Seed Grant Award: Racial Justice Podcast

Desmond Patton, Ovita Williams, Susan Witte, Social Work; Jennifer Manly, Neurology; Kuheli Dutt, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory


The podcast is a student-led initiative with a primary goal of identifying anti-Black racism within and related to Columbia University and uncovering actionable steps towards ending complicity, and ushering in racial equity. The Racial Justice Podcast, nested within Columbia School of Social Work Action Lab for Social Justice (“Action Lab”), seeks to interrogate racism within the context of individual academic disciplines and departments such as Anthropology, Political Science, and Math. Through interviews and conversations with students and faculty, the podcast examined each guest’s department’s history regarding racism and anti-Blackness and consider ways in which the discipline can be more actively anti-racist. Relevant topics to be discussed may include practices and policies that may or may not align with anti-racist approaches, e.g. methodologies used historically, including bias in data and surveys, lack of diversity in staff or faculty, and apparent disparities in the disciplinary knowledge base.  For each episode, the podcast identified specific issues in a particular discipline and created reports to be presented to the departments at Columbia. 

First, the podcast creates a platform that upholds Black, indigenous, and students of color, community members, and leaders by centering the voices, creating pathways towards ongoing communication, and co-designing ways in which to hold Columbia accountable. 

Second, the podcast aims to provide a medium for Columbia University, through individual departments, to engage with student and community groups in a collaborative and open dialogue to unpack how white supremacy informs internal processes and relationships. Through both personal storytelling and moderated Q&A sessions, the guests representing these systems are invited to examine the ways in which anti-black racism shapes interactions amongst these groups as well as to take ownership together, explore options, consult leaders, listen, engage, take steps toward cultivating safety, inclusion, affirmation.

Third, the objective of this podcast is to provide an open and accessible space where members from communities that surround Columbia University can engage in dialogue to lessen the gaps and barriers that exist between the university and their communities. Ongoing existing relationships that have been cultivated through the CSSW Office of Field Education are being leveraged to engage broader community in the dialogue. 

Broadening or deepening community members’ understanding of issues of, and barriers to, racial justice and equity was accomplished through two series of podcast episodes intertwined to engage the Columbia audience and surrounding communities.

This project was funded through the Addressing Racism: A Call to Action for Higher Education initiative of the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement.