It’s been seen on signs, bumper stickers, t-shirts, graffitied on sidewalks and more. “Say Their Name” has been used to bring awareness to those who have been wrongfully killed by the police or have fallen victim to police brutality.
While we continue to live out our lives, it’s easy to forget about the importance of this issue and police brutality that is so ever present. Coming this fall, Chris Colbert is launching a series titled Say Their Name, the new podcast to listen to.
Who is Chris Colbert?
Colbert, Executive Producer and Creator, began his career in audio production over ten years ago as intern and consultant for Sirius Satellite Radio (now known as Sirius XM Radio). While acting as an intern, he was working towards earning his degree from Seton Hall University and gained valuable experience as he helped create “The Foxxhole”, Jamie Foxx’s Oscar and Grammy award winning comedy and music channel.
After experiencing much success with “The Foxxhole”, Colbert joined the SiriusXM team full-time and continued to lend his abilities to the platform, helping create two eminent comedy channels, “Carlin’s Corner” and “Que Funny”.
From there, Colbert continued to climb the ladder. Moving into other roles such as Director of Urban Talk and Comedy for SiriusXM, as well as working with names like Touré, James Andrew Miller, Joy-Ann Reid, Zak Levitt,Joe Madison, ESSENCE, PEOPLE, Sports Illustrated, the United Negro College Fund and more, he’s used his media partnership and content development skills to connect with others.
This skill has turned into a passion of his and led him to create DCP Entertainment, an entertainment group catered to underrepresented voices, including people of color, women, the LGBTQ+ community, and other overlooked communities through audio and visual storytelling.
Colbert created Say Their Name to highlight and share the stories of seven black individuals who were assaulted or killed by the police while unarmed.
The stories featured go as far back as the early 90s to present day. Say Their Name is an exploration of these traumatic events through the lens of family members, friends and those who were closely connected and involved in the cases.
I spoke with Colbert to learn more about him, the podcast and his plans for the future as it relates to creating more content.
Interview with Chris Colbert
BE: What was the process like, creating Say Their Name? We’ve seen these traumatic events highlighted on the news, day in and day out, but was there a particular moment that moved you to create this podcast?
Colbert: We actually began planning for this podcast in 2018, and did our first recordings in November of 2019. The motivation behind it wasn’t any singular incident. It was the fact that these incidents continue to happen again and again in heinous ways. And even though the stories are unique, they all shared a common thread in the fact that these unarmed Black people who had been the victims, were either vilified in the media or were ignored and just became statistics.
We didn’t see where any outlets were talking about who they were as people; their hopes and dreams; their hobbies and passions; or even the trajectory their life was on before it was senselessly taken away. So this project began as a way to humanize and memorialize these individuals, many of whom are no longer here to tell their own story. Doing so through the lens of their family and loved ones felt like the only responsible way to do this.
BE: What steps did you take towards getting in contact with those who were willing to share stories of those close to them that were assaulted or killed? How long did it take to create content for all 14 episodes?
Colbert: The first families we connected with were due to my personal connection with attorney Ben Crump. He is a friend who I first met when I worked with Jamie Foxx to support the family of Trayvon Martin. When I first told Ben about the concept of this program, he loved the idea, and he got us connected with the family of Robbie Tolan. So that started things off. But after that, we did our research to find other families across the country by doing Google searches and literally watching video after video (probably to the detriment of our own mental health) of Black people being assaulted and killed, followed by finding the lawyers that represented those families.
We would then connect with those lawyers to explain what we’re working on, and ask them to connect with the families to obtain permission for us to speak with them about the project. As we connected with more families, they also began connecting us with other families that we hadn’t known about. So as we look at future seasons, I anticipate the majority of the people we feature will come from this network of families that we’re now tapped into.
We began recording with our first families in mid-November 2019, and we’ll be done creating episodes by our launch in mid-October 2020, so the production process has been 11-months. Each family we highlight gets 2 episodes. The first episode is all about memorializing the individual. And the second episode is about understanding the lasting impact on the families and communities.
BE: After speaking with these families, what did you learn from them or walk away with?
Colbert: There is so much that I learned. I think the biggest is understanding how they have been, and continue to be revictimized as they go through the process of pursuing justice. Many of these families still live in the same neighborhoods and have to see the officer(s) that killed their loved one; some of those officers got promotions; some of the families had to pay the city’s legal fees even though the families are the victims. The list goes on and on. I wasn’t prepared for the extensive ways that these families are intimidated and silenced. I’m proud that we’re giving them a voice to finally control their own narrative, and speak to these issues.
BE: Once Say Their Name launches in the fall, what is one thing you hope listeners will gain from the podcast?
Colbert: I hope listeners gain an understanding of how deeply rooted this issue is not only in policing, but also our political and judicial systems, as well as how media coverage and the communities themselves have played a role in allowing these violations to go unchecked.
I also hope that the audience will now see themselves or their own loved ones within these victims. Not that we want anything like this to happen to anyone else, but when we can humanize these people, it becomes relatable to our own lives, and that can create more action for change.And then we hope that through the perspective of these stories, our audience will know what needs to be changed, and the tangible actions they can take to be part of that change.
Though we hope other families don’t have to experience this, we also hope people hear these stories and are able to understand the uphill battle they may face if their loved one does fall victim to this type of incident, and also the resources and support systems that are out there for them if they do. Sorry that’s way more than one thing!
BE: Say Their Name is bringing light to a very important issue, but work to keep the conversation going will need to continue. In what ways do you think we can collectively continue to push for change and reform as we continue this fight against police brutality?
Colbert: The biggest is focusing on your local city/town and state. I’m simplifying this a bit, but you have the Police Chief and the District Attorneys who respectively control police accountability. Those people are either elected or put in place by the Governor, who is an elected official.
You then have City Council Members that are elected, and they control the possible settlements against the city. So those people right there have a lot of power in terms of stopping these situations, and getting indictments and convictions when something does happen. So we need to hold those elected officials accountable, and immediately vote out those who are working against their own citizens.
BE: Creating any platform has its challenges. But since creating DCP, what has been the greatest reward? Is there a particular story you can share that you think about when the going gets rough that pushes you to keep going and creating?
Colbert: I can’t fully call it a reward yet, but working on this Say Their Name project, and the impact I know it will make, is the biggest reward I can think of. The encouragement and thanks that we get from the families because of the level of care that we’ve taken in presenting their stories responsibly, has been energizing for me.
Our goal is to raise at least $1 Million for each family, in the hopes of it helping them move out of the home their loved one was killed in, pay their medical bills, get counseling, pay off their legal bills, fund foundations, create community centers (the list goes on and on for what these families want to use this money for). So when we hit that number, I’ll feel like we’ve done something BIG, not only for these families, but their communities.
BE: Are there any other forms of content (videos or podcasts) that you are working on releasing in the future that highlight different stories happening in our communities?
Colbert: Yes we are. I’m not yet able to talk about specifics for the series that will premiere in early 2021 on the heels of Say Their Name, but it will be a program that will be rooted in the impact of food in our communities.
But even though I can’t talk specifically about that project yet, we do currently offer other programs like Toure Show, Make It Plain, Woke AF and democracy-ish, that are all about getting information and perspectives that are representative and informative for Black communities.
BE: 2020 has been an extremely hard year, one that’s been filled with a lot of negativity. How have you kept your head above water? How would you encourage others to keep fighting?
Colbert: I think like most of us, I’m figuring it out one day at a time. I think the biggest thing that I’m still working on is finding time to rest. Especially for those of us who are fighting for justice, equality, and essentially our lives, we forget or neglect the need for rest. To achieve our goals, we need to take time to recharge ourselves. And honestly, I’m still figuring out how to do that with everything I’m working on. But I have great people around me that remind me every day that I must take time for me.
BE: For those who want to share their story or shine light on important and relevant issues, is there a way for them to connect with you?
Colbert: I’m on Instagram @ChrisColbertReport, but I’d rather people follow @DCPofficial on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And visit our website www.dcpofficial.com to learn more about the work we do, and how they can join us in our mission to create opportunities for underrepresented communities.