Even before COVID-19 swallowed the world, podcasts were a way to open a door to new people, topics, and countries. But during quarantine, we here at AFAR have leaned even more heavily into podcasts—and stumbled onto dozens of new favorites. Now, when it’s more critical than ever to shine a light on underrepresented voices in the media world, we wanted to share the podcasts we’re loving from Black creators.
So whether you’re back in travel mode or still sticking close to home, here are more than a dozen of our favorite shows about politics and pop culture, about Black history and identity, and yes, about travel. Let’s get listening.
Having recently wrapped up its third season, Mogul examines some of the most iconic and important chapters in hip-hop history—like its inception and many evolutions—and features interviews with the people who lived through them. Mogul was created as a collaboration between Gimlet Media and the Loud Speakers Network, the latter of which was founded by music attorney Reggie Ossé, who made music under the stagename Combat Jack. Ossé hosted the first season, which focused on the life of hip-hop music executive Chris Lighty, manager of 50 Cent, LL Cool J, and Missy Elliott, before he died in 2017.
The latest season of Mogul, hosted by journalist and DJ Brandon Jenkins, delves into the psychedelic life of H-Town legend Robert Earl Davis Jr., aka DJ Screw, who revolutionized the music world with his chopped-and-screwed mixing method.
2. The Laverne Cox Show
Hosted by Emmy-winning producer and Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox, the eponymously titled show debuted in 2021 and wrapped up its first season in October. Centered around the principle that “there are only two things that we can truly control in our lives—our own perception and our own behavior,” each episode offers thought-provoking conversations with a wide range of guests: everyone from California’s Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris on her system for evaluating and treating childhood trauma to trans actor Jen Richards on the thorns—and roses—of being a transwoman in search of love. Listening to Cox’s podcast feels like catching up with a close friend, equal parts intimate and comforting.
3. Therapy for Black Girls
Therapy for Black Girls is a weekly podcast that focuses on mental health and the intersectional struggle of being both Black and a woman. Hosted by Atlanta-based licensed therapist Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, Therapy doesn’t flinch at issues like colorism and racial trauma, while also doing justice to life-planning topics like having children and preparing to buy a first home. Whenever Dr. Harden covers something she doesn’t have full expertise in, she always invites a specialist to join who does—in February 2022 she brought on reproductive specialist Dr. Tia Jackson-Bey to speak about what IVF is like. Filled with warmth and encouragement, Dr. Bradford’s podcast is a balm to listen to in today’s stormy times.
4. TransLash Podcast with Imara Jones
TransLash believes that ignorance fuels hate—and the TransLash Podcast with Imara Jones is all about sharing the personal stories of trans people, as well as looking at current news and pop culture through a trans lens. Hosted by award-winning journalist and TransLash Media founder Imara Jones, the TransLash Podcast is released on a bimonthly basis; featured guests include Sarah McBride, the first trans person elected to a state senate, and Leyna Bloom, the first trans woman of color to pose for Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition. If you like what you hear, a limited podcast series by the same producers, The Anti-Trans Hate Machine: A Plot Against Equality, came out last year; it examines the institutions and people across the country driving trans discrimination.
5. Brown & Black
Launched in April 2020 during the height of COVID pandemonium and taut racial tension, Brown & Black is put together by film and culture critics and best friends Jack Rico and Mike Sargent. Each episode delves into what’s been happening in the pop culture zeitgeist and dissects it through a racial lens. The most recent installment sees Rico and Sargent chatting about Joe Rogan’s n-word controversy as well as Awkwafina’s “blaccent” apology and subsequent unceremonious exit from Twitter. Expect to also hear from a large cast of Hollywood insiders, filmmakers, artists, and entertainment journalists. Filled with hot takes and vibrant conversation, Brown & Black offers a fresh, new way to engage with pop culture.
6. Dear Culture
Created by TheGrio, a media company that creates content geared toward Black Americans, Dear Culture is helmed by Gerren Keith Gaynor and Shana Pinnock, who seem to speak about whatever’s on their mind at the moment, as friends do. The duo offers insight into news, politics, pop culture, and trending topics like the underrated brilliance of Black hair, generational trauma, and the pros and cons of 2021. Dear Culture also hands the mic over to special guests occasionally—influencers, leaders, and thinkers in the Black community among them.
7. California Love
From former New York Times writer Walter Thompson-Hernández, this podcast is a love letter to Los Angeles and a rumination on race, identity, and belonging. Episodes feel more like meditations than a scripted series and include deep dives on Kobe Bryant, Compton’s famous cowboys, and even a conversation with Thompson-Hernández’s mother, who moved to Los Angeles from a small town in Mexico when she was 14. (Thompson-Hernández’s father is Black.) The eight-part series, which debuted in July 2020, is a nice reminder of the many ways in which cities can feel distinctly our own.
8. GirlTrek’s Black History Bootcamp
GirlTrek is on a mission to save Black women’s lives. Launched in 2010, the nonprofit encourages women to take control of their health, their communities, and their history by walking. Their podcast, Black History Bootcamp, was created in service of those goals. Listeners sign up for the 21-day bootcamp, a TK say what this is—the most recent bootcamp launched in March 2021—and each day dug into the life of a Black woman who changed the course of history, from Diana Ross to Angolan Queen Nzinga. Each conversation revolves around a historical figure—poet Audre Lorde, civil rights pioneer Claudette Colvin—and is recorded, which becomes the podcast. While each 21-episode season is created live, it is excellent listening material for any walk, any time.
9. Gay Travel Today
This is a fascinating series of very short (under three minutes) daily news briefs geared toward the LGBTQ+ community. These microcasts—hosted by singer-songwriter Teraj for Amazon’s Alexa—are insightful and entertaining. Topics range from tips for a hassle-free LGBTQ+ trip to the best nudist resorts in Pennsylvania. When you don’t have a lot of time, but you want a little queer content or news in your life, Gay Travel Today fits the bill.
10. Ear Hustle
Ear Hustle, now in its seventh season, is a nonfiction podcast from Radiotopia about life inside the prison system and what happens once people leave it. Each 30-minute episode tells stories that are intimate and funny, as well as heartrending and difficult. Above all, their stories are human. Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams (both formerly incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison) cofounded the podcast with Bay Area visual artist Nigel Poor. In 2020, Ear Hustle was a finalist for the inaugural Pulitzer Prize in Audio Reporting.
11. Still Processing
Listening to Still Processing sometimes feels like you’re the quiet friend at the party, taking in an animated conversation between two people who have Opinions—and are not afraid to say so. A weekly culture podcast from the New York Times, Still Processing covers whatever hosts Jenna Wortham (who writes for the New York Times Magazine) and Wesley Morris (the paper’s critic at large) want to discuss regarding TV, movies, art, music, and the internet: Tina Turner’s dynamic career, the history behind and cultural weight of using the n-word, reparations for Aunt Jemima, and what Tiger King says about America’s relationship to freedom. It’s a rare podcast that manages at once to be substantive and an easy listen.
12. Afropop Worldwide
A long-running public radio show that won a Peabody Award in 1994 for its “pioneering role in the ‘world music’ movement,” Afropop Worldwide has been available as a podcast since 2015. The hour-long “Classic” program is published every other Thursday, while the 20–30-minute “Closeup” episodes—which zoom in on music through the lens of politics, history, and culture—are released every other Tuesday. It’s hard to imagine a better guide than longtime host Georges Collinet, who is from Cameroon and delights as much in presenting information about drum speech from Nigeria as he does the roots of Puerto Rican salsa.
13. Code Switch
Created by journalists of color and led by cohosts Gene Demby and Shereen Marisol Meraji, Code Switch has been produced since 2016, but it became one of NPR’s top programs in the wake of the George Floyd protests. (Its tagline? “Race. In Your Face.”) Episodes are released every few days and cover race, culture, and diversity; episodes include an examination of the rise and fall of “America’s Dad” Bill Cosby, if and how mental health resources can help people of color cope with racism, and how Black people with albinism are perceived by society.
14. Black Women Travel Podcast
Each week, host Wanda Duncan introduces listeners to a different woman who has “made travel a large part of their lives.” Her guests are global—and they aren’t all travel professionals—and in each episode, they share their work, where they live, and where and how they travel. But Duncan encourages her guests to explore further into pockets like how we’re raised and how our identities shape our travel experiences. The podcast is an empowering testament to the power of change and the benefits of travel, no matter where you go.
In the first narrative audio endeavor from The Atlantic, reporter Vann R. Newkirk II tackles recent history: Hurricane Katrina. But the eight-episode story, researched for more than a year and released in March 2020, goes beyond rehashing what happened in 2005 when the levees broke in New Orleans. Rather, Newkirk aims to highlight lesser-known events from the aftermath and dig into the long-term impact of Katrina, sharing perspectives from survivors and officials 15 years after the hurricane. It’s a very human story about a natural disaster.