Last year, I witnessed a 19-year-old Black girl plea for help via Twitter after a sexual assault incident, and go missing – only for Tallahassee police to find her dead body one week later. I witnessed a 26-year-old Black woman fail to receive justice after Louisville, Kentucky police officers wrongfully murdered her. Oluwatoyin Salau and Breonna Taylor fell victim to what 2020 made very clear to me: the world ignores Black women until it’s too late.
In the midst of a global pandemic, where I worried for my mother’s health as she worked on the front lines as a nurse practitioner, I wondered if there would ever be a chance for Black women to not only be heard, but listened to. My podcast, The Court, along with guidance from HIVE Diversity, helped me refocus my energy to create and foster a safe environment to tell our stories.
2020 opened up as a year full of promise and potential. I looked at my study abroad semester in Prague as a time to reward myself with exciting adventures and deep personal growth while tackling a 16-credit course load.
In Prague, I spent my mornings learning the art of travel-writing in the center of Old Town Square. My nights were spent with new friends trying exotic foods and enjoying the lively culture of the city. Nothing could disturb my care-free attitude – until the morning of March 12, 2020. My residential hall assistant woke me up at around 7:30 am to alert me that my study abroad program had to be cut short due to the rapid global spread of COVID-19.
I had to leave the Czech Republic the very next day.
I tried to look on the bright side: I entered the United States safely and came home to five healthy younger siblings with two healthy parents. However, living in the epicenter of the virus, watching rising case numbers and death tolls, emphasized the reality of living on borrowed, uncontrollable time.
Not only was I constantly worrying about my mother’s safety as she worked with COVID-19 patients everyday, the deaths of Breonna Taylor and Oluwatoyin Salau sustained my worry for Black women everywhere.
We live in a patriarchal society with systemic racism, and Black women inevitably fall to the bottom of the totem pole. Only those within our demographic show true concern for our issues.
For example, protests and petitions placed pressure on Daniel Cameron, Kentucky Attorney General, to seek justice for Taylor’s murder. As a Black man, one may assume he would use more diligence to bring peace to Taylor’s family.
He announced the charges six months after the shooting and only charged one of the three officers with three counts of wanton endangerment; no one received consequences for Taylor’s actual murder. I transformed my anger towards these events into ammunition to help create a safer society for my little sisters to grow up in.
Through research, I found that podcasting and audio storytelling were growing mediums attracting popularity from society. I saw this as a space for me to grow professionally while establishing a platform to call my own; I soon planted the roots for my podcast, The Court, which is a podcast where Black women have the home-court advantage.
In a world where society silences, skews and ignores Black women’s voices, our community deserves a safe space where we’re understood. Not all podcasts centered around Black women aim to reach 16 to 25-year-olds; I aim to form an environment of comfort for listeners tackling the not a girl, not yet a woman stage. I touch on topics including, but not limited to: body positivity, the adultification of Black girls and women, and natural hair acceptance within our community.
I’ve always believed that a leader’s purpose is not to gather a group of followers, but to develop more leaders and individualistic thinkers. Our voices, morals and thoughts are some of the few things we as people have control over in this world; my platform celebrates that and encourages others that look like me to love who they are instead of feeding into constant oppression.
My involvement with HIVE DIVERSITY, a virtual career development and recruiting platform for students and recent graduates that represents what diversity in the workforce is meant to be, could not have come at a better time. Although the cancellation of summer internship opportunities took me off track from professional goals, HIVE founder and CEO Byron Slosar helped me realize that I have the power to create my own path of achievement towards my professional endeavors. I gained the confidence to use the diversities within my podcast to illustrate my value to potential employers and to help me stand out in the classroom. The Court comes up in conversations during class, interviewers make it the topic of conversation when I speak with them, and it’s allowed me to turn a crazy year into a rewarding experience.
Without my desire to take control of uncontrollable situations, I would not have the privilege of finding light within the dark tunnels of 2020. I hope to encourage others to use their voice to perpetuate change in all capacities. Our situations should not hold the weight to define us. We as people hold the power to define them.
HIVE Insider Chinenye Onyeike is an NYU senior studying Media, Culture and Communication with a minor in Business of Entertainment, Media and Technology. As a media studies major focused on journalism, she spent her time in interning at NBC, writing for her school newspaper, The Washington Square News, and creating, hosting and producing her podcast, The Court.