Podcasts for Inspiration, Self-Care and Social Justice This Holiday Season

A woman sits on the couch listening to headphones.
Podcasts have given us companionship, new knowledge and good laughs this year. Here are our favorites from KQED. (iStock)

We’re all about the gifts that bring us a little closer this holiday season. For a lot of us, podcasts have been a means for socially distanced yet intimate moments with friends, family and strangers. So we’ve put together our favorite episodes from this year, with you and your loved ones in mind. Think of it as a gift guide, with presents for laughter, healing, inspiration and so much more.

For Healing: “It Is Not In Your Head” from Truth Be Told

The difficulties of 2020 forced many of us to look in the mirror with little more honesty. For some, that meant facing the inner work we need to do in order to feel like our best selves. On Truth Be Told, we tap Wise Ones to answer listener questions. One big question came from a listener who asked for help healing from her trauma: “I've always been known as that kid that was clumsy, and I never thought to connect it to my trauma. What practices can I engage in to realign my body with myself?" Author and trauma specialist Resmaa Menakem came through with steps to help her (and all of us) peel back the layers so we can begin to heal.

Another episode we love is Rightnowish’s “‘Angel Parents’ Karega and Felicia Bailey on Grief and Love.”

For the Movement: “Housing as Reparations” from Sold Out

California has been grappling with a housing crisis and structural racism for decades. The pandemic has shown us that the fight for basic needs and civil rights is far from over. This episode of Sold Out is for all of us who want to contribute to the movement for accountability and making amends. It explores the idea of housing as a form of reparations that gives Black Americans the same opportunity that white Americans have always had in this country.

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Another episode we love is The Bay’s “The Fight Against Policing in Vallejo.”

For the Glow Up: “Yanni Will Eat You Up and Make You Love Yourself” from Rightnowish

“I felt so unseen for a majority of my life,” says Yanni Brump. “Always having to fight for who I am, and show people who I am, and explain and educate.” Brump is a non-binary model, party thrower and public speaker spreading the message of “loving up on each other” throughout the Bay Area and online. Brump feels their purpose is to shine a light on as many people as possible, and after this year, we’ll take all the positivity we can get. If you need direction, want to feel good in your body or are on the self-love journey, hit play.

Another episode we love is The Bay’s “By the People: Young, Queer Candidates of Color are Changing the Bay Area Political Scene.”

For the Homies: “Friendship: The Other Love of Your Life” from Truth Be Told

While romantic love takes up a lot of people’s headspace, this episode is here to make room for the other love of your life: friends! Our friendships have changed in 2020, but hey, we’ve all adapted in the best ways we can, right? Truth Be Told turned to authors and besties Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman for some tips. They talked about their new book on friendship and answered questions about maintaining and nurturing important connections during the pandemic.

Another episode we love is The California Report Magazine’s “A High School Reunion for Iranian Americans, 40 Years After the Revolution.”

For Family: “How Learning Emotional Skills Can Help Boys Become Men” from MindShift

What does it mean to have a safe place to be yourself? To show emotion and receive support without judgement? Educator Ashanti Branch, a high school math teacher, realized it meant everything to his male students—and then he set out to create just that kind of space. In this episode of MindShift, learn about the Ever Forward Club, and why it’s essential to have a space where boys can be vulnerable, share their feelings and feel supported by other boys.

Another episode we love is Rightnowish’s “Getting Out of the Way for Your Creative Child.”

For Creatives: “Pulling Poetry Out of People” from Rightnowish

Artists have kept us going during the pandemic. Even as many events moved online, we saw time and again that art will always survive and thrive in our communities. One of our favorites from this year was a Zoom poetry fest featured in the Rightnowish podcast. Poet Tiffany Banks influences shy artists to share their hidden talents and evolve in their performance, and she invited Rightnowish host Pendarvis Harshaw to join in on the fun. Listen to this episode of Harshaw grabbing the mic for the first time in years and leave with some inspiration of your own.

Another episode we love is MindShift’s “How Fan Fiction Inspires Kids to Read and Write and Write and Write.”

For Foodies: “Bay Area Foodie Culture Goes Way Further Back Than California Cuisine” from Bay Curious

The year of comfort food is upon us. There have been many foods in the spotlight during this pandemic, such as home-made bread, whipped coffee, fermentation and matcha. Many recipes were born out of necessity, with grocery shelves emptying quickly and our favorite restaurants adapting to stay open. This Bay Curious episode is a round-up of Bay Area-specific foods, including cocktails, ice cream, San Francisco sourdough and more. ¡Buen provecho!


Another episode we love is Rightnowish’s “The East Bay Poet Bringing Cheesecake to Your Door.”

For History Buffs: “By the People: How Black Activists Transformed Voting in Oakland” from The Bay

The Bay’s “By the People” series, on how democracy shows up in the places around us, is magnificent. This episode takes us to the 1960s and ’70s in Oakland, when white men and big businesses had control over city hall. The political landscape today is different, and that’s mostly due to changes in how residents can vote. In true Oakland fashion, it began with activists on the streets. Get ready to teleport to the past and get fired up about the future.

Another episode we love is Bay Curious’ “Inside Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's Life in San Francisco.”

For Politics Nerds: “Dr. Anthony Fauci on California’s New COVID-19 Restrictions and Lessons from the HIV/AIDS Epidemic” from Political Breakdown

First of all, kudos to you for being able to keep up with the news in this pandemic! And if you haven’t, this episode will catch you up on the latest. The Political Breakdown team has been on it all year long, and is still bringing us crucial COVID-19 news for the holiday season. Hear leading infectious disease expert Dr. Fauci break down the precautions states like California are taking, mixed messages about public health and the unique challenges the diverse state of California faces.

Another episode we love is Sold Out’s “Hotel Corona.”

For Music Lovers: “‘Connection, History and Resilience’: Capturing the Heart of LA's Boyle Heights in Song” from The California Report Magazine

Local artists creating original songs about their communities and getting paid to do it?! That is music to our ears. The California Report Magazine covered an amazing research and community engagement project led by the Alliance for California Traditional Arts called Sounds of California. The East Los Angeles community of Boyle Heights was included, and the episode features genre-blending, storytelling gloriousness that’s better than any gift money can buy. To listen to the full Boyle Heights Playlist click here.

How to send your podcast gifts!

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For all the new podcast listeners out there, we’ve got a little primer on how to subscribe and share podcast episodes. Shows are best listened to on podcast apps, and you’ve got many choices to pick from depending on what kind of phone you have. We recommend Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play and TuneIn—check out your phone’s app store to download any of these. Check out instructions for subscribing to and sharing episodes on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.