Voices of Audible: Racial Justice Listening
Audible staff around the world share the listens that are helping us process and reflect on the state of racial and social justice.
June 29, 2020
You probably already knew this about us: we’re big listeners. We listen to learn, to deepen our understanding. We listen to engage with our humanity, and we listen to find relief and joy. We listen to the creators who enrich us with their knowledge and outstanding storytelling, and, of course, we listen to our customers; they are our North Stars.
The fact is, all of us here at Audible tend to be pretty vocal about what and who we're listening to. As we engage in the conversation around equality, justice, and representation, we invited some of our colleagues from around the world to share their perspectives and personal recommendations. True to form, and from their work-from-home set-ups, that's just what they did!
Parris, Customer Care, Newark
How long have you been at Audible? Two years.
What listen do you recommend for understanding the world right now? When I think of how this world is in its current state, I think of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD. I think the title alone opens up a deeper conversation around why you still see segregation even in “multiracial” schools. There are still many children raised to be with “their own” race and taught to keep it that way. For many Black people, we sit together for commonality and comfort in seeing someone else in the room who looks like us. It is almost like a support group.
This book is a modern classic, first published more than 20 years ago. Why do you think it remains so relevant? The book definitely delves into some statistics, but the bigger idea is: How do we break this cycle of people not acting like people and not being humane towards each other? After all these years, we are still having the same conversations. I believe we all need re-education on the ramifications of the US’s racial history and how we repair the damage. It really starts at home, and this title also gives insight for those who may need to hear some revelations about the American school system overall.
Victor, Customer Care, Newark
How long have you been at Audible? About a year and a half.
What’s your take on what’s going on? As Yoda once said, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” All people—whether oppressed or oppressor, victim or victimizer, involved party or innocent bystander—have emotions. I would appeal to the emotional intelligence of anyone reading this. No matter how things turn out, we will be impacted, this country will be impacted, and the lives of our descendants will be impacted—so what kind of impact do we want to make? Is it one of fear, anger, and hatred towards neighbors and strangers, or a life where they can succeed, grow, and champion through?
What listen are you recommending right now? White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, as it helps to break down barriers of communication and make the difficult conversations of our time feasible.
Nicole, Editorial, Newark
How long have you been at Audible? I originally began working at Audible as an intern in 2012. I made the switch to full time in 2018.
What listen do you think might be helpful right now? It is never too early to teach someone about racism and systemic issues. One of the books I had the privilege to read as a child was Monster by Walter Dean Myers. One serious issue that has always been present is the perception that black equates to evil. Black people are more likely to be stopped or pulled over by police, harmed during an arrest, and/or seen as the aggressor in situations. So, for those having trouble explaining to their children or young adults how harmful stereotypes are, Monster can be a great conversation starter on the topic.
You read this a long time ago. What part do you think has stuck with you? When the main character is told by his attorney, “My job is to make sure the law works for you as well as against you, and to make you a human being in the eyes of the jury. Your job is to help me.” This was pretty upsetting to me because it showed that the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” is such a luxury. By the main character’s appearance alone, he was stripped of his humanity and already assumed guilty.
Jai, Business Affairs, Audible India
How long have you been at Audible? Three years.
What listen resonates for you on the topic of social justice? Interrogating My Chandal Life by Manoranjan Byapari. As an average upper-middle-class, well-educated Indian, I have been unaware of the situation of the most downtrodden in India, Dalits. This autobiographical story of a 14-year-old Dalit starts with his heartbreaking story of migrating after Partition from Bangaladesh, where he is just poor, to “his” country, India, where he is poor and detested—deliberately trodden-upon everywhere. He works his way up to being a rickshaw-puller and educates himself enough to be a published, award-winning writer. I actually felt physical pain and deep disgust at how badly we treat fellow humans in this great country. Now I need to translate that to action.
Was there a part you liked most? Although “like” is probably the wrong word, the audio sample powerfully illustrates the repeated humiliation and torture the protagonist had to endure: Somewhere among the trees a bird of prey swooped down on a baby bird. The mother flailed her wings desperately as her harsh shrieks pierced the darkness and rent the stillness of the night.
Sha’Nita, Customer Care, Newark
How long have you been at Audible? Two years.
You are an activist based here in Newark! Tell us about that. Newark is an extraordinary place full of so much passion, determination, love, and culture. I have attended a few protests here and they have been very inspiring and encouraging. My first rally was to honor my eldest brother, “Jay-Jay,” who was senselessly murdered while retrieving a stolen bike. We held a Stop the Violence march that all the wards walked in, meeting together right in the middle of downtown. The energy, the stories shared, the tears, the friendships, and bonds formed that day were indescribable. After that, I helped start a nonprofit called #JustDoSomethin where we put together workshops for the community to teach skills, address mental health concerns, and more. The desire to help and do more has only grown stronger since then. I am pleased that our great city was able to have peaceful protests and be mindful to speak up, call out, and let the instigators who came to our city thinking they were going to burn it down know that they were not going to do that on our watch.
What would you recommend to someone who wants to educate themselves on racial justice? Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates gives great insight into the shared American dreams people of all nationalities have and the endless struggles experienced by African American males when striving to achieve those goals. Listening to this will give you a glimpse of the concerns and additional rules Black parents teach their children that govern Black boys and men, things that many others don’t have to worry about teaching their children. If you are interested in understanding the disparities being experienced, this title will help open your eyes.
Sibylle, International Program Management, Berlin
How long have you been at Audible? Five years.
What listen has helped inform your ideas about racial and social justice? The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater. It’s an unusual choice for me because I rarely listen to YA and I usually prefer fiction. But then, this is all about leaving your comfort zone, right?
The book tells the true story of two teens in Oakland, CA, who happen to ride the same bus, when one of them assaults the other in a random, horrible hate crime. More than just retelling what happened, the author explores with compassion the complexities of the world in which these young people grow up and that ultimately enabled the crime: their struggles with issues of gender, race, equality, and social justice.
Why do you think it made such an impact on you? So many elements make this story worth listening to, including the big, overarching theme of identity and what it means to be human. It opened my eyes to the unlimited diversity in how each of us may identify—and that any and all of it is valid, beautiful, and real. I thought I knew quite a bit about the topic of gender identity already, but not only did I gain new insights from this book, it also resonated on a personal level, helping me truly realize that there is no such thing as normal, and whatever is right for you is right and good.
Omayra, Customer Care, Newark
How long have you been at Audible? Two years.
What have you been listening to lately? For me, listening really helps alleviate stress, especially in these times of uncertainty and chaos. My current listen is Honor Yourself, by Diddy! I was a little shocked because I was expecting something different, but it’s turned into one of my favorite listens. I love his voice and messaging, and I was proud of him for stepping into a zone he’s not particularly known for.
Is there a listen you would recommend for people who want to educate themselves on racial issues? Black Fortunes by Shomari Wills, which accounts for our country’s first Black millionaires. Often what we’re taught in history is the aspect of slavery and segregation—and that is important, but it’s also good to know the historical context of how we were financially stable and organized to create generational wealth for our families. My favorite figure in the book is Madam CJ Walker, the first Black woman millionaire, who pioneered the beauty industry with natural products with a focus on women of color.
Marisa, Product Marketing, Newark
How long have you been at Audible? Just over three years.
How have you been doing lately, and what are you listening to? It’s been a hard few months for all of us as we’ve grappled with the impacts of the pandemic. But the recent protests have made clear just how important it is for us to not forget our humanity and love for our neighbor. They’ve also been a reminder to stand with our Black friends, family, and colleagues, and express our support and solidarity on issues that can no longer be dismissed. Hands down, the title that has brought me solace and renewed insight right now is The Radical King, a collection of some of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most important speeches and essays, narrated by a cast of incredible performers and compiled by Cornel West.
Do you have a favorite piece in the collection? The speech “What is Your Life's Blueprint?” really struck a chord with me. In it, Dr. King makes many points, but this one stuck: “However young you are, you have a responsibility to seek to make your nation a better nation in which to live. You have a responsibility to seek to make life better for everybody. And so you must be involved in the struggle of freedom and justice.”
Marlesha, Customer Care, Newark
How long have you been at Audible? Since August of 2019.
How’s it been for you with everything going on? As an observer, it has been heartbreaking to read comments and view on various news outlets how deep-rooted and very much alive racism is. It has brought on feelings of anger, rage, profound sadness, hopelessness, and pride in how resilient we, people of color, are. For people looking for something relevant to listen to on this topic, I would recommend Born a Colored Girl by Michael Edwin Q. This title is multigenerational and represents the past, present, and hopeful future for Black Americans.
Is there anything else you want to add? I encourage us to keep the dialogues going even after the riots and protests subside. And to keep in mind that the process for healing is ongoing. Each incident of blatant injustice may reopen wounds for some of us.
Sam, Corporate Communications, Newark
How long have you been at Audible? Almost two years.
What listen do you recommend for us? The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison. I knew that Toni Morrison created insightful, stylistically and psychologically complex fiction, but I wasn’t familiar with her nonfiction work, which is collected here. She is as astute, uncompromising, and imaginative in her observations about the underpinnings of human relationships as you would imagine from her empathetic renderings of the characters in her novels.
Any favorite parts? This quote particularly resonated with me in the current moment: “Our past is bleak. Our future dim. But I am not reasonable. A reasonable man adjusts to his environment. An unreasonable man does not. All progress, therefore, depends on the unreasonable man. I prefer not to adjust to my environment. I refuse the prison of ‘I’ and choose the open spaces of ‘we’.”
Gordon, Customer Care, Newark
How long have you been at Audible? 11 months.
What listen are you recommending these days? For people who are seeking to learn more about today’s racial conversation, I love Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi. Kendi digs deep into the history of how racist ideas were developed and how those beliefs transitioned to what we see today, in a society that many people consider to be post-racial. It's essential for us all to research and understand the history of racism and how it has transformed.
Is there anything else you would add? I’d like to cite this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Justin, Tech, Newark
How long have you been at Audible? 11 months.
What listen do you think is helpful for understanding where we are now? I am a history buff and really enjoy hearing stories that have often gone untold. An audiobook I would recommend listening to is Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston, narrated by the amazing Robin Miles.
This book was published 50 years after Hurston’s death, a major literary event! What is special about it for you? It ties together the history of who we were in Africa to who we became in this country, all within the lifetime of one of the last Africans to be captured and enslaved in the United States. What strikes me so much about it: how the trials he went through as a recently freed slave resemble some of what African Americans in this country are still facing today.
Monica, Corporate Communications, Newark
How long have you been at Audible? Since 2011.
What’s on your playlist these days? I’ve listened to In Love and Struggle multiple times over the last few weeks. This recorded live performance from The Meteor for Audible Theater is, in one word, necessary. Influential Black women—including actor Sarah Jones, law professor Anita Hill, commentator Brittany Packnett Cunningham, and many more—share stories and spoken word performances illuminating the resilience of Black and Brown women carrying the burden of family, work, and community responsibilities, compounded by personal experiences of trauma and loss, all in an environment of pervasive racial and gender discrimination.
Wow. Do you have a favorite part? The opening act is incredibly moving. It’s performed by the American singer, songwriter, and rapper Mumu Fresh, who speaks to a mother’s perspective in bringing a Black son into “a dangerous world that would see his first breath as a national security threat.” As a mother myself, I was moved to tears by her words.
Not only was this an important listen, it introduced women to me that I have never known before. I now follow many of them on social media and have learned so much from them in my continuous education on systemic racism and my journey to becoming not only an ally, but a disrupter.