It matters that Kovie Biakolo is a Black woman in news. She’s not just representing us, (she was the only Black woman to lead a news desk at Buzzfeed News), but she’s ensuring that our stories are making it out of the ideation stage in newsrooms. The creator of the online series Hella Opinions, Biakolo has turned diversity into inclusion by centering black voices on a site that arguably has the top millennial audience.
In this short interview, we turn the tables on the Nigerian journalist to ask her questions about what makes her happy, how she shows up for African women and the writer’s favorite piece of literature.
How does your work influence youth culture?
I would say that between writing, producing, editing, and teaching, I'd like to think my work and the work that I've had a hand in has both expanded people's ideas of the world, and also made them feel less alone.
What about the continent inspires you?
I think our histories, especially our oral histories—which we really need to document as much as possible—are inspiring. They also inform the world that Africa didn't begin at the Berlin Conference or during the Atlantic slave trade. I also think we use these histories, which are in our DNA, to keep moving forward and persevering wherever we find ourselves in the world.
Is there one singular moment that made you want to stand up for African women?
I think I never truly understood how much Africanness (and at the intersection of womanhood) would become a salient identity until I came to this country for university, and found myself representing both blackness and Africanness. In that respect, so much of my university life where I had a secondary major in politics would involve challenging my classmates' assumptions of the continent and especially African women who, looking back, perceived me to be meek and maybe even subdued. I disabused them of those notions rather quickly.
If you weren’t in media, what would you like to do?
I think I would have liked to find a cure for several kinds of cancers because it is wreaking havoc on the lives of so many. Realistically though, there was a time I would have liked to work in some development capacity transnationally on the continent. But I always wanted to write too.
Favorite piece of literature?
I really cannot answer this because there are too many to answer. But "Things Fall Apart" remains one of the most important works ever written. Is that a predictable, answer? Sure, but it was a great book.
Why do you believe in youth?
It's simple: the next culture always comes from the youth. But also, the youth will always inform you of where you went wrong and it's important for us to listen and redirect. More importantly, I think there's a sense that the youth are supposed to "save" us; I disagree, I think we're supposed to create the best conditions possible for them to thrive.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity