Earlier this year at our Stream On event, we revealed that Tell Them, I Am, a podcast that spotlights the universal stories of Muslim voices, was coming exclusively to Spotify through our partnership with Higher Ground. The series features a variety of influential guests, from activists and artists to actors and athletes, who share their own thought-provoking and often relatable stories. For this season, the podcast released a new episode every weekday during Ramadan.
For the Record talked to Misha Euceph, the host of the podcast and a first-generation Pakistani American, to learn more about the podcast and what it’s like to tell these personal stories.
What can new listeners expect to hear in the podcast?
Tell Them, I Am centers around a small defining moment in someone’s life. The voices are all Muslim; the stories are universal. You’ll hear about the time the pop star Yuna decided to take a dance class after a breakup; the moment that model Halima Aden got into a fight with a bully; the one-on-one game that changed 10-year-old Enes Kanter’s life trajectory; and the time that Malala broke all the rules to feel like a kid.
Tell Them, I Am released a new episode every weekday this Ramadan. What were some of the challenges in producing a daily show?
The greatest challenge was giving every episode the care it needed to honor the story and guest, and not getting lost in the grind of making 22 episodes by the start of Ramadan. Luckily, I worked with an incredible team and you can hear their fingerprints on this season of the podcast.
Executive producer Mary Knauf saw the arc of the entire season centering around the moon; producer Ariana Gharib Lee created stunning scenes out of things as simple as an intimate phone call between two friends; producer Jonathan Shifflett turned Quranic stories into cinematic events; and editor Arwen Nicks helped draw out my voice in the writing and did some of the most fun voices.
What does Ramadan mean to you, and what should listeners take away as they reflect on these stories throughout this important holiday?
Ramadan, for me, is a time of community and vulnerability—the willingness to be open about who we are as people, to reflect on who we want to become, and to receive that from others.
I hope that listeners see the diversity of what it means to be Muslim and feel the joy of what it means to celebrate Ramadan. I also hope that Tell Them, I Am allows them to think about the small moments in their own lives, and that these stories resonate with them as they figure out how to define themselves.
Did any stories resonate with you or even surprise you?
Because the guests are so vulnerable and almost always telling stories they’ve never told before, I come out of every interview pretty deeply affected. Even though I haven’t experienced the exact small moment that the guests have, it’s easy to see a part of yourself in them and vice versa. For example, I am not a parent, but Mvstermind’s journey with routine and how it helped him find peace struck a chord with me.
The stories that I think are particularly impactful this season center on Uyghur and Rohingya voices. These are people who have faced so much oppression, persecution, and adversity, and yet they are vulnerable, honest, and still find joy and humor in their lives and stories. Particularly, the stories of Jewher Ilham, Uyghur advocate; and Wai Wai Nu, Rohingya activist, are so important as these conflicts escalate.
Why do you think it’s so important to have a platform like this podcast to tell these stories?
This podcast is about small moments. In not making the show explicitly about “Muslim stories,” we allow the guests to have a platform that’s different than any other that exists out there. The guests can lead with what they find to be a defining moment in their life, instead of feeling like they have to represent all Muslims or “the Muslim experience,” whatever that means. They can just be human beings.
And in being themselves, in being vulnerable, in telling a story they’ve never told before, they expand our concept of “who a Muslim is.” They allow us to think of Muslims not as a monolith with caricatured traits, but instead as a diverse group of people who lead complex lives. And this season, these stories also allow us to also see the nuance and beauty in Islam. Together, these things make it harder for people to demonize Muslims. Because it’s hard to hate something you can’t categorize easily. It’s hard to hate someone who you can relate to.
Why do you think podcasts work as such a powerful medium for intimate and personal stories?
These stories are native to audio because when you see someone, you automatically make judgements about them based on what they look like. But Tell Them, I Am connects you directly with their voice in your ears—like a friend sitting really close to you. And, with these small, defining moments, you fast-forward to a point in their life that normally you’d only have access to after years of knowing someone. It’s audio that bypasses your biases by taking away the visual. It breaks down the walls in your heart without you even knowing.
Follow along with Misha and her guests as they tell their stories in the podcast below.