The Feministing Five: Hana Baba

Hana Baba is a San Francisco-based co-host of “CrossCurrents,” a daily radio newsmagazine that broadcasts on KALW Public Radio 91.7. She is also a freelance writer and reporter. Some of the topics she covers includes ethnic communities, poverty, health, culture, religion, and the arts. Her radio work also appears nationally on various NPR programs, and PRI’s The World. Her articles have appeared on New America Media, and the Sudan Tribune.

Hana is a Sudanese-American and oftentimes reports from and about Sudan. She sits on the Board of Directors of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Northern California chapter, and has moderated the SPJ’s panel discussions on local media and journalism. She is a bilingual English and Arabic voice-over talent, and is the voice of the audio tour of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s permanent exhibit.

And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Hana Baba.

Anna Sterling: Why radio?

Hana Baba: I grew up listening to folk tales being told to me by my mother and my uncle. Stories were a big part of my childhood and teen years, and hearing them told to me had a stronger impact that reading a story or watching one unfold in a film or TV show. So, it’s really no accident that radio is my favorite medium. To me, audio reaches the soul faster and deeper than visuals. I feel sound in my inner self, and it affects me on a much more intimate level than visuals. Storytelling plus sound = radio!

AS: What kinds of stories do you gravitate to the most?

HB: I like to cover stories of ethnic minorities. I’m an Arabic-speaking African and American Muslim woman, I am all those things equally, and I feel like not only has my story not been told or explored, but neither have countless other multi-hyphenated-Americans like myself. I like to tell the stories of how people live their cultures, what they eat, how they worship, where they play, their struggles; their stories are just as valuable as anyone else you hear about in the media.

AS: How does your Sudanese background impact your work?

HB: Being from Africa helps me balance the east versus west cultural issues with more authenticity, I think. Although I lived the majority of my life here in the US, I also lived in Sudan for many of my formative years. Being from Sudan and living there has made me feel more connected on the ground to issues like girls’ education, alleviating poverty, human rights, and women’s rights. And most of all, living and being a part of a developing country gives one a much needed sense of what I like to call “healthy humility”, and you certainly take nothing in life for granted.

AS: Who is your favorite fictional heroine, and who are your heroines in real life?

HB: My favorite fictional heroine has got to be Cheetara, from the Thundercats. Not the current remake, the old school 1980’s version. That cheetah can run. And save some lives while doing it.

My real life heroines are the ladies in my family- my daughters, my mother, sister, aunts and grandmothers- AND the nurses at Stanford Medical Center’s E1 unit. They are not only heroines, but angels as well.

AS: You’re going to a desert island and get to take one food, one drink, and one feminist. What do you pick?

HB: My one food has to be pineapples. My one drink is a Sudanese drink called “hilu murr”, which means “sweet and sour”, and my feminist is Sudanese pioneer of women’s rights Nafeesa Elmileik. She is a founder of the Sudanese Women’s Union in 1953, and Women’s Voice Magazine, at a time when life in Sudan was dominated by men. She fought for the right of girls to have an education, and to be free from restrictive laws, and she pushed for women’s suffrage in Sudan until it was achieved in 1964. I would love to sit with her to hear stories of how she and the women of her time changed the country and faced a patriarchal system. (Can I take my audio recorder too?)

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