When Karl Kahambwe was in second grade, his teacher instructed the class to bring in baby pictures for a guessing game of matching the baby picture to the student. What seemed like a fun way to end the week quickly became a moment of realization for Kahambwe as he was the only Black student in the classroom. When his baby picture was put up, Kahambwe remembers an uncomfortably long silence taking over the previously rowdy students until one student pointed towards him as the matching student. According to Kahambwe, this moment is when he knew he was different from his classmates.
Experiences like Kahambwe’s of coming to terms with being Black were shared on the Black Student Union podcast, “Black on the Bluff”, which debuted on Spotify on Sept. 12. The first episode, “Welcome to BSU Part One (Becoming Aware of Race)”, featured treasurer Kahambwe, secretary Annastacia Martin, and president Sharif Morton.
The podcast itself aims to be an “educational collegiate talk show centered on the Black experience at University of Portland, Oregon” according to its Spotify description. Morton, Martin and Kahambwe will be the main hosts with appearances from other club members and guest speakers.
BSU promotes a safe and inclusive environment for Black students on campus. This is typically done by raising cultural awareness through club events. BSU was officially formed in 1975 and in previous years has hosted poetry slams and various diversity dialogues such as “Remembering MLK: Interpretations of Change”.
With clubs moving online for the semester, BSU faced the challenge of continuing that safe space as well as maintaining the social environment that typical club meetings embodied. As a solution, the podcast was created.
“The space and being able to be with each other and be in that presence of one another is very important,” Morton said. “And it's the bread and butter of the club. We wanted something that was very low level of commitment so that they still feel comfortable coming, but then also very easily accessible on the other hand. And with that, podcasting fit the bill quite nicely.”
Morton said that the op-ed submitted by Title IX Coordinator Sandy Chung to The Beacon over the summer is a possible topic for future episodes. Morton said he wants to let listeners settle in with the first few episodes before moving onto heavier topics.
“Unfamiliar things are scary for lack of a better term because they're uncomfortable, but these conversations are necessary,” Morton said. “Whether or not these conversations scare people away or make them uncomfortable, they need to be had.”
BSU plans to release podcast episodes on either a weekly or biweekly basis.
Along with this podcast, BSU is also planning other events for the semester, including supporting Walter Thompson-Hernández as a speaker for Latinx heritage month.
BSU also hopes to host guest speakers and collaborate with the Jazz Studies department.
“Jazz music is one of the truly and profoundly American music styles and art styles,” Morton said. “And it is inextricably linked with the African American community.”
All members of the UP community are welcomed and encouraged to take advantage of both the podcast and the planned events in order to further their understanding of the Black experience.
Laura Heffernan is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.