The Daily Gamecock

Beyond Student Government: Student leader creates feminist podcast

Throughout her time at USC, "The Patchwork Feminist" podcast creator and host Lyric Swinton has been quite a familiar face.

When you ask her to detail her involvement on campus, she hesitates slightly. There’s so much to remember. 

The fourth-year sport and entertainment student was the only undergraduate student to speak at the inaugural TEDxUSC, the first secretary of inclusion and equity in Student Government, the 2019 UofSC MLK Social Justice Award winner and a resident mentor on the historic Horseshoe. More recently, she was a vocal participant in the protests surrounding the controversial election of University President Bob Caslen over the summer.

However, there was one outing as a public figure that changed the course of her life forever.

Last spring, Swinton ran for student body president and entered a highly publicized run-off against current Student Body President Luke Rankin, who ultimately received 53.1% of the votes.

The loss prompted an identity crisis for Swinton, as this was the first time she went into the following school year without a title and other immediate plans.  

“I had to really do a lot of soul searching about, who am I? Am I still a leader without a title? Do people still want to listen to me if I don't have a certain position or things like that?” Swinton said. "I really just had to, really get to know myself for the first time in a long time.”

It was this self-reflection and reliance on her faith that helped prepare her for this semester's unlikely venture into podcasting.

"I've always had a passion for public speaking, but this is completely different. It's a lot more intimate," Swinton said.

"The Patchwork Feminist” is a podcast that takes a deep dive into pressing issues and analyzes them through the lenses of women of color. Swinton created the podcast after she enjoyed her experience guest starring on a friend's podcast last semester. Over the summer, she left her comfort zone and applied to create a podcast of her own with Garnet Media Group. 

Some episode topics have included the importance of mental health, the struggle to balance obligations and the work it takes to make intersectional feminism possible.

“A patchwork quilt is made up of a whole bunch of different pieces. They don't all look like, a lot of them can come from anywhere, so completely different patterns textures, shapes, sizes," Swinton said. "I think that a lot of times as a feminist, as women, literally as people, that's how our lives work."

Four episodes in, "The Patchwork Feminist" has taken on a life of its own as Swinton said she hopes to provide a voice to the voiceless. 

“As an African American woman, that's something that I've realized, that a lot of times I don't get to hear my story told. I don't get to hear my perspective told all the time, so being able to offer that perspective on air is, a lot of times, a lot of people's first time hearing it,” Swinton said.

Brendan Lewis, the podcast coordinator for Garnet Media Group, said he agrees. Having attended a predominantly white school in New Jersey, Lewis said listening to Swinton's podcast has been eye opening.

In addition to having a powerful message and what he considers to be a great voice, Lewis said Swinton has another quality that makes her the ideal host. 

"She's very, very committed," the fourth-year English student said. "Students have class, they've got other obligations to do, but she is so committed to building this podcast up and helping other people and opening their horizons just like she did for me."

On the show, Swinton and her guests get vulnerable about tough issues that affect young adults. This past week's episode was about developing self-awareness and combating anxiety. Each episode, Swinton shares her own experiences as she breaks down walls to reveal her authentic self. While sharing this vulnerability on a large platform might seem daunting to some, Swinton said she finds it therapeutic.

“I've always tried to be an extremely hard person, and I would just constantly pretend like I have everything together. And I still do, to a certain extent, but I realized that I became more successful when I started showing people who I actually am, when I show people my heart," she said. "People don't want to listen to robots."

She begins episodes by reading questions from her audience, and this usually determines the course of the episode.  

Third-year political science student Shannen Cloherty was Swinton's first guest, and together they discussed what it means to be a white ally. Cloherty said she was grateful to talk about "topics that are near and dear to my heart with one of my best friends." 

“It is imperative to have hard/vulnerable topics talked about on a platform such as Lyric's podcast. A lot of the time ideas revolving around Diversity and Inclusion are put on the back burner, when in reality they should be front and center," Cloherty said in an email.

Fourth-year exercise science student Jessica Terrell was a guest on the third episode, where she and Swinton discussed how to be a "superwoman," or a woman who has it all. Terrell said she is proud of her friend for using her platform to start important conversations on campus.

“I think it's really important for everybody to have something that they're passionate about, and something they really like doing," Terrell said. "You can just very clearly tell that Lyric loves doing this podcast and it's fun for her."

Swinton said she receives tons of messages from listeners on how the podcast has helped them. The opportunity to connect with strangers and friends of different races and backgrounds motivates and inspires her to return to the recording studio every Monday. 

"They'll say, like, 'Hey, you don't know this, but I've never seen a black girl do the things that you're doing,' or, 'I've never seen anybody do this like you,' or, 'I've never felt myself represented,'" Swinton said.

Despite not having the title of a leader, Swinton is still an active member in Student Government. However, through "The Patchwork Feminist" she said she has found an additional avenue to help elicit change and remain a leader on her own terms.

"I am a leader because I'm going to do the work anyway," Swinton said. "And if you really care about people and if you are really doing things for the right reasons, then you're gonna make sure the work gets done regardless." 

New episodes of "The Patchwork Feminist" are released every Wednesday.

Editor's note: The Daily Gamecock is affiliated with Garnet Media Group but is a separate organization from its podcasts.