Gem City Style Q&A: February 2023
A Q&A with Sonya Byes of Chatting with Sonya and Friends
Jessica Hunter (JH): Please tell us a little bit about your background, as the founder and creator of Chatting with Sonya and Friends.
Sonya Byes (SB): I am the creator, owner, founder and host of Erie's local talk show Chatting With Sonya and Friends and founding operator of Mocha Media Management, LLC. Chatting with Sonya and Friends is a diverse group of professional women engaging in real, relevant, and unscripted conversations in the City of Erie.
JH: What inspired you to create this unique, unscripted, streaming talk show? What sets you apart from other live platforms out there?
SB: My inspiration for creating this space mostly derived from being a woman of color and feeling unseen, unheard, and excluded. Unheard in various areas, oftentimes in the workplace, research shows that women of color are the most likely to be ignored and misquoted in meetings. More than 40 percent of Black and Latina women reported being interrupted and spoken over in a work setting, according to Lean In and McKinsey data.
So having said that, I always wanted to create a place and a space where we could get together as women of color, not only to be seen, but to also be heard. Basically, that's where the motivation and inspiration came from. What sets Chatting With Sonya and Friends apart is that we are all very different. We're diversity at its finest. We each bring our own uniqueness to the table. From our professional backgrounds, family dynamics, passions, hobbies, community, etc. Therefore we offer different perspectives on an array of topics and subjects. Yet, we also have many similarities, especially as it relates to being women of color. Therefore we understand each other in more ways than one.
JH: What is your main mission for the show? How do you decide who your guests are and what topics to discuss on Chatting with Sonya and Friends?
SB: The main mission of the show is to provide inspiration, encouragement, education, and motivation, all by way of conversations. These are the four pillars that Chatting With Sonya and Friends aims to provide. We are committed to engaging with individuals, organizations, and businesses in the city and communities in which we live and serve, which helps to determine who would best fit the guests that we're seeking out to join us on the show. Oftentimes the topics are determined by what information, resources, and support we can best provide for our viewers, again by way of conversations.
JH: I believe you are making leaps and bounds, truly making history in the Erie community. Can you share some examples or personal experiences to shed light on your impactful work?
SB: Thank you so much Jessica! Where do I even begin? It has been a very rewarding experience! I'm very grateful and humbled for the opportunity. I am also very grateful to Pam Forsyth, and the team at WICU-12 for making this all possible. I must say, what I love the most are the viewers throughout the community that I have met. I've met people in the mall, restaurants, social networking events, even via direct messaging, emails, etc. When they are eager to share with me what they've learned, what they enjoyed, how they can relate, how and where to locate certain resources, and most importantly the simple fact that we're there in the studio every week and how thrilled they are to see us (women of color) on TV every Sunday morning; it really does warm my heart to actually hear and know just how much representation really does matter. Of course, I've always known how important representation was, but to actually be the representation that the people needed to see in this space — it is truly amazing!
JH: How are you celebrating Black History Month and Black excellence with Chatting with Sonya and Friends?
SB: Chatting with Sonya and Friends celebrates Black excellence every single day. Not just during February, which we all know and recognize as Black History Month. We take pride in knowing that our contributions as women of color extend way beyond February. Each one of us is working hard professionally, serving and uplifting our communities, we're mentoring others to some capacity, and we also make time to volunteer. So when you mention Black excellence, the women of Chatting With Sonya and Friends exemplifies Black history and Black excellence at the same time. We are celebrating the fact that as women of color, we are able to not only be seen but heard as well, which is a celebration in itself.
JH: You also have a "Galentine's Day" event coming up. Tell us about this event and what "Galentine's Day" means to you?
SB: Yes! We do and we're all so excited about the event. It means that we basically have a fun-filled Girls Night Out! We've partnered up with the Flagship City Food Hall to host our very first Galentine's Day Event. Galentine's Day is February 13th. It's a day when women get together to have fun and celebrate friendships with their girlfriends who make up their squads or support systems. So all the ladies in the place with style and grace put your red attire on, grab your girlfriends and come hang out with Chatting With Sonya and Friends to enjoy a night of drink specials, food specials, raffles, fun, games and karaoke!
Chatting With Sonya and Friends airs on WICU on Sundays at 6:30 a.m. and on Erie News Now Plus on Tuesdays at 10:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m.
Jessica Hunter can be found at jessicahunterphotos.com