Creators of a new podcast are unpacking black identity

The World
Leila Day (left) and Hana Baba (right), co-hosts of the podcast, The Stoop.

Leilah Day and Hana Baba are the co-hosts of the new podcast The Stoop. Both Day and Baba are journalists at KALW based in San Francisco. They say they wanted to "start conversations and provide sound-rich stories about what it means to be black, and how we talk about blackness" — and so, The Stoop was born. 

The World's Marco Werman sat down with Baba and Day to chat about some of the topics discussed in their recent podcast episodes. 


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Marco Werman: So Leilah, you're African American. And Hana, you're African and American. You grew up here and in Sudan. And this is kind of the point of The Stoop, right? You call it, "frank, funny conversations about black identity."

Leilah Day: Yeah. That's what we're doing we're basically talking about things that we feel we talk about amongst each other, but maybe not in public. And so Me and Hana, both work together at a radio station in San Francisco and we were having these conversations, and we thought, 'We need to make something out of this.' So we started The Stoop.

MW: It is a really great listen. It's informative and it's entertaining — which is a great combination. There is one episode that really jumped out at me. It's called, "You called me African what?" and it's about what African Americans think about Africans and what Africans think about African Americans. Did that come out of your own experiences?

Hana Baba: Yes it did. You know growing up in Houston, Texas in the 80s we were the only Sudanese family … ever. In my school, definitely. In that neighborhood. And I had African American friends at school and, you know, some of them were starting to be mean to me and I didn't understand why. We looked the same. We had the same little braids with the beads at the end. These are the girls that I would naturally bond with, right? The black girls. I'm black, you're black, we're all black. 

But that's when I understood that they don't see me as one of them. And they made it very clear. There was teasing and taunting.

LD: Why this came up with me and Hana was because we both heard this term which is "African booty scratcher" and it was a very derogatory term. Hana was called that in school. And I heard the other little black kids say it. They'd be taunting each other on the playground and they would call each other this, and all the kids start laughing. But it stuck with us. We remember hearing it. Hana remembers … it pained her. So we were like, "Let's deconstruct this. Let's try to figure out where this came from. Why were calling each other this?" And and it was painful. It was super painful.

MW: Do you remember how you felt about this phrase when you first heard it as a kid?

LD: I was super young. I mean when Hana and I were talking about this, we were like in elementary school. So I just knew it was derogatory. I knew it was hurtful.

HB: But you could tell when people are being mean. Right? Like the tone. It's not like, "Oh. You are an African booty scratcher." You know? It's, "Oooo African booty scratcher!" 

LD: There's no nice way to put it.

MW: So in The Stoop, both of you take on stereotypes and preconceptions of what kids say to each other but also what adults think too. 

LD: I mean, it kind of reminds me of this conversation that me and Hana have about "the nod." Right, Hana?

HB: Mhm.

LD: So it's this thing that happens within black culture, where if you see someone black and you're in a very white space you make them a little head nod. Like, "Hey, Marco. What's up." Like a little, "I acknowledge you." And I would ask Hana, "Do you do that? Do Africans do that?" She's like, "No, Africans don't do that."

HB: No, we do not. 

LD: So, it's like these little subtle things that happen within our communities that we're trying to understand a little bit better.

MW: In The Stoop, you guys dive into some touchy subjects. I mean, some sensitive areas. But I've got to say, in this really relaxed, easygoing way. I mean, this is really painful stuff and it's personal and intimate and I almost feel like I shouldn't be listening to it. You're letting us in and exposing things a lot of people are unaware of. Like, as I said, like me — like white people. Do you ever get criticism from people saying, "Hey, these are our secrets. Why are you letting them out?" 


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HB: You know the overall reaction to the episodes is from people who say, "You know, I remember this. You know I remember 'African booty scratcher' from when I was little. I remember when my mom came to school with a scarf on her head and people teased me." But we've also gotten some people saying, especially in this current climate, that when they hear a conversation like this, that it's not the time for it. And that people are supposed to be unified at this point in time and that this brings division. For us it's like, we can't heal if we don't have the conversation and if we don't hear these harsh words — that I still hear in my community, here in the Bay Area, Sudanese, in 2017.

And so, I think that's been our approach and our response to this kind of criticism also in terms of "the secret." Like, "Why are you letting out these these these secrets from our community?" Because we think they should be talked about.

LD: The reality is, there's ever going to be a perfect time for us to talk about this stuff. We started developing this podcast like a year ago. So I I feel like there's no time like the present to be doing this. And we're trying to do it the best way we can.

MW: It's a great way. I actually have a question, because we interviewed a plus-size model from South Africa on the show last week. And I started following her on Twitter and I noticed that she used the N-word at one point. I'm just curious, how do you as an African-American feel when Africans use that word?

LD: You know Marco, that could be a Stoop episode.

HB: That sounds like a Stoop episode.

MW: Feel free to run with it. I am honestly curious how you feel about it.

LD: It's something that I thought about and I actually brought this up to Hana. I said we should do an episode on when Africans use the N-word. One, because I think it sounds a little different sometimes and so it doesn't carry the weight as it does when people use it — for me specifically. But basically, the idea of how the term is used when we hear words that are derogatory, what is the differentiation when using that word. Like that's definitely something we really want to get into.

MW: As you two have been producing this podcast, was there ever a time when you both realized that you really were not coming from the same place?

HB: Many times! 

LD: Yeah!

LD: I can think of a moment where we were both like, "Wait a minute, let's Stoop this out."

There was an episode we did called "Nice tribal wear. Now take it off." It was about African Americans wearing tribal, African clothing, like the dashiki or a bubu. Or the head wraps and not knowing where the fabric is from. And I wear head wraps.

MW: You're wearing one right now!

LD: I am! I don't know where it's from but I know it looks cute. So we were talking about this and there was an article that came out where this girl was saying, "I'm having an issue with African Americans wearing African clothing and not knowing the meaning behind it." And I said, "Well Hana, do you have an issue with this?"

And she was kind of like, "I can't say that I do but I do wonder why people would not know the meaning behind some of these things." And that's where this conversation started going. And that was a Stoop episode right there.

MW: You know I had a friend from Ghana in college — and I'm going to date myself here this is like 1980, '81 — and there were far fewer Africans in US colleges and universities than there are now. And some of what you describe, I witnessed then. But it's also interesting as I listen to this episode of The Stoop, to feel like not that much has changed. In fact, it kind of feels like this culture of not getting the other side has settled on both sides maybe. Am I wrong?

HB: I think it's gotten better. I am more optimistic and I think that shows in The Stoop talk that had, in the episode where we had Schadden, who is a young, Sudanese American lady and her two African American friends — these are millennials — they are talking about this stuff. We never talked about it. I was telling Leilah, I don't remember kind of exploring and unpacking any of this and it feels like this generation of young people in universities are doing that. You know, the word "intersectionality" —  we never went there and they are now.

Listen to full episodes of The Stoop here

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity. 

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