Saidu Sejan-Thomas Jr.: All right. So there's a new fellowship here at Gimlet where people pitch an idea for a story they've always wanted to work on, and one of my homies, Gabby Bulgarelli, she got it! Gabby and I used to work together on this other show, Mogul. You should go listen to it if you haven't already, it's a really dope show. But when Gabby started telling me about this story, I was so hype for her, and honestly I was also hype for y'all because I knew it'd be perfect for Resistance. We'll get right to it after this short break—the homie. Gabby.
Gabby Bulgarelli: Hey Saidu.
Saidu: Hey, what's up Gabby?
Gabby: Nothin' much. Just came here to kick it with you.
Saidu: Aw, you came to kick it with little ol' me?
Gabby: Yeah, you missed me, so I thought I'd do you a favor.
Saidu: [laughs] You know what? I appreciate that. Your presence is a present, as they say.
Gabby: You're welcome. It's good to be here.
Saidu: Okay, so I know you've been working really hard on this story, and I know at the center of it is this really dope woman that you've been just waiting to tell me about. Can you tell me about her?
Gabby: Yes. Her name is Isis Brantley.
Saidu: Isis Brantley.
Gabby: Isis Brantley. And she's so awesome. When she walked into the studio in Dallas, she was just dripping head to toe. Just rows and ...
Saidu: In swagu?
Gabby: Yes! [laughs] She was robed in this long white dress that she told us was custom-made in Ghana for her. Bangles stacked so high on her wrists. If you listen closely, you might be able to hear them jangling while she's talking.
Gabby: She brought her own fan.
Saidu: Okay! [laughs]
Gabby: Which I really respect. Honestly, yeah, she was giving queen vibes. The most important part, I would say though, the thing that really just, like, pulled the outfit together was her hair.
Gabby: She had her head wrapped in this huge white gele, and it was wrapped around in sparkly gold fabric with a gold pin adorning the top of it and these red, curly bangs peeking out from underneath it.
Gabby: Below that, best locks I've ever seen in my life. Period.
Saidu: Wow. [laughs]
Gabby: That's it. Finished. And she did them herself!
Gabby: It was unbelievable. I found out she's got a lot of practice, though, because she's been experimenting with hair like that since she was a little kid.
Isis Brantley: The first time someone braided my hair was when I was three years old, in my community on the front porch. My auntie braided my hair. I remember the blue magic grease. I remember the greasing of my scalp. I remember the three cornrows coming down from each side with beautiful beads on the ends. I remember many of the children sitting on the porches in between the thighs of the elders getting their hair braided. Sometimes an up-do, sometimes all over to the side. And mind you, everybody just about next door in the community across the street on the next block, they all were braiders.
Gabby: And Isis really quickly went from getting her hair braided to doing the braiding herself.
Isis Brantley: I would always braid my sisters, my community, my next door neighbors, all of us. It was just like a braiding camp. We would all braid, because we watched the elders and they taught us how to do adjoining cornrow or how to do your name in the middle of your head and how to make the different designs.
Gabby: Isis grew up in a historically Black community called Bonton, and it was the kind of place where everyone felt like one big family. You could walk down the street and grab a cup of sugar from your neighbor. It was also known for being a mecca for Black arts and culture, and when Isis was growing up it was like paradise. She felt free to be herself there.
Isis Brantley: We had everything that you can imagine, where we were able to create our own wealth and prosperity. I'm telling you it was like out of a fairy tale.
Gabby: Life may have been like a storybook inside Bonton, but outside of Bonton it was a different story. Isis grew up in the '60s, respectability politics were in full force, so her and people in her community, they could really only rock these braids in their hood. If they wanted to go outside of Bonton, they needed to face a hot comb.
Isis Brantley: You had to look a certain way to be able to go outside across the tracks. So you couldn't go into society with your hair natural.
Gabby: Who told you that you couldn't leave Bonton without your hair pressed?
Isis Brantley: History has told us repeatedly that we are not accepted with our hair braided and afroed. The reason the people who worked in the fields who were working for free had to cover their heads was because no one was allowed to see the curls, the coils, the kinks on our hair. Who told us? Our ancestors told us. Who reminded us? Our parents reminded us. How did we grow up? We grew up understanding that it was not okay to try to go out and get a job with your afro. It is not okay to try to go to school with a certain look, especially if you want to change the lot of your life.
Saidu: Okay, I feel like I've heard all the stories about Black hair and the politics of all that but, like, why were you drawn to Isis? Why were you drawn to the story?
Gabby: I think because we were kind of held back by the same things, you know? Like, even though our childhoods were 40 years apart, I was kinda told the same stuff growing up. I had my hair relaxed for most of my childhood, so I was told by people, like, "Burn your hair straight. It's gonna be easier. You're gonna pull it back at track practice, you're gonna look nicer in this formal dress." When in actuality, it felt like forcing myself into a box, all for the comfort of people who weren't me. I eventually rebelled against all that. I mean, you've seen me with a huge 'fro.
Gabby: I've also had faux locks.
Gabby: I'm wearing box braids right now. And Saidu, Isis did all of that in a time and place when that was way harder. I mean, she rebelled and took it further than I ever did. She took her braids with her outside the borders of Bonton, and all the way to a federal courtroom. And in a country where Black women have lost so much because of their hair: jobs, relationships, power, Isis actually won something for all of us.
Saidu: Okay. I'm ready. You already know what time it is. Let's go, Gabby.
Gabby: Hey, cool. I'm Gabby Bulgarelli and this is Resistance, a show about refusing to accept things as they are—even when it means putting your idea of beauty before the world's.
Saidu: Let's get it!
Gabby: If you're gonna know something about me, you should probably know that I really love the '80s—the big hair, the funky clothes, the soulful bass riffs. Like, if you take a look at my records or my sweaters you'll know I'm not joking. The vibes are just immaculate. And that makes me super jealous of Isis, because she was really coming into her own as a young Black woman right around this time.
Gabby: Do you remember what the popular styles, hairstyles were around this time?
Isis Brantley: Mm-hmm. A lot of the styles were on Soul Train, so we were all trying to mimic, you know, all the beautiful long braids, you know? The cornrows, the afros. I mean, we were wanting it all. So I really watched that show so much to get ideas on different patterns and African styles, and was able to incorporate it into what it was that I was loving.
Gabby: Isis had the skills that she had learned from elders back in Bonton, and after mastering the looks on Soul Train, she started looking for other inspo.
Isis Brantley: I was fascinated with Kemet and Egypt. So I wanted it to look like, you know, Nefertari. I wanted to look like Nzinga. I wanted to look like Cleopatra. So I would braid my hair that way, and the people liked it a lot. It was like, totally revolutionary.
Gabby: People would see her rocking these regal hairstyles, and they would run up to her and ask who did them. And when they found out that she was doing her own braids, they asked if she could do theirs too. So she did.
Isis Brantley: This is a market. This can be put on the market. It felt like, "My god, I can do something for myself." You know? Most people don't have boots, they don't have no strings. They can't pull themselves up like this. All I have to do is use my hands. You know, that's kind of like what I was thinking. I have to just use my hands and be creative and keep things beautiful and keep it moving in the direction of culture. It just felt easy.
Gabby: Isis's house became another version of her childhood stoop. People from all over Dallas would come lay their crown between her hands. She'd weave her fingertips back and forth over their heads like magic. And as her business grew, her family did too.
Isis Brantley: From '84 I had my first daughter, and then I had another son in '86, and then I had another son in '89. Then I had another son in '92, and then I had my baby girl in '95. All that period I was in my house, my temple, I called it. And people were coming.
Gabby: And people were coming for a reason—because she was so good. By the mid '90s, Isis had really made a name for herself all around Dallas. She could do pretty much any style.
Isis Brantley: I was already given the name "Queen of Braids."
Gabby: For 16 years she braided at home. From the beaded cornrows era to the meteoric rise of tiny, tiny box braids. But we're not gonna talk about how that style snatched all of our moms' edges. By 1995, Isis had finally saved up enough to open her own salon. It was a small place in south Dallas, and Isis decorated it with photos of beautiful Black women rocking intricate braided styles. She had incense smoke hanging in the air in thick clouds, and an actual living tree where people could lay offerings for the ancestors. Everyone came to Isis's salon for the vibes.
Isis Brantley: I would just have, like, the right smells going, you know? The right oils burning. I would have, like, incense, candles. It was just very mystical, very mysterious. Like, what are we walking into? Who is this lady? It was that kind of energy.
Gabby: She welcomed clients of all different backgrounds into her salon: professionals who wanted sleek looks for work, people looking for low-maintenance protective styles, even some people who were trying braids for the first time. Isis was also giving women in the community braiding lessons.
Isis Brantley: So I was taking sisters off the streets saying, "You don't have to do that. I can show you how to feed your three kids." You know, taking ladies who were homeless and bringing them into my humble abode where I was actually practicing the art, and showing them exactly what I was doing. And my God, it woke up something inside of them. They became more astute at doing the braiding and more talented. It was already in them.
Gabby: Isis felt like she was given a gift from her elders in Bonton, and that it was only right that she pass it on to others.
Isis Brantley: Yeah. These are just recycled gifts and talents and creativity that has always been here. It's never left. So we're constantly, you know, moving in different rhythms and recycling different art. And the braid is one of them.
Gabby: Isis had created this entire happy world for herself. She had a thriving business, a beautiful family, and her own space to practice her craft. And then one day, a woman walked into her salon.
Isis Brantley: This lady came. And the lady came in like she was an enemy or something. I didn't even know her. I was like, "Why are you coming in here like this?" So she came in very aggressively, taking fliers off of my counter. And she came around to where I was servicing someone, picked up my phone—it was a landline at the time—and dialed a number and said, "I got her red-handedly." I was like, "You cannot be on my phone like that." And I took the phone from her, put the phone down. And she was saying, "You are practicing illegally. You're not supposed to be braiding in here." And she kept talking and shouting and people were, like, looking. They didn't know what was going on. Neither did I. Like I said, she came in like she was ready to fight. And so I told her—took the fliers out of her hand, took the phone, of course, and showed her the door. I said, "You have to leave. You can't come in here like this." And she said, "Well, I will be back, and you will be shutting down soon." That's what she said.
Gabby: Isis was pissed off. She spent a large part of her life refining her skills and creating the perfect environment to use them in. And in walks this stranger threatening to take it all away. She found out that, under Texas law, she wasn't qualified to work as a braider. She'd need a cosmetology license to do that. To get that license, she'd have to go to cosmetology school for a year, and the tuition would cost her more than $10,000.
Gabby: But Isis didn't think of herself as a cosmetologist. She didn't color or dye or do any of the stuff they taught in cosmetology school. She braided. She was an ancestral braider, and she had been braiding her whole life, so why spend 1,500 hours in courses that wouldn't even cover braiding? She was doing things in her salon that the schools weren't even capable of teaching.
Isis Brantley: Go to school for what? No I didn't, because I saw their schools. They were sending people to me. I knew that they didn't have the skills, and they didn't have the tools and they didn't have the educators, and they didn't have the instructors that were qualified to teach anything that I was doing.
Gabby: Isis was fined $600 for operating without a license. But her troubles didn't stop there—they'd actually just begun. Two years after that woman stormed into her salon, two more women walked in.
Isis Brantley: And then these two ladies came in. She was like, "What can I get? I want to get on your calendar. Both of us want our hair done."
Gabby: And they were Black women.
Isis Brantley: These were two Black women. I said, "Well, you have to wait until I am done with the other clients because, you know, right now I can't stop and put you on the calendar." And that's when she pulled her badge out and said, "Isis, I hate to do this, but you're going to jail for braiding hair." I was like, "You are kidding me. I don't believe it." I say, "You gotta be joking." And she said, "No, ma'am. You're going to jail." And I was like, "What about my babies? Somebody's gotta call my children. Will you give me an opportunity to call my children?" And she said yes. And so I called the schools so that my kids could be safe and someone could pick them up.
Gabby: So at first it was the two Black women, but eventually five other officers came in.
Isis Brantley: Oh yeah. Oh yeah, absolutely. Yes.
Gabby: And what did you notice about them when they came in?
Isis Brantley: They had their hands on their holster like they're raiding a drug house or something. And they came up to me quickly, you know, to apprehend me and to put my hands behind my back and put the handcuffs on. And they carted me off. And the cuffs were too tight. And so I told the lady that these are hurting, and the guy had to readjust them. And it was just embarrassing. It was, like, very humiliating. I never felt helpless and just powerless. Ever.
Isis Brantley: They took me downtown where all the bad people go, or so-called bad people go. Nobody has never gone for braiding without a European permission slip before.
Gabby: People always talk about the policing of Black women's hair like it's this abstract turn of phrase, when it's really this inescapable part of our lives. I think back to high school when I started doing my own hair. I remember going to the drug store for products and not being able to find them on the shelves. I remember seeing that there was a separate section, a section for hair like mine. All of those products were locked behind these plastic cages. I had to call someone over to come unlock them with their little key. It was this low-key message that said to me that, even when we try to make ourselves beautiful on our terms, it's seen as something criminal. For Isis, the message wasn't as low-key. She was literally being taken to jail.
Isis Brantley: I could not believe this was happening to me. They mug shooting me. They'd taken all my clothes off. Looking at my leg. I was like, "What is going on?" I was, like, in tears, like, trying to—I didn't know how to make it make sense.
Gabby: She wanted answers, so she got a jailer's attention.
Isis Brantley: I said to him, I was like, "Why am I in here? I need to go home. I have five children." Just like that. Whoever he was must have been some type of influence or something. I didn't know that. He went and said something, and a few hours passed. And next thing I know, the people were coming, they're saying, "We looked on your chart to see why you were here. There's nothing written on the chart stating why we are holding you. Come on, you're going. You're going home."
Gabby: Isis headed home to her kids, exhausted and outraged. The state kept telling her she couldn't braid, but Isis didn't recognize the authority of the state on this. When it came to braiding, her authority came from her ancestors. And she wasn't going down without a fight. That's after the break.
Gabby: Welcome back. Through all her troubles, Isis had been leaning on the braiding community for help. And the person she leaned on most of all was a woman named Thelma Clardy.
Gabby: Was this the first time you worked on a case like this?
Thelma Clardy: Yes, it was. [laughs] It was my first and only hair-braiding case.
Gabby: Thelma's a lawyer in Dallas who'd been coming to Isis's salon for years.
Isis Brantley: She's remarkable. She's short and she has long hair, very long hair. And she's had her hair straight, you know, like a lawyer. And during that time, remember, because you couldn't have no afro.
Thelma Clardy: Being a baby lawyer, you do want to conform. I was pretty conservative then. Navy blue and gray, I think those were my go-to colors. Simple earrings, simple makeup and so, yeah, I was pretty conservative.
Gabby: At first, Thelma came to Isis for simple styles. But as the culture changed, she got a little bolder. And Isis was the perfect guide.
Isis Brantley: The goddess braids were very popular during that time, and she wanted to change her look up because she's like, "I'm trying something new. I'm gonna step into the office with some goddess braids." And, you know, the atmosphere was opening up, it was softening up, so people were able to test the waters in their corporate fields.
Gabby: When Isis was first looking for a lawyer, Thelma didn't immediately come to mind.
Isis Brantley: I was just thinking like, "I have to go and get a white person to represent me." I was like—I was just so naive, like, not understanding that they're not the only lawyers that practice.
Gabby: Eventually, Isis realized that Thelma was the perfect lawyer to represent her. She had the experience of sitting in her braiding chair and had knowledge of the law. Thelma helped Isis after that first woman barged into her salon, and she was outraged when she heard about the arrest.
Thelma Clardy: I thought it was ridiculous, you know, overreach. And for that many cops to go into your business and everything. I've never had anything like that happen to me, but I can imagine how frightening that was in front of her clients and everything, and her being led out, you know, with handcuffs and everything like she was a common criminal. I mean, it was just ridiculous. They did not have to act like that. I said, "This is so unfair, you know, and inequitable." So, yeah, I reached out to her. I said, you know, "I'll help however I can, because I hate injustice when I see it.
Gabby: Thelma might have been conservative when it came to her hairstyles or her choice in power suits, but she was never afraid to speak her mind when it came to applying the law. And she thought this whole thing smelled funky.
Thelma Clardy: I think they selected her intentionally to make an example out of her because she was doing so well, because she was well known in the community. I think they were trying to teach her a lesson or something.
Gabby: Was there ever an easy out of this situation, you know, a path of least resistance? Could she just have gotten support to go to school? Or could she have just paid a fine and went back to practicing?
Thelma Clardy: Well, there's always an easier way, you know, if you don't want to fight something. But if you believe something is really wrong and unfair, you are going to fight. The easier way, like you say, would have been maybe to pay the fine, but that would not have helped her or anybody else. Isis, I would say she was a warrior.
Gabby: Thelma got to work building Isis's case.
Thelma Clardy: I think what really struck me was the fact that I knew what Isis did from her braiding my own hair. I knew she didn't use chemicals. She didn't use all the stuff that a regular beautician might use. And it's a natural art that she has, and that's what hair braiding is all about.
Gabby: What Thelma planned to argue in court was that the regulations for cosmetology shouldn't apply to hair braiders. Braiding was a separate field that deserved its own distinct regulations. She also planned to prove that the state was depriving Isis—and Black women all over Texas—of their ability to make money from braiding hair. The training costs were so high, and the training didn't even apply to their work.
Gabby: When their day in court finally came, they both looked good. Thelma had this sleek press, with her bangs feathered and her ends curled under. She was rocking this floral blouse and this long string of pearls. And Isis had her head wrapped in this pale blue gele. It was flecked with gold and it had these dark microbraids cascading out from underneath it. To me, it kind of looked like a middle finger to the entire court. Like a reminder: she could braid so well.
Thelma Clardy: We went to JP Court, Justice of the Peace Court, and we actually had a jury. I think was a jury of six.
Gabby: And when the prosecution played a video to the courtroom, that jury was shook.
Thelma Clardy: They had a video that they had taped Isis of doing hair. You know, when you do get braids, at the ends they kind of burn it a little bit to melt that hair. And they showed that part.
Gabby: For anyone who's ever gotten braids before, there are some parts of the experience that are just so common that you don't even think twice about them. When your braids are finished you get your ends burnt and dunked in boiling water. You text whoever's picking you up that it's time for them to circle the block. You feel the cool foam cascading down between the fresh parts on your scalp. And while it's happening, you get ready to look in the mirror and feel transformed, feel beautiful. But for the jury, it was all too easy to see a woman setting her clients' hair on fire—to take what's really a moment of closure and satisfaction and twist it into a threat.
Thelma Clardy: And I think that's what really threw the jury off.
Gabby: So they sort of intimidated the jury by showing the burning of the ends of the hair?
Thelma Clardy: I think they did, because they were trying to say that was a dangerous component of braiding hair when it really wasn't, you know? So they tried to hang their hat on health and safety. They were doing this to protect people in the name of health and safety.
Gabby: The court ruled against Isis. They told her she still needed a cosmetology license to keep braiding. So Isis and Thelma went to the Texas cosmetology board and got them to admit they were asking braiders to do too much training. The board reduced the requirement from 1,500 hours down to 300. That wasn't good enough for Isis. 300 hours was still too many. So she kept fighting, and convinced the state to reduce the requirement to only a 35-hour certificate specifically for braiders. And since Isis had shown she had a life's worth of experience, they went ahead and gave her that certificate.
Gabby: But even though Isis could now do braiding, the state was still saying she couldn't teach braiding. That wasn't gonna work for Isis either. Ancestral braiding was rooted in legacy. If the state kept her from teaching, they'd effectively be ending that legacy with her. And so she went back to court to fight again—this time with reinforcements.
Gabby: Thelma contacted an organization called The Institute for Justice. They were helping hair braiders fight cases like these in other parts of the US, and they took over Isis's case too. In 2013, they filed a federal suit against the state of Texas. In it they argued that it was unconstitutional to ask Isis to become a cosmetology instructor in order to teach an ancestral gift.
Gabby: When this battle was going on between you and the state of Texas, were there people around that didn't believe you could do it?
Isis Brantley: They said it. They'd say, "You're crazy." [laughs] But yeah, they was like, "Do you know what you would be, and how great you would—you know, the impact would be much greater on the community if you'd just go get the license."
Gabby: But Isis made friends with hair braiders fighting for the same freedoms in DC, and they'd give her pep talks.
Isis Brantley: I had friends out of DC who were found guilty for braiding long before I was found guilty for braiding here in the state of Texas. They came to my trial. They supported me every step of the way. They would see me getting tired of fighting. And they said, "Whatever you do, do not comply."
Gabby: In 2015, Isis wound up in a courtroom in front of a judge named Sam Sparks. Judge Sparks was a George H.W. Bush appointee, and served the state of Texas for over 20 years. And he's a white guy. But he said something that day in the courtroom that shocked Isis.
Isis Brantley: He just flat out told them, "What she's doing is older than I am, and I'm the oldest person in this courtroom."
Gabby: Judge Sparks went on to tell the state that he would give them 10 days to show him a single hair-braiding school in Texas that met all the requirements they were asking Isis to meet.
Isis Brantley: So they came back and said, "We don't have no ancestral braiding school. There's no such thing in the state of Texas." And he ruled in my favor. He said it's unconstitutional. This is unconstitutional for you to want her to become a barber before she's able to teach an ancestral gift that has been passed down from generations.
Thelma Clardy: I remember when they published an article in the newspaper, The Dallas Morning News, you know, that she had won. I was so happy. I do remember jumping up and down and saying, "She won! She won!" So that was a happy day.
Gabby: Thelma had been watching Isis from the sidelines, and was so happy to see all that fighting pay off.
Thelma Clardy: The stars kind of aligned themselves, you know? It wasn't an easy journey for Isis. You know, the whole thing took almost 20 years. That's a long time to fight anything. But it paid off.
Gabby: Finally, Isis got the state to agree with what she held in her heart this whole time: that she never needed a European permission slip to practice her gift. And she was clearing the way for other Black women, too. After that victory, lawmakers used her case to create a new bill protecting hair braiders all over the state of Texas. It had bipartisan support and sailed through the state legislature.
Isis Brantley: It's called the Isis Brantley Bill, 27-17. It deregulates natural hair, ancestral hair braiding of any form, deregulates any unconstitutional involvement with people that braid in their kitchen or their homes. Because that was illegal. A lot of people were fined for braiding in their homes. It allows people to wear their hair natural in the state of Texas, and go to whomever they wish to go to to have their hair braided. It helps the cosmetologists embrace more natural styles into their programs and facilities. It allows natural hair businesses and natural hair salons. It allows people to have their own academies, their own braiding academies separate from cosmetology.
Gabby: And on June 10, 2015, the bill became a law.
Isis Brantley: So I was able to win unanimously in the House, and I won unanimously in the Senate. And then it went through all these different stages like clockwork. You know, I don't know anything about all this extra stuff. All I know is my stuff be working. [laughs]
Gabby: Isis Brantley is unwavering. And I think in part that's because she was raised to feel secure in who she was and certain of what she should value. She kept that same energy her whole life, like she was carrying a bit of Bonton in her back pocket, ready to sprinkle around her like fairy dust. It's easy to look at Isis's fight and see one woman who dared to take on an entire state, but she doesn't see it that way. For Isis, braiding connects her to generations of Black women who came before her. She's part of this long chain of people that guide her every step, empowering her. A whole army of ancestors riding into battle on the beaded ends of her braids.
Isis Brantley: I feel like chills are all over me, and I feel like there's ancestors right here with us, and we're sitting on their shoulders right now. If we just know that it just takes time, everything, everything takes time, and then we'll see the progress as we go. But there's no sense in you being upset. You just have to be proactively involved in making things happen the way you want to see them. Period.
Saidu: That was Gabby Bulgarelli. Thank you so much for listening. This episode of Resistance was reported by Gabby Bulgarelli and produced by Bethel Habte. Resistance is produced by Aaron Randle, Salifu Sesay Mack, Bethel Habte, and hosted by me, Saidu Tejan Thomas Jr.
Saidu: Our supervising producer is Sarah McVeigh. We were edited by Lynn Levy, Brendan Klinkenberg and Lydia Polgreen. Mixing, scoring and magic by Haley Shaw. Additional scoring by Bobby Lord and Catherine Anderson. Theme by Bobby Lord. Our music supervisor is none other than the GOAT, Liz Fulton. Original compositions by Drea the Vibe Dealer and Teiji Mack.
Saidu: Fact checking is by Rosemarie Ho. Good lookin', homie. Our show art is by Darien Birks of The Stuyvesants. Credits music—what you're listening to right now is "The Night Song" by Ravyn Lenae and Steve Lacy.
Saidu: And special thanks to Russel Kogan, Alyia Yates, Esperanza Rosenbaum, Kendra Pierre-Louis, Arif Panju, and also shout out to the whole Mogul team for giving Gabby a break to work on this.
Saidu: Resistance is a Spotify original podcast and Gimlet production. All right. See y'all in two weeks for our last episode of the year.