by Ace Epps
In 2014, I was working at the Akron Urban League, a social service center that transforms and repositions African-American citizens of Summit County ,as a facilitator and business counselor for the Minority Business Center. As with all non-profit organizations, each employee must wear many hats, and I was no exception. I also was the backup host for the organization’s long-running radio show, which aired on WAKR 1590 as a community-based partnership.
The title, “Center Talks,” came from a time when the Akron Urban League was referred to as “the Center.” Back in the day, people would come to “the Center” for job leads, food and recreation. While residents were getting resources, they could also get the lowdown on anything that was going on in the Black community. My radio show would carry on the tradition of informing and educating Black people in our beloved city. (The show still airs today and is now called Akron Community Voice.)
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After I hosted a couple of shows, the responsibility of full-time host fell into my lap. I knew that I wanted to change the format of the show and add a co-host. I made a post on my Facebook account, saying to all my 100 followers at the time that I was looking for a co-host. My only requirement was that she had a distinctive voice. Shortly after my post, I began to receive calls regarding the opportunity. I interviewed about 15 candidates and none of them had the voice. However, after my last interview, I received a call and the voice of the caller sounded like she already was on the radio. I was hoping that she was calling about co-hosting. She told me that she was very shy, but was indeed interested in this volunteer opportunity.
Her name was Allison “Kat” McDaniel, and her voice was exactly what I was looking for. However, I didn’t know that I would be gaining a great friend and partner. I soon discovered that her aspiration of being a local radio personality was not all she had up her sleeve. To my surprise, Kat was an undercover community activist. She was, and still is, very passionate about the homeless community. Every winter she does an event called the Chili Run, which is simply Kat cooking a ton of chili and distributing it to people who are homeless. She visits local shelters and provides residents with essentials, including socks and gloves. In addition to her passion for the homeless community, Kat currently works for a local community-based correctional facility and helps with the local efforts of BMe Community, a national organization focused on diversity, equity and inclusion.
But probably her greatest impact comes from her role as a mother of two. Motherhood gives her an opportunity to reflect on what matters most as she recharges her batteries for another day of community-building.
Kat can be seen all over Akron coming in and out of local radio stations, community events, homeless shelters and day care centers, proving that she is a modern day superhero. Her superpower is her passion for creating better communities and her voice to communicate necessary resources and opportunities to local African-American residents. So, Kat McDaniel, keep doing what you do — as we tell Akron it’s good to BE YOU.
Ace Epps is Director of Inclusive Entrepreneurship at Bounce Innovation Hub and host of Akron Community Voice on WAKR. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and learn more about the radio show at www.akroncommunityvoice.org.
Photos: Used with permission from Ace Epps.