The State of Things

M-F 12 Noon, M-Th 8p, Sat 6a

We bring the issues, personalities, and places of North Carolina to you. We are a live show, and we want to hear from listeners. Call 1-877-962-9862, email sot@wunc.org, or tweet @state_of_things. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

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photo of ariel dorfman
Courtesy of Seven Stories Press

Many of writer Ariel Dorfman’s works explore power dynamics in a post-colonial world. His latest novel is no exception. “Darwin’s Ghosts” (Seven Stories Press/2018) centers on a man whose life is changed on his 14th birthday when his father takes a Polaroid picture of him. However, in the photo protagonist Fitzroy Foster’s face is not his own. Instead, his face is that of a stranger.

A picture of an 'I Voted' sticker.
Vox Efx / Flickr

North Carolinians had their say at the polls Tuesday in the 2018 primary election. There were primary challenges in almost every Congressional district, and Democrats running for every legislative seat in the state.

photo of rev. dr. william j. barber II and jonathona wilson-hartgrove
Courtesy of Jonathon Wilson-Hartgrove

At an Easter dinner gathering in 2016, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s teenage son and his grandfather began to butt heads. The topic was the upcoming election and then-candidate Donald Trump. While his conservative, Christian grandfather supported the idea of “Making America Great Again,” his black son questioned whether or not his grandfather understood what that meant. In an attempt to reconcile these worlds Wilson-Hartgrove wrote “Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion” (IVP Books/2018).

photo of hendricks and dimuzio on guitar and keyboard
Courtesy of Arts Access

At the arts celebration “A Series of Fortunate Events,” actors, visual artists, and musicians with disabilities showcase their creations and their talent. But the event goes beyond representing art, it is also a platform for artists to advocate for their own place in the North Carolina arts economy.

refugees and migrants in boat
Felipe Dana / Associated Press

The Trump administration’s new refugee restrictions have drastically cut the rate of refugees arriving in the United States and in North Carolina. In 2016, more than 3,000 refugees were resettled in the state. In 2017 there were fewer than 2,000 – the lowest rate in at least a decade. With the new stricter federal vetting policies in place, North Carolina is set to admit fewer than 900 refugees by the end of 2018.

photo of a drone against a blue sky
Don McCullough / Flickr Creative Commons

Across North Carolina, police departments in urban and rural areas are getting into the drone game. A statewide de facto moratorium on law enforcement drone use ended in 2015. Since then the technology has become more affordable and police departments are purchasing the aerial tools for a range of reasons – from chasing down suspects to showing off to kids at community events.

photo of two adults with autism working with two therapists
Courtesy of Autism Society of NC

One in 57 8-year-old children in North Carolina is diagnosed with autism, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But new reporting from North Carolina Health News and EdNC shows many families around the state are struggling to access specialized treatments that could transform how their children with autism behave.

album cover for the sensational nightingales
Universal Special Products

For more than two decades, Charles Johnson was the lead singer for the Durham-based gospel quartet The Sensational Nightingales. His hit single, “It’s Gonna Rain” spent dozens of weeks on the Billboard gospel charts. The album of the same name reportedly sold one million copies.

Voting sign
Wikipedia Commons

The 2018 midterm election is shaping up to be one of the most important in recent memory, and much of what happens in November will be determined tomorrow in primary elections around the state. There are no statewide races on the ballot, but there are primary challenges in almost every Congressional district, Democrats running for every legislative seat in the state, and many contentious local races for positions like sheriff and county attorney.

headshot of serapio
Courtesy of Luis Carlos Serapio

Luis Carlos Serapio crossed the border from Mexico as an undocumented immigrant in the early 1990s. He was looking for a better life. He moved around, from Los Angeles to San Francisco to Utah, and then to the East Coast. After visiting Asheville for a wedding, he and his first wife fell in love with the city. They soon decided to take a leap of faith and just move there.

photo of rudy giuliani
Carolyn Kaster, File / AP Photo

Rudolph Giuliani, the former Mayor of New York City and now member of President Donald Trump’s legal team, told Fox News’s Sean Hannity on Wednesday that Trump repaid the $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. Trump followed up on Twitter the next morning and backed up some of what Giuliani stated adding “money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll (sic) in this transaction.” The repayment claim goes against what Trump and his lawyer Michael Cohen have previously said.

headshot of andy fisher
Courtesy of Andy Fisher

When Andy Fisher co-founded the Community Food Security Coalition in 1994, he had a clear goal of advocating for food security. During his 17 years working in conjunction with leaders of the anti-hunger movement, he observed the systems and practices that are holding the movement back.

photo of mimi stillman posing in an evening gown on a city street
Vanessa Briceño

It was like a fairy tale. Renowned flutist Julius Baker was in town and 11-year-old Mimi Stillman got to meet him. Then he asked the question every orchestral musician wants to hear: do you know any Mozart? Of course she knew Mozart. Though Stillman had only been playing flute for a couple of years, she managed to impress one of the best and was launched into the spotlight and eventually had a full-fledged career as a solo flutist.

Henry McCollum, left, spent 30 years, 11 months and seven days on death row. Leon Brown was imprisoned at the age of 15 and spend the first decade in solitary confinement. In 2014 the men were released after DNA evidence implicated another man.
Courtesy of Patrick Megaro

In 1983, an 11-year-old girl was raped and killed in Red Springs, North Carolina. Half brothers Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, teenagers at the time, initially confessed to the crime, but later recanted saying they were coerced. They spent 31 years in prison until DNA from the crime scene proved them innocent.

faded photo of mcbane and mann, smiling and seated on a couch
Courtesy of Eryk Pruitt

For author Eryk Pruitt the podcast “Serial” was more than just a riveting crime drama. It was the type of suspenseful story he aspired to create. After joining forces with journalist Drew Adamek, he found his own gripping crime to explore, and it took place in a location in Durham he passed every day.

book cover for 'murder on shades mountain,' picturing a dirt road
Duke University Press

In 1931, Willie Peterson was arrested for the attack of three white women in Birmingham, Alabama. He did not match the description that the sole survivor of the attack gave police, other than the fact that he was black. He was convicted and sentenced to death.

photo of a brown lagoon, farm buildings in the background
Bob Nichols / USDA

A federal jury awarded more than $50 million in damages to 10 neighbors of a 15,000-head hog operation in Eastern North Carolina. The residents said the stench and noise from the hog farm made living in their rural homes unenjoyable.

illustration of playing cards with the words 'this is love'
Illustration by Julienne Alexander

Four years ago when Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer launched the podcast “Criminal,” their desire was to create a show that they controlled. It turned into one of the most beloved podcasts, according to many best-of lists. More importantly, it set a bar that many other crime-themed shows aspire to. A few years in, Judge and Spohrer put their heads together and thought: now, let’s create a podcast for us. Figuring it gets a bad rap, they decided to chose love as the topic for their next creative endeavor.

headshot of denise kiernan
Treadshots

When the documentary “The Queen of Versailles” was released in 2012, it bragged that the film was following a couple building the largest home in America – 90,000 square feet. Author and journalist Denise Kiernan balked at that notion remembering a childhood trip to Asheville’s Biltmore Estate. At over 170,000 square feet, George Vanderbilt’s home is still the biggest in the country. Fresh off of her New York Times best-seller “The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II” (Touchstone/2013), Kiernan was looking for her next book idea.

photo of tomlin overlooking newsroom floor with many cublicles
Courtesy of Robyn Tomlin

Robyn Tomlin oversees eight newspapers across two states. In January, she was appointed the first regional McClatchy editor for the Carolinas. But her relationship with newspapers started far from a bustling newsroom. As a 19-year-old mom running a daycare inside her apartment, Tomlin became an avid reader of The News & Observer. The paper was her lifeline to a world outside of dirty diapers and wailing children.

flag of the eastern band of cherokee indians
Wikimedia Commons

In early April, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council member Tommye Saunooke called for Smoky Mountain News reporter Holly Kays to be blocked from entering the Tribal Council Chambers. A couple days later, Saunooke issued a motion to ban all non-native media from Tribal Council Chambers. This effectively made the tribe-funded paper The Cherokee One Feather the only media organization allowed to sit inside the chambers.

still from the movie, both men lounging near a pool in the desert
Courtesy of Tim Kirkiman

Twenty years ago openly-gay North Carolina filmmaker Tim Kirkman produced a narrative documentary in the style of an open-letter to former Sen. Jesse Helms. The Emmy-nominated “Dear Jesse,” featured a wide range of interviews, serving to bring humanity to gay voices in the state. Kirkman returns to the North Carolina to screen his latest work “Lazy Eye,” a movie reuniting two long-lost lovers for a weekend at Joshua Tree. It explores the angst of mid-life through the drama of a tangled relationship.

black and white photo of jackson and best singing together
Courtesy of A Different Thread

Alicia Best and Robert Jackson met busking on the streets of Ireland. Jackson mistook Best’s ukulele for a fiddle, but what happened next was the spark that created their musical collaboration. The two sang a little ditty called “Yellow Taxi” and quickly knew they were destined to collaborate.

still photo from the film, picturing welles seated at a table and coulouris gesturing with a newspaper
Public Domain

Some films get nothing but love from the critics. They garner five stars, win awards, and spark endless think pieces. But do audiences actually like them? On Movies on the Radio host Frank Stasio speaks with film experts Marsha Gordon, a film professor at North Carolina State University, and Laura Boyes, film curator for the North Carolina Museum of Art, about listener picks for most overrated films.

a picture of young Joan Crawford
From The Last of Mrs. Cheyney trailer

While we're celebrating mothers this month, why not honor the most memorable moms in cinema history?  Who can forget Faye Dunaway's portrayal of Joan Crawford as an abusive tyrant in "Mommie Dearest." 

posed photo of rashon nelson and donte robinson sitting on a sofa, the wall behind them hold many diplomas etc.
Jacqueline Larma / AP Photo

The arrest of two 23-year-old black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks earlier this month has sparked a national conversation about implicit bias. Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were waiting for a business meeting when the employees asked them to leave. Soon after, police entered the store, handcuffed them and took them to jail.

photo of a barbed wire fence
Pxhere / Public Domain

Most state prison employees charged with crimes while on duty get off with little punishment, according to a new review from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. From 2013-2017, 57 employees were charged, and only four got prison time. 60 percent of criminal charges were dismissed.

headshot of Josh Stein, NC flag in the background
Courtesy of NCDOJ

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein has signed onto several federal lawsuits since taking office in January 2017. He joined 14 other Democratic attorneys general in a lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s plans to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA. Earlier this month Stein signed on to a multi-state lawsuit to block a question about citizenship on the upcoming 2020 Census. A week later, he and 15 other Democratic attorneys general filed a motion to intervene in a Texas lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act.

book cover for 'the peacemakers: leadership lessons from twentieth-century statesmanship'
Courtesy of Sanford School of Public Policy

There were breakthroughs on several seemingly impossible conflicts in the 20th century: the Cold War came to a close; apartheid ended in South Africa; relations warmed between the United States and China; and the violence between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland quieted. Can 21st century leaders learn from those behind these peacemaking efforts from the previous 100 years? Bruce Jentleson tackled this question in his new book, “The Peacemakers: Leadership Lessons From Twentieth-Century Statesmanship” (W. W. Norton and Company/2018). The book profiles 13 leaders, including negotiators, activists, and trailblazers.

photo of 5 actors in nascar-type coveralls
Courtesy of Keith Harris

Fans of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” know him as Dr. Harlan Carson, but long before that R. Keith Harris was making a name for himself as an actor in films like “Big Fish” and “A Walk in the Woods.” Raised in Reidsville, North Carolina, Harris tried his hand at living in Los Angeles, but came back home with $40 in his pocket and very little to show for his five year investment. For most that would have been the end of the Hollywood dream. But for Harris, his acting opportunities have continued to expand.

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