Anita Rao

Producer, "The State of Things"

Anita Rao is a producer for The State of Things, WUNC's daily, live talk show that features the issues, personalities and places of North Carolina. She fell in love with interviewing and storytelling as a Women's Studies and International Studies major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and began her radio career at WUNC as an intern for the nationally distributed public radio program The Story. From 2011 - 2014, she worked for the Peabody Award-winning StoryCorps Production department, where she pitched, edited and produced conversations from across the nation--from Chicago, IL to Pineville, North Carolina.  

Anita was born in a small coal-mining town in Northeast England but spent most of her life growing up in Iowa and has a fond affection for the Midwest. She loves excessively-long dinner parties and hopes to one day live up to her mom's nickname, "Sheila, The Chocolate Eater."

Ways to Connect

An imaged of the 'Lusitania.'
AP images

In many American history books, the sinking of the British ocean liner RMS Lusitania, is documented as the primary catalyst for U.S. involvement in World War I.

But acclaimed author Erik Larson says that historical narrative leaves far too much out. His latest work of nonfiction "Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania" (Crown Publishing Group/2015) tells the story of the day the ship sank, and the people who were on it when it went down. 

An image of organist Cameron Carpenter
Bucklesweet Media

Cameron Carpenter has had a unique perspective on the organ from a very young age. While many of us first discovered organ music in concert halls or church services, Carpenter discovered the organ through a picture in his Childcraft Encyclopedia set when he was four years old.

Image from Beertown production
Daniel R. Winters Photography

As the 2016 general election draws closer, conversations about what is important to American voters become increasingly polarized. These conversations also tend to happen in silos within particular partisan, academic, or journalistic circles.

Image of Kate Bowler with her son and husband
Kate Bowler

When Kate Bowler was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer last year, she thought, “well, isn’t this ironic?” Bowler is a scholar of the prosperity gospel, the theology that those with the right kind of beliefs will receive God’s grace. As she grapples with her diagnosis, she reflects on life, death, and where faith fits into the picture. She wrote about it in the New York Times, "Death, The Prosperity Gospel, And Me."

Photo: A voting ballot
Flickr Creative Commons/ Ken Zirkel

For the first time in 15 years, North Carolina voters will consider a bond referendum on their primary ballot. The funds from the $2 billion ‘Connect NC Bond’ would go toward general improvement in higher education, infrastructure, and state parks, with nearly half of the funds slated for projects in the UNC System.

Image of blues musician Scott Ainslie
Scott Ainslie

When Scott Ainslie was just three years old, his mother found him sitting at the piano playing melodies from records she played around the house. His proclivity toward music seemed innate, and his musical career evolved from there. He went on to learn every instrument he could get his hands on from flute to guitar, fiddle, and banjo. But he has also devoted his career to learning the deep history of American music and translating those stories to a public audience.

Image of Mount Moriah
Lissa Gotwals

North Carolina-based band Mount Moriah has been together for almost a decade.

Their latest record 'How to Dance,' marks a turning point, as they focus less on personal identity and more on looking outward to examine how mythical and spiritual experiences have shaped their direction.

They recorded this album in home studios with the help of long-time collaborators and friends who have supported them along the way. 

Image of Masked Tree Frog
Robin Moore

Frog populations around the world have been in decline for the past four decades.

And many scientists argue that more than birds and other mammals, frogs are the true “canary in the coal mine” because they are disappearing from seemingly pristine and protected areas.

The Knights is a NYC-based orchestral collective that's flexible in size and repertory. Their concert opens the inaugural season of new Asheville-based arts organization Free Range Asheville.
Sarah Small

Asheville is quickly becoming a go-to national destination for music, art and culture.

And the new organization “Free Range Asheville” is aiming to make the city’s cross-disciplinary art scene accessible to people of all ages and economic backgrounds.

They open their inaugural season with a performance by “The Knights,” an orchestral collective that is adapting classical music for a modern audience.

Image of Omid Safi with students on a trip
Omid Safi

In the past decade, Omid Safi has become one of the country’s leading voices in discourse around Islam and Islamophobia. 

His public commitments range from writing a weekly column for the public radio program “On Being” to being a go-to expert for national networks like NPR and Al Jazeera.

Scuppernong Books hosts a monthly public series called 'Ask A Muslim Anything' for participants break down barriers and learn more about Islam.
Deonna Kelli Sayed

Hate crimes targeting Muslims, their mosques and businesses tripled in 2015, according to a study from California State University, San Bernadino. And Islamphobobic rhetoric has been ubiquitous in political discourse since the deadly attacks in Paris and California. 

But how are Muslims affected in North Carolina? A new ongoing public series at Greensboro's Scuppernong Books, “Ask a Muslim Anything,” brings together diverse Muslims from the state with other members of their community for an “informal chat about Muslimy things.”

Melissa Radcliff is an advocate for children with incarcerate parents as the executive director of Our Children's Place.
Melissa Radcliff

 

Note: This is a rebroadcast from last year.

More than 2.7 million children in the United States have an incarcerated parent and more than 25,000 of those children live in North Carolina. But while conversations around mass incarceration are on the rise, the stories of these children often remain invisible. 

For Jonathan Weiler and Anne Menkens, their divorce started their love story.
Anne Menkens

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. And while the holiday inspires some to roll their eyes at cheesy Hallmark cards and endless consumerism, others embrace the nudge to celebrate their loved ones.

Two UNC-Chapel Hill staff recently decided to document their own nontraditional love story in a new book. Jonathan Weiler and Anne Menkens met in the early 90s when they were both graduate students at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Flamenco originated in the 18th century in the Andalusia region of Spain and has grown since.
Angelica Escoto

Flamenco is an art form with a relatively unknown history. It was first documented in literature in the mid-1700s as a passionate, rhythmic, and rich tradition with firm roots in Andalusia, Spain.

The group Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana embodies this tradition and has been working to bring the spirit of flamenco to American audiences for more than three decades.

'Loves in need of love today' in Stefanie Jackon's 'Orpheus Soul Brothers' series
Stefanie Jackson

Artist Stefanie Jackson thinks of her drawings as works of fiction; they express emotions and evoke memories, but they focus on telling stories instead of documenting factual events.

Much of Jackson's work stems from important historical moments in African-American history that directly touched her own life, like the economic decline of Detroit, Michigan, or the devastation of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Image of Youth improv team 'Get The Hook'
Courtesy of the artist

When the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival began 16 years ago, it was a small gathering of three college improv groups and two local teachers. Today the festival spans two weeks, features acts from around the country, and is considered by many in the comedy world to be one of the premiere festivals in the nation.

Composer Joelle Wallach is this year's artist in residence at Meredith College. She has been composing for more than three decades and also gives pre-concert lecutres at the New York Philharmonic.
Joelle Wallach

Joelle Wallach is the kind of composer who knows what her work will sound like long before her composition actually makes it onto the page.

She does not use composition technology or software, but instead relies on her ear and her instinct. She has been composing for orchestra, chamber ensembles, solo voices and choruses for more than three decades and is an artist in residence at Meredith College in Raleigh this weekend.

Image of 'Noah's Wife' galleys
Lindsay Starck

The story of Noah’s ark has a life that extends far beyond the pages of the Bible.

Images of animals walking two by two are ubiquitous in pop culture; the baby gift industry is filled with Noah’s ark-themed toys and decorative items. But one North Carolina author was perplexed by the fact that many of these popular images seemed to indicate that Noah’s story is cheerful and optimistic.

DNA Sierra Leoneans, including actor Isaiah Washington, gather in Charleston to honor their enslaved ancestors.
Alondra Nelson

Everyone has that one family member everyone else turns to for family stories and gossip. In social science this person is called the ‘kin-keeper.’ For many years, the work of the kin-keeper relied on sorting through old photo albums and boxes of paperwork sitting in the back corner of the attic.

But now, more and more Americans are turning to advanced technology like DNA testing to trace their genealogy. More than one million Americans have taken a DNA test in an attempt to trace their ancestry.

Image of special agent Rosalynde Fenner
Rosalynde Fenner

Rosalynde Fenner has always been fearless. As a young kid growing up in Durham, she called cabs for herself and took them alone wherever she wanted to go. In high school, she spent a week doing ride-alongs with an officer in the Durham Police Department. And at the age of 22, she embarked on a 25 year career as a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, including stints in Guatemala, Bolivia, New York City, and Puerto Rico. 

Image of Ken Dodge, professor of public policy at Duke
Duke University

Note: This is a rebroadcast from last year.

There is a common metaphor in the scientific community that uses flowers to describe children’s sensitivity to their environments. A child like a dandelion will turn out fine despite the circumstances she is raised in, while a child like an orchid will flounder without a nourishing environment, but blossom with care and support. 

Image of miner loading coal in Portal 31 in Lynch, Ky. in the 1920s.
Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College and the Appalachian Archives. These photos are part of the U.S. Coal & Coke and International Harvester Image Collection.

Note: This is a rebroadcast from last year.

Tens of thousands of African-Americans called Appalachia home in the early 20th century, yet most popular representations of the region rarely include details about the black experience.

Image of Chang and Eng Bunker
Wikimedia Commons

Note: This is a rebroadcast from last year.  

Conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker toured the world in the mid 1800s, putting their bodies on exhibit for a wide array of audiences. They eventually settled in rural North Carolina, became slave owners, and fathered 21 children, but they were never able to escape the public eye. 

REEL SOUTH

The American South has a long history of compelling, lyrical, and diverse storytelling. But many of the nationally-known portrayals of the region—like “Duck Dynasty,” “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” or “Swamp People”—still rely heavily on stereotypes.

Don Taylor is a professor of public policy at Duke University.
Duke University

Eighty percent of people who die in the United States are on Medicare, making end-of-life policies a crucial component of the Medicare system.

This month marks a number of significant changes to Medicare’s policies including the once-controversial funding for physicians to discuss end-of-life issues with their patients as well as updates to the hospice payment system. 

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