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#BackChannel: The Stardom Of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, The Fate Of R. Kelly, And Meeting “Mr. SOUL!”

California Sen. Kamala Harris joined the growing list of Democratic contenders for the 2020 presidential race earlier this week. How will her legacy as a prosecutor and her biracial identity impact her campaign and candidacy? It is one of many topics popular culture experts Mark Anthony Neal and Natalie Bullock Brown take on with host Frank Stasio in the latest installment of #BackChannel, The State of Things’ recurring series connecting culture and context. 

They also discuss the social media stardom of freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), whose comments and charisma are raising eyebrows both inside and outside her party.

The best way to talk about Ellis Haizlip is that he created a big tent for blackness. - Mark Anthony Neal

The two review three new artistic creations, including “If Beale Street Could Talk” from director Barry Jenkins; the documentary “Mr. SOUL!” which pays tribute to Ellis Haizlip, the black, openly-gay television host behind a seminal, star-studded PBS variety program; and the new six-part Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” which traces decades of sexual abuse allegations against the artist and has given new life to the efforts to #MuteRKelly.

Brown and Neal share their picks for the 2019 Grammys and talk about the artistic legacy of Missy Elliott as she becomes the first female hip-hop artist to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Natalie Bullock Brown is a filmmaker and teaching assistant professor at North Carolina State University, and Mark Anthony Neal is the James B. Duke professor and chair of the department of African and African American studies at Duke University in Durham.

It is incredible to me that it has taken something like this docuseries to get people to pay attention to the fact that these black women and girls have been traumatized and victimized for decades. If they were white this would have been done with a long time ago. — Natalie Bullock Brown

Check out trailers for the three projects reviewed in this episode:
Mr. SOUL!:

Surviving R. Kelly:

If Beale Street Could Talk:

Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist and the host and creator of "Embodied," a live, weekly radio show and seasonal podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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