The last few times Baton Rouge made national headlines — the fatal police shooting of Alton Sterling and the murder of three law enforcement officers — the Capital City did not emerge in the best light. Through their podcast network parachute.fm, University alumnus and filmmaker Abe Felix and digital strategist Jacob Jolibois aim to redefine the city’s national image by amplifying the voices of Baton Rougeans and other southerners working to better their communities.
Their network comprises two podcasts, altBR and Drawl, the latter of which debuted Oct. 8. Each episode of altBR features a 30-minute interview with a guest from a Baton Rouge industry who is driving change in the city. Guests have included Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, singer David Jones II and the Walls Project executive director Casey Phillips.
“The cool thing about altBR is we’ve talked to people across pretty much every industry in Baton Rouge,” Felix said.
To create the network’s latest addition, poetry podcast Drawl, Felix and Jolibois linked up with teachers at Forward Arts, a youth arts and literacy education organization that has been contributing to Baton Rouge’s slam poetry scene for the last decade. The podcast showcases southern poets and is hosted by poets Donney Rose and Desireé Dallagiacomo of Forward Arts.
The lack of representation of southern poets in the podcast community drove the creation of Drawl, Felix said.
“There are spoken word podcasts for the Northeast and for the West — San Francisco, New York and Atlanta — but not so much here representing the folks of Baton Rouge, New Orleans or even Texas,” Felix said.
What transformed into a network earlier this year started off as an idea for a singular project — altBR, which Felix and Jolibois brainstormed at a Cracker Barrel in 2016. In the midst of the flood and shootings in Baton Rouge, Felix and Jolibois thought residents needed to hear uplifting stories about their city more than ever, Felix said.
“It was very depressing being around here so we wanted to put a little fusion of hope into the community,” Felix said.
The success of altBR inspired the duo to transform their podcast into a business. The launch of parachute.fm earlier this year was an attempt to spread their reach from Baton Rouge — which altBR connected with so well — to the entire nation in order to effectively challenge southern stereotypes.
Both Felix and Jolibois bring their own strengths to the table. Felix produces the podcast using the audio and technical experience he learned from filmmaking while Jolibois conducts interviews and coordinates the outward projection of the brand, including design, graphics and social media.
Since Felix and Jolibois have full-time jobs, they schedule back-to-back interviews and create a month’s worth of content in a day, recording and editing the podcasts one Saturday a month.
Felix hopes that by telling local stories on a larger scale, these podcasts will help Baton Rouge grow and gain national acclaim. He also hopes the network gives these agents of change a platform to expand their reach in the community, he said.
“There are a lot of good things here and a lot of good people,” Felix said.