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.

Or join our live audience for monthly remote broadcasts from Greensboro's Triad Stage. Check out our special recurring series: #BackChannel, Movies On The Radio and Embodied. You can also listen to Political Junkie Ken Rudin Fridays on the program.

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Two glitched out photos paced together of an Afro-wearing person holding their hands around and on the mouth and nose.
Daniel Gaudard Varotto Couto

Back in November, WUNC chose to discontinue “The State of Things,” North Carolina’s only live public radio program heard in the mountains, on the coast and in the Piedmont. Those of us who make the daily talk show were surprised and saddened by the decision — however, we are thrilled to continue offering the Embodied series into 2021 as a live weekly program from noon to one on Fridays. Listeners can also look forward to season two of the podcast adaptation.

Anna Luisa Daigneault, known as Quilla, is the audio muse that makes the Embodied podcast sparkle. WUNC collaborated with Quilla to craft the theme for Embodied and other background music for the recurring series, which approaches taboo topics through a feminist lens.
 

Two Black men pose for the camera together without smiling
Courtesy of Phonte Coleman

In 2003, Frank Stasio spent time in North Carolina guest hosting The State of Things, and one of the conversations from his early days on the show is one of his most-memorable from his 15-year tenure as host: sitting down with hip-hop group Little Brother.

Two younger boys pose on either side of a man with gray hair as he holds up an album to the camera. The boy on the right is holding a violin.
Charlie Shelton-Ormond/WUNC

Logan Valleroy and Casey Valleroy might be teenagers, but their musical prowess makes them seem like professional musicians. The brothers have been playing music since they were young. Today, the pair play a myriad of instruments like the violin, keyboard, drums, saxophone and guitar, but started out as kids banging on pots and pans around the house.

A Black McDonalds employee looks out from a drive-through window wearing a branded mask
Paul Sableman

Union membership in the United States is at a record low. About 10% of workers nationwide are currently union members, and only 2.7% of workers in North Carolina are unionized, which places the state second-to-last in the nation.

A black pen lying on a piece of paper with handwritten words.
Pixabay

  The letters begin with various greetings. “Dear 50 year of age self.” “To my future children.” “Dear future me, It’s me, I mean you, but circa 2020.” These are the words of a group of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill undergraduates who processed the reality of a pandemic-dominated year through letters to the future as a class assignment this spring.

An old postcard photo of the Gastonia community center, which includes the Women's Club Building, Memorial Hall and Public Library.
Boston Public Library

This March, our world turned digital. Zoom meetings, virtual school and video chats dominated work, school and home life. To ease this transition to computer-based life, the state’s public libraries stepped up for their communities.

A young woman and an older woman posing together in front of what looks like a food truck.
Courtesy of Cecilia Polanco

Cecilia Polanco’s parents did not dream of their daughter owning a food truck when they emigrated from El Salvador to the United States in the early 1980s. Their expectation was that she would get a respectable profession after college, or even better, a career, like her older sisters who work in law and insurance. So when she proposed the idea of a pupusa business, her mother naturally had some concerns — Polanco did not even know how to make the traditional Salvadoran fare.

A woman smiles at the camera, with an out-of-focus background that looks like a beach.
Courtesy of Nicole Zelniker

For Maia Dery, sitting still has never been much of an option. Her teacher had her sit out in the halls to not disturb other students, and as soon as she had her precious drivers license, Dery routinely skipped school to escape to Duke Forest.

A white rectangular sign with the words 'THE OTHER AMERICA MOVEMENT BRIGHTWOOD PERMACULTURE FARM' written in bold red, green, and black font. The sign is in the woods, there are brown trees and branches behind it
Laura Pellicer / For WUNC

Activist Skip Gibbs was in the midst of leading a protest in Durham this summer when he felt that something wasn’t right. In the crowd, which had gathered to demand that the city council redirect the police department budget into social services, he saw mostly white faces.

Courtesy of Blair Publishing


Twenty-five years ago, renowned poet Lenard D. Moore invited a group of his peers into his basement for a session of writing critique. That monthly gathering evolved into the Carolina African American Writers’ Collective, which has supported over 60 writers across a variety of styles through their careers. 

A man wearing a brown jacket and holding a guitar standing in front of a microphone. The man is looking forward.
Ben Phantom

Asheville-based singer-songwriter Ben Phantom’s father never talked about his time in Vietnam. So when he finally decided to go back for a visit after 42 years in the United States, Phantom brought a video camera.

(AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)


When former schoolteacher Jane Whaley and her husband, Sam, founded Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, NC in 1979, no one could have imagined all that the institution would become: a religious movement with global impact; a community that provides housing and job opportunities to its congregation; and a cult dogged with allegations of physical, psychological and spiritual abuse

Kane Realty/Gensler


This week the Raleigh City Council approved rezoning for Downtown South, a $2.2 billion development project that will bring shops, housing and a soccer stadium to southeast Raleigh. The space was previously zoned as an industrial district. Downtown South’s mixed-use zoning clearance is just an early step in the project’s progress.

A Black woman with braids and a colorful collar necklace smiles, looking off camera.
Courtesy of Bree Newsome Bass

Activist Bree Newsome Bass gained national attention in the summer of 2015 when she was arrested for scaling the flagpole at the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina, and removing the Confederate flag. The act of civil disobedience took place in the wake of the killing of nine African-American people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.

A group of Black people in the middle of the street, walking. The people are holding various signs and there is one large black banner with the words 'Black Panther Movement Black Opressed People All Over The World' in bold, gold letters
Courtesy of Amazon Prime

Academy Award-winning director Steve McQueen took over a decade to fully realize his vision of a collection of stories about the West Indian community in London in the '60s, ‘70s and '80s. That idea came to life last month with the release of a five-part film anthology called "Small Axe." The films explore the joy and pain of life in this immigrant community — and its important contributions to London's history.

A black-and-white photo of a young woman behind a video camera, filming something.
Courtesy of Malinda Maynor Lowery

Malinda Maynor Lowery is a Lumbee Indian whose family goes back more than 10 generations in Robeson County. Lowery was born in Lumberton, N.C. but raised in Durham, where from an early age, she often fielded the question, "what are you?" Although she grew up in a family with a strong sense of Native identity, this question stayed with her much of her life, and eventually became the subject of much of her academic and documentary work.

A glass store front with the words 'Black Owned Business' in silver, bold letters. The words are enclosed in a rectangle on the glass, the same exact color as the words
Paul Sableman/Flickr

When the first wave of federal COVID-19 provisions became available to businesses in April, Black business owners received a very small amount of relief funding. And the North Carolina Business Council estimates the number of Black businesses in the state has decreased by 41 percent since the beginning of the pandemic. There are several reasons for this, including the racial wage and generational wealth gaps, both of which contribute to Black businesses starting up with lower capital and struggling to sustain themselves without economic relationships with banks and other wealth-holding institutions.

A correctional institution facility that has two floors, there are 10 brown square tables and blue chairs.
NC Department of Public Safety

Increased coronavirus case numbers and deaths in North Carolina have taken a lethal toll on people inside state prisons. The number of coronavirus-related deaths has doubled since the end of September, and more than one of every six prisoners has tested positive, according to reporting by Charlotte Observer investigative reporter Ames Alexander. In December, four prisoners at four different facilities died in the span of five days. Outbreaks have continued across the system.

A yellow triangular sign 'No Baby On Board, durex' on the back of a dark blue van
Spoon, YouTube

There will be no COVID baby boom in the United States. In fact, a decrease in childbirth is expected, with existential fear prevailing over hormones and boredom. Similar downward trends occurred during the 2008 recession and the 1918 Spanish flu. Now experiencing their second economic crash, 15% of millennials are less interested in having children due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, others made the decision long before the pandemic.

A black-and-white photo of actor Mickey Rooney posing with a cap and a cane, mid-dance.
Public domain

Mickey Rooney’s Hollywood acting career began in the 1930s. He starred as an all-American teenager in the Andy Hardy series.


He was Judy Garland's partner in musicals from the 1940s, and a cautious old trainer in the 1979 classic “The Black Stallion.” He was married eight times, including a partnership with North Carolina’s own Ava Gardner.

A light brown, sand colored monument in front of a brown building. The monument is made up of bricks, the bricks are stacked ontop of each other, narrowing as it goes upwards
Billy Hathorn // CC

The Asheville City Council voted to remove the third and final Confederate monument from Asheville’s Pack Square Tuesday night. The 65-foot Vance Monument commemorates Zebulon Vance, North Carolina’s governor during the Civil War and U.S. Senator during Reconstruction who opposed civil rights for Black people.

A nurse sitting against a wall on the hospital floor. The nurse is covered in full gear: a white mask, blue shoe covers, a blue robe covering, blue gloves, and a blue nair net, and clear goggles. The nurse is looking straight ahead.
Alberto Guiliani/CC

COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing shortage of licensed nurses in the state of North Carolina. Too few nurses are available for staffing at local hospitals, leading to double and triple shifts for nurses who are healthy enough to work, as well as nurses’ increased exposure to COVID-19. This problem is expected to persist after vaccines become available, and retired nurses are being asked to return to work and assist with future distribution.

A Black woman smiling while holding an orange book titled 'Black Equestrian; coloring book.' The woman is wearing silver dangly earrings and her hair is pulled back into a ponytail
Courtesy of Caitlin Gooch

When Caitlin Gooch began working at a daycare center and a Boys and Girls Club in her hometown of Wendell, North Carolina, she noticed that students were not as interested in reading as she would have hoped. She started showing them pictures of her horses at her father’s farm, if they agreed to read and work on their vocabulary.

A bespectacled middle-aged Black man with an ear-ring speaks and looks off camera
National Registry of Exonerations


Darryl Hunt served 19 years in prison for a rape and murder he did not commit. The crime committed against him by the state — his wrongful conviction and wrongful imprisonment — stands as one of the most egregious examples of the injustice built into our penal system.

Grant Holub-Moorman


Harris Teeter or Food Lion? Earth Fare or Ingles? Lowes Foods or Lowe’s lumber yard? Groceries matter a lot to North Carolinians. And for good reason — our state produced some groundbreaking supermarket chains. From the end of the independent butcher shop to the racial integration of the checkout aisle, businesses experimented and changed the course of how we get our food.

Host Anita Rao lingers in the aisle with grocery scholars and independent grocers to learn about the suburban supermarket and alternative foodscape futures.

Her guests are:

A person with a wagon filled with baskets of red apples, one brown basket of apples fell off the wagon and there are 5 people jumping on the ground to attempt and pick up the fallen apples
Market Reports, Illustrated circa 1905

The inventor of gross domestic product — the sum of all goods and services of a particular nation — warned that it was not a good measurement of human welfare. Yet, since the 1940s, the single number has dominated policy recommendations, despite those foundational shortcomings. A recent report highlights the economic contributions and costs that GDP fails to take into account.

'Herpes+ and fine with it' in white font on a black background
Ella Dawson

When Ella Dawson got diagnosed with genital herpes, she felt like her body betrayed her. Herpes was something dirty, something bad that happened to other people. For a 20-something coming into her sexuality and body confidence, a sexually transmitted infection was a huge setback.

An older bespectacled Black man in a suit gestures with one hand in front of a classroom in this black and white photo
Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago


When John Hope Franklin chaired former President Bill Clinton's initiative on race in the 1990s, he started with what he called "the naivete that often accompanies optimism." That he could be either naive or optimistic after documenting the long struggle for civil rights is remarkable, and was no doubt, the kind of optimism born of intellectual integrity and an open mind.

A map of North Carolina's counties, each county  is color coded for their community spread of COVID-19. Light yellow represents a significant community spread, orange represents a substantial community spread, and red represents the most critical spread
NC DHHS

While North Carolina’s urban centers were the sites of COVID-19 concern in March and April, the more sparsely populated parts of the state are now facing the highest rates of community spread of the coronavirus. Today, clusters of infection remain centered in the state’s urban centers, but broader community transmission is increasingly common outside the cities.

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