Ark Republic wins grant to produce Being Beloved podcast. Photo credit: Eye for Ebony/Unsplash

Ark Republic’s Being Beloved podcast series selected as Valentine Foundation grantee

Ark Republic is tackling Philadelphia women in a reentry-themed podcast series through a grant funded by the Valentine Foundation.

Recently, Valentine Foundation awarded Ark Republic $10,000 for its forthcoming podcast series, Being Beloved. The podcast is a 12-segment podcast that plans to narrate women’s experiences in different stages of re-entry. Included in the interviews will be women in reentry, and those who are involved in re-entry and restorative initiatives as they help guide those in the process of reintegration.

“Ark Republic is elated that the Valentine Foundation saw our vision to create a necessary platform for a population that often goes ignored when talking about mass incarceration and reentering into society,” says Ark Republic founder and editor-in-chief, Dr. Kaia Niambi Shivers.

Ark Republic will be collaborating with Dr. Rolanda JW Spencer to lead talks in the series. Dr. Spencer is one of the foremost scholars who has worked extensively in reentry. She authored, Reexamining Reentry, a book exploring how programs and communities treat those returning to society after incarceration; and the experiences of returnees’ in the process.

“There’s a critical part of the process that is ignored,” says Dr. Spencer. “There needs to be some type of intervention before they even return home that offers them the support to heal from the trauma of incarceration, and additional support to cope with the trauma of getting treated like a criminal once they come home.”

The podcast’s name, Being Beloved, has two meanings. One is the quest to be fully embraced and loved back into the community after incarceration. The second meaning is taken from the main character, Sethe, in Toni Morrison’s book, Beloved. Sethe deals with reintegrating back into society after taking extreme measures to escape slavery. Rather than return back to the brutal chattel system of American slavery, she killed one child and attempted to murder a second. For her actions, she was incarcerated. Though she was never deported back to plantation life, she had to deal with the stigma of her criminal offense when in the community. Her ordeal resulted in profoundly deep mental health issues and severe isolation.

Professional African American female radio host in headphones sitting at table with monitors and looking down while working in modern broadcast studio

Ark Republic’s pitch for naming the podcast after Being Beloved has many parallels of incarcerated women and the character Beloved in Toni Morrisons’s book. In the case of Philadelphia, a city that has failed a Black community that has contributed to its development, and now has some of the highest levels of urban poverty in the U.S., it also shows a gross racial wealth gap. Therefore, the stories of these women must be told.

Using solutions-based journalism, the discussions will focus on how interviewees work to restore and repair themselves as they navigate a critical next chapter in their lives. Additionally, the aim of the project is to provide an honest, but transformative lens in the lives of the women who must work through a complex and challenging reintegration. Of other importance, the significance of the podcast is that it contributes to the dearth of media stories centering re-entry focusing on women, and from an angle of agency and transformation.

Ark Republic is a Newark-based outlet that also established a satellite office in Philadelphia, employing the perspective of maligned communities such as communities of color, politically under-represented, and economically vulnerable populations. 

“Stories from the majority of the country are too often ignored, limited in scope or distorted,” says Dr. Shivers. “Yet, the ability to access information and understand the world through a familiar lens is needed more than ever. This is where Ark Republic comes in.”

The Black and woman-led startup was launched in 2017. An online, boutique media firm centering justice and equity, it covers current affairs and narrates key issues through rich and robust storytelling, innovative reporting styles, collaborative work and solutions-based journalism. Today, it is one of the few black-woman owned, full scale boutique news media organizations that even has its own comic strip series called, Black Is A Soul and three international reporters. Consisting of a diverse newsroom Ark Republic has worked with over 90 contributors with most reporters are of color and women.

The Valentine Foundation is a mission-aligned organization that uses investment funding for greater social impact beyond our grantmaking. The grant won by Ark Republic challenged applicants to develop a program empowering women and girls in the Philadelphia area with tangible results.

The plan is to start releasing Being Beloved episodes in March 2023.

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