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Spotlight: Orlando’s ‘Vulgar Geniuses’ literary podcast turns 4

Vulgar Geniuses podcast hosts Veronica Smith (left) and Dennie Wang (center) peruse the books at Orlando Public Library downtown with Nicole Darden Creston.
Julian Bond
Central Florida Public Media
Vulgar Geniuses podcast hosts Veronica Smith (left) and Dennie Wang (center) peruse the books at Orlando Public Library downtown with Nicole Darden Creston.

Orlando has been nurturing a vibrant literary scene, and two of its most passionate supporters are Vulgar Geniuses.

That’s the collective name for local literature-elevating podcasters Veronica Smith and Dennie Wang. Their program highlights work from writers of color, many of them creating right here in Central Florida.

The podcast turns four this week, and the Vulgar Geniuses are celebrating with a live episode recording at Stardust Video & Coffee Sunday evening (April 24th).

The Vulgar Geniuses organization was born the week before COVID lockdowns began, turning quickly from a book club into a podcast that now includes live events via special episodes called Midnight Marauders Story Hour.

Featured in Sunday’s live episode event will be authors Racquel Henry (Writer's Atelier and Black Fox Literary Magazine), Sheree L. Greer (Once and Future Lovers), poet River Coello (HAMPI), and special guest Representative Anna Eskamani.

Smith and Wang say the organization’s moniker came from an unexpected place: an online Wu-Tang Clan name generator.

“We went on the interwebs, like anybody else does,” Wang laughs. “I wish I could be like, ‘Oh, [the name] came from my dreams!’”

Inspired, I tried the Wu-Tang Clan name generator myself and was dubbed Quiet Destroyer. I’m keeping it.

Veronica Smith says both women feel moved to keep the Vulgar Geniuses going because of their passion for books, and the written word’s unique ability to help us understand each other’s life experiences.

“I want people to understand that reading is revolutionary,” Smith says. “It is the most important gift that you are given at a young age that helps you to learn about the world that you exist in.”

Smith and Wang say they have concerns about the trajectory of education in Florida, pointing out that not only are certain books being removed from school libraries, but class curriculums like AP African American History are being changed in Sunshine State schools. The duo worries that these restrictions may have larger cultural repercussions, and the Vulgar Geniuses aim to ensure that a variety of diverse perspectives remain available.

“We highlight people,” Wang says. “People of color. We celebrate their work, their individuality, whatever makes them, them. And I think that is something that is slowly being taken away, and I think we should preserve that.”

The Vulgar Geniuses website describes the organization as “a platform to discuss social issues, expand worldviews, and encourage experiences that make room for the voiceless and silenced.”

Nicole came to Central Florida to attend Rollins College and started working for Orlando’s ABC News Radio affiliate shortly after graduation. She joined Central Florida Public Media in 2010. As a field reporter, news anchor and radio show host in the City Beautiful, she has covered everything from local arts to national elections, from extraordinary hurricanes to historic space flights, from the people and procedures of Florida’s justice system to the changing face of the state’s economy.