Social relations and policy junior Crystal Bernard and co-host Sariah Janise met in January 2020 to discuss the lack of space for people who share Black, queer identities over a cup of tea. Inspired to provide that space, the pair started their podcast, Women of Color Organizing (WoCo).
When WoCo aired, there were about 30 listeners but has grown to nearly 700.
“We wanted to find other women of color organizers and essentially, hopefully, create not only dialogue ... but also a community in which we can have a safe space, a landing space, for some of those different identities,” Bernard said. "I believe it’s important to be inclusive because I know that without inclusivity we don’t have a lot."
On the podcast, Bernard, who identifies as queer, and Janise talk about a variety of issues including Black queer feminism, police violence, socialization and white supremacy. After an in-depth discussion, Bernard and Janise envision solutions.
Along with WoCo podcast, Bernard served as a diversity equity and inclusion steering committee member for ASMSU. Previously, she was the diversity and inclusion programming coordinator.
“We have this very special segment where we devote our time to talk about ‘If I had control,' right? Or, ‘If I could envision what the best-case scenario would be for this incident, what would that look like?’" Bernard said. "That to me is always my favorite segment or topic and it’s always the most powerful because I don’t think Black women get enough time to envision themselves as liberated.”
Bernard also draws inspiration from “Queer WOC,” another podcast created by queer women of color that “unites, ignites, and excites the QWOC community.”
"As cliche as it sounds I enjoy most just chatting with a friend." Bernard said. "We approach topics very differently. We have different experiences which is great because we have different perspectives and the conversation is more full in that way."
The two co-hosts explore different ways they can fulfill their needs as friends and as creators. Their friendship has grown due to the fact that they are able to grow and work towards the same goal with their podcast.
Throughout her journey, Bernard has also faced adversity. She said she had to unlearn a lot of social norms and stereotypes reinforced by the media.
“The narrative about what a black woman is and supposed to be is very loud and is very concrete in media,” Bernard said.
“I think, to put it simply, diversity, to me, means having various identities — whether that be sex, gender, race, class — in a space and not only should they be in the space but they should also have equity, meaning they should have equal opportunity and access and also specialized needs according to different identities,” Bernard said.
What Bernard finds are most important are ideas about what women should be, who they should be attracted to and how Black women are perceived.
According to the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles, 4% of Michigan's population identify as LBGT+. Nationwide, 12% of the total Black population identify as queer and 26% of those people are diagnosed with depression.
Bernard said that her journey of self-discovery has been very joyful. She also said she is inspired by the women who have come before her in the ‘40s and ‘50s who share her same identity.
"We did not end up in the positions that we are in by happenstance," Bernard said. "In fact, it was paid for by the very intentional imaginations and actions of our ancestors. So, if it weren't for them I could very likely still be in bondage. I could very likely still have a different reality. And yet they had a commitment to something bigger and us. So I want to have a commitment to that seventh or that next generation.”
This article is part of our Women's History Month print edition. Read the full issue here.
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