Updated: Nov 21
on Podcast Movement, Capitalism Versus Community, and How to Plan Events "With Intention"
Interview: Afros and Audio Founder Talib Jasir
This has been edited for clarity and length.
“Skye: What’s your take on the Podcast Movement/Daily Wire situation?
Talib: I don’t know the organizers, so I can’t place any concrete judgment on them, but if the two organizations weren’t aligned, then the first misstep was selling a booth to The Daily Wire. If I bring in a sponsor, there is an expectation that there will be representation. If I was afraid of that representation in any way, it wouldn’t be a gamble I’d be willing to make.
When Podcast Movement began apologizing to folks who were offended and then apologizing to folks who caused the offense, that was not a good look. It looks like pandering, or like the organization is being opportunistic. And when consumers don't know who you actually are, what your values are, what your principles are, it builds distrust. You build distrust when there is no clarity.
To be honest, I think I would have felt used on either side — with the caveat that I now know who Ben Shapiro is, and it’s like, who cares, eff him — but still, that was a situation where someone was used for what they could provide. Maybe Podcast Movement has handled these things well in the past — who knows what's been occurring in previous years that that no one was privy to — but something went left this time.
Skye: Have you had a situation where you felt that a vendor came to you and their values were not aligned with yours?
Talib: No. Afros & Audio is a very upfront business, meaning that our principles of inclusivity and accessibility are right at the forefront of our brand. Organizations and attendees already understand who we are, so I don't need to do much rejection. For me personally, I appreciate companies whose core values and alignments are upfront, so that I know before I even start — do I rock with you? Is this somewhere I want to be?
Talib: I'd step away from Afros & Audio before I’d allow it to become uninviting or unsafe. And the only way it would become uninviting or unsafe is if capitalism became more important than the community. That’s something that we have to unlearn when it comes to creating a community. As Americans, we’ve all been socialized in this certain way but we need to realize that there’s a difference between communities that get built so that the builders can have access to the community versus the community having access to each other.
The community having access to each other during an Afros & Audio virtual session.
Skye: What would you say to people who say this is a free speech issue?
Talib: Everyone gets to speak their beliefs and their truths, but do they have to do it on my platform? No. They can create their own platform for it, or go where they are invited. I think that's where things got messy for Podcast Movement because — and I understand that they said that Ben Shapiro wasn't invited — but The Daily Wire had a booth. It’s like that vampire trope: when they’re invited, they’ll walk through the door!
This is an opportunity for Podcast Movement to get clear on their values because there is a base of folks who will show up when Shapiro shows up. So if the community Podcast Movement wants to create includes those people, then say that and do that. If that’s not the community they want to create, then say that and do that. All parties will benefit from that clarity.
Skye: What has it been like for you to build your community?
Talib: It’s a challenging endeavor to organize a conference with intention and purpose. Our intentionality has to be so deep that it outweighs the hardship in making it happen. Because the hardship is real.
I'm thankful for the brands that have supported us from the beginning, but there’s so much more that's needed. The big sponsors all want their investments to add immediate value to their bottom line — and I get it, because that’s just business. But I also believe that if you don't invest in something that you think has value, how will its value grow? It’s like when you’re told you need experience to get the job, but the company doesn’t give you the job so that you can get the experience.
Talib: All of that said, Afros & Audio is the most rewarding thing that I do. One of our biggest supporters is a world traveler; she goes to a lot of events. She told us that Afros & Audio was the first conference she attended where she felt like she was home. We have introverts who tell us that this is the first time they didn’t need to get under a blanket and recover for a day and a half after being inundated with people; they felt rejuvenated and energized. We have people who arrive feeling tired of their podcast, feeling worried that it’s not this or it’s not that. They leave knowing that they’re not alone in having those kinds of trepidations and fears. They leave with the idea that we’re all in this together, we can do this together.