“I hate being at the center of attention, so it’s kind of weird that I have a talk show,” said Rasheed Peters ’20 last Friday evening at the premiere of his new show, “Proper Bantah.” It’s a talk show about getting to know others, intended to help open people’s eyes to the fascinating people all around them. At the event, Peters screened clips from the first two episodes, celebrated the extensive production crew and led a panel discussion about how to make “Proper Bantah” better.
“I had this urge to create something,” Peters said, “I felt like there was a gap in the community.” He felt a need to “create a space where people can feel comfortable feeling uncomfortable”—his new show aims to inspire the Brandeis community to “embrace the discomfort” and get to know the impressive people that we might sit right next to in class.
Peters was inspired by the interview show “Profile” from his home country of Jamaica and David Letterman’s recent Netflix specials. The inspirations show: In the two 10-minute clips shown, there was a notable, professional sheen, and Peters’ affable, genuine style put his guests at ease. “Proper Bantah” isn’t an average talk show.
At its best, it’s reminiscent of Anthony Bourdain—Peters also seems to reflect an authentic care about whoever he’s talking to. And, also like Bourdain’s show, food is a way to bridge cultural gaps.
In the first episode, Peters travels to his guest’s apartment, where she demonstrates how to cook Senegalese beignets. It’s a simple snack—made from flour, sugar and evaporated milk—that looks incredibly delicious. He remarks on its resemblance to fritters, a fried codfish snack from Jamaica that’s prepared in a similar way. “Whenever I eat good food, I have to dance,” Peters says.
His guest, Sahra Jaamac ’20, is introduced as “a young, east African feminist who is so destined for success that we had to get her on before the world caught wind of her.” An international student from Somaliland, Jaamac is a fierce advocate for educational opportunity and female empowerment. We learn about the special English-intensive school she attended, her record-breaking performance on a language test as a middle schooler and how that led to her getting to meet Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa. Over beignets, Jaamac says that she likes to play basketball and listens to classical music—and Sia.
At the beginning of the interview, Peters asks Jaamac how to pronounce her name. It’s a disarming moment, humbling, because it requires vulnerability to admit you don’t know to say someone’s name. “Zah-ra,” Jaamac says, breaking it up into two syllables, which Peters repeats a few times. The question breaks up the interviewer/interviewee dynamic, putting things on a more even playing field. It becomes a conversation between equals.
In the second episode, he interviews Jonathan Goldman ’19, co-founder of The Right to Immigration Institute at Brandeis (TRII). Goldman speaks passionately and eloquently about starting a non-profit and the organization’s current work advocating for immigrants. It functions as a sort-of law clinic in which students become accredited in order to help clients with their cases. It’s fascinating to learn that such an organization exists on campus—in our current crisis, one wonders what can be done to help immigrants in our community. “Proper Bantah” helps illuminate one such resource readily accessible on campus.
“Proper Bantah” is a show about exploring different experiences and walks of life, about finding the novel in the everyday. In a campus culture where making eye-contact is anathema, this is sorely needed. The event ended with Peters saying that he hoped viewers would be inspired to “strike up a conversation with the people you sit next to in class.” The lesson of “Proper Bantah,” he reiterated, was to “find the comfort in being uncomfortable.”