“Testing. One, two, three…” These are the first words you’ll hear in every introduction of every episode of “Woke Wednesdays,” a podcast that covers various social, political and economic issues in each episode.
The podcast is hosted by Hannah Mason, a 2018 University of Georgia graduate who majored in religion. Now, Mason lives in Houston, Texas, and when she’s not teaching English to sixth graders, she's recording a new episode.
The idea for the podcast came in July 2018, and since its official launch in November, the podcast has released 15 episodes and is still going strong. The 30-minute podcast has covered issues ranging from the American education system and sexual assault during the #MeToo movement to other timely news, such as the topic of immigration and the impacts of the recent government shutdown.
The birth of ‘Woke Wednesdays’
Although “Woke Wednesdays” takes the format of a podcast, its beginning was in Facebook posts, started by Mason during campaign season of the 2016 presidential election. During that time, Mason saw a lot of personal and shared posts on Facebook that she didn’t agree with, and she decided it was time to share her own thoughts.
“I decided it was best to use my voice, not to counteract the posts, but to just seek truth, specifically coming from an experience that’s often not highlighted in mainstream media,” Mason said.
At first, Mason wrote the “Woke Wednesdays” posts simply for herself, but once she started to go live on Facebook, she was surprised by her growing popularity. Soon, Mason said she was getting anywhere from 500-600 views per live stream.
Mason has always had an interest in politics, especially in the education system. Her current dream job is to become the United States Secretary of Education, and she hopes to influence equitable education policy.
A mission to educate
The podcast was created after Mason met Trey Leonard, a senior entertainment media studies and international affairs double major from Valdosta, Georgia, during her sophomore year. The two of them became close friends through their involvement in UGA Miracle, a student-run philanthropic organization benefiting Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, according to the organization’s website.
The podcast is co-produced, co-written and edited by Leonard through his own production company, LENENCO, which stands for Leonard Entertainment Company.
“I decided it was best to use my voice, not to counteract the posts, but to just seek truth, specifically coming from an experience that’s often not highlighted in mainstream media.”
— Hannah Mason, creator of “Woke Wednesdays”
Through each episode of the podcast, Mason and Leonard not only hope to convey their messages and viewpoints on certain issues, but they also hope to educate others about issues happening in the country.
Although the current target audience includes those who are politically active or have an interest in political and social issues, the duo hopes to expand and make the podcast as accessible as possible, Leonard said.
“It’s one thing to talk to people who can empathize, but I want to reach a broader audience so everyone is learning, even the people who already understand the topics and issues,” Mason said.
Although Mason is currently the only voice behind the microphone, the duo also hopes to engage others in the community and invite guests to be a part of the podcast in future seasons.
Collaborating across states
While the podcast has done well so far, the success didn’t come easy for Mason and Leonard. The greatest challenge for the two of them was hundreds of miles that set them apart between Athens and Houston.
“Long distance is definitely not ideal, but our effective communication helps make it work,” Leonard said. “We work really well together and we talk practically every day or every other day about what topics we want to cover … or what’s been in the recent news.”
Through the months, Mason and Leonard were able to develop a strong planning system that allows them to get every episode in on time to post on Wednesdays. Deciding topics to cover for each weekly episode has become a “free-flowing process” as they generally make the decision based on what’s popular in political discourse and what’s been on their minds.
“Hannah has such a great personality which led me to think that this could really gain a following,” Leonard said. “It would be great to continue down that path.”
With every same introduction, Mason always makes sure to leave listeners with the same concluding message: “Have a woke Wednesday.”