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Friday, Feb. 23, 2024
The Observer

Graduate student launches podcast, opens dialogue about social justice

Back in May, graduate student Emorja Roberson penned “Stop Killin’ Me,” a song inspired by the protests that began after the killing of George Floyd. Now, the singer, composer and program director for Voices of Faith, is again using his creativity to elevate social justice issues at Notre Dame — this time, through a podcast.

“I thought, ‘why not create something where it’s not just about me — I’ll host it, but I need people who are going to come on the show to not only tell us the truth about the situation, but also educate people who don’t know,’” Roberson said.

Thus, Black @ ND was born.

The show, which airs every Thursday at 7:45 p.m. on YouTube and can also be found on Instagram, is a conversation that, as the name suggests, touches upon “the experiences, the successes, the challenges of being a Black Domer,” Roberson said.

However, the podcast not only focuses on the present, but also revisits the past by showcasing the experiences of alumni from several decades.

“A lot of the things that they saw then are still things that we see now,” Roberson said. “We still deal with being the marginalized community, with still crying out, but yet no one’s listening. Except now people want to listen.”

Roberson said attending a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest in South Bend and becoming a member of the city’s chapter catapulted his inspiration to create Black @ ND. The statements made by different businesses and organizations — off and on campus — in support of Black lives made him seek consistency in actions and the opening of dialogues to address the situation.

“I’m going to make sure that you will hear our stories every day as much as you can,” Roberson said. “All those stories that you hear, that’s going to be your moment to learn. We have said these things for so long, but I want to make sure we’re represented 12 months out of the year and every day of the week.”

The podcast’s objective, Roberson explained, is to make people feel uncomfortable and to have the courage to discuss topics that are too often “swept under the rug.”

“My main goal is for Notre Dame to not be afraid to dive into territory that is sticky because I do believe that just because a topic is difficult, it doesn’t mean that it’s not worthwhile to talk about,” Roberson said. “You have to find ways in which that conversation can be effective.”

Senior Lynnette Wukie, the show’s co-host and first female Leprechaun mascot, echoed Roberson’s aspirations.

“It’s real people talking about the issues that sometimes are avoided because they’re uncomfortable or there might not be an easy solution,” Wukie said. “I’m most excited about asking people in positions of power who’ve had real experiences as people of color on Notre Dame’s campus to speak freely and honestly so that we as a community can get to a place of equity."

Another one of Black @ ND’s goals is to facilitate a learning process for people who might not be acquainted with the Black community, Roberson said.

“A lot of white people grew up with habits that they saw their parents perform and that they just picked up,” Roberson said. “So not everybody knows that what they do can also be detrimental, it can be hurtful, it can be offensive, and people just do it out of habit.”

Roberson not only aspires to accomplish these goals at Notre Dame, but also in South Bend. He said he hopes to bridge the gap between the oftentimes closed-off University and the city where it is located.

“Outside of the ND community there’s this air about Notre Dame because it’s Notre Dame, Indiana,” Roberson said. “It’s not South Bend. So I’m trying to build relationships with people who are outside of the Notre Dame circle.”

He said Black @ ND would feature topics beyond residential life and the Notre Dame experience, such as gentrification and redlining in South Bend, Black people in the arts, BLM and the Black agenda for 2021.

As a musician and member of BLM South Bend chapter’s arts branch, Roberson said he would like to incorporate music into Black @ ND. His voice is featured on the podcast’s opening song, but he is planning to organize a talent show in the future.

By merging the arts with an open dialogue, Roberson yearns to come together as a community to further social justice and try to find solutions — even if “we’re not going to have the answers right away,” he said.

“The end goal is for us to be at the table when these discussions are being [had], or when these decisions are being made — not just being the ones getting the leftovers … For those who don’t know about the Black community, I want them to more so listen rather than jump into a quick solution,” Roberson said. “For Black people, I want us to embrace our differences. A lot of times we try to be somebody else that we’re not just to fit in.”