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Podcasts About Storytelling: Learning for Black Audiences

Exclusive interview w/ Anthony Fraiser by Dakotah Jennifer

Photography provided by Jennifer Solomon

In the children’s media industry, black representation is scarce. “I saw a stat that said that you're more likely to see a talking animal than you are a child of color in a cartoon,” Fraiser, the mind behind the African Folktales podcast, mentioned in our interview. As a kid, Fraiser knew African folktales well, and in his adulthood, he saw what was missing in the market: educational podcasts that have black representation for kids. “It’s about the music. It’s about the way the voice sounds, the texture of the voice, even the slang… the accents,” Fraiser said. “All of those are things that can bring a familiar tone to a child. They’re more likely to pay attention because they’re like, ‘Wow, this sounds like the world right outside my window.’”

Through the African Folktales podcast, ABF Creative unlocks a new kind of representation in children’s media. Their new podcast, African Folktales, modernizes and revitalizes African folktales into a 15-minute versatile and educational experience. The podcast - which can be found on platforms like Spotify, Apple, etc. - even comes with an activity plan for parents. The idea came to ABF Creative through Fraiser, who was very familiar with African folktales himself, “I had always heard them when I was a kid growing up, but I just didn't hear many of those kinds of stories recreated in a modern way.”

His audience is not black children but really, black parents. “We want black children to listen to it. But at the end of the day, it's really about getting in front of as many black parents as possible. Because representation is so important.” The podcasts, though they are targeted toward black parents, are not only for black audiences. “The stories are not limited to just black mothers and black fathers. Any parent can listen to these and their child can listen to these and still come away with the valuable lessons for the most part.”

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the folktales are a great way for kids to learn about African culture, lessons embedded within the podcasts, and stay away from their screens. “Versatility is the biggest thing right now. And there’s a big movement among parents to get their children away from the screen.” The folktales provide education, entertainment, and a rich cultural experience— all without a screen. “We’re giving parents the option for their child to listen to something in the car, on a trip, on the train...and they don't always have to be on their iPad,” Fraiser chuckled. “It’s even more important if kids are going to be in a house that they have a number of ways to stay entertained and educated. It's grown way beyond just this moment.”

Anthony is not only the creator of the African Folktales concept, but he is also a self-published author who has met much success. In 2016, he made a bet to himself: to write a book in one month - and he did, “I was thinking about the younger version of myself and I was wondering what to tell this young person to kind of help him to avoid some of the mistakes that I've made.” His book Don't Dumb Down Your Greatness: A Young Entrepreneur's Guide to Thinking & Being Great was a success in that department. “We sold thousands of copies. I just got an email from a school in Tacoma, Washington, they're using it in their curriculum for one of their summer programs right now.” The book, a compilation of lessons to young black entrepreneurs, is exactly the book to help them avoid mistakes that many young, black entrepreneurs run into in their unique position. “We don't have the same advantages that a lot of other people have when it comes to being an entrepreneur.” Through his book and now ABF’s podcast, Fraiser came to a stark realization, “It made me realize that I’m on this earth to tell stories. I figured out that I'm here to tell stories and inspire people. That's what podcasts do. That's what that book does.”

And the podcast does indeed tell many stories— important ones at that— not only in content but in their empowerment of black people and black stories. For Fraiser, the future of the podcast is pretty clear, “We're definitely releasing some more episodes. We have a few more weeks of African Folktales, but we're actually expanding the universe. And so, you know, people can look forward to us tapping into folktales from other cultures, other countries.”

Ultimately, the long-term focus is to expand the podcast’s purpose and start instituting it as a tool in classrooms. “We want to do partnerships. We want to work with school districts. We want to work with book publishers and other children’s media companies to help get these folktales out there, but also get the lessons out there as well,” Fraiser said. “We got so much feedback from parents and even older Millennials listening. We see this as a movement, not a moment.” Before he signed off, Fraiser added one more vital thing - “Follow ABF Creative! We have more podcasts coming out this year, which are featured or created by people of color. Subscribe to our podcasts, rate and review them because your ratings and your reviews do count. Follow us on Spotify and rate us on Apple. All those things matter.”


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