Tobias Bell, Tamia Crawford and Ziolet Nellum want to give Austin a platform to tell its truth with their new podcast, “Austin Has the Mic.”
“’Austin Has the Mic’ is a podcast where we literally give the mic back to the community, the residents, people in Austin so they can tell their story,” Crawford said.
The current narrative about Austin “glorifies the dangers of Austin,” focuses on businesses leaving and the vacant, dilapidated buildings that dot the neighborhood, Bell said.
All three agreed that narrative isn’t entirely accurate.
While “the negativity is real,” Nellum said, the larger media outlets have become hyper focused on it; they’ve missed the good sides of the community.
“No one would ever expect to hear, ‘Oh, Austin has a daycare where they’re giving kids ages zero to 5, a healthy environment to grow and communicate with other children,’” Bell said.
Nellum said while she doesn’t think it’s her place to try and erase all the misunderstandings about Austin, “it’s just my place to speak what I see and what is true, and let other people in Austin speak their truth as well.”
The podcast is “trying to bridge the gap between the false narratives because so many people think Austin is about violence and stuff, when it’s really not,” Crawford said.
They’re focusing on aspects like community programs that help kids improve their education and get them off the corners, and new businesses, such as 40 Acres Fresh Market, that provide “healthier food to the community that you haven’t seen in a long time,” Bell said.
They started in the Austin Has the Mic program, a partnership between BUILD, Austin Coming Together and the Westside Health Authority. It’s a program where youth learn the basics of digital journalism and podcasting, program coordinator D’elegance Lane said.
Nellum said she was a creative writer before getting into podcasting. She was feeling burnt out on writing and thought, “maybe using my voice instead of just writing it out would be something different.”
It’s been an eye-opening experience, she said.
“I’ve lived in Austin all 20 years of my life, but I’m just now realizing what’s really here. I feel this is opening my eyes to how other people around me have been living,” Nellum said.
Crawford said she didn’t intend to get this involved in podcasting, “it kind of just reeled me in.”
She said she loves the energy and the fun of working on “Austin Has the Mic” and thinks it’s important for Black youth to have this type of media space.
“Like, Black voices, we need to be heard. Especially the youth because we’re going to be the future, we going to lead the world. We’re not doing enough right now.”
Crawford said it’s important to improve communication about what’s going on in the community.
At one point, just around the corner from where she lives, there was an event distributing free diapers and baby clothes.
“And I didn’t even know about it. Like I have to see it on Facebook, mostly, like it’s in my neighborhood around the corner.
“So we definitely need to work on our communication in this generation,” Crawford said.
Lane said the end goal of their focus on positive coverage is “giving pride back to the Austin community.”
Shining a light onto the positive things shows people there’s more than just the negatives that are so often highlighted.
It says of the community “we are somebody, we are people, we matter,” she said.
Listen to “Austin Has the Mic” here, on Spotify.