Students' "Main Street Speaks" Podcast Speaks to Rural America From the Northern Neck

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From left, students Denzel Mitchell, Tahi Wiggins and Avery Shivers created the “Main Street Speaks” podcast to address current events, politics and history in Virginia’s Northern Neck. (Contributed images)

Looking around his hometown in Northumberland County, part of Virginia’s rural Northern Neck, third-year University of Virginia student Denzel Mitchell saw many opportunities for political engagement and debate, but fewer sources of reliable information and discussion.

He decided to fill that void, and this summer created a podcast, “Main Street Speaks,” with two fellow UVA students, second-year student Tahi Wiggins and third-year student Avery Shivers, both also from the Northern Neck.

“I wanted to create a media source for people in my hometown to stay informed about current events, specifically about politics and history,” said Mitchell, who is majoring in political and social thought and economics. “I wanted young people, especially, to have ways to be more informed, as most of the publications we have are physical newspapers that younger people don’t tend to read.”

He initially developed the idea as part of the Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows program, which was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but returned to it and reached out to Wiggins and Shivers after George Floyd’s death ignited nationwide protests against police brutality.

Now the trio, who have known each other since high school, have used their time at home to launch the podcast, taking on a new topic each week and discussing national news with a local angle.  

“We are not trying to add more political divisiveness, but to fill a void of information,” said Shivers, a third-year student in the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. “We want people to talk about what happened at the last Board of Supervisors meeting, what the School Board is considering right now, or what the sheriff’s department is doing. We want to fill that void for people who have a craving for local politics.”