How we got here: Ayana Contreras’ story

On Feb. 8 Ayana Contreras visited campus to talk about her job as a radio host and writer and her career journey. Photo of Contreras courtesy of Claire Owsiany.

Nick Radosevich | Contributing Writer

Ayana Contreras, a radio host for Chicago Public Media, a media organization that serves a diverse audience in the Chicago area, and author of “Energy Never Dies,” hosted an event at Heritage Coffeehouse at the University of Dayton, where she discussed her upbringing. 

Contreras has worked at Chicago Public Media for the past nine years. Chicago Public Media, previously named WBEZ, was established as an extension service of the Chicago Board of Education in 1943 and initially broadcasted educational instruction. Nowadays, Chicago Public Media aims to amplify the public conversation by storytelling, focusing on thought-provoking stories that entrain and inspire action.

As UD celebrates Black History Month, various speakers are scheduled to converse about black culture, history and other subjects pertaining to black history. Contreras was invited to Dayton by Shazia Rahman, author and UD English professor.

Speaking on what she thought Contreras could bring to the campus community, Rahman said, “Often we don’t think about the good that art and music can do for a community. Ayana helps us understand that. Also, she is a living example of someone who has made a meaningful life and career for herself. I thought she would inspire us all to pursue what we love in a creative way.”

Provided by Owsiany.

At the event, Contreras discussed how she got her start and what she is doing now. Contreras mentioned that she attended Western Illinois University and majored in English, stemming from her love of reading, writing and talking. Wanting a career in radio, she earned an internship with WBEZ Chicago, Chicago’s NPR news source.

“If I get my foot in, I am going to make something out of this,” Contreras said. 

She did just that. Contreras said she enjoyed interviewing creative people on her radio show, both younger and older. Aside from interviews, she plays all types of music, ranging from R&B, rap and jazz. Owning over 8,000 records, Contreras gets a lot of influence from music. 

Another source of influence comes from her faith. 

“Faith that things have to work out. It will work out if you put in your best completion,” Contreras says. 

When asked about any doubt in her career choice, Contreras reverted to speaking boldly about faith and self-belief. 

“Again, it all goes back to faith,” she explained. 

Among the fun experiences she has had include working with Chance The Rapper.

“Running a radio station has been my favorite part of where I am right now,” Contreras noted. 

Contreras gave a lot of good advice to the audience. Aside from faith, having friends that are good at different things is something she reiterated. 

When asked about advice for aspiring writers and other positions in media, Contreras offered this: “The more you write, the better it will be. Craft pitches that will pop out to your audience and hone in on your own individual voice.” 

Contreras spoke again Feb. 9 at Sears Recital Hall, going into further detail about her book “Energy Never Dies”. 

Flyer News’s coverage of Black History Month will continue for the remainder of February.

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