Talking to Anna DeShawn is like getting the teas from an enterprising BFF. She’ll make you laugh, cry and leave the conversation being proud of what’s next to come from her. The Chicago born activist and entrepreneur has been a mover and shaken within the LGBTQ+ community all of her life. The PrideIndex.com 2013 Esteem Award honoree is always doing some amazing things.
In 2009 she hosted E3Radio’s first show, Anna DeShawn & the Crew. During its first decade the show interviewed personalities such as Lena Waithe, Tim m’ West and Vernita Gray. Over the years E3Radio has hosted various shows by Angie Harvey, Phenomenon the Poet and ButtaFlySouL.
In 2020 Anna quit a corporate job to live out her dream of devoting all energies to running E3Radio full-time. This past summer, she launched ‘The Qube’ App, a new streaming app of music and podcasts produced by Black, Brown, and Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC) creatives. She recently announced that her app is being considered in the TechRise pitch competition for women in tech. The Qube App is vying to be one of the six finalists seeking to pitch for $100,000.
PrideIndex chatted with our sistah in the name of love one week after her Purple Tie Affair, an event where she raises money for her favorite community organization. She shared how she decides which organizations to recognize, why she launched ‘The Qube’ App and more.
PrideIndex (PI) I’m talking to Anna DeShawn of E3Radio. How are you today?
Anna DeShawn (AD): I’m good. No complaints. I went to the Chicago sky rally today. I’m still pumped up.
PI: Does that mean you have an autograph t-shirt and other stuff I can add to my collection?
PI: You are going to correct me and say that’s for your collection, not mine.
AD: Not for anybody’s collection. I wish that were the thing. It was a good event.
PI: It is one week after your annual Purple Tie Affair Event. How was that event? How was the turnout?
AD: It was amazing. We’re in our eighth year of this annual event, giving back to my favorite nonprofits. Every year has its challenges. This year was incredibly unique as we are still living in COVID. I wanted to be mindful of people who wished to gather in person and those that didn’t. This year we had live streams and another layer to the event. We had a photo booth, and it was beautiful. We had the opportunity to raise money for Sisters in Cinema, a wonderful organization based here in Chicago; Yvonne Welbon is the founder. Sisters in Cinema is uplifting black girls, women, and non-binary media makers. They’re building a media art center in the South Shore area right now. Raising money and amplifying what Yvonne is doing with Sisters in Cinema made it that much more gratifying. It was awesome.
PI: I’m familiar with Sisters in Cinema and the outstanding work they’re doing. This past summer, we gave them an Esteem Award.
PI: How do you decide which organizations to recognize and make the beneficiaries of your event?
AD: Today, they’ve been the ones that have been my favorite organizations. It’s been me deciding on who we wanted to honor. I look for organizations and nonprofits that are small but making significant impacts. I think about the organizations that I see doing things in the community, and those are the organizations we’ve supported over the last eight years. They include Affinity Community Services, Church Within The Church Movement, Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus, Project Fears, Sisters in Cinema, and A Long Walk Home. All these fantastic organizations are living out their mission in beautiful ways and overcoming many challenges along the way, but still making meaningful impacts on the people they serve. That’s how we’ve done it in the past. We thought about changing it up a little bit by going out to the community and asking for submissions. We’ll see if it changes up in the future.
PI: How does one become one of your favorites?
AD: To become one of my favorites, you usually have to be somewhere in my hemisphere. We somehow have crossed paths, and your organization came across my Instagram or Facebook feed. Somehow there’s a connection between your organization and what I’m passionate about, black and brown LGBTQ folks in some form or fashion. I am also passionate about women’s issues, black women, and black liberation or queer liberation. They have to be organizations somewhere in that hemisphere.
PI: What does your hemisphere mean? The immediate Chicagoland area? Or up to Milwaukee or over in Minneapolis?
AD: Today, they’ve been Chicago-based. I’m not limiting myself to that in the future.
PI: Will you consider having a virtual component as part of the event next year?
AD: I think it has to be part of the event from now on. I believe that’s going to be the case for everybody. Even if COVID restrictions are lifted, I think all in-person events will have some virtual extension because we’re in a world that’s demanding a hybrid experience. There will be opportunities for us to reach people past our zip codes or cities. As the word gets out about the Purple Tie Event and who we serve, I hope that people from around the country want to join in and support the organizations we honor. Having an online experience only expands what we can do and how much money we can raise.
The first year we had the silent auction online, people asked, “what in the world are you doing?” I remember someone saying, “I guess you don’t want me to bid on that thing? I don’t know what this is.” Now the online experience is a natural extension. I don’t see us stopping that. I see us continuing to improve the virtual experience for folks from around the country to join us.
PI: A little bit birdie whispered in my ear. (That little birdie is the internet and Facebook and everywhere else.)
AD: Laughs. A lot of birds.
PI: That birdie whispered in my ear that Anna is doing this stuff on a full-time basis. She isn’t working for another organization. She’s doing her own shit!
AD: Yeah, yes. I quit my job in February to pursue E3Radio full-time. COVID mandated as I reflect on how I was spending my time and how I wanted to spend the rest of my life, right. My wife and I survived COVID. It was scary for us. I had to reflect on what I wanted to do. My radio show started in November of 2009. The first guest was Gender Just, so I’ve been at this for over a decade. I still worked my full-time corporate job, which was highly demanding. I had a lot of responsibility there. COVID was really tough, and it was hard. I have constantly contemplated what it could mean to step out on faith and take the giant leap for many years. It gets to a point where you wonder when you will do it, and I refuse to live life with any regrets. This would have been a regret if I chose not to take this opportunity at this moment to shift. I did take the giant leap in February, and my wife said, “go ahead and do it.” And with her support and her blessing, I did quit my job. And I’ve been going full steam ahead on building this beautiful queer radio station that’s playing queer and independent music in high rotation.
I started my show, Wake up with Anna and Friends, with daily news and music from a black queer woman’s angle; that’s me. We have been embarked upon releasing an app called The Qube, which is a music and podcasting app by BIPOC and QPOC creatives. The whole idea is to put the radio station inside the app so that more people can tune in live and on the go while curating podcasts by BIPOC and QPOC into one space. The BIPOC and QPOC musical artists have no place to be seen, heard, or amplified. We can’t wait on other people to create those spaces for us, we have to make them for ourselves, so we are building The Cube. I’m excited about it. I hope that it drops around the holidays. We can give everybody this amazing gift going into the holiday.
PI: How can LGBTQ+ artists have their music played on The Cube?
AD: Please send your music to music@E3Radio.fm. Our producers listen to music and will put it on the show, the network, and play it on high rotation if they like it. We highlight a Queer Artist of The Week on the station and our social media platforms.
PI: What should an organization or individual out there do if they want to become a sponsor of your Purple Tie Event or anything else you’re doing?
AD: We have sponsorship packages for people who want to support The Purple Tie Event. We absolutely cannot do this without sponsors. I’m very grateful for our sponsors, Sidetrack, Remi, Fahrenheit, Equality Illinois, Lorde, Rustin & Bates, and Affinity Community Services. This event couldn’t have happened without the support of my E3Radio team. I don’t do anything alone. I absolutely refuse to. You can go fast by yourself, but you can go far with other people. I love my team; they show up with their gifts every single year. So I’m grateful for all of them.
PI: Where do you see yourself ten years from now? Or in the future?
AD: I see us having built something extraordinary, something that’s bigger than myself. I see E3Radio, The Cube, and E3TV as viable media outlets. If a BET can exist, if TV One can exist, I believe E3Radio, The Cube, and E3TV can exist too. Supporting, amplifying, and highlighting black, brown, queer people and their art and those living at the intersections. It amazes me that no one is doing that today on a large level. I believe that we are going to do it. I think we’re going to create this space because we did all the work.
AnnaDeShawn has been named a TechRise – powered by P33 semi-finalist!
The semi-finalists with the most votes by Nov. 8th will get a chance to present their pitch on stage for $100,000. We’ve made it this far, let’s take home the win! Click here to vote.
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