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#BackChannel: Kaepernick’s Future, Meditations On Mothering Black Sons, And The Apollo Theater

During the 2016 NFL season, Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the pregame national anthem to take a stand against police brutality and racial inequality. His actions set off a heated debate, and as the NFL made their position about athlete protest more clear, Kaepernick’s future with the league got increasingly murky. 

What Colin [Kaepernick] bucked against was what I think the NFL required of him: To stay in his place. —Natalie Bullock Brown

Fast forward to today, and it has been more than two seasons since an NFL team signed the former 49ers quarterback. Popular culture experts Natalie Bullock Brown and Mark Anthony Neal join host Frank Stasio to break down the latest chapter in the story — a derailed workout event — and analyze what it means about the power and peril of being a black athlete. 

They also dig into the details of the NCAA’s new policy on permitting college athletes to profit from the use of their name, image and likeness. They then review two new artistic meditations on mothering black sons: the book “Breathe: A Letter To My Sons” (Beacon Press/2019) from scholar and writer Imani Perry and “American Son,” a film starring Kerry Washington that is based on a Broadway play of the same name written by Christopher Demos-Brown. The pop culture experts also reflect on the artistic footprint of New York City’s Apollo Theater as portrayed in the new HBO documentary “The Apollo.” 

It is literally a cradle for African American culture throughout the 20th century. Everyone who was someone at one point had to come through The Apollo and play for the crowd or play for amateur night. —Mark Anthony Neal

And they critique two new movies: “Harriet” starring Cynthia Erivo, which traces the life and legacy of abolitionist Harriet Tubman and “Burning Cane,” an award-winning film by 19-year-old director Phillip Youmans that captured the attention of Ava Duvernay and is now streaming on Netflix. Natalie Bullock Brown is a filmmaker and teaching assistant professor at North Carolina State University. Mark Anthony Neal is the James B. Duke Professor and chair of the department of African and African American studies at Duke University.

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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.