After graduating in the recession era, both groped toward the semblance of a career path. Luse moved back in with her parents and worked a series of internships and low-level clerical jobs at companies undergoing mass layoffs. She says she quit a full-time position in 2011 after being sexually harassed. The following year, Luse got a call from Eddings, who was working as a social media producer in New York. He pushed her to come to the city, offering the futon of his shared two-bedroom apartment in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, as a landing pad.
“It was a classically Eric thing to do,” Luse said. “Look — you ain’t got no job. Come stay with us until you get on your feet.”
In late 2013, the two were several baskets of hot wings into one of their marathon conversations when they had the idea to start a podcast. The Podcasts app for the iPhone had arrived only the year before, and Eddings and Luse saw in the rising medium a potential home and precious creative outlet. Riffing on the playwright and poet Ntozake Shange, they conceived the show’s title as both a beacon and a filter — as a later tagline would put it, these were “the conversations that Black people have when white people aren’t in the room.”
In turning to podcasts as a productive space for Black creative expression, Eddings and Luse were in good company. Between 2013 and 2016, an entire field of Black podcasts bloomed, including “The Read,” “Bodega Boys,” “Another Round,” “Still Processing” and “2 Dope Queens.” The pattern was a familiar development in the history of American media, from the emergence of cinema and basic cable in the 20th century, to the arrival of YouTube and streaming in the 21st. Black creators, under- or misrepresented in existing media, flocked to the new landscapes in search of greener pastures.
“It was the beginning of folks realizing that we could be a force in this industry,” Eddings said. “People were hungry to hear other people who thought like they thought, who had experiences that they recognized from their own lives.”
In early 2015, Apple featured “For Colored Nerds” in the “New and Noteworthy” section of the Podcasts app, greatly increasing the show’s reach. Among the new fans were executives at Gimlet Media — then a fast-growing start-up and the maker of hit shows like “StartUp” and “Reply All” — who hired Luse as the company’s first Black employee in September of that year.