Ep. 3: Black Bernie Bros Speak Out

Ep. 3: Black Bernie Bros Speak Out

Bernie 2020 Co-chair Sen. Nina Turner, activist Shaun King, podcaster Leslie Lee III, and South Carolina Rep. Krystle Simmons share their reasons for supporting Bernie Sanders and, along the way, blow up the "Bernie Bro" narrative. Briahna also talks to Jonnalyn Price, an undergraduate student and veteran, about hosting a volunteer kickoff event on April 27. We hear from voters in Detroit, where Bernie recently held a series of intimate forums to learn about voters' concerns from the source.


Briahna Joy Gray: Beyoncé has the Beyhive. Justin Bieber has Beliebers. The Grateful Dead has Deadheads, and Van Morrison has Vanatics. Star Trek has Trekkies, or Trekkers, if you really want to be controversial, and amazingly Frank Sinatra fans are called Bobby Soxers.

Popular cultural fandoms are often named, and politicians aren’t exempt. Andrew Yang has the Yang Gang. Mike Gravel has the Gravel Gang. And Hillary Clinton had Pantsuit Nation.

And then there’s the Bernie Bro.

This is Hear the Bern, a podcast about the people, ideas, and politics that are driving the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign and the movement to secure a dignified life for everyone living in this country. My name is Briahna Joy Gray, coming to you from Bernie’s campaign headquarters in Washington, DC.

This week, we talk to campaign surrogate Shaun King, campaign co-chair Senator Nina Turner, and lefty podcaster Leslie III to debunk the Bernie Bro myth, and also to talk about why the progressive movement and the movement for racial justice are inextricable. We also hear from voters in Detroit, where Bernie Sanders recently held intimate forums to hear voters’ concerns directly from the source.

The thing is the Beyhive, Beliebers, and Trekkies all chose their names. They chose them to celebrate the artists, political agendas, and, yes, the greatest TV franchise of all time.

But Bernie Bro, well, it wasn’t exactly intended as a compliment.

Cut to News: The bros who love Bernie Sanders have become a sexist mob. Young, white, and predominantly male. You may have heard the term Bernie Bro this election season, typically young, white, and male. Have you heard about this phenomenon, Bernie Bros? Some of what

Briahna Joy Gray: Of course, the stats are clear. The Bernie Bro is and always has been a myth. Even back in 2016, every demographic group under the age of 30 preferred Bernie, and Bernie currently has higher favorables among black and Latino voters than any declared candidate.

Leslie Lee III: I don’t know who started the narrative that every Bernie Sanders supporter was this white man, but I do know for a fact that all these reporters who kept writing this stuff were doing it uncritically. They were just repeating what they heard through the grapevine.

Briahna Joy Gray: That was Leslie Lee III, a co-host of the leftist pop culture podcast Struggle Session. He also coined the viral on Twitter hashtag that made the erasure of non-white Bernie supporters visible –  #BernieMadeMeWhite.

Leslie Lee III: They didn’t have polls on their side. They don’t have any facts on their side. They were just repeating it because that was common knowledge at that point and that’s how you wrote about Bernie Sanders.  

Briahna Joy Gray: In fact, the core of the Bernie coalition isn’t privileged white males. If anything defines his supporters, it’s class Bernie consistently overperforms with lower income voters, and at least to me there’s no surprise why. His platform is geared toward meeting the needs of the most marginalized Americans, to creating a world where all of us can live happy and dignified lives. Unsurprisingly, millionaires and billionaires generally aren’t Bernie Bros.

I spoke to Shaun King, an activist, writer, Bernie 2020 surrogate, and a former colleague of mine at The Intercept about the Bernie Bro myth.

Shaun King: It’s even frustrating for me to hear you even mention it because it’s an erasure of you, of me, of thousands and thousands of us. Maybe of millions of people who support a deeply progressive agenda, who support Bernie.

I was blown away by this poll that just came out yesterday showing that, of all the candidates, Bernie was the only candidate who had a majority of his supporters were people of color. No other candidate. Not Joe Biden, not Kamala Harris, or any other candidate, but that’s not the story that gets told. So, we have this lived reality of in our movement beyond Bernie, but even within the campaign, it’s beautiful. It’s colorful. It’s uniquely diverse, but then somehow the talking heads don’t tell that story.

Briahna Joy Gray: I for one don’t find the stats showing Bernie as popular among black and brown people to be surprising. When I talk to my working-class black family members, their priorities are healthcare, paying their bills, how to afford an education, and the toxic influence of our punitive criminal justice system.

So why wouldn’t Bernie’s message resonate?

Leslie Lee III: I need someone who’s gonna get my mother and my auntie and my cousins healthcare. I need someone who’s going to help us out.

Briahna Joy Gray: That was Leslie again. Leslie created the viral #BernieMadeMeWhite hashtag to make fun of the media’s whitewashing of Bernie supporters way back during the 2016 primary.

Leslie Lee III: I made a joke that you know before the Hawaii and Alaska primaries happened that, you know what, watch, Sanders is going win Hawaii and Alaska, two of the least white states in the union, and they’re still going to make an article saying that all of his supporters are white. And sure enough, CNN put out an article about these two primaries and his two primary victories, which called both of these states mostly rural and mostly white.

So, then I made a hashtag basically saying, oh I guess now we are finally all white. I’m just going to accept it; I’m going to lean into it. So ever since I voted for Bernie, I’ve been watching friends hashtag #BernieMadeMeWhite.

Briahna Joy Gray: The hashtag became the top trending topic in the United States precisely because there were so many diverse Bernie supporters out there who felt ignored. The hashtags #BernieMadeMeMale and #BernieMadeMeYoung also sprung up, started by women and older voters who were over being ignored.

Now that Bernie made me white, tweeted a Sikh American, can I please get on an airplane without being harassed by security? Another woman tweeted, thank you, Bernie, for what would have been my 51st birthday this week. Instead, I’m 25-ish. This one really resonated with me. #BernieMadeMeYoung. I went to bed old and woke up this morning a millennial with huge student debt.

But jokes aside, erasing a diverse coalition of voters really isn’t funny. To many progressives of all backgrounds, this movement, symbolized by Sanders, but comprised of all of us, represents a unique commitment to structural change that can help liberate us from structural problems. Problems like student debt, a lack of healthcare access, and low wages. It’s not just that his policies look good on paper. Bernie’s long-time commitment to those policies makes us confident that he’ll continue to fight for us once he’s in office.

Leslie Lee III: I would just say, you know, Bernie Sanders, he is authentic. He’s been saying the same thing for years, for decades. He’s not scrambling to come up with a plan for how to justify his votes this that and the other, or his career, or all the black people he put in jail for his entire life and then now wants to be president. He’s not doing any that. He’s saying the same thing he’s always been saying, you know, universal healthcare, helping out poor, helping out mothers. You know, taking the power away from the millionaires and the billionaires, as we have to say, including himself, and giving it back to the people. And actually making a government that works for the people.

Briahna Joy Gray: Krystle Simmons, a black representative from South Carolina who recently endorsed Bernie Sanders, echoed those sentiments.

Krystle Simmons: He was rocking with us when nobody else was, and with us, I mean minority, middle-class communities. Before we even knew who Bernie Sanders was. He was, you know, he wasn’t a household name.

That is definitely appealing to me. I don’t like people who do things just for showboating. And so, for me the fact that he was there from the beginning shows that he was there when it wasn’t a press thing. You know, he wasn’t there when people knew who he was and he was trying to gain a platform. He was there when he was a nobody.

Briahna Joy Gray: I kept hearing that same theme, that Bernie’s consistency is proof of his commitment to the people, echoed by everyone I spoke to. This is Shaun again.

Shaun King: There are many reasons why I supported Bernie. There’s one central reason. I want to know – this goes with my support for all political leaders – the thing that you tell me you support now, do you have a demonstrated history of caring and fighting for that thing before you started running for president? What I see with Bernie, when it comes to the ten things he cares about most, if you go to berniesanders.com and look at his platform, those are the things that he was fighting for last month, last year, 10 years ago, 20 years ago. These are the things he fights for as a hobby, you know, like in his free time. He goes and marches and works with workers who are being underpaid and confronts Disney and confronts Amazon to their face and does this out of campaign season.

I tell people, if you go to all of the websites of all of the people running for president, they’re beautiful. Like the platforms and policies are amazing. I just want to know, have you been fighting for that before you created that website? For most of them, for most of them, on most of the issues that they now fight for, including universal healthcare, including something like bail reform, that’s not the case. And so, Bernie’s campaign is an extension of his life.

Briahna Joy Gray: The campaign staff is also an extension of those values. 70% of Sanders’ national leadership team is made up of women, including Rene Spellman, Bernie’s deputy campaign manager, a black woman, and Analilia Mejia, the campaign’s political director, an Afro-Latina, and me, national press secretary. And of course, there’s the inimitable Nina Turner.

Nina Turner: With these hands we’re going to transform this country in a way that they’ve never seen before. With these hands we will have Medicare-for-All. With these hands we will have college for all. With these hands we will make sure that the working poor and barely middle class in this country have a system that answers to them. With these hands we will rise.

Briahna Joy Gray: Nina Turner, a former state senator from Ohio, is one of four national co-chairs for the Bernie 2020 campaign. She was also a surrogate for the campaign back in 2016. Senator Turner has been integral to this campaign’s efforts, and she certainly can’t be dismissed as just some bro.

Shaun King: The erasure of Bernie’s black support, nothing burns me up more than what that means for Nina Turner, who literally has probably at this time spent seven or eight hundred days of campaigning with Bernie all over the country. She has led his organization. She opens up for him everywhere and is deeply devoted. Like, Bernie surrounds himself with honest black voices who speak the truth to him.

Briahna Joy Gray: I was able to grab Nina Turner on her way out the door to join Bernie on the campaign trail. I wanted to ask her what she thought of the Bernie Bro narrative.

Nina Turner: Well, thank you, Brie Joy. It is amazing to be here. And yes, you did grab me. I have suitcase in hand, leaving from the office, about to go to the airport in a little while to go into South Carolina.

Briahna Joy Gray: Senator Turner is an extraordinarily compelling communicator. I’ve been thinking a lot about why she’s so effective. I think it’s because she speaks with a sense of urgency that can’t be faked, a sense of urgency that comes from lived experiences that are difficult and real and relatable to millions of Americans.

Nina Turner: I never dreamed that I would have these types of opportunities. You know, we’re getting close to May, and I get a little heartbroken in May because my mother died at the age of 42 years old. So, May is hard for me with Mother’s Day and her birthday. I come to this with a heavy but a hopeful heart. That those of us who have the opportunity to be the change can make a difference. And it really is my life experience that gives me the, some people would say chutzpah, other people would say kick-ass rhythm that I have to things. And I’m certainly at a stage in my life where it is so vitally important that those of us who have the opportunity to stand up and to speak up, no matter what the consequences may be, that we should do that. And that’s how I roll most of the time.

We all have stories, Brie Joy, that brings me to this moment. And you know, my mother died really young. Langston Hughes asked in one of his seminal poems, what happens to a dream deferred, and to me that is her story.

She grew up in a solidly middle-class household. My grandparents worked their behinds off. You know, were just tremendous people but for my mom, you know, everything doesn’t always go right for people. You can have the best environment or what seems to be the best environment and things just don’t go right. And so, struggles and strife and ups and downs happen to us all, whether you’re in a single parent household or whether you’re in a two-parent household, or whether you’re fortunate enough to have an entire community raise you. People go through stuff. My mother went through a lot of stuff.

Briahna Joy Gray: [00:13:35] Senator Turner is committed to the Bernie campaign in part because she understands the value of the social safety net firsthand.

Nina Turner: Yes. I am a safety net child, safety net adult for a little bit of my life. You know the likelihood that you’re born into a working-class or poor family increases the likelihood that you will be one yourself and that you will even die poor. And you know, I’ve been fortunate in my life to kind of turn the tide, being a first generation college graduate, but what was most important to me, Brie Joy, was when my son walked across the stage and we had a second generation, because that’s really what this is about.

So, when the Senator talks about college for all, that speaks to me because how I got over my soul, looks back and wonders how I got over, education opened the gateway for me. And if it were not for that, I don’t know where I would be. My mother never lived to see me graduate. She never lived to see me sworn into offices as a councilwoman, as a state senator, to run for statewide office in 2014, fighting against voter suppression at the hands of Republicans, to be a national surrogate for a person running for president of the United States of America – the Bernie Sanders, Senator Bernie Sanders – and now to be a national co-chair. My mother never saw any of that. It is those experiences that inform me, and lots of people have stories just like that that they can tell that connects them to why they want to do what is right, what is just, and what is good.

And then his healthcare for all – my mother had Medicaid. My family grew up with Medicaid. My father worked hard, but he didn’t have, you know, those steady jobs that had good healthcare benefits. So, he couldn’t provide healthcare benefits. So, I know what it’s like to have crushing poverty, and you try your damnedest to get out, and sometimes you can’t get out. So yeah, the system is rigged.

Briahna Joy Gray: Since she was on her way to South Carolina, I asked Senator Turner what she thinks of Bernie’s chances there this time. And what he’s doing differently in order to get a different result.

Nina Turner: Well, having time to get to know people is vitally important, but the Senator’s message has not changed. So, it’s having the opportunity to have him introduced in a deeper way. This narrative that has been created that somehow, he had a harder time than anybody else would have up against a very formidable candidate, it’s just not true. Whoever would have been that candidate would have had that challenge.

However, the Senator’s message does resonate, Brie Joy. I’ve been with him; you’ve been with him. I see people from all walks of life, including the African American community, walk up to him. There’s a Bernie sighting, you know. And people from all walks of life – they can be young, they can be seasoned, you know, native born, immigrant. It doesn’t matter. I’ve seen the brothers walk up to Senator Sanders saying we love you. You are what we need.

I never forget when we were in Baltimore. And we were with Pastor Jamal Bryant, and we did the walkthrough, walking through the neighborhood where Freddie Gray, you know, was gunned down. And it was almost as if Pied Piper was walking through. You got several ministers. You got Pastor Jamal Bryant. And then the neighborhood, somebody must have just put out the call. Senator Bernie Sanders is out. And I’m serious, the brothers and the sisters out, you know, and I heard one brother. I’ll never forget. He said I’m supporting him because he not taking money from the bigwigs. This is just an average brother in the community, not embedded in the campaign. None of that. Just speaking that kind of truth.

The Senator has a universal message, and that message does speak to the African-American community. And since the African-American community disproportionately suffers from all of the negative variables or factors – you know, healthcare, criminal justice system, living in communities that are more prone to have environmental injustice, being in cities where the school system is not up to par to guarantee that those children have an opportunity to live a good life – his message speaks the language.

Briahna Joy Gray: I want to ask you about this question of what do black voters want. Because we’re described so monolithically and as though there is no overlap between what the primary concerns of the average black voter are and what…

Nina Turner: I mean we want what everybody else wants. We want to live a good life. You want to live in safe communities. If you have children, you want to know that they have good schools. Even if you don’t have children, you probably want to make sure that the children around you or in this world have a good education so that they increase the likelihood that they will be able to take advantages of opportunities.

If you are a woman, you want your whole damn dollar. You know, you want maternity leave and paternity leave – it goes hand in hand. You want to make sure that your work is not in vain. And I do agree with the Marriott workers. You know, their slogan was one job should be enough. You want that. You want to know this criminal justice system, which impacts the African-American community in deeper ways, but by extension poor people in general…I mean, that’s not the only thing we care about is criminal justice, but because that ram of life has such a detrimental impact on our communities disproportionately, yes, we care about the injustices of a criminal justice system that has been perpetuated generation after generation after generation. And Brie Joy, we’d have to do another show on institutional racism and implicit bias, you know, and colorism, and all the other things.

But we want to be recognized as equals in this community

Briahna Joy Gray: People talk a big game about intersectionality. But I think too often, instead of intersectionality, what they’re doing is kind of piecemealing off individual groups into their quadrants and pretending like there’s not overlap there, which is the actual opposite of what supposed to be going on here. Realizing that there’s a lot of overlap and commonality between these spheres even though there are differences as well.

Nina Turner: And Senator really does a good job. See he don’t fall for the bait. There is intersectionality. We really are in this together. He really believes that we are in this together.

You know, what is really gut-wrenching for me being in this political space right now is how people weaponize race and they’re weaponizing differences. Yes, there are disparities… You know, we hear the Senator talk about this all the time. You and I helped work on this. There are disparities within the disparities, and you want leaders to recognize the disparities within the disparities, which he does. However, we’re not going to leave out other folks who are suffering too. It is a both-and, it’s not an either/or.

Briahna Joy Gray: That’s what solidarity is.

Nina Turner: That is what solidarity is. That’s right.

Briahna Joy Gray: You know, people want us to believe that we don’t have those things in common so that they can make us act, politically react to those differences that ultimately benefit the people at the top. The 1% who would rather have a…

Nina Turner: Divide and conquer.

Briahna Joy Gray: …then seeing our shared economic interest in particular. And you know, intersectionality is crucially important, but there’s no intersectionality without race, without gender, without sexual orientation, or without class. All of these are part of the puzzle.

Briahna Joy Gray: Coalition-building is a priority of this campaign. As Bernie often says at rallies: it’s not me. It’s us. So, it’s incredibly exciting that people from every state, Puerto Rico, and 19 countries have volunteered to hold over 4,700 kickoff events on April 27. During those events, the campaign will stream a special 30-minute video featuring speakers like Nina Turner and campaign manager Faiz Shakir. The goal of these events is to spread grassroots organizing by connecting volunteers to voters in creating environments in which folks can spread the movement’s message and turn out the vote.

I spoke to Jonnalyn Price, a young student living in Baltimore, who was one of nearly a million volunteers who have committed to throwing an organizing event for Bernie on April 27. To Jonnalyn, it’s personal.

Jonnalyn Price: It really hits close to home for me because I come from a military family. My mom was also in the military. She didn’t join though until I was about 12 or 13. My sister was 10, and after she joined the military was the first time in years that my family was able to do things like go to the dentist and be able to get regular check-ups. Because my mom finally had Tricare, my sister was, in one of her check-ups, my sister’s doctor found a heart defect, and she had to have surgery to fix that.

I really believe that she’s alive today because of that. Healthcare literally saves lives in this country. We say that, you know, you have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To me, it doesn’t make sense that people don’t connect the dots. You can’t have a right to life without a right to healthcare.

Briahna Joy Gray: That’s, that’s an amazing and incredibly compelling story. Can you tell people who might be interested in also throwing a house party what’s involved? What yours is going to look like? What the planning process has been like?

Jonnalyn Price: The planning process on the Bernie Sanders campaign team end, it’s been very easy because I mean y’all have been there every step of the way to make sure that you’re like checking up on me that I got all the basically the information and the resources I need. It was as simple as going online and signing up, saying, you know, here’s my information. Here’s the school I go to. I want to host a party. And then I got sent an email with a list of things to be mindful of, such as you want to make sure you have a big enough screen, you want to make sure that you have accessibility for people who may be differently-abled. Another thing that they say in the hosting training is like don’t assume that people are not going to be interested in coming. So basically, just invite everybody and don’t make a judgment about who would or wouldn’t be interested in Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

Briahna Joy Gray: I asked her what she thought of the Bernie Bro myth.

Jonnalyn Price: I would say that I am living proof that that is just a mythology. That’s just a stereotype. I am a black woman and I am organizing this, and I really think that… I mean if you look at Bernie’s track record, like since the Civil Rights Movement, he has been pushing for civil rights. And we can’t get caught up in you go under this label, you go under that label, because that is an equalizer. Getting an education has been a class barrier, and I feel like Bernie is about erasing those hierarchies in those class barriers. You know, you can divide people up into who has a high school education, who has a college education, who has higher education, and those serve as basically the divisions that cause classism.

Briahna Joy Gray: Before we hung up, Jonnalyn wanted to get one last message across.

Jonnalyn Price: One more thing I guess I would like to say is that this semester I ran for student senate. The student government association senate. There were 15 people vying for 11 senate spots, and I put up posters all around the school for my campaign. I was telling students to vote for me, especially my friends, and when the results came around, I lost the election by one vote. Like the person who got the last-minute seat had one vote more than me. So, I mean, that’s just another thing to keep in mind is that like every single vote counts, especially in the primaries. That’s another thing that I’m really going to be focused on during my house party is telling people like to get out there and vote and to feel like they do matter. Like every single person matters.

Briahna Joy Gray: If you’re interested in hosting an event, sign up at map.berniesanders.com.  That’s “M A P” map. If you’re already hosting an event, don’t forget to share it with our progressive community by using the hashtag #OrganizeWithBernie.

About a week and a half ago, Bernie was in Detroit talking to black voters in a black-owned restaurant called Sweet Potato Sensations.

What struck me is that, while the needs of black voters are often described monolithically, the concerns of this community were anything but.

Detroit Voter: Housing is a human right as far as I’m concerned. Housing is becoming increasingly scare to too many people in America. There are not the resources necessary. So, in places like Detroit you have vacant housing sitting side-by-side with people having no place to live. And it makes no sense that we have both.

Bernie Sanders: And you have high unemployment to boot.

Detroit Voter: And high unemployment to boot. And vacant housing was largely caused by intentional public policy, which is tax foreclosures in the state of Michigan, which nobody has said, lets end this now. We have had things like emergency management in our cities. And the federal government has let this go on, where over 60% of black people in the state of Michigan have been governed by emergency managers, who have stripped us of our democratic rights, caused the Flint water crisis, the Detroit housing crisis, and it just goes on. And so I think what we’re looking for in Detroit, at least what I’m looking for, is national leadership that says to us, you matter and we will fight on behalf of people in the city of Detroit, and there’s no way you’re going to lose your home because you owe seven hundred dollars in back taxes. And at the same time that happens we’re going to give a corporation a hundred million dollars in tax breaks because they build something that they also make money off of and get richer and richer and richer.

Bernie Sanders: You said it better than I do, look…

Briahna Joy Gray: Another woman was concerned about the lack of options available to her special-needs son.

Detroit Voter: Many undiagnosed and underdiagnosed African Americans affected by autism end up in the criminal justice system each year because they never got a diagnosis or they were diagnosed wrong. And that’s an atrocity in my mind. When me, a mother of a 13-year-old who could possibly get stopped on the street because my son’s like five-foot-five, he weights like a hundred and twenty pounds, and he may or may not feel like yielding when the cops come up to him.

I need to know he won’t get beat to a pulp. You know, I need to know that my son is going to get fair and equitable education. He’s going to have the same opportunities that his white counterparts get in the suburbs.

Bernie Sanders: Well, for a start, we might want to adequately fund public education and to make sure that we have people in the schools who are well trained to take care of your son and the many hundreds of thousands of other kids who have that kind of need. And when we do that, we not only make life better for your son and your family. We again create good and important jobs to do that.

Briahna Joy Gray: When pundits talk about quote unquote black issues, they often limit our interests to criminal justice issues. But listen to these women. Their concerns are so much more complex. A woman special needs child doesn’t get adequate support from either the school system or the healthcare system, and that puts them at great risk of being caught up in the criminal justice system that all too often says a black child who doesn’t yield deserves to be shot. Never mind that his so-called non-compliance might be because he’s on the autism spectrum.

And the first question wasn’t just about a lack of affordable housing. The voter identified structural, institutional choices made by her city that caused harm to her community. Why should someone lose their house over 700 dollars in back taxes, she asked, when the city is giving developers tax breaks to build housing they’ll profit off of? It’s because Bernie listened to black voters, it’s because of his diverse policy team that he understands that access to universal healthcare is a crucial step but not a panacea. Healthcare disparities persist even among affluent black Americans, in part because of point-of-care discrimination.

So, Bernie talks about supporting historically black colleges and universities, which disproportionately graduate black doctors.

Bernie Sanders: So, what do we need, among other things, other than changing attitudes of white doctors, is you need more black doctors. Yes? More black nurses, more black social workers. So, the people feel comfortable and confident that they’re getting the quality care. That people understand their backgrounds. Yes? And we’re working on those issues. Look, at all of these things, the questions you raised, all over the country, don’t think you’re alone on this, and I know you’re not – you don’t think so. It’s a question of changing our priorities.

Briahna Joy Gray: Representation matters. As New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez once put it:

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez: Our identities, whether we like it or not, are a lens. We can never take that lens off. When all of Congress primarily comes from the lens of one gender and one race and also one class, there’s no way that all of those lenses together, when they primarily come from one lens, can champion all Americans.

At the end of the day, I’m a candidate that doesn’t take corporate money, that champions Medicare-for-All, a federal jobs guarantee, the abolishment of ICE, and a Green New Deal. But I approach those issues with the lenses of the community that I live in.

Briahna Joy Gray: Ultimately, no one person is ever going to be fully representative of every American. We’re too diverse for that, and it’s a beautiful thing. But it’s also why it’s so important that more than anything our movement chooses leaders who listen, who hear, and who can grow. That’s Bernie.

Detroit Voter: His actions prior to me even having a conversation with him, the strides that he made during his first campaign with the Black Lives Matter. You know, he didn’t get squeamish about it. You know what I mean. What he did was he met with them and he found out what their concerns were. You know, he took the time to meet with people like Shaun King and to get some insights on what communities of color are looking for, and I think that’s pretty noble of him. You know, most people would have just said it’s not my problem. Most people wouldn’t have taken a deep dive into what the situation is in the inner city, but what he did was he said let me into your world so I can better understand it. And I think that’s commendable.

Briahna Joy Gray: I heard a similar message from Shaun King.

Shaun King: I have sat down with Bernie myself and talked to him about bail reform. I co-hosted an event with Bernie last summer in Los Angeles, and he was eager…he met with me, he met with Patrisse Cullors, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, and he met with the collection of local activists, who told him real human stories of what it meant to be jailed because you couldn’t afford your bail. And I heard Bernie, one, I saw him intently listen to everyone in a way that was empathetic. And then that day I heard him integrate the ideas. It was me and eight women meeting with Bernie. Black and Latina women. And I heard him integrate the ideas they shared with him, the stories and anecdotes that they shared with him. I heard him not only mention those things that day. I heard him repeat them over and over and over, and then a month later he did a forum on bail reform. And now when he speaks across the country, he talks about it in a way that I was touched by.

Everything that was great about Bernie five years ago, 15 years ago, 30 years ago, it’s still great. But I’ve seen him grow, improve, learn in really substantive ways.

Briahna Joy Gray: We heard the same from Representative Simmons.

Krystle Simmons: I think that Bernie represents the needs of my community because he’s relatable. He’s not trying to be a camera person. He’s not trying to be somebody other than who he is, and he’s actually taking the time to listen to the needs of the people and adjust accordingly.

Briahna Joy Gray: And I heard it from Senator Turner, too.

Nina Turner: Another important part of what you just described is the listening part, his willingness to listen.

I’ve been in rooms with him where he will have a legal pad and a pen. He’s taking notes. Not just the people around him absorbing it for him. But he’s taking the notes. That is key for a leader.

We need leaders who understand they don’t know it all and they can’t do it all by themselves. Many hands make for light work. But somebody that will listen. And that is the hallmark of a true leader.

Briahna Joy Gray: And I heard it, emphatically, from Leslie.

Leslie Lee III: He’s been there for his entire political career, looking to help people, and no other candidate can say anything even close to that. So, some of them are very appealing, intelligent, interesting, but it’s Bernie. It’s Bernie. You know it’s Bernie. You know in your heart. He’s the only one that’s real and is going to do what he says he’s going to do.  

Briahna Joy Gray: That’s it for this week’s show. As always, let us know what you think at [email protected] send us a tweet with the hashtag #HearTheBern. We’ve been so encouraged by your feedback in recent weeks, including your reviews on iTunes. If you haven’t already, please take a moment to rate and review us on Apple podcasts or wherever you’re listening. The podcast is now available on Soundcloud, and transcripts will be up on the website shortly after publication. Till next week.