SOT Meet Series

http://wunc.drupal.publicbroadcasting.net/programs/state-things

Attorney Wade Smith
Tharrington Smith

As a young boy in Stanly County, North Carolina, Wade Smith did not know what he wanted to be when he grew up; he knew only that he had a deep desire to do something "good and useful." 

An image of Wendee Wechsberg and a child
Wendee Wechsberg

Wendee Wechsberg has worked with drug addicts and HIV patients across the world, from urban North Carolina communities to rural South Africa. She has always done her research with the motto: "What can I do to help?"

Image of Jim Goodmon, CEO of Capitol Broadcasting Company
Capitol Broadcasting Company

Jim Goodmon was immersed in the world of broadcasting as a young kid, watching his grandfather build Capitol Broadcasting Company from the ground up. He spent his teen years driving around eastern North Carolina giving away free TV antennas to encourage people to start tuning into WRAL.

John Shelton Reed did not think of himself as a southerner until his classmates at MIT pointed it out.

The Tennessee native was going to school in the northeast just as the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s took off. It was the beginning of a career dedicated to the study of southern culture.

He came to it as a kind of outsider in his own home but quickly returned to his roots, helped create the Center for the Study of the American South at UNC-Chapel Hill, and has become one of the preeminent voices on the "correct" way to make North Carolina barbecue. 

Image of Kate Bowler with her son and husband
Courtesy of 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."

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.

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. 

Robert Lawson / North Carolina Central University

Elvira Green's prolific career as an opera singer catapulted her from the choir room at her church in Greensboro to the chambers of the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

She was one of the few African-American women to break into a permanent spot at the Met during the 1970s, and her success as a mezzo-soprano has taken her all over the world.

She performed her signature role as Maria in the opera "Porgy and Bess." 

Meet Robert Brown

Jan 18, 2016
Image of Robert Brown (second from right) meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his assistant Bernard Lee and Rev. L.V. Booth.
Robert Brown

Note: This is a rebroadcast from last year. To hear a follow up to this interview with Robert Brown, click here

Robert Brown is one of the most influential North Carolinians you’ve never heard of.

Ricky Hurtado is the executive director of the Scholars' Latino Initiative at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he helps Latino high school students earn a college degree.
John Houston

Growing up in rural North Carolina, Ricky Hurtado knew little about the state's education system. As a first-generation Latino-American, he saw limited resources around him to achieve a college degree.

He worked two jobs in high school to save money for college. With support of his family and teachers, he eventually earned a full ride to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill through the Morehead-Cain scholarship.

Headshot Photo of Terri Phoenix, the director of the LGBTQ Center at UNC-Chapel Hill.
lgbtq.unc.edu

This is a rebroadcast of a program that aired last year.

Terri Phoenix (T) grew up always feeling like an outsider. As a young child in a poor, fragmented family, Terri moved around more than 10 times before starting high school and was always the "new kid."

An image of composer Tsitsi Jaji
Tony Rinaldo

Note: This is a rebroadcast from October 5, 2015.

Duke English professor Tsitsi Jaji remembers the noises of independence outside her window in her home country of Zimbabwe when she was 4 years old. Jaji grew up as a part of Zimbabwe's first legally integrated generation and witnessed the country's recovery from harsh colonial rule.

John Williams is fond of saying that he does not have problem children, but children with problems.

Williams is the principal of Phoenix Academy High School in Chapel Hill, an alternative school that has no school resource officers.

In the last three years, Phoenix Academy has become a model high school for other alternative institutions in North Carolina.

Photo of Arab composer Suad Bushnaq
Suad Bushnaq

Suad Bushnaq was born and raised in Amman, Jordan. She composed her first piece of music, a simple birthday song for her brother, when she was just 9 years old. She is now one of a handful of Arab women composers in the world. Her compositions are featured in documentaries and films like “The Curve,” a feature film recently selected at the Dubai International Film Festival.

Jedediah Purdy
Duke University

Jed Purdy grew up in West Virginia and spent much of his time exploring the countryside and reading. So he was just as surprised as anyone when just a few years later his first book “For Common Things” threw him into the limelight.

Aziz Sancar is a professor at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine and 2015 winner of the Nobel Prize for chemistry.
Max Englund / UNC Health Care

Aziz Sancar grew up as a farm boy in a small town in Turkey. He was a bright child and attended medical school. He returned to his hometown and practiced medicine for a few years.

But even in his daily practice, Sancar had questions about how things worked on the molecular level.

Joe Kwon is the cellist for the Avett Brothers and also runs a popular food blog based on where the band eats.
Front of House Photography

As a kid, Joe Kwon spent all of his time doing two things: practicing the cello and eating delicious food.

His family had recently immigrated to North Carolina from South Korea so his house was always filled with family and lavish Korean cooking.

Oscar Wong started Highland Brewing Company in Asheville in 1994 and passed along the business to his daughter, Leah Wong Ashburn.
Carrie Turner / Carrie Turner Photography

Leah Wong Ashburn has been around beer all her life.

Her father Oscar Wong is considered the "godfather" of craft beer culture in western North Carolina. In 1994, he founded Highland Brewing Company, the first legal brewer in Asheville since Prohibition. Today, Highland is the largest homegrown craft brewery in North Carolina.

Roland Kays is the director of the biodiversity lab at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences and a professor at N.C. State University. He has an interest in the ecology and conservation of animals, particularly mammals.
Roland Kays

Roland Kays has spent his life studying the behavior and history of animals.

It started in high school when he ran the eggs of a fruit fly through an x-ray machine at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The experiment did not yield the results he wanted, but it did lead to a life as a zoologist. 

Today, Roland has a number of expeditions under his belt, including trips to Africa and South America. In 2013, he was part of the team that discovered a new relative of the raccoon, called the olinguito.

This picture was taken at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard in 2013. Jaji was rehearsing with her undergrad research partner, Cansu Colakoglu, for a lecture-recital on U.S. and British black composers.
Tony Rinaldo

Duke English professor Tsitsi Jaji remembers the noises of independence outside her window in her home country of Zimbabwe when she was 4 years old. Jaji grew up as a part of Zimbabwe's first legally integrated generation and witnessed the country's recovery from harsh colonial rule.

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

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. 

George Gopen, professor emeritus of the practice of rhetoric at Duke University
Duke University

George Gopen thought it was a riot when he beat his college roommate in a pun contest.

"If you keep maltreating your girlfriend, she will send you a dijon letter that says poupon you."

While he loves to pun, Gopen does not take words lightly.

He has spent 45 years teaching literature, composition and rhetoric; the complexities and eloquence of the English language.

So when he heard President George W. Bush give a muddled speech in 2001, George Gopen felt compelled to write the White House.

President Richard Nixon greeting Robert and his late wife Sallie Brown in the White House
Robert Brown

In the 1960s, High Point resident Robert Brown worked closely with Martin Luther King Jr. as a fundraiser. Brown has also advised several prominent American politicians, including Senators John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, and Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Rhiannon Giddens
Michael Weintrob

For as long as she can remember, Rhiannon Giddens has been singing. Growing up in Greensboro, she sang in youth choirs, despite not knowing how to read music. But that was okay, because Giddens said she received the best kind of teaching as a child.

Emil Kang is the executive director for the arts at UNC-Chapel Hill. He wants to elevate the arts to be as big as basketball in Chapel Hill.
UNC-Chapel Hill

Emil Kang bucked expectations when he decided to pursue a career in the arts. He was the first in his family born in the United States after his parents emigrated from Korea, and he was expected to capitalize on the new opportunity by studying medicine.

Charmaine McKissick-Melton at a ceremony for Sigma Tau Delta, an English honor society.
Chi Brown / NCCU Office of University Relations

In 1963, the Durham School Board extended the desegregation of schools to elementary school students. Third-grader Charmaine McKissick-Melton and her brother, Floyd Jr., were two of the first African-Americans to integrate North Durham Elementary School.

A portrait of Deondra Rose when she was four
Deondra Rose

Deondra Rose has always been 10 steps ahead of her peers.

She took an interest in government and politics in first grade while running for student council and says that many of her most vivid memories about growing up revolve around electoral politics—like when she lost her first election in 4th grade because she refused to vote for herself.

Marco Williams is a filmmaker and film educator. Here he is filming Lloyd Knight, Marth Graham Dance company for the film Echo.
Marco Williams

Note: This is a rebroadcast from earlier this year.

Marco Williams is a filmmaker who is not afraid of telling stories that others don't want to tell. 

He has produced more than a dozen documentaries exploring race, death, violence and the American psyche. His work has earned him an Emmy, a Peabody, and a litany of other documentary awards.

Meet Robert Brown

Aug 3, 2015
Image of Brown meeting with Nelson Mandela in South Africa at his home in Johannesburg.
Robert Brown

Robert Brown is one of the most influential North Carolinians you’ve never heard of.

He had a pretty humble start in High Point, where he was born and raised. He was among the city’s first African-American police officers in the 1950s.

But he moved on quickly, first as a federal drug enforcement officer, and then as an adviser to some of the world’s most powerful people: Martin Luther King Jr., Richard Nixon, Nelson Mandela and John F. Kennedy, and that’s only part of the list.

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