This summer, out of nowhere, I started listening to podcasts. I’ve been down with writing as a means of expressing one’s experiences for a long time, but I’m now learning to appreciate how impactful the spoken word can be. I dabbled here and there with what I listened to, focusing mainly on podcasts related to education. Being a newbie, I tried to give whichever ones I started at least three or four episodes before I passed judgment. Thankfully, most were winners and held my attention.
One of my favorites is 3 Educated Brothas. It is a podcast about all things education through the experiences of three Black men in the field. It has a fluid, conversational structure, which I really love. The guys — Marc, Edmund, and Pat — just sit down and talk. They haven’t stuffed it with bells and whistles — they fuel the show with authenticity and realness. They check-in with each other, banter, go on tangents, and push back on each other’s ideas. During their talks, somehow they have a way of making me feel as if I’m sitting at the table with them as they chat it up. Their style is warm and inviting. In some ways, it’s like I’m catching up with colleagues or even my own boys. They all have different roles in education (professor, consultant, and high school teacher) and they do a great job of leaning into these roles to bring different perspectives to the listener. Plus, given that they’re all Columbia grads and two of them work in NYC, the whole podcast feels local because, well, it is.
For me, their vulnerability is a cornerstone of the podcast and also why I love it so much. They don’t pretend to be something they’re not or know more than they do. This vulnerability shows up with how they question themselves and admit when they’re unsure. For example, when they discussed rape culture in episode 3 of season 1, the guys owned up to their inexperience with the issue. Because of my own ignorance of rape culture, there was a familiar sense of uncertainty and admitted complicity in their conversation. I think the guys may have decided to have the conversation because of their inexperience, which was refreshing. That said, because they didn’t have a woman present for the dialogue, they were presented with a healthy point of tension; they debated whether it was even worthwhile to dive into such a heavy topic. How might they implicate themselves? How might they do more harm than good? It is this sort of self-questioning and willingness to interrogate themselves that is present throughout the podcast and one of the big reasons why I’m so drawn to it. Through it all, it’s my impression that Marc, Edmund, and Pat use the podcast as a space of healing and engage in dialogue with the expectation that they might be changed as a result of it. That’s inspiring.
As a white man, I can’t go any further without acknowledging how invaluable it’s been for me that they’ve centered their Black male experience in the podcast. As Black men, they’re candid about how they see the world — and how they’re seen — and this backdrop of Blackness is something that I really appreciate. Given my own personal narrative and upbringing, this foundational aspect of the podcast is something that I gravitate towards and a huge reason why I’ve sponged up all of their episodes. As a teacher of Black children and a colleague to Black teachers, the three of them afford me much-needed perspective and insight into the experience of Black men in America today. In the process, they also explicitly and implicitly press me to further process and question my white racial identity, which I need. My racial ignorance is real.
Many of their themes stand out. Their heavy focus on self-care has been important for me to hear. Their early talks about black boy joy, the statement for the culture, tough love, and Ratchetdemic stand out as valuable listening experiences that I’ll no doubt be returning to and referencing in the future. And let me not forget about their guest speakers! Marc, Edmund, and Pat have done a really dope job of injecting fresh energy and vantage points when they’re needed all the while maintaining the message, as showcased in their chats with Mariel Buquè, Yolanda Sealey-Cruz, and Chris Emdin. I’m grateful.
In honor of their most recent episode, which was an affirmation exercise in which they showered each other with love and admiration for the simple fact of showering each other with love and admiration, I want to publicly affirm each of them. As Pat said in the episode, “affirmations are accessible always” and it shouldn’t take someone we appreciate to achieve a goal for us to call them out on how amazing they are in their own right. I don’t know Marc, Edmund, or Pat personally, but listening to them has been an uplifting and compelling experience and one that’s well worth me shouting them out. They each bring something valuable to the podcast and, in this vein, here are my personal affirmations for each of them:
Being the only K-12 teacher, he exudes practicality and craftiness. Many times during the podcast, just when I think my mind might be straying, Marc finds a way to pull me back in and ground the conversation in the present moment and work that’s done in the classroom. Being a teacher, this speaks to me. I also find that he leads with his vulnerability on the show, which I can’t respect enough. He likes to trouble issues with his nuanced perspective; I have tried mimic this with colleagues this summer. His belief that teaching is his form activism is powerful and wish more of us teachers explored.
I’ve found Edmund to be a stabilizing force throughout the series. I find his perspective calming, consistent, and pointed — all at the same time. Given his academic and scholarly success, I have come to appreciate Edmund’s willingness to continually grow and talk about his growth throughout the podcast; this is humility at it’s finest. I’ve been loosely studying hip hop culture recently and hearing some of his expertise on it has been interesting.
Of the three brothas, Pat is definitely the philosopher. He has a keen way of drilling down into an idea to reveal not only its inner workings and his thoughts on the matter, but also mine. His monologues provide me with both a literary and psychological workout. Every time he jumps into the conversation, I mentally ready myself for something deep…and he never disappoints. Because he works in the NYCDOE as a diversity and inclusion trainer, I can only hope that one day I’ll land in one of his workshops. He’s seeded many ideas in me that I’d love to hash out with him.
What’s really cool is how their work on the podcast has motivated me in ways that go far beyond my ears, my thoughts, and my teaching. The takeaways I’ve had from the guys and the show have moved me to begin a similar podcasting initiative at my school with colleagues. I’m eager to see how it’ll pan out. Stay tuned.