What’s a “microagression”? Is there a distinction between the terms “African American” and “black”? What does it mean to be a black student or scholar at an Ivy League institution? Kadence Mitchell ’20 and William Pugh ’20 are trying to answer these questions and spark discussion within the University community with their new podcast, “Woke Wednesdays.”
After the 2016 presidential election, Pugh and Mitchell came up with the idea for a podcast that would allow students to share their opinions on issues relating to race, social justice, gender, and sexuality. Along with their friends Nathan Poland ’20, Micaela Keller ’20, and Matt Oakland ’20, they recorded the first episode in Pugh’s dorm room in January using a $40 microphone. By the end of the spring semester, they had upgraded to a professional sound studio in Lewis Library, produced seven episodes, increased their audience from 20 listeners to more than 500, and won the Santos-Dumont Prize for Innovation from the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students.
In the podcast, students discuss topics that wouldn’t necessarily come up in the classroom or dining hall with friends, and Pugh said he hopes that “Woke Wednesdays” will serve as a springboard for people to start conversations with others who may hold views that are different than their own.
“To me, being ‘woke’ is being socially aware, being willing to challenge others but also challenge yourself, and being introspective in that regard,” Pugh said. “It’s about sharing your truth, but also realizing that there is a lot to learn from the people around you.”
Over the summer, “Woke Wednesdays” more than doubled its staff, assembling a team of nine freshmen and sophomores to help with planning, producing, and marketing the podcast. For the second season, which was to debut Nov. 1, Pugh said the team plans to cover topics such as the recent pregame protests by NFL players, the power of Confederate symbols and memorabilia, and the concept of cultural “appropriation” versus “appreciation.” They have also invited well-known figures — including Cornel West *80, Al Sharpton, Toni Morrison, and Colin Kaepernick — to appear on the show.
“Woke Wednesdays” will be posted every other Wednesday through the month of December and will resume during the spring semester at http://bit.ly/wokewed.
“We want people that agree with us to listen, but we also want people who may strongly oppose what we’re saying to listen and engage with us,” Pugh said. “If you disagree with me, you’re listening to me and you’re active enough to want to engage with my opinion — and that’s a powerful combination.”