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Why We've Shifted Our Approach To Telling Black Stories

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In 2019, our newsroom took a step back to rethink how we could serve our readers and listeners who are people of color. We were well aware that public media has long fallen short when it comes to expanding stories beyond a white-centered view of the world. That August, our staff gathered around the big newsroom table, where we usually talk about stories, to vent, grieve and try to wrap our heads around a mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart two days earlier. The gunman had targeted Latinos.

As we talked, many of us expressed how racism factored into our own lived experiences. We decided there would be value in letting our audience have the same opportunity. Then the pandemic hit — delaying plans to launch a project we were calling Race In LA. We suddenly needed to dedicate most of our resources to COVID-19, while worrying about how to keep ourselves and our families safe.

Then, when the protests over the videotaped killing of George Floyd began, we knew we needed to move forward with a project that felt especially timely. Our first essay was published in June 2020.

Race In LA partnered with KPCC's events team to host our first round of the Unheard LA: A Deeper Listen series in July. Racism 101 sprung from these conversations. We wanted to create a dialogue on race and race-related issues. We provided a safe space for the community to ask questions -- any respectful and even silly or embarrassing questions -- of a panel of Angelenos of diverse backgrounds and lived experiences.

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An extension of Race In LA, The 8 Percent explores how Black migration, community and culture have shaped and changed L.A. The first installment was published in August last year on the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in New Orleans. “LA to L.A.” examined the deep ties between L.A.’s Black community and Louisiana. The reporting for this effort started in 2019 with an eye to the upcoming milestone anniversary. Like many other stories, it was transformed and slowed by the pandemic.

We hope to use our Black History Month coverage to keep the momentum of the work we’d begun and use it as a catalyst to keep it going.

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Special thanks to everyone whose efforts have made producing Race In LA, The 8 Percent, Racism 101 and Unheard LA: A Deeper Listen possible: Leslie Berestein Rojas and all of our essayists, Chava Sanchez, all of our Racism 101 panelists and question-askers, Giuliana Mayo, Caitlin Hernández, Peri Wallent, Jon Cohn, Bruce Lemon, Jr., Tony Federico, Rebecca Stumme, Daphne Liu, Ashley Alvarado.

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