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#BackChannel: Elijah Cummings, ‘Red Table Talk’ & Chelsea Handler’s White Privilege

In a time of great political upheaval, the country has lost a formidable force. Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings passed away last weekat the age of 68.

Cummings was born to sharecroppers, and during his more than 20-year career in congress, he became known as someone who often spoke truth to power. On this installment of #BackChannel, The State of Things’ recurring series connecting culture and context, popular culture experts Natalie Bullock Brown and Mark Anthony Neal join host Frank Stasio to reflect on the Baltimore-born congressman’s impact as an activist and as a community leader.

'The fact that we can still be as enraged and as surprised by some of these shootings just speaks volumes about where we are around over policing.'- Mark Anthony Neal

Brown and Neal also talk about the fatal shooting of 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson, a black woman who was shot by a Fort Worth police officer while inside her own home playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew. Plus, what happens when one of Hollywood’s most prominent families invites the American public into their intimate conversations? Neal and Brown assess why Jada Pinkett Smith’s multigenerational family talk show “Red Table Talk” is striking such a chord with audiences and generating unprecedented views on Facebook Watch.

They also review Chelsea Handler’s new Netflix special “Hello Privilege. It’s Me Chelsea” and the new sci-fi superhero show “Raising Dion.”


'I do appreciate the fact that Chelsea goes and does some self reflection [...] but I wanna know: What are you going to do? After the documentary is over, what are you going to give up?'- Natalie Bullock Brown

Plus, noted actor Tyler Perry officially became the first African American to own a major movie studio. Tyler Perry Studios is a 330-acre complex in Atlanta built on what was once a Confederate army base. It now features 12 large sound stages named after groundbreaking black artists. Neal and Brown will share their take on Perry’s new venture and review the new album from Grammy-winning musician Robert Glasper.

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.

Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.
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.