The State of Things

WUNC's The State of Things brings the issues, personalities, and places of North Carolina to you.  The State of Things Podcast presents new stories every weekday with topics from our show.  To subscribe:

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Courtesy of The Artist

Durham-based musician Kamara Thomas knew she wanted to be an artist at a young age. But she grew up in a Christian fundamentalist household that frowned upon artistic expression.

State Senate chamber
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

The North Carolina Senate released their $22.9 billion spending plan earlier this week. The budget has significant implications for the state’s education system. It shifts how teacher raises are allocated and proposes a $600 million increase in education spending.

Flickr Creative Commons

Mission Health, a hospital system in Western North Carolina, announced this week that it would close its maternity ward at Angel Hospital in Franklin, North Carolina. The hospital serves a mostly low-income, rural population. Mission Health said it cut the hospital’s labor and delivery services to remain solvent in the face of low reimbursement rates.

Hector Emanuel, special to ProPublica

Case Farms chicken company produces nearly one billion pounds of meat each year. It supplies food for customers including Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, Boar’s Head, and the U.S. government. Yet a new report shows it is a business built on the backs of the world’s most vulnerable immigrants. And its factories are some of the most dangerous workplaces in America.

Courtesy Monica Berra/ Soul City

Like many utopian societies, Soul City was a dream that was doomed to fail. It was the brainchild of civil rights leader Floyd McKissick who wanted to build a haven of racial equality for nearly 20,000 people. Construction for the project began in the Piedmont region of North Carolina in the 1970s, but constant bureaucratic battles led to its demise.

Southerners on New Ground

Many families will not be able to celebrate Mother’s Day together this weekend due to barriers in the criminal justice system. In the United States, nearly 80 percent of women in jail are mothers, and most of those women are also single parents, according to a 2016 report from the Vera Institute of Justice. 

Naomi Prioleau
Elizabeth Baier / WUNC

Burgeoning interest from foreign architects is sparking hope among High Point furniture manufacturers that they could find a new market overseas. A group of architects from India recently made their first visit to the area. And in Guilford County, one in 20 adults struggles with basic literacy tasks like reading a story or a map.

University of South Carolina Press

Theories abound regarding why famed writer Ernest Hemingway shot and killed himself in Idaho in 1961. Some claim he suffered from bipolar disorder or that he had depression. But in the new book “Hemingway’s Brain” (University of South Carolina Press/2017), psychiatrist Andrew Farah offers a new theory.

Gate City Divas / www.gatecitydivas.com

The Gate City Divas are a female-led blues group made up of seasoned singer-songwriters from the Triad. The group had an unconventional start; they were awarded a grant to record an album of original songs by Greensboro-based female performers. After completing the project and releasing the album “Goin’ To Town,” they decided to form a full-fledged band.

Journalist Mark Binker died April 29, 2017.
Courtesy N.C. Insider

 

Last week’s jam-packed and dramatic legislative schedule would have been a welcome distraction this week for political reporters in the General Assembly. They mourned the loss of veteran political reporter Mark Binker, an irreplaceable friend and colleague, who passed away suddenly at the age of 43.

Terrestrial Podcast / kuow.org

Many people are aware of the way human choices are changing the planet. But how is the planet shaping the big and small choices people make everyday? The new podcast “Terrestrial” from NPR member station KUOW traces the decisions people make based on the environment, like a couple’s decision not to have children because of rising global population, or the exploration of composting as an eco-friendly way of processing dead bodies.

Michael Zirkle

Loud drum beats and trumpet calls are prominent features of many war-themed musical works. They symbolize the disruption and angst present in times of conflict. On the other hand, lyrical melodies and poetic vocals are also commonly used to evoke themes of reconciliation and hope. The North Carolina Master Chorale brings this range of sounds to the stage Friday, May 12 in a special performance entitled “War and Peace.

Duke Energy / Flickr Creative Commons

Last year Duke Energy acquired Piedmont Natural Gas for $4.9 billion. The purchase is a marker of the energy industry’s shift toward using natural gas to produce electricity. Supporters of natural gas say it is cheaper and burns cleaner than coal. But critics argue that methane leaks during storage and transportation, which can accelerate global warming.

Courtesy of Kathryn Clarke

Holidays like Mother’s Day are often marked by cards, bouquets, or a heartfelt gift. But for the past three years, local writers have been gathering together to celebrate the occasion through storytelling. “Listen To Your Mother” features live readings about every aspect of motherhood, from the messy to the mundane.

Sarah Sneeden / Viking/Penguin Publishing

For nearly 20 years, Ann B. Ross has written about the lives of the outspoken Miss Julia and her band of friends. They live in the fictional town of Abbotsville.

The newest novel in the Miss Julia mystery series takes the book’s heroine to the coast where a hurricane bring both chaos and surprising treasures. Ross lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and her town has provided endless inspiration for the characters and content of her work.

GERRY BROOME / ASSOCIATED PRESS

A rush to execute death row inmates in Arkansas led to national concern about the use of the death penalty. In North Carolina, juries continue to send people to death row. They sentenced 16 people to death in the last ten years. But in that time there has not been a single execution. Some are questioning why the country has the death penalty if it is not being used. Others advocate for abolishing it altogether. They say it does not deliver the justice it intended, costs too much, is not administered fairly, and could amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

Abingdon Press/2017

In 1947, dozens of white men in Greenville, South Carolina kidnapped and murdered a young black man named Willie Earle. Several of the men later confessed to the crime and said it was retaliation after a black man allegedly stabbed a white cab driver. However, after a trial, nobody was convicted for the murder.

Liz Bell

Many communities in eastern North Carolina are still recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. The storm hit the East Coast last October, and in Edgecombe County hundreds of students were displaced after flooding nearly destroyed Princeville Elementary School. Now the Edgecombe County school board must decide on next steps for rebuilding the school.

David Hoffman

Earl Scruggs is considered one of the most influential banjo players of all time. He made a name for himself performing with Bill Monroe’s band on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in the mid-1940s. Scruggs went on to compose seminal records like “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” and “The Ballad of Jed Clampett.”

Phillip Lewis

In the novel “The Barrowfields” (Hogarth/2017) a character named Henry grows up revering his literary father, a man who ensconced the family in a strange house on a hillside in western North Carolina. But his father’s dark unraveling pushes Henry away.

He abandons the sister and mother he had promised to protect and vows to stay away from his gloomy mountain hometown forever. But the ties of family and home prove stronger than Henry’s will to escape them both.

McGuire's Miracle The Documentary

Alexander Julian is credited with the iconic revamp of Tar Heel sports uniforms. But his journey to creating the legendary Carolina blue argyle was a long time in the making. Julian drew up his first designs when he was a child, and he started working the sales floor at his father Maurice Julian’s haberdashery when he was in his teens.

Image of Ken Rudin, the Political Junkie
kenrudinpolitics.com

 

This Saturday marks 100 days in power for the Trump administration. The Trump team is touting the president’s accomplishments, which include job creation efforts and national security measures. A significant number of these measures were instituted through executive orders or memorandums, a maneuver for which Republicans criticized former President Obama.

Man Bites Dog Theatre

What do we choose to remember as we grow older? How do the stories we tell ourselves shape our own identity? The play “Marjorie Prime” explores these questions through the story of an 85-year-old woman dealing with memory loss. Marjorie finds companionship in artificial intelligence modeled after a younger version of her deceased husband.

Rebecca Ward

 After more than 15 years, rapper Joshua Gunn is familiar with the Durham hip-hop scene. As a teenager Gunn made a name for himself in underground Durham rap battles. He paired up with artists like acclaimed DJ Terminator X of Public Enemy and MC Lyte.

Courtesy of Karen Ziegler

LGBTQ individuals have long been pushed out of religious and spiritual communities, but that has not made all of them lose their faith. In fact, many LGBTQ folks have taken on leadership roles to advocate for and heal their communities. 

All-Star Comedy Team Creates Middle-Grade Comic Novel

Apr 27, 2017

When a comedian, a cartoonist and an author team up to write young adult fiction, it leads to a hilarious book about a sixth-grader with a secret.

North Carolina legislative building
Wikimedia Commons

 

Governor Roy Cooper’s political battle continues with the Republican-led General Assembly. The state House and Senate voted this week to override Cooper’s veto of a bill to consolidate the state elections and ethics boards.

Courtesy of Penguin Books

Sixteen years ago, environmentalist Paul Hawken searched for a comprehensive list of the most effective solutions to climate change. He was dismayed to find that not only was there no such compendium, but no one seemed capable of producing one. So, Hawken decided to make one himself. He gathered data from scientists and organizations to map, measure and model existing solutions to climate change and the effects they would have if scaled 30 years into the future.

Barry Lam / hiphination.org

 When professor Barry Lam needed a break from the college classroom, he set out to turn his scholarly passion into a podcast. “Hi-Phi Nation” uses investigative journalism and narrative storytelling to peer inside under-explored philosophical question.

Courtesy Cliff Missen

People with few means but big hearts stepped in to help Cliff Missen as he transitioned in and out of foster care as a child. When he turned 18, Missen made a vow to pay it forward and live a life in ​service of the poor. He made good on that promise when he brought well-drilling technology to rural villages in Liberia and an information technology program to Joss, Nigeria.

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