Black Media & Storytelling (w/ Meesha Brown)

Zach sits down with Meesha Brown, president of PCI Media, on this week’s Real Talk Tuesday episode. By combining the power of storytelling and technology, PCI Media inspires action for a healthier, more sustainable and just world. Check the links in the show notes to connect with Meesha & learn more about PCI Media!

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TRANSCRIPT

Zach (01:00): What’s up y’all it’s Zach with Living Corporate. And listen, if you’re listening to this in real-time, you’re listening to this in the fall in October, and typically depending on your schedule at your job, this is typically when you start getting ready for your annual performance reviews. Or you’re thinking about your year and what you’ve been able to accomplish in this year. Because honestly, frankly, October is like the last month where work really happens. Cause you gotta think about in November, it’s like half of that month is gone cause you got Thanksgiving and people in and out. And then December, just forget about it. Like people are taking off and then, you’re really not really picking up work for real until mid-January. At least, that’s how it was when I was a consultant, is like we would work with these organizations, work with clients and you had up until about Halloween. And after Halloween, you maybe had like two or three weeks, and even those weeks were like maintenance weeks. They weren’t really like you really getting into it.

(02:02): And I think that’s just true. Even in education, we’re starting to get ready for the holiday break. And so, I bring all this up to say, as you think about your efforts this year, as you think about what you’re able to accomplish, make sure that you honor yourself by giving yourself credit for what you were able to do. There’s going to be plenty of people who tell you, oh, give some justification as to why what you were doing or what you did, was not up to snuff or was not as impactful as you believe it. Don’t join in that chorus, there’s enough people singing that song. Make sure that you honor yourself by telling your story effectively, by bringing in context and being measured and honest with yourself about the value that you create.

(02:56): So often black and brown people, we work these very strained context where, we’re not really able to deviate from respectable or acceptable behavior, at near the variation that our white and white-passing counterparts are. And so, that creates tension as it pertains to just our own sense of belonging and ability to feel safe at work, which then, of course, directly correlates to our ability to deliver. So I want you to hear me that if you’re listening to this and you’ve made it this far, you have delivered impact, and not let anyone diminish or tell you otherwise. You have done extraordinarily well by simply showing up.

(03:47): I want you to really hear that, that storytelling and being able to tell your story is critical in your own development, it’s critical in your own career. And also, don’t lose sight of the fact that oftentimes, your ability to tell your own story is the biggest gap that blocks you from getting to whatever next thing you want. Not to say that racism and bias, and misogyny, and patriarchy, people just being exploited through the very means of mechanations of capitalism aren’t barriers for you. That’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is is that your ability to tell your story and tell it to the right people, if you have those right people around. Again, some of this just has to do with privilege and luck. Who can then understand your story and then retell it at the tables that you don’t have access to, will benefit you greatly.

(04:54): And so, I don’t want you to lose sleep. I don’t want you to lose sight of the fact that storytelling in this moment and honoring yourself through effective storytelling, by telling your own story is paramount for your own success. Whatever that success looks like for you. It doesn’t matter. Irrespective of how you define success you being able to tell your story, will be a critical part of you achieving that success.

(05:25): With that being said, I’m really excited about like the conversation we were able to have today, what I’m bringing to you today. That we’re bringing to you today and, clean all that up. That we’re bringing to you today with Meesha. Meesha Brown, who is the president of PCI Media. Now for those who don’t know, PCI Media is it’s an organization focused on combining the power of storytelling and technology for social change around the world. They partner with all types of global international organizations. Meesha Brown, who is the president of PCR Media, s he has this unwavering commitment to education as the foundational means to empower people, to realize their own potential. And also, just to realize the potential for global impact.

(06:18): And so, I really appreciate it, our discussion. You’ll probably hear me gush a bit with Meesha because like I think similar to Jacqueline, just a phenomenal communicator. And someone who I could just tell, like some people they come in to these interviews, and they kind of just hit their points. And that could be for various reasons. Maybe they’re just new, they’d never done a podcast before, of course they’re nervous. Some of it is like, you know, they’re just media trained and like they’re gonna not really kind of stray away from the two and the four, the 10 and two on the steering wheel. And then, there are other people who come in and they just have real authentic conversation with you. And I felt the authenticity in our discussion and I was really appreciative. I felt warmer leaving that discussion than I started.

(07:07): And so, with that being said, we’re going to tap in with Tristan first. And then, after that, what you’re going to hear is my discussion with Meesha Brown, president of PCI Media. Talk to you soon.

Zach (10:22): Meesha, welcome to the show. How you doing?

Meesha Brown (10:23): I am doing amazing. It’s Friday. Thank you for having me.

Zach (10:27): Hey, thank you for being here. So let’s just start with your journey to PCI Media. What led you here today?

Meesha (10:34): So I’m an educator and I like to tell people I’m a good fairy. And what we do at PCI media marries both of those things. We help people learn through the magic of storytelling. So, I’m in my happy place.

Zach (10:47): You know, it’s interesting cause like Living Corporate, we believe the same thing. And beyond the belief, which is valid, beyond the belief there’s neuroscience to back it up. That people remember stories, people remember you know, things you tell them. You may not remember my accolades, whatever the case is. But if I tell you that I’m a first generation college graduate, I’m a second generation reader. in my family. My grandparents grew up picking cotton in Mississippi, those are things that are vivid. You’re gonna hold onto those pieces. So, I love that. I believe that non-profit work has to be some of the most thankless work, but it often has some of the most giving and sacrificial folks. Can you talk to me about what motivates you to keep going and do this community centric work?

Meesha (11:49): Oh man. I feel like I am, who we serve. That’s me. I grew up one of 11 kids in West Texas, with a single mom. I grew up in the U.S. but I’ve carted my own water before. I’ve spent a lot of nights without things that people, and days, would consider basic necessities. And it was because there were people in my life that helped me understand a different story about myself, that I am here today.

Zach (12:22): A different story about yourself. I mean, I really segue as well, the tagline of PCI Media is, Tell A Story, Change The World. Talk to me about what it means to you, what that tagline means to you and the value of storytelling in educational non-profit context.

Meesha (12:40): Yeah. So, you know, Zach, when you were talking about the neuroscience behind storytelling, not only do stories stick better, but stories predict behavior, And we see this marketing. Like marketers tell us a story that they know is going to cause us typically to buy their product. So the stories that people believe about themselves, about the world, about their relationships with other people, impact the way that they behave. And so, by shifting this universe of imagination within people; and what I love about the way that we work at PCI is that we do it with people. So we’re not creating stories outside of the cultural context, outside of the communities, people are co-creating this story with us. And then they get to go walk into that story, and walk it out. Because once you imagine it, once it’s really in your imagination, it’s easier to walk that path.

Zach (13:36): And I recognize you sit in this executive position at a media organization. Let me just tell you straight up Meesha, the way you talk, it just feels like, the way you frame things, everything just feels like a warm cup of soup after a cold day. Or I just feel warm every time you talk. I just appreciate that. And I mean, it feels authentic when you speak and of course, that’s invaluable, but I’m just telling you, it’s incredible. Thank you.

Meesha (14:05): I appreciate that. Thank you.

Zach (14:08): No, listen, I give it where it’s deserved. All right. So now look, these past 12 months, they’ve been particularly challenging for a lot of us. When I think about the media space within the Living Corporate’s digital media network, I think about like just the ways that media has fundamentally had to shift and change. Some of our favorite shows, I’m a fan of like [inaudible 00:14:34], like a lot of things have gone remote. Talk to me about how PCI Media has adapted, if at all, over the past year and a half or so?

Meesha (14:46): Yeah, definitely. So a couple of ways. Well, first of all, let me just tell this one example. So, we’re in our sixth season of a show called, Oral Negro (Black Gold), and Intra Novice, is sort of a spinoff, radio dramas all across Mozambique. We partnered with UNICEF and Radio Mozambique and the Ministry of Health and this radio drama airs on like 150 radio stations all over the country. People call in, there’s a calling component where they call into like to share their own personal stories related to the issues that are going on in the show. It’s amazing. Seventy per cent of people are changing the way they live. Fathers talking to their daughters about sex, people going for prenatal visits. I mean, it’s amazing what has happened here in the show.

(15:39): And then, COVID happens. And the PR the production team can’t meet to produce the radio show. The actors can’t get in a room together. And this went on for a couple of months. And then we started getting photos where they are in these larger halls. Everyone’s socially distanced, masked, shielded, but they had to find a way to get together to keep this content on the air. And so, I think in all of our productions, what we found really early on, like most people in media, we understand the power of our work. And the team has been amazing in just finding creative ways to keep it moving.

Zach (16:19): You know, it’s incredible because in this season where folks have been more and more distanced, it seems as if there’s an even higher capacity and appetite or desire for stories. Because of the ways that we typically connect in person, we don’t have those in the same ways. And so, we’re trying to figure ways to supplement. Yeah, go ahead.

Meesha (16:44): And it’s like, make it make sense. That’s what a story does and especially in this time of complexity. And I just have to go on this little tangent and say, the big issues that I have about the COVID response in the U.S. Especially for people that we know have been historically marginalized and have a lot of reasons to be suspicious about a lot of things that are going on, understandably. There was not the attention given to making it make sense, that needed to be there. And so, we do need it. Everyone’s world is changing. We’re not working the same anymore. We’re not gathering the same anymore, as you said. The market’s all over the place and I think people are really craving the coherence and the comfort that a story provides.

Zach (17:28): And so you gave the example and I mean, around this trying to figure out ways to be innovative and collaborative, to keep the story going. What’s something else that you’re just like really proud of, of PCI media over the last year or so?

Meesha (17:40): So the other, and I’m going to go to East Africa again. Let’s Talk Campaign partnered with UNESCO, UNFPA, Save the Children, Staff Aides. Great, great team of partners. We were already in the middle of running this 21 country, a campaign called, Let’s Talk, Let’s End Early and Unintended Pregnancy. And we had a distribution plan that really expected people to be able to come together in community settings, because we wanted to facilitate conversation. And then COVID happened, and schools shut down across the region, people were at home. And around this issue, particularly, that creates more of a risk for girls to become pregnant early. They’re not in school, they’re at home, either unsupervised or with people in their community that are going to do them harm. And so, we really shifted our distribution strategy to local radio and a webinar series. What are other ways that we could still bring people together and engage them in conversations? So that they could figure out how to live their best life, in their own way.

Zach (18:55): You know, it’s impossible I think, to have a discussion around, social good at the structural level, without discussing public policy. And you talk about the education background you come from. Can we talk about your hopes of this new administration, if you have hopes? I mean, you know, people have different perspectives on that.

Meesha (19:15): I have hopes. I’m hopeful.

Zach (19:17): God bless you. Hope for both of us. But yeah, hopes of this new administration and what it means for community engagement, particularly for black and brown communities.

Meesha (19:30): Yeah. So, I have to start at home, you know, and PCI, we work in 70 countries around the world. And one of the things that my heart really hopes for is that we do more work at home. But you asked about the administration, so just to frame, I’m going to start at home. My hope is that, there is real engagement. People know when you’re really engaging with them or when you’re just checking a box. When you’re just having the community forum, because that’s what everybody thinks we’re supposed to do. When you’re just doing the like politician influencer video, because that’s the cuter trendy thing to do. People recognize that. They recognize in authenticity.

(20:14): And so, authentic engagement is what I would hope for. I would also hope that this administration, especially around the big development problems in the world, recognizes that relationship between like we are whole, we’re one world really. And, there are borders on a map, but really, what impacts one people in another place, impacts us here at home and vice versa. And, you know, when we think about what’s happening in the Northern triangle right now, with migration, there’s relationship. And we cannot work and set policy in ways that doesn’t acknowledge those relationships first. And that would be my hope.

Zach (20:55): Gumbo, Meesha.

Meesha (20:59): You know, I’m hoping. And I’m gonna keep speaking into these things with love. It’s really the way that I orient to the world. And sometimes it takes a little longer to be heard, and to penetrate because people respond to other forms of engagement a little differently. But, I I’m a person that believes there, there’s not a pathway to peace, peace is the way. You walk in the way that you want. As Dr. King said, the means have to cohere with the end.

Zach (21:36): Come on now. You know, so I’m talking to you, you’re a black woman in this space leading a non-profit. It’s interesting how that representation non-profit is so white.

Meesha (21:52): Yes.

Zach (21:52): You know, I think about it, you walk down the aisle and let’s say I don’t do this. I make my own mashed potatoes from scratch. And my wife does.

Meesha (22:01): Thank you.

Zach (22:01): Glory to God. But, let’s just say, everybody’s ministry is different. So you go down the aisle and you get the box mashed potatoes, and then you look at the picture on the box, and it’s got the big old pot of mashed potatoes. And it’s like, you know, mashed potatoes everywhere. And it’s like a little square of butter in the middle. And then it’s like a little dash of pepper on top of the butter.

Meesha (22:22): Pepper dash.

Zach (22:22): And that’s how I feel like, representation is for y’all, and us and these non-profit spaces. Like what does equity look like?

Meesha (22:31): Yes. What does equity look like? It doesn’t look like the current state. I mean, it looks like a lot of things different. It looks like boards of directors, is where I would begin. That look very different. That’s something that we’re working on right now at PCI Media. I think leadership is one thing, but I think across the space, we need to be asking ourselves what is the talent track if we’re thinking about non-profit work? I think of it as a vocation. And I think about public education in the same way. And I think just as we’re concerned about STEM pipelines for black and brown people, we need to be saying, where are all of those spaces where our communities need to be represented? And how are we helping people understand that there are pathways into these places? And the boards of directors are a big place where this begins.

(23:30): The other place I think, because people, the non-profit world really responds to funders, is philanthropists can do a lot of good work by making it part of their funding requirements, that diversity equity and inclusion work in non-profit organizations is part of the funding requirement. So yes, we’re funding you for this program. And while you’re at it, we also expect you to work on this. You organization is too homogeneous and you need to work on that, and we need to start holding each other accountable just from day one on those issues.

Zach (24:04): Come on, accountability. You know, I tell you, folks, don’t like the word Meesha. And they don’t like applying it, you know.

Meesha (24:11): No.

Zach (24:11): Goodness gracious anyway.

Meesha (24:12): But you know, they don’t like it because this is my theory.

Zach (24:16): Come on give it to me.

Meesha (24:16): And because I come from public education, we are big on accountability. But I think there are different ways to hold people accountable. And I do really believe in accountability with love. I do. I believe that accountability is not about blame. Accountability is not about exclusion. Real accountability is about strengthening. And if that’s not how it feels, then it’s not accountability. It’s abuse. It’s something else, but it’s not accountability because really countability is about how do we make this better for everyone. That the action that drives it.

Zach (24:54): Oooh. Goodness gracious. Ooh. Okay. Look, I told you we weren’t going to go terry long. I wanted to have this time. Let’s look at the next 12 months. What are you most excited about? Give me your top three things.

Meesha (25:16): Oh my goodness. What am I most excited about? So I am most excited at this very moment, about PCI Media’s engagement in the partnership for Central America. Which is a public private partnership in response to Vice President Harris’ call to action in the Northern Triangle. It’s just the work that people need right now. So I’m so, so excited about that. I’m also excited about a series that we are launching with the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut. As I mentioned, we’re really thinking, working to expand our work in the U.S. so that’s really exciting. And universal healthcare, of course, is a topic that’s very important to black and brown communities. But, also learning some interesting things, where people are saying, and again, I said, we do our work with people. We tell our stories with people. People are saying things like, it’s hard for me to get behind universal healthcare because I don’t like the healthcare that I have now. And if you’re telling me I’m going to get more of that, if I’m going to get more of that dismissive structure, that’s not for me, I don’t want it. So I mean, really doing this work in places that helps us to reframe the way that we think we’re going to organize our life. And I think COVID has really opened up some spaces for us to do that across the board.

Zach (26:38): Well, you know, Meesha, I got a shout out, you know, a few things. First of all, shout out to PCI Media, shout out educators, and also shout out to people like you leading PCI Media, thinking about things in non-colonialists and imperialists frames. Like that’s really important. And I just want to thank you for being a guest here. We consider you a friend of the show. And look, you’re welcome back anytime.

Meesha (27:01): Oh, please. I would love to have more conversations with you.

Zach (27:04): Oh my gosh. Well, you can’t see it, but I am blushing. So thank you.

Meesha (27:09): Thank you.

Zach (27:10): We’ll talk soon.

Zach (27:20): And we’re back. Yo, shout out to Misha Brown, shout out to PCI Media, shout out to Tristan. Thank you all so much for listening to Living Corporate. Make sure you check out the links in the show notes to learn more about PCI Media, what they got going on, connect with Meesha Brown directly through our LinkedIn, through the link in the show notes. Make sure if you haven’t already to check out our content on LinkedIn Learning. We have a ton of learning that we’re dropping and working on in coordination, collaboration with LinkedIn. It’s been a pleasure. Really exciting stuff that we’re doing there. Make sure you check out our merch at livingcorporate.shop.

(27:53): And yo, if you haven’t already, if you’re not aware, make sure you’re tuned into our series with LiveRamp. All right. That picks up again. You actually should next week, but you also, should be able to check out our blog this week, that we dropped. So just shout out to the whole LiveRamp team. Shout out to everybody, man. Like shout to like this is a season of gratitude and reflection for me, as most falls are. As Michael Scott said, I find the fall to be the most contemplative of seasons.

Zach (28:25): Oh boy, hilarious show. Anyway, give us five stars on Apple Podcasts. This has been Zach. We’ll catch y’all next time. Peace.

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