When I first launched Black Girls Being podcast, I was a recent graduate and one of two Black women working at a predominantly White media company. My transition from African American and African Studies student to token Black, had me stressed (Get Out dropping a few weeks later didn’t help). The important racially and socially driven dialogues I once shared with classmates and friends, were rarely present in an office that may not have necessarily ignored Black culture, but damn sure didn’t let news of another police shooting of an unarmed Black child slow down their day.
After a few weeks of working from 10:30 am (I was supposed to be there at 9:30, but CPT) to 6 pm, I was forced to acknowledge that having selected the career of my dreams, I would now spend my most productive hours engaging in conversations that were, for the most part, irrelevant to, and dismissive of, people that look like me. In an effort to regain the important social and political commentary I so desperately missed, I turned to podcasts. Beginning with popular shows such as The Read, Pod Save America, and Another Round, I instantly became hooked and spent my work days plugged into conversations I could never have had in the office.
As a content creator and serial entrepreneur, naturally, I figured the next step was to create my own podcast. In December 2016, I released my first episode of Black Girls Being. Although just weeks after the tragic U.S. presidential election, my co-host Sophia and I made sure we were creating a space that was not necessarily a response to the negativity, but a reinforcing structure reiterating that positivity and success have not escaped the Black community. I set out to fill a gap in the podcast industry by offering humorous political and social commentary that recent post-grads, like myself, could use as their very own Black refuge in White corporate spaces. For over a year now, Black Girls Being has created virtual safe spaces, within unfulfilling physical environments.
Having recognized the important journalistic and therapeutic elements of podcasting, for months I’ve questioned its absence within the African media industry. In the U.S., podcasters producing content for and by people of color is as common as mixtape rappers producing trap bops for trap gods. I wouldn’t be surprised if 25% of Black Twitter has or once had a podcast (and the other 75% have mixtapes). This is why, upon moving to Cape Town six months ago, I was deeply disappointed to discover that there were less than a dozen podcast produced in Africa that catered to Black millennials.
The influence of podcasts within this new global community has made stars and outspoken leaders out of regular people with something to say. As long as someone has access to a computer, wifi, and a microphone, their voice can be delivered, unrestrictedly, to the world. During a time when the continent is experiencing a new renaissance of activists, artists, influencers, and entrepreneurs, podcasts may be one of the most effective ways to communicate a narrative that many established media outlets continue to neglect.
During a time when the continent is experiencing a new renaissance of activists, artists, influencers, and entrepreneurs, podcasts may be one of the most effective ways to communicate a narrative that many established media outlets continue to neglect.
African millennials, in particular, could be the greatest assets and beneficiaries of podcasting. Sitting in my lecture halls at the University of Cape Town, I often hear my fellow graduate students complain about the inaccurate reporting of local media outlets on important movements such as #FeesMustFall and #RhodesWar. Although film and photography have served as the preferred mediums to dispel inaccuracies propelled by biased reporters, the publication of visual commentary is often sensationalized as art rather than important political and social journalism. In the case of podcasting, the voice and content of the author are first and foremost centralized, making it difficult to bypass or misinterpret the message.
I have acknowledged the many circumstances that have slowed the growth of Africa’s podcast craze; slow or unreliable internet, expensive audio materials, and an overall unawareness of the medium’s power, have undoubtedly restricted podcasts prevalence in Africa. Nonetheless, the upward trend of local celebrity commentators and radio hosts in Africa demonstrate the public’s desire to hear familiar perspectives of music, politics, and all things pop-culture, from a new generation of digital producers.
While living in Cape Town, I’ve tried my best to amplify the voices I encounter by inviting local friends on my podcast. But just as I have come to learn, no matter how diligent or unconditional my intentions are, there is no better person to tell an African narrative than someone of the continent themselves. While I’m here, I will continue to invite African guests on my podcast and share my mic; but in the end, hopefully it’s only a matter of time before Africans sit in front of a mic of their own.
Listen to Black Girls Being’s interview with Cape Town based creative, Chaze Matakala, about the expressions of Blackness in Southern Africa.