Transcript: Ep. 1 The Sound of Dissent

sound of dissent.png

<intro music, synth beat melodic repeating medium tone voice singing "ah, ah, ah ah...">

Karen: You’re listening to Who Raised You Podcast? A Kitchen Table Conversation between Karen Jia Lian Yang and Treasure Shields Redmond.

Treasure: Unfurled and unafraid, we’re centering voices of color from flyover country. And we start every podcast with a poem.

<music fades in>

<music fades out>

<poem by Koach Baruch Frazier>

What will we remember?

During these days of awe

We are told that God remembers our deeds and actions

But what will we remember?

Will we remember we are b'tzelem Elohim

Made in God’s image?

Will we remember that we were born free?

Will we remember to breathe?

Will we remember to have courage?

Will we remember ahava rabbah ahavtanu,

That we are loved by an unending love?

Will we remember to breathe?

Will we remember that our liberation is bound up with one another?

Will we remember that we are all we got,

That we can’t afford to throw anyone away?

Will we remember to breathe?

Will we remember to love with revolutionary love?

Will we remember to choose truth and honesty over being right?

Will we remember to breathe?

Will we remember to find that spark of divinity in the pulse we meet?

Will we remember to be kind?

Will we remember to breathe?

What will you remember?

<music fades in>

{Song lyrics: Sometimes what I say ain’t right

Givin’ you such a hard time (time)

Ain’t nobody said I was perfect (perfect)

But baby, good love is worth it all and I won’t let you go… <fades out>}


Treasure: What if a black poet from Mississippi and a Taiwanese-American minister from Silicon Valley had a podcast?

Karen: We’re about to find out!

Treasure: We might even blowuptuate.

Karen: You’re listening to Who Raised You? A kitchen table conversation between Karen Jia Lian Yang and Treasure Shields Redmond.

Treasure: Whoop whoop!

Karen: As we explore how culture, family, and intersecting identities pave our way toward liberation, we wanna know: who raised you? We’re curious, and nowadays, often irritated. Sometimes we gotta catch our breath, y’know?

Koach: Yes.

Karen: So sit down. We have lots to talk about.

Treasure: Today we’re joined by Koach Baruch Frazier. Koach is a healer and musician who is working toward the day everyone experiences liberation. He spends his days helping people reconnect with the world around them through better hearing, and providing love and support through revolutionary listening. Koach’s heart beats to the rhythm of tikvah, t'shuva, and tzedek.

Karen: Our first famous question: who raised you? Who raised you, Koach?

Treasure and Karen laugh

Koach: Ah, so, firstly, Linda and Walter Frazier, my parents—

Treasure laughs, Karen mmms

Koach: They raised me. And I was also raised by a community of people that included my neighbors who watched out for me and my older brother. I remember a time where, uh, the police took my brother as he got off the school bus.

Karen: Wow.

Koach: They just picked him literally—he got off the school bus—and I would usually wait for him. He's four years older than me. And so I would get off the school bus before him, and then I would wait for him, and I remember that he was like—they just picked him up off the street, as he was walking from the bus... My neighbor, thank god, my neighbor saw it and immediately called my parents. I just remember like we had this whole little village around us, watching over us. Even when my parents weren’t home, there were people that helped raise me.

Karen: Yeah.

Koach: And then, you know, my grandfather of blessed memory was an AME Minister, and so there’s this whole like AME church family that helped raise me –

Treasure: Mm-hmm.

Koach: And my dad is a handball player. One of the few black handball players I’ve ever known!

Treasure laughs

Karen: You heard it here first!

Koach: And so we used to go to all of these championship, um, I forget what they’re called, but anyways, we would go around the country—

Karen: Handball tournaments

Koach: Tournaments! Thank you!

Karen: The showdown!

Koach: Yeah, we’d go to all these handball tournaments, and, so there was that family of people who gave me a different perspective about, like, what life was about.

Treasure. Mmmmm.

Koach: <laughing> And how you can have fun and do things that other people don’t necessarily know about, and create your own family from people who aren’t your blood family. So those, I’d say like, very widely, those I think are the people who raised me.

Karen: That memory you were talking about, how old were you?

Koach: <soft sigh> I think I was in middle school. So, uh, you know, probably my early teens.

Karen: Mm.

Koach: Yeah.

Treasure: And why was your brother picked up by the police?

Koach: You know what, I still don’t know. I—I have no idea. I remember my parents getting off work, and we went off to the police station. I don’t remember there being a reason.

Karen and Treasure: Mmmm.

Koach: The only thing I can think of was they saw some black kid.

Treasure: Mm-hm.

Koach: And they picked him up. I have no—never, never remember a reason as to why they did it.

Treasure: Where were you raised?

Koach: Kansas City, Missouri.

Treasure: KC! Which definitely has a different energy than St. Louis.

Koach: Yeah, it’s more of a slower town, I remember. When I got here to St. Louis, I just remember how fast things went.

Treasure: Mm-hm.

Koach: But in terms of, like, how it felt to be, you know, just livin’ and breathin’? It didn’t feel—I didn’t feel the pressure that I feel here.

Karen: Mm.

Koach: I remember recalling to somebody... I came to Saint Louis University, that’s what brought me to St. Louis. And I remember telling somebody, it feels like I came to the South.

Treasure: Mmm.

Koach: When I came here, it didn’t—the pressure of being a black person, there was definitely racism, there was definitely this feeling that I was different. I knew I was different when I was in spaces that weren’t all black—

Karen: Mmhmm.

Koach: —however, it’s different here. So yeah, this is a different kind of town.

Treasure: Mmhmm. More pronounced. But also, there are more black people in St. Louis.

Koach: That’s true.

Treasure: Which is an interesting dynamic when juxtaposed with what you said.

Koach: Right.

Treasure: Maybe density brings more anxiety from white people. The more black people there are, the more anxious they become.

Koach: Mmm, I see.

Karen: Well, and then I’m thinking about what you said about, like, there wasn’t a reason, and yet racism is a glaring reason—

Koach: <laughing> Yeah, right

Karen: It’s its own reason that’s always there—

Koach: Right, right right, yeah

Treasure sings: The reason!

General laughter

Karen: So, how did your family influence your sound of dissent? That’s the topic of today’s episode. I’m thinking, with an audiologist, or someone who is an audiologist by trade, and—

Treasure: And a drummer.

Karen: Right, and focusing on helping people to listen deeply in many ways

Koach: You know, music has always been a way of, uh—I don’t even know if I even understood it as resistance but as—as joy. And I guess joy as resistance.

Treasure: Mmhmm.

Koach: And I remember my grandfather, of blessed memory, my grandmother, of blessed memory, like they were kind of the rock of my mother’s family. This is my maternal grandparents. And I just remember that whenever there was something that seemed tense, just, you know, like family stuff, like somebody may be having an argument or something, I just remember a song always being sung. And not to say that we couldn’t have conflict, but to say, let’s level our heads here. And so I just remember song being so important to how we communicated with each other. And when maybe there was one relative over here on this side of the room and another, how there was this call and response thing that happened in our family, that I didn’t really understand until I got older as to what was actually happening.

Treasure: Mmm.

Koach: But my grandfather was a master of energy. And that’s really how I learned, you know—

Karen: Mmhmm

Koach: --how to manage energy well. And music seemed to be the glue that really kind of kept us together. And I think that was kind of my introduction into, not necessarily dissent, but definitely, like, resistance. We can resist the negativity and other things that are battling up against us with music.

Treasure: Mmm.

Karen: Is there a particular song that you sang? Or it was just like, things are tough now, the energy’s whack, break out into song?

Koach: So yeah, there is a Peterson song. That’s my mom’s maiden name. And it’s A Charge To Keep I Have, it’s metered.

Treasure: Mmmm.

Koach: And that’s that call and response deal, so like my grandfather will say <sings A charge to keep I have, a God to glorify, a charge to keep {Treasure joins in} I have>

General laughter

Treasure: So they did that AME shit in the AME church too?

Koach: Yeah

Treasure: We did that in the Baptist church!

Koach: Right!

Treasure: Hey!

Koach: Yeah, um. It’s one of those things that, like, whenever we got together, we’d have a family reunion, we sang that song. And so yes, there was a particular song.

Karen: It’s a lot of responsibility in that song, you know?

Koach: Yeah

Karen: Right, like a charge to keep right?

Koach: Yeah, it is. It’s funny, ‘cause like, when I was actually planning my parents’ funeral out, right, when I was there—

Treasure: Mm-hmm

Koach: --last, and my mom says, “Well, you know you have to sing that, you have to sing that one song!”

General laughter

Koach: “You have to sing the family song!” So like yeah, it’s that glue that holds us.

Karen: It’s tradition.

Treasure: Yeah, sound is part of what keeps me from totally throwing away everything the black church means.

Koach: Mmm.

Treasure: In fact, the other day I posted on Facebook that they can’t have gospel music back. And I’m givin’ them everything else back—

Koach laughs

Treasure: --but they can’t have gospel music. <laughing> So!

Koach: Yes! Yes.

Treasure: So y’all can have that, y’know, homophobia, you can have that marital, conceptions of hell, you can have all of that, but you can’t have that Fred Hampton.

Koach: Mm-hmm, yeah, yeah

Treasure: You can’t have that Aretha Franklin back, you can’t have that Millie Jackson.

Karen laughs

Treasure: So, yeah. Definitely. Which brings me to what you might perceive as how the drums came into your kinda ecology of sound. How did you start to use the drums at protests and actions?

Koach: So, August 9th was a Saturday.

Treasure: Mm-hmm

Koach: So it was Shabbat, and I did not hear about, um, what had happened with Michael Brown until Saturday night. And I remember that there was a call from the Ministerial Alliance that said come to the Ferguson Police Department on August 10th. And I was like, but why? You know—

Treasure laughs

Koach: --I was so confused as what was happening. So I was trying to get myself up to speed. And I normally play the drum at the spiritual center I was attending at the time on Sunday mornings, and so the drum kinda stayed in my car. And so we went to the police station, and I remember very distinctly, there was ministers and other folks, other spiritual leaders—

Treasure: Mm-hm

Koach: --who were all in the parking lot. And they were, you know, engaging in prayer and supplication. And there was like this pleading, like “God, please help us” kinda thing. And I remember that there were young people that had gotten in the street at this point in time—

Karen: Mm-hmm

Koach: And they said, “Um, so yeah, we’re done prayin’ like that, we’re gonna take the street.”

Karen and Treasure laugh

Koach: “We’re gonna sit here for 4 ½ hours, because that’s how long they had Mike’s body on the ground.” That was the moment I understood what exactly happened. Like, I still had no clue exactly what happened, and that hit me so hard. So I said, I’m sittin’ down here with the young people.

Treasure: Mm-hmm

Koach: And so that’s what I did. I sat down. And I remember that somebody started chanting. And they said, “Sittin’ down for Michael Brown. Sittin’ down for Michael Brown.” Just distinctly, I’m startin’ cla—<begins clapping rhythmically> you know?

Karen: Mmhmm

Koach: Some people are startin’ to clap. I was like, I’ve got drums in my car. So, I got, I actually  at that moment I had a chair in my car, like one of those foldable chairs. And I take the chair out, and I pull the drum out, and I start you know, drumming—and <snaps fingers> just like that, the energy changed.

Treasure: Mmhmm

Koach: People who were sitting got up. I mean, that wasn’t the actual intention, right?

Treasure: Mmhmm

Koach: But the energy, like they couldn’t hold it.

Treasure: Mmmmmmm.

Koach: They shot up, and they started, they started moving their bodies. And I was like, “Oh! Yeah! Uh-huh, okay Grandpa, I see you!” Right?

Treasure and Karen laugh

Koach: Like, “I see you, like, okay!” So from that moment, I was like, well, maybe I should bring the drum out again. So actually, there was some other people who said, “Let’s do some music,” and so we went over to across the street from the police station, like, that weekend. And people came and we sang and we drummed, and a couple other drummers came. And then when the move to—no, where was it…on the other side of it, this was West Florissant, yeah—

Treasure: Mm-hmm

Koach: --we went over to West Florissant. Of course, we were in one spot. And I had a drum. And then they said, “No more static protest.”

Karen: Hmm.

Koach: “You can no longer be in one place, you got to move around.”

Karen: Mmm.

Koach: And so I literally had this huge drum, and I still dunno how much it weighs. I got a luggage strap, and I strapped it to the drum. And I said, “Okay. So we’ve gotta move. Then I’ll strap the drum on.” And I’ve never done that in my entire life.

Treasure: Mm-hmm.

Koach: Never carried a drum before. I never played a drum while I was walking. But I did it, for months on end, because I felt like if we’re gonna move, then—

Treasure: Mm-hmm

Koach: --I can play this drum and I can provide a cadence, then I will do that. And I started to see that people, you know, whenever the drum was going, they  were like, “Okay, we can move around.” And I noticed that when the drum stopped, ‘cause I just couldn’t play anymore, people stopped.

Karen: Mm-hmm.

Koach: I see you! Right?

Treasure: Mm-hmm

Koach: And like, t took me a while to figure out what all was happening. It was an instinct to put the drum on and to take it with me. It was not something I planned.

Karen: Mm-hmm.

Koach: And, um, I’m grateful that I could be used in that way. But, um, yeah, that was something else.

Treasure: Well, you know, what’s so powerful about it is, the deep legacy of relationship to the drum for African people—

Koach: Yeah

Treasure: --and the way the drum was a main point of prohibition during the period of enslavement. You know, there were ancestors who lost their lives because they were caught with the drum—

Koach: Yes, yes

Treasure: --after they had been told clearly “You’re not gonna be using the drum.” Because you know, dominating forces, white people, enslavers—

Koach: Mm-hmm

Treasure: --they had witnessed the sort of emboldening effect, the coalition building effect, how when you insert rhythm, people get on the same beat. And they had already known from the indigenous brothers and sisters that you could talk with people.

Koach: Yes! Yes.

Treasure: So that is very powerful. And when you say you were used in that way, I would submit that you were used in that way. It’s probably somebody’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-granddad granddaddy! That’s dope

General laughter

Koach: And I know that to be true, because I was not trained to play the drum. I was trained to sing. And I was trained to play the trombone.

Karen: I play the trombone too!

Koach: Is that right?

Karen: Can you believe it?!

Koach: Oh yeah?

Treasure: Two trombone players!

Koach: Do you still have a trombone?

Karen: Not anymore

Koach: I still have it, because my dad bought it, and I was like, I’m never getting rid of this, even if I never play it again!

Karen: I should’ve kept mine! My mom and I bought it during a typhoon in Taiwan.

Koach: Wow!

Karen: If you can imagine! Just carrying it through the rain, like sharing one umbrella. It was $200.

Treasure: Wow!

Koach: Yeah, trombones are amazing instruments. They actually tried to get me to play the flute and I couldn’t get it, and they gave this trombone and here I am, this really small, short person—

Karen laughs

Koach: --and I’m going hey, got an umbrella?

Karen: Yes! Uh-huh!

Koach: How can you even get to placement number seven?

Karen: Right! Yeah!

Koach: Gotta stretch my arm really wide, but I made it!

Karen laughs

Koach: And so, I was never trained on that, but the drum, it was something that just came to me. And one of the things that we did with the drum was the week before the yardsider, that yearly anniversary... So it was in 2015, in August. We decided, and this is kind of the birth of Justice Beats, is that—

Karen: Mm-hmm

Koach: --we said that we need to provide that energy. We need to allow the drums to talk so we said we weren’t gonna do any chanting. We just wanted to have percussion.

Treasure: Mm-hmm.

Koach: So there was a call for people who were percussionists to come. And we set ourselves up right across the street from the police station, and we drummed. Every night. And talk about prohibition, right?

Treasure: Mm-hmm.

Koach: They actually put out a noise ordinance after we played for a couple of days, and said “No more"—and they specifically said—“drums could be played after a certain time.”

Treasure: Mmm.

Koach: Because that insistence that we were definitely talking and using—the drums were talking to the people, the people were talking back to the drums—and the drums were sending energy and messages. And they clued in on that. It wasn’t just that it was too loud.

Karen: Yeah

Koach: Like, they understand. And still trying to prohi—you know, keep us from using the drums.

Treasure: Mm-hmm.

Koach: Yeah.

Karen: I’m thinking about how it’s such a powerful contrast, Justice Beats versus the sound of oppression, because we know that they use their batons and rap the ground—to explain a very traumatic sound—and that’s something that’s trying to be in unison but very intimidating.

Koach: Mm-hmm.

Karen: And at the same time, in my mind, I perceive Justice Beats as insistent yet joyful, and there’s something about it that’s very organic, because there’s all the different instruments. And there’s no rules about what beat you’re supposed to do.

Koach: Right

Karen: And I noticed that you all speed up, you get louder, you get softer, and it’s not through any sort of command whatsoever.

Koach: Yeah. It’s definitely a spiritual and energetic connection that happens out there on the street. And the people who come, like we actually in the beginning, we do get together with as many people who say they wanna be a part of the group. And the directive is, “We are energy workers.”

Karen: Mmm.

Koach: “We are not just banging on things.” And so, we do some collective breathing and intention-setting before we start. But then, there is no, like, let’s speed up, let’s slow down. That is all organic and, I believe, directed by our ancestors and the universe just because I’m very clear that I’m not the one who’s directing what’s happening.

Treasure: Mm-hmm.

Koach: I am clearly just a vessel, and whatever happens, happens. And I remember at some point, when we were across the street from the police station during that week beforehand, that the protest was coming our way—

Karen: Mm-hmm

Koach: And the sound of the drum changed. And it wasn’t anything that we did. Like, we didn’t say, “Stop, let’s play a different beat.” Like, something changed.

Treasure: Mm-hmm.

Koach: And it was like a call of the warriors was coming toward us. And we noticed. We noticed a lot. Afterward, I was like, “Did you notice that that changed?!”

General laughter

Koach: But the action that was coming toward us changed. And it was something about the synergy of what was happening in this group of like—there were three or four of us or five of us there—

Treasure: Mmhmm

Koach: --Something changed. The energy changed. And so, the drum changed. And I just thought, I’m always getting reminders about how to think about a beat. Like, this is about the energy that’s needed. And I just try to provide whatever is coming through. And I know the other people who participate are doing the same.

Karen: I’m really curious, um, about what’s going through your head, Treasure, because you’re kinda doing some work about oral/aural histories, right? And I’m wondering if there’s anything in what KB is saying that’s sparking…

Treasure: Well, I was, as we were talking, I was thinking, “Oh, that’s interesting” ‘cause my whole dissertation is focused on the recorded performances of certain black female poets.

Koach: Mmm.

Treasure: And doing close listenings, looking at how they situate liberatory sound, what is liberatory sound? And in particular, how do black people access those tones that move us?

Koach: Mmmm.

Treasure: Like, when you sing A Charge To Keep I Have, you know how when you’re in the congregation, then everybody joins in?

Koach: Mmm

Treasure: There is something that—it’s right up in here.

Koach: Yes.

Treasure: I’m touching my side. This isn’t the visual medium—but I’m touching my side. And one of the things that I assert in the dissertation is that’s a stored up body of knowledge that we’re accessing.

Koach: Yes, yes

Treasure: Right? Now, you are Black and Jewish. Black and Jewish, right?

Koach: Mm-hm

Treasure: So, how do you move from one set of tonal expectations that were in the AME and the Black church to another set of tonal expectations that are in Judaism? Because they gonna have a whole different set of songs, sounds—

Koach: Mm-hm

Treasure: --the way they read liturgy—I’m calling it liturgy, but—

Koach: Mhm, mhmm

Treasure: How do you reconcile that, and do you find it pleasurable, diverse, do you miss the old sounds? You tell me.

Koach: That’s so interesting. One of the things that moves me is that a lot of it is the same.

Treasure: Mmmmmm!

Koach: I feel like part of my life journey is to remind people where this came from. Because Judaism is a very indigenous, um, and raw religion, or spiritual practice, and because of its exposure to the western way of thinking, and of doing, and of being, it’s got caught up in people’s heads. But you’ll see like these bursts of very charismatic groups of people. Looks a lot, the cheseds are one of those groups, right?

Treasure: Mm-hmm

Koach: And there’s this thing that happened. It’s called a nigun, it’s a wordless song. And it reminds me of like when Granny would be like <sings> “Yeah, yeah, yeah”

Karen: Mmmm

Koach: So there’s these wordless songs. And you can hear it, um, I’ll just do this one round of it: <sings> Dedi yaidi daidai daidaidai daidaidai hmmmm. Yai daidai dai yaidai daidai daidaidai daidaidai daidaidaiyai. Yai daidaidai. Yai daidaidaidaidai daidaidaidai daidaidaidai daidaidaidai dai. Yai dai dai dai dai dai. Yai dai dai dai dai dai dai dai dai dai dai dai hmmm. <ends singing>

Treasure: Mmm.

Koach: You can hear this yearning and this, like, pleading in this wordless song. And this happens over and over and over and over again in a ring, right?

Treasure: Mm-hmm

Koach: And so this connection of, there were sometimes my granny would say, “There aren’t any words to express! So I’ve just gotta moan,” you know what I mean?

Treasure: That's right. When I can’t say a word, I just wave my hands

Koach: Yes, and like, we don’t know, there are things that just kind of like, they’re in it, you know?

Treasure: Mm-hmm

Koach: And a lot of the prayers are sung. Sometimes there is this different sound. There’s definitely this influence of eastern Europe, and a lot of the liturgy, but there’s also like a lot of Sepphardic influence.

Treasure: Mm-hmm.

Koach: And so there’s, like, this rhythm to what’s happening, these beats. Even though that, you know a lot of special traditional congregations don’t use instruments on Shabbat. But you can see and feel the rhythm when people are singing, and how it’s being led by a chazzan, and like so, to me there’s a connection.

Karen: Mm.

Koach: I know that for a lot of people, they don’t see it, because, again, it gets so wrapped up in the head! Right? But when you see people praying, like in this way, it’s called shuffling, where the body is moved so every part of your body is moving in prayer.

Treasure: Mm-hmm.

Koach: So it’s not just what you’re saying. And your whole body is doing it. And it reminds me of being in a Black church! And some people will say, like, “Do you miss it?” I’m like, “It’s here!”

Karen and Treasure laugh

Koach: It’s interesting that some people don’t see it, because they just—you know, like they can’t—

Treasure: Mm-hmm

Koach: --because they’ve never been in that experience. But it reminds me of being there, you know, minus the whole Christian theology!

Karen: Mm

Koach: But the way we pray is very very similar, I remember it to being in the church. And it makes me feel that it’s also a lot wrapped up in what’s the next expression of life?

Koach: Mm.

Karen: Right? And resilience, and saying like, I’m going to keep going. And I’m gonna speak out, and I’m gonna make noise because that’s what you do when you’re alive, and it goes back to your poem, in a way, because you’re saying, can you remember to breathe?

Koach: Mm-hmm.

Karen: You can’t sing if you’re not breathing. And I just—I think about how, when people experience trauma, sometimes what we do is we just shut up.

Koach: Mm-hmm.

Karen: Right? We get quiet. And I know for me, when I’ve gone through bouts of sadness, it becomes hard to sing. Or even to hear music.

Treasure: Mm.

Karen: Because it’s something that reaches to kind of that place that Treasure was pointing to, like right in the side?

Treasure: Mm-hmm!

Karen: Maybe there should be some anatomy of like musical energy, where like—

Treasure laughs

Karen: —the side is where you get like, the store of—

Treasure: I’m sure our chakra people would get us together—

Karen: —emotion—

Treasure: —right here—

Karen: —I know, right?!

Treasure: Maybe that is your blank chakra!

Karen: Where are our reiki masters, like—

Treasure laughs

Karen: --be accurate about this, it’s like, is the gut where the difficult stuff is?

Treasure: Well, in your trade, your profession as an audiologist, you have to be sensitive to sound, too. I’m curious, because you also deal with children and parents.

Koach: Mm-hmm

Treasure: So, I’m interested to know if there have been instances where your training allowed you to hear things that parents couldn’t hear? And it wasn’t about instruments.

Koach: Mmhmm

Treasure: You know what I’m saying? It’s about perception and sensitivity.

Koach: Right, right! And understanding how we listen. Because a lot of people think it’s just a function of the ear, but the ear is a really wonderful way to get sound to the brain. And the brain is what makes sense of what is happening. And then we take that into our hearts, right, like so—

Karen: Yeah

Koach: --there’s a whole process, and being able sit with people—adults and children alike, and explain this process, just ‘cause a lot of people don’t understand it, has been really healing. And I don’t necessarily have an example of a child per se—they weren’t the patient. The patient—

Treasure: Mm-hmm

Koach: --was an adult. And they came in, and they were convinced that they had this hearing impairment. And when we did the testing, they had a very, if I remember correctly, they had a very slight or mild hearing loss. It wasn’t something significant, to the point where they were reporting such problems communicating. And so we had a conversation, and they allowed me this space to do this, and not every patient does or is willing to do this. They allowed me the time to talk about the things that they may not have wanted to hear.

Treasure: Mmmm!

Koach: Has there been any added stress in your life? Is there something that you don’t wanna hear? And it was about a kid. Their child—there’s doing or saying something that they did not want to hear.

Karen: Mmm.

Koach: And so, we talked a little bit about, like, what that means in terms of how that manifests in our body, and, you know, like ways to move forward after that. But there are times where we can think about like, what is it around us that we either are not paying attention to, unaware of, or are actually in resistance against—

Treasure: Mmm

Koach: --what are we missing, that could inform us and help us as we move forward? That’s the one that’s one of the instances where we allowed this kind of spiritual process of listening, to figure out exactly what’s the cause of this impairment that this person is having.

Treasure: Mm!

Koach: But I’ll also say that, you know, especially in families, a lot of people will come in, and they’ll say, “Hey, my so-and-so, I brought them here because they can’t hear. Blah blah, and they’re making my life bad.”

Treasure: My goodness

Koach: Kinda thing. And it’s like, teaching people how to actually listen and knowing that it’s a skill that can be honed is really really important. And one of the things, you know, we talk about revolutionary listening, that’s one of the things that’s in the Bible. And what that means to me is that you actually listen to people without interruption, without judgment, and without correction.

Treasure: Mmm.

Koach: And if those three things are happening, then you can actually really listen to what somebody is saying. And, it gets you off the hook. You don’t have to fix anything. So these are, like, skills I would teach people, because oftentimes, you know, people who are hearing impaired, they get in spaces, and they don’t feel heard. They overtalk because they actually can’t hear themselves talk.

Treasure: Mm-hmm.

Koach: Because usually their voices is overshadowed by everybody else’s voices, which is why they actually talk louder, and dominate conversation. That’s one of the key signs somebody has hearing impairment, is that they dominate conversation. They never allow anybody else to talk.

Treasure: Mm-hmm.

Koach: Because they can’t hear them. They can hear their voice. They’re talking really loud, right? So, um...

Treasure: Wow

Karen: I think this just got deep.

Treasure: Right?

Koach: All of these things—all of these things are like interwoven. Like, being able to be an audiologist and work with people who have hearing impairment and their families? Has really helped inform my spiritual practice in terms of listening. And also like, you know, helping other people learn how to listen, because so many people are not being heard. And feel unheard.

Treasure: Mmhmm.

Koach: And that creates so much chaos in our communities.

Treasure: Well, I mean, everything you said sounds like it could just be overlaid onto white supremacy.

Koach: Yes.

Treasure: I was like, “What??!”

Koach laughs

Treasure: This sounds like a very audiology-focused explanation for white supremacy. You know—it also reminded me of this moment in I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. You guys ever read that book?

Koach: It’s been a long time

Treasure: Maya Angelou’s autobiography

Koach: I need to re-read it, ‘cause it came up in a search the other day. Like, I need to re-read this book!

Treasure: Well, you know, her name is Marguerite. And she had taken a job at a local Jewish woman’s house. And they had special dishes for certain meals. And this woman refused to call her Marguerite. She said, “Your name is Mary.”

Koach: Mhmm.

Treasure: And no matter how many times she politely reminded her, “My name is Marguerite,”—she called her Mary. Until she broke one of those dishes.

Karen: Mmm.

Treasure: And when she broke the dishes, all of the sudden, she could hear—that her name was Marguerite. So, you know, all of that kinda made me think: that’s why sometimes there has to be dissent.

Karen: Mmhmm

Treasure: So that people can hear

Koach: Right, exactly

Treasure: They weren’t able to hear until you drummed—

Koach: Yeah

Treasure: —until you marched—

Koach: Right

Treasure: —until you interrupted their flights.

Koach: Absolutely

Treasure: Until you interrupted their nice day at the theater. Then they could hear!

Koach: Yeah, yeah, that changes things, absolutely.

Treasure: Mm-hmm.

Koach: Um, and, the other thing, too, is that not everybody can hear everyone, right? Like, so there are some voices, if you think about this, you know, scientifically, um, there are some places in the inner ear that get damaged from noise and medicine and things like that. And it actually makes it so that you can’t hear certain pitches, right? Um, and so some people say, well there’s this thing called husband deafness, where they can’t hear their wives.

Karen: Oh

Koach: Literally, it’s because high frequencies are, like, the first thing to go. And it’s like, you have these people who have like high frequency voices, women and children a lot of times, and then they’re like “I can’t hear them!” and it’s not because they don’t want to, sometimes, it’s because their ear actually isn’t producing the sounds loud enough for their brain to hear them.

Treasure: Mmhm

Koach: Right? And so, translate that into, like, conversation with people who are trying to get to a, you know, make a decision, or, or are trying to express a point. Not everybody can hear your voice. Sometimes they have to hear somebody else’s voice before they are able to hear what is happening.

Treasure: Mmhmm.

Koach: Because, you know like, you see this with somebody who says, “I’ve tried 12 times to tell somebody, and as soon as somebody else said it—”

Karen: Yes!

Koach: —“They can hear it!”

Treasure: Right!

Koach: It’s because they couldn’t hear it in that voice. They had to hear it in a way that they could digest it. And sometimes that’s not helpful for people, because it’s like “I really want you to hear me!” Sometimes people can’t. And maybe finding that other person, who speaks in a voice that this person can understand, will help us move forward.

Karen: Dropping wisdom.

Treasure: Okay. All that knowledge was the bomb.

Karen: You’re right! I’m blown away right now. You know, on this show, we sometimes characterize our region, or US-America, we’ve talked about it as possibly a toddler.

Koach: Mm.

Karen: In a lot of different ways, right? So, I’m curious to know, kind of, in your assessment, what is our region, what is US-America missing? So, we don’t wanna use the metaphor of, like, if you have a hearing impairment, that’s not worse. But if you’re missing something, then there’s something that you can’t get to. So, what is, in our region, in our country on the road to liberation, what’s being missed?

Koach: I really believe that it’s this turning toward each other, this shuvah. You know, we were talking a little bit earlier about the days of awe being this time where Jews specifically look at how we have missed the mark, how we can be better, ‘cause we’re moving into a new year. But I feel like—I even made a post about this—I mean, what do you need in order for us to turn toward each other? Because there’s a whole lot of what people say—well I need this and I need that, but what is it that you need that maybe I can give or somebody else can give you that we can turn toward each other? Not against each other? Or around each other? Or behind each other? Like—

Karen: Mm

Koach: --what is it? Because when I turn toward you, I can see you. If I, you know, don’t have visual impairment, right? But I can—at least, like, there is something about that orientation of being in front of somebody—

Karen: You take in more information about them. You’re in a better position to understand them.

Koach: Yeah, right, there’s something about, like, the humanity that I can glean from you because I’m in front of you, versus when I’m behind you. Right? That your presence and, um, you know, your aura and your energy, I can get it better if I’m in front of you.

Treasure: Mmhmm

Koach: So, a lot of times, um, we spend a time, a lot of time on, um, devices. And I have this reminder from one of the elders when I was just in Detroit—

Treasure laughs

Koach: --and she told me, her name is Mama Lila, and she told me, she just e-mailed me the other day. She’d been hearing what’s been happening here in St. Louis. And, um, once she gave me a reminder about who I am. And—and I needed that.

Karen: Mm.

Koach: But she also says, “I need voice-to-voice communication. I don’t do well with e-mail.” And I need that reminder, too. And so, it reminded me to call not only her but a couple other people, so that I could hear their voice.

Treasure: Mmhmm.

Koach: And that they could hear my voice. And that we could actually have a conversation that wasn’t hindered by whatever comes up when we’re on these devices. And I really feel turning toward each other in whatever way that is for you, like, if it’s voice-to-voice communication or face-to-face communication, or if it’s ear-to-ear, you know, like finding ways to be in front of somebody in in some way.

Treasure: Mmm.

Koach: Because I feel like our humanity is being cut off, um, by these devices, and by things we put in front of us—these masks that we wear, including those masks that the police wear and those shields, and they look like zombies, and I’m trying to figure out like—

Karen: You can’t tell who is who

Koach: —are they human?! Are they actually human? Because—and I don’t feel human in front of them.

Treasure: Mmmm!

Koach: One of the things, when we went to this, um, got into the synagogue last Friday night, or the Friday before—

Treasure: Are you talking about this, what everyone was talking about, where people were trapped in the synagogue?

Koach: Yes!

Treasure: Okay, so as an explanation for our dear listeners... Six year ago, a young man was killed by a policeman. And it finally came to trial, and surprise, surprise, the policeman was found not guilty. And, as a response all over St. Louis, people have been resisting, protesting, interrupting, and disrupting. Which leads us to two Fridays ago?

Koach: Yes

Treasure: How did you all wind up in the synagogue? And why was it not safe to leave?

Koach: So, we were in the Central West End, and the police had at some point kettled all of us who were on the street.

Treasure: Mmhm.

Koach: And by kettle, I mean that they surrounded us. And so, there was a dispersal order, but there was nowhere to disperse to, because they were all around us. There was nowhere to go.

Karen: Just trapped

Koach: Yeah, they trapped us. And so, we were literally in front of CRC, Central Reform Congregation, the synagogue, and the Unitarian church. The First Unitarian Church was across the street. That’s actually where CRC used to meet.

Karen: Mmhmm.

Koach: And so there’s a synergy there. Anyway, so, that minister had been called, and I think at some point had said well, you know, hopefully at some point your doors will be opened. Thank God their doors were open.

Treasure: Mm.

Koach: And, you know, that was a Friday night, so it was Shabbat and people were still kind of milling around after service at CRC. And so as we were being kettled into, like, this one little small spot, people started running, because the police were running after people, banging on their shields. And they do this boom-boom-move-back-move—I mean, it’s really surreal kind of thing. So anyway, people are like, running and running and running, so twe got as many people as we could in the synagogue before they were—they were literally trying to snatch people. You know? We were like, trying to pull them into the synagogue.

Karen: Mmhmm.

Koach: Um. And so they literally had the synagogue and the church surrounded. Like there was nowhere we could go, which is why it was unsafe to leave.

Treasure: Mmhmm.

Koach: And they expressed as much to the rabbis, Rabbi Susan and Rabbi Randy, that if anybody left, they would be arrested. So they could not leave. So we were trapped, basically, inside the synagogue. And we had to wait until we got the quote-unquote “all-clear” from the police that they wouldn’t arrest anybody if they left the synagogue.

Karen: Which you’re kinda rolling your eyes, because it’s the “all-clear”, you don’t know whether you can trust given the intimidation tactics and all brutality prior.

Koach: Exactly. And I will say that there were some people, like we were getting word that people could go west. They couldn’t go east, but they could go west.

Karen: Mmhm.

Koach: People went west, they came back. They said, “Nope, they’ve got that blocked off.” And so people had to wait even longer. And I don’t believe we all like, the rest of us, including the staff at CRC—who stayed there, because they had nowhere else to go, either! Until like 12 or 1 o’clock in the morning.

Treasure: Mm.

Koach: So you can imagine, like, the stress that people who weren’t even involved in the protest, right? And people who were in support of the protest were basically trapped as well, because the police had us surrounded.

Treasure: Mmhmm.

Koach: And it was one of those terrifying moments, again, we felt like we were in one of those zombie movies. You know, the people were coming at us, and they were like snatching people, and once we got, like, settled—I’m using “settled” as like, with quotations—

Karen: In air quotes

Koach: --yeah! I told people to breathe. You know, like we’re coming back to this breath. I said, “See if you can take a deep breath. I know it’s hard, but see if you can take a deep breath,” and I said, “And remind yourself that you are human. Because what happened out there is not what’s supposed to happen to humans.”

Treasure: Mmhmm.

Koach: Like, “You are a human. We’re gonna affirm your humanity in here, right, as best as we can”. But there were people having panic attacks. There was somebody who had been teargassed—or pepper sprayed, and they were trying to get that under control. So like, there was so much happening in that space. And there were kids. There was somebody who literally said, “I almost got snatched up. And I know that the only reason I didn’t is because y’all pulled me in.”

Treasure: Mm.

Koach: So like, there was just so much. But the reminder to breathe and the reminder that we are actually humans—I mean, I have to remind myself, so I say it out loud, hoping that other people also, if they need the reminder, they can get it, too. But that was such a terrifying moment.

Karen: Mmhm.

Koach: And to know that, like, they were, like, threatening, to like, come in. Um, you know, it’s just like the worst of whatever you could think of could happen. When people are just saying “Please stop killing us.”

Treasure: That’s all they’re saying, but they can’t hear us.

Koach: Right. And I’m wondering, like, whose voice will they hear? Like, what will it take? Whose voice are they gonna hear? I don’t know. Because clearly, it hasn’t been our voices, right?

Treasure: Mmhmm

Karen: Mmhmm

Koach: Now, although, I believe that there are some people who are listening that weren’t listening before. But those—I don’t know if those are the people who can, like, change things. But I know that they’re like, neighbors and shop owners and things like that, who are like, “You know what? I’m on board. Like, I’m on board with ‘stop killing us.’”

Treasure: Mmhmm

Koach: “Like, I can get on board with that.” <laughs>

Treasure: Mmhmm

Koach: And some of it, it took their window being broken, it took their day being disrupted. Some people, it took, you know, watching the police beat up on grandmothers and 13-year-olds.

Treasure: Mmhmm.

Koach: They’re like, “Oh! So they’re out of control.”

Treasure: Mmhmm.

Koach: “And I can see this, it’s in plain view, there’s no, like, veil anymore. My veil has been lifted.” Thank God! But like, I don’t know if those are, like, the people who can make systemic change that makes it so they will stop killing us.

Karen: Mm.

Koach: Right? I don’t know whose voice they will hear.

Treasure: Mmhmm. Mmm. Well, we’re all working in different arenas. Trying to create whatever that centering behavior will be, that will call people to attention so they are able to hear you.

Koach: Mmhmm.

Treasure: You know, if you ever work with a roomful of children, sometimes people say “Clap once if you hear my hand!”

Koach laughs

Treasure claps

Treasure: “Clap twice if hear my voice!” <Treasure claps twice and then laughs> Right? And people get centered! They can pay attention then!

Koach: Right, right right right.

Treasure: So, I don’t know if it would be a combination of disruption, policy change, the arts, but whatever it is, it has to coalesce into something permanent.

Koach: Mmhm.

Treasure: And I always thing back to the period of enslavement, in that the south kinda stood up as a bloc when it was floated that maybe slavery should just be abolished. And they said, “Well, let’s do a 20-year plan. Let’s ease out of it.”

Koach laughs

Treasure: And people were like, “But we’ve been easin’ out of it for 400 years.” Like, “We need to just rip off this band-aid.” And, you know, they just couldn’t hear until it was at their doorstep, from us. And they resisted till the end. They resisted until death.

Karen: Still resisting

Koach: Right, with tiki torches now

Treasure sighs

Karen: Right, 5 Below does not connect themselves with those—

Treasure laughs

Karen: They have named this clearly

Koach: Well, I think, to speak to that, one of the things that I’ve really tried my best to focus on is knowing that my brain and my body will follow my brain, right? And vice-versa. What if liberation comes, right? Excuse me, when liberation comes—

Treasure: Mmhmm

Koach: What does it feel like, what does it taste like, what does it smell like, what does it sound like?

Treasure: Yes!

Treasure laughs

Koach: And if I can imagine, in my mind’s eye, that’s what it is, then how can I not live in that right now? Like, how can I live like I am liberated, once I know what it tastes like, what it smells like, what it looks like, what it sounds like? So that’s a practice, right? It’s a practice for me, to figure out what that is. And then, my brother Langston takes it a step further and says, “And how am I being, how am I a person in—how am I when I am liberated?” Like, am I different with people, when I’m liberated than when I’m oppressed? And if so, how can I act from that now, so that I’m already acting and living in my own liberation. Because that’s, I think, the change that I want. Like, if people are acting from liberation and not oppression, then, to me, things have to change.

Treasure: Mm.

Koach: Because I’m different. I’m acting as if I’m liberated. Because I really believe that I was born free. This oppression is a symptom of what has happened here in our world.

Treasure: Mmmm.

Koach: But it is not—I am not oppressed. I am experiencing—it is an experience, right? I’m—I’m a liberated person. I’m free. Born free. But how am I acting like I’m free? How am I living like I’m free?

Treasure: Mmhmm.

Koach: That’s kind of this experience that I’m hoping to, like, engage myself in, as well as other people. And people can really experience it, and I can know what it is. And that I can live it. And when I’m living liberated, then this circumstance of oppression has to go away, ‘cause it’s not the reality.

Treasure: Mm-hmm. Mmmmm. That’s powerful on a lot of levels.

Karen: It is!

Treasure: So as you move into your spiritual practice, because you put us all on notice here—

Karen: Yes!

Treasure: That shit would not be going to their workhouses and all

General laughter

Treasure: So, so you’ve already decided to quote-unquote “liberate” yourself.

Koach: Yes

Treasure: And to a vision for your life that fits how you wanna move through the world.

Karen: Or how you already are moving—

Treasure: How you already are moving in the world, right.

Karen: --let’s get our tenses right!

Treasure: So this means the audiology practice know the rabbi mantle. Yes. How is that gonna happen?

Koach: So, um, you know, I’m sound about that visioning process, and I actually did vision with a life coach. And we visioned this out, uh, and it took 9 months. And at first I was very skeptical. Because I was like, “Yeah, whatever”—

Treasure laughs

Koach: --“Yeah, I’m sayin’ I want this, but I’m scared, because I’m like what’s gonna happen? I’m not gonna have income comin’ in every two weeks, and health insurance and all this other stuff, and my life coach reminded me about what I was doing. We had a plan, like there was this whole plan, and this plan was that by Rosh Hashanah 5778, that I would be no longer a full-time audiologist, and that I would be moving into full-time spiritual leadership. And that happened.

Karen whistles

Koach: And so I know that when you can see, ‘cause we literally wrote out what does it feel like, what does it look like. I had to envision what does it sound like? What does it? You know, all of these things—we did that. And that’s the only way I knew when it was successful. Right?

Karen: Mmhm

Koach: That’s how I will know I have achieved liberation, because what it feels like, sounds like, tastes like, looks like, will be. And so, that’s what I’ve done. I don’t know what rabbinical school I want to go to. What I do know is that the process is started. And I’ve also already started leading service.

Treasure: Mmm.

Koach: And, you don’t have to necessarily be a rabbi to do what I’m doing, however, I feel like there just aren’t enough rabbis of color.

Treasure: Mmm. Mmhmm.

Koach: That are doing, or even maybe have the ability to say and do things that in this—in this realm, because they, you know, because once you have a congregation, you kind of, you are beholden to whatever happens, to that board or that congregation. But being a rabbi, being able to lead services and participate in communal ritual, as well as being a person who can, you know, speak truth to power—I feel like that’s my calling. And I’m stepping into it.

Treasure: Mm

Karen: Mmhmm

Koach: I’m stepping into it!  It is the thing that I am doing, right? And it’s a reminder for myself that that’s what I’m doing. Um, you know, it was scary when I gave notice at the practice, and said hey, “I’m done, officially, I’m done.”

Karen: Mm

Koach: But I know that the universe has supported this idea. It wouldn’t have been an idea in my mind’s eye if it couldn’t be supported.

Treasure: Mmhmm.

Koach: So I’m really clear that that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. And so I’m really happy to be living into this, knowing that it’ll be a successful journey.

Treasure: Ha shay, and it is so.

Karen: I think that’s especially exciting, because I’ve heard before around pastors that different types of pastors show different views of God. And I think similarly, you stepping into being a rabbi, and I think about that part in your poem where you’re talking about, you know, can you see the spark of humanity in me? And that’s something that’s unmistakable if you’re in that role, and the way that you might carry out that role, as well.

Koach: Yeah. I’m so looking forward to looking deeper into the traditions of Judaism. There’s so much wisdom there to be brought to bear in this work as a social activist and a spiritual leader. I think if even just one thing,—so there’s, when we study together it’s called chabuktah, which the root of that is ‘friend.’

Karen: Mm.

Koach: And so even though this is a very spirited relationship, we may disagree, we’re gonna figure out what the facts are, we’re gonna debate the facts. But the point is that we deepen our friendship. And to even go into this relationship knowing that I’m not always gonna agree with you—

Karen: Mmhmm!

Koach: --and that’s gonna be okay, and we’re still gonna be friends, enlightens the kind of relationships that we set up other places, right? And it’s one of the things that we’ve started to bring into trainings around, like, anti-racism and antisemitism—it’s like studying together and being in fellowship with one another and meeting a person knowing that my point is to be a friend. And to establish a relationship that isn’t just about what we’re gonna disagree on or what we may agree on, but like—how—what is the basis for a friendship?

Treasure: Mmm.

Koach: And a relationship—like, a real relationship. As opposed to like “I’m only going to talk to people I care that care about same issues as me. I’m only gonna talk to people who believe everything I believe.” ‘Cause that’s not a real relationship.

Karen: Right.

Koach: Yeah. So, I mean, just all of these different things—the wisdom of the sages in all traditions are so rich, and I feel like sometimes we don’t dig deep enough into that to like gather—we don’t have to recreate this thing.

Karen: Mmm.

Koach: Right, like, my ancestors left a fantastic blueprint. If we would just, like, look at it and use it as a guide...

Treasure: Mm-hm. So true. You know, I think that, um, we’re gonna let that stand as the final word.

Karen: Mmhmm.

Treasure: So! Questions for listeners: what is the sound of your dissent? Koach Baruch Frazier has blessed us with a rich conversation about sound, and we are so grateful that he was here to collaborate on this conversation with us. But for you listeners, how does spirituality energize your sound of dissent? And whose beat keeps you going?

Karen: And maybe finally, how are you going to turn toward other people?

Koach: Mm.

Karen: Meditate on that.

General laughter.

Karen: You can visit to learn more and support us. You can book us or talk to our guests about that, or donate to buy us a cup of tea. Today we’re enjoying vanilla chai. Thank you, Teatopia!

General laughter

Karen: And support media by people of color from flyover country. You can like us on Facebook and we’re on Instagram @WhoRaised E-mail us up at to suggest poets, guests, topics, and to help with transcription. We’re co-hosted by Treasure Shields Redmond and Karen Jia Lian Yang. We have consulting by FarFetched Collective. You should contact to learn more about how they can help you launch or expand your project, business, or non-profit with their agency brainwork. If you wanna try this tea from Teatopia, you can go to and have a graceful Teatopia experience. Thank you so much, Koach, for being a guest here. You are beaming—

Koach laughs

Karen: —and I love it!

Treasure laughs

Karen: How can we support you? How can our listeners support you?

Koach: They can find us on Facebook. And  right now we’re gonna figure out how to set up a way for people to support us—I guess the, uh, internet platform. But right now, just find us on Facebook and follow us.

Treasure: What’s the name?

Koach: Oh, Justice Beats.

Treasure: Okay.

Koach: Yeah, Justice Beats.

Treasure: Justice Beats.

Karen: Okay. And then hopefully as your rabbi journey unfolds, something will be there, some update.

General laughter

<music fades in>

{song lyrics:

Baby I just need you to know

Your essence is beautiful


I’ll always love you so (Oh)}

<music fades out >