Taylor Rae Almonte-Roman, HRSMA Student, is one of the 2023-2024 Social Justice Mini-Grant recipients

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Congratulations to Taylor Rae Almonte-Roman, HRSMA student, on receiving one of the 2023-2024 Social Justice Mini-Grants for her podcast, On the Outside.

According to University Life, the grant is awarded to “innovative ideas for projects and programs that will prompt important discussion, reflection and learning for our community about racial, economic, accessibility, educational, and other inequities.”

We spoke to Taylor and she shared more about her project and life as a student in the Human Rights M.A. Program.
What inspired you to start a podcast? Why did you decide to choose a podcast as the platform to examine the experiences and difficulties people face as outsiders? 
After growing up in a predominantly white community and experiencing racism, discrimination, and ostracization throughout my youth, I was moved to create a space for people to share their stories of being marginalized. I wrote over one hundred issues of a weekly anti-racism newsletter and blog from 2020-2024 and was inspired to transform that passion project into On the Outside, the podcast where we talk about all of the ways we’ve been made to feel left out. 
Can you share a memorable moment from one of your podcast episodes that especially stands out to you, related to the theme of belonging? 
I have so many special moments from this season. One that stands out to me is in Episode 2 when I spoke with Dimitri Joseph Moise, an HIV advocate, activist, and educator. We spoke about bravery and the courage it takes to educate, have vulnerable conversations, and stand in your truth as a member of a marginalized community. In our very different experiences as “outsiders,” we have found such a beautiful community with people like us, but also, and more profoundly, with people who are very different from us.
What is your strategy for creating a safe and supportive space for your guests to share such vulnerable stories? 
First, I approached each guest with a formal request to appear on the show, while referencing previous interviews, podcasts, and social media posts where they had spoken about a particularly vulnerable topic. I wanted to make sure these were conversations they had had before and felt comfortable having on a public platform. During the podcast recordings, I let my guests know I can edit moments out of the show if they change their mind after filming or feel uncomfortable with something they said, which creates a calmer environment where they know they can make mistakes. Lastly, before asking a particularly vulnerable question, I usually pause the interview and check in with them on how they’d like to proceed. I’ve had great responses from the 12 guests I spoke with for Season 1. 
How will the social justice mini-grant support your work? 
The social justice mini-grant is helping pay for 4 hours of studio recording time in the Black-owned studio I use called WTF Media downtown. The entire season was about 40 hours of recording time total, so while the mini-grant does not fund the majority of the recording, it will hopefully help get some new listeners for the show as well.
What is your research focus in the HRSMA program and how does it impact or tie into your podcast? 
My research focus is on mass incarceration, the ways in which America’s prison systems are inextricably tied with racism, and access to outdoor exercise and recreation within carceral facilities in New York. While Season 1 of the podcast tells stories from a wide variety of perspectives including the experiences of trans* and queer individuals, someone living with HIV, a deaf Black woman who talks about BASL (Black American Sign Language), folks with disabilities, Black and Latinx individuals discussing their experiences with racism, individuals discussing living with chronic illness or undergoing major life-altering surgery — future seasons will specifically discuss the stories of those who have been previously incarcerated. 
Looking forward, what do you hope to achieve with your podcast in terms of promoting positive social change regarding inclusion and/or social justice? 
I created this show to discuss “all of the ways we’ve been made to feel left out” because so many people resonate with that feeling of being left out, whether in a small, personal way or a larger, systemic way. I hope when people listen to the show they feel a sense of community and belonging, wherever they are.
Listen to season 1 of On the Outside here: Website, Spotify, Apple, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts