Culture Rich Conversations with the
Black Awareness Association, Juneau

They say the shortest distance between two people is a story – and every Thursday afternoon, the Black Awareness Association of Juneau bridges the gaps in our understanding about the biggest race and social justice issues of our times with thoughtful conversations from the Black community in this special series. 

Led by Sherry Patterson, the Black Awareness Association of Juneau launched the series in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, which triggered the need for deeper discussions about racism and Black culture. KTOO is thrilled to partner with the Black Awareness Association of Juneau to bring you  perspectives that were birthed from life experiences.


Thursday, May 12, 2022: Black in Alaska: An ambitious multi-media project, telling the stories of Blacks living in the 49th state.

Black in Alaska’s mission is simple but daunting – to profile 50 people whose stories will help explain what it’s like to be Black in Alaska. The goal: to dismantle stereotypes and connect the Black community to fellow Alaskans. On this week’s Culture Rich Conversations, Christina Michelle talks with her mother Sherry Patterson, about her…

Listen to the program: The story behind the Black in Alaska Project

Guests: Jovelle Rennie and Mayowa Aina, team members of the Black in Alaska project. Sherry Patterson, profiled in the Black in Alaska Project.
Jovelle Rennie realized there was a need for a story telling project about what it means to be Black in Alaska, when he asked people to name fifty Blacks who live in Alaska. Most couldn’t do it. Yet when Rennie began to make up his own list of Black Alaskans with interesting stories, that list…

Thursday, May 26, 2022: Interracial friendships: A tale of two Michaels and two moms

There were two Michaels growing up in Juneau. One was black, the other was white. And although interracial friendships were unusual for the times, the two were best friends and their families, the Pattersons and the Barnes, became close because of the two boys. On this week’s Culture Rich Conversations, Michael and his mother, Sherry…

Color-blind friendships: How mothers can help to heal racism.

Guests: Michael Barnes and his mother, Lynn, longtime friends of the Patterson family.
  Listen to the show:  

Thursday, April 28, 2022: Sharing Stories: First encounters with racism

  They say racism may be hard to describe, but you know it when you see it. Often that’s not the case. For many their first encounters with racist behavior may not only be hurtful, but also confusing. On today’s Culture Rich Conversations, Michael Patterson talks with KTOO’s Rhonda McBride about growing up in the…

Reflections on early experiences with racism.

Michael Patterson talks with KTOO’s Rhonda McBride about her perspectives on racism, as an Asian American and a journalist.

Thursday, April 14, 2022: Series on Black hair continues: More than just curls, but also culture.

For more than twenty years Kiala Wesley was one of the few professionals in the Black hair industry in Alaska. She not only ran a salon in Anchorage that catered to Blacks, but also manufactured wigs and installed them. It wasn’t easy to retire. In a state with a small Black population, Wesley’s skills were…

Listen to the program: Black hair, a symbol of identity.

Guests: Kiala Wesley, retired Black hair industry professional.
Reflections from a former Anchorage salon owner, who discovered that Black identity and Black hair are often one in the same.      

Thursday, March 24, 2022: The basics of Black hair: What you didn’t know…

This week’s “Culture Rich Conversations” from the Black Awareness Association of Juneau will probably make you feel perplexed and amazed at the same time. Sherry, Christina Michelle and Kelli Patterson openly share their “hair journeys” and dish on why Black hair is one of the most challenging and expensive types of hair to style. The…

This week’s Culture Rich Conversation: The trials and tribulations of Black hair

From the impact of Juneau’s damp climate on their hair —  to having to schedule a flight out of Juneau to see a stylist who knows how to work with Black hair — Christina Michelle, Sherry and Kelli Patterson explain the challenges they face on a regular basis dealing with their hair and why it’s…

Thursday, March 17, 2022: From diapers to dollars: One Black entrepreneur’s journey.

  Jasmin Smith’s new business began with what all new moms dread. She ran out of diapers while shopping at a mall with her baby twins and had to make do with a blanket and some baby clothes. Although her improvised solution was far from ideal, it did spark the idea for BabyVend – a…

BabyVend was only the beginning an for Anchorage mom

Guests: Jasmin Smith, owner and founder of BabyVend
Jasmin Smith says it’s never easy to start a new kind of business, but as a Black woman, there are simply more hurdles in winning the confidence of investors. On top of that, it was hard to convince them about the need for vending machines to dispense diapers and baby supplies. Also, starting a company…

Thursday, March 10, 2022: A crypto conversation: Why Black Americans find empowerment in the digital economy.

Studies show that LBGTQ and Black Americans are leading the cryptocurrency revolution. In a survey last year, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, found that the majority of crypto investors are under forty, do not have college degrees, and two-fifths are people of color. On this Thursday’s Culture Rich Conversations, Christina…

Cryptocurrency: A brave new world for Black investors.

Guests: Joseph Juana Robinson, a self-taught cryptocurrency investor.
Joseph Juana Robinson says the crypto world is full of scams and get-rich-schemes —  but if you do your homework, keep humble, stay patient and don’t get greedy — there are opportunities to earn big returns. Robinson believes  cryptocurrency is a form of investment that offers economic empowerment to Black Americans and other historically disadvantaged…

Thursday, March 3, 2022: A conversation about friendship and race continues…    

It was an intimate discussion between two friends that began on the radio, not long after George Floyd was murdered. Heather Pedersen, who is white, worried about how the social upheaval from this tragedy would affect her black friend, Kelli Patterson – who is also one of the hosts of Culture Rich Conversations, a weekly…

Conversation about friendship and race continues…

Guests: Kelli Patterson and Heather Pedersen
An intimate conversation with Kelli Patterson and Heather Pedersen about their cross-racial friendship

Thursday, February 24, 2022: Gospel music, the wind behind the wings of Black culture.

Pastor Bobby Lewis’ energy is contagious. Just sitting in a room next to this Harlem minister makes you feel good. And hearing him on the radio, talking about his passion for Gospel music, might be the next best thing. On this week’s program from the Black Awareness Association of Juneau, Kelli and Sherry Patterson talk…

Listen to the whole show: Gospel music and Black history go hand in hand.

Guests: Pastor Bobby Lewis, Harlem.
Pastor Bobby Lewis tells the story of his lifelong love affair with Gospel music — and how it’s been a powerful force in helping African Americans, not only survive slavery, but find strength and inspiration on their journey to freedom.

Thursday, February 17, 2022: Telling the story of racism in America

Natasha Boozer’s family is well known in Juneau. Her younger brother, Carlos, grew up to play professional basketball and win an Olympic Gold medal in 2008. Today, Natasha is carving out her own success as a writer in Las Vegas, where she homeschools her children. The lessons, she says, include important conversations about racism and…

Listen to the Program: Critical Race Theory as a tool to address systemic racism

Guests: Natasha Boozer, author of The Palmer Women.
Natasha Boozer says Black parents need to talk with their children about the history of racism in America and how to protect themselves against it — a subject too important to trust to the schools alone, which rarely do a good job of telling the whole story.  In this conversation with Christina Michelle, Boozer explains…
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