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Tackling the Tough Issues

Tackling the Tough Issues

Pioneering local podcast encourages critical thinking


The podcasting industry is on a roll. Once a technological curiosity known only to a select few, podcasts are becoming increasingly popular. In 2020, an estimated 100 million people listened to a podcast each month and it’s expected to eclipse 125 million in 2022, according to Forbes.

Podcasts are becoming a prevalent tool in higher education, with several schools and universities launching them to target various audiences. Podcasts can be used to showcase expertise and share knowledge. They also offer schools an opportunity to engage with current and prospective students alike.

Just over two years ago, Larry Jefferson and Dantrayl Smith—both coordinators for Tarrant County College’s Intercultural Network—decided it was time to launch a podcast to encourage students to think critically about race and culture. The educators got the idea to start “Making Sense of Diversity” back in 2019 when the duo attended a conference at Baylor University.

“As we’re sitting in this workshop, Baylor representatives were having a conversation with us, explaining how they used podcasts to engage students and staff,” said Jefferson, who works closely with students at TCC Southeast. “The Baylor reps talked about podcasting and how big of a hit it had become.” A few weeks after the conference, Jefferson and Smith started “Making Sense of Diversity” through TCC Connect, the College’s virtual campus.

“We did a couple of episodes there,” added Jefferson. “We discussed what is culture and during that time we interviewed staff members to let them explain to our listening audience about some of the stereotypes and traditions that they believed in.”

Within months, the weekly podcast had a loyal following that included members of the TCC community and people from the community at-large. Things seemed to be trending upward until COVID-19 shut down the College.

“When Larry and I started working remotely, we had a meeting to figure out exactly how we really could capture what it is we wanted to capture with the students,” said Smith, who runs the Intercultural Network at TCC Trinity River. “We played around a little bit longer, but then you know, George Floyd happened. We then had a real serious deep conversation and came up with the idea of doing a podcast on the misperceptions of Black men.”

According to Smith, the show “blew up” that season and the duo decided to expound upon that in the spring semester (2021) by focusing on female identity. That particular move took the show to the next level, providing an unexpected opportunity to the two educators.

Jefferson and Smith were approached by some individuals who encouraged them to produce a podcast that was independent of TCC. Soon thereafter, they met with TCC’s legal team to ensure a move would be in the best interest of all parties.

“We decided to jump out there and do our own thing, which led to the time change.” The podcast moved from Mondays at 12:30 p.m. (CT) to a 5 p.m. time slot, which opened things up to a wider audience.

Now armed with the freedom to tackle more controversial issues on their show, Jefferson and Smith changed the show’s name to the “RAD (Racism: Access Denied) Podcast.” Since the rebrand, the podcasters have covered a variety of topics: police brutality, community relations building, education reform and red lining in Tarrant County, just to name a few.

“RAD is kind of radical,” said Smith. “We want to implement change and enhance the mindsets of our listeners.” Jefferson, who has been friends with Smith for five years, agreed that podcasting has been transformative work.

According to the RAD Podcast YouTube page, the podcast is unlike anything on the higher education airwaves: honest, raw, funny and refreshingly real, just the way Jefferson and Smith envisioned it.

“We want to send a clear message that racism is not accepted and if you are racist, maybe it’s time for you to have a conversation with somebody as to understanding that culture a little bit better,” Jefferson explained.

With most of the show’s listeners coming from higher education or those doing Diversity & Inclusion work, there is an opportunity to advance social justice in our communities.

Larry Jefferson
Coordinator for Tarrant County College’s Intercultural Network

Even though these two men are extremely busy engaging TCC students, they’re still able to carve out some time to discuss and finalize show topics. In addition to their own ideas, they seriously consider listener feedback and suggestions from past guests for possible show topics. When it comes to booking show guests, they don’t hesitate to tap into their extensive network.

Earlier this spring, two political candidates running for Tarrant County judge seats joined the RAD Podcast to discuss why exercising the right vote is essential to being a good citizen and voter suppression’s impact in minority communities.

“Yeah, we’re gonna face long lines,” Jefferson explained. “You’re gonna face people saying that you can’t vote here. You can’t vote there. We wanted people to take that initiative and not give up their voting rights just because they faced some adversity.”

Ultimately, Jefferson and Smith want their show to be found on iTunes, Spotify and other popular platforms to help share their energy with the mainstream.

Three years into podcasting, Jefferson says there’s still untapped opportunity to inspire positive change. “Just continuing to educate the masses and continuing to grow, look at ways that that we may not be covering certain things and bring those topics to life.”

Check out the RAD Podcast: