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Well read: Podcast talks up the glory of books
African American perspective of literature’s impact
Published Thursday, October 19, 2017 11:40 am
by Ashley Mahoney

Terry Brown, right, hosts Black & Read, a bi-weekly book club podcast. The program shares an African American perspective on literature that isn’t readily available in the mainstream.

“Black people read too.”

Those lines linger long after Terry Brown’s two-minute introduction of the Black & Read podcast ends. His words challenge the way mainstream literary circles often exclude the impact of the written word on people of color. To narrow the gap, he created a bi-weekly book club podcast.

“It came from the idea of telling literature from a different perspective,” Brown said. “A lot of times we get the same perspectives and insight on books, but I think that everybody’s experiences are a little bit different. A lot of times, African-American experiences in literature don’t really have those perspectives and insight come out

Seven episodes in, they range from 37-55 minutes.

“In each episode, I discuss a book with someone from the community, and it’s either a book that has impacted them or their work—something like that,” Brown said.

Rather than structure the podcast as an interview, it’s framed as a discussion.

“There are a lot of interview podcasts out there, and I didn’t want to make it a straight interview podcast,” Brown said. “The idea of using a book that is important to everybody helps it a little bit.”

Guests have included teachers, musicians, economic developers, therapists, professors, consultants, and social activists.  

“It’s been a mix,” Brown said. “Sometimes I’ll select a book for the guest, and sometimes they’ll select the book for me.”

From Mooresville Middle School history teacher Justin Phillips in episode one “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Radical Right” to Harvey Cummings on episode two “The Alchemist,” every book elicits a story that needs to be told.

While Brown created the podcast to address the deficit of exposure for voices of color in the bigger picture, the podcast created a platform to discuss numerous works—regardless of the author’s race. For instance, a wish list book for Brown is Harper Lee’s classic “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“It was my favorite book growing up,” he said. “It’s been discussed hundreds of times, but I think discussing it now in the lenses of the 21st century, and having that discussion be led by African Americans would be a really insightful discussion. One the things that drew me to the book early on were the themes of justice and morality, and being  able to stand up for what you believe in.”

A civil litigation attorney with Horack Talley, the Campbell University School of Law and UNC Charlotte alumnus’ precursor to the podcast stemmed from a conversation with his Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity brothers.

“Pretty much all I listen to in the car is podcasts,” Brown said. “My original idea was to do a Charlotte history/politics podcast. At the same time, I started a book club with some of my fraternity brothers from college. We’re all over the country now, and we just decided, let’s read a book a month and get on Google Hangouts and talk about it for an hour. It didn’t work, because we all have such different schedules, but I like that idea of discussing books with other African Americans and thinking about those different perspectives that you don’t get. A lot of times, when you read articles about books, it’s kind of a homogenous perspective. I thought that there was a void in the literature world for that.”

While Brown knew where he wanted to take the idea, he didn’t know where to start. After taking Andy Goh’s SkillPop class, he set up shop at Hygge Coworking.

“I knew Andy, and I knew about SkillPop, and I saw that they were doing a podcast class,” Brown said. “I had no idea how to start a podcast. So I took that class, and it was very insightful. After I took it, I hit the ground running. I said ‘if I keep waiting, I’m never going to do it.’ I’ve been feeling my way around since then.”


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