Race, class, poverty and power. For Kameel Stanley and Tim Lloyd, these issues are intimately intertwined with their everyday lives—a fact that becomes evident as they discuss them in their shared office in the headquarters of St. Louis Public Radio. In that brightly lit space, I take a seat in a high-backed wicker chair they’ve affectionately nicknamed “Brad.” To my left, and next to the plant that they’ve named “Cici,” is a drawing Stanley made for Lloyd playfully outlining her various moods throughout any given day. The two spend a majority of their working hours together, and their comfort with one another is evident. Attached to Stanley’s computer monitor is a sticky note that reads “Tiny podcast. BIG Impact.” Their eyes are clearly focused on the work.
These two reporter/producers are the life force behind SLPR’s “We Live Here” podcast, which takes an honest look at race, class, poverty and power in St. Louis and throughout the country. Born in 2015 as a response to the events that began following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the podcast presents 30-minute journalistic investigations into these issues twice per month.
Now deep into season two, Stanley and Lloyd say they’ve hit their stride. They’re taking on even further-reaching issues—like the burden of proof, school desegregation and what proposed legislation has made it into law after Ferguson. And as far as they know, there’s no end to the work they’re doing.
I chatted with the duo to find out more about their work, and how it’s affecting them and the city.
How comfortable were you talking about race before this podcast?
KL: Most black people talk about race all the time. At this point in my life, I am super comfortable talking about this stuff, but there are a lot people who didn’t grow up that way. It’s a constant thing for us, so I don’t know how to be tiptoeing around these things.
TL: I was raised, like a lot of white people, in a time when we were taught race didn’t matter, where racial issues belonged in black-and-white film strips. Personally, that conversation was made so much clearer to me post-Ferguson, being a reporter on the ground there. This is coming from the white guy perspective, but when the microphones went away, I had more conversations about race in those hot weeks in August 2014 than I have at any other time in my life. That changed me.
For a lot of white people, Ferguson was the great wake-up call. You can no longer make believe that these issues aren’t real, don’t have a very clear impact, or that there are systems that support the way these inequities function in people’s lives.
Could you elaborate on these systems?
TL: I think perhaps the “school-to-prison pipeline” and what are known as “collateral consequences” might be a good example. Black students are far more likely to not only be suspended, but to receive out-of-school suspensions. This cycle can start very early in a child’s education. During the 2014-15 school year, for instance, black K-3 students in Missouri only made up about 17 percent of all students in those grades but received almost 70 percent of out-of-school suspensions. Research shows that when students are suspended, they are far more likely to have interactions with the criminal justice system. People of color disproportionately make up Missouri’s, and the rest of the nation’s, prison population. When prisoners are released they can find themselves caught in a web of collateral consequences which can function like interest on a debt to society.
How have you been affected since taking on these issues each day?
KS: [Tim and I] talk about this, and will probably do a show about it, but as a black person, you never get to not be black. I’m used to that, but also having to bring it into my professional work all the time can sometimes be exhausting. It’s not like I’m doing stories that I’m surprised about or I didn’t know about. So it’s just trying to find that journalistic curiosity.
TL: I’ve gained awareness, understanding on a deeper and deeper level what the human experience is in this country and in this city because of that your skin color is. The more you learn, the more you can learn about perspectives. Your capacity for empathy grows. That’s been the biggest change.