Werk It

put on your power blazer and say something unpopular

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.
Looking for a visual aid to explain why women of color who speak up at work are sprinting towards the nearest exits from their non-profit jobs? The Center for Community Organizations is here for you with the flow chart that clarifies everything. Photo credit: Christina, wocintechchat.com.


After spending the last month interviewing multiple educators who wanted to tell their pandemic teaching stories, but who were told by their school districts to be quiet or be fired, I’ve been thinking a lot of about voice. In particular--who is allowed to use theirs, especially at work. I’ve also been thinking about the consequences that befall workers who step out of their lane to break not just their silence, but also the unwritten rules that function to keep the same people at the top (and the same people at the bottom).

My adult professional paths can be divided into three categories: the service industry, education, and the non-profit sector. Across all three of these very different industries, I’ve noticed that speaking up--either to call attention to injustices, or to suggest new ways of doing things--is rarely welcomed, especially when the people doing the speaking up do not look like the people who’ve been in charge for so long.

So how do we keep working? Keep your head down. Tow the line. These aren’t great options for misfits with unlikely optimism fueling big ideas for change. If you too are feeling muzzled and restless at work, the great Audre Lorde is here for you with a rally call of an essay: The Transformation of Silence into Languge and Action. If after reading her bold words, you’re feeling compelled to tell a story that’s been brewing inside of you for too long, reach out. I’m always here to listen and encourage crushing the status quo.



Even if your job is causing you to grind your teeth so much that you require a root canal, you probably don’t actually punch anybody at work. For Frankie Cruz Jr. however, punching was big part of his job at the nightclub where he served as a tough guy sideshow.

Here how it worked: Club goers could challenge Frankie to a boxing match. If you could take Frankie down, you’d take home $1000. Spoiler alert: Nobody could take Frankie down. Also unsurprising: Frankie was not provided health insurance from his employer for his unconventional employment.

Does this sound nuts? As someone who worked in nightclubs without insurance or any general sense of purpose for five years, I found Hard Work, This American Life’s 14-minute story about Frankie, to be highly entertaining, but not totally surprising. Here’s where I was going to insert a bonkers, but nevertheless 100% true anecdote from my nightclub years, but absolutely none of those memories are appropriate for this newsletter. So enjoy Frankie’s story! And then if you want to hear my clubland secrets, let me know and I’ll think about it.


Bless the Blue’s Clues guy for his State of the Union address earlier this week. If you too found yourself oddly comforted by Steve Burns’ super earnest, direct-to-camera message to millennials, this week’s SHOT is for you. The gravity-blanket vibes are the same, but the video is, well, definitely not.

From animator Kirsten Lepore, here’s her short film Hello Stranger, which I love with my entire weirdo heart, even if Keri thinks it’s the creepiest thing I’ve ever made her watch:


That’s a wrap for issue 57, friends. Thanks for reading, listening, holding on.

Hang in there if work’s feeling like a grind, and know that you’re not alone. I guarantee you’re not the only one with a story to tell, even if it feels like you’re the only one speaking up in your office, nightclub, or school district.

See you next Thursday.


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