The Road to Radio and Beyond

F1000002Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, a former Rhody linebacker, has a regular spot as sports correspondent on WNYC’s The Takeaway, a national morning news radio program developed by Public Radio International in partnership with the BBC World News Service, the New York Times, and WGBH Boston. The program reaches a national audience of millions.

As a child Ibrahim Abdul-Matin ’99 often rode the New York subway with his father and siblings. On these rides his father taught the kids to be aware of their surroundings. He wanted them to understand the people around them and to appreciate the world in which they were growing up.

That ability to step back and observe eventually led Abdul-Matin to a regular spot on WNYC’s The Takeaway, a national morning news radio program developed by Public Radio International in partnership with the BBC World News Service, the New York Times, and WGBH Boston. The program reaches a national audience of millions.

Listen to an audio clip of Abdul-Matin from The Takeaway

Abdul-Matin—a former Rhody linebacker—is The Takeaway’s sports correspondent. Each weekday he chats with hosts John Hockenberry and Celeste Headlee, about the world of sports: “The principal goal of my segment is to talk about sports as if I were talking to my mother. Sports are dramatic, but that drama is only relevant if your audience understands why it is dramatic.”

Abdul-Matin provides a perspective for everybody, not just sports fans. Whether discussing race as it relates to the Serena Williams controversy at the U.S. Open or using his own experience to talk about the key role parental support plays in youth sports, he breaks stories down so they can be appreciated by all listeners: “It’s not just about sports; it’s about the relevancy of sports for everyday people.”

Several years ago, while living in California, Abdul-Matin was occasionally a guest on his friend Weyland Southon’s Hard Knock Radio, but that was the extent of his broadcasting experience. Now he’s getting more comfortable behind the microphone each day: “The natural rapport with Celeste and John has helped me find a groove. It’s not easy. This is live radio, so you don’t get do-overs.”

Though he works in the media, Abdul-Matin does not own a television; he follows sports mostly via radio and the Internet. However, he often watches events with a group of friends or with total strangers at a local watering hole: “I want to see how people react to what they are seeing. I’m not sitting there just obsessing over a game. I want to find the human element that the audience brings to sports.”

Before his radio days, Abdul-Matin worked for several years in the non-profit sector as a social activist and youth mentor. He was unemployed once for a 10-month period and took odd jobs to make ends meet.

During this time, he attended all the seminars, talks, and conferences he could find. One of those conferences was a community engagement seminar hosted by WNYC. Just about everyone else there was either the head of an organization or a community leader. When asked why he was there, Abdul-Matin replied, “because I am a listener.”

His response caught the ear of a WNYC producer who asked him what he liked about the station programming. Abdul-Matin said he was drawn to the conversational nature of the programming, particularly The Brian Lehrer Show. When asked what he didn’t like, Abdul-Matin noted the lack of sports on WNYC’s airways.

His comment eventually led him to the broadcasting studio for a few trial runs. His segments became more frequent until eventually the station asked him to become a weekday presence starting in September 2009. Abdul-Matin has managed to bring URI into his segment. In October, he returned to campus for Homecoming weekend, a visit that he developed into a piece for the show.

During his time as a student at URI, Abdul-Matin explored a wide array of interests. In addition to being a starting linebacker on the football team, he served as Student Senate vice president; he was also an orientation leader, a columnist for The Good 5-Cent Cigar, and a participant in poetry slams.

“I was able to design how I learned at URI,” Abdul-Matin remarked. “In a way that you may not find at other places, there was an academic creativity and freedom there that I have since taken with me to other walks of life.”

That variety of interests still holds true. Since his college days, the political science major has maintained a well-read blog, Brooklyn Bedoiun, which blends his musings on politics, the Muslim faith, and sports. He earned a master’s degree in public administration from Baruch College in 2008, and he can discuss topics that range from health care to the economic impact of the auto industry. He has also appeared as a panel member on Fox’s Hannity & Colmes.

An established writer, he has been published in ColorLines, WireTap magazine, and Left Turn. He also has a book, Green Deen: How Muslims Go Green, slated for publication in July 2010. The book combines his passion for green living with his Muslim faith.

While working with the organization Green For All, Abdul-Matin helped coordinate a national awareness campaign during the presidential race that brought green living to the national forefront. He also worked with political activist Billy Wimsatt to develop, a national directory for youth activism, and he connected with Van Jones (Green For All) to further the cause for the green campaign.

While working on the campaign, Abdul-Matin traveled the country visiting mosques and meeting members of the Muslim community: “Part of my goal is to share what I know is the core of my community. I don’t want to just pump out a book; it has to come with something. Right now, there is no environmentalist Muslim voice.”

While many environmentalists come from an academic background, Abdul-Matin is using an anecdotal approach with Green Deen, which will target an American Muslim audience: “The goal is to provide insight into how American Muslims are going green.”

“I realize that I do have a non-traditional trajectory in life,” Abdul-Matin remarked. “I feel blessed to have been given a voice, and I want to put that to good use.”

By Shane Donaldson ‘99