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 Graham storefront featuring works of art.
Renee' Russell

Businesses across North Carolina boarded up windows and storefronts in recent months amid ongoing protests against the police killing of George Floyd. For artists in cities like Asheville, Durham, Charlotte and Greensboro, these plywood panels were blank canvases, ripe for colorful street murals and visual statements of protest. These works of public art help communities and artists visualize what work still needs to be done to amplify Black voices — in the art world and beyond.

Carrie Knowles in front of a microphone
Courtesy of Carrie Knowles

Writing has been a central part of Carrie Knowles’ life since she was a young girl. She pursued creative writing as her major in college, even though it went against her father’s wishes.

Wallpaper Flare

Gun violence is back on the rise in North Carolina and around the country. After a lull during the stay-at-home orders, shootings surged over recent weeks. 

Football field at UNC-Chapel Hill
Flickr / William Yeung

The Atlantic Coast Conference Board of Directors voted to push back the start of their fall college sports to Sept. 10 and implement new rules to keep student athletes and coaching staff safe. But is that enough to prevent outbreaks? And if sports are canceled, what does that mean for the future of athletics departments — and for the student athletes?

Herpetologist Nick Massimo holding a snake, with his son on the left
Nick Massimo

Free time from quarantine has given way to more wandering in backyards, and sometimes people encounter a critter that scares them. That is where Nick Massimo comes in. 

North Carolina Public School bus.
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Over half of the students enrolled in North Carolina public schools will be starting their school year at home this fall. Gov. Roy Cooper announced earlier this month that public schools can open through a Plan B or hybrid model, with some in-home and some face-to-face instruction, or with a Plan C model, with remote-only instruction. 

Stethoscope lying on papers with a pen in background
Pxhere

Organizations publish ranked lists of the country’s best hospitals every year in an effort to guide patients to high-quality care. One of the most visible, U.S. News and World, released their 2020-21 Best Hospitals Honor Roll on Tuesday.

Four people standing under the words' Black AF'
Carolina Waves

Lena Jackson, Tagem, 2FLY KNG and Jooselord join verses about the systemic violence against Black bodies in “Black AF,” a raw black-and-white lyric video released by Carolina Waves.

Jacob Fields, right, plays walks with his son Roan, left, in a wooded area adjacent to Murdoch Developmental Center in Butner, N.C. on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019.
Ben McKeown / For WUNC

For families with special needs children, putting kids into institutional care is often a desperate act of last resort. Many parents and caregivers prefer to keep their children at home where they can give them as much love and attention as possible, but they need help to do so. Families of children with severe intellectual and developmental disabilities are eligible for assistance from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services through a portion of Medicaid called the Innovations Waiver.

Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Orrin Pilkey was sounding the alarm about climate change and sea level rise long before the topics were part of public consciousness. As an early whistleblower, his work was not always well received, but he pressed on and has authored and edited dozens of books about the environment in the past few decades. His latest book, co-authored with his son Keith, takes a look at some of the unexpected ways climate-related sea level rise will affect the lives and livelihoods of people across the United States.

Image of Harper Lee at a desk.
Donald Uhrbrock / The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

What lessons can the now-deceased Harper Lee teach a modern-day investigative journalist? Writer Casey Cep retraced Lee’s footsteps to a small town in Alabama to find out. She reopened a 1970s murder case that Lee had once obsessively followed: a rural preacher named Reverend Willie Maxwell who was accused of killing five of his family members for insurance money.

Absentee voter ballot envelope
Flickr / Nadya Peek

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many North Carolina voters are choosing to cast their ballot via mail. Over 90,000 North Carolinians have requested a mail-in absentee ballot so far, nearly five times as many requests as this time in 2016. 

Lightner and his mom.
Courtesy of Kai Lightner

The climbing started with baby gates and wooden balconies. As a kid, professional rock climber Kai Lightner had a lot of energy and a love for scrambling up anything he could find. 

Waynesville police car.
Smoky Mountain News

The price of local law enforcement is coming under increased scrutiny amidst nationwide calls to defund or abolish the police. Smoky Mountain News took a deep dive into the implications and possibilities for reallocating funding for law enforcement in four counties in Western North Carolina. 

Bus seats with "seat closed" signs.
Wikimedia Commons

The North Carolina General Assembly cut hundreds of millions from the state’s transportation budget in late June. While the funding bill received overwhelming bipartisan support in both the Senate and House, one item raised some controversy: completely cutting the $51.2 billion allocated to programs at local transit departments.

StoryCorps

StoryCorps has been traveling around the country, collecting oral histories in person for years. The impact of COVID-19 means that the archival organization has to get creative. 

Map of North Carolina that shows the rate of sterilization in NC counties.
North Carolina Justice For Sterilization Victims Foundation

Between 1929 and 1974, North Carolina officials sterilized an estimated 7,600 people, many by force or coercion. The state’s eugenics program targeted people deemed “feebleminded,” sick or living with a disability. 

Courtesy Jon Gardiner / UNC-Chapel Hill

In an email to leaders at all 17 UNC System campuses, UNC Board of Governors Chairman Randall Ramsey asked each chancellor to prepare a proposal that reflects a budget cut of up to 50 percent. 

Book cover reads: The Future of Feeling: Building Empathy in a Tech-Obsessed World.
Little A Publishing

Do you say please and thank you to your smart speaker? With each update, technology inches closer towards a greater understanding of the human condition. Empathy remains a trait exclusive to people, but that could change.

GoodFreePhotos//CC

North Carolina taxpayers channel billions of dollars into state agencies every year — agencies that, in turn, spend that money with private businesses in the state for anything from building construction to office supplies. But not every business benefits from the state dollars. 

Red and ominous lettering reads WUNC Presents Creep amongst a forest floor.
Matthew Scott

Creeping, crawling, thriving, surviving … no matter where we look, animal species are living in our midst. Some survive despite the challenges and hazards human life imposes, while others thrive because of it. 

Headshot of McCoy.
Courtesy of Jesse Hamilton McCoy II

There were not many other poor students in his class at law school. Jesse Hamilton McCoy II knew that most of the laws he learned about were not written or enforced by working class Black people. 

Protester holds up a sign that reads: End systemic racism.
Pikist

Tens of thousands of workers in more than 25 cities are expected to participate in a full-day strike today as part of the “Strike for Black Lives.” Those who cannot strike for the full day are encouraged to walk away from their positions for about eight minutes — the amount of time a white police officer held his knee on George Floyd’s neck in Minneapolis. 

Headshot of Ndelo.
Courtesy of Eric Ndelo

Street fashion is a venue for activism, according to Eric Ndelo. Through screen printing, he has elevated social justice movements like Black Lives Matter, empowered young artists and taught entrepreneurship to Congo youth. It was all part of the vision, he says.

NC DHHS

North Carolina hit a record number of coronavirus hospitalizations this week, a day after Gov. Roy Cooper announced a three-week extension of Phase 2. 

Black Haüs

Hundreds of North Carolina musicians set up a desk and camera this spring for their chance at NPR stardom. The annual Tiny Desk contest gives unsigned musicians the chance to perform behind Bob Boilen's desk at NPR's Washington D.C. headquarters. 

In a unanimous vote on July 14, the Asheville City Council has decided to provide reparations to its Black residents for the city’s role in slavery, discrimination and community disinvestment. The decision is historic, as Asheville is one of the first cities to vote in favor of reparations. 
 

A dog and a bonobo.
Vanessa Woods

When thinking about evolution, Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, or “survival of the fittest,” is ingrained as the reason why some organisms thrived and others faltered. But our cultural understanding of “fittest” focuses on brute strength and size. What if there was another way to explain the success of some species? 

DPS building
Ildar Sagdejev / WikiMedia Commons

Local school districts within North Carolina can choose to follow Gov. Roy Cooper’s guidance on Plan B reopening — which includes remote and in-classroom hybrid learning — or they can choose complete remote-learning for the upcoming school year. 

Side photo of a North Carolina Public Schools bus.
NCDOT Communications

North Carolina public schools will open this fall with a mix of in-person and remote-learning options, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday. 

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