Joy is the Rebellion We Need Now

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ROCK PAPER RADIO is a dispatch for misfits & unlikely optimists by your favorite hapa haole, beet-pickling, public radio nerd. It’s a weekly email newsletter that shares three curiosities every Thursday - something to hold on to (that’s the ‘rock’), something to read (that’s the ‘paper‘), and something to listen to (you guessed it, that’s the ‘radio’). Themes include but are not limited to: rebel violinists, immortal jellyfish, revolution. Thanks for subscribing and spreading the word.
In response to the announcement that Biden and Harris won Pennsylvania and secured the ousting of the White Supremacist In Chief, Seattleites took to the streets of Capitol Hill to dance and drink tallboys of Rainier. To see more photos from that joyful day and a video from our roll through this car parade, go here. Photo credit: Kristin Leong, November 7, 2020.


It’s baffling to think that just a year-and-a-half ago, a certain junior senator with a penchant for dancing and Chuck Taylors could eat a cookie in a Beverly Hills coffee shop without turning a head.

Today, of course, Vice President Harris is not just a feminist icon celebrated across the internet for refusing to be spoken over or gaslit on a national stage by a guy with a fly on his head, but she is also a beacon to ambitious mixed race girls everywhere.

This 2019 New Yorker profile by Dana Goodyear is both a nuanced portrait of a woman who has quickly become a symbol of a possible new America, and also a testament to the absolute absurdity of time.

In Kamala Harris Makes Her Case, we see the then-presidential hopeful “joking” about a Harris-Biden ticket (“Joe Biden would be a great running mate"), and grappling strategically with being a three-dimensional biracial woman in a political landscape that expects (expected?!) white guys with talking points and likable wives. The glimpse into Harris’ relationship with her Jamaican father is an especially interesting reminder that happy families are all alike and every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Congrats to Vice President Harris and to all of us too.


This 24-minute episode of This American Life by producer Sean Cole is like nothing I’ve heard before.

Musician Jerome Ellis, like our President Joe Biden and his 13-year-old friend Brayden Harrington, has a stutter. In Time Bandit, we meet Ellis on the day he took back his time and found his voice in front of a stunned audience on New Year’s Day. Ellis’ performance is a moving example of the power of vulnerability, and the way Cole tells the story of Ellis’ performance is an astonishing feat of empathy.

Without giving too much away, I’ll say this: if you’re curious about how public radio magic is made, and you’re looking for proof that simply giving people the space they need to tell their stories is worth your event/class/date going a bit longer, this one’s for you.


Four years ago I was invited to deliver an Ignite talk at Town Hall Seattle. Between that invitation and the night of the event, a little thing called the 2016 presidential election happened.

When I went to rehearsals, I pulled a switcharoo. The talk I practiced that night was not the talk that I was originally invited to deliver. After rehearsals, an email landed in my inbox: the event organizers were really looking forward to my talk, but if I could just take out the “political” parts, that would be great, this being a nonpartisan public event and all.

I politely but firmly pushed back, and, shout out to brave folks of Ignite Seattle, I ended up giving my unedited talk to an audience of over 900 enthusiastic Seattleites.

Here it is, my 5-minute Ignite Talk: Definitely Not Nordstrom, where I open with a story about a time I was not invisible at the grocery store, and I close with the rally call that almost got me canceled from the event lineup.

Watching this talk again, it’s nuts to think about where we all were four years ago—hoping maybe it won’t be that bad, worrying (correctly) it could absolutely be that bad, all of us crowded together in a space without masks on, trying to hold each other afloat.



That’s a wrap for issue 25, friends. Thanks for reading, listening, holding on.

All of your tweets and kind notes about ROCK PAPER RADIO have been such a heartening show of community over the last few rocky weeks. I didn’t know when I launched this misfit dispatch last summer that we’d be experiencing an insurrection attempt and the rise of our first woman of color Vice President together, but here we are. I’m grateful to be on this ride with all of you.

And just FYI—subscribers can always hit reply on our emails to send me a note/love letter/picture of your rescue dog.

See you next Thursday.


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