E3 Radio is a proud member of the Chicago Independent Media Alliance (CIMA), a partnership of independent, local media entities. Today through October 17th, you can donate to our #WeAmplifyChicagoVoices campaign at SaveChicagoMedia.org.

Read on to learn more about our Anna DeShawn, the founder of CIMA partner E3 Radio and the Qube.

Chicago native Anna DeShawn became interested in broadcasting at a young age through watching Robin Roberts on ESPN, but she quickly became disillusioned by the biases and superficialities that were rampant in the television industry. “I quickly realized that I was not the face of television, because I’m masculine of center, I don’t wear makeup, and I’m not femme presenting, and that was the image I was seeing,” she says.

She eventually found her niche when, as a student at Drake University, she landed an internship for the popular radio show Tom Joyner Morning Show. “I realized I could talk to thousands of people and make an impact while wearing sweatpants. I thought, ‘This is the life.’ And so I fell in love with radio.”

Inspired by her studies of influential Black women, including activists Ella Baker and Elaine Brown, she piloted a PSA campaign that she hoped to syndicate to college radio stations. When that failed to take off, she decided to start her own show. 

In November 2009, DeShawn launched E3 Radio, which spotlights queer music and news stories. “It was a passion project, and it’s evolved so much over the past 12 years,” she says. “Today we’re on 24/7. We play queer music in high rotation and report on queer news. We believe in telling the stories and playing the music that deserves to be heard.”

Last summer, DeShawn took her vision to the next level when she founded the Qube, a curated podcasting app centering the voices of BIPOC and QTPOC talent. “The Qube is the evolution of E3 Radio, 150 percent,” she says. “The world has moved to podcasting, and we’re moving along with it, partially because we love listening to podcasts, and partially because we found it incredibly difficult to find good podcasts out there in the world that centered our experiences and had hosts who looked like us. We thought, ‘How can we solve this problem?’”

The Qube has since grown to 94 broadcasters, who together have amassed a catalog of 8,000 episodes and a listening base that’s grown beyond Chicago into other markets including Washington, D.C., New York, Oakland, Dallas, and Toledo. For DeShawn, that’s ample evidence that their content is filling a very noticeable void in the podcasting space. 

“It’s tough for us to imagine a time when television didn’t have a BET,” she says. “But there is no BET in podcasting. There’s no one uplifting people of color inside the podcasting space from an app perspective. So, if you think that should exist, then you should care about what we’re doing with the Qube. We’re looking to make content created by BIPOC and QTPOC folks accessible. We’re looking to celebrate and amplify them because they’re great, and you just can’t find them.”

Learn more about E3 Radio and the Qube at e3radio.fm, and make a donation to them and nearly 40 other local media CIMA outlets at SaveChicagoMedia.org.

The Chicago Independent Media Alliance (CIMA) is a project of the Reader Institute for Community Journalism, publisher of the Chicago Reader.