Few phrases from modern popular-culture resonate as well as this line from 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises: “A hero can be anyone, even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat on a young boy’s shoulders to let him know that the world hadn’t ended.” In the film, it was climactic because it served as Batman’s way of telling his longtime ally, Commissioner Gordon, that he was Bruce Wayne; for viewers, it represents a reminder that it doesn’t take a cape and cowl to be a hero, to make a difference, no matter how small.
Today, in a world so plagued by poisonous polarization, heroes might also come in the form of two dudes — one Black, Leo Cummings III; one white, Todd Cate — with a couple of microphones and a podcast with a concise and catchy name: Black Dude White Dude. On islands, they represent a lot of contrasting perspectives — different races, political beliefs, sports and entertainment opinions. At the same time, they also agree on much more — most importantly, their respect for each other, which is fundamental to their friendship. Together, as co-hosts of the Conway-based podcast, they prove the dualism concept — a yin and yang.
But making it through a disagreement with someone these days to only end up better for it on the other side is one thing. Doing that, while also discussing a myriad of other topics along the way (like parenthood, good beer and Netflix queues), and wrapping that up in a bow of a podcast episode that’s as long as a feature film and just as entertaining? Well, that’s these dudes’ specialty.
By day, Cummings serves as the director of sales for the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce; at night, he’s the podcast’s resident “Black dude.” In between, he’s happily wed to his wife of nearly eight years, and a proud father to two girls, 3 and 5, who he describes as “sassy and beautiful and amazing.”
Whether when listening to the podcast or chatting with him one-on-one, it’s hard to miss his passionate inflection and loving tone, no matter the subject at hand. Boiled down simply: he loves people and loves the city, Conway, that he has called home for his entire life — from preschool to the University of Central Arkansas (UCA). For the past 20 years, he has spent most of his time in sales because of this, and it set him up nicely for the novel endeavor of podcast host.
“I enjoy getting to know people,” Cummings says. “I like the podcasts when we have guests on; I enjoy their origin story and what brought them here and what makes them tick and why they do what they do.”
The podcast, he says, is often an outlet for him to express himself and maintain some semblance of sanity in a world that often lacks it, as is working out. (If you see him, you’ll wonder why his family refers to him as “Little Leo.”) During a conversation, he easily follows a rabbit hole or two, explaining that his workout regimen lately has featured exclusively rowing, because his “foot is all jacked up” so he can’t do all the running and lifting he’d like. Another breadcrumb leads to another trail talking about why he’s been affectionately monikered the “Little” of the Leo lineage. (“My dad, Leo Cummings Jr., is a large man.”) That sets him up for a seamless segue to his dad being in the first Conway High School class to integrate, his self-professed status as a “mama’s boy,” that both his mother and father have battled cancer in recent years, and that he, his wife and their children personally battled COVID-19 in December. Just as easily as he goes from talking about workouts to things so personal, he brings all the latter points home with talk about how his life’s recent developments made those others more difficult to navigate: Within a month time span a half-decade ago, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, his father with prostate cancer and he and his wife found out they were pregnant with their first child.
“That’s an odd dichotomy of all of the emotions,” he says. “As we’re preparing to be parents, to bring this little person in the world, you realize the mortality of your parents is very, very real.”
And this year, amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s meant Cummings not only finding his way through parenthood but also childhood, so to speak. He and his mother still talk multiple times per week, but with her health issues as “immunocompromised” and his own demands — in the workforce and as a husband and father — he continues to try and find the right balance.
“As present as I am, I would love to be present more,” he says. “The balancing act of having a wife and two kids who often need attention, and then trying to also make time for your parents who are aging is something that I struggle with on occasion.”
It’s a conclusion with such depth and relatability that arose from just a general conversation. There’s no wonder Cummings ended up as a podcast host: He’s a long-form storyteller by nature. (He jokingly calls it rambling — but it’s more than that.) The very conversation he might have readied for a Thursday afternoon in January could just as well take place between him and an old friend at the grocery store or a colleague at work … or on a podcast episode with his best friend.
Leo Cummings III, Black Dude
Other Podcasts in Your Queue:
The Joe Rogan Experience
Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard
Jemele Hill is Unbothered
The Fighter and the Kid
What Are You Streaming?
Marvel or DC?
Favorite Vacation Spot:
New York City
East Sixth Haze (RIP)
Lost Forty’s Love Honey Bock
New York Yankees
New Orleans Saints
Like his co-host, the white dude, Cate, has spent practically his entire life in Conway. Also a UCA alum, he juggles a lot of travel to and from the rest of the United States as a field engineer for Squan, designing fiber routes for rural communities. But no matter where in the field his day job takes him, the constant is always his home in Conway. That, and his wife of 22 years (his high school sweetheart) and their five children.
Therein lies the first of the many ways the pair complement each other; while each brings the topics of marriage and parenting to the table, they are at different stages of both. Cate’s children, three boys and two girls, range in age from 12 to 21.
And with the seasonal line of work that he’s in, Cate is grateful for the opportunity to spend plenty of time with his family, and as much as possible following his other passions and commitments — such as, of course, the podcast, as well as physical fitness.
Cate also serves as a personal trainer, a gig he has performed for nearly a decade now. At present, he utilizes the space at Refine Active Health, a CrossFit gym in Conway, for those duties. But, he’s excited at the potential to expand this realm of his life into a change of scenery this year.
“We just bought a pretty cool place right outside the city limits with a lot of land and a barn that I’m going to transition into my home fitness facility,” Cate says. “I’m so pumped about that.”
With every word — be it about his family, work, side hustles or India pale ales — an infectious and charming charisma flutter beneath a voice that was made for radio, even if it took a while to find it.
As Cate recalls, he and Cummings were proximal acquaintances as far back as junior high, when the pair attended the same church. After a decade following separate paths in different directions, they ran into each other during one of their most common threads — working out. As time went on, they’d start spending more of it together, meeting up to workout at the same time and attending the same fitness classes.
It was also around this time that, as fate would have it, Cate became interested in podcasts, which by today’s standards designates him as a “hipster” — he liked them before they were “cool.”
“I hate to be that guy, to be the guy that’s like, ‘Yeah, before it was cool,’ but legitimately [I did],” Cate says behind a laugh before trailing off. “I found out about podcasts back in 2008 or 2009 — I mean, a long time ago, when everybody was still listening to iPods.”
On his own, Cate created a few solo podcast episodes talking about himself or subjects that he was interested in. (“Hopefully no one will ever hear those,” he laughs again.)
“I’ve always been interested in it, and I’ve always wanted to do it,” he says of hosting a podcast. “When Leo and I were hanging out, we would ask each other, ‘Hey, have you listened to this podcast?’”
Drawing inspiration from people like Joe Rogan and Tim Ferriss, who Cate says were ahead of their time and against the grain of the mainstream in having long, drawn-out conversations about various subjects, he thought, “Why not us? We could do this.” So, they did — launching episode one of the Black Dude White Dude podcast in February 2016.
“I don’t think either of us really ever thought we’d be doing it four years later after the first one,” Cate says. “But, the idea, of course, was that we like a lot of the same stuff. At the time, Leo wasn’t a father, but now we’re both fathers, and there’s marriage and fitness and fighting and all this other stuff. But sometimes his perspective is slightly different on it than mine, or even majorly different than mine, because of race, because of our background or upbringing, that sort of thing. So, we thought that would be interesting.”
Todd Cate, White Dude
Podcasts in Your Queue:
The Joe Rogan Experience
Cleaning up the Mental Mess
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Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
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Characters: DC; Movies: Marvel
Favorite Vacation Spot:
East Sixth Haze (RIP)
Lebron James’ team
Tom Brady’s team
For five years this month, Cummings and Cate have trudged through murky waters of debate that typically result in “unfollows” and “blocks” on social media: Lebron vs. Kobe, President Donald Trump, police protests, Starbucks, Colin Kaepernick. And yet (last we checked, anyway), they still follow each other on all the major hubs and have made it through such discourse for nearly 100 episodes (when most podcasts fizzle out before episode 10). And if you ask for the secret recipe for that amicable cocktail, each will provide the same answer. They begin every difficult conversation with a mantra:
“I respect you. I will listen to you. I’ll do my best to understand. I’ll be respectful. We will leave here as friends.”
Or, like another “dude” once said: “This aggression will not stand, man.”
No matter the episode, whether it’s just the duo or if they’ve brought in a guest like Justin Acri from 103.7 The Buzz, Tacos 4 Life’s Austin Samuelson or KARK-TV’s Susanne Brunner, that’s the gold standard for disagreement. They set it for themselves first, and it’s trickled out to their growing community of followers.
And as the podcast’s faithful band of listeners has grown beyond just Central Arkansas to include viewership across the South, so too has the two dudes’ set up — from an original spot in Cummings’ father-in-law’s shop to now in a swanky studio “man cave” above Cummings’ garage. It’s perfect for the two fathers with day jobs because the pair can record episodes late at night without disturbing their loved ones.
This past year, the world entered a tipping point of tension. A presidential election year (in the modern political climate) met a worldwide pandemic and one of the most significant protest movements since the civil rights era after the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of law enforcement. Like poetry, the Black Dude White Dude podcast was well placed for these moments, having begun their journey in 2016, the year of the last presidential election. And when the other obstacles arose, Cummings and Cate did not shy away, bringing in Major Chris Harris of the Conway Police Department during the Floyd protests, promoting local small businesses and safe practices during the pandemic and sharing their personal perspective when the Cummings family contracted COVID-19.
“We love what we do,” Cummings says. “It’s fun, it’s entertaining, [and] I think it’s needed. … That is needed in Conway, in Little Rock; it’s needed in New York and California; it’s needed in Russia. It’s needed everywhere.”
And just like the balancing act of life and relationships that both have plenty of experience in chartering, the show also incorporates its fair share of comedy (in fact, often) to blend with the culture. It’s a podcast for anyone. But its hosts? Well, they’re quite original, indeed; proof that not all heroes wear capes. Some just need a microphone.
“To me, in a happy world, we’re all unified together,” Cate says. “We can respect each other as individuals while still maintaining different opinions about things.”