BEMIDJI -- This summer, Mike Bailey Jr. found his voice.

Then, he brought it with him to Bemidji.

The Bemidji State University transfer student and football player found a community within the BSU Black Student Union, and now serves as a voice for the organization as well.

Bailey is the host of the new Black Student Union podcast which was launched at the start of Black History Month. The podcast aims to address issues facing students, the Black Lives Matter movement and other current events from a youth perspective.

Picking up the microphone

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Bailey was never really one for public speaking. This summer, at a rally in honor of George Floyd in Minneapolis, he was handed a microphone.

“They were just passing the mic to different people and one of my friends said, ‘Mike, you should go up there and speak,’ and I’m looking at her crazy like, ‘I’m not going to go up there and speak. What could I possibly say that would inspire or anything like that?” Bailey said.

However, always up for a challenge, he took the microphone and Bailey began to address the crowd.

“The first time, I’m shaking, nervous, not really knowing what to say, but as I started going and going I got more comfortable, and people were feeding off of what I was saying and I realized that I actually had control over the crowd,” he said.

Then, speaking opportunities just kept coming up. By the start of the school year, Bailey had grown confident in his skills as a public speaker and felt ready to do something with his new-found talent.

“I guess you could say my whole summer was preparing for bigger roles. Public speaking wasn’t something that I ever practiced or ever was taught, but it ended up coming naturally,” he said. “Now, it’s second nature. Especially to talk about a topic like this that I feel so passionately about.”

Bailey is a marketing communication major, who transferred to Bemidji in the fall after studying at Southwest Minnesota State University.

“At SMSU I didn’t join the Black Student Union, it wasn’t really marketed or talked about that much, it just wasn’t really a big priority for me. But with this past summer happening in Minneapolis with George Floyd being murdered, I kind of felt it in my heart that I needed to take more action,” he said. “I felt like I needed to do more, and that’s what drew me to being in the Black Student Union here.”

RELATED: BSU students spearhead Black Student Union

A variety of topics

Bailey said the idea for the podcast came after a conversation at lunch with his friends. One of them said, “We talk about some pretty interesting things, it would be cool if we had a YouTube channel or podcast,” to which Bailey replied, “You know what? That would be interesting.”

Bailey said he also took influence from the “I Am Athlete” podcast hosted by retired NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall which explores the challenges Black athletes face.

In the inaugural episode, Bailey guided a discussion with a number of Black Bemidji State students with topics ranging in topics, including impressions of the Black Lives Matter movement, thoughts on social media, struggles with mental health, the election, New Year’s Resolutions, COVID-19, racial injustice, relationships, goals and generational aspirations.

Bailey feels like his generation is misunderstood, and that many older generations don’t think the youth are “tuned in” to what’s going on in the world. This is one of the reasons he feels it is important to give a platform to younger voices.

“People have their opinions about our generation, and I thought, ‘why not hear it from our generation?’” he said.

Bailey said the goal of the podcast, for him, is simply to, “have a good conversation. The goal is just to be heard, and continue to be heard. Hopefully, people will continue to listen.”

He added that his target audience is “anyone that is willing to listen.”

The premiere episode can currently be found on the BSU Black Student Union’s Facebook page.

Public response

The first episode of the podcast was launched on Feb. 2, and since then, Bailey has been taken aback by the wave of positive feedback.

“I think the feedback overall has been really good. I had my grandparents commenting, people that I’ve never met before commenting,” he said. “It’s definitely a blessing to have a platform to speak on things and actually be heard.”

Bailey didn’t initially expect the podcast to be more than a one-time event, but based on the support and response the episode has received so far, he hopes it will continue on either a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis.

“I wasn’t planning on doing another podcast, but the success rate boomed for Bemidji, it took me back. I didn’t think it would get this big,” he said. “People have already asked me, ‘When’s episode two coming out, when’s episode two coming out?’”

He hopes to use the new platform to address racism and social justice issues.

“It’s something that needs to happen, it’s something that needs to be in the spotlight. It’s been happening for over 400 years, and it’d be nice if it’d stop,” he said.

From sports to gender issues, Bailey is already cooking up ideas for future fruitful discussions.

Other Black History Month events

For those interested in learning more on the topics of social justice and highlighting Black voices and accomplishments during Black History Month, Bemidji State is hosting two lectures related to Black History Month on Tuesday.

Faculty members in Bemidji State’s Department of Psychology also recently compiled a list of resources, books and films that encourage audiences to challenge racist beliefs and policies by learning about white supremacy and antiracism. It can be viewed on the Bemidji State website. More information about the Black Student Union and its podcast can be found on the Black Student Union Facebook page.