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On Theme

Black stories are more than a fad or fodder for opportunistic outsiders. We know them. We love them. We’re moved by them. They change our lives. And on this podcast, Black stories are the default.

Episodes

May 2, 2024 2 mins

Katie and Yves share a very important announcement about the show. 

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Many anthologies of nature poetry and Black poetry have excluded Black nature poetry. But Black people have always written poetry about nature. We write about the land that supports us and challenges us. We write about the animals we care for and the disasters that destroy our homes. We write about the rivers we cross and the soil we till.

Black nature poems reflect the enormous range of experiences that we have in our physical en...

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April 18, 2024 29 mins

Every photo tells a story. In this week’s episode, Katie and Yves take a look at specific instances when pictures were used for good…and for evil. Sometimes they expose the truth, but sometimes they obscure it.

 

Act I: The Most Photographed Man In America

How Frederick Douglass used his portraits to advance the abolitionist movement.

 

Act II: The Polaroid Protest

Two Polaroid employees discover that the company's technology...

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April 11, 2024 25 mins

Pauline Hopkins was a literary pioneer in the science fiction, fantasy, romance, and detective genres. She wrote plenty of short stories, essays, books, and plays.

But as is the case with so many Black women writers from the 19th and early 20th centuries, Hopkins’s work fell into relative obscurity. Thanks to the work of scholars like Dr. Claudia Tate, Dr. Mary Helen Washington, and Ann Allen Shockley, Hopkins is now getting recog...

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April 4, 2024 38 mins

It’s 404 Day, an annual celebration of all things Atlanta. And because Katie and Yves love Atlanta — Black Atlanta specifically — they’re talking about the myths Atlanta perpetuates and how those myths impact Black folks. 

 

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Folks in all kinds of media are great at crafting stories that use misinformation and disinformation to sway opinions about transgender people. When you’re the target of this kind of damaging propaganda, it can be super important to create spaces where you can take control of your own narratives.

Enter "The Risk It Takes to Bloom," a new memoir by award-winning author, activist, and media strategist Raquel Willis.

As we approach ...

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March 21, 2024 43 mins

A lot of us would never want our diaries to see the light of day. But that hasn't stopped people from archiving and publishing their own and others' diary entries.

It's not just about exposing people's secrets, though. Through these diaries, we get to learn more about historical eras and about the day-to-day experiences of our ancestors. We get a sneak peek into the private, interior worlds of everyday people, unmarred by the spec...

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March 14, 2024 36 mins

What happens when a writer’s words are read for the last time? If they’re lucky, curious readers make sure that never happens. And if they’re blessed and highly favored, their readers spread the gospel far and wide. Today, Katie and Yves discuss Alice Walker’s search for Zora Neale Hurston and speak with Michael A. Gonzales, a writer who rediscovered Diane Oliver’s writing in a little-known anthology. And the rest, as they say, is ...

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March 7, 2024 33 mins

Storytelling ain’t always love, peace, and kumbaya. Sometimes our favorite storytellers beef with each other in public. And we, the audience, eat it up.

In this episode, Katie and Yves take a walk down a beef-laden memory lane, reexamining feuds between Zora Neale Hurston and other Harlem Renaissance writers.

 

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February 29, 2024 31 mins

In the U.S., funerals are typically sad occasions, and mourning must be private and appropriate. But as much as Americans like to be uptight about death, post-mortem photography is an art that's been around for a long time, and it's still alive today.

Katie and Yves delve into the funerary photography of James Van Der Zee, the controversy of posting images of the dead on social media, and the spectacle of "extreme embalming."

Get...

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February 23, 2024 38 mins

Most of us have known of Rosa Parks since we were knee-high to a grasshopper, but how much do you actually know about Rosa Parks the person?

Katie and Yves discuss fictional depictions of the civil rights activist and speak with her niece, Sheila McCauley Keys to gain a new perspective on Ms. Rosa Parks.

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February 15, 2024 28 mins

A new documentary — As We Speak — explores the weaponization of rap lyrics in the legal system, shedding light on using artistic expression as evidence in criminal trials.

Directed by J.M. Harper and featuring hip-hop artist Kemba as a guide and character, the film delves into how rap lyrics have been used in court, examining the impact of this practice on the music industry and its artists.

Yves and Katie caught up with J.M. and...

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February 8, 2024 29 mins

Blackface was born of white folks’ racism and tired imaginations. It was about how white people co-opted Black stories and impersonated Black folks. But it was also about how Black people subverted those narratives and constructed their own.

In this episode, Katie and Yves talk about how the practice of blackface has been a pervasive ill in the history of U.S. culture and entertainment — and an opportunity for Black performers to ...

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February 1, 2024 33 mins

It seems like everyone invokes the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., from leftist organizers to conservative pundits. “If Martin Luther King was alive, today he’d….” or “Dr. King didn’t die for you to be…” or “What would King do?”

And while Dr. King is no longer alive to weigh in, he did let Ebony Magazine readers know what he’d do in certain situations through his advice column, Advice For Living. In this episode, Katie and Yves...

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January 25, 2024 35 mins

Throughout history and across the world, Black people have used protest songs to boost morale and inspire action. In this episode, Katie and Yves explore the history of protest songs created to uplift major social movements, including the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.

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January 19, 2024 48 mins

Katie and Yves delve into the often overlooked yet impactful role of Black artists in times of war.

Join us as we unravel the stories behind the artwork, songs, and poetry that have played a crucial role in shaping perceptions, challenging systemic injustices, and advocating for change on the frontlines and beyond.

We also talk with surrealist blues poet, aja monet, about how she uses art to support Palestine.

Read aja’s poems i...

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January 11, 2024 28 mins

What stories are you looking forward to this year? What stories will you create? Katie and Yves chat about all the stories to come in 2024. 

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January 4, 2024 28 mins

We’re diving into a realm filled with characters who make us grit our teeth, furrow our brows, and sometimes—let's admit it—make us itch to reach into the story and deliver a perfectly executed whack! 

Listen to see if you’d slap the same characters we would.

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December 28, 2023 34 mins

Haters get a bad wrap and for good reason. They demean, ridicule, and well...hate, but they are often the catalyst in many of the Black stories we know and love.

We hear about haters in songs, memoirs, acceptance speeches. It’s possible that without haters, we would only have a fraction of the Black stories we have today.

In this episode, Katie and Yves discuss haters’ place in the Black storytelling ecosystem. 

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December 21, 2023 30 mins

Katie and Yves head to the movies to watch American Fiction. Afterward, they discuss the anatomy of the Black Struggle Industrial Complex™ using examples from the movie and Erasure by Percival Everett.

Buy Erasure by Percival Everett

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