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Momentum: A Case Study in Truth and Authenticity

By Hendel Leiva | June 27, 2020

A global pandemic that has killed more than 100,000 Americans. Losing my friend to a lethal combination of the coronavirus health crisis and the political moment. Trending videos capturing the murder of Black individuals in cold blood.

This was everything I was holding the week of May 25th. It had been months since I had gotten a good night’s sleep and my stress levels were off the charts, already practically working non-stop since March.

Then, the video of George Floyd’s murder began circulating on Twitter. It was a sickening scene: the officer putting his full body’s weight on his neck, and the accompanying three officers holding him down as well.


That scene rocked the national consciousness in a matter of hours. I became glued to the television as large demonstrations immediately began happening across the nation, some which escalated into uprisings.

And how could they not? We know the names: Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, and many, many more, and now we were adding Ahmaud Arbery, Breona Taylor, and George Floyd in a very, very short amount of time.

Tik Tok, Twitter, and Instagram helped us view the spillover of anger and rage immediately. 


That weekend, I resolved to take a break. A short one if possible.

In my line of work, people talk about “secondhand trauma” –– it’s something that comes with the nature of the work. The Secondary Trauma Stress (STS) and the trauma I was already trying to process with my friend’s death earlier in the month, made for a combination where I had reached my limit. 


So I took a break. Netflix, lifting weights, Disney+, eating burritos from around the corner, whatever I needed to do at that moment.

Late Saturday night, I logged into Simplecast to check the analytics for Immigration MIC.

Nothing seemed different, so I switched over to the analytics for Momentum: A Race Forward Podcast


Momentum , is the podcast I created and launched last year alongside my colleagues for Race Forward, as Executive Producer. The Momentum team consists of our hosts Hiba and Chevon, my direct supervisor Melissa Franqui, who is also an Executive Producer, and the renowned Jeff Chang, who leads our Narrative, Arts, and Culture work.

It had been a gradual start since the podcast’s launch. We all knew the podcast was GOOD, but what happened next was unexpected.

As I looked at the screen, something caught my eye.

The analytics graph had moved: the numbers were just a bit higher than usual.


“That’s odd”, I thought.

I didn’t think much of it and closed my laptop.

I couldn't sleep, so a couple of hours later I turned over and grabbed my laptop again. 

I checked my work email.

There was a strange email from an SEO advertiser congratulating me saying that Momentum: A Race Forward Podcast was a part of the current Apple Podcasts’ Society and Culture list. 


“What?”, I thought to myself.

I checked, and it was true. Momentum had charted.

I was bewildered. Our last episode had been in March –– before COVID had forced our staff into quarantine.

On Sunday, not only did it keep trending, but it managed to reach the Top 200 of Apple Podcasts.

By Tuesday, it reached the Top 100 and managed to hit the #83 spot. 


This was a win. With everything going on, our upstart podcast had become a solutions-based tool, as well as a source for levity and hope in this jarring moment.

There are two lists that I credit for the meteoric… (success? I don’t know if that’s the right word, I’m still struggling with it) of Momentum: A Race Forward Podcast.

The first was the podcast’s inclusion on a widely circulated list of resources on #BlackoutTuesday, circulated by Latina Rebels, which placed Momentum amongst other top podcasts talking about systemic racism such as Intersectionality Matters by Kimberlé Crenshaw and 1619 from the New York Times.

Secondly, Momentum was also part of a compilation of a now-viral Google Document titled “Anti-Racism Resources for White People” from Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein.

Since then Momentum has been mentioned hundreds of times online and has been featured on the following lists:


In an email crafted with my Co-Executive Producer Melissa, to the entire organization, I wrote:

“I want to thank our staff for your support and for providing the content we've needed to make the show a success. Thank you Hiba and Chevon for being our dynamic and inspiring hosts, Melissa as the Co-Executive Producer, and Jeff for his continued support in our podcast project, which is now a case study that illustrates how a podcast can grow organically to unexpected heights when CONTENT is true to its mission, authentic in its presentation, and committed to its audience.

Looking forward to what's next on the podcast's journey and how we can further support our communities during such a difficult moment in our nation.”

June (since this all began) isn’t over yet –– we’ve returned to recording, and have released two incredible episodes for you to check out:

Episode 07: BLACK LIVES MATTER with Chevon and Hiba

Episode 08: Honoring Juneteenth, and a Conversation with Race Forward’s President, Glenn Harris

So what’s next?

Well, though Momentum: A Race Forward Podcast has stopped trending on the charts, the podcast has indisputably made its mark; now we continue creating and producing original programming to continue supporting the overall racial justice movement in this pivotal moment.

Let’s keep the Momentum going. 


(The writing expressed in this piece is solely the author’s views and opinions only)