Podcasts preserve elder contributions
Howard University professor Ruby Gourdine’s first job, in the 1960s, was as a probation officer in Richmond. Then 21, she juggled more than 100 clients at a time, while her white coworkers had fewer cases and plenty of free time.
“The courts at that time were still segregated,” recalled Gourdine, senior professor at the university’s School of Social Work. “We just thought it was wrong during the late 1960s, when people were desegregating, and the courts were not.”
Gourdine recounted her memories on a recent podcast produced by Howard University’s Multidisciplinary Center for Gerontology. Produced in collaboration with the Department of Aging & Community Living (DACL, formerly, D.C. Office on Aging), the series of 10 interviews features notable Howard University alumni like Gourdine.
“GrandStories: Profiles in Aging” are hosted by Dr. Robert Cosby of Howard University’s School of Social Work and the Multidisciplinary Gerontology Center. He interviews older social justice leaders and persons in the community, who express their perspectives on social justice, aging and equity.
“People do best when they tell their own stories,” Cosby said.
The purpose of the podcasts, Cosby said, is “to share information about the contributions of older persons to our nation,” in particular, those affiliated with Howard University and the School of Social Work.
“I wanted people to embrace the idea of social injustice so that part of history is not forgotten,” Cosby said. “It’s my way of comparing contributions of social justice that people are continuing to make, as a way to build that information into a body of knowledge.”
Cosby, a native of Fort Lee, Virginia, and a self-described Army brat, has lived most of his life in the D.C. area. His family roots also extend into Western Pennsylvania, where relatives worked in the steel industry.
Partnership with the city
Howard University’s Multidisciplinary Gerontology Center was established in the early 1990s. Originally funded with a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the center had a mission to “promote the effective transfer, dissemination, and utilization of information on the minority elderly,” according to its website, “and provide information, consultation, and other forms of technical assistance to the public, the aging network, voluntary organizations and other public and private sector organizations.”
The center and the city’s DACL have maintained a professional partnership for more than 20 years. Their collaboration has provided more than 100 professional development opportunities for the city’s older population each year.
Civil rights activists’ stories
The first podcast was produced in January, and, after a summer hiatus, Cosby and his staff will release two podcasts each month.
Some of Cosby’s other interviewees were on the front lines of the civil rights movement. In the first episode of the series, Dr. Sandra Edmonds Crewe recounts her personal story of desegregating her local high school. Crewe is professor and dean of social work and the director of the Howard University Multidisciplinary Gerontology Center.
In a two-part episode released last spring, Cosby interviews John E. Jacob, Howard alumnus and the former president of the National Urban League from 1982 to 1994. Born in rural Louisiana in 1934, Jacob reflects on racism and Jim Crow laws, and his journey to become a prominent civil rights activist.
“Fight like hell to make America what she professed to be,” Jacob said in the interview. “That’s the challenge we have confronting us today. It is the fight that we have to be willing to engage in.”
Last semester’s interviewees included Dr. Annie Woodley Brown, a retired social worker and faculty member of the Howard University School of Social Work; Dr. Batiste-Roberts, a former president of the National Association of Black Social Workers; and Dr. Leland Brown, Howard University School of Social Work alumnus and an expert in mental health, psychiatric interventions and community organizing.
This fall, Cosby will continue to interview Howard University academics and experts.
For more information about Howard University’s Multidisciplinary Center for Gerontology in conjunction with the Department of Aging & Community Living, call (202) 806-4720. To listen to the stories, visit listennotes.com/latest-podcasts/grandstories.