The last regularly scheduled episode of the Loving Project podcast has been released. For the past 12 months, we’ve been conducting interviews with couples in interracial marriages and turning those stories into podcast episodes that illuminate a bit of what it’s like to be in a mulitracial family 5 decades after the Supreme Court struck down all laws banning someone like me from marrying someone like my wife.
We had always planned to put out episodes every other week throughout the year, but we wound up doing two specials, once for the June 12th anniversary of the Court’s decision in the case of Loving v. Virginia, and the year-end special which features some of the highlights of the interviews which really help bring into focus some of the common themes we’ve heard.
At the outset, I found myself wondering if we’d start to hear the same sorts of stories over and over and if it really made sense to profile 25 couples. A few episodes in, it became clear that everyone’s story was unique even if some of the themes were similar… and that we’ve barely scratched the surface. There are millions of couple out there who have their own stories to tell, and I hope they’ll keep telling them whether it’s on a microphone or just to friends, family, and acquaintances.
I was drawn to radio and audio storytelling almost two decades ago because of the power of the human voice to convey emotion as well as information. People have asked us what’s next for the Loving Project: do we plan to turn these stories into a coffee table book or something? Nope. These stories are powerful in part because they’re part of an oral history of each family’s experience, and even after spending hours listening, editing, and mixing each one, I’m still moved every time I hear them.
It’s been amazing to hear from others how they’ve been touched by the podcast as well. We’ve received emails from people across the country telling us how it felt to hear people telling stories that felt familiar to their experiences. I was personally excited every time we got an opportunity to share parts of these stories on the radio, through interviews with other podcasters, or through the NPR One app, because people who weren’t necessarily seeking out stories about interracial relationships got a chance to listen for at least a few moments and maybe change the way they think about love, race, relationships, and family.
What surprised and delighted me most was the way that participating in the Loving Project also touched the people we’ve interviewed. Coming from a journalism background, where you drop in and out of people’s lives at the start and end of an interview, it had never occurred to me that we’d become good friends with some of the people we’ve spoken to, but that’s exactly what’s happened. And some of them are now in touch with one another, arranging play dates for their children, among other things. We set out to tell a set of stories to illuminate a set of experiences… and wound up creating a little community.
It’s also been strange telling these stories in 2017. If we’d set out to do these interviews a few years earlier, I think we would have heard a lot of people reflect about how much things had changed in the 50 years since the Supreme Court struck down laws in 16 states that made it illegal for people of different races to marry. But this summer a woman was killed in Charlottesville, Virginia while protesting a group of white supremacists marching in the streets while holding torches and chanting “we will not be replaced.” Things haven’t changed as much as many of us had believed.
Focusing on stories about people coming together felt like the right thing to do at a time when so much of the national conversation seems to be about the distance between people of disparate groups. The Loving Project wasn’t an overtly political act, but it felt good to put a little light into the world in 2017.
On the positive front, we conducted these interviews just a few years after the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same sex marriage nationwide. It shouldn’t have taken so long, but the Loving decision set a precedent that was followed in that more recent decision, and I’m so happy that by the time we set out to do these interviews we didn’t have to stretch the definition of marriage to include couples in same sex marriages.
We’re calling the year end special the final “regularly scheduled” episode because we want to leave the door open to the possibility that there may be more in the future. But we currently have no plans to produce any additional episodes.
It’s a little bittersweet. It feels good to be finished with a project that has eaten up so much of my free time this year, and I’m very proud of the work that we’ve done and happy that it’s found an audience and hopeful that it will continue to do so in the future. But it’s also strange to think that we’re done formally conducting interviews, there’s no more tape to be edited, and there’s no new episode to upload in two weeks.
I’m not quite sure what I’ll do with all that extra time in 2018. I’m hoping to find some other projects to pour that energy into. For now I’m going to try to get a bit of work done for my day job, maybe catch up on some reading and continue seeking out stories that help me understand the world we’re currently living in.