Kojo Nnamdi (‘98) Radio Host, WAMU 88.5 and Howard Ross (’91), Founding Partner, Udarta Consulting
November 1, 2019
“It’s important for all of us to hear different perspectives. To have difficult conversations. That’s something that happens at LGW all the time. But in the rest of the world, it’s rare.”
For all his life, Howard Ross (’91) has been involved in advocating for social justice. Having built a career on the subject of unconscious bias, Howard’s expert advice has helped hundreds of organizations examine diversity and inclusion within their cultures. LGW is no exception. After partnering with LGW on a formative exploration of the role of race in LGW’s identity, membership and programming, Howard was asked to apply his considerable talents as a Signature Program facilitator. Here he met one of DC’s most famous voices and minds: radio journalist, Kojo Nnamdi (‘98).
Even for LGW, 1998 was an impressive class. Kojo was joined by future mayor Anthony Williams, former Mayoral Chief of Staff, Barry Campbell and current LGW Board Chair Mahan Tavakoli among others. But, even still, Kojo stood out to Howard.
“I had listened to Kojo on WMAL for years and was already a fan. What struck me was his incredible humility and listening skills. He is an active learner and while many might see him as a “star,” he is just a really great, really smart guy.”
So in 2005, when Kojo invited Howard to join The Kojo Nnamdi Show, he was excited. And so was Kojo. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Howard had penned a blog about the impact of unconscious bias related to hurricane Katrina. Ross argued that the response of the government to the needs of the community in New Orleans was dramatically impacted by the race and socioeconomic status of the people who were affected, and that unconscious bias was rampant in that response. A colleague left the blog on Kojo’s desk and, intrigued, Kojo invited Howard on the show to discuss it.
Needless to say, the show was a success. And it was followed by more than a hundred more. For the next ten years, every month Kojo and Howard joined forces to discuss an issue related to race. Sometimes the topics were inspired by current events -- for example, how our biases might affect our views on that summer’s Olympics. Other times, topics were related to something Howard was writing about or studying, like the effect our fragmented media environment has on the way we discuss culture and race.
For Howard, the most rewarding part of the show was opening up the discussions to listeners. And while the vast majority of those callers reflected NPR’s largely progressive following, occasionally Howard and Kojo would have the chance to speak with someone from the other end of the political spectrum.
“I loved those discussions,” recounts Howard. “It’s important for all of us to hear different perspectives. To have difficult conversations. That’s something that happens at LGW all the time. But in the rest of the world, it’s rare.”