Their Beacon Hill–based podcast is an hour of hanging out with three of the coolest ladies in the city—and you’re invited.
By Rosin Saez
March 28, 2017
Hella Black Hella Seattle was launched early last year by Alaina Caldwell, Jasmine ‘Jazz’ Jackson, and Eula Scott Bynoe. The trio of Seattle natives are longtime friends, having grown up together in the Central District way before their first episode aired, and that friendship makes each installment feel like an hour-long hangout session.
But it’s so much more than three friends gabbing. On Hella Black Hella Seattle Bynoe, Caldwell, and Jackson talk about everything from water justice in Flint, Michigan and North Dakota to youth education and enrichment in Rainier Valley to parties that are popping around Seattle. The wide breadth of subject matter from the serious to the silly is balanced their individual perspectives, voices, and a healthy dose of laughter.
So as we collectively close out Women’s History Month, let’s take a look at some local ladies who are making history today.
On one rainy Saturday afternoon, I sat down with Bynoe, Caldwell, and Jackson in the backroom of Love City Love as they prepped decorations for a party they were hosting that night. It was low lit and chilly, but with the help of some space heaters and the livliness with which we had our conversation, I got to know the local dynamos behind Hella Black Hella Seattle.
How was the podcast born?
Eula Scott Bynoe: I’ve wanted to do a podcast for so long. These guys’ll tell you I talk a lot and the one thing I can do is talk to people on a podcast, where there’s no rules. When we finally decided it was meant for the three of us, it was kind of a nice, Oh yeah, that makes sense.
Did you feel it was a medium that like lacked diverse voices?
Alaina Caldwell: I don’t really listen to podcasts, so I didn’t feel like, Oh they’re missing this voice.
Jasmine Jackson: We were definitely missing that voice here in Seattle. There are tons of podcasts geared towards African Americans across the US for the most part.
ESB: Me and Jazz listen to podcasts; we like The Friend Zone, Another Round. I don’t know if you went into it, Jazz, thinking we needed to be a voice, but I know very quickly you said, “We need to be a voice for people. People really want this and we have to realize that this what people’s reactions are.” And then from my perspective, I’ve always kind of wanted to be a voice. I’ve always thought: I live in Seattle and if I can make an imprint in this world, I want it to be directly benefitting all of my people and all of my family. We are black women who struggle with living in this country. We are allies to every single minority group out there. And so, that’s just naturally who we are. But we also go out dancing, we also want to laugh and joke. I think we also have to think about the balance. You want to have fun and you want to change the world.
How has that podcast ride been this past year? Was there a learning curve?
JJ: I think it came really naturally.
AC: I think it came naturally and there were definitely things that we were like, okay, we can’t talk for three hours. Like the podcast can’t be just us and also we can’t get drunk so early.
JJ: That’s coming too naturally now…
AC: We’re gonna get drunk—just not at the beginning of the episode.
ESB: You have to get drunk right after your segment.
AC: Exactly. So now it’s a mad dash for first.
“You want to have fun and you want to change the world.”
ESB: We’ve had summers where we’ve probably seen each other everyday, but this is different.
AC: It’s a business. And we’re friends.
ESB: It also makes your life better. This feels like purpose.
How have listeners been responding?
All: So much love.
ESB: We’ve really been enjoying life. Getting to know Seattle people a bit better, and then hearing back from people that they appreciate what we do.
AC: I think it’s amazing because our network has just been growing and growing. And it’s crazy to go to a party and then we like run into people that we’ve seen on Instagram that follows us, but now we meet and now we’re homies.
JJ: Social media just stepped the game up.
ESB: Women of color are just doing it.
AC: I’m not the most social person, I can be at times, but I think this allows me to be more social in a way that’s…
ESB: I feel like we brought back our early 20s in a way.
Now, this is the getting-to-know portion of the interview. What’s the first thing you do to start your morning?
ESB: I start my morning with Instagram, which is terrible. And letting my dog out to pee. I have a labradoodle that will sometimes look at me like I have the nerve, you know?
AC: I definitely start my day with social media. I have to blast myself in the face with light.
JJ: Well, I have a seven-year-old son, so if he’s not jumping on me, it’s definitely social media. Ideally I’d love to meditate first thing when I wake up before I take in all the other energies.
In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
AC: That’s when meditation comes in. I try to figure out where those feelings are coming from and if they’re true at all and then counteract them. Jasmine actually told me that.
[Interview takes brief intermission because Jazz is struggling with inflating balloons. Laughter ensues.] JJ: That’s what I would say, too. I’m very introspective. I’m an introvert. So I have to go inside myself often and I have to dig through those feelings. I have to decide what I’m feeling versus what’s being projected onto me, and I have to take a moment; if not, I’ll overreact.
ESB: For me, I know it’s more depression than it is self-doubt half of the time. I feel like a big part of it is saying to yourself, I know I like myself and I know everybody likes me. I’m just depressed and that’s just the demon that comes along with America: They put all these images in front of you, like a white picket fence and two kids and three and half bathrooms. That’s when you get depressed and you look up and you have bills to pay.
When the world seems especially loud or chaotic, what do you like to do for self-care?
ESB: I like cartoons.
AC: Wine and chocolate. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is the funniest show you will ever find in your life. It can depend on the time of the year, too. It can be me going down to the lake and writing down some goals.
JJ: I like quiet time, I definitely like some wine. And like you said, a park, some zen, a walk…I think there are so many people who want so many things from you all the time; it’s nice to spend some time by yourself.
Do you have a person or professional mantra?
ESB: Progress not perfection.
AC: Last year my mantra was, “Why not me?” I think I’ve been feeling, “Live in your purpose,” lately. If you start going for the thing that matters or means something for you, I think it has to work out. Or maybe I’ve just been having the best luck.
Which of own traits are you most proud of?
ESB: I brag about this all the time: For me, I connect with people really easily; I enjoy that and trying to find where in the world we can connect.
AC: I think just being honest is probably my best quality. It’s beyond a quality and actually a gift because I think I’ve always been a very honest person, like even my parents have said, “You’ve always been like this.” [Laughter fills the room.] But they also let me be that way, which I really appreciate about my parents. Sometime it’s a gift and curse for sure.
JJ: I can find a good quality in almost all people. There have been times when I haven’t had anything; I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum. I think I can understand a lot of different backgrounds and try not to be too judgmental because you never know what someone’s going through.
Which characteristic do you most admire in each other?
ESB: I like that Jasmine is really good at listening; she’s just good at slowing down, paying attention to details, absorbing everything. And then really like how Alaina is blunt in a way that helps us as a team and as friends, too. One of my favorite stories is when Alaina told us, years ago now, “I read somewhere that if you start to make more money, then you typically change your friends [to ones] that are in the same income bracket as you. And I don’t want to make more friends. So you all need to start making more money.”
AC: And I needed to make more money, don’t get me wrong.
JJ: I have to say the same thing about Alaina. I admire your bluntness because I am not like that. And I aspire to be more like that. I think I’m more calculated or not as honest as often or I’ll hold back. Your honesty can be harsh. We’ve gotten into so much trouble because of your mouth, but we’ve gotten out of so much trouble because of your mouth; I wouldn’t know what we’d do without your mouth.
AC: And Eula, just her determination, even though it can being annoying as shit. But it’s how we got here, so I absolutely I appreciate that too.
Name a woman or women, past or present, that you admire or look up to.
ESB: My mom is really growing on me. I didn’t like her for a long time. My dad past away when I was 18, and it’s interesting as Jasmine just lost her mother this last year, and the anniversary is coming up soon actually. It’s interesting that I’m now, for the first time, connecting with my mom. And we’re the same person: she’s worked in radio and public speaking for a long time; we think alike… We were in Texas and [our] family was saying a lot of conservative stuff and we’d both respond in the exact same way. I mean, the exact same way, same tone. We are just too alike. And I really like who I am and I have to give her credit for helping me become that person.
AC: It’s funny because I’ve been thinking about this more lately. I had a teacher when I first started school at Montlake, first or second grade I think it was. I don’t remember her name at all, but I remember she was a black teacher and I remember it blew my mind. It was one of the first things that blew my mind in terms of race. But I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately. Seeing a black woman leading a classroom was huge to me.
“I remember she was a black teacher and I remember it blew my mind. It was one of the first things that blew my mind in terms of race.”
JJ: I have an aunt Glinda, who lives in California. When I was young she carried herself with such elegance; I always admired that about her. She was the vice principal and such a strong empowering woman, but still be able to maintain her femininity. Now she lives in Calabasas, just chilling. She dates some man and she still has her furs on ice. She’s amazing. […] I’m learning more about my mom now that she’s passed. I carried a lot of anger toward my mom, which is a long crazy history, but what I’m learning about her from before she got really sick is amazing. She was in theatre, she was a part of Pat Wright’s Total Experience Gospel Choir, she graduated from Seattle University. I feel like if she would’ve continued on a path of positivity, she could’ve gotten so far. So starting to come to terms with that and seeing myself in her, and I’m definitely learning to admire her more.
What does the future of Hella Black Hella Seattle look like?
AC: Definitely more episodes. More parties.
ESB: Two parties this summer. Different things. Fun things. Hella Black Hella Seattle.
There you have it. You can check out the podcast on SoundCloud, iTunes, and elsewhere, with the latest episodes talking Black History Month as well as two new DJ mixes. Stay tuned for more this summer. You can follow Hella Black Hella Seattle on Facebook and Instagram. ◆