The State of Things

 

The issues, personalities and places of North Carolina right to you, every day in your podcast feed. Hosted by Frank Stasio and Anita Rao. Listen and subscribe on Google PlayApple Podcasts or wherever you get your favorite shows. Tweet us @state_of_things and see more show content on Facebook and Instagram.

 

A statue on the ground with yellow caution tape and a cone on it.
Jason deBruyn / WUNC

Months into a global pandemic, a loud cry for racial justice erupted around the country and the world. Protesters took to the streets demanding an end to police brutality and systemic racism and repeatedly echoed the names of three recently-killed Black Americans: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

wileydoc / Flickr

North Carolina State University announced a return to in-person classes and on-campus living for the spring semester yesterday. The school closed in late August after a rise in COVID-19 cases. School reopenings led to spikes in cases across the country, according to a new study co-authored by two North Carolina-based professors — as many as 3,000 cases per day. 

Parental advisory labels date back to the 1980s. They exist, in part, to alert consumers to the presence of profanity, explicit discussion of sex and sexuality and graphic violence. But there has never been a unilateral ranking system to determine what content must be labeled as explicit. 

Durham-based musician A.yoni Jeffries understands discouragement. Her latest album, “Potential Gon’ Pay,” was delayed three times this year. But the 25-year-old never stays discouraged for long. In the interim, while she awaited a new release date, she focused her attention on a new endeavor, Handèwa Farms, which she launched in December 2019 with eight partners. 

Flicker/David Geitgey Sierralupe

There are still very few answers about what led to the police killing of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky earlier this year. Police officers battered their way into Taylor’s apartment, serving a "no-knock" warrant, and shot Taylor five times. As the FBI and Kentucky state officials continue to investigate the death, a new documentary from The New York Times Presents digs into official reports and documents to piece together what went wrong. "The Killing of Breonna Taylor" also paints a picture of who she was as a person through interviews with Taylor’s friends and family.  Host Frank Stasio talks about the story with popular culture experts Natalie Bullock Brown and Mark Anthony Neal for #BackChannel, our recurring series connecting culture and context. 

A nurse holds up a sign saying "Safe Staffing Saves Lives"
Angela Wilhelm/Citizen Times

Around 1,800 healthcare workers at Mission Hospitals are now represented by National Nurses United. In a press release, NNU called the election “the largest hospital union victory in the South since 1975.” Seventy percent of the ballots cast were in favor of union representation at two Asheville-based health facilities owned by HCA Healthcare. 

Seal of the North Carolina Judicial Branch
The North Carolina Judicial Branch

Races for executive and legislative positions in North Carolina are in full swing — but what about the third branch of government? There are 190 judicial seats up for election this year, most notably three seats on the North Carolina Supreme Court. 

Ronnie Chatterji, smiling
NC Department of Transportation

Aaron “Ronnie” Chatterji is a first-time political candidate, running as a Democrat for the position of North Carolina Treasurer. He knows it is a challenge, facing off against an incumbent. And he knows a win would be unprecedented: If elected, he would become the first Indian American elected to statewide office in North Carolina. 

Headshot of Rissi Palmer
Chris Charles

Independent country music recording artist Rissi Palmer is not surprised by the feedback she has received about her new Apple Music radio show “Color Me Country Radio,” which explores Black, Latinx and Indigenous voices in country music. She has heard everything from, “Is this a limited series? You’re going to run out of people to talk to!” to “Why does everything have to be about race?” 

A large group of protesters kneeling in the street in downtown Greensboro.
Naomi Prioleau / WUNC

Months into a global pandemic, a loud cry for racial justice erupted around the country and the world. Protesters took to the streets demanding an end to police brutality and systemic racism and repeatedly echoed the names of three recently-killed Black Americans: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

Charts and graphs of COVID-19 surveillance reports
Hertford County Government

Though COVID-19 struck North Carolina’s suburban and urban communities earliest, the virus has begun to sweep through the state’s rural communities at an alarming rate. 

Headshots of Tessie Castillo, Lyle May and three other co-authors of "Crimson Letters"
Tessie Castillo

The criminal justice system puts prisoners out of sight and out of mind for the public. But the recently published book “Crimson Letters: Voices from Death Row” (Black Rose Writing/2020) aims to draw back the veil on the people and realities that make up North Carolina’s death row. 

A close up picture of the Robber Fly, an orange-eyed fly eating a smaller insect while standing on a green stem.
Matt Bertone

What makes a fly a fly? Well sure, they have wings. But importantly, only two. The larger category for flies is Diptera, which tells you this if you break it down: In Greek, “di” means two (like divide or dialogue), and “ptera” means wing (like pterodactyl). 

A semi-truck bearing the logo of XPO Logistics
Raymond Clarke

Campaign finance records show suspicious donation patterns from former employees at New Breed Logistics. Several former employees at the High Point-based company described an illegal donation scheme — workers’ political donations to specific candidates would be compensated with bonuses from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, the chief executive of New Breed at the time. 

Brendan Campbell/Flickr

 

President Donald Trump announced a 10-year moratorium on offshore drilling off the coasts of Georgia, Florida and South Carolina last week. It appears on the surface to be a win for concerned environmentalists, but citizens in North Carolina are left wondering: Why were North Carolina coasts left unprotected?   

Laura Bratton

Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina on Sept. 14, 2018. Two years later, homes and livelihoods are still on the mend. In Craven County, where the city of New Bern was devastated by flooding from the hurricane, disaster recovery groups are still trying to get assistance to nearly 1,400 households affected by the storm. A podcast series called “Storm Stories” focuses on the people and places who may never be the same after the hurricane.

Incumbent Republican Sen. Thom Tillis and Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham faced off last night in the first of three televised debates. This race is one of the most closely watched in the country as it is considered a true toss up. 

The North Carolina Council of State is one of two collective bodies that make up the state’s executive branch. It consists of 10 elected positions, including the governor, lieutenant governor and offices overseeing labor, agriculture, the treasury, insurance, education and more. Do you know what each of the 10 positions does or how the Council of State differs from the North Carolina Cabinet? 

A Black woman squatting in front of a totally pink Cadillac with "TRAP" painted on the equallly pink garage door behind
Courtesy of Kyesha Jennings

The linguistic rules of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) are widespread and catalogued — yet most classrooms still frown upon writing and speaking it. Hip-hop scholar Kyesha Jennings grew up in Queens, New York, and remembers teachers correcting her use of the possessive they and double negatives. Now, she’s on a mission to disrupt the common belief that all English follows one set of rules. 

A crowd of protesters, many of them masked, sit in the street in Raleigh.
Kate Medley / For WUNC

Months into a global pandemic, a loud cry for racial justice erupted around the country and the world. Protesters took to the streets demanding an end to police brutality and systemic racism and repeatedly echoed the names of three recently-killed Black Americans: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

Abundant psilocybin mushrooms growing in a tupperware inside a tidy home
Dana Saxon

The world of psychedelics is painted with neon colors and smiling, white hippies with long hair who use hallucinogenic substances for wild, recreational trips. But psychedelics like LSD, MDMA (also known as molly or ecstasy) and psilocybin (also known as magic mushrooms) have a much richer history in their use as therapeutic medicines, which existed in Indigenous communities long before Western culture and medicine discovered them. 

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.

20th Century Studios/Dreamworks Pictures

Feeling stir-crazy staying at home during the pandemic? Our next Movies on the Radio may be just what you need. This month with Marsha Gordon and Laura Boyes, we will explore films about isolation and escape.

From Tom Hanks' deep and abiding relationship with Wilson in "Cast Away" to Brooke Shields' love affair with Christopher Atkins in "The Blue Lagoon" to Matt Damon's time stranded in outer space in "The Martian," we will talk about films that envision being alone and what it does to the body, mind, and psyche.

A headshot of Randall Kenan
UNC Chapel Hill English and Comparative Literature Department

Last weekend, the literary community was rocked by news of local giant Randall Kenan’s passing. He died in his Hillsborough home late last week at the age of 57. 

A photo split between a torso-up shot of candidate Madison Cawthorn and candidate Moe Davis, both holding microphones
Cory Vaillancourt

Republican Madison Cawthorn and Democrat Moe Davis are in a close race for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District seat, which represents most of western North Carolina. The two faced off in a two-day forum this weekend addressing issues ranging from police reform to the numerous unsolved cases of missing and murdered indigenous women. 

McKenzie County Sheriff's Office

Hundreds of inmates have been released from state prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic to help curb the spread of the virus. But the same is not true in the state’s jails, which housed just under 16,000 people statewide in the first five months of 2020, according to data from the University of North Carolina School of Government. The North Carolina Department of Public Safety oversees the response to the coronavirus in the state’s prisons, but jails around the state do not have the same accountability or oversight. 

Actor Lamorne Morris standing in front of a public billboard with fliers in his hand, looking confused.
Photo by: Joe Lederer/Hulu

In the pilot episode of cartoonist Keith Knight’s new Hulu show "Woke," the main character Keef is putting up posters in a park when police officers show up, draw guns and slam him to the ground. The cops think he is a suspect in a string of muggings because he "fit the description": a six-foot-tall Black male. The nerdy character, played by Lamorne Morris, is understandably shaken after the incident. 

Author Carole Boston Weatherford reads to students
Carole Boston Weatherford

Carole Boston Weatherford wrote her first poem in first grade. She dictated it to her mother on the way home from elementary school in Baltimore. 

The front of the North Carolina Legislature building with an American flag and a North Carolina flag out front with two trees on either side
Jayron32

The North Carolina legislature passed the Coronavirus Relief Act 3.0 Thursday, which allocates the nearly $1 billion left of federal CARES Act money. 

A poster mapping the Atlantic Coast Pipeline
AtlanticCoastPipeline.com

North Carolina has the largest state-recognized Native American population east of the Mississippi River. But until recently, state-recognized Native nations have had little input on issues of environmental governance. 

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