Getting to the Root of it with Venus Roots

22 Episodes

By: niki franco

join niki franco (venus roots), a community organizer, writer, and facilitator of spaces for collective study, as she leans into conversations of radical truth-telling with artists, theorists, and organizers living in a world of rigid binaries and multiple truths. she navigates the urgency of solidarity, ancestral preservation, and dismantling systems of oppression that inform and deform our lives. @venusroots

2nd Year Anniversary Special, with Mimi Zhu
Last Friday at 2:11 PM

In this celebratory episode, Niki rings in the second anniversary of the podcast by getting into conversation with fellow gemini Mimi Zhu, writer and author of the forthcoming Book, Be Not Afraid of Love. The two discuss the realities that become more possible through storytelling for communities of color, the co-opting necessitated by corporate campaigns such as Stop Asian Hate and Pride, and the ways in which grief, loss, and migrant narratives all create openings for transformation and abolitionist values. 

Mimi's work explores themes of survival, queerness, alternate worlds rooted in interdependence/kinship/solidarity. Their work has b...

Connection in a Digital World, with Annika Hansteen-Izora

In this episode, Niki interviews Annika Hansteen-Izora, an art director, poet, and designer. The two reckon with the interests (profit, militarism, white supremacy, ableism - to name a few) that dictate social media platforms, algorithms, and the digital world at large, in a time where we are all spending hours on end on apps. Drawing from Afro-Futurism, Afro-Nowism, and speculative fiction, the two envision what communities centered in care and safety may look and feel like. 

Annika is currently the Creative Director of Design and UI at Somewhere Good, a new social media platform that centers people o...

Won't Work Love You Back, with Sarah Jaffe

In this episode, Niki interviews Sarah Jaffe, labor journalist and author. The two discuss Sarah's new book, Work Won't Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted and Alone, which offers historical context on the gendered, racialized, and capitalist history impacting workers, families, and what kind of labor society deems as valuable or not. In this conversation, the two also discuss recent examples of workers resisting, organizing, and shifting the terrain for labor in response to COVID-19 and they challenge the notion that: if you love what you do, you won't work a day in your...

The Role of An Artist and Cultural Worker, with Fresco Steez

In this episode, Niki interviews Fresco Steez, a cultural engineer and organizer who has designed countless slogans, visuals, and communications that center the notion of being Unapologetically Black. In this conversation, the two discuss the role of artists and cultural workers in revolutionary struggles, the potential and necessity behind popularizing radical ideas, and the two get vulnerable around commitments to agitate and organize whenever possible.

Abolition and A New Administration, with Derecka Purnell

In this episode, Niki interviews Derecka Purnell, an abolitionist writer, organizer, lawyer. Derecka works to end police and prison violence by providing legal assistance, research, and trainings to community based organizations through an abolitionist framework. In this conversation, the two discuss the limits of identity politics, why anti-capitalism and abolition go together, lessons from the 2020 uprising and what's ahead under a new administration.

Embodying Our Abolitionist Dreams, with adrienne maree brown

In this episode, Niki interviews adrienne maree brown, the author of Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good and Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds. In this conversation, the two discuss what it means to embody abolitionist values, strategies for discerning differences in movement work, boundaries on and offline, moving towards generative conflict more effectively, adrienne's new book, We Will Not Cancel Us, and dreamy longings for 2021.

How To Do Nothing, with Jenny Odell

In this episode, Niki interviews Jenny Odell, author of NYT bestselling book, How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy. The two discuss divesting from the act of personal branding on social media, bioregionalism and re-connecting to the living ecosystems that surround us, the danger behind privatization of public and outdoor spaces, and the racial and class dynamics of leisure and who has access to it.

Let's Talk Cuba, with Liz of Belly of The Beast

In this bilingual interview, Niki interviews Liz of Belly of the Beast. The two discuss the US blockade on Cuba and its profound and lasting effect, what the US elections mean for Cubans in Cuba, and they invite nuance into the conversation regarding Cuban politics. They also unpack the emotional and relational challenges that imperialist policies have on family dynamics, friendships, and a strategically divided Cuban community.

Context > Content, with Phil Agnew

In this episode, Niki talks to Phil Agnew, former Senior Advisor for Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign and co-founder of Dream Defenders. As 'content' takes precedence over 'context' for the sake of social media likes and mass re-tweets, the two discuss the nuances of building political power, the necessity to prioritize slow and steady work over urgency, mental health, and which seeds of optimism they're sowing these days.

Like a Bird, with Fariha Róisín

In this episode, Niki interviews Fariha Róisín, a Bangladeshi multidisciplinary artist, writer, podcaster, and poet. In light of Fariha's debut novel launch, Like a Bird, the two discuss the commodification of trauma, queerness and Islam, and the ongoing work of healing familial and ancestral wounds.  Fariha's work has been featured in Vogue, PAPER, Nylon, Huffington Post, and elsewhere. Her new novel, Like a Bird is out September 15th. Order here.

We Can't Win Unless We're Organized, with James Lopez

In this episode, Niki interviews James Lopez, Executive Director at Power U Center for Social Change. Grounded in an organizing tradition and a leftist framework, the two discuss what it means for "defund the police" to go mainstream, the benefits and limitations of social media politickin, and what is needed to win meaningful material social change.

Unpacking Black Capitalism, with Francisco Perez

In this episode, Niki interviews Francisco Perez aka Platanomics, a Black solidarity economy activist, educator, and researcher currently pursuing a PhD in economics. In this interview, the two unpack Black capitalism, how buying Black unfortunately won't free us, and how this crisis offers us some openings for transformation. The conversation attempts to answer "whose concerns does Black capitalism actually speak to?"

Being a Lowkey Superstar, with Kari Faux

In this episode, Niki interviews Kari Faux, a multidisciplinary artist, rapper, and producer. The two get vulnerable and real about the impact of social media, the conflation of visibility with fame and financial security, and the power that having supportive friends and family has on our mental health. Through this candid conversation, Kari talks about the pressures of living in LA, the creative process behind producing and writing music, and how artists are more than 'aesthetic packages' up for consumption.

Cannabis Politickin, with Mennlay Golokeh Aggrey

In this quarantine episode, Niki interviews Mennlay Golokeh Aggrey, a multidisciplinary cannabis entrepreneur, artist, and writer. Gushing in their shared gemini curiosity, Niki and Mennlay discuss the politics of weed, the hype moment of CBD, ancestral wisdom present in food, and how the African Diaspora is expansive and in every corner of the world.

Mother's Day Special: Challenging Oppressive Ideas of Motherhood, with Cynthia Cervantes Gumbs

In this quarantine episode, Niki interviews Cynthia Cervantes Gumbs, creative director and co-founder of Maroon World. As COVID-19 begins to shift perspectives around the indispensable value of childcare labor and reproductive work, Niki brings in Cynthia for a fresh perspective on what it means to be an artist, a mother, and an emerging voice in the creative world - with all identities coexisting in harmony. They discuss the myths and hangups around pregnancy and motherhood in an era of white-washed feminism and all-time-high capitalist pursuit. Most importantly, they talk through their shared understanding of how much trauma our generation has...

Talkin' Music Industry and Music as a Tool of Solidarity, with Doris Muñoz

In this quarantine episode, Niki interviews Doris Muñoz, founder of Mija Mgmt, representing some of the top emerging Latinx artists. At 23, she took indie artist Cuco from backyard shows to Coachella in just one year. Understanding that representation is not enough for improving the material conditions for immigrants, she started Solidarity for Sanctuary, a concert series that connects undocumented families to grassroots organizations. Through this candid and vulnerable conversation, they discuss the criminalization of communities, the burden of high expectations of success placed on the children of immigrants, and where the music industry must do better.

Getting Real About the Art World and Social Media, with Decolonize This Place

In this quarantine episode, Niki interviews Marz and Amin of Decolonize This Place, a collective of organizers, artists, and cultural workers in NYC who have led actions of solidarity with Palestine, Black Liberation, and decolonizing the land NYC landlords profit off of. Some of their most notable actions have been against museums across NYC in hopes of holding them accountable. As COVID19 heightens the crisis of disaster capitalism, they discuss some sobering assessments of the moment, the role of artists in this struggle, and truths for all of us to consider as we strive for a taste of freedom.

A World Free of Cages, Walls, and Chains, with Maya Ragsdale

In this episode, Niki interviews Maya Ragsdale, a Harvard Law graduate and abolitionist movement lawyer in Miami who works to abolish jails, prisons, and police and create alternatives to exploitative and harmful institutions. Reckoning with their shared goal of envisioning a world free of cages and walls, they discuss the current state of the carceral state, the ins and outs of legal proceedings hidden from the public, and the possibilities we have for a new world that centers healing and fulfilling people's needs.

Tracing Ancestral Wisdom through Food, with Kia Damon

In this episode, Niki interviews Kia Damon (@kiacooks), an emerging multifaceted Chef and the Culinary Director for Cherry Bombe. They discuss what it means to be self-taught, young, gifted, queer, and Black in an industry with harsh labor expectations and a culture that particularly de-prioritizes self care and mental health. Tracing ancestral wisdom through food, Kia offers a unique perspective into the culinary world and what is possible when we step out of the rigid eurocentric and capitalist box of "success" and "validation".

Chipping Away at the Toxicity of the Fashion Industry, with Becca McCharen-Tran

In this episode, Niki interviews Becca McCharen-Tran, queer fashion designer and founder of Chromat (a swim and bodywear brand known for its powerful garments that fit all bodies). Recognizing the impact of cultural institutions, they discuss the inherent white supremacist nature of the fashion industry, pick apart the contradictions of the new trends of "body positivity" and "inclusivity", and highlight different designers who are centering conversations of race, police brutality, and the carceral state.

Art and Organizing as World-Making, with Zaina Alsous

In this episode, Niki interviews Zaina Alsous, a Palestinian, abolitionist poet, and movement worker in Miami. Processing the urgency of the current carceral and climate crisis, they discuss potential interventions to resist and disrupt fascism, within an analysis of settler colonialism, and the power of new language as a means to world-making and envisioning social and political possibilities.

The Era of Radical Online Art Collectives, with Mars

In this episode, Niki interviews Mars, founder of Art Hoe Collective, a globally-renowned QTPOC collective of young artists that helped catalyze the movement of online creative collectives back in 2015. Navigating the nuances of commodification of bodies of color; they discuss exploitation of trauma, the precarity of the gig economy, the invisibility of creative labor by femmes of color, and the effects of radical rhetoric becoming mainstream. Art Hoe Collective has been featured in PAPER Magazine, Dazed, Teen Vogue, ESSENCE, i-D, Nylon. Music courtesy of Magic City Hippies @venusroots