Gimlet’s ‘Resistance’ Podcast Elevates Personal Stories From the Front Lines of 2020’s Black Lives Matter Protests

This summer, people around the world took to the streets to protest police brutality in America. There were thousands for whom this was their first time protesting or being a part of the movement. Yet for Saidu Tejan-Thomas Jr. and countless other young Black people in America, this reaction was tiresome and even disingenuous. The poet and producer behind Gimlet’s Mogul and Uncivil podcasts had reckoned with this reality before—every day of his life.

When he mentioned this self-described nihilistic point of view to his coworkers Kimmie Regler and Sarah McVeigh, the two fellow producers jumped on the idea. They decided to create a show that captured Saidu’s “I’m over this” feeling and pair it with “I’m not going to take this lying down.” The result is Resistance, a Spotify Original Podcast, from Gimlet, a Spotify Studio.

At its core, Resistance is a show about refusing to accept things as they are. It consists of stories from the front lines of the movement for Black lives told by Black and brown individuals in a generation fighting for change. For the Record sat down with Saidu to learn more about the podcast, debuting October 14.

There’s so many different stories you’re telling with this podcast, from someone running for city council in New York to another person explaining what it’s like to be a Black man in Nebraska. What do you hope that listeners will walk away with after hearing these very personal experiences?

All the people that I’ve talked to have hope about the future, but they all have different ways of tackling how they want to make that hope a reality. Some of them think it’s through politics, some of them think it’s through the day-to-day, very small acts of resistance that they put up in their lives. And some of them want very immediate change while others are strapped in for the long term.

I’m hoping that people will hear these stories and feel like they have a little extra motivation not to be complacent. I want people to examine what resistance looks like in their own lives, or think about what resistance could look like in their own lives. I don’t really know what that means for every individual person. I’ve been on the side where I’m super engaged with politics and going to protests. And then I’ve been on the side where I’m not doing anything at all. And I understand there’s a value in both things.

How does your background as a poet influence this podcast?

All the poetry I’ve written has always been very, very personal to me and my life, down to the little details. So when I’m interviewing folks, talking to them about their own lives, I’m always searching for the seemingly inconsequential bits. It’s just impossible to tell these stories without getting as granular as possible, with some details that really paint who a person is: where they come from, what they enjoy, what they hate, what it smelled like when something happened, what it looked like, what it felt like, what they can compare it to. I think that’s the biggest thing I bring to this podcast with my poetry background—just the importance of knowing what details can do in writing and in interviewing.

In the first episode, Chi is incredibly impacted when his auntie tells him that “protesting is good and all, but it’s voting that counts.” Your podcast is debuting less than a month before the national election. What are the takeaways you’re hoping listeners will act on?

If that first episode gets people to go out and vote, I’ll be so happy. Because one thing Chi’s really good at is getting people excited. And I think that Chi’s going to do that for his own local election. So I’m hoping that people hear him and feel like, “Oh, politics isn’t boring and trash, young people are involved in politics at a pretty local level, granular level.” So if they can do that, they can at least go vote in this national election, the most important election of probably our lifetimes.

At the beginning of the podcast, you talk about your feelings of burnout and nihilism. Over the course of creating the show, did you find any newfound optimism?

I don’t feel drastically different than I did before I started making this show, but I’ve become very invested in the people that I’m talking to. I’m excited by them, inspired by them, and just moved by their hope and what they’re doing, how they’re trying to get other people to put up a fight and be hopeful about the future. 

What I’m also noticing is that the reason some of those people are able to keep up that hope and optimism is that they’re coming together and they’re staying together. People are forming families with each other. They’re holding each other accountable. They’re being there for each other in really amazing ways.

Stream Resistance now, only on Spotify.