If you own a smartphone, chances are you have probably popped in your headphones to tune in to one of the thousands of podcasts shelved online. Following that trend, Bronxite Desiree Joy Frias has developed Radio Free South Bronx, a podcast aiming to spread hyper-local news and host discussions relevant to listeners in the neighborhoods of the South Bronx.
It all started when Frias met the organizers of ‘Radio Free,’ a podcast covering local news and politics in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, at a protest against a congressman. After the protest concluded, dinner and drinks at a local pub led to exchanging business cards and adding each other on Facebook. The organizers of the Bay Ridge edition soon suggested Frias start a branch of the podcast in the Bronx.
“I sort of laughed at it,” said Frias, 24. But she gave it some thought, and realized since she had recently graduated from law school and was waiting to take the bar exam, she had some time on her hands. “So I bought the microphone and started recording. But what was great about it is that I was able to get my mom involved and my neighbors.”
After attending Bronx High School of Science, Frias left to begin studying at Bard College at Simon’s Rock then transferred to Baruch College. During that time she was appointed to Community Board 4 in Highbridge at 18. Eventually she headed to DC where she recently graduated from American University Washington College of Law. Returning to her roots, Frias moved back to South Bronx to the closest apartment to her childhood home that she could find.
Frias’ mother, Marlene Cintron, has always been politically active, which is what made Frias politically aware at a young age. Cintron, who is the president of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, a non-profit organization that works on business development in the borough, joined her daughter as one of the hosts.
“Because my mom has been so politically involved for my whole life, she has a lot of access to people that are going to be good to have communications with,” said Frias. “I don’t want to put boundaries on the stories we tell except for that it will be the story of the South Bronx,” said Frias.
Like her daughter, Cintron was born and raised in the South Bronx. As a Bronxite, she understands the need for her community to be informed on news directly impacting their neighborhoods.
“Hyper-local news coverage is intrinsic for our community to share information that is important to them on a daily basis but not being covered by the mainstream,” explained Cintron. “I look at things with a much older set of eyes and ears. [Frias] has the vim and vigor of a new soul committed to her hometown.”
Keeping it in the neighborhood, Frias’ neighbor John De Riggs, an IT technician and also a Bronx native, joined as the third host.
“I want this podcast to be a beacon of optimistic awareness for my area, and a showcase for how far our community has come,” said De Riggs, 30.
With no experience in producing podcasts among the three hosts, Frias purchased microphones and set up in her own home where the episodes are recorded. Frias not only hosts the podcast but also does all of the writing and editing, learning along the way.
The three hosts hope to bring awareness to hyper-local issues while keeping it progressive without a specific political slant. In the wake of the shut-down of local news outlets like DNAinfo and Gothamist, the team knew that hyper-local news coverage is essential.
The premiere 70-minute episode of Radio Free South Bronx hit the Internet on Feb. 1 and offered a narrative of Bronx history by the show’s guest, Angel Hernandez, a director at the Bronx County Historical Society. The episode concluded with a discussion on local news, a shout-out to a favorite local bakery and announcements on upcoming neighborhood events. Future topics will include transportation and the school crisis of the South Bronx. Committed to reporting what matters to her community, Frias walks the streets of South Bronx to find issues that need coverage.
“I don’t sit at home and come up with stories, I talk to my neighbors and friends. Those are the topics we want to talk about, the things people are going through now,” said Frias.
The podcast also aims to preserve the culture of the Bronx, and to retell the borough’s rich history that is often forgotten.
“We do want to help preserve the history and the culture of The Bronx. The history of The Bronx is the history of oppressed and marginalized people,” said Frias.
The Radio Free South Bronx team hopes to release episodes bi-weekly. However, the team is committed to conducting proper research and spending time to thoroughly cover the stories, so as Frias jokes, they are an “unreliable bi-weekly podcast.”
Listeners can find the latest episodes of Radio Free South Bronx on Soundcloud, Apple Podcasts and Google Play. The team also encourages any youth in The Bronx who wants to get involved with the podcast to email them at email@example.com.