Alum’s Radio Show Spotlights World Issues
With a baseball cap on his head and a “¡Sí se puede!” poster in hand, Derrick N. Ashong ’97-’98 appeared every bit the enthusiastic but uninformed young Obama supporter to a man wielding a video camera outside of the 2008 Democratic presidential primary debate in Hollywood, Calif.
The man proceded to pepper Ashong with questions expecting insubstantial responses. However, Ashong’s detailed and well-informed answers turned the video into a YouTube phenomenon that received over one million hits.
Two years later, the social entrepreneur and artist has taken his voice to the airwaves as the host of a new show on Oprah Radio entitled the “The Derrick Ashong Experience.”
The radio program, which first aired live from the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 23, is a “mash-up of politics, pop-culture, social media, music, and the arts, informed by Ashong’s experiences and travels across the globe,” according a press release from Harpo Radio, Inc. Ashong, whose show will air every Saturday at 12 p.m and is also available on oprahradio.com, will host guests from a variety of fields, including politics and entertainment.
Ashong said he seeks to use the media to promote global change by inspiring a new generation to become involved and engaged in the discourse surrounding world issues.
“The mainstream media today often has another agenda beside the real search for truth,” Ashong said.
He said he believes that every person has the opportunity to contribute towards what is happening in the world and therefore strives to create content that can inspire and amplify people’s voices.
“This is the time to be counted,” Ashong said. “This is the beginning.”
The former Currier House resident, who was born in Ghana, graduated from Harvard College with a degree in African-American studies and founded the Black Men’s Forum. Ashong also met the members of his current band, Soulfège, while a member of Kuumba Singers.
“I saw my college experience as an opportunity to liberate my mind and spirit and to try and be great,” said Ashong, now 34.
Ashong began pursuing a PhD in African-American Studies and Ethnomusicology at Harvard, but left the program to pursue a career in media and entertainment.
Jonathan M. Gramling ’98, Ashong’s bandmate and friend, described Ashong as different from other artists because he is grounded in his community, history, and culture.
“Derrick sees the world as his community in a very real sense,” Gramling said.
Corny Koehl, executive producer of Harpo Radio, wrote in an e-mailed statement that Ashong’s show—Harpo’s first venture into social media—will attract a new audience and benefit talk radio at large.
“According to radio ratings service Arbitron, 90 percent of talk radio’s listeners are over age 35 and almost 90 percent are white. Derrick is an under 35, Harvard-educated, African-born, naturalized American citizen,” Koehl said.
—Staff writer Margherita Pignatelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.