Darius Caffey is making moves at Chicago Access Network Television with a new program titled The Table On Air.
He's the host of the show focusing on the work and accomplishments of Black LGBTQ+ members of the community. Since its launch in the spring, the talk show has become the most-watched signature program on CAN TV.
Being out and proud has paid off for Caffey, a South Side native who grew up in the Rosalind area before moving to the Dolton area. He went to school at the University of Missouri, where he graduated with bachelor's degrees in sociology and psychology. He is also a policy and management expert along as well as a skilled education equity specialist.
After finishing school Caffey started an anthology blog called The Closet Unlocked, which was designed to amplify the voices of queer, Black, trans and non-binary people. He described it as "leaning into the representation space while doing research to build collaboration within the community."
The Closet Unlocked was envisioned by Caffey as bringing attention to the time someone spends in the closet and what they learned while they were there.
"I wanted to take that narrative and reshape it to a more positive light," he explained. "For many queer people, their life while in the closet is a huge part of their experience and that time has value to it. We don't talk about this enough. I want this to be a space for people to be comfortable in."
He added, "It started off as a blog, then a year [later] I did more media and audio production. From that came the segment The Table, and I began having one-on-one in-person interviews. I reached out to Darrious Hilmon at CAN TV, and I built the platform from what I wanted to see in the world. The Table On Air is us expanding that mission of not only respecting our culture but treating us well. I want the show to be a staple for people with my background, who have historically not had a voice. I hope it can have an impact on television and be accessible."
Caffey contacts and books many of his own guests. He said, "Some of the people on my show I know from my network, and some are recommended to me. There is a collaborative environment at CAN TV. Especially as a Black queer person, I want to hear about how a nonbinary [person] can exist in so many different ways and have variations represented."
The program's featured conversations "are not typically about someone's queerness" but usually center what they are doing in life," Caffey said. "I don't want others to feel we are targeting the LGBTQ+ community because of their sexual identity. The show covers their accomplishments and what inspires them."
The title was inspired by singer Solange Knowles' third studio album A Seat at the Table. Caffey said his dream interview would be Solange's sister Beyonce, because, "She's a huge advocate for the queer community and I would love to ask her about her various experiences with gay culture."
Some past guests include executive director of Black Alphabet Adam McMath and DJ Ca$h Era. Caffey explained, "I want to celebrate people in all stages of their journey. I want to give them recognition and hopefully that pushes them forward to do even more."
CAN TV can be viewed on five local cable channels and The Table On Air runs new episodes every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. central time. Fans can watch it on several platforms, including the new CANTV+ app, cantv.org or theclosetunlocked.com.
The eighth episode of The Table On Air's first season was just released, with several podcasts accompanying it. The second season begins filming in the fall and Caffey is enjoying this collaboration together with the network so far: "Our mission and vision has come to life, and that is very rewarding."