On Friday, Blake Simons and Delency Parham, the hosts of the “Hella Black Podcast,” are bringing their show on radical political Blackness to UC Santa Barbara.
The two Bay Area natives released the first episode of the “Hella Black Podcast” in 2015 with the goal of amplifying Black voices and covering topics that are often overlooked.
“With each episode we hope to educate and inform our listeners on all things related to Blackness. Our podcast is important because it uplifts the voices of Black radical organizers who are doing the work in the field. Often times our narratives are not told,” the two wrote on their website.
Coming to UCSB as a podcast host is a welcome change for both Simons and Parham.
Simons attended UC Berkeley as an undergraduate and Parham attended Santa Barbara City College before transferring to the University of Idaho. Both played sports at their respective universities.
“I think about my experience as a student-athlete at SBCC, and it was hard enough getting folks on my own campus to take me serious. I experienced students at the UC thinking they were better than me and other students at the city college. So to come back here, and have students gathered in a room to listen to Blake and I host a live podcast…never something that would [have] crossed my mind,” Parham said in an email.
The two only recently began doing live shows for the “Hella Black Podcast” in September 2018.
“As the podcast started gaining more traction, we thought it would be dope to be able to engage with people and create a radical space in person to have the conversations we have. We’ve had shows in Oakland, Los Angeles, where over 100 people pulled up to each show,” Simons said in the email.
While the two both have a background in writing, they realized that podcasting would allow them to reach a larger audience.
“Folks might not have time to read a full article due to the constraints that capitalism puts on people, but you can listen to the podcast on your way to work or when you’re doing laundry,” Simons added.
Alexandra Gessesse, financial director for the Black Student Union at UCSB, worked with A.S. Program Board Cultural & Arts Coordinator Kiyomi Morrison to pull the event together.
Gessesse wanted to bring the two to campus because of their experiences being Black on predominantly white campuses, and especially because of Simons’ work co-founding the Fannie Lou Hamer Black Resource Center at UC Berkeley.
UCSB’s BSU is currently trying to develop an agreement for UCSB to build a freestanding building where Black students can get access to resources and have a space for themselves.
“Blake himself has pioneered a lot of what we are trying to achieve for here at our own campus, but having been a Cal alum, a UC product and having worked within the UC system for several years since he’s graduated, I felt like he could share insight to what it’s like being black within the UC,” Gessesse said.
As an “avid listener of the podcast” herself, Gessesse believes the two tackle topics that are typically stigmatized. Some of the podcast episodes dive into sex work, the intersection of Blackness and queerness and exploitation of Black student athletes.
“I want to take the time to acknowledge all the queer/trans folks, and Black women that have put in numerous hours of labor to help me develop healthier perspectives and radical politics. Blake and I like to use our platform as an opportunity to uplift their voices,” Parham said.
“We both know in a patriarchal society, men’s voices will be the voices that are projected. We want to use our privilege to center the most disrespected and threatened, and be in solidarity with them.”
Parham and Simons also cite their Bay Area roots and their familial connection to members of the Black Panther Party as the inspiration for their discussions.
One of the biggest draws of the podcast is that the two also work as community organizers and educators, having their boots on the ground in addition to speaking on the subject.
“Teaching is one way I build community and help educate Black people on the conditions of our people,” Simons said. “As community organizers we both create programs that center the most vulnerable Black people under this white supremacist capitalist state.”
The two cofounded the People’s Breakfast Oakland, which provides houseless people with hot foods, clothing and hygiene products.
Gessesse hopes that students attending the event come away with ideas about how to keep the needs of Black students in the fold even after Black History Month is over.
“I really anticipate that not only does this talk, this conversation, does not stop at the end of February when Black History Month is over, but that we continue to make these strides in our community about coming together,” she said.
At the same time, she hopes the show on Friday night can be a place where Black students come to unwind and be in a space tailor-made for them.
“Being Black is political, yes, but not everything that Black people do has to be political.”
Simons and Parham will be hosting their live show on Friday, March 1, at the Loma Pelona Center at 6 p.m.
Correction: A previous version of this story said that Simons alone hosts the People’s Breakfast Oakland. Simons and Parham co-founded it together.
A version of this article appeared on page 4 of the Feb. 28, 2019 edition of the Daily Nexus.