By Aswad Walker
With negative news dominating headlines, the My Brother Podcast, founded by Laolu Davies Yemitan, offers hope and encouragement for the culture. The Defender spoke with Davies about his endeavor that seeks to create a more accurate conversation around the subject of Black men.
DEFENDER: What was the inspiration behind My Brother Podcast?
LAOLU: As a young person, I had innate drive and motivation to want to be successful and accomplished, but I didn’t understand the “how,” the process. I didn’t have the information, the data set of what the different paths were to success or really how to go about it. Most people tell you, “If you want to be successful, go to college, get a degree.” For me, it wasn’t just about getting a degree, I needed it to be something meaningful. I didn’t encounter professional Black men until I pledged the college fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi. As an adult, and occupying the space I now occupy, I’ve got a lot of friends who are representative of this broader sector of Black men who are not typically captured in mainstream media. Unfortunately, a lot of society has these perceptions around Black men, but they don’t understand that we are every man. We’re pioneers, we’re philosophers, we’re preachers, politicians, you name it. We’re also entrepreneurs, we’re fathers, we’re business people. My Brother Podcast’s intention was really to create a platform to share with the broader world, what we know, that Black men who are educators, who are making an impact, who are in media, contribute to society in so many different, unique ways; and to show our Black youth, what is possible.
DEFENDER: Who are some of the folks you’ve interviewed on My Brother Podcast?
LAOLU: Gerald McKelvey is really known as being the highest ranking African-American in ExxonMobil history at the time. He became controller and a bunch of other things, then concluded his career running the ExxonMobil Foundation. Someone else that comes to mind, Bernard Harris, retired astronaut and first African-American to perform a spacewalk. I’ve also had interviews with entrepreneurs like Sean Taylor who’s based locally in Houston. Other folks like Dale Lockett, who was a producer for KHOU who’s got a fascinating story, as well. And then you’ve got people from out of town, like Tom Morehead, who was the first and only African American to own a Rolls Royce dealership. Also, Rod Atkins, who retired as executive vice president of IBM. Again, a historical figure who made it to the highest rungs of the corporate ladder.
DEFENDER: So, who’s been your favorite guest thus far, and why?
LAOLU: John Jacobs. He grew up here in Houston’s Third Ward, probably two blocks from what is now known as I-45 before the highway split up the neighborhood. He went from there, a young man from the south, through providence interceding on his behalf, and wound up at Howard University. He got his degree, pursued this career in social work, started out in one of the Urban League affiliates and eventually because the head of the National Urban League after Vernon Jordan. Born in 1934, Jacobs’ story and career read like a sojourn through the history of civil rights in this country.
DEFENDER: Who is your intended audience?
LAOLU: The podcast’s target audience is Black men, and young men from minority and disenfranchised groups, who can benefit from the knowledge shared and can apply some of those lessons in navigating their chosen career pathway. The message is also aimed at parents who are raising young men, who they want to give a glimpse at the kind of future they can achieve for themselves.
DEFENDER: Can you say more about the birth of My Brother podcast?
LAOLU: The idea of “My Brother” podcast grew from questions I pondered for some time and debated with friends. “What can we do to fundamentally alter the trajectory of young Black men” and “What role can I play in it.” The answer I arrived at was, it’s critical to show young men models of African American success and achievement, and to help them understand how that success was achieved so that they have examples they could look to emulate along their journeys. I concluded that the stories of a lot of the successful people I’m blessed to be acquainted with merited telling, and that I was going to be the one to share their stories of how they created their success. It is also a way of letting people know that Black men are more than what is portrayed in popular media. Yes, we are athletes and entertainers, but we are also doctors, academicians, scientists, lawyers, corporate professionals and entrepreneurs who have achieved incredible feats. People have a tendency to couch these stories as exceptions, but we are here to tell you that a lot of us are exceptional, and it is those stories that must be captured and told.
DEFENDER: What impact are you hoping this podcast will have on subscribers/viewers?
LAOLU: In an ideal world, “My Brother” would grow into a go-to resource where hundreds of interviews of Black men who have achieved success in various fields have been captured. We would have created this encyclopedic collection of knowledge on how to successfully navigate different career pathways, and that resource in turn helps more young Black men achieve success and move our people and communities forward collectively.