Jonna McKone | WYPR

Jonna McKone


Jonna covers education, youth and housing for WYPR.   She's also a documentarian, media artist and educator. Her stories and audio documentaries have been broadcast on All Things Considered, Here and Now, Marketplace, The World, Living on Earth, WAMU and Virginia Public Radio.  In 2014 Jonna was awarded an Equal Voice Journalism Fellowship.  A Maryland native, Jonna is a graduate of Bowdoin College and holds an MFA from Duke University.

And now, a conversation about the phenomenon known as “curationism.”   As you might have observed, curating isn’t just for art experts in museums anymore.  The word “curator” can speak to the DJ in the club who creates a particular ambiance in a room, the Instagram poster who curates his or her kitchen table for the perfect photograph, or the festival director who chooses a weekend’s worth of films. We all live in a world of infinite choices, from what music to put on our phone, to what details to reveal about ourselves on a dating app, and so, in the common parlance, we are all curators of lives.  David Balzer is a Canadian author who has studied the history of curating in the art world and how the notion of curating has leaked into business and our culture at large.  He’s written a book that he’ll be talking about Sunday night at Red Emma’s Bookstore & Café in Baltimore.  It’s called Curationism: How Curating Took Over the Art World and Everything Else.   He joins us on the line from Toronto.  With me in the studio is Marcus Civin.   He’s an interdisciplinary artist, writer and curator, and the Acting Director of Curatorial Practice at MICA, that’s the graduate program in curating at the MD Institute College of Art.

Lars Plougmann / Creative Commons

The yellow bus has long been an icon of public school systems, but in many big cities, tens of thousands of students make their way to and from school without the yellow bus. They navigate public transit. And more school systems are switching from yellow bus to public transit services to save costs. About 30,000 Baltimore City Public School students regularly ride the city bus to and from school. And, getting those kids to school on time can be difficult. Middle and high school students can apply to attend any school they want in the city regardless of how close it is to where they live. Producer Jonna McKone explores how much we know about youth transit patterns and the issues these young people face getting to school. 

The award-winning novelist Mohsin Hamid recently published a new book, a collection of essays, written over the last 14 years, while he was living in New York, London, and Lahore, Pakistan, the city of his birth.  The book is called Discontents and its Civilizations. Hamid talks about his new work in advance of his Friday night talk at the Ivy Bookshop.    

Bowie State University Archives

The educational institution we know as  Bowie State University celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. The university started as a one-room school house in Baltimore right after the Civil War and over 15 decades has evolved into a university of close to 6,000 students.  We’ll learn some of its early history – and why it moved from Baltimore to Bowie from archivist Katy Hayes, who’s with me in the studio.  But first, we hear from a woman who lived part of Bowie State’s history,  Beatrice Payne. She graduated from Bowie in 1928.  We visited Mrs. Payne a couple weeks ago. 

HarperCollins Publishers

Novelist Laura Lippman spent 20 years reporting for The Baltimore Sun.  Her 20th novel, "Hush Hush", is the 12th in a series following private investigator and protagonist, Tess Monaghan.  The last time we got a peek at Tess Monaghan she was solving a mystery while on bed rest for a difficult pregnancy. That was four years ago. Now, both protagonist and author are mothers. Laura Lippman joins host Sheilah Kast to discuss her new novel.

Cover image from Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson's Book, Building Houses Out of Chicken Legs

American soul food finds its roots in slavery and the food culture that early African and Caribbean people brought to the U.S.  The Accokeek Foundation, a non-profit educational farm in Prince Georges County, will host a panel discussion called, Soul Food Justice this Saturday to explore how the history of soul food connects with its future. Today, we’re unpacking this history and how soul food connects to efforts to improve health, sustainability and fresh food access in African American communities. Joining Sheilah Kast is Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson, Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland.  She will be one of the panelists tomorrow. 

Baltimore Heritage

You don’t need us to tell you that it’s extraordinarily cold in Maryland. It’s in the mid-teens now, and will probably get into the high 20s this afternoon – and then more snow, wind, bitter cold temperatures into the weekend.

It’s causing all kinds of problems for people who have homes, and those who don’t. We want to share some ideas about how to cope.  We’ll speak with Ruth Ann Norton CEO of Green and Healthy Homes Initiative.  First, to speak about services for city’s homeless population, we’re joined by Achike Oranye.  He’s  Manager of Homeless and Mental Health Outreach Services for the non-profit People Encouraging People, Inc. 

Barry Louis Polisar/Roni Lynn Polisar


If you’ve been a kid or raised a kid in, oh, the last four decades, you’ve no doubt heard Barry Louis Polisar. He’s been writing and performing children’s songs, like “Don’t Stick Your Finger in Your Nose” for generations of youngsters. 

In 2007, thirty years after he wrote it, his song, “All I Want Is You,” was featured in the opening credits of the film “Juno," which raised Polisar’s profile. Polisar has also written dozens  of children’s books.

And now he’s written a book for adults, a thoughtful reflection on the first book of the Bible, Genesis. Barry Louis Polisar joins Sheilah to talk about it.

Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology at UMBC

Now we’re going to look at an innovation in how we monitor the earth from space.  Dr. Vanderlei Martins is a professor of physics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He’s tells us more about a type of satellite, called a CubeSat – so small you could carry it in a backpack.  

Martins is the principal investigator of new project that uses this technology. He's working with students, professors and NASA engineers and scientists to build a CubeSat that will investigate aerosol particles and clouds in the atmosphere.  

Elvert Barnes / Creative Commons


For years Baltimore has been known to have some of the highest homicide statistics across the country. In 2011 the number dipped below 200 for the first time in years. The Baltimore Sun's Justin Fenton wrote that the change was "a symbolic threshold that seemed elusive for a crime-weary city just four years ago a symbolic threshold that seemed elusive for a crime-weary city just four years ago."  How do murder statistics, zealously reported by the media, shape how we think about our neighborhoods, communities and the people who live in them? Today we’re considering the implications of a number central to public discussion about safety, policing, violence and even economic development.