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Appointed lifestyle editor at TheGrio earlier in 2022, Maiysha Kai has now launched her podcast Writing Black featuring conversations with Black authors, journalists, songwriters, and comics.
Thankful to have been granted creative freedom over the podcast, Maiysha emphasizes the support from her producer and engineers, that have allowed her to “feel empowered through this podcast” and see her vision come to life.
With a lifetime interest in literature and journalism, Maiysha describes herself as a “voracious reader”. Kai previously hosted The Root’s ‘It’s Lit’ podcast, and is seeking to expand that scope and strike a chord beyond the typical literary or writers’ podcast with Writing Black.
TheGrio is “multi-tiered and multi-media; it’s exciting,” says Kai. As “griot” is a West African term referring to one who carries and communicates the experiences and legacies of their people, “Writing Black” epitomizes TheGrio’s ethos as a platform centering on the stories and lives of Black people.
With weekly episodes featuring wordsmiths across mediums and genres, Kai’s podcast will showcase the myriad ways Black people tell their stories, and how identity both informs and intersects with craft and language. Kai emphasizes how “identity comes to bear and comes to the fore in terms of creativity” for historically marginalized groups. With an interest in how black people use language, Writing Black showcases “the breadth and diversity of voices and black experiences”.
With the increasing “interest in black voices, ideas, and stories”, Kai wants to use the podcast’s momentum to continue this interest and make sure these voices keep being heard. Her mission is to “try to magnify as much black brilliance as possible”.
Each episode is a unique conversation with Black authors, journalists, poets, playwrights, songwriters, comics and more speaking from across the spectrum of Black culture and experience. “Every guest is different- people bring themselves to the page (or the mic), some will be funny, some will be poignant, some will be thought-provoking”, says Kai.
As momentum builds with each episode, Kai is “excited to see how people respond to a really diverse crew of folks sharing their wisdom.” She hopes that “each episode speaks to someone.”
Kai describes Writing Black’s first guest, Jay-Ivy as “one of a kind.” Week two features Sam Jay, comic and comedy writer, and author of SNL’s Black Jeopardy sketches. Kai is particularly excited for listeners to hear her episode with New York Times bestselling young adult writer Ayana Gray.
Kai’s vision for the podcast as it develops is to include more writers from the diaspora and to engage in diasporic black culture. “All of these voices are so necessary and important”, she says.
Podcasting makes a change from writing and editing for Maiysha Kai, “I genuinely love conversations – it’s really fun, I love finding points of communion and points of difference. It’s reinvigorating” she says.
With its focus on “Intergenerational and intersectional writers, all facets of the black experience are represented. ” Kai hopes to continue these conversations around gender, sexuality, and socio-economics as the podcast progresses.
Writing Black is also about talking about how black people live and thrive, celebrating joy, fulfillment, and creativity, and not framing black lives around trauma. Kai points to an upcoming episode with Washington Post journalist Robert Samuels and writer Toluse Olorunippa , authors of His Name is George Floyd.
Although the episode centers around what Kai describes as their “exquisitely researched book”, the conversation moves to the impact of covering traumatic events on journalists, the need for empathy in the profession, and working through collective trauma.
Focused on getting these stories circulating, Kai knows that with Writing Black, the more stories there are out there, the more chance there is they will resonate with people.