Woodbine, Onaje Ph.D. — Black Gods of the Asphalt Part One

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The transcendent experience of street basketball is the topic of two conversations with Onaje X. O. Woodbine, author of “Black Gods of the Asphalt: Religion, Hip-Hop, and Street Basketball.” Woodbine grew up in the inner-city of Roxbury, Massachusetts, became a skilled street basketball player and attended Yale University on a basketball scholarship. After two years as a star player on the Yale team, he chose a different life path and quit.

After graduating from Yale, Woodbine earned his Ph.D. in religious studies from Boston University. His book, “Black Gods of the Asphalt” presents a social-anthropological view of this inner-city sport where coaches often assume the role of father, mentor and friend. He contrasts the lessons learned on the street basketball courts, with those learned at the predominantly white basketball courts and locker rooms of Yale University.

Onaje Woodbine visited with Radio Curious by phone on August 13, 2016, from his home in Andover, Massachusetts, and began part one by describing his relationship with his father, Dr. Robert Woodbine.  In part two he discusses the ethnographic research and methods he used in making his book, “Black Gods of the Asphalt.”

The book Dr. Onaje Woodbine recommends is “Jesus and the Disinherited” by Howard Thurman.

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Wilkerson, Isabel — America’s Great Migration: 1915-1970 Part One

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In the years between 1915 and 1970 almost six million black American citizens from the south migrated to northern and western cities seeking freedom and a better life. Our guest is Pulitzer Prize winner, Isabel Wilkerson author of “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.” Her book tells the untold experiences of the African-Americans who fled the south over three generations.

Wilkerson interviewed more than 1,000 people for her book. She is the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize and is a recipient of the George Polk Award and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. Her parents were part of the great migration, journeying from Georgia and southern Virginia to Washington D.C.

In the first of two interviews recorded from Isabel Wilkerson’s home near Atlanta, Georgia, on September 28, 2012, she begins with a description of the “biggest untold story of the 20th century.”

The book Isabel Wilkerson recommends is “The Ark of Justice,” by Kevin Boyle.

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Fuller, Alexandra — Growing Up White in Africa

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In the late summer of 2003 Radio Curious visited with Alexandra Fuller who, as a child lived in Rhodesia, Malawi and Zambia in southeast Africa between 1972 and 1990.  After her father sided with the white government in the Rhodesian civil war, he was often away from home.   Fuller’s resilient and self-sufficient mother immersed herself in their rural and rugged life. She taught her children to have strong wills and opinions, and to whole-heartedly embrace life, despite and because of their difficult circumstances.  Alexandra Fuller, author of “Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood,” known as Bobo to her family, developed a love of reading and story telling early on in her life.

When  Alexandra Fuller and I visited by phone from her home in rural Wyoming in September 2003, we began our conversation when I asked her how she choose the title for her book, “Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood.”

The book Alexandra Fuller recommends is “Echoing Silences,” by Alexander Canigone.

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Mark Mello, Reflections on The Underground Railroad—What now?

New Bedford, Massachusetts, a sea port located in the southeast corner of Massachusetts, at the base of Cape Cod is the locale of our program. Early in New Bedford’s history a group of Quakers from Boston moved there and “New Bedford became a safe haven for formerly enslaved African-Americans” who had been able to escape bondage.

stories of those who safely arrived in New Bedford on the Underground Railroad are presented at the 34 acre New Bedford National Historical Park in the Old Town section of New Bedford.

This two part series on the New Bedford Underground Railroad with National Park Ranger Mark Mello was recorded on September 2, 2016, with the sound of wind and street traffic in the background. Part one begins with a historical perspective of the Underground Railroad and the way in which New Bedford, Massachusetts was a safe haven for former slaves.  Part two begins with Ranger Mello’s story of Nathan and Polly Johnson, a free black couple who lived and worked there–he as a pharmacist and she a confectionary.

The books Mark Mello recommends are “Fugitive’s Gibraltar: Escaping Slaves and Abolitionism in New Bedford, Massachusetts,” by Kathryn Grover; “Whale Hunt,” by Nelson Cole Haley; and “Leviathan,” by Philip Hoare.

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Mello, Mark –The Underground Railroad in New Bedford, Massachusetts

New Bedford, Massachusetts, a sea port located in the southeast corner of Massachusetts, at the base of Cape Cod is the locale of our program. Early in New Bedford’s history a group of Quakers from Boston moved there and “New Bedford became a safe haven for formerly enslaved African-Americans” who had been able to escape bondage.

stories of those who safely arrived in New Bedford on the Underground Railroad are presented at the 34 acre New Bedford National Historical Park in the Old Town section of New Bedford.

This two part series on the New Bedford Underground Railroad with National Park Ranger Mark Mello was recorded on September 2, 2016, with the sound of wind and street traffic in the background. Part one begins with a historical perspective of the Underground Railroad and the way in which New Bedford, Massachusetts was a safe haven for former slaves.

The books Mark Mello recommends are “Fugitive’s Gibraltar: Escaping Slaves and Abolitionism in New Bedford, Massachusetts,” by Kathryn Grover; “Whale Hunt,” by Nelson Cole Haley; and “Leviathan,” by Philip Hoare.

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Sisk-Franco, Caleen — Puberty Rights of the Winnemem Wintu

In this edition of Radio Curious, our assistant producer Christina Aanestad is the guest host in a conversation about puberty rights for young women within the Winnemem-Wintu tribe in Northern California. This visit with Caleen Sisk-Franco, the Spiritual Leader and Chief of the Winnemem-Wintu was recorded near Mt. Shasta, California in August 2010. In the last few years, the tribe has revived an ancient ritual, the Puberty Ceremony-which honors and celebrates a girls transition into womanhood.

The “Middle Water People” are a small tribe near Mount Shasta, in Northern California. During World War 2, they were relocated and their homeland was flooded to make the shasta dam. Nearly 80 years later, the tribe has reinvigorated one of its ceremonies, there, called the Puberty Ceremony, which honors a girls transition into womanhood. For 3 days and nights, men sing and dance on one side of a river, while the women, pass on traditions to girls on the other side.

But holding a ceremony on stolen land can be a challenge. The forest service refuses to grant the tribe private access to their ancestral land along the McCloud river, because they are an “unrecognized” tribe. Their ceremony is held with recreational boaters driving by, and camping as the tribe holds it’s right of passage. Under the guidance of their Chief and Spiritual Leader, Caleen Sisk Franco, the Winnemem-Wintu have sued the federal government to protect their rights and their ancestral land. She describes the puberty ceremony and it’s importance to their way of life.

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Krol, Debra — Native American Art of the Southwest

Founded in 1929, the Heard Museum’s mission is dedicated to “educating people about the arts, heritage and life ways of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, with an emphasis on American Indian tribes of the Southwest.” Committed to the sensitive and accurate portrayal of Native arts and cultures, the museum successfully combines the stories of American Indian people from a personal perspective with the beauty of art, showcasing old and new hand woven baskets, Kachina dolls, other art and cultural objects.

The museum showcases the art and regalia of Apache, Hopi, Navajo, Pueblo, and Yaqui, to name a few.  More than 2,000 items make up the museums exhibition.  Artwork ranging from pottery, baskets, beadwork, dolls and paintings are on display.

Our guest is Debra Krol, the communications manager who shared portions of the Heard Museum with me on December 10, 2011.  We began our conversation with Krol when she introduced us to the Heard Museum and the unique features that reflect the evolution of south western Native American art.

Debra Krol recommends two books: “Ishi’s Brain,” by Orin Starn, and “Indians, Merchants and Missionaries: The legacy of Colonial Encounters on the California Frontiers”, by Kent G. Lightfoot. Our interview with Orin Starn may be found here

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Magruder, Kate & Shirley, Dame — Women and the Gold Rush Part One

When word that California had gold in its creeks and streams reached the United States of America in 1848, fortune seekers from all over the world soon began to arrive by boat, covered wagon, and on foot. Some people made their fortunes by selling provisions or services and very few actually found enough gold to take home. Louise Smith Clapp of Amherst, Massachusetts, using the name of Dame Shirley, wrote detailed and vivid descriptions of the life and ways of the gold seekers and of mid 19th century California. In this two-part program, we will talk to Dame Shirley in the person of Kate Magruder, a Chautauqua performer and participant with the California Council for the Humanities Sesquicentennial Project, Rediscovering California at 150.

The book Dame Shirley recommends is “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.” Kate Magruder recommends “Days of Gold,” by Malcolm Rhorbough & “The Shirley Letters,” by Dame Shirley.

This interview was originally broadcast on March 16, 1999. 

Click here to listen to part one or on the media player below.  Click here to listen to part two.

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Appelbaum, Ralph:  Holocaust Remembrance and the Responsibility of Bystanders


To create thought around Yom Hashoah, known in English as Holocaust Remembrance Day, I offer you an archive interview with Ralph Appelbaum, the designer the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington D.C., which opened in April, 1993, when this interview was recorded.

When Ralph Appelbaum and I were Peace Corp volunteers in the mid 1960s, living in nearby towns in southern Peru, we often shared our future plans. This interview shares the story of one of Ralph’s plans which he manifested on a material plane, about 30 years later.

Appelbaum says that a museum’s architecture should focus on the experience by creating time and space events. In the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Appelbuam’s design depicts the suffering, torture and death of millions of people during World War II in Europe, on land controlled by fascist Nazis. He also directs attention to the responsibility of bystanders.

Please keep in mind that this interview was recorded in April 1993. That was when Ralph Appelbaum and I visited by phone from his loft in New York City. We began when I asked him to describe his vision of a museum designer.

The audio of this program was enhanced by Gregg McVicer of UnderCurrents Radio, who was our guest in 2013.

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Phillips, Barbara — The Dialogue of Race

This is the second of two interviews with civil rights Attorney Barbara Phillips. She is a contributor to the book “Voices of Civil Rights Lawyers: Reflections From the Deep South: 1964-1980,” whose editor, Kent Spriggs, we interviewed in December 2017.

In part one, Phillips shared stories and experiences from her 40 year legal career as a community organizer and civil rights lawyer. In this, part two of our conversation, we discuss her essay “Framing the Contemporary Dialogue of Race,” that is featured in “Voices of Civil Rights Lawyers.” We discuss the changing rhetoric about race, the Second Reconstruction and a Supreme Court decision addressing race prior to the 1980s. These decisions defined a broad scope for just and equal rights for black people in the United States.

As a retired civil rights attorney and retired professor of law at the University of Mississippi, and formerly a Program Officer of the Ford Foundation in the Human Rights unit of the Peace and Social Justice Program, she continues her life’s work as a community organizer in Oxford, Mississippi, and continues promoting community justice programs around the world.

When Barbara Phillips and I visited by phone from her home in Oxford, Mississippi, on March 6, 2018, we began our conversation when I asked her about the essay “Framing the Contemporary Dialogue About Race.”

The books Barbara Phillips recommends are “Whats the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America,” by Thomas Frank, and “Transforming Feminist Practice: Non-Violence, Social Justice, and the Possibilities of a Spiritualized Feminism,” by Leela Fernandes. 

Click here to listen or on the media player below.

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