- Myra Flynn
There aren't many people more suited to having an open, frank and insightful conversation about the Black experience in Vermont than musician and journalist Myra Flynn.
The bicoastal Vermonter — she lives part of the year in Los Angeles — made local waves over the summer with a headlining spot at the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, where she performed her "Roar of the Queen" show; debuted her most recent EP, Shadow Work; and welcomed guests such as Phish bassist Mike Gordon onstage.
Lately, Flynn's work as a journalist at Vermont Public has taken the spotlight. In June, she launched her nationally syndicated podcast "Homegoings" on the NPR Network. The podcast, which Flynn conceived of after the first anniversary of the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, strives to present the "rich, complex and resilient stories of Black and brown people," Flynn said by phone from her home in California.
"The only way to really talk about race is to talk about people," Flynn said. "I can't imagine we're ever going to fix systemic racism if we don't actually talk about race with one another."
Flynn was working as a producer on the Vermont Public podcast "Brave Little State" when the anniversary of Floyd's death approached. As the show's team debated how to cover it, Flynn had a revelation.
"I just thought that we, as members of the media, needed to start making Black storytelling part of our everyday lexicon, as opposed to something we only do during times of tragedy," she recounted.
She floated the podcast idea to her bosses at Vermont Public, who quickly green-lighted a four-part series called "Homegoings." Flynn took the name from a term for Black funerals. "If you ever dropped in on a homegoing, you'd never know it was a funeral!" she said. "They — and hopefully my show — encapsulate how joy and sorrow coexist in the Black community."
The first four episodes, released as "Brave Little State" segments, all featured musicians, including Vermonter Bobby Hackney Jr., a founding member of the Black punk act Rough Francis. The series received such a positive reaction that Vermont Public picked it up as its own show and bumped it up to eight episodes. "Homegoings" is scheduled for a full season of 13 episodes, released on streaming services every other week.
In each episode, Flynn speaks to members of Black and brown communities, focusing on one theme or issue. Topics so far have included beauty standards for Black women, mental health check-ins with Black men, soul food, activism in the arts, Black midwives, and other topics that Flynn and her guests lean into with gusto. Though the show started out focused on Flynn's two communities in Vermont and LA, she sees no reason to limit its scope.
"It really bothers me when people talk about race in a binary way," Flynn said. "We're all people — quirky people, with our own stories. No one, Black or white or otherwise, is a monolith. The idea of 'Homegoings' is to circumvent that and bring Black culture right to your couch, where we can all be privy to deep conversations about race."
In February, Flynn staged a live version of the show at Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center in Stowe, featuring some of the musicians with whom she had spoken.
"It was incredible!" she enthused. "Black and brown people came out of the woodwork from all over the state and beyond. We had a Q&A scheduled for 90 minutes that ended up going for three hours — it honestly felt like a Black town hall meeting."
Vermont Public filmed the entire show and aired it on local TV. Flynn is already planning on doing it again in February.
"The goal is to challenge ideology and peel back the layers and really get at what makes Black and brown people so awesome," she said. "It's truly for everyone, though, because I think we all need to interact with this story. I want to humanize everyone involved — the guests and listeners alike."
Flynn doesn't have a list of dream guests, she said, nor is she fixated on booking big names.
"Speaking with someone like Barack Obama is not the goal," Flynn said. "I'm trying to create a righteous space for art and for conversations on race and the juxtaposition of the two."
Anyone worrying that all this podcasting might interfere with Flynn's musical output needn't be concerned. On top of composing most of the music on "Homegoings," Flynn drops the latest single from Shadow Work, "First One," on Wednesday, November 1, along with a new music video directed by Sandra McCurdy.
"I wholeheartedly believe music can be its own form of journalism," Flynn said. "So, with the show or with my music, I just want to create a space where everyone can tell their truth."
Correction, November 2 2023: This story has been updated to reflect that "Homecomings" began as a four-part series, is on the NPR Network and is not nationally syndicated, and that Flynn previously interviewed Bobby Hackney Jr. of the band Rough Francis.