ActivismSolution Sessions

change the world: the return of solution sessions

November 12, 2019

Season Two of the Solution Sessions, AFROPUNK’s Webby Award-winning podcast hosted by Bridget Todd and Yves Jeffcoat which returns on Wednesday, November 13th, could not be coming back at a better time. Now more than ever, the world is in need of solutions, and who is better equipped to provide them than the community?     

AFROPUNK’s Solution Sessions provides a forum to the people with the tools, the experience, and the resolve to solve the issues faced by that community. Solution Sessions isn’t just a podcast, it’s an events series that takes place around every AFROPUNK festival, engaging social activists, experts, and entrepreneurs. We showcase these fearless change agents and bright young artistic minds, and invite our global audience to be smart, be compassionate, be fearless and ready, and join in the quest to remake the world as we want it to be.

Season One saw Solution Sessions handle such topics as “Racism as a Virus,” “The Talk,” “Political Skepticism” and “Racism in the Education System,” while talking with thought-leaders like Stacey Abrams and Patrisse Cullors. As part of a sneak peek into what’s in store for Season Two, Bridget and Yves told us that the topics delve more broadly into global Blackness, moving beyond the local community and into the connections that go beyond borders and physical spaces. Welcome back the agents of change!

What do you think Solution Sessions got right in the first season, and how do you want to build on that in Season Two?

BRIDGET: For me, the best thing about Season One was being able to hear from ordinary voices in the AFROPUNK community telling the story of how they became involved in the fight for racial justice. Folks like Mary Pat Hector, the youngest person to run for public office in Atlanta, Paul Butler who left a lucrative job to help dismantle racism, and Jessica Byrd who helps Black folks run for office. They may not be household names, but so much of Season One was about demonstrating the way that anyone can be an activist through everyday ordinary acts. I hope in Season Two we expand on that, and that folks walk away feeling like the everyday choices they make can make a big difference. 

YVES: Season one dove into some of the big, capital-“I” issues that Black people face — racism, incarceration, voting, mental health, reproductive justice. Those issues are super important and top of mind for so many of us, and the conversations we had with people like Stacey Abrams, Patrisse Cullors, and Paul Butler helped highlight what’s being done in real life and real-time to effect change. I’m looking forward to having more of these layered conversations and getting even more specific, touching on communities and issues we didn’t tackle before. I’m also really excited to see how the solutions we present can inspire people to become more politically or socially engaged in a way that feels right for them.

Talk a little bit about the topics that Season Two will engage with, in some ways they feel more global than local (in a flip of Season One).

YVES: It’s important for us to talk about what Black people around the world are dealing with. We are not a monolith, and we all have a lot more to learn about one another. We don’t always have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to solving issues — sometimes the answer is already out there, only it’s halfway across the world and needs to be modified to fit a different context. In Season Two we’ll explore topics like environmental racism, disability, art, and gender that Black people across the globe navigate differently based on history, law, and culture. Continuing to acknowledge that Blackness is expansive and that solutions are not one-size-fits-all is key.  

BRIDGET: We already know Blackness — and unfortunately, anti-Blackness — are both global. AFROPUNK is one of the only projects that deal with Blackness globally, so in Season Two, we want to dig into what that means, exploring the ways Blackness unites us across oceans, and looking at the ways folks outside the U.S. have dealt with the challenges we all face. 

Early in the season, you have an episode about Digital Blackness. There’s a lot of questions right now about whether the Internet is making things better or worse. Talk a bit about that and how digital culture can be part of the Solution?

BRIDGET: I grew up on the Internet, so I’ve seen the ways digital culture can unite us regardless of physical location first hand; and while it can be used as a tool to divide us, it also brings us together through storytelling. Look at online movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. Sharing stories online has the power to change hearts and minds, and also shift policy. If we keep using social media and podcasts to have conversations with each other, we can share best practices, develop a shared language, and share our wins, losses, frustrations, and all the beauty that comes with being Black. 

YVES: There’s this specter of social disintegration and doom around the Internet and social media, and it’s easy to get caught up in forecasts of what the Internet will do to us. But the Internet is embedded in so many of our lives, and is integral in how we communicate, create, and learn. And Black people, specifically, drive the way we do all those things on the Internet. We’ve already made clear that the same power we have offline we also wield online, in raising awareness, organizing, and building movements. 

But Black voices on the Internet are also exploited, taken advantage of, appropriated, and ignored. It’s less about figuring out whether the Internet is making things better or worse and more about how the Internet acts as a vehicle for the same oppressive forces that affect Black people at large. Digital culture provides a space for connecting people around the world, for creation in service of progress, and for the amplification of marginalized perspectives. 

Another episode is about “Environmental Racism.” Can you briefly define that phrase, and discuss how Climate Change overwhelmingly impacts communities of color (around the world or locally? 

YVES: Environmental racism occurs when Black people are disproportionately affected by environmental hazards like waste and pollution. Lead poisoning in Flint is a product of environmental racism. Environmental racism is evident in the high cancer rates in areas of Louisiana that are affected by chemical pollution. Environmental racism is also linked with the climate crisis, so Black people around the world, from South Africa to Brazil, are engaged in environmental justice efforts. It’s an issue that has a far-reaching impact and is harming and killing a lot of Black people. 

BRIDGET: We already know that racism shapes so many aspects of how we live our lives, so it follows that our environments are no different. Black and brown folks are much more likely to live in polluted areas, drink polluted water, and breathe polluted air. Environmental racism is the understanding that race and income play a factor in both who shoulders the biggest weight of environmental consequences and how environmental issues are legislated via policy.   

So many of the conversations of Solution Sessions carry an undertone about hope and discouragement of where our society is headed. Generally speaking, do you feel more hopeful after having these conversations or not – and why? 

BRIDGET: The state of our social and political climate in 2019 sometimes seems like a dumpster fire, but the only thing that gives me hope are young people. Rather than be cynical or jaded from the depressing realities of our world, they are more fired up than ever to have conversations, and to do the work to dismantle the systems that oppress us. My hope is podcasts like Solution Sessions can play a small role in keeping the fire that rages inside of them lit. 

YVES: I’m already hopeful by nature, but after having these conversations I’d say I feel more equipped to make my hopefulness useful. They remind me that there are precedents for effective solutions and room for improvement. They also put into perspective the power in planning, working together, trying new things, and persisting. And I’m pretty much always inspired by the people we speak with and the work they do.

Finish this sentence Yves:This season on Solution Sessions, we will… 

Celebrate how far we’ve come and look forward to building an even better future.

Finish this sentence Bridget: “This season on Solution Sessions, we will…