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Brilliant Voices teaches young Milwaukeeans how to start podcasts, be entrepreneurs

students standing against a wall
Mwanje Thompson
Brilliant Voices
Students learning in the Brilliant Voices program.

Milwaukeean Mwanje Thompson is teaching young people how to start their own podcasts. He founded Brilliant Voices and through it, Thompson wants to help Milwaukee’s Black and brown youth take control of their narratives.

In the program, Thompson introduces students to recording, editing and monetizing podcasts to help jumpstart careers in media.

The program, Thompson explains, is built upon three main pillars — audio, entrepreneurship and Web3 technology. In the audio pillar, students learn about the equipment and software along with how to start a podcasts. The entrepreneurship section gets into the core principles of starting and running a business, such as establishing an LLC, creating a simple business plan, marketing. The final Web3 pillar addresses topics like cryptocurrency and virtual reality.

Thompson says he focuses on podcasting because the startup cost is relatively inexpensive and most of the students he works with already have a cellphone, laptop or tablet — the technology and tools needed to create a podcast.

"The emotion you can get from just capturing someone's voice is powerful," he says.

Thompson also says, "With podcasting, you can use that as a tool of history. A lot of us, especially from disenfranchise[d] communities, we don't know our history, so why not start your history now? You can do something super simple by just interviewing your parents, or if you have your grandparents in your life or uncles, interview them."

Thompson's own journey in audio began in grade school while recording music projects. Shortly after finishing college, Thompson and his friends began to create their own podcasts. Now, having accumulated knowledge and understanding, he's offering his expertise to young people in the city to make an impact.

Thompson believes that in order to make a difference, community members should intentionally create opportunities to foster change and improvement.

"Let's be honest, a lot of people that are finger pointing are not doing anything to help out with the youth or just in Milwaukee in general. They close their doors, they lock the doors, turn off their lights and stay in their own little bubble. And that's OK if you want to be safe, I understand. But you really have to do the work and that's why I wanted to really focus on Milwaukee," he says.


Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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