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September 27, 2020 76 min

Ep. #1.7


Having traveled the globe as a musician--most famously as Whitney Houston's musical director for over 17 years, guest Michael Baker, has seen what it’s like to be a Black man across the world. Now settled in Italy, where he has lived and worked for 15 years, Michael’s insights into racism have evolved and grown. In this episode, we naturally touch on the pandemic and Italy’s response compared to the US response. As one of the hardest-hit countries initially, Michael Baker shares how Italy's community-mindedness helped them overcome the worst of the pandemic. Pointing out, the deep sense of community and responsibility that fellow Italian citizens have and its stark contrast to the individualistic thinking prevalent in the US. Michael talks about his experience of racism in Italy and how he deals with it and although, he has had many uncomfortable moments in Italy, he has never feared for his life as he has in America as a Black man. He recounts stories of being pulled over by cops after being on tour and getting followed around supermarkets in the U.S looking to catch him stealing. Michael discusses the power structure within the US and how the powers that be, are polarizing people and using age-old tactics to even turn Black people against one another-- and that the racist rhetoric coming from the U.S. has taken hold in Italy and other countries--and how the Italy and others are dealing with this. Michael talks about hatred-- believing that it is the "easy" way out --and insists that people focus on the power of story and that the more we can share and get to know one another, the more we can make our own shifts that ultimately accumulate and lead to meaningful change.

 Key Points From This Episode:

·   The Italian response to the pandemic and how it compares to the US’s reaction.

·   What Michael has seen about how Italy treats Black people and immigrants.

·   Comparing Italy’s understanding of Africa with America’s.

·   The difference in Black culture between Italy and the US, from Michael’s viewpoint.

·   Michael’s daily experience of racism in Italy.

·   How being married to an Italian helps serve as an anchor into society.

·   Michael believes that it is important to correctly frame the older generation’s response to him.

·   What life is like for a Black person in America and how Michael feels when he visits home.

·   Michael’s experience of being excluded in the US because he is Black.

·   Why Michael is fueled by people telling him he cannot do things.

·   Racism is something you will experience for a lifetime.

·   How Michael’s children experience racism, given that they are mixed-race.

·   Why Michael would not let his children walk around at night.

·   The assumptions that people make about why Michael lives in Italy.

·   The rise in racist rhetoric in Italy that trickles down from America.

·   How Michael met Clark Terry, the legendary jazz trumpet player.

·   The incredible story of how Michael’s mother got her Ph.D. while raising four children and with limited resources.

·   What is happening in Italy with the Black Lives Matter movement.

·   Michael’s take on whether current social movements will have a lasting impact.

·   A meaningful encounter Michael had with his neighbor when he visited Duluth.

·   A final piece of advice from Michael!

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