Benton, Robert — The Human Stain

This program is about “passing,” a term sometimes used to define a person of color who passes as white. From the 2004 Radio Curious archives we revisit a conversation with film director Robert Benton, about his film “The Human Stain.” It’s a movie about the life of Coleman Silk, an eminent Jewish intellectual and devoted husband; a professor of classics at a small New England college.  The truth about Coleman Silk, portrayed by Anthony Hopkins, is far more complex than expected or thought to be.  He hid behind a veil of lies, having masked his African-American origins in order to find a freedom he thought would otherwise be impossible to achieve.  But his world of deception unraveled after embarking on a romance with a much younger woman.

Our guest, Robert Benton, is a three time Academy Awards winner for his work as the Director of “Kramer Vs. Kramer,” “Places in the Heart,” and “Nobody’s Fool.” His film, “The Human Stain,” takes place in the 1990s and is based on the third novel of Phillip Roth’s “American Trilogy” describing the post World War Two turmoil in America.

The title “The Human Stain” emerges from the idea that no matter what a person does, a human being leaves a mark on the world, whether by rage, desire, ambition or accident, a kind of scar; stain that cannot be undone.  For Coleman Silk that stain is the deception and concealment he carried for decades. The human stain is the mark we leave on everything.  It speaks to the fact that we can’t get through life without marking the world around us in some way. We have no choice. It’s part of being human.

Robert Benton and I visited by phone in the fall of 2004.

The books Robert Benton recommends are “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night,” by Mark Haddon and “The Manuscript Found in Sargossa,” by Jan Potocki.

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Dr. Alondra Nelson – Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome

 

Who we are and where we come from is a crucial question that now we are more able to answer than ever before. The examination and analysis of our individual DNA, in addition to answering a myriad of medical and forensic secrets also reveals the mix of our individual ancestors and the paths they took. This analysis provides significant and untold information about who we are, from where we came and how we may connect with our relatives.

Dr. Alondra Nelson, the Dean of Social Science and professor of sociology and gender studies at Columbia University, in New York City, is our guest in this edition of Radio Curious.

Professor Nelson is the author of The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome. She s also the author of Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination, which she and I have previously discussed on Radio Curious.

To discuss The Social Life of DNA, Professor Nelson and I visited by phone from her office n New York City, on February 19, 2016. We began by noting that although all human beings are members of the human race, people are grouped by skin color and/or facial features and characterized as being of a different race.

The book she recommends is “Come Out Swinging,” by Lucia Trimbur.

This program was recorded on February 19, 2016.

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Dr. Elizabeth Allen – Changes In Segregation Since 1952 – Part 2

In this edition of Radio Curious, we’ll visit again with Dr. Elizabeth Allen, a Professor of nursing at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. As a high school student, Dr. Allen was one of the first African American students to integrate the West Virginia high schools in 1957.

We begin our conversation with Dr. Allen when she discusses how she was able to successfully get through the educational system, and what changes have occurred in education since then, as they relate to African American students.

The book she recommends is The Price of Loyalty by David Susskind with former US Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neil.

This episode originally broadcast in May, 2004

Dr. Elizabeth Allen – Changes In Segregation Since 1952

In May, 1954 the United States Supreme Court unanimously declared, ”segregation in public education is a denial of the equal protection of the laws.”  Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, was a leader of many that gave strength and support to the initial struggles for equal civil rights and equal access for all people regardless of skin color. Now 62 years later the concept of affirmative action admission policies for racial equality in public universities continues.

 In this 2004 archive edition of Radio Curious we visit with Dr. Elizabeth Allen, now a Professor Emeritus of Nursing at the University of Michigan.  As a high school student in 1957, Dr. Allen was one of the first African-American students to integrate the West Virginia high schools.  Later she was a Captain in the U.S. Army as Combat Nurse in Viet Nam, prior to obtaining a Master’s Degree and Ph.D. in nursing and becoming a professor of nursing at the University of Michigan.

This is the first of a two part series recorded in April 2004, in commemoration of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, recorded in late April 2004, Dr. Elizabeth Allen and I began our visit with her description the changes in racial segregation between 1954 and 2004.

 Dr. Elizaeth Allen is an avid romance reader and recommends any book written by Linda Howard.  She also recommends “The Price of Loyalty” by David Suskind with former US Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill.

This interview as originally broadcast in May 2004.

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Dr. Alondra Nelson – Healthcare & The Black Panther Party

The exodus of approximately six million black people from the American South between 1915 and 1970 had a significant role in setting the stage of the civil rights movement of the early 1960s. Many of the children of those who left the south participated in desegregation efforts which included the Freedom Rides and lunch counter sit-ins. The Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 which attempted to resolve employment discrimination and define voting rights, only changed the law. Many young blacks however did not see changes in their everyday life.

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was born out of this disillusionment. Although infiltrated and feared by the F.B.I., the Black Panther Party pioneered social and community programs, including free medical clinics, free meals, and educational programs.

Our guest in this edition of Radio Curious is Alondra Nelson, Columbia University, Dean of Social Science and professor of sociology.  She’s also the author of “Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination.”

We visited by phone from her Office in New York City, on February 13, 2012 and began our conversation when I asked her to describe the Black Panther Party.

The book she recommends is “Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems,” by Elizabeth Alexander.

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Maria Stewart – Professor Sandra Kamusukiri: A Visit With A Free Black Woman – Boston, 1840

Maria W. Stewart, was a free black woman who lived in Boston, Massachusetts, from the early 1820s to the early 1840s. She was the first American born woman to lecture in public on political themes and likely the first African-American to speak out in defense of women s rights.

A forerunner to Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass, she was intensely religious and was regarded as outspoken and controversial in her time.  For more than a century Maria W. Stewart’s life’s contributions have remained obscured, illustrating the double pressures of racism and sexism on the lives of African-American women.

The life of Maria W. Stewart, a free black woman who lived in Boston, Massachusetts, from the early 1820s to the early 1840s is the topic of this edition of Radio Curious.

Maria W. Stewart was personified by Chautauqua Scholar, Professor Sandra Kamusukiri, during the 1996 Democracy in American Chautauqua held in Ukiah, California.  Professor Kamusukiri is an Associate Vice President Emeritus, of the Emeritus English Faculty of the California State University at San Bernardino. I met with her, posing as Maria W. Stewart, and began our visit when I asked Maria W. Stewart to explain the differences between the lives of free black women in the northern states and black women who were slaves in the southern states.

The book that Maria W. Stewart recommends is the Bible.

 

The book that Sandra Kamusukiri recommends is “Maria W. Stewart, America’s First Black Woman Political Writer: Essays and Speeches,” edited by Marilyn Richardson

The program was originally broadcast in 1996.

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Sylvia A. Harvey: The Sting of Separation – An Uncomfortable Truth

The sting of separation and the wearing of an uncomfortable truth is the topic of this edition of Radio Curious. The 2.7 million children of prison inmates in the United States are losing their visitation rights.

Sylvia A. Harvey, an investigative journalist, is our guest. Her story about the diminishing opportunities for children to visit their incarcerated parents was published in The Nation magazine on December 14, 2015.

Some of Harvey’s most cherished childhood memories are the times she was able to visit her father while he was an inmate at Soledad State Prison, in California when she was between the ages of 5 and 16.

When Sylvia Harvey and I visited by phone from her home in New York City, on January 18, 2016, we began with her personal experience and how now absence of not being able visit a parent in prison affects 2.7 million children.

Instead of recommending a book, Sylvia Harvey recommends the song “Ain’t Got No,” by Nina Simone.

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Barnes, Annie Ph.D. — Racism in America

Racism has, for too long, been a part of the American experience: the Civil War and the constitutional amendments that followed, the Supreme Court decisions ordering the desegregation of schools, and the Civil Rights movements did not end racism in America.

Annie S. Barnes, holds a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from the University of Virginia and is a retired professor of sociology and anthropology at Norfolk State University in Virginia. She is the author of “Everyday Racism, A Book for All Americans,” a book based on the racist experiences suffered by 146 black college students. Professor Barnes describes the effects of racism on black people, and what all people can do to combat it.

The book Annie S. Barnes recommends is “Driving While Black: Highways, Shopping Malls, Taxi Cabs, Sidewalks: How to Fight Back if You Are a Victim of Racial Profiling,” by Kenneth Meeks.

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Pico, Pio & Garza, Robert — Meet the Last Mexican Governor of California

Radio Curious goes back into California history about 165 years, and visits with the last Mexican governor of California, Pio Pico. Born at the San Gabriel Mission in 1801, Pico was of Spanish, Italian, Indian and African ancestry. Both as a politician and as an entrepreneur, he espoused the views of many native-born “Californarios” over distant seats of government.

As the last Mexican Governor of California, he presided over the secularization of the missions, and turned over their vast land holdings to private hands. Although he fled California during the American takeover, Pio Pico returned to build the first major hotel in Los Angeles. Later, he served on the Los Angeles City Council.

I met with Pio Pico, portrayed by Roberto Garza, in February of 1998.  When Pio Pico and I met in the person of Roberto Garza we began when I asked him to tell us about his life.

The book Pio Pico recommends is “Pio Pico, A Historical Narrative,” by Pio Pico. Roberto Graza recommends “Pio Pico Miscellany,” by Martin Cole and “The Decline of the Californios: A Social History of the Spanish-Speaking Californians, 1846-1890,” by Leonard Pitt.

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Sullivan, Michael Gene — Political Theater, Black Men and the Police

Theatre as a commentary on the condition of society is the subject of this edition of Radio Curious.  The topic is the relationship of police and black men in America in 2015.  Our guest is Michael Gene Sullivan, the resident playwright, director and a principal actor in “2015: Freedomland,” this year’s production by the San Francisco Mime Troupe.

The first question and answer on the frequently asked questions page on the San Francisco Mime Troupe website is:  “Why do you call yourself a Mime Troupe if you talk and sing?”  The answer is:  “We use the term mime in its classical and original definition, ‘The exaggeration of daily life in story and song.’”

When Michael Gene Sullivan and I visited by phone from his home in San Francisco on June 29, 2015, I asked him if “2015: Freedomland” was an exaggeration of daily life in story and song from his perspective.

The book Michael Gene Sullivan recommends is “The Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Force,” by Redley Balko.

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