We didn't have a traditional sitting-around-the-table-talking-politics kind of family. But my grandmother was very opinionated. I would spend time with her, sitting around the television, and something was said that she didn't like, and she'd make a comment. Then my great-grandmother would make a comment. I was half in that world and half in a world of semi-silence. My mother worked two jobs. I would get up early in the morning, like 5 o'clock, to see my mother. By the time she came home, I was asleep. Dinner was generally an alone time for me. So there was that very loud life at my grandmother's and then the very quiet life. It offered me, I guess, a chance to hear opinions -- and quiet time for reflection, which I think you need if you're going to do any kind of analysis.

I think there's a dilemma that many people find with respect to me. They may like my point of view one day, but the very next week they may disagree with me. I might slam somebody at any point. I slammed [Al] Sharpton in one commentary, Bill Cosby in another; the drug industry in one, the Democratic Party in another. I think people think that because I speak from such a passionate place that these opinions come only from emotion and not from real, reasonable research and thinking. When I have an opinion, it's because I've done all the research, and after doing all the research, I'm pissed off, generally. And that's what drives me.

I travel public transportation, so people just feel free to walk up to me on the bus. "Oh, let me tell you something." And so they'll just start talking to me. I was in a taxi once, and I was talking, and the driver says, "I know that voice." And when they say that, I never say anything, because I really just want to have a quiet ride. "Aren't you Jonetta Rose Barras? Oh, yeah, you were talking about such and such a thing. And I agree with you on this, but I don't agree with you on that." So then the whole ride is a political debate. I've had taxi drivers pick me up and ride me where I'm going for free just because of the debate.

-- Interview by Tyler Currie