A pre-pandemic photo of Jane-janette Ansah (middle) conducting an interview for "Good Morning, Neighbors" in the WKDU studios alongside Marcy Francis (left), an African drum teacher and performer from West Philadelphia, and Luciano Duffy (right), a fellow communications major.
Jane-janette Ansah admits she is not a morning person, but she’s still the current host and voice behind WKDU’S “Good Morning, Neighbors,” or GMN, a radio show spotlighting nonprofit leaders in the Philadelphia area.
She may not usually be up for the show’s regular broadcast at 9 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays on 91.7 FM, but now, because of her efforts and happenstance caused by the pandemic, both she and her listeners can access the show’s new season any time they want on various podcast and streaming platforms.
The happenstance that made this possible was not inherently positive. This past spring, Ansah had trouble finding a co-op position due to the pandemic. So as summer term rolled around, her advisor and advisor to the show, now-retired Teaching Professor of Communication Lawrence Souder, PhD, offered to ask for funding from his department so that she could focus on revamping “Good Morning, Neighbors” as her co-op.
“I was just really grateful and just feeling really blessed,” Ansah remembered. “I wanted to make sure that I use this opportunity to the best of my ability and give it my all and do everything that I could with it.”
It was May when Ansah started working on the show’s sixth season as her co-op. On May 25, George Floyd was killed while in Minneapolis police custody, and demonstrations across the nation ensued. And because of this, Ansah decided to ascribe a theme to this season of GMN for the first time in the show’s history.
“I decided, “Well, if I'm going to do this for my co-op at this time, I think it's important for me to focus it on Black Lives Matter,’ because that's something that is very important to me,” she said. “I thought that there was so much misinformation around everything, especially like racism and Black history specifically. So that's what I kind of wanted to use my platform for.”
On Aug. 7, this themed sixth season debuted with an episode titled “Drexel & Racism” where Ansah interviewed two members of the University’s Anti-Racism Task Force: Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Kim Gholston and fourth-year engineering student and Drexel Black Action Committee President Tianna Williams. On Sept. 8, she released an educational episode explaining the history of policing and police brutality in America. Future planned topics for this season include the Black wealth gap, the Black maternal mortality rate and the power of the Black vote.
Ansah’s ideas have certainly evolved the show from the original intent with which Souder started GMN in 2013 as a collaboration between WKUD, the Lindy Center for Civic Engagement and Souder’s organization Drexel Edits, which provides pro-bono editing services to nonprofit organizations in West Philadelphia.
“I discovered that the voices of nonprofits in Philadelphia, especially those with modest budgets, are often scattered, diffuse, and even muted,” he said. “I thought that ‘Good Morning, Neighbors’ could give voice to the issues and concerns among these organizations.”
Organizations previously highlighted on the show include the Lancaster Avenue 21st Century Business Association (LA21), Beat the Streets Philadelphia and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. Ansah is focusing more on interviewing individuals with authority to speak on topics related to Black Lives Matter than highlighting non-profits this season, but she still hopes the show helps Drexel students connect with their neighbors and learn about important issues, as well as that the show reaches outside of just the Drexel community.
“I really did this so that people could learn, so that people could understand and so that people could kind of just get rid of their biases. Just look at the facts, look at what has really happened, look at how that is affecting and influencing everything that's happening today,” she said. “It's really scary for me how much misinformation is around things. So, I just want to make sure that the knowledge is out there — the knowledge is out there for you to learn, for you to receive. I was just trying to package it real nice and present it to everybody in an enjoyable manner so that it's not dreadful, you know, as you're learning.”
Though Ansah didn’t come into college knowing she wanted to help spread such knowledge as a radio host, she did grow up a “total fan” of the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” and said having some type of interview show was always a hidden dream despite her shyness. Having already gotten a lot of really good feedback on season six content, Ansah sees the power of media like what she produces for GMN even despite the multitude of information out there to compete with.
“Something that I talk about often is the fact that there's so much of everything, there's too much of everything. I feel like everything is oversaturated when it comes to news media and all that,” she said. “But I think that it also makes it really easy for people to be able to engage in a more entertaining way.”
Having seen this power grow over the show’s seven years on the air, Souder said he doesn’t presume to know whether media like GMN can make a difference in the grand scheme of things, but that he has been delighted to discover instances where the show has sparked action locally.
“What I also found gratifying is that these students worked hard to learn about their Drexel neighbors and to share with them the power that broadcast media can bring to spreading the message of community organizations,” he said.
For her own work, Ansah received the Outstanding Undergraduate Civic Engagement award from the Lindy Center of Civic Engagement this year, which was another “big surprise” in addition to the co-op opportunity. She credits Souder for pushing her to get involved at WKDU and foster her broadcasting and hosting skills.
“When I saw how supportive he was and how impressed he was, it really gave me a lot of hope and … it inspired something in me, I think, to start really believing in myself,” she said.
Ansah is already knee-deep in content and ideas to round out season six of “Good Morning, Neighbors.”
She did a virtual event during Welcome Week a few weeks ago jointly with the Lindy Center and the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, the goal being to introduce incoming students to the neighborhood they will hopefully be moving into once campus can safely reopen. She plans to edit the audio from the event and release it as the season seven premiere episode.
She is also looking forward to taking a “little bit of a back seat” on the show by then and ushering in new team members as excited as she is about this work — who may tend to wake up a little earlier.
“I'm hoping to bring on people who are really creative and who are really passionate about the community and about giving back and excited to expand the show a little bit because it's been the same for many years,” she said. “I think with the way the world is moving and changing, it's about time that we also move and change with it.”
Listen to “Good Morning, Neighbors” on WKDU (91.7 FM) every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 9 a.m.as well as on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Soundcloud. Hear previous seasons archived on Mixcloud.
To find out more about getting involved with GMN, contact Ansah at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put “Good Morning, Neighbors” in the subject line.