Cianna B. Greaves | WYPR

Cianna B. Greaves

Photo Credit Baltimore Sun

On our latest installment of Midday with the Afro, a rally was held in Baltimore support of Stephon Clark, the young man who died at the hands of police in Sacramento, CA. 

The bills concerning black ownership of medical marijuana licenses are coming down to the wire. 

Also, Nathaniel Oakes, the Senator from the 41st district is out of office, but he is on the ballot in the June Primary.  And there has been a leadership change in the MD Legislative Black Caucus..

Kamau High is Managing Editor of The Afro American Newspapers.  He joins Tom live in Studio A. 

The AFRO’s Second Annual High Tea is Saturday April 21st, 2018.  This year’s theme is “We Too Support #METOO”, and a portion of proceeds from this event will benefit The House of Ruth.  For tickets and info, click the link below:

Photo courtesy Mary Frances Berry

Today on the show, a conversation with Dr. Mary Frances Berry.  She is a scholar, an author and activist whose new book chronicles the history of American protest and resistance movements, from the Roosevelt administration through the Obama years.

From the Vietnam War, to the end of Apartheid in South Africa, to her long tenure on the US Civil Rights Commission that the spanned several administrations, Dr. Berry brings deep experience and erudition to this fascinating book.  It’s called History Teaches Us to Resist: How Progressive Movements Have Succeeded in Challenging Times.  

photo courtesy Hood College

A special Midday broadcast today, live from Hodson Auditorium on the campus of Hood College, in historic Frederick, Maryland.

Our topic today: Frederick at the Crossroads.

Founded in 1748, Frederick has seen its share of American history.  It was founded at the crossroads of a major north-south Native American trail and the east-west route from the Chesapeake Bay across the Appalachian Mountains to the Ohio River Valley.  Frederick County is home to Ft. Detrick and a branch of the National Cancer Institute. The Catoctin Mountain Park, and the presidential retreat, Camp David, are here.

It is quaint.  And beautiful, as anyone who has been in downtown Frederick can tell you. But while it may be old, it is anything but standing still.  In fact, the city and the county are among the fastest growing parts of Maryland. The population of Frederick City, with its 70,000 residents, has grown 32 percent since 2000 and a whopping 73% since 1990.  And with growth like that, Frederick finds itself at a crossroads once again. How does it honor its past, while being thrust into the future by incredibly rapid growth?  How does it remain charming, despite the pressures to become a bedroom community of Rockville and, by extension, Bethesda and Washington, DC?

Photo Courtesy Brian Frosh

We continue our series of Conversations with the Candidates, which includes those who already hold public office.   Maryland’s Democratic Attorney General Brian Frosh joins us live in Studio A. He is unopposed in the primary in June.  He’ll be running against Republican Craig Wolf in November.  Mr. Frosh was elected to the AG’s office in 2014, after serving 10 years in the MD Senate.

He lives in Somerset with his wife Marcy.  They have two daughters. 

Today's conversation, like all our Conversations with the Candidates, was streamed live on WYPR's Facebook page.

This weekend, the epidemic of gun related violence, particularly mass shooting in schools, has once again focused our nation on the issue of gun control. 

Some 200,000 people converged on Washington DC for the “March for Our Lives.”  800-plus sibling marches took place in cities around the world, including here in Baltimore. 

Students of all ages and races took to the podium Saturday with impassioned appeals to elected officials to act on the issue of gun control, and for the wider citizenry to assert their power at the ballot box this November.  

Thirteen year-old Asiane Phillips joins Tom in Studio A this afternoon.  The 7th grader at Hampstead Hill Academy, a Baltimore public school, is a student activist who organized a recent walkout at her school in response to gun violence.  Asiane also created a list of demands for changes to legislation and school policy aimed at reducing gun violence and improving school safety, and she's been engaging in dialogues with school administrators and community leaders.   

Photo Courtesy Johns Hopkins University Press

On today's show, environmental journalist Tom Pelton joins us live in Studio A. He’s been writing about the Chesapeake Bay and other environmental issues for more than two decades.  He is the Director of Communications for the Environmental Integrity Project, and the host of The Environment in Focus, which airs Wednesday mornings and evenings here on WYPR.  His new book is called The Chesapeake in Focus: Transforming the Natural World.

From Baltimore’s leaky sewer system to farms in Pennsylvania and even pollution from factories in the Midwest, the Bay and its ecosystem face serious challenges.  What will it take to meet them?


Photo Courtesy: Office of Councilwoman Vicki Almond

Today, another in our series of Conversations with the Candidates, in advance of the June 26th primary elections.

Tom's guest today is 2nd District Baltimore County Councilwoman Vicki Almond. Ms. Almond is one of four Democrats and two Republicans seeking their party’s nomination to run in the general election for Baltimore County Executive. 

Vicki Almond grew up in Catonsville and attended Catonsville High School.  She was elected to the County Council in 2010.

Early voting for the primaries begins on June 14th. 

Live in Studio A: Trio Galilei

Mar 16, 2018

Ginger Hildebrand, Sue Richards and Carolyn Surrick are three highly respected musicians who play what many call “early” music.  They each play in various solo capacities, and when they play together as Trio Galilei , they play Irish and Scottish dance music, and music that goes way back to medieval times.

Today, the trio joins Tom in the studio to perform a little early music and (in honor of St. Patrick's Day tomorrow) a traditional Irish tune. With Carolyn on viola de gamba, Sue on Celtic harp, and Ginger on guitar, we hear "Lindsay's Keys," Grainne's Grace," and "O'Carolan's Draught."    

See the video of  Trio Galilei's Live-Streamed performance on the WYPR FB page.

Trio Galilei will be performing selected works of music at Christ Church in Easton, Maryland on Sunday, March 18th.   For more information check out the link below.


On this edition of the Midday News Wrap: Tom speaks with Dayvon Love, Director of Public Policy at Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS), about the comprehensive crime bill recently passed by the State Senate, over strong opposition from the Baltimore delegation.  The bill would introduce higher mandatory minimums for gun crimes and stringent sentencing for repeat offenders. 

Then, Tom is joined by John Fritze, Washington Bureau Chief for the Baltimore Sun, for a closer look at the race for Maryland's 6th congressional district, where the rising human toll of the opioid crisis looms over both constituents and candidates. 

Later, Will Englund, Foreign Assignment Editor at the Washington Post, veteran Moscow correspondent and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, talks with Tom about the Trump administration's reactions to the alleged Russian nerve-agent attack in Britain on a former Russian spy and his daughter, and the new sanctions the White House has imposed on Russia for recent acts of political cyber-warfare.

We continue our series of Conversations with Candidates, which include those who currently hold public office.  Congressman John Sarbanes joins us for the hour today.  He has represented the third congressional district since 2007. 

The Congressman was successful in his efforts to reinstate EPA funding for the Bay Journal, but Congressional Democrats have been frustrated by inaction on DACA.  Representative Sarbanes has also been working on addressing the crisis of opioid addiction, and he serves as the Chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force.   The Baltimore native currently lives in Towson. 

We are streaming all of our Conversations with the Candidates on WYPR Facebook page.

Photo courtesy: Flickr

On this edition of the Midday News Wrap:  President Trump imposed stiff tariffs yesterday, raising levies on imported steel by 25 percent and 10 percent on Aluminum. The EU responded in kind, rolling out a plan to impose their own tariffs on American made goods.

Internationally acclaimed classical guitarist, Lily Afshar performs some of her works live in Studio A.  Lily will be performing a program of music at UMBC's Linehan Hall on Saturday at 8pm in association with the Baltimore Classical Guitar Society.  

Photo Courtesy Marvel Studios

Black artists are enjoying more mainstream success behind the camera as well as on the screen, in roles crafted to speak to the entirety of the black experience throughout the African Diaspora.  

Perhaps no film embodies that truth more so than Black Panther.  The latest offering from the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been smashing box office records around the world, and thus far, has grossed nearly $900 million world-wide.

On today’s edition of Midday Culture Connections with Dr. Sheri Parks, we reflect on the history of race, representation and inclusivity in the world of comics, and how Black Panther has flipped the script on feminism in film.

From problematic caricatures steeped in racist stereotypes for the consumption of white audiences, to King T’Challa, the billion dollar box office powerhouse; it appears we are seeing an important evolution of Black comic book characters. 

Sheri Parks is an Associate Professor in the Department of American Studies at the Univ of Maryland College Park. She’s the author of Fierce Angels: Living with a Legacy from the Sacred Dark Feminine to the Strong Black Woman.

And from the studios of WBEZ in Chicago, Dr. Stanford Carpenter joins us.  He’s a cultural anthropologist, comic book creator, and scholar of comic books. He serves on the board of the annual Black Comic Arts Festival, and Pocket-con a convention that focuses on comics for young boys and girls of color.

Photo Courtesy The Afro-American Newspapers

On this edition of Midday's Afro Check-In:

Frustration continues for commuters who rely on the Baltimore Metro System, following the abrupt closure of the subway system for repairs two weeks ago.  Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh adds 20 positions within her office, including the recently created Office of African American Male Engagement.

And in Annapolis, House Bill 2, which encourages minority and women participation in the state's medical marijuana industry, is advancing slowly, in the General Assembly.  Will the MD Legislative Black Caucus achieve its goal of racial diversity in Maryland's Medical Marijuana industry?  

Kamau High, Managing Editor of The Afro and Sean Yoes, Baltimore Editor and the Host of the podcast, The Afro First Edition, join Tom in Studio A. 

Photo courtesy: Montogomery County Board of Elections

 Republican Governor Larry Hogan has assiduously tried to distance himself from President Trump.  He has a very high approval rating and by the time the general election campaign begins after the June primary, it’s expected that he may have as much as $10 million dollars in his campaign coffers.

The challenge for MD Democrats: Choose a contender amongst the seven primary candidates who can unseat the popular Republican Governor.   The filing deadline to be on the ballot in June is tonight at 9pm.  Today on Midday, we size-up up the candidates. 

We speak with pollster Dr. Mileah Kromer, William F. Zorzi, reporter for Maryland Matters and  Ovetta Wiggins, who covers Maryland politics and government for the Washington Post.

Photo courtesy: Flickr

In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, there was predictable and familiar outrage, but also, an eerily comfortable ease with which, as a nation, we processed this tragedy.  There have been more than 50 mass shootings and attempted mass shootings in US schools since the Columbine massacre in 1999. 

Students from across the country have organized protests and walkouts.  They have taken to social media and TV, crowded into State Houses, and confronted lawmakers in nationally televised town hall.  Has this movement, led by young survivors of gun violence, flipped the script on our national discourse about gun law reform?  

In 2013, however, after the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, when student protesters who called themselves Dream Defenders met with Governor Rick Scott, he did not change his position on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” laws one bit.  One of the things that is clearly different about the debate this week, animated by young people, and the young people who protested five years ago:  the race of the protesters. 

Karl Merton Ferron /Baltimore Sun

When Baltimore Police Commissioner Designate Darryl DeSousa appeared on Midday last Wednesday, he was quick to credit the efforts of Erricka Bridgeford, one of the founders of Baltimore Ceasefire 365, for the city’s 12 day streak with zero murders. 

It was in the days during and after the third Ceasefire weekend that began on February 2nd, that Baltimore experienced no homicides for nearly two weeks, the first time that has happened in our city since 2015.  Since then, three men have been killed: Sadik Griffin, John Townes, Jr., and Sean Sewell.    

Erricka Bridgeford cares about the disheartening data, but she also cares about the individuals who’ve lost their lives, and the devastating effects their deaths have on their families, their neighborhoods, and their communities.  She joins us today in Studio A. 

The efforts of Baltimore Cease Fire 365 to stem the tide of violence in Baltimore are on-going and next Ceasefire weekend is scheduled for Mother’s Day weekend, in May.

Governor Hogan’s recent offer of $100 million dollars to settle the 12 year-old lawsuit filed by the state’s HBCU’s against the Maryland Higher Education Commission, was met with hope by some, and incredulity by others as the state admitted that the cost of reversing the legacy of discriminatory funding practices would actually cost billions. 

Debora Bailey, reporter for the AFRO Newspaper, and Dr. Earl Richardson, President Emeritus of Morgan State University, are in Studio A to discuss the road ahead for the Maryland’s Historically Black Institution.


Office of the Governor

Today, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan joins Tom live in Studio A.  He is one of only two Republicans elected to our state’s highest office in the last 50 years, and in a poll released last month by Gonzales Media and Research, 71% of MD voters said they approve of the job the Governor is doing.  While there is no shortage of Democrats vying for the chance to face the Governor in the general election in November, Mr. Hogan leads all of them in head-to-head match-ups at this early stage in the campaign. 

Calling for bipartisanship and cooperation in his State of the State Address last month, the Governor points to education funding and accountability, re-districting, and the environment as some of his top priorities.  Tom discusses some of those issues during his 30-minute interview with Mr. Hogan. 

Later, Maryland and government reporter for The Daily Record, Bryan Sears, joins us on the line with the latest from Annapolis and reaction to the Governor's remarks. 

It’s  Midday on Music and today we explore  music as a window into Muslim Culture, and the creative work of Muslim women, who are being celebrated in a series at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore this season called Nisa’a Women.  My guests this afternoon are Sudanese singer Alsarah and her band The Nubatones.  The group is in town as the second installment in the Nisa’a Women series.  They are conducting workshops at local schools, they’ll be at a community potluck for refugee and immigrant communities and they will give a concert at the Creative Alliance tomorrow night.

Later on, a discussion about the growing popularity of Contemporary African music. Despite Hip Hop  and Afrobeats artists dominating music charts around the world, they were not well represented at this year’s Grammy awards.  Stephanie Shonekan, University of Missouri Associate Professor of Black Studies and Ethnomusicologist, joins us on the telephone to discuss who wins awards, who doesn’t and  why.  

We are joined  by the Emmy Award winning filmmaker, Stanley Nelson, whose latest documentary chronicles the history of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  The HBCU tradition in the United States was born out of necessity, animated after the Civil War by the conviction that education would be the foundation upon which the success of Freedmen and Freedwomen would be built. 

There are currently 101 HBCU schools, 20 fewer than in the 1930s.  Its graduates include Black luminaries like WEB DuBois, Thurgood Marshall, Spike Lee, Althea Gibson, and Toni Morrison.

Mr. Nelson’s film is called “Tell Them We are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges & Universities.”  The film speaks of the history, the legacy and the importance of HBCU’s to the Black community and to the whole of American Society.    

On this edition of What Ya Got Cookin'?, Midday's regular series on cuisine, we speak with Culinary Historian Michael Twitty.  His new book is called “The Cooking Gene: A Journey through African American Culinary History in the Old South.” and is part personal memoir, part history, and part cook book.  It’s a startling and poignant chronicle of how people held in bondage, with little to nothing of their own, created a culinary tradition and a lasting cultural identity, and how the author came to understand his own identity by studying the ways in which his ancestors cooked.  He joins us from the studios of NPR in Washington.

Chef David K. Thomas joins our conversation as well.   He is the executive chef at Baltimore’s modern soul food restaurant, Ida B’s Table, named for Ida B. Wells, the famous African American journalist and activist who was born just a couple of years before the Civil War.  

You can learn more about Michael Twitty, and his work as a culinary historian on his blog, 

On today's News Wrap, we review some of the week's top state and local stories. During the nearly three-week trial of two Baltimore police officers indicted on federal racketeering charges, a steady stream of witnesses --including other members of the now-defunct Gun Trace Task Force who'd pled guilty to similar charges -- described in detail the way members of the "elite" police unit routinely engaged in a variety of criminal activities, ranging from robbery and drug dealing to lying about overtime.

The jury heard testimony from more than 32 witnesses, some of whom were alleged victims of Officer Daniel Hersl and Officer Marcus Taylor.  The testimony unfurled a dark canvas of banditry and abuse that has further deepened the suspicion and mistrust of Baltimore's police force already long felt by many people of color throughout the city. By week's end, the jury had begun deliberations on a verdict for the two officers.

Joining us by phone is WBAL-TV's award-winning investigative reporter Jayne Miller, who has been covering the police corruption story since it began almost a year ago. 

Later, we turn our attention to Annapolis, where we are one month into the Maryland General Assembly's 2018 Legislative Session. WYPR’s State House correspondent Rachel Baye joins Tom with a status report on some of the key legislative developments thus far.

A conversation with Timothy Kreider, a writer who grew up in Baltimore, and has become one of the most highly respected cartoonists and essayists on the literary scene today.  For more than a decade, his cartoon, The Pain: When Will it End ran in the City Paper here in Baltimore and in other alternative weeklies around the country.  His cartoons have been published in three books.  His work has also appeared in the New York Times, The New Yorker and elsewhere. 

His latest book is a collection of essays about love: love that is requited and unrequited, love for his cat, love for his best friend, love at the circus, and how scientists study our capacity to love.  It’s really good.  It’s called I Wrote This Book Because I Love YouTim Kreider has returned to his hometown and  joins us in Studio A.

Illinois US Senator Tammy Duckworth made headlines recently when she announced that she would be expecting her second child this spring.  She will become the first sitting Senator to give birth.  While her announcement might be an historic first for Congress, Sen. Duckworth is one of 25 million working mothers in the United States.

The #MeToo movement has given voice to women from assembly lines to corner offices around the persistence of sexual harassment and assault.  While working mothers with children under the age of 18 make up  for a third of the women in the labor force, many women face workplace discrimination based on pregnancy.  More than 30,000 claims of discrimination were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission between 2010 and 2015.  3,000 claims were filed just last year. 

New mothers also face obstacles when it comes to breastfeeding with fewer than 40 percent of women having adequate break time or access to acceptable nursing facilities on the job.

We take a look at the politics of pregnancy in the workplace.  Do women still have to choose between starting a family and pursuing a career? And what protections are afforded expectant mothers by their employers under the law?

Dr. Sheri Parks joins us in studio A for Midday Culture Connections on the first Tuesday of every month.  She is an Associate Professor in the Department of American Studies at the University of Maryland College Park. She’s the author of Fierce Angels: Living with a Legacy from the Sacred Dark Feminine to the Strong Black Woman.   

Michelle Chen joins us on the phone from New York.  She is a contributor to The Nation, and host of Dissent Magazine’s podcast, Belabored.


The headlines this week have been dominated by the impending release of a memo prepared by staffers for Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee.  The FBI and the Justice Department are strongly opposed to making the memo public. President Trump is eager to have it released.  Devon Nunes, the Committee chair, also wants it made public, despite refusing to share it with his counterpart, Richard Burr, who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign

This comes after news that Robert Mueller is negotiating with the President’s lawyers to interview the President in connection with his investigation.

In an 80-minute State of the Union Address on Tuesday night, the President touched on a long list of issues, including trade.  A little later in the News Wrap, we’ll talk about the future prospects for NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and other economic issues, with Don Lee, who covers economic developments for the LA Times.

But first, we begin with David Smith, the Washington bureau chief for the Guardian.  He joins us from NPR studios in Washington, DC.  

In a speech that was Bill Clinton-esque in its length, President Donald Trump called for unity and outlined his vision for a “safe, strong and proud America.”  Touching on many themes he embraced during his campaign, Trump took an hour and 20 minutes to take credit for a booming stock market and low unemployment.  He declared that the war on American energy was over, that the veterans administration has been denuded of 1,500 nefarious employees, that he has protected the Second Amendment, and that we are in a, quote, “new American moment.” 

There were many moments in the speech which did not seem particularly new.  He went to great lengths to associate undocumented immigrants with gangs and violent crime.  He introduced a 12 year old boy by way of condemning NFL protests against police misconduct, and he called for expanding the American nuclear arsenal. 

But as the Wall Street Journal’s Gerald Seib observes, Trump, in an unusual posture, took a stab at somewhat optimistic rhetorical turns of phrase, saying that we are, quote “rediscovering the American way.”  This was notable given the fact that the premise of his campaign was that America was a mess in need of being made great again. 

We speak with Michael Barone, the senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics; and Christine Emba, a columnist and editor with the Washington Post.

Ira Aldridge was 17 years old when he left his father’s home to pursue his dream of becoming a professional actor in England. Born in New York in 1807, Aldridge grew up during a time when chattel slavery was legal, and black actors who performed works associated with Anglo culture were usually subjected to harsh criticism, and sometimes violence.  But Aldridge would go on to become one of the most celebrated actors in the world.  

Red Velvet is an award-winning play written in 2012 by British playwright, producer and stage actress Lolita Chakrabarti. It tells the story of Aldridge's 1833 London performance as Shakespeare's Othello that transformed him into an international star of the theater, and a seminal figure in the narrative of African American achievement.  Now, Baltimore's Chesapeake Shakespeare Company is giving the play its long-awaited Baltimore premiere, after critically acclaimed productions in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and London.

Shirley Basfield Dunlap is directing the company's new production of Red Velvet.  She's an associate professor in the Department of Fine and Performing Arts, and Coordinator of Theater Arts at Morgan State University.  She joins Tom in Studio A to talk about this remarkable play, and its even more remarkable subject. 

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s production of Red Velvet continues through Sunday, February 25th.  The run includes free public events in the community made possible by partnerships with the arts and culture community of Baltimore.  For more information, click the link below:

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File

 The Consumer Electronics Show ended 10 days ago in Las Vegas. From voice-activated AI, to Smart Cities, to innovations for the disabled, Tom talks to a panel of experts to walk us through the trends and some of the gadgets they took note of at this year's show.