Passion and Compassion with Jenna Flanagan

Passion and Compassion with Jenna Flanagan
Passion and Compassion with Jenna Flanagan

Sep 14 2023 | 00:46:40

Episode September 14, 2023 00:46:40

Hosted By

Stuart Barefoot

Show Notes

On this episode of Audience, Stuart chats with Jenna Flanagan about her podcast, After Broad and Market, a show about what happens when the dust settles after a crime. Twenty years ago, the Newark community was rocked by the death of a young lesbian black teen named Sakia Gunn, or was it? Why wasn’t there more of an outcry? What were the reasons behind the silence and the lack of compassion from the public? In After Broad and Market, Jenna explores these questions and more, highlighting the effects of trauma and racism, and what we will need to do in order to become the tolerant and compassionate society we claim to be. 

In this episode, Jenna also talks about why it took twenty years for this story to be told. What changes have happened in order for the language to become available to her and the public? When handling such a powerful and emotional topic, it can be difficult to walk the line between finding answers and justice and helping victims and loved ones feel comfortable. 

Jenna Flanagan is a writer, reporter, journalist, producer, and current on-screen host for The WNET Group’s MetroFocus. Jenna grew up in New Paltz where her interest in journalism began after attending a journalism camp at SUNY New Paltz at age 12. She went on to study communications and journalism at Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ where she was on the staff of the college newspaper, The Setonian.

If you have any questions about this episode or want to get some of the resources we mentioned, head over to And as always, if you’re enjoying the show please share it with someone who you think would enjoy it as well. It is your continued support that will help us continue to help others. Thank you so much! Never miss another show by subscribing at

Today you’ll learn about:

  • The heartwrenching story of Sakia Gunn
  • The rippling effect of trauma
  • Being empathetic without losing your journalistic integrity
  • What it means to exist with your friends without appearing like a threat to “mainstream” society
  • What was driving the distancing behaviors in the public
  • How it feels to be able to fully express yourself
  • Showing empathy and making victims and interviewees feel comfortable
  • What we need to surpass in order to become a true multicultural and open society
  • The importance of a good editor and passion for your subject matter


After Broad and Market: 

Castos Academy: 

Castos, private podcast: 

Castos, website: 

Castos, YouTube:  

Clubhouse video: 

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:01 One theory as to why true crime has become such a popular genre and even an industry unto itself, is that it has all of the things that make a story, a story. You've got your protagonist, your bad guy, a conflict that needs to be resolved, and usually some sort of satisfying ending, or at least closure, or maybe there's no closure at all. And the unsolved mystery is the intrigue. But oftentimes there's the rest of the story that we don't always hear. That's where reporters like Jenna Flanagan, pick up the baton. Speaker 1 00:00:34 There were a lot of aspects that I remember witnessing and not understanding, but also not having the languages to ask the question of what was going on here, and more importantly, why, what was driving some of these distancing behaviors. Speaker 0 00:00:52 Next, Jenna takes us inside her podcast after Broaded Market, where she explores what happens when the dust settles after a crime. My name is Stewart, and this is Audience, a Casto original series where we go behind the scenes of some of the world's best podcast to uncover their creative process. Speaker 0 00:01:18 Just a quick note before we get to the creative stuff. Yes, it is the most important part of the process, and without it, your podcast probably won't get very far, but you also need a support system, which oftentimes means money. We can help you there. Casos let you monetize all of your episodes, even the old ones with a press of a button. There's no chasing sponsors, no extra editing work, none of the headache. You can even tap into your own support network. Let your audience directly support your podcast through one time or recurring donations with CAOs Commerce. If you want more information, check out the links in the show notes. Okay, let's get back into it. Speaker 1 00:02:01 So my name is Jenna Flanagan. I am a public media journalist, and the name of my podcast is After Broad In Market, Speaker 0 00:02:10 I've always been fascinated by general assignment reporters, which is exactly how Jenna got her start. Speaker 1 00:02:16 I started out as a beat reporter in Newark, which as we can discuss, led me to this podcast series. But then I moved into producing in New York City for W N Y C, which was really, God I learned so much producing for them. And then I got the itch to be on air again. And so, uh, after leaving N Y C I landed at a public radio slash television station out of Albany, New York, covering the state capitol. And that was how I began my transition to television, which I think working within all of the different medias now, um, with the exception of like print, I mean, I've done like blog stuff, but I haven't really done like print, print. You get a sense for these subtleties and the difference in what, uh, storytelling and reporting requires from each of them. Speaker 0 00:03:07 Her work often put her in the company of heavy hitting policymakers like Chris Christie, Cory Booker, and even Obama before he was president. It was all rewarding and interesting work, but every journalist seems to have that one story that profoundly impacts them. For Jenna, it happened in 2003. Speaker 1 00:03:27 I was a new reporter, very green still, and I was assigned to cover a memorial service, uh, that was happening in Newark. And this was not the first time, unfortunately, that I had covered a memorial service. You know, usually it was, you know, family, some friends, whatever, gather, maybe in a park or something, people are wearing t-shirts with a deceased picture on them. And that's kind of what I expected to go to. This was not that The station was a few blocks away from where this memorial was taking place. I got there, there were hundreds, if not over a thousand people crowding this intersection. There were, you know, I mean, makeshift people standing on like literal egg crates, cartons, soap boxes, you know, sort of talking about the safety or the lack of safety for queer people in Newark. And it was an absolutely fascinating and heartbreaking story to learn about. Speaker 1 00:04:22 One, first and foremost was that Zakia was a kid. I mean, unfortunately in Newark, in the, uh, early two thousands, unfortunately, she was not the first story of a young person that I had heard of that had been murdered. But everything about the story, like, you know, she wasn't really en looking to engage with anybody. She was just hanging out with their friends in the city, and they had come home on the path train, and they were literally waiting for the bus to come home when this interaction took place. That ended up costing her her life. But I think also what really caught me about her story was the fact that this would've been just under about four years, I wanna say, or maybe around four years since Matthew Shepherd happened. So I thought incorrectly that this was going to be another like national flashpoint like Laramie became. And that was really the thing I think that shook me the most about Zakiya story, was that I thought this was gonna be this big galvanizing moment. And it was for the queer community in Newark, but seeing effectively the rest of the country, and even parts of New York City, which is right across the Hudson, kind of shrug off the whole thing and be like, well, you know, people die all the time in Newark was haunting to say the least. Speaker 0 00:05:43 The memorial service was for a teenage girl named Zakiya Gun, a May 11th, 2003. Zakiya was murdered by a man named Richard McCullough for having the audacity to spur his advances. Speaker 1 00:05:56 Effectively, she was killed because she and, uh, some of her friends were out coming home, like I said, waiting for the bus. And Akia and one of her best friends were, as they described themselves, aggressive. So they were more masculine presenting lesbians, whereas their friends, their other friends were more fem presenting. But these were all teenagers. These were all kids. These were 15 year old kids. And car with, uh, two grown men pulls up and attempts to hit on the more femme presenting girls and Akia feeling as though she wants to protect her friends and intervene in this frankly gross attempt at a pickup intervenes. And that's where scuffle begins with her and Richard McCullough, who ultimately stabs and kills her Speaker 0 00:06:47 From a legal perspective. This case was pretty cut and dry. Several of Zia's friends witnessed the murder, and McCullough actually turned himself in and pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter in exchange for a relatively light 20 year sentence. But there's more to this story. And now, 20 years later, Jenna revisits the story through her podcast after Broaded Market, a five part series that goes beyond the headlines and uncovers a lot of the nuance in the case Speaker 1 00:07:18 Of the many things that we were able to unpack. It's, yes, she was killed for being queer, but at the same time, she was also killed for engaging with a grown man in a way that he assumed that she was a boy. And so there's also aspects of toxic masculinity that play into this, and how a lot of guys tend to, or I shouldn't say, I don't wanna say everybody, but it's not unusual for some men to view any type of confrontation, especially over a female that they're interested in as a threat. And then that escalates the situation. And so that's what led to her death. And it's actually when we were finishing up the final episode, that was right around the time of the, uh, New York, the Brooklyn murder, I should say, of O'Shea Sibley, which again, falls into that same trope of a queer person existing, but straight men finding that threatening and a situation escalates. And like Zakiya O'Shea was also stabbed and killed for just being out and existing. Speaker 0 00:08:29 I was listening to episode three reporting on Newark as a black woman. And the part that really pissed me off was how indifferent the principle was. 'cause Oh yeah, I mean, look, I mean, like losing, especially when you're a kid losing a classmate for any reason as a traumatizing experience, you know, I think it's not easy to process when you're a kid, and so you look to people like teachers and school administrators to kind of be like a, like, you know, to kind of protect you to kind of provide comfort. And I think he didn't even give anyone the day off of of school. No, no. Uh, according to her mother, right? Speaker 1 00:09:04 Yeah, no, uh, this murder took place about 3:00 AM on Sunday, mother's Day, May 11th, 2003, and school was still in session that Monday, that following Monday. One of the other things that we found is that when it comes to queer death, for example, as you were saying, unfortunately, sometimes kids do, and I think even nowadays, unfortunately, kids are exposed to a lot more trauma. Like, you know, if there's a school shooting or something like that, like there's almost a, unfortunately, but there's almost a playbook that is understood of what to do. So if there is, you know, a student that perhaps dies in a drunk driving accident, or if there is a school shooting or something along those lines, there's an understood playbook of like, okay, so the kids are gonna be shocked. You bring in, um, you know, counselors, you maybe like, have classes off or something to help the kids sort of process. Speaker 1 00:10:02 But on one hand, that doesn't really exist when you're dealing with queer death. A lot of times when it comes to queer death, there really isn't a playbook. It doesn't seem like it should be that different or treated differently. I mean, a death is a death, but for some people, they're not really sure how, what is the right way to deal with this? Some of the things that we heard from some of Zia's friends off the record that were said that they allege were said by the school at the time of her death kind of implied that perhaps there might've been some victim blaming for having even been out at that hour. But yeah, so there's that. And then there's also the fact that, and I think even Zak's mother touched on this, um, I'm not sure if it made it into the podcast, but the fact that the school most likely just literally did not know what to do with this. And again, this being Newark in the two thousands, it was not the first time that they had had a student pass away during the school year and probably felt as though, well just keep going, and that's the best way to handle it. Even though this was the death of a student. This seemed to, for the student body, elicit a rippling effect trauma because this was almost a trauma against a community within the student body. Speaker 0 00:11:27 You, you know, speaking about that episode, uh, episode three in your series, you made a comment during a monologue, and I, I don't remember the exact quote, but it was to the effect of, you know, as a journalist, you're expected to maintain this sense of objectivity, and you had, you had learned to kind of numb yourself to a lot of the pain. And you also mentioned, I think you were on, you were a part of a small news team and being the only black woman on there and mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So how did, I mean, how did you kind of navigate at least telling the story objectively, while probably I, I, I would have to imagine, I don't wanna speak for you, but I would have to imagine internalizing a lot of the grief you saw in, in this. Of course, yeah, Speaker 1 00:12:08 Of course. Um, there was a lot of internalizing of the grief focusing. So at the beginning of my career, not really knowing how to handle, um, stories like that in an empathetic way without losing my journalistic integrity, I would focus on the facts. Okay, so what are the facts? You know, what happened? What was the cause? What was the outcome, et cetera. But as you know, the story developed and following the aftermath and hearing from, you know, community leaders and people who were saying, you know, there is no, uh, safe space for queer youth in Newark. And, you know, uh, if people are gonna blame the fact that she was in New York City at the Chelsea Piers, well, let's talk about the fact that the queer kids from Newark go to the Chelsea Piers, that they don't have someplace here at home where they feel like they can be safe and out and just be themselves, which is something that I think, uh, a lot of straight people perhaps take for granted what it means to be able to simply exist with your friends and not have that be seen as a threat to mainstream, if you will, air quotes mainstream society. Speaker 1 00:13:20 But yeah, so a lot of that was me holding in or not fully processing a lot of things that I didn't understand. Like, I didn't understand why I wasn't seeing, you know, more of, and don't get me wrong, there were stories in the advocate, there was stories in gay city news, but I didn't feel as though, you know, this was, you know, seeing queer media sort of descend on Newark in a way that perhaps if this had taken place, even across the river in New York, maybe I would've seen. I also at the same time remember wondering, okay, so you've got this teen girl who's been murdered in this most completely horrendous and ridiculous way, and yet I'm also not seeing black media show up in a way that perhaps if she were a straight young girl who had been murdered in the same way in New York, perhaps. Speaker 1 00:14:14 So there were a lot of questions that I really just wasn't understanding. I wasn't understanding why there was some resistance from some religious leaders. It, uh, took the family a couple of tries to even find a funeral home that would host a funeral. Uh, some people were just like, you know, we don't do the gay thing. Which again, it, there were a lot of aspects that I remember witnessing and not understanding, but also not having the languages to ask the question of what was going on here, and more importantly, why, what was driving some of these distancing behaviors Speaker 0 00:14:48 And, and like, with the coverage and, and certainly not, not to give anyone a pass here, but was like the format of print journalism and like short form, like radio stories, was that hindering in any way? And like, what I mean by that is, you know, a lot of times it's like you gotta get a deadline. Like, you know, your deadline's at is at five o'clock. And so I, again, I'd have to imagine it was probably, you probably didn't have the time to start, you know, ask, asking those questions. Yeah, Speaker 1 00:15:14 Well, I can absolutely say that's 100% true. Um, when I was doing Spot News for newscasts, so the newscast, the public radio newscast breaks, you had about 35 seconds to tell a story. That's really not a whole lot of time, and that does not leave any room for nuance. And while we went back and covered, you know, subsequent, you know, like developments like, you know, trying to establish an L G B T Q Center and, you know, pushing back against City Hall for promises that were made and not kept at the same time being a general assignment reporter, you also have to go with what the big story of the day is. And later that summer was the big blackout that knocked out the whole East Coast, and that just blew Zak's story out of the water. I Speaker 0 00:16:02 Wanna get a little more into like this long form medium because mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I mean, you're, your after brought to market is a full scale audio documentary, and now here 20 years later, you are able to kind of explore some of those, the nuance, uh, like talking to s to Zak's mom, for instance. Um, so what's that been like through like, really go back and get back into this story? Speaker 1 00:16:25 It's been, it's been interesting and it's been, I mean, I guess to say interesting and challenging is kind of obvious, but the two things, one, going back to revisit something that I had sort of put on a shelf 20 years ago is kind of weird because once you go back to it, then a lot of those same feelings and, uh, questions and uncertainty just all come rushing back. It's like opening up, uh, a time capsule or something, and you're instantly thrown back. But at the same time, through interviews with, uh, Zak's family, her friends, you also become very aware of the passage of time, if for no other reason, a lot of them have made it very clear that it's literally taken them 20 years to feel comfortable enough to be able to talk about what happened, what transpired, not just at the time of her murder, but in the aftermath. Speaker 0 00:17:21 Quick little sidebar here. During our conversation, Jenna and I mentioned Matthew Shepherd. Now, if you don't know who Matthew is, he was a gay college student in Wyoming who was savagely beaten to death in 1998. His story rightfully received intense media coverage, and there is even legislation named in his honor. We bring Matthew A. White man up, not as a foil to Zia's case, but rather as a juxtaposition. Matthew's case was tragic and needed to be covered, but why then did Zakiya a young black lesbian in a working class town not get the same kind of attention? Speaker 1 00:17:57 She lived at so many different intersections of identity that just made her more and more and more marginalized that I think it made it easier and easier and easier for people to sort of push aside or shrug off her death. As one of the, uh, advocates that I spoke with, um, described, again, comparing not a one-to-one comparison, but comparing to Matthew Shepherd, he was much more of the all-American boy. You know, he was young, he had blonde hair, blue eyes, fair skin, et cetera. So that was an easier package to sell to the larger American populace. Whereas Zakiya being, again, a masculine presenting, so we're talking like durags and cornrows and oversized t-shirts, um, and baggy jeans and sneakers outside of, let's say specifically the black community, and definitely the urban black community that's going to read like, oh, well, I don't know, that's kind of thuggish or something. Or something like, there's a lot of negative stereotypes that have been attached to what is just a look that kids wear. And one of the things that I tried to point out was that it's, she wasn't dressed all that differently from the rest of her peers at that time. If you swapped out her giant oversized t-shirt for like a belly bearing crop top, she could have been any kid. Speaker 0 00:19:21 Yeah. And I, I grew up during that time, that's just how some people dressed. It was just an aesthetic. It was just a style. I don't, yeah, I never ever put much thought into it. It was just how Speaker 1 00:19:30 Somebody, yeah. Well, and as I don't think teenagers would or should mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but, you know, adults who unfortunately hold the levers of power are the ones who tend to, uh, assign I guess interpretations to things like that. So yeah, that I, that definitely affected the way that her story was covered. And I think also because most of Newark's queer community to one degree or another, looked like Zakia. Um, Newark is a majority black city, like I said, majority working class and working poor. There was also, uh, I had a conversation with one of my sources, didn't make it into the podcast, but they were also talking about, at that time, especially, America was sort of just coming to understand or accept, begin to accept, uh, queer people in society. And of course, the easiest way to do it is through aspirational living, um, you know, affluence and such, uh, your will and graces or, you know, your extravagantly fabulous gay best friend. And so to see, or to be able to hold that same level of compassion for somebody who, again, is still queer but is just poor America, has always had trouble, uh, identifying and holding space for people who are poor. Hmm. Speaker 0 00:20:58 Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's, it's almost, I don't, I don't know if I'm using the term right here, but like the acceptable or the, uh, respectability politics, like, like Matthew Speaker 1 00:21:07 100%, Speaker 0 00:21:07 Matthew Shepherd again, looks like you, you, you, you, I think you hit the nail on the head, like the all-American kid. You know, I think a lot of people in particular, I think, you know, a lot of white people and, and, uh, those who kind of held the levers of power and, and were gatekeepers at the time, you know, again, like Matthew Shepherd probably looked like they could, he could have been their son. Uh, whereas like Zakia was the type of person that I think just got ignored, got people just passed by and never gave, you know, if anything, they're like, oh, she just looks like a thug. Speaker 1 00:21:34 Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Which again, by all accounts from all of her friends, could not have been further from the truth. Like, this was the sweetest, funniest, bubbliest basketball plan kid you ever could imagine. Speaker 0 00:21:47 She sounds like someone I'd wanna be friends with. I mean, really like, I mean, you know, someone, someone that you can joke around with and shoot some hoops mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I mean, that, that to me, uh, sounds, yeah, I mean, it sounds, she sounds pretty awesome. Speaker 1 00:22:00 Yeah. By, by all accounts. Um, there were dreams for her and her best friend Valencia too, uh, after high school to go to Yukon and play basketball there, and then maybe perhaps the W N B A, which is really impressive because both of them were like five one fudge <laugh>. But you know, what, if Mugsy bulls can do it, I say, dream big <laugh>. Speaker 0 00:22:23 I got the Charlotte Hornet's basketball behind me. <laugh>, I'm all about some Mugsy bugs. Uh, we, we've also kind of hit on it being the only black woman on your news team. Were there, I guess, like angles that your, your peers were missing that you noticed? Speaker 1 00:22:39 There were, I would say some angles. Like I remember when we were covering not just, uh, her death, but you know, the fact that there was outcry that, you know, the city wasn't doing more. And yeah, you know, there were some people who I remember sort of were like, well, I mean, why should they treat this murder different than, you know, many of the other gazillion, well, I shouldn't say gazillion, but any of the other numerous murders that unfortunately happened in the city. Again, it's, again, it's kind of weird. 'cause even now when I think back to that time, um, I kind of stammer because while I have the language now, I didn't then. And so also remembering listening, I remember the time, uh, mayor Sharp James talk about, uh, what had happened and how, you know, like there should be a, uh, L G B T center in Newark, but there, it, it felt almost as if there was something uncomfortable about the announcement from the mayor at the time. Speaker 1 00:23:41 Um, I don't, you know, pretend to read his mind or know what his heart says, but watching some of the elder adults in the city, who again, would be the first in line for so many other like crises or something, to rally, you know, the community together and say, you know, we all have to come together and support, you know, this family or this, um, what happened here or this, you know, organization, et cetera. There was just an eerie silence. And I knew that there was something behind that, and I knew that homophobia had something to do with it, but I couldn't quite put my finger on why. Uh, one of the things from one of the sources that I was able to get, we had this very enlightening conversation, but basically it was dealing with how, because of the tropes of even, you know, masculinity, hyper-masculinity, and to a degree, even white supremacy on the black community heightens the respectability politics, the, I'm just as good as, uh, politics, which in a way almost makes the homophobia while it's still just as toxic and damaging comes from a slightly different angle because it's not so much about your just evil and wrong. Speaker 1 00:25:13 Um, lots of people, even at the, even in the podcast talked about you can go into any black church and you're gonna find a lot of black queer people, because if they weren't there, there would be no church, no choir director, no music, you know, things of those natures ushers, et cetera. But at the same time, a lot of those black queer people had said to me point blank that they still felt as though, even though they were accepted, it was their living openly their life or their lifestyle that was not accepted. Because that flies in the face of what we are hoping to present as a group. You, you, by not adhering to the very strict and rigid binary of, you know, masculinity and femininity traditionally defined, is somehow holding everyone back. And that goes to the, uh, sort of communal ness of being an African American in general. Speaker 1 00:26:09 Um, even if we don't all know each other, we're not all related because of racism in this country. There's a universal experience that a lot of us have had. And so there's been this feeling that if progress is going to be made, then everybody has to be on the same page. And if one person is being an outlier because of racism, that outlier will be held up as the example of why everybody else can't move into the, you know, so-called promised land for lack of a better description. So there was like this tension that was always there. I just didn't know how to put my finger on it. And it really wasn't until I started this project that I really got a chance to peel back some of those layers and understand what was going on. Speaker 0 00:26:57 What, what do you think would've happened if, let's say maybe at the time you did have the language to e express how you feel now? What do you think would've happened like in 2003 if you had gone to your editor and been like, this is where I'm going with it. I'm gonna run with this aspect of it. You know, the lack of coverage. The lack of empathy, what would've happened? Speaker 1 00:27:16 I might've been able to push for like a small super spot, if you will, which is about like maybe two minutes or something. But because of the nature of my job, uh, being a, you know, day of air general assignment reporter, you know, the response would probably would've been something like, well, how are you going to fit something that nuanced into 35 seconds? Um, because that's, you know, technically what I was supposed to be allowed for each newscast. And there could have been a chance where, again, I might have been able to pitch it as a feature story for N P R, but even then, that would've only given me maybe four and a half, five minutes, which still wouldn't of, when you're dealing with nuance, you need a little, you need more time to massage it out. You just, you do. So I'm not quite sure that it ever would've gone anywhere, at least not working in the radio format Speaker 0 00:28:11 Now 20 years later. Like, how, how does it feel to be able to fully express yourself? Speaker 1 00:28:15 It's liberating, it's also satisfying. One of the things, I mean, I've said it several times here and I keep going back to, is the fact that we have such a broader vocabulary and understanding of the spectrum of human sexuality it has made, returning to this story. So healing in a lot of ways. It was always, you know, with me, it was always in the back of my mind every time that there would be some new subtle development within the queer rights movement. And still in the back of my mind I would think, you know, like, huh, you know, this is kind of like Zia's story or this reminds me, or I wonder if she had lived where, you know, how this would've affected or improved her life, something of that nature. And so it's never something that, you know, I completely put away. It was always there, but being able to fully go back with eyes wide open and truly examine what transpired has been really, really just satisfying and healing, I think are the best two words to describe it. Speaker 0 00:29:22 Do you think it's been healing for some of the people affected by Zak's death? Like you know her? Absolutely. Her mother, her sister, her friends being able to talk about it. Speaker 1 00:29:32 I think her mother and her sister, uh, have revisited, uh, zak's loss, um, in different ways either with, uh, the local queer groups in Newark. There were a few times where her mother was even, you know, flown out to different cities to talk about, you know, her daughter's life and the loss of her daughter and what that meant and et cetera. But for her best friend Valencia, who was with her that night, she hadn't given a full scale, no holds barred interview since, uh, she was interviewed by the police that night. And she made that very clear in our conversation. And I'd still remain so unbelievably honored that she trusted me with the most traumatic, vulnerable story that has transpired in her life. Speaker 0 00:30:26 Well, how did you establish trust with her? 'cause one thing I've heard victims of, you know, living victims maybe of mm-hmm. <affirmative> of these types of crimes. One thing I've heard them say is how often they feel exploited, you know, particularly with the true crime genre exploding, uh, in, in fact, I actually had someone like that on, on an episode before, and she talked about how often she had been burned by the media and how it took a very special person to come along and like, and she, and she had to really, really work to earn, earn that woman's trust. Like she, it it was a matter of months, if not a, a year of Oh yeah. Earning her trust. How, how did you do that? Speaker 1 00:31:03 So, first of all, I wanna say yes, that that was the case. That was one of the things that Valencia had made clear was that in the immediate aftermath, when at least the local news, uh, was covering the story. Um, and again, if you're doing, unfortunately sometimes when you're doing spot news and you have a deadline, there isn't a whole lot of room for the kind of compassion that these stories take. Again, the clock is merciless. So she said that there was a point where they just took the phone off the hook because people were kept trying to call her, kept trying to call her. And she had not even begun to process the trauma of being there when her best friend was stabbed to death and just bled out in her arms. Some of Zak's other friends who did decline to be in the podcast, but they also indicated that yeah, they, uh, you know, there were some reporters who would, you know, call or stop by their house, and they felt like it was really aggressive. Speaker 1 00:32:02 And that more importantly they felt as though these people were just interested in getting these sensational, the sensational side of the story. When I approached this, I made it very clear to everyone involved that first and foremost, I will absolutely respect your boundaries. So if you say you do not wanna talk to me, I understand, I will respect that. Um, and we went through quite a few people at the beginning who just said, you know what, I can't revisit this. And you know, I mean, as a journalist, is that frustrating for me because I'm not quite making the progress that I want to with the story? Yes. But do these people still have every right to say, no, I do not wanna revisit this, or maybe I don't wanna revisit this with you, or whatever their reason is. Yes, they absolutely have that. Right. I had also done, I leaned very heavily on, you know, my history with the story that, you know, I was there at the time, at least in the aftermath covering it, and that I had never forgotten. Speaker 1 00:33:07 And I had gone down a handful of times to this, to Newark, to, you know, meet people face to face. So I wasn't just like, you know, just a voice over the phone, uh, leaving a message or just an email or something like that. Like, I wanted to be able to shake people's hand to talk to them, have them ask me whatever questions they wanted about what it is that we were trying to do, why we were doing it. And so far what I found that was when I explained to people, you know, we don't wanna sensationalize her death, but we do want to talk about why it wasn't a bigger deal, what was it that allowed us to, and when I say us, I mean society to sort of shrug this off and move on. And that for some people, importantly, so her family, some of her friends and her best friend Valencia, that was enough for them to feel safe. Speaker 0 00:34:05 And you've mentioned we a couple times, like how many people do you have helping you out with this series? Oh, Speaker 1 00:34:10 <laugh>. Um, actually we have a pretty small, well, we have a large team if you listen to the credits, but in the day to day, we have a pretty small team. Um, I would say it's about maybe six of us who have been working on this. And this is like different aspects. Like there's, you know, editing, there's, you know, interview corralling, there's the writing, which has been me, and there's two kinds of editing. I should also say for future podcasters out there, there's the, uh, audio editing and then there's the script editing <laugh>, which are two different things, two different people. Yeah. And then of course, you know, our all important task master who keeps everyone on task and above all on deadline, Speaker 0 00:34:52 Because there's still deadlines. I should, I guess I shouldn't minimize <laugh>, that there's still deadlines, even still deadlines, even, even in a more long form format here. You know, you, uh, o obviously after Broad Market tells a very specific story about Zakia in a very specific place like Newark. But I'm curious, does it tell a bigger story about America? Speaker 1 00:35:14 I think it does. Um, one of the things that I kept saying when we started this project was that even though it is going to take, I mean, it, it does take place in Newark, New Jersey. This could be any inner city, black community across America, really, a lot of the same pathologies and systems of oppression, et cetera, exist from coast to coast. And at the same time, I would say in a larger sense, what it says about America is, again, how we view whose life is worthy of mourning and whose life is inherently disposable. Like I said, just the layers of intersectionality that Zakiya lived under. Um, she was black, she was gay, she was masculine, presenting, she was poor. All of those were one more thing that made it easier and easier for people to push her life and her life's value further and further and further away from their consciousness. Speaker 1 00:36:13 Because either that's not someone who would have been in my sphere in some way, shape, or form, or that's not someone who I would aspire to have in my world some way, shape or form. So meaning that, like if you're a suburban white person, yeah, you might have like a black neighbor or two, but they're probably also, you know, upper middle class or something. So, and with that would come a lot of the presentation trappings of being upper middle class, because it's not as anybody who lives in the suburbs will tell you it's not just about the physicality of being in the suburbs. Oh no, there's a performance that goes along with it. But Zakiya didn't perform her identity in any of those recognizable ways. So that's one demographic that could easily be like me. I don't really know like her or anyone like her. Speaker 1 00:37:06 Um, but at the same time when I was talking about respectability politics, even if you were, um, say one of, uh, zia's neighbors or something, the fact that, you know, she was so open and proud of her queerness would be something that might give some people reason to be like, Hmm, no, because my being attached to you somehow might hinder my ability to, for lack of a better description, break out and get to where I want to go. Like you, it's almost as if treating somebody like they are a physical albatross, and so it's better to have nothing to do with them to maintain whatever it is that you're trying to present or perform for public. And then again, like I was saying, um, the way that this entire country has interpreted and treated tropes of masculinity and what that, how that plays out in real life, how the notion of presenting yourself and looking a certain way equals that you are going to get certain types of treatment. All of those are things that, from reporting on the story, I came to realize that they're not just indictments of, you know, like her killer. I mean, obviously he's guilty, but her killer or specific people in, you know, her community or whatever, no. This is kind of our society and a lot of the things that we have normalized over centuries, that if we're going to truly become this multicultural and open, uh, society where we really do celebrate everybody, then there are some rigid tropes that I think might have to be reexamined, if not broken. Speaker 0 00:39:04 Well, I think it's really important 'cause I think you talk about like toxic masculinity and obviously while white men in particular guys like me benefit from it, I think there is this also this kind of counter effect of, it's, it's, it's isolating a lot of people. I mean, we see in the news all the time now about how, you know, white men in their twenties are, are more lonely than ever. They're spending their time online, they're reading about these conspiracy theories, they're just inundated with images of violence and it seems justified. And not to make any sort of false equivocation at all, but I, but I do think a lot of times men don't benefit from that view of masculinity either. It kind of traps them in Oh, absolutely. An identity that's harmful to themselves and others Speaker 1 00:39:47 Abs. No, absolutely. I mean, that wasn't, you know, the focus of this podcast, but I've definitely, um, spoken to numerous people and read numerous pieces that have addressed that. Yes, this is incredibly damaging to men as well. It's the same way that, you know, people have tried to explain that, you know, sexism isn't just a woman's problem. It hurts men too. Uh, racism isn't just a minority problem. It hurts white people too. It's just the way that we've looked at it traditionally is through the lens of like, well, if this system is put in place to oppress you, well then, okay, that must be bad for you. But nobody really ever stops to consider, wait a second. But if I'm in the position of the oppressor, what is this doing to me? Speaker 0 00:40:37 Well, what you're doing with this project is, is I consider it a public service. It's opening eyes and it's giving us perspec. It's giving me, you know, pers listening to it, perspectives I wouldn't have had otherwise. So thank you for that. Speaker 1 00:40:49 Well, thank, thank you. Seriously, thank you so much for listening. This was, as I said earlier, this was just like that story that just kind of kept nagging me in the back of my head for 20 years and not really sure what to do with it or really how to begin to address it. I just knew what happened wasn't right, and that is worthy of expanding on. But yeah, you know, as time went on and you know, like even in, well, I won't give everything away, but in some of our later episodes, um, we even addressed the fact that even after everything that was learned, especially in Newark after Zak's death, still we highlight the case of the death of a trans black woman that like on top of, I will say, on top of her being, uh, trans and black, she also died during the height of the lockdown during the pandemic. So that is going to hinder the response, et cetera. But her family didn't even know initially that she had died. It just, it just speaks to, again, whose lives does our society deem removable or erasable or, you know, who is part of the, as Dickens said, the surplus society. The surplus, yeah. Population. Speaker 0 00:42:15 Any plans for after this series? Speaker 1 00:42:17 Well, actually I am floating, uh, expanding on one of the topics that started in episode three. And that is obviously reporting on Newark As a black woman, I talked about my own experience coming into Newark, having grown up in the Hudson Valley. And, um, couple people pointed out that it's not an unusual experience, even though there's probably a smaller demographic of people who've had it. But part of the, you know, American dream, if you will, to make it, is to get out of a struggling neighborhood and move into a more affluent place. And that's where you raise your kids and you send them to the good school districts 'cause they're in the more affluent communities. Well, if you're a minority, chances are you are uprooting your child or your birthing your child in a community where very few, if anybody looks like them. And so in some ways, because kids just being kids are going to assimilate to the community that they're brought up in that assimilation creates almost a, I don't wanna say a barrier, but in a way it sort of cuts them off from, uh, the rest of the people who are also part of their culture. Speaker 1 00:43:37 And so what does it basically mean to be a minority kid who's raised in a predominantly white community? Um, there's been aspects, I think, of people who've touched on it, but that's been something that I think might be worth really trying to unpack in a similar sort of documentary style with testimonies from people outside of myself. But yeah. Speaker 0 00:43:59 Well, Jenna, I enjoyed this. Uh, the podcast is after Broad and Market, it's available anywhere you get your podcasts. Speaker 1 00:44:05 Thank you so much for having me on. This was a great conversation. Speaker 0 00:44:10 We've talked before on the show how there's no such thing as a story that's off limits, even if they're messy and force us to face uncomfortable realities like systemic racism and homophobia. Thankfully we have journalists like Jenna who are able and willing to tell these stories. And now it's time for our podcasting tip where we ask our guests to bestow some wisdom on the rest of us. Speaker 1 00:44:37 Hi, I am Jenna Flanagan, host of After Broaden Market, and my podcasting tip is first and foremost, you can never go wrong with a good editor, somebody who can cut and splice and dice sound together to make your podcast sound as smooth and as clean as possible. But right next to that is the importance of having actual passion and compassion for whatever the subject matter is that you're dealing with. If you're just doing an interview style podcast, if you are doing investigative work or if you're just, you know, chopping it up with your friends, the mic is incredibly intimate and people can hear if you are into it or not. So if this is something you wanna do, make sure regardless of what the subject is, you genuinely Care. Speaker 0 00:45:36 Audience is a CAOs original series. Our founder and executive producer is Craig Hewitt. Production assistance is provided by Ecel Brill, Jocelyn Devore and Marni Hills. Our website and logo design is courtesy of Fran Swap Real, our head of product here at CAOs. This episode was written, edited, narrated, and produced by me. I'm Stuart Barefoot. Check out audience podcast fm for more episodes or just search for it anywhere you get your podcasts. Next time on audience, Aaron Miller takes us behind the scenes of his podcast, armchair Explorer. Speaker 3 00:46:14 I interviews an astronaut and he talked about the overview effect. I don't know if you've heard about this, but it's an actually studied psychological effect that when astronauts come back from space, they come back kind of fundamentally changed about their perception of the earth because they've seen it as a whole suddenly like extracted from the stuck in that one place on the earth. And being able to see it from the whole gives a different perspective that none of us have yet.

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