5 Things That Amazed Me About Season 1 of ‘Ear Hustle’

Now that we’ve had a chance to step back a bit from the hectic schedule of Ear Hustle season one, I find myself wanting to dissect the season. We learned so much. We hadn’t ever done a podcast before, so all we could do was jump in and follow Earlonne’s mandate of “all gas and no brakes.”

We learned and experienced a great deal — sometimes it was painful, but mostly it was exhilarating. This might sound terribly cliché but, to quote E again, “You got to speak your truths.” And my truth about season one is that I walk away from it with a tremendous amount of amazement and gratitude. There are five things that really amazed me about this season …

1. How the show confronted and challenged my assumptions.

I went into the prison with notions shaped mostly by bad TV, film and news media. In some ways, I had a head filled with stereotypes, both of the people who work inside and of the men themselves. Since volunteering at San Quentin, I’ve met fascinating, kind-hearted, complex and open people. This gives me hope that you are never too old to learn and change.

2. How vulnerable the men on the show allow themselves to be.

In our stories, we often go into deeply emotional and difficult territory that requires the men to confront painful memories. Through conversation, we’re able to explore intense experiences and look for meaning and commonality.

3. The unbelievable response from listeners.

I thought we would hear from those who were interested in prison reform, but the breadth of listener response is staggering. We’ve gotten emails, postcards and photos of listeners from all over the world and from people of varied backgrounds and experiences: lawyers, correctional officers, former sheriffs, victims of crime, those formerly incarcerated, family members of the incarcerated, public school classes, people who have committed crimes but never been to prison, artists of all kinds, self-described “middle-class soccer moms,” people who work in prisons in different countries — this is just a partial list. Feedback has come from across the U.S., Canada, Australia, Kuwait, Hong Kong, Japan, Mauritius, Sweden, Norway, England, Wales, France, Belgium, Germany and beyond.

4. How willing people are to care.

So many people have taken the time to reach out to ask what they can do to help. It gives me hope that change can happen and, as corny as it sounds, it speaks to the power of simply asking questions and being willing to listen without judgment.

5. The simple, the humble and the overlooked.

I was talking to a guy inside San Quentin the other day, someone I’ve known for a few years. He said to me, “I remember the first time I met you. I came down to the media lab, someone introduced us and you smiled like you were really happy to meet me.” I was happy to meet him, and he was happy to meet me, and that let us connect — from there, so much is possible. To quote Andres Eric Watson from “Gold Coats and OGs”: “Simple as that.” So here’s to being amazed by the simple, by the humble and by the overlooked.

We’re already hard at work putting season two together. One thing I’ve learned about making podcasts is that you have lots of ideas and, along the way, things change and ideas you thought were stellar get left behind.

So, I can’t promise what stories will make it through the process — but I can share some of the ideas we are working on for season two:

Ministering on Death Row, the consequences of success in prison, the power of books and literature, returning to prison after being out on parole, sex trafficking, memories & fantasies, tricking out your cell, food and what happens when you met your son for the first time in prison.

There will be surprises, more music, memorable voices and hopefully more stories about people who work in the system. If we’re lucky, there might even be more from Lt. Sam Robinson!

Big thanks to everyone for tuning in; getting in touch; following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; spreading the word; and caring about voices that often go unheard.

For Earlonne’s take on season one, check out his blog post here. Listen to the full first season on Apple Podcasts, RadioPublic or wherever you get your episodes.