Jazmin Kopotsha | Culture Writer | Friday, 3 March 2017

Meet The Melanin Millennials, Two Young Women Getting Real About The Black British Experience

Meet The Melanin Millennials, Two Young Women Getting Real About The Black British Experience

The Debrief: We caught up with the brilliant Satia and Imrie to talk about what it really means to be a Melanin Millennial

We've all watched podcasts get increasingly popular over the last couple of years, and to be fair, it hasn't been much of a surprise. There’s a really specific type of intimacy that comes with listening in on other peoples conversations. It all gets very personal very quickly and which has a lot to do with why we bother going back for the next episode. 

But what about when you don’t feel part of the conversation? Or when the experiences you hear about aren't actually all that relatable? Having trawled through the podcasts out there, an area of the media that is predominantly white, much like many young black women in the UK Imrie Morgan and Satia Sa Dias didn’t see themselves represented. So, they started one of their own. 

'Now we're seeing people tweeting out asking if anyone knows any black British podcasts, and that just wasn't a search term before', Imrie explains. 'I think my search was "what's the British version of The Read"... and there wasn't one'. 

Melanin Millennials was born in December 2015 and now Imrie and Satia are two of the long awaited voices of young black women making a big impression on the podcasting scene. 

Hosted on the ShoutOut network, the show is about as honest as honesty get's and it's so SO good, you guys. With segments like Side Eye Of The Week and Black Twitter, Imrie and Satia share their no holds barred IRL conversations about what's going on in the world in a way that finally addresses what it's like to be a young black woman in the UK right now. 

We wanted in on the convo, so we sat down for a chat with both Imrie and Satia about what it really means to be a Melanin Millennial.  

Hi guys! So, why did you start the Melanin Millennials podcast? Was this something you specifically set out to do?

Satia: I never dreamt of doing a podcast! I’d never heard of it, didn’t listen to them, so it was more of Imrie’s idea! It all happened really fast, though. All the ideas started coming through and within the space of a month we got it all down. We didn’t have any followers or anything - we were virtual unknowns, but I think our vision for Melanin Millennials was quite clear. It's quite narcissistic but we make the content that we would want to consume. 

I don’t think that’s narcissistic at all! When there’s a huge gap in the market and so many people, myself included, who feel unrepresented, I think what you’ve done is really valuable. How would you explain your experiences as young black British women?  

Satia: We found the black British experience is quite narrowly defined and we don’t really fit into it. I guess we dip in and out but we never saw ourselves represented. We’re both university graduates, I’m into politics, Imrie’s into mental health care. Identity-wise, I’ve always known what I’m about and when people have said you’re weird, I’ve been like, okay, that’s cool. I don’t want to be like you anyway. 

Imrie: I was very much part of that generation when you’d be called ‘coconut’ and I’ve always been like ‘erm, but I’m not’. So, I thought if I'm not going to be in this category, if you can’t see yourself in me or relate to me in anyway (and that's coming from my own community) there’s bound to be people out there who feel the same way. 

Millennials are under a lot of pressure and it’s a particularly hard time to grow up. How have you guys felt that in your own lives? 

Satia: I took a five-year break from adulting! I ran away and moved abroad. There’s a pressure on young people to figure out what they want as early as possible and I think you need a bit of life experience before you can do that. 

Imrie: I think my biggest pressure has been feeling like I’m constantly ‘on’, but I think that’s more down to it being a digital age. As young people, we’re all entrepreneurial and running a side project or blogging or YouTubeing or trying to craft this personality online - we’re always trying to be present, and I find that very taxing on my mental health. Those kind of burdens are really intense but I don’t think people talk about it enough. 

Do you think that experience is felt differently by young black women in particular? 

Imrie: It’s a really weird space that we’re in, and I feel like there’s a lot of pitting women against each other, especially black women.

What we do with Melanin Millennials is make it okay to be who you are. It’s okay to agree with us, it’s okay to disagree with us, it’s okay to like this particular thing. And I think it opens up the channels of communication because we have a lot of people who we wouldn’t have necessarily said would listen to the show listen in thinking it was going to be one thing and then it’s been something completely different. 

Is there anything you've really wanted to explain about what it actually means to be a black British woman in 2017? 

Satia: If I was going to break it down, first of all, what is Britishness? My parents emigrated and then we emigrated again and I definitely feel more like a Londoner; I don’t know if British is a bit too big for me. In terms of being a black British woman, though, I just think there’s this invisibility to it. I don’t really see myself in the media, and even when you do see

I don’t really see myself in the media, and even when you do see yourself in people like Diane Abbot and Dawn Butler, it’s quite problematic when we take up those spaces. Sometimes there’s backlash and you get questioned for being there. So, it’s still not quite as tolerant and embracing as I think British people would like to make you think. I think there's always going to be a 'first black woman' to do something. We're still at that phase. 

Imrie: I don’t feel like 'black British woman' is a label I would’ve given myself. I can see why it exists. I feel like we’re basically invisible like Satia said. We’re people that just kind of fall into the background. I want to be really positive about what that means but I don’t have anything positive to say about what it means in this country right now, and that’s really quite sad because I’m generally quite optimistic.

Because of how invisible we are, there's no one that we can really look to and I think in a lot of our own spaces that we do manage to occupy, we kind of also seem to get erased. I think to be a black British woman is to be a woman of colour and it’s actually just to be lumped in. I don’t think we stand out in a lot of ways. There are a lot of people pushing to change that but that hasn’t seeped into the mainstream at all. I wish I had a more positive outlook.

You’re touring at the moment which is exciting! So, what’s next for the podcast? 

Imrie: We both started it not knowing where we wanted to be because there was no benchmark. So we are still kind of at the mercy of the listenership across the UK growing. And also people becoming more aware of podcasts in general. I think my overall vision is just to keep it going because I know it’s now bigger than me. So, even if I wanted to quit, I feel responsible to these people who have come with us on this journey. It’s really cool to have a group of people who are supporting you all the way and I do feel like, yes I do want to keep it going for them.

I’ve always had this weird vision of it being like Skins where the cast just changes after a while! Like I see it as more of a movement now which sounds so hyperbolic but we’re bringing on so many different guests with so many different opinions that are so vastly different to our own, and that's so important.

Satia: And it changes the way we think too because we’re learning as well. 

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