New Podcast by SPH Alums Seeks to Make Public Health “Accessible and Digestible”
Project BLACCK offers a platform to share honest conversations about health in relation to race, social justice, and equity
Just a few years ago, as School of Public Health students, Dara Oloyede, Ryann Monteiro, Fatima Dainkeh, and Breanna Chachere could often be found deep in conversation with one another about their personal experiences as Black women and their perspectives on health issues that impact Black and Indigenous people of color.
The four remained friends after they graduated with master’s degrees in public health in 2018, and now they are bringing their diverse points of view and public health insights to the digital space as cohosts of a new podcast called Project BLACCK, which stands for Bridging Love, Access, Community Care, and Knowledge.
Launched in June, the podcast is a platform for the public health professionals to share honest and reflective conversations about health at the intersection of race, social justice, and equity, in an informative and nonjudgmental format for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and the broader public. It is available to download on major platforms, including Apple, Spotify, Google, Anchor, Breaker, and Listen Notes.
“A lot of public health podcasts are geared toward public health professionals who live and breathe public health terminologies and theories,” Oloyede says. “We wanted to create a podcast that would make public health more accessible and digestible to people who don’t know a lot about what public health is.”
Originally, the alums intended to focus conversations on their shared interest in maternal and child health, but they decided to explore a variety of public health issues, informed in part by their diverse personal, cultural, academic, and professional backgrounds and their collective understanding of life as Black women. Monteiro, a program manager in SPH’s Office of Graduate Student Life, is Aquinnah Wampanoag and Cape Verdean; Chachere, a first-year medical student in the inaugural class at the University of Houston College of Medicine, is African American and Creole; Dainkeh, the learning and development manager at the Boston-based organization She+ Geeks Out, is the daughter of immigrants to the United States from Sierra Leone; and Oloyede, the program coordinator for the 3 Steps in 30 Days Program at Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), is Nigerian.
“Our goal is to bridge the academic world and the real world” and to widen the discussion about what factors affect people’s health—from the perspective of Black and brown communities, says Chachere, who draws upon the conversations she had growing up in her home. “Before graduate school, I didn’t really know where to go to ask questions about health or where I could advise my family to go to find accurate information. We pick health topics that are relatable and take what we have learned in school back to the community so that people are able to get the information that they’re seeking and to also initiate these conversations about what it means to be healthy within their communities.”
The cohosts have had candid discussions about self-worth, health disparities and inequities, Black men’s mental health and fatherhood, the health of Indigenous and LGBTQIA+ populations, and more.
But they stop short of presenting themselves as experts on any one topic, stressing instead the importance of continuous learning by listening and engaging with each other, other public health colleagues, and their audiences.
“We’re all still learning and navigating public health,” says Monteiro. “I learn from Fatima, Breanna, and Dara every time we speak.”
The group has also invited colleagues and leaders within the field to join their discussions. Craig Andrade, SPH associate dean of public health practice and director of the school’s Activist Lab, was a guest during a Father’s Day episode on Black men’s health; sexologist Marla Renee Stuart participated in a discussion on sexual health and intimacy; and Hoisum Nguyen (SPH’20) spoke about LGBTQIA+ health during Pride Month in June. The cohosts also seek questions and input from their audiences on social media.
“We appreciate perspectives from our Black and brown communities, so we try to include their voices,” Dainkeh says. “Part of our acronym is Community Care—we’re not just thinking about ourselves, but also about what folks can learn from people who look like them. Representation is key.”
In upcoming episodes, the alums will continue to explore issues close to their hearts, including the intersection between food and health, maternal and child health storytelling, voting, and gaps in the healthcare system. Monteiro says she hopes Project BLACCK will not only inform audiences, but provide a sense of comfort and relatability for listeners who have experienced any of the injustices or challenges that they examine. “These are conversations that we were having on our couches, and to be able to bring that to this platform and let people know that these discussions are normal to have is one of our main goals,” she says.