Vermont Public is putting a spotlight on conversations about race with Homegoings, a new podcast that will seek a national audience.
Homegoings debuted in 2021 as a three-part series within Vermont Public’s Brave Little State, a podcast that uses the Hearken platform to answer questions about Vermont submitted by listeners. Myra Flynn, host and EP of Homecomings and an engagement reporter and producer for Brave Little State at the time, pitched the series as a show that would unpack “the complicated pillars of Black grief” through conversations with musicians of color from Vermont. It took its name from the African American funeral tradition.
Flynn describes the show as a way to humanize Black people, with each episode grounded in the featured guest’s art and experience. Its first episodes, released a year after the murder of George Floyd, focused on how musicians used their art to recognize and work through trauma and grief caused by police brutality.
“We’re either going to do some harm outward, or we’re going to start being sick inwardly if we don’t figure out a way to channel this into art,” said singer/songwriter Senayit Tomlinson on the show’s second episode.
Positive feedback from listeners spurred the podcast’s team to create five more episodes and stage a live performance featuring artists from the show. The station aired specials from the performance on its TV channel and uploaded them to YouTube.
After the event, Flynn said, “I was like, ‘What are we going to do with this revolution we’ve started that isn’t just a podcast, isn’t just an event, isn’t just one thing? It’s kind of a community that it feels like we’re building.'”
Spinning Homegoings off into its own podcast was Flynn’s way of continuing the “revolution.” The 13-episode season launches July 20.
As a standalone show, Homegoings will continue to make use of video and live elements when appropriate. Flynn said she hopes using multiple media will create a space that feels welcoming.
James Stewart, an associate producer for Homegoings, said he’s excited to see Vermont Public mobilize its full capabilities for the show. Vermont Public is the result of a 2021 merger between Vermont Public Radio and Vermont PBS.
“What I hope that Homegoings is is a way to be able to synergize all of that broadcast, all of the ways and mediums of communication around one voice and around one project,” Stewart said. “It’s a synergy that I don’t see quite often, and so I’m excited to have that happen for this particular project.”
New show, new topics
Vermont Public is excited to do the podcast because it feels like a way to fulfill the station’s mission while serving Black audiences in Vermont and across the region, said CEO Scott Finn.
“Our mission here is to engage a broader and more diverse audience through trusted information and stories that bring people and communities together,” Finn said. “… And Homegoings does that.”
With the launch of Homegoings as its own show, Vermont Public will also aim to bring the podcast to a national audience. For Flynn, it’s an exciting opportunity to broaden its scope. As a limited series, the podcast targeted listeners in Vermont, the second-whitest state in the nation. That focus could be restricting, Flynn said, since it often placed her in the position of a teacher and limited the show’s ability to be a space for Black people.
As Homegoings opens up to feature guests from across the country, Flynn said she’s looking forward to creating a space where they can “just be people together.”
That also includes moving away from a focus on artists, which Flynn said she originally chose to make conversations about racism easier to digest. “People like their racism wrapped up in a little bit of beauty,” she said. “So I’ve always found that music is such a great way to serve folks their vegetables.”
With the wider focus, Flynn plans to cover elements of Black culture such as homesickness, beauty standards and Black love.
“I just posted a family recipe call-out [on Homegoings’ Instagram], like ‘Give me some of your family recipes. Here’s some of the stuff I’ve been trying from my grandmother,'” Flynn said. “None of that has to do with teaching anyone anything.”