GBH’s The State of Race series, which has examined race and inequality in Massachusetts, is wrapping up its second season with a special show on June 22, “Black Joy.” Host Dan Lothian promises the June event will deliver some delightful surprises. We talked with him and the series’ Executive Producer Linda Polach about the impact of the program and how it has evolved since its launch in 2020 after the police murder of George Floyd.
What impact do you think the series has had?
LP: Sometimes we had up to 1,000 people participating in those forums. We always focused on action and how people can examine their own attitudes about race.
DL: It got people talking about these issues. It’s important to have a forum where we can really talk about race in an honest way. People have told us they have been activated to do something about issues they have cared about for a long time, but maybe didn't know exactly how they could get involved.
What impact did working on the series have on you personally?
LP: I'm a White woman, and it would be ridiculous of me to think I have any great insights about being Black in Boston. Through working on this, I've become so much more aware of inequities. I’ve met so many more people of color and listened to their perspectives. Leading up to every event, I get to have numerous, wonderful, candid conversations with people of color. I am like a sponge. I absorb all that people tell me. I hope it makes me a better person.
DL: In my career as a journalist, I’ve never pushed a particular cause or even headlined a particular cause. There has been an advocacy component to the series, which is new for me. I haven’t become a preacher for a particular cause, but I certainly have been part of a program that was taking a stance on something and saying, ‘this is wrong’ and ‘how can we make it right?’
How has the series evolved?
LP: We are now in our second year, we changed it up a bit — not changing the focus on racial inequality, but to taking it in a more positive direction. For example, we just had a show on how people of color can build their own businesses and be successful. And we brought in new partners, such as the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and the Black Economic Council.
DL: Initially we were focused on examining the really difficult challenges that we have in our community. But then we started to also zero in on what's working, more of a solutions-oriented approach.
Dan, you’ve worked in international and national news and are currently executive producer for The World. What is it like to do a series that is hyperlocal?
DL: My career has mostly been at the national level, but it’s not that difficult for me to transition to a show that's hyperlocal. As we like to say, ‘all news is local,’ so even when you're doing national stories, you want to figure out a way to personalize it, to make it local. That's how people can understand it better.
What can we expect during the June “Black Joy” show?
DL: There are a lot of ideas that would come to mind for most people — faith and the Black church, the arts, humor. And not to say that we won't do some of those things, but I'd love to bring people Black Joy in a way that they sit back and say, “wow, I didn't know that. I didn't expect that.” So, stay tuned!
Join The State of Race on June 22 with a program devoted to Black Joy, in collaboration with the NAACP Boston Branch, Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, GBH WORLD and The Boston Globe. Register here.