Local podcast covers community voices

By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette

If you’re an avid podcast listener, you may already be well aware of CANA Girl Speaks, a weekly episodic series focused on inspiration and empowerment of local voices around Corsicana. For Barbara Kelley, a local podcaster and a member of law enforcement for over 30 years, this online talk-show format became a natural outlet to share the discussions and topics she’s passionate about.

Barbara Kelley of CANA Girl Speaks. – Photo by Guy Chapman

Kelley (nee Gooden) was originally a California resident before moving to Corsicana in 1981, though she considers herself a lifelong Texan. Her father was born in Corsicana, and her mother, also a Texan, left the Golden State behind to settle back locally.

“I’m a transplant Texan, but I’m a Texan,” Kelley laughed. “I was a Valley girl coming to a small town of Corsicana, Texas.”

Kelley admits the transition was a culture shock, having come from the fast-paced West Coast lifestyle to a life of cowboys and Wrangler jeans. But she adapted to her new life, wanting to be everybody’s friend, though there were some hard adjustments from what she had grown up with on the West Coast.

After graduating from Corsicana High School, she attended Navarro College’s Radio/Television/Film program, and had an interest in journalism. It was these talents, along with her active community involvement within Corsicana, that gave her the opportunity to conceptualize CANA Girl Speaks.

“I’ve always wanted to be a communicator,” Kelley said. “Everybody has a voice, and I always felt like I wanted to use my voice however I need to use it.”

“I started paying attention to how podcasts work, on the cusp of when it started to be popular. I was like ‘Hey, I want to be this. I want to do a podcast.’ I didn’t do any research. I just wanted to do a podcast.”

Kelley ordered a full set of podcasting equipment off Amazon’s website. After getting some feedback from John Kaiser, and collaborating with Aaron Orsak for sound engineering, her CANA Girl Speaks podcast was born.

“Through trial and error, we kind of just played with it a little bit through the very first episodes, and you can kind of tell it’s a little rough around the edges,” Kelley said. “I think now I’ve found a niche and so now it’s kind of just trying to grow a good podcast now.

A year and a half later, Kelley has found a format she is comfortable with.

Kelley’s shows remain unscripted, and she uses her work commute from Corsicana to Dallas and back as her “think time” for what subjects she would like to discuss with her guests, or who she would like to talk to for upcoming shows.

“With my topics I think about what’s going on, and see what kind of conversation I can have with that,” Kelley said.

“I pay attention to the energy of what’s going on in our community and also across the board,” she added. “I recently had our former police chief on there, Chief G. M. Cox, and I wanted to bring him on because during the election you kept hearing the term ‘defunding the police.’

“I wanted to talk to him also because of his experience and the knowledge he has. He’s a professor of criminal justice over at Tarleton State University. I knew that he had a lot of wisdom and knowledge about law enforcement, and the future of law enforcement, and so I wanted to bring him on and talk to him about what does law enforcement look like in the future, because things are changing.”

To ensure a diverse listening audience, Kelley finds topics that address issues for a broad age demographic.

Past featured guests have included Dr. Kent Rogers, Dr. Elmer Avellaneda of “Education Matters,” Navarro County Constable Precinct 2 appointee Raychaun Ballard, attorney Kerri Donica, and student alumni from G. W. Jackson High School, an oral history Kelley wants to preserve.

“For me, I wanted to make sure we’re engaging with them because that age group is in their seventies,” Kelley said. “Once that last class passes away, there will be no Jackson ex-students.”

“That’s history. I want to capture that while I can.”

Kelley sees her podcast as another voice in Corsicana, addressing subjects in need of additional or expanded coverage. She considers no topic off-limits, having covered education, relationships, law enforcement, local government, history, and community outreach.

Kelley, who considers herself a “change agent,” wants her podcast to be a tool for motivating and inspiring others to explore their own local creative outlets.

“I want to plant that seed to say ‘Hey, if I did it, you can do it too,'” Kelley said.

For the future, Kelley remains optimistic Corsicana’s growth and expansion will come from inspiring the next generation’s voices.

“We need to progress,” Kelley said. “We need to move forward. I want to hopefully motivate our young people. I’m very into our young people. I’m like ‘They’re the future, and if we don’t gravitate towards them, Corsicana won’t have a future.'”

“You can see when there’s movement,” Kelley said. “You can see who’s part of your change and who is a change agent by the movement of your community. If your community is not moving, then it means you don’t have the right people that are change agents. And we shouldn’t be so fearful of change. It’s going to happen, but we have to allow it to happen.”

A new episode of CANA GIRL Speaks debuts each week at 7 p.m., Sundays.

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