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Meet the Melbourne women using podcasting to explore Black identity and empowerment in Australian media

PHOTO VIA @BITTERSWEET.PODCAST/INSTAGRAM

WORDS BY RAHEL EPHREM AND WINTANA KIDANE

“We got a seat at the table by building our own.”

Rahel Ephrem and Wintana Kidane are Melbourne-based creatives and the co-hosts of Bittersweet, a talk series centred around self-discovery, culture and relationships. Listen to the podcast here (episodes drop every Monday) and follow for extras on Instagram here.

Let’s be honest, going through the motions of life and ‘finding yourself’ is hard enough as it is. But what happens when you lack a strong sense of identity and you rarely feel genuinely represented in society?

Writer, best-selling author and public speaker Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once said, “If we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.” This is generally how stereotyping works.


Want to read more about how others navigate the world? Try our Life section.


For the most part, the repertoire of descriptors for people of colour and – more specifically – Black people are never flattering. We see and hear overplayed stereotypes about us being ghetto, unprofessional, violent, hypersexual, too loud and too opinionated.

In our real-life existences, these stereotypes manifest in many forms. Not only do they have significant impacts on the way we’re perceived by the wider public, but they’re also heavily internalised. And that’s where the danger of a single narrative lies.

As Black women living in Australia, we never truly felt represented in the mainstream media. When people think of Australians, they automatically think of the ‘beach babe and surfer boy’ tropes. But can you blame them?

That’s the level of visual representation we’re given. The problem is that this leaves a significant part of Australia’s diverse population out of the conversation, a statement that ultimately says ‘We know you exist, but your stories aren’t relevant enough to be seen in the mainstream media’.


A couple of years ago, we met in London. We were each on our own journeys of exploration – studying, working and travelling around Europe in the periods in between. So how do two women – both from the Western suburbs of Melbourne – meet for the first time halfway across the world and go from strangers to hosting a podcast together?

Like most young people deciding to live overseas, we were in search of an inspiring and eye-opening experience in London. But for us, this wasn’t the cliche hostel ‘self-discovery’ trip – this experience opened our eyes to the different ways Black people were unapologetically taking up spaces and to the endless possibilities of what could exist in Australia.

For the first time, we truly felt represented. We felt that the conversations we were having behind closed doors – conversations about our hair, microaggressions we deal with regularly, feeling underrepresented and misunderstood – were the conversations being facilitated in the world around us. The only difference? They weren’t happening under the private shade of a coffee catch up or wine night. These conversations were being held in public spaces, on live panels, on radio and on podcasts.

Black people and other ethnic minorities are often told that we need to work twice as hard to be acknowledged in White environments, which can be extremely taxing on our mental wellbeing. These spaces gave us what we needed the most – the power to realise that our existence was enough and that simply showing up and being present was enough.


Empowered by this, we made it our mission to create a space for Black women, by Black women. We started our podcast Bittersweet, devoted to authentically representing our stories and the unique journeys of people of colour living in Australia. Sitting on the couch, we began recording our first handful of episodes on our mobile phones, using skills we learnt from YouTube tutorials to edit episodes and distribute content, while also working and studying full time.

Ultimately, our purpose was to create a space we wanted our younger selves to have and most importantly, a space to create a sense of community. We draw most of our inspiration from the people around us – our conversations are influenced by friends, family and our wider circles. We understand the value community brings to the table, which is why we’ll always strive to create and preserve it.

Bittersweet has provided both of us with the opportunity to take control of our narrative – we got a seat at the table by building our own. We started as young Black women struggling to fit into spaces that simply were not created for us. We now not only love and celebrate our own Black identity but have created a platform to recognise the accomplishments of people of colour through authentic representation.

It’s been an incredible journey so far; one that we both hope inspires other young people struggling to fit in to connect, forge their own paths and embrace their individuality. It starts with us.

Listen to the Bittersweet podcast here (episodes drop every Monday) and follow for extras on Instagram here.

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