When you’re strange
Famed American showman and the first show-business millionaire, P.T. Barnum, once said, “Without promotion, something terrible happens ... nothing!” Please indulge me, dear readers, as I engage in a little shameless self-promotion.
For the last two years, I have co-hosted a social justice-themed podcast for WFPL-FM, 89.3 on the dial, Louisville’s NPR affiliate. My show is called “Strange Fruit: Musings on Politics, Pop Culture and Black Gay Life.” The name of the show is inspired by a song made popular by Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. But it’s also a tongue-in-cheek homage to our blackness (“Strange Fruit” is a song about lynching) and our queerness (referring to gay people, in particular gay men, as “fruity”).
My co-host, who not by accident is also one of my closest friends, is Dr. Kaila Story, an associate professor at University of Louisville. Doc, as I lovingly call her, is a Michigan native who has studied and earned degrees at DePaul University in Chicago and at Philadelphia’s Temple University. On the other side of the coin, I’m a proud Southern boy through and through (although I share Doc’s love and appreciation for the East Coast, having lived a few of my formative young adult years in D.C.).
Our unique experiences of coming of age in different parts of the country are part of what inform our individual perspectives on the issues we cover. We’re the perfect mix of sweet and sour. (I’ll let you guess who’s who, though it’s not always easy to decipher.) In as many ways as we are opposite, we have so much more in common, including a love and passion for LGBT people of color and the issues and individuals we examine on our show. It doesn’t take more than a few listens to appreciate our chemistry and camaraderie.
We’ve had some really cool guests on our show, like Djuan Trent, a black woman and former Miss Kentucky who made national headlines when she recently came out as queer, and Frank X. Walker, Kentucky’s first black poet laureate. We’ve also done some really popular interviews like our entertaining conversation with author and humorist David Sedaris and our engaging and enlightening interview with Stephen Jimenez about his controversial new book re-examining the death of Matthew Shepard.
But by far, the portion of our show that is most popular with regular listeners is the segment we call “Juicy Fruit.” Our show’s version of hot topics, “Juicy Fruit” is where Doc and I get to really show our personalities and express our opinions as we examine the juiciest news of the day. From the serious to the silly, nothing is off limits in our no-holds-barred weekly wrap-up. It’s “The View” meets “Saturday Night Live”’s Weekend Update meets “The Wendy Williams Show.” Recently we’ve taken on everything from violence at Waterfront Park, to coming out as gay or trans in professional sports, to Pornhub’s recent announcement that it will plant a tree for every 100 videos viewed.
Rest assured that everything we take on is viewed through our own lenses and discussed in a way that will leave listeners both laughing and thinking.
Our producer is Laura Ellis, who has been with WFPL since 2004 and has produced several talk shows and news specials. She is also a member of the local band Billy Goat Strut.
In short, I am proud of our little radio show. Story, Ellis and I have worked hard every week for more than two years to tell the stories that often go untold, but to do it with fun and respect. I am very proud of the work we produce, and I want more people to listen.
You can find our podcast at strangefruitpod.org, and while you’re there, you can also read past columns and some of Story’s scholarly works. You can also subscribe to and download our show on iTunes and Soundcloud. We’re also on Facebook as “Strange Fruit: Musings on Politics, Pop Culture and Black Gay Life” and on Twitter as @strangefruitpod. Lastly, you can always find our show by visiting the WFPL webpage and clicking on “programs.” It’s my sincere hope that you’ll check us out soon.
Until next time, my dear readers, see you on the radio!