Sick Empire with Branden Janese

A podcast that lifts the voices of people fighting on the frontlines of the global coronavirus pandemic, in a system designed to fail.

The North Star presents “Sick Empire,” a podcast about Black and Brown New Yorkers who are directly impacted by COVID-19, focused on giving a voice to these communities living in New York City during the coronavirus pandemic.

Branden Janese, the host of the podcast and a staff writer at The North Star, said in a statement that she wants listeners to walk away being more aware of some of the struggles communities of color face every day during the pandemic.

“If listeners can leave each episode of ‘Sick Empire’ with one takeaway, I hope that it’s a finer tuned awareness towards the struggle of your neighbors. This podcast engages and represents every voice in the city,” said Janese. “I feel that ‘Sick Empire’ introduces stories that reroute our points of view – to a place where diversity is not a distraction, but a connection.”


As of May 26, there are 363,836 confirmed cases of COVID-19, a disease caused by the coronavirus, in the state of New York, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office. In April, the city released data that showed that Latinos and Black people living in New York City were twice as likely to catch the virus than white people.

“There are clear inequalities, clear disparities in how this disease is affecting the people of our city,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told The New York Times. “The truth is that in so many ways the negative effects of coronavirus — the pain it’s causing, the death it’s causing — tracks with other profound health care disparities that we have seen for years and decades.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)stated in a report about race and ethnicity that out of 580 patients who were hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19, 33 percent of hospitalized patients were Black. In New York City, the death rate among Black people was 92.3 deaths per 100,000 people.

In the first episode of “Sick Empire,” Janese spoke to essential workers in New York City about what it feels like to be working during the pandemic. These workers work various jobs: from a supermarket employee to an activist running for a congressional seat. 

“I am incredibly proud to introduce our latest podcast, ‘Sick Empire,’ by our staff writer Branden Janese. When COVID-19 hit, I knew immediately that it was going to have an outsized impact on communities of color,” said The North Star CEO and Editor-in-Chief Shaun King in a statement. “Long ignored, abused and often the recipients of lesser care, I was aware that just as every disaster–both natural and man-made–has more acutely devastated Black and Brown folks, COVID-19 was going to hit us harder than any other group. I also knew that mainstream media would largely ignore our stories in this fight.”


On season 2 of Sick Empire you’ll hear Branden Janese ask critical questions surrounding Black trauma and centering conversations around healing. What does the path to freedom in healthcare look like for all Black Americans?

Season One of Sick Empire exposed the social ills highlighted by the coronavirus. Now, Season Two focuses on the healing steps. Our new season will highlight the ways to heal Black trauma, as well as the history behind Black folx and their forms of healing. We feature the voices of holistic healers, root workers, doulas, Black financial health experts, nutritionists, prison abolitionists, historians and folx who specialize in treating Black American mental health.

In the meantime, tell your friends!