Washington Post reporters Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa join The Stacks to discuss their book His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice. We talk about giving George Floyd the “presidential” biography treatment, and why they chose to tell his story now. They reveal how they tackled writing such a massive book with over 400 interviews, and what the fact-checking process was like. We also ask, ‘who is the audience for this book?’
The Stacks Book Club selection for December is True Biz by Sarah Nović. We will discuss the book on December 28th with Greta Johnsen.
*Due to the nature of advertising placement, these timestamps are not 100% accurate.*
Traci Thomas 0:08
Welcome to the Stacks, a podcast about books and the people who read them. I’m your host Traci Thomas and I am honored to welcome Washington Post reporters, Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa to the show today. They’ve co authored the book His name is George Floyd, about George Floyd’s roots life and lasting cultural impact. Their investigation follows Floyd story from the housing projects of Houston to his murder in the streets of Minneapolis. And it draws on hundreds of interviews with people who knew George Floyd and people who can lend insight to his story. I was admittedly apprehensive about picking up this book, but after reading it, I really fell in love with it and wanted the authors to get a chance to share with you their why for writing this story. Remember, our December book club selection is the novel True Biz by Sara Novic, which we will discuss on Wednesday, December 28 with Greta Johnsen. Quick reminder, everything we talked about on today’s episode of The Stacks can be found in the link in the shownotes. If you love this podcast and want more of it head to patreon.com/thestacks to join the stacks pack. The Stacks is a completely independent podcast, which means I do rely on listeners like you to make the show possible week in and week out. So if you like what you hear on this episode or any other episodes, please consider giving your support to this podcast. In addition, you also get perks like our monthly virtual book club, our Discord channel, our bonus episodes, and right now if you join the stacks pack until the end of January 2023, you get access to our completely customizable and detailed reading tracker. It’s private, so you don’t have to worry about other people judging your star ratings and it is one of my most proud creations besides this podcast is the reading tracker. So if that interests you head to patreon.com/the stacks and join the stacks bag. Alright, now it’s time for my conversation with Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa.
All right, everybody, I am so excited today. You know, sometimes when I do books on the show, I have an idea about a book, I booked the guests before I’ve ever read the book, and then I have them on. And sometimes I read a book that is so good and makes me so excited about reading that I demand that the author or authors comes on the podcast. That’s what happened with this one. I love this book so much. I thought it was so fantastic that I immediately started hounding these gentleman on social media being like, please come on my podcast, I have to talk to you about this book. So I’m thrilled to have Robert Samuels and Tolu Olorunnipa on the podcast to talk about their fantastic National Book Award finalist His Name is George Floyd. Welcome to The Stacks you guys. I’m thrilled to have you. I have a lot of questions about the book, people at home, we will not be spoiling the book. But if you’re familiar with George Floyd at all, which I assume that you are because you’re listening to this podcast, you know everything you think you know, everything that happens Lucky for you, there’s a book that you can read that will tell you a lot more. But in about 30 seconds or so will one of you do the honors of just telling folks about this book?
Toluse Olorunnipa 3:13
Yeah, I can jump in. This is totally This is the story of George Floyd’s life. It’s a story of his family. It’s a story of America. It’s a story of our country’s history, the way systemic racism has operated in the past. And the way it operates in the 21st century, told through the life of George Floyd who experienced a lot of systemic racism even before he was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis. So we spend time in his neighborhood which are segregated in his schools which are segregated and the criminal justice system that was also unjust and full of injustices. And we delve into how American systemic racism works. And we saw that in George Floyd’s life and in his family, and we spent a lot of time really delving into exactly how that works and how it worked in George Floyd’s experience.
Traci Thomas 4:01
Yeah, I think for me, what I loved the most about this book, and I think I referred, I’ve referred to it this a few times as this is, I feel like you gave George Floyd the Presidential treatment. The way that biographies about presidents incorporate so much of their life, their family, their history, you all go all the way as far back as the people who owned George Floyd’s ancestors, you found their ancestors and their storyline, which is just not the type of care that we usually see given to every day black Americans which until his murder, that is exactly who George Floyd was. He was an everyday black American. Nobody special in the sense that he was famous or known or had any notoriety prior to his death. So I really appreciated that. I think for me, you know, I’ve talked about this and I mentioned this I think you both are familiar with this part of my story coming to your book, which was that I was really out prehensive about reading your book. I felt like, I don’t want to read a book about George Floyd. Right now it feels too soon, it feels like this is just going to be a grab for clout in the same way that we saw all these like anti racist books pop up after his murder. And it wasn’t until I saw that you were on the National Book Award shortlist, I was like, You know what, I’m going to try to read through all these books. I’m going to pick this one up. I’m curious, let’s see. And then I picked it up, and I loved it. So the question there is, Why tell this story now? Like, why was it important to tell it so soon after its its occurrence for you?
Robert Samuels 5:36
Well, because if we didn’t tell it, now, we were afraid, there would not be another chance to tell it. Like when we started the reporting of this, this was a few months after George Floyd had died. And we had already seen sort of the flattening of his actual story. And for so many reasons, you know, both Tolu and I, we’ve both have experiences in local journalism. And we both have done profiles of people who are running for president. And so often, my philosophy has always been that when you report on someone who’s running for president, you treat them like a real person, like that’s the actual secret sauce, and that George Floyd was no less American than any other person who we talked about in 2020. But we saw was this big risk that if we did not talk about him now, we might have risked the society in which we never spoke about his hopes and dreams, we never saw his spirit, we never saw it. So. And this was not a type of story that neither Tolu and I took with sort of a glib idea. This was not the sort of thing we would do for clout. But what we saw, honestly, was this opportunity not just to tell the story of this man in a way that we hadn’t heard him spoken about before. But also the chance to show that if we look at this person, just an everyday black man, who you would presume has nothing going on who I say if my parents had seen him on the corner, they would say, don’t be like that person. Ignore that that type of person exists. If you look at them, you might be able to unfold something that’s more humane about them, but also shows some of the fractures and unfairness in the country.
Traci Thomas 7:43
Yeah, I mean, one of the things that really struck me about the way that you kind of like, told his story was that, obviously, I knew he was going to die. I knew how and when I like I knew the day I knew it was coming. And when it came, and after you kind of close up that section on his staff. I was genuinely sad. I missed him. I was like, I can’t believe I still have to continue reading this book without without Perry Floyd.
Toluse Olorunnipa 8:08
First thing, thank you for saying that. We wanted to humanize George Floyd, a lot of people who met George Floyd across the world met him through the last moments of his life, which happened to be the worst moments of his life those those nine minutes and 29 seconds where he was gasping for air. And we started off as journalists trying to get the backstory trying to find out what George Floyd’s life was like, what he was like when he was just living a normal day before, you know, before he died. And we started off with a series and we got a little bit of information about, you know, the people who loved him, the people he loved the kind of life that he lived. And we realized from from that series that ran into the Washington Post in 2020, that there was so much more to the story. And he was a full human being. He had his ups and downs. He had people who cared about him, he was well known in this local community. He was a person of stature and Houston, Third Ward and in Minneapolis. He had struggles and dreams and things that he overcame and things that he was still trying to overcome. And as journalists were interested in telling a human story, which happened to be a uniquely American story, which could tell us bigger things about our country. But at the same time, you know, George Floyd was a human being. And a lot of times people like George Floyd, as Robert was saying, get ignored, not only by other people walking by, but also by the American media and say, they say people like that, you know, we don’t really need to know their story. We don’t need to know their struggles. They’re segregated and siphoned off and, you know, poor public housing community and you know, we could live our lives without ever crossing paths with someone like that. And we wanted to hit the pause button and say, everyone got excited and interested in George Floyd’s fate when he died on camera in this heinous way. But, you know, for decades, he was slowly dying and the American institutions that didn’t give him a fair shot and we wanted to examine how history Write within those systems, how he tried to make a life for himself all the ways he was knocked down. The Times he got back up the times that he found himself in a place that he said it was a dark place, and they tried to find the light out of it. And so we thought it was important to tell his story, to tell to tell his family story, and to showcase for people who were able to connect with him because of how they saw him on the video, that there was a lot that we could connect with, that happened before that. And it was worth exploring, like you said, with the presidential treatment, what his life was like and what we can learn about ourselves as a as Americans as a country, about the kind of systems that we create, and uphold and allow to exist. Beyond just policing and beyond just want, you know, the quote, unquote, one bad apple who kills someone, but all of the institutions that interfere with someone’s life and with their hopes and dreams. And so we thought it was important to tell that story in the fullest way that we could and allow people to see George Floyd for who he was, he wasn’t just the person screaming. On his last moments for screaming for his life. He was someone who was trying to live a full life for decades and had dreams that we point back to a second grade teacher who, you know, told us about what he was like in second grade and how he wanted to be a Supreme Court justice. Now he was reading and writing on grade level, even though he came from a poor community and how he was trying and how his mother told him to speak the King’s English and gave him all of these lessons and all of these things and all of these tools to try to survive as a black man in America where she said, you know, you have two strikes already against you, you can’t have a third strike. And so we wanted to showcase that because there are a lot of people who don’t know that American experience. And we thought it was important for everyone to get a chance to connect with George Floyd, as he lived, as well as connecting with the person who died on May 25 2020, and the aftermath of his death, and all of that sparked in our country and around the world.
Robert Samuels 11:52
Another part about this is that I really liked him. And I know that’s a strange thing to say. But when we started thinking about this project, I mean, my biggest fear was that we were going to sort of produce something like, you know, precious based on, you know, were just bad things continually happen to a person and no one, at least I didn’t want to traffic in that world. But the thing about his name is George Floyd was that we got to learn about George Floyd himself. And he was one of those people. I mean, even though you’re talking to folks who are clearly going through a lot of pain, when you’d say, tell me a story about Floyd, you could just sort of see that wistful gleeful nostalgia, you know, that you have with your friend, and you maybe got into some trouble. And that was so affirming, at least for me, who was nervous and like any other American human being, maybe not all Americans, but specifically as a black man. So all the way he died with a lot of trepidation and a lot of fear.
Traci Thomas 13:10
Okay, I’m gonna ask you guys a little bit about about your working together. How did you all get paired up for this? Because I’m assuming that at The Washington Post’s you, you would have been assigned to do this story. So what’s it just totally random? Have you all worked together in the past? Yeah.
Toluse Olorunnipa 13:26
So Robert, and I have known each other for about 15 years. We started off working in local news, as we said, at the Miami Herald, wow, we connected, you know, just randomly back then, and you know, about a decade passed between our careers kind of taking different paths. Then we got back together at the Washington Post. And at the beginning of 2020, we were both covering, essentially the presidential campaign from different angles. I was a White House reporter. So I was covering Trump and all the craziness surrounding him and COVID. It was just a lot. Robert was doing, you know, these really in depth sweeping feature pieces about Americans across the country and how they were approaching the pandemic, and the presidential politics and all of the things happening in the country. And then may 25 2020 happened and we saw the country in the world respond in this kind of major, significant way. And we were essentially assigned, we were brought together as part of a team of reporters that were taking from everything they were doing and assign this project. And essentially, we are going to find out about George Floyd the person but also about George Floyd’s America. And the idea was to tell us tell readers tell the public a little bit about systemic racism through looking at various institutions that George Floyd intersected with this included the housing system, the educational system, the criminal justice system, obviously the police in America, health care, and so we took different pieces of that project and ended up being a six part series that ran in the post. And that project went to George Polk award. And people really responded in a way that we weren’t even expecting in terms of like feeling like they got to know a little bit about George Floyd. And so Robert and I, who are two of the lead reporters on that, you know, knew that there was so much more to the story. And we knew that there was something valuable in putting together a project that people could look at, and point to and say, This is a piece of American history. George Floyd was not a president, and he was not a politician, but he was someone who had a major impact on American history in his life was worth exploring, even if he hadn’t been someone whose death sparked all of these protests. His American experience was was unique, it was worthy of investigation, it was worthy of, you know, empathy, it was worthy of spending time looking at what his life was like. And so, you know, Robert and I have done that kind of reporting, especially comparing and analyzing how policies impact people how politics impact, you know, a person’s life. And so we wanted to take that lens to this project, while also taking a biographical lens to George Floyd and telling his story in a way that would she’ll shed light on, you know, who he was as a human being. And because of you became this historical figure, it was worth knowing what his life was like. And that’s what that’s what we ended up doing together.
Traci Thomas 16:27
How did you all stay organized and divide the labor? Because it’s like, 400 plus interviews, right?
Robert Samuels 16:34
Prayer? No, you know, back when we did the proposal, we outlined essentially the entire book. And we didn’t have much time to deviate from that outline. And, you know, we start we started at the beginning with almost paragraph by paragraph of what we’re precisely going to do. And then, you know, Tolu, he had taken, he had taken up a lot of the reporting in Houston, I was in Minneapolis, I was taking up a lot of the reporting there. And so that led to some natural divisions. But we had we had a very specific, like writing gameplan, it got more specific with time. If you went into my room or my hotel, at that point, it would be covered in like yellow notepads and whiteboards, and all kinds of stuff, to make sure that we were being able to not just sort of do it in a way that was artful. But as journalists, we are really concerned about not being able to turn it in on time. And so that was kind of like our mental checklist to be able to make sure we did that.
Traci Thomas 17:53
Is it hard to write about a person you’ve never met or spoken to?
Toluse Olorunnipa 17:59
Yes. In a way, in a way it is. Because, you know, the best information about one person a person’s life, potentially comes from that person themselves. And George Floyd was not alive. Now. He did leave behind some writings, he left behind some lyrics, he left behind some social media posts, and we were able to hear his voice a little bit. But we had to ask people who were close to him, people who lived with him, people who knew him, people who loved him, people who did time with him, in some cases, people who are allegedly victimized by him to tell us about him and we cast a wide net, we left no stone unturned. And we tried to talk to every person we could who had an interface there intersected with George Floyd and allow them to tell us what he was like. And like Robert said earlier, a lot of those people were willing to share what he was like because he was such an impactful person because he was the kind of person that left these indelible memories in your head and people with literally, pantomime. And George Floyd’s voice and with his mannerisms, to recreate conversations they had with him because they were so memorable because he was so different. The first words of the book are I love you because George Floyd is a 662 150 pound guy who go around telling people I love you, which you know, struck people and Third Ward and other kind of hardscrabble communities where I grew up as odd because you didn’t often hear that from you know, big black men. But he was different. And he left those memories with people and those memories became the, the fuel that we use for this book, because there were so much in terms of anecdotes and stories and memories that people had. And that that helped us to cover for the fact that you know, George Floyd was no longer with us. There are obviously biographies that are done by about people who have long left the scene, you know, historical figures. I think it helped To an extent that George Floyd was someone who people had fresh memories of as well as the fact that we were writing about not only his life, but what was sparked by his life. And that allowed us to take our journalistic lens and be a part of the aftermath of his death be a part of the protest, and the trial and the, you know, the action that took place after his death and be there as witnesses for those actions. And we were able to bring those scenes to life as well, through our own, you know, first person views. And so we were able to pair the memories that people had with the stories that we witnessed personally. And I think that helped us to make sure that the story was accurate, and the story was vivid. And that it shined in a way that allowed people to feel like they were there.
Robert Samuels 20:46
I was just going to add that it’s interesting. And I’m frayed, I might be giving away the company’s secret here. But I think there’s a misconception that if you’re in a small community, it’s hard to learn about a person. But the truth is in George Floyd, he trafficked in communities where everyone knew each other where they knew their mama, where they knew their cousin, you know, and because of that, all of them had, you know, they bought into a lot of collective memories about things. And one of the most stunning things that we found in the book is that we would talk to people who did not know each other, or did not know, we had talked to someone else who was in that room. And so often, remember, I said, Tolu was hundreds of miles away from me. And we both hear these stories. And the accuracy almost to the word was really, I mean, it was really stunning. And also just the fact that because it was a community of characters, everyone had a nickname, people. I mean, they, when they talk about George Floyd, they’d all sort of do the same sort of things with their face, they’d sort of squint, they start repeating themselves, they do the same kind of voice. And even though we were both experiencing the story of George Floyd in two different locations, the synchronicity that we saw was really jaw dropping.
Traci Thomas 22:22
I love that that’s really, really cool. Okay, fact checking. What’s the process like, for The Washington Post versus writing at a trade publisher? Because I know that the standard is very different. So how did you all navigate that? Were you still using like, journalistic back checking when you did trade publishing? Or like, how does that work?
Robert Samuels 22:48
Yeah, I think everyone was very concerned about producing something that was not accurate, both on the post side and the publisher side, I mean, for us, the standard at the Washington Post, which is how we’re sort of what’s in our blood is that you have to have one person with direct knowledge of the situation that is, they’re either involved or they were in the room. And that has to be corroborated with someone with independent knowledge of and, you know, we’re one of the hardships, like you said, is one of the people with direct information of it is not here with us, you know, we didn’t get the chance to introduce interview George Floyd. So that was sort of our natural standard in terms of sourcing. But you know, we also had a fact checker who used to be the posts, fact checker, and the folks that the folks at Viking, our editor, Ibrahim Ahmad, who was phenomenal, did something that my editor at the post would never do, which is he looked over every transcript that we had submitted. And he, you know, he found things that were within those texts and transcripts that, you know, at least I didn’t deem as important, but he saw it, and he really wanted them at it. So that was to his credit, and then Viking also fact checked it too. So I mean, at the end, we probably got probably six or seven different independent fact checks on it. And, you know, there are still some things I had to correct. But, you know, like much, I mean, much less but yeah, we it was very important to us that the book held up to not just the trade pub standard, but to the highest echelon of journalistic standard
Traci Thomas 24:40
and love. Okay, we’re gonna take a quick break, and then we’ll be right back. Okay, we’re back. This question that I’m going to ask you is I think it’s, I think it’s fair. So we’ll see. I posted off I’ll frame it like this. I posted a review of yours book, which I loved, as I’ve mentioned many times. And I got multiple comments from people that had myths and disinformation, slurs about George Floyd. name calling, they were repeating lies that Kanye West had recently mentioned about a drug overdose situation. A lot of bullshit. Okay, like patented false information. So my question to you all is, what kind of pushback Have you received from writing this book because of I got it from posting three paragraphs on Instagram, I can only imagine that you guys got something to because I got it’s three paragraphs on Instagram about books. You all wrote the book on George Floyd. So what kind of pushback Did you receive? And then to that point, has any pushback that you’ve received been actually valid to you? Have you felt like you’ve heard pushback where you were like, Yeah, we missed that. Or we should have done that, or? I can’t, I’m sad. We didn’t think of that. Or maybe there is space here for for more thinking.
Toluse Olorunnipa 25:58
So that’s a important question. I’ll try to try to tackle it because it takes it could take us to some some dark places with
Traci Thomas 26:08
I love a dark place!
Toluse Olorunnipa 26:11
We did get- Well, I’ll start off by saying that the response to the book has been overwhelmingly positive, we’ve we’ve had a lot of really great people willing to engage and people saying this book, you know, opened my eyes with this book, made me cry, this book made me see George Floyd in a way that I hadn’t before. But, you know, in the middle of that there were also you know, a lot of people who didn’t want to engage with the idea of the book. And, you know, some of them reached out to us directly, and some of them were nasty. And, you know, there were some white supremacist that went on our Goodreads Goodreads page and just gave us one star reviews of a campaign to tank our rating very early in the process. In, you know, some some negative, racist websites that went off and whatnot, about, about us and about the book. And, you know, I would say that was the minority of responses. But there was that that general pushback, and we do hear from people online on Twitter, you know, saying, Did you talk to the person who, George Floyd victimized during an armed robbery? And you know, sometimes we have to respond that yes, that person was one of them. Hundreds of people interviewed for this book. And we involved, we include her side of the story, as well as George Floyd side of the story and what it was a more complicated event than most people would would would imagine, just from seeing, you know, one online headline saying, Oh, George Floyd held up a pregnant woman. We went into that, that, that that story, and we won’t do any spoilers in this book, but I hope I hope people will read it with an open mind because we interviewed multiple people involved, including, you know, the woman who was in the house, other people who are in the car, getting police records, getting records from people with George Floyd talked to his his girlfriend at the time. And it was important for us to deal with those issues. We have said very clearly that we are journalists, we’re not, you know, activist, we’re not trying to shy away from anything that might be unflattering. And we wanted to make sure we told the whole story. And so the most pushback we’ve gotten have been from, you know, first, the blatant racist who just don’t engage with the book at all. But also with people who say, you know, I heard this thing about George Floyd, I heard this negative rumor. And for that reason, he shouldn’t be a martyr, he shouldn’t be made out to be a saint. And we never did, we never just decided to write this book. Because George Floyd was a perfect person, nobody’s perfect. We wrote this book, because he was a person, he was a human being. And he was worthy of having his life seen as a human life, obviously, there Shogun was someone who didn’t see him that way. And people responded as a result of the fact that his life was not treated with humanity. And so we wanted to treat his entire life with humanity, not just those final seconds, where he was deprived of his humanity. And so that involved us, you know, talking to a lot of people. And so one of the things that we’ve been able to do is just stand by the work and say, you know, we’ve put a lot of work into this, and could have Could, could we have done some things better? I wouldn’t be the first to say that, yes, there are things that we could have done better. There’s some some areas where we would have loved to get more more detail. I don’t think any of the criticism that we’ve received is for the for the most part has been has made us think that you know, this project wasn’t worthwhile or that this was this wasn’t you know, the right way to do it or nothing on a broader scale in terms of our general approach, if anything, you know, some some small changes here or there. So, some areas where there are people who we would have loved to talk to some some some storylines, we would have loved to, you know, delve further into maybe some areas where we would have made some word changes or some changes into the theme of how we approach certain things. But for the most part, you know, I will point to like a lot of the positive response Since that we’ve received is gratifying. And you know, as first time authors it’s, you know, tough role for us. And so it’s been really helpful to see people engaging with the book the way in which the way in which we intended it. Because, you know, issues of race issues of some of the systemic things that we approach in the book are very easy to be misinterpreted. So it was, it was gratifying to us that people engaged with it, they read the book the way we intended it. And for the most part, for the people who actually read the book, you know, the responses in the positive now for people who didn’t read the book, or just who came in with their preconceived notions, that’s where we’ve had, you know, a few negative, you know, comments and whatnot, we give a lot less credence to people who never even wanted to engage with the book and decided that they just, you know, we’re gonna go with a stereotype or with a rumor, as opposed to the real facts of what we were able to find out.
Robert Samuels 30:53
Until it’s so interesting, because, I mean, I am a little bit more likely to engage with folks on Twitter, who will say, he’s not a Why are you trying to make him a saint, he’s not a martyr, mentally, because that’s sort of a part of my job. You know, it’s the ethos of me that it, I’ve spent far more time in my career as a national reporter, going to places where there’s no one who looks like me, then there, I spend time in places where there is someone who looks like me, and a number of the folks that I’ve engaged with, and you can check the replies if you want to see the receipts, but a number of them after I’ve said, oh, you know, we did talk to these people. And we do talk about his drug dependency, and why, you know, yeas, thinking was off. And we’ve, you know, we’ve converted, not a lot, but uh, you know, reasonable number of people who’d say, I’m sorry, well, if you did this, I’ll pick this up. I had a conversation with a woman at the Apple Store, you know, when she asked why I was getting you air buds. The other thing that, you know, I do want to make sure that we do talk about is that, you know, some people have said, Why him? You know, why George Floyd? Why not? Breanna Taylor, or why not someone else. And I don’t really take that as criticism. You know, I take that as sort of, like, there’s a big world and a really meaningful set of stories that need to be told this is one particular story in a cannon. And sort of, like, kind of, like, the criticism of mission has been, I think the one that people expect the people who want us to take them seriously. That’s the thing that they talk about most of all, you know, sort of, like, why didn’t you talk about this? And, um, you know, I honestly don’t really know what to do with, like, every other author, we did the best we could. You know, that’s what we try.
Traci Thomas 33:08
Well, just so you know, the people who came into my mansion saying crazy things, I told them that they were fucking Joe, I just want you to know, because I didn’t write the book, and I don’t work for The Washington Post. I was like, Oh, I think I told one person. And even even after all of that, he was still a better person than you’ll ever be. And then I got, and then I got called the N word. So that was awesome.
Robert Samuels 33:29
Oh, my gosh, you know-
Traci Thomas 33:33
Such charming people on the internet. It’s, it’s like, lovely, lovely to be here. Yeah.
Robert Samuels 33:38
It’s, you know, it’s, um, one of one of those casualties of the job in terms of you deal with the worst of people, but like, oh, no, no, I often, I wouldn’t say I, you know, we spend 90%. And this is extra topical. But like, you know, we spend a good amount of time and my daily job dealing with folks who don’t have the same opinions that I do. And the thing that I try to remember and that I tried to show when we’re writing about them is that they’re all human beings, you know, like, they’re motivated by, you know, what is, I think, a noble purpose, which is to preserve a world for their themselves and their children. There’s a difference in how you see that. And that is a part of the approach that we took to this. I mean, you know, I think it would be very easy for us to have gone on the either side and sort of sort of like, continued the line of coverage that we saw happening to George Floyd and sort of saying, you know, black lives matter, but his story doesn’t really matter, which is kind of like the larger global way of thinking about it. But we knew not to do that. And I think a lot of that is informed by a sort of philosophy that we’ve gained through reporting in other places that you know, like when you actually go and you try to seek the nuance of a person not looking at them as a tragic comic or something else, you find something that’s resonant and deep and meaningful, right?
Traci Thomas 35:18
Who was your audience? Who were you thinking you were writing to? Or who are you writing to? First? Lee? I guess, because I think for some people, it’s like the audience is like, as big as possible, but like, there is an intention on like, who you’re writing toward?
Toluse Olorunnipa 35:34
Oh, no, I may have to defer to Robert, because I, as journalists, we never we just kind of put our work out there and hope for the best.
Traci Thomas 35:43
Think about, like, you don’t write, you don’t write first New York Post, like, you know who your audience is at the Washington Post, like it’s a different audience than the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. So there is like some audio I think even there,
Robert Samuels 35:58
yeah, I think there’s a little bit of daylight between me and Tolu on this question, okay. But because, you know, I take sort of Toni Morrison’s belief about getting the white editor off your shoulder, as very important. And, honestly, you know, you’re talking about immigrant parents, but there were three people or three people that I kept in mind. And the first one is my mom, who, I didn’t realize this, but move to the United States in the same year, George Floyd was born. And when I had, when she had heard us talk about that, in an interview, it kind of took her back. And, you know, she said, God, you know, it just made me think of what I would have thought my American experience would be if I had known everything else about America. And I just thought that was, you know, when she had sent that I, you know, it, again, kind of like, reaffirmed the idea of writing to a reader who is informed, you know, they don’t, it’s not that they don’t know anything, but you wouldn’t want to condescend to them, you do want to treat your reader as a respectful person who’s somewhat engaged in the country. The second person I thought of was, my friends is kids. But you know, like, so many of them, I’m trying not to cry, but so many, so many of them, were just, you know, starting life when this happened. And I, I just thought about sort of the contribution that Tolu and I could have for them when they’re of age to be able to, like, understand this moment that, that precious time in their life, you know, and the third thing that I thought about was actually myself because I remember being in a bookstore and picking up the bike, the autobiography of Stokely Carmichael, and he Stokely Carmichael and Ivy had gone to the same high school. And he has a chapter about going to our high school. And I remember reading it and feeling like it was the sort of first time that I had really felt seen in a story that like, you know, my experience had been taken seriously that there is meaning to it. And I just thought about sort of like, a young, curious black boy, picking up the book with, you know, probably a little trepidation. And just finding something that made him say, like, yeah, you know, I just thought that would be such a wonderful value and contribution to the world.
Traci Thomas 38:49
And love that. My children were born in December 2019. So thinking about that second group, you mentioned, like I did sense a little bit of that in the reading, and I was like, I can’t wait for my kids to be old enough. And for them, you know, like, we took them to the big march in LA, there. I have pictures of them, like strapped to myself and my husband walking on the streets with 1000s of people and thinking like, I can’t wait to tell them that they were part of this moment. And like that, they will of course, they’ll never remember it, but like they were in the streets from where they were even six months old. Like just Yeah, which is like wild to think about. Is there anything that’s not in the book that you wish was? You both have a smirk so I feel like you have something that you guys have talked about that like you couldn’t get properly checked or something like you both have the same look on your face!
Robert Samuels 39:48
I think we’re both waiting to see what the other Yeah. For me, for me, I My biggest wish, I’ll just say, my biggest wish is that we had been able to get a confession from someone who was involved in the armed robbery. And it’s not that we didn’t try. But it was more, we ran out of time. And so that, to me, that was one of the things. It’s not it’s not in there, but it’s not in there, because we couldn’t get it in a way that would meet the standards of what we wanted to for the rest of the book.
Toluse Olorunnipa 40:38
Yeah, I agree with that. And I would just say we did leave a lot on the cutting room floor. But looking back on it now, I give a lot of credit to both our editors, and folks who read behind us and sort of helped us streamline that the project because most, the vast majority of the choices we made on things leave out were, in hindsight, the right choice. So you know, we had more than 400 interviews, there are hundreds of hours of tape of, you know, recorded interviews, we could have found a way to add new anecdotes or new stories about George Floyd about their Coven into this book. But we know we wanted to stick to the mission. And so in terms of like all this stuff that we had ended up not getting into the book, I think it was an almost every choice, it was the right choice. And I think we were able to kind of choose the best stuff and get across them permission without belaboring certain points or without, you know, dwelling too long on certain things, and without being, you know, overly lengthy, especially given the tight timeline we were working on, so I’ll put I’ll leave it at that. I’ll leave it at that. But I think they’re I think it’s hopefully a tribute to the reader that we chose the best stuff that we had, as opposed to just choosing everything that we had, because we could have done that. And then what could have could have been much longer.
Traci Thomas 42:09
No, I’m glad you guys made some discerning decisions. Just we haven’t talked about Derek Chauvin at all and we really won’t. I don’t, I feel like there’s not a lot to say about him. To be honest, though, you guys do a really good job like profiling him as well. But the one thing I do want to say is that one of the things that’s interesting to me about this like I don’t know, I don’t know how to say it, like this situation of black person killed by a police officer is oftentimes in the media and in the culture, the black people that are killed are sort of like lumped together as the same kind of person, troubled or poor or drug addict or whatever. And reading the detail that you all put in about Derek Chauvin, I was like, Wow, all of these cops are actually the exact same person. Like, it’s like, it’s just so interesting that we still keep up with this like myth of individualism for white people. And like reading the details of his story. I was like, isn’t this the same guy who had the issue with Sandra Bland like it that guy is the same person. Like, it’s like the backstories. And that was like, very interesting to me, because, you know, I consume media. And so I often have to like push back against the stereotypes because I know that Derek Chauvin or I know that George Floyd is not the same as Tamir Rice, like I know these things, but then it’s like, put in our brains that they’re similar. They’re the same just because they’re black. And then about, yeah, the cop and fucking the Tamir Rice. That’s also Derek Chauvin like, that’s the same guy. And that was wild. But that’s all I want to say.
Robert Samuels 43:43
I mean, can we get, we can go, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t put it in those terms, but
Traci Thomas 43:48
they’re not the exact same person, but like, profile is so similar in a way that we don’t talk about is sort of what I mean, like, there’s this like, they’ve been in trouble. They, they’ve had some anger issues. They’re using tech techniques. They know they’re not supposed to be using, they’ve been in trouble in their departments. You know, there’s aggressive behavior that is documented, like all of that stuff that was came up with Derek Chauvin. I’ve heard about these other police, police officers, but so often, they still get to be individual, bad guys, or killers, or however you want to. Or if you come from a different leaning, good guys who made a mistake, but they all get to be their own person in a way that I just now, after reading your book was like, maybe they’re more similar than we’re getting-
Robert Samuels 44:33
Well, I mean, yeah, I think one is the philosophy that we’ve had with thinking about Derek Chauvin is the same philosophy philosophy we had with thinking about the life of George Floyd, which is that their actions are informed by a larger system that is rarely examined in policing. It’s incredibly rarely examined and that when you start to think about it, we wanted to move the conversation away of thinking of, you know, the officer who murdered George Floyd as some sort of maniacal, bad apple, but to raise the question that maybe there is something that is baked within how we think about policing in this country, how its how it’s done, how folks are trained, what they’re told, they can get away with what they do get away with, that is important to note. And that if you’re really doing an American story, right, like you have to be able to do that, because that sort of confrontational aspect of it was not just confronting George Floyd on that day, like it was confronting him throughout the course of his life.
Traci Thomas 45:46
Yeah, I want to do just a hard shift. I always ask people about this. So you can you each get a chance to respond. How do you right, where are you? How many hours a day? How often? I guess, for you both? Is it different when you’re working on the book versus when you’re writing at the Washington Post? Do you have music? Are there snacks and beverages? Any rituals around candles or aloe vera gel? I don’t know, whatever.
Toluse Olorunnipa 46:12
Lots of crystals, lots of crystals.
Traci Thomas 46:15
Well, I live in LA. So that is a popular behavior here.
Toluse Olorunnipa 46:20
For sure. Well, this, this flip required a lot of spiritual and divine connection just to meet our deadlines. But for me, I write a lot, very early in the morning. Three, four o’clock in the morning, all right, when everything is quiet, I know a lot of writers kind of like that quiet since before the day gets started before
Traci Thomas 46:44
Are you waking up at three or are you not going asleep until
Toluse Olorunnipa 46:48
So I sometimes it’s all a blur. But I typically in writing this book would wake up early and start early and get in, you know, a good chunk of hours before like really starting my day and going out on a walk and you know, getting showered and everything I would just get up start writing. And a lot of times for me it takes it takes me a little bit of a while to get into the writing mode. So that often involves like a lot of procrastination for the first few minutes, sometimes reading over stuff that I had previously written or reading stuff I shouldn’t be writing or like going through emails or just like clearing my head and sort of clearing the cache of things that would distract me during the writing process, getting all of that out of the way and then sitting down and writing. And then you know, that’s in the best case scenario. A lot of times in writing, I’ll get writer’s block, and then the right idea will strike. When I’m like listening to a song or out on a walk. A lot of times when I’m out on a walk actually, and I’ll have to race to get to where I can be to write it down or I’ll like you know, tapped into my phone and say an email myself and say, Oh, this is this is how to end this chapter, this is how to write this piece or this is a piece of the puzzle that needs to be added in. So a lot of times, it’ll be just kind of very serendipitous in terms of like not knowing exactly when it’s going to hit but you know, the the idea will come and I’ll have to kind of race to get to where I can write and just be there. So sometimes it’s listening to your body listening to your mind and allowing, you know, allowing yourself to kind of follow the process. But to the extent that I have control over it, I like to write in very quiet early, early morning, peaceful settings where there’s not a lot of distraction and a lot of emails coming in and just facing the facing the task because it is a monumental and difficult task. And it helped me to have just kind of a clear, clear plate and just being able to to jump into it and wrestle this, this narrative.
Traci Thomas 48:52
And you didn’t answer about snacks or beverages.
Toluse Olorunnipa 48:55
So I was doing intermittent fasting when I was writing this book, I was writing on an empty stomach for for quite a long time. And my treat after a long day writing would be overly caloric meal of, you know, just multiple meals, you know, jumped into one. But that’s sort of how I mean I tried to drink a lot of water and get liquids in and whatnot. But I find that when I eat a ton during the writer writing process, I get distracted or I get tired. So I need for a long arm, right for a long stretch and then when I’d be done, I would have my meal for the day. Okay, Robert,
Robert Samuels 49:35
I didn’t know that about you. I didn’t know. You know, I feel I because I felt like when we were having writing sessions, like I would always be eating something. I mean, I don’t I don’t really think about it. Like, I mean I’m a outliner and I will have to like actually like recite this Story to myself, like, I have to go ahead and sort of like, speak it orally before I start putting anything on the page because I get very nervous. And so that’s one of I mean, that’s probably the most consistent part of my process. Like, for me, it doesn’t really matter if I’m writing in the day or night. I’m terrified either way, but I like toss my cell phone somewhere, or I’ll ask my partner to hide it. So then I can’t get distracted by that. And I, for this, I mean, typically I listened to like, cast recordings or like, albums that I know super well.
Traci Thomas 50:47
Watch cast recordings.
Robert Samuels 50:52
I’m trying to think of what I was listening to at this Hadees okay, this is this is actually
Traci Thomas 50:58
I was a theater major. So I’m like, very curious. This is like, really my king.
Robert Samuels 51:03
Okay, I’m sorry. But so, you know, the introduction to the introduction title is flowers. Um, but part of that is my favorite song from Hades town is flowers. And it turns out that Courtney Ross, who is one of George Floyd’s girlfriends, who’s featured prominently in the book, she had a cat named eerie to see. And it was so like, I listened to Hades town a lot. I also also a Leah’s albums, just dropped on Spotify, as we’re doing the reporting of it. So I listened to like, a lot of rock the boat and we need a resolution. But I was, yeah, but I know, right? One of the underrated classes, but, um, but largely, you know, this experience, because, you know, because I was writing with Tolu. And I wanted to be conscientious that, like our voices meld melded that I largely wrote a lot of the chapters listening to nothing. Because, you know, I didn’t want, you know, it to be informed by like, Lin Manuel Miranda learner, and lo and told him, you know, like, it’s just too much. So like, I just went, and that was the same thing with reading, you know, like, I couldn’t, I didn’t want to read anything, either. Like, because, you know, we had so many voices of the people. And there was some, I mean, there’s some, like, just really interesting, thoughtful characters who were peppered throughout the story that I didn’t want to muck it up. And so, you know, I did a lot of this in sort of silence. And I had a, you know, I have a have a prayer group as spiritual support group that I’ve had for years. And at some point, you know, when things were getting really rough, they asked me if I needed anything. And I said, Send snacks. Yeah. And I was joking. But one day, I got this like, huge box of stuff from Trader Joe’s. And I had I had never heard of jerk plantain chips before, like, has those in our house right now. They’re so good. Like, the Caribbean American. I was like, this is total like gentrifiers foolishness, but they’re so tasty. And I had I had a lot of, oh my god, I love this. Not intermittent fasting.
Traci Thomas 53:46
I just have a few more questions for you. This one is very important. What is the word you can never spell correctly on the first try?
Toluse Olorunnipa 53:55
I’m thinking I do like the Digi thing like sometimes, like the judge wears like judgment and Okay, yeah, I yeah, I tend to like always mix up those those words.
Traci Thomas 54:06
Judgment is hard.
Robert Samuels 54:07
Okay, mate- Maintenance.
Traci Thomas 54:10
Oh, my God. An impossible one!
Robert Samuels 54:12
that’s the one that I like, really have to like, slow down and like, think about it. Yeah. Yeah. There was also like this thing about the Oxford comma that continued continue to come up. You know, it’s like any good Vampire Weekend fan. I don’t give a fuck about the Oxford comma. Our editor really did. And I mean, even today, we had to turn in copy and I forgot and like that’s, you know, more so than stalling. That was probably the biggest like, grammatical ghosts that hung over me.
Traci Thomas 54:49
Oh my god, I love I’m a terrible speller and terrible at grammar and writing. So that all sounds horrible. Who’s the coolest person who has expressed interest So in this book are that you’ve heard from that like the book?
Robert Samuels 55:04
I’m wondering if I should, I’m wondering. I’m just gonna say because I actually felt bad. So we actually in the we actually interviewed a number of celebrities for the copy. And I said yes. And some said no, but I feel terrible. But Maxwell, the r&b artist was, you know, he was in a number of drafts Sydney, it was taken out last minute, but he was he was one of he was one of the people in the book. Um, I don’t I don’t think there have been, I mean, just kind of like journal, like geeky things like Jason Reynolds was like, super into it-
Traci Thomas 55:55
Jason Reynolds is the most beloved person in the Stacks universe, He is-
Robert Samuels 55:58
Traci Thomas 56:00
Very important here. He and I have not talked about this book, I’m literally going to, like, message him right now and be like,
Robert Samuels 56:11
He like, gave us a little he gave us a little shout out on Twitter. I’m not I’m not not Twitter, on Instagram. I’m not sure if he read it, but like to know that it was in his universe. And, you know, we had to, you know, we’re both political reporters. So we dropped off the book and got interest of it from a number of, you know, very high ranking folks in the US government of today and yesterday. Oh, yeah. But we had, I don’t think we had heard from some of them, but we haven’t heard from a number of them. But a lot of them asked for copies, which was kind of cool.
Toluse Olorunnipa 56:51
Yeah. And it was, it was great. To be able to interview Joe Biden for this book. Like you said, presidential treatment. So we talked to everyone from the corner boy to the President. And, you know, the fact that he was interested enough to talk to us because he doesn’t do a lot of interviews. And that was really gratifying. And obviously, there were some other politicians who were, you know, featured in the book as well. But just to know that people connected with what we were trying to do, because as journalists, we had to explain what we were trying to do with the book. And you know, to have Biden and a number of other top people, governors, Senators mayor’s connect with it. That was that was really gratifying.
Robert Samuels 57:31
Yeah. And, you know, President Biden, in his interview came in a half hour before the deadline-
Traci Thomas 57:40
I was very busy. You know, he had other days a little
Robert Samuels 57:42
busy. Oh, yeah. First off on employment, he was trying to like, yeah, he was trying to pull troops out of Afghanistan one day when we were supposed to chat. It was, it was something but you know, like, you know, we had, I mean, in the larger cosmic sense that, you know, we both have interviewed Jesse Jackson a number of times for stories, but I think in this kind of context, it was a really meaningful interview. And sort of, you know, he opens up the last chapter, really, instead of trying to figure out how to frame this curious moment that we’ve been able to do. And it you know, to think that, you know, for your first book, you know, like, Jesse Jackson had deemed it important and really displayed a vulnerability that you rarely see from him. It was particularly meaningful. Okay, these
Traci Thomas 58:40
are my last few questions. Hopefully, it will be quick. Sorry. I’m, like, just loving talking to you guys. I just have some questions. All right, last year, for people who love this book, what else would you recommend to them? That’s maybe in conversation with your work.
Toluse Olorunnipa 58:55
So I’ve got like a long, a long list, I’ve tried to whittle it down
Traci Thomas 59:00
to two or three.
Toluse Olorunnipa 59:03
I just put it out there and just put out some book B,
Robert Samuels 59:05
Be, be- do your thing!
Toluse Olorunnipa 59:07
I feel like there needs to be explanation. This is the stacks, like people are gonna have thoughts, and I feel like you have to kind of explain. But I think, you know, speaking a little bit about politics. I think the other Westmore is a book where, you know, you have one of the books I was reading as I was writing this book, because I wanted to kind of get a little bit of a flavor for, you know, the kind of narrative where you’re telling you’re telling a story about an individual and telling a broader story about you know, about the context in which they live. So that was that was one that I read in going into this. And then believe it or not, I read roots while writing this book as well. And I kind of just felt like especially looking at the, you know, the historical sweep of that that book as well as like telling the story over Multiple generations and allowing the reader to follow a generational experience all the way up to the present tense. That’s what we tried to do in the title. The chapter titled roots in chapter three of his name is George Floyd, where we go all the way back to George Lucas family history, the history of the family that owned his ancestors, and take the story all the way back to the 1700s. And tell this successive generational story. And so I think, you know, anyone who kind of appreciated that kind of storytelling, what we also appreciate the way it was done in books, like like roots.
Traci Thomas 1:00:35
Robert Samuels 1:00:38
Tolu, bought me some time, so I could narrow it down to two. So I think, um, I’ll do one old and one new school book, I think, what, after we had written this, I was on a panel with Linda Villarosa, who wrote under the skin. And I thought, in terms of sort of inquiry, it was really interesting, and it married with a lot of thoughts about the book, you know, there, you know, we go through a lot of health stuff, in terms of thinking about the perception of the black male body, the, the weathering effect, and the weathering hypothesis on of racism, under the skin goes through a lot of that, too. And it’s sort of like, does it from the perspective of sort of a journalist who feels like he’s made some wrong choices in terms of thinking about these things, but also from the perspective of a black woman. And I just thought, sort of, it’s interesting, you know, we’re both looking at a lot of the same research and the discussions of the text of what we were writing that and how those things form the larger story. I think it’s just a really interesting compare and contrast. The other book, I joke Tolu, I think you’ve probably read like more than 30 books over the course of writing, I read, like four. And one of the end, I didn’t read all of the four I parts of it, because I just to sort of inform when things got stuck. But the other one that I really hope I really hoped folks would think about was the Great Gatsby. And the reason I thought about that is that it’s often seen as kind of like the perennial American tale of the American dream, we’d learned to like develop a love and appreciation for a character who’s completely flawed. And no one’s ever second guessed whether or not the Great Gatsby was a fundamental American story. What we tried to do with George Floyd was the same like, because we wanted people to understand him in that same aspect, like he’s Jay Gatsby, he’s Willy Loman, he’s no more is no less American than any of those people in some ways, he might be more American. And we hope that was the like, fundamental thing that people took away from it.
Traci Thomas 1:03:23
I love it. Okay, last one, if you could have one person dead or alive, read this book, who would you want it to be?
Robert Samuels 1:03:30
I, you know, we had really wanted President Bush, the second George W. Bush to be a part of the book. Because I feel in so many ways, you know, W and that generation of bushes, they’re thinking about race is so prototypical of the American thoughts about it, that the difference between equity and equality, you know, just sort of, well, if we treat everyone equal, anyone can do anything, you know. And I think, in sort of reading some of what he had written after George Floyd had that, it felt like, there was something in him that maybe recognized that there was a part of his time in office that he might have contributed to some of the things that directly hindered George Floyd’s life, him being the governor of Texas at the time. Right, right. But also, I think he you know, he probably, you know, the idea that he wanted to do good by black people, you know, he wanted that to be a part of his legacy. And if fundamentally was not and, you know, I would just love to hear what he thought, you know, about what was presented to him and sort of I We’d love to have that conversation with them.
Traci Thomas 1:05:01
I love that answer. Tolu?
Toluse Olorunnipa 1:05:04
That’s a great answer got the juices flowing for me a little bit.
Robert Samuels 1:05:08
See how this works?
Toluse Olorunnipa 1:05:12
I actually would go with George Floyd, great, great grandfather who is featured in the book, who not to give too many spoilers, but was someone who was born enslaved and was able to over the course of a long time of working as a free man able to amass a great amount of wealth. And the book gets into exactly what happened to that wealth. But just because I think, you know, telling his story and giving a tribute to his industriousness and hard work, and putting it in print is something that, you know, was was not ever able to be done while he was alive. I think he would be the person I want to read the book, in part, because I think it speaks to his ability to overcome his circumstances. And it’s a tribute to who he was, as a person and a tribute to the America that stripped him of his of his chances. But I think, you know, knowing that he died in poverty after working so hard. Having this this, this tribute to his life, even if it’s in just a few pages, I think I’d love for him to read that, because, you know, he was someone who was denied the opportunity to even read because he was enslaved, and taken advantage of because he couldn’t read. And so I would, I would love for him to to get this tribute and be able to read it and be able to see his name in print in this way, as opposed to on newspaper pages that said, you know, you’re you’re, you’re having your lands sold away from you at auction because you didn’t pay your taxes, or putting his name into these, you know, business dealings that allow for people for white people to take his land away. So in that’s who I would love to read this book into, to take away you know, an understanding that he is recognized in American history that his story isn’t just one of the stories that no one ever can can can look at and just look at his death certificate or look at the fact that he died poor and not know that he lived as a wealthy man that he was a hard working man that he was someone who had a legacy and whose legacy continues to ring true. So that’s why I love to read the book and engage with that some of the subject matter of what we were able to put together.
Traci Thomas 1:07:29
Such good answers, you guys. I feel like those are a plus answers that question. So thank you. This was such a treat getting to talk to you both. You all our National Book Award finalists were recording this two days before the award. So I don’t know what happens. But I’m rooting for you guys. And no matter what happens, I hope everyone at home reads the book. I will also just quickly plug the audio book. It’s Dion Graham, right. I listened to some of the audio book, he does such a great job. I love him. He he did a book on Biggie by Justin Timberlake that I also listened to and loved. He does a fantastic job with your work. So if you’re an audiobook person, you have my endorsement on the book. If you are a eyeball reader, you have my endorsement on the book.
Thank you guys, both so so so much for being here. Thanks. Thanks so much.
Robert Samuels 1:08:21
And thank you, you know, thank you for your support. I mean, we really, really appreciated it. And you know, we appreciate that you gave voice to folks who are a little bit nervous or skeptical and rightfully so about what we were trying to do and accomplish. So we really thank you for that.
Traci Thomas 1:08:41
And everyone else we will see you in the Stacks
Alright, y’all, that does it for us today. Thank you so much for listening. And thank you again to Robert and Tolu for joining us. Remember the Stacks book club pick for December is true biz by Sarah Novic, which we will be discussing on Wednesday, December 28 with our guest Greta Johnsen. If you love the show and want insight access to it, head to patreon.com/the stacks to join the Stacks pack. Make sure you’re subscribed to The Stacks wherever you listen to your podcasts and if you’re listening through Apple podcasts or Spotify be sure to leave us a rating and a review. For more from The Stacks, follow us on social media at the Stacks pod on Instagram and at this x pod underscore on Twitter and check out our website the stocks podcast.com This episode of the stocks was edited by Christian to one yes, with production assistance from Lauren Tyree. The Stacks is created and produced by me Traci Thomas.
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