One of the reasons, among many, that I’ve been such an avid reader my whole life is because books put you in the shoes of people who aren’t necessarily just like you. We all move through the world in different ways, and the world reacts to and treats all of us in different ways. That same principle is partly what drew me to podcasts in the first place. Not just as a sort of escapism, but as a way to continue to educate myself about the world around me and the experiences of the people I share it with.
So, this week, I want to share some of the podcasts in my feed that feature intersectional issues or are cultural endeavors that honor the work of women and people of color. And lots of these are fun! When we’re talking about feminism, or racial justice and equity issues, which are serious topics, sometimes we forget that there are stories out there that can also be fun. Though many of the subjects discussed on these programs are quite serious (one is about an unsolved murder), we can’t only focus on trauma when discussing intersectional issues, because that’s not a complete experience. We live full, individual lives, and no matter who you’re learning about, you should listen to someone’s full experience. None of us are one-dimensional.
The shows I’m recommending this week are all either hosted by women and people of color, are about intersectional rights issues, or entertainment-focused. Here are a few podcasts I’m listening to right now:
1) All My Relations podcast
Hosted by Matika Wilbur (Swinomish and Tulalip) and Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation), All My Relations explores relationships: “to land, to our creatural relatives, and to one another.” Guests are invited to discuss different issues facing Native Americans today, and there are lots of laughs in addition to emotional moments. If you’re non-Native, and I imagine a good deal of folks reading this are non-Native, this is a good place to start listening and learning.
2) Best Friends with Nicole Byer and Sasheer Zamata
Best Friends is hosted by real-life best friends Nicole Byer and Sasheer Zamata. Every week, they hear from listeners seeking friendship advice, or talk to a pair of best friends, or talk about what they’re both up to, lots of times while taking a fun friendship quiz. Lately I’ve been enjoying their rollerskating stories. Episodes drop on Wednesdays, and you’re guaranteed to spend an hour having a good time and thinking fondly of your own friends. Both comedians, Byer is nominated for an Emmy for her exceptional work as the host of “Nailed It,” and Zamata is a “Saturday Night Live” alum.
3) The Connect
Hosted by Emmy winner Jason Concepcion (The Ringer’s “NBA Desktop”) and New York Times bestselling author Shea Serrano, The Connect brings together two movies based on a theme. Each week, Concepcion and Serrano break down their movie choices, see who would sit at a lunch table based on their movies, and play Six Degrees of Michelle Rodriguez, based on what movies they’ve picked that week. I want to go on the record and state that I don’t think Jason stole that burrito, no matter what compelling video evidence Shea comes up with (if you follow the podcast, you’ll get it). Concepcion is also one of the hosts of a podcast I’ve mentioned a number of times in my column, Binge Mode, which has provided excellent scholarship on Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Star Wars, and tons of other subjects in their Binge Mode Weekly episodes. They’re gearing up for another season as well. Serrano has hosted the excellent Villains podcast, about movie villains, and is the author of “The Rap Year Book,” “Basketball (and Other Things)” and “Movies (and Other Things.” The way he writes and talks about movies is how I wish I could write about the stuff I’m into.
4) Harlem Queen
Harlem Queen is an audio drama based on “Numbers Queen” Stephanie Saint-Clair. She was a gambler who ran her own enterprise during the Harlem Renaissance, and she successfully evaded falling under Mafia control. I won’t spoil anything else. Just listen. It’s great. Note to those unfamiliar with audio drama podcasts: if you’re trying to listen while you’re doing something else, make sure it’s not something you have to concentrate on. You’ll want to pay close attention so you can follow the action.
Each week, Hysteria host Erin Ryan is joined by women from around the country to discuss “the political news of the week, plus the topics, trends, and cultural stories that affect women’s lives.” Each week begins with Ryan and former Obama Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Alyssa Mastromonaco discussing current issues. They also do a Toast or Roast segment, and Mastromonaco has been providing delightful jam-making updates during quarantine. Guests are opinionated, hilarious and thoughtful. I like all of them, but frequent guests that I especially love are comedian Naomi Ekperigin, comedian Megan Gailey, screenwriter and actress Grace Parra, comedian Tien Tran and author and Noble Blood podcast host Dana Schwartz. Each week ends with a segment called “I Feel Petty,” where someone takes a stance that maybe isn’t all that gracious, but that they’re sticking with, and I can respect and applaud that. Let’s all stand by our takes.
6) Unfinished: Deep South
This podcast documents the investigation into the unsolved 1954 murder of Isadore Banks, a prominent Black Arkansas farmer and WWI veteran. Banks was tortured and lynched, and the person or people who murdered him have so far gotten away with it. Unfinished: Deep South is hosted by journalists Taylor Hom and Neil Shea. They work with the Banks family to try to solve this case, and it heads in directions you might not expect. They try to get a small Arkansas town to break its silence about this tragedy, and along the way, “explore the story of African American prosperity on the Delta, and trace the roots of racial terror from Isadore’s day up through our own.” This series is ongoing, and another season, and another story, has been announced.
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