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.

 

Gragg stands in front of a pink quilt top with yellow and blue squares. She is wearing a large necklace, drop earrings and a blue shirt. Her coily hair has streaks of blue.
Dare Kumolo-Johnson

Mavis Gragg never thought her work would “take her to the trees,” but that is where she has found herself. 

Two white men, Rep. Joe Sam Queen on the left and Mike Calmpitt on the right. Clampitt has grey hair with grey facial hair and Queen has light grey hair. Both men are smiling  and wearing a suit and tie.
Blue Ridge Public Radio

One of the most competitive local races in the state is in District 119, which includes Jackson, Swain and Haywood Counties. Democratic Rep. Joe Sam Queen and his Republican challenger Mike Clampitt have vied for the same seat in the North Carolina House of Representatives since 2012. This is their fifth race against one another and its outcome will take Western North Carolina’s political temperature this election season. 

four pigs take off from the starting gates
Courtesy of Hogway Speedway

Pig racing, giant pumpkins and a tour of the old grist mill — with a free hushpuppy at the exit — are common traditions we all need badly this year. The rituals of the North Carolina State Fair connect disparate communities and celebrate traditional livelihoods. Host Frank Stasio hears from some of the characters, competitors and vendors who ensure that nothing could be finer. 

A white pregnancy test with two pink bars showing a positive test.
Flickr/CC

As the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett approach, abortion issues have been thrown into the spotlight once again. President Donald Trump nominated Judge Barrett after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month. Justice Ginsburg was a vocal advocate for women’s rights and endorsed abortion rights when questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee at her confirmation hearing in 1993. While Judge Barrett has not signed onto an official opinion cutting back on the rights guaranteed in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, she has disagreed with appeals courts who struck down laws that restrict abortion in her home state of Indiana.

A black and white photograph of a Black man in a beret kneeling over an injured man on the ground.
News & Record file

More than four decades after the Greensboro Massacre, the city formally apologizes for the role of city police. On Nov. 3, 1979, a caravan of Ku Klux Klansmen and American Nazi Party members pulled out weapons and killed five people protesting at an anti-Klan march in Greensboro. Ten people were injured, and the police were nowhere to be found — even though they knew a violent attack was coming. 

A red street sign saying 'danger due to misinformation' in what seems to be a city, there are headlights in the background
[Flickr]//Creative Commons

In the past decade, we’ve grown increasingly accustomed to a news cycle that operates at a breakneck pace and the ability to follow along with news updates on devices that fit into our pockets. But constant access to information does not necessarily make us more informed. The proliferation of social media and online information sites opened the doors to a less-regulated news economy, which means misinformation and hoaxes can often spread faster than the facts themselves. 

Headshots of both candidates side-by-side
Candidates' websites

If you had trouble keeping up with news over the weekend, you are not alone. Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham admitted to extramarital sexting, while his opponent, Republican incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis tested positive for the coronavirus. Not in the top headlines: the latest in the most competitive races for State Senate seats.

A map of North Carolina color-coded by districts.
North Carolina Legislature

The past 10 years have seen North Carolina’s legislative and congressional district maps drawn and redrawn, court-ordered resolutions to partisan and racial gerrymandering and the long-term impact of racial redistricting. The upcoming 2020 election will determine how the state’s communities will be represented for the next decade.

Warner Bros. Pictures

Were you horrified by the follow-up to your favorite movie? Or maybe they switched up the entire cast and the next one was actually an improvement. And then there are the franchises that they just keep milking. The sequels, spin-offs and cross-overs keep piling up as if it were a competition. ("Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Fast and Furious" are neck-and-neck.) 

Send in your pick for a chance to be on the next Movies on the Radio on October 28, 2020. Email us at sot@wunc.org, tweet at us with #sotmovie, join the conversation on Facebook or just comment below!

 

A Black man with brown curly hair in an afro wearing a black shirt with orange straps on his shoulders, standing in front of a boat that has a cage on it. The cage appears to be filled with oysters. The boat is white and has 'NC-4883-CJ' written on it.
Jeyhoun Allebaugh, courtesy Ryan Bethea

Ryan Bethea has a job to make many computer-bound office workers jealous. As an oyster farmer, his work takes him out into the waters of Westmouth Bay just off Harkers Island. Bethea farms on five acres and runs his business, Oysters Carolina, which sells fresh oysters to individuals, group events and one restaurant in Durham. 

Two White Men, President General Ford and Jimmy Carter, standing at wooden looking podiums on a stage
Flickr / Creative Commons

North Carolina voters had the opportunity to watch two high-profile debates this week: the first presidential debate in Cleveland and the final U.S. Senate debate in Raleigh. President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden faced off Tuesday night in a contentious debate that left many voters feeling disappointed and disillusioned. Republican Sen. Thom Tillis and his Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham took the stage Thursday for the last of three scheduled debates.

White man wearing a mask directing a group of students to come forward with hand motions
Wake County School System

Wake, Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Guilford Counties are among the state’s public school districts that have announced mid-fall reopening plans for elementary and middle school students. Each district intends to implement reopening differently based on their community’s size, distinct challenges and specific concerns. The reopening decisions come as a relief to some parents who have struggled to balance the demands of work and remote instruction. 

Toni Murden McClure, a middle aged white woman with brown and grey hair standing next to Dawn Landes, a white woman with brown hair. Both are smiling and holding a boat figurine
Courtesy: Dawn Landes

In 1998, Tori Murden McClure set off in a boat she made herself to become the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She did not make it. Eighty-five days into her journey, Hurricane Danielle capsized her boat more times than she could count. 

A Black woman holding a megaphone and wearing a crown in New York City
Courtesy of SX Noir

Working from home looks a little different for sex workers. With most strip clubs closed and dancers excluded from larger pots of money in the coronavirus relief package, the sex trade has  largely gone online. From strippers to erotic masseuses to full service workers, virtual sex work required innovation. 

A movie poster saying a fascinating adventure into the unknown! There is a yellow tiger being poked by a small white man next to a large pair of scissors, matches, and white sewing thread
Flickr / Creative Commons

One of the truest forms of horror Hollywood ever depicts is the story of mankind abandoned, disoriented or forgotten. Whether it’s a film about being lost at sea like Robert Zemeckis’ “Cast Away” or one about being so miniscule that your spouse believes you’ve been eaten by the family cat — as was the case in the 1957 sci-fi film “The Incredible Shrinking Man,” — movies about isolation force viewers to confront some of their worst fears.

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.

UFOs circle a human brain in a 60s paperback illustration
Sam Peffer

Evidence matters little in the case of UFOs. In the U.S., 45% of people believe UFOs exist and have visited Earth, according to a 2020 Ipsos poll. Yet those pushing for government transparency and scientific inquiry often face ridicule. How can a belief so widespread be marginalized at the same time?


A woman speaks into a microphone at a protest
Courtesy of Dawn Blagrove

Dawn Blagrove identified her life's work at an early age. As a young girl growing up in 1970s segregated Milwaukee, she read Sam Greenlee's novel "The Spook Who Sat By The Door." It tells the story of a Black CIA operative who goes undercover within the system and takes what he learned back to his Chicago neighborhood to help young people start a revolution. 

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. 

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