In addition to my duties as WLT’s Art Director, I also host a radio program called Race Matters. The show is produced in partnership with KGOU Radio and began in early 2015. I came up with the idea for the show in March of that year, a few weeks after the SAE incident rocked our campus and the nation. I noticed that many conversations in the media about race left me with more questions than answers. The show provides an opportunity to seek those answers and share them with listeners.
Merleyn Bell has over a decade of experience in graphic design, art direction, and design consulting. She has served as Art Director of OU’s award-winning literary magazine, World Literature Today, since 2005. In 2015, Merleyn created a public radio program titled Race Matters in the hope of fostering conversations about one of our nation’s most uncomfortable topics. Race Matters is produced by World Literature Today in partnership with KGOU. Merleyn serves as host of the show, which is currently prepping its third season to air in January 2017.
1. When did you graduate and in what subjects?
I graduated from OU in 2004 with a BA in Geography. Before I began my student internship at World Literature Today (WLT), I planned to enter the foreign service. But once I started working at WLT and became involved in the work of promoting world literature, I became deeply committed. So much so that I’ve now worked at WLT for 13 years.
2. What are you doing now, and how did you get started doing it?
3. Can you tell us more about Race Matters? Most interesting guests and lessons learned?
Race Matters invites scholars and thought leaders to have conversations about one of our nation’s most uncomfortable topics. Every guest has challenged me to approach race in a new way, especially guests like Jose Antonio Vargas (founder of EmergingUS and director of White People) and Jasiri X (hip hop artist and activist) who showed me how artistic mediums can be used to deliver powerful and thought-provoking messages.
4. What advice do you have for current OU students who want to make a difference?
Listen more than you speak. What I learned by hosting a radio program is that I wasn’t listening. Before hosting Race Matters, I was willfully ignorant and comfortable living in my privilege. Now, I’m fortunate enough to have the opportunity to sit down with people who have been having conversations about race all along, and I’m humbled by their willingness to help me step out of that ignorance.
5. Is there anything else you’d like OU students reading OUFORUM to know about you, Race Matters, or “Disrupting Racism at OU?”
I would like to note that while you’ve asked for my advice, I look to what students on our campus are doing for inspiration and insight on how to disrupt racism. I spent so much of my life, including my years as a student at OU, blind to the intolerance and injustice all around me. When today’s students speak out on these issues, I want them to know that I hear them, I believe them, and I’m encouraging my peers to do the same.