By Kiana Kisino, Contributing Writer
Posted 10:30 AM EST, Sat., Nov. 12, 2016
The Cathy Hughes School of Communications has produced a weekly hour-long series of documentaries about a range of issues, including health care, arts, and politics. “From the Archives” includes footage from Howard University faculty, staff, current students, and alumni, as well as from the Washington D.C. community as a whole.
Stories are from the past and present from guests such as award-winning journalist Will Haygood, artist/activist Harry Belafonte, novelist Natalie Baszile, and many other big names. From the Archives can be heard on HBCU Sirius XM Channel 142 on Mondays at 4:00 p.m. and Tuesdays at 6:00 p.m. The executive producer, Sonja Williams, is a professor at Howard University.
“It started because in the School of Communications we have a small library of programs, lectures, and productions that go back several decades,” she said. “Our thing was, ‘why should it just sit on a shelf?’ These are lectures from when we had major figures on campus.” She hopes that people enjoy the show while also learning from the series.
These lectures and productions travel through time at Howard University. Williams thought these files should be utilized. “Instead of just limiting it [the audio files] to on campus and in the class, why not package it so that it can be heard more broadly,” she said about starting the series.
This series was started on the audio and music platform SoundCloud. SoundCloud is a place where users are able to upload, record, and share their original sound pieces. From SoundCloud Professor Williams then took the series to Sirius XM.
“It’s an international outlet. Sirius XM can be picked up in the United States, but online it can be heard anywhere,” she said. “It’s a way for students and alumni to get their production’s exposure.”
Harry Belafonte, singer, songwriter, actor, and social activist, was brought to campus for a lecture. Students went to the event to record it and have it played on the series.
“Bringing men and women in the media who have had a lifetime of major achievements talking about their background and how they ended up as successful as they are is what motivates students,” said Williams. “We honor industry exemplars as well as students with the best work.”
Kyle Murdock, who is also a professor at Howard University, is the creator of Mouths of the Mecca, that is a part of From the Archives.
“The idea came from a student and I, we were both listening to a podcast on NPR called ‘Snap Judgment,’” said Murdock. “It focused on people sharing stories- they were told through sound, like music and sound effects. He says to me, ‘We should do something like that, but based on the students here at Howard.’”
Murdock was once a student at Howard and worked very closely with Professor Williams. His first job after graduation was at the XM station, before it was Sirius XM, so he knew the sound they were looking for to be on the radio. At the time that Mouths of the Mecca was starting, he worked at the station in the basement of the School of Communications. He pitched the idea to Professor Williams and she then pushed it to the radio station.
Mouths of the Mecca is a show where Howard students were interviewed to talk about their experiences here at Howard. The goal of Mouths of the Mecca was to share the stories and experiences of current students from Howard University. By combining different stories from them and having them on one show is what made Mouths of the Mecca unique.
The pilot episode on From the Archives was a show called “How Black is your Black,” a show that highlighted four students at Howard, one of which, included Murdock. It talks about the experiences of Howard students being Black or misinterpreted as another race.
“My story had to do with my look, because people always think I’m Hispanic. It depends how I look, I’ve got a really interesting look, I’ve been told,” Murdock said. “I told my story about how my Spanish professor here at Howard thought I was Latino. During my exit interview for the class, he started to talk to me like I was a Native, and I had to tell him I’m not. But, the stories on ‘How Black is your Black’ talks about the misinterpretations of being another race.”
The series exemplifies the talent of students in the School of Communications. The students from the School of Communications are the people who bring together the show. Graduating senior Jamahn Warren-Bey was an executive producer behind Mouths of the Mecca.
“This show has been up and coming for three years now,” he said. “I joined Mouths of the Mecca, as a host after meeting with Professor Murdock.”
The soon to be graduate is anticipating the show growing and having an even larger audience. He is hoping that he can still help with the development as the show grows and even when he’s an alumnus.
“I hope to continue to be a part of the show and with the development as the show goes on, even after I graduate,” Warren-Bey said. “I simply want to be a part of the growth of the show from continuing to brainstorm with Professor Murdock on how to teach SOC [School of Communications] students how to conduct interviews and come up with topics.”
To hear “How Black is your Black” or anything more from Mouths of the Mecca, here’s a link to their SoundCloud and Instagram feed: