Emily Bernard’s latest book of essays, Black is the Body: Stories from my Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine, was named a Best Book of 2019 by NPR and received the LA Times Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose. She has a new essay in the New Yorker. She discusses race, racism, family, restorative justice, and what she hopes will emerge from the current movement for racial justice. (July 8, 2020 broadcast)
Emily Bernard, Julian Lindsay Green & Gold Professor of English, University of Vermont, author, Black is the Body
In a forceful New York Timesop-ed following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Brandon del Pozo, a former NYPD officer and police chief of Burlington, Vermont, slammed police for having “aligned themselves with the president’s flagrant racism and callous disregard for the nation’s people of color.” He criticizes police reform, writing, “When it comes to reform, America’s police leaders have long been content to kick the can down the road because making real change is so hard.” Del Pozo served as Burlington’s top cop for four years, resigning in December 2019 following a scandal over his use of social media, which he discusses. Since then, he has earned a PhD in philosophy and is now a public health and drug policy researcher affiliated with Brown University. Del Pozo discusses calls to defund police and says that police leadership needs to experience “getting hit with a frying pan.” “Sometimes after you stop seeing stars you get clarity when you get hit with a frying pan. We could stand to have a frying pan effect in American policing.” (June 24, 2020 broadcast)
Brand del Pozo, former chief, Burlington (Vt.) Police Department
According to the ACLU of Vermont, “Every metric we have shows that Black Vermonters face systemic barriers to education, health care, employment, and justice.” Too often, conversations about racism consist of white reporters (like me) asking black people to explain their lives. In Vermont, this reflects the fact that most media outlets have few to no people of color on staff, an outgrowth of a system of white privilege that has provided countless opportunities for whites to advance in the world of journalism, while people of color are left off the airwaves and out of print. Maroni Minter, campaigns director at ACLU of Vermont and my nephew, discusses his own experiences with racism as an African American man in Vermont, and leads a conversation with Vermonters of color in a wide-ranging discussion about race and racism in one of the whitest states in the US. (June 17, 2020 broadcast)
America is in revolt. Following the police killings of unarmed African Americans George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, numerous cities have erupted in mass protests against racism, police brutality, white supremacy, and inequality. We discuss racism and the uprising with Kiah Morris. She says, “Racism in Vermont looks like disparate outcomes for those with COVID-19. Racism happens within our schools where children are policed. Racism is death by a million cuts. Systemic racism is a continued assault on the humanity of individuals.” Morris served as a Vermont State Representative from 2014 to 2018 and was the second African-American woman in Vermont history to be elected to the legislature. She resigned in 2018 following racist harassment from a self-avowed white nationalist in Bennington, Vt. Morris is now Movement Politics Director in Vermont for Rights & Democracy.
Kiah Morris, former Vt. State Rep., Movement Politics Director in Vermont, Rights & Democracy
The COVID-19 pandemic has infected millions of people around the country and the world, but the rates of death among low-income and minority communities is disproportionately high. Why? Dr. Nancy Krieger, Professor of Social Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, is an internationally recognized social epidemiologist who has been an activist and scholar on social justice, science, and health. She discusses how social factors, including racism, poverty, and where you live and work, often determine who lives and who dies when health crises hit. (May 20, 2020 broadcast)
Dr. Nancy Krieger, Professor of Social Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Kiah Morris was elected to the Vermont State Legislature from Bennington in 2014 and re-elected in 2016. She was the only female African-American Vermont state representative at that time. In September 2018, she resigned from the legislature in the wake of racist attacks from white nationalists. The shocking story of what happened to her was reported in the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, BBC and other news outlets. In January 2019, Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan announced that he would not bring criminal charges against the man who was harassing Morris and her family, insisting that racially offensive speech was protected. Civil rights groups including the NAACP and Justice for All denounced the decision and the Vermont ACLU called for an investigation of the Bennington Police for its “systemic racism problem.” Morris has continued to speak out against racism and misogyny both locally and globally. She was recently part of an Oxfam America delegation to Central America where she met with survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Morris discusses her ongoing fight for justice. (December 11, 2019 broadcast)
“Philanthropy has evolved to mirror colonial structures, ultimately doing more harm than good,” argues Edgar Villanueva in his new book, Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance. Villanueava is a nationally recognized expert on social justice philanthropy, a member of the Lumbee Tribe, and the vice president of programs and advocacy at the Schott Foundation for Public Education. Villanueva insists that philanthropy is “racism in institutional form.” He offers seven steps to restoring harmony and centering people who are at the margins into decisionmaking roles. (November 14, 2018 broadcast)
Edgar Villanueva, philanthropist & author, Decolonizing Wealth
Stuart Stevens has been a top Republican strategist in the presidential election campaigns of Mitt Romney and George W. Bush. But Stevens has been a vocal critic of President Donald Trump and now describes himself as “homeless” in his own party. He talks about why he wrongly predicted Trump could not win, how Trump has used racism as a core strategy, why fellow Republicans have backed him, and how the GOP has “lost its soul.” Trump has tweeted that Stevens is a “dumb guy” and a “clown.” An author of seven books, Stevens, a part-time Vermont resident, also discusses growing up in Mississippi and his book about spending a season watching football with his 95 year old father. (December 20, 2017 broadcast)
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. It was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Nearly 2,000 people were killed in the storm, and millions were left homeless.
For New Orleans resident and author Alexander McConduit, the human impact of Katrina still stays with him. He has channeled his energies into writing for children: In 2010, Alex McConduit founded Big Boot Books and published his first book, The Little Who Dat, Who Didn’t. In 2012, he founded W.R.I.T.E., a youth publishing program that transforms students in New Orleans into published authors. Since 2010, Alex has visited more than 100 schools throughout the Gulf Coast and in other countries to share his books and to encourage kids to read, write and follow their dreams.
McConduit wants to tackle a different kind of subject in his next book. He has titled this work-in-progress, “Katrina, We Need to Talk.” It’s about the lasting impact on the NOLA community of the storm. In this interview, McConduit also reflects on racism, the rise of the alt right, President Trump, and what gives him hope. (August 23, 2017 broadcast)
John Gennari and Emily Bernard are both professors of English and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at the University of Vermont. As academics, they explore the volatile interface of race, ethnicity, politics, literature, music and culture. As a married couple, they live the issues they teach: Gennari is Italian American, Bernard is African American. They discuss issues ranging from teaching the N-word, the relationship between Italian Americans and African Americans, their experience when their local high school in South Burlington, Vt. engaged in a heated debate over a mascot that evoked the Confederacy, and being an interracial couple. (June 7, 2017 broadcast)