Phillip Holmes: Welcome to Make it Plain where we offer Christian reflections on the words and life of Malcolm X. I’m Phillip Holmes.
Taelor Gray: And I am Taelor Gray. We’re your hosts.
Holmes: So guys, we have knocked out six episodes of Make it Plain. This is episode number seven, and this is going to be our final episode for the season. So unlike a lot of podcasts that are out there that typically go week-to-week, as many weeks as they possibly can, Taelor and I decided to format this podcast by seasons. So our goal is to deliver basically five to seven episodes each season.
So this is going to be our last episode, and typically on these final episodes, we’re going to use them as an opportunity to reflect and look back on how the season has gone, the feedback that we’ve received, as well as some of the things that we’re going to have going on post-season to keep you guys engaged. So we don’t plan on going silent at the end of the season, and you guys don’t hear from us for six months, and then all of the sudden we’re like, all right, we’ve got some new episodes for y’all. We want to keep the engagement flowing.
We’re also going to tell you guys about a few ways that you can support the Make it Plain podcast. If this podcast has been a blessing, if this podcast has been helpful to you—has added value to your journey and your walk—we’re going to share a few ways that you can support and encourage us to keep making episodes of Make it Plain.
So, Taelor, let’s start it off reflecting on what this season has been like for you, and how have you grown even having these discussions over the last six to seven weeks?
Gray: I think it’s an opportunity to take some fresh looks at a person like Malcolm X, and how his words are relevant in our society today. A lot of what he said years and years ago strikes true for now, and I think you would agree, there were times had decided on a quote. We looked at something Malcolm had said, and coincidentally, it coincided with a news item that was fresh. Something that was going on right now. I think it was kind of cool how that organically transpired, where we find ourselves talking about something that is permeating through conversations in a number of different circles. And all we did was start with something that Malcolm said.
So I think that where I am now in a season in life, getting to revisit some things that I had read in passing, or just been an intrinsic part of my cultural experience. To step back and to reapproach and revisit some things that I think need more attention for our moment now. I think that helped grow my understanding of where Malcolm’s relevance is in our society now. And of course, I’m older, I’m a pastor, I’m a father. Spending time in this season is really cool. I’m an artist too. That part of it’s been inspiring.
Holmes: Yeah, man. I can relate to a lot of what you said. I think what has been the most fascinating part of our journey as we’re creating this content was the last two episodes that we did. “Malcolm & Black Women” and “Malcolm vs King.” Those were super helpful and insightful. I think I actually began to—throughout the making of that—when I say that, I just mean as we were reflecting and thinking through. Making sure we represented both men accurately.
It was even more enlightening to see how little I knew about King. So my discovery of Malcolm actually made me more interested in learning more about King. And even though King was the guy that everybody talks about—I remember learning about Martin Luther King as early as the first grade. There was this song that my first-grade teacher, Miss Dennison, would teach us. And we sang it on his birthday. Probably January 1994. And it was like, Dr. King, Dr. King, Dr. King was a great civil rights leader. I was indoctrinated from a very early stage. However…
Holmes: It’s crazy that these men were both treated the same. While one was demonized, the other was sanitized. That’s really stuck with me because I know how much I’ve changed over my life. I know how much I’ve changed from the guy that I was in my twenties, to the guy that I am now in my early thirties, and I’m sure I’m going to continue to grow and mature, hopefully, and evolve in my forties as well. And I think it’s a dis-justice and a disservice that we take moments of individuals’ lives, and we attach them to our agendas instead of looking at the whole person.
Because I—my wife, she mentioned this in the last episode—I’m somebody who’s very sensitive to being misunderstood. You can talk about me. You can say what you want about me. Just represent me accurately. If it’s true, I’m not going to have a whole lot of qualms about it. I would feel more respected if you were speaking ill of me, but the ill that you spoke of were actually facts than for you to say something even nice about me, and the nice things that you’re saying are not true. I don’t like for people to exaggerate my skills and my gifts, nor do I like for them to undermine them or… You know, I want people to be accurate. So I’m very sensitive, and to an extent very protective even, of how I represent and talk about others. And this just became more important to me as I have sort of discovered Malcolm for the first time, and rediscovered Dr. King.
Gray: That’s dope. So you don’t want to be sanitized or demonized.
Holmes: No. Nor do I want to be lionized.
Gray: Yeah. At the end of the day, we set out with the goal to humanize Malcolm X. And I think we achieved that, even in an introductory way. We’ve heard feedback from people that would say like, hey, I never thought about this. Or I never thought about Malcolm in this way. Or confessing ways that he had been presented to them in their past, in their childhood, and throughout their experience in the church. And I think that we should all take away that lesson—that we need to really take more time to understand one another. We’d never want someone to take a piece of our life, or even just a collection of sayings, or thoughts, or opinions that we may have in a certain season of life, and use that to ultimately create a caricature of who we are.
So as a thirty-seven-year-old, I think it’s even more sobering than years passed, realizing how early Malcolm was killed. How early his life ended. And knowing that I’m still going through personal evolution in a lot of things that I think about. So, nearing this age where he was assassinated, it sobers me up to the development of humanity. How we understand the world around us. We have our convictions, and yet we get new information that opens us up to how to consider the world around us. As I get older, I think that just becomes more sobering that he did not get the chance to fully explore that.
Holmes: Yeah, that’s good. To take a man’s life at an early age, where he still has daughters and wives—the fact that any of King’s children, any of Malcolm’s children, still have any love for this country is pretty significant, and should not be taken lightly. I’m way more familiar…I’m learning about Malcolm’s daughter—and I can’t pronounce her name, so I don’t want to butcher it—a little bit more. But I’ve been following Bernice King for a while because she’s super active on Twitter. And I really enjoy following her, because…
Gray: She’s dope.
Holmes: Yeah. She is. She is. And I hope—our dream episode one day is to get King’s daughter and Malcolm’s daughter on the podcast. So if somebody has a connection, and you enjoy this show, DM your boy or Taelor, and we’ll figure out how to make it happen.
But the fact that they still love this country when this country plays a significant role in taking their dads’ life—or lives—at such a young and tender age is significant, man. And again, it should not be taken lightly.
Another thing that has been super encouraging to me is that I feel like, for this podcast, we’ve actually been able to accomplish what we set out to accomplish. Or at least begin to accomplish it. We’re already seeing the fruits of that ministry. We didn’t necessarily tell people—or I’m sure it probably was talked about here and there—but our goal necessarily wasn’t explicit. We talked more about what the podcast was, what it was that we were doing. But we didn’t say, hey, we want this to be the result. We want this podcast to have this effect. Our presupposition was that people didn’t know Malcolm, had misunderstood him and that he had been demonized. And we wanted to create a podcast, and we didn’t do any market research. This was based on our own experience. But I want to read a few of the reviews, Taelor, that we’ve gotten so far that I’ve been super encouraged by. I’m gonna start with this one because this is one of my favorite ones because it’s so raw and honest. He was like—he said:
“Not gonna lie. I first saw y’all was doing this podcast and was skeptically like, “Malcolm X?” But after hearing so far, it makes so much sense. The content so dope, challenging, and informative.”
And here’s another one that I thought was particularly insightful, because I thought they really got to what we were trying to display and model more than anything else. They said this:
“This podcast is as much about critical thinking as it is about Malcolm X. When I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X earlier this year, I couldn’t help but think I had been lied to all my life about X. This podcast helps me process what I’ve learned with all the nuance filtered through a Christian worldview. The episode entitled “Slander” is fire.”
And he uses the emoji fires.
“And should be listened to by all Christians.”
So many other encouraging reviews. I think right now, all of our reviews are a solid five stars. Until a certain tribe hears about us.
Holmes: Until things get out of hand. And then I’m sure the three and two and one-star reviews will come eventually. But man, I’m so encouraged by the current listening group that we have. The podcast is growing. Our last podcast that we did on Malcolm and the black woman performed so far better than all of the podcasts that we’ve done this season. So I think that’s significant as well, and noteworthy. So, we appreciate you guys in particular listening to that podcast and being interested. That’s actually encouraging in a lot of ways, that there’s an interest in wanting to understand the plight of the black woman in America.
Gray: There’s so much more we could have talked about in this short amount of time, but just the fact that people are interested, people are curious—and I think that’s the perfect way to approach it. Approach it with some curiosity. Don’t approach it with your presuppositions, and even some of the exaggerated perspectives, or misinformed perspectives. But be curious. Be open to learn something new.
And as we said in other episodes, Phil and I are not Malcolm X scholars like we went to school to study Malcolm X and to create education material or to teach in institutions who Malcolm X was and, in a calculated way, walk through his life. I think, as most people do, you determine people who have existed throughout history who would be an inspiration to you, could influence you in different ways, could align with your values, and ultimately the way that you live. And Malcolm X, for me, has been a lifelong representation of that. And for Phil, as he has shared, this is a newer person—a newer influence—for him in his life. But we’re just two brothers talking about how that influence has shaped our thinking, where it fits in our current conversation in society, and ultimately where we can continue to learn and grow as it relates to figures like Malcolm, and others who he spent time with, and people that he also learned from. So there’s a lot we left on the table, but I think this is a good introduction.
Holmes: Absolutely. So, Taelor, before we transition, you had mentioned that you live in Ohio, so you have a lot of people who, again, have been sort of about this Malcolm topic for a long time. What has the feedback been—because you actually have connections with people who are now Christians, who used to be a part of the Nation of Islam. Would you mind sharing a little bit in general about that? What that back-and-forth has been like, and how they’ve responded?
Gray: Yeah, it’s interesting. Whenever Malcolm X becomes the topic of conversation, there’s certain ears that perk up. There are certain people that become a little bit more—I don’t want to say interested just from the sake of they don’t know—but I think they’re interested in how this is gonna go. And so there are folks—there are friends, man, that I have who have been heavily influenced by Malcolm X in such ways that either have to do with directly being involved with the Nation of Islam or just being people who have, through the efforts of community activism, drawn a lot from what they feel like Malcolm has taught them. So you have kind of a silent audience base who is waiting for us to—I don’t want to say slip up—but just waiting for us to use this platform to honor Malcolm’s legacy the right way. And they’re hoping that we will, or they’re checking to make sure that we do that. So it’s kind of a silent accountability base.
But the feedback from the folks who I’ve talked to who are in that arena is very positive. It’s like, wow, you know, the ways that the conversations connected to current events—in particular critical race theory—you know, unintentionally we are stepping into the mainstream moment for critical race theory. In some of the circles we navigate in, they’ve been talking about this stuff for years.
But now it’s become more of a mainstream conversation as we talk about education in schools and things like that, and for some of my friends, they’re like, wow. You guys were in lock-step with the way that this conversation has grown. And now I see folks in these circles, whether it be the creative arts activism space, or if it’s the Pan-Africanism messaging space, or…there are people who would be closely aligned with the black liberation movements of the past and ultimately what it looks like to establish that in this city where I live. They’re interacting with critical race theory in different ways. Here we are in this moment where everybody’s talking about this thing.
And on our podcast we’re unpacking the nuances associated with slander, misrepresenting what it is versus truly understanding, and how this kind of mechanism for teaching has affected our society. All in all, it’s drawn in—I would call this the silent listener base—to a platform that is discussing or lifting up Malcolm X’s name and his words, and it’s drawn in an audience that’s not even necessarily Christian all the time. And I think that’s kind of a cool effect to making sure that we spend the time to represent him appropriately.
Holmes: Yeah, that’s really dope. That’s really good.
So, a few post-season plans that we have for you guys: first of all, we’re going to be releasing show transcripts with highlighted quotes, social graphics, so that you guys can share and tell people about the podcast. Because we hope that we’ll continue to see our listener base grow even while we’re in the off-season, if you will, taking a break and getting ready for the next season. We’re also gonna add some podcast discussion questions. You’re gonna be able to download these items so that you can essentially discuss this with friends, or maybe people at your church. We’re going to try to repurpose this content as much as we can to provide you guys with some resources to introduce this to other people. So if you guys are looking for something to go through, it’s six weeks. It’s short. This would be potentially a good way for you guys to do that.
I’m also working on a reading guide for The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which will include chapter summaries and discussion questions as well. And then I am going to try to do some reaction videos to Malcolm X interviews, and hopefully, if Taelor has time to join me, he might join me as well. Jasmine may also join me for some of these. And these interviews will simply be me listening to a clip from a Malcolm X interview from back in the day, and then essentially we’ll walk through the video and give you some of my initial thoughts on that particular video.
A few ways that you can—oh, and we might also have some bonus videos. There’s a few people that I have in mind, and I’m just going to put them on blast, like Dr. Anthony Bradley. Amisho Baraka. These would be individuals I would love to bring on to give you guys some bonus episodes regarding Malcolm X. So, we’ll be back later on this year for the second season, but don’t be surprised if we drop an episode or two—a bonus episode or two—on you guys while we are away. Think of it as an exhibition game. No promises, or guarantees, but we’ll see what happens.
If you are interested in supporting the Make it Plain podcast, there’s a few ways that you can do this. You can purchase Make it Plain merch carvedinebony.shop. We have some back-to-school stuff. We have some winter stuff coming.
So far I intentionally—I took a trip to Atlanta two or three weeks ago, and I intentionally wore my Make it Plain t-shirt that I got at carvedinebony.shop. And when I got off the plane, I got several compliments on the shirt. Because people were like looking at it, and it was like, is that Malcolm? I was like, yeah. So one guy, in particular, he was like, hey, I like that shirt, man. Where’d you get it from? And I was like, it’s actually my podcast, and we sell them at carvedinebony.shop. And he was like, all right. Let me take a picture of it. I gave him the info, or whatever. A week later, he ordered three shirts from the website. And I just loved that, man. That just made me happy. Because that was sort of—you know, I’m a marketing guy, so I’m just like, all right, this is going to be strategic. I hoping somebody asks me about this shirt. And I’m also hoping that he ends up listening to the podcast as well.
Gray: Yeah, I need my complimentary shirt as well.
Holmes: Absolutely, bro. I was actually gonna say that at the beginning.
Holmes: I actually forgot to mention that. I gotta get your shirt so that you can sport some of those around Ohio. Around the entire state. Columbus. Columbus or Columbia? Columbus, right?
Gray: Columbus. Columbus, Ohio.
Holmes: Columbus, yeah.
Gray: Yes, we are a small town that sees ourselves in a much bigger light.
Holmes: Another way that you can support: you can leave us a tip at makeitplain.co/support. So if—I know a lot of people don’t like doing the recurring thing, so if you just want to drop in and say, hey I really enjoyed this episode. Here’s a tip. Just go to makeitplain.co/support and you’ll be able to find a place where you can actually give us a tip. And soon we’re going to have a Venmo option up there as well for those of you who like Venmo and Cash App.
The other way that you can support this podcast is by joining the Patreon community. So, Patreon is a way that essentially connects creators with people who love the content that they produce. And this is a recurring subscription. This group, in particular, we’re now walking through The Autobiography of Malcolm X where we meet twice a month for about an hour, hour and a half, and we talk about a particular chapter in Malcolm X’s biography.
So, Taelor, before we sign off, and we have some other things at the end of this episode. We’re going to play you guys a few highlight clips from the season that our producer-editor, Josh Lofthus, has put together for you guys. But before we sign off, I want Taelor to talk about two things. I want him to talk about his album first because it’s dope. You all need to listen to it. You need to buy it and support it. And also, just to give us a life update, because Taelor has some pretty serious things going on right now that he could use our prayers for. So Taelor?
Gray: Yeah. Thanks, bro. I just released a mixtape, and by the time you hear this, there won’t be a whole lot of time left for you to support it, because I’m only making it available through the end of my sabbatical. I’ve been taking a pastoral sabbatical for the past couple of months. And this mixtape is called Remember the Sabbath where hopefully it—
Holmes: Where does it go? Where does it go after that?
Gray: Oh, it goes into the archives. It just goes into my personal files of memories and…
Gray: You know.
Holmes: Okay. I’m about to buy that joint.
Gray: Yeah. Yeah, that’s—
Gray: That’s kind of what…the point of it is to just capture a moment in my personal life, and in history, of a time where maybe I was saying some things, and thinking some things, and processing through life in a particular way that will never be the same again. So I wanted to take the time to—in mixtape format—share some of the writing that I’ve been doing. Seven songs. Seven verses. Thoughts, Feelings. Fears. All of that stuff is on this Remember the Sabbath mixtape, so I think it’s pretty special.
Holmes: It is good, guys. I don’t support or promote bad hip-hop. I’m very, very picky.
Gray: (laughs) He is picky. Phil—
Holmes: Very, very picky. I’m as picky as I am a bad rapper. And I’m a pretty bad rapper. So…
Gray: (laughs) Hey, I’ve never been able to gauge that, so I’ll just take your word for it, bro. But at the end of the day, this is just a piece of expression that I want to share with everybody through the end of this month. You can find it at taelor.bandcamp.com. Bandcamp is where I started writing and rapping and sharing my music. So it’s a pretty cool platform for independent artists. So it’s Taelor.bandcamp.com. Remember the Sabbath mixtape.
As it relates to my personal life, I would solicit your prayers. I covet your prayers as it relates to my mom. She’s been going through some pretty significant health struggles here recently. And a lot of our family—we’re trying to band together to be the support system and the presence that we need to be. These are some pretty heavy choices that we have to make as it relates to her care.
And we’re still—we’re the people who are praying, asking God for complete and total healing. And trusting that he can do that, and asking in childlike faith for the whole thing. We’re not asking conservatively. Like, Father, do it all. But at the same time, we’re gathering information and preparing one another to receive and accept what God allows.
So there’s a lot involved in all of that, but personally, it’s been really tough. So we solicit the prayers of the saints. If you know the word of prayers, they used to tell me back in the day, then we solicit your prayers and ask that you go to the Father on our behalf. And then I’ll just be spending the rest of this month trying to piece together what’s left of my sabbatical and finish my recharge so I can get back on the—hit the ground running with my church. Appreciate you offering me that space, Phil, to share that. But yeah, we want you guys to know what’s involved with us personally as well.
Holmes: Yeah, man. Thanks for being vulnerable, and open, and transparent to share that. Guys, definitely keep Taelor in your prayers. And keep his mom, and his dad, and his brothers, and—do you have sisters?
Gray: I have one sister. Aubrey.
Gray: Just one brother and one sister.
Holmes: Just three of y’all. Okay.
Gray: Just us three. Yeah.
Holmes: Cool. Cool. Yeah. Just keep him and his siblings in those prayers as they walk through this.
Hey, I just had an idea, before we transition to the season’s highlights. We can do this in a way so that it respects the expiration date of your album, but would you mind if we put a temporary insertion point at the end of this episode that plays one of the tracks from your album?
Gray: Sure. And you can pick it, bro. I think I know which you’re gonna pick, but you got it.
Holmes: Do you? Okay. This should be interesting. I don’t even know which one I’m gonna pick yet, but I’m gonna go back through, and, yeah, we’ll see which one that I end up picking.
All right, guys. Another important way that you guys can support the podcast is by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts. That goes such a long way. So, please, when you get a chance, take some time out to hit the five stars, hopefully. No, you can give us less than five stars if you feel led. Just don’t troll us.
And it’s even better if you can actually write a review, even if you just put the fire emojis. We’ll take that as a written review. That says enough for those who are trying to gauge whether or not they want to invest time in this particular podcast. So. Without further ado, here are some of the highlights from season one of Make it Plain. And at the end of this episode, you will get a track—at this point, I have no idea which one it’s gonna be, but Taelor knows already—a track from Taelor’s new mixtape, Remember the Sabbath.
Taelor, it’s been a joy, bro. I’m hoping that we can record the next season in person. I look forward to hopefully seeing you in person in the next two-to-three months.
Gray: Likewise, man. I like how this came out, and I look forward to season two.
Holmes: Take it away, Josh.
Holmes: Welcome to Make it Plain. I’m Phillip Holmes.
Gray: And I’m Taelor Gray. We are your hosts.
Gray: I was a young, black kid who was wearing glasses. You know, I was a straight-up nerd. Comic books and all that stuff. I saw Malcolm X with his signature glasses. It made me look at him differently. Ultimately, look at myself differently.
Holmes: You can not get solutions if we’ve misdiagnosed the problem.
Gray: Quotes like that from Malcolm—direct confrontation kinds of quotes—where he’s not speaking from the ethereal, or the theoretical, or the hypothetical. He’s coming straight for hearts, and it makes us come to grips with what we do.
Holmes: Malcolm was extremely complex, but what was presented is sort of this one-dimensional version that’s not at all accurate.
Gray: And what we downplay so often is how this country has propagandized.
Holmes: More than we realize.
Gray: Yeah, man. So, he was in tune with that early.
Gray: Most of what it means to be an American has to do with idealism. And, if we’re honest, we project this image of America and freedom and life and have all these opportunities, but historically, we are failing at achieving our ideals.
Holmes: Black people in the north and black people in the south had two very different fights on their hands. It’s not the same.
Gray: I’m an artist, Jasmine, so I can hear metaphor. I like that subtle jab you threw Phil’s way.
(Jasmine Holmes laughs)
Gray: How hard it is. How hard it is to be married.
Holmes: Okay. Wow.
Gray: So hard.
Jasmine Holmes: That offers in even more complexity from my perspective and the navigation that it takes to speak publicly under a shadow that is never going to move.
Holmes: The church has an opportunity to do something that the American church historically has never done.
Holmes: And that’s lead.
Holmes: Malcolm says we are a nonviolent people with people who are nonviolent with us. Violence isn’t usually conceived as people who are defending themselves.
Gray: I would like for us to get to a place where the church establishes the precedent. Not the government. We would convince the Malcolms of the world that the church is for real. This is something that God is concerned about.
Gray: All right, bro. Thankful for you.
Holmes: All right. Likewise, man.