Saidu Tejan-Thomas Jr. Proves That Resistance Is Not Just About Defiance, But the People Behind the Movement

Illustration for article titled Saidu Tejan-Thomas Jr. Proves That iResistance/i Is Not Just About Defiance, But the People Behind the Movement
Photo: Aundre Larrow

It’s a tumultuous time for our country.

The death of George Floyd, coupled with a contentious presidential election, has left our nation on edge. And when you throw a global pandemic into the mix, it’s safe to say that these are unprecedented times of not only civil unrest but economic and political uncertainty.

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In response to all of this chaos, social movements have erupted all over the country. And while we’ve seen the marches, protests and other acts of defiance—many of which have been archived and documented on this very site—what we don’t hear enough of are the stories of the people behind these movements. People like The Warriors in the Garden, a collective of Brooklyn-based activists dedicated to protecting our communities from all forms of systemic oppression. Or Jermaine “Coach G” Guinyard, who, as the only Black man in Harvard, Neb., organized the first Black Lives Matter protest the town had ever seen.

Looking to change all of that is Gimlet’s new podcast Resistance, hosted by award-winning producer and writer Saidu Tejan-Thomas Jr. And in speaking to The Root, Saidu explained the impetus for the show’s creation.

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“I think like everybody else, I got wrapped up. I got caught up in this shit,” he said. “There’s really a lot of people out there who are still actively engaging in this work. Even though it may seem like not much can come of it, people are still fighting. There’s value in that. It made me look at myself and be like, ‘All right. Well, if folks are still doing that, then maybe I can help amplify their voices.’”

If there’s a way to best describe Resistance, it’s much less of a call to arms and more along the lines of a bullhorn. Not in being boisterous or brash, but in its devotion to conveying just how critical this time in our nation’s history is. This climate is unlike anything this country has ever experienced, and learning the who behind the why provides much-needed context to the social movements that have become so commonplace.

“I hope that these stories we’re telling amplify the voices of the people who are going through those stories,” Saidu said. “Their names and their causes, their ideals and perspectives. In a way that’s personal, in a way that’s impactful and in a way that can actually mean something.

“I hope people listen to the show and they feel more politically aware. [More] engaged and inspired and hopeful. All of that. [...] But if listening to the show inspires you and it makes you want to engage, if it makes you want to go vote, makes you want to support local politics or it makes you want to become more aware of things that are happening in your city or anything like that, then I support that too.”

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Saidu also took the time to explain how his own decision to become more involved in social justice causes influenced his approach to the show and the stories that he selected to include.

“The genesis of the show is wrapped up in my own personal story of [wanting] to cover the movement for Black lives and all other movements for resistance,” he said. “It’s so wrapped up in me getting off my couch. You go finally do something about this and might help amplify these voices. [...] We try to look for stories that feel just as personal as my story.”

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And in sharing stories of resistance, Saidu tried his best to ensure that it’s clearly defined.

“It’s complicated, right?” he asked. “For me, resistance is about exploring the different kinds of ways that people are going counter to what is expected. [...] [But within the context of the show] there’s room for people who approach that word in other ways as well.”

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It takes tremendous courage to stand at the front lines of these movements. And now, thanks to Resistance, we have the privilege of learning more about this courageous generation of thought leaders fighting for freedom and change.

“I’m just inspired and impressed by [these stories],” Saidu said. “I’m excited for [everyone] to listen and meet some of these folks.”

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Resistance, a Spotify Original, is available now on Spotify.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for ya'll to stop putting sugar in grits.

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