The hosts of The Sisters Show are five Gambian sisters who exude a sacred strength of resilience, and bear the scars of a post-dictatorian regime. Underneath their physical beauty is a legacy of fierce activism, and a desire to leave a positive imprint on the world. I sat down with Juka Cesay of The Sisters Show to learn about their work, inspirations behind The Sisters Show and their impact on the African Diaspora and beyond.
In sharing the story of how a tragedy shaped her work in activism, Juka says:
“My sisters and I hail from Gambia. We had been living in the United States for a while. In 2013, we got a phone call that my brother was missing. He and his friend were kidnapped by the Yahya Jammeh regime, the Gambian dictatorship in power at the time. We began to aggressively campaign for their release.”
“It was then that I started to realize how much abuse was going on in the country. My sisters and I knew we had to do something. I started working with some Gambian organizations and The Fatu Network here in the diaspora, and we worked together to bring the Jammeh regime down. From end of 2013 to 2016 , we were very involved in the media. My sisters were also doing activism with other spaces. I knew there was a reason for his life and for him to be the chosen one. The reason why I have been able to heal is because I knew his life was purposeful. It wasn’t just going to go in vain.“
Through this traumatic experience, the sisters realized the importance of media, and channeled their activist spirit to create The Sisters Show. Juka says: “The media is so instrumental in the minds of people, in regards to civic education. People are not aware without it, people don’t know their rights, people don’t have role models and people don’t know who to look up to. My sisters have a lot to contribute. Two are doctors, one is in corporate America, one works with Dior, and I am the founder of Juka’s Organic. We share some of our wisdom and knowledge. Connect, inspire and empower is the fabric of the show.”
In describing the role of women in Gambian society and Gambian revolutions, Juka says: “Women’s role is huge because in Gambian society men have a tremendous respect and empathy of women when they speak. There was a long period when a lot of men were fighting against the Jammeh regime, but the moment women started to increase their appearance publicly, there was a shift in the whole country. A woman can look up to a woman and a man can look up to a woman easily.”
The Sisters Show, which Juka says is for every woman, from those of African descent to beyond, is broadcast on YouTube, streams live on Facebook, has an Apple Podcast and premieres new episodes every Sunday.
Juka describes the most memorable segments on The Sisters Show and the process behind structuring the episodes: “The most memorable was the mental health segment. When we look at our numbers and our audience, it seems they like the fun shows and fun stuff more, but then again we have to strategically and put important topics and conversations in the mix to complete our mission of why we started the topic to begin with. Mental health is something that’s taboo. Africans don’t talk it about much. Another memorable episode was ‘Career Journeys’. we laughed and then we cried.”
Many people in Africa dream of moving to Western countries like the United States. Juka speaks on the realities of pursuing success in America, and media as a learning space for youth:
“It’s not easy. Yes it’s the land of opportunities. If you get up everyday, work relentlessly, have big dreams and hang with the right crowds, you can make it. In social media they may see people doing well, taking photos, living the good life, but they don’t know how much work and if things are even real. Even with the people that make it, it’s a lot of work. In hindsight, how dedicated and how hard I work, if I stayed in Africa, I might have made it past where I am now. But back then I thought America was the only place to make it.”
“You’re surrounding and your environment is very important. Recently I was speaking to an African-American, and they were saying that they didn’t have a family, and didn’t know right from wrong, but learned from ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’. This is what media can do to a mind. We receive so many messages on the page from young girls and young women that we are inspiring them.”
Juka has special advice for young women of the African diaspora in regards to their career and love life:
“Balance is really important, and that is included in mental health. Even with your career, you can reach the highest point, and if you are not able to balance your life, whether that’s relationships, or family, or another facet, it will be difficult. It is important not to get lost in one thing. No matter what it is, you have to find a balance in your life. I am into meditation and self-care and self-work. If I didn’t have that to balance me out I could have lost it.”
The Sisters Show has great things ahead for audience members. Juka says: “We are going to expand, and are working on having a non-profit called the Sisters Foundation. We get a lot of messages and emails, and can’t help everyone individually. Sometimes people also need resources beyond information. We will do it for the show and also for my brother’s legacy. He was always big on empowering youth and youth legacy. We are going to see how we can give back in a tangible way to the continent, including basic health resources and more.”
Juka imparts wisdom with audiences, and says: “Anyone that reads this, dream on, don’t let anyone tell you no. Whatever you want in your life, if you envision it and put your mind to it, you can do it. Create good karma in your life. Anything you put your mind to will happen. You may have some hurdles here and there but really the hurdles are just there to teach you a lesson.”