A diabetes advocate who’s long urged more inclusion and diversity has created a new podcast directed to historically marginalized people within the community.
Chelcie Rice, a performer and comedian from Georgia who lives with type 1 diabetes (T1D), launched his new Soul of Diabetes podcast in early 2021. The goal is to tackle “uncomfortable conversations” that might move the needle toward change, he tells DiabetesMine.
Partially inspired by the mass awakening on racial topics in 2020, Rice believes the moment is right to encourage candid talk on these tougher topics within the Diabetes Community.
“It seems like now is the time to strike while the iron is hot, and more people want to be educated and gain an understanding of what issues we face,” he says. “I think there’s an audience out there now and a place for something like this, so I’ve jumped on it.”
Diagnosed in 1988 when he was 25 years old, Rice was one of our past Patient Voices Winners who attended the DiabetesMine Innovation Summit in 2018.
There wasn’t any T1D in his family growing up, though his grandmother lived with what he believed was type 2 diabetes (T2D).
Rice began performing on stage in the early 2000s, appearing at comedy festivals across the country as well as on Comcast and online programs.
As an early advocate, Rice came into the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) by way of DSMA founder Cherise Shockley and her Facebook posts and weekly #DSMA Twitter chats. Rice was around the advocacy world for much of the past decade, and his work continues. He is known mostly as @type1comedian on various social media platforms.
Long before it was top of mind across the nation, his soapbox was always improving inclusivity and diversity in the community.
From the start, Rice has called it like he sees it. He’s been focused on underserved communities and those people with diabetes (PWDs) who are too often historically marginalized and not welcomed into the larger advocacy conversation.
Rice says that the issues stemming from the George Floyd murder and beyond took racial conversations to a new level in the United States, and he believes that it opened up a lot more eyes to having these reflective moments.
“That was right in their face, in living color,” he says. “Most historically marginalized people have been talking about… these disparities, and how they’ve not been listened to for a long time. But until people starting seeing it on their smart phone screens or on TV, they didn’t believe it, or didn’t believe it was that big a deal. That’s what got many people thinking, maybe there’s something to it.”
In the Diabetes Community, Rice says that translates to PWDs being tired of asking to be included — asking for a seat at the table, as it were. Instead, it comes down to “bringing your own folding chair” or even “putting up your own table” if those who are seated at existing tables aren’t willing to engage with diverse voices, he says.
The idea for the podcast formulated for him in 2020 through the Health eVoices impact fund that he’s been involved with for several years. He applied for and received a financial grant to start this podcast, and the pieces came together for the launch in early 2021.
There’s no doubt that the healthcare system, and diabetes care, is historically racist and needs to be improved. Rice hopes his chats can help bridge gaps and bring more awareness and perspective, to move that needle more broadly.
In addition, our own DiabetesMine survey in 2020 showed that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) with diabetes experience many barriers to accessing needed diabetes technology and care.
In his intro episode, available on Spotify, Rice describes his project as “a diabetes podcast for People of Color and other historically marginalized groups living with or affected by diabetes.” He makes a point of saying that “all are welcome” whether you’re a Person of Color or not, as long as you’re willing to be part of an open conversation.
He talks about the lack of BIPOC representation at healthcare conferences and in research studies. “It’s important just getting in people’s ears about what it’s like to be a Person of Color living with this condition… because we’re affected by this in larger numbers, so we need to be on the front lines of this,” he says.
In his first few episodes, he talked with advocate and former collegiate athlete Brandon Denson, and aspiring chef and T1D advocate Cameron Hall. Both shared their personal diabetes stories and delved into sensitive topics of race, access and affordability, and how their work in advocacy touches people who aren’t normally welcomed into the mainstream.
Hall expressed worry that once the current #BlackLivesMatter craze begins to fizzle, “we’ll just start going back to where we came from” in terms of exclusion and discrimination.
Denson said that it was sad that tragic deaths had to occur for companies, lawmakers, and the media to finally shine a spotlight on racial disparities in the United States.
Both guests ended their interviews expressing hope that more BIPOC advocates will soon be heard, as outreach programs work to engage more underserved communities.
As of spring 2021, in the early days of his new podcast, Rice says he hasn’t been contacted by any official diabetes organizations to continue the conversation. But he hopes that will happen, and that those groups will welcome more discussion and engagement in bringing different voices to their platforms and events.
“A lot of time has been wasted,” he says. “Now is the time to do and say something.”
You can find Soul of Diabetes on Instagram and broadcast on places like Spotify.