Imani Warren isn’t afraid to say what she thinks.
Her WLUW-run podcast, “Ice Cream Social,” is a whirlpool of words. Warren ushers listeners in with a song, something lyric-heavy, such as rap or hip-hop. She follows up the song with a short poem and gets right to the meat of each episode — the conversation.
“I’m a very vocal person, I always say what’s on my mind, I have many words to choose from,” Warren, a 19-year-old first-year environmental studies major, said. “For me to do what I do at Loyola is for me to exist.”
She’s no stranger to public speaking. Warren was on her high school’s yearbook team, participated in musicals, led her grade as class president and gave sermons at church.
The inception of “Ice Cream Social” is rooted in a childhood memory of Warren’s: her math class had multiplication parties and every correct answer meant an addition to her construction-paper ice cream sundae.
One guest, first-year criminal justice major Nakearia Cunningham, said she appreciates Warren’s signature warmth, especially as someone who’s “shy.”
“I’ve never been on anything like that before, but with Imani, she’s very comforting and laidback,” Cunningham, 19, said. “She’s easy to talk to and talk with.”
Her talk show began with WLUW, the Loyola student-run radio station, when she proposed the idea of a podcast highlighting marginalized groups of people. After getting the gig, Warren aimed to create — in her opinion — the perfect podcast format.
“It’s hard for me to see myself as an artist,” Warren said. “All I’m doing is talking.”
Warren talks about a wide range of topics: navigating friendships, microaggressions on campus, puppy love and toxic masculinity have all taken center stage during on-air conversations. And despite the show airing on the Loyola radio station, “Ice Cream Social” doesn’t shy away from criticizing the university.
She said the only thing she can’t do with her podcast is swear on-air, but she still uploads episodes with explicit content to Spotify. One episode uploaded only to Spotify, titled “The Loyola Project is Racist,” discussed the eponymous documentary about the integrated 1963 Loyola Ramblers team.
“Of course, [Loyola] is racist, but in my experience, racism will exist wherever I go,” Warren said. “I wouldn’t say being at Loyola as a woman of color is harder than, really, anywhere else. I’m still going to fight against the injustices, because you should critique the places that you love, however… this is all I’ve ever experienced.”
Race — especially Blackness — is essential to “Ice Cream Social.” Warren said she brings her own experiences as a Black woman to the table, shining in her song choices and poetry influences. She said she chooses from hundreds of poems she’s written when crafting each episode.
Warren cites Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston as her major inspirations, especially the rhyme schemes, patterns and subject matter each writer handled. She grew up in St. Louis and said she was in a desegregation program throughout middle school.
The program, the Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation, enrolls students in predominantly Black districts in predominantly white schools. Warren said her mother participated in the same program in the 1990s.
“People are like, ‘Is that still a thing? ‘And I’m like, ‘Yes, very much.’ It’s not over,” Warren said.
She centers conversations about race, gender, and mental health on-air. The February 20th episode, “Catholicism Makes Me Clean,” focused on Spanish conquistadors, machismo, and how those concepts impact Catholic women today.
Warren said she has a lot in store for the future of “Ice Cream Social.” She said she wants the podcast to become a full-time commitment. One upcoming episode will include conversations with an ex-partner. Another will revolve around Warren’s sister and their mother, the latter of whom she hasn’t spoken with for years.
Warren is open about her own mental health struggles, and said she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. She said the disorder complicated her relationship with her mother.
“I have very little control over my emotions,” she said. “I want the podcast to show the wide range of emotions I experience. I’m always trying to be better.”
She said she’s writing a book of poetry, with each section focusing on a different symptom of borderline personality disorder. For example, one poem revolves around the fear of abandonment.
Guest Jada David said she hopes the podcast serves as a place to talk with and learn from others, especially about social issues such as microaggressions.
“The environment definitely felt less like a podcast and more like a recorded conversation between friends about ongoing topics in our lives,” David, a 19-year-old first-year nursing major, said. “We’re in active discussion with our peers when we speak on the show.”
The podcast airs every Sunday at 6 p.m. on WLUW, 88.7 FM, and streams on Spotify.