Queer podcasts, which have long been a source of education and connection, have become even more imperative as we’ve spent less time together in person. The folks who host our podcasts feel like—and are—some of our best friends and when we get caught up on all the episodes of a podcast, it hurts just as much as when we finish a favorite book. So, to help keep you connected, educated, and reminded of how great queer people are, we’re launching a new column called Hear, Queers where we talk to the folks behind some of our favorite podcasts about their projects and why they do them. Today, we talk to the team behind Black Queer Love podcast about their powerful and empowering podcast.
The Black Queer Love podcast explores what it means to be Black, queer, and in relationship with other people. From discussions of polyamory to talking to listeners directly about their experiences with love, the podcast puts forward a collective vision of what it means to love and be loved as Black queer people.
Elyse Ambrose, Jé Exodus Hooper, and storäe michele, hosts of Black Queer Love, are also in a polyamorous relationship and have used the podcast as a way to explore their own relationships while sharing the wisdom they’ve gained over the years from their creative, academic, faith-based, and artistic work.
In fact, intersectionality in its broadest definition plays a big role in how the team behind Black Queer Love views relationships and love. As Elyse says, “There’s so much that makes a life, and none of it is in its own vacuum. We’re interested in wholeness and speaking to the wholeness of what it is to be human and Black queer (from our areas of knowledge) and raising deep questions and shallow ones and sitting in the discomfort of not knowing some answers and the empowerment of exploring a new idea and laughing a little while doing it all.” In storäe’s words: “questioning expands and allows our audience to think critically about how these topics play out in their own lives. “
Black Queer Love is a limited series podcast that ran for five episodes, though it may return again. However, several smaller projects have spun out from the podcast, including the Black Queer Futures Fund. Though the future of the podcast is unknown, one thing is certain: Elyse, Jé, and storäe aren’t done making the world better for Black queer people.
Read on to find out more of what Elyse, Jé, and storäe have to say about the Black Queer Love podcast and their other projects.
Why did you start Black Queer Love podcast?
Elyse: Black Queer Love came about as a result of my departure from religious community and leadership within that space, and out of my longing to continue to offer spaces of nourishment and connectivity with my communities of accountability. It also grew out of the generativity of exploring the newness of living into a polyamorous relationship with storäe (as my beloved) and Jé (as storäe’s life partner and my family). I wanted to get to know the both of them better—as thinkers, as folx embodying Black queer love and committed to Black queer thriving. I could not think of people I could have trusted more as support in offering love to our Black Queer Love family.
Jé: Black Queer Love was a brainchild of a collective intimate work (between Elyse, storäe, and Jé), an unfolding examination of our interrelatedness and love for ourselves, both personally and collectively. Black Queer Love aided us in an ability to love our body, hearts, and minds while providing content that focused on queer identity, relationality, and community. Folx get an up-close and in-depth look into our process and our capacity to love beyond belief.
storäe: i was intrigued by the possibility of co-creating with my partners and presenting a different voice surrounding the poly/non-monogamous narrative. though this was early in our family development, it allowed us an opportunity to speak aloud our thoughts and dreams towards the future. it also spoke to my love for sharing with community and offering new perspectives of navigating this world as black and queer.
Our bodies are our homes and I hope our audience finds home in me. – Jé
What inspiration do you draw from for Black Queer Love pod? What queer media or projects have influenced you as a creator?
Elyse: I was most inspired by Black queer life. At the time that I created Black Queer Love, I was researching Black gender and sexual nonconformity in 1920s and 1930s Harlem. That history reminded me that we are living that past in new ways, and that we deserve to see it. The Instagram page has especially allowed us to highlight other Black queer creatives and everyday folx to remind us we are here and we matter and our creations matter and we look good!
The Read was so inspiring for conceptualizing the podcast and thinking through format, and how we might tweak it to suit our strengths. I can listen to Crissle and Kid Fury all day! Curation of our Instagram page has been inspired by the Black queer folx we follow. Also, pages like BlackQueerJoy do such a great job of reminding us of persistent and sustainable joy; The Queer 26 does amazing work connecting community; Robert Jones, Jr.’s thesonofbaldwin page provides much needed critical analysis around race, gender, sexuality, ableism and various matrices of oppression (which isn’t always easy via social media).
A major influence for me was also my wish to have had a space where Black folx just talked and offered wisdom, where you could just feel the Black joy oozing through. I know there are people who rarely see Black queer love on tv, in books, in various media. I know I didn’t see many examples of deep and potent black queer love when I was at an earlier point in my journey of queerness. I really had to search. It felt important to create what I didn’t have and to add to those growing Black queer cultural productions. I am so glad so many other podcasts exist for building, entertaining, encouraging, stretching, and for giving the community something to feel good about. And most significantly, the feedback and encouragement from our listeners has shaped the efforts of Black Queer Love in so many ways.
Jé: At the very core of my being, I am an artist (within the style of visual performance) and this courageous practice of exhibiting lived-experience as daily performance informed my perspective on the show: Liv’n in the words of James Cone’s theological liberation and embodying the “disruption” of James Baldwin’s call to the artist.
It is clear to me that I walk in the shadows of death with an understanding: “[I am] never meant to survive.” Werk’n institutional runaways of congregations, colleges to corporations—I am called to be ALIVE and courageous. Deeply influenced by the state of Black Trans beingness, where queer life, queer survival, and queer death are sites of social and political resistance. Praise to the House Ball Culture, and folx like Michael Roberson—a scholar, liv’n ancestor and storyteller. My presence and work within Black Queer Love is a vocation toward liberation; it is an intersectional calling of being instead of a calling to the conventional ministry. Our bodies are our homes and I hope our audience finds home in me.
What’s your favorite part of doing Black Queer Love?
Elyse: Talking and laughing and thinking with storäe, Jé, and special guests. Being together and present for that recording time.
Jé: Honestly, I appreciate the different work ethic and approach to content development. Elyse and storäe were always herding me for planning purposes because I was away at school. Of course, because my nature is liv’n in the moment, I am extemporaneous regarding such matters.
storäe: challenging ourselves within the rich, at times complex conversations. i was able to understand my partners more and in that way, it strengthened our processes of evolving together.
It’s really incredible how focused your podcast is on relationships, sex, and love, yet how expansive it is in how those topics are discussed. You get into modern dating and developing deeper relationships, navigating polyamory, and learning to open your heart. How do you choose what topics you tackle and why do they matter so much?
Elyse: At times, we’ve asked the audience what they’d like to talk about. Other times, in just engaging so many forms of media, topics would just come to mind and we’d go with it. Our special guests also had things to say that we thought everyone should hear, so we brought them on.
These topics matter because, as Audre Lorde reminds us, none of us live single-issue lives. We are Black AND queer AND from the south or the northeast or live in Amsterdam or Johannesburg AND we’re experiencing different relational structures AND we’re just coming out AND we’re newly single AND we’ve been together for 10 years. There’s so much that makes a life, and none of it is in its own vacuum. We’re interested in wholeness and speaking to the wholeness of what it is to be human and Black queer (from our areas of knowledge) and raising deep questions and shallow ones and sitting in the discomfort of not knowing some answers and the empowerment of exploring a new idea and laughing a little while doing it all.
Jé: I riff off of Elyse and storäe. I courageously listen and tarry in their wisdom to contribute critically.
storäe: we also had really inquisitive friends! there is no official blueprint to be in queer relationships, and we have to experiment—figure out what works. we wanted to share what we’ve experienced—beyond our relationships with each other. and beyond relationships, how the hell we’ve been surviving.
Black Queer Love takes an almost therapeutic approach, bringing deep, challenging, but hopeful conversations to your listeners. How do you strike a balance between being real and direct and offering people a hopeful vision for their paths forward as people, lovers, and humans?
Elyse: Some of us are more direct than others (laughs). But, each of us all believe in the liberating practice of truth-telling and we all have a vision for Black queer futures. We are real and hopeful in our speech because we are real and hopeful in reality. Our existence and becoming and thriving and survival as Black queer folx matters to us. When we record, we often sit in a circle. This is not only so that we can get good enough sound, but because there is a power that comes from connecting, from seeing one another and many others within us, and from sharing a common goal of black queer liberation—though we have our distinct ways of getting there. We want that beauty and love that we feel is speaking with and listening to one another to translate across the airwaves and through everything we create as a collective.
storäe: i also am armed with a therapy background and have been an educator for 14 years, which definitely has taught me about sharing information without giving the answers. questioning expands and allows our audience to think critically about how these topics play out in their own lives.
You are clearly experts in relationships and sex—what can people learn from you that they’re going to miss elsewhere?
storäe: i don’t think i could identify as an expert, but i’m definitely curious, which causes me to research and talk to other Black queer folx about what they know. and that’s key—to be adventurous and seek out new ways of finding your sexy and look for other folx who are doing their own exploration. don’t be afraid or ashamed of asking for support as you figure out what’s best for you.
Elyse: Yes, yes, yes to that!
What are your wildest dreams for where to go from here?
Elyse: What I love about the podcast is how it has evolved into new projects as we have evolved. It was a limited series podcast, and it may return. But we are living into the dream of connecting with Black queer folx around the world with Black queer-centered content, the dream of the Black Queer Futures Fund that provided money to assist four students with educational expenses this semester, the dream of offering some good in a world that often does entirely to much to harm Black queer, Black, queer and trans folks. I love to interview Black queer folx and be in community, and would love to do some more of that around the world!
queerness dwells in radical imagination and seeing beyond this current social system that wasn’t created for us. – storäe
Why do you think projects that are specifically, intentionally, and overtly queer matter so much?
Elyse: Because we matter. And I deeply believe that queerness (namely of the Black queer feminist tradition) as a politic, has the radical potential to free us from the trappings of normativity, and its subsequent oppressions (See Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements by Charlene Carruthers).
storäe: queerness dwells in radical imagination and seeing beyond this current social system that wasn’t created for us.
How is Black Queer Love funded? (this is a great place to direct listeners to your patreon, to rate and review your project, etc.)
Elyse: Black Queer Love has been funded by Elyse, storäe, and Jé (laughs). Love for and with community drives us and shapes the ways we are able to be present for the collective and for ourselves. So, we do take breaks and move at the pace that honors our three lives. We appreciate all the support we receive when folks (Black queer and many others folks) hit us up to say what the show and the page and the Black Queer Futures Fund mean to them. It really means a lot to hear back the affirmation we put out with all we do: Black queer lives matter.
Elyse Ambrose, Ph.D. (she/her) is a black queer ethicist, creative, and educator. She is the founder of phoenixspark, LLC which provides gender and sexuality ethics consulting for organizations and online resources for gender, sexuality, and relational wellness for black queer folx. For more info, please visit elyseambrose.com.
Jé Exodus Hooper, @ethicalevangelist (they/them) is a Freeform-Humanist Preacher, Performer and PhD candidate in Interdisciplinary Arts at Ohio University. Jé is the host of Keep Liv’n, a Facebook Live program that invests in the curation of culture –a self-care as culture care. They are also the Identity and Inclusion Task-Flow Specialist at Ohio University’s Theatre.
storäe michele (she/they) is an interdisciplinary artist, poet, playwright, theologian and seasoned educator. their experimental films and choreopoems center womxn and genderqueer black folx, honoring their routes to authenticity—the reclamation of body, sexuality + personhood—which serve as reminders of how to create brave space as black queer wild + holy beings. to learn more, please visit, storaemichele.com.