When ESSENCE’s 2020 Webby nominations for best individual podcasts were announced, like any other person who likes to win, I checked out the competition. However, instead of being consumed by jealousy, I was overcome with curiosity at the audio offerings missing from my “listen now” queue.

Sure there were some heavy hitters I’ve known about for years, Pod Save the People (Crooked Media) hosted by DeRay McKesson along with fellow voices Brittany Packnett Cunningham, Sam Sinyangwe and Dr. Clint Smith, III; and The Trevor Noah Podcast (Luminary Media). My former Yes, Girl! cohost Yolanda Sangweni told me I’d be into Hear to Slay, hosted by Roxane Gay and sociologist Tressie McMillan Cotton she was completely right. I was already a big fan of writer Roxane Gay, but her and Tressie’s deep dive into the legacy of Toni Morrison pulled me right in.

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From the Webby’s extensive list of podcast categories, I discovered some new audio gems I’ll be downloading soon. But first be sure to vote for Yes, Girl! and these dope Black podcasts HERE.

1. Dope Labs “Wakanda Forever”

Where my Black girls nerds at? Right here with real-life scientists Titi Shodiya and Zakiya Whatley who break down pop culture trends through a scientific lens—and a healthy dose of funny. Genius. Must hear episode of the moment: “Don’t Pass the Corona.”

2. #TellBlackStories

The radical work of Color of Change, “the nation’s largest online racial justice organization,” gets amplified through their podcast, #TellBlackStories. Whether its repurposed moments from their live events, such as the Sundance Film Festival conversation with the creators of the Surviving R. Kelly documentary, or it’s an intimate conversation with those changing the rules in Hollywood, including Yara Shahidi and Taraji P. Henson.

3. Prince: The Story of 1999

Hosted by Andrea Swensson, who promises to “nerd out about this new, huge super deluxe edition” about the re-release of 1999 last year. A noteworthy Prince and Paisley Park expert, Swensson calls on those closest to The Purple One for an expansive retelling of how one of Prince’s biggest albums—and signature sound–came to be. The four-part podcast was produced by The Prince Estate.  

4. Be Woke Presents: Black History in Two Minutes

Narrated by Henry Louis Gates Jr., the podcast delivers what the title says—abbreviated capsules of Black history in less than 5 minutes. With topics ranging from The Black Church and The Tuskegee Study to concise profiles of history makers such as Katherine Johnson, Frederick Douglass, Harlem Hellfighters of World War I, and more, these bite-size reminders of our legacy are perfect to start the day.

5. AfroQueer

The description sums up it squarely as a “podcast about Queer Africans living, loving, surviving and thriving on the African Continent and in the Diaspora.” However the conversations are well-rounded, unheralded stories of how the global Black experience of exclusion and redemption unites us across sexual orientation. 

6. Justice in America Podcast: A Project of The Appeal

Admittedly, political podcasts aren’t my go-to audio experience but Justice in America’s host Josie Duffy Rice thoughtful examination of the criminal justice system has as much heart as it does heft. The season three finale especially resonated with me. Recorded at Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon, New York, the episode explored prison college programs and ultimately the human drive to better oneself regardless of boundaries set around us.

7. Mogul

When Mogul’s first series delved into the life and death of Chris Lighty, I was hooked. HOOKED. The pod took a break as its host Reggie Ossé, who’s dedicated preservation of hip hop set the template for this groundbreaking podcast, battled colon cancer. When he succumbed, I wasn’t sure I’d come back but found my love again as it examined the birth of southern hip hop in an unlikely city: Miami.


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