S02 E08: Getting Educated in America
Ashley A: Welcome to Pod for the Cause, the official podcast of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Leadership Conference Education Fund, where we expand the conversation on critical civil and human rights issues of our day. I’m your host, Ashley Allison, coming to you from Washington, DC. And like we start off every show, we’ve got the pod squad where we discuss pop culture and social justice topics while bringing our issues to the forefront.
Today, I have two special guests: graduating seniors from high school, remember those days, Autumn Chapman, high school senior at North Mecklenburg in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Faith Chrisler, who is a high school senior at the Barrie School in Silver Springs, Maryland. Covid-19 is having impacts on people all over the world and in this country. And so, today, we wanted to talk about what impact COVID-19 is having on high school seniors. Think about your high school years, your prom, your graduation, saying goodbye to your friends as you were ready to go on to your next chapter.
Well, these two young ladies, as well as all high school seniors, I’m not going to tell you when I graduated from high school, but they’re not getting that this year. And so, we wanted to have a conversation about what’s on their mind, what are they thinking about, and how they’re feeling. So, Faith, Autumn, welcome to the show.
Group: Thank you.
Ashley A: I’m like hyper nervous because I think I’m still cool and young and I feel like, in this conversation, I’m totally going to be exposed as being an old auntie. So, first, you all are graduating high school seniors. Congratulations.
Group: Thank you.
Ashley A: But we do know that some things are going to be different this year. Let’s start with prom. I remember my junior and senior prom, the dresses I wore, the guys I went with. What are you all feeling because you’re not going to, actually, have an in-person prom this year?
Faith: We’re a really small school so prom isn’t that big of a deal. But at the same time, I wanted a story to tell my kids like oh, your mom’s senior prom. And now, I don’t even think we’re going to have a virtual one. So, it’s kind of sad but my heart isn’t broken.
Ashley A: What about you, Autumn?
Autumn: I wasn’t one of those kids that are overly excited in terms of “Oh my God, I’m going to go to prom.” This was more of my mom saying, “You have to go to prom. You have to tell your kids one day.” I was like, “All right, fine.” We’ve gone through a ton of stuff and decided it would be fine. We got my dress, thankfully, on the first try, which we never thought we were going to do. But now that we’re not going to be here to do it because of COVID-19 sadly, it’s kind of sad but also, at the same time, I know that friends of mine are starting to do things on Instagram. I know in a couple of days, classmates of mine are trying to do like a virtual talent show thing.
But I don’t know any plans in terms of having like a virtual prom. It might come in the future but as of right now, it’s really disappointing since all of us were looking forward to this. We were trying to get all of these last-minute things in before we’re done with the year.
Ashley A: Before you become an adult and then, it’s all downhill after that. No, I’m just playing.
Ashley A: So, let’s, actually, talk about graduation. What are your schools doing this year for graduation? Are you getting a diploma? Are they doing a Zoom graduation?
Autumn: For the graduation ceremony, we’re not even sure what they’re going to do in terms of diplomas and stuff. Since I know that my school is divided up from here is the standard kids, here are the honors kids, here’s the AP kids, and here are the IB kids. And we don’t know in terms of how we’re going to get our diploma, not to mention how are we going to give back our books that we had to read through the year. But in terms of a graduation ceremony, we, honestly, don’t know anything, except that we possibly won’t even have one.
Ashley A: Faith, what about you? Do they have plans for your graduation yet? What are you thinking?
Faith: So, as I said before, my school is really small so there are only 11 seniors. So, best case scenario what they’re hoping for is that the Maryland governor will okay, by the time graduation comes around, gatherings of 50. And so, they’re thinking we’ll have a social distancing kind of thing. So, the chairs for your family will be clustered by family. And they’ll be 6 feet apart from the other families. And we’ll sit further apart on the stage. And it will be outside. And then, worst case scenario, completely virtual on Zoom and they’ll mail us our diplomas. And then, in the middle of that, they’re thinking a drive through kind of thing where we drive up with our families.
We step out, take pictures. We park the cars and stand outside. So, it’s kind of a compromise between the both. But I’m really hoping for the outside one because that sounds pretty nice.
Ashley A: Well, let’s just say this. This definitely will be a memorable graduating year. You’ll have stories for days, even if they’re just about sitting at home. No one will ever forget this graduating class. Actually, Faith, you mentioned something about the governor. And I’m curious if you feel like sharing your age. Are you all turning 18 before the November election?
Faith: Yes. I will be 18 in May.
Ashley A: What about you, Autumn?
Autumn: Crazy. Yeah, I also turn 18 in May.
Ashley A: So, you all are turning 18. And so, 2020, this is the most important election of many of our lifetimes. And I’m not going to ask you who you want to vote for or who you don’t want to vote for. But I am going to ask you 1.) do you plan on registering and if you are going to vote, which I am going to make sure you are – if you’re going to be on the podcast, you have be a voter, 2.) what are you looking for in candidates that can really speak to you? You’re the generation that everyone is saying will make or break this election. So, are you going to plan to register? And if so, what are you looking for in your candidates? Autumn, what do you think?
Autumn: Oh, definitely. As soon as I get out of here, that’s the first thing. Mom is just like, “Come on. We’re going to register.” And I’m just like, “Yeah.” In terms of a candidate for 2020, I’m very open minded in terms of what a candidate wants to do. I think it’s more important that we’re open minded towards different ideas and also new solutions. But in terms of actual things I stand for, I hope that the candidate that I pick will, actually, focus to do more things that they say that they’re going to do and not just make it up as like, “Oh, I’m just going to say this so I can get more votes.”
Ashley A: What about you, Faith?
Faith: So, I don’t know if this is just a Maryland thing but I’m already registered. You can register when you’re 16.
Ashley A: Yes. Pre-registration. It’s one of the things the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights supports, getting students registered early.
Faith: I’m looking for, in a candidate – climate change is a really important issue to me. I want somebody who is going to take it seriously because we’re running out of time. And affordable healthcare is really important to me. I just want everybody to have the access that they deserve separate from political standpoints. I want a good person, I guess. Somebody who is respectful to their opponents and will try to get something done in congress and not be so stubborn and bullheaded that nothing happens, because I’m really ready for some changes. And so, I guess that’s what I’m looking for.
Ashley A: All right. You heard it from future voters. You don’t need to go out and look any further. They’re telling you what they want. So, this goes for people who are running for president to senate to congress all the way down to local county positions. As we say sometimes, the dog catcher. They want people who will, actually, do stuff. So, before we move on to some lighter topics, really quickly, we’re having a conversation on this show about the show Dear White People later, the creator and one of the actors. And it’s all about college campuses. I have my alma mater on Ohio State, proud Buckeye.
What are you all doing after graduation? Are you headed off to college, taking some time off? Do you know what is the next chapter for you, Faith?
Faith: Yes. I am going to my mom’s alma mater. I’m going to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I’m so excited. And I’m going to be double majoring in psychology and social work on the pre-law track.
Ashley A: Awesome. And what about you, Autumn?
Autumn: After high school, I’m planning to go to a four-year university. I’m not going to say anything in terms of my school but I’m planning to study engineering and do other stuff like study abroad and doing a bunch of clubs and organizations.
Ashley A.: So, you’re both headed off to college, which is a big deal. And what are you feeling? Are you excited, have some fears, some anxiety? Autumn, how are you feeling about starting college in the fall?
Autumn: I’m really excited. I’m tired of high school. I just want to be done with it. But in terms of college, I’m excited to meet new people, do new things. Just getting to meet new people, going to a new environment, going from high school into a transition into another big chapter in my life.
Ashley A: What about you, Faith?
Faith: It’s really weird. I’m almost not nervous at all. I think the excitement is covering up my fears. Something I am really scared about though is, coming from such a small school, I know everybody in my school. And going to a massive state school is really, really scary. And I feel like I’m going to be overwhelmed. I think I can handle it. I know I can handle it, but I’m still a little nervous about what it’s going to feel like and to not have grown up with these people, I guess.
Ashley A: I remember years ago my freshman year. I went to Ohio State, which is the second largest school in the country. And I remember the same feeling, Faith, thinking “Oh my goodness, this place is so big,” and by my junior year being like “This place is so small. I’ve got to get out of here.” And after, I moved to New York City, the biggest city ever. So, I am confident you all will be fine. This might be showing my age. Do you all know who Babyface and Teddy Riley are?
Faith: I know it hurts you. I’m so sorry. I knew it would hurt you. I don’t.
Ashley A: Please get on to Babyface and Teddy Riley. I told you I was going to expose my age and think I was cooler than I am. They made some of the greatest music ever. I’m going to leave it there. We’ll talk about it with some people who do know who they are. One question I have for you, are you all on TikTok?
Autumn: No. But I do watch a lot of TikToks and my friends do.
Faith: I’ve never made one but I watch them.
Ashley A: Okay. Do you think people who perhaps might like Babyface and Teddy Riley should get off of TikTok? That’s a new thing that people are saying that we need to leave it to you all, let you all have that, and we need to stay on Facebook and Instagram.
Faith: If it makes you all happy, I say go for it. I would say don’t embarrass yourselves trying the trends, I guess, because that hurts a little to watch.
Ashley A: All right, you all. I’m going to stop there and save us the embarrassment of thinking that we’re cooler or younger than we are.
Autumn: Please do.
Ashley A: Thank you, Faith, thank you, Autumn, for joining the pod squad. Earlier this year, I was able to sit down with the incredible Ashley Blaine Featherson and Justin Simien from the Netflix series, Dear White People where we discussed racial harassment and the state of education in our country, so don’t go anywhere.
Welcome back to Pod for the Cause. Earlier this year, I was able to sit down with Ashley Blaine Featherson and Justin Simien from the Netflix series, Dear White People. Here is our conversation.
I’m here in LA, sunny LA, and I am here with two black geniuses.
So, Justin Simien is the writer, director, creator of the amazing movie, Netflix series, Dear White People. And Ashley Blaine Featherson, my melanin popping sister, yes, who plays Joelle on the show, one of my favorite characters I think on TV, in general.
Ashley: Oh, thanks.
Ashley A: You bring a real good story to the screen. So, we really did want to talk about somewhat of a heavy topic that I think you do such a great job in addressing around harassment, sexual assault on campuses. So, we’re going to go there. But before we jump in too far, I want to know from you, Justin, why Dear White People?
Justin: Oh, my God. I don’t know how much of a choice I had in it, except that it was one of the things when I first moved to Hollywood that was in my head that could potentially be a first feature. I went to a mostly white college and working in Hollywood or working in mostly white spaces. And I just felt like there wasn’t anything in the culture that was about being a black face in a white space. And that was my black experience. And I also really had a passion for bringing kinds of black people and characters to the screen that I wasn’t seeing in other “black” movies and TV shows at the time who were complicated and a little messy and who you loved and then, you couldn’t understand why they did that or that.
And so, it was just this idea that I developed while I was working in my day job as a publicist for eight years and, eventually, made a concept trailer for the movie because back in 2013, there wasn’t anything like this. There wasn’t a comp to compare it to. It wasn’t a slave movie. It wasn’t black people in tragic pain. It wasn’t a straightforward broad comedy. And the popularity of that trailer helped me to, eventually, get financing for the movie and, eventually, start the series.
Ashley A: It’s so dope. Now, your experience, Ashley, is a little different. You went to an HBCU.
Ashley: Yes, very different.
Ashley A: And so, what is it like to be on camera knowing your real-life experience and then, being this character that is at a predominantly white institution, a PWI?
Ashley: It was fun. I had the opposite of the Winchester experience of like –
Ashley A.: You probably were like, “Thank God.”
Ashley: Seriously, going to Howard. But what some people might not know is that part of the reason why I wanted to go to Howard was that I kind of had more of a Winchester experience in high school, middle school, and elementary school. So, for me, I went to predominantly white schools. They were mixed but we were still, clearly, the minority. And so, my parents were getting me into Jack and Jill and things like that to make sure I had that enrichment outside of school activities or just going to school. And so, when I had the opportunity to go to college, I knew I wanted to go to an HBCU.
I was just like I have an opportunity to go to an HBCU for four years, get an education, be surrounded by amazing, beautiful, black, educated, smart, wonderful black people all day. Sign me up. So, that’s exactly what I did. But there is still an essence of my college experience that I still bring to Joelle. Although I went to school with mostly black people and Joelle went to school with mostly white people, the college experience is still something that’s really unique. And as an actor, I’m really grateful that I still went to college. I studied musical theater but I am grateful that I didn’t just surpass college and just move right out to LA because there is so much that I gained from my experience.
And I couldn’t have known that I was going to be playing a character that is portraying the black female experience in college. So, it just goes to show everything happens for a reason.
Ashley A.: So, we work at the Leadership Conference on creating environments for all students but, particularly, students of color, black and brown people, to feel safe in the places that they learn from pre-K to K12 and to higher education. A lot of the characters on the show experience harassment in various different ways. And I want to start first by talking about Reggie. We see this experience of him interacting with the police and why that story, the way you told it, and somewhat, actually, the trauma he experienced after that.
Justin: It was really, from Season 1, on my mind that we had to address the whole gun issue because part of the black experience that I know of is you’re constantly aware of the fact that if you step into the wrong space, speak in the wrong code, you could be shot and killed. It doesn’t matter who you are. If you have black skin, you’re in any part of town, something could happen to you for no reason other than the color of your skin. That is just a reality of being a black person in America. And so, I felt like we had to go there.
And it was important for me to go there in a way that I hadn’t seen in other shows because what we see in Reggie is that the trauma of that moment, even though he does not get shot, even though he does not get killed, the trauma of being reduced to an object in an officer’s cross hairs lives in Reggie through multiple seasons of the show. And I think that it’s important for me as an artist, particularly telling black stories, to give space for our trauma, even if it’s like trauma that we don’t always want to see or experience in a TV show. But it’s important to give space for it because we all are carrying some bit of that.
And if we don’t have space for it, if we’re not aware of it, if we’re not seeing it, we can’t really heal it. And I think really the impetus of so much of what we do on the show is like let’s have these characters talk about the thing none of us really wants to talk about openly in our every day to day lives.
Ashley A: And you bring it up again in Season 3 through Moses saying that happened to me, too. So, we see it as a cycle. You, Joelle, as a student in the show, experience it as a bystander. And what was that experience like from you? Were there any parallels that you were able to draw from your life? It kind of comes up the aftermath of the blackface party, all of these different forms of harassment that are happening on campus. What was that experience like for you on the show?
Ashley: First of all, shooting it was very intense. We’re heading into Season 4. I would say that it still is probably one of the hardest scenes, days for us to shoot and we’re 30 episodes in. And that was the fifth episode of the first season. So, it just was so surreal, eerie, and just frightening to even experience that in the film medium because it felt so real. And Barry Jenkins directed it so real. And Marque portrayed it so real and the man who played the officer. It just was so triggering for everybody. It’s even kind of triggering, honestly, talking about it now because Reggie is a representation of far too many of our black men in society.
And Joelle, for example, is a representation of far too many black women who are so concerned for our black men as soon as they walk out the door.
Ashley A: That’s right.
Ashley: So, me being a black woman, every time my boyfriend leaves the house, I’m praying that he’s okay. And it’s not because he’s going out and doing anything that’s wrong or illegal activity or has the wrong friends. But that’s kind of the point. Those aren’t the prerequisites for that. And so, I’m so grateful to be on a show where we are exposing and shedding a light, sometimes a grim light, on things that a lot of other shows or a lot of other people or a lot of other podcasts don’t want to talk about.
Because it’s tough and it’s a part of the American history that until we really get over how we really got here and really talk about how we got here and what the history of the black person in America is then, it’s not going to get any better.
Ashley A: And people sometimes think that you’re protective because you’re on your college campus but there are no boundaries to racism.
Justin: And especially on college campuses.
Ashley A: That’s right.
Justin: Right now, in 2020, I feel like I get a story sent to me almost every day about an incident at a college campus sometimes involving a shooter, sometimes involving harassment by security or the police, sometimes it’s just a student popping off in the middle of a class and going on a tirade. These aren’t just grievances or inconveniences. These are things that make black people afraid to show up in these spaces. And if you’re a black person and you’ve got ambition and you are entering spaces that aren’t always made with you in mind, this fear of white retaliation for showing how special you are haunts so much of what we do.
That’s just a real fear. That’s a real thing that goes on in our psychology that’s specific to the black experience. And often times with guns and black people, it’s usually played in a show for dramatic effect. It’s, usually, a moment of tragedy or sadness. But I wanted to really get into the weeds of what happens after the event. And what is the everyday reality of it? Not just let’s be dramatic for dramatic sake.
But one of the reasons why it happens so early is because it sets the tone for what the show is going to do from that point forward, which is with humor and shade, which is my love language, tackle the black experience but also be honest about some of the realities and the darker aspects of what these kids are going through.
Ashley A: The way you told it was a beautiful experience for our trauma to be seen as people on film. We have to tell these stories or they are erased. And one of the things that we work on is there is no data collection right now on college campuses for interaction with officers. We don’t even know how often this is, actually, happening because they don’t have requirements to track it. Now, you talked about exceptional black people so I’m going to fast forward to Season 3.
Ashley A: Moses.
Ashley A: Now, there is a lot going on in the world right now around black men and white women and sexual assault. So, for all of my listeners, we want this conversation to be safe and not create additional trauma. And yet, the show was so brave in doing this story. So, can I just do a little backdrop or can one of you do –
Justin: Go for it, yeah.
Ashley A: I’m like a stan of the show so –
Justin: I’m into it. I’m like what did we do?
Ashley A: Well, Moses comes from a tech company. He was a former professor there. He comes back. All of the black people are like, “Hey, hey, go Moses,” particularly Reggie. And Reggie finds comfort perhaps through a father figure. He’s going through this depressive state from this trauma we just discussed. And then, there is a white woman. I keep on wanting to call her Buffy but it’s Muffy. I have it on my notes B and then, I was like no, it’s Muffy, which I love even more. So, Muffy claims a sexual assault has happened. And we see it go from him saying it doesn’t happen to it happening.
What was that experience like for you playing that storyline through as a black woman knowing the historical context of black men being accused of sexual assault on white women in this country?
Ashley: So, you get the script and it’s always a little bit different than when you, actually, sit down at the table reading. So, I got the script and was like, “Oh, no. Come on now, Moses.” And then, we sat down and read it. I don’t know if you remember but it was just silent. I just say that to say that it was difficult. I think as black people, a lot of times, naturally, we can be very protective because we’re all we’ve got. We’re all we’ve ever had. But in that, we also have to accept that still as black people, we make mistakes. And we’re flawed. And sometimes, you’re rooting for somebody and then, you’re not.
And it’s based on something they’ve done. So, for me, it was complicated because everyone was saying we have to stop this cancel culture and this and that. But the truth is there is a reason why I don’t want to listen to R Kelly’s music anymore. There’s a reason why I have trouble watching the Cosby Show. There is a reason for these things and I shouldn’t feel badly about having a reason. I would feel that way if the person were black, white, Asian. It doesn’t matter what it is. So, it was difficult.
And Blair Underwood is so amazing because he, as a character but also just Blair is such a likeable guy, so it was also like it made it even more tough. But what was cool about Joelle’s role in it all was that she was always a little –
Ashley A: You knew.
Ashley: — wary. She was like –
Ashley A: Just like black women do.
Ashley: And that kind of speaks to I do believe that black women have a heightened sense of intuition.
Ashley A: I know that’s right.
Ashley: It’s in our bodies to always look for things that maybe our men can’t see. And I don’t think that it was that intentional. But I do think she got a little something is not right. And so, I think it was cool that you’re allowed to see the tension within their relationship that was caused by this woman’s boyfriend really standing for somebody, leaving her behind in the midst of all of that, and not considering her thoughts, her feelings, and her opinions about the matter.
Ashley A: And the courage it took for that character to do that.
Ashley: The scene where Reggie, basically, admits you were right. That was really powerful because as people, we still have to keep our arms out for the people that if you come to the realization a little late that doesn’t mean you turn away from that person. You still have to embrace them because he didn’t know. He was hoping for something and he had a vision in his mind. He was creating a reality that wasn’t real. And I just think it was really beautiful that Joelle just still took him in and was like, “It’s going to be okay.”
Ashley A: Yeah. The love that you showed was a way to show what black women often have to do. You have to be courageous to stand up for justice. And then, when people come around, you have to be loving and compassionate enough to embrace them and the truth. So, Justin, this is a show that believes survivors?
Ashley A: Why did you feel so called to tell that story?
Justin: I just like getting myself into trouble.
Ashley A: And did you get any –
Justin: There’s always some – since the movie, there is always some backlash. I think that the kind of art I make brings up trauma in people. And I am an oppressed person. I make work for oppressed people. I think that that’s a good thing for art. And it’s okay. There was a lot that I wanted to unpack. And, again, I wanted to say something about the issue that was sweeping the nation that hadn’t been said and was really specific to our experience of it. Because the truth is we have an attachment and a need for heroes that is different. It’s like Reggie needed Moses because of the things that he had been through.
The world he grew up in has made him feel so small. He needs somebody to reflect back his potential to him. That’s a need that Reggie has that’s different than when a white person is a fan of somebody in the public space. The other thing that’s also true is that, unfortunately, in our community, as in every community, there are predators who are hiding and are protected by that fact that we have an association and attachment to our heroes. It’s a little bit different. It’s a little bit more intense than other communities.
The other thing that is very true is that, yes, there is a history of white women, specifically, making accusations against black men that aren’t true. But that’s a truth that sits beside the other truth that there are people that hide behind and use racism to protect themselves from wrongdoing. And the mind, I won’t cuss –
Ashley A: You can. You just have to keep it PG-13 because my mom listens.
Justin: The mind screw of –
Ashley A: Oh, that’s fine.
Justin: — being black and meeting your heroes and having heroes is that we want to hold onto the narrative that we want to be true a little bit harder. We’re not as able to accept the truth. And I say we because it’s me, too. We all know the list of black people that have had some issues come up recently. But they’re a little bit harder for us to let go because they mean a lot more to us. And I wanted to just do a realistic, no judgment portrayal of what that feels and looks like because I just felt like I was going through that that particular year. And I felt like a lot of people were going through that. And there is a disillusionment that happens when a hero lets you down.
And you start to feel like maybe I’m not special. Maybe I don’t have potential because the version of me that I thought I could be ended up being a mess. How do I stand on my own two feet now? And I wanted to unpack all of that. Do you know what I’m saying? And also, show that sometimes doing and saying the right thing is a real personal sacrifice for us that’s different than in other communities. And what we wanted to play with is the idea that you wanted Blair to be right and you wanted Muffy to be wrong. And it just felt so obvious from the start that that’s what was going on.
Ashley A: And you did something that was amazing when you flipped it. And even when I watched it for the third time as I was prepping for this, I was like dang it. As soon as you flipped it and made it through the white lens, I was like, of course, it happened.
Justin: When did we make that? In 2018. We were just giving up heroes left and right. And I could feel us not wanting to let go of them and defending them and defending all kinds of things that, actually, aren’t worth defending and they’re indefensible. But I understood the reaction, too. So, I just wanted to speak to it without judgment from all of the angles.
Ashley A: Well, thank you so much. This has been so fun for me. We have Ashley Blaine Featherson and Justin Simien, the beautiful black creators of Dear White People and stars of the show. If you haven’t seen it, you must check it out. If you call yourself a fan of Pod for the Cause, you better be a fan of Dear White People. Thank you so much.
Justin: Thank you.
Ashley: Thank you for having us.
Ashley A: Thanks, again, to the incredible Ashley Blaine Featherson and Justin Simien for joining Pod for the Cause. Coming up, I’ll have my hot takes where I get a few things off of my chest in three minutes or less.
Welcome back to Pod for the Cause. In between talking to the pod squad and Justin and Ashley, I have a few things I want to say.
I say this almost every show. So, 2020, one of the most important elections of our lifetime. And I need young people to understand that you have more power this year than you might ever have when it comes to our democracy.
We need you to register to vote and then, in November, we need you to go to the polls or vote by mail or vote however you can to make sure that the issues you care about, climate change, healthcare, criminal justice reform, immigration, whatever issue speaks to you that you go vote in November and you vote with your values. You have all the power this election. And what you decide to do will determine who is going to run this country from the president all the way down to the dog catcher. So, if you want to find out how to register to vote and how to get involved in making sure that everyone who is eligible to vote can vote, go to www.andstillivote.org. Sign up.
We’ll get you connected because the power is with you.
Thanks for listening to Pod for the Cause, the official podcast of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Leadership Conference Education Fund. For more information, visit us at www.civilrights.org. And to connect with me, hit me up on Instagram and Twitter at Pod for the Cause. Be sure to subscribe to our show on your favorite podcast app and leave a five-star review. Until then, for Pod for the Cause, I’m Ashley Allison. And remember, a cause is nothing without the people.