Leoneda Inge

Race and Southern Culture Reporter/Co-Host, "Tested" Podcast

Leoneda Inge is WUNC’s race and southern culture reporter, the first public radio journalist in the South to hold such a position. She explores modern and historical constructs to tell stories of poverty and wealth, health and food culture, education and racial identity. Leoneda is also co-host of the podcast Tested, allowing for even more in-depth storytelling on those topics.

Leoneda’s most recent work of note includes “A Tale of Two North Carolina Rural Sheriffs,” produced in partnership with Independent Lens; a series of reports on “Race, Slavery, Memory & Monuments,” winner of a Salute to Excellence Award from the National Association of Black Journalists; and the series “When a Rural North Carolina Clinic Closes,” produced in partnership with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.

Leoneda is the recipient of several awards, including Gracie awards from the Alliance of Women in Media, the Associated Press, and the Radio, Television, Digital News Association. She was part of WUNC team that won an Alfred I. duPont Award from Columbia University for the group series – “North Carolina Voices: Understanding Poverty.” In 2017, Leoneda was named “Journalist of Distinction” by the National Association of Black Journalists.

Leoneda is a graduate of Florida A&M University and Columbia University, where she earned her Master's Degree in Journalism as a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Business and Economics. Leoneda traveled to Berlin, Brussels and Prague as a German/American Journalist Exchange Fellow and to Tokyo as a fellow with the Foreign Press Center – Japan.

Ways to Connect

A photo of a sign saying 'Vote' with an arrow on a pole.
hjl // Flickr

While going to the ballot box on Election Day is an important ritual for many voters, the coronavirus pandemic has introduced a change in routine. As of Tuesday, Sept. 28, the North Carolina State Board of Elections has received more than a million absentee ballot requests. At this time in 2016, the Board of Elections had received just over 100,000. While some voters hope to stay healthy by avoiding the polls, mail-in voting still presents some anxiety and uncertainty, especially for historically disenfranchised voters like African Americans and Latinos.

With the 2020 U.S. census deadline approaching, North Carolina lags behind its Southern neighbors in its count. Only about 62% of households in the state have responded to the census, and experts say at least 400,000 more households need to be counted to get the most accurate response.

Host Leoneda Inge talks with Stacey Carless, executive director of the N.C. Counts Coalition, about the influence of the census on federal funding and political representation. Leoneda also speaks with Melissa Nobles, political science professor and dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, about the history of racial categorization with the census.

Plus, how the cultural legacy of late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg calls up thoughts of ways other powerful women in political history have fashionably navigated American democracy.


Leoneda Inge / WUNC

A COVID-19-related workplace dispute is brewing between a former lottery host and Raleigh-based television station WRAL.

When Lanisha Jones went to vote in the 2016 election, she didn’t think she was doing anything wrong. She thought she was simply exercising her right to vote. But in 2019, the district attorney in Hoke County charged her with voting illegally because at the time she was still on probation from a felony conviction.

Since then, Jones has been fighting the charges, and says she was unfairly targeted for unknowingly committing a crime when she voted.

Host Leoneda Inge joins Jeff Tiberii, host of WUNC’s Politics Podcast, to talk with Jones about the charges and how her experience fits into a larger history of disenfranchisement in North Carolina. Leoneda also speaks with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) about his North Carolina roots, the upcoming election and working to strengthen people’s right to vote.
 


When Lanisha Jones went to vote in the 2016 election, she didn’t think she was doing anything wrong. She thought she was simply exercising her right to vote. But in 2019, the district attorney in Hoke County charged her with voting illegally because at the time she was still on probation from a felony conviction.

Since then, Jones has been fighting the charges, and says she was unfairly targeted for committing a crime she didn't know was a crime when she voted.

On this episode of the Politics Podcast, host Jeff Tiberri joins colleague Leoneda Inge, co-host of WUNC’s podcast Tested, to talk with Jones about the charges, and how her experience fits into a larger story of disenfranchisement in North Carolina.
 


Tourism in North Carolina has been hit hard by COVID-19. Since the start of the pandemic, the state has suffered an estimated loss of $6.8 billion in travel spending revenue, according to a report by Visit NC. With lower visitation numbers and limited capacities in public spaces, tourist destinations across the state have had to adjust to the challenging circumstance.

Host Leoneda Inge talks with Michelle Lanier, director of the North Carolina Division of State Historic Sites and Properties, about the significance of historic sites during the pandemic. She also speaks with Wit Tuttell, executive director of Visit NC, about the financial hit in the tourism industry and ways the state is bouncing back.

Finally, Leoneda recognizes the life and legacy of North Carolina writer Randall Kenan, who passed away last week, and highlights his essay, “Visible Yam.”
 


Stephanie Wilder of Durham, Protest
Leoneda Inge / WUNC

It’s the first of the month. For many, that means September’s rent is due. But because of Covid-related unemployment, hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians may not be able to pay, and could face eviction.

Hundreds of thousands of North Carolina renters are at risk of being forced out of their homes now that government moratoriums on evictions have expired. Earlier this week, Gov. Roy Cooper announced new grant programs to help people pay their rent and utilities, but many will need to see relief sooner than later as housing payments continue to pile up.

Host Leoneda Inge talks with Kathryn Sabbeth, associate professor of law and head of the Civil Legal Assistance Clinic at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, about how a rise in evictions will affect families and communities during the pandemic.

Leoneda also reflects on Republican Party reactions to recent protests in the wake of a police officer shooting Jacob Blake, a Black man, seven times in the back in Kenosha, WI.


Names of Confederates, segregationists, and white supremacists on campus and government buildings have captured most of the public’s attention when it comes to how institutions are reckoning with structural racismHowever, several prisons across the South also bear the names of problematic figures, or former plantations.

Host Leoneda Inge talks with Keri Blakinger, investigative reporter for The Marshall Project, about contextualizing the names of prisons in the South.

Leoneda also recaps the just-wrapped Democratic National Convention, and highlights the significance of the event’s roll call of delegates.
 


Sen. Kamala Harris’s historic nomination as Joe Biden’s pick for vice president is a clear marker of Black women’s longstanding political influence. Black women have been a backbone in politics for decades, from helping organize campaigns to upholding democratic ideals, to now achieving a spot on a national party’s ticket.

Host Leoneda Inge talks with Kara Hollingsworth, a partner with the political consulting firm Three Point Strategies, and social justice advocate Omisade Burney-Scott about Harris’s nomination and the role of Black women in politics.

Leoneda also speaks with NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe about the Trump campaign’s efforts to appeal to Black voters.

Plus, we hear from Trei Oliver, head coach of the football team at North Carolina Central University, about a fall without football.


Shaw University in downtown Raleigh
Jason deBruyn / WUNC

Soon after students were sent home in the spring because of COVID-19, a dozen presidents at historically Black colleges and universities across the country strutted their way in to the Tik-Tok “Don’t Rush Challenge.”

It was a way to show school pride and get a smile out of students who were likely at home on computers, not knowing when or if they would return.

While most historically Black colleges and universities in North Carolina are welcoming students back to campus this month, some small, private institutions are offering only virtual instruction this fall.

Host Leoneda Inge talks with Suzanne Walsh, president of Bennett College in Greensboro, about the college’s decision to go online this semester.  

We also hear Durham-based jazz musician Brian Horton perform a unique rendition of the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often called the Black national anthem.


Leoneda Inge / WUNC

A Honduran woman, who spent the last two years living in a Chapel Hill church, has crossed a major hurdle in her fight to avoid deportation.

For many white people who are recognizing their privilege and complacency around systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd's death, turning acknowledgement into an action plan to dismantle racism remains a challenge.

Host Leoneda Inge has seen how paralyzing and disorienting "white guilt" can be, and she recounts a trip she took from Durham, NC to Montgomery, AL on a bus of predominantly white people to see several Civil Rights museums and memorial sites. She also speaks with Desiree Adaway, founder of The Adaway Group, about Adaway’s experience organizing conversations with white people about systemic racism.

We also hear from Ronda Taylor Bullock, co-founder of the Durham-based nonprofit “we are,” about dealing with racism as a family in a candid conversation with her 9-year-old son Zion.
 


For workers across the country, the pandemic has brought to the surface longstanding issues around lack of stability and support in the workplace. Earlier this week, demonstrators gathered in downtown Durham, North Carolina to advocate for a $15 minimum wage as a part of the national rally called “Strike for Black Lives.” The event was just one example of how employees across multiple industries have felt underpaid and undervalued by their employers.

Host Leoneda Inge hears from people about their experiences in the workforce during the pandemic, and she speaks with attorney Carena Lemons about workers’ rights related to COVID-19.

Inge also remembers the life and legacy of civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, who died last week at 80 years old.
 


Fight for 15, Black Likes Matter, Strike for Black Lives, Livable Wage
Leoneda Inge

The Black Lives Matter movement came together with the campaign for a $15 minimum wage Monday in downtown Durham.

The rally and march was part of a national “Strike for Black Lives.” Low wage workers and their supporters, many wearing red "NC Raise Up" t-shirts, say essential workers during this COVID-19 pandemic deserve at least $15 an hour.

The World Health Organization reports there are more than 150 vaccines for COVID-19 in various stages of development. But how do you ensure that everybody is fairly represented in clinical research trials, especially when people of color are dying at higher rates from the virus?

Host Leoneda Inge talks with Kent Thoelke, chief scientific officer and executive vice president of PRA Health Sciences, about the clinical research organization’s efforts to connect with diverse populations for COVID-19 treatment and vaccine trials.

Inge also discusses a recent measure passed by Asheville city council that will provide reparations for the city’s Black community. The resolution calls on the city to create a commission and designate funds to strengthen Black home and business ownership, and close gaps in healthcare, education and employment.


The personal loss of a loved one leads host Leoneda Inge to reflect deeply on the recent experience of saying goodbye during the pandemic.

Despite social distancing and stay-at-home orders preventing large groups from gathering together, Black communities have still found ways to mourn the loss of family and friends.  Whether it’s live streaming a service, mandating face masks, limiting attendance or offering creative kinds of support to relatives, people are adapting to the current challenges of organizing funerals and memorials.

Inge also talks with Nina Jones Mason, manager of Ellis D. Jones & Sons Funeral Directors, about grieving during this unique time.


Confederate monuments, memorials, and names on buildings are coming down across the South. In the last month, many of the region's long standing symbols have been stripped, from the Mississippi state flag to a statue of Stonewall Jackson in Richmond, Virginia.

Host Leoneda Inge visits the city of Quincy, Florida, after officials swiftly removed their Confederate landmark, and she speaks with Mitch Colvin, mayor of Fayetteville, North Carolina, about recent protests against the legacy of Confederate symbolism in his city. Leoneda also reflects on the significance of recent changes to capitalize “Black” in newsrooms.

Our thanks to WRAL for supplying some of this episode's audio.

 


As Black, Latinx, and Indigenous populations continue to endure a disproportionate number of COVID-19-related deaths, state and local health departments are working to increase access to testing and other health care services for communities of color.

Host Leoneda Inge travels to a free testing site in a predominantly Black community in Tallahassee, FL, and talks with Dr. Cardra Burns, senior deputy director of the North Carolina Division of Public Health, about our state’s efforts to bolster testing and break down systemic barriers to health care.

We also make a big announcement about the podcast and hear from musician Shana Tucker about her experience performing “America the Beautiful” on the cello as a Confederate monument was recently disassembled in Raleigh.

Our thanks to the News & Observer for supplying some of this episode’s audio.

Correction: a previous version of this story misidentified Dr. Cardra Burns as the senior deputy secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Stylist Mike Wood trims the hair of Vina Vinluan on Saturday at Salon2eleven in Carrboro, NC. Amidst COVID-19, Salon2eleven is offering customers the option of hair styling services indoors or outdoors. As the state of North Carolina transitions from the
Kate Medley / For WUNC

A lot of people across North Carolina were out and about over the Memorial Day weekend as more state restrictions on where you can go and what you can do have been lifted. And while restaurants are filling up again – to 50% capacity anyway – personal grooming also seems to top people's to-do list.

African American Research Collaborative

national poll, in collaboration with the NAACP and the Yale School of Medicine, shows African Americans are a lot more trusting of local elected officials than President Donald Trump, during the coronavirus pandemic. But blacks aren’t as favorable of governors in the South.

Sheriff Paula Dance stands in her office, flanked by photos of all the white male sheriffs before her.
Leoneda Inge / WUNC

When one thinks of a sheriff in North Carolina, it’s easy to go back to the good ole days when the most popular sheriff around was Andy Griffith, in the make believe Mayberry. But today, North Carolina is more diverse, and so are the sheriffs in charge.

Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson
Leoneda Inge / WUNC

The sheriff’s department is the oldest institution of law enforcement in the United States. And still today, they get a lot of respect in their communities.

One of the longest serving sheriffs in North Carolina is Terry Johnson in Alamance County. Johnson’s involvement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE is admired by many of his constituents, but feared by others.

Nina Jones Mason, the manager of Ellis D. Jones & Sons Funeral Directors in Durham, NC, seats funeral attendees with six feet distance as a precautionary measure during COVID-19.
Kate Medley / For WUNC

North Carolina's stay-at-home order includes a prohibition on gatherings of more than 10 people. In Durham, that restriction is no more than five people. Even though health experts say social distancing is critical in saving lives during this pandemic, it's been difficut for people not to gather at funerals.

A " mall closed" sign is shown at an entrance of City Creek Center Thursday, April 9, 2020, in Salt Lake City.
Rick Bowmer / AP

The $2 trillion coronavirus aid package approved by the federal government is far from enough to help struggling families, according to Duke University professors.

Catholic priests live video stream the Palm Sunday mass inside the Jesus de Medinaceli church in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, April 5, 2020.
Bernat Armangue / AP

Thousands of churches across North Carolina — and around the world — are preparing to celebrate Easter this weekend. But parishioners will likely be celebrating virtually and at home.

Leoneda Inge / WUNC

As more people adhere to social distancing guidelines, there's one truly essential place where it's tougher to follow the rules: the grocery store.

Governor Roy Cooper will issue a proclamation today declaring it National Census Day in North Carolina. There is an extra push to get the state’s more than 10 million residents counted while also dealing with COVID-19.

Dawn Booker, Pack Light Global

Late last week, the U.S. State Department officially put a halt on international travel as we know it. It is recommending United States citizens stay home, amid this coronavirus pandemic.

The timing of that declaration meant I barely made it back from Morocco before its government suspended all international flights. I was travelling with a group of African American women on a once in a lifetime excursion.

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