BuzzFeed journalists discuss stereotypes, Flint at live podcast taping
Music from popular artists — including Beyoncé and Rihanna — blared in the Rogel Ballroom of the Michigan Union Thursday night while more than 300 students gathered to view a live recording of BuzzFeed’s popular podcast “Another Round” with Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton.
Nigatu and Clayton, both journalists, spoke on a wide range of social issues regarding race and gender stereotypes and social problems.
The event, sponsored primarily by the School of Social Work’s People of Color Collective, blended both humor and seriousness in discussions about race, gender and culture both on campus and nationwide. Other sponsors of the event included the Office of the Vice Provost for Equity, Inclusion and Academic Affairs, the Department of Afroamerican and African American Studies, the Women’s Studies Department and the Spectrum Center.
Raina LaGrand, master’s student in the School of Social Work and the School of Public Health, as well as a member of the People of Color Collective, said in opening remarks that the event provided a much-needed platform for students of color on campus to be engaged.
“We want people of color to feel supported, to feel like they have a healing space, to feel like they can have a co-intentional learning space,” LaGrand said.
In an interview after the event, LaGrand said the Collective believes the podcast brings a new lens to the political realm.
“A lot of us are personally in love with the show — their discussion of race and gender and politics, but also this combination of mental health and self-care,” LaGrand said. “I hope that people who are of color will feel celebrated and acknowledged and the University and different partners are doing something to provide this space for them.”
Throughout the show, Nigatu and Clayton encouraged audience interaction through video links to highlight both light and serious topics. The biggest portion of the evening centered on a discussion with Tunde Olaniran, a Flint, Mich. native and musical artist. Clayton asked Olaniran about growing up in Flint and the current water crisis.
“You can’t ignore these people because they don’t fit an ideal,” Olaniran said. “We need to put pressure on our legislators to really — I’m going to get technical — but we need to push for more appropriations or aid in Flint … People are often just gambling with their health.”
Clayton said the extent of the crisis happening in Flint was unimaginable, asking Olaniran about the sparse availability of water many community members in Flint have experienced.
“You just know that if the majority of the people affected were white, the response would be so different, so much faster, so much more immediate,” Clayton said.
Nyshourn Price, School of Social Work Student Services admissions coordinator, said she thought it was beneficial to host the speakers to foster more discussion on topics of social justice.
“I think it’s vital to the community and what’s going on in the world,” Price said. “Having conversations, being able to cross-connect with issues and have a voice particularly for, I call it Black and brown, but people of color, because there’s a lot going on.”
Storee Harris, a master’s student in the School of Public Health, said she came to the event because she follows Clayton on Twitter and was curious to see what the two speakers had to say. Harris said their points of view are crucial to having an open discussion about race and inclusion, especially on a university campus.
“I think Michigan is trying to become more diverse, but I think seeing this type of inclusiveness — everyone in here may be of color, but here for different reasons — this gives Michigan a way to become more inclusive,” Harris said.