pandemic, no topic is off-limits. In true COVID-19 fashion, Kyra Josephson, one of our Let’s Not Forget founders, connected with Janet and Alexa over FaceTime to discuss Here’s The Thing
and Black Lives Matter.
What motivated you to start Here’s The Thing?
Alexa: We first met in college because we were in the same sorority. To vaguely touch on that, we were the only Black girls in the sorority and eventually, we both dropped out of Greek life. We haven’t ever told this part of the story publicly, but when we were driving back to LA from Orange County one weekend, we looked at each other and thought, “We are so much more than this. We want to do something entertainment-based and be the faces of our own brand.” We decided on that hour car ride that we wanted to start a podcast, and within a week we named the podcast, found a studio, and made our logo.
Janet: I remember before we met there was a certain orientation you had to go to in order to be a part of Greek life. My family planned a trip back to Uganda, where my parents are from, but it overlapped with that orientation. I made my parents reschedule the trip so I could join Greek life. It sounds crazy now, but at the time it seemed so important. I want to be open about my embarrassing experience wanting to be in an all white sorority and loving being the token Black girl so that I could share how I learned and grew from it.
It’s so important to learn from past situations and grow. Is this something that has come up on the podcast?
Alexa: That was our whole thing in our Black Lives Matter episode. We make it very clear that we’re speaking from our own experiences because that’s all that anyone can really do. We’re very aware that the majority of our audience is white females that are around our age. It’s really meaningful for us to speak on our experiences specifically if it can get people to think twice or reconsider things that they’ve said in the past. If they can open their eyes and hearts to reacting differently in the future, then we’ve already done more than we ever thought we could.
Janet: Alexa and I decided we didn’t want to be silent anymore. We knew we needed an episode where we talked all about Black Lives Matter because we didn’t want to go back to being the quiet Black girls in an all white sorority.
As two Black women working in Hollywood, what are your thoughts on the role of media and entertainment in the Black Lives Matter movement?
Janet: There needs to be more Black joy being portrayed. We need Black superheroes. We need Black superstars. We need Black pop stars. We need to see more Black voices in the leading roles, not just the token Black best friend. I think that’s a conversation that a lot of media companies are actually having right now.
Alexa: If you happened to listen to our episode
with our friend Caroline, she talks a lot about how as much as we want allies that are just now stepping up for the first time to fully understand the history of Black strife and oppression, it’s also really important for them to see us in places of shining and being happy. She listed different Black media that does show that Black joy. Our lives are based in oppression, but we have had to overcome it to find some sort of happiness.
I completely agree. TV and movies impact not only allies’ understanding of Black experiences, but also Black people’s own lived experiences. I’m thinking specifically of a conversation with a close friend. She grew up as the only Black girl in her town and only saw other Black people in TV shows and movies. She couldn’t relate to these characters, so it was not until college that she felt she truly identified as Black.
Alexa: I totally relate to that experience. Growing up, I was one of very few Black people at my school. I felt like I was experiencing prejudice even from Black people because I wasn’t Black enough. Obviously I wasn’t white, so I couldn’t relate on that side either. I feel like that’s pretty typical of a mixed experience, but I’m not mixed. I completely understand what your friend went through not fully identifying with who she is until later on in life. For me, that didn’t even happen in college because I was in an all white environment and all white sorority. So really within the past few months I’ve really been able to realize and grasp on to who I am being a Black woman. This moment has helped me do that. Finally, people are actually listening and looking towards Black voices for what feels like the first time.
What do you think makes this time different? Why are people finally caring?
Janet: I really have hope. I think it’s our generation that is making this the most insane crazy hot topic of our time. People are so vulnerable in this time of COVID and people agree that if you’re not listening or talking, you’re purposely ignoring this. Our generation is not letting this go. I know people think our generation is on their phones too much, but that’s where I’m finding a lot of my information and resources.
Social media is a huge reason for the movement gaining more momentum now, but does it also contribute to people becoming desensitized to racism and police brutality? How do we ensure that people understand Black people face injustice every day, that this is not just a story or a paragraph in a textbook?
Alexa: It makes me think about how brushed over racism is in our curriculum. Schools teach us as if racism is actually completely over. I remember thinking “Oh, I’m in a classroom with all white people. Racism is over.” I would just kind of ignore comments and not realize microaggressions. It was so normalized. Every time we got to the slavery chapter, I knew everyone would be staring at me or teachers would be afraid to call on me to read. It’s so weird that everybody was just on board with covering up with this intrinsic, deeply rooted issue that our country was founded on but we’re acting like it was just a mistake in history. As I’ve gotten older I’ve been piecing together things people have said over the years and themes.
My dad brought up a really good point to me the other week. He described America as a country where the founders escaped a place where they felt they weren’t in control. They founded a land where they would always be in control. They made it so white men would always be the people that were benefitting. They made it so they were royalty. And our country is still like that. If anything, systemic racism is a perfect execution of what this land was made to be.
That point is important to remember when having conversations around reforming vs. abolishing systems. Do you see the future of the podcast changing to include more conversations around social issues?
Janet: When Alexa and I talked about starting the podcast, we always kept one thing that we wanted: to be real and transparent about what’s going on in our lives and in the world. We are Black women. We are not shy of it. We are going to talk about how we were feeling during a movement, and that’s when social issues come up.
Alexa: There’s a lot of stuff that I don’t know enough about socially and politically to speak on. We always say we’re not experts and that we’re speaking from our experiences. We take an approach of speaking of things from our perspective and doing the research when necessary. Ever since we did our first Black Lives Matter episode, speaking on race has worked its way into every conversation we’ve had.In one episode, you discussed receiving some hate comments on your Instagram post about Black-owned brands. Do you continue to receive this sort of hate, and if so, what is your response?
Alexa: First of all, they are calling it Black privilege and reverse racism - which isn’t something we should need to explain doesn't exist. But with barriers like more Black people being denied for business loans, it is so much more difficult to have a successful business as a Black person. We are just trying to amplify Black business. Granted all of these hate comments were from kids growing up in hateful households making secret accounts to privately troll Black Lives Matter.
Janet: In the beginning our audience was our family and friends, so a lot of the comments were very positive. Now that our podcast is starting to expand, we’re still getting really positive comments but most of the negative comments are about the Black Lives Matter movement. We decided we weren’t even going to engage. We were gonna block people, keep moving, and make sure the post stays positive. But honestly, I like having haters. It keeps it fresh.
Alexa: And we didn’t block all comments. We kept ones that brought up Target’s past donations to police. Even if people are scaling back the amount of times they shop at Target or Amazon, we wanted to create a resource to help people find Black-owned businesses. If every other time you go to order something off of Amazon, you buy something from a Black-owned business, that’s really insightful change and it will make a difference. You will get more accustomed to finding Black-owned brands and doing the research before purchasing. We’re so young that if we continue doing this for the rest of our lives, it will make a big difference on Black-businesses and the economy. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s oh-fucking-kay if you buy something from Amazon.
Sometimes it feels like social media activism gets stuck in an echo chamber. How do we make messages reach beyond our immediate circles and get people to actually engage with calls to action?
Alexa: It’s not that hard to click on a link and see where you can donate or petitions you can sign. Signing petitions takes legitimately 20 seconds and the fact that there are some people that will just tap through a story blows my mind.
Janet: Some people are just on Instagram so passively. I really encourage people, especially during this time, to start with themselves. Look at who you’re following and ask, “Am I following people that are supporting the Black Lives Matter movement? Am I not? Am I actually hearing from Black people?” and “Why or why not?”
Do you have any advice for people who are afraid to speak up on social issues or vocally support Black Lives Matter?
Alexa: When it comes to protesting and generally pushing the goals of the movement forward, I think there are different lanes for everyone. I haven’t attended a protest, but Janet and I have raised $11,000 for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
, and obviously we’re using our platform to speak about things and having hard conversations that usually we might shy away from. So if someone does not feel comfortable going to a protest, that does make him or her any less of an agent for change.
Janet: Everyone can support and stand with the Black Lives Matter movement the way they want to. Some people are nervous to attend a protest because of COVID. Some want to donate. Some want to create informational posts on Instagram. Some want to host a group talking to 10 white ladies in their suburb trying to wake them up or pledge to say something next time something comes up at the dinner table. If you stop posting for a month, that is fine. You can take a break. You don’t need to drain yourself. There seems to be some sort of competition with wokeness. If we judge each other on how we are participating or supporting, that defeats the purpose of the movement because we all have different experiences.
Alexa: Woke culture is almost as scary as cancel culture. It is scary for people to speak out. It’s scary for us too. But here we are giving our opinions and it’s a resource that people are seeming to like. I think it’s so much better to speak out than to not say anything at all. A huge part of this entire movement is realizing things about yourself and others, being empathetic, and listening to other people’s experiences and perspectives to figure out how everyone can come together to eradicate this hate that our country is built on. Also at the end of the day we’re in our 20s. It’s ignorant to think that what we think now is how we’re gonna think for the rest of our lives and that what we know is everything we’re gonna know. We’re all growing and we’re all learning and evolving.
Janet: People are really passionate and want things to change overnight. I do too. I want the world to be a better place tomorrow. Just realize that it’s going to take work and time for people to change the way they think. It’s going to take a lot, so be patient too during this time. Being open with your humility and honest about what you don’t understand is the best way to learn, share, and influence other people too.