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

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging Americans not to travel this Thanksgiving as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise nationwide. That means many of us are rethinking a holiday that is grounded in sharing platters of food with family and friends.

Host Leoneda Inge talks with chef Stephanie Tyson, co-owner of Sweet Potatoes restaurant in Winston-Salem, about making the most of a different holiday season while staying safe and healthy. Leoneda also talks with members of Tall Grass Food Box, a food service helping Black farmers across the state; and we hear about the efforts of Urban Ministries of Durham to balance safety with community care for people experiencing homelessness.

For chef Stephanie Tyson’s sweet potato cornbread recipe, check out Leoneda’s feature on Tyson’s restaurant from 2014.


Leoneda Inge

The number of people testing positive for COVID-19 is surging. And there is also a growing number of people getting tested for the disease, for the first time. A program based at a historically Black university in Durham is organizing COVID-19 testing and collecting valuable data at the same time.

Any other year, Americans would be gearing up for the big Thanksgiving travel weekend; traffic jams and long lines at the airport would just be a reality of life. But TSA is quiet at Raleigh Durham International Airport, where the pandemic has cut air travel by two-thirds. Tested host Leoneda Inge talks with passengers and an RDU spokesperson about the changed travel landscape.

North Carolina is seeing record-breaking numbers of COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations, and Black and Latinx people continue to make up a disproportionate share of them. Without a vaccine, public health experts say testing is a key tool for keeping COVID at bay, and strengthening access to testing in underserved communities remains a necessity. It's a compelling enough argument to convince host Leoneda Inge to get tested herself.

Leoneda talks with Deepak Kumar, director of NCCU’s Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute, about improving health services for communities of color. And she speaks with Dr. Cardra Burns and Ben Money from the NC Department of Health and Human Services about the state’s recent testing efforts.
 


You're not imagining it. Almost everyone is incredibly stressed out right now.

The American Psychological Association says the “2020 Presidential Election is a source of significant stress for more Americans than the 2016 Presidential race.” Not to mention COVID-19. And the economic downturn. And ongoing civil unrest.

Host Leoneda Inge examines our collective anxiety — what's causing it, how to recognize it, what to do about it — with Lynn Bufka, the APA's senior director of practice transformation and quality.

Then, Leoneda reconnects with an old friend, comedian Roy Wood Jr., who says it's never too soon to look for the humor in the heavy stuff, as long as you're making light of the right things. He's had plenty of practice as a political correspondent for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.


Virtual learning has changed almost everything about the classroom experience in North Carolina, but implicit racial biases remain as a hindrance to students' education. Microaggressions and discriminatory behavior from teachers and other classmates can have detrimental effects on students of color, especially young children in preschool.

On this episode of the Politics Podcast, we feature the WUNC podcast "Tested," and its host Leoneda Inge's conversation with Iheoma Iruka, professor of public policy and director of the Early Childhood Health and Racial Equity program at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, about what's needed to create an “anti-bias classroom.”
 


Leoneda Inge / WUNC

Hannah McKnight, 20, is a "new voter." She's technically a junior at Duke University, but she took the semester off and started spending the past several weeks at the downtown Durham bus terminal. That's where she helped start Durham Drives.

Young voters, ages 18 to 30, are coming out in big numbers in the lead-up to Election Day. North Carolina ranks in the top states for early ballots cast by young voters, as Millennials and Generation Z look to make their voices heard this election season.

Host Leoneda Inge talks with young voters about their motivations to mobilize their peers. We also hear from David McLennan, political science professor at Meredith College, and Chavi Khanna Koneru, executive director of North Carolina Asian Americans Together, about the influence of young voters this election.
 


There's a fall tradition that plays a significant role in the lives of historically Black college and university graduates across the nation: homecoming. These events are centered around a football game, sure, but the matchup on the field is no match for the fellowship that takes place as alumni, family and friends gather on campus for a unique kind of annual reunion.

Of course, COVID-19 has changed all that this year. And so, there's an effort to celebrate HBCU homecoming season virtually, by making a monetary donation to these schools right now. Leoneda talks to Shauntae White, a professor at North Carolina Central University who started the online fundraising push, and to Gregory Clark, president of the Florida A&M University Alumni Association, about that economic hit HBCU campuses and the cities they're in will take in the absence of homecomings.

Then, Leoneda makes a trip to the North Carolina State Fair, which is closed for attractions but open to customers seeking a fried food fix. 


Virtual learning has changed almost everything about the classroom experience in North Carolina, but implicit racial biases remain as a hindrance to students' education. Microaggressions and discriminatory behavior from teachers and other classmates can have detrimental effects on students of color, especially young children in preschool.

Host Leoneda Inge talks with Iheoma Iruka, professor of public policy and director of the Early Childhood Health and Racial Equity program at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, about what's needed to create an “anti-bias classroom.”

Leoneda also discusses the disproportionate number of rejected mail-in ballots from Black voters in North Carolina, and hears from Pro Publica data reporter Sophie Chou about a recent analysis into mail-in ballots in the 2018 midterm election.


The Greensboro City Council passed a resolution this week that officially apologizes for the police’s role in a tragedy often referred to as the “Greensboro Massacre.” On November 3, 1979, members of the Ku Klux Klan and American Nazi Party shot and killed five activists and injured many others during an anti-Klan demonstration. Now, 41 years later, the city is trying to make amends with an apology and an annual scholarship dedicated to the victims. 

Host Leoneda Inge talks with Reverend Nelson Johnson, co-executive director of the Beloved Community Center and a survivor of the Greensboro Massacre, about the city’s apology and what it means for social justice in Greensboro.

Leoneda also reflects on the merits of apologies from elected officials, and highlights the words of the late historian John Hope Franklin in 2005 after Congress apologized for not passing anti-lynching laws in 1950. 


African American churches have long been more than just a place to pray. They have served as spaces to organize and advance civil rights, and in the lead up to the election, some churches are continuing the legacy by boosting voter education.

Host Leoneda Inge highlights a church in Durham, NC that’s providing COVID relief and voter education, and talks with Rev. LaKesha Womack, a business consultant and ordained deacon of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, about her series “Rethinking Church” and the role of clergy during the election. 

Leoneda also reflects on a recent sermon by Rev. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign and former president of the North Carolina NAACP.


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.


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