Two and a half years ago, I wrote about podcasting when I was beginning to explore the various interests I was diving into, from comedy to politics to niche Black subcultures. Perhaps it’s fairly routine and funny to think about the state of mind I was growing through back in August of 2018. I was ferociously trying to crank out college admissions essays and attempting to plan out my last year of high school as I took on new responsibilities at the school paper. Those podcasts today for me would at minimum be a little embarrassing to be listening to today at best, and outright nonsensical at worst (which again I think is more than okay!!!!). Amidst all of that, podcasts for me were an escape of sorts, a medium to not just tell compelling stories, but to revel in passions I couldn’t explore with my peers.
And yet, the longer I have listened, the more I’ve matured, I began to treat podcasts as an essential companion for my political education. It was not that I was feeling particularly stressed or felt it necessary to be consuming content at all times, but I recognized how I could begin to incorporate learning throughout my day. Whether it was driving to a coffee shop, walking between classes, or on the four-hour flights between Chicago and the Bay, I carried the voices of organizers and scholars everywhere I went. I do think that there is a necessary level of individual political study that remains integral to our intellectual journeys. Podcast time for me became an internal dialogue between myself and the hosts, between those that were being interviewed and the histories I was trying to trace between.
But what I also know is imperative to point out at this point is to also remain cognizant of the limitations. The Twitter jokes about leftists starting podcasts and having that be their only praxis (which that isn’t in isolation) are all so necessary to point out. Nothing about speaking into a mic, even of a radical or revolutionary politic, means much if that’s the extent to which actions take place. Reading a text always will give me far more than a complete book, but that can be an inconvenient process to take on all the time. It was as I began to spend last summer voraciously consuming podcasts while driving around just to get out of the house that I saw the ends of a media project. As I even learned about some of the production and behind the scenes from people I got to know in the last twelve months, they can admit grappling with how to take things further beyond the interviews.
I can be fairly honest and say that podcasts for me have remained so influential in my political education as an entry point to further learning. I come in ready to take a few notes or discover some new texts that I can dive into, knowing that it serves as a gateway towards new ideas. I remember learning about Cedric Robinson last summer on Millenials are Killing Capitalism, and that alone spun me towards reading Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition with my roommates. It has been experiences like that which reaffirm to me that, at least within the study of radical and revolutionary movements, podcasts can be helpful!
Wherever there is knowledge that can be consumed and learned from, however, thorough dense or challenging, the process of struggle to grapple with new concepts or theoretical frameworks keeps me engaged. Of course, the first and foremost reason I remain optimistic is in my practice of hope in believing a greater world is possible. It is with that mindset that I take the podcast world as merely one outlet to expose myself to ideas that require me to think beyond the status quo. I guess what I’m most excited about is a time when organizers and organizations begin to develop their media projects. When we can get more frequent updates and insights from organizers, even internally, it’s cathartic and inspiring. But for now, I’ll continue grooving out and walking around Chicago to the words of Ruthie Gilmore, Joy James, and others.
Being Noah Tesfaye #182: Contextualizing Podcasts in My Life
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