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New Podcast Explores Race and Racism with Vineyard Residents


A new podcast prompts Martha's Vineyard residents to take a close look at race and racism on the island, around the country, and in themselves.

The podcast grew out of a series of conversations Vineyarders were having after George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in May, 2020.

CAI's Kathryn Eident talked with host Eric Adams about the podcast: Shed.

Eident What prompted you to turn what you felt at the time into a podcast where you interview other Vineyarders about race and racism?

Adams I think the origin goes back to a kneeling vigil that a number of us on the island were attending daily following the murder of George Floyd in a Beetlebung Corner in Chilmark. And, what we were finding is that people had a lot of strong feelings around these subjects, and a lot of emotion. We decided to have some group conversations we called salon conversations where we got together outdoors. We sat in a big circle, and people started talking out loud about things they may not have talked about out loud before. And, it was kind of magical, actually. You know, people were risking, really going deep. And, it was so positive that Chris Fisher thought, "You know, we should really try to expand on this." And, so we started to just think about who might be interesting to talk to on the island. And, that's how it all happened.

Eident And, you mentioned Chris Fisher, who we should say is a chef and farmer on the island who's married to comedian Amy Schumer. And, they are producers [of the podcast] along with the Vineyard Gazette.

Adams Yeah, they're both very involved in the community, Chris has real deep roots here, and they're both very passionate about what they believe in. So, they said, "Listen, let's see what we can do with the podcast."

I had never listened to a podcast at that point and never really spoken behind a microphone. So, I was a little reluctant. But, there was so much energy with this group of people, and there was so much emotion that I was having. It felt like a perfect fit in some ways.

Eident You're a therapist, among other things, but it strikes me that you drew from your work as a therapist in crafting the questions and the discussions. Is that right?

Adams I think so. There's a therapeutic model called Stages of Change, which we've used on the podcast. And so, we started talking about racism is an illness is something you can catch that you can pass to other people. And, could we maybe, much like substance use disorder, maybe people can learn to manage the symptoms better and really free themselves from all the negative consequences of racism. We weren't really certain that it would work, or that it would even be a way to engage people. But almost right away, it felt right, and people had an easy time connecting to it.

The other thing that came out of this was trying to look at racism on a spectrum. Nobody wants to be labeled racist, and it's not really helpful to look at it, I think, in kind of a dualistic way. You know, you either are you aren't. There are spectrums where they talk about where you fall. And on one side, you're very active, virulent, racist, and on the other side, you are a staunch abolitionist.

And, most of us fall somewhere in the middle, but aren't maybe super conscious about it. This model can help people become more aware of where they are in that spectrum. Would they like to move in one direction or the other, hopefully toward a position of allyship or antiracist? And, it's been really rewarding to hear people's thoughts about it and the reactions of other people listening to the podcast.

Eident It looks to me like you've talked to a range of people, both people of color and some white people. You've talked with famous people, you've talked with, you know, what we might call regular people like you and I. What surprised you in your conversations with these people about race and racism?

Adams We asked a couple of questions to each guest. One was if they remember where they were and how they felt when they learned about the murder of George Floyd or they saw the video. And almost without exception, people got emotional right away.

So, the idea that so many people were feeling this so deeply surprised me, because this was not the first video of a murder of an unarmed black person. And, I've been waiting for this response from our country.

The other question we asked people was, do they remember the first time they heard the N-word? I was surprised that some people had such passive reactions to it, didn't feel it very strongly, and come to expect it had gotten comfortable with it. Others had really strong reactions. It was seared into their memory.

The last thing I think I would say is that, I had a phone call not long before that from a long-time friend of mine, grew up in Long Island, New York, and his father was in New York City police officer. And, he called me up and he just point blank said, "Am I racist?" And I said, "Yeah, you are. I think we all are. I don't think you can grow up in this country without being affected by racism. And so, you, Ryan, like all of us, fall somewhere in that spectrum, I think."

And, we had a long conversation about that. And, I do think that the more powerful guest in some way is the person that's more easily relatable to the person who's listening. So, it's really great to hear from Amy Schumer, she's a fantastic guest. And, Trey Johnson was a fantastic guest. But in some ways, Ryan is a guest that everyone can really relate to strongly.

Eident The podcast is called "Shed." Talk about why you chose that name and what it means.

Adams I think the first meeting we had for the podcast was in the actual shed at Amy and Chris' house, and it was a show that was a playroom for their son. It was the nicest shed you'd ever want to see. It's got an ocean view. And we said, "Well, why do we call Shed? We're in a shed." And, we started playing with the idea that shed can mean getting rid of things as we outgrow them. Old beliefs, old ideas, old ways of being. Kind of shining a light on things that have maybe remained hidden in those dark corners. So, wanting to expose racism and some of the dark things that come with racism, I think that was part of the idea. I don't think we thought about it more than the ten minutes we talked about it. We just knew right away that it was going to be called Shed.

Eident What do you hope listeners will take from this podcast?

Adams I hope they will risk challenging themselves by reading more, by listening more. I hope they will look for ways to change around this idea. You know, if they had gotten some awareness from this podcast and that awareness leads them to action, that's the entire reason we did it.

Eident And, that is Eric Adams, host of the podcast "Shed." You can find that podcast pretty much anywhere you listen to your podcasts. Eric, thanks so much, I appreciate it.

Adams Kathryn, thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate it.