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This week’s show features a conversation among the entire Making Contact production team. Long-time producers Anita Johnson and Salima Hamirani and interim Senior Producer Jessica Partnow introduce our newest members, Lucy Kang, Amy Gastelum, and Jina Chung. Together, the team reviews highlights from shows aired last year and previews what they are each working on for 2023 and beyond. Along the way, they discuss their collective vision for Making Contact and what makes it stand out in a vast and varied media landscape.
Clockwise from top left: Jina Chung, Lucy Kang (microphone), Jessica Partnow, Anita Johnson, Amy Gastelum and Salima Hamirani
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The Making Contact Team
The Making Contact Team
- HoliznaCC0 – 2 Hour Delay
Making Contact Button: Our system is in too many ways broken. The way we see the world shapes the way that we treat it. This is Making Contact.
Anita Johnson: I’m Anita Johnson.
Salima Hamirani: I’m Salima Hamirani.
Anita Johnson: Today on Making Contact we’re dedicating the episode to some reflection from the past year of production.
Lucy Kang: I’m always trying to think about. How our coverage can work in tandem with people and organizations on the ground. Like how can we make the biggest impact? Does it mean highlighting a repression or talking about issues in a way that can shift narratives? Uh, does it mean digging into deeper structural issues? I think making contact does all of those things, and I just really appreciate having the space to dive deeply, um, into them on the.
Salima Hamirani: We’re also going to introduce you to the new members of the team, Lucy, Jina and Amy, and we’ll talk about what we’re planning for 2023.
Jina Chung: I want to see making contact as a multifaceted organization that not only produces amazing stories, but is also a place where we are nurturing emerging audio journalists and actively participating in shaping a more diverse and inclusive journalism sector.
Anita Johnson: Stay with us.
Salima Hamirani: Welcome to Making Contact. So the whole team is here today. We’ve got producers Lucy Kang and Amy Gastelum. I’m Salima Hamirani along with Anita Johnson Johnson. We’ve also got our new Executive Director Jina Chung Chung here, as well as Jessica Partnow who’s our Interim Senior Producer. This is it. This is the small but mighty Making Contact team. I wanted to start off by just saying I’m really excited to have a full production and editorial team. I think we’ve been ready to take our journalism to the next level and bring on new talent. I think you – our audience – are really going to enjoy the calendar of shows we’ve put together this year.
Anita Johnson: Exactly, Salima Hamirani. I’m excited by the growth of the team and future possibilities of the organization. And with that said, let’s get into it. We have four people to introduce to our audience. Let’s start with Jina Chung, you’re our new Executive Director. Why don’t you go ahead and tell us a bit about yourself?
Jina Chung: Hi everyone, my name is Jina Chung, and I’m thrilled to join the Making Contact team. I started my nonprofit career as a fundraiser over ten years ago. I spent majority of that time in the documentary film space, and this is where I developed a deep appreciation and passion for storytelling. I saw, first-hand, how narrative power can galvanize communities to take action for social change. In this same vein, the storytelling for social justice is what led me to Making Contact. For me it feels like a smooth transition from film to audio documentary, and I’m excited to learn more about this new medium and dream big with the team here to bring impactful stories to our audience.
Anita Johnson: Well, Jina Chung that’s really great. And one more thing… what excites you most about working with Making Contact and future plans of growing the organization?
Jina Chung: I love the creative energy of working so closely with all the producers at Making Contact, and selfishly, I am deeply excited about being a student again – a student of audio documentaries and podcasts. As a team, we talked about fine-tuning our editorial voice and style, and that kind of stuff really gets my brain fired up. Coming from the media arts space, I’m excited for potential cross-collaborations with film and how we can experiment with audio and film. From an organizational perspective, my priority right now is to take it slow and learn the organization, but if I could fast-forward five years, I want to see Making Contact as a multi-faceted organization that not only produces amazing stories, but it is also a place where we are nurturing emerging audio journalists and actively participating in shaping a more diverse and inclusive journalism sector.
Anita Johnson: Well, let me just say again… we’re really happy you’re here. Jina Chung is the most recent member of the team followed by Lucy Kang!
Lucy Kang: Hi everyone! I’m so excited to be here.
Salima Hamirani: So Lucy, you were a long time producer at KPFA, no?
Lucy Kang: Right! Actually, being a volunteer reporter for KPFA was my very first gig after I learned radio production. It’s what set me on a professional journey! I also developed a program to support the production of long-form radio features at the station. And now, I’m so excited to be a part of the MC team. I joined last October and I feel like I’ve sort of hit the ground running. Everyone is so supportive! Like I feel like we’re constantly marinating in these creative radio juices.
Salima Hamirani: Thank you for saying that Lucy, we try to really support our staff and freelancers in the important work they’re doing. And actually, you also freelanced for us a few years ago and produced an amazing piece about serial evictions of houseless folks around the bay area that won an award!
Lucy Kang: Yes, that’s right! You and I worked together and produced the story “On the Brink: Homelessness Before and During COVID-19,” which was developed from a story I originally reported at KPFA. Here’s a clip from that show, where a former Oakland encampment resident named Kimberly describes a traumatic eviction by the city.
Kimberly Medrano: It was really muddy. It was slippery. There was garbage everywhere, people’s stuff in the way. There was so many police officers and public works people. It was ridiculous. I mean, had to go around them. So everything was broken in the street and everything. Nobody’s helping us with traffic. Me and three of my neighbors at least were flattened. Already there was nothing left.
Lucy Kang: When we think of displacement, we typically think of people being pushed out of apartments or houses or people forced to move far from cities they used to live in. But there’s another type of displacement that’s happening in cities across the country. It happens over and over again. Nearly every week. On the street, in tent cities or encampments, underpasses or public parks, people who have already lost their homes are forced to undergo the trauma of eviction not once, not twice, but multiple times.
Lucy Kang: So we ended up winning an Excellence in Journalism award from the Northern CA chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. It was the first time I worked as a freelancer, and I remember you giving me so much helpful guidance. And so it’s so cool that I get to be on the other side of that now, working with our Making Contact freelancers.
Salima Hamirani: And Amy, you joined us recently too, in July?
Amy Gastelum: Yes. I’ve done radio work as a freelancer since 2012, but my day job has been in nursing. I’ve had feet in both worlds for a long time but I’m happy to sort of cut the cord with nursing to join the Making contact team as my main gig. You can count on me for stories about health, pregnant and parenting people, queer issues, especially queer kids. I’m also here representing the midwest. So I’ll be making stories from this region of the country.
Anita Johnson: Well you’ve already produced some midwestern shows for us. Your first piece was about a garden in Bloomington Indiana that was created for folks living a diaspora.
Amy Gastelum: Yes! Keitlyn Alcantara is a young Mexican-American professor of anthropology at Indiana University and she started this garden as a place for folks to use soil and growth and shared food as a way to connect to the cultural practices in their countries of origin. Here’s a little clip from her.
Dr. Keitlyn Alcantara: Part of the idea in the garden was, um, to create a space for immigrant families to teach their children about some of the things that they brought with them from their home countries. And so having some of the plants specifically from Latin America growing that’s kind of been my focus in that outreach. And then as we’ve attracted other people, we’ve also started planting things from other cultures that I’m not familiar with. But, you know, we’re kind of open to, if you would like to see something in the garden, something that would kind of strike a cord of home for somebody, if they came and saw it, then we can add that. We can integrate that into how we’re growing things.
Amy Gastelum: That was such a neat way to start because I was so new to the team and worried about making mistakes. In my research for this episode I noticed that the website for this garden, which is called the Healing Garden, has this statement that acknowledges that some of the feelings dogging me are actually practices of white supremacy. Alcantara and her team of graduate students reference a workbook from Dismantling Racism, which argues that these practices of white supremacy that I’m talking about include: urgency, perfectionism, homogeneity, hierarchical decision making, defensiveness. I had thought of those things as traits to shed, but I hadn’t thought of them as like from the loins of colonialism and white supremacy. So I experienced this sort of shift as I was producing that episode. When I would get all perfection-isy I was like oh that old devil white supremacy, there it is again. And I was able to be more gentle with myself moving forward. So even just producing this show itself has been transformational.
Lucy Kang: Okay, so Amy and I are new to the production team, but I want to hear more from Salima Hamirani and Anita Johnson too. You both have been here for a while, right? Can you recap that story? Salima Hamirani, how long have you been at Making Contact? What have you been producing that you’re excited about?
Salima Hamirani: Well, to be honest I kind of don’t remember. I feel as if I’ve lost all sense of time because of the pandemic so I feel like I’ve been here since the beginning of time. But it’s been at least six years? And I also freelanced for Making Contact before joining as a staff producer. And Making Contact was where I started creating more in-depth, sound-rich, structured radio pieces. Before that I’d really only done live hosting for a morning news show and a handful of freelancer pieces for other outlets. And I was really excited to grow my skills last year, like, working with freelancers and helping them really get all their sound to gel together into coherent stories. Like this piece by freelancer Kathleen Shannon about the buffalo hunt in Blackfeet Nation.
Kenneth Cook: We don’t start spoiling, pull right up the, the belly around the legs, pull it right around the neck. Once I get past the spine, we can start taking the legs off.
Kathleen Shannon: That’s Kenneth Cook.
Kenneth Cook: (introduces self) My name is Thae-A-Gho-Wens. I come from the Onondaga Nation, on the east coast of the six nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
Kathleen Shannon: Kenneth Cook has a long day ahead of him. There’s a freshly harvested buffalo at his feet and now he has to quarter it, break it down into sections small enough to fit in his minivan.
Kenneth Cook: So everybody’s gonna grab a leg. We’re gonna hold it spread open like this so I can get to the belly.
Kathleen Shannon: We’re just south of the Canadian border, and further south is Browning Montana, a town of about a thousand people and the headquarters of the Blackfeet Nation.
Kenneth Cook: There’s a lot of meat here. What you think this one weighs, Boyd?
Boyd Evans: Yeah, he weighs about, um, 1100 pounds. Yeah.
Kenneth Cook: That last one you gave us was about that, I thought.
Boyd Evans: Yeah.
Kathleen: That’s Boyd Evans who raised the buffalo. But there’s also someone here with a camera filming the whole thing and telling me which recipes call for buffalo fat.
Mariah Gladstone: You’re gonna get most fat of any of your game animals that are available from bison.
Kathleen Shannon: Mariah Gladstone will post this how-to video on a platform. She and Cook run called Indigikitchen. That’s short for Indigenous Digital Kitchen, a native food education hub.
Salima Hamirani: I really loved how that piece came together. I’m going to talk more about myself. But first, Anita Johnson you’ve been here for… how many years?
Anita Johnson: Since September of 2016. I’ve been producing media for a while now though, from my current work with Making Contact to my earlier days producing stories for National Public Radio and shows for community radio such as KPFA. But if folks want me to be a tad bit more personal… let’s say I’m a Scorpio and I love long walks in the park. Naw, but more seriously, producing media is a love of mine. I love what we all do: producing content, sharing important narratives void of mainstream coverage, narratives like Tiffanie Drayton’s the author of Black American Refugee: Escaping the Narcissism of The American Dream. In the book she examines in-depth the intersection of her personal experiences, the broader culture and the toll of American racism and global white supremacy on Blacks living in the US. Here’s a short clip from a conversation I had with her.
Tiffanie Drayton: At the time that I started kind of working on my book, I also simultaneously was working out this kind of really toxic relationship that I was in, um, with, you know, a, a very narcissistic, abusive relationship. And in exposing myself to healing from and ultimately leaving that relationship, I really recognized that abuse has cycles. And that abuse cycle kind of became a lens through which I looked at everything. And all of a sudden, you know, doing all of this work that I had been doing for all these years about racism, I was like, wait a minute. This is exactly how I felt in the United States of America for my entire life. And so, this idea of love bombing, which is that first part of the abuse cycle, it’s when the abuser meets the victim and they sell all these tales and these narratives about, you know, ‘You’re made for me, you’re perfect for me. We’re gonna have the perfect relationship. Everything is so amazing.’ Um, that’s that initial phase of the relationship. And when you think about the United States of America and how it sells all of the narratives around itself, like, ‘We’re number one, we’re the best. We’re this, we’re that, you know. And immigrants come here and they can build themselves up. And you can pull yourselves up by the bootstraps. Anybody can be rich. Anybody can be a millionaire.’ Right? All of these narratives kind of makes us really, uh, committed to and invested in, um, that relationship. And I really wanted people to understand that that is a tool of abusers. And it has a name, and it’s called love bombing.
Amy Gastelum: Yeah, I loved that interview.
Anita Johnson: Thanks, Amy. Jessica you’ve been with us since September 2021, and you were Interim Executive Director through the end of last year, right?
Jessica Partnow: That’s right.
Anita Johnson: You also weighed in on the episode “The Agony and the Ecstasy, Part 2″ where we talked a bit about how organizations can go about making big changes. Let’s listen to a clip from that show, a conversation between you and Salima.
Salima Hamirani: And Jessica Partnow, you’ve been a journalist a lot longer than me. Could you explain the crisis journalism is in right now?
Jessica Partnow: Yes, and I think in journalism for so long, we’ve been clinging to this idea of what objectivity is, and this idea that as an objective journalist, I can be outside of the fray and be this sort of omniscient observer and spectator on the world. But we live in a culture of white supremacy. So also that’s really what it’s meant by so-called objective journalism. I think it’s about maintaining the status quo, maintaining the systems of white supremacy and patriarchy and all of that. That is what has to be held constant.
Jessica Partnow: Well I am just so honored to have gotten to be part of this leadership transition over this past year, and supporting the team moving into its current iteration. All of these faces I’m seeing in front of me on the production team. And kind of a bonus that last year I got the chance to revisit some reporting that I did back in 2012 in Russia and Ukraine. I had been in Moscow covering the anti-Putin protest movement, and so when last year when Russia invaded Ukraine in March I reached out to Vassili Sonkin, who I worked with on that project. He was still in Moscow at the time and we talked about how when I was there ten years ago, it was really a kind of rare moment of hope.
Vassili Sonkin: Yeah, it was like one of the last times people had any hope that this was not forever and this was not..this was a question of potential agency, not just a dire situation that needs to play itself out. And I’m gonna be careful with my words, uh, with what I say just because. . Yeah, it’s dangerous. I can’t speak my mind freely. This is like, you know, me blinking it out for you. Like I’m in this hostage situation and I can’t speak all… I can’t say all I want to.
Jessica Partnow: Vassili has since then gotten out of the country with his family. Of course the conflict is still going. That story makes me think about one of the things I really love about Making Contact, which is that the show can take these really deep dives into the stories we cover. And so I’m curious to ask you all about how you see your role as journalists and storytellers.
Anita Johnson: What I love about this work is the ability to inform the larger public about certain discourse that impacts their daily lives. To take on a proactive narrative and journalistic accountability in the space of information sharing that produces real change that pushes us all to the better. Whether it’s a better you, a better us, a better world. Which is one of the reasons I truly appreciate the work that we do at Making Contact and the commitment to the work because it isn’t an easy task at all.
Lucy Kang: That’s a great question, Jessica! For myself, I think it’s such a privilege to be trusted with people’s stories. I see Making Contact as very much being aligned with the practice of movement journalism. And so I’m always trying to think about how our coverage works in tandem with people and organizations on the ground. How can we make the biggest impact? Does it mean highlighting repression? Or talking about issues in a way that can shift narratives and perspectives? Does it mean digging into deeper structural issues? I think Making Contact does all of that, and I love having the space to dive deeply into them on this show.
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Salima Hamirani: We want to remind you that you are listening to Making Contact. I’m Salima Hamirani. If you like the show, visit us on our website, radioproject.org and leave a comment. Or hit us up on Twitter. We are @Making_Contact. And now, back to the show.
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Jina Chung: This is Jina Chung. As I mentioned before, I’m a student of Making Contact right now. And I’m learning all the ins and outs of the organization. And I’m really curious to hear about what you all have planned for the coming year. What are we slating for 2023? What are we going to hear?
Anita Johnson: Anita here. I’ll go first. Something I’m looking forward to producing is a show that looks at the origins of particular sayings that have been used throughout history, like “Indian giver” or “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” With this show, I will explore the origins of such sayings or thoughts. And what’s tied to capitalism and the history of white supremacy. That’s what I’ve got. What about you, Salima?
Salima Hamirani: So, I have a few shows that have been percolating in my mind, and I’m finally going to get a chance to finish them. In the past, honestly I don’t know if I had the skills to produce a piece like the one I had in mind, but now I feel much more confident. It’s basically about black sites, and how two American psychologists were paid to create a torture program that ended up killing a detainee. Here’s a quick preview from an interview we did with author and activist Rebecca Gordon about black sites.
Salima Hamirani: You know, like you, I’ve become a little obsessed with this topic, I think, because I want to, as a human being, try and understand what’s happening morally, and I’ve been thinking a lot about professionalism, the way professionalism allows us to justify immoral behavior because we’re doing our jobs.
Rebecca Gordon: That makes a lot of sense, and it really makes sense in the way that torturers are trained. And if you look at how people are trained in Greece under the junta, how people were trained in Chile, in Brazil, in Argentina, in any place where there’s been a torture regime, and I would argue also in the United States, there is a real similarity in that training. And the idea is that first you are yourself as a new recruit exposed to brutalization. You are beaten by you upperclassman. You are humiliated. You are tortured in effect. And once you’ve survived that ordeal, you emerge on the other side of it as a person who thinks of himself – and it’s mostly men – as a superior human being who has survived this. And is now in a position to turn around and do the same thing to other people.
Salima Hamirani: Eventually the rank and file members of the American Psychological Association fought back, and the families and survivors of the torture programs took the American psychologists to court. So for me, this is really a story about how much power we can have, even in the most frightening situations. And I think we have to remind each other of that right now. Because if we can take torturers to court, we can do a lot of things.
Lucy Kang: Wow, that’s so powerful, and I think it’s so important that Making Contact showcases stories like these. And thinking about resistance, one upcoming story I’m working on looks at Indigenous-led resistance against resource extraction around the world, especially against multinational corporations. I got the chance to talk to Ivey-Camille Manybeads Tso, a queer Dine activist and filmmaker. Her newest film is Powerlands, which chronicles different sites of Indigenous resistance in Navajo Nation, Mexico, Colombia and the Philippines. Here’s a clip from the documentary:
Ivey-Camille Manybeads Tso: I began working on this film to document our community’s struggle against resource colonization. Along the way, I found that we are not alone. This is a story of Indigenous people protecting and rebuilding. Multinational corporations like Glencore, Peabody, and BHP have been extracting hundreds of billions of dollars in profit. It is happening in nearly every country on earth. First came colonization. Now corporations are stealing the resources from under our feet. This extraction is global, but so is our resistance. [sounds of protests] From Dinetah, I connected with Indigenous people in Colombia, the Philippines and Mexico who are uniting to protect the earth. We are appealing to public opinion, changing laws and putting our bodies on the line. This film is part of that resistance.
Jina Chung: That sounds so interesting, Lucy! I’m looking to the production calendar and I’m seeing “self-managed abortion” next to Amy’s name. What’s that all about?
Amy Gastelum: So yeah, we are in the belly of the beast when it comes to the future of elective abortion access. There is so much happening right now around this issue. And it’s all really convoluted because the legislation is happening at the state and local level. So it’s very piecemeal. And the thing to keep in mind is abortion access has been piecemeal for a very long time. The people who’ve had the least access, are arguably Black and Brown folks in the rural south. You know, a lot of advocates right now are talking about the future of abortion access needing to be better than what Roe provided, including the expansion of self-managed abortion, which is abortion done at home, usually using the medications mifepristone and misoprostol. When we have these conversations about self-management and the hope there for increased access, another thing to consider is we also have to talk about the potential for an increase in the criminalization of abortion, including the criminalization of pregnant people themselves, not just providers anymore. So I think the conversation is both full of hope regarding the expansion of autonomy and privacy and financial access that self-management could bring to our lives. And also it’s a little scary because of the potential for criminalizing pregnant people for using them. That’s already happening, both the increase in self-management and the criminalization of abortion. And unsurprisingly it’s affecting Black and Brown people more than white people. So I’m talking with several parties right now involved in what is happening with this to try to get a grip on understanding the ins and outs of this issue.
Salima Hamirani: I’m really looking forward to that piece. And the speed with which you said the names of the abortion pills reminds me that you are a nurse as well as a journalist. I think that’s a pretty good glimpse at production so far. There’s more, there’s a lot more stuff planned this year, but this is a pretty good sampling.
Anita Johnson: Yes, it’s definitely a vibe… to be able to plan the coming year with you all and I am definitely excited.
Amy Gastelum: We did it! How’s everybodyfeeling?
Making Contact team: Good! Yay! Go Making Contact!
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Salima Hamirani: So that does it for today’s show. I’m Salima Hamirani. Again, I was here with Anita Johnson, Jessica Partnow, Jina Chung, Lucy Kang, Amy Gastelum. That’s the entire team. If you’d like to find out more information about our team or today’s show, visit us online radioproject.org. You can also find us on social media. Our Twitter is @Making_Contact. And on Instagram, we’re @MakingContactRadioProject.
Thank you for listening to Making Contact.
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