In 2016, the city of Baton Rouge was struck by three tragedies within the span of two short months. The shooting of Alton Sterling, the slaying of three police officers and the historic August floods left many residents of the Capital City stunned and dejected. Amid intensifying racial tensions and a grueling period of flood recovery, the city was in desperate need of a source of positivity and optimism.
Hosted by Baton Rouge natives Jacob Jolibois and Abe Felix, “altBR” is a weekly podcast that aims to explore social issues currently afflicting the city. Each episode features a guest who is working to make the city a better place in some facet, ranging from politicians and community leaders to artists and musicians.
“We do this to instill a sense of pride and loyalty to the city,” Jolibois said. “People feel like they can’t have that because they don’t think the city is cool enough. If people knew about the cool people we have and the cool things they’re trying to do, maybe they’d realize that Baton Rouge isn’t as bad as they thought after all.”
Upon observing the natural chemistry between Jolibois and Felix, one gets the impression that they have been close friends since childhood. In reality, they have only known each other for about two years. According to Jolibois, they instantly hit it off after spending a day together working on a video shoot.
“After that shoot, Abe reached out to me and said that we should collaborate on another creative project,” Jolibois said. “We just wanted to see what kind of trouble we could get into.”
Both Jolibois and Felix were already fans of the podcast medium before launching “altBR” in August of 2016, regularly listening to shows such as “The Tim Ferriss Show” and “StartUp.” With their shared passion for social change and Felix’s audio and video expertise, it only seemed natural that they try it out for themselves and the rest is history.
After a year and a half of podcasting, the duo has produced over 80 episodes with new installments being released every Monday. Past notable guests include Pastor Raymond Jetson, Elizabeth Boo Thomas and Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome.
“We may not have even met some of our favorite guests yet,” Jolibois said. “Who knows who we’ll talk to in the future? It’s kind of like a treasure hunt. We’re always looking for more people who are doing great things.”
“altBR” is recorded in a conference room at local advertising agency MESH, where Jolibois works as the director of digital strategy.
Since “altBR’s” inception, Jolibois and Felix have significantly expanded their podcasting network. Together, they produce two additional podcasts, “Thriv Talk” and “Drawl.” with one highlighting the struggles of entrepreneurship and the other featuring conversations with and performances by local poets, respectively.
“As we did more of ‘altBR’ we started looking for other creative ideas and projects,” Felix said. “Spoken word really stood out to us as something that might have an underserved audience that we could create content for.”
Their three shows exist within a podcasting network called parachute.fm, a brand created by Jolibois to contain all of the duo’s productions.
“Parachutes are like an umbrella with a bunch of strings leading down to a singular focus,” Jolibois said. “Just like we have a lot of shows that are wrapped up under this umbrella network with a singular focus of progressing the social good.”
The duo further expanded their reach and influence in September of 2017 when they organized an “altBR” summit. At this event, previous podcast guests assembled to discuss the issues facing Baton Rouge and to exchange ideas and solutions for those issues. Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome delivered the summit’s keynote speech.
While Jolibois and Felix are unsure of how they will continue to build their media empire going forward, they are not ruling out the possibility of expanding into other mediums of communication in the future, such as video podcasts or written articles.
You can stream every episode of “altBR” for free on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Overcast and Spotify.
“We just want to change people’s perspective on the city,” Jolibois said. “That’s the hope.”