An estimated 16,000 kids dropped out of school in North Carolina last year. That’s a slight improvement from the year before, but it’s clear that much more needs to be done to make school a welcoming and academically challenging place for many of the state’s students. Join host Frank Stasio and UNC-TV’s Heather Burgiss for a special conversation about how to keep kids in the classroom.
The last couple of years have been one big dance party for Archbishops of Blount Street. The 10-member, Triangle-based band specializes in ska music, a Jamaican-born blend of upbeat calypso, jazz and R&B that predates reggae. They join host Frank Stasio in the studio to play live and discuss the origins of ska and how it has inspired musicians around the world for generations.
Saxophonist Branford Marsalis is a living legend in the jazz music world. The Grammy Award-winner has been busy with composing original music for the Broadway production of “Mountaintop,” a narrative that imagines the last night of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. before his assassination in Memphis, TN.
Marsalis also just completed production on a new album called “Songs of Mirth and Melancholy,” a collaboration with pianist Joey Calderazzo, a fellow Durham resident. This week, Marsalis will be honored with a North Carolina Award, the state’s highest civilian honor.
He joins host Frank Stasio to talk about the latest achievements in his esteemed career.
When singer-songwriter Kim Arrington delivers a tune, you can’t help but wonder if she’s in love. Although amore is a common theme in many of her lyrics, the emotion in Arrington’s music comes from the sincere passion she has for singing. Her forthcoming CD is called “Getting II Yes” and to raise money for its production, Arrington is performing a series of living room concerts to get the word out about her music one community at a time. She joins host Frank Stasio to talk about her new album and play live in the studio.
When last we left superhero Herald M.F. Jones, he was saving the people of Jade City from the controlling clutches of corrupt, charismatic villains. That was in “Jade City Chronicles,” a stage production that ran at Man Bites Dog Theater in Durham last summer. Since then, playwright Howard Craft has written even more spectacular adventures for Herald, an African-American vigilante with a unique past and supernatural abilities. The new chapters of Herald’s life will be heard on the radio in a new series called “The Jade City Pharaoh,” which is in development to premiere on WUNC’s “The State of Things” in December. Craft joins host Frank Stasio to talk about creating a modern-day hero that’s perfect for the stage, the comic strip and the airwaves.
SPECIAL EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT: The Jade City Pharaoh is coming to "The State of Things" on WUNC! Join host Frank Stasio at the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw, NC on Friday, November 4th at 8 p.m. for a benefit to support a new radio drama series starring Herald MF Jones, the bad ass black superhero of "Jade City Chronicles." It's an evening of live music, visual art, spoken word and audience participation with playwright Howard Craft, Shirlette Ammons & the Dynamite Brothers, Poetic Portraits of a Revolution, Franco, Kim Arrington and more. Tickets start at just $25! For more information, click here.
Dr. Barry Saunders holds a Ph.D in religious studies, in addition to being a physician. He’s seen the horrors that can happen in a hospital setting and those experiences help him relate to literature about the living dead. Saunders believes that in many ways, vampires, zombies and other creatures are cultural reflections of our society’s feelings about death and dying. In the spring, Saunders will teach a seminar course called “The Undead: Bodies In Between” at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he is an associate professor of social medicine.
WUNC welcomed a new Greensboro Bureau Chief this summer. Jeff Tiberii has worked in the Triad region of North Carolina since 2006. He joins host Frank Stasio with a review of the most-buzzed about headlines including the upcoming local elections in Greensboro and John Edwards’ appearance in federal court.
The story of the Civil Rights activists known as Freedom Riders is well-known. But the Freedom Riders’ nonviolent efforts to integrate interstate bus transportation in the era of lawful racial segregation were inspired by the Journey of Reconciliation, a two-week bus trip across the Jim Crow South in 1947. The Journey of Reconciliation was taken by 16 men – eight black, eight white – and the riders were arrested many times, including in Chapel Hill, NC where they were sentenced to serve on a chain gang. Derek Catsam, an associate professor of history at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, joins host Frank Stasio to talk about the legacy of the Journey of Reconciliation and what happened when their bus rolled through the Tar Heel State.
Every October, tens of thousands of people make a pilgrimage to Portobelo, a quiet fishing town in Panama’s Colon Province, to visit El Cristo Negro – the Black Christ. It’s a life-sized figure of Jesus carved from dark mahogany. That powerful symbol, which has been in Portobelo since the 17th century, represents both the proud spirit and spiritual identity of this unique Central American community. Host Frank Stasio talks about the people of Portobelo, the Black Christ figure and the annual festival that celebrates it with Renee Alexander Craft, a writer and assistant professor of communication studies and global studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Countless memories are made at the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh every year, but now the State Library has created an easy way for people to share their fair experiences with others. A new Website called Blue Ribbon Memories allows people to submit writings and photographs about their fondest times at the fair. The site is also an interactive archive of documents related to the event’s long history. Lisa Gregory of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources State Library joins host Frank Stasio to talk about the online project and what the first state fair in 1853 was like.
Professional tennis players like to say that to master the game, you must first log no less than 10,000 hours on the court. Rex Miller crossed that threshold before the age of 10. Both of Miller’s parents were tennis players and they often brought him to the court as a child, first to observe, then to learn the game. Miller followed in their footsteps and played competitively for many years, but eventually he was distracted from tennis by his true calling: visual storytelling. He is now an award-winning photographer and a documentary filmmaker.
Musicians Peter Mawanga and Andrew Finn Magill know that when people hear statistics about HIV, they usually tune out. So, the duo decided to use their artistic abilities to convey the tragedy caused by AIDS in Africa and make people pay attention. They collected the personal narratives of HIV patients and their family members and turned them into songs for a CD project called “Mau A Malawi: Stories of AIDS.” Each track is sung in English and in Chichewa, the language of Mawanga’s homeland, Malawi. Magill, a Chapel Hill resident, and Mawanga join host Frank Stasio to play live and talk about how they came to collaborate on this project.
Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo is an international star, but artistically, she’s never too far from her West African roots. Kidjo grew up in Benin listening to the music of the region, but her parents also introduced her to American R&B artists like Aretha Franklin and James Brown. Kidjo’s latest CD, “Oyo,” is a celebration of her early musical influences. This weekend, she’ll perform tunes from it and more at Memorial Hall on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Kidjo joins host Frank Stasio to talk about growing up in Africa, her path to global fame and her upcoming concert.
These days, the term “philanthropist” is most often associated with multi-million dollar gifts to good causes, but a new book aims to reclaim the word for folks without Oprah-sized bank accounts. “Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African-American Philanthropists” (John F. Blair Publishers/2011) honors the generosity and goodwill that comes from everyday people and shines a light on the long legacy of giving in the black community. Valaida Fullwood and Charles Thomas Jr., the book’s author and photographer, join host Frank Stasio to talk about how to recognize philanthropy in your own social circle.
Sure, “Save the Whales” bumper stickers may not be as popular as they once were, but whale researcher Michael Fishbach says that doesn’t mean the waters are any safer for the majestic creatures. Fishbach is co-director of the Great Whale Conservancy and is particularly concerned with protecting blue whales, the largest animals on earth. He joins host Frank Stasio to talk about how efforts to save the whales have changed.
A fundraiser for Great Whale Conservancy will be held at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, NC on October 17th at 6 p.m. For more information, click here.
In 1970, Ariel Dorfman went to work for Chilean President Salvador Allende. Allende's government was to usher in a new era of equality in Chile. But in 1973, the government was overthrown, Allende died and Dorfman went into exile. Dorfman's new memoir “Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/2011), follows him from the time he left Chile and chronicles his attempts to return to his homeland. Host Frank Stasio speaks with Dorfman about the book.
Doug Glanville’s passion for baseball came early in life. As soon as he could walk, he was encouraged to play. The early start paid off; Glanville was signed to the Chicago Cubs in 1996. His passion for writing came later. Inspired by media coverage of the steroid scandal that rocked baseball in the late 1990s, Glanville decided to become a voice for baseball players, occasionally contributing columns to the New York Times. He’s since retired from the sport, but he continues to write and in 2010, he authored a memoir called “The Game from Where I Stand” (Times Books). Glanville now lives in Raleigh and works as a baseball analyst for ESPN. He joins host Frank Stasio to talk playoffs, performance enhancing drugs and the power of the pen.
In 2003, Vamsi Tadepalli was looking to form a band. He knew a lot of great musicians from his time as a music major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but he wanted to play really crowd-pleasing stuff - songs that would make audiences jump to their feet and dance. Tadepalli found his groove in the music of pop icon Michael Jackson. That next year, he founded Who’s Bad?, a tribute band that puts a funky, jazzy spin on Jackson’s hits. The group quickly grew in popularity with college crowds and eventually began traveling all over the world to perform, selling out venues in China the UK. Tonight, Who’s Bad? returns to their hometown to play at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro.
Nearly 55 million Americans live in communities that are governed by homeowners associations, or HOAs. In exchange for dues, residents have access to neighborhood amenities like pools, parks and club houses. But more and more, HOAs are responsible for providing services and maintenance once offered by city and municipal governments – like trash pick-up and sewage system repairs.
Alternative rock band Wilco is based in Chicago and has a worldwide following, but when they take the stage in Raleigh tonight, it will be in support of a North Carolina-based nonprofit called Farmer Foodshare. The band is donating a portion of its concert merchandise sales to the organization, which collects fresh, local food and monetary donations for hunger relief. Host Frank Stasio talks with Wilco lead guitarist Nels Cline and Margaret Gifford, founder and executive director of Farmer Foodshare, about their partnership to end food insecurity in North Carolina and Wilco’s new CD, “The Whole Love.”
The son of Jamaican immigrants, Kenneth Montague often felt like an outsider in his Windsor, Canada community. As he got older, he found himself drawn to art that explored self-identity and found a connection with the work of African-American photographers, in particular. Soon Montague, now a practicing dentist in Toronto, began collecting art. He has shared a portion of his impressive photography collection with Duke University’s Nasher Museum for a new exhibit called “Becoming: Photographs from the Wedge Collection.”
Sun Records founder Sam Phillips discovered music legends like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash, but Phillips said the greatest talent he ever met was Chester Arthur Burnett, better known as Howlin’ Wolf. The University of North Carolina will honor the Delta Blues great with a symposium and tribute concert on Monday. The event includes a talk by music scholar Peter Guralnick, who had the opportunity to see Howlin’ Wolf in concert. Guralnick is also writing a book on Phillips. He joins host Frank Stasio to talk about how Wolf’s talent and Phillips’ business sense helped shape the blues sound in the 1950s and 1960s.
Grammy-nominated blues artist Ruthie Foster grew up on gospel music. Her family sang and performed religious tunes and touches of that tradition are found in Foster’s sound. But she is also heavily influenced by folk and that combination gives her blues an authentically soulful sound that earned her the title of Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year at the Blues Music Awards last year. Foster performs at North Carolina State University’s Stewart Theatre tonight at 8 p.m., but first she plays live in the studio and joins host Frank Stasio to talk about her path to discovering the blues.
Just about every bluegrass musician has been directly or indirectly influenced by Wade Mainer. Mainer, a master of the banjo, taught himself to play his instrument of choice as a child and developed an innovative two-finger picking style. That style, combined with Mainer’s strong vocals earned him popularity as a performer and recording artist in the 1930s and 1940s. He is credited with bridging the gap between old-time music and bluegrass music and artists like Doc Watson and Bill Monroe have cited Mainer as a major influence. Mainer died earlier this week. He was 104 years old.
North Carolina voters will be asked to consider same-sex marriage in the next primary election. A bill that allows people to decide at the polls whether to ban gay marriage in the state constitution passed the Senate today and was approved in the House yesterday. WRAL Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie joins host Frank Stasio to talk about the language of this legislation and how it was debated in the General Assembly.