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On World Radio Day, A New Generation Finds Their Voice


It's World Radio Day, and we're into that. UNESCO came up with the occasion a few years ago to recognize the impact of radio. The theme this year is "Youth and Radio," so naturally we turn to our partner, Youth Radio. And we're going to hear how walking into a radio studio changed things for Bianca Brooks.

BIANCA BROOKS: I search for the light switch on the wall because the room is eerily pitch black and silent. When I find it, I nervously make my way over to the gray swivel chair that sits before the microphone. The lights above the outside door flash, quiet, please, and the light attached to my microphone turns crimson red as I speak almost in a whisper, I am Bianca Brooks with a perspective.

That was the moment I found my voice. In a recording studio at the corner of 17th and Broadway in Oakland, I found out who I was. I became a storyteller of nonfiction prose, a talk radio news poet who made sense of the world by serving up the issues with the objectivity of John Burns, the narrative smoothness of Vin Scully and a wit all my own. Behind the thick, steel doors and layers of foam padding that resembled those of an insane asylum, I found my sanity. The juxtaposition of the studio with where I come from is like night and day. To many of my teachers, I was the smart aleck. I was the 10-year-old hellion. I was told to face the corner and remain silent. But they had already lost me because I realized at a very young age that people aren't made to be silent.

So in the recording studios at 17th and Broadway, I speak. I speak for the women in the sweatshops of Bangladesh. I speak for the students of color underrepresented in the AP system. I speak for women who choose not to wear brassieres, and I speak at the defense of young Republicans who really have better intentions than MSNBC often portrays. But most of all, I speak for myself. I sit in the studio and summon up that 10-year-old hellion inside of me. I channel that same girl whose mouth moves quicker than her mind, who will never be satisfied with answers she doesn't find for herself, the girl who leans in, clears her throat and says loudly and proudly, I am Bianca Brooks.

MARTIN: Bianca Brooks is a reporter and commentator for Youth Radio. She's currently a student at Columbia University in New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bianca Brooks