Bridget Armstrong | WYPR

Bridget Armstrong

Bridget no longer works for Midday at WYPR.

Bridget Armstrong is a producer for Midday hosted by Tom Hall. She joined the WYPR team as a producer of Maryland Morning in March 2016. Before coming to WYPR, she worked for SiriusXM and prior to that, at NPR.  While at NPR, Bridget worked on the 2014 Elections Desk and Tell Me More hosted by Michel Martin, where she produced discussions addressing race, gender and pop-culture.  A true lover of conversation, Bridget also hosted and produced a roundtable podcast. Bridget is a graduate of Winston-Salem State University, an Historically Black College.

Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun

The Excel Academy, a high school on the west side of Baltimore, in Poppleton, has just under 100 students, many of whom have been working to overcome behavioral problems; some are dealing with homelessness or pregnancy. And there is another, heartbreaking problem that these students have had to cope with. Six of their classmates have been killed in street violence over the last year. Six kids, from one school.

To date, 263 people have been killed in Baltimore in 2017. Of those 263 people, 26 were children and young people who did not live long enough to celebrate their 21st birthdays. Most were teenagers. Two were babies. 

Today on Midday, a conversation about what the constant trauma of street violence does to the mental and emotional health of young people. Tom is joined by a panel of guests. 

Writer and poet Kondwani Fidel wrote about his experience growing up in Baltimore in a cover story for the City Paper titled How a young boy has been decaying in Baltimore since age 10: A Death Note.

penguin random house

Author and musician James McBride joins Tom to talk about his latest collection of stories Five Carat Soul. McBride won the National Book Award for his novel, The Good Lord Bird. He’s written an internationally acclaimed memoir, The Color of Water, and a novel about the Underground Railroad called Song Yet SungHis 2002 novel, Miracle at St. Anna was made into a hit movie by Spike Lee.

The stories in Five Carat Soul are tragic and hilarious. In one four-part story, we meet the members of the Five Carat Soul Bottom Bone Band -- Goat, Beanie, Bunny, Dex, Ray Ray and Butter. We meet many more unforgettable characters, including a toy broker on a quest to procure a most unique train with a complicated history; a Union Soldier who unexpectedly becomes an adoptive parent; the devil, and a lion named Harold.  

Courtesy Chris Van Hollen

US Senator Chris Van Hollen was elected to represent Maryland in the Senate last November after serving seven terms in Congress. He currently serves on the Budget, Banking, Agriculture and Appropriations Committees. The senator joins Tom in the studio to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing our nation, including the Graham-Cassidy healthcare proposal and a Medicare-for-all bill from Sen. Bernie Sanders; the big data breach at Equifax; mounting tensions on the Korean Peninsula; and the impact of the growing NFL protests. Sen. Van Hollen also fields questions from Midday listeners.

Maryland Humanities

Nigerian author and essayist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie joins Tom for the hour. Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus is this year's One Maryland One Book selection. Sponsored by Maryland Humanities, students and literature lovers across the state are reading and discussing the book.

Chimamanda is the author of two other novels: Half of a Yellow Sun, and Americanah, which is being made into a film. She published a short story collection in 2009 called The Thing Around Your Neck, and her 2012 TED Talk  was published as a book, called We Should All be Feminists.  Her latest book is Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in 15 Suggestions.

Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group Archives

Should Colin Kaepernick be playing in the NFL this season? Does the fact that he’s not playing have to do with how well he plays, or his sideline protests against police misconduct? Is the movement to boycott the NFL in support of Kaepernick, catching on and impacting NFL ratings?   

If you haven’t been boycotting the games, what do you think of the Ravens first two outings this year? The defense is hot, and the offense is hot enough to win. How will their trip across the pond to play in London on Sunday affect their performance in the coming weeks? While the Ravens head to England, the Orioles are headed south, in the standings. What happened to the team that showed so much promise, so many times, this year?

AFP Photo/SCOTT OLSON

 

Protests in St. Louis continued last night following the acquittal of a white, former police officer, Jason Stockley, in the 2011 shooting death of black man, Anthony Lamar Smith. A recording device inside the former officer's vehicle captured Stockley saying he was “going to kill” Smith during a high speed pursuit. Prosecutors also accused Stockley of planting a gun inside of Smith's car after he was fatally wounded. Peaceful protestors marched through the city immediately after the verdict was announced, but by Friday evening, pockets of the protest erupted in violence.

HBO

 

In another edition of Living Questions, our monthly series on the role of religion in the public sphere, which we produce in collaboration with the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies, we take a look at depictions of religious faiths in movies and on television.

A lot has changed since Charlton Heston  starred as Moses in the 1956 film The Ten Commandments. Show’s like Greenleaf on OWN take us behind the scenes at a Black Mega Church; HBO’s The Young Pope imagines an insurgent named Lenny Belardo rising to the Pontificate. How do these, and a host of other TV shows and movies feed our perceptions and even skepticism around organized religion? How does a movie like Silence, which tells the story of 17th century Jesuit Priests in Japan, help us understand religion in a historical context? How are we to appreciate the complexities of various faith traditions if directors and writers take artistic liberties in their story-telling?  

JHU Press

  

Today, a conversation about Baltimore. People call it different things: Charm City or Mobtown, the City That Reads or the City That Bleeds, but whatever you call it, Baltimore holds an important place in the hearts of most of the folks who live here.  

Our town, like many American cities, is a place of contradictions. We are home to some of the best medical centers in the country, yet there is a 10 or 12 year difference in life expectancy from one neighborhood to another.  We have a vibrant creative community that helps us maintain a solid reputation as quirky and eclectic, and an inferiority complex that has us question our worth relative to places like Boston or Philadelphia.  Baltimore is smaller, more affordable and more intimate than New York, but our murder rate per 100,000 people is 10 times that of our northern counterpart.  Multi-million dollar homes in the Inner Harbor and Guilford are within walking distance of streets that have more boarded-up homes than occupied ones.  

Joe Flood/Flickr

Today, a conversation about the Trump administration's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or DACA.  Since Atty Gen. Jeff Sessions announced the end of DACA, serious questions have been raised regarding the impact of this decision on the young people who participated in the plan.

  

Tom is joined by Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the senior senator from Maryland. This morning, he led an interfaith meeting to respond to the violence in Charlottesville.  We’ll talk about President Trump’s pandering and bigoted response to that dark day, his decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and the prospects for tax reform.  

Senator Cardin is the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. We’ll also talk about the growing tensions with North Korea and the president’s recent comments about the prospects of a military conflict. 

Photo courtesy Andrea Carlson

Singer, songwriter, and guitarist  Andrea Carlson performs tracks from her latest album 'Love Can Be So Nice'  live in the Midday studio. Carlson is appearing at Germano’s Piattini this evening, and her performance is one of many that is included in the 3rd annual Madonnari Festival, a celebration of music, Italian food and art. Jennifer Chaparro, artist and winner of the International Chalk Festival, will also join us in studio to chat about the annual event where artist from Baltimore and all over the world will be canvasing the streets of Little Italy with chalk and chalk tempura art.  

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux,

With the Baltimore City Council, the Mayor, the Police Chief and the City States Attorney advocating for mandatory minimum sentences for gun possession, a conversation about incarceration, race, and criminal justice. African Americans are 6x more likely to imprisoned for drug charges, even though blacks and whites use drugs at similar rates. Overall, African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites? How did we get here? What laws and policy shaped our bias criminal justice system, and what role did African American political, law enforcement and religious leaders play in shaping that system? James Forman Jr. is a professor of law at the Yale Law School and the author of Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America.

Sheri Parks is an Associate Dean for Research, Interdisciplinary Scholarship and Programming at the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of MD College Park, where she is also an Associate Professor in the Department of American Studies. She’s the author of Fierce Angels: Living with a Legacy from the Sacred Dark Feminine to the Strong Black Woman. 

MikeRowe.com

(This program was originally broadcast on September 21, 2016)

Mike Rowe joins Midday host Tom Hall to talk about rolling up his sleeves and getting down to work in some of the hardest professions on Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs and later on Somebody’s Gotta Do It, which aired on CNN from 2014 until May 2016.

These days, in addition to hosting a podcast called The Way I Heard It, Mike has turned his focus to closing the skills gap by providing scholarships through the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, for people who want to learn a skill or trade that is in high demand. Mike says the desire to start the foundation came from meeting thousands of skilled workers who make good livings and are passionate about their careers. Many of the folks he shadowed did not have advanced degrees, a point that isn’t missed on Mike. He says as a society we put too much emphasis on obtaining a four-year degree as the only path to success and not enough on obtaining a skill set in a specific vocation that could lead to a successful career.

Mike also shares how he got his big break into showbiz when Tom Hall hired him for an opera in 1983.

Doug Mills/NY Times

(This program originally aired on May 17, 2017.) 

Our country is becoming increasingly diverse. People of color will outnumber non-Latino, white Americans in 30 years. Are our newsrooms representative of our increasingly diverse nation? It’s a question that news organizations are grappling with across the country. Last month, NPR’s Ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen published a report that said that in 2016, of the 350 employees in the NPR news division 75.4 percent were white. In the commentary Jensen wrote "There's simply no way around it: If the goal is to increase diversity in the newsroom, last year's was a disappointing showing” 

Last December, New York Times Public Editor Liz Spayd published a frank piece about the lack of diversity in their newsroom. Of course NPR and the New York Times are not alone. In 2014, minorities made up 22 percent of television journalists, 13 percent of radio journalists, and 13 percent of journalists at daily newspapers. That’s according to the Radio Television Digital News Association and the American Society of News Editors. People of color make up about 15% of the programming staff at WYPR.

Photo courtesy Creative Commons

 (We originally aired this program on June 28, 2017.)

There's no shortage of think pieces exploring the ways Millennials -- that is, folks born between 1981 and 1996 -- differ from older generations. Those pieces often describe a generation of entitled, lazy, participation-trophy babies.  But some experts say that perception is wrong and reflects our society's misunderstanding of Millennials and their relationship with technology. 

James VanRensselaer Homewood Photography

(We originally aired this program on June 20, 2017.)  

Last month (May 2017), the stabbing death of Bowie State University student and 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III grabbed national headlines, and left students and faculty wondering how the frightening and tragic incident could have happened on a college campus. Collins, who was black, was stabbed on the campus of the University of Maryland, College Park by UMd student Sean Urbanski. Urbanski, who’s white, was a member of an online hate group that shared bigoted memes and messages. While Urbanski has not been charged with a hate crime, students of color at UMd say Collins’ death is not an isolated incident and that racial climate on campus is fraught with bias and bigotry. In early May, a noose was found hanging in UMd frat house. 

Penguin Random House

“Do black lives matter to the courts?” It’s the question raised time and time again when unarmed black men are killed by police and the officers are either not indicted, or not convicted. It’s the question raised by NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill in a new collection of essays called Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution and Imprisonment.

Professor Angela J. Davis is the collection's editor. She's a law professor at American University's Washington College of Law. She's also the author of several books, including Arbitrary Justice: The Power of the American Prosecutor.

Sherrilyn Ifill, with her colleague Jin Hee Lee, co-wrote the essay in Policing the Black Man,  titled "Do Black Lives Matter to the Courts?" Sherrilyn is also the author of On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century

Nina Subin

(This program originally aired January 18, 2017)  

This week, we are taking a look back at the Presidency of Barack Obama. Tom is joined by Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, a searing provocateur whose unstinting critique of the historic nature of Obama’s tenure includes what he considers to be the missed opportunities to advance the cause of racial equality. One of Dyson’s chief criticisms is the President’s reluctance to hold white people at least partially responsible for black suffering.  

In his latest book, Tears We Cannot Stop: A  Sermon to White America, Dyson argues that the responsibility lies not just with uninformed bigots, but with people who may consider themselves enlightened and fair-minded, but who can’t accept the truth of racial history.  < Dr. Michael Eric Dyson is a sociology professor at Georgetown University. He is the author of 18 other books, including The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America.

Penguin Random House

(This program originally aired on April 18, 2017)

Tom is joined today by Nigerian author, essayist and activist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She splits her time between her native country Nigeria and the US, where she has a home in Columbia, Maryland. She's won several prestigious awards, including the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. She's headlining the 2017 Baltimore CityLit Festival later this month. That’s an annual event sponsored by the CityLit Project, an organization that advances the cause of all things literary here in Maryland.

Cover art courtesy Little, Brown and Co., Publisher

(This program originally aired March 13, 2017)

Their names are familiar: Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice...and others.   Young, unarmed black men killed by police. Their common, tragic fates and what led to them are the focus of Tom's conversation today with Wesley Lowery.

Lowery is a Washington Post reporter who’s been on the ground covering incidents of police violence since protests erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, following the death of Michael Brown.

Lowery’s new book examines law enforcement culture and the legacy of unconstitutional treatment of African-Americans that continues to seed mistrust between police and communities of color. 

“For most white Americans," Lowery tells Tom, "the police are someone you call when you are in trouble. For most black and brown Americans, the police are an oppressive force, who they see as harassing them and interacting with them in ways that could lead to them being dead.”

A Midday Special Edition: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Wesley Lowery on his new book, They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era of America’s Racial Justice Movement. 

This program was pre-recorded, so we didn't take any phone calls.  If you want to comment on the show, you can tweet us @middaytomhall, or write to us at midday@wypr.org or on Midday's Facebook page. 

Courtesy of Rollin Hu

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh moved quickly and quietly early Wednesday morning to have the city's four Confederate monuments removed from their pedestals, in response to the weekend violence in Charlottesville and concerns that conflicts over the statues could threaten public safety.  

Tom speaks with filmmaker and arts curator Elissa Blount Moorhead about the mayor's decision. Moorhead is a filmmaker and partner at TNEG Films. She is also an Incubator Fellow at the Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund in Film & Media at Johns Hopkins.  She recently directed a short film for Jay Z called 4:44.

In September of 2015, then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake appointed Moorhead and several other people to a commission to make recommendations about what to do with the four monuments. In August 2016, the commission recommended the city remove two of Baltimore's confederate statues— the Roger B. Taney Monument on Mount Vernon Place and the Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson Monument in the Wyman Park Dell. The commission recommended the placement of contextual signage at the two other monuments: the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Mount Royal Avenue and the Confederate Women's Monument on West University Parkway.

Center Stage

 

In the 24 hours since our last broadcast, we’ve witnessed the horrifying spectacle of the President vigorously defending White Supremacists by equating their actions in Charlottesville, VA last weekend with the actions of counter protesters. It appears that the anodyne remarks the President made on Saturday more closely reflected his true feelings, which appear to have been exposed yesterday. Also, overnight, following a Monday night vote of the City Council, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh had four controversial Confederate monuments removed from their pedestals.    

Tom is joined by Kwame Kwei-Armah, OBE, the Artistic Director of Baltimore Center Stage. As a playwright, essayist, performer and director, he knows a lot about acting, truth-telling, staging and symbolism. At the end of this season, he’ll leave Center Stage to pursue other projects, and he will leave it a much different place than it was when he arrived in 2011. Kwame Kwei-Armah is no stranger to the power of stage and symbolism.  He talks with Tom about the Confederate monuments: what they mean, and what their absence means.

Photo By Kathleen Cahill

Today , a conversation about  mandatory minimums and monuments.

Last night, the Baltimore City Council narrowly passed a preliminary measure related to a bill that at one time could have meant a mandatory jail term for anyone with an illegal gun.  The debate has reopened a conversation about the role of judges, and the best ways to make our streets safer.  Tom speaks with two councilmen who are on opposite sides of this issue: Eric Costello, who voted for it, and Brandon Scott, who opposed it. 

And as the weekend violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, continues to stir national concerns about an emboldened white supremacy movement in America, Tom also talks to both city leaders about the fate of four Confederate monuments in the city's Mt Vernon, Bolton Hill and Charles Village neighborhoods.

Courtesy of Hari Kondabolu

Tom's guest is Hari Kondabolu, the comedian/satirist and co-host of the popular podcast "Politically Re-Active" with fellow comedian W. Kamau Bell.

Their show focuses on what they call "the dumpster fire that is the U.S. political landscape" with leading activists and writers.

A major draw on the nationwide standup comedy circuit and a regular on late-night TV talk shows, Hari's latest stand-up album (available via digital download) is called Hari Kondabolu's New Material Night, Volume 1 , which was recorded live in San Francisco in 2013.

Ahead of his two upcoming shows at The Creative Alliance in East Baltimore on Sunday August 27th, at 7:30 and 9:00pm, Hari joins Tom on the line to talk about racism, rebel statues and living in Donald Trump's America.   

Photo courtesy CBS Sports

We begin with a conversation about the horrific events that took place in Charlottesville, Va.  over the weekend which resulted in the death of one woman and two VA state troopers.  Many were injured, and brazenness about racist and hateful rhetoric is alive and well.  White nationalists succeeded in shining a bright spotlight on themselves in Charlottesville.  The president of the United States has said little to dim that light, drawing severe criticism from, as he might say, many, many sides.  Dr. Nathan Connolly, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University, joins Tom to reflect on Charlottesville and its aftermath.

Tom speaks with Senator Ben Cardin, the senior senator from Maryland and ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, about President Trump's  escalating war of words with North Korea. This conversation was recorded on Thursday morning.  At that time, President Trump had already talked about the "fire and fury" of a response to North Korea should they initiate hostilities. This morning, the President tweeted that the US military was "locked and loaded" with military solutions should North Korea act "unwisely." The President appears to be implying that he’s ordered some sort of new military plan for North Korea.  Most military observers doubt that American preparedness for a conflict with North Korea is, in fact, substantially different than it has been for some time. 

Baltimore City Government

On Wednesday Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh released her plan for curbing the spike in violence in the city. Her violence reduction plan takes a holistic approach to fighting crime.  The mayor wants more training for police officers, increased access to housing and jobs, and free community college for Baltimore city public school graduates. Critics say the Mayor’s plan lacks accountability and measurable goals. 

Dominique Maria Bonessi is WYPR's City Hall reporter.

Edward Jackson is a professor of criminal justice at Baltimore City Community College. He’s also a former Baltimore City Police Department Colonel, who retired from the department in 2004. He was recently appointed by Mayor Pugh to Baltimore City’s Community Oversight Task Force. 

They join Tom to discuss the mayor crime plan and a crime reduction plan put forth by the city council's public safety committee led by 2nd district councilman Brandon Scott. 

Baltimore’s annual festival that celebrates African American art, music and culture, known as AFRAM, takes place tomorrow at Druid Hill Park.  The festival is in its 41st year and free to the public. It features performances from local artists, interactive exhibits, children’s activities, as well as job training and health and wellness information.

Afra White, the planner of AFRAM festival, joins us on the line from City Hall today. She’s the director of external affairs for the Office of the Mayor. The Baltimore festival is presented this year by Mayor Catherine E. Pugh and the City of Baltimore with the support of the advisory board and steering committee.

This week the American Visionary Art Museum is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The museum highlights the work of so-called “outsider” artists as many of the artists are self-taught visionaries. Back in the early 90s now-retired Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski spearheaded a movement to pass a resolution in Congress that made the American Visionary Art Museum an official national museum. For more than two decades the museum has served as an education center and repository for intuitive, self-taught artistry. The founder and director of AVAM, Rebecca Alban Hoffberger, joins us today in Studio A to talk about the museum and its current exhibits. 

Today, a conversation with a man who has filed or joined more than half a dozen cases against the Trump Administration: Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh. Mr. Frosh is a Democrat who was elected in 2014, after serving for 28 years on the Maryland General Assembly.

Earlier this year, to the chagrin of the Governor, the general assembly gave the Attorney General’s office the authority to sue the Trump administration without Governor Larry Hogan’s permission. Back in March, Maryland joined the state of Washington in a lawsuit against the second travel ban.  Maryland also filed a lawsuit with the District of Columbia alleging that President Trump violated anti-corruption clauses in the constitution by accepting payments from foreign governments after he took office. Attorney General Frosh pushed back against president Trump’s voter fraud commission, saying that the commission only exists to “indulge Trump’s fantasy that he won the popular vote.” He also called the commissions’ request for voter data “repugnant.” The lawsuits of course are not without critics. Republican state lawmakers accused the Attorney General of “grandstanding,” saying that he’s exploiting his political power to go after President Trump.

Closer to home, Attorney General Frosh has spoken out about criminal justice reform. In an opinion issued last year, he told state lawmakers that our cash bail system is unconstitutional. Mr. Frosh joins Tom to talk law, respond to comments, and field all of your burning questions.

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