Coming of age on Detroit’s westside, Jenn White’s mother wanted her children to experience all that the city had to offer.
“1A is a place where people across the country are engaged in conversation together at a time where it more often feels like we’re talking ‘at’ one another than talking ‘to’ one another.” — Jenn White, host
“We would spend whole days in the library. She would take us downtown and just be like, alright, you got the day, go and explore. She would do the same thing at the Detroit Institute of Arts. I’d get to spend a day at the museum,” White says. “It made me understand that Detroit, for its struggles, was holding onto this deep, rich arts and cultural legacy.”
Listen: ‘1A’ is coming to WDET’s program line-up on October 5.
From Detroit to the airwaves
White thinks back to sounds of Motown playing throughout her household, riding past Hitsville and landmarks filled with pride and developing an understanding of how ‘incredible’ it was to be born in the Motor City and have that sense of “ownership and place.” Fusing her childhood curiosity and cultural exploration with guidance from her high school theater teacher, Marilyn McCormick, she credits Detroit as being a staple in her professional trajectory and understanding the power of her voice.
For the past 20 years, White’s voice has graced the airwaves of public media, from the local sector, to the Chicago region and now, as host of NPR’s 1A, a listener-guided show inspired by the First Amendment that looks at politics, policy, technology and pop culture through a national lens.
“1A is a place where people across the country are engaged in conversation together at a time where it more often feels like we’re talking ‘at’ one another than talking ‘to’ one another. There was something really appealing about hosting a show where we could be this convener and we can say, ‘we’re going to talk about this thing, it’s a difficult conversation, but we want you to be a part of this conversation,” White says. “People are going to be passionate and opinionated, and I think that’s important. But, also teasing out the ‘why’ and getting to some of the complexities about these conversations and why they’re so difficult. That’s part of it too.”
She adds, “I try to approach this work with a sense of humanity and help people understand the places that often get glossed over and aren’t told with the nuance and depth that they need. [Coming up] in a city like Detroit and then moving into news and broadcast, has really informed my life and made me feel like I belong in any space I want to be in and have that conversation.”