Culture

These Podcasters are Using Their Platforms to Champion the Voices of the Underrepresented

We speak with three teams from the Google Podcasts creator program about reaching diverse audiences and breaking through the barriers to entry in the podcasting world.

As podcasts become the go-to medium for storytelling, it's important that the voices of marginalized folks not be left out. This starts with creating space and resources for underrepresented voices to thrive.

Noticing a gap in the voices and faces behind podcast creation, Google in collaboration with podcast company PRX launched the Google Podcasts creator program, "designed to lower barriers to entry and elevate underrepresented voices across podcasting."

The inaugural teams include storytellers from a range of backgrounds including Africa and the diaspora. Podcasts include the Nairobi-based AfroQueer, a narrative-driven segment highlighting the lived experiences of queer people across the continent; The Colored Girl Beautiful which explores past and present conceptions of black beauty, using Emma Azalia Hackley's 1916 book by the same name as a framework, and the humorous Who Taught You to Drive?!, an interview series that examines drivers and their individual road habits as a means of understanding aspects of the human experience.

We got a chance to speak with some of the creators who participated in the Google Podcasts creator program, about the barriers to entry in the podcast world for marginalized communities, their belief in the effectiveness of the medium, and the impact they hope to make with their storytelling.

Read on to see what they had to say.


Afroqueer

Hosted and executive produced by Selly Thiam, reported and produced by Aida Holly-Nambi and Maeve Frances

What inspired your desire to start a podcast and how much experience did you have prior to joining the Google and PRX podcast accelerator program?

The AfroQueer podcast is a production of our parent media organization, None on Record. As an Africa-wide digital media and storytelling organization, we have been well positioned to tell LGBT stories from across the continent, which is what we do in our other work: short documentaries, training of activists, and cultural programming. Working across the continent, we knew from the beginning that it would be important to hear the stories of people from different countries, cities, genders, sexualities, classes, and other divides that tend to keep us apart as a demographic. It was important to us to share the lives and stories of people who make up the diversity of Queer African life. We also wanted to lessen the distance between queer people in African countries from each other. The team that make up AfroQueer have had experience as radio producers and digital media producers prior to joining the accelerator program.

What were the main barriers of entry for you when trying to develop your podcast?

We chose the medium of podcasting because we thought it had less barriers than working in another medium. We think that the audio medium is also a format that is easier to consume especially on the African Continent when access to internet and data can be expensive. This was one of the reasons that compelled us to choose podcasting.

"The AfroQueer podcast tells stories of Queer Africans from the perspective of Queer Africans, as agents of our own narratives."

Can you tell us the story behind how you came up with the concept/idea for your podcast?

Stories about Queer Africans are under-reported, and when told, often Queer lives are framed in opposition to the law or societies. The AfroQueer podcast tells stories of Queer Africans from the perspective of Queer Africans, as agents of our own narratives. While it is true that Queer Africans are a population often without protections of the law, frequently harassed and disenfranchised, we are still complex and three-dimensional citizens of various countries. Our podcast gives insight into the shared humanity of a group of people frequently vilified, and by showing the complexity of Queer life, listeners from all backgrounds gleam insights into society and humanity at large. We center voices from the margins of society and delve into some of the most pressing issues of our time.

Who do you hope to reach with your podcast?

Our target audience is people from around the world interested in Queer African stories. This includes Queer people from all 54 African countries and in African diasporas. Our listeners are people who like hearing compelling stories and gleaning insight into their shared humanity with people rarely heard from. Because homosexuality and queer content is heavily censored in much of Africa, our podcast is one of the few avenues where Queer Africans can hear stories that do not vilify them, and also gleam insights into Queer life as it being lived by Queer Africans from their perspectives. Our listenership is not exclusively for Queer Africans. Many countries in Africa are on the precipice of a cultural shift, and there is an unactivated, moveable middle who have the potential to become allies of the LGBT movement, but who have no information or access to queer African life. This podcast is also for them.

Why do you think that podcasts are an effective medium to tell the stories of underrepresented groups?

Audio is a much more accessible medium on the African continent than video, because it requires a lower bandwidth and there is a large radio culture, which paves the way for podcasting. The podcasting industry on the continent is burgeoning and lovers of podcasts are hungry for quality shows with high production values, and hungry for well told stories, so our podcast is a quality offering to African listeners.

Additionally, we would have had to contend with greater self-censorship from the people we interview and the stories we gather, if people had to risk their faces being seen. As a podcast, we are able to gather the stories of people who aren't necessarily activists and who might not have been comfortable having their faces out there, but people who want to be heard and who have stories to tell.

The Colored Girl Beautiful

Hosted and created by Aseloka Smith, produced by Nichole Hill

What inspired your desire to start a podcast and how much experience did you have prior to joining the Google and PRX podcast accelerator program?

This started for me as an idea for a thesis project. I'm a complete podcast junkie, and I love storytelling so once I had the topic for my thesis it was a natural decision that I would explore my thesis content in the form of a podcast.

I'd worked on exactly one podcast project prior to this that I ended up putting on hold because of the amount of work involved. It was something I loved, but I really didn't have the resources to make it into what I wanted.

What were the main barriers of entry for you when trying to develop your podcast?

The biggest barrier for me was realizing that I needed help. When I started I wanted to do everything myself. I couldn't really afford to do anything else. But it became clear after some time that if I wanted my work to be really good, I couldn't do it on my own. I'd gone that route before and my work had suffered for it. I had to put some work into figuring out what exactly I needed help with and who I could rely on for that assistance. For the Colored Girl Beautiful that meant hiring a producer. I was looking for someone to help shape the story and help me do some of the leg work of planning the content and collecting audio. I'm also still working on filling some other roles around marketing and social media since those are not strong areas for me.

"I really want black women to feel at home listening. I want it to feel like a familiar conversation at your kitchen table with your girlfriends or like an intimate conversation with an auntie."

Can you tell us the story behind how you came up with the concept/idea for your podcast?

A friend of mine introduced me to the text The Colored Girl Beautiful written in 1916 specifically for black women. As I started to read it I became obsessed with its content. I kept thinking "How did I not know something like this exists?" The book is beautiful and uplifting and also full of contradictions. I was delightfully intrigued and knew this is what I wanted my thesis to be about.

Who do you hope to reach with your podcast?

I am specifically hoping to reach black women. I really want black women to feel at home listening. I want it to feel like a familiar conversation at your kitchen table with your girlfriends or like an intimate conversation with an auntie. I happy to have anyone and everyone who's interested to listen to my show, but black women are my target audience.

Why do you think that podcasts are an effective medium to tell the stories of underrepresented groups?

Podcasting provides a place where the underrepresented voice can be centered. It gives a platform and the potential for an audience to those who may not have the opportunity to be heard otherwise. Creating space for those voices in the podcasting world serves an important purpose for listeners. For listeners who are not a part of the underrepresented group, they can be exposed to something new that they didn't know before. And, more importantly, for listeners who are a part of that same underrepresented group, they can feel seen and understood which is essential for one's sense of belonging.

Who Taught You To Drive?

Hosted and created by Tezarah Wilkins, produced by Melissa Tsuei and Tanikka Charraé

What inspired your desire to start a podcast and how much experience did you have prior to joining the Google and PRX podcast accelerator program?

My co-producers and I had absolutely zero experience in podcasting before we started our show. The impetus for the show really came from my own emotional experience on the road, and my consternation at why people really can't drive. We thought people's driving stories would be an interesting lens for the human experience and a way to laugh about how aggravating driving can be.

What were the main barriers of entry for you when trying to develop your podcast?

Resources. Even if you're recording on a cell phone, a podcast costs money to produce. You invest a large amount of time from start to finish for just one episode and we were not paying ourselves. It can be hard to keep up your momentum when you're working for free or at a cost—and that's not even getting into the cost of equipment and editing. We also knew barely anyone in the podcast field, so expertise was few and far between. We were putting our show together piece by piece, using what we had.

"A podcast is almost like a bullhorn for a regular everyday person, it amplifies their voice, even if they sit at the margins of our society."

Can you tell us the story behind how you came up with the concept/idea for your podcast?

Simple: people can't drive anymore! You have bikers, public transit, and walkers, all on the streets and each of us are taught different things about the rules of the road. Heck, each of us are taught different things about how we should treat each other simply based on where and how we were raised. When I really thought about it, it made sense that these things would correlate in some way, so I set out to find that connection. I wanted to find out if and how people's driving behavior relates to who they are as a person.

Who do you hope to reach with your podcast?

We are 3 women of color, so of course we would love our podcast to speak to both of those groups. We would love to get people listening to podcasts who do not fit the profile of the young white millennial, but really we're targeting people who love delving into human behavior through great stories about something universal like getting around. Oh, and also people who hate bikers as much as we do. lol

Why do you think that podcasts are an effective medium to tell the stories of underrepresented groups?

Resources help, but podcasts are really an equalizer, because you don't need a professional studio to record audio and put it out. They're also not required to be a particular style, length or format so there's space to create. A podcast is almost like a bullhorn for a regular everyday person, it amplifies their voice, even if they sit at the margins of our society.

***

Applications for the Google Podcasts creator program are open until April 14.

Photos

This Is What Rotimi's 'Walk With Me' EP Listening Party Looked Like

The Nigerian singer held an intimate listening party on the eve of the release of his new EP, 'Walk With Me,' at Brooklyn's Okay Space.

Walk With Me, Rotimi's new and highly anticipated EP, dropped Friday—giving us a seven-track peek into who the singer and actor truly is sonically.

The night before, the Nigerian-American crooner gathered over 100 tastemakers and day-one supporters to Brooklyn's Okay Space—the shared gallery space between Okayplayer and OkayAfrica—for an intimate listening party celebrating the release, as well as his music video for "Love Riddim" which also dropped this week.

The night was simply a vibe—folks enjoyed libations and bites from The Suya Guy, with sounds by DJ Tunez. Rotimi opened the gathering up with a thoughtful prayer, with the music video reveal to follow. The singer then walked the audience through each track from Walk With Me, opening up about the creative process of how each track came to life.

Following, Rotimi engaged in an even more in-depth Q+A session with OkayAfrica's arts and culture editor, Antoinette Isama, where he touched on his experience touring with Wizkid back in 2011, his thoughts on the continued rise in popularity afrobeats is having in mainstream music, his hopes for the future and more. Tunez then ran the EP back when the party ensued, as the project is full of tracks that are worthy of being on repeat.

Listen to Walk With Me below, and be sure to take a look at photos from the listening party by Nerdscarf Photography.

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Film
CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 16: Director Ladj Ly and Almamy Kanoute attend the photocall for "Les Miserables" during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2019 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

How To Survive Cannes Film Festival As a Black Filmmaker

A film festival is intense by nature, but Cannes is a whirlwind.

Cannes Film Festival is one of the world's most prestigious gatherings bringing celebrities, filmmakers and actors claiming to celebrate the world's best film. Although the festival is way behind Sundance or the London Film Festival regarding diversity efforts, it remains the place to be if you're a filmmaker—especially a Black one.

I, myself, am a Black French filmmaker who was invited to Cannes as part of their scheme for young film lovers—3 Days in Cannes—open to anyone between the ages of 18 and 28. The scheme, which launched in 2018, requires young hopefuls to write a cover letter showing their passion for film. It ultimately gives young people the opportunity to discover the international selection of films showed at Cannes.

READ: Black Women Are the Future of French Cinema—When Will Cannes Catch Up?

Being in Cannes for the first time was a wonderful experience, but it can be tough to navigate as a Black filmmaker if you're not prepared for it. So, here are top tips.

1) Don't be a person of color—especially if you're Black (Just kidding. But still.)

Cannes is a beautiful, posh city in the south of France. It is part of the Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur, an administrative region where the far right party Rassemblement National (formally known as the National Front) hits record-breaking highs. Despite the fact that the festival is incredibly international, at times it can feel pretty racist, like a sunny, idyllic version of 1960s Alabama, where a party of more than one Black person gets routinely rejected from some clubs/bars/restaurants. On top of that, the staff and some of the security working at the festival can be incredibly aggressive and rude to you and in French. If you don't understand it, it's even more confusing.

To avoid it, try to stick to the official Cannes parties, or hang out in international hotels like the Miramar or the Radisson Blu Hotel—which are used to an international crowd. You can also stick to parties at the various country pavilions near the Film Market.

2) Stick to the African Pavilion

At the festival, most countries have their own pavilion. But because the festival believes Africa is a country, all 54 countries are gathered in one pavilion. This pavilion also includes the Caribbean, since Jamaica, as life would have it, is also an African country. In the African Pavilion, there was even talk on how to submit films if you're a filmmaker of Indian descent (despite the fact that India had its own pavilion).

You're not African? That's okay, no one cares. Pan-Africanism is still alive, I guess? Thankfully, out of the many pavilions, I did find the African Pavilion was the best one the most welcoming and whose schedule was the most open and clear. Because Cannes is such an exclusive festival, most of the parties and talks won't be communicated outside of those who are supposed to attend.

The African Pavilion, however, requires you to sign up to their newsletter. You then access their app where you can see the schedule, the talks to attend and the party they planned. The only downside is that they were understaffed, so some talks and events were cancelled last minute and with limited communication.

If you're a Black French filmmaker, speaking English is a must to get the most out of the pavilion. If you're an English-speaking filmmaker, try to make friends or meet people who speak French, as some of the talks/discussions might not have professional interpreters.

Also, go to the events organized by diversity in Cannes. Now, if you're a Black filmmaker who would rather not stay in the community for fear of being pigeonholed? Unless you're part of a talent scheme run by the festival...good luck getting others to support you.

3) Be ready to WAIT to see films and to party

On average, I waited 1 hour 40 minutes for each film I wanted to see in the official selection program. And I purposely chose not to see the famous ones like the Pedro Almodóvar or Quintin Tarantino's films. I also waited almost two hours to see a film from the Un certain regard selection and didn't get in—despite my pass. Now, Un certain regard has the most highly sought after films, even more so than the Competition, because they tend to select the best among indie international films. To get in for sure, you need a "Un certain regard" pass, so they need to invite you themselves. Even if you have a ticket at the counter, you might not get in unless you wait two hours (standing) or choose to attend the early screening or the late ones (and still, you should be ready to wait 1 hour for these).

You need a pass AND a ticket to see the films from the official selection and walk the red carpet up to the Grand Théatre Debussy. For the ACID, Director's fortnight, Semaine de la critique, and the Official selection's films not shown on the red carpet, you just need a pass—and to be ready to queue for at least 45 minutes.

I wouldn't recommend getting the Cannes cinephile pass as it has a low priority. I saw people waiting 2 hours to see a film and not getting in, while people with professional Black passes arriving 10 minutes before the screening walking past them. Because the Cannes festival is for professionals, they have, unfortunately, priority over members of the public.

Now, with the parties at Cannes, word on the street is that they are not as legendary as they used to be. Even if you get invited to one, you still need to wait an hour. It's not because they are over capacity, but rather they feel the need to pretend that they are. Unless you're a VVIP. And if you're one, why are you reading my article?

Anyway, despite not being as glamorous as they used to be, they remain so exclusive that if your name is not on the list, you might need to sell your first born to attend.

Thankfully, you can avoid it by being smart. When I arrived in Cannes, I was dead set on going to parties to network. Since almost all of them are invite only, I went to the parties at the pavilions, like the UK one, the American one (which costs 20 euros because Americans are always about their money) and the African Pavilion—that were kind enough to facilitate networking by introducing me to fellow filmmakers. God knows how talking to strangers and building new relationships can be difficult, and they made it easier.

4) Make friends with distributors or people working for the Mayor's office

The whole point of the festival is to sell films. Tickets are sparse for most people, so some badge holders wear their Sunday Best and stand outside the grand theater, holding signs asking for tickets. It makes sense that distributors are incredibly powerful, since they have the power to buy and sell films internationally. They are given way too many tickets that should be given to people waiting for hours outside.

So, if you make friends with distributors, they will always have a handful of spare tickets, even for the big ones that everyone wants to see. They also have tickets for the big parties as well. Press badge holders also have priority since they are responsible for a film good or bad media coverage. So they have a handful of tickets too.

People working for the Mayor's office also have tickets because they work closely together since the festival brings so much revenue to the city. Make friends with them, as well as film students and you'll get tickets. Don't know where to find them? Social media is your friend.

There is also another way to get tickets to films: the staff. For example, I couldn't get tickets to see Mati Diop's Atlantiques. I walked to the ticket counter and saw a Black woman with a great hairstyle. My instinct KNEW I had to tag along. I asked her if she needed help. She was looking for the same tickets. We asked someone at the ticket office if they could help. They said they had nothing. But one of the staff members saw us and said she could try to help us. She came back with two tickets and that's how I got to see the film. I got lucky and was cunning. So be nice with the staff, they can help.

5) Be ready for anything

A film festival is intense by nature, but Cannes is a whirlwind. Since you're spending so much time waiting and walking from venues to venues, you won't have time to eat unless you bring food you've made before hand. You're not allowed to eat inside the theaters and if you walk the red carpet, you food is thrown out beforehand. You can try buying food and drinks in the morning and finish it by the time you walk the red carpet. I'd advise buying it at a supermarket like the pricey Monoprix. Or the nearby McDonald's. It's cheap, warm, almost always open and a great way to socialize! Young filmmakers, as well as those from Britain and the States will come to McDonald's to eat since it's one of the places they know best. Why not strike up a convo there?

Also, don't forget your power bank. Your phone will get out of battery for sure, especially if you post content on social media.

Finally, despite its reputation, the festival is incredibly badly organized. You will be told that your badge is not allowed to watch films at other selections, or you would be given the wrong directions and will be lost in the croisette on your way to see an obscure film.

Chill, be ready to walk and use Google Maps. And enjoy!

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Julie Adenuga: "There Are Young Artists In Nigeria Who Are Changing the World"

In an exclusive interview, the Beats 1 radio presenter opens up about her Nigerian heritage, documenting Homecoming in Lagos, and London being an important hub for afro-fusion sounds.

Julie Adenuga sits at the intersection of two continents.

As an affable tastemaker who transforms banal interviews into engaging conversations with some of the most famous artists in the world, Julie is leading the global dialogue on new music from her daily radio show, which broadcasts to over 100 countries.

The North London native of Nigerian descent hails from a musical family, her brothers are artists Skepta and JME, and has risen from the underground as a self-taught presenter on former pirate radio station Rinse FM to being one of three lead DJ's with her Beats 1 show on Apple Music.

A champion of homegrown talent in the UK and across the African diaspora, Julie is a purveyor of the afro-fusion genre, as is evident in her recent Homecoming documentary, which captured the fresh innovators from the Lagos music scene, and her DON't @ ME club nights, which has featured Ghetts, Lady Leshurr and The Compozers as residents.

Chosen as one of OkayAfrica's 100 Women celebrating extraordinary women from Africa and the diaspora, we speak with the presenter and broadcaster on owning her Nigerian identity, the responsibility of spreading afrobeats and why London is a key location for the genre.

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