I have always wanted to be on a list. 30 under 30. 40 under 40. Best something hat wearer… anything.
Just when I gave up on that dream, I got the wonderful news that I am on a list of Rising Black public media talents, in Current.org, one of the most important publications of my industry.
And this wasn’t a “who-you-know” stroke-fest, it’s legit. There are supremely talented Black audio producers from across the country recognized and nominated by people like you that think we deserve it.
As a freelancer, you have to constantly show your worth. In between gigs, it’s important for me to try new things, level up my skills, and create audio projects that are diverse and show a breadth of knowledge.
I’m keenly aware that we are the legacies of people before us that made it possible that couldn’t even think of having programming on the air. As the number of People of Color owned radio stations and shows dwindle even further, it is important for our stories to be told by POC producers, hosts, podcasters, and editors.
This is why I love my work.
I do it for me and I do it for “us”. Anyone else that receives the message is welcome to enjoy it.
Thank you all for the kind words (PS: who said that really nice thing about me in the article??) and the nominations. It means the world to a girl that sometimes thinks the world doesn’t want her to win.
January 2017: First episode of TK in The AM for the new year, I blurt out on the air that this is the year I will be quitting my job…my day job. By my birthday…in 4 months.
Quitting the job that pays my rent, that makes me feel secure-ish. Also, the job that I was good at but never wanted. The job that made family proud of me.
I also don’t make promises I can’t keep and I don’t lie, especially to my listeners. So, I have to keep my word.
February 2017: I took a few weeks to actually come to terms with and fully commit to the decision to quit my day job. I always knew. I knew my first day, 17 years ago- that I wouldn’t be staying long. I never applied for pension, never for 401K, I worked per diem, opting for maximum flexibility so I can chase my dreams part- time.
February was also the month I produced The Comet a creative project that would take me away from talk radio and news production and plunge me into the world of directing, sound designing, and audio drama. I thought, if i’m going to be a “starving artist”, I’m going to make ART.
Might as well.
……..Now, Let’s time travel further back……
In 2015, I went to the Audio Engineering Society convention at the Jacob Javitz Center in NYC. Walking through the impressive array of mics and electronic doo-dads I stumble upon a table advertising audio drama. My interest was piqued. I heard stories on the radio as a kid around the holidays, listened to War of The Worlds by Orson Welles, and always wanted to do my own.
I talk to the nice people at the booth and Sue Zizza of the Hear Now Audio Fiction Festival gave me two free tickets to come to a live listening session of performed and recorded stories.
I went and it was magical!
When I got home, I joined their mailing list and for 2 years in between projects and life stuff, kept wondering: howwww do I do this??
My main concern in listening to contemporary audio drama was “Where are the Black voices?” From then on I would talk to other audio producers about my dilemma, ideas, and make it my mission to listen for voices that were from People of Color, anything that would signify a different accent, language, speech pattern, or dialect.
…….Fast Fwd to late February 2017…….
After one of our rehearsals for the live reading of The Comet my first audio drama production. My inbox pings and the Hear Now Audio Fiction Festival has extended it’s deadline to submit for their festival in Kansas City!
Our production was a week away and I was working to place all the sound effects and music all the way until the 11th hour. The night before our production was also the due date for late submissions, I sent in 3 clips from our best rehearsal and crossed my fingers.
I was encouraged by a friend to apply to present The Comet as a workshop at Allied Media Conference in Detroit, Michigan. Why not? So I did.
I’m now a month away from being able to keep my promise to myself and my listeners. Would I be able to quit my job at this rate?
All while still going to my day job, subsisting on naps, bad diet, and no exercise. Something had to give.
At the very end of the month, I hear back from both…. WE MADE IT!
BOTH FESTIVALS… that’s a GREAT sign!
April 2017: I got some more good signs, put my name in the hat for a couple of audio jobs and fellowships that I didn’t get. It seemed one day I was on a high, excited for what my life might be and the next day a nervous wreck, depressed at rejection and paralyzed by fear.
Oh, and my birthday was coming. I had grand plans in mind, that never materialized. (Picture a grand party and I would wear a gold gown, raise my champagne glass as a I gave a speech about the long road travelled…)
I needed to decide. I needed to pick a day.
Mid April, I experienced some microaggressions at the day job and I had ENOUGH. The next day I gave my 2 weeks notice, and just like that I started to enjoy my birthday season. I was free. I allowed myself to receive love, to sleep, to eat well, to not hate certain days of the week.
Without missing a beat, I was picking up freelance jobs, doing more workshops and panels, and was invited on a BET facebook live show to make a mother’s day appearance. I was living for the first time in the history of myself, FULLY as TastyKeish.
All, good signs.
June 2017: Where am I now?
Learning and relearning my worth.
Battling 17 years of shift work related jet-lag (it’s so real).
In this post we go behind the scenes of the live broadcasted dramatised reading of “The Comet” by W.E.B Dubois. Also, my first time producing and sound designing this type of audio work.
For Black History Month I had the smart idea to broadcast a Black audio drama or live reading. Except that, I couldn’t find any in the public domain that we’re well read/acted and generally the pickings were slim. So I DIY an audio drama. Here’s some candid info about the process:
What I need in the America that includes an Angry Cheeto for President, are stories that get thru the hard times with humor and care. I also had been looking for examples of first person narrative that also includes the host experiences dealing with grief without being a total cryfest. Host, Nora McInerney is able to have really hard discussions about death, illness, and coping that combine her experiences and make it OK to laugh to keep from crying.
What does depression look like? It’s hard to answer and even harder for me as a high achiever, very functional, social person, that can’t quite pinpoint why it’s so hard to get out of bed some days.
And then I found John Moe and The Hilarious World of Depression!
Comedians and entertainers are often pushing through mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc, all while bringing joy to people daily. The one on one interviews show the resilience that is needed to get through their day and make people happy. For me, the most important takeaway is that: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Produced by Larenz Tate and Laurence Fishburne and starring the voices of an impressive array of contemporary Black actors, Bronzeville is everything I’ve been looking for!! In front of the mic and behind the scenes, Bronzeville is for us by us.
As a hugeeeee fan of audio drama and Black history, it tells the story of a flourishing Black community of Chicago and chronicles the lives of local number runners. The acting and sound design is superb while blending a fictional story with accurate historical depictions of Black life in the 1940’s.
In front of the mic and behind the scenes, Bronzeville is for us by us.
On February 28th a live reading of W.E.B DuBois’ short story venture into sci-fi, “The Comet”, will be aired on bondfireradio.com. I produced it because People of Color in fictional audio storytelling is scarce and I wanted to challenge myself by casting, directing, and sound designing the piece. Complete with live readers, our goal is to bring Black voices to life.
It took me a month to fully decompress from Third Coast International Audio Festival in Chicago and I still feel like things are unfolding…
I attended Third Coast as an AIR New Voices Scholar, which is a scholarship opportunity for audio producers from different walks of life to attend and gain mentorship.
These are a few of my takeaways.
Diversity in media was a topic that was repeatedly referenced over the three days, especially in the aftermath of the Trump election. We talked about the need for more reporters of color, how news shouldn’t be racial news- it should just be “news”, and who are the POC reporters that are going to spend the next 4 years following the President-Elect?
While the numbers of POC personnel in public media are increasing, one thing that is super real is that we need more POC in management and hiring. We need to be in decision making spaces, who understand the cultural nuance of other radio people of color. Folks that know what/how/when to code switch and why we do it.
Folks like my New Voices mentor, Andrew Ramsammy. Andrew is dope. He’s an award winning radio guy and he spends his days calling people/companies/news orgs out on their non-diverse, non-inclusive sh*t. My kind of guy. ::insert heart emoji::
If you imagine a public radio conference, you think it’s gonna be a ton of white dudes everywhere, that you won’t have anything in common with anyone, and that you won’t have a voice. My talks with Andrew were really empowering and motivating and helped me go into the weekend really confident in my mission and who I am as a broadcaster.
Introducing yourself over and over really gets to the core of understanding what you want for yourself. If you feel confident every single time you give your elevator speech, that’s a great sign.
My mission is about normalizing the voices, tones, dialects, and language of POC. On my morning show to talk to different sounding people 3 times a week and aim to expand by creating independent and freelance audio stories that feature the lives of different (sounding) people.
Turns out people are into that sort of thing. Check out my day one thoughts…
IV. Stand out by being a useful loner. I made some great friends at Third Coast, many of them were fellow scholars that I foresee having life long relationships with. But, during the weekend I traveled from panel to panel alone and sat with new people every time I went to any meal. This forces you to say hello and meet someone new every single time. Little did I know that my penchant for oversharing was a useful tool for some of the conference go-ers. I live tweeted every single panel I went to. Sharing is caring. Here they are again compiled for your reading pleasure:
If you have a skill that you’re absolutely sure of and there is an opportunity to use it, use it. Don’t intrude. Figure out if the ship is sinking and offer your help. For instance, Iknow I can cold rock a party. It’s part of the TK package. I love it and I live it. The DJ at one of the conference after parties was… struggling. So, after talking myself into it- I introduced myself to him and asked he would mind me being his “hype-man” or MC. From then we were a team. I tried to bring some cohesiveness to his playlist and crowd interaction to an event with several hundred of my industry peers. It was really fun and another great way to offer up another one of my skill sets to my peers.
The Get Shit Done Summit 2016, was truly a transformative day of conversation, listening, and trading business cards with founders, artists, investors, entrepreneurs, potential startups, and app developers. I was proud to be in a space that didn’t have to try hard to fill diversity quotas, it just was. Professionals from all backgrounds spoke freely and frankly about their missions and inspired each other and the audiences.
NYC is the home of hustle. These hustlas have taken NYC and NJ by storm and are working hard for not only themselves but those around them. From co-organizing the Black in Tech Meetup to creating an online platform to showcase female entrepreneurs and even creating the first Incubator in Newark. Hear their stories about what kept them motivated, what challenges they faced and how they got to where they are today!
Watch the first 3 hours of the event below and catch the iHustle panel at the 20 minute mark. Visit illicit mind Inc on facebook for more videos from the Get Shit Done Summit 2016 at the Digital Ocean Space in NYC!
When you’re passionate about how you want to live your life, you go out and learn as much as you can and I have been on a professional development kick all of 2016. I love talking with, listening to, and being around the people of my industry. It builds confidence and relationships and shows you where the deficits lie. And if you have a chance to speak up, you do that.
I went to the Syracuse University Newhouse 2016 Radio & Audio Summit last week where the heads of terrestrial, satellite, streaming, podcasting, and online radio were panelists. Jarl Mohn, CEO of National Public Radio was the keynote speaker as well.
The theme was creativity, but topics from advertising, social media, “diversity”, consumer habits, talent, and more were covered.
Check out my live tweets and follow #NHSummit on twitter for more great pieces of advice and audience tweets.
As more and more businesses and professionals leap into podcasting, one should know- there’s more to it than constant commercials for your product. In fact that should be the last thing on your mind. Here are some of the first things that you should be thinking about:
Create high quality accessible content.
Produce a high quality podcast by planning your guests, getting the right equipment, and having your script or notes at the ready. Study keywords and titles to maximize its reach online. Make your podcast easy to access by adding it to directories, and sending it to as many platforms from iTunes to Stitcher to Youtube to Soundcloud and more.
Humanize your industry.
By putting a voice to your profession, you bring listeners closer to your product. Imagine being a funny plumber with a podcast about the awful things that get stuck in toilets? You’ve entertained and you have an opportunity to tell people what not to put down their toilets. Don’t just try to sell, sell, sell. Tell a real story.
Become an expert.
Through the power of conversation and consistency, you establish yourself as an “expert”. Tips, tricks, and information empowers your listeners and builds your reputation as a trusted source.
Shares as interaction.
Your content being shared is a very direct way to market and follow up on these interactions by saying thank you and asking follow up questions. If the content is on their facebook page- interacting with them “bumps” the conversation to the top of their feed. For comments on your own tracks, do the same and ask them to share with their friends after each genuine exchange. When your listeners comment or share with their community, it’s one of the highest forms of trust building.
For more, check out my 1 min Podcasting tips and tricks:
I didn’t mean to sound so crunchy with the headline, but you’re here now and I got a story to tell… ::cues Notorious B.I.G::
I’m always in motion. Day job, podcast, workshops, fundraising, hustling to make a dollar- rinse and repeat. Day in and day out. I was tricking myself that I was doing enough. That there was nothing more I could possibly do without falling over and dying of exhaustion. And yet, I was still in a rut.
My depression was creeping in and my anxiety was a beast of burden. My joy was gone, I felt like I needed to do something drastic to remind me who I am at my core.
So I took a class.
Womp. I know, school is so not sexy.
Let’s call it “professional development” instead. That sounds sexy like a my High School Spanish teacher Ms. Maldonado. ::TMI::
Anyway, I took a chance and applied to Air’s Full Spectrum Storytelling Intensive. They only selected 14 mid-level audio production professionals to learn from each other and industry professionals about podcasting, interviewing, storytelling, sound design and more.
The application slid in my inbox two days before it was due, but something in me told me “just do it” and see what happens.
I did it. I got in. Oh shit. It costs $850. Do I just take 5 days off from work and lose all that pay? What was I thinking?
The Universe was like: “You wanted drastic… I’ll give you $850 worth of drastic.”
Then I was like: “Universe, I’m in- and i’m gonna learn the shit outta this class.”
And, learn the shit out of it I did…. after being so isolated by my unrelated day job, I was suddenly surrounded by industry peers and professionals having substantive and challenging discussions.
I gave myself the week off and committed only to this class. After classes, I did a lot of reflecting about my place as a Black Woman in broadcast/podcast media. I thought about resources, accessibility, invisibility, whether I am subject to producing programs that speak to the Person of Color’s experience, all these things continue to swim through my head over and over. Being in a room where I was getting my intellectual fill was wonderful, yet I felt guilty that access is a problem. Most of my POC friends jobs won’t pay for them to come do this, and dipping into that savings isn’t always an option.
I still had to deal with the after effects when I got back. A snowball of bills that got shuffled around and doubling my workload in the subsequent weeks, which put me in a funk.
I know what you’re thinking…. Was is worth it?
I learned new techniques and workflow. I got validation that I was already on the right path. It increased my confidence about speaking up and out. I started working with one classmate on a news segment. I got some awesome podcast suggestions. I applied to a some producer jobs (still looking!). Finally, I also started teaching my own class for beginner podcasters!
I am very excited to announce that after teaching children and fielding questions from peers, that I will be teaching a class about podcasting!
The Podcasters Retreat is a small conversational style one day intensive that takes you through basic broadcasting and sound techniques for the 21st century. Topics that are tailored to the group as well as organizing the flow of your show will be discussed over a catered lunch.