Our Body Politic: A New Way of Listening to Women of Color

The launch story… and the next level!

Hi folks:

It’s the end of 2020 and I have been charting what I aim to manifest in the world and releasing resentments that could hold me back. Now is the time to clean old wounds and heal; and to be ready to rise.

How I manifested that intention was via our podcast/radio show Our Body Politic, which has featured top political guests, authors and organizers from Sen. Tammy Duckworth to N.K. Jemisin to Dolores Huerta. I hope you’ll go on Apple Podcasts or any podcatcher and sign up to listen.

This isn’t just about audio, or journalism, or even politics. This journey is about the difficulty women of color have accessing resources, and how despite it all we get the job done.

Please read our short summary and if you choose, the longer update. Join our community of listeners and be prepared for the journey ahead. We are here because of you, for you, and with you. Thank you.

___________ The TL;DR Version of Our Body Politic _______________

Women of color are on a save our own ass plan in America. With the pandemic hitting Black, Latino and other communities of color particularly hard and the devastation of what some are calling a “female recession,” we have had to be the one we were waiting for. Black women and women of color are bulwarks of society, AND we are consistently under-resourced and poorly quantified.

I believe journalism can help change that.

So this fall, in a matter of WEEKS, we stood up a weekly nationally syndicated public radio show, podcast, and community called Our Body Politic. So far, our guests have included Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Hawaii GOP Chairman Shirlene Ostrov, MacArthur (Genius) Fellow NK Jemisin and lauded organizer and living legend Dolores Huerta. Our second show featured Rep. Deb Haaland, who will now become the first Native American nominated as Secretary of the Interior. Now, we are planning production of our next six months of episodes. We will play a key role in connecting women of color to politics, public health and economic news, and we will expand into original survey research and sentiment analysis.

I pitched Our Body Politic starting in late January. When the pandemic hit, interest evaporated. After George Floyd was killed, interest sparked, and the stations KQED, KCRW, KPCC and I all fundraised, very quickly, to stand up the show. We signed a contract with the badass Lantigua Williams & Co in September and had our first episode on the air two weeks later!

That is both a success story and a failure story. Radio show hot launch = success. Why we didn’t have access to the resources to stand this up earlier = failure of the market to fund women of color. At times, I’ve personally faced steep headwinds of industry discrimination as well as the economic destabilization of the industry. But everyday we’re hustling, because we know we can help improve and innovate ways of gaining insights from America’s women of color, so we can keep innovating in all the realms we touch.

We are building a consensual, respectful, deep-listening conduit so that Black, Latina, Asian-American, Native American and multiracial women are seen, heard, understood, and respected as key players in American democracy, culture and society. If you enjoy listening, recognize the value of bringing this dialogue to public radio and streaming services around the country and around the world, I hope you will share the show with your friends, family and colleagues, and support the continuation of this critical work to lift democracy and civil society.

________________________________________________

The Full Tour of How We Built this Show/Community and What Comes Next

So many of you helped us make the impossible possible.

This fall, in a matter of WEEKS, seeing the civic need to inform Black women and all women of color about politics, we stood up a weekly nationally syndicated public radio show, podcast, and community called Our Body Politic.

We’ve been kicking all kinds of ass. The show is only going to get better. We plan to expand into original survey research and sentiment analysis, with an eye on playing a key role in connecting women of color to politics, public health and economic news through the 2022 midterms, the 2024 presidential election, and beyond.

There’s so much I could say, so let me focus and limit myself to:

If this is a TL;DR, know that I am so appreciative of your support of our work.

Why we launched the show Our Body Politic

This spring, five people died in my building in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in the first month of the pandemic alone. One of them, my neighbor Ruth Mazyck Corbett, was 76, a deacon in her church, and a loving presence in the community. Many of my neighbors are essential workers. Crown Heights is predominately Black and working income, and a place with lots of Black homeowners, many of whom have been absolutely slammed by the economic tsunami of the pandemic.

I believe knowledge can save lives, which is why Our Body Politic does a weekly Covid update. I wish I could have stood this show up sooner. As I said to someone who became a funder, “women of color are on a save our own ass plan” in America. I meant that in the context of Covid, educating children at home, jobs and the economy, and the election. We had to be the one we were waiting for. And we were and are. Black women and women of color are bulwarks of society, AND we are consistently under-resourced and poorly quantified. I believe journalism can help change that. I’ve also been tracking how racial resentment shapes our politics and how we can do better as journalists to cover this critical issue during the age of racial reckonings. So….

What it was like to bring Our Body Politic to life

….what had happened was…

I pitched Our Body Politic starting in late January as a half hour podcast by/for/about women of color, covering politics, community, media and health. When the pandemic hit, interest evaporated. After George Floyd was killed, interest sparked. As I was in conversation with for-profit podcast companies, I also tweeted out that I was pitching this show and wanted to bring it to market, seeking other ideas from my Twitter followers @farai.

And something magical happened. KQED Chief Content Officer Holly Kernan, who I’d worked with years ago at KALW, reached out. We started conversations with Paul Bennun of KCRW and Kristen Muller of KPCC. The three stations and I all fundraised, very quickly, to stand up the show. We signed a contract with the badass Lantigua Williams & Co on September 13 and had our first episode on the air two weeks later!

That is both a success story and a failure story. Radio show hot launch = success. Why we didn’t have access to the resources to stand this up earlier = failure of the market to fund women of color. (That said, there are people landscaping how to improve the funding pipeline. But any change requires for-profit investors and nonprofit donors to step up.)

Me, I’m an accidental entrepreneur. All I wanted to do was write and broadcast the news. But at times, I’ve faced steep headwinds of industry discrimination as well as the economic destabilization of the industry. Investors also favor white and male media founders over women of color. If I had access to resources more quickly and easily, I could have launched a podcast in spring 2020, as people like my neighbors were dying. I mention that not as a lack of gratitude for the road we’ve taken, but as a simple fact. Women of color in media are consistently under-resourced, and as a result we lag behind what we are able to do in meeting the information needs of our community and the needs of all.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Our success is a testament to the commitment of our funders, partners, and the listener community. Thank you for helping us get this far.

What Our Body Politic is doing now

Everyday we’re hustling. Our team of producers, sound engineers and bookers maintains relationships with people in politics, business and culture; tends those relationships to bring you ace guests which so far have included Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Hawaii GOP Chairman Shirlene Ostrov, MacArthur (Genius) Fellow NK Jemisin and lauded organizer and living legend Dolores Huerta. (Huerta is 90, still works, has 11 children, and regretted the pandemic kept her from going to Burning Man this summer.)

What lies ahead for Our Body Politic and the community we’re building

Right now, Our Body Politic is a radio show broadcast terrestrially on stations coast to coast, plus available as a podcast. So: radio show + podcast.

We have a narrative analysis partner, Speak, to analyze the voicemails and emails listeners leave in response to our weekly prompt. Our goal is to build a panel of regular respondents who, in addition to other callers, can really give us a picture of what’s on the minds of women of color. (Radio show + podcast + responses + narrative analysis…)

We also have a pending agreement to bring on an academic research partner which does national surveys of people of color/women of color, in order to bring to light the most important issues to women of color and how choices and sentiment differ by race and other factors. (Radio show + podcast + responses + narrative analysis + survey research….)

Our goal is to build a consensual, respectful, deep-listening conduit so that Black, Latina, Asian-American, Native American and multiracial women are seen, heard, understood, and respected as key players in American democracy, culture and society. In an era where traditional political polling has frayed — and when we should question some of the uses of it in terms of shaping news — we can help improve and innovate ways of gaining insights from America’s women of color, so we can keep innovating in all the realms we touch.

& How you can help continue and strengthen this work

Our start up supporters gave us the opportunity to produce a proof of concept and we plan to run with it. We are currently planning production of our next six months of episodes.If you’ve enjoyed listening, recognize the value of bringing this dialogue to public radio and streaming services around the country and around the world, I hope you will share the show with your friends, family and colleagues. If you haven’t listened yet, please tune in, and sign up on Apple podcasts or any podcatcher. I hope you will share the show with your friends, family and colleagues, and support the continuation of this critical work to lift democracy and civil society. (We are also accepting larger donations via our fiscal sponsor. Feel free to reach out at OurBodyPolitic@protonmail.com.)

What kind of news do you want to hear, informed by what depth of community connection and newsmaker access? We’re here to engage deeply with the transformative power of women of color in politics. Our collective body politic of Black women and all women of color will do the rest.

With gratitude,

Farai

Radio show/podcast “Our Body Politic” @ farai.com/our-body-politic. Covered every Presidential election 1996–2020. Books include “The Episodic Career.”

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store