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Five Podcasts to Enjoy Now

July 27, 2017, 7:24 PM UTC

If I can fit it into my schedule, I like to take a long walk or hike in the late afternoon. My day starts at dawn, so it gives my hands and eyes a rest and helps clear my mind for the next day’s reporting. I also use the time to listen to podcasts, some of which are useful enough to pass along to you.

With the race and inclusion beat being what it is, the material can be challenging. More often than not, I’d find myself stomping up a beautiful woodsy ridge like this one, sucking on my Camelbak and seething about Jim Crow or the criminal justice system.

In order to stop the seething and start the soothing — and to remedy my utter inability to understand the concept of “self-care” — I started rotating some gentler fare into my listening routine. It really helped, so I’d like to share some of them with you.

Here are five very different podcasts or episodes that helped me take the edge off my quest for wokeness. Enjoy. What are you listening to? Let me know. Either way, I’ll meet you at the mountaintop.


Levar Burton Reads

Yes, it is exactly like Reading Rainbow for adults. The premise is simple: Burton picks a different piece of short fiction once a week and reads it aloud in his wonderful voice, while offering expert commentary and deftly applied sound effects. The only thing the selections have in common is that he loves them. There are no wrong choices, but if you’ve only got time for one, start with his reading of “Graham Greene” by Percival Everett.

Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lighty

This new series from Gimlet Media is excellent. The mogul in question is Chris Lighty, and, yes, the story has sadness at its core: Lighty died by suicide in 2012. But the backstories of how Lighty grew up in the Bronx and came up through the ranks of an industry in the making – literally by hauling crates of records for DJs to spin – are extraordinary. Lighty’s deal-making prowess should be taught at business schools around the country; I was amazed to learn of his role in resurrecting Curtis Jackson’s career. (Vitamin Water for the win.) But I predict you will fall in love with host Reggie Ossé, who brings a unique authenticity to the series. Transparency, too: When he uncovers some unsavory moments in Lighty’s past, Ossé’s struggle to determine how to present the material becomes a compelling storyline of its own.

Another Round with Heben and Tracy

Buzzfeed’s dynamic duo make podcasting sound easy. They tackle tough topics with a light touch, while mixing in plenty of pop culture entertainment. While you can find something wonderful in every episode, I’ll point you to a recent one that warmed my heart. The pair interviewed Jonny Sun, the man behind the sweetly affirming Twitter persona @JonnySun, a loving and confused alien who comes to earth and tries to make friends. His observations about humanity have been turned into a book, “Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too,” which is pure delight. Turns out, Sun and the character he created have an awful lot in common. The interview starts at the 16 minute mark.

Other: Mixed Race In America

This smart series from The Washington Post helps trace the experience of the “melting pot” in the U.S. through the experiences of the people whose identities include more than one race or culture. The series has only five parts, so you could probably finish it in one long wander up and down a big hill. But it’s a patient and careful look at the experience of being mixed race, complete with historical context and in-depth interviews that beautifully describe the nuanced contours of a complex country.


If you’re looking for a complete escape, then try “Life After,” the latest serial fiction podcast from GE Podcast Theater. It’s a follow-up to their eight-episode, fictional sci-fi thriller podcast called “The Message,” and both are like updated versions of 1940s radio yarns, in the best possible way. “Life After” isn’t about race, but it is about humanity, specifically what happens to our digital identities after we die. And it asks big questions. What role can artificial intelligence play in the grieving process? And then the inevitable follow-up – What could possibly go wrong? After the series, you can de-brief with Neil deGrasse Tyson, who talks about the actual science embedded in the fiction.

On Point

The military will continue to allow transgender people to serve for nowThe announcement came in the form of a letter from Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the military service chiefs. In the letter, Dunford made it clear that nothing will change until the White House sends the Defense Department a rules change and the secretary of defense issues new guidelines. “In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect,” he said. “As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions.”New York Times

Justice Department says people are not protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation under civil rights law
The brief, filed in a case being considered by a New York appeals court, was an unusual move, particularly because it came the same day as a series of tweets from President Trump purporting to ban transgender people from serving in the military. The case in question is a dispute between a worker and his employer; in the suit, the employee maintains that his employer violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination in the workplace based on “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” The department’s brief says that sexual orientation discrimination is not covered under the Title VII.
New York Times

A new partnership between Airbnb and the NAACP hopes to integrate the platform
The partnership is an effort to increase the number of hosts of color on the platform, and encourage economic activity in the communities in which they live. “For too long, black people and other communities of color have faced barriers to access new technology and innovations,” said Derrick Johnson, interim president and CEO of the NAACP, in a press release. Local NAACP chapters will conduct campaigns to educate African Americans on the nuts and bolts of Airbnb hosting; for every new host that comes through the program, Airbnb will share 20 percent of the revenue derived from their activity with the civil rights organization. CityLab’s Brentin Mock does an excellent job breaking down the pros and cons of the new deal. Critics are concerned that the push to enter black neighborhoods will decrease the affordable housing supply or accelerate gentrification. Johnson disagrees. “This gives an opportunity for African Americans and also other communities of color to save their houses,” he says.

Black executives are disappearing from big banks
According to data compiled by Bloomberg, the percentage of senior black executives at three major financial institutions has fallen over the past five years, and is now lower than corporate America as a whole. Black executives at JPMorgan Chase & Co.Citigroup Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., make up no more than 2.6 % of top positions, bucking a positive trend in other sectors. While there is no single explanation, says Bloomberg, “[c]urrent and former black bankers and academics who study them point to Wall Street’s unwillingness or inability to make changes. They don’t see enough consistency or creativity about hiring new people and helping them thrive in an industry where few black bankers have made it to the top.”

The Woke Leader

Lupita Nyong’o let her inner Power Ranger out to play and nobody knew
Imagine you’re really famous. So famous that you can’t go out in public without being mobbed and adored. As fun as that sounds, it can also be stifling, right? Imagine you’ve found the perfect opportunity to go undercover for a while to twirl through the world with anonymous joy. Now, watch a totally unrecognizable Lupita Nyong’o set herself free at Comic Con. Enjoy.

About that Bozoma Saint John profile...
Alison Griswold points out a series of missed opportunities in the recent New York Times profile of new Uber brand boss, Bozoma Saint John. There were plenty of juicy details about her life as a single mom (her husband died in 2013), her mastery of Instagram, her life as a cool person among influencers. But, Griswold says, we don’t learn anything about what she’s actually done in the past, or what she is now planning to do at Uber. The company is at the center of a firestorm and unprecedented conversation about misogyny and discrimination in tech and beyond. “Would the Times have profiled Uber’s first-ever chief brand officer in the Styles section, with an emphasis on that person’s Instagram, if a man held the position?”

And now a note to transgender allies
Angela Dumlao is asking people who are angry about Trump’s tweeted ban of transgender people in the military to think about other ways they may or may not be falling short in their attempts to help the cause. Don’t frame your support as “protect,” they say. It infantilizes trans people. “Stand with trans people. Support trans people who have been fighting for their rights. See the difference?” Dumlao ticks through a list that’s worth considering. Are you amplifying stories about violence against trans women? Do you support art made by trans people? Do you correct people when they misgender someone? Everyone was work to do. “I am not above self-reflection and bettering myself when it comes to dismantling the transphobia and transantagonism I was taught growing up,” they say. “I have work to do, too. Will you join me?”


Well, I don't know what will happen now; we've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter to with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind.  Like anybody, I would like to live a long life–longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.
—Martin Luther King, Jr.