Campus Spotlight, Student Life

Podcasting with BSN’s Soul Talks

Just over a year ago, McGill students Pamela Fankem, U2 Science, and Zoë Anum, U1 Arts, helped launch McGill’s Black Students Network’s (BSN) podcast Soul Talks. By engaging in deep chats on topics like mental health, relationships, and media, Soul Talks has become a space that centres Black discourse and community. 

Active members of the McGill committee, both Fankem and Anum joined the BSN in their first years of university. Fankem serves as the Vice-President (VP) Media, while Anum is the VP Internal. The BSN already had plans to create a podcast and a joint interest from Fankem and Anum—who share a passion for graphic design and Black discourse—brought the idea to fruition.

Fankem explained the importance of her collaboration with Anum in an interview with The Tribune.

“Zoë and I have similar but different perspectives on a lot of things. It’s good to bounce off each other and we have a similar work style.” 

Fankem and Anum both take very creative approaches to deciding what they want to talk about in each episode. This usually consists of individual brainstorming and then collective discussion that weaves their ideas together. 

For Anum, this creative process is all about being free. She believes that “with podcasting, it’s important to document your thoughts and not be too critical about your own ideas.” 

The discourse between the co-hosts serves as a reminder that despite the shared experiences among members of McGill’s Black community, being a Black student is not a monolithic experience and we can learn from each other through conversation. 

Recalling their February 2023 “HAIR HISTORY 101” episode, Fankem and Anum discussed how they interviewed Claudestine Williams-Tucker, owner of Montreal’s Studio Claudi, because they were curious to know why braiders were hiking up their prices. After Williams-Tucker explained the hours braiders work and how their earnings often fall under minimum wage, Fankem and Anum felt more empathetic and understanding of the city’s soaring braiding rates. Their perspectives on the matter shifted due to that critical discourse. For the co-hosts and many guests and listeners, Soul Talks has provided a safe space for Black discourse. Given that Black students at McGill are few and far between, creating a sense of community was critical. For them, the podcast has become a space for authenticity and an absence of perceived judgment from outsiders.

Williams-Tucker is not the only guest who has been featured on Soul Talks. In fact, guests are a key element of the podcast whereby Black students at McGill frequently feature, including last year’s BSN President, Ashley Jonassaint (BA ‘23). Fankem and Anum attested to the fact that guests often help enrich conversations and broaden perspectives. Fankem explained that having guests on is also beneficial from an engagement and outreach standpoint.

“If we have people coming from outside, their friends also want to listen because they are promoting it,” Frankem said. “It keeps our community of listeners actively engaged.”

Fankem and Anum have formed a well-functioning, harmonious system of collaboration. Reflecting on their experience so far hosting Soul Talks, they spoke warmly about their seamless partnership. Their compatibility as colleagues makes the work so much more meaningful and enjoyable. The podcast is their outlet outside the confinements of academia and friendships: A platform that they have creative control over. 

“It’s nice to look back at all the things we have done and see how much more confident we have become at sharing our opinions,” Fankem told The Tribune

Fankem and Anum have ambitious plans for the semester ahead. They started the semester with a “NEW YEAR, NEW ME,” and their latest episode “YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT” is their first for Black History Month discussing social media and how media consumption shapes our identities. Looking into the year ahead, they aspire to heighten their social media presence through collaborations and regular posts. 

An annual Black History Month collaboration with CKUT is in the works.

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