The Black Mothers’ Burden and Blessing: Protecting Their Sons

My audio documentary consists of interviews of three women, all mothers of young black boys, who have had to sit their sons down and give them “the talk.” In the black community “the talk” isn’t about the birds and the bees but rather about interacting with the police without getting harmed. This documentary gives context to why black mothers feel having that talk is necessary and what goes through mother’s minds when they talk to their boys about police interaction.

I interviewed Ebony Jackson, the director of the Women’s Center at York, the mother of a 10 year old boy. Ebony was featured in a mini documentary featured in NY Times Op-Docs, titled Conversations With My Black Son. So, I reached out to the producer of the documentary Geeta Ganbhir, an Indian American woman, married to an African American man, who is the mother of two young boys. My third interview is my neighbor Carolyn Allen, a mother of three boys and one girl. Her eldest boy, 28, is currently incarcerated and she worries for the 20 year old. Her youngest son, 18, the only one she doesn’t worry for, is about to graduate high school and go to college.


Don’t tell me about my attitude!

For this exercise we had to record a scene and sync the audio. We recorded audio separately on a boom mic. I was on the mic, Romario on video, and Sekou and Marissa ran lines. After a couple mishaps in the first recordings….(I forgot to press record and accidentally got the boom pole in the shot) we got the footage I needed. Using final cut pro I brought in the footage and synced it up using slating. This helped to cut out the excess audio & video at the beginning. To find the clap I looked at the waves for a loud sudden loud noise. From there, I continued looking at the waves to match up the audio even more closely until it was perfect.

Sprouting Entrepreneurs Podcast

My podcast would be titled “Sprouting Entrepreneurs”. It would be about entrepreneurs and the early phases of building their business. I would interview business owners to talk about how they went about beginning their business ventures.  I feel that people get so overwhelmed by the title CEO that they don’t look at themselves as potential entrepreneurs. Many people avoid the idea of starting a business completely because they don’t know how to go about the early phases.

I feel like a lot of young adults, coming out of college don’t believe in their abilities enough to start their own business, but they all have to start from somewhere. My goal for the podcasts would be to inform people about how to build a business through stories of other entrepreneurs. By sharing how they began building their business I want to give people ideas of how they can use similar strategies to start building theirs. I’ll focus each podcast on a specific topic depending on the type of business each person started. For instance if a person’s product is physical we would discuss things like how they chose the design for the product, what makes their product special. If the project is a service we’ll discuss things like, “At what point were you confident enough in your abilities to start selling your services?”

I would ask each of the guests general questions like how did you come up with the concept? When did you realize it could be something profitable? How did you develop a community around your brand? What do you wish you knew when you first started your business? Each podcast would be around 30 mins each.

Episode idea: Interview with Anthony Frasier, co-founder of The Phat Startup, and creator of Tech 808 a conference focused on technology and entrepreneurship. We’d discuss how to use your own identity to come up with a business concept for underrepresented communities.

Episode idea 2: Interview with Wes Jackson, founder of Brooklyn Bodega, and the Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival. This conversation would be about being a serial entrepreneur and how to decide whether or not a business is viable.

Episode idea 3: (Not an interview) A discussion of what makes success. A co-host and I would talk about all of the other things outside of hard work that affect someone’s success. I would me mentioning things from the book Outliers and some of the things I picked up in my current read, “Steve Jobs.” We’ll talk about how the things around us can affect our success and what we can do to fight barriers to get where we want to be.


Hildegard Westerkamp is a composer, radio artist, and what she calls a “sound ecologist”. Sound ecology refers to her study of soundscapes. Soundscapes are sounds of an environment. She gets annoyed of critics who feel that her work devalues urban communities. She believes these critics misunderstand her work. A soundscape isn’t only available in “natural settings”, they can include city noises.

She has been listening to the Vancouver soundscape for since the 70’s and has studied how significantly the soundscape has changed over the years. Her work is more significant now than ever with a bigger push for good design focusing on overall experiences. Sound design is a growing field that focuses on something as small as lessening the sound of a fan in a laptop to lowering the sound of trains passing through the subway. Making oneself aware of all the sounds around us makes us more conscious of all the noise we tend to try and ignore on a regular basis.

This is the basis for soundwalks. According to Westerkamp, soundwalks are an exercise to make those involved listen to and become aware of the noises of the environment around them. She believes that by ignoring the environment’s sounds, we train our ears to block them out and aren’t using them to our full potential. These walks are to re-condition ourselves to be aware of all sounds around us.

Living in New York, I like the idea of soundwalks. I know, for a fact, that I have trained myself to block out a lot of environmental sounds. For me as well as most New Yorkers, I think it’s just a means of survival. Living in a congested city with all the sounds of cars driving by, people outside late at night, police sirens, car alarms, fire trucks and ambulances, it would be hard to sleep or think if I wasn’t able to block out that noise. Still, it would be an interesting exercise to see what noises I’ve been conditioned to ignore my whole life. It may even spark an interest for me to design a product that is less noisy in the future (i.e. dental equipment. There is no need for a root canal to sound like a jackhammer busting through pavement).

Westerkamp believes that audio recordings of moments in time can have the same effect on us as video, photo, or written memories. Once we become dependent on the audio recording we rely less on our memory and more on the physical memory, forgetting everything else surrounding it. I found this interesting because similar attitudes were held when written language grew in popularity. Many felt that audio storytelling would suffer because one didn’t have to memorize stories anymore. Now, this is saying to record an auditory experience can take away from a person’s memory of the point in time prior to or after the recording. On the other hand they can enhance our memory of moments in time by triggering a sensory (auditory) memory of that moment.

Podcast Listening

A podcast is defined as “a program (as of music or talk) made available in digital format for automatic download over the Internet.” I now understand the growing interest in audio podcasting vs. traditional radio. After listening to Serial I started looking for other good podcasts to listen to but didn’t venture too far from NPR. Going back to the problem Chenjerai Kumanyika’s article addressed on the voice of public radio, podcasts bring the voice of a younger more diverse population to audio storytelling.

I listened to Yo, Is This Racist? with Andrew Ti. The episodes I listened to were “Taking Our Jobs”, “Rage Communities”, “Equal Treatment”, “Hitting On Non-White People”, and “Success of Run the Jewels”. The concept for this podcast is that a person calls in and asks a question ending in “is this racist?”I chose this podcast mainly because I wanted to see how the hosts would answer the questions. I feared that they would get the answers completely wrong (at least wrong in my opinion) but Andrew Ti and his co-hosts give pretty level-headed responses to the questions which cover everything from overly offended liberal communities to trans/interracial relationships and everything in between. Some episodes like “Hitting On Non-White People”, where a trans man was asking if it was racist to go after non-white people because they seem to be more receptive of him, made me think about things in communities that I know little to nothing about.

With some other episodes I felt I understood the concepts a little better and I enjoyed that as well. I would listen hoping they would make one of the points I was thinking of and a lot of the time Andrew Ti did. For instance the Rage Community Episode, discussed people’s anger toward future Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s offensive old tweets. They discussed the issue of some communities wanting to tear a person down completely for something offensive they may have done or said. I appreciated this because, while the show is very liberal, it isn’t afraid to call out people in their own corner.

A podcast like this is highly opinionated and the hosts share many of the same opinions as I do. That’s what drew me to this. I also liked that the website itself had an ask section for people to send their questions and comments to the podcast host.

One of the other podcasts I listened to was “The Read”. I chose it because I was hoping the name of it referred to the slang version of “reading someone” and it did not disappoint. It was basically just a discussion of current events in entertainment with the hosts Kid Fury and Crissle. I’ve watched Kid Fury’s videos on Youtube and they are hilarious. Once I realized that he was one of the hosts I was in. The thing I both like and dislike about this podcast is that it’s very conversational. The hosts speak so freely it sounds like gossip between me and my friends. While listening to this is relatable it also at times feel like rambling. Yo, is this Racist? had a very concise topic that they focused on each episode. I am biased though because I like my podcasts short and full of interesting content packed into a quick story.

Singin’ in the Rain

Singin’ in the Rain is a classic musical, set in the late 1920’s, that depicts the transition of film from silent to “talkies.” Talkies, as we know now as regular films, are films with sound. The plot is part love story, part commentary on the early film industry. Prior to the addition of sound to film silent films were the standard.

It follows Don Lockwood, (Gene Kelly) a major silent film star, who begins to fall for an aspiring actress named Kathy Seldon, played by, Debbie Reynolds. His co-star, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), is jealous of the attention he is giving Kathy and plots to ruin her career. While both Don and his co-star are beautiful, the transition to talkies caused trouble. Lina’s voice was horrendous. This was a major issue in the early film industry. Stars that previously acted were now required to have vocal talents as well. Although Lina tried to get her fired, Kathy was asked to stay and do a voiceover for Lina. Lina’s mic was then cut off and Kathy’s voice replaced hers in the film. Don, fed up with Lina’s ways, plots with his friend Cosmo to expose Lina’s terrible voice. The film ends with Lina being found out after she was asked to sing in public. Kathy stood behind a curtain, singing as her, and Don pulled up the curtain to reveal the true talent.


Another factor the film addressed was the hesitancy of film studios to make talkies. The film showed industry professionals arguing over whether or not talkies would last. Many in the industry believed that sound would just distract the audience from the art. Once major film studios saw the positive response, the entire industry adopted the standard.

The addition of sound in film also brought complications with actors & actresses who were used to moving around freely on set. Head turning and movement caused sound levels to vary and lead to an uneven recording. In one scene, Lina is depicted swinging her head around while reciting lines. The director tries to explain that she has to keep still so that the mic, hidden in a bush in front of her, can be pick up the sound evenly but she continues to move freely.

At this point the director decides to wire a smaller mic into her dress. This caused complications because the placement of the mic made it so that her heartbeat was being picked up in the recording too. Frustrated as ever, the director re-wires her dress so that the  mic is on her shoulder. Finally, the recording is coming out clear, until an executive walks in and almost trips on the wire, pulling it…and Lina, causing her to fall off a chair.

I’m probably saying this because I know better now, but if I were the director, I would have a crew member stand with a boom mic, or whatever their  version of a boom mic was at that point, hovering over her head, outside of the shot as she moved around to catch the sound clearly.

The 52 Blue Blues

In December 1992, the naval air station’s hydrophones, previously used during the Cold War to monitor Soviet Subs, picked up an odd sound. The hydrophones turned noises into measurable graphs that came out of a spectrograph machine.

The reason the sound was considered odd was because one of the technicians believed it to be a blue whale due to it’s sound patterns but  it came in at a 52 hertz frequency. That was more than double the regular frequencies from blue whale calls, which usually come in at 15-20 hertz.

This is how he got the nickname 52 Blue. Since whales use their calls to communicate with each other, find mates and find food, this whale’s call frequencies were unusual. As the scientists tracked him, he constantly called out but no whales answered. There seemed to be no other whales around him.

Sparking music albums and a film documentary, 52 Blue has developed a cult following of fans who feel that they can relate to him, feeling unique, unheard, and alone. Blue’s story especially connected to the deaf community and the heartbroken, sparking the nickname “The Loneliest Whale in the World.”

This article amused me because it reminded me that we as humans are symbolic thinkers and extremely empathetic. To connect yourself to a whale who can’t be heard because of the frequency of his call would be more relatable to someone whose voice had the frequency of a dog whistle. Even still, we at least have sign language to fall back on. That poor whale is stuck on his own. I found it extremely funny reading one person saying they wanted to hug the whale. Considering, from my knowledge, whales aren’t exactly huggers…nor should you try to hug a whale anyway. I trust natural selection will do it’s part there.

One example of abstract connections found between the whale and human connectivity is shown when the author starts discussing the documentary being filmed about the search to find 52 Blue. The author writes, “One of the themes of Zeman’s film is modern loneliness, that people are particularly responsive to the story of 52 in the digital era—when the Internet promises connectivity but can actually deliver us even deeper into isolation.”

“Modern loneliness” refers to us being more connected than ever before in a digital sphere but still having a yearning for physical connection. We feel less of a need to go out and see friends and family because we know what’s going on in their lives via the internet but this takes a toll on us. We are constantly putting ourselves out there. “Sending out our calls” by sharing our thoughts, photos and videos, details of our day, etc. but are the most physically disconnected generation yet. This is the connection I believe Zeman sees between us in the digital era and 52 Blue. We share our lives online because we want a connection but aren’t actually experiencing true connection. Still, like 52 Blue, this doesn’t stop us from sending our calls out.

Turn It Down! Loud Concerts Cause Ear Damage

This article was about tinnitus, what causes it, what we can do to prevent it, and why we probably won’t. Tinnitus refers to a constant ringing in your ears due to damage by harmful sound waves. Affecting 1 in 5 people, tinnitus can be caused by excessively loud noises like music blasting or the loud sounds of the trains in the subway. Chronic, tinnitus is more than simply an annoying ringing, it signals other damage.
To put into perspective what kind of sounds cause tinnitus, sounds 85 dBA (decibel adjusted) or above are considered harmful. Regular speaking voices are only around 65 dBA, while an average concert is between 98 dBA to 115 dBA. The damage is also related to the length of exposure to harmful frequencies. Generally, a person can be exposed to hearing 100 dBA sounds for 15 minute before damage can occur. (Concerts usually run for around two hours.) There has been a lot of controversy over young people experiencing tinnitus because of loud concerts.
With with most people, unless we feel the negative effects immediately we tend to overlook the issue. The article points out that many artists and those who work with them are affected with tinnitus due to being exposed to the harmful frequencies for long periods of time but have yet to lower the sound. Sometimes artists and their band wear earplugs to protect themselves from harm but continue to play the music loud affecting their audience.
I agree with the article that it is up to the individual to protect themselves from harmful frequencies. Concert halls/clubs know that people enjoy the loud music and turning it down will only send their customers to a competitor. This is because there is a culture of going out to enjoy dangerously loud music.
The way I feel about turning the volume down at concerts reminds me of something a friend of mine said about weight gain. “I have the same mentality toward weight gain as I do about global warming; very aware that there is an increasingly growing problem but not really wanting to sacrifice anything at all.”
Living in NY, taking the subway almost everyday, I’ve become accustomed to lots of noise I’ve probably already damaged my hearing by now. That could be why I play my music so loud. For me, part of the concert experience is hearing your favorite songs, drowning out all other noise with people who appreciate the music as much as you. The other issue with earphones is the controversy of whether or not they can block out the vocals, taking away from the experience. Some believe that they do cut out the vocals because of the varied frequencies due to the artists moving closer and further from the mic but others say that losing the vocals is nothing to be concerned about because earplugs are designed to cut out only the dangerous frequencies.
Of course I’m probably going to end up paying for it as I get older but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. To be honest though, the idea of constant ringing in my ears IS a bit terrifying.

Hooping With Hijab Intro

The story I chose is titled “Hooping With Hijab” by Habeeba Husain. It introduces Bilquis Abdul-Qaadir, the first muslim woman to play division 1 college basketball in her hijab.  It introduces Qaadir with a scene from a basketball game. The sounds I used included a crowd chanting, basketball dribbling, sneakers squeaking, and  spinning sound to represent the ball flying from her hands into the hoop, and swish. I followed with a quiet pomp & circumstance playing as I narrated her high school to college accomplishments. The song kept playing in the background until the near end when the intro ended, signaling the trouble she had coming as a muslim woman rocking a hijab in hopes of playing professional ball. When talking about her friends in high school, I used some ambient noise of chatter usually heard in school hallways. It faded into a typing noise when the discouraging emails from her agent were mentioned and pomp and circumstance faded out. I ended with another form of pomp & circumstance, reversed and crescendoed out into a quick fade.