Dan Sinker/blog

Rebel Rebel

A few weeks before the pandemic hit, my pal Akilah Hughes and I sat in, of all places, the Cars-themed section of Disneyland and talked about, of all things, our careers.

Sure, why not.

We posted up at a picnic table nestled between food stalls shaped like oversized traffic cones for a couple hours and had a long, winding conversation about where we were at in our work lives and where we wanted to be. It was one of those conversations where you come out clearer, more focused, more ready.

You know what happened next.

Everything shut down and all the plans that we'd made got shelved along with everyone else's. But Akilah and I kept talking, keeping a regular zoom appointment that served as a sanity check at a time when everything felt insane.

It was during one of those calls that Akilah mentioned an idea she had for a podcast: to change her racist high school team name, The Rebels—named after the confederacy, complete with a confederate general mascot—to a different piece of Southern culture that everyone could be proud of, The Biscuits. I loved the idea so much and we talked about what felt so resonant and right about it and brainstormed about all the different angles you could take and stories you could tell in pursuit of making the change.

Thankfully, Akilah stuck with the idea and a couple years later she told me she'd sold the show and asked me to come on to produce it. I said yes faster than anything.

That was almost exactly one year ago, and we've been working hard on Rebel Spirit ever since, conducting dozens of interviews, digging through decades of history. We've taken three trips to Northern Kentucky (in fact, we're here right now) for research and to build a coalition of folks to help make a change really happen. It has been equal parts infuriating and hilarious (well, maybe not equal) and is, easily, some of the best work I've ever been lucky enough to be involved in.

It's also turned into much more than just the original story, as all good stories tend to do. The journey has been incredible, the side quests we ended up on were unforgettable, and the whole thing has added up to a show that is truly extraordinary.

Rebel Spirit starts coming out weekly September 3, but the trailer is out now on every podcasting platform. It's a 90 second glimpse into a project that will span 10 episodes and more than five hours. I can not wait for you to hear the whole thing.

Listen to the Rebel Spirit trailer now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, iHeart, Pandora, Amazon, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Published June 19, 2024.

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