In the wake of recent tragic events in Atlanta and beyond, the nation continues to face hate acts and attacks on innocent lives based on beliefs and differences. Though these horrific incidents did not occur in Santa Barbara, the city mourns, while some seek positive change. A group of young locals are taking their discontent to the microphone, in a podcast that hopes to break barriers of ignorance while celebrating our similarities through curious and honest conversation.
The Human Family Podcast, which premiered in early February, is a place-based series with a goal of illuminating the common humanity in all people. Produced by Kenny Chism, a Westmont College graduate, and Ala’ Khan, who was born and raised in Santa Barbara, along with co-hosts Allison Lewis-Towbes, Yasmin Sallak, and Kunjal Patel, the podcast reflects on members of different faith-based organizations and how we can better understand our neighbors.
The first season, which can be found on Spotify and Apple Podcasts, introduced listeners to a variety of well-known Santa Barbara guests from a wide spectrum of beliefs, including Afaf Turjoman, a boardmember and trustee of the Islamic Center of Santa Barbara; the Rev. Dr. David N. Moore, a pastor and human rights activist; and Rabbi Steve Cohen of Congregation B’nai B’rith.
“Interfaith is when people who identify as different faiths come together to have conversations in order to connect or learn about each other,” said Sallak.
The podcast stems from the Human Family Project, an initiative started by Congregation B’nai B’rith, Santa Barbara’s Reform Jewish Synagogue, to amplify voices and bring people together. But, shortly after the project was founded, the pandemic halted all programming. From there, after several months, the podcast was born as a way to virtually continue the efforts of the project.
“The Human Family Podcast came in the wake of multiple incidents of violence against religious communities,” said Chism, who grew up in a Christian context. “There was a question of, where do people go when their community has been attacked? And that’s a very scary experience. Where can they go for support?”
Khan, a member of the region’s Muslim community, finds Santa Barbara to be a very spiritual place, especially for Muslims, even as a minority group. “Everyone on the podcast has ties to Santa Barbara,” she said. “Despite different backgrounds, everyone has some love for the place that they live in.”
The podcast interviews guests who are largely non-Christian and non-white. “Hearing stories that resonate with listeners, even if it is not their exact experience, I hope expands people’s minds about the connections that they can make,” Khan continued.
Chism hopes that in the future, more diverse groups of faiths and backgrounds feel comfortable establishing a presence in Santa Barbara, and that The Human Family Podcast sheds light on the welcoming communities that already exist here.