Bridget Armstrong | WYPR

Bridget Armstrong

Producer, Midday

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.

James VanRensselaer Homewood Photography

Last month, the stabbing death of Bowie State University student 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III grabbed national headlines and left students and faculty wondering how the frightening and tragic incident could happen 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. 

College Park is not the only campus battling bigotry. Last month, bananas hung by nooses were found on the campus of American University in Washington, DC. Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth and other universities across the country have reported dozens of incidents of bias in recent months.   Some scholars have observed that racism on predominantly white college campuses is as old as the universities themselves.  Tom is joined by Lawrence Ross, the author of several books including The Divine Nine:The History of African American Fraternities and Sororities. His latest is called Blackballed:The Black and White Politics of Race on America's Campuses. He is a frequent contributor to TheRoot.com.

Monday, the 19th of June, is Juneteenth, the day that commemorates June 19, 1865 when enslaved African Americans in Galveston, TX were informed by Union soldiers that slavery was legally over, months after the end of the Civil War and more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by Abraham Lincoln. Juneteenth is one of the most widely celebrated emancipation days in the country. It’s officially recognized in 45 states; Maryland became the 43rd state in 2014. Today a conversation about Juneteenth. What’s the historical significance of the day and as we reflect, how does it inform our understanding of slavery and the reconstruction era?  What was life like for African Americans as they transitioned from bondage to freedom? 

Tom is joined by Dr. Terry Anne Scott; she’s an assistant professor of History at Hood College in Frederick. Also joining are B. Cole and Aisha Pew, entrepreneurs and the owners of the Dovecote Café in Baltimore, and the leaders of Brioxy, a network of innovative people of color who are creating economic opportunity for themselves and others. This weekend they’re hosting a Juneteenth Home and Garden tour in their Reservoir Hill neighborhood.  

David Spence of David Spence Photography

Theater Critic J. Wynn Rousuck returns to Midday with her weekly review of a regional production. This week, she’s talking about Fred’s Diner at the Maryland Ensemble Theatre in Frederick, MD. The new dark comedy by award-winning playwright Penelope Skinner transports the audience to an American Diner on an English motorway, brimming with captivating characters and deadly secrets. After premiering London, this is the 2nd time the play has been produced in the U.S. and first time it's been produced on the East Coast. Fred’s Diner is directed by Peter Wray, and runs through June 18th, 2017.  

Former FBI Director James Comey was center stage yesterday in public and classified appearances before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Following Comey's public testimony, President Trump’s private lawyer pronounced the President vindicated. The President himself tweeted the same thing this morning. Many observers, however, disagree. Partisanship was by no means absent during Comey’s testimony. Like beauty, Obstruction of Justice is in the eye of the beholder.  The cloud of scandal hovering over the Trump administration is perhaps murkier than ever.  

Philip Montgomery for The New York Times

Today another installment of the Midday Culture Connection with Dr. Sheri Parks of the University of Maryland, College Park. Presidential senior advisor and first son-in-law Jared Kushner’s meeting with a Russian banker back in December is the subject of a federal and congressional investigation. ProPublica reporter Alec MacGillis conducted his own investigation into Kushner that hits closer to home. Kushner Companies owns and operates 15 apartment complexes in the Baltimore area. Although Kushner stepped down as CEO in January he’s still a stakeholder, with a share of the company estimated to be worth at least $600 million. 

 

Jury selection begins today in the trial of police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who is accused of second degree manslaughter in the death of a 32-year-old African-American cafeteria supervisor named Philando Castile. Yanez shot Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota last July. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, live streamed video of the immediate aftermath of the shooting on Facebook. According to prosecutors, Castile had a gun in his pocket that he was licensed to carry. They say when he told Yanez about the gun before trying to pull out his driver's license Yanez warned Castile three times not to remove the gun, to which Castile repeatedly responded that he was not going for his weapon,. Prosecutors say when Castile reached for his license, Yanez shot him.

The start of this trial comes on the heels of an acquittal earlier this month in the trial of another officer, Betty Jo Shelby in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She was found not guilty in the death of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed Black motorist whose shooting was captured on a video taken by police in a helicopter. In both of these cases, the encounters between these motorists and police lasted a very short time, but the ramifications of the legal decisions in these and other cases will last for the foreseeable future.  

Doug Mills/NY Times

(Originally broadcast on May 17, 2017)

Our country is becoming much more diverse.  In thirty years, it's estimated that people of color will outnumber non-Latino white Americans. 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 Bowie State University

It's the Midday News Wrap, our regular Friday review of the week's top local, national and international news. This week, as headlines focused on President Trump's first foreign trip, his 2018 budget proposal, and on the continuing investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, the nation was stunned by news of the May 20 stabbing death of Bowie State University student Richard Collins III.  The 23 year-old Collins, who had just been commissioned as a US Army lieutenant, was murdered by a University of Maryland/College Park student, who has been identified as a member of a white supremacist hate group on Facebook. How is the community responding to this tragedy, and what are school officials doing to address rising concerns about racially motivated attacks on their campus? Joining Tom on today's NewsWrap panel to discuss these and other issues in the news this week are Kamau High, managing editor of the Afro-American Newspaper and Dr. Kaye Wise Whitehead, an associate professor of communication and African and African American studies at Loyola University Maryland, and the author of “Letters to My Black Sons: Raising Boys in a Post-Racial America.”

Yesterday, President Trump issued a budget plan that proposes dramatic cuts to Medicaid and other programs like SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, often referred to as food stamps. Despite campaign promises to the contrary, the president wants to reduce Medicaid spending over 10 years by as much as $1.4 trillion according to some estimates. The Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides healthcare support under Medicaid to low income children, would be cut by 20% in the first year alone. This of course comes after House Republicans passed a health care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act earlier this month. Some in the Senate have vowed to start over, rather than work with the House bill as they craft their own. 

What could these cuts mean for the most vulnerable folks living in our city who rely on programs like Medicaid and food stamps to survive? Tom is joined by Dr. Leana Wen, the Health Commissioner of the city of Baltimore, for the Midday Healthwatch. 

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Trump spent a year on the campaign trail saying terrible things about Muslims and NATO. He railed against Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information. He even had bad things to say about the Pope.  

He leaves today to meet with leaders of Saudi Arabia, NATO, and Israel, whose trust he abused when he revealed secrets Israel had collected, to Russian diplomats. He’ll also meet with the Pope.  

Meanwhile, computers across the globe were paralyzed by ransomware, a white police officer was acquitted in Oklahoma after shooting an unarmed black man during a traffic stop, and layoffs are imminent in the Baltimore City Schools.  

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