Creating a student-driven podcast that presents information through the lens of Africentricity was something Randy Headley, Black Student Advisor at MSVU, has been thinking about for quite some time. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Black Student Support Office – like all other university departments – turned to virtual methods of engaging with students. The lockdown also caused a marked uptick in podcast consumption worldwide. This presented the perfect opportunity for Randy and then student Ibiene Ibiama to begin laying the groundwork for a new podcast.
In March 2021, the first episode of The Baobab Project podcast, titled Black Students’ Experience at MSVU, was recorded. The episode examines the personal experiences of several Black students at MSVU as they navigate their academic journeys. Since then, 16 more episodes have been recorded, covering topics such as: DIS-ability; Black hair; how to be an ally; soul food; and more. The Black Student Support Office plans to cover an additional 10 topics in the coming months.
When asked about the name of the podcast, Randy referenced an Akan proverb, “Wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it.”
“The series is called the Baobab Project because it recognizes the value of the wisdom members of the African/Black community use to help create a stronger MSVU community. Similarly, every part of the baobab tree is used by the people in many African countries. It is sometimes called the tree of life. Under the ‘branch of the baobab tree’ we discuss life experiences that help to build a stronger MSVU community for all,” said Randy.
A number of MSVU students have worked on the podcast over the past year, including: Ibiene Ibiama and Nneoma Okafor (both have since graduated), as well as Lilian Fernandes, Ajoke Laseinde, Stephanie Hughes, Leah Jones, Jordan Rolle, and Brianna Montrope.
Randy says the students have played a huge role in producing the series. “They do research, determine what questions each guest is asked, invite panel members, co-host, and create promotional materials.”
Nicholas Hickens, an MSVU Applied Human Nutrition graduate who worked on the podcast, had this to say about the project’s impact:
“As Black academics, we have a transformative impact on the existing systems that once silenced our voices. The Baobab Project allows constructive and critical dialogue by exposing the realities of the Black experience, increasing awareness and understanding of similar struggles among those of African Descent. This platform is foundational to promoting this vision, utilizing a collective voice of educated members that strive to make a difference.”
For Leah Jones, a Master of Education in Lifelong Learning student at MSVU who worked on several episodes, the experience was exceptionally meaningful.
“The experience provided moments of awakening – a sense of what community support looks like – and deepened my desire to educationally make a difference. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to be a small part of this project and hope these important conversations continue long into the future.”
Each podcast episode was edited by Brett Kibbler in the Digital Media Zone at MSVU. Access the podcast episodes via YouTube.
On September 28, from 2-4 p.m. in the main lobby of the Seton Academic Centre/MSVU Art Gallery, the Black Student Support Office will host a podcast launch event. Randy and some of the students involved in producing the series, as well as some of the guests who were interviewed, will be in attendance. There will also be an interactive display where attendees can scan QR codes for snippets of the various podcast episodes. Refreshments will be served. RSVP to the launch event.