The State of Things

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

Host Frank Stasio.
Credit Ben McKeown / For WUNC

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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Several communities in rural North Carolina struggle with water infrastructure maintenance.
Courtesy of Flickr user mycieau

A number of North Carolina communities are struggling to access safe drinking water. A WRAL investigative team tracked two decades of data and uncovered high rates of water violations, which are most pervasive in rural areas including the towns of Carthage and Butner in central North Carolina. 

Courtesy Tom Merrigan's Hot Raccoons

Raccoons. For many, they are scheming trash denizens and a neighborhood scourge. But musician Tom Merrigan has a deep and mildly obsessive relationship with the creatures and shares their propensity for night roams and mischief. His band name, Tom Merrigan’s Hot Raccoons, is a tribute to that bond. 

Transitioning from economics to art, this Cameroonian sculptor is inspired by the environment around him.
Courtesy of Jean Michel Dissake

Jean Michel Dissake was an economics student at the University of Douala in Cameroon when he made a radical shift: He left school and spent the next nine years living in the forest. He spent his days interacting with the trees and the river, and this deep connection with nature spawned an artistic passion and a career as a sculptor. 

Matteo, left, and his older brother Caleb play in their backyard in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Kindergartener Caleb practices lockdown drills at his school and so does his little brother Matteo, who is in preschool.
Courtesy of Adhiti Bandlamudi / WUNC

Last year more than 4 million children participated in a school lockdown drill. The exercises are ostensibly a way to train and prepare students, teachers and administrators to keep safe in the event of an active shooter. But no research has been done into the psychological effect of these drills on the children they aim to protect.

Courtesy of Sonali Dev

Romance novels made up almost a quarter of the U.S. fiction market in 2016, second only to general fiction. Some people may think of the genre solely as Harlequin-published books with a man who looks like Fabio on the cover. But romance fiction encompasses more than this stereotype. 

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrest.
Wikimedia Commons

Last week U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents detained at least 200 people in enforcement actions around the state. Officials raided a gun manufacturing plant in Sanford and arrested people at traffic stop check points in various cities. 

Screenshot from the award-winning film, 'Minding The Gap.'
Courtesy of Kartemquin Films

Bing Liu documented skaters in his hometown of Rockford, Illinois for more than a decade. Through the years, that footage became a complex documentation of youth culture featuring two young men who open up about the pressures of adulthood, abusive families, and modern masculinity. 

Professor and Performer E. Patrick Johnson.
Courtesy of E. Patrick Johnson

Scholar and author E. Patrick Johnson knew from experience what it was to be “othered.” As a black, gay man who grew up in the South, he belonged to multiple communities that were marginalized and attacked. He documented oral histories of men with similar identities in his 2008 book “Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South.”

Kindergarten students TT Askew, Alicia Garcia Elvira, Haylen Lovelace and Mercy Nelms are students in Jakeli Swimmer's Cherokee language and culture class at Robbinsville Elementary.
Liz Schlemmer / WUNC

Marty Richardson was in high school when he started a deep dive into the history of his people:  the Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe. He emerged from dusty library archives with the epiphany that his ancestors spoke Tutelo-Saponi, a language that had since nearly disappeared. 

As a little girl in Taiwan, Jan-Ru Wan grew up expressing herself not by speaking but through making things. Creating art and working with material allowed her to connect her feelings to the world around her. 

Official portrait of U.S. Representative Walter Jones
U.S. Congress

U.S. Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina died this Sunday at age 76. He was the second in his family to serve in Congress and was known for voting across party lines and for crossing those lines himself. He served as a Democrat in the North Carolina General Assembly for five terms before switching to the Republican party ahead of his first run for the U.S. House. 

Dr. Charles Van Der Horst speaking at 2017 ID Week.
Courtesy of Charles Van Der Horst

Throughout his career, Dr. Charles van der Horst has always prioritized close relationships with his patients. He was on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic in the state and opened up an AIDS ward at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the 1980s. 

Women members of Congress, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., center, cheer after President Donald Trump acknowledges more women in Congress during his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington.
J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo

President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech struck analysts as both bipartisan and deeply divided. He called for unity and shared bipartisan victories, and he also promised he would build a border wall and warned lawmakers that there cannot be peace and legislation while there are ongoing investigations. 

It is not uncommon for police officers to have side jobs as security guards. But for former Raleigh police officer Joe Winters, his side job was more like a passion. From the early 1940s to the mid ‘70s, Winters was both a full-time cop and a concert promoter. 

Photo of the band Chicken Shack
Courtesy of Chicken Shack

Andrew Dillon  grew up in Jackson, Mississippi where blues was not just a style of music, it was part of the culture and lifestyle. His father raised him in a house where music, instruments and performance were part of their everyday lives. It is no wonder Dillon brought that tradition with him to North Carolina. 

photo of asheville and the surrounding mountains at dusk
Michael Tracey/Public Domain

Why is Asheville not fighting a redistricting plan from the state legislature? Asheville’s local elections use an “at-large” system, which means that the six city council members and mayor are elected citywide. But last summer, state lawmakers created five districts for the Asheville City Council and delayed local elections for a year. 

Gene R. Nichol author of the book, 'The Faces of Poverty in North Carolina: Stories from our Invisible Citizens'
Elyse Ribbons / WUNC

Some day-to-day experiences alert people of poverty in their community: long lines at the food pantry, individuals asking for change near a freeway exit, or family members juggling multiple jobs. But legal scholar Gene R. Nichol believes that the experiences of day-to-day poverty experienced by more than one million North Carolinians are invisible to most. 

Cover of the book, 'A Bound Woman Is A Dangerous Thing: The Incarceration of African American Women from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland'
Courtesy of DaMaris Hill

The number of incarcerated women increased by more than 700 percent between 1980 and 2016, according to data from The Sentencing Project. Poet DaMaris Hill cites this statistic at the beginning of her new book, “A Bound Woman Is A Dangerous Thing: The Incarceration of African American Women from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland” (Bloomsbury Publishing/2019). 

Courtesy of Aaron Pruzaniec

The Great Recession is behind us, and business is booming: new business especially. After a major slump, entrepreneurs are opening shop every month, from mom-and-pop stores to high-growth tech firms. But not all aspiring business owners are able to create the companies they would like to. 

Don Harder / Flickr/ www.flickr.com/photos/dharder9475/5396413821

In 2018, Durham mother Fatimah Salleh repeatedly listened to her son complain about his experience during in-school suspension, or ISS. The program is much like detention: Students spend the day in a classroom, and they are instructed to plug away quietly at school work. Curious about her son’s experience, Salleh decided to accompany him for a day to see for herself what ISS looked like at Durham School of the Arts

North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin announced that he will step down at the end of February to become the dean of Regent University law school in Virginia. Martin was one of two Republican justices remaining on the state Supreme Court, and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper will choose his replacement. 

Four divers
Courtesy of The Man In The Sea Museum

A new documentary film on PBS shares the forgotten story of a U.S Navy project that revolutionized deep-sea diving. The Sealab program aimed to create a future where humans could live on the bottom of the ocean. North Carolinian Dr. George Bond pioneered the program. 

Sonny Kelly, playwright and star of 'The Talk' on stage this month in Durham and Chapel Hill.
HuthPhoto

A new one-man, interactive play seeks to change minds and create a more just and equitable community. Sonny Kelly is the playwright and star of “The Talk.” He wrote the production after giving his 7-year-old son a version of “the talk” — a conversation African-American parents often have with their children about how to act in encounters with the police.

Tang Dynasty, CD Premier Concert, January 1999: Left to right: Kaiser Kuo, Ding Wu, Gu Zhong. This was the launch concert for Tang Dynasty's second album, Epic, in January 1999.
Courtesy of Kaiser Kuo

American-born Kaiser Kuo is one of the godfathers of Chinese rock. The son of Chinese immigrants, he co-founded the band Tang Dynasty in the late ‘80s. The group brought the long-haired, head-banging metal aesthetic to the Chinese scene. 

A table showing that North Carolina's uninsured rate is higher than the average U.S. rate.
North Carolina Justice Center

North Carolina is home to one of the largest uninsured populations in the country. The latest Census data indicates that of the more than one million people in North Carolina living without health insurance, many are employed workers. 

Jon Boogz and Lil Buck dance in purple light.
Tim Salaz

When Jon Boogz was street dancing on Venice Beach, he never dreamed that one day he would choreograph for dance legend Mikhail Baryshnikov. Nor could Charles “Lil Buck” Riley have predicted that a performance with cellist Yo-Yo Ma would go viral and expose the world to what happens when street dance meets classical music.

 

Michelle Belanger playing guitar on stage.
Courtesy of Michelle Belanger

Mystery Hillbillies are a band of misfits. The band is frontwoman Michelle Belanger and a rotating cast of “sidemen.” The group plays a wide range of music, including country, western swing and blues from the early 1940s to today.

arbyreed via flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/19779889@N00/28347664145

The Department of Agriculture has put forward new rules that would make it more difficult for some working-age adults to access SNAP food benefits. The suggested rule change comes after a failed effort by House lawmakers to tighten work requirements through the farm bill. Currently, states have flexibility to waive work requirements for some recipients depending on factors including the state’s unemployment rate. The new USDA rule would strip states of that general waiver option.

On a remote, volcanic island in Indonesia, the Lamalaran Tribe is fighting to preserve its ancient language and traditions. The community is thought to be the last subsistence whaling tribe in the world, and it is one that writer Doug Bock Clark knows well. Over the course of three years, Bock Clark spent intimate time with the Lamalerans. He learned their language, got to know the depth of their culture and examined their connection with the natural world.
 

a photo of Beatrice Capote & Fana Fraser on stage
Beatrice Capote & Fana Fraser, Photo by Kirk Richard Smith

What images arise with the phrase ‘black girl?’ When choreographer Camille A. Brown asked that question to an audience, she was dismayed with their response: negative comments and mocking gestures.

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